Against all the odds my luggage was found (nobody has said where!) It was delivered to my door this evening, so I've been reunited with my toothbrush...it's been three days since I used it last! :-) Boogie board is a little more battered than it used to be but will probably still work ok. I'll just tell the other surfers that I had a run-in with an Ozzie shark! well this concludes my blog - I'll leave you with a picture of my darling baby asleep on the pile of clothes I now have to wash since they were returned to me after all!
Thursday, 6 September 2012
My oversize baggage was put in a white cage at Melbourne and I thought at the time that it looked a bit dodgy...after waiting for two hours while they unloaded baggage at Manchester and then searched the cargo baggage they decided that mine wasn't there. It may be delivered tomorrow, or it may not...I strongly suspect that it is still in the white cage in Melbourne! Becky's parents are driving us home from Manchester airport after waiting all that time, bless them. We left Port Douglas 41 hours ago and counting!
Wednesday, 5 September 2012
We haven't even left Australia yet and we've been "travelling" for eleven hours! I am well and truly floating in the "zone" now. For those of you who have never done a long-haul flight, let me describe the zone in a bit more detail (why does my phone think I want to say 'butt' every time I wasn't to write 'bit'?! How often do people use butt in everyday conversation for goodness sake? I think it's because my language is stuck on US English and I cant get it to change to UK English...grrr!) Back to the zone. So, the majority of the time you walk along with a glazed expression on your face, seeking only that information that is relevant- gate numbers, fight delays, check-in times, that kind of thing. You sit for incredibly long periods of time staring into space, interspersed with merry trips into shops where you plan to spend at least 45 mins closely examining every souvenir, exciting shop keepers with talk of purchasing a last-minute didgeridoo, and then coming to your senses moments before you part with your remaining cash (and realising you already have a cumbersome boogie board strapped into your rucksack and fitting in a didgeridoo just isn't going to happen!) and exiting the shop quietly while they are in the store room (I'm elaborating, but that's the way scenarios go when you're in the zone)
Then, you go to the toilet for the fifteenth time just for something to do and sit awhile in there just for a change of scenery. You consider the best way to use up Australian dollars. Having given up the didgeridoo idea you consider useful body shop products, until you realise that they are all bigger than 100mls so you cant take them in your hand luggage (and your checked-in baggage is full of boogie board). So you use the most expensive tester of body lotion over as much of your body as it is decent to expose and then leave quietly. You consider food, but you have that feeling of already having eaten aeroplane snacks all day so you're not entirely hungry though you do feel vaguely empty. You consider Australian animal finger puppets, at only $5 each they're a bargain...but there are a lot of indigenous animals and you don't have enough for the full set. Unable to decide whether you are more likely to use a wombat or an echidna in a workshop you give up the whole idea, decision-making is not a great quality of the zone.
You realise you have lost track of what souvenirs you have bought for what people, but decide that the principle of buying souvenirs in an airport is just all wrong and that they'd probably rather have nothing than a t-shirt that says "Somebody who loves me has spent 5 hours in Melbourne airport and got me this t-shirt."
You check the board to see if check-in is open yet, realise that it is only five minutes since you last checked and still over four hours until the flight.
Then you decide to blog, and supplement your entry with a photo of chocolate coated peanut brittle.
And there are still four hours to go...
Tuesday, 4 September 2012
Well, the second pair of sunglasses has broken, and my underwater camera has finally leaked water into the lens so now it only films through a sexy haze...it's obviously time to come home. We've made it as far as Brisbane so far...and I have watched a whole film minus the last eleven minutes...if they haven't got "Salmon Fishing on the Yemen"on one of the next three flights I will never know which guy she chooses!
I've also managed to leave my snorkel in Port Douglas."How is this possible, a snorkel is huge?!" I hear you cry! Well, it was sitting on a rolled up blanket on the floor which I have only needed one night...a couple of nights ago. On this night as I scrabbled in the dark for a little warmth, I think it may have got folded in between the blanket and where it was tucked into the base of the bed. Grr... I've asked Jeanette if she can post it to Brisbane for me in the hope that Sian's parents who are currently visiting have space to bring it back to UK for me, and if they don't, it it doesn't get there before they leave, then Annabel can have a late birthday present from me! It's only been used about four times, mind you there are more drastic things I could have left behind. I've remembered all my limbs (plus spares) and most of my brain...my soul is already waiting for me in old blighty...
Bizarre end to the evening...had a lovely meal out with Jeanette and Alan as it's our last night and then went to see the famous cane toad racing! Cane toads were introduced into Australia to get rid off a bug that was eating the sugar cane but unfortunately the bug could fly and the toads couldn't... so they bred and bred until they caused havoc to Australian flora and fauna!
And then they decided at The Iron Bar to start racing them...involving using a party blower to encourage your toad to jump off the table. Unfortunately (fortunately?!) our ticket numbers weren't pulled out of the hat so we didn't get to pick up our toad out of the bucket, kiss it and place it on the table!
Like I said...I did wonder what I was doing there!
Sunday, 2 September 2012
This morning we pottered around the Sunday markets again. I'm not usually one for shopping but I really enjoy getting lost in this market and seeing all the arts and crafts and trying homemade specialties. For example, cane juice pressed by someone pedalling a bike which turned two wheels through which the cane was fed, or cassowary cake, which was blander than I expected but still quite nice. On second thoughts that might be cassava cake...I'm guessing you're not allowed to kill the endangered cassowary especially with the intent of putting it in a cake!
I picked up another souvenir which I won't be able to fit in my bag on the way home without throwing away half my clothes, but it was a good buy! Last week I bought a wooden rake the size of my first finger, just because it was only a dollar! I plan to use it in my home- made zen garden. It's all part of the zen me that I am planning for September. You heard it here first! (apart from one person reading who heard it on its conception in July!) (I may need reminding of this once I've gone back to school)
This afternoon the waves were big so I finally got some dramatic boogie boarding action! The calm surf has given me all the steering and wave catching practice I needed so now I'm not unlike superman on a board! (or something like that...) Hopefully it will stay rough for another couple of goes tomorrow...but I tell you its exhausting! Particularly fighting against the waves buffeting against your stomach in order to get back out so that you can catch a wave back in again. Usually you have to stand against anything between six and ten waves to get back out to where you want to be, but there is something strangely addictive about it. If anyone is reading this thinking "I must have a go", get in touch with me when I get home and we'll make a plan for Scarborough!!
Saturday, 1 September 2012
I am almost convinced that the name Tatnall had some historic Australian background because out here people don't look at me funny and make me spell it every time I say it. Also there is a "Tatnall Cottage" somewhere out here that we visited fifteen years ago.
And the most exciting thing...we were watching "Spicks and Specks" (an Australian soap) and at the end my name came up on the credits! I have never seen/met/heard of anyone else with my name! If you click on the name, you will see a cast list and find that I am a production assistant!
'The Habitat' in Port Douglas is famous for "Breakfast with the Birds" and "Lunch with the Lorikeets" so we decided to try the former and arrived at 8am hungry in anticipation if an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast! There was delicious fruit, cooked bacon, sausages, eggs & beans, croissants and other pastries (my personal favourite!), cereal (why fill up on this?!), juices and tea & coffee...And the only limiting factors were how much you could fit in your stomach, and how much the birds stole from you should you leave your filled plate on the table to get another cup of coffee!
Well, we packed away as much as we could and then went round the rest of the habitats -grassland, wetlands and rainforest. There were some interesting and informative feeding tours, and we were lucky enough to be there on the one day a week that they feed the crocodiles. It's quite impressive when 4.2 metres of crocodile launches itself in the air to grab a dangling chicken!
We also stroked a snake, a baby crocodile and feed the kangaroos, but there were a lot less people around than at the other place we visited from Sydney. Also the animals all had the freedom to roam, only the quoll was in a cage and it was a big one. The staff were friendlier and gave more interesting talks and at this place the koalas were only allowed to 'work' for 30 mins every 3 weeks. Becky cuddled a koala...or rather it clung to her shoulders with its sharp claws as if she was a tree, but she still managed to smile for the camera! I had some close encounters with kangaroos/wallabies which were really lovely...I tempted them over for food and they let me stroke them in return :-) It was a bit of a mission stopping the magpie geese from pecking the food out of my hands and there were some pretty greedy moorhens too running aggressively towards me, but I managed to distract them with scattered food while the kangaroos ate out of my hands.
I forgot to take a picture for you, sorry, but I must tell you one last thing- I saw a sea eagle today, flying over the sea (funnily enough!) while Becky was using my bodyboard. An impressive sight even without binoculars because it was close enough to see its white head and dark wing tips with the naked eye. Brilliant!
Friday, 31 August 2012
I'm starting to feel a bit guilty about my ant-licking habits... Today after I had licked my ant and let him run off, I watched what happened next. He ran off seemingly quite happily, but when he meet another ant they touched feelers together, and it was almost like the other ant said, "what happened to you? What's that slime on your bottom?" Then he turned to the next ant and said, "oy, look what happened to Bertram...he's looking a bit peaky..." Who turned to the next one and said, "you won't believe that I've just seen, coffee and have a look!"
And all of a sudden, loads of ants had dived on top of poor Bertram inspecting his bottom and stroking his body. I watched for about five minutes and then I lost sight of which one was Bertram, so I'm not entirely sure whether they were reassuring him, or whether he had fainted and they were tearing him limb from limb from limb from limb from limb from limb!
Sadly while I was transfixed on my balcony, the sun was setting and the mosis (possibly in league with the ants and wreaking revenge!) started biting! Grr...I've done so well up to now but in the last couple of days I've neglected my anti mosi spray and possibly as a result of sleeping with my burnt buttocks outside the sheets I now have quite a lot of bites on my arms and legs!
Ooh, BB update-Aloe Vera gel works wonders, I can sit down again :-)
Thursday, 30 August 2012
What a fantastic day! (I should say now that those of you reading this to find out what Becky is up to should know that it wasn't such a fantastic day for her because she felt very seasick :-( I should probably add that since we have got back on dry land she is perking up a bit, is currently eating crisps and doesn't look the colour of a hotel sheet any more!)
Anyway, back to me! ;-) Apart from Becky's seasickness I have had an almost perfect day! We went on a catamaran with 78ish other people (although it didn't feel like that many) to the Agincourt reef on the outer edges of the great barrier reef. We went to three different sites on this reef and snorkelled for about an hour in each place-it was fantastic to see so many different coral structures. I particularly enjoyed the second one as it was a little reef island that you could swim all the way round and there was layer upon layer of fish going down into the depths. Truly incredible sights, amazing colours, every size of fish (apart from shark!) and plenty of time to explore it all. I took a lot of underwater footage...my camera survived the experience...although looking back on it I've decided that it's very difficult to keep a video camera still underwater and there should be a warning to viewers not to watch my footage if they suffer from seasickness!!
We had a lovely lunch and because Becky couldn't stomach any of it I managed to wangle a huge bag of tiger prawns to bring home (I'm not yet sure if I'll eat them, my usual policy is not to eat any food that is looking at me!!)
The only downside to the day (apart from B's seasickness) is that despite being so careful with suncream etc I appear to have forgotten a little strip just below my swimming costume, there's no other way to say this...I can't believe I've burnt my buttocks! Not badly but enough to feel it when I sit down! Grr...
Oh and my favourite fish is the foxface rabbitfish...and I had decided that before I find out what it was called, but now...well there's no contest!
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
The ospreys in the previous post were within the Thala Beach Lodge down the road from where we were staying. Jeanette and Alan took us down there and then while they had an expensive 5* eco friendly lunch, we took our 5* home-made (by me!) sandwiches down to the beach. We then wandered to the bird hide to see the ospreys (see previous post) and on to Turtle Lookout. We weren't sure if it was named this because you could actually see turtles, because the rock was turtle-shaped, or for some other obscure reason, but we had a good look...sans binoculars again! (the sign that said, "please grab some binoculars from reception" failed to mention the $300 deposit necessary! $300!)
Just when I was thinking that it must just be a name, a rock I was watching moved. Not only did it move but it raised its head out of the water! Becky thought she saw a flipper and after much umming and ahhing I was convinced that we were watching turtles. Becky took a bit more persuading, but we did agree in the end that they must be turtles!
We walked down to the beach and I decided to go for a very hot, very rocky, very quick (it was nearly time to get back to J&A) clambour round to where I thought the turtles would be. I went a little too far I think, and was only rewarded with a little head popping up once, but nevermind, at least I have now seen turtles in the wild. They were browner than I was expecting!
I don't have any pictures for you as they were too far away. But I do have a rather groovy pic of a t-shirt belonging to Chris (in Brisbane). I'm hoping to see a cuttle fish tomorrow though I think it's unlikely. Even if they are there, they are the masters of disguise-they can change colour at will, they can even blow out ink and make themselves look like the ink blob so that a predator attacks the blob discovering it is not edible and then assumes the cuttle fish (now looking like the blob) is the same thing! Sorry, I got a bit over excited there...if I lived in Australia I could probably join a cuttlefish appreciation society...I jest not -tell them Chris!
Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Right in the centre of this picture (slightly worse quality as I've zoomed in) is an osprey nest on top of a pylon. It currently has both adults and one osprey chick sitting in it who peeps every so often especially if a Brahminy kite flies overhead, which I think they have been! The only thing we're missing is a pair of binoculars so I can't be sure!
Addition to post: just seen two more nests on the way home, also on telegraph poles! Couldn't see the young just the adults, but apparently they do have chicks.
The East Coast has had a record breaking number of dry days-now 39 and counting. As it is so dry and now starting to get hotter as we head into spring the eastern brown snakes are on the move! They are looking for places to live, and leaving the door open may well be an invitation to one to move in. They have enough venom in their fangs to kill a mere thirteen human beings.
Unfortunately when I went up to my bedroom there was a snake-sized gap between my sliding door and the wall. My only hope is that these snakes can't climb up to balconies. If they can I leave all my worldly wealth to Lottie.
As promised here is a little explanation as to my ant-bottom licking activities of the past couple of days.
The weaver-ant has a large green bottom which is full of vitamin C and tastes of citrusy lemony/limey if you lick it. Apparently the ant eats caterpillar slime and converts it into vit c which it stores in its green abdomen ready to be licked! Nite Jeanette told us that they can bite, but if you hold them in the middle and make sure you lick the right end they give you a fantastic shock of taste in your tongue...not unlike limoncello! You can also let them run off unharmed afterwards so it didn't even feel that cruel! One a day has kept a cold at bay, Becky caught it from the children last week but so far I've survived without it!
What I say is, if it's good enough for the aboriginal people it's good enough for me!
Sunday, 26 August 2012
We have moved to Port Douglas today, from an ant-ridden, noisy backpackers hostel (where for some reason they sweep the corridor floors sometime between 1am and 5am) to a five-star villa with 16 lagoons you can swim in round the complex, as well as swimming pools, not to mention the 4-mile beach almost in view! we walk across a small bit of golf course (pictured behind my Lottie substitute in the photo below!) in between some trees and we are facing the rolling surf and white sand. This afternoon we lay on the beach and I body-boarded a bit but the waves weren't really big enough, so it was more bobbing around than an extreme sport!
Neither of us slept very well last night...I'll never understand why Friday night is still Friday night to people even when they are on holiday and days of the week mean nothing! We tried to drown out the noise of the other residents with the air conditioning but that was loud too. Becky still managed to get up in time to do a meditative yoga session in cairns center and I...er...went back to sleep! So we did very little today other than lie on the beach and in my case sleep a bit, then jump back into the amazingly warm waves...it's almost like a bath as you step into the shallows.
I haven't got around to telling you about our aboriginal experience at a center called Tjapukai. It was fantastic-we had a demonstration on how to play the didgeridoo...with all the animal effects (dingo howling, kookaburra chattering etc), then an aboriginal creation story show with special light projection effectswhich was very clever. The real people on stage interacted with projections of fire, animals, thunder etc. The aboriginal people used their own language and we all had headphones on to listen in our own languages, but we could still hear the djabugay language. You'll notice two spellings...I think tjapukai is an anglicised (Australised?!) version. Then we saw traditional songs and dances...well any of you who know me well will know just how much I enjoyed that and how my work brain (for the most part switched off out here) pricked up and started planning Australian music workshops! After learning about bush tucker, medicine and weapons we had a go at spear throwing and boomerang throwing (my first one was pretty good and after the djabugay woman called me a "good hunter" I threw the second one at the wrong angle and would have killed myself had I tried to catch it!)
Sadly it was all over too quickly and our shuttle home was waiting for us so we had to go home, back to Njoy where the tiny ants had found their way into a bag in a bag and were swarming over my eucalyptus drops. The only food remaining untouched was the stuff we had hung in a bag in the middle of a clothes rail so they would have had to scale the side of a wardrobe and balance along a metal pole, then shin down a bag handle and bite through two layers of plastic bag!
Anyway, long entry, sorry, hope you're still with me...a little enticer for next entry...come back next time for exciting tales of ant bottom licking!
Thursday, 23 August 2012
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Today we have said goodbye to lovely Sian and Chris who have been brilliant to stay with (and their gorgeous daughters who are a credit to them) and moved on to Cairns. We were originally going to go back to Melbourne, then Andrew and co. moved to Singapore so we decided to go to Port Douglas but due to a mix-up of dates we have been unable to go straight up there and so are at a backpackers hotel called Njoy (oh dear!) The staff are very helpful, the guy behind the counter when we arrived had a label calling him Buddha...he's calling Becky "Smithy" and me "Emma Darling" ...in a very Australian way! The room is nice for what we're paying. Twin room, air con and a sink, the only slightly annoying thing is the toilets and showers address out of order in our block so we're going to have to go over a bridge to get to toilets on the night! Hey ho, could be worse...I think I've killed the only spider in the room... as it made advances towards Becky from behind I lept up kicking a cup of water over the for and bashed it with a bag filled with my sunglasses in bits. I asked the lady in specsavers if she could tighten the screws to stop them wobbling and she broke the screw off leaving half of it inside. Apparently it was waiting to happen and she hardly touched it. She had told me there was a slight risk of cracking the lens...but not that the glasses might be in pieces by the end of it...grr! She was remarkably laid back and told me of somewhere in the outback where I could get them fixed for $20. Instead I bought two pairs for $12 which should get me to the end of the holiday if I don't let anyone else touch them!! This afternoon Becky went exploring and I went for a swim in the pool and then hibernated in the room and listened to a lot of reggae (we overlook the pool!)
Ps. The pic is of the Esplanade lagoon in the center of cairns...not our little pool!
Monday, 20 August 2012
We both had affogatos in a mall, very swish - you get ice cream in a glass and espresso coffee in a jug and you pour the coffee over the icecream...gave me enough zing to drift back to the station! I was tired yesterday as didn't sleep brilliantly, so needed a few caffeine highs to get me through the day!
Today we pottered on the beach with the children and went to another park where Becky played with them for ages with boundless energy. Having had to take paracetamol in the night I was tired again so I sat in the sun chatting to Sian. Chris of course was at work! We came home and played sleeping lions for a while on the veranda and then went to another park where Jessica and I spent a long time examining the ants and their path from the sandpit to their nest. She gave them regular water pit-stops with her bottle of water, which I'm not sure they entirely appreciated, but she was fascinated. Sian went shopping while we played in the park and then we came home and had a movie night! Annabelle was curled up asleep under my arm by the time the Emperor was parading in his new clothes.
We are currently babysitting so that Sian and Chris could go out for a meal, and so far there has not been a single squeak from the bedroom (a loud snore on one occasion, but nothing more concerning!)
Today's post title is another quote but I'm going to leave it to you to guess who said it to me! There's nobody quite like her :-)
Saturday, 18 August 2012
There are certain things about Australia that remind you, you are on the upside down side of the world!
1) the shop with no entrance -we walked round three sides of an enormous woolworths supermarket and could find no way in. Eventually the fourth side, furthest from its carpark offered us a door.
2) the station with two names. Of course it won't confuse people if we call it Central Station on all the signs at the station but call it Roma Street when we announce it on the train!
3) when you get a green man telling you I can cross the road, there are often still cars turning left into the road you are crossing.
I may add to this...
4) didn't think I'd be adding this quickly... Changing the platform of trains without making any announcement to that effect!! Grr...
Soft sand, just enough surf to body board, sun hot enough to sit in a wet swimming costume and dry, children to play in the sand with, cake up in the mountains (ish!) on the way home, and a little walk in the dark with a koala hug...what could be better? I suppose I should explain that the koala hug was given by Anna rather than a koala...though I was tempted to leave you thinking I'd found a random koala on the dark walk!
I forgot to take any pictures with my phone as I was too busy playing in the waves, which were a bit warmer even than in Bondi, so you will just have to imagine lying on your back, on your body board, on the sand, shading your eyes from the sun and watching a sea eagle circling way up in the rising air currents, listening to your friend making sandcastles with two small girls with the sound of the surf rolling in, in the background.
I will also leave you with some Jessica logic..."I have found four marbles so I thought that since I am older I could have three and Annabelle could have one...but she could pretend that hers was two." Sounds fair to me!
Thursday, 16 August 2012
Today the girls and Sian went off to meet some friends and Becky and I walked along the coast. If there is a bit of coast nearby that's generally what we do! we all arrived home together, so I've just been having a powernap to the merry sound of "its raining!"..."where's your raincoat?"... "look at the rain on the window"... The sky is as blue as it was half an hour ago, and it's still 27° so I can only assume that the weather is so lovely in Brisbane that the children here make-believe that it is raining for its novelty value!
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
I'm so looking forward to putting some shorts on...tho unpacking is going to be a bit of a drama (though not quite as much as packing!) So perhaps the body board wasn't the best thought-out idea, I didn't realise that it wasn't just weight they were taking into account on domestic fights (it weighs next to nothing!) but you are also only allowed one piece of checked-in baggage unless you pay $20 for another. However, where there's a will there's a way, and there was no shortage of will! Luckily we were allowed two pieces of 7kg carry-on so I stuffed and I squeezed and I put socks in every crevice until everything fitted into two small hand luggage bags and the board went into my big back pack with lots of tape around the top and a few heavy items in the zip compartment which usually just zips in the arm straps for neatness. Phew, it was exhausting but a small miracle. I did still have to give Becky a few items but I am mostly self contained. She's carrying all the food but if I'd been on my own I'd have had to abandon that.
Anyway, three more stops, I must go. Later!
Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Sadly no little penguins obliged us with a song and dance routine...they didn't even poke a nose out to sniff at us. Oh well, you can't have whales AND albatrosses AND penguins!
I am writing mainly to my women readers now-I'm sure many of you are familiar with the scenario in which you walk into a public toilet only to find that the person before you has somehow managed to miss the bowl and hit mostly the seat. You have two options, you either bundle up a handful of toilet paper and clean the seat, hoping that any contagious diseases are wiped away too, or you assume the traveller's squat. (This is a position one can perfect in Africa over long-drop toilets where there is no seat to impede the pose.)
So, now we are all clear about the stance, please imagine that you have assumed that position in a toilet which has been quirkily located inside a natural cave formation. This is a delightful idea at first until you realise that there is no light inside other than the natural light that is filtering in through the cave entrance and peters out in the first cubicle. You are in the second cubicle. You are wondering just how many creepy crawlies there are lurking in the gloom and whether any of them can see well enough in the dark to strike at any potential hint of bare flesh. You unzip, strike the pose, grope for the toilet paper and in doing so tilt your head at just the wrong angle to set off the positional vertigo which has been intermittently bugging you for a couple of days..............
I didn't mention that yesterday we walked all the way from Bondi Beach down to Clovelly completing another section of the New South Wales coast -we have nearly walked around our entire map in bits (the map is now also in bits!) It is a stretch of coast that is sometimes party to whales but sadly not on this occasion despite much binocular gazing!
Today Jeanette and Alan took us to the Blue Mountains. We set off before 8am...they came and collected us which meant an extra half hour on their journey, then it took about 2 hours to get to Katooma where we were left to our own devices to go and see the three sisters, descend 900 steps, tramp through 2.5km of rainforest, get the steepest train in the world back up (it really is!) And then a cable car over the Katoomba falls and up the rest of the way, and a quick march back to the car! All this we did in two hours...it was quite impressive! Meanwhile Jeanette and Alan had pottered around the shops and had some lunch.
We went to a couple of other scenic shots Leura cascades and Leura itself which is a quaint parade of shops. I nearly bought mum and dad a nodding dog made of scrap metal with its head on a spring (it was much cuter and classier than I've described) but decided it was too expensive and almost impossible to bring back. I should point out that now my body board is my entire checked-in luggage as we're only allowed one piece, presents for anyone are looking like a remote possibility! If I can't fit it in my pocket you can't have it!
What a totally bodacious day! We like went to Bondi beach and caught some awesome surf, dude! I had a mad moment and purchased a body board (also called a "boogie board" by Aussies, and when working out how to transport it on the plane a "bloody board"!)
So anyway I was hanging loose, like, trying not to look like a Judith or a paddle puss when I was hammered by a bomb! Not so boglius bro! But I jumped back on my board looking coolaphonic as I cruised it back into the surf and next time I was on cloud nine, smokin'! A butt crumb? Not I! I was dunzo! Totally bodacious! I came home absolutely noodled!
Sunday, 12 August 2012
The sun finally showed its face again today, if only momentarily before a cloud was rudely blown over it. We took a very choppy crossing on the ferry to Manley where we had an hour to explore two beaches, watch some surfers and eat our picnic before Jeanette picked us up to take us to a concert.
Jeanette is the deputy chairperson of The Australian Auditions Committee which supports up and coming singers by paying for them to go abroad to study for example. There were three singers this aft - Cathy Zhang has just graduated from Royal Academy of Music in London and was going back for a part-time post with Operaworks, Eva Kong and Michael Vaiasinni, a tenor who has just spent 8 months in Italy staying with Pavarotti's family (as you do!) and they have adopted him apparently!
They did all have very pleasant voices and I greatly enjoyed their performances (and took some video for when certain members of my family ask difficult questions!) None of them quite had the amazing sounds we heard in the opera house, but that is why they are on their way up! I also heard a similarly amazing sound by Mimi at a production of La Boeme in Kent but that's another story.
There was a high tea provided afterwards and we met by chance a woman who used to live in York and a man who used to live in Beverley! Bizarre-there were only sixty people there! Ferry home, last bit of Olympics and bed! Goodnight :-)
Saturday, 11 August 2012
After an hour or two we were ready for coffee but the cafe was packed so we thought we'd just pop down and see the aboriginal floor. Some of the aboriginal art was brilliant. There were also some intriguing sculptures and a pitch black room with a door inside to nothing, that you were supposed to explore in the dark. I'm wondering if actually they had a spare cupboard and thought they'd see how many people would walk into it if they put a sign on the door calling it a work of art, and a body in a bag outside it (!) Anyway, two floors and another hour or more later we finally emerged...artistically saturated! I heard a child saying "can we go now mummy? I'm starving!" And I agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment!
It was still wild outside when we exited so we headed for a noted coffee shop (noted in the lonely planet I think. I've worked out that sentences starting "it says..." or ending "...is supposed to be really good" generally refer to LP or a little Sydney guide book that is more easily transported) I consult these authorities once in a while but mostly leave the research to Becky and when asked for an opinion follow my nose (or my stomach if I'm honest!) I think there can only be one serious planner on a holiday otherwise it's a case of too many cooks spoiling the pig's pie (pork mince was cheaper than shepherd.) Anyway the coffee shop was shut so we followed my gut to the wharf where the coffee is good and the donuts call out to me! My fingers are freezing off writing this so I'm going to leave you with two works of art... Dog Log and Old Lady Asleep.
Friday, 10 August 2012
This morning there are pictures of houses having their roofs blown off and high wind weather warnings! We are sitting on the 10th floor listening to the wind prowling around the flat screeching like an angry cat! We brought the furniture in off the balcony last night so that it didn't blow off (and checked it for venomous legs on the bottom...!) and curled up in bed under extra blankets!
The wind and rain arrived yesterday while we were walking around the headland from Taronga zoo (a ferry ride from Circular Quay) ...luckily we had just made it back to a coffee and cake place and I had a pudding which tasted like the sound of the lead singers in Aida (work that one out!) We took a very rough crossing back, then train to our nearest shops and hiked home with shopping arriving soaking wet!
It doesn't look like it is raining yet, but we're having a museum day (hurrah!!) There is also a surf warning so no point in going to Bondi beach, especially without my wetsuit. Oh, talking of swimming, news from England - Lottie has had her first swim in the sea, and Freya (mum and dad's dog) looked after her, ahhhh :-)
In the morning we waddled with wombats, cajoled kangaroos, cuddled koalas, winteracted with wallabies, cocked our hats at the croc and danced with dingo puppies. If I'm honest I find places like this a little perturbing because whilst some of the animals have biggish enclosures and the option about whether to interact with humans or not, there are others that clearly don't have enough space. Macaws that have the capacity to learn 4000 words for example, stuck in cages where they cannot fly more than a couple of meters before hitting the other end, using one or two words because the humans talking to them are only capable of repeating "hello" at different pitches. I swear the bird was ready to turn round and say, "it's ok for you to sound so cheerful, you can walk away when you've had enough!" ...it probably couldn't be bothered to waste the energy on a being with a one-word vocabulary who probably wouldn't understand! And as for birds of prey in cages as wide as your average wide-screen TV...don't get me started! I don't think eagles can smile, but if they could they wouldn't have been.
The staff were all a bit despondent too, morosely plonking eucalyptus branches into a koala's hand with a look that said, "you can come and have your photo taken with this koala but don't expect me to offer the experience to you or tell you his name..."
Not quite sure what was wrong with everybody, perhaps in Australia it takes more than the sun shining to make their day! I suppose when you have to organise koala petting day-in day-out it must get a bit wearing, but I'm sure she gets to feed the crocodile for a change!
However, these small things aside it was fun feeding wallabies, stroking the koala and identifying some of the birds we've seen flying around. I also learned a lot about a snake's anatomy (see me for further details!) and got some great footage of a southern hairy-nosed wombat. Sadly there were several cages labelled "quoll" but the residents were tucked up asleep out of sight (if they were there at all!) The dingo puppies were very cute, asleep too but in the sun where we could see them. If only Lottie spent that much time asleep...
In the afternoon we trekked back on the bus and two trains, got our tickets for the evening performance of Terrain, got the ferry home-a fantastic discovery as quicker and much more pleasant than the bus- ate the remains of yesterday's dinner and went back in for the show (hence night shots of opera house and bridge) We have bought multi-travel passes which have meant that we have been able to jump on and off public transport whenever we like...mine runs out tomorrow (very sad) and Becky has till Sunday -by some freak coincidence the first bus machine didn't register her card and by the time we got our next transport it was after 3pm and you get an extra day...grr...wish we'd known! Nevermind, I'll just have to do more walking and less hopping on transport! if it wasn't for the high winds and driving rain which have arrived in Sydney this afternoon, I'd swim alongside the ferry!
Thursday, 9 August 2012
I'm not sure how, but I forgot to tell you about Aida -we had amazing seats as Becky's lovely, generous brother had secretly upgraded us. The production was brilliant-interesting projections and lots of pyramids, and two (sometimes) effective conveyor belts at the front of the stage going in opposite directions gave it a modern slant. However, we can't pretend that there weren't moments when we thought the singers might glide off the stage mid-aria if the conveyor belt didn't stop! The soprano (Latonia Moore) had a sublime voice-she's from the USA and she looked the part too. In fact we were impressed with all the singers but she and the tenor were especially good. When they sang together it was like listening to warm butterscotch sauce drizzling over rich sticky date pudding but with a smattering of summer fruits& clotted cream to counteract any hint of stodge. I did weep silently at the end but it was the most positive version of the tragic ending that I have seen, if that's not an oxymoron. I won't do any spoilers just in case any of my dedicated readers see it in the future (you should-it's probably got some of the most emotive music ever written and a storyline to die for...) The huge relief of the evening was not having my feet nibbled by a poisonous spider...I really regretted wearing sandals when I realised that I had no protection from anything crawling around under the seats, but thankfully on this occasion the arachnids stayed safely hidden away.
Then last night, enticed by cheaper tickets offered after our opera house tour, we went back to see a production in one of the theatres (it's not just an opera house) by the Bangarra Dance Theatre. They are an aboriginal or indigenous performing arts company. It was truly breath-taking. Inspired by the different facets of Lake Eyre, a series of dances took us from the struggle for land rights to the passing on of land and from the ancient power of salt to the deluge of water when the lake fills. The lighting was simple yet incredibly effective and the costumes were really well designed to reflect each different section. The overall combination of elements was incredibly powerful and it only ran for 65 minutes but was definitely worth the dollar-a-minute that we paid for it. The atmosphere in the auditorium at the end was quite overwhelming.
Wednesday, 8 August 2012
It was the most beautiful day; not a cloud in the sky, and the most beautiful walk along past little coves and inlets, up through trees and down grassy hillocks...well you get the idea. And every view had twinkling sea in the background. When we got to shark bay I made enquiries about the rope around the bay that had no net attached to it...! Apparently they had taken it away for cleaning!! The guy serving coffee assured me that he had never seen anybody eaten (possibly because normally there were nets!) I said I was more concerned about jelly fish as people have warned us but he didn't seem too worried...probably because he was behind a counter serving coffee rather than bare but for a swimming cosi!
Anyway, there was someone else swimming so I dived (tentatively) in, leaving Becky on fin-watch. Having established that the water was warmer than Brixham and seemed jelly-free I went back for my snorkel and saw a huge array of sand-coloured fish ...some enormous ones and some small vicious-looking ones which, I think, lurk on the bottom in the sand and gnaw on your feet when you step on them. I also back-flapped away from an enormous shark-like log but survived with all my limbs intact and suitably refreshed, ready for my coffee and canoli (pastry thing with custard in and nothing like cannelloni)
We hiked on and the next stop was Camp Cove where I had another swim and took my camera under the waves, and then was extremely ready for lunch. There were a couple of very light, small jelly fish type things in the water but they didn't have tendrils...I still avoided them thanks to my snorkel.
Onwards, ever upwards and we landed at Watsons Bay, only hours after the ferry would have landed (had it existed.) We walked around a headland with a lighthouse on top and followed a random guy's helpful advice to go down onto the rocks and climb round the scenic route...only to find that there was no way back up and with the tide advancing on us it was too risky to continue round another rocky outcrop. Becky beat a hasty retreat, in fact I have never seen her move so fast, and I brought up the rear, panting only a little.
We continued back to where we started, passing Lady Bay for the second time that day. Lady bay was notable for its distinct lack of ladies, and veritable plethora of penises (peni?!) It is the first nudist beach we've come across, and Becky didn't want to go down to it!!
After a couple more views, a dropped ice cream, an unregistered order for a cup of tea and a trot to Jacobs ladder and back we got the bus home. Becky tackled a very sarcastic bus driver as to where we should go for the bus home, and we were told to wait "where all the people are standing" He then drove 2 meters down the road, while we walked that distance and let us get on! I have to comment that he is the first Australian who has not been helpful-usually people are offering us directions or advice (on scenic rock routes!) before we have even asked for it. There must be something about us that screams, "we are lost and we need your help...there is no way we are going to read this map or survive kangaroo attack without your advice!" I don't know what it is.
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Today was my big adventure...i left Becky stroking sharks at the aquarium where she was far less likely to get seasick and went whale watching! (Becky has also done it before and so had even less incentive to risk the waves.) And boy was it rough! The boat was pitching into huge troughs and I started off with a wonderful seat outside at the front of the boat...it wasn't long before everyone sat around me had disappeared up to the next level as the waves started crashing over the front of the boat. I was soaked! Thank goodness my camera is waterproof! I then realised it was not just my trousers but my shoes and socks that were soggy, and the last remaining woman and her son decided they had had enough, so we all abandoned this position and moved up to the top section...by which time there were spare seats because many had gone inside to avoid the wind or to be sick!
I am not going to give you a blow by blow account of the trip...but we set off at 9.15am and saw our first whale at 12.07pm! In the meantime I saw waves, waves, bird, waves, waves, unconfirmed eagle with fish sighting, waves, waves, enormous black-backed gull, waves, more waves and some more waves...not even a dolphin!
Anyway we got a message from another whale watching boat at about 11.30 and raced off, straight into the wind to a quiet, calmish spot not far off the shoreline near to Bondi beach. And there in all its glory was a hump-back whale on its migration passage North. The boat kept up with it and so we kept seeing its back hump out of the water...it was difficult to predict where it would next come up but they do leave a "footprint" where the water goes flat and glassy because there is movement underneath it. It was very exciting and we had some really good views (never right on top of it but I think the boat keeps a respectful distance). Unfortunately my video footage is not fantastic because I was determined to see it all with my eyes so I pointed the camera in the right direction and hoped for the best...I have got a few shots though.
Then because we had taken so long to find it and were now running late we had to set off back :-( However, by this time my teeth were chattering so I was quite glad to go below deck and warm up... with about seven Chinese people randomly asleep! I don't knew if they even saw the whale, they were all lying with sick bags next to their heads!
Just as I was starting to feel my fingers again we were called up on deck again (next time I go whale watching I will not sit in the wind and spume at the front of the boat for three hours prior to actually watching anting!!) Two more hump-backs had been spotted at the base of the cliffs. This time we were further away but we saw spurts of water from their blowholes and two flapping tails! Brilliant! But of course we couldn't hang around because we were already late so we shot on. Then we were called one more time to see dolphins which we would have stayed to play with (you guessed it - "if we'd had time"...grrr!) But they did come and play momentarily in the bow wave, and I was standing in just the right place :-)
So we were an hour late getting back-I had been on board (with wet socks) pitching and yoreing for five hours!! And when I got off the boat I could still walk straight! Met Becky, quick trip round monorail and then bus home for a nice long bath...feet looked like white prunes but are recovering now.
Too busy holding binoculars and video camera to take any pics on phone to show you, so I will leave you with this photo I took of an Aussie newspaper yesterday-nice to know they are not sore losers at all!
Monday, 6 August 2012
Just been on the Sydney Opera House tour...which cost us almost enough to rebuild one of the sails in the roof (approximately!) It was very interesting though. Went in all the different concert halls and theaters and heard some stories about chickens landing on cellists heads and Pavarotti refusing to set foot on a purple carpet (there you go, you don't really need to go on the tour now-I will happily embellish these stories for you at a later date!)
It was interesting to see all the plans for the architecture of the building and to hear the story behind it's design...it was supposed to take 3 years to build and cost $7 million, but it took 10 years and cost $102 million. To rebuild it now would cost billions though, and it only took the eighteen months then to raise the deficit using a lottery along other forms of fundraising.
We are now sitting waiting to see Aida this evening...I am sooooo excited! I probably know the music better than any opera after seeing it in Verona many years ago and listening to my double CD countless times since. I always remember grandad telling me that the last scene with the offstage chorus brings a tear to his eye. I fear there may be more than a tear if the production is good. Sadly no elephant though in this production.
Sunday, 5 August 2012
We had a lazy morning this morning, apart from a swim in the pool downstairs. I tested out my video camera under water and it all worked without catastrophe so that's promising for the great barrier reef! Becky also did some snorkelling in preparation for that trip...I had a flash-back to mum learning to snorkel in that very pool fifteen years ago! As you might have guessed there was no one else in the pool...I think had there been, they may have found our antics rather amusing!
This afternoon we walked across Sydney Harbour Bridge and found a magic place the other side called "Wendy Whiteley's secret garden". It was an amazing mix of tropical plants, higgledy piggledy steps up and down wiggly windey paths and nickety-nackety corners!
We got the train back as it looked like a storm was brewing...it never brewed but Becky was amazed the seats that can be flipped to face one way or the other on the train so I think we were glad we took it, I certainly was! I've been feeling quite tired this week.
Oh, by the way, the pictures show the view from our balcony again...but one of them shows the unheated outdoor swimming pool (not the one we went in this morn) and the house next to it used to belong to Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman! Then after their divorce she sold it and bought a larger property somewhere slightly warmer up the East coast...as you do!
It's 8.46pm, I'm thinking about bed!
Saturday, 4 August 2012
Contrary to all expectations, the party was actually very good fun! Everyone there was gay (we assumed) and I think the assumption worked the other way too-Becky set one guy straight (so to speak!) but no-one else asked. The nice thing was that no-one cared and everyone in the room seemed to be totally genuine and friendly, no facades, no bravado and all really chatty and full of ideas about what we should do in Sydney. The film was great-we said we would introduce more people in Britain to it because I don't think it was quite the sensation in England that is was in Oz. There are some great shots of the outback as well as the film starting in Sydney. In fact there was a classic moment after several glasses of wine when two of the guys said they were off to the bar where the movie was filmed and Becky asked in surprise if they were setting off to the outback (it was nearing midnight by this time!) We got a potted history of the gay scene in Sydney, from a guy who lived in New Caledonia and so was French, I talked to two teachers about the differences in our education system and there was a woman who owned a flat in another tower block, on the 14th floor who spoke Australian and cat...not sure the cats knew what she was saying any more than we did! There was surprisingly little singing for a sing-along, although the cat lady did a fair bit on her own! The coolest thing was the 3d experience-they have a big screen which scrolls down and when certain things in the film happened the guys hosting threw things -socks, ping pong balls (not explaining that one, you'll have to watch it!) -and we all had party poppers to let off at an appropriate moment! It was all meticulously planned and I think George had spent a lot of the day cooking-excellent food!
Anyway, there you go-potentially scary evening turned out to be great fun...and it took us 5 secs to get home afterwards!
Oh and here are some pics of dessert-not great as light was dim, but you can make out the devonshire cream tea which was according to the cat lady invented in Australia and stolen by us!
Becky and I have been invited to a party next door this evening. There are only two other people on our floor-a gay couple with two cats. Well, they are hosting "Priscilla- Queen of the desert" sing-a-long and for some reason we agreed to go...I've never seen the film and so singing along could be tricky. I am currently drinking coffee and eating chocolate in an attempt to stay awake, nay arrive with a bit of get up and go (the problem is I've got up and gone earlier). The only appealing thing about it so far is that it is the only party I've ever been to where I will be able to turn up in my socks leaving my shoes at home! I will report back later, wish us luck... (and if it's all a disaster I shall blame Becky for agreeing to it in the first place...!)
Friday, 3 August 2012
Thursday, 2 August 2012
Ok, so this is the view from the balcony of the unit...it's on the 10th floor, and I already feel like I'd die if I jumped off the balcony, so I can't imagine what it feels like on the 18th floor (at the top). Of course there is the possibility that I'd land in the pool and that would break my fall, but it's not a chance I'm willing to take!
We look across the bay towards Sydney harbour bridge and the view of the opera house is currently obscured by a crane but it would be tucked on the left hand side of the bridge.
Below us on the road is the house that used to bring to Tom and Nicole (when they were Kidman) but she ended up with it after the divorce and sold it to buy a property further North. Jeanette talks about them like they were old friends...talking of which she used to often ended up with Joan Sutherland's flowers when she had to travel after a gig! What a solubrious life we are living (she says sat on the balcony in walking trousers and socks, having shared a sandwich for lunch because we couldn't afford one each!) Oh I have T-shirt on too, just in case you're wondering!
Anyway, enjoy the view!
Well, we're sitting in the sun in Rushcutters Bay Park eating ice cream looking out at the sea and wondering which high rise building is the one we are living in, and Melbourne with its coldness, traffic and Londonness seems a million years away.
We took a bus into Circular Quay this morning, home of the opera house and Sydney Harbour Bridge and mosied around, got some information from a shack with a big i, ate some lunch and then pottered home, through the botannical gardens and along the front round the coast.
When I say pottered home we haven't actually made it home, but when we do we will work out just which building we are in and probably go for a swim in the pool. At the moment we are watching a strange event where lots of Australians are dressed up in teams representing different countries...the England team have police hats on their heads...obviously...and are about to do some kind of race...!
In the background of the picture are the several options of where we might be living at the moment! Will let you know...
Well it's been a funny old day. Packed up and left Melbourne this morning, long wait in airport compared to relatively short flight, landed in Sydney, lost car, found car, drove to "unit", had orientation session from Jeanette, ate dinner she cooked for us, admired the most amazing view of Sydney you'll possibly ever see (and you will see it but you'll have to wait until tomorrow, cos it's dark and I'm exhausted!) We are extremely lucky that Jeanette and Alan have allowed us to stay in their unit because it is truly beyond anything we could have afforded in our wildest dreams. And when I walked into my room I was taken back fifteen years, bizarrely, by the clowns on our beds-J makes them and you can put them into any position as they have all the joints (more or less). Strange what you remember! So I shall leave you with the clowns...
Wednesday, 1 August 2012
Just got back from a VERY long walk... probably about 7 miles, but it took all afternoon as we kept stopping to take photos.
To be fair we had a VERY lazy morning first...once i had escaped my own execution by running for miles despite having been beaten to within an inch of my life and avoided paying a fine for trying to turn my car lights on by pulling the handbrake whilst driving along... I didn't feel like doing much more than reading my book this morning! I have been having terribly energetic nightmares (and I'm not even taking larium!) and Becky has been waking up in the middle of the night...I don't think the two are connected although I did punch a canvas thing hanging on the wall last night... Anyway we both felt the need to lie around in our pyjamas this morning!
Went up to the Yarra river bend this afternoon. After about 40mins of London-ish walking, up the main road from where we are staying, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the countryside! There was a lovely walk along the river and plenty of rainbow lorikeets to keep us entertained-they have a very loud squawk so they're quite easy to spot. I'm not sure if we had gone far enough for it to count as "the bush" but I have had yearnings to go into the outback...I'm reading Bill Bryson Down under and he goes on a train from Sydney into the middle of nowhere...I think Becky might wake up one morning and find that I've gone to live in a village with a population of 40 and more snakes than humans...
Sorry, back to the land of reality...on our way back we were looking a little lost, which is our usual state and seems to tug on the heartstrings of passing Australians who offer us help without even being asked. On this occasion the woman happened to have a small boy with her, holding a sword, and she was holding a sword herself...or perhaps it was more of a cutlass. Well it was very entertaining to watch Becky taking note of all the directions being flung at her whilst dodging the sword, also being flung at her. The woman seemed utterly oblivious of the fact that every time she gesticulated left or right she nearly took Becky's nose off with a plastic cutlass! She even said she would have given us a lift if it wasn't for the boy, the dog and her car being full of rubbish...I was tempted to join her despite all these drawbacks (after fighting for my life last night my limbs are still aching!) but Becky had visions of losing other parts of her body and quickly declined!
We made it home in the end and have just had another enormous plate of pasta with cheese...we are trying to eat up all the food that A&T left behind which included a kilogram lump of cheese...it is still barely dented!
Sorry, I forgot to take any pictures on my phone today so I will have to show you (any of you lucky enough to live near me!) the video of our beautiful walk when I get back to England.
In the meantime you can have a picture of the Englander I am missing the most! Apparently she was given an accommodation upgrade from her crate to being allowed to sleep with the other dogs...but has blotted her copy book by trying to pull up the new kitchen floor tiles so she will be back in her crate tonight!
Tuesday, 31 July 2012
This morning we waved a final fond farewell to Tracy, Andy and Molly as they drove off in a taxi to the airport. Their next adventure will be settling into life in Singapore just in time for the arrival of Molly (after much discussion on names last night it was decided that to keep things simple the new baby should be called Molly too)
Talking of Molly, Rebecca and I took Molly 1 out for a walk and a swing at a little park down the road this morning while A&T packed up the last few things. She was as good as gold, no tantrums...a good thirty minutes in the swing and then she went to watch the birds being fed by some slightly crazy-looking hairy bird people! You can see her in the picture with Auntie Becca...I thought it wise not to point a camera at the hairy bird people who had just torn up almost two whole loaves of bread for about four pigeons!
Then we saw a cat in someone's front garden and stopped to look at it from outside the gate...then unfortunately "someone" turned out to be in, and also slightly batty and waved us away -grr...cat ladies!
So we walked on and found another park with a slide and eventually Molly got tired so I carried her home for some lunch. I think we are both (and particularly Auntie Becca) missing the gorgeous cuddly bundle of fun that is not running up and down the living room. Hoping that she is enjoying her business class seat on the plane-they have got one each, so plenty of room compared to cattle-class! The flights came with A's new job-v.good news.
This afternoon we pottered down the road to the botanical gardens, which given it is winter weren't too bad-not exactly colourful but there were some bird of paradise plants in bloom which are pretty and also some palm trees, cacti and enormous aloe vera plants (which always excite me...not sure why, think it might be something to do with the aloe vera farm on my kitchen window sill at home.)
We had a cuppa by a lake- chai tea seems quite popular here-i had some and it's really good-tastes like African tea. We also watched another crazy duck lady feeding the ducks and an enormous black swan, right next to a sign that said "Do not feed the birds!" I hereby conclude that the Australians like their animals just like us but of the representative portion I saw today there are more finicky fruit-loop fanatics here.
Just as we were about to leave, a kookaburra flew past and landed on a tree surprisingly close! On this occasion the Australians carried on their work around the park while the crazy English tourists stood and photographed the tree for hours! We walked around to the other side of the tree and it stayed there the whole time and let us get really close! Very exciting...it even winked at me...the only thing it didn't do was laugh...but then I suppose I didn't do anything funny.