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Archive for the ‘Tasmania’ Category

Cherry ice cream

We had a good night’s sleep on our ‘luxury’ conventional mattresses, apart from some noise from our neighbours (who are now closer than when we were camping). And in the early hours, we heard a spattering of rain on the tin roof, followed by more extensive precipitation as dawn broke. Yes – we’d definitely done the right thing; no soggy tent to pack away.

Farewell to our cabin.
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We showered, had breakfast and loaded up the boot.
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Up the Midland (or Heritage) Highway which connects Hobart and Launceston. We stopped for a high-calorie morning snack at the bakery in Ross, a pretty settlement with an elm-lined main street, then made it to Launceston in time for a Subway lunch.

Ross main street.
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The next stop was to drop off our camping gear. Doug heard the doorbell this time; after I helped him to move a bookcase we spent a while listening to his tales of working on bypasses in Sussex during the 1960s (driving a grader) or travelling through Ethiopia where they grow eucalyptus trees to provide wood for roofing. He was a scoutmaster (it figures – he still wears the shorts); apparently the Guides no longer operate in Australia – the girls join the Scouts instead. We let him have our washing-up bowl and electric air pump (we have no further use for them). Apparently he came out to try to find us in Myrtle Park (the campsite we failed to find) in order to take a photo of our tent and to let us have a lantern; we’ll email him one of our tent photos instead.

Then the final leg across to Devonport. A much faster road than the back-country one we took when we arrived a fortnight ago – here you were allowed to drive at the unheard-of speed of 110km/h. We paused at the Cherry Shed in Latrobe to share a couple of cherry ice-creams (freshly made by whizzing up vanilla ice cream with a handful of whole cherries – as evidenced by the fragments of stones we nearly broke our teeth on…). They also sell cherry soap, cherry pies, even pork and cherry sausages (which is trying a bit too hard).

From here it took us only minutes to reach Devonport where we stocked up with a picnic supper from Coles supermarket (the on-board evening meal would have come to $40); the girls bought new books to keep them occupied. Then a long wait to board the ferry – the Spirit of Tasmania I this time (her sister ship SoT II is doing the reverse trip and we’ll pass at 1am). No restrictions on fruit and veg, so we have kept our pears and spuds.
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We are still getting absolutely nowhere with accommodation in Adelaide, despite spending hours searching and phoning up. It seems that we are exactly coinciding with something called the Clipsal 500 V8, a series of car races around the city centre. They run from Thursday to Sunday this coming week, exactly the days we planned to stay there (our train leaves Adelaide on Sunday afternoon and we return the hire car that morning). In other words, we couldn’t have timed it any worse; the whole place is booked out, even 30 miles out from the centre.

So what do we do? It’s a major headache, the hardest obstacle we’ve faced so far on the trip. We have to stay near Adelaide on Saturday night, at the very least, in order to return the car and leave enough time to get to the station. But there seem to be no available holiday park cabins, Youth Hostel beds, motel rooms, apartments, hotel rooms, anything (except at ridiculous prices). Any suggestions, anyone?

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We spent our final night in the tent and got packing soon after breakfast. Sit on those air mattresses (‘it looks like you’re wearing a nappy, Daddy’), roll up the mummy sleeping bags, gather up head torches. Piles of stuff accumulated on the grass outside the tent (it stayed dry, fortunately) and soon we set off for our next night’s stay… all of 50 yards away.

I collected the keys for Cabin 49 and had a look inside. Luxury! Yes, it’s got tatty lino and wonky kitchen cabinet doors, but it’s huge! It’s constructed from two linked units so there’s a big kitchen and sitting room and lots of storage space. We still have to remind ourselves that we don’t have to use the washblock or the grotty camp kitchen any more. Proper beds, an oven, chairs – and these new-fangled electric lights so we don’t have to shut down at sunset.

The camping was certainly a good thing to do; once we had dismantled the tent, its yellow-grass footprint seemed tiny, and yet it was amply spacious at the time. You get to know the current phase of the moon as a matter of course, and I could now point out the Southern Cross immediately after my noctural loo visits. You know how cold it is at night and how strong the morning sunshine is, having only two thin sheets separating you from the countryside. And it makes you appreciate even the humblest of cabins once you’re done with the tent.

We transferred our things across the field and settled in. A fridge of our own! We have got so used to dragging plates and cutlery and cereal and juice and bread and tea towels and washing-up liquid around the campsite from tent to kitchen to games room and back again, time and time again, along with diaries, laptop, camera, etc. Kept us fit, I suppose.

With rain due later today, we popped into Richmond for one final look round. A few souvenir shops but nothing that really appealed. The equestrian/gift shop was full of tack. The Tasting House had ridiculously expensive fancy condiments, preserves and wines; the girls snaffled the stingy free samples of strawberry jam and then we moved on.

We had lunch at the Richmond Bakery; sausage rolls and savoury rolls (not quite sure of the difference) and something sweet to finish (no, not frozen). Some baking potatoes from the shop and then back to play, including more table football (aka foosball, from the German); for the first time, the girls’ combined team defeated both Kirsten and me (individually). Ellen’s technique is a manic spinning of her players, aiming to slam the ball with such high velocity that her opponent has no time to react. Hannah watches and waits in defence, ready to pounce on any ball that makes it through Ellen’s barrage.

Suppertime approaching now, and still no rain but oppressively warm. We went to put our four potatoes in the oven and I couldn’t see how to light the gas – the reason being that there is no gas left – both large cylinders are empty (that simply shouldn’t be allowed to happen). Now we’re probably not permitted to take fruit and veg out of Tasmania tomorrow, so we have resorted to microwaving them. No crispy skins, but at least we’ll have something to eat tonight. The man at reception offered to come over and have a look, but there has been a constant stream of vehicles checking in to keep him busy.

It will be a load off our boot to begin our luggage-slimming process tomorrow. First we’ll return the camping gear to Doug Snare (a ruddy-faced outdoor type with whom age is now starting to catch up, not that he wishes to admit this). Then we’ll send our next parcel home – hiking boots, some cold-weather garments, more leaflets and diaries (Ellen has finished her next book) – with other redundant stuff going to a charity shop (op shop). Then we’ll be ready for South-East Asia where we’ll have no car to rely on; just our rucksacks, lightened as much as possible beforehand.

The potatoes worked out okay, but our recently-picked pears were not yet ripe. Since we can’t keep them tomorrow, Kirsten suggested microwaving them as well, to soften them up. Well, it worked well enough to give a sort of poached flavour; we drizzled on some Nutella for extra decadence.

I have just booked a rental car for Alice Springs – it’s nigh impossible to get unlimited kilometres, so we’ll have to pay $25 for each 100km over the allowance of 800km. Since it’s 450km each way between Alice Springs and Yulara (the resort near Uluru), we’re guaranteed to go over the limit.

No rain yet; we’re now hoping it will pour tonight or tomorrow morning, simply to justify our cabin stay. Though it’s nice to be all packed up a day early…

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The long car journeys two days in a row must have affected us more than we anticipated. We didn’t have our showers until gone 8.30am. The sky was blue and almost cloudless which meant the tent was beginning to warm up nicely.

I said goodbye to the family with three children with whom we shared our daily events. They had both left jobs, rented out their house and decided to travel around Australia for 12 months with their children aged 5, 3 and 10 months. They were in search of a nice place to live and will probably do a little work on the way. After they had left I felt slightly lost, like when a friend goes on holiday for a while or a colleague moves on to a new job…

We were wondering what to do today, but neither of us felt like doing much. I put a load of washing in and after breakfast cut Tim’s hair and trimmed Hannah’s. The girls kept asking us what the plan was for today, we kept saying we didn’t really know. They only wanted to play table football and go swimming. And that sounded exactly right to us, so today became an official “Flop Day”.

Shortly before mid-day we paid our $5 deposit in return for a table football ball and we were off. The girls are getting quite good at it and give as good as they get. We played game after game and there was winning and losing for everybody.

After nearly an hour it was time to have a rest and some lunch. We finished off our coleslaw, ham and cheese and ate most of the strawberries we picked yesterday.

We let our lunch settle and then the girls and I changed into our swimming stuff and dashed into the swimming pool. Tim was busy putting photos onto Flickr and not too keen on getting wet. I didn’t particularly want to get in the water but once there I realised it was actually very comfortably warm.

Hannah was happy playing around and Ellen suddenly got the hang of kicking her legs and actually moving forwards. She was so keen to keep going; she used two woggles to help her float and swam up and down, up and down shouting that she still wasn’t worn out! She even tried really hard putting her face in the water and blowing bubbles. She was so excited when Tim came in and she could show off her swimming to him. I told her that we were very proud of her, and she said she was too – and so she should! After an hour her toes and fingers were so wrinkled it was time to get out. We rewarded her (and Hannah of course) with ice creams.

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To keep in tune with our lazy day we drove into Richmond to buy our usual fish and chips order of two flake and a large bag of chips. And that did us nicely, hardly any chips left.

The girls helped us doing the dishes before writing their diaries. A promise of one last game of table football before bed kept them going.

Tonight is our last night in the tent. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad about it. I must admit I enjoyed the camping a lot more than I thought I would. The tent and sleeping bags are comfortable and warm, the food is tasty and we all enjoy being together. But what I really enjoy about camping is meeting other families and hearing their travel stories. Besides the couple of families we met over the last few days, today we met up again with a family of five who we saw at our last campsite in St Helens and also a Dutch couple who are cycling from Sydney to Adelaide. [They’ve got a bit lost, then…]

We have no plans yet for tomorrow, apart from taking the tent down one last time and settling into our cabin for one night. We still have some accommodation to sort out, however…

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One of those nights of niggling stressful thoughts, even while I slept (it seems) judging by the way I must have been grinding my teeth. We still have no accommodation arranged for Adelaide, Alice Springs or Singapore – the former in particular is very booked up and we’re not sure why; is there some big event around the 20th? We have Ellen’s bottle-holder to retrieve; do we really drive 104 miles for a £1 item? And our last day on this campsite looks like it’ll be a washout, so we’ll be packing up in a thunderstorm yet again.

We resolved at least some of these issues today. I went to Reception as soon as it opened at 9 this morning and – much to my surprise – succeeded in upgrading us to a cabin for our final night here. (I fully expected everything to be booked up for the Labour Day weekend.)

Kirsten phoned up the Eucalypt Cafe and confirmed that they did indeed have Ellen’s lost property. Since our Port Arthur tickets are valid for 48 hours, we took the decision to return there today to see the bits we missed yesterday and to let the girls fill in more of their activity books. On the way we stopped at a fruit farm just south of Sorell (a few of the other campers had mentioned it to us).

They had strawberries and pears available to pick, all unsprayed: William and Nashi pears (the latter is like a small crunchy apple with a pear flavour) and perhaps eight different varieties of strawberries! So we took our four punnets and filled each with its own type – Seascape for Ellen, Kalinda for Hannah, Juliette for Kirsten and Camarosa for me. A full-sized punnet came to $5 while the small children’s ones were half price. Ten pears in a bucket added $3.30 to the total.
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We drove on to Dunalley, the gateway to the Forestier Peninsula complete with lifting road bridge, and stopped to have a sandwich and a strawberry tasting session. We envisioned becoming experts on the different varieties – “a hint of blackcurrant”, “I’m getting woodsmoke and cinnamon”, etc., but as it turned out we totally fluffed the blind tastings. The ripeness of berry was a far more significant factor than any inherent distinctions of flavour between varieties. Ellen’s were judged somewhat juicier than the rest, but I think this is because the strawberry field in question was the furthest up the hill; fewer people ventured up that far so there were more fully ripe berries waiting to be plucked.

Dunalley.
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Precise parking instructions.
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Down the rest of the Arthur Highway to retrieve the errant bottle-holder from the cafe – Ellen was so glad to have it back. Then to the prison settlement for the second time. We spent a bit more time downstairs reading the stories of a random selection of prisoners (all linked to those playing cards you’re issued with when you arrive) before walking around the old ruined penitentiary and then the asylum/museum.

The Penitentiary.
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The Asylum.
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After a couple of hours there we headed back to our tent, buying some mince and bread in Richmond and arriving around 5pm. Time for some table football, then diaries and supper.

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A nice, sunny morning, albeit a little chilly and windy.

After breakfast we headed down towards Port Arthur, on the Tasman Peninsula, to visit Australia’s most important convict site.

We stopped at Pirate’s Bay to admire the view whilst nibbling our morning snack biscuits. The weather was still pretty windy, so soon we carried on to a tesselated pavement. This was quite interesting to look at. The pavement looked man-made, but actually the criss-cross grid was caused by sea salt settling into the cracks, then expanding and making the cracks much wider.
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By now, it was approaching lunchtime, so we stopped at “Eucalypt”. This is a restaurant/coffee shop set up by a couple with no formal training in the hospitality industry who simply enjoy cooking meals they like. The girls shared a ham/cheese/pineapple pizza, Tim opted for a salmon/capers/brie pizza and I chose the soup of the day (tomato & tarragon) with freshly baked baguette. We had to wait quite a while, but it was certainly worth it. We ended up with four nearly empty plates, but four very full tummies.

We arrived at Port Arthur prison shortly after 1pm. A family ticket for two adults and up to six children (we only took two children, though) cost us $62. This included a 40 minute guided tour in the grounds, explaining the history of the site and the different buildings, and a 20 minute harbour cruise passing the dockyard, Isle of the Dead (where deceased prisoners were burried) and Point Puer Boys’ Prison.

We also received two activity books for the girls and four playing cards. Each playing card represented a convict and it was up to us to find out who they were and why they had been sent to prison.

Ellen : William McCorrigan, 16 yrs old. Sentenced to 7 years deportation for stealing a handkerchief.
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Hannah : James Travis, 17 yrs old. Sentenced to 7 years deportation for stealing 10 corsets.
Tim : Thomas Fleet, 33 yrs old. Sentenced for life deportation for stealing a horse.
Kirsten : John Thomas (any comments, grandad?!), 39 yrs old. Sentenced to 7 years deportation for stealing a tablecloth and spoons.

The activity books were very informative and certainly kept both girls interested and occupied. It definitely made them want to go around all the buildings trying to find clues to the questions. Both Tim and I were very impressed with the lay-out of the booklets which seemed to cover almost all aspects of the site.

In trouble yet again…
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At around 1.30pm we made our way outside in time for our guided tour. Our guide, again was extremely knowledgeable and informative. He described very well what life at the prison was like, the hierarchy amongst the prisoners but also within the whole site.

The worst offenders had cells underground, the better behaved convicts were allowed to share dormitories on the second floor. The prison was built in the valley, whereas the Commandant’s house was built at the top of the hill. Bad prisoners looking up to good citizens.

Again it was difficult to imagine the harshness of the prison and prison life in this almost idyllic village setting, with its beautiful little churches, orchard and gardens.

The church ruins.
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Commandant’s house.
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Hospital.
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After our boat trip we walked back up to the main building in search of refreshments. We passed the memorial garden which was laid out in memory of the 35 victims of a mad gunman who shot them on April 28th 1996.

In the cafe the girls settled for an ice cream and the grown-ups shared a cool lemonade and mars bar. Then we popped out again for one last wander around in order to find a few more answers and love tokens for the girls’ activity books.

Back at the car we noticed Ellen’s bottle holder was missing. I know it’s only a bottle holder, but it was bought in Peru and Ellen had been using it almost daily ever since. These bottle holders are so useful, but very hard to come by. We realised she must have left it at the cafe where we had lunch, so on our way back we stopped to pick it up – except the cafe closed at 4pm (it was after 6pm by now).

Tim looked up their phone number through their internet site and we’ll have to phone them up first thing tomorrow morning and hope it’s there. However much we would like the bottle holder back, neither of us feels like a two hour return journey …

We didn’t return to our campsite until nearly 7.30pm, in time for My Kitchen Rules. Because of our big lunch we only had bananas on toast for supper. Everyone is shattered after a long day out, diaries and blog will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

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Tassie Devils

A really chilly night last night; despite wrapping ourselves in thermals inside our sleeping bags Kirsten slept badly and I was kept awake by a cold nose (no frostbite, mind you). Only the girls didn’t seem be too bothered by the low temperatures, but they can burrow deep and snug inside their purple cocoons.

Plenty of space for our tent…
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The clear skies brought warming sun this morning; we should get four days in a row like this, and this is better than one should expect in Hobart at this time of year, despite it being as far south of the equator as Rome is to the north.

Kirsten put in a load of washing (these top loaders don’t take long) and after breakfast we sought out Bonorong Animal Park, not far from our campsite. It’s well reviewed on TripAdvisor so we chose it over the marginally closer ZooDoo.

And thus we passed the remainder of the morning stroking koalas and wombats, hand-feeding kangaroos and wallabies and seeing our first Tasmanian Devils. We were impressed with the set-up; the park is in a superb position among the countryside north of Hobart and the staff are clearly knowledgeable; the guide for the tour/talk we joined was full of information about his featured marsupials. Apparently in Tasmania it’s still fine to touch the koalas, whereas it’s banned in New South Wales.

Another baby wombat – Humphrey.
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Bert the baby koala.
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The Tassie Devils were fun to watch, lolloping around their enclosures. They have the second-strongest jaws in the animal kingdom (we didn’t find out the number 1 bone-cruncher) but the keeper happily got in with them, bare-armed as he fed them chunks of meat. They are under threat in the wild from some sort of contagious cancer of the face (which has now mutated into 12 different strains) so they are keeping hold of any offspring born in captivity for the time being.
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Another brownie point for Bonorong (which means ‘place of wild animals’): they provide free bags of animal feed for everyone as you go in, instead of milking you for a few extra dollars.

What else did we see? Quolls (spotty-coated small carnivores and a vital addition to the fauna lexicon as a refreshing alternative to Quails). Pademelons (not a fruit found in inundated fields but a sort of small wallaby).

We had lunch back at the tent, took the washing down and then drove a few minutes into Richmond. Yes, we could have walked but it was now extremely hot with no shade by the roadside. We parked near the famous Gaol and promptly failed to find the entrance… Once we had spotted the huge sign near our car we paid our admission and wandered around the solitary confinement cells, the kitchen and the cramped sleeping quarters. Hard to imagine what life used to be like here when it’s a gorgeous day and the honeyed stonework reminds you of the posher bits of Bath. But the hardware items – leg irons, whips and so on – hinted at a harsher reality. We couldn’t go into all the rooms as bits of the gaol are still used as a private residence, and the former exercise yard now has the local police station plonked in the middle of it.

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After getting out of jail free we walked down to the river to see the stone bridge, the oldest in Australia that is still in use. A delightful spot with grassy banks and ducks on the water – again reminiscent of any well-preserved country town in England. Then to the bakery to sample their mud cake and peppermint/caramel slices.
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We balanced this overindulgence with a nice healthy salady supper at our usual table in the Games Room.
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Still lots of young children around on the site; I get the impression that it’s quite common for Australian families to go travelling for a year – just around the vastness of their own country, taking their time. We keep bumping into one family in the grotty kitchen area who have three young children and are on the road for a year, doing bits of work here and there to bring in enough cash to help things along. They don’t need to worry about flights, baggage weight limits, foreign languages and exchange rates – just pack up the camper van and head off into the great Oz unknown.

We might try Port Arthur or Bruny Island tomorrow; a full day out with a fair journey there and back. Hope tonight’s not as cold as last night’s 6°C…

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TMAG

I had such a good sleep last night, I did wake up a couple of times but managed to fall asleep again quite quickly. Tim said he had been a little cold, but both girls had slept very well. In fact, Ellen slept until nearly 8 o’clock! But I think we will don our thermals tonight to keep extra warm.
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After having showered, we made our way down to the Games Room. No, not for a game of table tennis but for a breakfast of cereal and raisin bread toast and coffee.

We decided to visit Hobart today and arrived there shortly after 10am. We popped into the crowded Information Centre and after hanging around for a good 15 minutes picking up leaflets and a map we called it a day and went in search of late morning snack/early lunch. On our way we went into a Vodafone shop to buy a Broadband top-up voucher for our laptop. The lady in there was extremely helpful and gave us some tips on what might be of interest in and around Hobart. She also recommended “Beaujangles” where we stopped for a cappuccino, hot chocolate, pineapple juice, two white chocolate & raspberry muffins and a chocolate toffee cookie to share between the four of us.

Miss Beaujangles.
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Only five minutes’ walk down the road was TMAG – Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, where we spent over two hours. One room was dedicated to the Aboriginals. We saw how they made boats, water carriers (out of kelp), shell necklaces and baskets. There was a history line about how the aboriginals had settled and how the white settlers arrived and fought and killed the aboriginals. Ellen commented about the fact that the aboriginal children had been taken away from their parents and wanted to know why people would do such a thing. After I explained that they were taken by the white settlers to be used as slaves and later on because they were apparently neglected and maltreated, she walked away with a pensive look on her face …

When in New Zealand we had the Maori culture and art rubbed in our faces at the tiniest of opportunities, but not so in Australia. Here we have hardly come across anything aboriginal, apart from a few paintings and the statues at the William Ricketts Sanctuary. It’s almost like Australians are ashamed of them and trying to hide anything to do with aboriginals. I guess we’ll have to wait until we get to Uluru.

Also at the museum we saw an exhibition of Australian animals, portraits and landscape paintings (which Hannah was very interested in), a Chinese collection of art objects and yet another antarctic exhibition.

I was in desperate need of fresh fruit, so we finally managed to find our way out, only to find it had started to rain again. We sheltered in the museum lobby for a little while, and once it started to ease off we went in search of a supermarket. On the way to the car we went back into the i-site where they pointed us in the right direction.

We stopped at Woolworths and stocked up on fruit and supper (corn on the cob and baguette), magazines for the girls and curly wurlys for everyone.

Funny anecdote: the girl at the checkout commented on us having a beautiful family. As this would probably never happen at home, she took us by surprise and we had to ask her to repeat it in case we had misheard!

Back at the campsite we went straight into the Games Room where the girls caught up on their diaries and Tim on yesterday’s blog. After that the girls and I went for a splash in the slightly heated pool, which I still find a little cold.

The rest of the evening was spent having our supper, phoning my parents to reassure them we were all ok (what with the Tsunami warnings) and writing today’s blog.

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