We touched down approaching 10:00 on a fine, sunny morning after our 9-hour overnight flight from Hong Kong. Amazingly, I seemed to have managed to sleep a little. This is just as well since there was a 3-hour drive ahead of me to get to Francine’s brother’s pad at Stanley, Victoria. Time to brave immigration.
We spotted a string of those accursed automated passport reading machines as well as a two or three warm bodies in conventional booths. We first approached the passport reading machines but there was a wrinkle; these Australian contraptions didn’t actually seem to read passports but demanded a “ticket” instead. Que? How does this work? Clueless and not wishing to solve challenging puzzles at the end of our lengthy journey, we gave up and joined the queue for the warm bodies. As we watched from our queue, others appeared to be using a pre-passport reading machine to read their passport and issue said ticket. They then went to the camera equipment which read the ticket and gave them the old once over with its mechanical eyeball. Weird. Our queue advanced and our warm body let us through; we were in.
Time for Francine to declare her mother’s ashes at last. You pretty much have to tell Australian Border Control about anything you’re bringing in by ticking various boxes on the immigration card. There’d been some debate on the plane as to whether Francine’s mum should come under the “meat and meat products” category or “soil”. Francine had scribbled “ashes” on the form. All was well, with no eyebrows raised we cleared the second hurdle.
Our bags eventually turned up – just teasing – and we left the arrivals hall to find our rental car. A chirpy Avis agent got us a better car than had been ordered – not many were available for a lengthy 3-week period, it appeared, as Moto GP teams were in town for some testosterone-fuelled motorcycle racing and local services were stretched. Bonus: our car, a Holden [Australian GM] was not only spacious and comfortable but has a built in satnav. Just as well since Francine was having trouble kicking our mobile phone alternative into action. We hit the road.
The vast bulk of our journey was along the Hume Freeway. After 2½ hours including the standard pee-break and leg-stretch, a message from Francine’s brother told her he’d meet us at the freeway exit to shepherd us in. Francine leapt into his mark 1 open top Mazda MX5 and left me following for another 30 minutes or so to our base for the next two weeks.
The house is a single storey building on a slightly sloping rural plot with little in the way of a view of neighbours. This looks like our preferred kind of environment. The plot is substantial and matters improved even further as we were greeted by King Parrots and Kookaburras in the many surrounding trees. There were Rosellas, too, but they are shy and have thus far eluded my camera.
Time evaporated as we did the obligatory tour of the property, camera in hand. I’ve no idea what some of the plants were – neither, it seems, had anyone else – but several were photogenic and gave me something a little less flighty than the birds to play with. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
This is old gold mining country from the 1850s. Stanley nestles in hills at ~800m altitude and, though we’d arrived in the first really sunny, warm [25°C-ish] spring day so far this year, things can cool down noticeably in the evenings. We’ll be putting our packing choices to the test, I think.