One of the features of being an Australian is having "mates." These are your friends who do more than drink a beer with you, more than inhabit the work space next to you, more than someone who friends you on some social web site. We think a true Australian "mate" is someone who is there for the long-term; someone who has your back; someone who will trust you with their 1998 Honda Civic (stick shift) with over 200,000 kilometers on it, driving on dark, winding, wet roads. Oh, did I mention the steering wheel is on the right side of the vehicle?
That would be our friend and mate Adrienne Jones.
We don't know when we first met Adrienne. She was with the Australian Information Service in New York in 1979 when Ron was traveling to Australia as a journalist. She was in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia in 1991 when Ron was there with the Monitor. Over the years we have spent time with Adrienne in the Blue Mountains, Sydney, Batemans's Bay, NSW and Margaret River, Western Australia. This trip made for our time with Adrienne in Melbourne and then Tasmania.
Thank goodness, we took our last Regional Express (REX) flight from Mildura to Melbourne where Adrienne and her good friend (probably a "mate") Linda met us at the airport with her four-wheel drive Nissan Patrol. We could fit our two over-weight (by REX standards) suitcases, shoe bag and carry-ons all in the back with enough room left over to add a kangaroo, wallaby and wombat.
Adrienne organized lunch at Yerring Station, a restaurant housed in an arc of glass that looked out on the dry Yarra Valley farmland. In the distance, we saw a huge mushroom cloud - called a pyrocumulus - from a bushfire that was about 25 miles away. (The prior evening the Victorian government had warned residents near the fire it was too late to leave—just shelter in place.)
Adrienne included some of her friends from her days as a public servant, some former "journos," and special Melbourne friends. Adrienne thought it would be fun for us to meet new friends. Many of the Aussies had lived, worked, or even came from, New York. We started with a toast to and remembrance of one of Adrienne's former bosses and mentors, Herschel Hurst, who also helped Ron in his travels Down Under. Herschel was a classy man who loved his country and helped reporters understand it better.
Not far from Adrienne's house in Eltham was the Heide Museum of Modern Art, which gives visitors a view of the intellectual life in Melbourne circa mid-1930s. John and Sunday Reed, heirs to a fortune, hosted artists and intellectuals. Kathy read "Sunday's Kitchen" years ago and enjoyed visiting their library, which included a shelf of Sunday's healthy eating cookbooks, and walking through the bountiful garden that featured in Sunday's Kitchen. The Reed's had an "open" relationship. Sunday seemed to have multiple affairs with various artists. John seemed to have his own interests as well. Yes, holy kangaroo!
As we left the museum with Adrienne, we were hit with mid-90s temperatures. We knew the heat wave would not last long: we were sailing on the ferry "The Spirit of Tasmania" to Tasmania the next day – a nine-hour sail. Tassie would be far cooler. And, we knew we had some challenging driving ahead of us. But, we would be doing the trip with a "mate."