Tea with a Stranger, Katsjourney Around the World: 9 March, 2003

Tea With a Stranger
Date: Sun, 09 Mar 2003 18:11:58 -0600
I  met an elderly woman on my flight from Melbourne to Tasmania a few weeks

ago. I would guess her age was around 85 years old.  But it often hard for

me to tell after the age of 70 because your looks start to reflect the

amount of sun damage, smoke damage, alcohol damage and just general diet

that you have endured.  This lady was delightful.  She was wearing a little blue

dress with a little matching hat, shoes and handbag.  She had several gray

hairs growing out of her chin and her lipstick was a bit askew. Other than

that, she was very “put together”.

She had been in Melbourne to go to as friend’s 95th birthday party. taz quantas link We were

on a short hop Qantas Link service and those planes do not have a first

class.  We were in the
very front row.  When we were ready to deplane, she

told the businessman behind us that she was “quick going down the

stairs”…she refused to get old.  I found that inspirational.

During the flight we chatted about her garden and the upcoming Launceston

Cup horse race coming up in Tasmania.  She invited me to her house for tea

later that week.  I thought, why not?  She told me her name was “Lewis”.

Sure enough, on a rainy, dreary Friday she phoned my flat and said she

would collect  me in an hour.  She still drove; although not really that

well.  Come to find out, she litaz mansionved alone in a national registered mansion

(built in the 1800’s) just on the edge of Hobart in an area called Sandy Bay.
The inside of her house was like a museum.  Evidently, she came from one of the wealthiest families in Tasmania as did her deceased husband.

There were old fashioned fireplaces in every room with beautiful wood carved


taz mansion 2

I found this photo on the home listing page.

There were priceless antiques from England and all kinds of china

and collectibles displayed.  The parlor, where we had tea, had a beautiful

chandelier. We sipped on Earl Grey tea and sampled some of her home made

biscuits and cookies. We chatted about her children and life in the port

town of Hobart, Tasmania.  She seemed to have a busy agenda for someone 85

years old.  But I could also see how loneliness would engulf her in that

giant home with only the sounds of the 18th century clock collection to keep

her company.

She took me for a stroll in her acre garden.  She has lived there for over

50 years and has planted everything in that garden.  It was obviously still

her favourite pastime as she picked fresh fruit for me to eat off the trees

and the snipped a few of the most beautiful scented roses I have ever

smelled.  The garden won Australia’s Better Homes & Gardens “Garden of the

Year” in 1996.

taz mansion garden

Even after her death the roses still bloom.

It was a nice diversion after spending several days alone exploring the city

on my own. You see, the older woman AND the younger woman were both a bit


***2016 Note: I did not have my camera with me that day.  However, I did a bit of research and found the home listing and grabbed a few photos from it. I was thrilled to find it after all these years. She has passed away, but her sweet memory lives on with me. Even though we were only together for a brief moment in time.



Tassie! Katsjourney Around the World: 27 February, 2003

: Tassie
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 19:34:56 -0600
Greetings to all my friends and family from the Australian state of

Tasmania.  The Australians call it “Tassie”.  It is a small island state

south of the actual mainland of Australia.  From Melbourne to Hobart

(Tassie’s capitol) is about a 50 minute flight.  The island is rich in

National Heritages and has lots of wonderful outdoor activities, like

mountain climbing, bushwalks, watersports, etc. The weather can be pretty

rough, even in summer.  The higher elevations could have snow tomorrow!  But

the day I arrived it was 32 degrees Celsius (in the mid-80’s for those of

you not who don’t do the conversions).  This harsh weather was perfect for

the original jails (they spell is “gaol” here) that were set up for the

British convicts.

Today is a rainy and cool day.  Actually it is only the third day of rain I

have seen since since leaving the US last fall. And the first day that I am

out in the rain.  I had to dig around in the gigantic suitcase to find my


I am staying at a cool little efficiency apartment near the waterfront.  The

population in Hobart is about 200,000, so everTaz Hobart waterfrontything is in walking distance.

The population of the entire state is only a   bit over 400,000.  The people

remind me a bit of Texans.  Really proud of their unique state…and out in

the country a bit “back woods”!

I took a river cruise to the Moorilla boutique winery right on the shores of

the Derwent River.  Great Tassie wines.  They even brought out area cheeses

and grapes to have with the different samples.

Then we were picked up by minivans to take us to the Cadbury’s chocolate

factory.  It was built here back in the 1800’s because, at the time, Hobart

had the deepest docks for shipping.  We had a full tour (donning lovely hair

nets and ear protection) and got lots of samples along the way.  I kept

waiting to see Willy Wonka or an Oompa Loompa slither out of a big vat oftaz cadbury

bubbling chocolate.  Cadbury’s has something like 60 factories around the

world.  This one exports only 10% of its chocolate to other countries.  The

rest of the 90% stays here in Australia.
They say Aussies love their

chocolate.  And the interesting thing is that each factory’s formula is a

bit different to appeal to that particular country’s tastes.

I did a 20 kilometer bike tour descent down Wellington Mountain (adjacent to

the city) yesterday.  The views from up there are amazing.  Steve & I did

one of those descent tours in Maui a couple of years ago.  Cold, but really

a piece of cake.  This one was a bit more challenging. For several

kilometers, we were off road.  Our tour guide was a 20 something cycling

maniac.  He had us down some moderate and advanced rocky, gravel deep

descent paths.  I only wiped out once!  I was putting on the brakes too hard

to avoid the guy in front of me and I went right over the handlebars! Tore

up my leg and ankles a bit and messed up my shoulder…I think.  Yep, that’s

what adventure touring is all about!

This weekend I leave on an adventure tour to the west and northwest of the

Island encompassing Cradle Mountain and Mt. Field National Heritages with

(obviously) lots of mountains and lakes.  Horseback riding, cycling and

canoeing….I hope I can keep up with the 20-something backpackers with me!

Other notes I haven’t mentioned much about…..

Water conservation is big here.  All of the toilets have two flush buttons.

One is a half moon for liquids and one is a full moon for solids.  Why don’t

we have that in the States?  You know if you have one of those new fangled

“low flush” toilets you have to flush two or three times to get the big job

down.  So why not just have two options?  Ask your plumber!

Petrol (or gasoline) is at an all time high in decades.  They have inched

over A$1.00 for a liter and expect it to go above $1.25 this winter as the

war seems eminent.  A liter is approximately a quarter of a gallon.  $5.00 a

gallon?  Quit whining about US prices and quit buying gas guzzling vehicles.

I actually have a TV in my apartment right now, so I have been overdosing on

CNN and any local news perspectives.  Most of the CNN here comes out of Hong

Kong and London, so I feel I am getting both perspectives..not just the

pro-war, pro-Bush Admin. American news. Taz no war War seems inevitable, regardless of

allies.  It has been interesting hearing the perspectives of all of you.  Of

those who have replied to any of my political commentary, it seems that you

are equally split on the war issue.  Although most if you feel a bit

confused on conflicting messages from the media and the US government.

I caught a special here in Australia about the “Stolen Generation” of

Aborigines.  As most of you know, Australia has a history similar to many

countries that were “dicovered” by the old world or taken over.  The British

conquered the land here and drove the natives off it.  There was also a time

recently (1960’s, early 70’s) when the government took away Aborigine babies

from their parents and put them in orphanages. taz sorry day The reasons cited were for

abuse and neglect, mostly.  These children are now adults and are extremely

angry about the system, the loss of their normal lives and the loss of their

land.  They are extremely angry and are turning to the teachings of Islam

for solace.  It could be a problem in Australia’s future. Kind of


Okay, enough rambling.  Love to all.  Still looking for a Tasmanian Devil!Taz devil



Wine, Sheep and Tingles…Katsjourney Around the World: 21 Feb 2003

Subject: Wine, Sheep and Tingles…
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 00:42:41 -0600
I have just returned to Perth from a bus trip tour of southwest Western

Australia.  It was an organized tour with a guide.  I got to see so much of

this vast and beautiful state…and we only covered 1400 kilometres in four

days through Albany, Pemberton, and Margaret River.  My coach mates

consisted of the over 60-year-old set from mainly Germany and the UK.  They

were all really nice and gave me great advice on two of my next

destinations: Tasmania and Thailand. But let me tell you, the red carpet was

rolled up right after dinner with this jet set!  Just as well, since they

had us up at 6am every day.

Some of the highlights of the trip included:

Travelling through the Karri Forest.  I have never seen the great California

Redwoods, so I really can’t compare things here…but I was in the most

beautiful forest that I have ever seen. Perth Hollow tree karri forest  The majority of the trees are Red

and Yellow Tingles, a type of Eucalyptus tree and pine trees.  The Tingles

grow to massive heights and over 400 years.  They are the sort of trees that

get so large at the base that you can cut a hole in them and walk through.

There was a Red Tingle so large at one time that you could drive a car

through it.  Unfortunately, all of the weight from the cars eventually

killed the root system and the tree died.  So now, they have constructed a

tree top walk.  This is an elevated walkway made of a series of suspensionPerth suspension bridge

bridges interlocked at viewing platform junctions.  As you trek through the

forest 40 meters in the air you see birds from above.  It was very cool.

There is also a walk there called the Valley of the Giants.  It is there

that you can walk through the giant Tingle trees.  It had rained that

morning and the air was cool and crisp.  The wind gently whistled through

the leaves in a very peaceful and soothing way.  The scents took me back to

my days of Girl Scout Camp in northern Wisconsin.  What a great moment!

We also went to a working sheep-shearing farm for a demonstration. Although

I had been to Australia before, I never saw a sheep being shorn.

The shearer had me hold the sheep in position while he explained the process.  I

am sure that will be a really cute picture of me in a dress holding on to

this goofy sheep!  It completely reminded me of the sheep farm in the movie,

The Thorn Birds.  We also got to see a working dog demonstration with a

Border Collie gathering up the sheep in the field and herding them right

into a chute and then into the holding pen by the barn.  To move things

along, there is also a Keltie dog that jumps on top of the sheep in the

chute and scares the hell out of them so they move quicker.  So the Keltie

is running all along the tops nipping and the Border Collie is behind the

heard nipping.  Meanwhile, all the not-so bright  sheep are just stampeding each

other and throwing up a whole lot of dust.  It was so fun to watch.  They

tag the sheep by age and use their wool through age seven.  When they reach

the age of seven they are sold for mutton.  The farmer works on a rotating

basis shearing each sheep just one time per year.  They do not shear in the

winter months of Jun-Aug because it rains a lot and the wool is too damp.

The wool is also rich in lanolin, so the shearers actually have very soft

hands for all the manual labour they do.

We visited a couple of wineries in the Margaret River valley.  This is a

relatively new area for growing grapes.  The oldest vineyards are only 30

years old.  The Evans & Tate Shiraz won wine of the year in a major

competition in London a few years back and that has put their wine-growing

region on the map.  And I must say, most of the wines I sampled were pretty

good.  Not as cheap as South Africa, but still a good. Perth Margaret river wine

price.  AU$11-$24 per bottler.  BTW, the exchange rate here right now is

AU$1=US$1.59, so the greenbacks still go a bit further.

We also got to see the Mammoth Cave (ours are bigger in Texas!), an old

whaling station, an eagles heritage centre, and beautiful, rugged coast

where the Indian Ocean meets the Great Southern Ocean.

I will be heading to Tasmania on Monday.  This is the first place I will

arrive without a solid plan or any bookings made.  Just get off the plane

and have the taxi take me to the city centre of Hobart.  Isn’t that

exciting?  If there were anyplace to do something like that, I would think

it would be very user-friendly Tasmania.  I will let you know how it goes!

Hopefully there won’t be some big event going on and I will have to sleep in

the park.  That gives a whole new meaning to unemployed and homeless.

Anyway, I hear there are lots of Internet cafes, so I will be in touch!

I saw a special last night here about how America is in a panic to stock up

on duct tape, plastic, bottled water and gas masks.  Now c’mon, is this an

example of the media taking a remote incident and making the world think

it’s much worse than it is? I hope you are all well and safe.

Love from Down Under,


Quokkas and Black Swans Down Under: Katsjourney Around the World: 15 February, 2003

Subject: Quokkas and Black Swans Down Under
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 2003 23:14:09 -0600
Greetings from the land Down Under!

You know, I must say that traveling can certainly restore ones faith in the human race.  There I was a week ago, sitting in the Mauritius International Airport (yes, every flight in is international) feeling horribly lonely and tired.  My flight was delayed and delayed and delayed and the rain was endlessly falling from the tropical sky.  The airport Air Mauritiuspersonnel gave us all “Sure-maybe¨ answers as to what was wrong with the plane and when we would be leaving.  At one point there was an announcement in French and everybody stood up eagerly moving towards the gate.  I was thinking, cool we are finally boarding.  Then the announcement came in English.  Go to gate 2 for refreshment vouchers.  Fortunately, I am now a person with more patience and certainly more time than money.  Did I have some important appointment I needed to get to?

In a way the answer was yes.  My friend Ron, in Austin, had given me the name of one of his business partners (Brett) in Perth, Australia.  I had e-mailed Brett before my journey began and had asked for advice on where to stay and what to do in Perth.  He offered that I could stay it his place just a block from the beach.  So I took him up on the offer.  Now my flight was to arrive sometime after one in the morning on a school night.  So here is the thought process. I am so exhausted, I don’t want to even talk to anyone (ever have days like that?).  I am going to meet some strange guy and his girlfriend.  Wake them up at two in the morning.  Have them tell me all the things I need to know, sleep in their place, get a key, and have the whole pad to myself while they are at work all the following day.  What if they are axe murderers?  What if the girlfriend resents me being in the house? What do I say as I ring their doorbell at 2AM?  What if they are afraid that I will clean out the house in a grand scheme while they are at work?

Needless to say, they are absolutely wonderful people.  I have really enjoyed their company and hospitality.  Brett has four children that were visiting over the weekend.  They range from ages 13-5 and are some of the most charming, well behaved and engaging children I have ever met.

I have been exploring Perth and the surrounding areas the last week.  It is a wonderful city.  Someplace that I could easily live.  The population is just over 1 million and its geographiPerth skylinec location is in south western Australia.  It has a laid-back attitude like Austin or Portland or Cape Town.  It is not so nearly button down or professional as some of the bigger cities.  It is slightly inland on the Swan River and there is a charming port city called Freemantle just down the river on the Indian Ocean.  There are more boats per capita here than any other place in the world and by the looks of the endless multi-million dollar houses along the river, it is a very wealthy city.  It is an easy city to navigate, barely any crime, and is so clean you could practically eat off the pavement!  And the weather (for all of my friends and family living in blustery Chicago), how nice does it sound to live in a place that you don’t need heat or air conditioning in your home? Perth!

I took a short hour ferry to Rottnest Island on Friday.  I cycled and swam for the day. My legs are still sore!   This island is just stunning with hills and lots of inlets with safe swimming beaches and with beautiful coral for diving and snorkeling.  It got its name from the early Dutch explorers. It translates to “Rats Nest” because the original settlers thought it was infested with large rats.  No!  They are not rats at all, they are quokkas. This a most unusual, loving specie of marsupial.  They are bit like a kangaroo or wallaby but are much smaller and have a nice soft coat.  They hop and keep their young in their pouch.  They are so sweet, they come right up to you and let you pet them.  There are only a few thousand in the world and this is one of the only places to see them.  I wanted to take one home in my backpack!


I also saw a black swan in Perth for the first time in my life.  They are only indigenous to Western Australia (that is a state here) and a few other places in this country.  They look just like our white swans, but they are black and have a red beak.  They are also featured on the Swan beer label, the state beer of Western Australia.  Had my first one last night with a full moon walk on the beach with the kids.  Not bad!Perth black swan

Have you ever heard of an Australian Tea Tree?  There are many of them on Rottnest Island.  They look like broccoli in big bunches on the hillsides. They got the name because when they grow close to the water, the oil from the trees turns the water brown, like a tea color!  There are so many fascinating species of plants and animals around the world that we never get to see if we don’t leave our backyards.  I am so thankful to have the opportunity to experience these things. It has been wonderful sharing cultures and ideas with foreigners.  All weekend the kids have been asking questions that start out, “In American do they…”  So I am spreading a bit of the American good will.Perth Fremantle kiddos

Well, that’s all for now.  I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy sharing.  If not, please feel free to use the delete button.  Please send a special prayer out to my dad who will be having some minor surgery later this month and one to my new nephew who is a US Marine in the gulf right now.  And for those of you who aren’t religious, if you could just send out some positive energy, that would be great!

I miss you all and hope that the outbreak of war will not wreak havoc on our homelands.  The Australians have 2000 soldiers already positioned in the gulf to support the UK.  However, not a single native that I talked to agrees that the country should be aligned with the US or the UK in any way to support the war effort.  The large protests here chant “This is George Bush’s war”.   At times it may be best for me to be Canadian right now.

But what a fascinating experience it is to see it from this side of the globe.