Contrary to rumours, I do sometimes escape my cloister.

This time my ( generous ) hosts Roger and Karen took me seeing the sights of Brisbane, from the South Bank.

There are acres of public space running alongside the river.

In case I need to say it again, the larger Australian cities I’ve seen on this trip have spent much money and time on creating beautiful outdoor public spaces.

Then to Mt. Gravatt Lookout, and home.

Day 2 – Townsville to Airlie Beach

After today, it’s unlikely I’ll return to stay in Cairns.

The simple reason – you can’t swim in the sea there. This day by way of consolation, started and ended with dips in the Briny.

In Townsville, at 7.30 a.m., the bathing belles on the beach advertised the small bay. They’d already been in, and scoffed off suggestions of Salties. The water was beautifully warm.

Townsville is now my favourite town in Far North Queensland. Its waterfront is better equipped, there is sand in place of Cairns’ mud, and there are cafes and other tourist traps all along the while.

After again wrestling my push-bike in and out of the van for the second of dozens of times, I followed the Coast South-East to Airlie Beach.

Airlie Beach

I arrived mid-afternoon to a breezy little seaside town which has an official population of 1,208 people.

It’s compact, and as with Townsville ad Cairns, the town centre is right next to the seaside. Also like those two towns, I soon discover a large public area close to town, equipped with picnic areas, large open spaces, and toilets.

Again there’s a chlorinated pool labelled a “lagoon” like the ugly sister right next to the beach.

Petrol Prices

Coming into town I discovered an open secret. That is, Liberty fuel. It was selling at around AUD $1.35, competing with prices as high as $1.65 elsewhere.

Since it’s dawning on me that petrol costs won’t be much less than the cost of van hire, I start choosing petrol stations more carefully.

I headed for the higher-up and leafy suburbs this night, looking for slightly cooler temperatures.

I got some sidelong glances from a couple of elderly strollers at dusk, but a cheery “hello” put them at their ease, and I slept a little more comfortably.

Day 1 – Cairns to Townsville

1980, Tamaterau, Whangarei, New Zealand A bunch of kids, including me, are walking up a country road. A ghetto blaster is perched on the shoulder of the largest, and “Deadlock Holiday” is playing.

They ( 10cc ) weren’t among the Cool Kids, but neither was I.

2021, Cairns, Queensland, Australia>. I’m riding down a side-road when a feral-looking dreadlocked brother takes a u-turn, and starts bike-stalking me.

I’m on my way to Jucy rentals to pick up my van for the trip from Cairns to Brisbane, and this first 2 km leg of the 1800 km road-trip isn’t going well.

I make a couple of u-turns, but he tails me, like a fighter pilot.

“Stop following me, bro,” he growls.

I’m not too sure where’s where, so I hit the after-burners and scarper off towards a gang of workers a few hundred metres away. My stalker disappears.

An hour or so later, all kitted out with a cigarette-to-laptop charger, and aux sound cables I’m on my way.

Cassowary country

Southern Cassowary jay-walking
Despite the warning roadsigns, I’m momentarily flummoxed by a large bird which poles through the trees for a few seconds. It looks like a cross between an ostrich and a turkey. It’s a cassowary, native to North-Eastern Australia and Papua New Guinea, and protected.


I arrive exhausted at around 6pm , and wolf down a lazy dinner of sardines and whatnot.

It takes me a few minutes to discover that Townsville city centre, set on the beachfront like Cairns, is beautifully laid out and with all the mod cons a tourist could want.

It takes me much longer to figure out how to set the van up for the night. I finally doze off sometime around 2 am after meandering the town looking for the best parking spot.

I’m a rank amateur at the this game.

PB Tech 2 Dick Smiths 0

It’s two-nil to PB Tech in the home-and-away online shopping games.

But you know the rules – let’s not talk about the war.

Instead, let’s talk about buying phones online. The fast decline of my old phone started when I pried off the back cover to do some surgery with blunt instruments.

A few weeks later, the sim card slot no longer slid out, and my attempts to wrangle it back into shape resulted in a banana-shaped back cover. Go figure.

With the upcoming escape to Oz, my daughter suggested the inevitable had hit the fan, and it needed replacing.

After poring over specs and costs etc at, I settled on a Redmi 9 ( no “Note”) , cheap at Dick Smiths.

I bought that online on June 15, thinking that even if it was being imported from Australia, it would arrive in time.

Whereabouts Unknown

Not. When I hadn’t heard, or received, anything a week later, I looked up the tracking. It was nowhere to be found.

Since Dick Smith’s is now 100% online, and one doesn’t get to talk ( even by text chat! ) to a real person, a busyness of emails followed.

They were “opening an investigation”, which may take “up to 10 working days”. After repeating myself a few times, I think it dawned on them that what I wanted was a phone, and not an investigation. Thank you.

They did eventually refund the money, leaving me to scramble about again.

I found a Redmi Note 9T at PB Tech.

They had delivered within two days an SD card I bought soon after the Dick Smith’s Redmi buy.

And so it was with the phone, which arrived less than 24 hours after I’d ordered it.

So here’s to PB Tech, which delivers stuff pronto with no palaver.

Unlike some other outlets. Which suspicious minds might think advertise products knowing that their delivery tracking is broken, and they don’t have to stocks to meet demand.

On My Way Again

It’s official –  i’m on my way out of this cold rainy Isle to soak in the sun.

For a bit. Maybe as brief as three weeks, but perhaps for as long as three months or more. I don’t ( yet ) have a return ticket.

Destination ? Cairns, Far North Queensland, in the Land of Oz, where it’s warm.

Maybe the 16-month stint in SouthEast Asia messed up my thermostat, but this winter – my first in the “Winterless North” since 2018 – has been brutal on this skinny old bloke.

I wouldna thunk of Cairns, except that it kept cropping up in conversation with Japanese students at Engoo.

July 13

is D-Day. I’ll be leaving Whangarei late afternoon, and arriving in Cairns close to midnight.

I’ve got a room booked in an AirBnB house for the first week. I plan to spend most of that beetling around for ( cheaper ) longer-term digs.

I’m told by an Insider in the airBnB game that at NZD 270 / week, I’m getting a good deal. But at that price, a 3-month stay may be a stretch.

But, barring Aussie customs deciding that they don’t want another recidivist Kiwi, I’m hoping to at least dodge the worst of the remaining winter.

Covid-free – officially

My test from Day 3 of quarantine has come back ‘clear of anti-bodies’.

Not negative. I’m not entirely sure what the difference is, but I’ll take it anyway.

Here they use a novel system of counting, so that Monday – when I landed and arrived here – was Day 0. Hence the test is from Thursday.

The no news is good news system got to me, so I phoned for the result. The voice on the other end pressed a couple of buttons, and presto, a result.

I’m generally feeling fine. The interwebs, which were foobared on the first day of online teaching, are behaving themselves. I’m getting regular walkies in the designated areas ( er, mostly ).

My biggest challenge at the moment is turning a blind eye to the desserts being delivered with my by-request ‘low-carb’ meals. Today, beautiful cooked meals, times three, and the desserts? Chips ( crisps to some ) for two meals, and pineapple lumps ( 75% sugar ) for the other. So far I’ve resisted, reminding myself that shortly afterwards I’d feel anything but fine.

I have a handkerchief if you need it.

One In the Eye

It was better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick – but only just.

I’m talking of course about the Day 3 covid-19 test carried out here at the prison hotel.

A swab – a stick about the size and length of a small kebab – is thrust up yer nose, and wiggled about to scrape all the nasties up there.

In the midst of this fun, the nurse is counting to 10, slowly, and then it’s over, bar the snorting, and sneezing, and harrumph-ing.

Apparently the results are back possibly as early as today, but in that very non-comforting phrase, “no news is good news,” they tell me.

I imagine that if the worst does happen, they’ll be busting my door down dressed in full protective armour.

So far, that hasn’t happened.


Through the plane’s porthole hung the eponymous Long White Clouds of Aotearoa, graphical evidence that I was indeed Home.

The second harbinger was the huge Samoan porter / helper at Auckland airport throwing my 35 kg bag around like polystyrene – “welcome home,” the Bro had said.

Then there was the bus trip from Auckland airport to the quarantine hotel – the Grand Millenium Hotel– beside the orderly and dull suburbs you don’t see in SE Asia.

The Hotel

Is vast, about 500 rooms on 12 floors, as far as I know containing only quarantine inmates.

It’s flash, featuring a huge open central atrium, and a clever modern layout, neither of which we can really fully enjoy, being basically confined to our rooms. There’s a concreted exercise yard, almost totally enclosed, where 8 – 10 people typically mill around in a circular fashion. There’s a “sun deck”, which needs advance booking of more than 24 hours, and which I haven’t yet been organised enough to enjoy. And there’s a small penned off area outside the hotel which we were told could be used, but which I haven’t yet visited.

There’s three free meals a day, on the taxpayer, as is the stay itself, so far be it from me to complain. I’m trying to make the best of it.

The Trip

Singapore Airlines was impressive. First, thanks to covid, on both flights I had a row of three seats to myself.

Second, thanks to the hobble remaining from the broken ankle recovery, airline staff bent over backwards to help out. I got wheeled and driven about, and given priority in boarding lines, almost to the point of embarrassment.

Release and Before

I’m released from here on Monday, October 5.

The plan had been to spend my time earning a small crust teaching online, but the low WiFi speeds at the hotel have thrown that into doubt on the first morning’s teaching today. Internet lag and cutouts can mean financial penalties from the teaching platform, and at the very least will annoy or warn off my students.

If that’s not viable, I have plenty I can busy myself with.

But it has so far, into day 3, been a challenge, with a lot of understandable, and some nonsensical, restrictions on what we can do here outside our rooms.

It’s gilded yes, but it’s still a cage.

Leg 2 Finished

Now trying to relax in transit in Singapore.

Singapore Airlines is one slick operation. Flights arrive and leave on time. Flight attendants fashioned from magazines are more than decorative.

Thanks to covid, there were no other passengers within sneezing distance, so I spread myself over three seats.

My vapes got through in cabin baggage.

The only downside of the trip was a 4-year-old screaming throughout. Seriously, they should ban under-5s from all but designated trips. That way the rest of the populace wouldn’t have to suffer from one parent’s idiocy. Said parent was bottle-feeding milk to the little monster before boarding, just to make it suitably wired. Sheesh.

Whining aside, leg 3 to Auckland starts in 2 hours. Nine hours plus, and two meals.

I’m armed with eggs and sardines.