July 3, 2015

Near and Far with The Friday Flyer: Hellers in Australia


Tracy and Diane Heller flew 10,000 miles, halfway around the world, to visit family in Australia. "Only the third visit in 26 years," according to Diane. The “grueling” trip included 24 hours of travel and, with crossing the International Date Line, a 15-hour time change. They left Canyon Lake in early spring and arrived at Australia in early autumn.

They first visited an art exhibit at Cottesloe Beach in Perth, on the western coast. According to Diane, the art exhibit was magnificent with its giant sculptures, and the brisk winds revived them while the sand was the "perfect remedy for swollen feet and toes!"

Traveling by car, on the “wrong” side of the road, the Hellers headed to the home of Diane's sister, Leslie, and brother-in-law, Mark, located in the small rural town of Margaret River. According to Diane, Mark and Leslie moved to Margaret River 40 years ago and endured the rigors of building a home, raising their two boys and four grandchildren, making friends, and establishing roots and businesses ? all to surf the fantastic waves in that location.

Diane says, "They must have known something because today that same community has developed into a world-class resort for wineries, ocean vacations and the Margaret River Surf Pro Contest."

During their two-month stay, Tracy and Diane sampled it all. Diane says, "The wine was wonderful! The sandy ocean boardwalks and views of the aquamarine Indian Ocean are to be envied. And the annual, international surf contest took over this isolated town on Australia’s West Coast while we were there."

Four years ago, Diane's sister and family had lost everything ? their home and all contents, three businesses and a vacation rental home ? during a government controlled fire burn. Finally, after years of frustration, their new home was almost ready. One of the reasons for this visit was to celebrate and inaugurate her sister's new home and new beginning.

While the final details were being completed, the Hellers ventured to Albany and Esperance. Albany is a port city in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. The Albany Anzac Peace Park and Pier of Remembrance were dedicated in 2010 as a precursor to centenary commemorations planned for 2014 to 2018. According to Diane, the museum and park are definitely worth a visit.

Huell Howser, on his TV program, mentioned that Esperance had the most beautiful beaches in the world, so the Hellers made sure to visit this “heavenly city” near the bottom of Southwest Australia.

"We lucked out and had sunny, wind-free days to explore the desolate beaches of Esperance," says Diane. They took a picture with The Friday Flyer on one of the sheltered white sand beaches in the Cape Le Grand National Park. They had a local guide and family meteorologist who treated them to a first-hand visual of the area’s data weather balloon being launched.

After their week’s jaunt to Southwest Australia, Tracy and Diane returned to their home base in Margaret River. Tracy got to work by driving Mark’s tractor to help with repairing and building a new garden area, clearing burned debris and digging trenches for water pipes, rain tanks and private road repair.

He enjoyed surf fishing off the rocks and beach before going out in a boat to catch some Indian Ocean fish, like the prized Dhue, Whiting, and Blue Fin Tuna. Tracy says the barbecued fish was "delicious!" He also played the local golf links, where he took a photo of two kangaroos “boxing” on a fairway.

"We experienced some wacky weather," says Tracy, "like 10 days of rain and beautiful sunsets that rivaled our own here in Canyon Lake."

Tracy and Diane enjoyed Margaret River’s gourmet restaurants, cappuccino shops and visits with nephews, nieces and old friends still there after 26 years.

The only unfortunate part of their two-month-long vacation was that Leslie and Mark's new home was still unfinished when they had to leave. Diane and Tracy say they can’t wait to visit again but agree that it's great to be home with family and friends "on this side of the planet."