COVID cancellations

A while ago I’d booked a trip away over Easter, planning to do a road trip with my wife and Scully. We found a motel with a pet-friendly room at Mudgee, one of our favourite country town destinations, and a suitable AirBnB in another town making a nice loop from Sydney, with a couple of nights in each place. I also booked a couple of our favourite restaurants in Mudgee. We’ve been looking forward to this trip for a while.

But with the coronavirus situation in Australia getting progressively more serious by the day, and the very real possibility of travel restrictions being imposed, as well as the thought of possibly spreading the disease even if travel is not restricted, we’re reconsidering our plans. We decided to cancel the AirBnB today, but leave the Mudgee accommodation for the time being. Realistically I think it’s unlikely we’ll be able to go, so at some point that will probably have to be cancelled too, as well as the restaurant reservations.

It’s a shame because besides having a trip ourselves, I really wanted to help the rural communities by visiting and spending some money there. The good news is that AirBnB announced just today that they’d be refunding all prepaid bookings, including the normally non-refundable fees, and they’d also not be charging the hosts for cancelled bookings (which normally they’d do, apparently). So at least both we and our cancelled host haven’t lost anything because of this cancellation.

Other than that, today I took a longish walk to a nearby suburb in search of some prebaked pizza bases, which we use to make pizzas for dinner at home. I tried to buy some the other day in my local supermarket, but they’d sold out, so I decided to try elsewhere today, and get a bit of extra exercise while at it. I found them, and enjoyed the time out in the warm autumn day.

At home today I mostly worked on writing some more Darths & Droids comics.

New content today:

A day out to the north

With my market day cancelled (as mentioned yesterday), I took the opportunity to go on a short day trip with my wife and Scully. We drove north to the outskirts of Sydney, stopping first at the suburb of Berowra, which is secluded in a pocket surrounded by undeveloped bushland. We stopped first at a place named Barnett’s Playground, at the end of a street. Leading from the playground was a short walking track that proceeded to the edge of a steep drop from the ridge down to Berowra Creek far below. Here was Barnetts Lookout (no apostrophe, since designated place names in Australia are decreed to never have apostrophes – the playground, not being a designated place, is allowed to have an apostrophe).

Berowra Creek

After admiring the view for a while we took Berowra Waters Road down the hill to Berowra Waters, a tiny village on the creek. There is no bridge, and the only way to cross the creek is by boat.

Berowra Waters wharf

Scully enjoyed the view too.

Scully checking out Berowra Waters

From here we drove back up the hill and further north to Pie in the Sky at Cowan, a popular roadside establishment that sells meat pies, mostly frequented by motorbike riders taking the narrow, winding old highway north rather than the newer and faster but boring freeway. Here we had lunch (I had one of the chicken, honey, and mustard pies and a Moroccan lamb pie), and also enjoyed the sky-high view east towards the Hawkesbury River and across Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.

Hawkesbury from Pie in the Sky

Tummies full, we headed back towards home, but stopped one more time, taking an unsealed road into the Muogamarra Nature Reserve. At the end of the road we left the car and took a short walk into the bush. It was peaceful and remote, and we could hear numerous birds flitting around in the vegetation. However Australian scrubland birds tend to be very active and never sit still for very long. But I waited patiently and got a few photos.

Variegated fairywren, male

Variegated fairywren, female

These are male and female variegated fairywrens.

We headed home, and as we drove south the weather closed in and rain fell, fortunately after we were done exploring for the day.

New content today:

Germany travel diary completed

I’ve completed work on my Germany travel diary from last week’s trip. I’ve revised the text a bit and added photos, after completing work on the photos I took over there.

And in some other good news: Remember how one of the hotels I booked through Amoma, and then Amoma went bankrupt, leaving my booking in limbo and me out of $500? I applied to Visa for a chargeback, and submitted evidence of Amoma’s bankruptcy and defaulting on my prepaid hotel bill. It took 7 weeks for Visa to process the claim, but today I got the money refunded! Woo!

Apart from that, I didn’t do much today. I strained my back yesterday while hauling those groceries home, and wanted to take it easy today, so I relaxed a bit.

New content today:

Recovery Sunday

I slept soundly from 22:30 (after the Rugby World Cup Final) to 05:30, when Scully woke me up requesting to go downstairs to the grass for a toilet. I climbed back in bed about 6 and dozed for another 3 hours, while my wife got up and pottered around.

After a late breakfast, we took Scully for a walk. It was a hot day in Sydney – reaching over 30°C by 11:00. But it was cloudy and a cool wind picked up, reducing temperatures through the afternoon until we got a huge thunderstorm around 15:00. A bit after that we invited Luna (next door’s poodle) in for a puppy play-date for about an hour and a half. The dogs love each other and raced around the house playing and fighting over toys.

I didn’t do much else, taking it easy to get over the travel, except for uploading some more photos from Germany – including my day at the Spiel board games exhibition.

Spiel bisected

I also formatted my travel diary into HTML and uploaded that to my website. I’ll add photos to it a bit later, but you can read the text now.

New content today:

My trip to Essen

So, it’s Saturday evening and I’ve been home almost 12 hours now, after not sleeping since Thursday morning. I can never sleep on planes – just too uncomfortable. I am however surprisingly awake. I’m about to watch the Rugby World Cup final game between England and South Africa, before dropping into bed for hopefully about 10-12 hours, and waking up Sunday morning with no jetlag. We’ll see how that plan goes.

As mentioned in the previous short update, I couldn’t log into this blog from my iPad/phone, so I couldn’t update while travelling as I’d planned to do. Which means I have a full trip to report on. I kept a detailed travel diary as I usually do, and will be formatting that into web pages and posting it with photos over the next few days, so I’ll just mention some highlights here.

My wife and I flew out of Sydney on the afternoon of Friday 25 Oct, and landed in Frankfurt on Saturday morning 26 Oct. Which doesn’t sound so bad, until you realise Frankfurt is 9 time zones later than Sydney, which adds another 9 hours to the transit time. We got a train to Essen and spent the afternoon/evening exploring the centre of the city.

Essen Cathedral (it’s not very big):

Essen Minster

A wurst hut:

Wurst hut

On Sunday we went to Spiel, the huge board games exhibition. I have photos, but haven’t processed/uploaded any yet. But here’s a photo of the haul of games I bought/was given:

Spiel haul

Top left: a pack of exclusive bonus cards for Race for the Galaxy. Below that two bonus tiles for Roll for the Galaxy, then bonus dishes for Sushi Go Party!, and a pack of bonus words for Codenames (in German). Next column is Cultistorm Face 2 face, a quick card game spinoff from the huge Cthulhu mythos board game Cultistorm. Below that Walking in Burano, a pattern construction game, with a pack of bonus cards exclusive to Spiel. Some Lego minifigures my wife and I made from the custom figure construction bins at the Lego store in Cologne (so not from Spiel). And finally Deep Blue.

On Monday-Wednesday I attended ISO Photography Standards meetings in Cologne, while my wife explored Cologne. Then Thursday we explored together before catching a train back to Frankfurt and flying home.

New content today:

Diary and dairy

It was a fairly lazy Sunday. Mostly I worked on processing more photos from May’s trip to Portugal, and then embellishing day 11 of my travel diary with them to post on my other blog.

Douro River panorama

This afternoon I did some coding work on a new maintenance feature for Irregular Webcomic!. It’s not particularly exciting, but will enable me to keep up to date with some archiving tasks with less work, and will update some stuff that has been dormant for too long. I’ll share it when it’s ready to go live.

Oh, and the dairy in today’s title? I did some grocery shopping and bought two litres of milk, a litre of ice cream, and two large tubs of yoghurt (750 mL each? They were on special).

New content today:

Die Bahn

Two things today: I put the finishing touches on the preparation for Friday night’s Magic: the Gathering event. Phew. It was a lot of work, but it’s good to have it completed. Now I just have to wait with eager anticipation for Friday night, when my friends and I get to play this tournament!

And secondly I did some preparation for my upcoming trip to Germany for ISO photography standards meetings. My wife is travelling with me. Unfortunately because of the way the dates work out and the time zone shift, we have to fly back home from Frankfurt on the evening of the day before our wedding anniversary, and we don’t get home until the morning of the day after our anniversary. Basically, we’re going to lose our anniversary this year. We end up spending a couple of hours waiting for a connecting flight at 3am in Dubai Airport, but that’s not exactly conducive to a romantic meal or anything. So I’ve booked a fancy restaurant in Cologne for the evening before we leave, two days early. It’s a place we’ve eaten at before, so we know it’ll be good.

I also booked our connecting train tickets today. Die Bahn is a great service, but gosh the tickets are expensive. We’re travelling from Frankfurt Airport to Essen, where we’re going to attend a day of the Spiel board gaming fair, and then we travel back to Cologne for my ISO meetings, before heading home. It’ll be a short trip, but should be fun!

New content today:

Sunny Saturday

It’s Saturday evening here and it’s been another beautiful warm winter’s day. I know there’s currently a record-breaking heatwave in Europe. It should be winter here at this time of year, but I swear it’s almost as if autumn never really ended, while spring has already begun. There are a lot of deciduous trees with old leaves still on them, while at the same time a lot of trees are flowering for spring already. There are magnolias, cherry blossoms, rhododendrons, camellias, and some others that I don’t know the names of flowering all over the neighbourhood. Oh, the golden wattle is also flowering, but then that always flowers in winter:

Wattle flowering

Today I took Scully to the vet for her first annual booster vaccination. She’s 16 months old now, and the vet says she’s looking fit and healthy.

I was planning to write a bunch of Irregular Webcomic! strips today, as I want to photograph and make a new batch in the upcoming week, but I never got around to it, doing other little things and household chores that chopped up the day. I’ll have another go tomorrow.

But what I did complete today was uploading photos for another day of my travel diary from my trip to Portugal back in May. I posted the diary entry over on my personal blog, where I post such things.