Thursday – 17th September

We all got up early to wave Helen off on the ferry, the first stage of her journey back to Alice Springs. She is an excellent travelling companion and I think we were all sorry to see her go, not least because it marked the fact that our travelling as a group for this current session was coming to a close. The ferry entrance was buzzing with commuters dashing into the City to start their daily toil and there was a danger of us trippers getting caught in the crush.  With cries of ‘until the next time’ and lots of waving, she was gone throught the gate. And then there were four.

We got back to Wendy and Sarah’s house for breakfast and then set out to complete our packing and the consolidation of our parcels ready for an early evening departure to Tony and Justine’s house not far away.

We had thought to travel into the City for our first excursion there ourselves – the possibility of a headland walk being ruled out by incoming inclement weather, but in the event we went off to walk along the small promoters at the end of the beach at Manly(?) with the girls.  What a wonderful place to have so close at hand!

There were a number of people strolling and a diving school gathered on a grassy bank,  rather surprisingly I thought. The pupils were all sitting on the grass in wet suits – perhaps basic training takes place on dry land…….I could manage that bit!

As we wandered the path we were treated to a sighting of a Komodo Dragon.  I nearly walked into it on the path ahead. and jumped rather dramatically – even for me! it posed very nicely for us…..

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What amazing creatures they are!

We wandered back – by this time it had become quite overcast and our decision to take a lunch break in an excellent salad bar proved timely as it poured with rain while we ate our lunch.  My sate chicken salad was really good!  It is obviously a favourite eating spot for the girls and we could see why!

We had some quiet time in the afternoon – quite a rare occurrence on this trip! – but at 6.30 it was time for us to go.  For the last time we piled into the people carrier, which had served us so well over the previous week, and we were off to the Collaroy Plateau where we are to stay until we leave Australia.

Our fond farewells to Wendy and Sarah was somewhat cut short by two little faces peering out of Justine and Tony’s house – sometimes known as The Castle it would appear.  Our journey there had seemed to take us up and up and there is a strong sense of the eyrie about it the area.  We were not to see the amazing view until daylight the  next day.  But that was to come – back to our arrival………

Our ring on the bell was answered by the lovely Loraine, the lady who gets the girls up and off to school in the mornings and also looks after them in the evening until Mum and Dad get home from the City   Immediately behind her stood the very much grown Mickey and Coco, both sporting lovely welcoming grins   Almost immediately – no initial shyness on display – Coco announced she had prepared a welcoming clarinet concert and dance display.   Within minutes,  it seemed, we were rather precipitously waving off Wendy and Sarah (who I am sure loved returning alone to their peaceful, beautiful home) and we were being introduced to cats, shown our room and ushered upstairs to the ‘stage’ (the living room).  With apologies for the ‘split reed’ in her instrument, Coco launched into the Ode to Joy – Beethoven eat your heart out!  This was closely followed by Mary had a Little Lamb and Jingle Bells

Poor Loraine had hardly time to bid us goodbye and escape before the next stage of the soirée began!  Shortly afterwards, Tony arrived with an old family friend, Trudy, who it transpired was in Sydney to umpire a judo match (?!?).  They were also told to sit down in readiness for the dance routine.   It felt a little as though we had left the world of grown up travel and, having gone through the front door of Wightman Towers (or Castle!), had passed into Wonderland without the Mad Hatter!  However, although it was something of a quantum leap,  it was great fun!   Mickey announced Coco’s intended programme and turned on the music and Coco was off – dancing, tumbling and pirouetting around the floor – totally unselfconscious.  Oh for that confidence at 9 (or almost).

Then Justine arrived.  It was lovely to see her again!  We all gathered together for supper in front of the big map of the world that covers the wall of the kitchen/diner and it felt that we had seen them only yesterday and that the journey half way across the world that had taken place to make it happen was as nothing.  How lucky we are to have the means to create this sort of magic!

Conscious that it was a ‘school night’ for some – the girls had adjourned earlier – I led the charge to bed.   Lorraine was to get the girls up in the morning for their last day at school before their spring holiday, so I went to bed with a bit of a plan for Coco’s birthday present, although unsure if it could be achieved……..

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