Searching for locations: Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, and resorts Wyndham style

We have stayed in two different types of accommodation in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, as a timeshare owner who can trade their week for a week anywhere in the world.

Both are resorts, but different sorts of resorts.  The first was a typical RCI resort, where everything is laid back and relaxing, with all the amenities one can expect from a resort.

The other, this one, the Wyndham in Coffs Harbour, is very different, and you notice it when you walk in the front door.  You are virtually assaulted by hard-nosed timeshare sales staff who really don’t take no for an answer, and then when you finally escape, ring you every day to make an appointment.

I left the phone off the hook.

Aside from that, the place is excellent, the accommodation very good, and the situation one of the best with what could be called a private beach.  There are also a number of bushwalks that cater to old people like me.

As you can see, lakes and greenery, and even a putting green.

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And in places, they try very hard to hide the ugly multi-story buildings in amongst the trees

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It is only a short walk to the ‘private beach’ and it is sufficiently long enough for a morning walk before breakfast.  You could even try to catch some fish for breakfast, though I’m not sure if anyone actually caught anything

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Or you can just stare out to sea

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And, back in the room, this is the view we had from our verandah

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NaNoWriMo Day 30 + 12

Yes, this project is still moving through the water, albeit very slowly, but progress is being made.

Today’s efforts are directed towards completing several chapters that have most of the text written, but waiting on previous events to play out.

In other words, the story later on depends on something happening earlier on, so I have to go back and re-write certain parts, or in one case write a whole new chapter.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen too often.

And, I’ve been discussing Ophelia’s contribution to the story with my second eldest granddaughter (who is providing the inspiration for this role) and she has decided that she needs so mystical (magic is banned you know, she tells me with a dead straight face) powers.

Yes, well, I’m working on it. At least I didn’t tell her there’s a major family calamity coming up, not ours, but her mythical family. She can wait until she reads the first draft to find out.

For those keeping an eye on the word count, this session, 4,254 words for a running total of 122,274.

Searching for locations: Huka Falls, Taupo, New Zealand

Huka Falls is located in the Wairakei Tourist Park about five minutes north of Taupo on the north island of New Zealand.

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The Waikato River heading towards the gorge

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The water heading down the gorge, gathering pace

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until it crashes over the top of the waterfall at the rate of about 220,000 liters per second.  It also makes a very loud noise, so that when you are close to it, hearing anything but the falls is impossible.

Another photograph from the inspirational pile…

I remeber once being told that if you shoot for the moon, you’ll land in the clouds, if you shoot for the tree tops, you’ll finish up back where you started from.

It was a silly analogy, but I always remembered it when I looked up at the sky and saw clouds.

That was back in those hazy carefree days just after you were finished with school and you had your whole life in front of you. Your parents were there as the safety net, and were still proud of your scholastic achievements, and were not in too much of a hurry to hustle you out of the house.

But what happened when there’s a recession that came upon everyone without any warning.

Stocks plummeted, people lost their life’s savings, those with mortgages and loans suddenly finding that along with unemployment came no income, no ability to pay the bills, and therefore lost everything.

Although I never said it, I was thinking what good was an education when the whole world had gone to hell in a handbasket.

Two things I remember from back then, which in the context of disaster, wasn’t all that long ago. Firstly, my father making us children go camping from before we could walk, and with it, to survive with nothing but the clothes on our backs, and our wits.

It had happened to him, as a member of am expedition in Africa in his younger days, thinking that he might become the next great explorer, or archeologist, and finishing up getting lost, even though he asserted the other members had deliberately left him behind.

And secondly, that it was essential that we forge working relationships with any and all those who were like minded, such as those who wanted to be saved, not those who expected everyone else to so the work. It was obvious he had met a lot of those type of people too.

It served us well.

When nations began turning on each other, when essential resources like electricity and fuel stopped being distributed and rationed, when food suddenly became scarce, that’s when the real trouble started. My father said, at the outset, what would happen, and was glad our mother was not there to see it.

Then, when neighbours attacked neighbours once food became scarce, it was time to leave. The pity of it was, he died defending us, even after offering up some of the food we had stored away, but that had not appeased a hungry or angry mob.

His last words, “Go to where we said we would go, and remember everything I’ve taught you” were etched in my brain, and my brother and I did as he asked.

But, even knowing where we had to go, and how to get there, a plan of action made many years before, and trialled in recent years with success, nothing in the past could have prepared us for the journey.

It was, literally, time to shoot for the moon.

© Charles Heath 2021

Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 41

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on the back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.

The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.

But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.

Chasing leads, maybe

I gave it about five minutes before I think I started breathing again and then headed back to Jennifer.

Or where I thought I had left her.

She wasn’t there. I think, in the end, it didn’t surprise me. She had been reluctant from the start so if I had to guess, she had done a bunk. This was not her fight, nor mine, but she had a ticket out. Why would you want to come back after being betrayed by the likes of Severin and Maury?

I hope she left the car behind.

Now that I was here there was no point leaving, so I took a few minutes to search the surrounding area, just in case she was still here, just someplace else, and when she wasn’t, I quickly and silently made my way back to the side of the house with the open door from a different direction.

There was another set of French doors, these curtained, and with an overhead light above the doorway, so I kept my distance in case there was a movement activator, another which looked to be a servant’s entrance at the back. Neither door looked to be an easy viable entrance.

The original side door was still unlocked, with no lights or movement inside.

I waited, then opened the door wide enough to slip through. Again, I waited in case there was a silent alarm, then when nothing stirred, slipped through and closed the door behind me.

On the other side of the door, it was quite dark, except now I could see, on one wall, the dying embers of a fire. Someone had been in the room earlier and most likely gone to bed.

It meant the house was occupied.

It also meant I had to be careful.

On the other side of the doors, it was a lot warmer. Again I waited a few minutes, just in case someone came, and, when they didn’t, I pulled out a small torch and turned it on.

In front of me were two chairs and a table, one I would have walked into without a light. The walls had shelves and those shelves were filled with books. Some behind glass doors, others not. There was another chair by the fire, and beside it, a stack of cooks, and a table with had an empty glass and a bottle, and a pair of reading glasses.

The downstairs reading room.

I cross the room slowly, hoping there were no squeaky floorboards, to be expected in an old house like this one. The timber flooring was exposed only at the edges of the room, the rest of the floor covered in a large, discolored, and fraying carpet square.

It was old, like everything else in the room.

I was tempted to have a look at how far the books dated back to but resisted the urge. I was looking for information on the owner.

At the doorway to what looked like a passage, I turned off the torch and peered out. It was not exactly dark, my eyes had adjusted to the low-level light from low wattage lights about a foot above the floor.

Lights to help guide the way at night.

Left, rooms, right, rooms, at the end of the passage a wide doorway leading towards the other side of the house. Larger rooms perhaps.

I turned right and headed towards the front, and they stopped at the doorway to the next room. I’d deliberately walked on the carpet runner in the middle of the passage, and just managed to catch my foot when one part of the floor creaked softly.

The room next door was almost the same as the one I’d entered by, with chairs and shelves but only on two sides. This room had a long window and no French doors.

On one side there was a writing desk, open, with papers scatted on the writing surface. I quickly crossed the room to it, switched on the light, and checked.

Bills. In the name of Mrs. Marianne Quigley. This had to be Adam Quigley’s mother, and by deduction, O’Connell’s mother.

Proof I was in the right place.

Then I heard the squeak of a floorboard followed by the clicking sound of a gun being cocked.

“Don’t move, or I’ll shoot. Hands in the air. And don’t make me ask twice.”

Hands up it was.

© Charles Heath 2020-2021

Searching for locations: Kaikoura, New Zealand, and, of course, the whales

I’m sure a lot of people have considered the prospect of whale watching.  I’m not sure how the subject came up on one of our visits to New Zealand, but I suspect it was one one of those tourist activity leaflets you find in the foyer of motels, hotels, and guesthouses.

Needless to say, it was only a short detour to go to Kaikoura and check out the prospect.

Yes, the ocean at the time seemed manageable.  My wife has a bad time with sea sickness, but she was prepared to make the trip, after some necessary preparations.  Seasickness tablets and special bands to wear on her wrist were recommended and used.

The boat was large and had two decks, and mostly enclosed.  There were a lot of people on board, and we sat inside for the beginning of the voyage.  The sea wasn’t rough, but there was about a meter and a half swell, easily managed by the boat while it was moving.

It took about a half hour or so to reach the spot where the boat stopped and a member of the crew used a listening device to see if there were any whales.

That led to the first wave of sickness.

We stopped for about ten minutes, and the boat moved up and down on the waves.  It was enough to start the queasy stomachs of a number of passengers.  Myself, it was a matter of going out on deck and taking in the sea air.  Fortunately, I don’t get seasick.

Another longish journey to the next prospective site settled a number of the queasy stomachs, but when we stopped again, the swell had increased, along with the boat’s motion.  Seasick bags were made available for the few that had succumbed.

By the time we reached the site where there was a whale, over half the passengers had been sick, and I was hoping they had enough seasick bags, and then enough bin space for them.

The whale, of course, put on a show for us, and those that could went out on deck to get their photos.

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By the end of the voyage, nearly everyone on board was sick, and I was helping to hand out seasick bags.

Despite the anti sickness preparations, my wife had also succumbed.  When we returned and she was asked if the device had worked, she said no.

But perhaps it had because within half an hour we were at a cafe eating lunch, fish and chips of course.

This activity has been crossed off the bucket list, and there’s no more whale watching in our traveling future.  Nor, it seems, will we be going of ocean liners.

Perhaps a cruise down the Rhine might be on the cards.  I don’t think that river, wide as it is in places, will ever have any sort of swell.

I am making progress, really…

It’s been a long time, or what seems to be a long time.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in front of the computer screen, the ever pervasive cursor flashing om a blank piece of digitized paper, and that was as far as I got.

No, the house didn’t burn down, no major catastrophe, or family member or friend was in dire need of my help.

I just didn’t know what to write next.

I have been writing, but not necessarily in the normal sense.  I have SomNote on my phone, and when I’m waiting, usually for doctors or Government offices, I write.  A bit of this, a bit of that, but sometimes the YA novel I’m writing for, and not necessarily about, my 17 year old grand-daughter.  Other times it might be blog post about the experience, or someone who stands out in the crowd.

I find SomNote excellent for just putting words down quickly, as narrative, or just points, emailing it my myself and rehashing it later.  It has basically been used to write the first 37 chapters of the YA novel.

But as for the other writing?

Strangers We’ve Become, the follow up to What Sets Us Apart took a new direction.  As this is the next book to be published, I have decided, as one of my new year resolutions, the get the final draft done for the editor.  IT was the host of suggestions that keeps me putting it off.  No more.

Never let anyone tell you there’s not something else to be done after 10 edits, and re-writes.

The Things We Do For Love, a little story I wrote many years ago, is finally through it’s last edit and ready for the final approval from the editor, and will be ready for publication.  It will be categorized as Romantic Suspense, along with Sunday In New York.

Look for those to be released in February or March this year.

My other story, the tales of PI Walthenson, private detective, had taken a back burner for a while, as I continue to muddle through the second case, now at about 30 episodes, of which 20 have been published.

I have no idea how it will end, but it’s going to be fun getting there.

This is a link to the latest episode here:  https://www.walthensonpi.com/

After that, Zoe will be back.  After the trials and tribulations in The Devil You Don’t, she finds that the past she tried to leave behind had come back to bite her, in the tentatively titled ”First Dig Two Graves’, because it is about revenge and whether or not it’s best served cold.  And whether or not John’s romantic aspirations are fulfilled.

Now, I guess, it’s back to work!

Searching for locations: Castello di Monterinaldi, Tuscany, Italy

As part of a day tour by Very Tuscany Tours, we came to this quiet corner of Tuscany to have a look at an Italian winery, especially the Sangiovese grapes, and the Chianti produced here.

And what better way to sample the wine than to have a long leisurely lunch with matched wines.  A very, very long lunch.

But first, a wander through the gardens to hone the appetite:

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And a photo I recognize from many taken of the same building:

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Then a tour of the wine cellar:

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Then on to the most incredible and exquisite lunch and wine we have had.  It was the highlight of our stay in Tuscany.  Of course, we had our own private dining room:

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And time to study the paintings and prints on the walls while we finished with coffee and a dessert wine.

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And of course, more wine, just so we could remember the occasion.

Searching for locations: Auckland, New Zealand – Another city that has a tower

Nearly every city has a high building, a tower, or a large Ferris wheel.

London had the London eye
Paris has the Eiffel tower
The Galata in Istanbul
The CN Tower in Toronto
The towers of San Gimignano
Pisa has a leaning tower

We’ve managed to see all of the above bar the Galata in Istanbul.  One day we might get there.

But, on this side of the world, there are two, the Sydney Tower, and the Sky Tower in Auckland, which we just visited recently.

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It’s not a tall tower, but it definitely gives great vies of Auckland, particularly to the north

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The mountain in the background at the top of the photo is of a volcano on Rangitoto Island.  When we were visiting, there were reports that it might become active again.

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To give a height perspective, it didn’t seem all that far down to the apartment building and gardens nearby.

Now, that was unexpected…

Like everyone who was in that artificially silent environment that was the flight deck of a shuttle, unexpected sounds caused unexpected results.

The Engineer cursed.

The Pilot, Myrtle, hesitated for a moment, as if not quite sure what to do, highlighting the fact she had not been in such a situation before, but quickly recovered, and brought up the incoming object on screen.

Note to self: amend the training program to allow for random objects to come out of nowhere.

We all looked at the object. Myrtle should have been taking us into the freighter, but had got overawed by the not easily identifiable ship approaching.

“Our ship will take care of the problem,” I said. “Take us into the freighter.”

AS if surprised that she should be asked to do so, she realised it was not her job to be staring at the screen, and muttered, “Oh, yes,” before resuming our passage.

Another note to self: Proper command structures and language should be used at all times.

A minute or so later we were in the cargo bay and the cargo doors were closing. Once closed and the atmosphere adjusted, the deck would become a hive of activity.

There was still a static picture of the craft on the screen, and it was one I’d seen before, an old vessel that dated back over a hundred years. I’d seen it in a space museum on the moon.

I was tempted to ask the Captain what was happening, but knew that to interrupt would not be worth the reprimand.

The engineer had seen one before too. “You don’t see those craft very often, if at all. Or this far out in space. They only had a limited trave distance, didn’t they?”

“Unless someone had been tinkering.” Several had been built as exploration ships, but the majority were freighters, used to build the outer colonies on the nearest planets.

A new drive would enable it to travel to the outer rim of our galaxy, but not much further if there were no readily available fuel supplies. Those that were available were tightly regulated by space command.

Cargo doors closed, deck pressurised, suddenly the whole deck was alive with people and machinery, our people meeting with the freighter crew and arranging for the cargo for Venus to be loaded. Myrtle was to stay with the shuttle, monitoring the loading.

I went down the ramp and was greeted by the first officer of the freighter, a chap I’d once served with, Jacko Miles. Jacko loved being in space, but no longer interested in the machinations of Space Command. The simple life of a freighter first officer was all he desired.

Except his face, right now, had the visual lines of worry.

“What happened?” We were past the usual introductions, and general bonhomie.

“Stopped, boarded, and a crate removed.”

“What was in the crate?”

“No one is saying, but whatever it was, it must have been important to attack us for it.”

My private communicator vibrated in my pocket. The captain was calling, and didn’t want anyone else listening in.

“Just give me a moment,” I said taking the communicator out of my pocket and answering the call. “Yes sir?”

“We have a problem.”

And in that moment, I had to agree with him. Jacko now had his hands in the air, and behind him were two people with hand held weapons trained on him, and me.

© Charles Heath 2020-2021