Deni Down Under

Welcome to Australia Denisse!

Whoooooooosh! That’s how fast the last six months have gone!  It feels like only yesterday that we were in Ecuador and Argentina, but so much has happened since then. I have hardly had a second to breathe (I am writing this in mid-May 2012). 

We had been discussing Alex’s niece, Denisse, coming to Australia for the best part of the first half of 2011 but, due to a number of reasons, it was put on hold. When Alex and I went to Ecuador in August of last year, we started to try and ‘firm things up’, but if any of you know anything about Ecuadorian bureaucracy, it’s a nightmare. Little issues become major obstacles, and things that would normally take no more than  20 minutes in Australia take days in Ecuador!  Alex and I are pretty persistent folk though, so by the time we left, in the latter part of September, ‘things’ were mostly ready to go.  

Another family shot … initiation by pasta!

We were waiting on the Australian Embassy in Chile (no, there isn’t one in Ecuador!), to give Denisse the A-OK. The documentation we had to provide was copious, and calling a spade a spade, many people would have found it too hard to decipher and most possibly would have got nowhere.

We had placed Denisse on ‘red alert’ and told her that she had to be ‘ready to go’ as soon as we received word from the Australian Embassy in Chile that her visa had been approved; by this stage it was mid October. We could not purchase her flight to Australia until she was officially given her Australian visa. When word came through, Alex called his sister, Karen, and told her that the visa had been approved and that he’s be booking Denisse’s ticket immediately. The next week was a blur for all, with Alex working hard to get a decent deal to Australia in  a short amount of time. Denisse would be coming in a little over a week!

Denisse on one of our weekend jaunts around Victoria.

It was full on at the Zanetti/ Benavides household as we all chipped in to get our second bedroom, well, looking like a second bedroom! We suddenly found a home for the several boxes which had been lying around forever, the sofa suddenly became a bed and we purchased some nice sheets and covers, we put some photos of Denisse’s family on the walls so she’d feel at home, and Dad and my brother Fulvio helped with constructing (aka putting together) a few shelves from Ikea.  It looked like a room out of one of those home renovation shows.

Denisse and Alex at Red Rock Reserve, near Colac.

October 27 … the time had come! After years of us to-ing and fro-ing to Ecuador, we would have a family member coming out to us.  We were so excited! Dad came along with Alex and I to the airport to pick Denisse up; we had already nominated him as Denisse’s ‘Nonno’ (Grandpa) in Australia. It was quite an emotional reunion, with lots of hugging and kisses. Denisse has always held a very special place in my heart as I lived with her, her brother Axel and her mum (Alex’s sister, Karen) when I met Alex in Ecuador in 1999. The cute little six and a half year old that could recite the capital cities of every country in the world, was ‘suddenly’ an 18 year old young lady hanging out with her aunty and uncle in Australia. Cool!

What followed was an absolutely full on next six months as we aimed to do and show Denisse as much as we could; we covered lots of Victoria, Sydney, and even Thailand. Night number 1 was dinner at Dad’s with her Aussie Auntie Kazz (my sister-in-law), Uncle Fuzz (by brother) and cousin James. They went on to play an important part of Denisse’s life during her six months here.

We had organsied for Denisse to study English at Lyceum Language Centre in the CBD. She would only have a few days of respite before being ready to go, so to speak. She would study English Monday to Friday between 9am and 1pm for the next six months. Having gone to a bilingual primary school all of her life her English was quite good, but there’s nothing quite like learning in the country of origin, and her improvement in six months was remarkable, with her vocab having expanded substantially.

Chillin’ out with Moz & Marie in Mildura.

Only a couple of days after her arrival, we drove down to Mildura to visit our cousins Moz and Marie. We had a great time showing her around, and she got to meet our friends and family down there, including Claire, Bec and the Easterbrooks. We ate, relaxed and visited the sand dunes, amongst other things.

Back in Melbourne, and not a week in the country, she was at Lyceum studying English. How dramatically Denisse’s life had changed in the matter of only a week. Over the next six months, she would find her own little groove, making lots of new friends and hanging out with them; Friday night, we would soon find out, was her night!

We had a welcome to Australia party with the usual suspects, and during her time here, she got to meet and know a lot of our family and friends too. My 90 year old ‘Zia’ (aunty) Rina loved her! We also introduced her to a couple of our favourite eating haunts including the Moroccan Soup Bar and the Vegie Bar, which are both Melbourne institutions.

At Briiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-ton! (Brighton)

We spent many weekends away camping or showing her various places and things. We also visited places such as Mt Macedon and the Organ Pipes National Park (near Melbourne) as well as had a fun on Australia Day in January, in Gisborne with Kirrily, Luis and little Anamaya. We visited Sorrento and the Mornington Peninsula, and showed her some of our beautiful beaches.  We actually did so much that it became a whir of activity. In early December Denisse went to see one of her favourite bands, the Foo Fighters, in Aami Park. It was a brilliant concert, so the story goes!

Pommy Christmas at Kazz and Fuzz’s!

We spent Christmas at my brother and sister-in-law’s house with the family, including Kazz’s mum and dad and nephew. Apart from the fact that it hailed golf balls (literally!), we had a fun and relaxing afternoon.  It was our first Christmas at home in years, as Alex and I are usually travelling …somewhere … anywhere! I must say, it was really nice to hang out with the family.  We also had an Italian Christmas at my Aunty Rina’s house on Christmas Eve … she may be getting older, but she hasn’t lost her touch when it comes to cooking.

With cousins Glenn, Michelle, Oskar & Aunty Lori.

Just after Christmas, Alex and I took Denisse on a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. We had a great couple of days, as we got to show Denisse one of Australia’s most spectacular coastlines (and other places in general).  We were so lucky as the weather was perfect; sunny, not windy and no rain, which is not that common along that stretch of road.  No bookings, no reservations, just our usual ‘she’ll be right’ attitude and off we went. December 27 … Dad in his car, and the three of us in ours, we made our way to Torquay. Our friends Stef and Sarah were holidaying there and my cousin Glenn also has a holiday house there. Our first stop was morning tea with Stef, Sarah and little Gianluca, and then we went to Glenn’s. Dad’s sister Lorrie was also down, so we thought we’d have a day with the family. The weather did not disappoint us and we had a terrific time in Glenn’s back yard with his family, munching on food and sipping on drinks.  Denisse was slowly getting to know our family and many friends – thanks to all of you who made her feel so welcome! Dad drove home later that day but we slept at the beach house.

Our national icon.

The next morning, we continued along the coast, showing Denisse the many sights along the way. Next stop was Wye River, where our friend Paul and his family were holidaying for a couple of weeks. They were staying in a quaint little place high up on the hillside. We pitched our tent in their backyard; trying to find  a flat spot was a challenge, but we accomplished it! We all bought some meat and whipped up a big BBQ and salad meal and fun was had by all.

The Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell.

The next morning we packed the tent and took off once again.  I must admit that I HATE packing up tents.  C’mon, I can’t be the only one!  The next couple of days we spent cruising the area around Port Campbell and the Twelve Apostles, and settled into the lovely Apostles Camping Park in Princetown where we spent a couple of nights. From this point we were able to look around the Twelve Apostles area with tranquility, ease and from  a number of angles.  We did a few short walks as well as view the Apostles both during the day as well as sunset … equally spectacular!

Camping … Aussie style.

December 31 … do we stay on the coast or come back for New Year’s? We ended up making our way back home and having dinner with Dad, before moseying on down to the CBD for New Year’s Eve. The CBD was chockers!  We had never actually been there for New Year’s! We hung around with Denisse and her friends for a little bit, saw the fireworks, welcomed 2012 and made our way back home … leaving Denisse behind to continue the revelling! Rewind 12 years … it was the millennium countdown in Ecuador, where I was living at the time. Seriously, where have the years gone? It seems like only yesterday.  Oh that comment … that’s what ‘old’ people say …that makes me feel … old!

In January we went to the Portarlington Mussel Festival, in (as the name suggests) Portarlington.  It was a great weekend.  Dad came down for the day, but we stayed in Indented Heads, as our friends Betty and Sam and their kids were renting a place there for the holidays. Lots of eating and relaxing with a few beach walks thrown in.  Always good to hang out with good friends. Oh, and Betty brought down THE coffee machine.  Hear that … THE coffee machine.  Nothin’ like a brilliant coffee in the comforts of your own home. Your coffee making skills were ‘orright’ Sam! January was a pretty full on month in general, and Denisse even got to go to the Australian Open Tennis with Kazz and James.

On one of our many beautiful beaches, near Great Ocean Road.

The next few months were filled with catch ups with friends, coffees in different places, dancing a few times and weekend getaways.  We were even doing things during the week … the weekends were not enough! So many things to do, so little time! We wanted to show Denisse as much as we possibly could. I think we gave it a pretty good crack.

The three muskateers.

The year seemed to be going at the speed of sound, and we could see that the six months were going to finish almost as quickly as they’d started. We decided that we’d go away on a family holiday … to Thailand.  Yes, 
I love it and so does Alex, and despite the fact that we have been there a countless number of times, we still keep going back; it’s still got the X factor!  It has a bit of everything; shopping, nightlife, beaches and temples.  And thus began Denisse’s initiation into the world of backpacking.  We bought her a backpack (only fractionally smaller than her!), got her to do some research (as usual, it’s travel book first, decide where to visit later) and anxiously waited for the time to come. We chose the two weeks around Easter, as this was the easiest time for both Alex and I to take some time off. We were as keen as mustard. There were still a few weeks to go, but it would be time to go in no time at all.

Alex and Roberto in Buenos Aires last year.

Dedication: In my last blog, my dedication was to several of my Argentine friends, including Charo’s father Roberto (Tito). My dedication is again to Roberto, who passed away in March this year.  I am so glad that I got to see you one last time Tito. I am so glad that we were able to laugh, eat, drink and talk about old times together.  Your smiling face is imprinted in my mind, and your love and passion imprinted in my heart.

Dedicacion: En mi ultimo blog, mi dedicacion fue para algunos de mis amigos argentinos, incluyendo el papa de Charo Roberto (Tito). Mi dedicacion otra vez es para Tito que fallecio en marzo de este ano. Estoy tan feliz que te pude ver para la ultima vez Tito. Estoy tan feliz que pudimos reir, comer, tomar y hablar de tiempos pasados juntos. Tu cara sonriente esta impresa en mi mente, y tu amor y pasion en mi corazon.

Books read:

“Surround yourself by people who always give you a reason to smile”.

Next: The three musketeers backpack around Thailand.

The Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell.

At the Organ Pipes National Park.

L to R: Deni, Ombi, Karina, Betty, Dion, Sam & Thomas.

Denisse at Sorrento back beach.

Doobie (Dad) on Christmas Day.
Along the Great Ocean Road.

The infamous Mitsubishi ‘Pajero’!
Deni at the Aussie Open.

Denisse enjoying a ‘Moz pasta’ in Mildura.
Mildura Sunset.
Perry Sandhills, near Mildura.
On the banks of the Murray River, Mildura.
Moz pancakes for brekkie.
Mineral Springs at Kyneton.
Takin’ the mickey …in David Jones, Spring Carnival.
Deni and ‘the’ Foo Fighters ticket.
Deni at the Perry Sand dunes.
With Kylie, Marley and baby Eva at the sand dunes.
Eating traditional tucker, fish’n’chips, near Brighton.

Food is the spice of life …with Marie in Mildura.

Italian Christmas at Aunty Rina’s.
A Chocoto New Year!
With Bel & Eli at the Johnston St Latin Fiesta, Fitzroy.
In the Dandenong Ranges.

Christmas, with Aunty Iride and cousin Sonya.

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One Life! Live It!
Alex & Ombi

Alex & Ombi

Ombretta (Ombi) Zanetti is a co-founder of She has been travelling the world since 1989 and since 1999 with her partner, Alex, who hails from Ecuador. They both like to venture to the lesser known places. Ombi shares her passion for different cultures through her travel stories and Alex through his lens. Come take a detour or two with them!

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