LunaClown

In Sydney the closest thing we really have to a Theme Park is Luna Park. Its sort of like a permanent fun fair, with about 12 big rides, some kiddies rides and lots of stalls where you can pay money to try and win cuddly toys and other tatty prizes. The entrance is guarded by a big scary clown whose mouth you have to walk through to get in.

They have some 241 deals, so we went with a couple of friends recently on a Friday night to take advantage of the deal. We spent a good 3 hours of the evening there and Matt and I made it on all of the main rides. I felt a bit quessy by the end, after the upside down ride and all the spinning, so we decided not to sample the doughnuts and ice creams.

Sadly the old rickety looking roller coaster was shut, but here’s a summary on the other rides:

Tango Train: We went on this first. Two of you sit in a car and go around in a circle, up and down bumps. It starts backwards and then goes forwards which is faster. The ride lasted quite a while so did get a bit repetitive but was good fun. You get squished to the outside so I spend a while amusing myself trying to hold on against the gravity and seeing what it was like with my eyes shut.

Carousel: As you might expect. I called my horse Sunshine becasue he had a yellow mane and the ride made me think of secretive undercover spy meetings and Greys Anatomy. Yes, I’m strange.

Getting air in Coney island

Getting air in Coney island

Coney Island: Coney Island is a cool adventure space with lots of fun things including a mirror maze, wobbly walkways and some giant slides you go down on mats. Andrew got airbourne!

Ferris Wheel: Pretty standard Ferris Wheel, but with awesome views over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

View from the ferris wheel

View from the ferris wheel

Hair Raiser: This is probably the second most extreme ride in Luna Park. It cranks you up a pole higher and higher, to 50m, where again the views are really cool. Then, without any warning or even stopping from going up you drop really suddenly. I was definitely screaming / manically giggling!

xx

The Hair Raiser

Tumble Bug and Spider: These were both ones with two people cars, where ou get spun around a lot and spun in all sorts of directions. Quite good fun.

Dodgems: Another classic. I passengered with Matt and we managed to lap some of the others a couple of times. Apparently the lady was telling me to put the camera away but I didn’t hear her at all!

Moon Ranger: This was the most extreme ride in the park, like a pirate ship, but which went fully upside down. At first I really enjoyed this one, but then when it was fully upside down 3 or 4 times it would stop and leave you hanging there for what seemed like ages, which I didn’t really appreciative. The restraints were really tight pushing on your stomach too.

Ranger

Ranger

Rotor: This was the most unusual ride. Three of us (Andrew wasn’t feeling well and knew it would make him feel worse) went in without any idea what it was, and had the whole ride to ourselves. Its a black round room with a wheel in the middle. You hold the wheel and they start rotating the room and then you go and stand against the edge. As they speed it up you get stuck against the wall and cant move! Then the floor disappears and you stay floating stuck to the wall! That was quite a surprise. It spins for a long time and you can try moving your arms and legs out which is pretty strange, and then when it stops you fall back down to the floor which is now lower! I liked the simplicity of it, and the element of surprise about what happened!

For $25 each (241 price) it was worth it for a fun night out, but I certainly wouldn’t pay $50. It’s quite a small place so I don’t expect we would go back very soon, but if we have visitors who want to go I’d more than happily go again and pretend to be a child!

WnW2

Since last year we’ve been meaning to go to Sydney’s water park: Wet n Wild. It opened about 18 months ago, and we avoided it at first because of the massive queues. This year towards the end of summer they started doing a good discount to keep the customers coming in before they shut for winter, so we decided for $50 instead of $80 each it was worth a trip. You can check out the website, here.

We got there for 9.30 when the doors allegedly opened, before all the rides fired up at 10. They didn’t actually open the doors until about 9.50, but that gave us time to get our writs bands sorted and pay for the big locker ($12) and parking. It was an extra $8 for the car which is a bit cheeky seeing as there isn’t any other reason you’d go to that car park.

After a quick change we checked out the park map and decided fairly arbitrarily to go to the right, as there were more rides that way. For the first hour it stayed really quiet and we were able to get off a ride and go pretty much straight back on again, ticking off 8 or 9 rides in the first hour (with one twice).

The park is organised into four main towers. One has the three most gentle rides, which you go in on four person rings, although you can go just with two of you and two spare places. We ticked all these off first. Generally someone ended up going backwards on these rides, which added to the amusement!

After that, things get a bit more interesting with the two person rides. There were 5 of these on one tower. You have rings for two with one person in front and one behind, both facing forwards. To start with Matt was at the front. Then after a few goes I got told to sit in front because the lightest person always goes in front to avoid getting flipped! Shame I didn’t know that earlier! This tower had a ride in the dark, and more twists, turns and drops than the others. The one called Half Pipe shot you down a bit drop and then really high up an almost vertical wall on the other wide which was pretty fun. Also on the tower was a set of 4 tubes called The Breakers where you drop down first and then get shot up by some quite strong jets of water before doing a lot more drops. That was also pretty fun and we did it twice straight away when we realised one set was steeper than the other!

Half Pipe

Half Pipe

From there we headed over the other side to the third tower which had the most extreme rides on it. They’re faster with bigger drops. Unfortunately the one called Bombora, which looked like the most extreme one there and a bigger version of Half Pipe was shut – boo. This tower had the biggest queues, so if we go back we’ll know to go here first while its quietest! First we went on T5 which had the shorter queue (about 20 mins), and turned out to be my favourite ride in the park. As well as getting flung around a lot you spend quite a while in a giant funnel going up and down the walls on each side which had me giggling and screaming like a maniac! After that we spent about half an hour waiting to go on Tantrum, the most popular open ride. It was good, similar to T5, but I didn’t think it was worth the extra wait.

For $20 you can buy a queue jump pass which you can use once on each tower, so maximum 4 rides in total. We did see some people with these, but didn’t bother ourselves. Standing in the queues and wandering around people and tattoo watching was pretty entertaining in itself.

The final tower had the individual rides on it. The 360 Rush was shut, which I was secretly quite glad about! You stand up in it and get dropped down the chute and then go around a 360 degree bend. There was a warning sign about what to do if you didn’t make it all the way around which didn’t fill me with confidence! The H2Go Racers was open, where 8 people go at once racing down the tubes face first on mats – like sledging on water. Matt and I both allegedly fouled, but it was saying that all day for all of the 4 chutes on the left. Not surprisingly, he beat me!

The big rides!

The big rides!

After ticking off all the main rides we went and had our picnic lunch. The food in the park was mainly fast food, so I was glad we took our own. There was some nice fake grass to sit on and beach loungers too if you wanted to sunbathe. From there we went for a couple of laps around the lazy river while we  digested, and debated what rides to go on for a second time! We went in the big beach pool while the wave machine was on, and had another go on some of our favourites including T5 and Half Pipe.

When you go in you get a wristband with a smart tag in it, that you tap on the rides when its your turn. It collects up all the photos of you which you can buy at the end. They have photographers around the park too. We didn’t buy any pictured, but I thought the system was a good idea. There are also a couple of other attractions at the park that you have to pay for – a surf wave and a face down flying bungee. The bungee looked pretty fun, although we didn’t want to pay for it!

All in we were at the park for about 5.5 hours, and managed not to get at all sunburnt – woo! One surprising thing was that there weren’t any water fountains around the park. Normally Australia is pretty good for those, but here they just seemed to want to sell you frozen coke! Overall it was a good fun day and well worth it for the discounted price, but I don’t think I’d have paid the full price (as usual)!

Me, Paul, Snipps and Thallis

Me, Paul, Snipps and Thallis

Over a year ago, for 2013 Christmas, Matt got me a day’s horse riding as a present. I’ve gone on horse walks a few times in the UK and enjoy it. I’ve been quite slack and not got around to going this time, waiting until it was cooler than summer, and then not wanting to go in winter and being busy. In January I had some time between jobs, so it seemed like a good time to go. Matt didn’t want to come with me (he doesn’t trust horses), but luckily my friend Paul was free and keen to go riding.

The plan was always to go in the Blue Mountains, and we chose to go to Centennial Glen stables in the Megalong Valley. You can read about them here. 

We went for the all day ride option (about 6 hours on the horses) with a stope for lunch at the Megalong Valley tea shop in the middle.

The weather had been a bit wet a few days before we were due to go, and the forecast was for a chance of showers, but we decided to head on up anyway and keep our fingers crossed. On the way up I learnt Paul was actually a pretty good rider, having spent a year working on a farm riding horses for part of his job! After a quick stop for some coffee and second breakfast, we headed down into the Megalong valley. Neither of us had been down fully into the valley before, and it was very scenic with bid cliff faces on each side. We appreciated it even more on the way back once all the low cloud over had cleared up and we could see properly.

When we got there we met our horses. Mine was called Snipps (or Mr Snipps or Snippsy) and Paul’s was called Thallis. It was just us on the ride which was great, along with Jim our guide riding Sam the horse. Jim was really friendly and talkative. The horses knew all the different routes they normally go on, and started to try and go on the shorter ones, but after some encouragement and direction we were well on our way.

Before we got to the first gate I had to try some trotting to get the hang of it. I had trotted once or twice before on purpose, and once when my horses decided to do it of his own accord! I found it quite tricky at first becasue you have to move up and down with the horse, whilst also leaning forward with the tops of your legs balanced against the front of the saddle and your arms out forward holding the reins, not grabbing the saddle. Mainly it was pretty painful for my bum which kept hitting the saddle and after some time my knees too, which didn’t like being bent all the time. Over the course of the long ride we trotted wuite a lot so I gradually got better at it. A few of the first time I could feel myself slipping to one side which was pretty disconcerting. After the ride Paul said to me something like “You got much better at trotting Elly. The first few times I really thought you were going to fall off!”

Horseriding in the Megalong Valley

Horseriding in the Megalong Valley

I like horses and the ones we had were generally pretty well behaved. We learned from Jim all about how they train them, what they cost to buy and all sorts of other things. Mr Snipps did have some character traits which made the trip interesting:

  • He didn’t like being behind Paul’s horse, so each time he got close Snipps would strt cantering to make sure he satayed ahead and i kept having to pull him back. He seemed to slow down when he wanted though, not when I told him!
  • A small part of the ride was on roads, but mainly we were on tracks and going through fields and countryside. On the downhill rocky and steep parts Snipps seemed to go faster to get them over with rather than slow down so it was nice for me!
  • Snipps kept trying to bite the bum of Sam the horse in front of us, including when he was trotting along. In the end Jim got  a big stick to whack him with when he got too close!

Along the ride we saw a lot of wildlife, including a lot of kangaroos hopping around, really bright crimson rosella parrots and lots of other brightly colours birds. We had dry-as-a-bone jackets like proper bush-people rolled up on the horses. I put mine on at one point when it got wet on the way back and it really was super warm. Going back along the valley was really scenic.

By the end of the ride we were both pretty worn out, even with the refreshment tea and pie stop at the tea shop! After the ride we went and saw the little ponies at the stable. My knees hurt during the ride but were OK the next day. The day after my bum was pretty painful though, and my legs and back from using all the different muscles I’m not used to. It was a great day out though, and probably good it wasn’t too hot and sunny or we would have been burnt. I think it would be really good to learn to canter properly, although luckily for our bank balance there aren’t any places to do it near where we live.

Horseriding in the Megalong Valley

Horseriding in the Megalong Valley

 

 

 

Kayaking Kangaroo Valley

Kayaking Kangaroo Valley

 

For a while we’ve been meaning to do a kayaking trip down in Kangaroo valley, and finally got around to it in November (I know, it’s taken me a fair while to get around to this post!) We went down with my old boss, his wife and kids and Penny who I know from my old work.

We headed down Friday night, and after some BBQ bacon and eggs for breakfast on Saturday headed off to get the boats. There are a lot of different trips you can do in the area, including some multi-day ones which we’re keen to try in future. Between us we had two kayaks (with two adults and a kid in each one) and Penny in the kayak.

 

The 'rapids'

The ‘rapids’

The trip we did was a short 5km one for 2-3 hours, from Hampen Bridge to Bendeela. Towards the end there was a fair bit of wind, which made it a bit tough going. It’s one of the most scenic parts, with lots of forested hills around, big water dragons hanging out on the rocks and a lot of birds of prey circling around too. There were some small rapids for a bit of adventure, and we stopped off for a swim to cool down.

Matt was mean and tried telling the kids there were crocodiles in the water, but there definitely aren’t! You can read more about the trips here. On Sunday we went to a nearby spot for some rock climbing and a picnic.

Big Water Dragon

Big Water Dragon

I like canoeing – its far more calm and relaxed than white water kayakiung! Back in June 2012 we did an overnight canoe trip on the River Wye in the UK on the Queens Golden Jubilee weekend. Here’s a flashback to that! (The weather was a bit different.)

Kayaking the Wye

Kayaking the Wye(

P.S. Today, 14th February 2015 (Valentines Day) we have been in Australia for two years. It’s flown by!

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!

After 13 continuous days of rain, spring had finally arrived in Sydney with a fine sunny day and an opportunity to get out for an adventure. Following an early start from Sydney, Paul and I arrived in Blackheath for the traditional coffee and sandwich from Altitude Deli. This seemed to have also been the plan for many other Sydney climbers, as we kept bumping into people that we knew. We had planned our adventure earlier in the week with 2 others, Andrew and Heath and our goal for the day was Clockwork Orange (20) – a classic multipitch trad climb at Shipley Lower. Given the hoards of climbers in Blackheath, it seemed like a good idea to go a bit further out of the way. While Paul and I waited for food and coffee, Andrew and Heath headed down to set up the abseil.

Following a longer than usual wait, we headed down to the crag and after a bit of bush bashing we eventually found the abseil and the other guys bags. After finding only a carrot and quickdraw tied to the rope, we were a bit sceptical about their abseil set up abilities! However our fears were quickly put to rest when we stuck our heads over the edge to see that this was just a guide rope and the actual abseil set up was on a ledge a couple of metres below. The abseil got the adventure off to a good start. There’s nothing like abseiling down a waterfall to wake you up in the morning.

Clockwork Orange (20)

Clockwork Orange (22)

We arrived at the base of the climb just as the others were finishing the first pitch. Our plan was for Paul to lead the first pitch (18), I was then going to lead the money pitch (20) and look to decide whether to run the next pitch (15) as well. The first pitch was a nice looking orange corner, probably worth a few stars on its own. As the other team worked on pitch 2 Paul led solidly up the first pitch. As Paul was making good progress up the first pitch, I could see a small part of the second pitch and noticed that Heath who was leading the second pitch was hanging on gear. This wasn’t great for my head, as I knew that he was a stronger climber than me. Paul waited for a while on the ledge below the belay whilst the others finished up their pitch. After a while the belay was clear, and Paul headed up and set up his belay on bomber gear in a vertical crack. I followed up and was quickly up at the belay where I got my first proper look at the second pitch.

The line looked amazing. Brilliant orange rock led up a slab and short corner. From there you move out and round a roof, pulling through the roof leads to a crack that steepens as it rises, with the crux probably being the last few moves before the ledge. I started up the slab and was up at the roof before I knew it. Leading out around the roof leaves you feeling a bit exposed, but the pitch had bomber gear (mainly small cams and nuts) throughout, which helped clear my head. Pulling around the roof I was established in the crack, bridging the corner where I could to place gear and rest my arms. Eventually I got to the last few meters where I had seen Heath resting. By this point my arms were pretty pumped, so I placed a couple of final bits of gear and talked myself into just going for it. With a few strenuous, moves I finally found myself pulling onto the ledge that signified the end of the pitch. I was pretty wasted.

Clockwork Orange (22)

Clockwork Orange (22)

I had a quick look around to see what the belay was like – all I found was a small nut and what Heath aptly later described as placing a cam in butter. I quickly decided to run up the next pitch to finish the climb, as Andrew and Heath had done. The third pitch was a easy short groove up a corner, but a combination of pump, rope drag and bad gear made it feel much harder. By the time I had got to the top, I was really wasted. I had to sit down for a couple of moments to compose myself and remember how to set up a belay. Paul followed me up and by the time he got to the top he looked half dead and mentioned something about drinking too much the night before! We got up the climb with no falls, which to me equals success. This was probably the best 20 that I have climbed in the Blue Mountains.

We rounded off the day by heading to Porters Pass via Shipley Upper, where we met fellow Rockies members Shawn and Junko. Paul was too destroyed to climb by this point, however I dragged my way up a couple of sport climbs, Lego Land (23) and Spread’em Baby (22). After that we called it a day and headed back to Sydney. As we were leaving the others were working on Escape Velocity (24). Lets hope for more fine spring days and more adventures to come.

Clockwork Orange (22)

Clockwork Orange (22)

Sheep Roast Club (or Sydney Rock Climbing Club?)

Sheep Roast Club (or Sydney Rock Climbing Club?)

Last year we went to our first annual Sydney Rockies Sheep Roast in the Wolgan Valley, in the Wollemi National Park. You can ready all about it here.

Time has flown, and it got around to that time of year again. The Wolgan is about three hours west of Sydney, traffic permitting. The gravel road has been mainly tarmacked now, so the trip up was quicker this year. We spotted a wombat on the way which was very cute indeed, and a possum eating the leftover pasta Paul had kindly made us.

Possum ready for cooking...

Possum ready for cooking…

On Saturday Matt and Paul went and did a multi-pitch climb they had to retreat from the year before (Secret Swingers and Schmitar on Old Baldie). They felt pretty pleased with themselves having completed that. My friend Heather and I took a walk up Mystery Mountain for some pretty awesome views around the valley, and then had a very nice swim in the river by the campsite to cool off. The campsite had a lot of kangaroos and wallabies hopping around, but just the one wombat this year. We even went on a walk to hunt for some, but with no luck.

Old Baldie

Old Baldie

Saturday night was the sheep roast, which was yummy once again, having been cooking over the spit for about 10 hours.

On Sunday we went on a walk to the glow worm tunnel. At the start of the walk our friend Paul wasn’t too keen on the 8km, 4 hour circuit, so we decided to drive to the other end of the tunnel where we walk was just an hour. The drive of about 40 minutes turned out to be nearer an hour and a half with 35km of bumpy gravel road, but the scenery was pretty cool up on the Newnes Plateau. We even got to drive through a petty basic, mainly unmarked rock tunnel!

The car tunnel

The car tunnel

The glow worm walk was good, and once the other noisy walkers had gone we managed to see lots of glow worms on the tunnel walls. On the way home we stopped for some cool drinks overlooking the Blue Mountains, and took Jeffrey (the car) for a well needed car wash!

Escape Room!

Escape Room!

I heard about the idea of Escape Rooms from our friends Tom and Kate who did one in Prague. I had a quick google about it and it sounded like excellent fun – Crystal Maze meets murder mystery! After some further searching it turned out one was going to open up in Sydney in August, so I subscribed to their newsletter and got an email one day saying they were opening soon and the first 100 people got a big discount off the entry fee.

How it works

We booked online, and got a 30% discount for being one of the first 100 people to go in,. You go in and meet your ‘game master’, who is on hand outside to give you hints if you get stuck, at the expense of 1 extra minute of time. You get ‘locked’ in the room, and have an hour to solve the mystery, unlock the last padlock to press the buzzer. You can press to get the game master in if you want, and there’s a big countdown timer on the wall showing how long you have left, to crank up the pressure. You can play with between 2 and 5 people.

The venue 

While we were waiting the venue had some cool puzzles on the tables for us to play with, as well as Sherlock Holmes style detective outfits you could dress up in and have your picture taken. I did do this, but can’t find the evidence! There are 6 rooms (2 lots of three different puzzles), with computers so the staff an monitor how you’re doing. We were there on the opening day so it was a little bit chaotic, but nothing they won’t sort out with some practice. Two of the room themes are ‘extortion in the dock’ and ‘murder in the pub’, which is an advanced version.

The room 

We went for the ‘robbery in the cottage room’. It was styled like a cottage from the Rocks are of Sydney (the old bit), from the 1900’s. There were lots of period pops like pictures, trunks, dressers, old kettles, old books etc. In the room there were a lot of padlocked things, so you gradually had to solve puzzles and get clues to find keys and open them one at a time. There were a lot of cryptic clues, a whiteboard for working things out and cards with profiles of the different suspects. Along the way there were lots of little surprises, like when we unlocked something and found it actually led to a whole other room!

How did we do?

We got really stumped by one of the puzzles right at the end, which was actually written badly – booo. We were about 1 minute away from getting out and totally could have done it if they tweaked that puzzle.

It was really good fun though, with a nice balance of feeling the pressure of time ticking away and good senses of achievement when you solved a puzzle and got it right. It made our brains work which was good, we worked together well and was interesting becasue its quite a different thing to do.

There is more info about the Sydney one here. There are also ones called Hint Hunt in the UK. I’m keen to go back and try the harder room soon!

Giraffes pulling silly faces

Giraffes pulling silly faces

I’ve been working up in Brisbane a lot recently, and at the start of August got to spend a weekend there. Rather than hang around the city, I decided to go for a mini adventure up the Sunshine Coast.

I hired a car from the pace conveniently right next to my hotel and headed up the coast on Saturday morning. On my adventure I went to Australia Zoo, saw the Big Pineapple, stayed in Noosa Heads and headed back down the coast via the Ettamogah Pub and Glasshouse mountains.

Australia Zoo is the Steve Irwin zoo. There’s a lot of crocodiles, conservation messages and  ‘Crocoseum’ where that have a daily show with lots of birds (and crocs). ‘Crikey!’ Animal wise its pretty similar to Taronga, but with less variety and no harbour views. There weren’t any penguins.  My favourite animals of the visit were the tigers. They had two, and while I was there a man was feeding them (grass) and being filmed for a TV show. The tigers were eating out of his hand, getting patted on the head just like giant cats and they played together cheekily.

Big croc - Crikey!

Big croc – Crikey!

Big cat

Big cat

Australia has a lot of ‘big’ things. The Sunshine Coast grows a lot of tropical fruit, so it of course has a big pineapple. I went to see the pineapple. Sadly it was shut so you cant go inside any more and none of the shops there were open. There were people with vans selling fruit but I didn’t really want a whole pineapple to myself! It was worth a look as it was on my route, but I wouldn’t go out the way to see it.

The Big Pineapple

The Big Pineapple

On Saturday night I stayed in Noosa Heads. Its a pretty beach resort type place, which was surprisingly busy in winder, so probably rammed in the summer. I took a walk up to the lookout in the early evening. When I got to the viewpoint at the top, most people were actually looking the other way. It turned out there was a koala in the tree watching the sun go down too whilst having his eucalyptus dinner. Awww! 🙂

I made it back down the hill to the beach for the last of the sunset, and saw a dolphin swimming in the sea quite close to the beach. The up and down movement of its fin convinced me and the other spectators it was a dolphin rather than a s-h-a-r-k.

Wild koala at Noosa Heads

Wild koala at Noosa Heads

That evening I had some dinner at one of the well known Hogs Breath Cafe chains. My steak was OK, but I am a fan of rare which they don’t do because they slow cook them for 24 hours so they come out medium rare. It was a good texture, but my meal was fairly cold, with undercooked curly fries. I’ll probably need to give another branch a try.

The next day I headed back down the coast and went for some lunch at the Ettamogah Pub. Its a pub on the main Bruce Highway, which was built based on a pub from a cartoon strip dating back to 1959. It looks like a caricature and is very high, with massive beams inside from the trees they felled to make space for it. Ettamogah is Aboriginal for ‘ a good place to drink’. I had some nice squid and admired the cartoons on the walls. You can read more about the pub here. 

Ettamogah Pub

Ettamogah Pub

Between there and Brisbane I went to some lookouts and short walks to check out the Glasshouse Mountains. These are really very cool! Rather than being a mountain range they are 11 of spread out peaks which are plugs from extinct volcanoes. They were named by Captain Cook in 1770 becasue they reminded him of glass furnaces in Yorkshire. I really liked how they stood out from the flat and low coastal plain around them. I didn’t get to walk up any as the two I visited had tracks closed due to rockfalls, but seeing them was very cool.

 

Glasshouse mountain

Glasshouse mountain

Glasshouse mountains

Glasshouse mountains

CitySeaPlane

Sydney from the sea plane

In July we went on an ariel adventure over Sydney in a sea plane with my friend from the UK Ellie and her friend Jen. We spent a while trying to decide between going in a sea plane or helicopter and in the end decided given the amount of water around the harbour, it was most appropriate to go in the sea plane. We flew out of Rose Bay, in the south west of the harbour. The ride was $255 (about £125) for 30 mins of flying time. We actually got more than this which was good value. From when we taxied along the water to landing again was actually 45 mins. To get to the plane we got a ride in a little boat too.

There were two rows of seats behind the pilot, so 4 people was the ideal number. With 6 someone people would have been sat in the middle so the view wouldn’t have been so good. We got headsets to wear and the pilot gave us commentary about all the places we were flying over as we went.

Matt in the Sea Plane

Matt in the Sea Plane

Once we were all settled in with our life jackets, headphones and seatbelts we taxied along the water and took off. You could see the exact moment when we left the water from the spray stopping which was cool. We cruised up the coast at between 1000 and 1500 feet, pretty close to all the scenery and buildings so the views were very cool. We flew up the coast past Manly, Palm Beach, Barrenjoey and around the Ku-Ring-Gai NP.

Barrenjoey from the sea plane

Barrenjoey from the sea plane

On the way back we did a figure of eight loop around the city so got some very cool views of the city. It was a great experience, and would have been even better in sunny weather. It was a bit grey the day we went, but still awesome. It was a bit bumpy and my stomach did end up feeling a bit ropey, I think partly from the whiff of fumes before we took off and landed. It was fine within 10 minutes though, and all fine after a bacon and egg roll at the nearby cafe!

Our Sea Plane

Our Sea Plane

 

Lorikeets at Port Stephens

Lorikeets at Port Stephens

Last year we went up to the Port Stephens area and stayed over one night in a place called Tea Gardens. I wrote about it here. It was quite wet last time, so we agreed to go back another time and go sand boarding down the biggest (moving?) dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.

We went back in July, with my friend Ellie who was visiting from the UK. Handily she’s been to Sydney a couple of times before, so we could do some slightly different things to the usual visitor stuff.

We headed up Friday night, and stayed two nights in the YHA Samurai Bungalows which came recommended. It was good value and in a nice setting surrounding by tropical looking bush. Allegedly there are koalas around the site and a diamond python, but we only managed to spot the dog and a few kookaburras. We had a cabin room and used the camp kitchen to cook up some bacon and eggs on the barbie for breakfast, Aussie style.

We spent a fair bit of time trying to spot koalas around the area, sadly unsuccessfully. We also did a lot of activities including visiting an avocado farm, a winery (with sampling and purchases), sand boarding, putt putt (mini golf), lunch at the lighthouse with lorikeets and a yummy dinner where Ellie and I shared a dessert tasking plate with 4 mini desserts each –  yummy! 🙂 Matt even got in a spot of climbing.

Putt putt with swinging obstacles

Putt putt with swinging obstacles

Sand boarding is a pretty mental activity, like sledging, but with sand dunes! In Port Stephens, near Anna Bay are some of the biggest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. We paid $20 each and went for a very bumpy fun ride in a bus across the dunes. We got dropped off at the big dunes where we could ride the sandboards down the dunes as much as we liked. There was a small slope to practice and a bigger one. Walking up the dines was quite a bit of effort, so we did about 7 or 8 rides each before our legs gave up. About 50% of the time we ended up with a not entirely smooth landing, getting covered in sand. It was good fun, but the sand got everywhere! I still have it in my bag and coat pockets 3 weeks later! You have to sit on the boards, no standing is allowed for safety reasons and I can see why – staying on it sitting down is hard enough! We escaped with only be getting one minor injury – a scrape and bruise on my leg where Ellie crashed and I hit her from behind.

Sandboard2PS

Ready to sand board

Sand boarding!

Sand boarding!

I’d recommend giving sand boarding a go if you get a chance – just know you’ll get sand everywhere!

Sand boarding bus

Sand boarding bus