A Travellerspoint blog

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

semi-overcast 70 °F

Our last days in Sydney were to be spent on the beach. We would relax in the sand, swim in the warm ocean, and eat on outdoor patios of cute, terraced cafes.

Except it didn't quite go like that--because...does it ever?

We have spent a lot of time at the beach, Bondi mostly. Because if you're spending your last few days on a Sydney beach, why not make it one of the most iconic beaches here? On a hot summer day upwards of 35,000 people flock to lay in the pristine sand along the picturesque coastline. One day! However that whole plan of getting sun? Was more like this:

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It's a lot less crowded on an overcast and rainy day.

When we drove back to Sydney from the Blue Mountains we were met with a deluge of rain about ten miles from Bondi. It continued to lightly rain for a bit, but mostly stopped upon our arrival.

The house we rented is a ten minute stroll to Bondi and even less to Tamarama and Bronte Beaches. During Desmond's nap I walked down to Bondi and took the coastal walk that stretches between Bondi and Coogee. I didn't have time to do the whole thing, but I loved the walk. It was absolutely stunning.

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There was a mix of storm clouds and clear sky, providing a moody contrast.

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I passed waterfalls streaming from the limestone along the path.

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I avoided sea spray from thick waves being carried by strong winds.

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I got it all--warm sunshine that left me sweating followed by pounding rain and dark skies followed by strong winds. I wasn't cold, but I was definitely feeling a bit relieved when I found myself looped back toward Bondi and spotted the iceberg club's pool. I was close to our house, close to getting out of rain, and most importantly--close to a bathroom.

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Have I mentioned how this baby just SITS on my bladder?

I continued along the beach looking at the lovely street art before heading back to our flat, soaking wet.

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The weather cleared up that afternoon and we took Des down to the beach for a good session of play.

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Des had such a blast!

We grabbed some take away and had a low key night in. The owners of the house we are in have a well stocked toy selection, so Des was able to unwind and relax.

This morning I woke up to do more coastal walking before Des was up. While I'm used to seeing few people out while on my morning walks, on the coastal route I saw so many really fit people out running. I was the lazy chubby lady slowly waddling along and snapping pictures.

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When everyone was up we went to brunch at a lovely terraced cafe. Check that one off. The sun broke through the clouds and while it still felt cool, there was no rain. Perfect for more beach play.

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Zac and Justin ventured out for a swim while Des and I dug in the sand and chased sea gulls.

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Heavy rains plagued the early afternoon, but In the evening we had a break from it with enough time for a walk at sunset.

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It's hard to believe we fly home tomorrow afternoon. I am dreading the flight--a far worse schedule than our red eye here. The red eye was our best bet for Des sleeping on the plane, but he hardly followed that plan. Tomorrow we fly out at his nap time, so I fully expect a major meltdown, shit fit, and uncontrollable tears. Likely all from me.

It has been a lovely three weeks.

Posted by JorieW 15:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

70 °F

Keep on keepin' on, I say.

Waking up early to catch a flight is always the pits. Waking up to pouring rain and storming weather with caution of potential delayed flights due to weather is even more the pits. When it came time to fly back to Sydney, we felt we lucked out with our early flight choice. Thankfully we were up in the sky and out of Melbourne before the weather became problematic. I'm telling ya, the weather there changes temperament faster than me when I'm in need of a snack.

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(Needing a snack--I am not amused)

We landed early in Sydney, but due to some mix ups with our car rental agency we were held up, not getting out of the city until close to noon. We were headed to the Blue Mountains, about two hours from the city, so even though it was annoying it wasn't terribly inconvenient to leave later than planned.

I love the Blue Mountains and was greatly looking forward to our return. Ten years ago Zac and I took the train west to explore them and had so many wonderful experiences that I couldn't pass up the chance to go back while in the area. This time we would have a car, and therefore more freedom. We would also have a toddler, which negates that freedom.

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We stopped for a quick take away lunch in Katoomba, the most popular of towns in the Blue Mountains. The town hasn't seemed to have changed much, but we didn't have much time to explore. It was Desmond's nap time, so we headed up the Great Western Highway to the small town of Blackheath, where we would be staying.

Blackheath is about ten minutes from Katoomba, just a little beyond Medlow Bath. It's local claim to fame is the town's many rhododendrons, which aren't in bloom during the fall. Otherwise (and even with) it's a very sleepy town.

We chose to stay in a cabin located on a property with several other cabins strewn about. There was an indoor pool on the grounds, a BBQ area, fire pit, game cabin, swings, and tons of open space for running. For most of our nights there we were the only guests, though I imagine with others it would feel like summer camp. The place was perfect for Des.

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They even had a digger!

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While up in the mountains we took our time and paced ourselves with few activities. We went hiking around Scenic World where we were able to take a cable car over the Jamison Valley and see the Three Sisters rock formation.
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The cable car puts you down on the valley floor where we were able to do some hiking with Des thanks to the well kept boardwalk.

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He ran most of it, but the last 30 minutes were uphill, so he hopped back into the stroller for that saying "too much, too much."

We also picked up a buddy for Des. He named her Kind Katie and while initially we ignored his enthusiasm for the stuffed koalas (he already has three at home that are packed away because he isn't interested in them), we eventually relented after watching him snuggle them all for 15 minutes and tell us how sweet and cute they were.

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Given this is the first stuffed animal he's actually chosen for himself, we broke our no more stuffed animal policy. He took her everywhere afterward.

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Des was lucky enough to catch not one, but two rides on the world's steepest incline railway. He loved it, laughing and shrieking the entire time while I struggled not to fall head first into the metal cage holding us in.

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It was a busy day and he napped hard. I chose to go hiking alone because Zac and Justin were sitting and reading in the sun--a real treat this time of year in the mountains. I chose carefully and selected a difficult hike out of Govett's Leap. Given my time restraints and the fact I'm nearing my third trimester I decided to allot an hour for the hike, so I didn't make it near Grose Valley. It was still a lovely hike.

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When Des was up we took him out on an easy hike back near Govett's Leap. He found himself a walking stick "like Mimi" and slowly made his way along. We arrived at the lookout just after sunset.

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Hiking aside, the rest of our time in the mountains was low key. We took a day to drive out to some shops in the area and headed west a bit more, this time to Lithgow--a town whose motto is "surprisingly diverse." We searched for some kangaroos in empty fields, but the fields stayed empty and the Roos elusive. When Zac and I were here last we saw so many--I think Zac wanted to recreate our past up close encounters for Des.

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(Termites nest)

Justin hung back with Des during his nap time and Zac and I hiked to Walls Cave. The bush got far too thick for my liking, but it was lovely nonetheless.

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I worry about snakes, but with the cooler weather this time of year I am not quite as fearful as last time. I've been walking in the mornings from 7-8 am and it's been chilly enough that I need jeans and a fleece. I figured all the snakes are knitting sweaters and hiding away in these temps.

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While three nights in the mountains felt not enough, I am glad we chose to visit. It's a beautiful area with so much to do--even if most of what I wanted to do wasn't Des-friendly. Just seeing his excitement at swimming in the pool or digging with a new toy made the trip worthwhile.

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Next we drive back to Sydney. On our last day in the mountains Des and I were watching the morning news when a segment about Sydney's ferry system came on. Des pointed at the ferry on TV and said "I went there! Let's do it again, come on mama, let's do it!"

Absolutely adorable.

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Posted by JorieW 22:11 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

91 °F

Three days on the southern coast was time well spent after five in Melbourne. The contrast was refreshing. A bustling city center with endless choices for meals, entertainment, and available wifi versus a secluded coastal town with no shops, stores, gas stations, or structures other than homes and farms (and certainly no wifi).

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The coast felt like what I envisioned this vacation would be. Quiet, relaxed, and with few plans. I didn't miss communication with the outside world, and driving 40 minutes to grocery shop didn't feel a burden. Three days of this is perfectly lovely. Three weeks? Probably not for me. Though waking up to a sea side coastal view from the hillside is hard to beat.

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We chose to stay in the small community of Johanna, about 3 hours from Melbourne via the faster inland route or 4 hours via the coast. That's what I was told anyway, but as we learned on our 4.5 hour central "fast" route, that really depends on construction and of course how often and how long you stop for breaks.

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Given Des spent most of his day in the car we chose to stop and let him play at a service station pullout. He was hard pressed to leave.

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It was a long drive. We didn't arrive at our cabin until almost 4 pm, having collected our rental car around 11:30 am. Des naps by 2, so he was very restless in the car seat. He calmed down when we made it to the cabin and was so excited to see the beach through our living room and groups of wild kangaroos sunning themselves on the hillside.

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While Des took a late nap I went out for a bush walk around the property to explore. It was a blustery yet beautiful day, and while chillier at 70 degrees, I still watched for snakes. Fortunately none were spotted, but I did see an echidna searching for a meal.

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I love walking--especially alone! Though I must admit I'm a bit hesitant to stray too far from camp while pregnant and in a land filled with endless possible deaths from the surrounding land and animals.

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After my walk and post Desmond's nap we drove into Apollo Bay to load up on supplies. Lavers Hill, the nearest "town," had a small service shop, tavern, and a couple of cafes. Apollo Bay at least had a grocery store, even if it did close at 7 pm. The drive along the coast was nice and we stopped at Castle Cove to catch the sunset and admire the beauty of the beach as the last of the day's light slowly faded.

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The next morning we awoke to bright sunshine in clear skies--a drastic shift from the overcast and chilly day before. We drove further west along the Great Ocean Road to see the Twelve Apostles, one of Australia's natural wonders, expecting a cool day.

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Instead we were sweating like swamp pigs in the radiant heat. After a walk out to see one of the most infamous coastlines we grabbed cool bevvies and gave Des his first Popsicle. He devoured it happily and cried for a second. We also let him soak himself in the drinking fountain.

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From the Twelve Apostles (of which there were never 12 and several of which no longer exist) we kept west to see more coast and check out the London Bridge.

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It collapsed in 1990 (stranding two hikers on the now isolated island rock), so it's really just two big rocks next to one another. It was still very lovely.

All the coastal driving ate up our morning and we got back to the cabin a little late for nap. Des was super stoked about his day's adventures and couldn't settle. We made the executive fun parent decision (that scheduled and regulated parent frowns upon) to skip Desmond's nap and take him to the beach instead. We figured worse case he'd melt down and need an early bed--oh well.

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Off to Johanna Beach we went. It was only two minutes from the cabin and we were settled pretty quickly, Des digging in the sand and me taking my afternoon walk along the empty and expansive beach.

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The water was far too cold and rough for anyone to swim, but we dipped our toes regardless for some respite from the sweltering heat.

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Play was had until it was decided Des had been in the sun long enough. He not only seems to take after me in many of his personality quirks, but he has also inherited my fair skin. Even lathered with six inches of sunscreen and wearing a hat he can only take so much.

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Of course our intention to leave was thwarted by the allure of fields and trails, so Des ran around for a bit inland and we checked out some of the Great Ocean Walk. I would love to walk the coastline, stopping overnight at campsites or if I'm feeling really fancy, an inn. I don't foresee that anytime soon, though.

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In the evening we cooked dinner and played some more. Des decided he needed to lounge for the rest of the evening.

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In the morning we were up early to drive back toward Melbourne via the coastal route of the Great Ocean Road. What a spectacular drive! The small coastal cities were charming and the beaches just stunning. Every new town was a place I would have loved to stay.

We cut back inland in Geelong and dropped our rental car off and checked into our hotel. It was early afternoon and we were staying next to the airport to cut down on travel for our 8:30 am flight back to Sydney. If we'd stayed in Melbourne city center it would have been an extra 40 minutes to get to the airport. At least next to it we could leave at 7:15 am to catch our flight instead of 6:15 am.

The afternoon was stiflingly hot at over 90 degrees. Such a contrast to the day before we left Melbourne when it was a crisp 68. Prepare for anything in that city!

In the afternoon I traded my beach walk from the day before to a walk along a busy highway adjacent to the airport. What a letdown!

Des got up from his nap and hit the pool with Zac. I hit the gym in our hotel.

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When everyone was clean and showered we tried our best to find dinner, settling on pizza delivery to the rooms. The hotel restaurant was that sketchy. While the Melbourne to Sydney flight is just over an hour, the last thing I needed was atomic diarrhea in flight from hotel buffet food. Pardon me, motel buffet food. We most certainly weren't staying in a hotel.

After an early flight back to Sydney we head to the Blue Mountains--one of my favorite spots in Australia.

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Posted by JorieW 22:34 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

72 °F

The last day in Melbourne has come. Has it been five days?

Tomorrow we pick up a rental car and head out on the Great Ocean Highway for a short road trip to see the Twelve Apostles, one of Australia's most scenic and iconic drives.

On our last day here we had big plans for Des.

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Des would be going to his first aquarium. Yep. A moment I've dreamt about for him for two years now. I love the ocean--and aquariums, unlike zoos, are not depressing opportunities to view wildlife.

I was so proud of Des when we asked if he wanted to go see fish and he said "and sharks!"

My heart grew ten sizes.

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We strolled on down to the aquarium, which is a short walk from where we are staying. Once there Des did me proud. He immediately ran into the aquarium screeching and screaming with excitement. In fact, he didn't stop running or screaming until one of us scooped him up to calm him down. He ran so fast that he fell and skidded head first into a wall, not to mention the countless times he ran into actual people. He was an utter terror, but he seems to have my enthusiasm for ocean life and for that I refuse to squash his excitement.

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He was *that* kid, the one other parents see and secretly thank gods their child isn't that wild. There was another of *that* kid there, and ultimately they ran into one another. Zac and the kid's dad commiserated for half a second before our little maniacs demanded attention and scooping up again.

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Des loved each exhibit. Tunnels were especially popular in his opinion, and even better when experienced with company.

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As free spirited as Des can be, it was such a blast to see him having what seemed to be the most fun he's had the entire trip. Am I projecting? Maybe, but no doubt he has yet to run anywhere else with as much glee. How could you not with these beauties?

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By the time we reached the penguins Des was running on empty. It didn't stop him from following them along the exhibit while running as they waddled, but he certainly didn't protest when we took him away to his stroller so we could leave.

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Justin headed off on his own afterward while Zac and I continued out on a walk along the river. Des quietly ate lunch in his stroller and didn't ask to get out until we were back in the apartment elevator. He simply had to push the buttons!

There were no arguments for a nap.

Our final evening was spent playing in a park near the Yarra before eating take away in our room and packing up for the start of our coastal drive tomorrow morning. We will be staying in a very secluded cabin with no wifi or cell reception. Wish us luck.

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Ultimately I'm happy to be heading out and do wish we had given ourselves more time for the coast and less time in Melbourne. Melbourne is a lovely city, but ultimately it's just that--a city. Great for a few days, but beyond that I want something unique and different. I live in a city. Shops, restaurants, and parks are easily available to me. Quiet cabin retreat? Not so much. And while there seems to be a hot debate as to whether Sydney or Melbourne is the place to be, I have to throw my weight behind Sydney. Yes, it's also a city, but a far more unique and naturally beautiful one than Melbourne. Should I add "in my opinion?" Probably, but I'm pretty hard pressed to believe otherwise.

I'm glad we visited Melbourne. Five days (six if you count our stop and stay on the way back from the coast) felt plenty--more than enough, actually. Would I come back to visit? Possibly. If I had a reason. Otherwise I'd prefer to see other Australian cities. Still, it's been a lovely visit--it's just time to move on.

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Posted by JorieW 03:27 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

75 °F

Mornings in Melbourne have started at a much slower clip than when we were in Sydney. While Sydney's weather seemed to demand relaxation, staying in the center of Melbourne has afforded us the ability to drag our feet since travel time to and from points of interest are pretty minimal. Slow mornings it is.

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Des woke up on Saturday morning talking of beaches and carnival rides, both of which he eagerly wanted to visit again. Instead we opted to head over to the botanic gardens just across the Yarra River. It was a pleasant walk, with plenty of opportunities for Des to run around and be a menace.

Once inside the gardens we strolled around and checked out the beautifully kept grounds. I really enjoyed the time outside, and Melbourne does a great job with their gardens--one of my favorites.

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While there we stopped by the Shrine of Remembrance, which Des assumed was an obstacle course and played accordingly.

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It didn't help that Justin was jumping about and attempting some parkour, which Des felt definitely needed emulating. Thanks, uncle!

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We walked back along the river via Batman parkway. I thought the city was really into superheroes, but Zac tells me a batman is part of cricket or something. I stopped listening because cricket is pretty boring and since it isn't related to the dark knight I kind of stopped caring.

One benefit of the river walk back was Des getting to catch the Moomba festival again.

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He peeked along the boardwalk, spying all the rides. He asked to go on rides again, but we told him they were all closed. What's life if you don't lie to your kids every now and again (or often)?

I took a break while Des napped, and once he was up we were on the go again. This time in search of candy for me (to bring home as a gift guys, come on...) and then just general wandering. We had time to sit down for dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant in one of the nearby alleys. We figured we had to stop when Justin said "boy, that alley smells good." Seriously, how many times has anyone ever described an alley as smelling good? We figured we were obligated to try it at that point.

It was another low key evening after Des went down. I think all the walking makes everyone tired enough to stay in after 8:30 pm!

It was also another slow paced morning the following day, which felt appreciated since it was Sunday. For the first time during our stay in this city we went out to brunch. My favorite weekend activity! We had contemplated going to Brighton Beach, but it was an overcast day and in the low 70s. Not exactly prime swimming weather and we would be foolish to think Des wouldn't demand a dip. Instead we headed toward the Queen Victoria Market, with that promised stop for brunch.

The market was almost overwhelming when everything was up and running. I'd passed it again on my morning walk only to find nothing open (apparently everyone enjoys a lazy Sunday), but come noon it was bustling.

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We checked out several stalls and vendors and just generally dodged folks perusing, like us.

After the market we just walked some more, returning at nap time for Des. It was my turn to head out for his nap, so of course I walked some more around the city. Thank god Australians are excellent with their public toilets. My very active bladder is extremely grateful for it, unlike other places (I'm looking at you, Europe). I can be out for hours and not pee my pants!

Once Des was up we headed out for...yep, more walking. I love walking and exploring by foot, so this is all fantastic for me. Especially since I haven't been working out while on vacation. The only issue?

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This big belly is from a growing baby and by the end of the day my feet begin to ache (walking a few hours a day in flip flops surely isn't helping) and I want to sit down. We stopped to sit down for a very lovely meal, which both my feet and belly appreciated. We took our time and lingered at the restaurant simply because we had time. That, and the fact service can be pretty slow here.

After our meal we had time for another stroll to the water before calling it a night and resting my big ol' belly on the couch and watching tv. My, how vacations have changed.

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Posted by JorieW 19:51 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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