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Reef and Rainforest

Meeting at the airport

Meeting at the airport

 

First walk on the beach

First walk on the beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In September 2013, we met Paul and Ella (brother and sister-in-law) in Cairns to experience the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.  Such a beautiful area.

 

Parasailing in Cairns

Parasailing in Cairns

 

Rocky shore

Rocky shore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pier in Palm Cove

Pier in Palm Cove

 

Lisa with wombat

Lisa with wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve with parrot

Steve with parrot

 

 

 

 

While we were there we took the cable car up the mountain to the town of Kuranda, and  enjoyed the local wildlife.

 

 

 

 

The Daintree River

The Daintree River

 

The Croc

The Croc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After that week in Palm Cove, we drove north to Port Douglas, then on into the Daintree Rainforest were we stayed three nights at the Daintree Village BnB, high on a bluff overlooking the Daintree River.

Beside the Daintree River

Beside the Daintree River

 

Massive tree roots

Massive tree roots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we headed back down to Cairns and had to say good-bye.  Such a beautiful trip.

The ropes course

The ropes course

 

Beach

Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

England and Germany, 2013

Alexander Road

Alexander Road

We arrived in Harrogate in mid-June.  The weather was spectacular.  I was coming from Australia, Lisa from the states where she had been visiting friends and family about six weeks.  We stayed in a 2 bedroom flat on Alexander Road, which is a lovely, shady side street near downtown, within walking distance of restaurants, shops, the cinema and the train station.  We enjoyed the pubs, the seafood, the people and the lush countryside, watching the sheep graze peacefully on the rolling hills.

Crab dinner in Harrogate

Crab dinner in Harrogate

Technically, I was there on a business trip, so I had to go to work each day.  This gave Lisa time to explore Harrogate – the shops, the tea rooms, the markets and back streets.  But when I didn’t have to be at work, we explored.  Our first excursion was to take the train east about 40 minutes to York, which is a fascinating town with it’s Minster and markets, it’s pubs and parks.  Then, our second excursion was to drive west a half hour to Skipton and visit Skipton castle, built in 1090 (do the math, that’s over 900 years ago).  Of special interest is it’s famous yew tree in the courtyard planted by Lady Anne Clifford in 1659, commemorating the repairs to the castle following the English Civil War.

Train to York

Train to York

Yew tree at Skipton Castle

Yew tree at Skipton Castle

York Minster

York Minster

The following weekend, we went further afield, driving two hours northeast to visit two castles near each other, Bamburgh Castle on the coast and Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island.  After an enjoyable tour through Bamburgh Castle, we headed to Holy Island which can only be reached by driving across a causeway when the tide is not too high, so you have to be careful to leave on time or you’ll be stuck there.  We stopped first at the ruin of Lindisfarne Priory, which began life as the monastery of Lindisfarne, founded by Irish monk St. Aidan in 634.  Since the tide was coming in, we decided to forego the visit to the castle and quit the island.

Lighthouse near St. Abbs

Lighthouse near St. Abbs

But rather than heading home at that point, we decided to drive north into Scotland and find a BnB along the coast somewhere.  The Lord led us to St. Abbs, a tiny fishing village with magnificent cliffs and pristine cold waters.  It’s a favorite area for scuba divers because of the unusually clear waters and the proximity to Britain’s first voluntary Marine Reserve.  The next morning we visited the lighthouse near St. Abbs, then headed south, detouring to view Roman ruins at V… followed by Roman ruins and Hadrian’s wall at Housesteads.

 

 

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

On the 1st of July, Lisa’s sister Carla arrived for a visit.  They covered a lot of miles – the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, a slate mine, Keswick and the Yorkshire Dales,  more Roman ruins and sections of Hadrian’s Wall, southwest Scotland (the Mabie House Hotel in Dumfries), the Boar’s Head Inn in Ripley, England, the amazing Fountains Abbey, and Jervaulx Abbey.

After Carla’s week with us, we dropped her at the airport in Manchester, then headed to a spot northwest of Skipton called Malham Cove, a fascinating massive limestone cliff (260 feet high) that used to have a waterfall flowing over it.  The water now makes it’s way down through a network of caves behind the cliff face, but still flows into the stream at the bottom of the cliff face.

A few days later, the business side of the trip came to an end.  We checked out of our flat on Alexander Road and headed for the east coast, a small town called Sutton-on-sea.  One night there, then south to our old stomping grounds at Huntingdon, Alconbury Weston, and Great Stukeley.  We had lived in that area for a year from 1989 to 1990 and Jessica was born there.  We had stayed at the Manor House BnB for a couple of weeks back in 1989, when it had only been open for a year or so (although the home that it’s in dates back to the days of Oliver Cromwell).  What were the chances that it would still be in business?  It was still open, still run by Jan and John Tilden, whom we remembered from a quarter century ago.  John had recently turned 80.  It was lovely to visit with them.

Steve with Jessica and Dylan

Steve with Jessica and Dylan

 

On Friday the 12th, we flew down to Germany to spend the weekend visiting with Jessica and to meet her fiance Dylan Benjamin.  We stayed at the Hotel Angerer in Vilseck, and had a wonderful weekend visiting with Jessica and Dylan.  The divine timing could not have been more obvious; with little control over when we would be on that side of the planet and which specific weekend we would be able to be in Germany, God worked it out that we were there the weekend that Jessica left for Afghanistan.

Dinner with Jessica and Dylan

Dinner with Jessica and Dylan

 

 

We spent Friday evening and Saturday with them, were able to pray over them and say goodbye, then Jessica deployed early Sunday morning.  We are very grateful for the timing.

 

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

 

 

 

After returning to England on Monday, we made our way to Oxford to spend time with Julia, a friend and coworker of Lisa’s.  She was a wonderful tour guide.  We visited the graves of Winston Churchill, J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S.Lewis.  We also took a lovely walk on the grounds (2000 acres) of the beautiful Blenheim Palace, home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough as well as the birthplace of Winston Churchill.

 

On Tuesday afternoon, we made our way north for our final night in England.  We were staying at the  Queens Head in the tiny village Kettlesing (near Harrogate).  We met friends there for dinner and had a lovely evening.  The next day we checked out and began the forty hour journey back to the center of Australia, Alice Springs.

Almost 80, but not quite – only 76, to be exact. Not that I (Lisa) planned to do an around-the-world trip when departing Alice Springs on May 4th, but God certainly has a sense of humor.

Leaving Steve to hold down the fort at home, I spent time in Texas with family and friends. (Mother’s Day in Waco with Dorothy and Carla was a special treat!)

Dorothy and Carla

Dorothy and Carla

Hangin' out with RG3

Hangin’ out with RG3

Then I headed to Colorado Springs for two very special graduations – Air Academy High School’s with my good friend Forrest Boulter, and the US Air Force Academy festivities with 2Lt Chris Jordan, whom we had the privilege of sponsoring.

Forrest Boulter with Hal, Theresa and Bruce

Forrest with Hal, Theresa and Bruce

2Lt Chris Jordan

2Lt Chris Jordan

Shortly after I left Alice Springs, Steve was approached with the opportunity for a business trip to England. So instead of flying west to Australia, I hung out in Colorado a bit longer to visit with many good friends – and experience pre-evacuation status during the horrendous Black Forest fire that burned over 500 homes and killed two people…

Dear friends in Colorado Springs

Dear friends in Colorado Springs

IMG_0344

Day 1 of the Black Forest fire

…and then flew east to Harrogate in the Yorkshire Dales to join Steve while he works for three weeks. We have found time to explore the countryside when he isn’t hard at work, and I have enjoyed many a walk in the delightful town centre.

In York

In York exploring the Roman fortifications

At Skipton Castle. The yew tree was planted in 1659 by Lady Anne Clifford

At Skipton Castle. The yew tree was planted in 1659 by Lady Anne Clifford.

I have another treat coming – Carla arrives early Monday morning (July 1st) to ‘play’ for a week! She and I are driving up to the Lake District (Cumbria), and maybe even into Scotland, who can tell…

And if all that isn’t enough to keep Steve and me busy before flying home to Australia on July 17th (east through Dubai and Melbourne, hence the around-the-world status for me!), we are flying to Germany in the hopes of seeing Jessica before she deploys to Afghanistan for nine months. An added bonus: getting to meet her fiance Dylan face to face (praise God for Skype!) and having time with them both, we hope.

Jessica and Dylan

Jessica and Dylan

Cheerio, until next time!

Kangaroo Island

Admiral's Arch

Admiral’s Arch

For those who are wondering how Lisa is doing with her recovery from knee surgery, she is doing well, continuing to go to physical therapy although not as often.  She does her stretches and exercises most of the time, and the when the surgeon saw her six or seven weeks ago, he said she was right on schedule, and was at about 80% of normal strength.  They estimate a year after surgery to regain full strength.

 

Prius

Prius

A couple of months ago, some friends of ours moved back to the states and had to sell their 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid.  We decided that it sounded like a good “upgrade” so we bought it.  We’ve been enjoying it; it’s comfortable to drive and even with our fast acceleration and fast deceleration style of driving, we still got about 43 mpg on the first full tank.  On the rare occasions where I drive it to work, I’ve very grateful to have the cruise control, which our little Hyundai did not have.

 

Signpost

Signpost

One month ago, we made a trip south to the Barossa Valley (famous wine region near Adelaide) and to Kangaroo Island (also near Adelaide), finishing up with a couple of days in Adelaide itself.  Kangaroo

Kangaroos

Kangaroos

Island is the third largest Australian island.  It’s known for abundant wildlife and beautiful coastlines, and is roughly 100 miles long and 50 miles wide.  We had a nice time on the trip, seeing kangaroos and wallabies, koalas, seals and sea lions, dolphins, echidnas, goannas (Australian monitor lizards) and a wide variety of birds.  The highlight of the trip was visiting some very beautiful beaches.

 

Koala

Koala

Parrot

Parrot

 

Heart_Rock

Heart_Rock

 

Hide-n-seek

Hide-n-seek

Then a week ago, we went on our first Australian bush camping trip with about 20 people, mostly friends from church.  We went about 35 miles west

Neil with violin

Neil with violin

of Alice Springs to the Hugh River (no water in it; this is the desert, after all).  We don’t own a 4×4, so we went as far as we could in our Prius, then a kind soul helped us transport our gear the last quarter mile in his truck.  We had a nice time in spite of the flies (just take a close look at Neil and his violin to get an idea of how bad they were.)  The quality of the cuisine was excellent, including curried chicken, homemade wheat bread cooked in a dutch oven over the fire, and for dessert, bananas baked in the fire and served with chocolate and cream.

 

This week we enjoyed celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary.  We received lots of congrats and good wishes from friends, and went out to dinner at a nice restaurant.  Now we begin the next 26…

Dolphin

Dolphin

 

Pelican

Pelican

 

 

New Zealand is magical, especially when you combine it with Christmas and family.

Steve and I met Jessica in Auckland on December 23rd and toured the North Island together for 10 days. Working our way south, we opted for bed and breakfasts, farm stays and home stays and were rewarded by meeting some interesting and fun folks and enjoying a variety of accommodations.

The Pillars Retreat Homestay

The Pillars Retreat Homestay, Taupo

With Peg at the Panorama B&B, Wellington

With Peg at the Panorama B&B, Wellington

The farm near Wanganui

The farm near Wanganui

From the Hot Water Beach on the Coramandel Peninsula to Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park, from Wellington’s Mt. Victoria to the Cape Palliser lighthouse, the beauty is amazing.

And if you are into extreme sports, New Zealand is the place for you! Steve and Jessica did ‘The Swing’ together, freefalling about 40 meters (131 feet). I took charge of the camera, not sure that my knee, which did well on the trip, was really up for anything more extreme than walking…

Jessica in freefall

Jessica in freefall

60

Woohoo!!!!

Jess rebounding

Jess rebounding

Daredevil Jessica bungy jumped from the same bridge, a mere 80 meters (262 feet) above the river. Yep, my heart stopped. But she survived that and a number of other adventures.

Tolkien fans that we are, visiting a few of the 144 filming locations from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and ‘The Hobbit’ was a must. The most incredible for me was Hobbiton. Located near Matamata, Peter Jackson and his crew transformed a section of sheep farm into a living, growing village with 44 hobbit holes (mostly facades), a community garden growing real fruit and vegetables, and an authentic pub – the Green Dragon Inn, now open to visitors. The attention to detail is astounding, and the colors … well, you’ll just have to visit to fully appreciate Jackson’s genius and the artistry of God.

Are those hobbits? Not exactly, although Jessica qualified at 5'2" for the LOTR movies

Are those hobbits? Not exactly, although Jessica qualified at 5’2″ for the LOTR movies

Bilbo wasn't home, so we visited a neighbor

Bilbo wasn’t home, so we visited a neighbor

‘The Hobbit’ characters could be found almost everywhere – the trolls were terrorizing visitors in Te Papa (Wellington’s amazing interactive museum), and at the airport you could watch Gollum fishing, quite up close and personal. There is even a new postage stamp! (Sadly we couldn’t purchase any – it was a Sunday and the PO was closed.)

William, Bert and Tom at Te Papa Museum

William, Tom and Bert at Te Papa Museum

What a great place to finish reading 'The Fellowship of the Ring'!

What a great place to finish reading ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’!

Even the Post Office had Hobbit fever

Even the Post Office had Hobbit fever

                         You better believe I’m already planning our trip to the South Island!

The Weather Outside is Frightful…

P1030606There’s a Christmas carol that starts out “The weather outside is frightful…”  In the northern hemisphere that would mean cold and snow, but in “the red centre” of Australia, that means a forecast of 106 degrees tomorrow.  Well, whatever the temperature, I’m planning on playing golf.

 

Last weekend wasn’t nearly that hot, with big thunderstorms cooling everything down.  In Alice Springs, it’s a big deal to see water flowing in the Todd River since the riverbed is dry about 363 days a year, but last weekend we saw the Todd looking like a genuine river.  Truly an impressive sight…

 

The Todd River

The Todd River

And since the weather here doesn’t really fit the theme of “Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh…”, our office Christmas party went with the theme of Hawaii, with leis and colorful drinks that have little umbrellas in them.  Jack Frost and snowball fights just won’t quite work here…

 

Christmas Hawaiian Style

Christmas Hawaiian Style

For Christmas this year, we will be joining our daughter Jessica in New Zealand.  We are renting a car and spending about 10 days touring the north island fromAuckland to Wellington, knocking on Bilbo Baggins door in the Shire, having a pint at the Green Dragon Inn, viewing Mt. Doom up close and personal…

 

On another topic, we’ve decided to try a different church.  The church we were at was a good church, but we wanted to go deeper in our relationships and didn’t see the right way forward where we were.  So, we are giving the Baptist church a try.  They recently got a new pastor, an American who is a retired Air Force Chaplain.  We’ve enjoyed making some new friends there, and will keep you updated on how that goes…

 

Horses and Hats

It started with a phone call.  Our 23 year old daughter Jessica (Army medic stationed in Germany) called 10 days ago to tell us she wanted to come see us for Christmas.  We’re tickled pink!  Then the planning began.  If you only have a short time in the southern hemisphere, there are better places to go than Alice Springs.  So we are going to spend some time in New Zealand (north island).  See some sites, chase a few hobbits, eat too much…  We’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Hats and Horse Racing

Hats and Horse Racing

On a different note, we’re not normally big horse racing fans, but on the 1st Tuesday in November each year, the biggest race of the year (for Australians) is run in Melbourne.  It’s called the Melbourne Cup, and you might think it’s about the horses, but it’s really about the hats.  It’s become a tradition for the ladies to wear eye catching hats for the Melbourne Cup.  So, here’s a picture of Lisa and her friend Julie in their hats, about to watch the Melbourne Cup.

A Post-Op Springtime…

Bloomin' Desert...

Bloomin’ Desert…

It’s springtime in the outback.  Temperatures are warming up, and plants are turning green and/or blooming.  Highs are in the 70’s and low 80’s.  We’ve been living in Alice Springs for just over a hear now.

 

It’s been almost three weeks now since Lisa’s knee surgery.  She is doing fine and is on schedule with her recovery, but has not done much rehab so far because of the extent of the surgery.  It involved both arthroscopic and open incision.

 

For those who like details, below is the gist of an email that Lisa wrote a week ago, describing her knee surgery:

 

“I am doing well, especially considering the repairs Dr. Herald had to make. Many of you kept up with Steve’s running commentary on Facebook covering the trip to Sydney for surgery. In case you missed it – or don’t mind a recap – here is the condensed version.

Back Yard

Back Yard

 

“Normally I avoid the phrase ‘new and improved’ because the general usage in advertising is talking about an existing product that has been improved but is not new. However, in this case it seems appropriate.

 

“Tuesday, 28 Aug – The surgery, expected to take about two hours, took over three hours. Afterwards the surgeon called Steve on our mobile phone to say that it went fine but that I had torn just about every ligament in my knee to one degree or another. He repaired the ACL and a couple of others (more on that shortly) and the rest appeared to be healing on their own and should be okay, now that the knee is stabilized. Spent the night at St. Luke’s hospital, expecting to be discharged the next morning.

 

“Wednesday, 29 Aug – We talked face to face with the surgeon about 9:00 am. Surprise… The damage inside my knee was more than he had suspected. (I, however, was convinced there was more going on, just didn’t know what.) He had thought it would be an arthroscopic ACL reconstruction with possible MCL and/or meniscus repair. He was definitely right about the ACL; it was ruptured and he did do the reconstruction using an allograft (donated ligament). He also had to do significant meniscus repair. The PCL was sprained but not torn. (Tough to do, since the PCL is stronger than the ACL – but I managed!) The MCL and LCL were both torn, but he didn’t do much to them because they seemed to be healing reasonably well on their own. The big surprise was the posterolateral corner (PLC) of the knee, a complex area that you can read about it on wikipedia. There was significant damage there which he could not repair arthroscopically, so he had to do a 3-4 inch incision and go into the knee to do major repair there, using the remainder of the allograft. (The nice part is that they never had to rob Peter to pay Peter, meaning that they did not remove material from my hamstring for the repair.) Thus the term ‘new and improved’ – my knee is improved and also has a new part, thanks to an unknown donor. The outcome is still expected to be complete recovery but this will slow down the initial rehab a bit. We saw a physical therapist at the hospital later and decided I should spend another night in the hospital so that they could help me with pain management and mobility. Emily the physio (PT) didn’t want to send me out into the cold cruel world on crutches too soon! Fine with me.

 

Lisa Recuperating

Lisa Recuperating

“Thursday, 30 Aug – I had a good night, slept well, and was eventually discharged from the hospital after a session with Emily and getting the large bandage off the knee. The drugs have kept the pain at bay. (I watched the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Paralympics while waiting and am in awe of the courage of the athletes in a way I’ve never experienced before. Those men and women are my heroes!)

 

“[Just a note about the hospital – I had a private room on a fairly quiet corner of the fourth floor. The view out the window was dominated by a magnificent tree, very peaceful and pleasant to look at and the home to all sorts of birds. I loved listening to the Australian magpies, and had a number of visits from Rainbow Lorikeets on a corner of the roof about 20 feet from the window. They are stunningly beautiful birds, about the size of a small pigeon, with blue heads, orange beaks, green backs and brilliant orange breasts. What a gift from Abba Father, the Creator!]

 

“Sunday, 2 Sep – After spending much of my time at the apartment lying on the couch with a very attentive nurse (thank you, Steve!), we headed to the airport. A wonderful young lady, a friend of mine who works for Qantas in Alice Springs, upgraded us to business class for our flight from Sydney back to Alice Springs. Frances, bless your generous soul. 🙂

Example of Rainbow Lorikeets

Example of Rainbow Lorikeets

 

“Sunday, 9 Sep – I’ve been focusing on resting, reducing the inflammation, and getting the muscles to start working. We have once again been blessed with meals from church friends. Tuesday (11 Sep) the stitches come out, and Friday morning I have an appointment with Lauren, my local physical therapist. Dr. Herald wants me weaned off the crutches in the next week or so; around the house is going well but I haven’t gotten out much yet. I’ll see him here in Alice on 22 September for a follow-up appointment, and will know more about his thoughts on how long I’ll be in the brace, etc. Seems like he said about six weeks, but hey, I was on drugs… Driving won’t happen for a couple of months at least.

 

“Many have shared their own experience with knee rehab, so I’ve been forewarned that the process can be long, discouraging, and painful but is possible. Continued prayers are appreciated as I start down that road. ‘Follow through’ has never been one of my strengths, so I see this as God’s plan for developing character and reliance on Him in ways I’ve never known. He is good, all the time.

 

“Love you all and hope to hear from you…”

My baby took her first step…

Lisa's new brace

Lisa’s new brace

My baby took her first step this week.  🙂   And she can get dressed all by herself now as well.  These are the successes of the person awaiting major reconstructive knee surgery.  Being able to take a step is worth celebrating when you have a ruptured ACL and MCL.

 

Lisa finally got her new knee brace on Saturday and was able to retire the massive velcro splint that she had been using.  Putting on that splint was like trying to wrap a saddle around her leg.  At this point she can’t drive (and won’t be able to for many months) so she is at the mercy of others to get where she needs to go.  One thing is for sure, it builds character…

 

Me, I fetch ice a lot…

 

We leave this Sunday to fly to Sydney for her surgery, which will be on Tuesday.  One “overnight” in the hospital followed by a few days of recuperating in a rented one bedroom apartment, then home again to begin rehab.  They say to expect six months of rehab to get to the point of being active, and about a year to get back to normal.

The Black Pearl

The Black Pearl

 

Had Lisa been more mobile, she would have joined me this past Saturday at the world famous “Henley-on-Todd” regatta here in Alice Springs.  It is the only regatta in the world that takes place in a dry riverbed.  The participants have to carry their “boats”.  What can I say, central Australians are looking for any excuse to party.  🙂

“We” had an accident

“We” had an accident.

 

Lisa decided she wanted to get her motorcycle license.  It seemed like a good idea.  We signed up for the motorcycle class down at the MVR (motor vehicle registry) in Alice Springs.  But it’s much better if you already know how to ride before you get there, so we borrowed a small 80 cc dirt bike from a friend and went out to practice.

 

She had been doing really well, but the third time we went out riding Lisa was on a concrete incline, like a steep driveway, working on starting the bike moving uphill.   She gave it a lot of gas, and unintentionally did a “wheelie”.  Since it was a small bike, she was able to just stand up and let the bike come out from under her, which would have been good, but she held onto the handlebars and somehow the bike flipped over and hit her right knee, pushing it in towards her left knee.  It ruptured her ACL and her MCL, which means she will need reconstructive surgery.

Lisa on motorcycle

Lisa on motorcycle

 

We went to the emergency room, thinking she had just sprained or twisted her knee.  After just four hours of waiting, they took an X-ray.  The young asian doctor, in his jeans and sneakers and his non-understandable broken english, said the work “fracture”.  What he meant was that the X-ray showed clearly that the MCL had pulled a bit of bone loose where it had been anchored to the bone before.  Some things are just obvious in an X-ray.  They put her in a velcro splint, gave her some crutches and painkillers, and home we went at 1:00 AM.

 

The next day we went to see the doctor associated with the base where I work, who set us up an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon from Sydney who was going to be visiting in Alice Springs just four days later.  Specialists are often not available in Alice Springs, so we were glad to be able to see someone so quickly.

 

Lisas leg brace

Lisas leg brace

To make a long story short, we will need to fly to Sydney on Sunday August 26 so that Lisa can have an MRI at 9:00 AM on Monday the 27th, then reconstructive knee surgery at St. Luke’s hospital on Tuesday Aug. 28th (7:00 AM arrival time).  For those who pay attention to dates and anniversaries, Tuesday Aug. 28th will be the one year anniversary of when we left Colorado Springs for Australia, which itself was the 30 year anniversary of…

 

Did I mention that she was doing really well?!