Saturday, February 16, 2013

Who'll Stop the Rain?

The answer is - not us.

When we arrived in Cairns with Sarah and Ken, the weather was beautiful.  Blue skies with a few fluffy, white clouds and lots of humidity - just what you would expect from the tropics.

We drove along the Captain Cook Highway up to our condo in Port Douglas.  Still beautiful.  We had lunch and unpacked our luggage.  Still beautiful.  We head out to get a few groceries.  Look, it's greying up.  We arrive at Coles.  Cue the downpour.

After getting our groceries, we called to get our reservations for a cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef and were met with "we are most likely cancelling our cruises tomorrow because of rain and swell."  No matter, we will head up to the marina and talk to a few of the cruises in person.  Same answer for the next two days and here's why - stupid cyclone Oswald, which was causing 3.5 metre swell with 35 knot wind.

Now, we're not stupid.  We knew we were taking a risk heading up to Port Douglas during the rainy season, however when people are visiting from the US, what do they want to see?  The Great Barrier Reef, of course.  This is the second time our family of four has been up to Port Douglas and both times cruises were shut down because of wind.  Maybe we should go buy a lottery ticket!

So what does one do in Port Douglas during a cyclone, you may be asking.  First of all, you refuse to let it spoil your holiday.  We determined as a group that we were going to have fun no matter what.  We asked around a few places, and it was recommended that we head up to the Atherton Tablelands.  We took the advice and had a great time.

It was a fair amount of driving, but we had lots of fun.  Firstly, we visited Coffee Works in Mareeba.  We sat out on the beautiful porch for lunch.  The rain was gorgeous on the tin roof - very relaxing sitting out in nature.  Which was good, as we were tasting lots of coffee.

Not even all of the coffees we tried
We were also able to try some tea and chocolate, which were lovely, but for me it's the coffee.  Yum!

Lunch was delicious - only made better by the atmosphere

The also had a coffee museum.  Lots of interesting artifacts about tea and coffee.  Here are a few of my favorite finds!

If it's been baptised, does that make
drinking coffee a holy experience?
Loved this ad!

Cute take of the Three Bears

We decided to head on towards Atherton, which didn't have that much exciting.  So we headed back towards a lake and dam, just because.  On our way we passed the Humpy Nuthouse.  Sarah and I decided that we must stop.  We wondered if they were aware of that American slang or were just being cheeky.  The answer is always "cheeky" - however I learned later that humpy is a bush term for an old tin shack (thanks Kim!).

The joke was on us because we bought several bags of nuts.  We were a big fan of the lime and pepper peanuts!  Sarah and I both bought mugs to commemorate the visit!

Pretty lake with clouds

We decided to head out towards Barron Falls and then back to Port Douglas for dinner.  Bri and I had seen Barron Falls when my parents were visiting, so I was curious to see it in the rain.  I got to see it - barely.

Completely in the mist

It did clear up a bit and we were also able to see a bit of wildlife.

I love seeing through the clouds

Bush Turkeys, I  believe

We decided to call it a day at that point.  It was still bucketing and we wanted to get back to Port Douglas before dark.  We wanted to see more waterfalls and planned out a route to see them the next day.  Didn't happen - here's why.

Maybe a swim instead

It's my arms!

Still pretty

Oh, well.  Back to Port Douglas for some Thai food.  Except no, the Thai place was closed for lunch on that day because of course it was!  We wandered around Port Douglas for a bit, had a lovely nap - including the children - and wandered the beach for a little bit in the late afternoon.

Port Douglas was a wash-out, but we still managed to have a great time just being together.  We were just hoping to be able to leave the next day...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Luna Park

This doesn't do the eyelashes justice -
they are massive!
After our afternoon at Bondi, we decided to have dinner and then hop on a ferry and go see Luna Park.  Riding a ferry is one of the musts for visiting Sydney - it's a great way to get around, plus you get great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.  We'd never actually been to Luna Park although it's face is such a fixture of Sydney Harbour.  I had always assumed it was like Coney Island.  However, I've never been to Coney Island, so now I assume that it's like Luna Park!  Naturally, Wills was quite keen to ride everything and Nathan couldn't have been dragged on a ride.  Luckily for Nath, it was rainy and expensive for ride tickets, so we just wandered around for a bit to get the whole experience.

The boys loved seeing all of the ride and were particularly taken with the trick mirrors.  Nathan thought being made to look short and fat was hysterical.  There's not much better than hearing their  laughter the first time we passed the mirrors.  I think we stood there for 10 minutes, even though it was raining.  It was worth getting wet for!

Not much exciting to really tell you about the park, but here are a few of my favorite shots - enjoy!

That ferris wheel was making some terrible noises!

Making the kids laugh

Sydney in the mist
See - like Coney Island!

After wandering around for a bit, we hopped back on the ferry and headed over to Darling Harbour for dessert.  The kids were thrilled for ice cream - I was happy to have a Flat White to warm up a bit!  Afterwards, we all wandered back to her hotel to crash into bed and fly out to Cairns in the morning for  quite the adventure in Port Douglas!

Night view of Darling Harbour - and no, I have no idea why there was a large rubber ducky

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Showing Off Sydney

Just how do you keep visiting Sydney fun, since everyone wants to see it - and see the same bits!  By keeping new parts to show people (and yourselves) each time!  Just to be incredibly clear, seeing the Opera House never gets old.  I still get a thrill every time I get my first glimpse, be it from the train, the air, or walking through the Royal Botanic Gardens.  You know, one of those I have to pinch myself because I can't believe I'm actually at a place I always wanted to visit, but truly believed I would never see it in public.

So, when we met Sarah and Ken (my sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law) in Sydney, we of course headed to those iconic spots on the first day.  We drug them around the city to keep them awake, because the jet lag from the trip is rough!  I love showing off the city, but was excited about the second day because we were headed somewhere I'd never been to - Bondi Beach!

We woke up that morning and it was fairly grey out.  Undeterred, we headed out on the bus to get to Bondi.  It's about a 45 minute trip out from Circular Quay, but fun to see another part of the city.  The weather may have kept a few people from the beach, but there were still plenty of surfers to be seen.  We decided against swimming there, mostly we just wanted to wander and experience Bondi.  When we arrived there was a surf class going on - fun to watch people learning versus the surfers on the other side of the beach!  Also, it made Brian feel better that he has a real board versus a foamie!  Now, if he could only join the surfers on the other side...

We decided to just sit down on the beach and watch the action for a bit, which includes my lovely children romping around like they hadn't been to the beach in forever.  I told them not to get wet and then let the run like the feral children they are!

Just hanging at Bondi Beach, no big deal
At least he tried to keep dry!
Another good reason not to get in the water was the Bluebottles we saw all over the beach.  Doesn't the name sound so innocent and sweet?  It's Bluebottle season here in Oz - lucky for us, we don't get that many of them in Port Stephens.  They are pretty creatures - and also fairly easy to spot.  The top blobby part is actually above the water, and even if you do get stung, it's one of the few things that won't actually kill you!  It just smarts a fair bit, but the life savers keep some sort of spray with them to keep it from hurting too much.

Another name for this jellyfish is the Portuguese Man-O-War.  That whole bit above the water apparently resembles the actual Man-O-War ship's sail.  For some reason, I thought these were in the US, but much bigger.  I don't know if I was calling a jellyfish by the wrong name.  All I know is whatever stung me in the Gulf of Mexico years ago really hurt and left a terrible discoloration of my skin that is still hanging around.  As many of these that were littering the beach,  I was just as happy to not have even brought my swimmers!  Here's what happens when the boys would spot them in the water:

Run away, run away!

Several in a very small section - it was
like this everywhere on the beach

We walked down the entire beach.  I'm not sure there is much better than wandering along a beach.  As soon as I hit the sand, I feel my shoulders relax.  Down at one end there is a pool that fills up with the tide, but keeps out the baddies.  I think that's a great idea, especially for children.  My kids wandered around the outside.  Remember that comment to the kids about trying to stay dry?  I always know that's a pipe dream with my Wills around.

View of the beach from the pool area
I've seen nakeder kids on the beach...

We went rock hopping after this.  Our whole family loves this and we do it fairly often.  Amazingly, this is the first time either of the kids has gotten hurt - and of course it was Will that received the injury. In his defence, his brother actually fell on top of him, causing Will to get a pretty good scrape on his ankle.  He was mostly a trooper and let us wash off the cut in the salt water with minimal whinging!

Sea stars in a rock pool
Everyone on the rocks

Cute couple!

Bondi from the rocks

And here is a study in getting three different groups of people to pose:

I don't even know...
Had to be up high...
And the recently engaged...

We had a great time at Bondi and headed back into Sydney proper for the rest of our evening, which I'll post about in the next few days.  The boys were excited because we were finally off to Luna Park!