30 July 2015

Love this Place!!!

Pod of dolphins, Copacabana NSW
This morning, I dropped the kids to school in Copa then drove to the shops.  When I pulled up, people were on the whale watching platform.  Went to see what the locals were gathering to look at: A Dolphin Show!  Apparently there were 50 - 100 members - several pods - all hanging out in the Copacabana/MacMasters Beach bay!  When the locals say they've never seen anything like it, it's truly amazing!
MacMasters Beach Rockpool
 It's been 5 years since we moved to Australia.  As we prepare for a visit stateside (20 days and counting) to see family and friends, I have been thinking a lot about "was moving to Australia a wise decision?"  I can honestly say I'm counting my Blessings this morning.  Very few places on earth....

Wattle Flower in bloom
NSW state flower

11 May 2015

Melbourne Getaway

For our 17th wedding anniversary, Dave and I thought we'd have some time alone and explore Melbourne.

The night before our flights, we discovered we were flying in to Avalon airport, which is 50 minutes from Melbourne CBD.  Our plan was to have a no car trip.  So Dave found we could take the train to the city.  Our flight arrived early, we took a cab over to Lara train station and rode the V-line to Southern Cross station.
Southern Cross Station
 It was a gorgeous, sunny day so we walked from Southern Cross Station to our apartment in Melbourne's South Bank.  Along the way, we spotted a sweet little church which I believe is the 2nd oldest church in Australia.
St Augustine's Church

Plaque for St Augustine's Church

Art on the South Bank walkway
(rescue helicopter in the oval)

Hosier Lane Street Art (Hosier Lane)

The one bedroom apartment we rented is on the 32nd floor.  It had a small balcony and an amazing view.  Busy streets below and looking into nearby apartments.  Not our daily lifestyle.  After settling in the apartment, we walked to Chin Chin's Thai restaurant which was recommended to me.  I ordered BBQ Salmon wrapped in banana leaf - which was delicious.  Dave was less happy with his meal.

Our view from 32nd floor

Pedestrian bridge across the Yarra River
The Lock Bridge
Dave picked our restaurant for breakfast as he wasn't thrilled with my choice from the night before. So we walked to Flinders street, caught a tram and rode for 40 minutes to Fitzroy.  We walked a block to find the empty storefront which was the (former) restaurant.  It had been drizzling and we were both hungry so I looked on Google maps for nearby restaurants and Dave checked Good Food.  We both came up with Industrial Beans - which was nearby and totally awesome.

Dave's choice for Breakfast
 They roast coffee in the warehouse so it was warm, dry and smelled amazing - we looked out to see the rain pour down outside.  The food tasted as awesome as it looked.

Coconut Crusted Brioche

Compressed Watermelon
and Muesli
After breakfast and the rainstorm, we trammed back to Flinders Station and the National (Art) Gallery of Victoria, which was closed.  (bummer)  We decided to visit Federation Square and China Town, where we had lunch at a Noodle shop before walking back to our apartment.  The wind had picked up and it was noticeably colder by this time.   

 Following a rest and a swim, we ventured back out for dinner at Om Vegetarian - with freshly made Indian Dahl and naan bread, rice and veggies, all you can eat.

Our flight was 9am at Avalon so we made a plan to take the airport bus directly from Southern Cross Station - departure time 7am.  Overall, a short but enjoyable visit to Melbourne.
Skyline near Princess Bridge on St Kilda Road

Aftermath of SuperStorm

Life is back to "normal" following the SuperStorm.  Our high school kids went to school on Monday 27 April.  School buses operated normally.  Classes were in session.

Copacabana Primary school was partially operational on Wednesday, 29 April.  There were several trees down on the school grounds, with barriers surrounding them.  The back steps exit is closed due to downed trees.  And the school was using a generator to power the classrooms (which is the noise reference on the sign).

Generator and Trees down at Copa School
Tree that washed up on the beach.
You can also see the lagoon let out naturally

The fallout from the Cyclone 2 Storm
Beach erosion

Trees uprooted

Sea life tossed to shore

Debris and octopus washed in

24 April 2015

Super Storm of NSW

Much of the beach was eroded away by the stormy sea
It had rained most of the day on Monday, 20 April, the last day of school holidays for our students.  We didn't think anything of it, as that happens often here this time of year.  Dave came home soaked so we set up the heater to dry his shoes and bag for the next day, before going to bed.  We went to sleep with the sound of the rain and howl of the strong winds. 
At 10:30pm, there was a sharp "snap" and the power went out.  The wind continued to howl and the rain pour down.  By 4:30 am, I woke up to find my mobile phone had no reception - SOS only.  Right then, I knew Dave wasn't going to work on Tuesday.  By 6am, we were up accessing the situation.  There was enough hot water in the water heater for 2 showers (hot water heaters make hot water at night only).  We decided to eat all the perishable food from our refrigerator.  So Dave made hot chocolate on the camp stove and  yeast pancakes using up our milk were next.

High Tides and Storm Surge resulted in Lochrane Lagoon
being naturally opened by the Ocean.
We had no power and no phone service all day Tuesday.  We listened to the news in the car.  We took a walk and saw the beach had been eroded from the shore.  Also many trees were knocked down by the roots - the rain loosened the soil and the wind blew it over - in many instances on top of power lines.  Some homes had trees fall on them.  Several thousand calls for help were placed to State Emergency Services (SES).  We discovered it was not possible to get out of MacMasters Beach as the roads were blocked in each direction by fallen trees.  
The Scenic Road and Cullens Road were 2 roads closed because
of fallen trees and downed power lines
The forecast for Tuesday was "the worst is yet to come".  More rain and high winds forecast.  The meteorologist reported we had conditions equal to a Category 2 Cyclone.  The ocean was removing the sand from the beach and pushing it to the shore.  Cochrane Lagoon had been opened naturally by the extreme tides and storm surge.
Power lines cut by fallen trees

On Wednesday morning Dave stayed home from work again as the trains were still a mess and we weren't sure if the roads leading out of the Macs were passable.  The meteorologist said the amount of rain received in 48 hours was 240mm with 14-40mm predicted to fall on Wednesday.  The winds had died down by that point.  The forecast also predicted sun on Thursday.
Wednesday morning we found we could get out, but finding petrol and open stores was a bit of a worry as many were without power so closed.  Dave drove to Woy Woy found petrol and bought a few groceries.  Dave was also able to get phone reception and sent a message to his work.  Later, I ventured out in search of petrol for my car and butane for our camp stove.  Filled the tank, but butane sold out.

Sand from the beach blown onto the road.

 Because classes were scheduled to resume after the school holidays on Tuesday, Tristan's  and Clara's schools were open for supervision only.  Neither of the high schools our students attend nor the primary school had power on Tuesday.  Tristan's school was running a generator.  Clara's school was declared non-operational on Wednesday and Thursday.  Tristan's school continued to be operational - but limited classroom instruction.  We visited Tristan's HS on Thursday and saw many Seniors making the most of the time available to get work done on their projects.  Power was restored to both high schools on Thursday.  On Friday, both Clara's and Tristan's HS were open for teaching.  The primary school had power restored on Thursday as well, however it has remained closed  to students from Tuesday through Friday. 
Downed trees prevented us from leaving MacMasters Beach

 Thursday morning started with sunrise....a wonderful start to the day.  Dave took a COLD shower and went to work.  I told the kids we were going to the Peninsula Leisure Centre for a swim and hot showers.  The older kids wanted to stay home and tried the shower in the kid condo - and were surprised to find HOT water.  Following our swim and showers, we had breakfast at MacDonalds.  While there, we received a message that power had been restored to a friend living on The Scenic road.  We raced home, to find we were still without power.

More storms on Tuesday night.
Dave called suggesting we get a new cooker since it could be a while without power and we were down to our last butane canister.  So Thursday night we used our new cooker to heat the water for dishes and cook our meal.
Our new cooker/firepit on Thursday.

 Friday morning Dave took another COLD shower.  Clara went to school.  I predicted we would have power by 11.  We went to a friend's house to help her since a tree had broken the roof over her daughter's bedroom.  The carpet was soaked as was much of the room contents.  We also moved tree limbs to the road for collection.

We took her out for coffee and a chat, while the boys bowled.

The power came on at noon!  So So relieved!

Kids enjoying our firepit.

19 April 2015

Chinese New Year Parade

This year, Clara and I made it to China Town in Sydney for the Chinese New Year Parade.  During the parade, fireworks went off on the building directly behind us, lighting the night sky.  The particulate from the fireworks was heavy after a while.

To see over  the crowd, Clara stood on a pole
 (next to a passed out guy) 

Fireworks (and smoke)
One of the longer Dragons in the Parade

Chinese New Year - Year of the Sheep
Which is perfect for the Sheep Shearers of Australia!

The parade was on a Sunday night in Sydney, so we had to hurry home to get ready for our week.  

26 March 2015

Great Barrier Reef - Naturally Amazing

This post is WAY overdue.

Our best excursion on our Hamilton Island trip was Great Barrier Reef with Cruise Whitsundays.

I really wanted a full snorkeling experience, so we decided to go to the Outer Great Barrier Reef.  I had resisted going to Reefworld because it seemed so "packaged".  It was the best trip we went on.

Going through the Whitsundays Passage to GBR
We were collected from Hamilton Island and went through the scenic Whit Sunday Islands - taking a different journey each way.

At Reefworld, Zoe, Clara, Neo and I put on complimentary wet suits, flippers, and our own masks and snorkels.  Snorkels and masks were available, but we chose to bring our own.  Neo and Zoe each grabbed a "noodle" to assist with swimming.  I had my GoPro camera to film our underwater adventure (see You Tube videos).  The snorkeling area was well marked with guide ropes to grab onto and rest areas to catch your breath.

Meanwhile, Tristan and Dave made their way over to the Helipad for an amazing Helicopter ride. Tristan made a video of his trip, including a view of the famous Heart Reef.  Tristan was in the Co-pilot seat of the helicopter.

Neo decided not to go snorkeling at the last minute and spent a lot of time in the underwater observatory.  We all went on the semi-submersible submarine - which was cool and a guided tour.
Clara snorkeling

Neo and Zoe in Underwater Viewing Area

Lunch was delicious and filling.  An excellent day out - and really made the grade for snorkeling!  

13 November 2014

G20 Summit in Brisbane, Queensland Australia

Well, the G20 Summit is taking place this weekend in Brisbane, Queensland - just up the coast from us.  It's been really interesting seeing the dignitaries arriving and the excitement building for this historic event.  The entire city is in lock-down.  Police from NZ, and every state and territory from Australia are on duty.  The media centre that was built to house the incoming media is the size of 2 football fields.

Whether any agreements will be made is anyone's guess.  What I do know for sure is it will be Hot! The forecast high for Brisbane on Saturday is 35C (95F) and 37C (99F) on Sunday.

Neo captures what will no doubt be going on @ the G20 Summit in his routine on the trampoline.

27 October 2014

Whitehaven Beach and Chalkies

Water Sports boat holds 22 passengers
We joined Hamilton Island Water Sports for a boat ride tour of the Whitsunday Islands.   It was a calm day, with mostly sunny skies - only about 20% clouds.  Reef Ryder is a fast boat, and Neo was ducking under a towel to avoid the wind.  I was in the front row with Zoe and Neo.  Dave, Clara and Tristan were in the 2nd row of seats.

Kids ready to snorkel @ Chalkies Beach
We traveled around Hamilton Island from the Marina through the Whitsundays Channel.  First we passed Dent Island, which is where the Hamilton Island Golf Club is located.  The Captain informed us it's a world class golf course and no expense was spared to create it.

We have witnessed tidal rips from top of One Tree Hill.  Today, we rode through the rip between Whitsunday Island and Fritzlan Island.
Fish on Chalkies.  Visibility wasn't very good.

Whitsundays Island (L) Fitzalan Island (C) Hamilton Island (R) .
Rockface on Whitsunday Island.
Our first stop was Chalkies Beach on Haselwood Island.  Chalkies Beach is just across from Whitehaven Beach.  The fringing reef of the Great Barrier Reef is in the Whitsunday Islands.  White sand of Chalkies Beach is the same as on Whitehaven Beach.  Everyone went in for a snorkel, including Dave.  The visibility wasn't very good.  The Captain explained there had been recent storms that had stirred up the sediment. We had 45 minutes to snorkel, and the time was gone quickly. There were reports of a sea turtle.

Beautiful turquoise water of the Whitsunday Islands.
We were finally able to see Whitsunday Island upclose, after looking at it from Hamilton Island for this week.  Whitehaven Beach is on Whitsunday Island.

Fish in feeding frenzy at Neo's feet on Whitehaven Beach.

Mom and Zoe on Whitehaven Beach