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OK before I get into the rest of the items for this week, Hugh and I went with our friends Leigh and Darren to a trivia night on Friday to raise funds for the local Rotary Club. Two important things came out of this night. First, despite our table being comprised of 2 Brits (although they’ve lived in Australia for a long time), 2 Canadians, and 2 Aussies, and most of the trivia being related to Australia, we managed to tie for second place! And we all won raffle prizes! However, Leigh won the 1-hour massage while I only won a basket of chutneys – two of which are beetroot-based, yuck. Fortunately the other 3 are very delicious, and two of them are pumpkin-based. I think I’ve mentioned that pumpkin is as ubiquitous on menus here as beetroot and at first I didn’t try it because I can’t stand pumpkin pie. But I’ve had it a few times now and I’ve discovered it’s very delicious when cooked in any way other than in a pie. I did attempt to continue expanding my horizons tonight and tried to eat the julienned beetroot in my salad, but no, it’s just as disgusting as ever – and really hard to pick out when it’s julienned. One of these days, I promise to try vegemite. Anyway, back to the other important take home from the trivia night – one of the questions related to the number of kangaroos in Australia compared to the number of humans. Can you believe that there is double the number of kangaroos compared to humans?!? That means there are about 50 MILLION KANGAROOS HERE! Wild.

Two big highlights this week and we’ll start with our sailing adventures. Our friends Kevin and Jo have a catamaran and they took us out, along with 4 other people, for a sunset sail on Thursday around Keppel Bay. While Hugh had been out on the water here back in June when Rob P took him over to Keppel Island, this was my first time. Just amazing! The catamaran was fabulous to sail on, so smooth on the water and incredibly large and comfortable – the width of a catamaran really allows for lots of comfortable space. There are 3 beds and 1.5 baths on it, which makes long trips very comfortable for Kevin and Jo (they actually just returned from 3 months of sailing up north and back again). On our way out, we came across the coast guard doing sea rescue training (we saw someone jump from the helicopter into the ocean – although come to think of it, we didn’t notice anyone go back to pick him up…):

We anchored for awhile and enjoyed some snacks and beverages while watching dolphins hang out not far from us.

Kevin and Jo have a terrific townhouse at the marina so they can just walk down to their boat from their patio. And what an amazing view from their patio:

One of the couples with us was Lou and Rod. Rod often assists Kevin in races and on Saturday, they asked Hugh to join their crew. The race started at 9am and they went out and around Keppel Island and back to the marina, finishing up around 1:30pm. They finished 5th overall (out of 10) and first in their division! Hugh said it was just a fabulous day on the water:

On the home stretch they picked up a good wind and were speeding along at 9.5 knots! (this level of detail is for you, Ray :))

I was following them online via a race tracker app and early in the race, every boat seemed to be going a totally different direction. On Saturday evening, Hugh and I went for a walk on the beach as the tide was going out and there were lots of snails in the sand. Hugh thought their patterns looked very much like the route their boat took early on in the race 🙂

The beach we walked on last night was Mulambin Beach. This is a super shallow beach so not the best for swimming but I love walking along it because the sand is firm and the rock formations are beautiful:

There are some other photos if you click on the hyperlink above. And like every beach here, so much space and so few people!

Speaking of rock formations, Hugh has continued to work on our new garden on the council lands of our property. Back in Canada, you know where your property ends and the city/town property begins by the location of the water valve. Here the demarcation is the mailbox! On our property, the mailbox is in-line with the water valve so maybe the water valve is a simultaneous demarcation point here as well, but the mailbox is what everyone looks for. Like in Canada, you have to look after the council land but you can’t alter it without permission from the Shire Council. So Hugh got permission for us to put a garden in instead of plain old grass that just uses water and dies. There were 2 stipulations though – you can only plant native plants and you have to leave enough grass for the mail delivery folks to be able to ride on their mopeds up to your mailbox. This is how mail is delivered in Australia:

Our local Livingstone Shire Council operates a native plant nursery out at the tip (Aussie for dump) and we’ve become good friends with the staff there! They have been terrific at teaching us about native plants and how things grow best here. So we have now filled our council lands with native plants and we’re just waiting for them to grow:

You can see our mailbox at the right of the front yard’s retaining wall. It doesn’t look like it in this photo but there is a direct route along the “grass” (I use the term loosely) in front of the garden up to our mailbox – Hugh chatted with him before finalizing the design of the gardens to ensure the layout worked well for him.

While we’re talking about our yard, here is a photo of where we’re at with the front yard plants and pond (very happy to report that we saw all 4 fishies yesterday – they continue to survive!):

And Hugh continues to build the back yard pond and stream (lots of landscaping to do now!):

The other big highlight this week relates to spelunking. However, I’m REALLY exaggerating with that term. We went to the Capricorn Caves to see Opera in the Caves. Now, those of you who know either me or Hugh well know that we’ve never stepped foot into an opera hall and you couldn’t have paid us to do so either. But the idea of hearing beautiful voices inside a cave was too tempting to pass up! Plus our friend Rob Z, who equally has no interest in opera, said he really enjoyed it, so we took Rob’s word for it and off we went this afternoon. We didn’t actually do any real spelunking – we just followed the paths to get to the cave where the opera event was happening. The host for the event met us at the main check in area at the Caves and when it was time, he told us all to follow the people in front of us to get to the cave where the opera would happen. So off we all went. First we walked through a forested area and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this tree with the vine growing around it because the vine looks very much like a snake (nope, still haven’t seen a snake here):

Then we followed the leader into an area very much looking like the opening into a cave:

Wrong turn! So we all went back to the main path. And then we followed the leader and walked over a bouncy suspension bridge:

Nope, also the wrong direction. We realized that “follow the person in front of you” was not the best guidance when the person in front of you didn’t know where they were going. Oh well, saw some fun stuff along the way and eventually we got to where we were supposed to be. Very cool candlelit path to follow to find the opera cave (both meanings of the word cool – the temperature literally dropped several degrees as we approached the opening to the pathway):

And then we entered the opera cave:

The first 2 photos show the stage and the third shows a massive root coming down from somewhere WAY above. Made us wonder if pole dancing was part of opera these days. But apparently it’s not and cranking up Mustang Sally while swinging around the root is frowned upon.

There are lots of bats in the cave but we went to a matinee and only saw a couple throughout the performance. Apparently it can be quite the experience during the evening shows!

The “theatre” seated about 60 people and oh my, the acoustics were magnificent! For anyone not normally into opera, the format was great. They had an MC who was quite funny introduce each piece and he would give you a rundown on the context and what they were singing about. And then he would say “but first” and the singers would do a popular song or a funny musical theatre piece before they performed the opera piece. And they played a mix of opera pieces of different styles – I have no knowledge of any of this so can’t say what style or who the composer was. But I do know they played a few of my favourites – I don’t know anything about the actual operas, I’ve just heard these songs (do you say “song” for opera??) at various points and loved them. As happens every time I hear The Flower Duet, I got goosebumps and started crying. I don’t know what it is about that piece of music but it gets me every time. I have beautiful videos of it in the caves but even the shortest one is too big to upload. If you aren’t sure which piece The Flower Duet is, I’ve hyperlinked a version of it. Try to imagine listening to that live in the acoustics of the cave you see in the photos. Beautiful! The performers also did a terrific job on Nessun Dorma and The Pearl Fishers Duet. I’m sure the other pieces were equally well done, they just weren’t familiar to me and didn’t tug at my emotions the way those 3 did. I had really been hoping they’d do Sull’aria (the one from Shawshank Redemption) but no luck today. Probably just as well – it would have resulted in another crying episode and I hadn’t brought any Kleenex with me.

We’re going to keep an eye on the schedule at the Caves in case they do other types of music performances there – would love to see a Texas-style blues guitarist there!

This week was Hallowe’en and curiously, it’s not a big deal here. Some people are starting to get into it but many (probably most) think it’s a silly thing. Apparently they have not experienced the fun and frivolity had at Kevin and Cathy’s amazing Hallowe’en parties in Stoney Creek!! It’s probably good that those didn’t continue because I don’t know how on earth they would’ve topped what they pulled off the last 3 years. Definitely up there with my favourite memories from The Gulch!

That’s it for this week! It’s hard to believe we arrived here 6 months ago already. I’m glad I’ve got the blog to look back on things because it really has been a whirlwind! We continue to love our new home and new friends – and miss our old friends.

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