Our good friend Karin celebrated her 50th birthday with a fantastic gathering of family and friends in a beautiful part of Victoria: The Grampians National Park.

On our way to Tasmania (Xmas 2009) we visited Karin and Wei at their house in Melbourne. The painting in the background is one of Wei's masterpieces (if medicine fails he can always sell paintings)

We met Karin in a rather unexpected way. After spending almost one year in my city of birth Silva Porto, Angola (now Kuito) Karin decided to write a book describing hers and the husband Wei’s experiences in Angola. Wei, a doctor, volunteered his time working with Medecin sans Frontiers, to help people from Kuito. They wrote a book called “No One Can Stop The Rain” (available from Amazon.com) describing a thoroughly remarkable undertaking of two extraordinary persons.

When researching for the book, this website ( Silva Porto ) came up and Karin saw images of the city before it was destroyed, found out that I was born in Kuito and was living in Nowra, the place where she and her family lived and had lived in China where Wei comes from. Obviously she was surprised with so many coincidences and she contacted us. That was the beginning of a friendship that culminated with our presence in these celebrations.

Karin gathered almost thirty family and friends in Dunkeld and the objective, in her own words was:

"I want nothing more for my birthday than to share time with special friends and family: a moment in life that makes for great memories"

We all had the opportunity during the celebration dinner to talk about our relationship with Karin and introduce ourselves. In listening to each individual stories it was evident that Karin and Wei were able to build a network of friends all special people in their own ways and that on its own shows how remarkable they are. We feel honoured to be one of the friends and we spent five terrific days in the Great Western region of Victoria. In the next pages we would like to share with you some of the great moments we spent together.

The Pilbara

Karin and Wei in our house during a brief visit to Brisbane

The Pilbara

During the birthday celebrations in Dunkeld

Karim and Wei's house

Karin and Wei in our house during a brief visit to Brisbane

We travelled from Brisbane to Melbourne on Friday the 9th, got a car from the airport and drove west to meet the gang at Ararat. Ararat is a city in south-west Victoria, Australia, about 205 kilometres west of Melbourne, on the eastern slopes of mount Ararat. Its population according to the 2006 census was 8,215. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Vines Café in Ararat and the majority decided to have a look around before heading to Dunkeld.

The photos of the first 3 rows are from the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre.

The first visit was to the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre which commemorates the history of the Chinese community in Ararat. In 1857, a party of some 700 Chinese miners en route to the Central Victorian gold fields struck gold at the Canton Lead which marked the beginning of great growth in Ararat. Over 3 tonnes of gold were reported to be extracted from the Canton Lead. The Chinese community was substantial in Ararat, having reached 9000 at its peak.

The last 2 rows show photos of the Concongela Cellar Doors "The Stables"

The next stop was a tour of the Best's vinyard one of the oldest and well know vinyards in Victoria. Vines were planted in 1863 by French settlers. Best’s Wines was established in 1866 by the pioneering Henry Best.

We visited the grand matriarch and headquarters, “Concongella” very close to the village of Great Western and tasted some of their wines. Each vineyard produces distinctly different grape characteristics from vines aged from five to 145 years old.

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We arrived at the Mt Sturgeon Homestead where we would stay for the next two days. The Mt Sturgeon Homestead is a working sheep station and the starting point for our visit to the Grampians National Park.

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On Friday we had the Birthday Celebration dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. It was an excellent introduction to everyone in the group and enjoyed hearing them telling stories about their relationship and experiences.

For dinner on Saturday we had an informal Aussie BBQ at the Homestead masterly cooked by Wei and Haluk. The beautiful sounds of a harp playing in the background created an incredible atmosphere and as the night progressed more and more "would-be" artists joined the incredible voices of Linda and Richard. The harmony left a bit to be desired but we had lots of fun.

Later on we all retired to the music room and James performed a medley of music of our times. As expected the singers that accompanied the harpist migrated to the music room and we had another very entertaining session until later in the night.

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