Hey, look! There’s something new here!
Winter is now in it’s last month here in the Southern Hemisphere and thankfully the days are starting to get longer, light-wise. Apart from two weeks of chilly and windy weather, it’s not been too cold of a winter here in Sydney. Once or twice, due to the cold, we have had to put shoes on the kangaroos we all ride to work, but aside from that, no worries.
Here in Australia, school holidays are spread out though the year, with three two week breaks and then one big one that’s 5 weeks or so, for our Summer (Christmas) holidays. This works out to about 20 more school days per year than in the US, 200 vs. 180.
I took four days off for the recent Winter school holidays to spend some good one on one time with Heather for a couple of days, and then two days with both Heather and Brian while Teresa headed off to work.
Day one of school holidays saw Heather and I having a blast at Luna Park. Luna Park is a smallish amusement park that’s built in the shadow of one end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We got there early and had a blast riding the roller coaster 4 times in a row as there was hardly a queue (line) at all. It’s one that takes your photo and displays it as your come out. We had a good time doing different faces for the photo each time, first time smiling, then zombies, silly and then our scariest faces. I bought the smiling picture, shown below. I should’ve got the zombie one, too, it was pretty funny.
We did lots of other rides and had fun in the big fun house. There was hardly any wait for the rides as the park wasn’t very busy, being a Monday and all.
As we were about to head home (I’d parked in the Luna Park carpark) we were walking down by the harbour and I saw the ferry approaching. “Heather!” I shouted, “Let’s run for the ferry!” We did, and just caught it, taking it across the harbour for a spur of the moment trip to Circular Quay (pronounced like ‘KEY’). We hopped off and got some excellent ice cream at Baskin Robbins, watched some street performers and Heather surprised me by agreeing to my question, “Hey Heather, do you wanna walk back to Luna Park across the harbour bridge?” It’s a fair ways to the bridge from Circular Quay and then up and over it and back to Luna Park. She was such a trooper about it, and I was well impressed. I mean, this is the same girl who complains about one of the two places she goes for before school care because, “We have to walk up a hill to get to the bus.”
The next day of school holidays, Heather and I dropped Brian off at his daycare, then drove over the harbour bridge to Darling Harbour to meet up with one of her classmates and her dad. Together we all toured the Sydney Aquarium. I was a little disappointed in the aquarium as it’s been downsized a bit to make room for a wax museum, which to me, is a total waste of space. I just don’t get the whole celebrity worship culture. I don’t understand why people don’t just live their own lives, rather than living vicariously though “famous” people. Does it really make any difference in anyone’s life, at all, who is dating/marrying/divorcing who? Anyway, the aquarium used to be awesome, now it’s a bit less than it was and that makes me sad. The girls seemed to only kind of enjoy themselves there, judging by how quickly they moved through the place.
Back outside, we headed over to Tumbalong Park, also at Darling Harbour. It’s an excellent play area that has tons of things to occupy kids for hours. After playing for a while, we stopped for some sushi for lunch and afterwards, we spied a huge white structure over in what’s usually an open area used for events. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a “Snow Palace”. We had stumbled into a Winter Carnival! Just past the Snow Palace was a huge outdoor skating rink. At this point we said goodbye to Heathers friend, Jessica, and her dad, Shane.
Heather had never tried skating and I practically lived on skates in the wintertime, back home in the Northeast US. So, I rented skates for us and skated backwards while holding Heathers hands, catching her each of the many times she slipped and fell. It took a while, but she eventually got the hang of it and I was able to let go for short distances and have her skate to me. I was thrilled to share that with Heather and she really got a kick out of it, too.
Day 3 of school holidays came and we kept Brian with us and headed to the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre for some fun in the pool, on the water slides and in the big whirlpool river. That night I told the kids, “Tomorrow I’m going on an epic bushwalk! It will be long and difficult, up and down mountains and you’ll have to walk the whole way. It will also be very cool and fun, but hard. So, do you guys want to come on an epic bushwalk with me tomorrow, or go to daycare/vacation care?” It was unanimous, as I’d hoped. They were both coming for the hike.
Day 4 of school holidays, Epic Hike time! The three of us hit the trail up at Cowan train station, about 40 minutes drive north, where I parked our car. The walk we did goes between Cowan and Brooklyn train stations, following the Great North Walk through some beautiful bushland. The GNW goes over 250 Kilometers (155 miles) from down south of Sydney way up to Newcastle, the next large city north of Sydney. The trail goes through mostly unpopulated bushland between Sydney and Newcastle. If you were fit and did the whole walk, it would take you two to three weeks. We were setting out to do 13 Kilometers (8 miles) of it. Along the way we’d descend from Cowan station to Jerusalem Bay before heading up and down two steep mountains then hitting a long fire trail that follows the ridge of a third mountain, past a small lake finally descending steeply down to Brooklyn, a small town on the Hawkesbury River.
We had an absolutely lovely day. Both weather-wise and adventure/fun-wise. We let Brian set the pace as he’s only 3 1/2, but he goes surprisingly well for someone his size.
We had some fun along the river, finding cool little striped catfish swimming near the shore.
Along the way we were rewarded with lots of wildflowers and lovely eucalyptus forests. We even followed a side trail and were pleasantly surprised to find a very large, old Aboriginal rock engraving site.
Here we are stopping at Jerusalem Bay.
Here’s a group shot I took, with the camera timer, after going up and down the two steep mountains.
Here’s Heather after we had come through the difficult part of the hike, realizing that we’d come less than half the distance we had to cover, and it was 4 PM and gets dark around 5:30.
Brian was a real trooper. He did 2/3 of the hike with me carrying him the remainder. He also made it up the first 2/3 of both of the really steep mountain climbs along the way. Heather was amazing, too. She didn’t complain once and was cheering us on later in the day, saying, “C’mon guys, don’t give up! We can do this!” She’s awesome.
The second part of the hike is quite easy, comparatively. You can make good time along the fire road as it’s wide and fairly flat though it does have a gradual incline. The only problem was that for the last 1/3 of the walk, I was carrying Brian laying across my shoulders. Even before it got dark, he was snoring as Heather and I hiked along. The other issue we had was daylight. The last hour of our hike was in pitch black, with me using the flashlight on my phone while carrying Brian. It turned out to be much brighter then the small flashlights I’d brought along.Go Galaxy S5! Somewhere, I have some excellent headlamps, but I haven’t been able to find them quite some time.
Eventually, tired and sore, we made it to the train station at Brooklyn. The next train wasn’t due for 40 minutes so we huddled together and had the last of our sandwiches while we waited. We did have a bit of drama on the train, though. When we got to Cowan station, where we wanted to get off and get our exhausted bodies into our car, we found out that the train we were on was much longer than Cowan station was! We couldn’t get off because the doors didn’t open due to there being a 12 foot drop to the ground outside. We ended up running car to car through the train in search of where there was train platform but we didn’t manage to get to it in time. Yikes! Thankfully, we were able to get off a the next station and rather than wait 40 minutes for the next train back to Cowan, or walking 10 K down the road, since there’s little chance of getting a taxi out there in the middle of nowhere, I managed to find a nice couple, who were just leaving the parking lot and agreed to give us a ride! We were so very thankful. It was completely out of their way too, so it was really very nice of them.
So, it did indeed turn out to be an epic hike, after all. It’s one we all enjoyed and won’t soon forget. I’m so very proud of Heather and Brian for their accomplishment as well as for their good spirits throughout the bushwalk.
In fact, they were quite happy to go on another (much shorter) bushwalk two days later with me and their mum, Teresa. But that’s another story for another post.
Love to all!