Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 8)

Canada/Alaska Day 4: The long drive day.

Today was a long driving day to get from Kelowna to Banff. It was my turn to sit by the window, so most of the photos you’re going to see of the scenery will have a moody, almost impressionistic feel about them.

Sharon, our tour guide, was telling us about how she survives the cold, particularly in the Canadian winter. “I feel the cold, but I know how to dress,” she said. “I have 4 levels of winter clothing and even when the temperature reaches -40C, I rarely have to wear Level 4.”

She has a Gortex parka which is too warm even in -40C. That must be some parka!

She has 3 levels of boots and she mentioned that even if mothers wrap their kids up with long scarves wrapped around their heads to keep them warm, the kids’ eyelashes will freeze.

She rides horses in the winter (indoors) to keep them exercised, and uses electric socks wired from a battery pack under the knees to keep herself warm.

“I have a friend who is totally wired up from head to toe in the winter,” she said. “I’ve told her not to fall in a puddle or she’ll die!”

I’m going to look at Sharon each morning to determine which coat/jumper/raincoat I should wear that day. I didn’t unpack my raincoat and I needed it in the afternoon. It poured!

As we were driving along, I saw several small signs for a roadside stall, stuck on a fence beside the road.

Apples. 

Toys. 

Fruit. 

Fishing gear.  

Did I say cold beer?

One of the other people on the tour, a retired teacher, said that it takes 40 litres of maple sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup . Wow.

We stopped at a place where the last spike of the overland railway was struck. Here’s a little red caboose for your viewing pleasure.

Sharon was talking for miles about the railways and blah blah blah but I fell asleep. Apparently the railways were important for important reasons that blah blah..

What’s also important is money. I was starting to wonder why I bothered to buy some Canadian and American money, but the gift shop here had no internet, so it was cash only sales.

I bought some Maple Laef coasters (useful souvenir!) and a moose for my Christmas tree. I got my purchases to reach exactly $20, but I forgot that over here, they ass the tax on AFTER the price. How stupid. I had to fish out an extra fiver, but now I have a looney and tooney.

We were driving through the Selkirk mountain range.

Lord Selkirk from Scotland in the mid 1800’s was upset at the displacement of thousands of peasant farmers from the UK, which happened when the landowners discovered that they could make more money from their land by mining coal rather than renting it out to farmers, which they’d done for centuries. He brought a ton of people over to Canada and helped settle them on their own farms. In gratitude, Canada named a mountain range after him.

This blurry photograph was taken just as the bus went into an avalanche tunnel. These are built over the road and protect traffic from any unexpected falls. Sharon said they work well and that deaths have decreased dramatically since these went in.

Good to know, especially when you’re hearing about it from inside a bus driving along that road.

Our first “comfort break” after lunch was in a visitor information centre at the top of Roger’s Pass.

They offered a video about what to do if you come across a bear in the wild. Apparently, the key is to work out if it’s defensive or aggressive. You’d better get it right because the correct way to behave towards the bear is completely opposite for each situation.

Play dead or go bananas.

Sharon was telling a couple of us that there was a couple walking their dog out in the woods near here and they messaged a friend that they were getting concerned about a bear that was following them. A search party was sent out when they didn’t return and sure enough – all three bodies were found the next day.

On the other hand, a woman was being threatened by a bear so she turned the volume up on her phone and played Metallica at it at full volume. The bear fled, the story went viral and the lead singer called her to thank her for the publicity!

Sharon put on a DVD about beavers. I kept falling asleep, but I learned that beavers fell over 400 trees in a single year to build a new dam. I also woke in time to see beaver sex. Despite the romantic music playing over the footage, it looked more like rape to me…

The Rocky Mountains can be seen from space. The whole range is 700 miles long.

I learned this when I woke up for a bit.

I also surfaced to hear about the Kicking Horse river.

It was named during the Palliser expedition, which had a Dr Hector in it. They were out mapping the area and they decided to cross this river Unknown to them, the bottom of the river was deep clay and a packing horse got stuck. Dr Hector went to free it was the horse kicked out and got him square in the chest.

He was knocked out cold for hours. The other men in the expedition thought he was dead and dug him a grave. As they were preparing to throw him in it, he managed to blink a couple of times to let them know that he was still alive. Hence the name – Kicking Horse River. 45 years later, Dr Hector came back with his son Doudlas to show him the place where he almost died.

Doudlas then promptly dropped dead from appendicitis. Dr Hector never returned to the Rickies after that.

We also passed under several animal highways, which were built to allow the wild animals to cross safely from one side of the highway to the other. The sides are built up with trees so the animals can’t even see the road so they have no idea they’re crossing a bridge. They’ve done DNA testing on bears a few years after they’d installed them, and they found that sure enough – bears were looking for love on both sides of the highway, so they’ve been a great success.

Sharon also mentioned the wolves really like the underground wild animal crossings. They hang around at the end, knowing that sooner or later an elk will walk out and BAM!

Dinner.

Just outside of Banff, we got very excited when we saw our first wild animal sighting – a group of elk in the middle of the road.

I hope they all made it off the road ok when they were finished eating.

Later, right in the centre of Banff, we saw a group of elk in the middle of the river, but I couldn’t get a shot in time.

Imagine living with a mountain in your backyard!

I decided to take a close-up of the snow on the top of one of the mountains.

Looks pretty, doesn’t it?

What doesn’t look pretty is this abomination. It’s poutine. A Canadian delicacy, comprising of fries, cheese curds and gravy. I thought I’d do the right thing and give it a go at dinner.

IT WAS AWFUL.

We have a free day in Banff tomorrow. Let’s see what we find!

Dad joke of the day:

Canada/Alaska Day 3: Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again.

Look at this! You know how when you read about neighbourhoods in American lit and they talk about people hanging out on the “stoop”?

I think this is a stoop!

Anyway, on with the day.

Sharon, our tour director, handed out these chocolate lollies of Canadian money. Their $1 coins are called ‘Loonies’ because when the Prime Minister of the day ruled that $1 notes would be replaced by coins, the people thought he was crazy.

When the $2 notes went the same way, “Toonies” just fit.

The toonies have the Queen (now the King) on one side, with a bear on the other. So Canadians have a coin with the Queen with a bear bottom…

We had a long day of driving planned, with a winery visit at the end. I was looking forward to this until Sharon confidentially told us that the organic wines at this winery were shit, but the sparkling wine was good. I began planning how to swap my wine tastings for extra sparkling. Still, a winery visit is always nice.

Our first coffee break was in a town called ‘Hope.’ It’s famous for being where ‘Rambo’ was filmed, as well as being the place where chainsaw-wielding lumberjacks create street art.

While everyone else got off the bus and queued for the loo, or raced to get coffee, I power-walked down the street to see as many wood carvings as I could.

This is one side:

… and here’s the other.

Here’s Harry the Sasquatch.

When we were driving here, Sharon said that she believes in the Sasquatch, because she dated a few of them in her younger years.

When I got back to the bus I told her that I’d found a former boyfriend of hers. She said, “Oh yes. His name is Harry.”

“He said to contact him if things don’t work out with you and your husband. He’s here, living in Hope,” I said.

Well, I wasn’t wrong.

There were all sorts of sculptures dotted around the town. It was fun to walk around and see what can be done with creativity and a chainsaw.

Rambo was filmed here. Sylvester Stallone is very short, so when the call went out for local extras, all of the local lumberjacks showed up. Most of them were big, burly men who towered over Sly.

So then the call went out in Vancouver for small extras.

This is my first sight of a bear-proof rubbish bin. Sturdy, isn’t it? It looks like a WWI tank.

We set off again. Look at this – it’s the last month of Spring and there’s still snow on the mountains.

All was good until suddenly the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road. There was something wrong with the bus. We were out of mobile phone range. Lovely.

After a few minutes, we set off again. Phew!

Ten minutes later, there we were again.

Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again. This time, they could call out and get help. Even though we were in the middle of nowhere, a mechanic and a replacement bus were coming to save us.

In two and a half hours.

So the bus sat by the side of the road, buffeted by every logging truck and heavy vehicle that passed. Another tour bus stopped to offer help, but we’re pretty much a full bus so they couldn’t help us.

The people at the back started complaining about heat and lack of fresh air. Sharon allowed them to get out and sit by the side of the road. Megan went out with them, while I stayed back on the bus and talked about the Royal Family with Pam from Liverpool.

(TLDR: We love the Queen; on the fence about Charles; Harry is lovely but shouldn’t have spilled the family secrets.)

We stopped right by an animal highway. It’s a tunnel under the road, so animals can cross without being skittled.

Finally, the cavalry arrived. We had to move onto the new bus. It was an old model which Mike, the driver, HATED.

“How does the bus feel, Mike?” Sharon asked after a few miles.

“Weird.”

“Maybe that’s because this bus is moving!” she said.

I tell you what – it wasn’t moving very fast. We didn’t get to the winery, though from what Sharon had said, it wasn’t much of a loss. We crawled up the highway beside a river which suddenly became a lake.

It was majestic.

The beaches are very precious to the people of the town of Kelowna. The Canadian Geese come along each year and try and mess up the place. To solve this, they hire people with trained dogs to chase the geese (but not hurt them) so that the geese fly away and leave the place in peace.

Cost? 45K/dog.

Look at our room. Twin queen beds. We both lost our minds when we saw them.

Luxury!

Dad joke for the day:

Canada/Alaska Day 2: The Exciting River trip!

Today was the day we met our tour guide and our group. The plan was to have a whistle-stop tour of Vancouver before we leave the next day.

The first thing of interest that we saw was a very narrow building.

It was built out of spite, when the city decided to widen the road and appropriated most of this guy’s land. The building is 11 feet deep, which you’d think would make it unusable. It’s been occupied ever since.

We drove through Chinatown, mainly filled by older residents who have been there for decades. The younger people want better housing and more affordable rent, so they’re moving outwards.

Gas Town has a dream clock, that Andrew from the comments asked about in my last post. We got to the clock just in time to walk to it and take some photos.

Then this happened:

Megs took this video. Notice the steam coming out from the top!

I turned around and saw this building with a crash-landed UFO on top.

These wild and whacky Canadians!

Gas Town has these fake gaslights, probably put in for the tourists.

Gas Town was established when a guy called Jack sailed in with a boat with a big barrel of whiskey. And he said, “If you help build me a tavern here, you’ll drink free for a day!” 

A day later, the tavern was built. They must have been very thirsty.

The steam clock was built by a man who saw a solution to the problems that steam was causing. The steam was created in great underwater boiler works and it was venting out on the footpath and burning passersby. He designed this clock to put over that vent to protect people. Steam was working the clock but it didn’t do it accurately so it’s now all driven electronically.

Here is the official Olympic Flame, installed when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics at some stage. The citizens wanted the flame burning the whole time these next Olympics were going, but the mayor said that he’d only light the flame for an hour IF a Canadian won a gold medal. The flame costs $50K/hour to run.

Fair enough.

I noticed this building as we drove away from the airport to our hotel. It is covered with grass. This turned out to be the Olympic stadium. The grass provides excellent insulation, gives worms for the birds and has 3 different bee colonies on it. This was taken from the Stanley Park part of our tour.

Yes, we were here yesterday.

Speaking of Stanley Park, remember the ‘Girl in a Wetsuit’ sculpture from yesterday? This was supposed to be an identical replica of the little mermaid in Copenhagen Denmark and the ladies of Vancouver said, “You can’t put naked breasts on her in our harbour!!” So she’s now decently clad in a  wetsuit and flippers. When it’s high tide the water comes up to the bottom of her flippers.

After a half hour with the totem poles, which I spent getting to know Mad and Rhona from Phoenix, we set off for Granville Island.

This created a dilemma, because we’ve settled with Blogless Martha that we’ll be spending Sunday on Granville Island with her. So we stuck purely to the produce part, completely ignoring all of the art, jewellery, pottery and everything else interesting parts.

We still had a good time.

The first thing I saw when I entered the produce shed were these enormous, shiny capsicums. I’ve never seen capsicums like them.

Look at these insane cherries!

I’m not a foodie, but even I was mesmerised by these stalls.

They’re almost glowing with pride.

Or chemicals.

I had to take this photo. These could be nowhere else but in Canada.

THESE ARE NOT SCONES!!!!!

omg.

I was standing in the food hall, trying to decide what to get for lunch when I thought I heard, “Frogdancer!”

That can’t be for me, I thought. I don’t know anyone here.

“Frogdancer!”

Megan touched my arm. “I think she wants to save you a seat.”

It was Rhona and Mad.

We had a fun lunch, then we all jumped aboard the bus back to the hotel.

Megan and I wanted to see an exhibition by Emily Carr that Blogless Martha told us about, so we walked off to find the Old Law Courts. When we got there we were a bit cast down to find that the gallery was closed on Tuesdays.

Not to be deterred, Megan asked the receptionist what she would do if she had an afternoon to fill.

“Well, you could take the ferry to North Vancouver, walk around the market and have afternoon tea on the dock. Or you could take the Skyrail to cross the Fraser River. That’s always exciting – to cross the river.”

We looked at the time, realised we could do both, so off we went to the station.

When we emerged at the ferry terminal, look what was parked nearby:

Yep. The PLAGUE SHIP!!

We set out on a sedate trip across the water, then wandered onto the dock.

I don’t know if I’d like to be so rich as to own a yacht like this. Every time you tie up at a dock, you’d have to leave the shop because everyone who walks past peers in.

This reminded me of that bridge in Paris.

We headed towards these yellow umbrellas. I thought it was the market. Megan, however, knew that it was the pun. She wanted a beer.

I was reminded of that time in Beijing when I was with Helen, Rick and Matt and we ordered a cocktail in the middle of the day at a tiny bar.

Why not? I ordered a Shochu Sour. It was bloody beautiful!

I liked this.

We found the market, but most of the stalls were shut. We took the next ferry back to Granville station, then we took the line to cross the exciting river.

It was a subway station. So was the next one. And the next.

The carriage grew crowded. I leaned over to Megan and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if this line went under this amazing river?”

Megan just looked at me and raised an eyebrow.

Suddenly, after 9 stations where we were crushed against the citizens of Vancouver, the train rose to the surface. We were about to see the river!!!!

Unknown to me, Megan took this video.

Yeah.

She felt the same.

Megan’s the navigator on this holiday. I’m experimenting with only using wifi. She worked out the closest station to our hotel, so we walked to our local supermarket, bought our meals for the night and crashed at the hotel.

But I wanted to leave you with this.

These are ordinary-sized pigeons.

Look at the size of Canadian seagulls!!!! They’re giants!!!

And they have a different cry to ours. Canadian seagulls sound mournful. Seriously, they sound depressed. If we had these guys in Australia, I’d give them all of my fish and chips, just to try and make them happier.

Dad Joke of the Day:

Canada/Alaska Day 1 – Walking around Stanley Park (mostly.)

We’re here!

As you can see, the grey dress is back for another trip. My plan at the moment is to wear it for most days in the first 2 weeks in Canada, then switch to trackies when the cruise moves into colder areas in Alaska. Still, that may change.

This sculpture was the start of our first full day in Vancouver. We arrived just after 1 PM on a sparkling day and went straight to the hotel, then walked around the neighbourhood to see what we could see.

I was interested to see that the Canadians have the same electric bus system I saw in Pyongyang, North Korea. It’s the same system as Melbourne trams, with all the wires up over the streets. The Canadian buses were not nearly as dilapidated as the North Korean ones!

This city looks to be even more sport-mad than Melbourne!

I liked this mural I saw as we were walking around. Martha, whom we’ll all meet a couple of weeks from now, said that downtown Vancouver has a slightly dodgy reputation.

I could see what she meant. It has a very much” back-packers” kind of vibe, with hundreds of eateries, tens of dope shops and vape shops scattered liberally all around. Still, for travellers, our hotel (The Sandman) has everything handy around it.

We had a Cosmos welcome letter given to us at Reception when we arrived. In the middle of lots of handy tips was this sentence:

PLEASE DO NOT WALK DOWN EAST HASTINGS STREET FOR ANY REASON.

I don’t know what’s wrong with this street, but it made me want to go and see.

After we got tired of walking around we went to a gay bar just across the road from our hotel. I was looking at their menu and there were two items we had no idea about. I called a waiter over.

“What are Yorkies?” I asked.

“They’re little Yorkshire puddings stuffed with…”

“Oh thank god!” I interrupted him. “I couldn’t think what they’d be, and I had visions of you getting little Yorkshire Terriers and force-feeding them stuff, then cooking them.”

He laughed his head off. “No, no, we’re a cruelty-free establishment here!”

“Also, what are Hoagies”? (Megan had guessed that they were some sort of sausage.)

“Oh, hoagies are a long bun that you put the sausage into, then load it up with all the extras.” So Megs was on the right track with that guess… sort of.

After our refreshing bevvies, we went to a Vietnamese place for dinner, then back home where we slept for 12 hours.

It wasn’t an uninterrupted sleep, however, at least for me. Megan snores, but luckily it appears to be at the same volume as Jeffrey, so I was pleasantly surprised and went off to sleep. However, she also sleepwalks.

I woke to a slight scratching sound coming from what I thought was either inside or at the back of the bedside table. I’m sure you remember all the trouble we had a few months ago with rats? Well, that was my first thought.

I opened my eyes in the darkened room, just in time to see my water bottle lurching as something was pushing from underneath it. For a hot half-second I was terrified. A rat was emerging and it was a big one!

Then I realised it was Megan. She mumbled, “Ooogledy- boogeldy clock,” and was grabbing the clock radio on the table. She then got up, started to go into the wardrobe and then disappeared into the bathroom.

OK then. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

That lasted until exactly midnight. I don’t know what she pressed on the top of that clock radio, but the alarm went off. Megan didn’t stir. I unplugged the clock, opened the curtains to see if there was any Northern Lights action after the solar storm we’d been having – no – and then went back to sleep.

Megs went out to breakfast this morning while I ate the vegemite and Vita-Wheat crackers that I’d brought from home. After a little chat with Martha via Twitter about what we’ll do with her on our day together, we headed off to walk around a big 100-acre park called Stanley Park.

It was down a long hill from the hotel.

“I’m not looking forward to the climb back up this later,” Megs said.

We got to the harbour. The smell of the sea was wonderful. There were a fair few people around, all seeming to be young mothers with prams, retired folk and tourists from Germany. You can see from the photo that there were lots of ships lined up.

We walked along the seawall to get to the park. There were lots of birds enjoying the mild weather and their cries sounded beautiful.

Along the seawall walk, there were many benches for people to sit and take in the views. Most of them had dull, generic labels. You know, like “Joe Lunchbucket 1943 – 2023. He was a good bloke.”

I decided that my label would be something like, “Sit down and enjoy the view with me. My ashes are scattered underneath this bench!”

After consulting a map at the edge of the park, we boldly pressed on to see Beaver Lake. As you can see to the right of the photo, the city is letting the natural foliage just do what it will – as long as it doesn’t impede the paths, of course!- and the animals and birds are returning to the park.

Megs said that she saw a sign saying that a coyote den was nearby, so people should keep their dogs on leads. All the dogs we saw in the park were kept tightly leashed.

A little way down the track we saw this. “OO! A bridge!” said Megan. “I’ll have to go across that!”

Turned out that no, she didn’t.

Lost Lagoon is a place where beavers are living. There were a few clumps of trees, branches and other things that they’d put together. The reflection in the lake was amazing.

Bird song filled the air and it was very tranquil.

We swung around to a touristy hub, then started walking towards where we’d see totem poles and a sculpture.

I stopped for a pit stop. This is deeply disturbing to the eyes of an Australian. There’s SO MUCH WATER in the toilets!!!! What a waste!

As we wandered along, this group of buildings caught my eye. Pyongyang colours!

See?

Along the path, we kept seeing broken mussel shells. Here’s what was happening.

I watched this crow throw the shellfish on the path until the body fell out. Then the bird devoured its meal.

Very clever.

The totem poles appeared around the next bend of the path.

They’re quite large.

There was a lot to choose from, with plaques in front of each one explaining what they were portraying

At the bottom, this one has a man being held by a bear.

However, this one was my pick. I didn’t really like all the gaudy paint on the others.

After a trip to the gift shop, where I bought a Canada fridge magnet and a Christmas decoration for my eclectic tree, we headed off in search of this:

‘Girl in a Wetsuit.’ She’s just off the seawall path.

She symbolises the intense relations between Vancouver and the sea trade.

I loved the simplicity.

We came across a sundial. Megan tried to operate it on a cloudy day…

We saw this lovely bridge.

It looked very ferny and pretty as I peered under it. Maybe we could have a look on the way back? It wasn’t as if we were going to circumnavigate around the whole 1000 acres of this park!

Canada geese! They let us get so close to us. They also had bikes racing past them, but they didn’t turn a feather.

I had to giggle when I saw this lighthouse.

I mean… really? Call that a lighthouse???

We were getting tired, so we turned around and dived under that bridge. It was very pretty, with lots of happy ferns, water and birds.

It was almost like walking through the Dandenongs.

But a few minutes later, we saw something that would never be in the Dandenongs:

“Look!” said Megan. “On the bridge!”

It was a red squirrel. A RED ONE!

It jumped off the bridge and ran towards us. I was waiting for it to see us and dive into the bracken, but it came bounding over to where I was standing, stopping when it was only a few inches away from my feet.

It froze. I took 4 photos of this squirrel and they were all the same.

It then got itself together and dived across the road. A few seconds later, it emerged and came even closer to Megan.

I was rapt to see a red squirrel. I wasn’t expecting to see one. I know they’re in North America but in my head, they’re from England.

Many paths wind their way through the park. We’d see bike riders and joggers, but a lot of the time we were on our own. This was a Monday, so I wondered what it would be like on a weekend.

Megs looked up the population of Vancouver. I was surprised to hear that it’s smaller than Melbourne! They have around 2.5 million. We’re sitting on 5.3 million. Almost double the size.

I was pleased to see that the park rangers are prepared for fires!

We started to see them all over the place.

It was getting past lunch time. I wanted to get some food in mah belly, to nudge my body along to adjust to a totally opposite time-zone. We were looking for a way back to the café.

It took a lot of map-reading from Megan, who has internet on her phone, to get us back to where we started. (I’m trying the experiment of relying on wifi.)

Remember the ships at the start of the day? By the afternoon they were all lined up. As the clouds began to melt away, Canadians started to emerge from their houses, blinking in the sunlight.

The beach started to fill up with sunbathers, while a couple of intrepid souls were swimming.

One strange thing I noticed was that a lot of older people here use two hiking sticks to get around. You never see this in Australia.

And to finish the photos – I liked this tree growing on the roof of this building.

We walked up the hill (slowly) back to our hotel, where Sharon, our Canada tour group leader, was waiting to meet everyone. It’s a big tour group of 42, of which 36 are Aussies.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 7.)

After seeing the Kangaroo silo painting, I stopped in at a little café for a coffee. Before I knew it, it was nearly time for my gin-tasting class at the distillery. Wouldn’t want to be late for that!

Originally, I was interested in doing the gin mixing class, but they wouldn’t run it for only one person. Participants end up taking home a bottle of the gin that they designed themselves. What a perfect souvenir! So the gin tasting class was the next-best thing for a single girl to do.

My friends Helen and Rick, who I went to North Korea and China with, love trying new gins. This place is tailor-made for them. I can just see Helen mixing flavours together like a mad scientist.

Look at this… only ONE CHAIR. The gifts that retirement brings keep coming and coming. I had a private masterclass, just for me!

A Spanish girl called Mar was my teacher for this class and she had 9 different drinks for me to try.

I’ve trained all my life for this moment.

As I settled myself on the chair, I could see that there were a few different aromatics for me to try with the different varieties I was going to taste. Some of these were from the extensive herb garden that surrounded the public café. I walked around and had a sticky-beak before the class started.

I had such a good time. The gin-tasting was amazing. There are such delicate flavours between them.

Here are the six that were on the original tasting. I had my mind blown by the very first one, which I ended up buying – the O Gin. As I went further down the line the gins kept tasting better and better. By the time we got to the 3 extra-special drinks at the end, I was having a VERY good time.

So I would’ve bought most of them, but you know I am but one woman with only one liver. I walked away with three bottles and one of them was vodka. I’m definitely not a vodka drinker, but this one was flavoured with such beautiful aromatics that I had to take one with me. I can see it being used sparingly, just a little bit poured over an ice cube…

The other type I bought was the First Harvest Juniper Gin, which is made with juniper and herbs from their garden and it was absolutely delicious.

They’re also in the process of making whiskey. Due to our climate, 3-year-old Australian whiskey tastes like 9-year-old Scotch/Irish whiskey. Interesting – this is something to keep our eyes peeled for.

I would imagine their Mixing class would be excellent, so if you’re ever on Kangaroo Island then definitely do the gin mixing class if you’re a couple or are with a group of friends.

After the class finished, I headed back to the car. Where to go now?

I decided to head off to the lavender farm for lunch.

After driving 20 minutes over rocky, corrugated unmade roads, I arrived at a big shed, and a café surrounded by rows of lavender bushes. Every row was labelled with the name of the variety of lavender.

I went into the shop, where one of the first things I saw was Lavender Gin. I backed away… I’d definitely had enough gin purchases and tipples for one day. I bought some foot moisturiser and a tub of something called ‘sleep balm’ – you put a smidge on each temple and you drift off to sleep like a baby. I can’t report as to how effective it is because I keep forgetting to use it.

I decided to sit here for lunch. I bought a lavender scone with strawberry jam, lavender jelly and cream.

The scone was about as big as my head.

I sat there, people-watching and also enjoying the sparrows and blue wrens that were darting in and out, picking up crumbs. It was cool in the shade.

I was looking around at all the lavender and I thought, ‘This can’t be the lavender farm. It’s too small. They must have another lavender farm or they buy their lavender oil from somewhere else.’

Before I’d ordered lunch, I’d given my phone to them to plug in because I was running low on battery. When I went to collect it, I happened to strike the owner of the place, so I asked her, “Where’s your main farm?”

She said, “This is it!”

I looked at her and said, ” It doesn’t seem to be big enough.”

She laughed and said, “Have you been to Tasmania?” and when I said that I’d just seen pictures of the massive farms there, she went on, “We cut our lavender by hand not by machine like they do. When you upscale and start using machines then you need the massive great amounts of plants.

“We don’t sell anywhere else. Because KI is such a huge tourist place, we don’t need to expand. We harvest our lavender by hand and we make all our products here”, gesturing behind her, “in this kitchen.”

Well of course this is music to my ears! I went back into the shop and bought some more things. I’m happy to support a business like this.

After lunch, I decided to have a look at the Eucalyptus Oil distillery, but to be honest, this was a bit underwhelming. I think I was a bit distilleried out, after Ireland and now here. I bought a cake of dog soap for the little woofs, then decided to make my way home.

Come to think of it – I’d had a very early start to the day. Coupled with the day drinking – I needed a nap.

The next day was an early morning ferry ride back to the mainland and then a full day’s driving. I took the 8:30 ferry and I didn’t get home till 9 PM. Thank goodness for podcasts and audiobooks.

Along the way, I saw a couple of very pretty houses in the same town in South Australia.

I stopped to take these shots, just like when Scott and I were in England.

Hours later, I was driving through Nhill when I saw a sign outside a shop saying “PATCHWORK.” I needed a break anyway, so I stopped the car and went inside.

I selected some fabric to buy – I was running low on reds and purples – and I ended up having the most fantastic conversation with the woman behind the counter. She was like ME! We talked for almost 20 minutes about all the travelling that we’ve done. We swapped recommendations and travel tips. It was fantastic.

Then, on the outskirts of the next town, I came across this.

The Pink Lake.

My friend Helen, you know, the gin-tippler, (haha!) – talked about this place to me a couple of years ago, saying that we should go up there. The pink that you see is SALT. You can harvest the salt.

I didn’t realise that the Pink Lake was on the way to Adelaide because when I went there a couple of years ago, I went via the Great Ocean Road where I met Loretta. A blogmeet is always a good thing.

So if I’d known I was going to be driving straight past here, I would have brought something substantial to scoop the salt into.

But all I had was my faithful coffee mug.

I brought the salt home, spread it out on a dinner plate and let the water evaporate away. It’s now in an empty Vegemite jar in my pantry, as a little reminder of this Little Adventure.

Look at the salt glistening in the sun.

That’s it for this Little Adventure. I had an excellent time on Kangaroo Island and can highly recommend it. It has a lovely blend of beaches, nature, foodie experiences and pure beauty.

It’s nice to find great places so close to home.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 6.)

This picture was taken at Stokes Bay at 8:01 in the morning. I woke up that morning at 5:30 and remembered what the guy in the Sculpture Walk told me about the beach. I needed to be at a gin distillery at 11 – no way I was going to miss that! – so I had plenty of time to spare for a drive.

Besides, I thought it might be nice to be on a beach soon after sunrise. I can’t do this at home. The little woofs bark so much as they’re getting ready for a walk that I’d wake the neighbours.

The drive was a little over an hour and I was a bit worried I’d skittle a wallaby, but that didn’t happen. Though I DID see one bounding beside the road as I was coming out of American River, so that was exciting.

The top photo is of the beach that the Sculpture Park guy said that people assume is the real beach. It’s pretty enough, but over to the right, just in front of the cliffs, I saw a yellow sign.

When I got out of the car I met a man coming back from that way. I asked if that was the way to the beach.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, ” you gotta go over there through the tunnel. It’s a bit hard to know where to go at the moment because there’s no one here . Normally it’s swarming with tourists.”

“Ah, tourists. Hate those guys!” I said.

Then, like the tourist I am, I set off towards the tunnel.

I thought you might like to come through the tunnel with me, so I snapped shots as I went along.

Here was where I took off my sandals.

I’m short.

It was fun squeezing through and under the rocks.

This walk went on for a while…

… but could it be???

Yes!

This is what I saw as I emerged from the rocks. A secluded stretch of beach.

And not a soul in sight.

I began walking. Slowly, just drinking it all in.

Look at the colours!

I looked back at where I’d emerged from the rocks. Just as I did, the clouds parted and the sun shone.

All I could hear was the waves rolling in.

It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know what time it was, so I grabbed my phone and saw that it was 8:01.

If I was still at work, I would be driving along the freeway. I would have been aiming at that time to be at the end of the freeway, ready to turn right onto Warrigal Road. My car wouls be surrounded by hundreds of other cars, their drivers all intent on gettig to work as fast as possible.

Instead, I’m on this beach. By myself, in total peace and quiet.

It’s glorious.

I’m the only one on this beach. It’s crazy. People are driving to work right now, and then there are other people doing things like this.

To be fair, I suppose I couldn’t have been here if I didn’t drive all those years to work. But walking along the sand, watching the waves roll in and the clouds floating along the sky, it made all the frugal sacrifices I made in years gone by absolutely worth it.

I’m glad I played the long game of delayed gratification.

This is a real treat. It’s something really special. I’m really glad I stopped to talk to that guy in the sculpture park otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered coming here. As you know, I can go to the beach near me anytime I want.

I’m glad I came.

I created a memory.

As I was driving back to town towards the gin distillery, I saw a sign and turned off the main drag. Kangaroo Island as its own painted silo!

This angle shows the Glossy Black Cockatoo

… while this fearsome-looking bloke is wholly appropriate to the island.

Next stop – GIN.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 5.)

Ok, we’re back on my Little Adventure to Kangaroo Island.

For those who may be new here and are wondering my I’ve used capital letters for ‘Little Adventure’… I decided that after I retired I was going to go somewhere new or do something new every month. When I go on big trips like Antarctica, North Korea or England, then obviously it’s a bigger adventure and they don’t count. But 4 nights in Kangaroo Island?

Little Adventure.

So where was I?

Oh yeah! I jumped in the car, rattled my way along over 20 km of dirt roads and got back on the main road to Penneshaw, which is where the ferry comes in. My goal was to see the sculpture walk, whatever that is.

I forgot to post this photo yesterday. It was on the toilet doors at the Honey Farm. Not exactly the sort of thing that makes you feel warm and fuzzy – tiger snakes are one of the most venomous snakes in the world.

I vowed to walk loudly along the trail in case any of them were hanging around.

As you can see, it’s set out in loops, with a ravine running right through the centre. I picked the left-hand path and set off.

The paths were lined with white rocks that made it easy to see which way you were meant to be going. The sculptures were arranged alongside the paths.

The sculptures range between your traditional types and haikus like this one. Some are made by professional artists and others are by the Kangaroo Island community.

Here’s one where passers-by are encouraged to add something to the nest.

There was no one else around, though I could hear a saw working somewhere in the middle of the area. Other than that, all I could hear were birdsounds.

My footsteps crunched on the path as I walked, casting my eyes around for the next sculpture or poem.

There was a section along the top of the sculpture walk called ‘The Orchid Garden.’ This is only part of it. One of the founding families on the island donated the money for it.

This was my favourite sculpture. It’s a Boobook owl made from forks and spoons. I didn’t take a great photo of it, so I’ve changed it to black and white so you can get a better idea of what it looked like.

He was just up in a tree by the path. If you were looking the wrong way you’d miss him.

I was walking around and I could hear somebody working. As I came around the corner there was a guy there putting together what was obviously going to be the base for another sculpture, so I stopped and talked with him.

And it turns out that the town has clubbed together to raise $35,000 for a 5-metre-tall sculpture representing the island’s pioneering women, the strong women of Kangaroo Island. It’s going to have big skirts that as the wind blows, they will move. It sounds amazing.

They put all this together in grief because one of the women who organised the sculpture park had died in a car smash a couple of years ago. This woman was his wife.

She was instrumental in setting up this whole park.

“I don’t know how many ute-loads of rocks she dragged up here to line the paths,” he said.

This made me blink. I’d never thought of how the rocks would come to be here… I’d just walked along the paths, oblivious. It’s a shame I was too early to see her memorial sculpture. It sounds amazing.

After a while, I asked if there was anything else that I MUST do while I was here.

He told me about a beach at the top of the island called Stokes Bay. I’ve seen it on the maps, but I wasn’t going to go because… well… a beach is a beach is a beach, yes?

“It’s always on the top list of best beaches in Australia,” he said, “and a lot of people drive there. They see a little beach and go, “Ok that’s it,” and then they drive away, but they’re missing out on the actual beach. You’ve gotta go through a tunnel of rocks,” he went on, ” and then you see the beach.”

A beach that you have to go through a tunnel to reach? That sounds intriguing. I thought I might do that tomorrow. Anyway let’s see if I do or not, but it sounded interesting.

This is the first suspension bridge to be built in South Australia for over 100 years. It goes over the ravine that slices the sculpture walk in two. I tell you what – they’ve done a good job with this bridge. It’s sturdy as.

This is the view I could see on the other side of the bridge. Kangaroo Island is a pretty place. But then I had a bit of a thrill…

I was walking quietly along a track, completely forgetting about tiger snakes, when suddenly there was a noise to my right. I turned to see a wallaby crashing through a little tunnel under some shrubs.

Yay! I saw a live kangaroo (or wallaby) on Kangaroo Island.

The same thing happened to me when I went to the Aussie Botanical Gardens at Cranbourne on another Little Adventure. It’s crazy that we can be so close to wild animals and we’d never know it if they didn’t move.

The Sculpture Walk is only 6 years old, so over time it’ll fill up with more artwork. It was a lovely way to kill some time without having to pay for a tour.

Then I decided to take a look at the town. I found a lovely shop where I bought some linen clothing and a wind chime. It sounded beautiful, but when I got home and unpacked it I realised that it was big. Too big to hang from one of the fruit trees. It’s now waiting for Tom32 to come over and drill a screw into the front verandah so I can hang it. I may have been carried away when I bought it…

Anyway, that was all well and good. I had a lovely time buying the clothes and had a great chat with the woman who runs the shop.

After this, I decided to set out to see the other lighthouse on the island, because why not?

I drove for miles, again on unmade roads. After a while I felt like I should turn back, but I then thought, ‘You’ve come this far, Frogdancer! You might as well see it through to the end!’

I finally reached the car park. The lighthouse was poking out from the top of some buildings. I felt a bit thirsty, so I reached over to grab my faithful Antarctica Pee Bottle. The one I had to buy in case I needed to pee when I was out on the ice. I never used it as a receptacle for urine, so when I got home it became my water bottle.

I’ve taken the Antarctica Pee Bottle every day to work, to England, to Ireland. I left it in a shop in England and the woman came running to hand it to me just as I realised I didn’t have it. I left it hanging from a toilet door at Tullamarine airport, was nearly out of the terminal before I noticed I didn’t have it and I retraced my steps for nearly 20 minutes to retrieve it.

That Antarctica Pee Bottle and I have been through a lot together. How could I have been so stupid as to leave it in the shop???

Here it is in happier times, when Jenna’s parents and I were having lunch a few days before in Adelaide.

I grabbed my phone to look for the number of the shop. I tried to call, but there was no reception for calls in this isolated spot. I walked up to the buildings in front of the lighthouse, hoping that there might be a landline or something. It was getting close to 4 PM, when I assumed she’d be shutting up shop for the day.

The very bored man behind the counter said, “You’ve missed the last tour. Feel free to look around at the exhibits, but if you go out the back door there’s a $5.50 charge.”

“What’s out the back door?” I asked.

“You can walk around the base of the lighthouse,” he said.

Well, you and I both know that I wasn’t going to waste that money. I walked around the base of the other lighthouse in the national park only the day before!

I looked at the (dull) photos and decided that my time would be better spent racing back to see if the shop was open. I needed to be reunited with that Pee Bottle. It has so much history attached to it.

I drove. And drove. That road seemed never-ending.

When I got back the shop was shut. Of course it was. I peered through the window at the little table in front of the cash register where I knew I’d left my precious. There was nothing there.

There was a phone call and an email on the front window. I called and left a voice message, then left an email as well. I was really annoyed at myself. I wanted to look at an entirely different part of the island on Wednesday, and instead, I’d have to backtrack to come and get my Antarctica Pee Bottle. Assuming the shop owner hadn’t piffed it in the bin.

I was leaving on Thursday morning…

Then, just as I was trying to find something to write on so I could shove my phone number under the door, a car pulled up next to mine. In it was a Great Dane, a chihuahua and the woman from the shop.

omg.

She got out of the car with a dozen eggs in her hand, saying, “Well, its lucky I needed to buy eggs for the dop!”

Ten seconds later my beloved and I were reunited.

Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

Before I finish this post, I thought I’d talk about how I’ve been keeping my food and laundry costs down on this holiday. As a Valuist – a person who ruthlessly cuts down on expenses that aren’t important to me in order to be extravagant with the things I truly value – food and laundry is waaaay down the list of things I want to spend money on when I’m on holiday.

Usually, when I travel in Australia I use my holiday club, where every place has a kitchenette at the bare minimum. I’m used to taking a box of groceries with me to save on having to buy expensive meals. With a stovetop and microwave, it’s easy to whip up food when I’m back in the room.

Clearly, I’m not a foodie. I don’t travel specifically to try exotic food… I’m more into the sights and the wildlife a place has to offer. Obviously, you don’t come to a place like Kangaroo Island without trying the seafood, but basically… all I care about is keeping my stomach full without going overboard on price.

I figure that if I buy myself a nice lunch, then who really cares what I eat for the other two meals?

This room I was staying in, even though I used timeshare points, is not part of the timeshare properties. All I had to work with was a mini fridge, 2 teaspoons, 2 cups and a kettle.

I decided I’d have Vita-Weets and vegemite for breakfast, without buying butter. I didn’t want to have to buy 25g of butter to use for 4 breakfasts and then have to throw it away because it wouldn’t keep in the car on the long drive back.

One thing I forgot to think about was cutlery. I didn’t have a knife to spread the vegemite on the crackers. A little quick thinking and the spoon handle became my ‘knife.’

I did bring a plate (because I left for this holiday so early in the morning I ate breakfast as I was driving) and a big coffee mug that fits my Aeropress. A proper coffee first thing in the morning is a must. I brought my Aeropress with me and my morning brew was assured. All in all – the breakfast of champions.

Though I prefer to have butter with my crackers and Vegemite. Still, I can live without it for 4 days.

But what about dinner?

Sandyg from Simple Savings came up with the answer. She and her husband take a jaffle maker with them when they go on holidays. If you’ve had a lovely lunch, you don’t need something spectacular for dinner. A jaffle fills you up, can be cooked in a motel room and is yum.

What’s not to love? All I had to buy was a loaf of bread and a couple of tins to fill the jaffles with. And the amazing thing? I had a brand-new jaffle maker stored in the top shelf of my kitchen.

I was set!

And it worked like a charm. I used to like egg and cheese jaffles, but I couldn’t risk the eggs overflowing and causing a mess. I bought a tin of baked beans and a tin of braised steak and onion (as an experiment. Never had it before.)

The baked beans lasted me three nights. I actually enjoyed eating the jaffles at night while I was watching Australian Survivor. Felt like I was roughing it with the cast.

On the fourth night I used the braised steak and onions. This was NOT a pleasurable experience. Most of them got flushed down the loo. Definitely can not recommend.

One brilliant thing about my room was that I could open a window to let the sea breeze in. I brought three wire coat hangers with me and I was able to manoeuvre them to hang over the curtain rod. I’m so pleased I thought of this, as most places have the type of clothes hangers that can’t be removed from the wardrobe.

Pictured here are my blue linen trousers drying in the breeze. I washed shirts and underwear too, just making sure that I only hung things in the window when the pool area was empty at the end of the day.

Things to include next time I’m staying in a non-holiday club place:

  1. Some basic cutlery and a couple of plates.
  2. Some pegs to make sure things are held securely on the clothes hangers. I was worried things might fall off the hangers and out the window.
  3. An appetising filler for jaffles that isn’t just baked beans. I may not be a foodie but it’s still nice to mix meals up a bit!
  4. My portable battery for my phone. I always forget one thing when I pack, it seems, and this trip was spent keeping an eye on my phone battery.

I have one more day on Kangaroo Island… this holiday is going so fast!

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 4.)

Today’s first stop was just a few metres from my door. I went to the oyster farm.

I didn’t realise, but the bay that my hotel is on is also where they farm the oysters on the island. When I saw how close it was, of course this was the first stop for the day. There are big advantages to being retired. The only people on my tour were a Danish tourist family and me. Everyone else is back at school/work.

The first stop, after meeting at the oyster café, was to walk across the road to the bay and feed the pelicans. We weren’t given the chance to have a go, and I could see why when one of them tried to swallow our guide’s entire hand in his eagerness to snare the oyster.

Look at those weird eyes! It doesn’t seem that there’s a lot going on behind them…

While we were here, we were directed to look out to the mouth of the bay. There was a dark line along half of the bay opening. These were the oyster cages.

You can’t get fresher oysters. They bring them in from the bay, sort them in the shed directly on the beach, and then bring them across the road to the café.

On our way into the shed, we passed these scrappy-looking trees called She-Oaks. The seeds are a staple food for the island’s endangered Glossy Black Cockies, and the oyster farm also uses them to smoke their oysters.

 This is an intertidal bag which will be filled with baby oysters. They roll around with the tides. A baby oyster takes around 2.5 years to grow big enough to harvest.

They start off with hundreds of tiny baby oysters in bags like this, with small holes, enough to let the sea water in and keep the oysters from falling through. Around twice a year, the bags are hauled up and the growing oysters are decanted into bigger crates with larger holes. as of course the oysters need ready access to seawater to thrive.

Each time, fewer and fewer oysters are put into each crate to allow them enough room to grow. If they’re too crowded, the poor things grow into each other, which would probably feel horrible.

Interestingly, spawning baby oysters swap genders throughout their lives.

There are two types of cages – the deep sea ones which lie on the sea bed and get very little disturbance, and the intertidal ones that get buffeted by the tides every day.

The deep sea oysters develop thin shells and have to be manually graded.

The intertidal oysters, on the other hand, have developed massive thick shells and so can be graded by machine to save time.

Normal oysters can stay in the fridge for 7 – 10 days.

The indigenous variety – the Angasi – only lasts 3 – 5 days. The fridges are run at warmer temperatures than we’re used to, at around 9C. This is because the oysters are still alive and if the temperature is too low they’ll die.

Any that aren’t sold by the end of this time are put back into the sea again.

The Angasi oysters used to be plentiful along the coastal regions of Australia, but of course the white settlers nearly foraged them out of existence. They’re slowly making a comeback, but they’re more delicate than the usual oysters farmed here.

After this, we walked back across the road to the café, where we had a tasting.

The shell on the right is an Angasi shell. It’s a milder taste than the oysters we usually have.

She shucked those oysters right in front of us and we dived in.

Seriously, the best oysters I’ve ever had.

It was almost lunchtime and I saw that the café had marron on the menu. When I was in Adelaide, Jenna’s uncles told me to be sure to try the Kangaroo Island marron. It’s between the size of a crayfish and a yabby and it’s freshwater.

I decided to try one for lunch.

 So good. It was served on a bed of coleslaw, with a slice of garlic bread. The marron was the perfect size for lunch. I enjoyed every bite.

Then I had to decide where to go. The girl behind the counter recommended Clifford’s Honey Farm. There was a different honey farm that allowed you to get all suited up and harvest honey from the bee hives and I definitely would’ve been up for this, but unfortunately they weren’t open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which were all the days I had left.

So Cliffords it was!

This was where I discovered that Kangaroo Island has many, many roads that are completely unmade. You certainly don’t want to be precious about your clean car when coming here! After a sometimes jaw-rattling ride in my trusty Golf, I arrived at the farm.

Apparently, their claim to fame is their Honey ice cream. I decided that dessert for a lunch on holiday is almost obligatory, so I grabbed a sample. It was ok, but seeing as I’m a person who doesn’t like milk or cream, it was a bit too creamy for me. I’m guessing most other people would love it.

They had three different types of honey to try and surprise, surprise! They had all three in a pack to buy.

Which I did.

I don’t use a whole heap of honey in my kitchen but hey. It’s never going to go off, is it? I also bought a bottle of Honey Mead. I have no idea what it tastes like but I figured thousands of Vikings can’t be wrong.

At the back of the shop they had a working hive, with the queen bee marked with a white dot. I looked for ages but couldn’t find her. The hive was open to the outside and it was interesting to see all the bees flying back into the hive.

The following paragraphs are from the Clifford’s Honey Farm leaflet.

Before the 1880’s there were no honeybees on Kangaroo Island. When importations were made between 1881 – 1885, the intention was for them to breed up and provide a future source of purebred queen bees for the beekeeping industry. These bees originated from Italy in the province of Liguria, and are known as Ligurian bees.

In 1885 the South Australian government proclaimed Kangaroo Island to be a bee sanctuary for these bees and no more importations have been made. So today we are believed to have the purest strain of these bees left in the world. The island is out of range of bee flight from the mainland.

There are big signs at the ferry terminus telling people that they can’t bring any honey products onto the island. This is obviously to protect this pure strain of bees.

Here are some handy hints and tips for you. Never say I don’t give you anything.

Fortified by the honey icecream, I decided to take a look at something that I read about on the ferry coming into Kangaroo Island: The Sculpture Walk.

More on this tomorrow…

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 3.)

The Remarkable Rocks!

Here’s the first time I caught sight of them, as I was walking along the boardwalk from the car park. You can see the people all around them… these babies are HUGE. Even from this far away, they looked interesting.

I’ve lived in Australia all my life and have never heard of these rocks, so I was going in cold. What can I say?

Going to Kangaroo Island is worth it for these rocks alone.

Halfway along the boardwalk I snapped this shot…

… and soon I was scrambling up onto the hilltop and walking around these incredible shapes.

Whoever named these rocks, the “remarkable” rocks knew what they were doing. They’re amazing. Surreal. Stunningly beautiful.

I think it was good that I came without knowing anything about them because they surprised the hell out of me.

Oh! By the way, there are no filters on these photos. These are the actual colours.

The Remarkable Rocks are all the result of erosion. They had these granite lumps on top of the cliff, covered by a whole dome of soft rock. Over aeons, the wind and rain have gradually worn away the soft rock, leaving the granite rocks exposed.

I tried not to include many people in these shots, but here’s one to give you an idea of how big these things are.

Enjoy the rest of the photos!

Just to prove that I was really here.

This was the end of Day 1 of Kangaroo Island.

Already I felt like I’d got my money’s worth!

Dad joke of the day:

Travelling for 5 weeks with only ONE dress.

Hands down, this is a wonderful outfit to travel in. The dress is Sierra, a swing dress that can easily be used as a pinafore, meaning that it would never actually touch my skin, thus cutting down on washing.

The real beauty of this dress is that it’s made from merino wool, which means that it’s odour-resistant, easy to wash, crumple-free and absolutely comfortable to wear.

This makes it stellar for travel, especially if, like me, you choose to only take carry-on and so space is at a premium. Having just one outfit makes carry-on travelling a breeze.

Obviously I was very protective of Sierra, being extra-careful where messy foods were concerned. Before my travel I had to spot-clean a few times, but while I was travelling it was never an issue.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How and why did I choose to wear just the one dress – not just for my 5-week holiday – but for a full 100 days?

For those who don’t know, I began a 100-Day Challenge run by Wool&, an American company that makes merino clothing. What interested me in buying one of their dresses – after I thought about it for 2 years – was that merino is an excellent fabric for travel.

I went to Antarctica last year and bought merino long-sleeved tees to travel in, wear on the ice and on the ship, and those tees were absolutely brilliant. Due to this, I decided that I was going to take the plunge and invest in a Wool& dress and do their 100-days challenge.

Because after all, why not? I love a challenge and a US$100 voucher is nothing to be sneezed at. Having two dresses would make a perfect travel capsule.

I also decided that the easiest way to succeed at this would be to schedule my end date to be the day I got home from my 5-week trip to England and Ireland. If I gave myself no alternative outfits to wear, I’d have no option but to succeed! I counted back the days and the 100 days began on July 1.

Before my trip, I treated the dress as I would anything else. I was protective of her – I wore an apron when cooking to eliminate any oil spots and I was careful with sauces and such. Spot cleaning is easy – I just used a bar of Velvet soap and handwashed the area.

Just before my trip I washed the dress by using the velvet soap, immersing in water and then rolling her into a towel and standing on it. I hung her up in a well-ventilated spot and the dress was dry by morning!

Incredible.

What was also incredible was that before I went on the trip I was teaching secondary students. Not one of them noticed that I was wearing the same dress every day.

While travelling, I was very protective of the dress.

“Not near THE DRESS!” I’d say if any ketchup or creamy sauces were handed around near me, and it became a running joke. I didn’t have to spot clean once and I only gave her one full wash towards the end of the trip, not because I thought she needed it but because I thought that it was a good thing to do.

(The merino tops were hung up every night and spot-washed in the armpits every 3 or 4 wears, usually when I had 2 nights in a room, just to make sure that they’d be dry when I needed to pack my case again.)

Merino is definitely the best fabric for travel.

Right at the end of my 100 days I noticed a couple of pills on the fabric where the strap on my travel bag was running against it. You can see the size of my travel bag in the photo above – it’s large and was quite heavy some days.

I don’t think this is a problem – I worked the dress hard and if there a tiny bit of pilling at the end of the challenge, then so be it.

The clothes I took on the trip were as follows :

1 x Wool& dress.

4 x merino tees.

3 x undies.

2 x bra.

2 x black tights.

1 x walking boots.

1 x runners.

1 x woolen cowl.

1 x woolen beanie.

1 x light raincoat.

1 x warm fleece jacket.

That’s all I wore for 5 weeks and, to be honest, I only needed the fleece jacket once when we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I’d think about leaving it home next time, depending on where I go next.

I really enjoyed just having carry-on luggage. It was so good to simply get off the plane and walk straight to the exits. Wheeling it around on the streets was also very easy.

At the end of my trip, when my carry-on case was stuffed to the gills, I had to walk up 3 sets of stairs to get to my room in an old hotel in England. I don’t think I would have been able to get up there if I’d had a traditional 30KG suitcase!

So all in all, I’m loving the Sierra as a travel dress. Having the one outfit that I could dress up or down as I pleased made the whole trip so easy.

Will I wear her in my ordinary life? Maybe. I’m actually liking the thought of folding her up and putting her in my carry-on case, ready for the next trip next year.

Alaska and Canada – I’m looking at you!

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