Our plane from Bali landed in Sydney at about 6 am. We went through customs and immigration, followed by breakfast at the airport and major sticker shock. Australia is expensive. Eating out anywhere costs twice what it would in Vancouver.

There was a bus to Canberra at 8.15, but we deliberately took our time so we could line up early for the 9.15 bus in order to get the front seats so we could enjoy the scenery along the way on the three-hour ride. Which we did. Get the front seats I mean. And promptly fell asleep.

Canberra. The Nation’s Capital. And my home town. My sister Julie met us at the bus station and we were whisked off to lunch. I think. I can’t remember. All the details of our time in Canberra run together. It was so much fun and so good to be home. Except it was freezing. Especially after Bali and India. Our first day there was 13 degrees, after about 40 in India and 30 in Bali. Brrrrr. It was Anzac Day, a national holiday, so everything was closed, but the next day we were off to the thrift stores to buy some winter clothes, and borrowed hats and scarves and gloves and pj’s and fleeces from Julie and her husband Robbie. Robbie is over 6 ft and Don is 5ft 8in. Don looked pretty funny in Robbie’s clothes.

Here’s what I do remember – there was a special dinner out to celebrate Carol’s recent award of the Order of Australia for contribution to the arts in theatre. We might look like a motley crew but we had a good time and the food was to die for. Dinner was a work of art.

I spent a very fun few hours helping Carol shop for, and put together her two outfits for her investiture, and the black tie dinner at Government House.

Walking from Julie and Robbie’s we went for two hikes up Red Hill and saw four kangaroos the first time, and about 30 the next time. And many brightly coloured native birds. Canberra’s like that – great stretches of natural bushland interspersed with the suburbs.

We went to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and saw a rare brolga, and kangaroos and emus of course, and most exciting of all we saw platypuses. Platypuses are notoriously shy and it’s very rare to see them, and we saw two! I know the photograph is a picture of a brown blob. But it’s a platypus! In the wild!

After the first three or so freezing days it warmed up to about 16 and sunny. With the right clothes that’s really lovely. There were many days Julie and Don and I would go out for morning coffee and walk: at Regatta Point, at the National Gallery Sculpture Garden, along by the lake, at the Botanical Gardens.

At Regatta Point

At the National Gallery Sculpture Garden

At the Botanical Gardens

And two mornings we also went to camera stores to look for a new camera for me.We discovered the exact right camera. We also discovered that the absolute best place to buy cameras is . . . . . . Canada! Even better than Hong Kong apparently. So, a new camera for me when we get back near the end of May.

Carol and her husband John put on a fabulous spread one Sunday for as many family members as there were in Canberra at the time (about 16 of us), and we had dinner there on a couple of other evenings.

We had lunch with an old school friend and his partner, and dinner with my oldest and best friend from high school and her husband. A very fun evening, that included an offer to house sit for them for five weeks in September/October this year. No firm decision yet, but we probably will. We just need to do a little more research on where we go from there.

I spent a great deal of time with Julie as she helped me set up a new system on my computer for editing and adjusting photos. A big thank you to Robbie who did the uploads of editing software. And a huge thank you to Julie who spent hours teaching me how to use them – a big learning curve but hopefully one that will bring, along with the new camera, some improvements. Apart from travel photos, there’s so much potential for creative fun. Like this:

We were in Canberra for twelve days and the time flew by. We could easily have stayed longer. We had a wonderful time. It was good to be home.


My niece Megan and her husband Malcolm have a hundred-acre property, thirty minutes from Coffs Harbour. Coffs is on the east coast north of Sydney, and their farm is about 10km inland. They have 3 dogs and 10 horses. They’re both endurance riders, and Megan is a horse podiatrist.

Rubber boots – the latest thing in horseshoes. Who knew?

Warm again. Days were sunny and about mid twenties. Sweet. Australia’s east coast is pretty much one long string of white sand beaches, one after the other.

We went for walks along the beach.

And walks around the property

Malcolm made a valiant attempt to get us to the top of a ridge to the beginning of an apparently excellent hiking trail. We never made it – the road was closed in one direction due to logging, and in another due to wash out. So we went to follow a track by a creek to the waterfall only to find that the track had been washed out too and it became too dangerous to continue. But we had fun trying. They’ve had a lot of rain here over the past while. Megan and Malcolm have been flooded out 6 times in the last two years! But we got lucky. It was fine and warm and sunny every day we were there. And obviously the floods didn’t wash away the golden globe spiders. Glad I saw it before I walked into it.

It’s beautiful there – miles from anywhere, still and silent, surrounded by fields and bush. It’s been wonderful to catch up with Megan and to finally meet Malcolm. A big thank you to them both for having us, and to Megan for cooking us very yummy meals, which you’d expect from an ex chef, with such ease and panache, even after long days trimming horses feet. And a huge thank you to Malcolm for driving us around, showing us the sights and the best beaches, and generally being an expert tour guide and fountain of knowledge about the area.

Next blog – Mullumbimby and Vancouver re-entry.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.