Which week is this?

I have lost track of how long we have been in lockdown and in all honesty I am feeling like a slowly winding down clock. Our world is a few walking kilometres east, west, north and south of the apartment. Fortunately there are lots of parks and it is amazing how I get a sense of joy when I take the dog for a walk in the sometimes, golden sunny afternoon and I see people(!), kids and parents playing ball games, or scooting along on scooters and bikes or just walking their dogs like I am. I am not alone in this world.

I have been busy being domestic. I have made pots of cumquat jam, preserved the olives picked from the trees in the park, baked a couple of cakes and cooked some pretty good meals. I have finished another scarf, though it is again somewhat longer than I expected. Still it is cosy and useful. Joy of joy, I have discovered a cumquat tree in the park! I will be able to make more jam. These gorgeous pots of golden jam give me such pleasure and a sense of achievement. I will have to give some to my neighbours though because there is not much pantry space in my apartment.

I am getting better at selfies too! On the odd occasion that Hazel is up before 4pm ( She works all night and sleeps all day) we have had a game of scrabble. I love to play the game and have no pretensions to being clever at it. It is just fun. My darling Mum loved it too and we played daily before she passed away. Getting Hazel to play was a coup and even better, she enjoyed it.

I am still doing the Zoom gym sessions and actually think I might be getting fitter. Today I wasn’t quite as shattered as usual. My balcony garden is flourishing with herbs and flowers. Because I am actually here to feed and water, the plants are rewarding me.

When I look across to the city, Autumn is evident in the red and yellow tops of the trees. When I first moved here the changing of the seasons through the colours of the trees was a novelty. In Warrandyte, where all was native grey/blue/green the autumn colours were less apparent. It still gives me pleasure to see the seasonal colours and their marking of the year passing.

What a strange year it is. How long we stay in this lockdown is the main topic of conversation and with the governments’ seeming to be getting the upper hand on the virus, hopefully we will see some lessening of the enforced isolation. I have been proud of how Australia has been so proactive in combatting the spread. We will suffer financially but we have not seen the thousands infected and hundreds dying that has afflicted so many other countries. Some have said it is all an overreaction by government, but when you look at the figures this is not such a simple story. I am intrigued by the fact that while many recover the number listed as recovering is never equal to the infected and those who die. There is a huge gap between infection and recovery of people who remain sick for quite a long time.

Keep well, keep washing hands and physical distancing.

Week 2 getting a routine.

The week was not so frantic though I managed gym classes on Zoom and Pilates. They seem way more intense than my usual gym class and that is because there are none of the usual chit chat and walking back for a drink between exercises! It is full on for the 45 mins. After each class I am just bathed in perspiration and in all honesty I feel more energised too.

Alfie is getting used to me crowding out the lounge and he isn’t sitting on the mat chewing a toy or underfoot. We are all getting used to the indoor routine. One thing I have noticed is my body seems more upright again-no sagging in the middle. I haven’t lost any weight but I seem to look more toned. I have also taken to pacing around when on the phone to avoid sitting too much. There is still a lot of phone.

It is nice to have so much connection but that too is easing a little so I am not continually being distracted. The amount of social media, FB, Instagram, WhatsApp, as well as Zoom and Houseparty has been interesting. I have found myself spending so much more time on them that I am getting quite tired. It isn’t restful. So I am resolved to just check 30 mins in the morning and 30 mins in the afternoon. The day just disappears when you are on these all the time.

I have been walking around the local streets and because it is so familiar you start to really notice details. I love the way some people show their support for others. One front fence had these posters and tulle bows while others have teddy bears for kids to notice.

A sad thing for all the kids and parents is the closure of the playgrounds in the parks. Some people argue that if child care centres are open parks should be also, but I see the logic behind this. Child Care Centres can control who is there and the cleaning but parks are publicly open to everyone without any controls so of course the equipment is more likely to be contaminated. There are still lots of people out walking but now we are limited to groups of two and maintaining social distance as well. Even our lifts are restricted to two people at a time. I am getting callouses on my elbows from pressing buttons with them! I have had to actively massage cream into my poor elbows. Who would have thought? All our furniture in the lobby has been roped off too. No sitting allowed.

The restrictions are working here even though some people still flout the rules. The police are actually checking and issuing fines so we are really in a socially controlled state. We are compliant in the most part but now articles are appearing about how we must be vigilant to the loss of liberty due to new rules/laws. There must be action to repeal once the pandemic is over. I don’t think we would continue to accept these restrictions for very long once the pandemic has passed but we also can’t be complacent about the new laws. It will be a different world after this time and I hope we won’t forget some of the lessons learned.

I finished my scarf and then reworked it as it hadn’t quite turned out as I had hoped the first time. The second attempt has been much better and it is remarkably cosy. Now I am inspired to do some more and have sent off for more wool to make scarves for friends. Busy hands make for a happy heart and a sense of achievement. I picked olives from a tree in the park and I am now preserving them too. Quite domestic. All things I had no time for before our lockdown. I really should get into the cupboards and book cases but… The motivation just isn’t there yet.

The days are marked by our meals and I have got more engaged in cooking again. I did some Chinese braised 5 spice belly pork which was super delicious. I made a huge mess with the crisping of the skin initially but in the end all was good. Then I have cooked a cake with Hazel. That was fun. Hazel isn’t an experienced cook so it was a learning curve for her and we made a Jewish Honey cake. Smells awesome and tastes great with the spices and honey.

I have tried to get back to drawing or painting without a lot of success. The days go so fast. I feel inhibited about going to the studio even though I would be on my own. There is a very strong message about staying home unless absolutely necessary. My Spanish vocab. is improving and I have moved up a level in my French which is satisfying. Reading has slowed a little because of the other distractions plus the topics where pretty heavy for this time. No Friend but the Mountains was an arduous read. It is about being detained on Manus Island. Those off shore detention centres will be Australia’s shame in years to come. We must close them down. They treat people so harshly. It is psychological torture. No wonder so many have mental health issues.

There is so much concern about the Australian population’s mental health during this lockdown and we have the comforts of home, Internet, free communication, ample food and medical care! Those poor people are not on any agendas now but could very easily be stricken with the Corona Virus too and probably die.

I have been happy to see my son Jonathan finding some work and promoting his cartooning skills. He has done such great caricatures of his son Ziggy and his twin brother Nick. He has had the time to brush up his skills and started promoting them on Instagram. So there have been some advantages in being locked down. Nick too is working on his collages and venturing into bigger canvases.

While this is a trying time for everyone it has slowed us down and allowed us to find other ways to nurture our souls. Stay safe and inside.

1 week down many more to go

Well it is Monday of week two and our lives have shrunk so much and yet not. I had such a busy week with learning to run Zoom sessions, multiple Coronavirus jokes and songs and news about new restrictions almost every day. Then the kids invited me to Houseparty App which was their video group chat of choice. Another learning curve.

I managed three gym sessions in the park which was a lot of fun and hard work. It was so pleasant exercising outside. I experienced an online Pilates class which was also great, except for the dog wanting to lick my face!

Two virtual cocktail hours was a great way for us all to catch up. I even dressed up and really made cocktails. A potent mix of Peach liqueur and vodka with a dash of lemon juice over ice.

The next event was a virtual dance class on Friday night for an hour. Now that was a workout, and hilarious. My body rolls were not as liquid as I would like but nonetheless ( I convinced Hazel, my niece to join in), we managed to get the routine almost down pat if not entirely in time. We laughed so much I am sure it released heaps of endorphins!

The cupboards finally got a look in. I needed some red wine so after buying six bottles I sorted the wine cupboard. Then the handle fell off the pullout pantry. It had got too heavy and despite reducing the weight by shifting groceries to other cupboards, the handle still came off. Exasperated i have improvised with a belt until I can get to Bunnings hardware or a good handyman!

Everyday I have walked the dog longer and longer distances and it has been quite delightful to see so many families out in the park or on bikes. There were still groups of mostly young people not practicing social distancing and as a consequence the councils have closed the beaches and reduced the number allowed in groups from 10 down to two.

That was the end of the park gym and now we will be doing virtual classes instead. People over 70 have been urged to stay home and those over 60 to reduce their interactions and stay home as much as possible also.

We are allowed to go for a walk in twos and I have seen so many people out on the streets it is really rather nice. The suburbs are alive with people working from home and taking the kids out. No shopping centre trawling just home games and the park!

I think some people might find it hard to get back to the old style of life if this goes on for months. One thing I notice is that while we are all a bit anxious, people still smile and chuckle as you do the Coronavirus shuffle to keep your distance on footpaths.

The weather is beautifully autumnal and I have noticed the trees are starting to change colour. The annual invasion of Corellas is happening and they are wheeling and screeching overhead in large flocks. This afternoon they were in extreme distress for some reason. I eventually realized there was a bird of prey ( falcon, hawk or larger I could not discern), circling above the flock.

I decided to wash Alfie as he was very doggy smelling. If he is in the bed he has to stay clean and there are no trips to the groomers any time soon. He is not impressed but he does feel so lovely afterwards that I will do it more regularly from now on.

A further Zoom training session on Sunday left me feeling quite tired. Added to that was the effort to finish with the book on life in prison on Manus island (No friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, beautiful but haunting writing) and the series Stateless, also about Refugees, I suddenly felt very tired and unsettled. I couldn’t sleep last night.

I took Alf on a 8 km walk and started to think how last week was like the first week of a Camiño. All excitement and new experiences, the unknown unfolding day by day, no routine but just managing what comes everyday. At the end of the first week you suddenly realize what you are in for and doubt creeps into consciousness. Can I do this? The end seems a long way off. You feel tired. Then you have a glass of wine, a chat with someone and a good night’s sleep. One day at a time is all you need to be concerned about.

Life during CoVid 19

Okay, so all my plans for travel this year have gone to hell. Fortunately I was refunded my China trip because Bunnik’s pulled the tours themselves. I have to say they operated so professionally and I would highly recommend them in the future. Their tours were well balanced with organised and free time. China will have to wait for another time.

Next came Africa. It is still in the mix but who knows where we will all be in August. Will we be still struggling with the virus or maybe we will have come out the other side. It is too soon to call. However even if the pandemic has passed our savings and the dollar have taken a hit with the fall of the economy and it may be all a bit too expensive. My savings may be going to help my sons who have both been affected by the slow down of work and had their hours cut. It all seems pretty grim.

Then there was the long walk along the Ruta de laine in Spain from Alicante to Burgos. Spain is a hot spot for the virus and while it too may be over the worst by September, it is all looking pretty much like a no go this year. I will be disappointed but life has other priorities when the world is in meltdown. One of those is looking out for each other, family, friends and neighbours. A couple of friends have had serious illnesses diagnosed and that really shows what is important. It is heartwarming to see so many people being thoughtful about others. Sure there has been panic hoarding and some displays of appalling behaviour, but there has also been some surprising initiatives to balance this. Humans aren’t all selfish. We are all in this together and we are working together.

Another upside is that I have been in more regular contact with so many people via Facebook, Whats App and I have even started to run my book club via Zoom group conferencing. With the relative success of that experiment I have opted for a virtual happy hour with friends using Zoom. We had planned a dinner but our government has requested people ( particularly we older Aussies) to keep a safe distance from each other and to stop socialising pretty well everywhere. We are not yet quite as locked down as the UK but it will probably happen.

The economy is in free fall, the restaurants and cafes have shut down overnight and unless they can survive on takeaway and home delivery they are out of business for the foreseeable future. Lots of people are working from home. About 20,000 people became unemployed overnight in Melbourne alone. There will be heaps more like my sons who have jobs but such reduced hours that they are almost unemployed. It is a scary state of affairs.

Everyone is in shock. I have started to refocus on activities to do at home and have been upping the Spanish studies as well as French. I have taken up crochet after probably 20 years! I am making a cowl scarf out of gorgeous Alpaca. I have got the skein in a mess but still able to crochet. All those little tips I used to know are coming back. It is something I can do in front of television while I am bingeing on Scandi Noir or French and Spanish films!

Alpaca wool for scarf

I have been walking the dog and when I meet my dog owner friends at the park we all stand about 3 metres apart. Our dogs are still sniffing tails and noses so we probably should be extra vigilant about washing our hands after patting everyone’s pets too. I have been still able to go to an outdoor gym class with gloves and appropriate distances between us but that may come to an end if the UK is anything to go by. I have already signed up for on line Pilates with a former teacher and can also follow my gym instructor through an app and possibly Zoom as well.

It will be such a novelty to hug someone after all this. My grandson is off limits too. Virtual chats the way to go there. Fortunately while the shelves of supermarkets are lean it isn‘t for lack of produce but lack of delivery. I was kind of hoping I might have to ration food. It would probably result in a few less kilos over the period rather than an increase due to reduced activity!

Through all this I had a bit of a melt down and it came to me – this is another Camino. The lessons I learned on those walks were to take every day as it came, just be in the moment and put one foot after another. I don’t always remember to practice this lesson but when ever I hit a rough spot it comes back to me. Bam!

And a lesson from when I was a stressed mum with twin babies. This time will pass. Breathe deep for calm, look at the sky or something beautiful, take a break from listening to all the news and talk, sleep well and wash your hands.

Alcohol is the great deterrent to germs so I am hoping a daily dose of Champagne will work just as well on the inside! It will certainly lift my spirits anyway. That is all for the moment.

Home in Melbourne 5 th June

I am back in wintry Melbourne adjusting to dark cold mornings and early nights. It is a bit of a shock from 40 degree temperatures at the Dead Sea. It is good to be home nevertheless and I am now trying to update my blog to make it easier to navigate and so I can continue to add to it with my next adventure.

I was to be having a 4WD trek through Central Australia but it has been put on hold due to uncertainty about roads. The outback has been subject to inundation and roads are blocked. It could make for a later date to explore and that won’t suit as I am off to South America shortly after. I couldn’t afford to get bogged and stuck out there and not be able to get back in time for the South American departure.

Also my friend’s Mum is not in good health and she doesn’t want to be too far away in case she is needed. We are all at that time of our lives when if it isn’t grandchildren needing care it is our parents. The cycle of life makes all the trips more important.

I believe in doing them while I am able and relatively free. Time will come soon enough when such adventures will be curtailed.

This last holiday or more accurately group of holidays where so different from my usual freewheeling travels. They were wonderful and it gave me a current benchmark to measure against. I loved them and enjoyed the companionship, the organisation and the ease of travel. I missed the independence and free time of my own travels. I feel so empowered if I have to negotiate travel independently. It is not as efficient sometimes and has more stress probably, but I do feel energised by the challenge.

Staying in hotels had great advantages, not the least a private bath in the private bathrooms, room to spread out, towels and toiletries, and power points! What I missed was that many were not right in the heart of things, or there was little communication with other travellers. I find people interesting and love to hear their stories so I enjoy meeting new people and that is certainly made easier when you are in close quarters or sharing the same route so that you bump into the same people more often.

Of course I did meet new people who were part of my group and that was a delight and special in a different way. I mean meeting people outside my usual circles such as locals or other international travellers.

So I have enjoyed and gained so much from this holiday and will look forward to adding this style of travel to my repertoire depending on the destination in the future.

Dead Sea 25 th & 26 th May

It seemed strange not to have a timetable after weeks of being on the go. We didn’t even have to sit together to eat which left us feeling a little forlorn. We had become a family of sorts and it was a strange feeling to be loose!

Anne and I had made appointments for massages and were then at a loose end. I was trying to finish the blog after several days of bad internet. Time went quickly and we were back at the Beach for a swim or more accurately, a float. This day the water was mill pond calm which really added to the dreamy feeling. We were on our way back to the room when Julie called us. She and Jan and the other Kathy were at the poolside bar so we joined them. Our skin was smooth from the salt but our pockets were skinned by the prices at the poolside bar! Still it was delightful to sit around in the water talking.

Dinner was a varied and delicious buffet. We had got a bit sick of the buffet meals but here there were more choices. I was amused to see beef bacon at breakfast! Alcohol has been expensive ( though beer was not) and hard to get because it was Ramadan. Here we were not restricted to after 8.00 pm. And they had a great deal of $24 a glass of wine but refilled as much as you like! Mind you we hadn’t been drinking much so we didn’t want to over do it.

In such a large hotel we barely bumped in to each other so there was a sense of the group dismantling with everyone going their own ways. Some of the group are continuing on to Egypt and Sth. Africa, while the rest will split up in Dubai when Mary and Bill take their plane to Perth and the remaining group go on to Melbourne. We have been a very cohesive group so we are hoping to keep in touch.

Several of the group wanted Father Dean to bless their presents, something Anya did quite frequently whenever there was a priest and we were visiting a church! We had our last mass and he blessed all the gifts.

Everyone is glad of the rest after our constant early starts and packed days. Just mooching around had been reviving. People look so strange when covered in mud. There were all ethnicities on the beach when the mud was washed off and I had to laugh at a young guy who was covered in mud all over, except for his pink ears! I covered my ears and it took two days to get the mud out!

Our minds had turned for home and we were packing and printing tickets for the plane. I get a bit like the riding school horse ho when turned for home just wants to get there.

On our last morning our bags had to be out by 12 and we were on the bus by 2.30 heading for Amman airport. It was a fairly quick trip and uneventful through check in, and immigration. The men in immigration seemed bored witless and were not going to smile.

Our flight to Dubai was pleasant and then we had nearly 4 hours to kill. A group of us women were duty free shopping and all got our eyebrows done and a trial of a primer. We all looked pretty glamorous and of course we bought the deal and divided it!

When we boarded our flight Julie and Anne were keen to sit where there were more spaces, so they grabbed some unoccupied seats hoping to bag the four across. Unfortunately neither succeeded but did get extra spaces on one side. It was an easy, long flight back.

We arrived on time and were met with very cold temperatures. BRR. We were home!

We said our final farewells and disappeared into the night.

Jerash 24 th May

What an eventful morning. The good news was that Bill who had been hospitalised for Gall bladder issues was well enough to be released to continue his trip. We were on our way to collect him from the hospital when we discovered the roads were being closed and the bus had to take a circuitous route. When we asked why the road was closed the answer was because they can! It seemed to be just to make it difficult for Muslims to go to the Mosque because it is Friday.

The next drama was Julie thought she had left her passport at the hotel and due to the road closures had to walk back. Matthew took her and with great relief discovered it I was in her suitcase instead which was actually on the bus. We set off again only to have Mary feel sick and throw up. Anya came to the rescue quickly with a plastic bag. Then it was Julie’s turn to be sick. We pulled into the Oasis Hotel at Jericho to collect a swimsuit Anya had left behind when we stayed there, and Julie jumped off and rushed into the hotel.

We left Israel and entered the West Bank, where we went through a checkpoint before the border crossing and we were not allowed to take photos. We were going across the Allenby Bridge crossing. They were asking lots of questions about who we were. Australian was the only thing I understood. Once clear of that checkpoint we continued to the border. Then we were through and it was the immigration where we had to pay our exit tax of 182 shekels. It seemed pretty expensive to me. Our bags were checked through the scanners and we were then in Jordan. These crossings can be quick or very slow. On the way in Matthew had been questioned for about 30 minutes and some of the bags were checked twice but this time it was fairly uneventful.

We were very sorry to say farewell to our tour guide Khalil. He was exceptional. If anyone wants a guide to The Holy Land I would recommend him wholeheartedly. His knowledge and perspective was truly educational. On the other side we met Anton our previous guide in Jordan. He was also amazing. We gave our last precious shekels as tips. It had taken us days to get small change for tips and toilets and now we had it we were leaving! I changed my last 20 shekel note into 4 American dollars, the only American dollars I had had all trip!

I recommend taking American dollars for this trip but get them before you arrive because they are near impossible to get once in the countries. They are traded as alternative currency but you can’t get them from ATMs as a rule.

There is a heat wave and we are going to visit Jerash, which is north of Amman, where there are fantastic Roman ruins. They are supposed to be the best preserved ruins outside of Italy. Because it is so hot a few people have decided to stay on the bus or in the shops and visitor centre. We are getting a bit blasé about ruins but I never want to miss anything so I loaded up with water and sunscreen and joined the other intrepid explorers.

It was certainly worth it. The town has been around since the Bronze Age at least and the Greco-Roman era saw it flourish. The ruins contain Hadrian’s Arch, built to commemorate his visit to Jerash in the 2nd Century. We passed under the arch to enter the ruins and visited the Hippodrome where they run fake chariot races and gladiator sports in the summer. The building was remarkable because they were able to build tiered seats for audiences even though the land was flat. Under the seats were shops or stables.

Further along we walked a road with manholes into the drains below and bordered by Corinthian columns which led to an beautiful oval Forum also surrounded by columns. Along the way we saw the remains of a marketplace where there were fish ponds and a butcher. On the hill overlooking the street stood the Temple of Zeus and an auditorium which had perfect acoustics. They hold a summer festival here using the stage and the forum for performances.

It was blazing heat and we were all guzzling our water and seeking shade but we pushed on along the Cardo a street lined with columns and where the Nymphaeum- an elaborate fountain stood. This street also led to the Temple of Artemis but by now we were all flagging in the heat. My backpack was leaching the red dye into my shirt it was so hot. Mid 40’s! Jerash was part of the Decapolis,/ a league of Roman cities in what was then called Roman Syria.

It was with great relief we all returned to the bus for our trip to our final destination of the trip, the town of Salt, and the place of the Dead Sea. We passed through the outskirts of Amman and back into the countryside past farms of olive groves and the few Bedouins grazing goats and sheep.

On our arrival at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort we were all gobsmacked at our spectacular the place and the view was. The receptionist said it was 48 degrees. No wonder we were hot! At home we would stay holed up at the movies or at home with the air conditioner not waltzing around looking at ruins without shade!

We took our bags and promptly got lost trying to find our room. The complex had about 800 rooms and different wings and we went up and down lifts until we found the correct wing in which we were supposed to be. All outside! The air conditioning is confined to the rooms and the corridors were open to the heat. There were a few exasperated sighs from the little group trying to find their room.

Once settled and revived we went for our first swim in the Dead Sea. It is an amazing feeling to be able to float without effort, like a baby in amniotic fluid in the womb. Having prepared our skin, we wandered up the beach to the mud bowl where we applied lots to our body and let it dry a bit before returning to the water. It is supposed to have healing properties but the lady who gave Anne and I a massage the next day is a bit sceptical. What it does do though is leave your skin silky smooth.

The water is about 34% salt so if you get it in you eyes, as a few of us did, it is extremely painful! The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth, about 430 metres below sea level and has no outlets. The Jordan River is the largest contributor to it plus some small springs on the shoreline which create a type of quicksand. A part of the main roads around the lake collapsed a while ago and is now diverted due to the instability of the soil close to the edge. The Dead Sea is shrinking and there are moves to bring water from the Red Sea Gulf but that process is slow.

Mt Zion 23 rd May

We started this day’s tour at Bethany where the tomb of Lazarus can be found. This town has suffered significant loss of tourists since the Wall has gone up and there is much unemployment. The original entrance has been changed since a Mosque was built over part of the area. Instead we went down some steep stairs at the side of the tomb. A few people found it a bit claustrophobic as the entrance was very small. It was usual to have a little window above the tomb door so that the body could be checked in case they were not actually dead! The Jewish tradition was that the soul hovered for three days before passing into the next world and it was for this reason that Jesus did not come before four days to raise Lazarus from the dead.

Around the tomb where many sellers of souvenirs. They are so desperate to find ways of making money. Nothing they sell is very expensive and while they implore you to buy things it is hard to resist. They don’t pester or make a nuisance but you only have to look around to see how depressed the economy is.

fFrom here we went to Mt Zion which has many important sites. It was once enclosed in the city walls and has the Cenacle- The Upper Room where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. The disciples apparently also assembled there at other times following the resurrection and it was here that Jesus appeared to doubting Thomas and also where the Holy Spirit came upon the believers who were gathered there. Of course in the Byzantine era an enormous church had stood on the site and was later rebuilt by the Crusaders. It was then taken over by the Muslims during the Ottoman period and converted to a mosque. The stained glass windows have verses from the Koran. The room stands above an active synagogue and some extreme Jews have tried to block Christians from visiting here. This sculpture that stands in the room was presented to the Synagogue by Pope Paul VI and represents the three religions that spring from the Old Testament. The Olive branch represents Christians, the grapes represents Jews and the wheat represents the Muslim faith. Under this room is the tomb of King David which we visited very briefly so there are competing ownership issues.

The guide suggested that the tomb of King David was not actually there but elsewhere. We have found that there are often competing versions of where these events occurred or people are buried. When the tradition is supported by a variety of sources then there is usually agreement and reasonable confidence that the shrine or person is in the correct place.

From here we visited the Dormition Abbey, which marks the place where the Virgin Mary ascended. It is a relatively modern church built by the Benedictine Fathers in 1906. It is very bright and actually incorporates the remains of previous churches that stood on the summit. In the crypt there is a wood and ivory effigy of the Virgin Mary. It was built by the German Kaiser but he didn’t want his name on any plaques or to be honoured, though he did leave a hint in the shape of the bell tower which is like Bismarck’s helmet!

Our last Church of the day was the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu which is dedicated to Peter’s denials of Christ. Gallicantu refers to the crowing of the cock. The church was built again over the ruins of previous churches and a monastery. It is a modern church though it has underground rooms which were possibly used as a prison and guard house. It was believed that Jesus had been held here before his trial.The hole in the ceiling was the way people were put into the room below. I think it would be quite terrifying to be lowered into a black pit like this.

The history of Roman occupation and resistance is spread through out the Holy Land. Civilisation on civilisation through the ages has been a constant theme on this trip as well as the building and destruction and rebuilding of churches. No place considered Holy has been left ‘ unchurched’!

From the viewpoint behind The Church there was a grand panorama of Jerusalem. The weather was getting hotter all day so the panorama was somewhat bleached out. I felt really dehydrated.

we finished this day with a concert in St Georges Cathedral, this had been the home of our tour organiser. Her father had been the Bishop. We got to meet the current Bishop. It is an Anglican Church but they offer their Cathedral to the Magnificat Institute. The children who are taught musical instruments are from all faiths and the teachers are mainly Jewish or Christian. It struck me as an indication of the tension in this country over religion and ethnicity that this fact was announced to the the audience. I don’t think anyone back in Australia would have their faith announced at a concert!

It was very charming and the students played well. Some were very good. It occurred to me that in many of the grand churches I hadn’t seen any organs. Two organists played as part of the concert. The organ of the Cathedral had a rich tone. This was our last day in Jerusalem.

What we have seen here and the way the Palestinians are treated has raised many questions for all of us. Israel seems determined to possess all of the land but it doesn’t want Palestinians. It is hard to see how they can resolve the need for a Palestinian state and the Israeli push for more land all the time. This is a very complex environment politically, historically and economically. It makes your head spin and your heart sad.

Mount of Olives 22nd May

The Mount of Olives, so named because it had olive trees covering the hill east of the old City of Jerusalem, was one of the most important places in the life of Jesus. It was from here he prophesied the destruction of the Temple, he prayed in the Gethsemane gardens after the Last Supper, which are at the foot of the mountain; he was arrested here and he ascended to heaven from the summit.

The Mount overlooks the city of Jerusalem, the Kidron Valley between and is a buffer between the desert and the city. It was also featured in the Old Testament and is the site of the oldest and largest Jewish cemetery. It affords a spectacular view of all Jerusalem.

One of the churches we visited (this was another Church crawl!) was the Church of the Pater Noster, run by Carmelite nuns. It was here in a Grotto that Jesus taught the Disciples. There has been a church here since the 4 th Century. In the church and courtyard are beautiful ceramics in many languages displaying the Lord’s Prayer.

Anya and Sveta were thrilled to see it in Croatian. I saw it in many African languages, even Red Indian ( Cree and Sioux) as well as Gaelic and various French dialects. This was a lovely place and we were able to have a special prayer inside the Grotto.

Our next church was the Dominus Flevit ( The Lord Wept), another beautiful small chapel designed by Barluzzi. It is in the shape of a tear because it was here that Jesus wept over Jerusalem. The altar faces Jerusalem and has a beautiful half circle window that frames the view. This is another place where ancient churches were found and built over. A constant theme throughout the tour is the history of churches being built, demolished and rebuilt over and over.

It was a very hot day and we were glad to take shelter in any shade and also to have a Mass in this church. All around were other pilgrims, some of whom were having out door services and singing beautiful hymns. This really added to the whole atmosphere of the area.

Further down the hill we came to the gardens of Gethsename where there were ancient Olive trees with trunks several feet around. It was here that Jesus spent his last hours in solitude. Besides the gardens ( The Sanctuary of the Agony of Jesus Christ) was the Basilca of Gethsename or the Basilica of Agony. Inside the windows were purple to represent the sombre atmosphere of the agony that Jesus felt when he prayed here. On the facade is a beautiful mosaic. Within the church at the centre of the apse is the Rock of Agony where Jesus knelt. The rock is surrounded by wrought iron work that was provided by Australia. Many countries contributed to the building which is why it as the alternative name, Church of All Nations. It is another Church designed by Barluzzi and is the third Basilica on the site. The first was built in AD 380

From here we met the bus and went to the Israeli Museum to see the Book of the Shrine – a display of the Dead Sea scrolls. It was in a very interesting building that had been modelled like the jars in which they were found. The white tiled roof was like a fountain with water sprayed over it. We would all have liked to dangle our feet in. Opposite was a black rectangular wall. The colours of the structures represented good and evil. The entrance to the actual museum was like entering a space capsule or cave and it was deliciously cool. We all found this extremely interesting and well displayed.

This was a packed day because we then went off to the Church of the Visitation. On the way we had a glimpse of modern Israel. It is quite a contrast and like stepping in and out of the ages on this trip.

when we arrived at the Church of the visitation we faced a steep climb up the hill. In the garden there was the Prayer of the Magnificat in different languages along the wall. This church honours the visit of Mary to Elizabeth when they were both pregnant. While we were there a group of nuns came out and started to sing.

After this marathon day we returned to the hotel very hot and tired. There is so much to take in and digest. So much tradition and history. Our guide is very informative and very knowledgeable about the Holy Land but it is hard to remember everything!