Tuesday, July 14, 2009


We flew into Melbourne and spent the night there, but our next stop was really the countryside about 90 minutes by train outside of the city. The area is called Gippsland, and it is, to use a favorite Australian word, lovely. It’s much greener than Western Australia, with rolling hills and quite a few vineyards. It looked something like California’s Sonoma county, if you can imagine our wine country full of gum trees and kangaroos.

This area was ground zero for the fires that made international news last winter. Though everyone who lives there has a fire story and can point to exactly which window of their home they could see raging flames from, it was already hard to tell that anything had happened. It was almost eerie how quickly the land had healed itself, at least superficially.

Our specific destination was Warragul, a town of about 22,000 people. We were in Warragul to visit the lovely (again, there is no other word) Nancy Smith. Nancy is the mother of Pipi’s brother’s wife. That makes Nancy our….well, there really is no word in our language for this relationship. We think of her as family, and in return, she seems to think of us as stray kittens in need of nearly hourly feedings, judging from the TLC we received in her home.

I like to think of our trip up to this point as somewhat adventurous. Pipi and I explored cities we’d never been to, crossed a forbidding desert, and faced down wild animals. Once in Warragul, though, we entered a new phase of our journey, one that involved extreme pampering. Nancy put us up in the most comfortable beds of the whole trip (we slept 10 hours the first night), and fed us the best meals we had in Australia. Later we would again be intrepid explorers, but for the next few days, we would be torpid and well fed as we got to know this mellow corner of Victoria.

In the spirit of relaxation, I’ll think I’ll call it a day.

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