Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Los Angeles Monday

From Sacramento we continued south through the Sacramento and San Jaoquin valleys - all farming country and flat as a billiard table. Off the freeway at Fresno, but downtown was deserted on a Saturday afternoon. Even the Tourist Information Centre had closed 45 minutes before we arrived! Took pictures of the heritage water tower building, then back to the freeway. The freeways in this part of California have masses of flowering oleanders down the median strip - most attractive.

We spent Saturday and Sunday night in Visalia. We looked up the phone book in search of some distant relatives who we thought lived there and found two people. Neither answered their phone so on Sunday morning we went driving and found someone home at the second address. And they WERE relatives. We stayed for about an hour. Steve and Linda Lee-Thomas are making a trip to Australia in February, including Perth so we will make plans to catch up again then.

This morning to LA. Farming country, then bare mountains to the city. Freeways get more scary the closer you get to the really big cities. We are so glad we have the navman!

Tomorrow we are going on a LA bus tour, then Wednesday we are planning a visit to the Zoo before we return the car and catch the plane. We lose a day, and will be in Perth Friday afternoon. Really looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


We are just about to leave Sacramento heading further south to Visalia.

Two days of travel and sightseeing included Crater Lake in Oregon. Absolutely spectacular lake formed by a volcanic eruption thought to have taken place about 70,000 years ago. If you ever visit Crater Lake enter the park from the south. We entered from the north and it was quite frightening driving narrow roads with the cliffs falling away on the right and no guard rails.

Yesterday we drove south from Klamath Falls and had spectacular views of Mount Shashta. We drove into a couple of lake resorts on Lake Shashta. It would be a great place for an outdoors holiday. We also visited Shashta Dam...very impressive! Facts and figures may follow.

This morning we wandered around Old Sacramento which is an historic district and very touristy. It was even getting crowded at 9.30am and nothing really opened until 10.

This post is from a public library.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mountain drive

We were driven by Jennifer up to Mt Hood which is still showing snow.

The first stop was Latouselle Falls then on to Castle Rock and then to the most spectacular Multnomah Falls...over 500' fall ( the second highest in the U.S.).

In the same general area is a massive fish hatchery for salmon and trout. At the same site is the Bonneville Dam built as a Public Works project during the great depression. It is is a hydro-electric rather than water supply dam.

At the fish hatchery there is a pond with several Sturgeon fish. They are massive..probably up to nine feet long and looking like a cross between a Whale Shark and a Dolphin. They are pre-historic and certainly look like it.

After Bonneville we drove further up the Hood River to Mt Hood. The drive back to Lake Oswego took us through more spectacular forest country and, as we approached Portland/Lake Oswego, through market gardens and eventually the city.

We bought fruit and vegetables at a farm market stall, chicken and wine and have enjoyed a wonderful meal out in the evening sunset.

Tomorrow we start back on our drive to LA. We are planning on visiting Crater Lake tomorrow, then spending the night in Klamath Falls.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tuesday in Oregon

I decided to stay home today and not go to museums and quilting/fabric stores. I wheeled out Jennifer's push lawnmower and made an adjustment to the blades and mowed the lawns. She has an aversion to motorised mowers and I can see that her mower is very quiet and also an exercise machine. I was buggered after that little task.

Joan and Jennifer visited a wide range of craft/fabric stores and arrived home at around 5 pm. I had cooked a curry after buying some stewing steak at the local. I also bought a Patak's Madras Curry Paste. I followed the recipe on the bottle of paste and now suggest that the quantities of paste to meat are not commensurate with Australian/American tastes. Half measure would have been good. Joan had to go and buy some yoghurt and bananas to tone down the heat.

Tomorrow is the last day we are spending with our host and she is taking us up to the Columbia River to view Mt Hood and the waterfalls. Early Thursday we head off back to LA on the inland route. The trip back will take us near the Californian town of Visalia where a brother of my grandfather took up residence after the first world war. His family still lives there and we think we will make an un-announced visit. Should be interesting.

When I walked up to the local supermarket to buy meat and curry paste, I also bought a six-pack of a boutique Oregan beer for $4.99 with 5c back on each bottle. I could live here!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Portland Monday

Today, our host Jennifer, took us to Portland to get a feel for that city and visit the International Experimental Rose Garden along with the Japanese Garden nearby. Portland is a nice looking city, not with skyscrapers, but many nice renovated buildings and facilities.

The Rose Garden has approximately 7000 rose varieties. Not being a rose person (having been attacked by roses when pruning them) I was surprised that I found the gardens so interesting. Joan and Jennifer were showing off [not true! Joan] their knowledge of names and types of roses. I trailed along.

Above the Rose Gardens is the Japanese Garden which is truly magnificent. Nestled on a steep hill amongst the native timber and dense undergrowth is 5.5 acres of beautifully crafted gardens, water features and walkways. There are a couple of the traditional raked sand gardens and although there were quite a few visitors, there was a very tranquil atmosphere. A great place to visit!

On the way back I was able to buy a small oilstone at a hardware store to repair a knife that I had broken the tip off when shucking oysters. The knife is now back to its original shape. We had lunch at a very smart pizza bar. Jennifer was non-plussed that we didn't order a salad to eat before the pizza. We like salad, but prefer it with the food rather than before food.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Money, Money, Money...

I have lots of photos from yesterday's event; the wedding of Bruce, our nephew, to Tamara. I will post some at a later date.

The wedding invitation told us to be there by 6.30pm. As we arrived at the estate our car was taken over by Valet Parking and we were shown where the temporary toilets were. Kenny would be proud of these dunnies! They were as good or better than any regular toilets, even having artwork on the walls and carpets on the floors.

The house is Tamara's folks' place. They have river frontage to the Willamette River and have their own landing and a huge houseboat on station below the gardens. The bride was brought up the river on their launch and a float plane was doing spectacular take-offs on the stretch in front of the house. That plane took the married couple further up stream at 5am the next morning where they are now recuperating at a five-star riverfront hotel.

The newlyweds will take off on their honeymoon in a couple of days, firstly landing in Britain, then Paris and then off to the Seychelles for a couple of weeks. They have a largish yacht and crew to look after them on a private cruise.

The wedding was a bit speckie with the pathway for the bride covered with white rose petals.

Much drinking and socialising before and after the ceremony. Three photographers and a few video cameramen recorded the event with Kev and other guests snapping pics of the happy couple.

We enjoyed a very nice meal and conversation with other guests. At midnight we decided to leave, forgoing the fireworks which were scheduled for 12.30am. Kev was a little bit over the limit, but made it home without any strife from the Sheriff.

Today Jennifer drove us to the Evergreen Air Museum, about an hour away. The museum's main attraction is the Spruce Goose built by Howard Hughes.... still the largest floatplane to fly. The museum has a wonderful collection of aircraft and I took loads of pics.

The oysters mentioned in yesterday's posting were great. I did them in the half shell with bacon chips, tomato, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice under the oven grill.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

One down, one to go.

Yesterday evening we attended the barn bash. It was held in a large traditional barn with a bar, stage and table area. Australian beers and wines were offered in copious quantities and there were even a couple of kangaroos present. The kangaroos were 'joeys' brought along by their breeders to give the show an Aus flavour. No one mentioned roo shooting or roo steaks.

The food was sort of Aus....party pies, prawns and lamb. Dessert was Pavlova.

Kev took quite a lot of pics. We don't know when the party ended, but at 10.30pm people were getting well and truly oiled up.

As is usual with weddings, there has been a bit of stress between the groom and family members. An Australian couple who have known Bruce all his life felt neglected when he seemingly ignored them . They did spend a lot of money getting to Colorado and then Oregon and felt that Bruce should have given them a bit more of his time. Tonight is the wedding.

This morning, although I was/am a little hung over, Jennifer took us to the farmers' market. The produce was well presented and of wonderful variety and quality. All the produce sold was fresh and sold by the growers. I had a double-take at an oyster stall. Large, and I mean large, oysters @ $6.00 a dozen.
Kev is going to try and do Oysters Kilpatrick for lunch. I just have to shuck them first.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Jennifer is treating us royally and this morning took us to check out a couple of huge stores. One named Home Depot was a huge Bunnings type store with much much more stuff for hardware freaks like me. The other store is named CostCo, a huge (again) store where you buy a membership for one year and get great discounts on bulk buys of almost anything. It was originally aimed at small retailers, but the public swarms in to buy up big. The shopping trolleys are about double the size of a normal supermarket trolley.

We went to a large shoe store and purchased some shoes for today's pre-wedding 'Barn Bash'. We cruised past the Barn to check it out before heading there around 6pm this evening. It is on a rural property very close to Jennifer's house and the owners don't seem to be of the peasant- class. The wedding tomorrow is at the in-laws' house in a very upmarket area just a bit further away from Jennifer's place. We are going to drive to both events.

Portland is a delightful city. Trees are very big here...both in size and quantity. Squirrels and birds of many breed abound. We could live here!

Sorry if I labour a point, but American drivers make West Australian drivers seem like crazy, angry and inconsiderate people.

I have just been told to stop writing and go for a drive.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Portland Oregon

Well, we arrived at Jennifer's house in Lake Oswego, south of Portland, Oregon, this afternoon courtesy of our hired Sat-nav device. En route we booked in to three motels of varying quality. The towns we stayed in were nice, interesting and easy to get around in. [Joan : getting to them was occasionally fraught. We set the Sat-nav to get us from Santa Cruz south of San Francisco to the Golden Gate bridge yesterday. Unfortunately the freeways were a mess - there had been rain and there were 404 accidents in the Greater SF area before 8 that morning as the television informed us before we left. The Sat -nav selected what would normally be the quickest route. When we left our estimated arrival time was 90 minutes. Three and a half hours later we arrived at the bridge.]

We got off the freeway from SF to have lunch in a town named Healdsville...absolutely lovely! Fremantle council should take a taxpayers' trip there to see how it is done. Then last night we stayed in Eureka which began as a goldrush town. The council should visit there too, to see how well a modern town can maintain its historical buildings.

On the drive up the coast from San Francisco there were amazing coastal views and lovely small towns. Then further up we drove through mountainous regions covered with enough Californian Redwood forests to soak up all the Carbon Dioxide from the 'trucks' that are all too common. 'Trucks' are actually large 'utes' most with dual wheels and monster engines.

The wedding business starts tomorrow with an 'Australian BBQ'. I have been told to make the opening speech and propose the first (of many) toasts to the couple to be married.

Tomorrow I will go and purchase a small breathalyser. Jennifer says that the police don't have booze buses and leave you alone unless you are driving stupidly. . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Los Angeles Adventures

We are still thinking about Singapore Airport and how great it is for the transit passenger. LAX was a little different. Customs officers didn't fleece us like Bali, but the immigration people were a tad unfriendly.

We picked up our car - you get a free shuttle bus from the terminal to your hire company. We are with Dollar and we can highly recommend it. So far we have had two cars. The first was a Chrysler Sebring - very nice. The second car is a Dodge - not quite as luxurious.

Why two cars you ask?

We got lost in the Venice Beach area, and decided to pull into a carpark to set up the satnav we also hired. Wrong decision!! Going in the Exit resulted in the destruction of three tires, when we ran over the security spikes. Fortunately we had bought a mobile phone earlier and rang the hire company. They dispatched a man with a new car and spare wheels for the Chrysler and we were on our way. Still took 90 minutes to sort though very little paper work.

The mobile phone is a godsend. Because of this we had no chance of reaching Hearst Castle , but I manged to ring and rebook. Cost us $7.

We are spending the night in Cambria which is 8 miles from Hearst Castle. We are doing the 9am tour and will then be on our way again. We will stop tomorrow night as soon as we get tired - we are a bit worn out tonight by our adventures.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Singapore Airport

Good flight with Singapore in a Boeing 777 with great food and service. The skipper even assured us that we were safe as we went into an hour of turbulence. I now know that the wings do flap to keep planes up there.

Singapore Airport is just amazing. It is like five large shopping centres with loads of free entertainment for people in transit. We decided not to take the free city tour as they suggest a five hour stopover is needed. Ours is only three hours.

Joan wants to hit the duty-free shops. The next leg of the trip is the biggy and we have sleeping tablets if necessary.

I watched a movie on the first leg from Perth 'Lonely Hearts' starring Travolta and Gandofini (?). Great movie set in the fifties with a dastardly couple of murderers leaving bodies all over the US. 5 out of 5 from me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Think local

I have a friend who lives in Palmyra. He was 'bringing out his dead' to a roadside rubbish collection due in his area when he met a couple from Zambia who were trying to assemble enough secondhand furniture to make their flat a bit more habitable. The man mentioned that they were also looking for a computer. Paul, my friend in Palmyra, thought of me and so I decided it would be nice if I could do something local instead of thinking of overseas assistance.

I phoned Mr George Kuslawa and he is on his way down from Maylands to collect an iMac and printer.

If Britain is anything to go on, we should try and make our immigrants happy with us here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More Troy

Troy Mercanti; Perth's own bad boy, turned himself into police after lying low for a few weeks. The fellow who was viciously bashed by Troy and his mate lost about three litres of blood and was in a bad way for some time in hospital.

Troy's lawyer read a statement from the victim, who is also a bad boy with quite a few convictions, which explains how he was at fault and Mr Mercanti was acting as a mediator to stop a fight. Say what?

This is quite a different story to the one shown on security camera footage with Troy king- hitting the man, stomping on him and Troy's mate breaking a bar stool on him.
The victim was reported as 'sustaining life-threatening injuries'.

Methinks the victim/witness has been got at.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bali the good

Even though we were ripped off by customs there is a lot about Bali that is good. We have done most of the sightseeing before, so this time we stayed around Sanur.

We went to Kuta for about an hour and that was enough. The place is very busy and most of the shops there are for wealthy tourists. In Kuta we also got pestered by some time-share scammers. The scam starts out with a lovely young Balinese girl asking if you would mind doing a short survey to help tourism. In the list of answers is your name and hotel. I could see this one coming....a phone call that evening to tell us that we had won and needed to go to a short meeting to collect. The other one is along the same lines, with a scratchy card showing good prizes also collected at a one-hour talkfest. Needless to say we did not go to collect our prizes.

Our hotel was great. Breakfast on the beach, fully serviced with endless coffee/tea refills @ about $A3.50. Every evening there was a four piece ensemble playing popular western songs. We have stayed there four times now. The gardens are lush and there are plenty of birds, frogs, lizards and squirrels. At first I assumed that the squirrels had been introduced when the Dutch were still there, but after help from Mr Google it seems there are Asian squirrels. I wonder how their instincts work when there is no winter to squirrel away food.

The food is OK, but I reckon we are fortunate to have a great variety of restaurants and cafes in W.A. which provide as good or better food than Bali.

Transport is cheap and there is the amazing calmness of Bali drivers. Thousands of motorcycles, cars and trucks heeding none of the traffic rules with absolutely no road rage. It would be wonderful if every Australian driver could witness that. The horn is used only when overtaking. Why are we such angry and ignorant drivers? On the country roads dogs casually move off the road as trucks etc come along. It is not a big problem if a dog is killed, but a cat is another matter. Our driver told us that he had killed a cat and immediately went to make an offering at a Temple. To not do so invites years of ongoing woes.

Interesting LPG tanker in Bali:

Monday, July 9, 2007

It never rains but it pours

Literally, yesterday. There was a break from the rain in the late afternoon when we were able to get out and finish pruning the roses (there is a green pickup this week). No complaints from us - send her down, Huey.

Metaphorically, computers again. At long last the container has arrived, so the ones that are packed ready to go to Zimbabwe can finally be moved from the garage and workshop. We are really glad that it happened this week - there would have been all sorts of problems in trying to organise this while we were in the US.

And the rain has revived Bibra Lake. There is still a long way to go before it is full, but most of the central mud bank is now under water and it looks like a lake again. North Lake is still struggling, but there are isolated fingers of water. Today there were dozens of swans there, swimming in the water patches and fossicking for seeds in the growth that still covers most of the central area of the lake.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Home sweet home

We are glad to be home. I don't want to hear about corruption, graffiti, the state of our roads and the medical system. After Indonesia this place is Utopia.

I said I would elaborate on our first-hand experience with the Indonesian Customs Service; or rather, a couple of its officers.

The main purpose of going to Bali was to visit the school at Catur where we set up computers almost three years ago and take a couple of secondhand Macs and printers and a cheapo digital camera to try and give staff and students a rounded experience.

We had an iMac in its original packaging and another two smaller boxes of gear including an older laptop, printers and ink refill kits etc.

As we went through customs at Denpasar airport, a customs officer grabbed us, having seen the large iMac carton and demanded to know what it was all about. I had labelled each carton with the destination (the school) and the contents. I explained that it was second-hand gear for a poor school in the Bangli district. He then told us to follow him with the gear to a special room. Very Corbyesque! We were told to sit at a desk where he questioned us some more then said that we must pay duty and made me write down the values of each item. I did a reasonably honest estimation of what I could sell all the gear for in W.A. and he calculated the duty at 17% of total estimated value. That worked out to be A$21 and he then informed us that it was not enough. I reinforced the point that the gear was to help a poor school. He then called his superior who told us that old computers are deemed to be new computers for tax purposes, and that we must now negotiate a duty payment. The ‘negotiations’ came down to $50 Australian and we felt that we would lose our gear if we didn’t pay, so we handed over 50 good ones. I asked for a receipt, but they said that receipts cannot be issued for negotiated taxes. We were told later that we had done well to get out for $50.

On our way back to Aus, we lost half a bottle of vodka because 'only full bottles were allowed in baggage'. When we landed in Perth I asked a senior Customs Officer about that rule. He laughed and said we had been had again.

If we venture to Bali again, I plan to drink about half a bottle of whisky, do number ones in it and when going through customs ask if it is OK to take it in our luggage. With any luck it should be confiscated.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

flight delayed

Our flight back to Perh has been delayed by four hours. Good thing that we are flying 'executive' as we have access to a very nice lounge with drinks, food, comfortable lounge chairs and toilet facilities.

We thought that we had had the last bad experience with Indonesian Customs Officers...but not so. As our baggage went over the X-Ray machine we were taken aside and told to open the bag because there was alcohol inside. We had a half bottle of vodka. The 'man' siezed the vodka explaining that half bottles were not allowed. He placed the bottle under a desk and no doubt will pour it down the drain at some later date...via his kidneys. Bastards! Crap like we have experienced this trip is enough to put tourists off..they don't need a bomb to do that!

The school installation didn't go very well. We managed to get four computers up and running with two printers. Hardly enough for a computer lab. The teachers were in love with the iMac and the digital camera and very impressed by the older Mac laptop we took. For all our efforts and expenditure there was little thanks.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Joan is writing this blog.

Kevin has now realised just how nice his workshop is with all the tools, soldering irons, hot glue guns, screwdrivers etc.

He has (we have) made frequent trips to Hardy's for stuff needed to assemble a long cable with eight outlets for computer stations to be used at the school in Catur. Very difficult to communicate technical needs when no English is spoken.

We bought 5 adaptors on Sunday, took them to the school and found that they didn't work with Australian plugs. They were multi format, and while the plugs went in, they were not held securely. So on Tuesday we had to try to take them back and get credit for them on the purchase of Bali plugs and terminals. We finally succeeded in that though it took a long time and much miming.

Then there were the necessary tools. Another trip needed when the first lot purchased proved inadequate for the job.

Kevin is getting sick of fried rice and mie goreng. We are both less enthusiastic about Bintang than we were at the beginning. One more day to buy watches etc, another trip to Catur and we'll be ready to get on the plane and drink champagne again.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Day four Bali

We have been to the Catur school and been quite disappointed that the wiring we did last time (almost three years ago) has been removed and cannibalised. There is only one power outlet in the computer room which is a new room.

Six of the oldest computers have died..we have no idea why. So now we have only five working computers and we have been out today buying electrical cabling and plugs and sockets to set up the room again.

We took one iMac G3, a couple of printers and an older Mac laptop, printer inks and refill kits and a new digital camera. The teachers were fascinated by the digital camera and in no time were printing off their own pictures. The laptop, although a bit slow, was also coveted, and the Principal carted it off to lock in the office.

Toilet facilities at the school do not need describing... put you off your lunch. It did us.

We are going back Friday to do a last effort at getting a small lab up with printing paper, plastic bags for covers and spray and wipe to clean off the grime on everything. We don't know at the moment how many printers we can get going.

It is sad that there are very few tourists here at the moment and hotels, businesses and transport drivers are bleeding.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

First Bali Blog

We are here. The flight with Garuda business class was worth the extra $300 each. Good service, food and seating. Champagne at 8.30am. We just scraped through with the luggage allowance. A good thing Garuda gave us the extra.

The experience getting through customs was almost enough to turn us around. More later.

We have had a good couple of days and are off to Bangli and the school tomorrow.

The weather is very pleasant with humidity around 7o% and nice cooling breezes on the beach.