Andy's boat for the day.
Laura bought Andy a full day's sailing lesson for his birthday and early one Saturday he arrived at Manly marina to battle the ocean. Despite tearing the arse out of his shorts getting onto the boat (thankfully for all involved he had taken a spare pair) the morning went quite well as he tacked and jibed around Moreton Bay in glorious sunshine. Stopping for a bit of lunch as the wind dropped the clouds slowly started to get darker in the distance. Setting off back for the marina, the clouds in the distance turned into a full blown thunder storm and chased after the boat. Halfway home, and as Andy was at the helm, the storm caught up changing the gentle breeze into a sudden gale-force wind almost spinning the boat around. The captain took over the steering after that point but had even less success than Andy and after not going anywhere fast, they had to drop sails and head for the marina under the power of the small lawnmower-like engine.
The week before Christmas our stuff finally arrived from England. Quite how we managed without a cheese grater, Andy's golf shoes, table air hockey and the remote control
One of our gardens' less scary residents - skinky the skink.
helicopter for three months was a complete mystery!
Christmas in Australia is strange. There's the obvious temperature difference, but there's also no real build up, no christmas lights hanging from every other house, no christmas songs playing, nor any real excitement. It just isn't that big a deal over here. This is probably best exemplified by the fact that when the TV channel cut to the ad break during the film we were watching on Christmas night, it titled it as "The Thursday Night Movie" as if it was no different to any other thursday! Undeterred, we bought a christmas tree covered in fake snow and annoyed our neighbours by playing Christmas classics such as Slade and Wizzard very loudly most evenings. Thinking we should do things the Aussie way at least in part, we got up on Christmas Day and headed for the beach. Given that in the UK the roads are virtually empty on Christmas Day we were both surprised and delighted to get stuck in traffic for several hours, slowly making progress towards the coast. Fortunately our grumpy now scrooge-like moods were erased when we finally arrived at a fairly empty beach and warm sea in
Breakfast will never be the same again!
Andy thought he would top the day off by cooking a roast dinner on our spangly new BBQ. Using his special rotisserie attachment he skewered a whole chicken and set it going spit roast style. While Andy nipped indoors to organise the christmas tunage, Laura was quite surprised when she looked out the window to see smoke and orange flames leaping high above the BBQ, and calmly and politely requested that Andy should perhaps be monitoring the progress of our dinner a bit more carefully. After a bucket of water, and alot more smoke, a black yet raw chicken emerged from the BBQ whose metal lid had only melted/bubbled slightly, almost certainly adding to the flavour of the chicken. Despite this minor hiccup we did have a great dinner and enjoyed opening our presents with the folks back home as they were getting up and we were heading off to bed.
To make the most of our time off work we decided to go camping over New Year. We headed 3 hours south down to the Girraween National Park, almost at the border with New South Wales. Despite it being sold as having "huge granite boulders", which
Rescuing a teeny lizard from the pool
brought visions of the granite cliffs of Yosemite to mind, but, which in reality were a few big rocks, it was very beautiful and we had a great time walking along the creek and stalking kangaroos. We were quite surprised though, as we packed up, to find two tiny scorpions (about an inch long) underneath our tent!!
Summer down under means the start of the cricket season, and we were lucky enough to get tickets to the sold out Twenty20 game at The Gabba. Whilst there was some extensive deliberation as to who to support out of Australia and South Africa, we thought it was only right to support our hosts.....begrudgingly.
For the Australia Day (pronounced Straya Day) weekend we travelled up to Bundaberg (Bundy), home of the world famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery (What do you mean you haven't heard of it?!). Bundy is one of those places where you can only pick up country music on the radio and eat out at kfc (not strictly true but you get the picture). The day we arrived, it was so humid that we had to use our windscreen wipers to wipe the moisture in the air from the front
Lizard close up
More importantly, Bundy is very close to the turtle rookery at Mon Repos. On our last trip we visited Mon Repos in November during the nesting season. January is the time that the number of nesting turtles reduces and the eggs start hatching, so we were hoping to see some hatchlings. After a short wait our group was called to assemble to go down the beach. When they said it was a turtle nesting it was hard not to be disappointed, but as we got to the beach they told us the Ranger's message had been misunderstood and that it was in fact a 'nest dig' that we were going to. Evidently, one of the Rangers had located a nest that was under a sandy walkway down to the beach so was covered with compacted sand, which meant the hatchlings couldn't get out unassisted. (Once they've hatched they stay in the sand for around 5 days eating their yolks, before emerging).
Once we had all arrived, the Ranger began carefully moving away the top layers of sand until the sand started moving on its own and several tiny noses and flippers poked their way out. The Rangers
Laura is an only child - sharing is an issue.
allowed the turtles (Loggerhead) to flip, flop and roll down the hill and then gathered them into a holding area to make sure they didn't get squashed. They brought a couple round for us to touch (sorry, no photos!), then it was time for us to guide them to the sea. We formed two parallel lines several metres apart, and then several select children, and Laura, were picked from the crowd to form the tunnel of light which would guide the hatchlings down to the ocean. Those in the tunnel had to take off their shoes, and stand with their legs apart, shining their torch at the feet of the person in front. It took all of Laura's concentration not to move as the 71 hatchlings (out of 115 eggs) tickled their way over her feet. We can only hope that the trauma of having to negotiate Laura's feet during the first day of their lives did not upset their navigation systems or affect their survival chances too much.
A brief stop off in Noosa on the way back to Brisbane on Australia Day itself (or invasion day depending on your point of view), was met with chants of
You say hello to a big lizard and he sticks his tongue out at you!
"Aussie Aussie Aussie", and what appeared to be a world record attempt for the amount of inflatable flip-flops you can get in the sea at one time. Not really fancying the crowds of steady drinking Aussies, we headed off back to Brisbane, unfortunately arriving too late for the traditional cockroach races!
More stuff we've learnt about Australia:
Christmas crackers are called bon bons.
Who says Australia is behind the times...evidently the "the next big thing on Australian TV" will be.......wait for it...........Masterchef?!
According to our gardener (yes, we are that scared of our garden that we now have a gardener) any 'dirty' webs belong to redbacks. Cue even closer examination of anything webby.
We must have been deprived of Premiership football for too long as we both thought the last Roar game we went to was quite exciting.
Swearing on the radio is perfectly acceptable at all times of day. In fact, Queenslanders have a fairly lax apporach to swearing......the grandfather sat behind us at the cricket who was looking after his little granddaughter next to him shouted out some gentle words of encouragement to the aussie batsmen...."run two yer bloody bastards!"
For fecks sake, you just don't fit anymore.
The official drink driving guidelines are a little dodgy to say the least....if you're over 25, you are subject to the 'general alcohol limit' which, for a man, allows 2 drinks in the first hour, and one drink every hour afterwards!
In the spirit of shortening words, Aussies love to give nicknames. This usually involves taking one syllable from your name and then sticking an 'o' or a 'y' at the end of it. For example, in Laura's team is Westy, Timbo, Deano, Kavo, Simbo(x2), Dicko, and Forbesy.
Whilst on the subject of nicknames you might know that the Aussie footie team are called the Socceroos, but you probably didn't know that the under 21's are called the Joeys, and the womens team are called the Matilda's!
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