Aspie in Wanderland: The Cats of Meowbourne

I had a busy and tiring week. The only pressure to write comes from myself. This blog exists to remind me that I’ve got a dream, its purpose is to keep my hope alive. It’s tempting to stop writing and I fear that if I do stop writing, I will forget about my dream and lose all hope. I’ve been working tirelessly this week for other people so they could pursue their research interests. And I wonder if anyone can help me pursue my interests. I guess I am all alone in the pursuit of my dream.

Aspie in Wanderland: Grinning like a cheshire cat

As I was looking for accommodation around the Macedon Ranges region, I turned to Airbnb for potential accommodation. I’ve never booked with an Airbnb before. Being a private introvert, I was unsure about staying at someone else’s place and sharing facilities for 5-6 nights. What if the host decides to cancel just before the trip? It seems too risky and unpredictable for my standards. However, I did seriously consider it as an option as there aren’t many budget hotels available. In the end, I did book with an Airbnb host despite my apprehension. What makes me change my mind? Because cats live in the house. I got hypurr excited when I caught a glimpse of a ginger in one of the photos. After I submitted my reservation request, my host replied with the question “why are you here for so many days?” I explained that we don’t have a car so we would rather find a convenient base where we could stay for a few nights to explore the region (I didn’t mention the cats). The host accepted my request. Nevertheless, she canceled my reservation the next day and explained that there was a storm overnight which damaged her house. Perhaps she was as nervous as I was to share a place with a stranger for 6 nights? Purrhaps she saw through my plan (with the cats)? I’ll give her the benefit of doubt at least, I still have time to look for alternative accommodation. She has also made my search for accommodation easier as it makes me realise that I’d be much more comfortable looking for an accommodation without shared facilities.

Even though I didn’t get to stay in a house with cats, there were still plenty of cat encounters during my holiday. I don’t care real or fake, art or graffiti, merchandise or window display, whatever manner or form, if you’ve got cat, you’ve got my attention.

This few months old kitty belongs to a second-hand bookshop and the mountains of books are her playground. 

This friendly cat below lives just a few blocks away from our ‘home’ in Kyneton.

The two cats below belong to our driver/guide. They are named after characters in Pokemon.


I got supurr excited when I saw Misty (below) because she reminds me a lot of my cat as they share the same coat colour!!!


“Ragdoll” by Nicole Barros


The pile of good things and bad things

I’m following up with a new post so soon because I have a good news to share at the end of this post (nope, I’m not moving to my dream Walden but a good news nonetheless). However, before I get to that, let’s continue with the game of what was I doing this time last week…

Monday, August 21, 2017

09:00 Back in Melbourne, its the last day of our Australia trip before we head back on Tuesday. During breakfast at a busy downtown cafe, I picked up a small pack of vegemite that was on the table and pondering if I should give it a second chance. The first time I tried vegemite (or marmite) was in the UK (although my mum claimed she used to mix marmite into my baby food). I remembered the advert and the tagline, “you either love it or hate it.” I hated it. But maybe I will change my mind after all these years? I gave it another try. The verdict? I’m still a hater.

After a weekend of sunshine, it was another rainy day. My original plan was to walk sections of the trail that follows the Yarra River that winds through the city to inner suburbs. However, I thought my mum has probably had enough of walking under the rain (we were in Australia for 9 days of which 5 days were raining), so I decided to make it easier for us and change my plan to visiting the Melbourne Museum instead. On the way to the museum, we did some shopping and walked past some of Melbourne’s famous street art lanes.

13:00 By the time we reached Melbourne Museum, it was nearly one in the afternoon. The Carlton Garden (picture below) is just next to the museum. We saw posters of the latest exhibition taking place at the Melbourne Museum on the railway station at Kyneton and it was something to do with bugs and critters. I don’t have a special interest in bugs, rather, I am terrified of bugs (especially cockroaches). But perhaps I might be less terrified if I come across them in their motionless state, in a museum? That was my ‘interest’ in visiting the exhibition – to find out if looking at displays of bugs would ‘cure’ my fear of them. The outcome? I’m still grossed out by their images, in fact, I skipped the section that featured cockroaches. But there was also some interesting display that attracted our attention, we learn of bugs we’ve never heard and there was so much else to see other than bugs. It was the perfect place to hang out on a rainy day.

Carlton Garden 2011
This was taken after our visit to the exhibition. The sky has cleared up then.

Of all the displays, we were enthralled with this beautiful but deadly orchid mantis.

There is an outdoor Forest Gallery in the museum and I was excited to see the satin bowerbird because this species is known to collect brightly coloured (blue) objects to decorate his bower to attract females. I was fascinated by their unique courtship behaviour and have been wanting to see one in their natural surrounding, albeit in an outdoor museum gallery.

16:30 After our visit to the museum, we walked towards the Fitzroy suburb, a neighbourhood known for its hipster culture. Melbourne’s street art culture is also visible in the laneways of Fitzroy. Here, I got my refill of catnip herbs from the herb store (yes, I drink catnip, it makes me feel catty lol).


19:00 After dinner, we walked past Carlton Gardens again on our way back to the hotel. It was dark by then which is the best time to spot the nocturnal marsupials, brushtail possums in action. Our first encounter with a possum was in 2011. At that time, we thought it was a cat from afar.

20:00 A sweet treat to end the day and marks the end of our Australia trip 2017.

Having said earlier that I changed my original plan and decided to take it easier today, we still did a lot of walking. In fact, we explore the city entirely by foot. While it is free to travel by tram within the city free tram zone, I avoid taking the tram where possible as the city area can be very packed.

21:00 Back in the hotel where there is wifi, I checked my emails. I was worried about missing work emails while away (but it turns out I’m back without my employers knowing I had been away). On this night however, one email caught my eye. It was from the job interview I had on July 3, which was the only one that responded and invited me for an interview, out of the 20+ job applications I sent. I thought I blew up my chance but destiny has its own plans and it turns out that the job is waiting for me. I was stunned. I was feeling a bit down that night about my impending departure but suddenly, there was this good news, I didn’t quite know how to react or feel. I am sad and happy at the same time. Actually, it is more of a relief than happy, knowing that there is a job awaiting me when I return.

Life is a pile of good things and bad things

Back to the present, I’m due to start work on Friday, September 1 and might follow up again with another post on this new full-time job.

As I was saying, it is possible to feel sad and happy at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. The fact that a job awaits me in Hong Kong is not going to make me happier about leaving Australia. Similarly, when I wrote the post about excess baggage, I was feeling down and stressed although on that very same day, I was delighted to receive a belated (and humorous) birthday card from my brother in the mail. Does this mean nothing anyone says or does matter? That your words of encouragement makes no difference at all to how I feel? That your act of kindness is a complete waste on me? I mean, what’s the point of caring if the person is going to feel miserable anyhow?

I am going to answer my own question by quoting a scene from an episode of Doctor Who (Vincent and the Doctor). In this episode, the Doctor and his companion travelled back in time to meet Vincent Van Gogh. After fighting and defeating demons together, the Doctor brought Van Gogh to visit the present Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The scene featured still bring tears to my eyes.

After sending Van Gogh back to his time, Amy, the Doctor’s companion was eager to return to the museum as she was confident that the visit to the museum and the knowledge that he would become the greatest artist of all time would make a difference to Van Gogh’s life but was soon disappointed to learn that it didn’t stop Van Gogh from taking his own life. In reply, the Doctor said,

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.”

With that wisdom, I’m grateful for everyone’s encouragement, if you ever liked my post, left a comment or simply took the time to read my posts. You are the pile of good things in my life and this makes you important. And I can tell you here that you have made changes in my life, not necessarily life-changing, but still important little changes. Thank you so much, your prayers have worked!!! 

Aspie in Wanderland: I know what you did last Sunday

We departed Australia on Tuesday. Call it post-vacation blues, holiday hangover or a manifestation of jet lag where my mental brain is still trying to get use to the current space and time zone, a time lapse between dream and reality, my brain is playing the game of “what were you doing this time last week” ever since my return from the trip.

Sunday, August 20, 2017 

09:30  After breakfast, we took a quick last stroll around the neighbourhood before we checked out and bid farewell to this place that has been our home for the past 5 days. After 4 days of intermittent rain, we finally have clear skies! Kyneton is a town located in the Macedon Ranges region of the state of Victoria. It is about an hour train ride from Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria. Kyneton boasts a number of high quality eateries and award-winning restaurants although that was not the reason we chose to stay here. I love food but that is seldom the reason for my travel. It is mainly practical reasons (close proximity to train station, amenities, availability of accommodation) that brought us here. Kyneton is also halfway between the wider Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region. For travellers like us who don’t drive, this makes it a convenient base to explore the areas. Practical reasons aside, I was also attracted to the charms of a small quaint town and the streets lined with historic buildings that are converted into exquisite shops, galleries and cafes. During spring time, Kyneton hosts the Daffodil and Arts Festival. 

WT Jones Stonemasons
“Our life hangs by a single thread which soon is cut and we are dead; then boast not reader of thy might, alive at noon, but dead at night; take warning by my sudden call, that you for death prepare; for it will come, you know not now, the manner, how, or where.”

10:00 The Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region is renowned for its natural mineral springs and spa. The tourism website reads, “In the Macedon Ranges you can eat and drink your way around a landscape that attracts nationally and internationally acclaimed accolades for its local, gourmet food and wine culture.” However, it is neither the food nor mineral spa that brought me here. I’m simply looking for “a place where you can wander the streets of sleepy towns to look for bargains or just take a walk in the bush.” In other words, its the scenery and natural attractions. Since neither of us drives, we rely mostly on public transportation (and walking). However, there are places that are inaccessible without private transportation and since we are here, there is no way I am going to leave without a visit to the national park, so I’ve pre-booked a driver/guide to take us on a tour today to the Macedon Regional Park. 

Our first stop is the Mt Macedon War Memorial Cross, which is located at the summit of Mt Macedon. The Memorial Cross commemorates those who gave their lives in WWI. Each year on ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) day, April 25, thousands attend the Mt Macedon dawn service to honour the fallen heroes.

Mt Macedon War Memorial Cross

A short walk from the Memorial Cross brings us to the site of the Kurana tragedy. An aircraft crashed near the site in 1948, as a result of misty conditions which led to reduced visibility on the mountains and killed both the pilot and the co-pilot.  

Following the trail, we saw trees where the sun was shining on with smoke coming off it. I couldn’t explain why so I turned to Google “steam/smoke coming off from tree” for an explanation and came across this blog post which explains, “It had rained a lot the day before and the tree was thoroughly soaked. Over night it went down below freezing and everything was nice and frosty.  When the sun rose up and finally hit this tree it was warm and started to quickly melt the frost and thus the steam began to rise.” I’m not sure if there is a name for this phenomenon, anyone reading who can offer more information are welcome to leave a comment. 

11:15 Our next stop is Camels Hump, the highest point in the Macedon Ranges. This rocky outcrop is a mamelon, a volcanic feature formed six million years ago when thick lava squeezed through a narrow vent in the earth’s crust. The lookout offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. 

View of Camels Hump from afar
View from the top of Camels Hump
View from the top of Camels Hump
View from the top of Camels Hump

12:00 Next stop is the Sanatorium Lake. Having walked around the perimeter of the idyllic Lake Daylesford few days ago, I was expecting something similar but the Sanatorium Lake turns out to be much smaller in comparison. Nevertheless, the views offered, in particular, the reflections of the lake was stunning. This man-made lake was originally built in 1899 to provide a water source to a hospital specialising in the treatment of tuberculosis although the proposed hospital was never built due to opposition and lack of funding. 

Sanatorium Lake

We spot several interesting natural features along the lake trail. And just to add, I wasn’t entirely correct to say that the Macedon Regional Park is inaccessible without private transportation, in fact, the Memorial Cross, Camels Hump and Sanatorium Lake are all within walking distance and are connected by 30km of walking tracks, starting from the Macedon railway station. 

13:00 Lunch at the busy local hotel restaurant bar. It was rather crowded and without the help of our local guide, I would have looked lost without any idea on how to go about ordering our food. 

Lunch at Mt Macedon Hotel

13:50 The Macedon Ranges is also well-known for its private gardens. While some are closed during winter, a few remains open all year round. Forest Glade is one of the finest gardens and has existed for nearly one hundred years covering around 6 hectares (14.5 acres). Without a map, it was like walking in a maze. The garden features numerous interesting statutes and sculptures. 

15:30 Our final stop on the itinerary is Trentham Falls. I don’t know what to expect beforehand, it was simply a convenient attraction spot along the drive but it turns out to be quite magnificent, not Niagara magnificent obviously but still magnificent. My photo really don’t do justice. Here is a better one. There was supposed to be a trail that leads to the top of the waterfall but was blocked off due to a landslide. 

Trentham Falls

16:00 The tour was supposed to have ended after the falls, however, our friendly guide kindly and graciously offers us a tour of his house which lives a German Shepherd, 15 chickens (they are dorking if I remember correctly), fishes and…. you guess it, 2 CATS!!! ^-^ (cat photos to follow up in another post)

19:00 After the tour, we took the next train back to Melbourne Southern Cross station. I was a bit reluctant to be back in the populous city. Alighting from the regional train, we found our way to the metropolitan trains. Our hotel is one station away from Southern Cross station and the city-loop train was packed like sardines, there was a football match and the carriages were full of spectators returning from the stadium. Although we were still in Australia, I can’t help but feel a bit sad because our return to the city signifies that our trip is coming to an end. 

After returning from Australia, I saw pictures of snow at Mt Macedon. Apparently, it snowed the next day after our visit. I was actually looking forward to see snow, the last time I saw snow, I was just a kid on a holiday with my family at Harbin. What a pity I missed the snow although I am not complaining about the clear blue skies. 

My dear, we meet at least once a year, 12 times in 9 years
The love of many travellers, the centre of attraction
Stylish lanes and hidden alleys
Luscious food and roasted beans infuse the air
With a magic wand you stir and awake the weary souls
Transform an ordinary day into a delightful experience
Modern and exquisite, sensual and alluring
Many have fallen for your beauty, arts and culture
The most liveable they say
Well I’m not one of them
It’s not the glitz and glamour I crave
It’s not the hustle and bustle I yearn
Don’t get me wrong
I love your vigour and vibrant, city landscape and skyscraper
But my love for you doesn’t begin and stop here
It begins with quaint historic towns and charming villages
Vast green pastures and wide blue skies
Crisp mountain air and rolling hills
Diverse wildlife and rugged bush
Peaceful lakes and riverwalk
Quiet stroll and botanic gardens
Friendly locals and human kindness
A space to breathe, a space to walk, a space to live
A stranger from the city, a stranger in town, amazes at everything
Watch how the clouds move in the sky
Look at the trees and flowers
Hear the birds call
Listen and observe
What, how and why
So much to learn from nature
So much to learn from universe
So much to learn from life
My dear love, till we meet again