Massive update and a Happy Mothers Day to my mom

 

Buckle up and hang on for a wild ride through the past five months.

So, this update brings us back to, summertime, and what a summer it was! Beach time, bushwalking, waterfalls,  outdoor movies, (casual and upscale), school holidays, snorkeling and toss in a brutal heat wave to top it all off.

Brian’s marine misadventures

Let’s start with a Brian update. This summer will always be memorable for Brian as the summer of the bluebottles. Poor guy got stung, not once, but twice by the very painful jellyfish. These are painful for adults, now imagine being six and going through that pain.

The first time he got it was at Manly when we were swimming at South Steyne beach. That happened in very shallow water. A string of Bluebottle tentacles wrapped around his ankle. Bluebottles, by the way, are the same as the portuguese man o’ war known in the Atlantic Ocean for it’s floating bubble and the painful stinging cells, known as nematocysts, that float in long, nearly invisible, strings attached to the bubble.

After the first time Brian got stung, he wanted nothing to do with the ocean. Proir to that he was fully into snorkeling. After his mishap, I bought full length wetsuits for Brian and for Heather. Partly to protect them, and partly to keep them warm so we could snorkel for longer adventures in the beautiful waters around Sydney. It took quite a bit of convincing to get Brian back in the water after the first bluebottle sting, even weeks later. “Mate, don’t worry,” I told him, “bluebottles drift with the wind. If the wind is blowing away from the beach for a while, the bluebottles get washed out to sea.” That’s true, and we were able to do lots of snorkeling and Brian was totally into it again. I had a few excellent snorkeling adventures with Brian and Heather, who’s always been a keen snorkeler, and nature enthusiast. Great snorkeling adventures, until…

Our last snorkeling trip of the summer. I took the three of us (It was school holidays, and Teresa had to work) to Manly,(yes, back to the scene of the crime), to snorkel in the amazing Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve.

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Clear, calm water with tons of interesting marine life to cruise amongst, all quite close to shore. We had a lovely day. Perfect weather, lots of beautiful fish spotted, and we were in the water for hours. We even went back in 3 times that day. Now, I wish we’d only gone back in twice. On the third outing, it was getting late in the afternoon, the suns rays were starting to become more oblique, with less light penetration, but we were still enjoying ourselves. What I hadn’t realized, was, at some point in the day ,the wind had shifted directions and had been blowing towards the beach for a while… points for you if you remember why that might be undesirable.

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Neither of them wanted to stay together, or next to me once they got their confidence up. They both had their own plan of action. They didn’t stray too far from me, though. Brian wasn’t using fins, neither of them were, but Brian, he used this amazing fast and loud kick, you could hear from a ways off, ‘kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk”. It’s surprising the fish didn’t all swim away before he got near them. Nonetheless, he moved pretty well through the water and he saw heaps of cool stuff. Anyway, Brian and Heather kept finding interesting things as they roamed among the marine reserve, taking turns calling me over to look at them.

Well, I was looking at something with Heather when Brian started screaming bloody murder. I kicked over to him at top speed to see and ask what was wrong. Not getting anything coherent from him as he was screaming nonstop, I actually looked underwater to make sure he still had all his body parts. Whew, all there. “Brian, what’s wrong?” More screaming, then he lifted his arm from the water and I saw the long strand of jellyfish tentacle hanging off his wrist, just beyond the end of the wetsuit. *sigh* I removed the jellyfish stingers that were wrapped around his wrist, and got Brian out of the water, along with help from Heather. We washed off his wrist with sea water as best we could. I would’ve put vinegar on it, if I’d had some, but I’m now glad I didn’t. I did some research afterwards. The current recommendation for bluebottle stings state the best thing is hot water which will decrease the amount of time the pain lasts, and, no vinegar. Vinegar actually makes it hurt more.

That was the last time the three of us went snorkeling for the summer. Heather and I continued our underwater adventures and Teresa managed to coax Brian in to snorkel in some shallow water at Balmoral beach for what turned out to be our last beach outing of the season. I have no doubt that I’ll get Brian back in the water next year and then it might also be time for Heather to try some very shallow, very closely supervised scuba diving.

 

 Go Pats! Super Bowl Monday.

We watch the Patriots play every game, thanks to my yearly gift of a subscription to NFL Gamepass. US Sunday is our Monday, so we watch the games on Monday night. When the Pats are in the Super Bowl, Teresa and I take the day off of work, keep the kids home and have a mini Super Bowl party at home.

Below is one of us at the beginning of the Super Bowl.

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We don’t have any pics from the middle of the game, where things were looking pretty gloomy for Patriots fans.If we did, we’d be looking pretty shocked and sad. I never lost hope, but I knew it was pretty darn unlikely that we’d come back to win, and yet…

Here’s one taken just after we came back from almost certain defeat to pull off the most improbable victory in any Super Bowl, ever played, over the Atlanta Falcons.

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And here’s how we celebrated, Aussie-sytle, later in the day after we watched our team, the New England Patriots win the most incredible, most entertaining Super Bowl that I (and probably most people) can recall watching.

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Movie Time, Sydney-style

In the summer in Sydney, we have a few rather lovely ways to enjoy a moving on a summer’s night.

We took the family to see two movies at the Sunset Cinema in the North Sydney Cricket Oval this summer. We saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them, and Rogue One – a Star Wars movie. Both times we were blessed with lovely weather and enjoyed a picnic on the grass before, and a bottle of wine during the movie. Really enjoyed both films.

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Sunset cinema is lovely, but it’s nothing compared to the experience of the St George Open Air Cinema. Each year I manage to get tickets to a few movies for the Open Air Cinema and it’s such an incredible experience. First and foremost is the location, perched on the edge of the Harbour, surrounded by the Royal Botanical Gardens, with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the city skyline. The screen is massive, the sound is great, the food is varied and delicious, you get the occasional fruit bat flying past and you can get a bottle of wine and an ice bucket to take to your seats.

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Teresa and I had a rare kid free night out and we were there for Opening Night of the event. We saw the movie, Lion and it was not only opening night, it was also the world premiere for the movie. It was a treat because Lion is a true story of young boy in India who gets stuck on a train and ends up half way across India, separated from his mum and his brother, eventually being adopted by a couple from Australia, and as an adult he manages to track down where he was born and reunite with his mum. A very touching movie and the cool part was the man who the movie and book are based on was there to speak to us before the movie. We had a really nice night and managed to receive an extra bottle of wine, that we probably didn’t need ;), but enjoyed all the same. Here we are during the pre-movie ads, below.

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I also scored tickets to a fantastic movie, “Hidden Figures”. It’s the true story of three very bright black women (one a maths genius) who worked at NASA helping in a very big way to get the first American man into space. It too place during a bleak time of US history, when black people were treated like dirt and weren’t allowed the same basic rights as the rest of society. This makes their achievements all the more incredible. As Heather is really good with maths and studied the US space program and the US/USSR space race last year, I took her to see it since I thought this seemed to be a very empowering movie. I was totally right. The movie was terrific and I highly recommend it. It’s a powerful and heartwarming story. Heather and I had a lovely night, and she thought the movie was great. We didn’t however, have 3 bottles of wine. :)

Two photos of Heather and I at the St George Open Air Cinema, below.

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Heather is growing into a lovely young lady. I’m very proud of her and enjoyed the heck out of this very special evening with her.

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Beating the Heat

We had a brutal heat wave that lasted a week or so, but probably seemed much longer. As the portable air conditioners in our place can’t really fit in our upstairs bedrooms, we opted for a weekend away up in the Blue Mountains. As with most of our weekend plans, it was pretty much last minute. Most places were booked out, so I settled for a hotel in Blackheath, just past Katoomba. So, I’ve lived here for 12 years now (wow) and have done many hikes in the Blue Mountains, but they have all been on the Jamison valley side. The hotel we booked was on the opposite side of the Blue Mountains, on the Grose Valley side. You see, the top of the Blue Mountains, where all the towns, hotels and hiking start, is a giant plateau. The hikes start at the top, you hike down, then back up. All our hikes, had been on south side, down into the beautiful Jamison Valley. National Pass, Wentworth Falls, Katoomba, Leura cascades and on and on, are all one one side. As luck would have it, we were staying at a place on the road that goes to some amazing bushwalking on the Grose valley side. It was luck, too. I only was looking for a place with availability that offered a swimming pool and air conditioning. As it was over 40 degrees for Saturday and Sunday, we didn’t head up there thinking, “Gee, let’s go out for a long hike in the blazing heat.” Quite the contrary, we’d brought along iPads, tablets and computers and swimsuits thinking we’d just hang out and beat the heat.

I did have in my mind the idea that I could find a “locals only” sort of swimming hole, so I asked at the front desk of the hotel. I was in luck, the young lady who was working there told me that about 2 Km down the road there was a great hiking trail known as “Grand Canyon”, that plunged quickly into cool rainforest that followed a river and had some places to get wet. Sounded perfect. Even though we weren’t really prepared for hiking we put together what we’d need and headed off to see what this was all about. I was honestly blown away! So beautiful and even though the day was basically, “Africa hot”, we managed to stay cool along the trail. Below are some photos, taken by my now former phone camera, so they aren’t too great.

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These things that look like already cooked, good sized lobsters are a kind of yabbie (crayfish). They have sharp spines on their shells. I found that out when I tried to grab one! Ouch!

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Now this is how to get cool on a 40+ degree day! The trail went behind this small waterfall. We all enjoyed getting right under it.

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Day Two, The Heat Wave Continues, As Does the Hiking

The Grose Valley. Breathtaking! Looking forward to having more adventures there.20170212_101903 (1280x720)

 

 

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Tough to see, but there is a waterfall behind the family here, and we’re heading down to the base of it. In the heat. Did I mention it was brutally hot? This trail was also quite steep.

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Rainbow in the waterfall, above.

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The pool where an eel swam up to Brian’s feet.

 

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Happy Days

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I love my daughter! She has a great spirit and is awesome company for the more arduous parts of my adventures.20170212_130427 (720x1280) 20170212_124458 (720x1280) 20170212_123958 (1280x720)

If you look to the left of Brian, you’ll see an Eastern Water Dragon.

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Back at the top, time to go home after an amazingly unexpected weekend getaway. 20170212_102254 (1280x720)

That’s all for now. More updates to come soon!

Love,

Paul

 Easter School Holidays

Our Easter school holidays were a bit of a whirlwind this year.In the two week holiday we managed to squeeze in a week of camping up north with our friends, the Ree family plus, we flew up to Singapore to spend a few days with Teresa’s brother David and his family.

We had originally planned just a week of camping for the first week of school holidays and that was all, the Singapore trip was kind of a last minute addition. I say that was all, but the truth is, getting ready for, packing for, driving to and setting up for a week of car camping is, the way we do it, at least, a massive undertaking. The main struggle stems from us taking too much stuff to fit inside our car. That’s led me to building a wooden rack that mounts on top of the car, providing a means of hauling lots of stuff on the roof. I think a trailer would go a long way to making that such a simpler, much painless process.

Since camping with my parents are some of the best memories I have from my childhood, I don’t mind how hard it is to get us to and set up for camping. It takes me a full day just to get the car packed. This year I managed to have it all done by the evening before so we were able to head out super early in the morning for the 6 hour ride from Sydney to Southwest Rocks. Long drives (and plane flights) are the only times that Heather and Brian get to play on our iPad and Android tablet, so they don’t mind the trip in the least.

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We made it there earlier than ever and got setup in record time. By sundown, the tent and our massive tarp and camp kitchen were up and we were able to relax at the end of the day with our friends from Brisbane, the Ree family, with a refreshing beverage while kangaroos grazed on the grass around our tents.

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Over the course of the week, we enjoyed a couple of fishing excursions, some bushwalking, some wonderful, relaxing campfires under the stars complete with toasted marshmallows plus an abundance of wildlife, an Easter egg hunt and fantastic weather. Unlike our trip last year, I managed to NOT drive our four wheel drive SUV into a deceivingly deep salt water puddle and have to get it towed out.

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Those were the good points of our camping trip and overall it was really nice. On the down side, I ended up with a bad case of tonsillitis that knocked me out for a good three days of the trip. Thankfully, Teresa is amazing and really stepped up to make up for me being out of it for a few days. One day while I was in town at the doctor Heather had to get rescued by a rock fisherman after getting swept past the end of a small surf beach with no way out but a steep, sharp rock wall that waves were crashing against. They both came out of the water badly cut up, Heather mostly on her feet and legs and Adrian, the man who rescued her, had 3 big gashes across his chest. I’m hoping she learned an important lesson about the power of the ocean that day. We found out that Adrian was staying at our campground, so following the finest Aussie tradition we dropped him off a slab (case) of his favourite beer. We also added a box of popsicles for his kids. I got to meet him at the beach in our campground. He turned out to be an amiable young man who was very proud of his actions. I couldn’t thank Adrian enough. I don’t want to think what might have happened if he hadn’t been fishing there that day.

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Before we knew it, the week was over and it was time to say so long to the Ree’s and Southwest Rocks and head back to Sydney. We arrived home on Saturday night with the massive task of unpacking and washing up from a week away.The following Tuesday we flew up to Singapore!

As we’d booked out Singapore holiday very last minute, our flights were at odd hours. We flew out of Sydney at 8:30 PM on Tuesday evening, arriving in Singapore at 4 AM Singapore time (two hours behind Sydney time). We checked in to our suite in the Shangi La residence apartments, just down the hall from David, Harriet, Samantha and Alistair. The hotel was lovely, situated within a beautiful natural oasis surrounded by the urban sprawl of Singapore. The Shangri La also sports an incredible breakfast buffet featuring food from, seemingly, every country imaginable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is it, Dad?

That was the question when we arrived at the location of Uloola Falls one summer day, “Where is it, Dad?”

I took the day off from work today to spend with Heather and Brian during their school holidays. Teresa had to work, so it was just the three of us for this adventure.

We drove down south of Sydney, to Royal National Park and parked at the trail head for the Karloo Track, in Heathcote.

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We’d done this track 2 years ago, but this time our plan was to go to Karloo Pools, where we stopped last time, and continue past it to the, as I’d read online, the beautiful gem of Royal National Park’s Uloola Falls, supposedly the best waterfall in the park. Remote, seldom visited, refreshing and beautiful. Just my sort of place.

We arrived at the trailhead and hit the trail at 10:30 this morning. The day was warm, not hot, and cloudy, nice hiking weather. Into the bush we plunged, where we were greeted by some very cool plants, a picture of Brian with a medium sized one of them, below.

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The track to Uloola Falls is 5 Kilometers and is considered hard, due to the steep trails and the amount of down and up involved. Nothing my crew can’t handle, though.

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We arrived at Karloo Pools, where we took a snack break and I convinced the kids that we should continue on to Uloola Falls and swim there, instead. Ha!

Heather and Brian, arriving at Karloo Pools

Heather and Brian, arriving at Karloo Pools

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An hour later, after some serious elevation changes and taking a bit of a beating from the less travelled, partially overgrown trail, we arrived at the Uloola Falls bush campsite. It was deserted. Looking at the sign showing “You are here” and a vague “Uloola Falls” that appeared to be a bit along the Uloola Track, we headed down a very steep slope, with a lot of scrambling over and down large boulders. We were pretty hot at this point and the going was tough so we were really looking forward to cooling off in the waterfall. Well, I should have done more research about this hike. It turned out, as you’ve already guessed, there was no waterfall. We found where it was supposed to be, but there was nothing but rocks, sand and trees, and three very disappointed bush walkers (two of them pictured, below, where Uloola Falls “should” be).

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As always, it wasn’t a waste, since we saw some cool and beautiful stuff on the hike to the falls.

The disappointingly dry Uloola "Falls"

The disappointingly dry Uloola “Falls”

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Dinosaur rock

Dinosaur rock

Beautifully coloured skink

Beautifully coloured skink

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After climbing back up from the “Falls”, we had a choice to make. We could head back up the steep trail, to the campsite, and take an easy but slightly longer trail that would bring us to the Waterfall (name of a town) train station (one train stop away from our car), or we could head back to Karloo Pools, go swimming and do the steep up, down, up, down, up hike again. Our decision was unanimous, back to Karloo Pools!

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Arriving back at Karloo Pools, we dropped our packs and hit the water. A few minutes after I first got in, the only other people that were there, headed off and we had it all to ourselves! It was lovely. Peaceful, beautiful and above all, just what we, or, I at least, needed. Not freezing cold, or even cold, really, just perfect and absolutely refreshing for both the body and the spirit.

It took a bit of convincing to get Heather in the water, and it was only I talked Brian to join me that she came in. When we were there two years ago, some “helpful” person mentioned eels that live in there to Heather and she still remembered that and was concerned about being bitten. Anyway, we finally all got in and had a absolutely amazing time.

Karloo Pools, refreshing as!

Karloo Pools, refreshing as!

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Heather and Brian cooling off in Karloo Pools

Heather and Brian cooling off in Karloo Pools

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Finally it was time to say, “So long!” to Karloo Pools, so we geared up and headed back up, and up, and down and up back to the car. We stopped and ate some very average Thai food in Engadine (apparently not an epicurean hotspot) before driving home.

These guys were doing what I wish I was doing on our way home. :)

(Insert photos of the kids sleeping in the car, still on my phone, will add soon)

All in all, we had a great day, even if Uloola Falls was a non event. I’d like to go back in the Winter, or maybe Springtime when the waterfall actually has falling water, so I might be back that way. Karloo Pools on the other hand, we’ll definitely be back and won’t wait two years for our next visit.

Thanks for joining me for our latest adventure.

Happy trails and love to all!

Cheers,

Paul