Tuesday 22nd February
A wet dawn start to this Tasmania trip, the sea cat leaves the dock at 0815 hrs, and St Kilda is half an hour away in heavy rain. Melbourne is such a big spread of a place. I was quite excited as I boarded, this is a first for me. The ship, built like any ferry with cafe, rest chairs, and observation deck, moves across the Bass Strait, one of the roughest sea journeys on the planet. Sailing from the mainland, the ocean pounds against the vessel, causing seasickness amongst the passengers. Halfway through the six hour voyage the boat resembled a hospital ship, with people lying on the floor covered with blankets, their brows cooled with damp cloths. I survived well, having good sea legs is an advantage in these circumstances. The journey was just a bit boring, but two movies and the footy scores later, we reach Tasmania’s green shores.
As expected, Customs took my old fruit. Tasmania's laws are most stringent on food importation, they pride themselves on having totally disease free crops. At the ferry terminal I received a bag of magazines and brochures about the island, mostly tourist listings and ads for hotels, before being released onto the island's quiet roads. Even the main highway to Launceston was nearly deserted, although I noticed plenty of logging trucks, meaning lots of road kill - a terrible price to pay for timber.
In Launceston I stocked up with supplies, heading east in gathering gloom. At the brow of a mountain overlooking Scotsdale, I spied a rest stop lookout with a barbecue hut, and pulled in for the night, marvelling at the magnificent countryside visible far below. Clouds soon obscured the view, and rain began to fall. I fired up the barbecue to make tea and my favourite BBQ meal - sweet potato, parsnip and corn on the cob wrapped in foil and braised in butter. A station wagon drew up containing two young blokes, Jason, English, and Will, a Canadian boy. We chatted, cooked, and drank together until late into the night, watching torrential rain threatening to flood our cosy fireplace. I lent the boys my air mattress and we settled down in our respective cars to sleep.

Wednesday 23rd February - on the A3
Made us all breakfast before heading into Scotsdale to ice up the esky and wash in the gas station. Everyone is very friendly, nothing too much trouble, a pleasant change from the Melbourne madness. Driving through dense rain forest I see towering ferns the size of trees and thick lush undergrowth clinging to the slopes of the mountain. Wonderful (and very wet).

Pyrgana 1430 hrs
I had to stop to record the most amazing event, an echidna just walked across my path, calm as you like, to disappear in the ditch on the left side of the road. Too slow getting the camera out - those things really know how to blend into the scenery!
On the way up the steep road to Columba Falls, (pictured here) I met the boys again coming down the mountain. We slid up through thick slimy mud to the parking area where they asked me for my email address! I took this photograph of the falls, unwilling to walk ten kilometres and clamber over slippery rocks, then drove back down the mountain to visit a place I’d seen along the road - The Pub in the Paddock. I ate a toastie and drank a couple of glasses of Chardonnay while chatting with a local couple and the landlady, the only people in the pub. What a lovely little spot, a large cleared space surrounded by fabulous mountain scenery with horses grazing and cattle lowing in the next field.
I’d arranged to meet the lads in the next town, St Helens, but upon finding no sign of them I drove on to St Mary’s, badly in need of petrol. Nowhere was open, so I was forced to travel 20 km to Fingal, where the gas station was almost closing. Whew! Just made it on vapours - good old Matilda!
Returning to the A4, I drove down the east coast road to Coles Bay, my chosen spot for the night. Sitting at the gates to Freycinet National Park, this holiday village hugs the coast on both sides of the peninsula leading to the park entrance. Darkness had fallen, the wallabies were out in force hopping along the unlit road, almost causing my first animal accident. I understand why they die in such numbers - they leap out in front of your car as if diving for death, silly animals. I pulled off the road at Great Oyster Bay, pitching the tent in darkness, and slept to the soothing sound of lapping waves.

Thursday 24th February
Waking to find I am overlooked by three massive tree clad peaks bordering the cove, next to the calm waters of the westerly ocean. I breakfasted on meusli and fruit juice, packed the tent and moved off into early sunshine. At a local caravan site, I took a hot shower then took this photo of a wallaby with joey in pouch, rummaging though a garbage bin.

Left for Hobart, taking highway 1, which brought me to Ross, to a picturesque old town left alone by time. The village shop is for sale if you feel like living in a very small community in fabulous countryside. On the way along the B43 I counted twelve road kills, it was so very sad to see so many. In the warm air, I see clouds of flies or perhaps gnats, massing over trees, like columns of smoke rising from a green chimney. Weird.

Hobart 1415 - Megasnax Cafe
Booked the return ticket - must stay near Georgetown on Saturday night - and tried to find an internet lounge, but this is not exactly Melbourne. Parked Matilda outside of this delightful cafe, to enjoy my first Lamington, a scrumptious light sponge cake covered in chocolate and coconut, washed down by the best milkshake I've ever had. They even gave me the rest of the shake jug to top up my glass, and the waitress wouldn't hear of me checking the parking meter - she went to look at it herself! What nice people Tasmanians are.
In the newspaper I read of the little baby who died in an overheated car while her mother played the pokey machines in the pub. What a great advert to ban the bloody things, they cause so much grief and hardship.
I checked the car's front wheels at a local garage, no problems they said, greasing the steering pins for me. I thanked them and moved on to dip my feet in the River Derwent before bidding farewell to Hobart, heading north for Cradle Mountain country.

Turning off the highway to skirt the Great Lake I discover too late that this road is C-class, and unsealed for most of its journey north. Undaunted I bumped along, searching for tarmac. I found some next to sparse settlements in what can only be described as scrub bush, but the unsealed surfaces return once you've passed the houses. Other vehicles I saw on the road were all 4 WD. Poor Matilda soldiered on, not complaining one bit. Dusk approached and with it the wildlife, materializing as if by magic from the bush. I was more than a little afraid of being stuck out here in uncivilized country, but had to stop to photograph the colours of the sunset, reflected blood red in the distant mountains on the far eastern shore. Purple, powder blue and baby pink melded in a fantastic display of nature's palette. Wallabies stood up to stare at me, and Tasmanian Devils scooted out of sight at Matilda’s approach. Another fool marsupial almost died under my wheels but I braked in time. Lucky Wallaby.
I reached the edge of the middle plateau where the road became mountainous again. I passed a picnic place, situated right next to a power station! What an unpleasant place to stop and relax, bathed in unhealthy electromagnetic rays; sometimes Australia puzzles me.
Descending to the floor of Golden Valley, I decided to stop for the night to cool the tyres and brakes and pull onto the forecourt of the fire station to inspect the car under the only bright light for miles. Across the valley, I saw fire burning, possibly illegal burn-off, and fearing the fire engine might be needed, I parked in the shadows to one side of the building. Despite seeing occasional torch light, I was undisturbed, lulled to sleep by the cackling kookaburra.

Friday 25th February - Mole Creek
Had breakfast at the city BBQ next to a wide, lazy river flowing through the small town of Deloraine. A black steam engine parked nearby provides a fun structure for the local children's play. A council cleaner arrived to empty bins, hose toilets and pick up rubbish at this tree lined central meeting spot. I must say I approve of this service which I have seen all over the country, even on Sundays in out-of -the-way rest areas the forest rangers come to clean up. Studying a large tourist map painted at the side of the road, I am amazed to see another two power stations marked as areas of local interest. What is this fascination with power stations? I’ll bet it has picnic tables next to it!
Driving through to King Solomon’s Caves I took the 1030 tour of an underground treasure. These are the oldest caves in Australia I believe, utterly gorgeous in their cold glittering finery. A notice mentions that the cave temperature is just 9°C, so I ran back for my woollen jacket. We are taken through a maze of illuminated tunnels to view some spectacular limestone formations. I would recommend this attraction to anyone visiting Tasmania. Moving on to the nearby Marakoopa Caves, I am one hour early and decide to eat lunch at a beautiful, secluded picnic spot with open BBQ’s  - plus covered electric version for those rainy days - in a glade surrounded by great gum and tingle trees. The bell bird was tinkling away and pretty, blue feathered wrens darted about picking insects from the undergrowth. All was idyllic until another car pulled up.
The Marakoopa Caves lived up to all expectations, the largest caves on the island, they are fabulous to behold. Not as deep as King Solomon’s caves - in places the surface is a mere eight feet over our heads - tree roots plunge through the earth searching for water amongst the rocks. The underground river is quite exciting and when the lights are turned off, glow worms pepper the rocks overhead like tiny green stars in a pitch black firmament. Well worth the effort in my opinion.

Cradle Mountain Lookout 1710 hrs
I drove for hours up and down mountains, through fabulous scenery to reach this high point, a rocky mountain surrounded by other peaks. I might be in the crater of a long extinct volcano but there is an electricity pylon right next to the beauty spot. Cigarette butts and plastic bottles litter the ground around a lonely marker pointing out the surrounding peaks. I smoke a spliff and gather the rubbish to dispose of it properly in my own garbage bag, driving down to Queenstown, hoping to make Strahan before nightfall.

Strahan Caravan Park 2200 hrs
What a drive that was! I thought I would run out of petrol as I crested yet another mountain peak and finding nothing behind it. I arrived at Ocean Beach around 2000 hrs, my reward being a photograph of the setting sun from the western extreme of the island. At this, Tazzie's only south western beach, the Southern Ocean sends crested waves onto a wide sandy shore, where the on-shore wind blows up a spray haze in the distance, suspended over the sea like fog on a Dutch November morning. Many had come to watch the sun sink into the western waves from special platforms on the high sand dunes for photographers. I moved into the camp site for a comfortable night and hot shower, a box of potato wedgies for a hot supper. I crawled gratefully into the tent to lie flat for a change.

Saturday 26th February Strahan Beach
During the night the heavens opened and flooded the site. The tent's seam dripped water onto my sleeping bag, so I crept into the car to avoid the driving rain. Others were not so lucky, the neighbouring tents found themselves almost afloat, the rain was so severe. Packing the car, I breakfasted to the sound of bird song and screeching gulls at a large covered BBQ area on Strahan Beach, chatting with a holidaying Australian couple while the rain splattered Matilda's windscreen again. The journey east up the mountainside towards Hamilton takes you past one of Tasmania's eyesores, smooth sided mountains on which nothing will grow, looking like piles of coarse black sand. This is Queenstown, site of a copper mine, its waste piled as high as the mountain up which I drove, looms over the steep road as it twists and turns upward. It's a desolate drive past this environmental cancer.
Cresting the ridge of the Western Tiers, Matilda and I sighed with relief as we drove onto a plateau, although the relief evaporated at the sight of recent bush fire damage, blackened ground and burned tree stumps. According to the locals, this fire was deliberately started by a fire fighter of all people. He was recently jailed for his crime (for me he should have been shot) but given the usual way of things here he will probably be released after 6 months. It will take years to plant enough trees to cover these slopes again.

Derwent Bridge 1300hrs
I watched nervously as the fuel gauge slowly dropped toward zero, desperately searching for a petrol pump. In untouched bush country the options are less than plentiful. When I saw the sign for this oasis in the middle of the mountain range I nearly cried with relief. The price, .98 cents a litre, is close to a rip-off when you consider I paid .79c in Melbourne, but this remote location must be hell to supply, particularly in winter. The only building is a café/restaurant and petrol station, strategically placed to fill the tanks of many a petrol starved motorist.

Hamilton 1400hrs
Passing the unsealed road to Bronte Park, I smiled at my foolishness in taking that route, but then I wouldn't have seen the magnificent Great Lake and its environs, would I? I took a photograph of this Tasmanian Devil, the only wild one I will ever get to touch; pity it was lying on the road without a face but that's the breaks on Tasmania's roads, protected species or not. To quote a truck driving idiot: "the bloody animal has to learn to get off the road or learn the hard way."
Sitting by a clear, sparkling river watching bulrushes sway in a gentle breeze, I find sunshine and peace. A sign tells me platypus can be seen in the river. I strain to catch a glimpse in between bites of cheese and biscuit but see nothing, (they've probably squashed this species into the tarmac as well).

1945 hrs Beauty Point, Tamar Valley
After giving a hitchhiker a ride to Launceston, I decided to come take a look at this, his home town. Here on the wide Tamar river, cargo boats move up and down ferrying goods between local ports and the small naval base upstream. I stopped at a picnic area on the western bank where I stood poking sweet corn, parsnip, and sweet potato around on the free hot plate, while sipping on a glass of wine, watching the light turn an ever more golden rose colour. In the distance, tree clad hills mountains frame the valley, in turn framed by the crags of the Eastern Tiers. What a spectacular place is this Tasmania.
A young lad, about eleven years old, came to chat with me, inviting me up to the other BBQ where his grandfather and wife were cooking also. I went along to join them, enjoying a brief conversation with his  Dutch descendant grandparents. They advised me to spend the night at nearby Green Beach, which is precisely what I planned to do before the car's alternator went click and brought my plans to a halt. I nearly caused a crash, turning round in the road when a guy came along at breakneck speed, but managed to pull back in time, making my heart thump a bit. I decided to drive to Georgetown rather than continuing to Green beach, I didn't want the battery dying on me before I could get the car onto the boat in the morning.

Sunday 27th February
Checking the engine, I can't see if there's a problem or not but at the man at the Shell garage says the fan belts are loose, which might be the problem. Just shows how little service station managers know. I thanked him, reserving judgement until I find somebody who knows what they're talking about. Luckily there was sufficient power to ease Matilda onto the sea cat without mishaps.
The return sea voyage to Melbourne was uneventful and much calmer than the outward sailing - no sick passengers this time. The movies were repeats but I enjoyed 'The Edge' again. The Sea Devil reached the mainland about 2130 hrs - two hours later than expected. I drove to Northcote where at Adam's place I was welcomed at the door by Tim, and given the sofa to sleep on. All the residents of this ex-factory work in bars or restaurants, therefore arriving home quite late, sometimes extremely early in the morning.

Monday 28th February
Got going early today, leaving the car with a local garage all day. They repaired the alternator for $140 and I got the car back before 7 p.m. Excellent. Spent the evening watching TV until the gang got home after 1 a.m.

Tuesday 29th February
I decided to get my visa extended today, to save any embarrassment when I come to leave the country. I bought some fibre glass to fix a couple of small holes in the bodywork. I've never done this metal filling thing before, it's a bit like polyfilla but you don't have to wallpaper over it. Anyway, I was quite impressed with my efforts.

Wednesday 1st March
Nobody gets up before 11 here. At Anton's house everyone was still asleep, Juud's also, and Kerry slept in after a very late night at work. I moved between all three locations while gassing up the car and making ready to head out, saying my goodbyes at Northcote before driving on to Coburg to bid farewell to the boys. The Eastern Freeway meets the Maroondah Highway, winding north-east through some nice parkland. I saw the sign for Snob's Creek Falls and drove up to take a look, dodging logging trucks and their dust clouds all the way up and down the mountain. Other than that, the bush was lovely if a little sparse.

Lake Eildon 1930 hrs
I made dinner at an open fire BBQ on the shore of this beautiful lake, accompanied by two black swans, one of which ate out of my hand as I stood in the shallows. As I skirted the reservoir Skippy leapt out of nowhere in front of the car, but I managed to slow down in time to prevent an accident. I drove through dusk into twilight, marvelling at the pink and purple hue of the sky, stopping for the night at a deserted rest stop.

Thursday 2nd March - Grass Tree Rest Area, Hume Highway
I woke to the inevitable growl of truck engines and the sound of a creek, far below my parking place in the bush.  I drove on to this rest stop to cook breakfast, listening to my old friend the bell bird as I toasted bread to accompany my boiled egg and camomile tea. Washing in cold water is not my favourite occupation, but needs must when the devil drives… A Huntsman spider hung over my head while I cooked, the big daddy of all spiders, sized around 20-25 mm, it would terrify even the bravest of humans. I watched with interest as it watched me but the real danger came from my feet as three types of ant milled about in search of food, one of which, the little biting bugger, gave me a nasty nip on my ankle up in Byron. I did not linger long at this rest area!

Glenrowan 1050hrs
This, home of the most famous of Australia's bandits, Ned Kelly, is a village totally dedicated to his existence. You can tour Kate Kelly's cottage, or visit a museum exhibit and film show about the robber's last stand.  A couple of places sell models and fridge magnets, tea towels or tee shirts, and this huge statue of the man in his metal helmet stands outside the post office/Ned Kelly Tea-room along the only main street. I bought a fridge magnet and changed a cheque for petrol (a high price out here in the sticks). The sun beats down at 35ºC today and a welcome ice cream helps to combat the heat as I reflect on the place. I bet they're really grateful to old Ned for putting their village on the map, without him it would surely be just another unknown outback town.
I'm soon driving over the border from Victoria into New South Wales, noting the differences, not the least of which is that NSW charge for their highway BBQ's whereas in Victoria it is a free service, and NSW has no wood burning BBQ's, only electric ones. NSW roads are a bit better too.

Holbrook NSW 1330
Approaching this quiet, clean swept  little town, I was puzzled to see it lauded as 'The Submarine Town' on a road sign. Driving though the neat little community, I see why as I glimpse HMS Ottway, a full-sized black submarine, moored permanently in grass and flowerbeds, surrounded by picnic tables and BBQ shelters. I had to stop and look, it's not every day you see a submarine in the middle of farming country. All the more strange when you consider the town doesn't even have a creek running though it!
Driving, driving, always driving. I can't wait to sit at a proper table for a change. I stopped to rest in a shady spot where I ate the rest of my fresh food and emptied the melted ice water out of the esky. I was fairly cooking in the relentless sun, God help the poor animals standing without shade in the fields at either side of the road. Of course, if they had left some forest around the area….

Friday 3rd March - Newtown
A few false starts brought me to the door at 2230 hrs last night to crash gratefully in a real bed. A new addition to the house is Max, a nice young man, sleeping on the lounge floor temporarily. Checked my mail this morning, and repacked my suitcase in the hope of being able to drive up to Queensland or Alice Springs after tomorrow's Mardi Gras parade, which is the reason I came back to Sydney. First I have to see about selling the car. The Trading Post proved useless in finding out Matilda's potential, I'll have to think again.

Saturday 4th March
After breakfast I went to the Metro shopping centre to develop films and shop before the rain came down. Not a deluge this time, but enough to bring down the temperature and threaten to dampen tonight's parade. I hung around the house all day writing, leaving for the city at 1800 hrs. Following Chrissie's advice, I grabbed a milk crate on the way to the train in order to guarantee seeing the action. I took up position at the beginning of the parade, outside Museum station, and waited with thousands of others for the fun to begin. I stood near two gay men, who explained various floats and their significance. All political parties, churches, banks, airlines, government bodies and of course, gay activists were well represented. The first float featured Aboriginals, calling for reconciliation and the elusive apology for the past policy of stealing their children and placing them with white families, as yet unsaid by the prime minister. More floats moved past as I took photos, growing cooler as time progressed. At 2215 hrs all was over, the last fireworks lit up the sky and people began to move towards stations and bus stops. I was very tired of standing, the ache in my back reminded me I have no business taking part in such activities, and I gratefully sank into a seat on the train. Even in bed the ache persisted, perhaps I might see the chiropractor again…..

Sunday 5th March
Sorely tempted to drive off into the mist, I am very aware that with less than four weeks before I leave, I must get the car sold before I can progress. I typed up a notice for the backpacker hostels, wrote an ad for the Trading Post, and relaxed around the house all day. The cats were good company. Axel, the black tom, likes to find a cupboard to sleep in during the day, while the tail-less Rat-cat slumbers on her balcony chair, purring with delight whenever she is stroked. Axle suffers from brain damage, holding his head on one side, as if trying to peer round the cataracts on his eyes, and occasionally shows signs of feline dementia.

Monday March 6th
Went around all the backpack hostels in King's Cross to distribute my notice. There seem to be lots of other vehicles on offer as well, perhaps it might be harder to sell this car than I thought.
Tonight I met up with Mary, Chris and Lou and Fran at Sydney University's Seymour Centre theatre to hear four successful women discuss women's role in the workplace, to an almost totally female audience. I felt very out of place, not at all in tune with the discussion, as if the women around me were part of an alien culture.

Tuesday 7th March
Today I washed the car. A bit of a waste of time when the rain fell in buckets again. I feel a bit depressed and wish I could just get the car gone and go someplace for my last couple of weeks. I took the car to a garage to check the back tyres and paid $10 to have it up on the ramp and then to be told it was a piece of crap not worth more than $500. I think the price of $1700 is too high to attract a buyer, maybe $1500 is more realistic. I called the Trading Post to change the price and move it to the classic car section - maybe that will work.
The TV is full of Australia's problems; in July the Goods and Services Tax is due to be brought in, causing all sorts of consternation; Olympic sponsors are dropping out in droves; mandatory sentencing in Western Australia and Northern Territories is being debated by the UN Human Rights Commissioner; and now an Australian mining company has caused the worst disaster in European history by poisoning two rivers with cyanide. What a farce.

Wednesday 8th March
Rain kept me home all day. I began to type my diary while waiting for the phone to ring. It didn't. Max took me out later for a game of pool at the Union bar, then we shared a pizza and watched some TV. Today's big news, Alan Bond, the thief who diddled billions from pension funds, has been released on appeal after only three years of his seven year sentence. Another crook hits the streets again, they seem to have a plethora of criminals in this country. The message is, if you can rip off somebody, go ahead, you will only be slapped on the wrist for it.

Thursday 9th March
Today I dried out the car's leaking trunk and got my first customer on the phone. I drove to meet the three American travellers excitedly, picking them up down town and test driving them to King's Cross. They said they were keen but when I went to the cashpoint with the girls, the third cash card wouldn't pay out. When we returned to their companion, he was already in conversation with the owner of another van for sale. It soon became apparent that I had been used as a free taxi service for them and their heavy backpacks, they weren't really interested in the car. All this served to do was use up my petrol, and waste my time.
Back at home I cooked dinner, receiving another call from an Irish girl who really wanted a station wagon, not a sedan. Disillusioned, I slouched on the couch for the evening trying hard not to be negative.

Friday 10th March
Where does all this rain come from? Southern Australia would absolutely love this after their years of drought. I spent the day waiting, slaughtering ants by the hundred as they emerged from behind the kitchen unit. All I need now is one of the four-inch local cockroaches to appear! The computer is at the doctor's receiving more memory so writing was out today. Max is away at the Grand Prix in Melbourne, Kathryn and Mary have gone up to the Blue Mountains for the weekend. I get to sleep in my own room for a couple of days until Kathryn returns to claim it, which inevitably means the overnight company of Axel as he tries to push me out of the bed.

Saturday 11th March
Chris went off up to Byron Bay today for a week's holiday. I stayed behind in the rain, wishing I could return to the Paradise Coast too. At least the computer was back enabling me to could write away the hours. The best news is that I sleep in Chrissie's bed this week, not the futons I've been sleeping on since I got back from travelling. My hip will be ever grateful….

Sunday 12th March
A lovely, lone, lazy day, marred by the arrival of the girls, home from their weekend. Left out of their chatter, I felt isolated, introverted, almost cocooned with my own thoughts. The phone rang - Gabby, niece of Joanne's, inviting me out on Thursday evening. My mood lightened considerably at the chance to do something different.

Monday 13th March
More notices distributed throughout the backpack hostels, there seem to be so many cars for sale now that its hard to fit my notice on the boards. In places the old one has been discarded, some people think that's clever, getting rid of the competition. There is also a car market held on the second floor of the nearby multi-storey car park but that requires a 'pink slip' or roadworthy certificate, which I don't have, before you may display the car there. I reached Newtown just as the first downpour of the day began, and sat in front of the keyboard for the rest of the day and night.

Tuesday 14th March
Changed the old very bad tyre for the spare tyre which to be honest, was not a lot better. The first customer called in reply to the ad in the paper, they came this evening. They seemed quite enthusiastic, promising to call tomorrow. Another call came from a guy also wanting to come over tomorrow. I was buzzing with expectation by the end of the night.

Wednesday 15th March
I bought two reconditioned tyres for the back end, hopefully this will cure the curious noisy bumping from the rear assembly; I just know the shock absorbers have gone. I stupidly turned down a call at noon while waiting for the other customer who didn't call back. I'll take the first offer I can get at this rate. The first buyer, Richie, called wanting to come tomorrow to view Matilda again. Hooray, at last a genuine buyer!

Thursday 16th March
Well, the two men agreed on a price of $1200 which is less than expected but at this stage who cares? I began to make plans to go to Alice Springs with the money, checking a travel agents in Waverley where Gabby took me prior to our evening out.  Gabby introduced me to two lady friends of hers and we all went into the R.S.L. which is a bit like the British Legion Club for retired servicemen. Inside, like many other bars throughout the land, a section of Pokie machines were screened off from half of the bar area where customers sit at tables and drink while taking part in a prize draw for meat and other household items. I was awarded a leg of lamb, and a pack of ribs, - great prizes for a vegetarian!  A few glasses of wine later the 'turn' arrived, another male/female duo singing in Carpenter's style. We all agreed the boredom level had risen too much and time had come to say goodnight. It was only ten but there were no more raffles going on. Gab and Sheridan (her cousin) took me home via Bondi Beach and Vaucluse, the Beverley Hills of Sydney, to ogle wonderful houses. At Watson's Bay we looked down onto the ocean from the top of the cliffs at the Gap, a popular suicide spot. The moonlight shone silver on the ebony waves, the night air smelled of Frangipani and Banksia, and the wind whispered a soothing song. We took Sheridan home first, a great excuse to meet up again with Ferdinand the ferret, pictured here:

Friday 17th March
My balloon burst good and proper today after the two boys took Matilda up to a local garage for an assessment. After driving her, the mechanic said the back end was gone, and the rust at the bottom of the doors would get a police defect notice slapped on her at one glance. Obviously, the customers evaporated like smoke and I was left dejected and miserable, to contemplate my lot. Why oh why do these things happen to me?

Saturday 18th March
We went to the movies this afternoon with Belinda, to see American Beauty. What a good movie. I've loved Kevin Spacey since The Usual Suspects and in this film he proved his talent once again. This evening we cooked the lamb, Ron and Lou came over to help with the eating and a good time was had by all.

Sunday 19th March
Walk Against Want was held today and I'm proud to say I did five kilometres of it. The bigger route was fifteen kilometres and my hip just wouldn't have managed that. I got a certificate of appreciation and a foot massage for my trouble. I quite enjoyed it. Sydney does a lot of these things, every weekend people are out walking running or some other form of exercise, the whole city seems full of sports people. The afternoon was spent with the Saturday papers, both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Weekend Australian, thick with advertising and psycho-babble. Tessa (Mary's mum) arrived this evening for a few days with her little dog Bluey. You should have seen Axel scoot off when Bluey came in!

Monday 20th March
Rain, rain, rain, buckets of it. I sat in front of the computer or TV for most of the day feeling depressed. The girls took me out to quiz night at the local pub, it was great fun and lifted my spirits considerably (or was it the copious amounts of Chardonnay I drank?) We came fourth, so I guess it was worth it.

Tuesday 21st March
Oh my aching head! The man from Testra came this morning to install a second line. I was just too ill to move around much until about 2 p.m. when I made some effort. I made dinner but as everyone was out to eat I shelved it for tomorrow. Chris took me with her to dine with her bus driving friend Stuart at a lovely Indian restaurant in Balmain.

Wednesday 21st March
I decided to change the price on the car to $1100 and add a photograph to the advertisement. There's still masses of competition in the hostels, and some of my notices had been removed. It rained later, I wrote some, and made dinner.

Thursday 22nd March
A break in the weather permitted me to sand off the garden table and stools ready for painting.The maid, Jeffrey, came to clean the house. I marvel at my niece's ability to get a man to do her housework, I wish I was so lucky. I spent some time packing my suitcase ready for the flight home, hoping everything fits in. Another day of no calls about Matilda, I despair of getting rid of this car!

This huge Huntsman spider which normally lives unseen in the house, decided to sit behind the bathroom door just above head level, causing some consternation. It stared right at me when I sat on the toilet but I didn't mind, as long as it keeps on grabbing the four inch cockroaches I occasionally see round here, it can stay wherever it pleases. Kathryn had Chrissie remove it, she's a bit more squeamish when it comes to spiders. It was the size of your hand and would have scared the pants off most people but it is a harmless creature with a purpose - catching insects.

Friday 23rd March
More grey skies. I phoned a few wreckers to offer them the car but they are just not interested. I e-mailed the motor registration office in Adelaide to see about a refund. It's only $280 but better than nothing if I have to scrap the vehicle. Stayed home in front of the computer or TV again this evening.

Saturday 24th March
Went down to change the notice again - $800 this time. Drastic measures required at this stage, there's just one week before I fly out. Chris and I drove up to Newcastle to visit with her friends Grant and Anita, and their two delightful little girls. We took them all out to eat before driving home where there was a message from Joe, the German guy who sold me the car, he wants to buy it back!

Sunday 25th March
The sun shone today for a change. We all went out to the Broadway shopping mall, (which didn't feel a bit like a Sunday to me) where Sydney is very like New York, Sunday shopping being one strong similarity. Another call from another Irish guy, prompted me to wait home this afternoon for him to see the car. He liked Matilda and paid me $950 for her. I'm so happy now, but regret that it took so long to sell the car. Maybe if I had brought the price down earlier I might have had a couple of weeks in Alice or Cairns. Never mind, they can wait for the next trip. I took Chris and Mary out to dinner after an improvisation theatre performance in Kings Cross. Very good performance it was too.

Monday 26th March
I got out and about early on a bright sunny day, booking myself on a wildlife park trip tomorrow ($42.00? A bit pricey) and taking the ferry to Manly where I sat on the small city beach sunning myself and reading my book. Found nice T-shirts for souvenirs while browsing for opals to give to Chrissie. Later, back in the city I explored the fantastic Queen Victoria Building with its huge performing clocks, taking photos to send to Ern, my clock making friend in USA. Searched the shops, finding a beautiful art print for myself. I wish I could buy things for everyone but alas the space is just not there in the suitcase. Tonight was quiz night again - we came third this week, winning a big bottle of wine. At home I caught Kevin Spacey's Oscar ceremony, a perfect choice in my opinion.

Tuesday 28th March
Early out of the house for the wildlife tour. It was OK but the photograph cuddling a koala was only available by paying $24 for the privilege with their set piece and nobody was available to show us around or explain anything about the animals. The Perth tour was by far better value. I was disappointed with the place, being tacked on to a theme park is not the best place for a wildlife sanctuary if you ask me.
I walked around Chinatown looking for a lunch and opals, finding neither. I just didn't fancy any Asian food, and all of the varieties were available at the Chinese food mall. Instead I ate in the Centre Point Food Court, enjoying a freshly made vege-burger while a crowd of diners munched away around me, then took the lift up to the observation deck to gaze down on Sydney from above. There's something about viewing a city from up there, people are fascinated by the view, everyone busy searching for their house or hotel. I couldn't see ours, other buildings were in the way. Once again I went into the Queen Victoria Building to buy the opal set I saw yesterday, gold earrings and a necklace. I had to take my ticket and passport with me to prove I would be travelling, in order to get the tax deduction. Kathryn made her chilli bean stew tonight, very nice.

Wednesday 29th March
Today's overcast skies forced me inside to write and pack today, I didn't feel like going out at all.

Thursday 30th March
The original photographs didn't come out too well so I went to take more pics of the clocks in QVB, calling in on the way at the Strand, another ornate arcade, to buy Trudy's pendant. With a mere two days to go I want to spend time doing things I haven't yet done, like taking the ferry to Watson's Bay and Double Bay, neither of which were particularly memorable. The Sydney basin is now totally full, there's no more space to be had this side of the Blue Mountains. Trouble is, the availablity lessens with the need to preserve the wilderness. The story's the same the world over - too many of us, too little of nature. It will kill us all in the end.
Later, at the house, a visitor arrived in the shape of Dick, an old friend of Chrissie's who now lives in Queensland. He and I knew of each other by proxy, and it was good to put a face to the name at last. Tonight Chris took us all out to mark my leaving, Ron, Lou, Mary, Kathryn, Dick, and I went to the revolving restaurant at the top of the Centre Point tower, to eat a buffet of delights over a moving panorama of the most beautiful night city. The view was marred only by an ugly building all but blocking views of both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. What a planning mistake! The food was delightful, as was the company.

Friday 31st March
I decided to spend my last day in Australia on the beach in dazzling sunshine, bringing the tan up to par. Bought some souvenirs for the kids, relaxed and read my book, almost venturing into the sea but the cool temperature made me stop at the leg level. Chris was out for the evening at a work conference, so I slept alone with both cats.

Saturday 1st April
Flight day. Flight at 1650 hrs gave me plenty of time at the airport. It wasn't until I got there that I saw the ticket had been booked without taking into consideration the extra summertime hour, and that the plane would leave an hour earlier. By the time I got booked in it was time to board, so our planned lunch at the airport together was cancelled. I hugged my niece for the last time, so sorry to be leaving her and her magnificent country. I will return one day to Australia, it's too beautiful not to go back to.

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