Maralinga - Start Planning Now

Submitted: Monday, Sep 10, 2012 at 20:45
ThreadID: 97947 Views:4761 Replies:9 FollowUps:23
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Hi All

Recently we visited Maralinga in a very small group, including another EO Member Leigh from Victoria.

Since March of this year after Leigh's first visit, I have had many a phone call with Robin about our intented visit in August.

Once again ExplorOz viewers will have privileged information that you will not read anywhere else on any website or written media. I am in the process of writing 3 New Trek Notes on Maralinga, 2 for the recommended routes from either Western Australia, or in most cases, coming in from the east and via Ceduna, as well as a Trek notes on the actual Range Tour which is an absolute "must do" as well as a Blog on our recent visit.

Maralinga would not be the same without is current Manager and Caretaker, Robin Matthews, who is a wealth of knowledge on matters from its Aboriginal origins, through to the testing of its nuclear bombs and through to its clean up and has been associated with Maralinga and the local region for over 40 years.

In the coming weeks, readers on this forum will be given breaking news about the new permit system and access to Maralinga.

So if you are like me and have wanted to visit this most fascinating location and experience the best host and guide, start planning your trip and make it a reality, and not just a dream.







What I can tell you is that I have visited the Emu Totem sites twice before, and yes you get some sense of what happened at Emu, but the 2 large cement obelisks are just that, large cement block with information about the date that the test took place. Not so for Maralinga, as Robin explains how each test took place and how the area was cleaned up and made safe.



I will keep you all posted.



Cheers



Stephen

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Reply By: setsujoku - Monday, Sep 10, 2012 at 21:26

Monday, Sep 10, 2012 at 21:26
Look forward to seeing more information about your trip, and the place in general. It sounds like a place that you have to visit to get the real experience and pictures don't give you the full story.

Also great to see that you found the geocache whilst you were out there too!
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Sep 10, 2012 at 21:52

Monday, Sep 10, 2012 at 21:52
Hi Setsujoku

It was a fantastic trip, to the point that it would be one of my best outback trips that we have undertaken.

As for Robin, he is unreal and what he does not know on the area is not worth knowing at all. It is Robin alone that makes this visit what it was and he is the biggest asset that Maralinga has.

My advise for anyone heading that way is to plan your stay as long as possible, We were there for 3 nights and it was too short, there is just so much to see and learn about.



Cheers


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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Sep 10, 2012 at 23:47

Monday, Sep 10, 2012 at 23:47
Hi Stephen,

I really must get to Maralinga again. The last, and only, time I was briefly there was in 1957 en route from Woomera and thence to Adelaide in a Dakota aircraft. It would be good to see it again. And no, I was not there during a test!

I have been unable to gain a permit to travel the centreline from Woomera via Range 'E'. It seems that there are almost continual Defence activities in progress.

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Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:12

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:12
Hi Allan

You would greatly enjoy a visit to Maralinga and the airstrip is still in as good a condition now, as when you landed in 1957.

There is such a lot of history associated with the area and Robin makes the most perfect guide. As for the Centre line, after leaving Maralinga, we took the long way round back to the Anne Beadell Highway and on my permit, we were able to go here:





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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 09:17

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 09:17
Stepen, I have been to the 300 mile point, in company with Mick and Connie actually, but I have not seen that "June 1951" plaque. Judging by the fastening screws it looks original and does not appear to have been rehabilitated by Connie with a facsimile plaque and tamper-proof fastenings. Was the photo taken long ago and where is it located?

Note also that the title was "L.R.W.E." which was the original "Long Range Weapons Establishment" before a later change to "Weapons Research Establishment". (In truth, some did not go "Long", either by intent or circumstance)

I have more recently driven part of the Centre Line, west of the Stuart Highway but the section that I really wanted to revisit is from Range E, near Koolymilka out through Mt Eba station to Mirikata which was my daily work area. Alas, no go! I wanted to relive those heady days of my youth and show Roz where I developed my affection for The Bush and its tracks. The truth is that I may get hopelessly lost as, to my knowledge, no maps are published of those Range tracks. At the time I was denied any map and simply had to learn from verbal direction and experience. I'm not confident that today either my memory or the the tracks are still the same!

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Allan

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Reply By: Lyn W3 - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 06:26

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 06:26
There was an interesting segment on Landline last Sunday regarding the Woomera Range and the pastoralists who have leases within the designated area.

Seems as though some of the residents are required to leave the area now for the duration of some testing, also showed some of the bomb shelters which were built on the stations and portions of rockets which have been collected.

Regards
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Follow Up By: Lyn W3 - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 06:31

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 06:31
Link to Landline episode

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:22

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:22
Hi Lyn

I did not see the Landline segment, but I will watch it and see what it had to say.

What I tell you here is that there are still many people out there that think that the 3000 square Mile area of Maralinga is still under Commonwealth Rule....Wrong.


On the 18th December 2009, Section 400 (The Maralinga Testing area ) was officially handed back to the Maralinga Tjarutja people who now manage and run the area.

As for testing in the Woomera area, it has always had various testing over the years and even when I visited three Degree Confluences on a number of Station, I have always had to get permission from the Dept of Defence in Woomera as well as the Station owners. I was told that if they were testing, I would not be able to visit those location, purely on a safety issue.

Cheers

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:24

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:24
Thanks Lyn, Landline is a great program but I had missed that episode. Watching it now thanks to you, brought back memories.

Referring back to Stephen's original post, bear in mind that Woomera and Maralinga are quite separate entities with very different activities (thank goodness), and they are now separately administered. One for active Defence activity and the other for tourism.

The more recent Woomera requirement for pastoralists to vacate during some tests is interesting. I am unsure if it is because of increased risk or increased attention to safety. As was said in the Landline episode, it was well known during my time that the station people used the shelters as a platform to observe missile tests. And for our part, we simply took care not to hold them in hand whilst lighting the "blue touch paper". LOL Ahh, those were the days!

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Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 07:14

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 07:14
Before anyone jumps on me I have never really looked at the area as anything other than a closed rocket test area with a bundle of properties on it, old rocket test buildings and a couple of chunks of concrete. I saw the Landline article and apart from the mine it did not change my mind.

What is there to see or do apart from what was shown in the TV show?

Phil
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:50

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:50
Hi Phil

Unfortunately I have not seen the Landline story, but what you have stated is very far from the truth, as like I have said above, Maralinga is not part of the Woomera Range.

You had a recent post about your first visit to the Simpson Desert which you greatly enjoyed, and a top place it is.

The area leading to and around Maralinga is very unique, starting off with the Nullarbor Regional reserve and then as you enter the Ooldea Range you then enter Australia's Largest Desert System, the Great Victoria Desert.

If you are into Fauna and Flora, this area will kill the Simpson in every way, as well as seeing early European evidence of trying to tame this arid environment and turn it into rich Pastoral Land in the late 1870's









I could go on and on, but we loved the place and will be going back again next year, as there was a lots that we did not get the time to see.

Also the very high quality roads that lead in from Ceduna mean that any type of vehicle will be possible to visit Maralinga, with less than 80 kilometres of good quality dirt roads to travel on.



Cheers


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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 09:49

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 09:49
Hi Phil, Ready yourself to be "jumped on".

Stephen's original post was about Maralinga, the site of nuclear weapon trials. Lyn's reply was in reference to the Landline program of theWoomera Range, which whilst very interesting, is not directly associated and they are some 500km apart.

No need to concern yourself with "What is there to see or do" in the Woomera area as you will not gain access to the Range launch and near downrange area. The residential village of Woomera does contain a Missile Park and museums of past days and can be very interesting to the traveller.

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Follow Up By: Lyn W3 - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 09:50

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 09:50
Phil,

Sorry that you found it uninteresting,

I found this piece of Australian history very interesting, I can just imagine the conditions that the infrastructure was built under back in the 1950's.

Lyn
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 10:08

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 10:08
Steve, Allan thanks for the encouragement. That is exactly what I was after. I never really looked. Not too happy personally about the bitumen as we prefer the quiet, uncrowded and isolated areas. But that's the way it is.

Lyn You missunderstood my post. I want to find out what's there and see if it suits us.

I need to look more. But we want to drive the length of the Canning next. Solo of course!

Thanks guys

Phil
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Reply By: Jack - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:46

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 08:46
I strongly suggest anyone contemplating a trip to Maralinga read the following book;
http://shop.abc.net.au/products/maralinga-australias-nuclear-waste-cover-up

After reading this book, I chose not to go near Maralinga on my recent Anne Beabell trip as we had our 9 year son with us.

It was interesting to read that bits of scrap metal from the detonation sites were still contaminated with plutonium, which has a 24,000 year half life before it breaksdown and is know to cause cancer!

It's best to know the facts and potential risks involved before you go.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 09:04

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 09:04
Hi Jack

You hit the nail right on the head when you stated "It's best to know the facts and potential risks involved before you go"

You have not done your homework and what you have given is very false and miss leading information. Yes I have and read the book and all the places where Robin takes his guests are 100% safe for the public.

It is a pity that these myths deter many people from such a fantastic place.

If there are areas that are unsafe, as like I have said the Maralinga area is over 3000 sq kilometres in size, I can assure you that you will be no where near them, as the moment that anyone leaves the village, it is uner the strict supervision of Robin and no one can just wander off and do what they like.

Make the effort to see the area yourself in person before posting false statements.



Cheers



Stephen
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Follow Up By: muffin man - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 11:57

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 11:57
A quick google will show loads of stories and reports of the situation at Maralinga today + roads and touristy info on getting there and what to do and see.
I think the main point is what you can't see is where the problem lies.
Read them and the above book and make up your own mind !
Muffin Man
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 12:25

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 12:25
The problem is with this issue is the usual. An individual, Alan Parkinson, as a leading identity engaged on the Maralinga cleanup had personal ideals and standards which were at odds with Australian Government administration providing the funding for the cleanup. The Government on the other hand endeavoured to achieve and finalised the project within the approved budget and were, as governments are, not amenable to having a thorn in their side. Parkinson was understandably dismayed eventually displaced. Not surprisingly he wrote the book referred to above presenting an "exposure" of the Government's shortcomings, presenting a case which purports ti vilify him. Also not surprisingly, the Government or others possibly supporting its case, have not responded to Parkinson's claims.

So we now have the situation where we have a aggrieved individual with a vested interest versus an unresponsive and defensive authority and with limited opportunity for a concerned or interested individual to determine the rights or wrongs of the situation. All one can do is make up one's own mind and action, but it is hardly appropriate to criticise another's point of view as inappropriate. It can be appropriate however to point out that there is an alternative group of evidence and viewpoint.

For my part, considering the limitation of access and the briefness of visit, I would not be concerned about my personal safety due to a visit.

Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - Leigh (Vic) - Thursday, Sep 13, 2012 at 22:53

Thursday, Sep 13, 2012 at 22:53
I found this recording of an interview with Alan Parkinson to be most interesting and informative. Thought I'd share it..hope it works??

Interview with Alan Parkinson

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Friday, Sep 14, 2012 at 08:42

Friday, Sep 14, 2012 at 08:42
Hi Leigh

Thanks for that great link, it works a treat and cements the words that I have said.

Cheers


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Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 10:14

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 10:14
Hi Stephen,
Thanks for the heads up mate. Will be looking forward to the breaking news on Maralinga.

Cheers, Bruce.
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restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 14:13

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 14:13
Hi Bruce

Thanks for that and I intend to give Robin all the support that he needs through this great site.

I think that I am safe to say that anyone that has been privileged in the past to visit Maralinga and had anything to do with Robin would back my very worlds.

If you get the chance it well worth the time to get there, but make sure you stay longer than we did, there is just so much to see.

I will keep everyone posted.


Cheers


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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 17:06

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 17:06
Already pencilled in for next year Stephen.

Looking forward to it.

Cheers, Bruce.
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Reply By: Jack - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 10:55

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 10:55
No false statements on my part Stephen - clearly you have not read the book written by an expert in this field who worked on the clean up.

Like you, I am also entitled to provide help full information to fellow travellers, who can make up their own mind after assessing the facts. I merely brought people's attention to the existence of the book and I don't believe you have the credentials to discredit it.

I don't believe you are in a position to guarantee anybodies long term health by visiting Maralinga. It might be safe, but there could still be a risk that people need to be aware of.

You appear to be very defensive if somebody does not share your own personal view, this site is for everyone and this bullying behaviour is not needed.

Safe Travel
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Follow Up By: muffin man - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 11:30

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 11:30
Ha Ha,
Good one Jack.
MM
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 14:33

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 14:33
Hi Jack,

Yes I do have the book by Alan Parkinson - Maralinga, Australia's Nuclear Waste Cover-up.

I also agree that I am not in a position to guarantee anybodies long term health, but the facts are that were the Range Tour goes, all traces from the past have been removed and cleaned up. I was only speaking with Robin early this morning before your post, and the same question was raised.

Government officials do go out and do regular check out on the range and Robin was telling me that one of the Scientists has stated that it is 100% safe where the general public go.

Also another point is that where you actually stay in the village, it is around 30 kilometres south from where the actual test were carried out all those years ago.

As Robin also quoted "Do you think I would touch or go into an area that was not safe"

He lives there and he wants to have a long life and would not put himself at risk, after all he is the one that lives there all the time.

I do get very defensive when I hear a statement like what you have said, it is not bullying behaviour, but plain facts that I have been out on the range and seen what is there, have you???

Each to their own, and if it was not safe, it would not have the backing for Tourism from the Commonwealth Government.

It is not meant to be a muck raking post, but rather a post to let people know that there have been many untruths and myths about the area and they are not true.

I hope that this post is read by someone in power in Canberra, and if they feel what I have said is wrong and not correct, I would like them to please clarify what I have said that is misleading.


Cheers


Stephen
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Follow Up By: Jack - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 15:37

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 15:37
Stephen - you seem to rely very heavily on what one person has to say (no disrespect intended to Robin). But the facts ARE, unless you are driving around with a geiger counter on the front of your vehicle, then you can't actually be sure. If you ingest a tiny spec of plutonium picked up from your boots or tyres (even once your home) you can develop cancer - FACT.

You seem to want to make every response a personnel attack if other don't share your view. Unlike you, I don't use this forum as self promotion and don't disrespect people by talking down to them. Comments similar to "have you be there, No - well I have" implying that other people know nothing and have nothing to offer is simply arrogant, naive and immature.

But I must say, I really liked your previous threads where you stated “I am the first person to stand at this location” whilst holding your GPS at a confluence in the Simpson – a bit rich don’t you think?

You need to understand that there lots of other people who travel into remote areas and do hard core stuff, they just choose not to big note themselves on a forum site.

You seems to thrive on a few similar liked minded users on this site to massage your ego.

I believe in life, everybody has something to offer, so I don’t usually criticise other people’s view (unless I am provoked).

P.S. Suggest you start using a spill chucker before you hit the “submit” button in future.

All the best
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Friday, Sep 14, 2012 at 09:16

Friday, Sep 14, 2012 at 09:16
Jack

I do not know what I have done to offend you, the way that you are having a personal dig at me and other like minded members here on the forum. As for big noting oneself here on the forum, that if false as well. As members, we share our personal experiences through Blogs and Forum details, which in return may give other travellers to those areas what they can expect to see and do for themselves when visiting those areas.

I have always prided myself for giving reliable and accurate information for the very reason that people like you can use what is given as know that it is true.

I still stand by what I have said and I now suggest that you have a listen to the link that fellow EO Member Leigh has supplied, and hear what Alan has to say, as this shows that what I stated is correct.

Like Alan states himself, yes there are still 100 Sq kilometres that are contaminated within the 3200 sq kilometres area of Maralinga, but well way from where Robin takes you.

As for the Simpson Confluence, that was over 6 years ago and it is well out of the way of any normal Simpson trip, including a Madigan Line Crossing and to be fair, I did say first White person, as I know that the area was used for thousands of years by Aboriginal people. That part of the Simpson was not even visited in the 60's when they were looking for oil, so if I am not the first white person to stand on that exact spot, who was. I did hear from one member at that time who said that he came very close to the area, when he was out in the Simpson doing SAS Training.

The important thing these days with this site and any site on the internet, what is said is and will be read by people all round the world, and giving the wrong information will backfire in some form or the other.



Stephen


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Reply By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 13:20

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 13:20
Keep up the good work Stephen.

Side issue - when we go somewhere for a long drive we try and make sure there is some 4wding to be had as well.

I don't know the area and I presume that Maralinga is not for driving but do you know if there is anywhere where you could spend a day or 2 exploring 4wd driving and camping with a couple of hundred kms of there ?

E.G. We recently did the tourist walk up the big rock but only because of a pre-nuptial agreement to get there via Boggy hole (which incidently was much better than Ayers rock).
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 14:42

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 14:42
Hi Robin

I was a great trip and we will be doing it again, it was just that great.

If you are lucky enough to do one of the side tour, which we were very privileged to do, four wheel drive is a must, with low tyre pressures and pin striping country to add.

Before the trip I used for the very first time Auto Skin-or the like and this side trip gave it a very real test, to the point that it was peeling off of my mirrors and the sides of all vehicles were very scratched, well except mine. The side trip was into the site of the actual Ooldea Soak and with out Robin, it would have been impossible to find.

There is some great country out there and Robin will point you in the right direction on what you require.



Cheers


Stephen

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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 13:54

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 13:54
Stephen,

Thanks for sharing, not only your passion for the deserts, but some excellent photos as well. Looks like another one for the bucket list!!!

As you were only there for 3 days, don't think it's likely that you'll start to "glow in the dark" anytime soon,

While I respect everyone's views on the safety factor or not at these sites, I feel the need to pass on a bit of humour.

In late '70's, a mob was doing exploratory drilling along the Hamilton River, south of where Cannington Mine is now. We were travelling home, past one of the drill sites, and stopped to talk to our neighbour, who happened to be at the site. He was to become a dad again, somewhat unexpectedly.

Conversation went like this:
Me: "They find uranium in this hole?"
Him: "Yeah"
Me: " bleep , it might make us sterile!!!"
Him:"Yeah, wish it had."

He has since gone to a better place, and the baby was welcomed into life, with the love they all deserve.

Just a snippet from one of my lives,
Bob.

Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 14:47

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 at 14:47
Hi Bob

Definitely make this high on your bucket list, it was such a very rewarding and educational trip.

Yes we all came back with a glowing experience.....LOL

When Robin was passing around a few items, I did take them but Fiona my wife would not, she was concerned. Robin then went on to say, that it was safe, or else he would not be handling it, and that put her at ease.


Thanks for the reply.



Cheers


Stephen
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