Friday, October 30, 2009

A fairy tale town

[Kyle]We’re back at it again. This time, we headed out to Brugge, Belgium.

It all started when filmmaker Martin McDonagh went to Brugge on holiday. He thought the place was so beautiful that he decided to write his first movie and set it in Brugge. Released in 2008, it was called, a little obviously, “In Bruges” (Bruges is the English and French spelling, Brugge is the original Flemish). Maryanne and I had bought a copy of the movie in Ireland (the two main characters are Irish) out of the bargain bin for viewing on rainy days. It’s a pretty good movie, but what really stuck out for us was how beautiful Brugge is. The seed was planted within our heads. When we realized we had a few extra days on this vacation, we both decided to go.

I cannot possibly describe how perfectly picturesque the city is. In the movie, they keep saying it’s a fairy tale town. It really is. The entire city is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is made up of cobbled streets crossing a system of canals over stone bridges. Giant spires thrust majestically toward the heavens. Every single building is built with such painstaking detail that most of the higher work cannot be fully appreciated from ground level. It becomes something private that only roofers and restoration workers really get to see. Every thirty seconds or so a well kept horse pulling a gleaming carriage filled with tourists goes clop, clop, clopping by. The city is almost a thousand years old. At some point, every square meter of it was somebody’s special place on Earth. Every bridge and statue is placed so that it is complimented by the view behind. Around every single corner, another gem of a view opens up. The whole city is like a Zen garden that has been refined and refined over centuries. Narrow streets and hidden alleyways are everywhere. Every step walked feels like it is walked within a painting by one of the old masters.

Main Market Square

We started our trip to Brugge by flying into the Brussels airport and taking the one hour train journey. Once off the train, we walked about twenty minutes into the center of town to our hotel, which was so in the middle of things that we only had a few blocks to go to get to anything within the medieval part of the city. The Belfoir at the center of the city was across the street. Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived so we killed the time having a look around the town center and orienting ourselves. We were both so wiped out from the overnight flight that when our room became available at 2pm, we immediately went for a nap.

We both must’ve been more tired than we thought, because we both slept until just before dawn. We went out and found a place that was open early where we had a breakfast of juice, coffee and croissants. We walked around for a bit more and found another place that smelled wonderful. The croissants hadn’t been too filling so we found ourselves having a second breakfast of (Belgian) waffles and coffee. Yummy. While drinking my coffee in the middle of breakfast, I noticed that we were the only ones in the restaurant that weren’t having a beer. Belgium has 780 varieties of beer, some apparently perfect with breakfast.

All stocked up on energy for the day, we climbed up to the top of the magnificent Belfoir that forms the centrepiece of the city. 388 steps up increasingly narrow spiral staircases took us up into the bell room. The tower has 47 bells and the city employs a carilloneur to play melodies. Also within the tower is a giant music box style wheel that also plays melodies automatically. We were lucky enough to get there just before 11 o’clock. Five minutes of music were followed by eleven chimes of the big bell with us standing only a few feet away. Even though I knew the first one was coming, I still jumped when the hammer struck. The coolest thing was after the last chime struck. The bell resonated for what seemed like forever, its rich tone getting softer and softer and smoother and smoother.

We climbed down and then proceeded to crisscross the town like we were tracing out a bowl of spaghetti. We saw squares and canals and steeples, statues, parks and art galore. At an appropriately late hour (for us), we stopped in and tasted a couple of the local brews while overlooking a particularly pretty bend in one of the canals. Later, we went for an early dinner at a restaurant off the main square. We sat at a table right out on the cobbled street. It seems most of the restaurants in Brugge have the majority of their tables outside.

We had intended to do a lot more walking but we were full and tired. We passed by a booth selling tickets for a canal tour and decided a sunset boat ride sounded pretty good. Brugge is also amazing by boat. Our guide wasn’t that interesting but to his credit, he did the whole thing in at least four languages, one leading right into the other.

Bruge at night

By then, it was dark. We took the long way home along some of the canals. Most of the bridges, canal walls and bigger buildings are lit up with lights of various colors. It makes the whole city seem like something out of a dream. We walked home along quiet streets admiring the whole beauty of it. We bought some chocolate from a store around the corner just before they closed and took it back to the room for dessert.

We got up the next morning and went a little further afield to some of the lesser known spots. The highlight was seeing the many windmills along the canals. Each one sat atop a steep hill and was slightly different from its neighbours. The autumn leaves fell off ancient trees and speckled the green grass with red and yellow leaves. This whole town is a postcard.

Beautiful Bruges

We followed up our walk with a pint in Brugge’s oldest Tavern, the Cafe Vlissinghe, opened in 1515. We then went to the excellent chocolate museum for an education and a bit of dessert. Again, crisscrossing the town, we meandered through one park after another until it got late. After another delicious meal accompanied by some local beer, we couldn’t resist saying goodbye to Brugge with a dessert of chocolate covered waffles from a nearby take-out stand. They do both of those pretty well here, too.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Australiana - A few observations on this strange and wonderful country

[Maryanne]A little while ago I wrote a little on the less known differences between the USA and the UK.

In response I got an equivalent list from an old UK work colleague, now living in Australia (Thanks Julie). Here is what Julie had to say on those oddities for a Brit experiencing Australia:

An obsession with beetroot. Now I like beetroot; it reminds me of going to my grandma's when I was a kid, but here it's everywhere. In sandwiches, burgers, salads whatever. McDonalds even has a McOz burger, which includes, you've guessed it, beetroot!

- it's an Aussie icon and locals swear it tastes nothing like Marmite. I reckon in a blind tasting they wouldn't pick it.

. What we Poms call crisps, they call chips, and they come in humongous packets presumably meant for sharing although I've seen people scoff a whole packet. What we call chips, they call "hot chips". At least it's logical.

Beer. They take the piss out of the British for drinking warm beer, and I have to try and explain that it's not really warm, it's just not so cold that it hurts when you drink it, like it is here.

Corned beef. Order corned beef in a pub here and it's nothing like the Fray Bentos stuff we used to get. It's kind of normal beef, but very salty and with lumps of corn in it. I'm not sure whether that's better of not.

Luncheon meat type things. They try and disguise this by calling it obscure names that vary from state to state, like Devon, Fritz and even Belgium. It doesn't hide the fact that it's still horrible. In a similar category is pizza ham - for some reason they won't just put normal ham on pizza, it has to be some vile reconstituted stuff that looks like short bright pink worms.

Now Kyle and I have spent a little time in Oz, we had a few to add ourselves.

I was especially taken with some of the outback mailboxes. There is clearly no regimented post office approved/enforced mail box (as there is in the USA), and in the outback the folks make use of whatever they have to hand. Some get very creative indeed. We found amazing works of art, and then true junk all being used as private mail boxes at the end of the drive way. It was great fun to discover them as we drove around Western Australia - here is a selection.

And my all time favourite, the recycled washing machine(? I think).

And Kyles list, from [Kyle]

#1: ie

In this sense, I am referring to Australians’ propensity to use –ie or, sometimes, -ey, as a suffix. Australians love to end all of their colloquialisms in this way. Probably most famous is ‘barbie’, for barbecue. A ‘coldie’ is a beer, which can also be a ‘tinnie’ or a ‘stubbie’, depending on whether it’s from a can or a short bottle. The guy’s that drive the road trains are not called truckers, but ‘truckies’. We’ve seen a lot of signs at roadhouses offering ‘Free coffee to truckies’.

The one that I find most hilarious is ‘bikie’. This is used to describe big, mean looking, black leather clad guys on mostly Harleys. Groups of them are called ‘bikie gangs’. I actually saw a news report on the television where a very serious looking reporter standing in front of hefty, important looking government buildings in Canberra, went on and on about some new piece of legislation intended to disrupt the nefarious practices of the most powerful bikie gangs. She said it over and over again. Then they went to the studio, where the anchor said it and then did a toss to another field reporter, who was there to get a response from the leader of a well known bikie gang. That guy said they were just a social club, and the new legislation was yet another example of the government interfering in their primary role as a positive role model for toddlers.

I’m sorry but, to me, a bikie is what you graduate to when you turn five (known to those who are five as ‘this many’) and you’ve been really, really good, and you have shown your parents that you have mastered your trikie.

I could only imagine that if I were in some tavern and a guy who didn’t like my face came over, told me so, then bragged to me that he and his mob are the toughest bikie gang west of the Nullabor, I would not be able to suppress my urge to giggle uncontrollably for the three seconds between when he said it and all of the lights went out.

#2: The El Camino

For those of you who thought the El Camino was dead, it turns out that it is still alive and well Dununda.

Kyle laughed every time we came across the car he called the "El Camino"

Maryanne, having been raised British, cannot understand why I think this is so hilarious. We’ve talked and talked it over as I tried to dissect the joke but she doesn’t get it. It turns out that there is no direct British equivalent to the El Camino in America, so Brits may not understand fully.

As I remember it, The Chevy El Camino, with a car for a front and a pickup truck bed for a back, was an attempt to get the best out of both types of vehicle but turned out to be pretty poor at both. Maryanne insists that such a vehicle probably has legitimate practical uses but, as I keep trying to tell her, that’s missing the point. The El Camino, like its ‘80s successor the hideous AMC Pacer, died its death in America because, like gold lame bell-bottoms, it was a stand-out icon of the kitsch of an era those of us who were there would like to forget, thank you very much.

Today, in the U.S., the El Camino is a rare sight, indeed. The few left are either on their last legs or are being determinedly maintained by aficionados who have the remains of another three in their yard that they cannibalize for parts. There’s an aficionado for everything. To pay $500 for one is to get ripped off. We saw one in a used car lot here with a sticker on the window saying they wanted $26,990 for it!

These things are everywhere out here. In fact, I would venture to say that, second to the Land Rover, they are probably the most popular type we’ve seen. Another funny thing is that these things are not made by Chevy. Several manufacturers seem to be trying to cash in on the Aussie’s affinity for the type. The most popular one of these is actually made by Ford. I think it’s called a Falcon but I’ve also seen cars and vans called the Ford Falcon so I’m clearly not up on Australian car naming conventions yet. The front half of this one looks the same as the Mustang. They seem to be popular with what would otherwise be the Trans-Am crowd; Boy racers and guys who are trying just a little too hard to look tough.

#3: Coffee Milk

I assume this hasn’t caught on in the U.S. because some greedy corporate interest, who will remain nameless, is preventing it.

Coffee Milk is just that – coffee flavoured milk. It is produced by dairies, comes in a carton like other milk and only costs a few cents more than plain milk. The dairies also produce other less popular flavours like chocolate, mocha and spearmint, but coffee has been an Australian mainstay for years. The first time I came over nine years ago, half the fridge space in every gas station in Australia was devoted to the stuff. Three quarters of the people you see coming out of any convenience store will have one of them in one hand or the other. I know that a more sophisticated palate could probably detect the difference in quality between plain old coffee milk and a creation by one of the world’s premier Italian educated barristas, made with the finest quality, hand selected ingredients and then drizzled through the finest glacial ice, but for what it preserves of my retirement fund, I don’t care all that much.

#4: The American Section

Maryanne and I were in a store the other day. There was an aisle devoted to foreign foods that included an American section. I assumed this is where an American, missing a few gems from his culture, like Cheez-its or Tabasco or real marshmallows would go. We’ve been in American markets that had a British section and were able to find all sorts of dearly missed British stuff like Branston’s Pickle, Jaffa cakes and real tea. The American section in this store had absolutely nothing that I have ever seen before in my whole life, all made by companies I have never even heard of. Not only that, but there was nothing vaguely interesting about any of it. They had things like corn in a can, which in the non-American, plain-old-Aussie section was called canned corn. They also had things like Orio’s by Nabesco, whose only defining characteristic was that all of the exact same cookies available in other parts of the store had been packaged along a different axis – as if cereal came in boxes that were meant to be kept flat, like a sheet cake and not stored on end, like books.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Back in the Northern Hemisphere

[Kyle] Well, after 20 hours of flying over a period of 28 hours, we're resting up in a hotel in Newark, NJ. Our flight left Cairns at midnight right after our trip to the Great Barrier Reef. We were so busy with packing and such that neither of us managed any sleep before the flight. By the time we made it to Tokyo, we couldn't keep our eyes open. Even though the time change is only an hour, we both felt completely jet lagged. We wandered around for a bit to try to keep the blood flowing but to no avail. This might have also had something to do with some of the free sake and whiskey samples the duty-free stores were handing out. After a while, we made the mistake of sitting down somewhere semi-comfortable. The next thing I knew, I was waking up to the sound of my own snoring. I looked over and Maryanne was also out. We did that for a couple of hours until we got too achy to stand it anymore, then we headed for our gate.

Once we got to our hotel in Newark, we promptly fell asleep for the night at 5pm. I woke back up around midnight and stayed awake until dawn. Maryanne managed to sleep all the way through until Noon. She was tired.

We spent most of the rest of the day organizing our next vacation, which starts when I get done with work on Tuesday. I'm still easing into it. We made a point of keeping the curtains open all day in order to let in a lot of natural light to help nudge our rhythms into place. I'm feeling pretty good now. I don't even think I can really complain about the 4:30 wake up tomorrow since my body doesn't know for sure what time it is anyway.

I am going to Minneapolis on Tuesday. I promise not to miss it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Big Reef

[Kyle]Near Australia, there is a big reef. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Yes, we took a boat out to the Great Barrier Reef. It was pretty cool. Firstly, it felt good to be out swimming around in water that is warm enough for it. The trip was a bit tour-group-ey. They would do things like scream “Are you ready to have fun?” to which we were supposed to scream in reply “Yeeeaaahhh!!!” I find such things rarely add to my actual enjoyment. The reef itself was plenty.

It was wonderful. The colour, health and variety of the coral were better than I have ever seen in Belize or the Caribbean. They also have giant clams, some of which were as long as my arm. We were actually allowed enough time to get our fill of each place we stopped. We didn’t feel rushed, although in Footprint, we would have been allowed to stray further from the boat. They fed us well and during the interim between dives, one of their crew gave a very good marine biology/dive talk. He was a young guy with lots of enthusiasm. If there had been an “awesome/wicked/cool” drinking game, tough, none of us would have made it off the boat.

Finally - the Great Barrier Reef

I discovered on the walk home that I still had quite a bit of Aussie dollars to get rid of. We had planned to go back for the $10 deal, but decided to go somewhere else to spend a little more. We found a place with really good pizza and placed our order. It turned out they were having a special, not $20, $15. Damn! Then the woman we ordered from gave us our receipt and told us to go to the bar for our free drink! Now this was a real pickle. I had managed to find a good deal, but I didn’t want one. I wanted to say “now you listen here, I want you to charge me full price for that pizza and I’ll pay for my own drink, thank you very much!”, but for some reason, I just couldn’t do it. I’ll just get it changed when we get back.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I fell (a lot)

[Kyle]Once in Cairns, we headed for the one non-negotiable item on my itinerary: Bungee jumping. Maryanne had known for years that once we got to Australia, I would want to go Bungee jumping. Everybody I know who has been bungee jumping (which everybody but America calls bungy jumping) loves it. A.J. Hackett, where it is done in Cairns, almost never sells one jump. People have to be dragged up the stairs with tears streaming down their faces for their first jump. After that, they’re all sprinting up for a second jump. I was the same way. I have tried for years to convince Maryanne that it is worth doing. She’s done lots of adventurous things. On the day, the other jumpers also tried to help but to no avail. When Maryanne doesn’t want to do something, she’s not doing it. Nevertheless, I had a great time and she swears she enjoyed watching me grin from ear to ear all day. By the end of the day, I did ten jumps off the 50m (163’) tower. The falling is always the same, but there are a few different ways to actually begin. Each is different enough that it is possible to get a ‘first time’ adrenaline rush all over again. I jumped forward, backward, had a guy hold me while he leaned me out and then let go. I hung from a bar by my hands and even ran off the roof.

As part of the “jump all you want” Package, I also got a “minjin” swing. This is a big swing where they put you in a hang glider harness, crank you up to 50m and let you go. That was actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be before doing it, particularly the part where you go swooping over the rooftop near the bottom.

At about jump #4 or so, a Japanese school group came by to watch. The jump people say they’re usually not allowed to jump, they just come to watch. After my first jump while they were there, they all kept coming up to me and congratulating me and bowing. One group wanted their picture taken next to me. All I did was fall!

Kyle having fun, dangling from a bit of elastic

Afterward, we found a place that does dinner and a beer or glass of wine for $10. It turned out to be a nice, big dinner as well. Good find.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Moving On

[Kyle]The showers were long and hot and the bed was soft and lumpless. We slept as well as two people could who had to get up at 2am for a flight.

From Perth in Western Australia we were headed to Cairns in Queensland on Qantas. Our flight was in 2 legs, via Sydney (Victoria). Since Australia is approximately the size of the U.S, this equates to roughly a San Diego-Miami-Boston trip. Unfortunately, since we were on standby and the second leg was overbooked, they were not able to check our bags all the way through and we had to pick up and recheck our bags in Sydney – this meant we missed our tight connection and head to wait 5 hours for the next flight. We considered a trip into Sydney, but with only a few hours before the next flight, we weren’t sure. Once Kyle saw the train ticket price to downtown he refused (stingy git). It turned out after all that we did not make it on that last fight out (all seats full) so we actually had to wait until the following morning before we left Sydney and finally made it to Cairns. With the next flight out early in the morning, we ended up taking the cheapest airport hotel for the night. It was actually a really nice hotel. The guy at the front desk swore we never should have got the rate we found on line but he honored it anyway. Maryanne even talked him out of a complimentary breakfast as well.

We made it out on the first the next day and arrived in Cairns to the first rain in 6 months. This was not just rain but the kind of rain that, even if you stood out of it, you were quickly drenched by ricocheting back splatter. The locals were jubilant, I was not so happy. As we were waiting at the carousel to collect our bags, I got paged. Mine hadn’t made it. Before the carousel had even stopped, Qantas obtained my information and told me they’d deliver the bag to the hotel in a few hours. All my clothes were in there. After a nap, the rain had stopped and we did a quick tour of town with me wearing a dress shirt and long trousers, rather than the shorts and flip-flops that are standard wear around here. I was the best dressed guy in town. Cairns is a wonderful, prosperous, happy, healthy town. The Esplanade along the waterfront is the nicest collection of public works I have ever seen. There is a huge, free pool. There are covered, lighted barbecues that are really outdoor kitchens. Almost every one of them was filled with people barbecuing or stir-frying up an al fresco meal. There is a really cool playground for all the kids including a fountain area controlled by buttons the kids can push. Outside is one of those signs like in amusement parks. It says, “If you’re taller than this sign, you don’t have to think you’re too cool to play here”. In case you still do, there is a really well appointed skateboard/BMX park not too far off. There are also beach volleyball courts and even free fitness classes several times per week. The town has a pretty high proportion of tourists, mostly college age backpacker types. The rest seem to be on expensive diving holidays.


The restaurant choices seemed to reflect this. We were getting pretty hungry. All the backpacker types were cooking in the free BBQs. We had no cookware so, eventually, we were able to buy $30 worth of Mexican food for $80. It was no Juan’s, but it was actually a lot better than we expected.

[Maryanne]I don't care what Kyle says, that mexican was lousy (food and service).

Fruit Bats roosting in (of all things) a fruit tree

On the way back we passed the town library and noticed some beautiful, mature fruit trees (Mango). Just stunning. All around wherever we went in Cairns was the noise of wild birds - here that noise turned out to be Fruit Bats. These bats are HUGE (about a small family cat size), and they fly around before roosting in these mature trees all over the center of Cairns.

[Kyle]My bag was waiting in our room once we returned to our hotel. {Maryanne: We love Qantas}

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles

[Kyle]The night was not comfortable! Early in the evening the wind coming over the dunes propelled 1000’s of grains of sand up under our rain fly and into our tent, sifted by the mosquito netting, it rained fine particles over us as we tried to sleep. Eventually I built a burm of sand up against the rain fly on that end, it stanched most of the flow. We still woke up with us and everything in the tent, covered with 1/8” of fine sand. This is when you do not want to rub your eye as you wake up. Anyway, we were dry, and when we climbed out the tent most of it fell off. We left our tent and headed into the town of Jurian, where I spent an hour on hold making our return flight reservations with Quantas. Since we were close, we headed for Lesueur National Park on our return to camp. On the way we passed as sign for the campsite we had actually been looking for, discovering we had not camped in the correct spot, we felt we were secluded and remote enough all would be well.

Lesueur was an unexpected gem, and a biodiversity hot spot. The park is hardly mentioned in any of the guides and pamphlets available, nor on the local towns’ information boards . The park is remote and accessed only via a rural dirt road. Within the park is a nice paved 18km loop, providing views of the terrain, including the mesas and the local ocean. Almost immediately on entering the park we spotted two blue tongue lizards (also known as snub tail skets) and a group of kangaroos resting under the shade of the tree. The area was established as a park because of its amazing biodiversity (and international hot-spot), many of the plant and animal species found here are endemic to the park and endangered. The park only has two hiking trails open to the public (one 4km and the other 2.5km), I had initially intended to take the 4km trail to the summit of Mount Lesueur, but since we joined on the wrong side of the entrance, we ended up doing both trails. There were so many wonderful and unusual (to us) varieties of plants) and so tightly packed together, that it felt more like a botanic garden than a naturally occurring habitat. The only other person we saw on the trail was taking pictures of the many, tiny, wild orchids (which includes a black one). Much of the biodiversity isn’t apparent in larger scales, Maryanne made the comment that if you look out over the landscape the colour is absent, but wherever you look in the near distance is full of bright colour everywhere, but all on a tiny scale. The hike eventually took us to the summit of the plateau where we were again treated to great views of the park and the coast beyond.

Once again we find we have a park practically all to ourselves, we are so spoilt with this, that whenever we see another car in the car park, or someone else on the trail, we find ourselves disappointed. We’ll have to kick that habit I’m sure! For now it is wonderful to not have to worry about other tourists as we take pictures.

We popped into our campsite briefly to ensure all was still there (it was), and then headed south to Nambung National Park, the site of a popular tourist draw, the Pinnacles. We had both seen postcards and photographs of these geological forms, so pretty much knew what we should expect, but our jaws both fell as we discovered the expanse of the site. On the images we’d seen there have generally been an Armani clad couple in front of a dozen pinnacles photographed in stunning light. Dust covered, and certainly NOT Armani clad, we had planned to be there for the light of the setting sun.

The Pinnacles are essentially 1000’s of individual hard limestone columns, known to have once been sand dunes, how the spiked columns actually formed is not known (or certainly not agreed among geologists). Over time the wind exposes and then recovers these pinnacles, and it is believed that just a fraction are currently visible (many more still buried). The site covers about 2km square; there are hills and pinnacles as far as the eye can see.

Cars are allowed access via a sand track that weaves its way through the area, often squeezing itself between two large pinnacles. The road was in good shape for a sand track, but we and the few others in the park, found it difficult to get out of first gear before we were stopping and climbing out for more pictures. The yellow/orange sand in stark contrast to the glaring white dunes of the distant beach, and the colour is accentuated by the low, reddish light of sunset. Most of the tour groups had long gone for the day, so again it was just us and a couple of other cars left to wonder the site and its long shadows. I found a family of 5 galahs, nesting in a cavity in one of the pinnacles. They allowed me to get fairly close before they started complaining with their loud squawks. I tried to keep a distance to avoid stressing out the family, but I was still close enough to hear chicks begging in the nest.

A little while along the vehicle trail, Maryanne spotted three kangaroos in the bushes. I was further down the hill so she directed me to their location so I could take pictures. As I got in the general vicinity, they decided I was too close, and they bounded across the sands, weaving through the pinnacles – the kangaroos of the Pinnacles, pretty cool!

The sunset of course, meant that it would soon be dark, and we had to hurry to get back to our camp while we could still see the roads and to protect ourselves from generating any new road kill.

[Maryanne]For a site where I was pretty much expecting to see what we’d already seen in the many pictures, we were amazed to discover a treasure that will remain a highlight of our trip to Australia.

[Kyle]Back at camp we built a fire and had a dinner made from an assortment of remnants from our food bag (with a flight to catch in a couple of days, we have to finish up all we can’t carry). This night was even worse than the previous. Even though it started out with almost no wind, giving us the chance to shake the sand off everything before going to bed, the wind picked up and we resumed our constant snow of sand, joined with the whip crack of the tent walls. As I was climbing into bed I found a tick. I quickly put him outside, but this gave me (and to a greater extent, Maryanne) the heebie-jeebies all night. This meant that once I finally relaxed from constant worry from being bitten, and just as I’d fall asleep, Maryanne would let out a yelp and swear she was being bitten, and I would have to search for a potential tick with the flash light). By the time we both finally got tired enough to no longer care, gusts of winds would shake the tent and the sand began flying. The other thing was that I had planned to get up early, and without an alarm clock, I was also nervous I would not wake up in time. Our plan was to get up early, get the tent and car packed up and return to the Pinnacles for sun rise (or shortly after). We managed to get up (hardly surprising) and be on the road before official sun rise, arriving at the Pinnacles just 20 minutes after.

Except for a diehard photographer, looking for the best light, we were the only people there. This gave us the freedom to stop the car right in the middle of the one lane road any time we saw anything of interest, and to wonder off without concern for other tourists. This time we also took the walk trail through the Pinnacles. More great pictures, including some of the galahs in the morning, and we also had time to watch a blue tongue lizard go through his morning routine of being cute. Still not in a hurry to leave we had breakfast and re-packed the car, (preparing the car for its return to the rental company, and our back packs for our flight the following day) while waiting for the visitor centre to open.

Eventually we found ourselves back on the highway and heading for a hotel in Perth, presumably with showers, internet, and a comfy, tick and sand free bed (along with other luxuries like electricity, pizza delivery, and the like).