A Minor Setback
The past few weeks we have focused more on renewing relationships rather than being tourists, although Thea, Paul, and I did visit the Immigration Museum in Melbourne. We caught up with various friends of Paul’s from high school, internship, med school as well as my friend Leesa and we enjoyed BBQs, hiking, consuming lunches, and drinking wine. We were also fortunate to be able to take in a couple of events at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, including Simon Taylor stand-up and a Harry Potter improv for our niece’s 15th birthday.Paul and I travelled to Albury and en route had lunch with Mal and Jill, the couple we did the practice exchange with in 2001, as well as Kate, who was Jeryn and Liam’s carer 1-2 days per week. Euroa has had some positive changes since we were there and is maintaining its population, unlike some other rural towns. Mal and his partner developed an amazing new medical clinic, the local thoroughbred racing stable is employing a large number of people, and there is a lovely venue for weddings that is popular with couples from Melbourne.
In Albury, while Paul updated his obstetrics knowledge (i.e. got his necessary credits for the next three years), I was thrilled to spend time with my two housemates (and their partners) from my time in Echuca. It was a bit surreal meeting up in a different border town on the Murray River from the one we all lived at 25 years ago.On leaving Melbourne, it was poignant saying good-bye to Paul’s brothers, our sister-in-law and the nieces; we have spent more time together in the past 12 months than ever before and the cousins had so much fun together. We are grateful to all our family and friends in Melbourne who accommodated us and entertained us. Also a special thanks to Auntie Noelle the Great (and David) who looked after us especially well while we were in Tassie.
From Melbourne we travelled to Western Australia, with a transit stop for several hours in Adelaide so we could not only check off another state on our travels but see a dear friend and two of her boys. Michelle provided a delicious lunch and a rainbow over the pier.
In Perth we stayed with Paul’s cousin David and sampled the vibe of Subiaco. David took me around the Lions Eye Institute and I got to meet people I have known for years via email, corresponding about David’s manuscripts. David also gave me a tour of the University of WA and the campus alone makes me want to go back to university – stately buildings, numerous majestic trees, access to the river, an outoor theatre (!) and even an occasional peacock strutting around. Actually I’m not sure I could be bothered to go inside to attend lectures if I enrolled for courses there.
One evening our family wandered around the well-preserved port of Fremantle and watched the sun set, grateful for the opportunity to have witnessed many glorious sunrises on the most eastern point of Tasmania and now to view the sun setting on some of the most western geography. After sunset, we had dinner with a long-term friend and her family. I met Elise backpacking in Europe in 1988 and we last saw each other in person at her wedding in 1997. Elise also joined us for a walk in John Forrest National Park. We got to see Karen and Craig, a doctor-nurse partnership who worked in FSJ in 2002/3. Their curling mentors in FSJ will be pleased to learn Karen and Craig are members of the Perth Curling Club. With Karen, Craig, and their children, we had a full tour of King’s Park, which turned into a Full Monty-tour when a person experiencing ‘the best day of his life’ stripped down and cavorted on one of the pristine lawns. We suspect his day went downhill from there as the local constabulary arrived. As Craig said, at least the police didn’t have to worry about concealed weapons.
We had a wonderful time with Paul’s med school classmate Sue and her family in Bunbury. Our family did some short walks further south and two of the four (guess who) of us climbed the epic, 75 m high, Karri look-out trees. We tracked down some of the locations where the movie Jasper Jones, which we saw in Perth with David, was filmed. Gnomesville provided a cultural highlight.
Then Paul and I took his Dad and Sandra around the Margaret River region for several days. We visited the thrombolites, Cape Leeuwin, several wineries, the Boranup forest, Mammoth Cave, the Canal Rocks, and Busselton jetty.Meanwhile the girls enjoyed hanging out with Sue and Steve’s girls. Notably Kate sacrificed studying time to take them to a cave and on a hike and they also got to go boating with friends and see dolphins.Paul, Sandra, and John returned to Perth to catch the train to Sydney and Thea and I joined Sue and friends for almost 60 km of the Cape to Cape hike over 4 days – definitely the toughest physical challenge I have had in years. After hiking with a full backpack for several hours I was sure I resembled Quasimodo shuffling along the beach. The views were a helpful distraction; I think the western coastline scenery rivals that of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Sue and Steve’s friends were so welcoming and inclusive and the memories will last long after the sore muscles have improved.
Our family reunited at Brisbane airport. Another friend from Echuca days, who we hadn’t seen since his wedding 18 years ago, met us for supper. Mick and Paul were able to commiserate about the patchy performance of the Collingwood Magpies this season and Mick and I caught up on mutual friends and career and life trajectories.
I was thrilled that we were upgraded at our hotel in Cairns to a three-bedroom apartment that was larger than the unit we occupied in St Helens for 3 months. We were spoiled with an amazing view of the esplanade and it was a treat to have a full kitchen and laundry facilities. Unfortunately, Paul suffered an L2-3 disc protrusion just before getting on the train in Perth and so was limited in the tour options he could choose during the course of the Perth-Sydney train trip. It is somewhat ironic that his most comfortable position is sitting up because when we caught the train from Melbourne to Perth 25 years ago, sitting up was the only choice. This time he had a compartment, where he had been looking forward to sleeping lying down for the three nights on the train. Nonetheless he was able to board another tourist train the day after we arrived in Cairns. He and I enjoyed the trip to Kuranda and a relaxed walk around the village, including a stop at the Australian Venom Museum. This is a delightfully tacky museum that also supplies tarantula venom for medical research. The gondola ride down over the rainforest was spectacular. We all went snorkeling at the outer reef one day, which was fantastic (even better than the Harry Potter Experience according to Thea).
It really felt as though our time away had come full circle when the couple who generously hosted Paul and me in Victoria when we dropped Liam off at university in September were able to join us at our hotel apartment for a get together of several of the Canadian and Canadian-by-choice doctors attending the World Rural Health conference. We had also really looked forward to seeing a Zimbabwean physician couple from Nyanga at the conference but frustratingly they could not obtain visas in time. Paul has also met up with an American doctor who just finished a short stint at Bwindi.
Paul missed some of the conference attending physio appointments and getting an MRI but is doing an excellent impersonation of Hugh Laurie as House (although less irascible) using one of his hiking poles. We hope his injury proves to be a minor not a major setback to working in Katherine