Published: January 3rd 2009January 2nd 2009 Blogging has now resumed normal service following Christmas and the New Year!
Multi coloured Manly
after a hard day of rain, yes we said RAIN, we were treated to this!
Special guest Alison James-Hart aka Kirstin's Mum
Leaving the cold winter of Japan behind us, making our way to the sunny skies of Oz, we donned our thongs (that's flip flop's or if you have two left feet, flop flops!) sun cream, sun glasses, we had arrived in Australia only to get wet feet, sun cream dripping in our eyes which we couldn't wipe through the glasses. We checked our tickets again and we were definitely in Australia, but where was the blue sky, the sun and the cold tinnies, instead greeted with the Great British summer without the the Kiss Me Quick hats!!!
Okay, not that bad, but it was cloudy the day we arrived. So far the weather has been wet and hot, cloudy and hot, blue skies and hot, sunny and hot and hot and hot!
Within the first hour of landing we had done the top 4 things to do in Sydney:
- See the Harbour Bridge
- See the Opera House
- Throw another shrimp on the bar-b-e!
- Catch the ferry to Manly, which would be our home for the next few
we are not only smiling but we are kayaking while we do it!
All this and we hadn't ever unpacked yet!
Manly with it's golden sands; aqua blue waters, pine tree's lining the beach front and waves crashing with near perfect barrels taking any unskilled surfer crashing down, serving up a portion of watery humble pie! This is what we saw when we had our lunch breaks on the sea wall before continuing our search for the magical vehicle to take us around and through Australia. Finding this vehicle was harder than we thought, touring around outer and inner Sydney we had more chance of running into Lord Lucan riding Red Rum on his way to the Dodo sanctuary!
The Good, The Bad, The Beautiful and The Ugly
Manly has many faces, the beautiful coast lines and walks to the hanging swamps and bushlands, feeling a million miles away from anyone and anything only bird calls breaking the silence, heard but never seen as they dart from tree to tree, if you're lucky catching a little green and red plumage or the Eastern Water Dragon lizards which line the warm dusty paths and rocks basking in the midday sun, not to be confused with the sun worshippers on the
There's an ease to the place, you can't help but slow down, it's all about energy efficiency why walk to work when you can skateboard, the whole place moves in slow motion, things get done just don't hold your breath. It's great place to sit with your Fish & Chips and watch the sun go down as the world slowly passes by.
Occasionally there's the Ugly, not your Sarah Jessica Parker ugly more your Michelle Pfeiffer ugly, looks pretty in some lights but rough in others as does Manly! The broken bottles and noses of the night before which litter the streets and the local headline news. It seems that some things don't change wherever you are.
A welcome break from car hunting!
Having spent so much time on our pursuit of a vehicle to take us around Oz, we had neglected our traveling duties of exploring where you stay; the only places we had seen were the suburbs of Sydney, most of which are not mentioned in the guide as places to go, that's not to say they're not worth visiting, it was nice to explore places not in the guide albeit unintentional. The kayak
trip was timed perfectly and gave us time away from vehicle viewings.
After a briefing on safety and how to paddle we headed out in our kayak made for two along with our small group into one of the Sydney estuaries (Middle Harbour) at Spit Bridge, not to be mistaken for Porpoise Spit. Our first mission was to kayak alongside the rest of the group, this sounded like a relatively easy task; after spinning around in circles and overshooting the others several times we made it......last! Rob was getting use to the rudder that was controlled by his feet, the “I've got cramp in one foot” was not fooling Kirstin. We followed our guide through the estuary alongside some incredible properties perched high on the rocks overlooking the harbour, passing boats and bobbing along nicely. We then gathered together in our group to be told we were in the place where the last death from a shark attack took place in Sydney Harbour! From here on in we made sure our fingers and toes were in the kayak at all times. Another few paddles and we were into yet another beautiful estuary this time full of mangroves, we had
Our Fish n' Chip view
eating our dinner on the beach, watching the sun disappear
hit the tide right and were lucky enough to paddle our way through the mangroves, (all this only a couple of km's from Sydney city) it was beautiful.
After three hours of paddling the old arms were beginning to get a little weary but we just kept thinking of the toned biceps we would have. A glorious morning kayaking was topped off by a group of pelicans waiting for our arrival in the harbour - magic.
Before Big Wednesday, there was medium size Monday!!!.
The lesson was booked, the boards were waxed, the bodies bronzed and ready for action.....well that is how we would have liked it. It was more like lesson booked, massive learner boards and two pale looking bodies. We arrived for the lesson excited but with some trepidation, this was not helped by the sight of the other students who were all around three feet on account of being 8 to 10 years old! We were relieved to see some other oldies arrive.
The instructor lived up to the stereo typical dude, blond hair, bronzed body and the all important laid back sounding voice. We grabbed a board and dragged it down the beach
and I mean dragged this thing weighed a ton, so much for popping it under your arm and running down the beach looking like an extra in Baywatch!
The lesson started on the beach with warm up exercises and then the “how to pop up on your surfboard”, even on dry land the arms were starting to ache, it didn't bode well for getting into the water. The nerves grew as the time came to get into the sea, we were lucky enough to have the perfect conditions for surfing, the sea was calm, the waves small (about 2 feet) and perfectly formed.
The pressure was on Rob who rumour has it was a pretty proficient surfer in his younger days, no pressure! The waves came and went, most left without us, paddling to get on top was a tricky craft to master. Luckily the instructors were on hand to give a required push, that is for Kirstin and not Rob, it's not very street cred for boys to get a push from the instructor. The push worked well for Kirstin as she caught her first wave, what a feeling! Once on your first wave it is easy
over Shelly Beach
to see how you get the surf bug. Rob dusted off the rust and caught a couple of big ones...... well smallish ones. All too soon the lesson was over and it was time to drag the boards back along the beach. A good time was had by all, we had a step in our stride feeling like we had conquered the sea but knowing that really we had just caught some ickle waves!
We thoroughly enjoyed both experiences which were completely different, thanks so much to all the ex-Hansonites who contributed and provided us with two experiences we would never have had otherwise.
Some Familiar faces
Arriving in Sydney meant that after being away from Blighty for four months we would be seeing familiar faces. The first was Bill who we were more used to seeing in the Hanson office in London so it was nice to meet up in Sydney, it was a lovely evening and one that provided the best view in town! From the window of the restaurant it felt like we were close enough to touch the Harbour Bridge, accompanied by great food, wine and of course company! Thanks Bill!
days later is was the arrival of another familiar face, Kirstin's Mum (Alison) who came all the way from Blighty for two weeks to spend Christmas with us in Oz. It was bizarre but nice to see such a familiar face half way around the world. We were looking forward to our first week in Manly then Christmas in the Blue Mountains. We were thoroughly spoilt when Mum/Alison arrived which felt like a real treat!
The Curious Incident Of The Blue Jelly In The Sea.
Not just any old blue jelly but the deadly Portuguese Man of war, it was like a scene from "Big Wednesday" crossed with "It Came From The Deep" and "Finding Nemo"!
Picture this; surf was looking good and after our lesson we thought we could hold our heads high with our 5 foot; 3 fin thruster surfboards under our arm and step into the great ocean and face the Mavericks crashing down over the rocky reef. Instead we walked around to the sandy bay, Kirstin hired a bodyboard and Rob hired a 8 foot plank and we paddled into a 2 foot white water washing machine. Half the battle was getting pass the wash
Catchin the tube!
surfing over the reef
so you could settle giving you time to pick your wave and hang ten! Finally Kirstin grabbed the first wave, weaving in and out of its wake. Rob sits and waits. Kirstin grabbed another beating the wave into submission. Rob sits and waits, until it was time, wave building on the horizon, Rob spins his plank around and paddled like the wind, it's a big one and just as it looks as if Rob's going to catch this monster, he takes a nose dive straight into the abyss, coming up for air only to be walloped by another wave, finally grabbing his board looking like a drowned rat with his hair flat around his now pale face and snot running down his checks, can't remember Patrick Swayze looking like this in Point Break! Kirstin complained she may of been stung and pointed to a blue blobby thing in the water before grabbing yet another wave, Rob followed on the white wash behind back to the shallows, all of a sudden Kirstin shot out of the water in a whole lot of pain pulling her boardshorts down to reveal a Portuguese Man of War stuck to her belly, Rob wrestled with
Kirstin checks the surf
at 6/8 foot walls of solid water, a little on the small side for us!
the huge blue beast as waves continued to pound us, after a second or two it was off, we scrambled to shore dodging the washed up blue warriors seeking the beach medic. "Oh, saw the whole thing, dude. First you were like, 'whoa'! And then we were all like, 'whoa'! And then you were like, 'whhoooaaaaaa'." we just stood with mouths wide open and slightly confused! "Takin' on the jellies. You got serious thrill issues, dude, now wash it with warm water, add ice to numb the pain, the wind must be blowing them in, dude!" Well, it all happened something like that!
You haven't surfed the Mavericks if you don't have the scares to prove it!
This was our cue to leave the ocean for a while and head to the mountains.
There are more photos below