Christmas Koala

Christmas Koala

Liking: Getting festive. We didn’t have a Christmas tree last year which was a bit of a shame, so this year we invested in a fake one. It makes me a bit sad to not have a real one, but when we’re out our flat gets to 30 degrees inside in the day time, so it just wouldn’t survive if we went away and left it for a week! I’ve got some pretty cool decorations for it, including some Australian themed ones and the robin all the way from England that my friend Bex made.

Disliking: We’ve been having some pretty tropical weather recently. Hot and humid in the days and then big storms at night with a lot of thunder and lightining. They make you pretty wet which isn’t good. I’m not generally scared of thunder, but here is so loud I just keep thinking buildings are collapsing or the world is ending!

Christmas Wombat

Christmas Wombat

Watching: I went with friends to see the new Hunger Games film at the cinema which was good. At home I’ve been watching the Apprentice on iPlayer. I was so frustrated watching the episode about the paper skeleton – that should totally have been allowed.

Playing: We bought a lot of games back in November, so we’ve been playing them some more, particularly Contagion. We took some of the more portable ones on holiday with us to New Zealand too.

Reading (new!): I read some pretty average free books on my Kindle recently. I’ve started A Christmas Carol for the festive season. I’m pretty sure I’ve not read it before and am enjoying it, although it keeps making me think of the Blackadder version!

Every tree needs a penguin!

Every tree needs a penguin!

Consuming: I had my first mince pie of the festive season early on in December.

Buying: Our underwater camera died within 30 minutes of being at the Great Barrier Reef – boo! We invested in another waterpoof, tough camera to take on our adventures. After some research we went for the Olympus Tough, TG3. Its doing well so far!

Thinking about: My career. Stay tuned for more on that.

Snowy owl

Snowy owl

Visiting: We spent the week around Christmas over in New Zealand visiting various places in the North Island, including Waitomo Caves, Lake Taupo and Hobbiton. I had to write this up before we went, so expect more posts about that soon!

Missing: Our friends who went home and Christmas with family.

Looking forward to: We have got flights booked now to visit the UK in June, including going to the wedding of our friends Phil and Rhiannon, so we’re very much looking forward to that trip.

Baby wombat in a stocking!

Baby wombat in a stocking!

In the cable car

In the cable car

For the start of our Tropical North adventure we flew up to Cairns, and spent a couple of nights in an apartment near the wharf. Flying in was surprised how hilly it was, with hills covered in trees going right down to the sea.

On our first full day we went on the cable car up into the Daintree rainforest to Kuranda, had lunch at the top in Kuranda and came back down through the gorge on the Kuranda scenic railway. It was a really good trip. On the way up you get great views back over Cairns and the surrounding area, and of course of the rainforest all around you. We paid a small bit extra for ‘diamond’ gondolas which had a clear floor, so you could see below well.

There are 2 stops on the way up. At the first one we did a short guided walk and learnt about the different plants, animals and fruits in the forest, including the musky rat-kangaroo. We saw some bush turkeys, but no rat-kangaroos.

The second stop was a lookout over the impressive Barron Falls. As it was getting into summer there wasn’t loads of water going over it, but the gorge itself was still very impressive.

We had a couple of hours in the rainforest village of Kuranda, so had a look around the shops and then got some lunch. We had lunch in a place overlooking the rainforest with lots of kookaburras about.

Kuranda Railway Station

Kuranda Railway Station

The train station was quite 1920’s retro and the train had booths of seats inside and open windows with bars across for some good air flow. Matt managed to pick up a frozen, chocolate coated banana for a quick snack, which was a healthier version of an ice cream. It tasted pretty odd, texture wise.

The train ride down was 37km and took about 90 minutes, and the views were really cool across the Barron Gorge National Park and down the valley out to Cairns. The whole line is a pretty impressive feat of engineering considering it was built in the 1880’s! You can read more about its history, here. We stopped at Barron Falls to check out the view from the other side, which was even more impressive.

Kuranda Train

Kuranda Train

Once we got back to Cairns, that afternoon Laura joined us from New Zealand, where she’s working at the moment. James made us all a yummy dinner, and we had a pretty close (and slightly too long) game of Munchkin before bed.

The next day we were up early for a 7.30am meet up with our reef boat. More about that in the next post!

View down the gorge

View down the gorge

In November, five of our awesome friends from at home in Horsham came over to visit us in Australia (Tom, Kate, James, Monika and Sammy). We were very excited to see them, and just like when Phil and Rhainnon came last year, we gate-crashed part of their holiday and went on with them up to Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef and Port Douglas.

Here’s some highlights of what we got up to in and around Sydney for about 5 days. If you come and visit you can do some of this cool stuff too!

Welcome BBQ and hot-tub: For their first night in Sydney we hosted a welcome BBQ and hot-tub night. It featured Aussie classic foods like kangaroo burgers and FIVE kinds of Tim Tams, plus Batch 1 and 2 of the home brew which all went down very well. I reckon the hot tub is good for jet-lag.

Hot-Tub

Squishing in the hot tub

Bondi Coogee Coast Walk: We went along the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi, about 5km, stopping for some lunch at Clovelley on the way. James had a go at snorkelling, and picked up some bonus sunburn at the same time. Annoyingly I got a bit burnt to when I missed some bits with the sun cream – amateur mistake!

O Bar for dinner: After the walk, complete with our sunburn, we went to the O-Bar for dinner. It revolves around Sydney, 47 floors up, so has some pretty awesome views and nice food and cocktails to boot. We went in at 6pm and got to stay till about 8.30pm so saw it getting dark and the city light up which was cool.

Dinner at the O Bar

Dinner at the O Bar

Drinks at the Opera Bar: After dinner we walked up to Circular Quay to check out the Opera House and Bridge closer up, and stopped for some drinks at the Opera Bar which also has some awesome views.

Mixed day: The next day we split up and did lots of different things, including: Taronga Zoo; the Botanic Gardens and Art Gallery NSW; the Guillian chocolate cafe and surfing at Bondi beach. In the evening James and Monika did the Bridge Climb at syunset which they said was really good. Matt and I will be giving that a go soon. Kate, Tom, Sammy and I went to the Escape Hunt to try the hard ‘Murder in the Pub’ room. You have 1 hour to solve puzzles and clues to work out who the murderer is and escape the room. Matt and I went and did an easier one a while back (see here), and just didn’t make it (we blame some teething problems with their puzzles). I was keen to see if we could do the harder one with more people. We did it, with over 3 whole minutes to spare – woo! It was a bit tricky, especially when the torch batteries we found didn’t really work!

Super-sleuths

Super-sleuths

Blue mountains tour: On the Saturday we hired a car and took a day trip out to the Blue Mountains. We went to a lot of lookouts, plenty of cafes and did a few different short walks in scenic places. We found a really nice cafe in Bilpin with a nice garden to sit in, home made apple pies and an overly friendly dog. After a late lunch we accidentally bought 3 new games for the holiday at the game shop in Katoomba, and headed home for take away pizza, board games and another dip in the hot tub!

Bridal Veil Falls, Blue Mountains

Bridal Veil Falls, Blue Mountains

Photos by the bridge: After the mountains we stopped for some long exposure group shots by the bridge, like we’d done with Phil and Rhiannon on their visit. Timing jumping off the wall right proved quite tricky, and there were quite a few other people waiting to get photos so we only had a couple of attempts. One more and we’d of had it I reckon!

Bridge Ghosts

Bridge Ghosts

 

After Sydney we flew away on holiday to Cairns, the  Great Barrier Reef and Port Douglas. More about those in the next posts!

Hot-Tub

Our Horsham visitors

Liking: Its almost warm enough for the sea now in Sydney, and we had a good snorkelling trip to Gordons Bay recently to practice for the reef. From the middle of November we had 5 Horsham friends over to visit us, which was really excellent! 🙂 More posts about that coming soon.

Disliking: Work is slooow at the moment, which is making me bored. I’ve had some days off though, so that helped. Back in October I realised with 2 days to go it was the tax return deadline, so didn’t enjoy that very much either! They seem to owe me a fair refund though, so if the estimate is good that’ll be a nice Christmas bonus.

Watching: I had a sick day with a cold and watched Maleficent. After our reef trip we had to re-watch Finding Nemo.

Playing: Our latest game pre-holiday was called Rampage. Its simple, OK for kids to play and is basically dragons going around a city destroying it and eating Meeples (people). I’m not very good at it! Apparently its not officially called Rampage any more because of a law suit, and is actually called Meeple something instead now. When our UK visitors came we accidentally bought 3 new games and played a lot of them on holiday. Loot Letter is very portable, quick and simple – its a Munchkin version of Love Letter. We also got Contagion which is good – its like Pandemic but you play the disease and try and infect the world!

Reading (new!): The latest book I read was The First 15 Lives of Harry August. Its about a man who is reborn over and over again, in the same place and time and remembers everything. There’s a few people like it, including a baddie who tries to do bad things. It was an interesting idea, but a bit confusing and the ending was a bit of a let down.

Consuming: I had 10 days without consuming bread, cheese or biscuits. It was hard, and sort of pointless. We tried batch 1 and batch 2 of the home brew, and they both got pretty good ratings.

Buying: I got my new phone finally and am enjoying the Appleness of it.

Thinking about: Our Christmas trip to NZ and the Shorts coming to visit for New Year. December’s going to be pretty busy!

Turtle on the Great Barrier Reef

Turtle on the Great Barrier Reef

Visiting: Loads! We’ve done a lot in Sydney with visitors, including the Blue Mountains, O Bar, another Escape Room and hanging out in the hot tub! Not only that, we’ve also been on holiday up to Cairns, the Barrier Reef and Port Douglas too.

Missing: Our friends who went back home. Having visitors is excellent – until they go!

Looking forward to: November was a pretty awesome month.In December for the compulsory Christmas shut down we are off for a week in New Zealand (North Island) and then have the Shorts visiting for a week, so definitely a lot more to look forward to before 2014 is over.