Tuesday, October 11, 2010


Stockton (near Newcastle)


I slept well again last night – to bed by 10 and up at 5:45.  We’ll see how long I can stay on this schedule.


I’m at the beach now, in a little “cabin” a few dozen feet from the ocean.  It is pretty windy this afternoon/evening, but sunny and a reasonable temperature – about 70 degrees F here in my cabin now.  I’ve had it open to cool it off, but soon I will close the windows to preserve the heat, I expect.  The cabin is very basic and pretty small.  It has a kitchenette, though, with a microwave and a reasonable sized refrigerator.  The freezer compartment of the fridge even has two little ice trays, and they were not only full and frozen, there was another batch of ice cubes that had been dumped in the bin under them!  Very thoughtful service.


So, the ice is the good news.  The bad news is that the relay for their wireless internet is out of order, and so I have to go to the office and perch on a bench outside if I want to get online.  It has been out of order for three months, the woman said!  I was considerably disappointed, and I let her know it, but I was polite about it.  I could go to McD’s, but it is about a 15 minute drive away, so not real convenient.  I guess I will just have to forgo the instant messaging that I enjoy so much.   I keep telling myself that there are so many worse things that could go wrong, and I should count my blessings, but I can’t deny my disappointment.


So, I’ll write this Ramblings and walk on up to the office and see if I can connect and get it up to the website.  I may not post any pictures for a few days, we will see.


Back to this morning, I drove to the local McD’s (about a mile) and picked up a couple of breakfast sandwiches, got myself organized, and was on the road by about 8:30.  I had had a nice long Instant Message session with Christina, too, catching up on the remodel projects she is managing in my absence.  Not having internet access in my cabin, I’ll miss the IM sessions.


I only needed to drive about a hundred miles north today, but I took a scenic route and stopped from time to time.  The route I took involved taking a little ferry across the Hawkesbury River at the town of Wisemans Ferry.  See the next Photos, when it gets up eventually, for pictures.


Eventually I hit the freeway, but before that I stopped to take a picture of some very tall flowers that were along the road in that area.  I think they must be as much as 18 or 20 feet high – they dwarf the car in the picture.  I have the name of the flower in my 2002 Aussie trip pictures, but I can’t access that now, since I’m not online.


I left the freeway and drove up into the hills for my lunch.  It was a birding site, supposedly, but I didn’t see many birds, and nothing new or interesting.  It was a nice place for lunch, though.   I finished up the sliced ham, the cheese, and most of my crackers, and that was lunch today.  I wandered around a while, enjoying the forest and trying for birds and pictures, but nothing exciting happened.  I keep getting reminded that birding in a forest when you don’t know the calls of the birds is a pretty fruitless task.  For my next planned day of forest birding (this Sunday), I have hired a guide, and that should make it much more productive.


After that, I headed for my humble lodgings, making my way across country to Newcastle from the freeway exit that was nearest.  I had a Google map with directions, and this morning I had looked up a Woolworth’s supermarket on my route, and I drove right there, just as if I knew what I was doing.


I loaded up with provisions for the next few days.  They had the chicken and veggie pies I like for my brekkie, and I will supplement them with some lean protein on this trip, now that I understand better how my body works.  They didn’t have any cooked chicken breast, but they did have smoked chicken breast, labeled as “fully cooked, ready to eat”, so I got a couple of packs of that – 2 good sized breasts to a pack.  It has the skin on it, but I can take that off, and it should be a good source of lean protein.  I got more ham, too, and some cooked deli roast beef, along with more cheese, of course.  My lunches will be sandwiches that I will make here “at home”, along with some potato chips and a dessert.  My dinners will be canned soup (maybe with a protein supplement), I guess, as they didn’t have any non-frozen prepared meals.  That is probably just as well, because I do fine on a can of soup, with maybe some protein added, and some veggies.  I got a pack of carrots and broccoli, ready to eat raw or heat in the microwave if I want to.  I got a 4-pack of caramel slices, and because they had a special going if you bought two 4-packs, I got a pack of “rocky road” slices, too.  I think I am well set up for food for the next three days here.


After checking in here and unloading most of my crap, I ventured out to a local shorebird roost that the woman at the desk here had told me about.  I added several common birds to my trip list, bringing me to a total of 106 for the trip, of which two are lifers.  They are going to be slower coming from now on, as the most common ones are already counted.  I don’t know if I have mentioned it here, but my goal is 250 species for the trip, with 20 of those being lifers.  So, I do still have a lot more species to see, even if they will come somewhat more slowly now.  I’m only a week into a six week trip, so there is a lot more stuff to see still.


I don’t have any specific plans for the next couple of days, just a list of local birding places, so I will have to make plans each day.  No one here in the Newcastle area offered to take me out birding, so I will be wandering around on my own.


I hate to keep harping on the same theme, but again today I was reminded how much easier I find it to get around over here, compared to Britain.  The road signs are far better, the roads are much wider, and there is much less traffic.  Those are the reasons I can identify, but the overall effect is that I am just much more comfortable driving over here than I was in Britain.  In both cases, they drive on the “wrong” side of the road, but that doesn’t bother me in itself, so that doesn’t seem to be a factor.


Writing that last line reminds me a conversation I had yesterday with Svea, the Swedish-Canadian woman that tagged along with Keith and me, yesterday.  She was raised in Sweden (but has been a Canadian for 30 or 40 years) and was driving there when they changed from driving on the left to driving on the right.  The did it all at once, stopping all traffic for an hour in the middle of the night, to change the signs, and then the next day, everyone had to drive on the opposite side of the road than they had always driven on.  She said there are many many stories of that time, and I can well imagine that.


OK, I have had a couple of drinks, and I have brought you all up to date, so I’ll walk on over to the office and see if I can get this up on the website.  I’d guess that I’ll do the same tomorrow night, and I may even be online before that, to read any comments or emails that come in.   I don’t like not having internet access from my room (cabin), but I guess I can bear up under the disappointment.


The Old Rambler, after Day 7 in Oz