Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Back in the cold and damp

We've been back in England for a week now and, though the jet lag has passed, we're still feeling a little shell-shocked. Very green fields, lovely pubs, stupidly congested (and potholed) roads, lots of rain and temperatures that are struggling to get above 10 degrees centigrade. This is supposed to be the start of summer, right? It's certainly quite a shock after Australia! Actually, to be fair, we arrived into London last weekend at the end of a 3-day heatwave so, as we emerged from Green Park tube station on Saturday, the park was full of people having picnics and general fun on the grass but since then the weather seriously deteriorated.

This blog will, for obvious reasons, start to describe some less exotic adventures now we are back but we will continue to update it every now and then with sailing stories once we are reunited with Maunie (see later). In the meantime, here are the last few photos from the land of sunshine and the latest update on the boat's voyage towards us.

A coastal hike at the Noosa National Park

Just to remind us what sunshine looks like!
 We had a wonderful few days with Andy and Sue up in Noosa, caught up with Kerry in her new home town of Sunshine Beach and had a couple of days back in Brisbane (a city we really like) before flying to Adelaide for 3 nights. The reason for the stop-over was that Graham had a meeting with the team at Coopers Brewery (who distribute Thatchers Cider in Australia) but it also gave us a chance to see a new part of the country.

As luck would have it, our arrival in town coincided with the Special Olympics, a food expo and a big tourism conference so we couldn't find a hotel in the city for love nor money. Instead we were offered a room in a pub / hotel in Stirling, 30 minutes' drive out in the Adelaide Hills, which is a wine region. Wine region, you say? That'll be fine!

Stirling main street - the autumnal colours are arriving

Some relevant street sculptures

The hotel was once a stage-coach stop, with stables behind it, and is one of the oldest buildings in town

The hotel today - very comfy rooms 
After Graham's day of toil in the Brewery (and a very lovely meal out for us both with Nick the operations manager and Michael, the sales manager and his wife Jo) we had time to explore a little of the countryside (and, of course, sample its produce) before spending the day in the university city of Adelaide.

Old and new University buildings

By now, dear readers, you'll know that our sailing trip has given us wonderful friendships and connections all around the world so you won't be surprised to hear that we had friends to meet in Adelaide, even though we'd never been there before. Peter and Catherine are lovely people whom we met on the SSB radio a couple of years ago. They have just completed their circumnavigation on their catamaran The Southern Cross, finishing in style with an epic anti-clockwise trip around Australia from Bundaberg, so we had a great meal with them. Meanwhile Harry, who joined us on Maunie with his dad Karl in January, is doing a year at Adelaide University so we met him for a drink too. 

So, we're back home and, whilst we're sorry that this amazing adventure is over (for the moment at least), we are looking forward to the next chapter. Graham is spending a few days at Thatchers to get back up to speed with the amazing pace of change there before we head north to visit family (Graham's Mum's 80th birthday party and niece Amy's wedding being highlights of a busy and social week). We then dash south to meet Maunie as she's unloaded in Southampton and will have a couple of weeks aboard her to sail her back to Dartmouth. We won't regain access to our house until the 11th June so the ability to live back aboard the boat is good!

In the meantime we've just spent a busy couple of days searching for a 'workhorse' car for Di, a process which sadly reinforced the worst stereotypes of used-car salespeople until we found a genuinely refreshing owner-operator business in West Sussex and bought a very tidy 7 year old Subaru estate. Thanks to Zoe, an ex-colleague of Graham's and now marketing manager for a holiday business called Darwin Escapes, we are currently residing in a holiday park lodge near Cheddar and enjoying the freedom to cook our own meals, wash laundry and use the gym. Almost normal life.

The new car and our latest temporary residence
We'll update you when we're back on Maunie!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Australian critters

Someone posted this image on Facebook recently and it served to underline the fact that we've barely scratched the surface of Australia.

We've only sailed down the east coast (from just north of the Russia / Ukraine border down to northern Egypt, in northern hemisphere terms). Having picked up a hire car in Brisbane we were able to revisit some sailing haunts and catch up with good friends before heading inland.

With Irene and Lionel in Yamba. They have just bought a beautiful house there so, sadly, the wonderful Kiapa is up for sale

In Kingscliff, to visit Di's aunt Brenda (seated in front of Di ) - we were introduced to her gang
Driving north, we stopped at Byron Bay

Another lighthouse moment - this is the most easterly point of mainland Australia

The car's boot is loaded with all the important things

The little inland trip of the past couple of weeks has introduced us to a whole new climate and a complete change of animal life. Luckily this handy species identification chart hasn't been needed too many times:

We spent a night at an Airbnb house up in the hills inland of the coastal town of Mooloolaba (which has such a great name that the spell-checker wants to convert it to Hullabaloo) near Melaney and were delighted to find that Lex and Marie, the owners, are huge wildlife enthusiasts and have three generations of 'pretty face' Wallabies visit them each morning and evening.

'Ziggy' is very partial to the odd gift of a cracker. The bulge in her belly shows that there's a joey in there, but it has yet to show its face.

 The bird life around the house was pretty good, too:

Fluffy kookaburras 

Marie puts seeds out for the parrots and Rosellas 
Lex turned out to be another engineer who used to work in the brewing industry in Melbourne so he and Graham swapped stories. These days his passion is restoring rare motorbikes so Di got to jump on another old British bike - this time a 1950, 1000cc Vincent:

Leaving Melaney we stopped for a walk at a national park to marvel at the rain-forest trees that were spared the loggers' saw when much of this area was cleared for farmland - today, Melaney's warm, moist climate makes it one of the best areas for dairy farming in Australia.

Extraordinary buttress root structures

There's always something trying to kill something else in Australia - a huge vine is slowly encircling this tree

This is a Booyong, or Brown Tulip Oak

Huge bats roosting in the canopy

The view across the plains towards the sea. These are the Glasshouse Mountains, so named by Captain Cook.
We are now in Noosa, having stayed with our lovely friends Sue and Andy and their daughters, Hannah and Emma for a few days of relaxation and more exploration. Our time here is rapidly running out, sadly!

Friday, 13 April 2018

The Blue Mountains

After a purely coastal view of Australia over the past six months, we are really enjoying the opportunity to see some of the inland countryside. Our friends Sue and Ian in Pittwater invited us to join them at their 800-acre farm up in the Blue Mountains, about 3 hours' drive west of Sydney, over the Easter weekend. The mountains get their name from the blue-grey haze that forms over the forests of eucalyptus when the heat of the sun releases oils from the trees. We weren't quite prepared for the beauty of the area and felt very privileged to experience the place with people who know it so well.

Here are a few photos:

The view at our lunch stop at the Botanical Gardens on the Bells Line of Road

Di enjoying the flora and fauna

Up in the mountains we found this pretty little church, constructed from 'fibro' (concrete asbestos panels) 

Di and Sue enjoy the dramatic views and amazing rock formations

Graham & Ian on the edge

Di must have been here before!

Looking across the Capertee Valley, close to the farm. It's a huge gorge which is bigger than the Grand Canyon
 Once we got to the farm we were able to hike and (to Graham's delight) use Ian's trail motorbikes to explore the rugged terrain.

All Australian farms have a 'tip', where redundant farm equipment and old vehicles rot slowly!

The remains of a slightly more modern vehicle

Ian has a 1934 Norton 500cc motorcycle which he's owned since he was 16. It hadn't run for about 5 years but started at first kick!
Just north of the farm is the little town of Mudgee which is a significant wine region. It was only right that we had to do a full day of tasting and Sue very kindly offered to do the driving.

A delicious light lunch

The natural beauty of the region belies its industrial past and present. In the late 1870's, a shale known as torbanite was found and mined - it was used to make a form of kerosene for lamp oil and the process developed further to make petrol in the second world war. We hiked into the hills and found the remains of earliest mining settlements - these miners were tough people!

A cave was extended to form a dwelling

Inside the cave and some relics from the 1890's

In the early 20th Century, coal mining began and horizontal ventilation shafts with coal-burning chimneys to create the draught were constructed

A boiler in the middle of the forest. It originally powered a steam engine for hauling timber but  its fire also drew stale air from the mine

The long, brick-lined air shaft
After a hot and thirst-making walk we headed down to the Capertee pub which was really busy on Easter Sunday. Graham was very interested to find a micro-distillery producing whisky so had a long chat with 'Crafty' the owner.

A local pilot was offering 15-minute joyrides in his 1972 Bell helicopter so we just had to have a trip - we flew over the route we'd walked in the morning.

Sue and Ian taking off

Di enjoyed the experience

Dramatic rock formations

A view of the modern mine

Back at the farmhouse.