Random wanderings on the East Coast

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December 5th 2013
Published: December 16th 2013
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So this blog covers a bunch of random things Shelagh and I have been up to since our Darwin Blog.

We plan to do a fair bit of diving while we are here so we signed up to do our Advanced Course. The course was held in Manly. It didn’t get off to a great start. We were told to arrive at 8 am. Some others were told 8:30. It was 10 am before we did anything other than fill out a form. 10:30 before we left the shop…to go to another location to get our gear. Around 11 when we reached the beach to start the course. Not so impressed. We had to do 5 dives. The first 3 were on day one just in shallow water at Little Manly. We did a dive to improve our buoyancy, one to practice navigation, and one for naturalist (fish identification). It was quite cold but an ok day of improving diving skills. Most importantly we headed to 4 Pines Brewery in Manly for dinner and beer. The 4 Pines is the maker of my current favorite beer.

The second day did not go so well for either of us in different ways. We headed out from Manly to do our deep water dive to the Dunbar wreck and naturalist dive, both from a boat. Seas were rough and poor Shelagh was puking off the back of the boat. She did very well to dive considering the condition she was in! All was well as we began our descent for the deep dive. However at about 7m (not deep for the non divers in the crowd – beginner diver limit is 18m and our dive was to be to 30 m that day) I started to feel that I couldn’t breath. I stopped my descent, tried to breath, signaled Shelagh and the dive master that something was wrong, had them check my tank and regulator etc. There was nothing wrong. So, this means I just had to breath more slowly and more deeply. However, the problem when you are having trouble breathing is that it makes you anxious, which makes you have more trouble breathing. We descended to about 15 m. I still didn’t have it under control so ascended again a bit. I signaled that I was ok (ok-ish really) and the owner of the dive shop came
Bronte beachBronte beachBronte beach

It never fails to amaze me that these beaches are in the city.
and took my hand and held it through the whole dive. Meant that I was able to get through that dive which I was grateful for. The wreck itself is really just a few pieces spread out along the bottom but still kinda cool. We did a second dive that afternoon. Shelagh didn’t puke, I didn’t panic, success. More to come on this later

I have been swimming with a swim club here. On Saturdays they swim at the Boy Charlton outdoor pool that overlooks Woolloomooloo (again, not a spelling mistake) Bay. It’s amazing! On a beautiful day every time you take a breath you get this view out over the Bay. There is a fantastic café up top where we have brunch after the swim. This is one aspect of living in Australia I could get used to.

Canberra is not exactly known as Australia’s most interesting, coolest, hippest or most fun city. However, it is known for some relatively good mountain biking and its only a 3 hour drive from Sydney. So we packed up the car and headed out. We rode at a trail network called Sparrow Hill the first day. It was fun, fast,
Adam ScottAdam ScottAdam Scott

Australian open
flowy trails. Nothing technical at all but well built and fun. We saw our first kangaroos in the wild while we were biking. It was very cool to watch the family jump over a fence with ease. As they say here “Not a problem”. We also saw some very strange lizards that we later learned are Shingleback lizards. In fact, much later, a very clever 6 year old told me they are “the lizards with two heads”. When I didn’t understand, her 8 year old brother explained that Shinglebacks have a wide part on the end of their tail which looks kind of like their head so predators attack the wrong end.

The second day we went to Stromlo which is the best-known trail network around. It’s a lot like the Canmore Nordic Centre in its set up, however, I have to say that Stromlo has done a much better job of sign posting trails and providing suggested sections of trail to link up into great loops. We actually met up with the brother of a guy Shelagh is working with in Victoria (Canada) for the ride. There were kangaroos at Stromlo too. After riding we made a stop
Rory McIlroyRory McIlroyRory McIlroy

On his way to winning the Australian open.
at the Australia Museum which was very good. With that done we figured we’d pretty much seen Canberra so we headed back home.

We had fun on our mountain biking trip to Canberra, but realized that the mountain biking is not close to Canadian standards. We decided to make the shift to road biking (at least temporarily). Unfortunately Heather’s back has been playing up so she hasn’t been able to do much. It has been a real shift mentally for me as in Australia road riding happens at the crack of dawn. 5.45, 6 or 6.30 am depending on the day. I have amazingly managed to pull myself out of bed to do this. Its fair to say that I’m barely awake and failed to notice the smash and grab robbery happening at a local coffee shop, that was until they started chucking muffins at my riding partner. If I’d been awake this might have been exciting or scary perhaps! The plus side of early morning riding is sunrise over the beaches. Riding along Bronte to Bondi beach first thing in the morning watching the sun come up is amazing. I’m not a complete convert as the espresso afterwards
St Kilda PenguinSt Kilda PenguinSt Kilda Penguin

These guys are tiny. About 33cm tall at their highest.
doesn’t substitute for beer post mountain biking…but its pretty good!

We have done multiple coastal walks since we got here. One of the most beautiful so far was a stroll from Watson’s Bay to South Head. This goes past some crazy expensive houses/ good fish and chips and ends at the South entrance to Sydney Harbour. On the way you pass by a nudist beach discretely hidden under the cliff. There was a surprising number of single men wondering in that direction. The view across to North Head and Manly were gorgeous.

We managed to fit in a visit to the Australian Golf Open. This surprisingly was suggested by Heather (who is not renowned for her love of golf). It was pouring with rain, but we had fun nonetheless. We watched Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott battle it out. Rory eventually won his first tournament of the year. Despite the weather we had a great day out watching some excellent golf. The Royal Sydney golf course is a beautiful course and was in excellent condition. I couldn’t get past thinking about what the real estate value of this golf course was.

We then headed to Melbourne. Shelagh had a couple days meetings here so we came for the weekend to check out Melbourne first. We had a 6 am flight from Sydney so we were a little tired when we rolled into Melbourne but we toughened up and headed out. After a little coffee we went to the Botanic Gardens. I know, I know, of course Shelagh and I would head immediately to the Botanic Gardens in any city we visit. There is an aboriginal cultural tour around the botanic gardens and this gave us an excellent insight into the local trees and plants and a better understanding of the aboriginal relationship with the land.

We then had lunch at a famous pub in Melbourne complete with Chloe the painting that caused a lot of stir in the 1800’s (she naked). It was hot here. People in Sydney (much like Glasgow and Edinburgh , or Calgary and Edmonton) are a little down on Melbourne and the first thing they say is “its cold”. Well it was 34 and 30C on our first 2 days here. Not so cold! We wandered around Victoria Market at closing time and got some bargains. The town itself is very different
Melbourne stationMelbourne stationMelbourne station

Well planned, wide streets in complete contrast to Sydney.
from Sydney with wide, planned streets, and biking lanes.

Later that evening we met up with a colleague from Melbourne and did a high speed walking tour/ progressive dinner around Melbourne’s funkier areas. This was really fun. We started in China town with dumplings and then went over to Fitzroy. We went to a Greek place called “Jimmy Grant” which is slang for immigrant – we had some great takeaway Greek food. Finally we ended with N2 ice cream. This is really cool where they use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream in front of you. I wasn’t going to have any (this is Shelagh) – but then I discovered beer gelato on the menu! Combining two of my favourite things seemed perfect. Well – it tasted like beer and was a bit odd. It might have been better if they had used decent beer rather than crown lager. What was clear wandering around Melbourne was that this was “hipster central”. It reminded us of Portland. In the ice cream shop the seats were milk crates with fake grass on top of them – I don’t know how Calgary would feel about this. The streets are also covered in
Twelve ApostlesTwelve ApostlesTwelve Apostles

Totally aren't 12 of them. Never were.
“street art” including the walls of the ice cream shop. We finished with a high speed walk through the Italian suburb including a spin through the largest café/cake shop you can possibly imagine!

The next day we headed to the Australian immigration museum. This was interesting if not a little outdated. Australia and Canada have a lot of parallels in terms of their immigration policies over the years. The main difference as far I can see is that Australia was (more) overtly racist (and boats can get here easier). They are still coming to this day with 75,000 Brits immigrating to Australia each year. Not sure how many immigrate to Canada each year, but it must be less than that. We then had lunch in the oldest building in Melbourne (which happened to be a pub). This was a bizarre building imported straight out of 1800’s England stuck in a lane behind skyscrapers. What are hidden in the lanes is crazy – pubs, amazing restaurants and street art. Later that day we headed down to the beach suburb of St Kilda. Not as beautiful a beach as any of Sydney’s, but it had penguins! There are 17 species of
Street art -  MelbourneStreet art -  MelbourneStreet art - Melbourne

He seems to think that the hat hides his identity…!
Penguins in the world and in our quest to see them all we are still along way off (Shelagh 4, heather 3).

While Shelagh spent a tough day at work I headed off on a bus tour of the Great Ocean Road. I have been excited to visit this since we decided to come to Australia so I was ready bright and early with my expensive coffee, sunscreen and pack of Sour Squirms (my new favorite snack food – sour gummy worms). I feel like I got a bonus on this trip, since I was the second person picked up I got a tour of the locations of virtually every hotel in Melbourne. Fascinating. Eventually we hit the open road starting by heading over a bridge. I mention this…because the tour guide mentioned it. Essentially, Sydney has this great bridge, so Melbourne got one that is longer, taller, everything-er…and no one cares. First stop was Bells Beach the famous surf beach. Unfortunately there wasn’t much surf that day so not the spectacle it often is.

The official start of the Great Ocean Road is at Torquay . It is a marvelous thing really. Post WW1 there was a
Beach huts Brighton Beach, MelbourneBeach huts Brighton Beach, MelbourneBeach huts Brighton Beach, Melbourne

A quick visit to the beach on the way to dinner.
shortage of jobs for returning servicemen so the government initiated this project. It gave thousands of men work and created a gorgeous journey for millions of people for almost a hundred years now. The road is literally right next to the ocean most of the time with beautiful views of sea and surf. It runs through some quaint little towns like Lorne where we had a tea stop and Apollo Bay where we had lunch. We stopped off at a campground where the Koalas come to spot tourists. It was great, lots of koalas, far up in trees so photos don’t do it justice.

After lunch we got to the most famous sights on the road, The 12 Apostles, London Bridge and Loch Ard Gorge. They lived up to my expectations. The tour guide was great and although it was a long drive back to town it was overall a great day.

I was excited to get back to Sydney from Melbourne because my 18 year old niece Meghan is backpacking around Australia and New Zealand with two friends and they had arrived in Sydney for a visit. It was fun to have young people in the house (oh my god I sound elderly!) and brought back memories for us of travelling at their age. We did learn that feeding 3 teenagers is a major undertaking and don’t know how those of you who actually have children can afford to feed them. And apparently you are supposed to feed them every day, several times.

For my birthday Shelagh arranged for us to go to cocktail making class at a famous cocktail bar at Longrain restaurant. It was fabulous. We made simple cocktails including daquiries, mojitos and pina coladas – all of which were much simpler, than the versions we often drink. It was good to learn the basics and then you can improvise from there to suit tastes. However (Haley Medlicott) that does not mean when making a mojito you can reuse the mint, substitute tonic for club soda and replace the ice with snow! On my actual birthday (I’m pleased its become a multiday event)we dropped the girls off at Coogee Beach so they could do the Coogee to Bondi walk (beautiful) and we went to Bronte Beach for Brunch. Probably one of my favorite spots in Sydney. In the late afternoon we went up to
Costal walkCostal walkCostal walk

Just above the nudist beach…with single guys all wandering there no their own. Not dodgy at all...
the bar on the 36th floor of one of the posh hotels in town, the Shangri La, for champagne cocktails and then to Longrain, the restaurant affiliated with the cocktail bar we were at the day before. All in all a great birthday.

The day I dropped the girls off at the bus station at 6:30 am I picked up our friend Skye at the airport at 11am. A busy household. We headed almost immediately to check out the beaches and then down to circular quay for the opera house/bridge mandatory viewing. The next night Shelagh and I went to her work Christmas party (and imbibed on a bit too much of the freely flowing champers) while Skye went to watch Jack Johnson in concert outside the opera house.

Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


Street art at the back of N2 Street art at the back of N2
Street art at the back of N2

Just a little grungy -reminds us of Portland.

Making beer gelato with N2...
St Kilda PenguinSt Kilda Penguin
St Kilda Penguin

Penguin species 3 in our quest to see all the world's penguins.

Considered a little risky for a while
Watsons BayWatsons Bay
Watsons Bay

Fish and Chips bay.

16th December 2013

Hi from Twila
Looks like you gals are having a fabulous time. Thanks for sharing. What are your Christmas plans? Do people decorate trees there? I've heard that everyone goes to the beach on Christmas Day, is that true? Take care, Twila
16th December 2013

great blog
Sounds as if your are really packing in the new experiences! Glad for the teenagers that you were able to feed them a few times. Will they arrive home starving?! Food is just one of the reasons that parents of teens are usually broke.

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