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Published: February 24th 2014
I was in for more of a ride that weekend than I realised. After staying with my sister and her family for a few days in the laid back town of Umina, central NSW, I was on the express train to Hornsby, or renamed for the duration of that weekend as 'TB Central'. In a sense I was travelling back in time, back to that corner of a noisy intersection in KL where I had farewelled the wonderful Dancing Dave
and his wife Denise (Laila the Tuareg
Having met them in person only a couple of days earlier for the TB 10th anniversary meetup
, it wouldn't make sense to most that I was missing them dearly even before their taxi had pulled away from the curb, stealing them away into the flood of traffic. Neither though would it make sense to most that events where people meet for the first time are considered reunions, but that's the way TB works.
Back to Hornsby and soon after leaving a phone message to announce my arrival, around the corner appeared The Dancing One, armed as usual with a bear hug. After a short stop to buy an elephant (as one does), we arrived at their home, and
I was given a personal introductory tour through part of their back yard, which just happens to double as a national park. I'm one of those fussy people who rarely is satisfied with photos of themselves, but a note of thanks here to Dave, who while we were on this walk took the photo which is now on my profile page.
From national park back to an amazing collection of rugs, masks and mementos which make an exhibit of travel souvenirs worthy of any museum. All accompanied of course, given where we were, by the hypnotic melodies of African music.
A few hours and an attempted change of pace later, and Denise and I discovered that no, it isn't that easy after all to make ground fast with a massage chair wrapped around your legs. Distracted by these creatures of comfort, we nearly missed the arrival of Cindy (littlewing
) as she flew in through the arrival gate at Sydney airport. We all caught up with her though, and were soon feasting on amazing Thai food at the next station on the Reunion Express. Lured by the steam and flames, my camera and I later found ourselves capturing kitchen
madness and the friendly staff - who I think had as much fun as myself setting woks on fire, purely for the benefit of my lens.
This rolling adventure was to spill out onto Sydney harbour the next day, with the recently outed pirate among us Cindy triggering an excursion on a local tall ship. Before charging aboard we had met up with Rachel (RJT
) - Dave kindly having arranged a sky writing plane to circle overhead and leave 'TB' in its trail, as though a traditional boarding call just wouldn't do. I'm grateful every time I stretch out my legs under the airplane seat in front that they have plenty of room, however, being vertically challenged isn't necessarily an advantage when climbing a rope ladder up the mast of a tall ship. Unable to get my foot up on some rungs I had to use my knee and then haul myself up so I could get my foot there, ensuring a semblance of stability. So much for 'three points of contact at all times'. The view from the top was worth it though. Worth even the moment of 'uhhhh........' when I realised on launching myself off the crows
nest platform that my lack of leg was going to require a short drop down with only a handhold on the ladder, until my feet found the top rung. I swear that first attempt when the ship lurched at just the wrong moment was Cindy trying to wrestle the wheel off the captain with one hand, and push him overboard with the other.
Well known for his portrait expertise, our host had made a great call also adding the World Photo Exhibition to our itinerary. Although I had already spent three hours among these amazing images in Auckland, they felt just as powerful the second time round - and the ones which had in particular held me captive previously, still commanded the same attention. Downstairs was another must see, 'Acknowledged, Sydney's Homeless'. Giving voice to the stories and faces of forgotten people, the exhibition seemed to give dignity to those who were equally deserving as us more fortunate.
From the State library we wandered in search of coffee, but fate led us instead to chocolate gold in the form of a Max Brenner café. We would have happily stayed longer, but Dave was getting restless. Arriving at a
carpark next to a row of buildings dressed as abandoned warehouses, he promptly disappeared. When at Denise's direction we climbed to the top of some narrow stairs, a right turn revealed why it had been deemed crucial to secure a prime viewing table. We found ourselves in a quirky club decorated with camel paraphernalia galore and a great vibe, and we knew the night was going to be something special. Later to take the stage was Monsieur Camembert, a Russian Gypsy Swing band who obviously enjoyed performing as much as their captive audience enjoyed their energy and talent.
On Sunday morning the Reunion Express pulled into TB Central for the main event, and joining us on board were Rachel, John and Sylvia
, and Jan (one half of SkiSet
). Led off down the garden path by Dave we were informed that a healthy dose of competitive boules stood between us and that delicious lunch Denise had been slaving on since early morning. Some of those inventive shots of his hinted at serious backyard training sessions...
With all the festivity it felt like sitting down to Christmas lunch with the extended family, complete even with the mid-meal phone call from the relative
who happened to be overseas at the time. In this case, it was The Travel Camel
joining us via Skype to share his adventures from Axum, Ethiopia.
All of a sudden as we turned the corner into Monday, we faced the final day on the Reunion Express itinerary. It was probably a good thing that we had an appointment to feed Cindy to the sharks later that afternoon, otherwise Cindy, Dave and myself could have stayed all day in the gorgeous Berowra Valley National Park, another of the surprise packages that had been lined up for us.
On to Manly it was, and Cindy raced off to rendevouz with her dive partner, while Dave and I made it to the acquarium a couple of hundred shutter clicks later. Waiting for Cindy and Anthony to appear through the sharks' feeding gate, we happily passed the time talking photography. With prearranged signals we knew which wetsuits we were on paparazzi duty for, and trailed them as they moved along the tank. I'm not sure Cindy realised how often she came close to losing her head to the swing of a shark's tail - not to mention those rows of teeth.
was later our turn to play hunter, but despite best efforts yum cha eluded us and we resorted to beachside fish and chips, which the gulls all thought they had an open invite to. Never mind, it's not necessarily a bad thing to leave unfinished business for the return trip....
Perhaps it was fitting that the last passengers travelling that weekend on the Sydney line of the Reunion Express parted company at a train station. Apparently the TB Reunion Express has since made a number of stops on its never ending global journey - if you ever hear that it'll be passing through a location near you, make sure you hop on for a ride!
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