If it wasn’t for the palm trees, the accent, the left-side driving, and oh yes, the ocean, I could very well be living in small town Ontario instead of small town Australia.

It’s hard to explain, but there is something immediately familiar about ex-British colonies. I actually mean that in a good way. I might be half-way around the world, but Australia has felt homey from the moment I landed. In fact, what I tend to notice are “small town things” (since I’m from a large city) rather than purely “Australian things”.

Examples? Strangers saying hello on the street, teenage mothers on the bus at 10:30 in the morning, big open spaces in the middle of town, and the “white bread” population. It’s actually so rare to see a dark face that I find myself staring!

The house-sitting gig

The four of us at the house have now fallen into a routine. Them more than me I must say. Now that Melissa has a job, she gets up at 5:00 am, walks along the beach at sunrise, gets her kids ready for day-care (for an hour or so before they start school), and they’re all out of the house by 7:00 am. I get up around 8:30 and have breakfast on the patio. In fact I have all my meals outdoors, because every day is sunny and hot with insanely blue skies. (At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I haven’t seen a drop of rain since early December when I was in Trang. I hope I won’t burn my eyeballs!)

Melissa and the kids are back at 5:00 pm, and after dinner and possibly a swim (remember, the ocean is only 300 metres away), everyone retires to their room by 7:30 pm. That’s metro-boulot-dodo for you.

One day out of two I go downtown, and the other day I go to the beach (either before 10 am or after 4:30 pm). By early afternoon the temperature is often above 35C in the shade. Fortunately it’s dry heat, and wind often blows from the ocean. By the way, on Saturday afternoon, after several very hot days, I finally got in the water. (I found it too cold before.) The surf was still as strong as ever, but I was somewhat distracted by my chat with Melissa. That is until a really big wave tossed us both on the beach, rolling us on the sandy bottom like mere fish. When I took my bathing suit off, a pile of sand fell out. Holy cow!

My plan was to spend a lot of time writing here, but somehow I’ve been kept busy by household chores and planning the rest of the trip. While in Chiang Rai I started writing an e-book (hopefully coming up for sale in late spring or early summer) but I have barely touched it since I arrived in Bunbury.

Because we are four people in the house, and it’s a large house, household chores take longer than what I am accustomed to. I have to vacuum every few days because of the cat hair (and there is a lot of floor space), water some plants, feed and play with the cat, load and empty the dishwasher, hang clothes to dry on the line, etc. But I’m not complaining. How often do you get to live in a million dollar house near the ocean? It’s great that house-sitting allows me to live like a local for a while, in places where otherwise I couldn’t even afford a hotel. (Some people asked to see pictures of the house. Here they are!)

Snuggles the cat has turned out to have some very dog-like qualities. She likes company and follows me around, sleeping close to wherever I’m sitting. She lies on her back with her back paws spread out. Fortunately she’s very cat-like in her quiet manners and compulsive self-cleaning habits.  On the negative side, she’s been bringing back some dead prey into the house, like small birds, and even some kind of giant grasshopper. Not cool. But overall she’s a cute friendly cat.

This week I spent many hours figuring out what I was going to do for the last few weeks of the trip, and booked several flights and hotels. I arrived in Perth two weeks ago with no outbound ticket, and no further bookings. Now, it’s been decided: I will be in Perth for 4 nights starting March 6, then 10 days in Bali (Ubud mostly), and finally 3 days in Bangkok from where I’m flying back home on March 24.

I have also been exploring the town a little more.

Further exploration of Bunbury

This week I walked into the southern part of downtown, tried new restaurants and cafes (see below) and walked five kilometres around the Leschenaults Inlet.

Some streets and features have French names here, because it was French explorers who first discovered this part of Australia in 1803. The inlet trail passes by some pretty little bungalows, and then through mangroves inhabited by interesting birds. And then it’s back to downtown and a well deserved beer and some food!

Food, beer and wine

Food is expensive here. $9 for a craft beer, $22 for a burger, $6 for a piece of cake. The list goes on. And to add insult to injury, the Australian dollar has now climbed above the Canadian dollar.

Nevertheless, since I’m getting free accommodation, I’ve been able to indulge in a meal or a drink out every few days. On Wednesday I used a discount voucher I got on the free walking tour from the tourist office for an $18.50 lunch at Casellas, right on the waterfront. This included an item from their lunch menu (all normally priced at $19.50) and a beverage, which could be a glass of wine or beer (worth $9-10). I ordered a grilled fish fillet (big serving) with side salad and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and ended up saving $11. Not a bad deal! And it was delicious.

On Friday, after my walk, I went to Mash Brewing, the craft brewery, and had a glass of pear cider, ice cold and fruity. Yum. The food was way too expensive though ($28 for a main) so I grabbed a meat pie for $3.40 at the shopping mall!

I’ve also cracked open the bottle of Chenin Blanc I bought at the Swings and Roundabouts winery last week. I found it a little pricey at $22 a bottle, but this wine tastes good even lukewarm, and can easily be drunk on its own. I can’t wait to open the dessert wine, but I have to figure out what I’m going to eat it with. Any ideas?

Search for affordable coffee. And cake.

If you remember, while in Burma I was desperately searching for good coffee and cappuccinos. Bunbury is filled with coffee shops and good cappuccinos. Here the goal has become to find affordable cappuccinos.

It took me until Wednesday to find a cappuccino for less than $4.00. Caf-fez, near the tourist office, serves cappuccinos for $3.90. And delicious banana-caramel cake (as dense as cheesecake) for $4.70. It’s become one of my favourite cafés. Another good one is Natural Temptations, which offers many healthy and gluten-free snacks, and a great carrot cake. And of course good cappuccino ($4.00). Most of these places also serve all-day breakfasts. I think that’s one of my favourite things about Australia. 🙂

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