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The title refers to what was definitely a highlight of our time in Australia thus far! But like any good broadcast, I’ll make you wade through less interesting stuff first 🙂

Our back bathroom renovation is now complete! There is a curious Aussie phenomenon where bathrooms are commonly divided into 2 separate rooms – the toilet is in one and the sink and shower is in another. If it’s a one-bathroom house, this probably makes some sense. But otherwise, it’s a lot of walls and doors for no good reason. Here are the before photos of the bathroom:

The first picture is taken from our TV room and you can see there is a door to the toilet section on the left and a door to the sink/shower section straight ahead. The toilet room was long and skinny and wouldn’t be great if you were claustrophobic. There is also a window in that room. Given that there is no fan in that room, it’s useful to have a window to open to air the room out for, well, you know. However, our patio is directly outside that window and if the window’s open, there is not a lot of sound or smell privacy! So my idea was to combine these 2 rooms into one, but not make it a massive project because it’s a second bathroom and no need to spend excess funds on this (need to save those for our ensuite bathroom renovation, starting in 2 weeks!). I decided to keep a half wall in between the toilet section and the sink/shower section – that allowed optimal location of a towel bar when getting out of the shower while still allowing light between the 2 rooms, fewer doors, and giving the toilet room access to the fan and window in the sink/shower room so the window in the toilet part can remain permanently closed. Here is the finished product:

We love it! But Aaron – do we ever miss having you do our renovation work for us! I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that in the renovation sector here, no one seems to be allowed to do more than one type of work. So when the builder was taking down the upper part of the wall, because there is a light switch on that wall, they have to get the electrician over to turn the power off to that switch – they can’t do it themselves. So this means the builder, who acts as a general contractor in addition to his own building role, has to source a team instead of doing everything himself. The builder we hired is new to this area. We like him and his apprentices, his electrician, and his plumber. But he struggled to find a plasterer (drywall finisher). The guy he used was really nice but was a terrible plasterer. The builder won’t be using him any further, but in the meantime, we have a lousy plastering job in the bathroom. The plasterer came back to fix things on 2 different occasions and we finally just had enough and have left it as is. Hugh did a remarkable job painting to hide many of the poorly finished areas but the area around the light switch in the toilet room is quite noticeable. Aaron, if you guys ever come to visit, you’re just going to have to close your eyes – you will be appalled at the drywall finishing job.

No major killer creature sightings this week. Hugh saw this praying mantis on our driveway one morning, but we get those in Canada too:

Last weekend there was a bit of an issue with a crocodile. One launched himself onto a fishing pontoon, seeming to go for the bait bucket: He wasn’t a big crocodile, just 2.5m long, but still a crocodile. The same fellow was also spotted at the beach at Emu Park and the lifeguards were commended with going into high gear and clearing the beach quickly.

In more dramatic news, Hugh won at the 80’s Music Bingo on Friday night! It was the last game of the night, requiring the full bingo card to be completed, and Hugh and another man both got bingo at the same time. This results in a tiebreaker where another song is played and whoever yells the name out first is the winner. Hugh was nervous about this because, unless it’s Talking Heads or some other post-punk band, he’s not good at generating song names. Well, he nailed it! On came Rock Lobster and he solidly clobbered his competitor with the speed of his response! Hugh is now the proud owner of a Yepp Brewery t-shirt :). Our friend Leigh also won a round earlier in the evening – 2 wins for our little table of 4, not bad!

A couple plant photos for you. This tree is cool:

It’s called an Octopus Tree – for obvious reasons :). If you google it, you will likely find posts from Florida as it is considered a nuisance tree there. Here it’s just a fun tree.

And here are a couple plants Hugh and I picked up when we first moved into our house in late June:

They have tripled in size in 6 months, outgrowing their pots, so we’re going to plant them about where they’re located in this photo near the pond in the back yard. We didn’t know their names, we’ve just been calling them Tim Burton plants because they look like they could belong in any of his movies – funky shapes and killer spikes along the edges. Because we wanted to transplant them and wanted to know how big they’re likely to get when not in a pot, we used the plant identifier app on Hugh’s iPad – so we now know they are Candelabra Aloes. Apparently they will get neat red flowers but they can also get to 1.8m tall. That is actually considered a short plant in Australia – in nurseries, you look for the “less than 2m” section if you want a “small” plant (and then you just keep trimming it back). Australia really does retain close ties to the dinosaur era – so many flora and fauna here are huge and/or will kill you 🙂

We tried our first Lychees the other week (pronounced “lie-chee”). Right now we are in the middle of Lychee and Mango season – they are EVERYWHERE. Lychees were fine, just not worth the effort IMO with having to peel the skin and then there’s a stone in the centre. Mangoes I don’t really like to eat by themselves, but I can attest that when made into a mango and rum slushy by our friend Jo, they are particularly tasty :).

OK onto snorkeling! When you drive from Rockhampton toward Yeppoon, there is a big sign as you enter Yeppoon indicating that we are the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. When we were in Bargara in December, 4 hours south of here, I think they advertised as being the “gateway” to the reef. I figured this was all just tourism marketing and I wasn’t expecting to see much on the “southern tip” that we have here. When I was in Cairns 22 years ago, I went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and to this day, that experience remains at the top of my list of best experiences in my life (the Grand Canyon is another one). So I didn’t have too many expectations on Tuesday when we went sailing with Kevin, Joanne, Rod, and Lou out to Great Keppel Island (GKI, also known by its Indigenous name, Woppa) – I was just looking forward to a nice day on the boat and finally getting to see GKI and have a swim in the turquoise waters there (you will recall that Hugh had already been to GKI back in June while I was busy working). If taking a ferry to GKI, it’s about a 45-minute ride. We were sailing and took our time, 2 hours or so to get there. Here is the golfing buddy trio – Hugh and Kevin with Rod at the helm:

And Hugh also had a go at driving the cat:

I’m sure driving isn’t the right word, but you know what I mean.

It was a cloudy day but this helped keep the heat down (it’s pretty much always in the low 30’s these days) and made for some good photos like this one:

We arrived at the main beach at Great Keppel and I got to try my hand with the SUP (stand up paddleboard). The first attempt was less than pretty (Jo sent me the video but I am sparing you this part). Kevin had made it look easy and, not that I’m competitive :), I was not going to give up. So I got back on the horse and managed to stay upright for a nice paddle around:

I have tried paddleboarding twice before – once was a success in a nice calm lake at Rob and Val’s cottage and once was a disaster on a windy day at Chris and Rick’s cottage. What is different about paddleboarding on the ocean is the impact of the tide in addition to waves and wakes. It was actually a bit difficult to get back to the boat (BTW that’s not me in the title photo of the blog, I was just getting a picture of Monkey Beach and the paddleboarder came with the photo). In the photo above, which is me, I am quite close to the boat but it took a surprising amount of time and effort to get to it – almost developing shin splints in the process from how tense my legs were trying to stay upright while trying to go in the right direction!

We then pulled anchor and motored around the bend to another part of GKI called Monkey Beach. We had a fabulous lunch on the boat and then began the snorkeling adventure! You can see a dark section in the water in this photo:

(and that’s Hugh’s head you can see to the right of the buoy)

The dark section is where the reef is. Jo, Lou, and I got geared up for Jo to take us on a snorkeling tour around the reef. This is me and Jo:

Words simply cannot describe the amazing sights on this little reef! Fish of every shape, size, colour, and pattern EVERYWHERE. I felt like I was in the middle of a tropical aquarium; the colours and patterns on the fish were mesmerizing. Yes, scuba diving in the greater depths off Cairns was even more incredible, but this reef in my own backyard is unbelievable! We are going to turn this into a regular activity. Hugh and I went out to buy snorkeling gear yesterday (although Hugh has to wait for special order fins given his big feet :)) and I’m ordering an underwater camera – you just won’t believe the fish here, I can’t wait to show you photos! If you come to visit, snorkeling at Monkey Beach is on the list for you!

A card game of course broke out on the boat after snorkeling. Kevin and Jo had introduced us to Five Crowns the other week and this week they taught us Golf, another really fun card game.

Last night Hugh and I went for a walk along the foreshore in Yeppoon and there was a person singing and playing the guitar at the bandshell. They’ve created a natural amphitheatre here, with a terraced section for people to sit on and have picnics and a big grassy area right in front of the stage. The singer’s name was Kate Mahood and her original music was just as good as the covers she played (the screeching noise in the background is the lorikeets – they gather by the hundreds in the trees along the shore at dusk every night and are deafening):


It’s amazing how many free activities there are in Yeppoon and area. I think being an area where you can be outdoors all year ’round (so don’t need as many buildings to host things) and don’t have to plan for subzero temps in addition to hot temps (much simpler infrastructure) must dramatically reduce taxes and give lots of opportunities for free events. Our municipal taxes on our 1800 sq ft house are the same as we paid on our 1200 sq ft townhouse in Stoney Creek but we get so much more value from them here. Actually, that’s another interesting difference – the taxes (called “rates” here) are based on the value of the land, not the house. So whether you build a shack or a mansion on your land, the taxes are the same.

OK that’s it for this week. We have an exciting trip planned for this week to celebrate Hugh’s birthday, so stay tuned next Sunday for details on that. Oh, that reminds me – there is a change coming on Feb 1 where I won’t be able to send emails via the blog with my gmail address (gmail and hotmail are trying to reduce marketing spam so programs like MailPoet that I use for this blog will have to require that I have a branded email address to send from). I’ve sent a note to my web person to see what to do about this – I’m wondering if I might be able to repurpose Hugh’s old yknotwoodturning domain. Anyway, once I know the solution, I will let you know. Have a terrific week, everyone!

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