Our local lawn bowls green

Our local lawn bowls green

 

The BBC recently confirmed what we here in Australia already knew, lawn bowls (also known as barefoot bowls) is cool. They said so here.

We have a green very near to our house, with the Harbour Bridge in the background. Back on a wet and windy July afternoon we decided to be brave and head down for a game with our friends Ellie, Chris and Naomi visiting from the UK, and actual Australian Jen. We thought it was $12 each of 2 hours, which was already a bargain, but it was actually $12 for the whole lane, so $2 each. Absolute bargain!

I’ve done lawn bowls a couple of times with work. They were both in the summer, which is much better – especially with a nice cold refreshing drink. (Lawn bowls is actually all about the drinking!). It turned out my couple of games experience actually paid off, and if I do say so myself I actually did pretty well!

Here are the basic rules: Divide into even teams. I guess about 8-10 people can play in one lane. Someone bowls the jack down the green and you put the mat down so you all stand in the same place. Each person has two bowls each. Person 1 from team A bowls, then Person 1 from team B. Then they each have another go and it swaps to the next pair of people. The bowls are weighted and have a big dot and small dot on one side. They curve towards the small dot, so you have to keep this in mind when bowling. For scoring, the team with the bowl closest to the jack gets a point. Then they get another point for all the other bowls they have closest to the jack before the other team has a close one. So you might get one point, or if 6 of your bowls were closer than the oppositions then you’d get 6 points. You measure with footsteps if you’re not sure.

 

Good bowling technique

Good bowling technique

 

We split into two teams. With only one Aussie, England vs Australia wasn’t really fair, so we started with people wearing shows (me, Chris and Naomi) against people wearing flip flops (Ellie, Jen and Matt). Our team won a pretty convincing victory as first to 11 points – woo! Normally you play to 21, but we decided to swap teams after 11. After getting a bit stuck again on how to divide us up, we went for people whose name ends with “eee” (Elly, Ellie and Naomi) against the others. It was closer this time, but still my team won – woo! As well as just bowling close to the jack other tactics including hitting the jack nearer to your bowls, or trying to hit the other teams balls further away. This helps keep it interesting!

I reckon its a good fun way to spend an afternoon in the sun drinking with visitors. Has anyone played in the UK?

 

 

So being Brits, we obviously talk about the weather a lot – and talking to people back home they often ask about it too. We even have a gadget for measuring the weather , called a Netatmo. We thought that we’d combine these two things and make a weather page on our website.

Probably the biggest difference that you notice when moving from the UK to Australia is that the weather is noticeably warmer and more predictable. Matt has a saying over here that goes:

“In the UK you can expect the weather to be bad, and if it is good you’re lucky. Whereas in Australia, you can expect the weather to be good, and if it is bad you’re unlucky”

The weather page is new and ready to go. Check it out, by clicking here, or on the ‘weather’ tab above.

You’ll be able to see live outdoor weather from our weather station on the balcony. Currently it only measures temperature, pressure and humidity (and temperatures are in the shade). Soon we are getting a rain gauge too so expect an update then!

Geocaching

Geocaching

 

Matt and I have always liked going for walks. To make them more interesting, a few years ago we took up the hobby of geocaching. This combines walking with some technology, and the excitement of a treasure hunt. There are over 2.4 million around the world! We have almost hit 500 now.

The simplest caches give you co-ordinates, where you go along and find the cache, which might be a tuppaware box, old school film canister, a tricky to find mini-container or something that cunningly looks like a rock or branch. We have found ones before that are an owl, a frog, a bat, a rat and a chameleon! Inside is a notebook where you write your name to prove that you found it. The caches also have toys and little things inside them. The etiquette is you can take something if you put something back. It’s mainly small plastic toys, rubbers, stickers and kids stuff, so it appeals to kids.

There are clues you can look at if you get stuck and can’t find it. Normally you can make a walk to combine several caches, and some are even designed as a series along a circular walk. Once you get into it you can make and place your own too, as long as you register them officially and follow a few simple rules – like not putting it too close to another one or on private property.

Some caches are harder, where you have to solve a puzzle or series of clues to work out where it is actually hidden. And some have a hard ‘terrain’ rating. They go from 1 to 5. We have done a few number 5s which were very cool, one where Matt had to abseil down a cliff and another one where we kayaked to the middle of Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

Another dimension of geocaching is ‘Travel Bugs’.  These are objects which you put a special registered tag on, and put them in a geocache. Other people take them, log them and move them to another geocache. You can set them objectives like wanting to go to lakes, or get to the other side of the world or reach a specific destination. We registered one which is a blue plastic duck and can track him online (his number is 79Z2HD). He’s been a massive 31,382.4 km since November 2010, hitting 164 places and is currently in Holland. We’re going to make another one soon, and have a go at placing our first actual geocache too.

You can geocache with just a pen and a GPS enabled mobile phone, but a GPS is good if you want some more accuracy, especially if you’re going into woods where the phones don’t always have good signal.

You can read more about it on the official website, here, and register an account.

Why not give it a try?

Batty cache

Batty cache

The main pavilion in the Chinese Friendship Garden

The main pavilion in the Chinese Friendship Garden

 

Near the centre of Sydney at the bottom of Darling Harbour is the Chinese Garden of Friendship.

It was built as a  symbol of friendship between Sydney and Guangzhuo in China, to mark Australia’s bicentenary in 1988. The garden was designed and built by Chinese landscape architects and gardeners following the Taoist principles of ‘Yin-Yang’ and the five opposite elements—earth, fire, water, metal and wood. Unlike western-style gardens, there are no planted flowerbeds or manicured lawns. Instead, wild aspects of nature are recreated in landscapes that feature waterfalls, mountains, lakes and forests. Admission is $6.

You can walk around the garden itself quite fast if you wanted to, easily in under half an hour, but that wouldn’t really do it justice. I sat about reading my kindle for a while, enjoying the peace and quite. There is also a tea shop where you can have tea and dumplings.

Chinese Garden waterfall

Chinese Garden waterfall

The garden is in a busy bit of the city, but its got a good sense of calm.The waterfalls and ponds are very scenic, and of course the pavillions too. There were a few lizards about too, with one quite big one. On my way out I also spotted a couple of these colourful Rhino sculptures. They were all around the city to raise awareness of Rhino conservation. If you’ve got week or so in Sydney I’d put it on the list to have a look around, and Chinatown is right nearby for some crispy duck after or nitrogen gelato!

Rainbow Rhino

Rainbow Rhino

 

 

Port Stephens

Port Stephens

Back in late February we made a last minute decision to get out of Sydney for the weekend (at 7pm on Friday). I was put on the spot a bit, and came up with the idea of Port Stephens, about 2.5 hours up the coast, which I’d heard good things about.

Luckily I managed to convince Matt we should get a cheap motel rather than camp, as it was meant to be a super wet weekend. We set off on Saturday morning and the weather was terrible! The wipers were working flat out, and I was cursing Matt for saying he missed overcast damp days!

Port Stephens is actually a habour rather than a place. It was named by Captain Cook when he passed by in 1770. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend:

Tomaree lookout: We walked a kilometre or so up a steep hill to the lookout over the bay and the view was excellent. There are lots of little islands, nice sandy beaches and hills that run down into the sea. One of the islands has penguins living on it, so I’ve pencilled that in for a bat trip or kayak adventure!

Tomaree Lookout

Tomaree Lookout

Tea Gardens: The place we stayed was a small town called Tea Gardens. We arrived too late for high tea, but got a famous fish cone dinner at the pub instead (a bargain for $10), followed by some ice cream sundaes and chocolate fudge cake.  

Wildlife potential: The area had good wildlife potential with a koala reserve down the road from our motel and lots of koalas in the general area and some dolphins who come up the river to feed in the mornings. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to spot any exciting wildlife beyond a lot of giant pelicans, but it was nice knowing it might be around!

Myall Lakes NP: On Sunday we drove back via the Myall Lakes NP and went on a chain ferry across the lake. It was scenic with a giant lake on one side of the road and big dines and the sea on the other.

Giant sand dunes: We went to the edge of the giant sand dunes on the Worimi Conservation lands. According to the guide book they are the ‘longest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere’ and stretch over 35km. I’m not sure how they define it, as really all sand dunes move, but anyway it looked cool. You can go on 4×4 rides, try sand boarding and ride a camel! It was a soggy day so we added that to the to do list for another time.  

Camels!

Camels!

There were lots of tourist activities in the area including Putt Putt (mini golf), a shark and stingray centre, a toboggan run, an aviation museum and plenty of things involving driving through or boarding down sand dunes. It would be a good fun place to spend another weekend when the weathers a bit better!

Sydney Olympic Pool (Milsons Point)

Sydney Olympic Pool (Milsons Point)

On the lower North Shore of the Harbour by Milsons Point (near the scary clown face theme park) is the Sydney Olympic swimming pool. Its almost right under the Harbour bridge, which makes for some great views. 86 world records have been set there since it opened in 1936 including at the 1938 Empire Games.

After going past it on the train most days I decided recently it was time to eventually try it out. Outdoor swimming pools are pretty common over here on account of the good weather. There’s one near our flat, which is $7 a swim. The one right by the Harbour Bridge is…..$7 a swim! In my mind its a total bargain. There are some extra costs though – I did pay an extra $2 to use the sauna and jacuzzi, and another $2 for a locker, and $1 for a shower token. I probably wouldn’t bother with those again, apart from the shower. The locker you can only access once, so no good if you want to go back for your sun cream or book. Most people seemed to just leave their bags around, which I reckon is fine if you make sure not to bring a load of money or cards with you.

There’s a 50m outdoor pool with salt water, a 25m indoor pool, kids area and a sun deck and cafe too.  From the stands and sun deck you can look over the harbour and opera house. I enjoyed my swim there, although would have preferred freshwater to salt water. It was pretty quiet with only 2-3 people to a lane most of the time, although that was a weekday afternoon. I imagine the weekends are packed out. I’ll probably make another trip back soon. 

30. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Outdoors · Tags: , ,
City from Watsons Bay

City from Watsons Bay

We’ve been to Watsons Bay before, and I took a day trip back there recently. I was actually planning to go to Manly, but 30 minutes before the ferry left it was full up with tourists so I changed my plans and went to Watsons Bay instead! Its about 30 minutes on the ferry across the Harbour and we’ve often recommended it to our visitors.

The reasons Watsons Bay is a good place to visit are:

  • You get to cruise on the Harbour past the Opera House for about a $7 ferry ticket (who needs a $60 tour?!)
  • Doyles (famous here) have a chip shop there with excellent fish and chips – both a cafe style version and a upmarket restaurant if you want to splash some cash
  • You can sit on the relatively quiet beach and look back at the Harbour Bridge in the distance – look out for the nudist section though (depending on your preference of course)
  • There is a gelato shop and I can personally highly recommend the chocolate sorbet
  • There’s a park to sit in and read a book if you want some shade or to escape the sand
  • Up the hill is a bit of a cliff top walk with great views over to Manly and the other way to the city
  • There’s less tourists there than somewhere like Manly

 

Watsons Bay cliffs

Watsons Bay cliffs

 

 

Elvina Bay

Elvina Bay

We have a book called ‘Sydneys Best Harbour and Coastal Walks’. We ticked off walk number 3 recently, Elvina Bay.

Its a medium grade, 2.5 hour walk over 6km. It starts from Church Point, about 40 minutes drive north, on the edge of the Ku-ring-gai Chase NP. The walk is pretty exciting becasue to get to the start and once you’re finished you have to go on a ferry across Elvina Bay. It runs in a circle so on the way out it takes about 30 mins, around Scotland Island, and then 10 mins on the way back.

The ferry goes every hour, and we just missed it so we took the opportunity for some light refreshments at the cafe in Church Point in the form of a cream tea. Now I am a bit of a cream tea critic so need to get off topic for a moment to write about it. On the plus side the pot of tea was gigantic, and the scones were gigantic and warm fresh out the oven which was great. However, there were three issues with the cream tea:

1. No fruit in the scones. I like fruit in a scone, becasue it tastes nice and also it makes me feel that it is marginally healthier! I know scone purists might say this is wrong, and can forgive plain scones, but fruit is my preference.

2. Not enough jam. This is a common bugbear or mine with cream teas. I prefer jam over cream and we had one small pot for two massive scones. Nowhere near enough. As it was mainly a lunch place I decided not to ask for more, but this has been known in the past!

3. It was served with squirty cream! This is a total cream tea crime! Now I’ve not had any other cream teas here in Australia yet to know if this is common, but it did make me pretty sad!

Anyway, back to the walk! The ferry ride was very scenic, with lots of houses backing right onto the water and with superb views. We got slightly lost at the start, as the description in the book wasn’t quite as clear and reliable as usual!

Church Point Ferry

Church Point Ferry

Near the beginning was a climb up a hill to a look out with views over the beach, bay and boats. A bit further on there was a series of pools with a water view beyond, which was also nice. Matt had a little dip in the water and we had a bit of a picnic lunch (although admittedly really we were still pretty full from the epic scones). Getting to the end of the walk was a big area of tessellated pavement and some aboriginal carvings including shields, kangaroos and an emu which were cool.

The majority of the walk wasn’t that impressive compared to some in the Blue Mountains, but overall with the cream tea and ferry ride it was a good day out and I’m glad we went.

 

Aboriginal kangaroo engravings

Aboriginal kangaroo engravings

 

Mini-waterfall in the Grand Canyon

Mini-waterfall in the Grand Canyon

No, we didn’t go on holiday to America – there is a Grand Canyon in the Blue Mountains.

This is one of the classic and popular Blue Mountains walks. When we first wanted to do it it was closed due to path work, so we headed back in January. It was a boiling 33/34 degrees, which is officially currently too hot for me to cope with very well! Luckily the majority of the walk is down in the canyon where its shady, cooler, damp and probably around 10 degrees cooler.

The walk is a loop and only 5.5 km, but because of the amount of ascent and descent at the end of each canyon and the path being quite steep and a bit slippery in place they recommend 3.5-4 hours for it. We smashed it in 2 hours 10 mins, even with the heat! You start and end at Evans Lookout with cool views down the valley.

The walk itself starts with a fairly dull road section, and then descends through a glen into the canyon. There are lots of cool undercut rock formations from when the river used to be a lot hire, and even a totally enclosed tunnel which you go through – although its under 20m long its pretty dark! A lot of the walk is probably about half way down the canyon – looking down into it was quite cool – in some places there are just really narrow slots with vegetation so you cant actually see the bottom. There is a relatively short section along the actual canyon floor near the end of the walk where you go along the river and past pools.

Big Water Dragon

Big Water Dragon

The area is popular with canyoners and we saw some abseiling into the start. We also saw a giant water dragon. I was deep in discussion and walked right past it. Matt called my name so I turned around and jumped when I saw it sat on the rock right by me as I hadn’t expected it. He was pretty cool and let us take a few pictures before Matt encouraged me to leave him alone!

I enjoyed the walk, especially ducking along all the rocks and the shady coolness relative to the temperature at the top! The National Pass walk is probably slightly more scenic and varied, but then it does also have a lot more steps to contend with!

Me and the lizard

Me and the lizard

Old prison building

Old prison building

One weekend back in December we took a trip to Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. It’s a train ride to the city and then about a 25 minute ferry ride. As it was a Sunday Matts whole trip was capped at $2.50 and mine was free as I’d already made 8 trips that week on my Opel card (like Oyster).

Entry to the island is free too. It’s about 500m by 360m so not very big. For a gold coin donation you get a guide book and can go on a self guided tour. As we arrived about midday and were in no rush we did the full Island tour of 2.5 hours.

Originally the island was a prison for the worst of the worst convicts who were sent away from nearby Goat Island or we’re repetitive offenders. The conditions were pretty terrible. During WW1 the island changed its use and be me a big base for boat building to support the war effort. There are lots of old naval buildings there now which are cool to wander about. A lot of them are sided as film sets as they’re basically big abandoned warehouses.

View from Cockatoo Island

View from Cockatoo Island

There are two long tunnels on the island, one called dog leg tunnel (it has a bend it in), which was built as an air raid shelter when the island became an obvious target during the war. We walked through the tunnel and found a geocache there along with another one somewhere else on the island.

We had some disappointment at the half way point of the walk when the cafe had sold out of ice creams! Luckily we found another cafe further on which wasn’t on the Mao which did have some for us (along with a German sausage van which my brother will appreciate).

Incidentally, there aren’t any cockatoos on the island any more, just a lot of very noisy seagulls.

You can camp on the island in tents they have put up there all year or hire out some of the historic cottages. It would be quite cool although there’s not a right lot to keep you entertained much more than a day!

Cockatoo Island Camping

Cockatoo Island Camping

Overall it was a good day out and worth the trip. I always like going on the ferry and the fact it was super cheap was great too.

Sailing on the Harbour

Sailing on the Harbour

Our friend Andrew, (The Captain) from climbing is a bit of a sailor (as if you couldn’t guess from the nickname). It runs in his family and his dad built a 8 meter yacht which they keep moored up at  Henley Bay (not the Thames) on the Parammatta River (north west of the Harbour).

This December Captain Andrew was at a bit of a loose end so suggested a group of us take the boat out for a day on the water on the Harbour. The crew was Captain Andrew, me, Matt, First Mate Onni, Pirate Stuart, Heather, Dal and Ruby. 8 people was a bit of a squeeze for the boat apparently, but we did OK and nobody fell overboard.

We met about 10am, made sure we all had a wee (more about that later) and set off for the boat. Andrew has a bad shoulder after recent surgery, so Matt did a good job paddling to and fro with everyone in the rowing boat to the main boat. Before long we had hoisted the mainsail and we were off! We went a long way with the sail and then hoised the jib (a smaller sail) for a bit more power as it was a calm day with not a lot of wind. The temperature was probably in the high 20s, so very pleasant.

Captain Andrew knew what to do, gave good instructions and Onni had sailed before, so between them they had it all under control. We did lots of tacking of the jib and mainsail. Luckily nobody managed to get hit in the head with the boom! We had a quick snack of some very healthy fruit, carrots and hummus – between 8 people we had 5 pots of hummus, mainly all different! We sailed under the Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House which was pretty cool!

After a while we broke out the engine for a bit more power and some control around the main Harbour area where it was a bit busier. It was a bit choppy too and we got some good angles on the boat and bouncing about in the wakes of the bigger vessels. Stuart kept us all entertained with some pirate chat up lines.

We went along the north shore of the Harbour and dropped anchor in Taylor Bay for lunch (including more hummus) which was nice and peaceful. Matt and Stuart quickly got in the water and went for a snorkel. After a while we all joined in with a swim too. The boat was quite small and had no loo, so the choice if you needed a wee was to go in a bucket down below with a ‘modesty towel’ over the hatch or get in the sea which is where it ends up anyway. This and the nice sunny weather tempted even me to have a swim!

After lunch we headed back in a leisurely fashion with a bit more jibbing and motoring. Captain Andrew provided an excellent service and let Matt and I off at Luna Park as we had to get home and back out for my Christmas party. The idea of sailing in the sun and swimming in the sea before a Christmas bash is still very strange, but very good!

It was an excellent day with great company and I’m keen to do it again.

 

 

View from top of the National Pass

View from top of the National Pass

We went with our UK friends Phil and Rhiannon recently to do the National Pass walk in the Blue Mountains. Its a 4.8km circuit, graded hard with 210m ascent and descent, timed at about 3 hours.

Our Best Blue Mountains Bushwalks book says: “Distant views, stone steps hewn into the side of sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, ferny grottos and swimming holes all combine to justify the reputation of the National Pass as one of the Blue mountain’s classic walks’. The walk is very popular, but as we went on a weekday it was nice and quiet.

We modified the walk slightly and did it in reverse to make sure we got to the cafe before it shut and we couldn’t get an ice cream. As it was over 30 degrees this was an important consideration! Luckily the walk is mainly in the valley so its nice and shady.

The views were great with a number of waterfalls including Wentworth Falls. The steps up the end were a killer though, I counted over 800 and could still feel my legs hurting 2 days later! We didn’t stop for a swim, although that was definitely an option if you don’t mind chilly water.

A few signs give information about how the walk was built in the early 1900’s with dynamite blasting and a lot of elbow grease – much more impressive than me walking up 800 steps! There are also little lizards and cool birds to be seen along the route, as well as metal sculptures of them too.

It was an excellent walk and I’d definitely do it again – once we’ve done the 100’s of others in the book!

In early December we were luck to have our good friends Phil and Rhainnon visit from the UK. They stayed with us for a few nights in Sydney and then we hijacked the next part of their holiday! We flew together from Sydney down to Melbourne and spent 5 excellent days driving along the Great Ocean Road, checking out the Grampian Mountains and spending time in Marvelous Melbourne.

The Great Ocean Road is fantastic. I can easily see why its meant to be one of the best drives in the world. It stretches for about 240km from a place names Torquay in the east to Warrnambool in the west. The road was built by ex-servicemen from World War 1 to help them reintegrate. You can read more about it here. Our new website cover picture is of the road.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

We drove the road over 2 days, stopping in Cape Otway National Park overnight, which is koala central! (More on that coming soon). The scenery on the drive is spectacular and the windy coastal road makes for an awesome drive. There are masses of viewpoints, places to stop for an ice cream or other refreshment and walks which range from short to multi-day (in fact you can walk  most of the route if you’re that way included).

There are so many things to see and do, taking the trip over two days was certainly a good call, and you could easily spend longer doing it.

Here are some of the many highlights.

Seeing wild koalas and camping with them in Cape Otway National Park. We spotted over 30 in total. I’ll do a whole other post on them!

Many spectacular beaches with rolling hills behind and a nice windy road along the front. The sea was very blue and had good surf in some places too. There were a fair few picturesque lighthouses too, including the one from Going Round the Twist (80s kids TV) which we visited.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles sea stacks (although there are only actually about 9). Not only were the stacks themselves great, the water and sky were both soooo blue it looked really idyllic.

Wild emus, koalas and kangaroos at Tower Hill, a cool ancient volcano. We also saw a Copper Head snake here, although it was far away from us on a board walk.

Wild emu

Wild emu

‘London Bridge’ arch. It used to be a double arch connected to the mainland, but it fell down one stormy day and left two people stranded on it who had to be rescued by helicopter!

Grampian mountains – we walked up Mount William for some awesome views and went to many other lookouts with good walks and equally good views. The B and B we stayed in had complementary port which I was extremely happy about! Sadly the Halls Gap mini-gold was closed on the Monday when we went there – I’ll have to go back to that one!

Climbing at a waterfall in the Grampians

Climbing at a waterfall in the Grampians

I’d totally recommend the Great Ocean Road as a must do on any trip to Australia.

Round the twist lighthouse

Round the twist lighthouse

Lighthouse

Norah Bay Lighthouse

On our way back from the Hunter Valley we took a drive down the Central Coast on the way home.

We first stopped off at the Norah Bay lighthouse. We did the 1km-ish round trip walk along the nature trail tot he lighthouse and back along the beach. We finished off with an nice cream for our efforts!

From there we drove on another 10km or so to the Entrance, which is a spit and big lagoon (Tuggerah Lake). The view was cool and there were people kite surfing which looked good fun. There were also tons of pelicans – there are a lot of them around there. We were in time for the pelican feeding too which was good entertainment.

Next stop was Terrrigal Beach, a long beach with a lookout. By now I was a bit bored of beaches, so after a quick wander we headed on.

We drove back via the Bouddi National Park which has cool views back across to Lion Island, Barrenjoey, Palm Beach and Sydney beyond.

The scenic drive was not much of a detour an much better than the M1. (The M1 in Australia isn’t dissimilar to the M1 in the UK expect its hotter, hillier, less busy and has more trees by it!)

Pelican feeding

Pelican feeding

The wine haul

The wine haul

In late October Matt and I went for a weekend away in the Hunter Valley. We had it booked before his work trip came up, and thought we might as well go again and see some different wineries. You can read about our first trip here.

We headed up Friday night and got dinner in Cessnock on the way. We stayed just north of there in the YHA for a bargainacious $85 a night. It was in a good rural location although the showers were cold!

Adventurously, we had hired bikes for the Saturday to ride around the wineries! Given the last time I rode a bike resulted in a broken helmet and a lot of scrapes, I was a bit nervous, but decided to face my fear! We did well, and I reckon we cycled about 25km! It was mid 20’s in termprature, so pretty warm but not too hot with a nice breeze. The day went a bit like this:

10am: Drive to Cessnock for breakfast – bacon and egg rolls to set us up for the ride

11am: Get the bikes and helmets all sorted and set off up the road

12am: First winery – Calais Estates! I was well ready for a nice chilled white after the longest cycle i’ve done in a long time.

12.30pm: On to Waverley Winery. The only winery doing aged wines, although the lady was vague about what counts as aged. We enjoyed the 2006 Cab Sav.

1pm: First Creek winery. I really enjoyed a lot of the wines here, and our pourer was very friendly and helpful.

2pm: Lunch at the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. We had the large cheese pizza and chips to share. It was  totally epic amount of cheese. We didn’t even have space for a nice palette cleaning ice cream after.

Cheese overload

Cheese overload

2.30pm: Tamberlaine winery. These guys make organic wine and some ‘biodynamic’ wine too. I was keen to go as we had some of their wine at a restaurant and really enjoyed it, but none of the ones we tasted really hit the mark. Heading off from there we cycled past a dead kangaroo which was pretty upsetting.

3pm: Olive, jam, chutney, oil and balsamic tasting at the Hunter Olive Centre. We bought some caramelised balsamic – yummy!

4pm: Final winery – Hungerford Hill. The winery is shaped like a barrel. They had some good drops worth a trip back for too.

Proof of me with a bike

Proof of me with a bike

After a shower and rest back at the YHA we walked 450m for dinner at Potters Brewery just up the road. We were stuffed by then really so didn’t managed much more food and drink before tottering off to bed tired, full and happy!

We didn’t buy any wines on the Saturday, but made some notes (yes – In am that organised) and went back with the car and picked them up on the Sunday – after another nice breakfast of course (Eggs Benedict and smoked salmon for me and with Bacon for Matt.)

At Waverleyx we inquired about the free case. Turns out they had some 1999 Chardonnay and 2001 Shriaz that were getting near the end of their lives. They reckoned most were fine, there might just be the odd bad one as long as we drank them soon. So we took the plunge and spent $100 on fancy aged Cabernet Sauvignon for Christmas and took the 12 free bottles! We also went back to my favorite winery from the first trip – Pepper Tree – to buy their liqueur wine I didn’t buy last time. Turns out it sold out, but I got the summer substitute version which was also pretty yummy!

We went on a house long wine tour at Tyrells for $5 too. It was jam packed full of information and very interesting. The guide was good and the winery has loads of history, still being family owned in the 5th generation. At the wine makers reunion dinner of 17 guys they drank 84 bottles!

We ended up with 20 bottles, slightly more than planned but with the free case they came in at an average of just over $10, so can’t complain! For the wine buffs, we got:

  • 2 x 2010 Organic Pianco Puro from First Creek ( a mix of Verdelho, Chardonnay and Semillion)
  • 1 x 2011 Late Harvest Shiraz from First Creek
  • 2 x 2013 Hunter Valley Early BIrd Semillion from Hungerford Hill
  • NV Muscat from Pepper Tree in fancy bottle
  • 2 x 2005 Cab Sav from Waverley Wines
  • 6 x lottery 1999 Chardonnay from Waverley Wines and
  • 6 x lottery 2001 Shiraz from Waverley Wines

All in all a top weekend! 🙂

Vines

Vines

Wolgan valley

Wolgan valley

Back in October we went with the Sydney Rockies Climbing Club to the annual(ish) Sheep Roast and climbing trip in the Wolgan Valley.

On Friday night we  headed up from Sydney. The Wolgan is about 3.5-4 hours from Sydney to the north west. You go through the Blue Mountains, then on some more. Eventually you go 35km up a dead end, half gravel road which is pretty adventure like. It used to be all gravel , so we considered ourselves lucky. I was given a Wombat Guarantee for the weekend and I wasn’t disappointed. On the way up we saw 3 from the car, and then I saw another one on the first night during a trip to the loo in the dark. Sadly it was too dark for a photo.Also, they do look slightly less cute and a bit more evil in the dark! We also spotted a lot of wallabies.

The campsite was in a sort of bowl, surrounded by cliffs on most of its side, and a stream along one side which I took a couple of dips in to escape the heat. arriving in the dark and then waking up to the view on Saturday morning was cool.

Saturday we went for some climbing at the Coke Ovens. It used to be a Coke mining and production area, big around the 1950s, but its shut down since. On the walk in you go past the old coke ovens. One two pitch climb and a single pitch one. It was super hot, so we learnt a valuable lesson about making sure we take a lot of water.

Saturday morning the experts prepared the sheep on a full on spit over a fire. The spit also had a whole rump and chicken on it. Some diligent club members stayed behind all day to gradually turn and cook it. When we came back it smelt awesome! The lamb was great and the beef was even better – sooooo tender. On Sunday I stayed around the campsite relaxing and reading my book, while Matt went off on a harder climbing adventure with Paul G.

Overall an excellent weekend. We’ll be sheep roasting again next year!

Fire cooked meat

Fire cooked meat

 

View to Manly

View to Manly

We have a book of Harbour Walks and recently decided out to try out the classic, Spit Bridge to Manly walk with Toby.

Its about 11-12km with the extra detours and described as ‘simply one of the best walks in Sydney.’

We got the bus to Spit Bridge and went from there. The walk passes through some very nice beaches, coves, bush, Aboriginal sites and great views. There were loads of places it would be great to go back to when the waters a bit warmer to hang out on the beach and go for a swim.

We saw a dolphin very close up in the Harbour although it was too quick to get a picture of!

We did a detour to the lighthouse which also had great views back to the city.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

 

Conveniently the walk ends in Manly, where you can get a giant ice cream and catch a ferry across the Harbour, past the Opera House and Bridge back to the city as the sun sets. Manly also has a penguin colony who go into the sea at night to feed. The wardens  cone off the section of the beach where they live and keep an eye out for over enthusiastic penguin lovers like myself who might try and adopt one for a pet! We saw one briefly plop into the sea before we had to catch the ferry – I’ll be going back for another look soon!

Penguins!!!

Penguins!!!

Point Perpendicular and Sea Cliffs

Point Perpendicular and Sea Cliffs

After my epic work marathon, we went down the coast about 3 hours to a place called Jervis Bay for a weekend camping. The area was recommended by someone at work.

It was perfect camping weather, not too cold at night, nice and warm during the day. I was pretty paranoid about spiders and snakes in the tent, but luckily we didn’t see any.

Tourist information about the area and reports from people who’ve been there said you can see wild kangaroos all over the place, including on the beaches, which I was pretty excited about. My roo research has taught me their most active during dusk and dawn, so I was pretty excited about seeing some when I went for my early morning trip to the ladies on Saturday. Sadly, all I spotted was some roo poo and a cockatoo!

On Saturday we went to explore a lot of the local beaches and did some walks. We went to Hyams Beach, which has Guinness Book of Records certified whitest sand in the world. The water was lovely and clear, the bush went down to the beach and not only was the sand white, it was also squeaky!

Hyams Beach

Hyams Beach

About 3pm on a walk we spotted our first roo, which I think was actually a walabee. Unfortunately by the time I got my big camera out it hopped off. That night they all came out though, taking the spot count up to 11 (2 wallabees, 8 roos and a joey.) We saw two roos outside the campsite after dinner, one with a super cute joey in its pouch. Awwww! 🙂

On the Sunday we went on an early morning boat trip out into the bay. It was an ‘eco cruise” taking in some of the main sights including Point Perpendicular cliffs which hit the sea at 90 degrees, and are a good spot for climbing. We saw some climbers on the rock, which of course prompted Matts enthusiasm for a return trip! Up the coast we saw some cool caves and a seal colony. The seals all dived into the sea which was cool to watch, especially the ones which skipped out the intermediate rocks and just jumped straight in from 10m up or so!

Seal diving

Seal diving

On the boat trip we also spotted a whale. There are lots of dedicated whale watching trips you can do, but as the numbers are dropping off now we didn’t go for one of those specifically. It was really cool to see one up close, if slightly worrying sitting in the boat, knowing it dived down and waiting for it to come back up – hopefully not right under the boat!

The Jervis Bay area was really nice, especially out of peak time when it was pretty quiet. I loved seeing kangaroos in the wild and look forward to going back for the inevitable climbing trip.

 

Roos!

Roos!

Middle Cove

Middle Cove

We have a book called Sydney’s Best Harbour and Coastal Walks. A couple of weekends ago we decided it was time to try one of them out with our friends Deb and Andrew. Slightly biased, Matt picked out a walk around Middle Head. It was a 2 hourish, 5km walk, a 10 min drive from our place – with climbing!

The walk is through a nature reserve and around the banks of the scenic Middle Cove. The sign on the way in mentioned wallabies, goannas and echindas, although we didn’t see any of these unfortunately – just a whole load of noisy cockatoos.

The walk was really scenic, it even had a castle AND a bench shaped like a lizard. By the climbing were some communal BBQs, so well do back again and try those out after a spot of climbing I reckon. Considering it was late July, the height of Australian winter, we ended up walking in just our t-shirts at a toasty 19 degrees – not too bad at all!

We went back about a month later to check out the climbing, do some slack lining and have our first Australian outdoor communal BBQ with some other climbers. The climbing was OK, not great but it was a good day, specially chilling out by the barbie, Aussie style. not bad considering it was the end of winter and we mainly sat around in t-shirts!

BBQ

BBQ

View over Wollongong

View over Illawara valley to Wollongong

On our way home from Jervis Bay we went via the ‘Ilawara Fly’.

We noticed a leaflet about it at the tourist info. Not only was it half way home, but it was also covered by our annual Merlin passes, so we got free entry.

You drive up a ultra wiggly windy road in the Southern Highlands up to the Jamberoo Lookout with awesome views back to the coast and Wollongong. We had a quick picnic stop there. 

The Illawara Fly has nothing to do with flying – the name is pretty confusing! Basically its a 1.5km walk including a raised walkway where you end up about 40-50m above the ground amongst the trees, with good views back down the valley to the coast. There’s a tower to climb up and some signs about the local vegetation.

It was worth a visit, but i’m definitely glad we went with our Merlin passes, as its really wasn’t worth the $24 normal entry price for basically a walk with a good view. We also got a free coffee by spending more than $5 on tea and an ice cream becasue of having the Merlin passes, so overall a total bargain!

illawara2

On the walkway