Arriving Down Under ……

…. from India was a shock to the system after over 8 months in Asia.  Good public transit.  Clean streets that are lit up by night.  No honking.  Salads – yum!  No bugs to contend with (it is wintertime here).  Drinking water straight from the taps.  We westernized folks have much to be thankful for.  But it had been a bit of a transition – albeit a positive one.

Getting on the Traralgon train to Gippsland reminded me of reaching Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal where everyone knows everyone else and the conductor is trying to discreetly figure out who the odd man out was (that’s me) and what my story was.  Too funny.  Two long-time friends of my uncle – Mary Anne and Sr. Jeanette came to collect me off the train and brought me to Traralgon parish house where Uncle Jerry was ensconced with a few others including Fr Bernard who watches out for him on behalf of the Church.  Great excitement when I arrived, I just hope I live up to expectations.  

I have been in Bairnsdale since Sunday night, and am spending my days with Uncle Jerry whether we stay at the nursing home itself or whether we take off for a bit of sightseeing & lunch in the surrounding area.  Bairnsdale is a sleepy place located right on the River Mitchel, which eventually runs down to Lakes Entrance and onward to the Bass Strait which is the sea that separates Tasmania from mainland Australia.  Fresh and river fish are popular here and are very good, many great restaurants line the network of lakes & rivers in Gippsland making this area very picturesque …… with rolling green hills and cattle galore on the land.  Only for the gum trees, it could be Ireland.

I am staying at Mary Anne’s house which is located right in the River Mitchel and just beautiful in the morning and evening with the sunrise and sunsets.  The weather has been warm and their winter has been milder than usual.  In the past few days we have had some wild winds which are also unusual for Bairnsdale at this time of year but I must admit to really liking the freshness and wind in  my face.  Yes, I am a little strange when it comes to what weather I like.  The locals here think it is “bitterly cold” tonight at a temperature of 6 degrees centigrade ….. they clearly have not lived in Canada.

In preparation for my 340km Camino walk in northern Spain, I have taken to getting out walking at 6.30am and do a 5.5km circuit walk on the Mitchel Riverside walk before breakfast.  Then walk a 4.5km route to Eastwood nursing home to spend time with Uncle Jerry, then walk home at the end of the day.  Will probably have to add a second circuit of the Mitchel Riverside walk during my 6.30am morning walk to increase my mileage to about 20km a day …. which is a little under the distance Grace, Joe and I hoped to cover daily on the Camino (our plan is 25km to 30km daily).

I’ll gather some photos over the coming days and post as things of interest crop up …… whenever that might be.  

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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