Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wet 'N Wild on the Gold Coast

Serenna turned 11 years old on November 10.

Birthday Girl

 She did not have a birthday party but instead opted for a day at Wet 'N Wild Water Park.  The Gold Coast (an area about an hour or so south of Brisbane), where Surfer's Paradise is located, is full of amusement parks.  It was tough to choose which one to spend the day at but a water park on a sunny hot day won out in the end. 

They had some amazing water slides and rides.  Many of them we could do as a family.  My favourite was a huge water slide that we went down in a four person raft.  It is great that Zac has had a growth spurt because he was tall enough to go on almost every ride. 

how to become a human missile

On this ride below called the Kamikaze I was really scared.  The first slope down was at a crazy angle.  It felt like we could easily tip over.  After the initial insane dip we zoomed up the other hill (which you cannot see in the picture) with only a small boarder to prevent us from flying right off.  

Zac and Jason
Serenna is incredibly brave on these rides.  She even talked me into joining her on a  non-water slide ride that was fast and high and spinny and made roller coasters look like toddler play. That  U shaped track in the background of the picture below was part of the insane ride.   Jason  and Zac would not even consider joining us, opting instead for extra time in the huge wave pool.

Here are a couple of more pics. of our day.  Serenna is actually on the left most slide in this shot.  Jason managed to get slide burns on his shoulder blades and wear two holes through his "rashie" (sun shirt) going down these slides.

Holy crap this is steep!

Let's do that again!

Elaborate Splash Pad
The day flew by too quickly and suddenly it was 5 pm and the park was closing. We drove further south down the coast and had some dinner at Red Rooster (fast food chicken chain) and then continued on to our cabin near Byron Bay.  Looking for a cabin in the woods in the dark was really creepy.  We drove down this dirt path and would come upon a dark cabin and then I would get out and sneak up to the cabin to try and see if it was the right one, or if it was occupied by someone else.  I kept thinking of all the deadly  things that exist in Australia - snakes, spiders,.. as tromped about in flip flops.  Just when I was about to protest at this reverse gender roll and sent Jason out into the dark, I found the right one.  By then the kids were all creeped out and Jason had to spend half an hour killing any mosquito, spider, bug, or piece of dirt that they spotted, before they would settle down for the night. 
Our neighbours recommended a day at Byron Bay and what is not to love about a beach side town and more ocean time.

As we walked over a small hill to get to the beach we were welcomed by this awesome sand dragon.  A middle aged well tanned surfer beach dude makes his money creating these amazing sand sculptures in the early morning and then sits by his creation all day with a bucket out for your spare change and appreciation of his work. 

Byron Bay Beach, Gold Coast, Australia

Is that you Puff?
After a day of rugby on the beach (Zac's new fav. sport) and endless wave jumping and crashing, we had to drive the two hours back to Brisbane.  There is nothing like a day in salt water and sun to zap your energy and leave you thirsty!   Zac found this manic water fountain in town.  Each time he pressed the handle the spray would shoot about 8 feet out, hitting passers by.  Trying to get a shot into his mouth was hilarious and risky,

It was another fabulous weekend.  Back to the regular grind through the week. 
Until next time,
xox Penni-Sue

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Sunday afternoon in Brisbane

This is an Ibis.  They are like pigeons looking for picnic scraps.

When we are not doing great little weekend trips we have a pretty normal daily routine.  School days we are all up around 6:45 am (Jas and I even earlier because of the noisy birds - by 5am it is bright daylight). We leave for school and work by 8 am. Instead of mitts and scarves, we have to remember Tilly hat and sunscreen before we step outside.  School starts at 8:40am and we have that hilly walk to get there.  The weather is really getting hot (about 30 degrees) and humid.  By 8am it is toasty and sweat is soon rolling down from everywhere!  My new style of dress is work out clothes most days as they dry faster.  I do the errands and groceries, clean up our wee flat and then spend time on line either blogging, emailing, sorting 100s of pictures, or finding accommodations for upcoming trips.  I go work out at the university around lunch time.  Jason continues to join me for Pump and Step class a few days a week.  (I am still really impressed).  By 2:30 pm, I've showered, had lunch and am walking up the hill to collect Zac and Serenna.  Mon, Tues., and Wed., nights are really heavy on the homework.  We usually come home and get down to it until 6pm when we have dinner (if Jas isn't running late!)  When we are too hot from the walk home we have a quick dip in the pool before starting the homework.

Our apartment pool.

 After dinner and clean up we usually play a game, balloon volleyball is a favourite just now.  Then it is time family reading, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix just now.  Then 15 to 30 min. of personal reading time before bed. 

On weekends, if we stay in Brisbane, we usually go to the market on Sat. mornings to get our fruit and veg...  This past weekend on Sunday we went to Southbank (an area in the heart of Brisbane) to cool off at the splash pad and man made beach located there.

Southbank Splash Pad, notice the flowers along wires in the background.

Zac getting soaked!

Southbank is a big public park located right along the Brisbane River.  It is always busy with locals and tourists.  As I said there is a man made sand beach, non-sand swim area, splash pad, swimable river, play parks, picnic areas, public barbies, a weekend market, restaurants and bars, a theatre,  the GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) and a beautiful flower-walled walk .  It is a really nice area of Brisbane.

River and splash pad at Southbank.

Non-sand swimming lagoon at Southbank.
Time to warm up.  Susan, do you recognize your old shower curtain?

 For us it is only 4 City Cat stops away so it is convenient to get too and spend a couple of hours out.  In fact, tonight Serenna and I are going to Southbank tonight see a play: Pygmalion (the George Bernard Shaw play that My Fair Lady is based on).  Zac and Jason are looking forward to playing rugby!

Blog with you more soon,
xox Penni-Sue

Friday, November 11, 2011

Moreton Island : A Piece of Paradise

Well if you have been following my blog and your beginning to get a little bit tired of 'being happy for us', then I suggest you just skip this one...

Moreton Island, QLD, Australia

....unless you can't resist seeing a few pictures of Paradise.

On Friday, Nov. 4 we played hooky from school and work and headed to Moreton Island. We stayed one night on the island and returned Sat. afternoon. It is Australia's third largest all sand island. It is a 75 min. boat ride from Brisbane Harbour. We were on our way by 6:30 am!! Really not a problem here as the sun rises around 4:20am.

Our ferry.

As we approached the island we could see that it was all sand with some shrubs and a few palm trees growing in the sand.
Moreton Island, Queensland

The island it self is almost uninhabited except for a handful of privately owned houses and the Tangalooma Eco Resort that is located there. One of the main attractions to come here, besides, sun, sand and snorkeling, is to see the wild dolphins that come into shore every evening to be hand fed fish. But more about that later.

First we wanted to get into that lovely ocean and walk the silky sand beach.

We rented some snorkeling equipment and then headed down the beach about half an hour to a coral reef that has grown over 7 sunken ships.

The sunken ships are behind us in the distance.

Along the way we found some star fish being tossed about the in the surf. Jas turned one upside down so we could have a look underneath and watch its little tentacle like feelers come out.

Living star fish, can you see the little suction cups underneath?

The kids have never snorkeled before and perhaps we should have given them a chance to try it out in the pool first. But we didn't and they handled it really well. It can be a bit scary in the ocean with waves knocking you about, looking at rusty, creepy old shipwrecks, with fish all around you. It was really cool too.

When the kids first saw the schools of fish they were a bit startled, especially because the mask and water make everything look bigger and closer underwater. Once they relaxed into it, we all had a great experience.

Unfortunately the kids got cold too quickly (yeah for my extra insulation!!) and we needed to head back to shore to warm up. Once we were no longer blue, Jas and I headed back to the wrecks for another look while the kids played on shore.

Jason snorkeling around partially sunken ship.

Fish feeding over coral encrusted ship wreck.

After snorkeling we had our picnic on the beach before heading back to the resort. On our walk back we saw a dolphin swimming along the shore line about 20 meters out. It was fantastic! We ran along the beach to keep up with her until she headed out into deeper water. We learned later that we had spotted Bella, a very old dolphin of 40 or so years. Her territory is along the coast on that side of the island. Apparently she sticks close to home these days as her vision is not so good and she has lost alot of teeth so she stay doesn't go out to deep water for fear of shark attack.

We checked into our room and then made good use of the pool.

Tangalooma Resort Pool.

As the sun began to set we returned to our resort room for a before dolphin feeding drink. We had a beautiful sunset to enjoy.

Sunset over Moreton Island.

Then it was time to head down to the jetty and check out the eight or so dolphins who were already gathering waiting for some fish. The conservation staff know all the dolphins by site, the shape of the dorsal fin is original to each dolphin. They also have individual markings and scars which help to identify them.

Watching the dolphins play while waiting for their snack.

The feeding is about to begin.

This dolphin feeding started years ago when a injured dolphin was fed by some islanders. She recovered and kept returning at sunset for a visit and some food. Eventually she brought a friend and in time her pup. Over the years the conservation staff has mapped out a family tree of the dolphins that come into feed. They are not all from the same pod, because after 3 years of staying with their mom, male dolphins go off to find an all male pod to hang out with. Some keep returning though and some even introduce new dolphins to the sunset rendezvous.

Zachary and Jason feel the dolphin.

Because these are wild dolphins the resort only allows them to receive 10 to 20% of their daily needs. They also have to make sure that no diseases could be passed along to the dolphins so we had to clean our hands in a bucket of cleaner before taking a fish from another bucket. We walked into the water and got close to the dolphins. To feed the dolphin, we put our hand under the water and held out the fish to them: very gently the dolphin took the fish between his teeth and swallowed it. Unfortunately we were not allowed to touch or pet the dolphins, but it was very cool to be so close to them.

This is 19 year old Rana.

The next day we were up and playing early. By 8:30 am it was Beach Volleyball time.

Good bump Zac.
At 10:30am it was tennis!

Those tennis lessons are paying off!

Then some more ocean and pool time. And a well earned refreshment!

Yes I am in Paradise!

All too soon we had to head back to Brisbane. It was a fun ferry ride though.

I love this kid

Beautiful Serenna.

Fabulous trip! Second only to the whale watching in Hervey Bay.

Bye-bye Moreton Island.

To save taxi fare on the way home we took the City Cat from one end of the river to our stop at the other end. Somehow Serenna and Zac still had energy to dance on the boat home.

Still enjoying our fabulous weekend.

This weekend, we head to the Gold Coast again to go to Wet 'n Wild Waterpark to celebrate Serenna's Birthday.

Until next time...
xox Penni-Sue

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Brisbane Duck Race

A fabulous storm rolled in one night this week.  It was amazing to watch the dark clouds suddenly take over the sky within a few minutes.  This was taken from our 8th floor balcony.

Storm clouds rolling in.

So the bad news is that they do not really celebrate Halloween in Australia.  There are a few private parties, or a few kids may knock on a known neighbour's door but nothing like the traditional North American Halloween.  The kids were pretty bummed about that, especially when we heard about the awesome plans for "Halloween in the Village"in London.  To ease the disappointment, I gave them 20 dollars to blow.  They worked together comparing sweety prices to get the most for their money.  It was a very serious but fun undertaking!

Proud shoppers

Happy Zac
 Although we did not have Halloween, we did have the Great Brisbane Duck Race this past weekend.  It is a city wide fundraising event for Cancer.

 On line we bought a family of 5 rubber duckies.  Then on Saturday we went to the rivers edge for the festivities and the race.  There was fair like atmosphere with food stalls, face painting, a petting zoo, lots of picnickers and of course the duck races. 

Jacaranda flowers everywhere
Zac holds a really squirmy duck
Zac feeds the goats
When the time for the races began, people lined up along the river.  First they raced the individual entries of motorized duck boats. 

Motorized Duck Boat contestant

Ready, Set, ...
At last it was time for the big Rubber Ducky Race.  On a barge on the river was a huge container filled with over 30 000 ducks.  Come on duckies 28093, 28094, and 28095!  Give it up for 28096 and 28097!!

30 000 ducks about to be dumped into the river.
Ducks racing between the floating lanes.
Which one is ours???
Alas our ducks did not win the new car but we did help raise money for a good cause. 

On Sunday we went to the market for some vegetables.  Then we decided on a cruise!  For less than four dollars (2 dollars for kids) we traveled from one end of the Brisbane River to the other on the City Cat.  It was a lovely hot, sunny day and  a lovely cooling breeze could be found traveling the river. 

It takes about an hour to travel down river from the closest City Cat stop from out flat.  Our trip took us from St. Lucia (the neighbourhood we live in) into the city centre, around Kangaroo Point (where Serenna and Jason do rock climbing) and north past some nice looking residential areas.

Brisbane City Centre
Close up balcony details of that middle building

Pedestrian bridge complete with solar paneled roof shade.
City Ferry (as apposed to the larger sleeker City Cat) for quick trips across the river in the down town core.

Sitting outside on the City Cat (having a cheap tour).

Riverside Cafes and restaurants with a weekend market.
Kangaroo Point is a quiet area  along the river. Great for rock climbing the cliff wall.
North End of Brisbane River
Serenna and Jason made sushi for dinner. There is a huge Asian influence here.  So everything we needed for sushi and miso soup was readily available at the corner store.

Sushi a la Serenna.

 Lots of pictures but not too much news.  We are into our work, school, gym, housework routine so daily life is not so different.  We have some very nice weekend trips planned for November.  Serenna's birthday makes an excellent excuse to do some more travelling.

Talk to you again soon,
xox Penni-Sue