Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Weekend on the Gold Coast

Miami Beach with Surfer's Paradise in the distance

A friend from Kingston, Ontario inspired our weekend trip down the coast to Burliegh Heads/Miami Beach (a section of beach between the Gold Coast and Surfer's Paradise).  Dave and part of his family were going to be staying there to attend a family wedding.  His partner Nat was a bridesmaid in her sister's wedding. 

We decided not to rent a car, and try the train instead.  It actually took a short bus ride, a short train ride, a longer train ride, and a second bus to get their.  Then it turns off we got off at furthest spot from our hotel so we had to walk the last kilometre or so.  But we did get their just in time to see the second half of the Australia vs.Wales World Cup Rugby game.  It was an exciting game, with Australia taking 3rd place in the World Cup finals.  The final game was played on Sunday - New Zealand vs. France.  That game was way more exciting than expected as New Zealand had dominated the tournament previously but in the final game France kept it very close.  The All Blacks won but only by a point!  But I digress...

Unfortunately our accommodations were not so great.  The space was generous with a small kitchen and living room and 2 bedrooms, but it was dirty.  It made us not want to open any drawers for fear of what we might find.  Before eating we re-washed the dishes.  We did not spend a lot of time in our room however as we met up with Dave and Nat at their lovely hotel with a huge and I mean HUGE heated pool.

 We spend most of Sat. morning their and then we had lunch at Piccolo a restaurant across the road from the ocean.  Then it was an afternoon at the ocean!   Oh I do love the ocean.  It makes me so happy.  We spent hours just jumping in the waves trying to body surf.

getting buried by the tide

We hung out at the beach long enough to see the wedding party setting up for the wedding on the beach.  We took a couple of pictures of the wedding ensemble from the cliff top on our way back to our hotel. 

Nat and Tate's Beach Wedding

Dramatic setting for the wedding

The kids were very excited to go to "Sushi Train" for dinner.  It is the type of Japanese restaurant where you sit at the counter and little plates of various sushi roll by on a conveyor belt.  You just take what you want until your belly is full.   Each plate costs between 3 and 5 dollars.  The plates are colour coded to the price, so at the end of the meal the cashier just totals up your plates.

After dinner, Dave and Nat invited us to 'crash' their sister's wedding - so we did.  It was good fun.  The kids were zonked though after a day of sun and water so we were back to the hotel well before midnight.

The next day it was back to the ocean for more sand and salt water.

Nat, Xavier, Dave, Serenna, P-S, and Zac

Serenna makes a splash!

 Nat, who is Australian gave us a quick lesson on some of the things in the ocean that can kill or at least sting us.  Fortunately, there are not meant to be many 'stinger' this far South.  They are more prominent in the North near the Great Barrier Reef.  Nat did however find a few 'blue bottles' stingers on the shore to show us.  I wish I had had my camera - they were a pretty blue transparent jellyfish.

A link to another photographers image of a Blue Bottle

 Apparently they have barbs at the end of their tentacles that dig in making them hard to get off.  If a friend/parent tries to pull it off they will get stung too.  So her advice was  use a towel to get it off and then treat the nasty sting with vinegar.  I will definitely be adding  vinegar to our swim bags just in case! 

One little creature that vinegar treatment will not help with is the blue ringed octopus.  Nat told us about this one as a serious precaution.  Zac has also read about the blue-ringed octopus  in his  Animals of Australia book.  It lives in tide pools.  At rest it is a yellow brown colour but when threatened it gets blue rings on it when it is angry. If it stings you, it can stop your heart!  Yet it is quite pretty.  Have a look here:

  It is a wee tiny octopus that is deadly!   The blue-ringed octopus is the size of a golf ball but its poison is powerful enough to kill an adult human in minutes. There's no known antidote. The only treatment is hours of heart massage and artificial respiration until the poison has worked its way out of your system. Nat told us a story that with CPR the person can remain conscious and know what is happening to them but their heart cannot beat on it s own.  Lesson learned - never poke at anything in a tidal pool with your curious little fingers, right Zac?!

We had lunch with Dave and Nat and their two boys, had another swim in their pool and then took a bus, train and city cat back home to Brisbane - just in time for that rugby game.

Sending my love, until next time..... xox

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weekend in Lamington National Park: Rainforest Hikes

We are sitting in the moss covered tree roots of a fallen tree.

I always seem to be a week or so behind with my blogs but eventually I get there.  This blog is about our trip to Lamington National Park (Oct. 9-10).  It is just under a two hour drive southwest from Brisbane, within 15 km of the state of New South Wales.  Lamington National Park is a World Heritage Site rainforest with several waterfalls, rivers, and a staggering number of  plants, animals and birds!  Serious bird watchers would be in Heaven here.

 On Saturday morning we planned to leave very early but we woke up to a torrential downpour.  We checked the weather and it was not to let up until afternoon.  So we slowly made our way to the park.  We arrived after lunch as the sun was coming out. 

We checked into our Chalet and the owner greeted us with a basket of homemade muffins - yum!

Our Chalet, about 20 min. outside of Lamington Nat. Park

We decided to do a short hike (2 hours) part of which included a Tree Top Walk at O'Rielly's  Rainforest Retreat. 

Tree top walk diagram

We popped into the visitor centre there to get some hiking maps and we had a great chat with a guide there.  He gave the kids a bird spotting booklet, and even left the visitor centre unattended to take us  a short way down a path to point out the nesting area of the Blue Bower bird.  The Blue Bower likes decorating his nest with blue trash like bottle tops and bread bag tabs - anything blue and therefore pretty. 

He showed us one other very cool thing - a HUGE snake skin.  It was at least 8ft long!  The park staff discovered the shed skin on the steps of their sleeping lodge one morning this spring. 

Check out the length of this snake skin unrolled on the counter.

The tree top walk was very fun.  We were up pretty high on connecting tree top bridges.

Jas, Serenna and zac on Tree Top Walk, taken from a lower walkway.

 There was also a spot where you could climb a ladder up a tall tree to a small viewing platform about 20 metres up.  The brave could then continue up yet another ladder and climb to 30 metres above ground for spectacular views.  Not for the vertically phobic.

At O'Rielly's Resort Shop, they sell bird feed so you can get up close and personal with the birds.  That is an understatement.  These birds were so overwhelming.  Five or six would swoop down and try and get the food from you.

 We had a couple on our head, another two or three on our arms.  Zac - who really loves birds - got freaked out and just dropped his food.  Serenna and I struggled to take some pictures while being swarmed.

This shot was taken, with two birds on my arm, one on my head, and one on the camera.

Then it was back to our chalet for some exploring around the property - a wallaby was spotted.  The views were fantastic.  Then Zac  and Jas went up the hill to BBQ our sausages.  They watched a storm roll in and narrowly escaped  a soaking.  We enjoyed the thunder and lightening while indoors by the fireplace playing a game of scrabble. 

The next morning, Zac, our own early bird, was up taking pictures of his mates on the balcony of our chalet.

On Sunday we wanted to do a longer hike of about 12 kms before driving back to Brisbane.  With all our stops for snacks, pictures, tree climbing, lunch, rock clambering, etc. it took about 5 hours! 

It was absolutely stunning though.  Nice and cool in the rainforest.  We saw some of the most enormous trees!
Jas, Serenna and Zac inside a tree.

 It was really jungle like, with twisting vines and tall tall trees. 

Check out the diameter of this tree trunk!

The whole inspiration for this weekend trip was a beautiful picture of a waterfall in our Australia guidebook.  So here  is a look at a couple of the waterfalls we saw on our hike.

Waterfalls at Lamington National Park

Next blog...  we need some Ocean time.  But until then here is one last look at these AMAZING trees.

This is one tree trunk we are clambering over!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Koala Cuddles and Kangaroos

Hello there!  How you going?

Well Happy Belated Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is not an Australian holiday and we were away for the weekend (more on that next blog) so we did not celebrate with Turkey.  In fact we gave thanks for our Chinese noodles and lamb sausages that night!  I do however see turkeys wandering the streets everyday.  Seriously!  On the walk to school we see at least 3 daily.  They are the strangest looking things (as turkeys are), they are Australian Brush Turkeys and they just wander about scavenging things to eat.  They are kinda of like squirrels in London - plentiful, harmless, and no one pays much attention to them.

What I want to share with you today is our trip to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is located just outside of Brisbane. 

 As I have mentioned before we are choosing to live without a car because in the city the bus and City Cat (river boat) are clean, convenient and well used.  Unfortunately, getting out to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary would have been rather complicated with connecting buses etc. so we decided it was a beautiful day for a bike ride.  This is the day we learned just how hilly Brisbane is.  What should have been an hour and a half bike ride (quite an ambitious undertaking with two kids) turned into an almost 3 hour bike ride!!!  We had to walk our bikes up so many damn hills!  In fact, most of the time I walked my bike and Zac's bike as it was too hard for him to get up without help.  To all our credit we remained in good spirits despite the heat, the hills and the distance to our goal.  A wee break for an ice cream cone helped too.  Eventually we made it!!  What a sense of accomplishment, what a sore bottom, what dread for the trip home....

Weary cyclists arrive at destination at last.

We were well rewarded with so many (over 100) koalas to admire. 

Serenna and Zac also had their photo taken with a couple of koalas and got to hold and cuddle them for a bit.  I had a wee cuddle too but my koala was more interested in climbing on me than cuddling.

There were many kangaroos to feed and watch and have a chat with.  I particularly liked this guy -
you can see why when you get a look at his pecs. 

this is one muscular kangaroo.

Having an a chat.

We even spotted some kangaroos and wallabies with joeys in their pouch.  Check out the feet and tail sticking out of this pouch.

Big joey feet sticking out that pouch.

Serenna actually had the opportunity to feed  a joey while it was resting in the pouch!

Again the position of this joey mystified me.  How is she so folded up that the head and hind legs
stick out?

Here is the joey a moment after crawling out of the pouch.  I think she is getting a bit big for it!

Jason and Zac also spent some time at the water trough with a very thirsty kangaroo - she did not come up for air for like 5 minutes- and a very pretty Emu.

There were also a couple of Wombats to look in on.  This guy was having a nap.

Fortunately this little guy was more active.  We learned that wombats are also marsupials.

That's all for now.  I mainly wanted to share all these animal pictures with you. 

Kids are doing well in school and coping with the 2 hour a night homework load.  They are taking tennis lessons on Wed. after school from a tennis coach who uses the tennis courts right on the school property.  Jason has some big due dates so we did not go anywhere this weekend.  On Sat. we got some fruit and veg. at the West End market (after a sweaty bike ride where the kids moaned more in the 30 min. ride than in the entire 3 hour journey last weekend!!)

Finding some shade on the way to the West End market.

 We listened to the live music while having our picnic. 

Live music at the West End market.

 The kids and parents swapped roles on Sunday.  Serenna and Zac made strawberry pancakes for our breakfast and salad and boiled eggs for lunch.  We went to a pub for dinner to watch the World Cup Rugby semi finals. I had to ask permission to have a drink!   It was the New Zealand "All Blacks" vs.  the Australian "Wallabies".  Australia lost but that was not a huge surprise the NZ 'All Blacks' are amazing.  They are the only team not to lose a single game.  They play France in the finals next weekend.  Yes, we have all turned into rugby fans.  Canada and Scotland were sadly out of the competition much earlier.

Until next time... here is a picture of my new favourite tree.  It is a Jacaranda tree (I think).  They bloom in the spring and will be the back drop of many a wedding photo.

Sending our love...