Bob wrote the following during April 2005 while touring with the Kingston Trio This is CHAPTER TWO of the April 2005 blog picking up on the trip to Australia:
We flew from Christchurch to Sydney on February 10th, arriving around 8:00 in the morning. As we were coming out of customs we once again heard someone calling out our names. Lo and behold, John Hilvert, a long-time KT fan from Down Under, had come to meet us! He didn’t even know what flight we were on, but he knew about what time we were supposed to arrive and he took a chance on catching us. Amazingly, out of hundreds of people coming through those doors he spotted us! We sat down and chatted for a while and then he offered to drive us to our hotel. Off we went, checking into the Grace Hotel in downtown Sydney. We told John that we had plans for the day but said we’d meet him again around 6:00 for drinks and conversation.
Our goal for the day was a visit to the Koala Sanctuary Park where it was advertised that you could get up close and pet the cute little critters. We got directions to the train and rode for about 40 minutes out into the north end of Sydney. We then took a bus to the park and arrived just at koala feeding time. The caretaker gave a little talk about koalas and then invited one of them down from his perch in a tree, offering him some special leaves. Everybody in the crowd had an opportunity to come up and pet him and get a picture taken. We fell in love with the little fellow and his buddies in the trees nearby. They’re just too cute!
After the feeding session we wandered into an area where they had kangaroos running loose. We were allowed to interact with them and it was a real thrill to get up close and personal with these unusual animals. One of the mamas had a little Joey in her pouch and she allowed Meri to pet him as she stood up tall and proud. We continued to explore the other habitats, which included several cassowaries, which are large flightless birds similar to an emu. There were all sorts of other native birds, including cockatoos, colorful lorikeets and laughing kookaburras. We also saw wallabies, wombats and other animals unique to Australia,
We said one last goodbye to our favorite little koala bear and caught the bus back to the train station for the ride into Sydney. When we arrived back at the hotel, John Hilvert was there to meet us. He guided us down to the harbor for a view of the famous Sydney Opera House and then we sat at an outdoor pub for an hour or so drinking Australian beer and talking Kingston Trio. It was a very pleasant time and a good way to start our stay in Oz.
The next day we flew to Coolangatta on the Gold Coast in the state of Queensland. We rented a car and drove just a few kilometers south into the state of New South Wales to Kingscliff. Our destination lay just to the south of this charming town in an area called Salt. This is the site of a brand new development that will be completed later this year, including a new Outrigger Hotel. We would spend the next six days here as guests of Richard and Linda Kelley, owners of the entire Outrigger chain.
Our friendship with the Kelleys began with an introduction by Bob Shane at a show in Denver a few years ago. Bob and Richard were classmates at Punaho in Honolulu, and Richard’s father owned the land on Waikiki where the first Outrigger Hotel was later built. During Bob and Richard’s youth, Art Shoen, Bob’s father, rented space on the property for his sporting goods store. Richard and Linda have lived in Colorado for several years and we’ve gotten to know them quite well, often joining them at their ranch near Granby where I’ve entertained for their parties. They’ve also been our special guests at several Kingston Trio concerts.
We had already been their guests at the Outrigger in Tauranga in New Zealand and then at the Outrigger Clearwater Resort in Christchurch. But the Outrigger Resort at Salt is the crown jewel of the chain, occupying a beautiful stretch of secluded beach. The grand opening of this hotel had originally been scheduled for the day we arrived there. The Kelleys had invited me to perform at the ceremonies, to be attended by the Prime Minister, but as it turned out, construction delays pushed the grand opening back to April. But we’d already made our travel plans and since The Trio is booked for most of April, we couldn’t rearrange our schedule. The hotel is already open for business (a couple wings are still under construction) and we were escorted to the fabulous owner’s suite on the top floor overlooking the ocean. Our suite featured a master bedroom with a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, a second large bedroom with it’s own deck overlooking the ocean (plus it’s own private bathroom), a third guest bathroom, a dining room, living room, kitchen and a huge main deck with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. What a jaw-dropper!
Upon check-in we had received a package from Brendan McGrath, a Trio fan from Melbourne. In e-mail exchanges with him prior to our departure from Denver, he had invited us to spend some time in Melbourne and enjoy an Australian barbecue at his home. Unfortunately, we were unable to include that in our itinerary but we promised to catch him on our next trip. The package he sent included some nice gifts, such as some stuffed toys representing the indigenous wildlife, some Australian caps for my Trio partners and some other special souvenirs. What a nice welcome to our new home!
One of the highlights of this part of our trip was a visit with Ken Bradshaw and his lovely wife, Jane. They live near Brisbane, about an hour to the north, and we had invited them to stay overnight in the master bedroom (we’d chosen the other one because of the private lanai.) Meri fixed a nice dinner and made a lei out of some orchids that Ken and Jane brought, cleverly stringing them onto a broken banjo string.
We then went down to the lobby where I entertained some of the hotel guests for about an hour. Later we returned to our suite and Ken regaled us with stories of Dave Guard’s time in Australia, a subject on which Ken is quite an authority. He had brought along some video clips from “Dave’s Place”, the TV show that Dave produced out of Sydney in 1965. We had a great evening watching some vintage television and talking Kingston Trio.
On Valentine’s Day the hotel offered a special event for married couples. It was a ceremony to renew our wedding vows, and we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful location to do this. We gathered in the lobby with three other couples and waited to be escorted out to the poolside by a free-spirited aging hippy woman who presided over the ceremony. As we had done fourteen years ago, we once again vowed to love, honor and cherish each other for the rest of our lives. I’m sure I saw Cupid fly by sending arrows through all of our hearts.
We enjoyed our stay in Salt, doing little other than relaxing on the beach and exploring the vicinity. We really fell in love with the area, with its many beaches and laid back atmosphere. One day we met a local fisherman on the beach who showed us how to dig clams with our feet. We collected enough for a nice meal. Although we never saw any wild kangaroos, the warning signs were posted here and there along the roads, so we were always on the lookout.