On our way at last

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At long last we are starting a trip that was originally planned for October 2020, although it is not the trip we originally planned. Our fourth travel with grandchildren voyage was to have taken us to Japan with Harry. Flights were booked and planning was underway when COVID-19 happened. Japan closed down, Qantas cancelled flights, and it was soon clear that our original plan was not going to be possible in 2020.

For a while in mid-2020 it looked as though New Zealand might be open to Australia by October. Harry was OK with that alternative and we started planning but even that option was soon closed off as the pandemic failed to recede.

Early in 2021 I started planning and booking flights, accommodation, and attractions in New Zealand for the NSW school holidays in early July. By the time we passed through Sydney airport as we returned from Tasmania in mid-June the Delta outbreak was kicking off. July travel to New Zealand was not going to happen.

I rebooked everything for late September, expecting things would have calmed by then and travel would be possible. It wasn’t and I had to cancel it all, hoping things might be easier in 2022.

In May this year Japan opened up to packaged travel so in July we began to think that might be an option. I found some packages that might suit our dates and preferred destinations but, unsure about some details, consulted a local travel agent for advice. She conferred with a Gold Coast colleague who has strong connections with Japan and advised against going this year because of the tight restrictions on travel groups.

That steered us back to our New Zealand alternative. That looked possible, though airfares to Auckland were now a little more expensive than the original flights I had booked to Osaka. We reworked our plans for New Zealand to take in the same key attractions we had planned for last year and added a couple more. Instead of an itinerary that would require driving to new accommodation most days we settled on two locations with a hub and spokes arrangement of day trips to attractions. We fly out from Sydney on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday will require an early start with 90 minutes or more of driving to reach the airport 3 hours before our flight around 11:00 am. With the timezone difference the flight will not land in Auckland much before 5:30 pm after which we will need to collect a car and drive 90 minutes to our accommodation near Hamilton.


Rather than have two long days in succession we planned to start driving to Sydney today, with an overnight stop in Walcha. We stopped there on our trip to Sydney and the Blue Mountains in May and had time for a late afternoon stroll along part of the sculpture trail. At that time of the year late afternoon was cool so, while we enjoyed the autumn colours, we didn’t walk for very long and thought there was more we might see on another visit.

Walcha is just over five hours drive from home so I had time for an early walk this morning before we ate breakfast, packed the car, and headed south. Majella drove to Wallangarra where we had coffee and changed driver. At Guyra we stopped for another driver change and to eat the chicken and salad Majella had packed for lunch. 

Before driving on to Walcha, Majella hit a couple of her ‘bucket list’ items that we had seen signed on our multiple passes through Guyra but had not investigated. Mother of Ducks lagoon is just out of town by the golf course and has a large expanse of water that attracts ducks and other water birds. The ground we walked across to reach the viewing platform at the edge was wet from recent rain and the lagoon was full. The area near the edge was covered in aquatic plants but there was clear water further out and birds enjoying it. There was also a cacophony of what we assumed to be frogs in the long grass by the water. We stopped for a while to view the birds before moving on. On the way out of town we paused at Majella’s other selection, the Federation Viewing Platform. It does provide a view across town toward the lagoon but the foreground is mostly a jumble of old buildings. 

We reached Walcha around 3:00 pm and checked into our motel. After a brief rest we went out for a bit more than an hour to walk around town and view some of the sculptures. There were some interesting items in a variety of media – wood, metal, concrete. We started by walking up river a little where we found a memorial to John Oxley’s visit to the area in 1818. That spot also had some interesting picnic furniture we took to be the sculpture indicated for that location and a concrete circle set with mosaics of indigenous motifs and surrounded by carved rocks.

On the way back to town we tried to identify the trees growing along the bank. They were deciduous so not native but our first attempts at online identification failed. We might try again later using photographs we took. 

We paused at the Big Black Building which sells all manner of bric a brac. Majella bought a book, 500 Cupcakes, and looked for a novel she had not finished while at Cradle Mountain in June last year but for which she knew neither the author nor the title. The collection of secondhand books was substantial but we didn’t find that book.

The rest of our walk took us down and back along the Apsley River, crossing at the lower bridge to come back along the other side. There were several sculptures along the way (who knew Walcha had a whale) and more interesting vegetation that we could not identify.

Back at the motel we rested until dinner time. Majella had asked at a cafe that was closing for the day and found the Commercial Hotel would be open for dinner. We were there soon after 6:00 pm and enjoyed steak sandwiches with a glass of Shiraz. Then it was time to relax at our motel. We have more driving to do tomorrow.