Welcome if interested!

This is a blog of our year in Sydney. Nick is undertaking an orthopaedic research fellowship as part of his training before becoming a consultant. We have given up many things to do this having sold our house and have left friends and family and jobs that we both enjoyed. However we believe it is likely to become one of the most memorable years of our lives. I am keeping this blog mainly as a personal record of events and memories. Hopefully it will still be available for our children to read in years to come.


Thursday, 29 April 2010

Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay is home to Booderee National Park and also, or so the record books say, home of the whitest sand in the world. The location of the white stuff is Hyams Beach and one Mum told me today that she once complained to the local council that there should be warning signs to state children should wear UV protective eyewear before playing on this beach because of the danger of the reflective properties of the sand. In retrospect I am thinking she was having me on!. Still the sand is whiter than white and the sea azure blue and the bush a dense yellowy green.

We travelled along the scenic drive South from Sydney taking in the coast through the Royal National Park and then past Wollongong to the Shoalhaven region. We stopped in Kiama, home to the famous blow hole. The tidal surges have formed an underground path and chamber with hole. When there are good storm surges and waves the resultant spout apparently can reach 60 metres with a massive thwuump and has swept spectators to their death. Well we waited there or a long, long while and the most this could manage was a mini thud and a micro mini spurt, took a picture though!

We rented a lack lustre apartment with a good deal of resident cockroaches ( I am learning new techniques of killing the critters though) and stayed in Huskisson. The redeeming features of Huskisson are the jetty where Nick and Oliver spent a good deal of time fishing, the fish and chip shop where we purchased our shrimps to slap on the barbie and finally the oldie worldie cinema where Ol and I had the best night eating mountain of popcorn and watching some dragon movie.

We spent almost every day going into the Booderee National Park which is now co run by the Aborigines of Wreck Bay and the National Park Authority. The park houses a pretty fantastic Botanical Garden where we sighted out first two kangaroos, unfortunately in the middle of procreating. Caused a bombardment of questions as you can imagine, the male then followed us us the road, coughing which made Al pretty nervous!. It was all quite confusing for the little guy!.

We also spent a day to the West in Kangaroo Valley. The village is very pretty and the country side lush and green with, again, steep sandstone escarpments. We had a leaflet that gave us a bush walk to do that was supposedly on the level. We walked along a fire trail in deep bush for about an hour and were disappointed when it suddenly came to an end. It was meant to take us to a fabulous view point on the top of one of the sandstone cliffs. Nick decided to push through the bush in front of us and there it was. Two rocky-out crops before the most crazy precipice into bush far below. It was safe for the boys as we kept them far back. This was where we had he most peaceful of picnics. Nick had the binocs and spotted some native birds. I had three boys and spotted dirty nappies, naughty behaviour and the odd ball biter!.

Talking of ball biters.... imagine a red ant with a black tail and mean saw like pincers for mouth parts. You will have the red bull ant in mind. Now on our trek back out of the bush we saw a few of these and then Nick found a hole...he stuck a stick down it and gave it a good old wiggle. Well there we all are. All eyes eagerly peering and jeepers, you have never seen anything like it, at least a couple of thousand ants come after us. These things are an inch and a half long and they didn't look friendly. I am not joking they chased us and Ed and I were the first running. As we left Nick told me that he had read an article in a medical journal that stated you could use these ants to close a wound. Just get them to lock their big jaws either side of the injury and pull the head off when the jaws have closed pulling the two edges of the wound together. Since returning home I have found an excellent short film on these little critters, you should take a look. www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDRFTcNW0go Won't be getting to close to these ones again!!

Whilst in Kangaroo Valley we decided we should see a winery and chose the one closest to us, Yarrawa Valley. I didn't read that visits were by appointment only. We drove a long way and finally reached a narrow track that headed up a steep hill. It was here that we were stopped by another family looking for the same wine estate. We followed them and arrived with our noisy boys and intruded slightly on this other couples tasting session. Nick and I took it in turns to sample a few of the vintages whilst entertaining the boys in the garden. It was all very relaxed and unpretentious and we came away with a few inexpensive bottles. Good memories!.

The week went far too fast and now it is back to school runs and work. Nick has completed his first paper and has a few in the pipeline so fingers crossed for publications. The other fellow ,Anthony, has become a good friend and comes to dinner regularly so I am trying to improve on the old cooking skills. Still I am taking solace from the fact that Australian Masterchef has started and the contestants were wowing the judges last night with lasagne, meatballs and fish fingers, all staple recipes in the Toni Book!.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Port Stephens

At last Nick was given some leave over Easter. We had the long weekend to go and explore and, as the weather forecast wasn't that good, we booked a little cabin rather than camp. The forecast however was wrong and we were blessed with beautiful sunny days.

Port Stephens is three hours North of Sydney, about 250km away. It is a beautiful bay with numerous wonderful beaches and a national park making up the southern headland called Tomaree National Park. Our cabin was very cosy, small living area with kitchenette, a double bedroom and a bunk in an alcove. We took the boys bikes and they cycled around the park safely. Ollie is pretty much confident on his bike now.

If you look at the first map, we stayed on Shoal Bay, just to the West of Tomaree Headland. The beach was fabulous as it had a gently shelfing white sandy beach protected from swell as in the bay. The water was totally clear and teaming with fish. We hired a kayak and Ollie and I were lucky enough to be joined by dolphins, there is a resident pod inhabiting Nelsons Bay.

Here is Shoal Bay and behind you can see the peak that is Tomaree Point. We climbed to the top of this on the second day but had to leave Ed and Alex behind on the last stretch as, step metal staircase at the end. The views were well worth the climb. From May to November you can see humpback whales on their annual migration North.

This is the view of Shoal Bay from Tomaree Point

We spent a lot of time playing on the beautiful beach and swimming. Oliver and Nick also spent many hours on the jetty trying to catch fish, unfortunately with little success. Nick is very happy as he has discovered Oliver is happy to sit for hours staring out to sea and daydreaming so is perfectly suited to fishing. Something I have said we already knew taking into acount the proportion of his day spent sitting on the loo!. Alex, on the other hand, is your worst nightmare, hands everywhere, all over the hooks and bait, charging all over the place, hence the life jacket!.

We ventured over to Stockton Sand Dunes, the biggest moving sand mass in the Southern Hemisphere. Amazing to see as the sand stretched to the horizon. Also the boys enjoyed watching the camels taking tourists for a ride.

All Australians out of the cities seem to own a big 4WD and access is open to these dunes to take your vehicle out and mess around. So there was lots of noise and we didnt stay too long. We are gradually identifying the things that Australians hold close to their hearts and big is definately in here. Macdonalds is massive, tattoos, pie eating and Holden Utes ( imagine a Vauxhall Vectra cut in half with the back end replaced by a covered trailer you won't be too far off). Also they are not afraid of loud. Favourite car colours are bright red, vivid green and sky blue. Ok I have swung off on a tangent as per usual. Back to the weekend...

What I have failed to mention is that for the first time since Edward arrived in our lives he chose this weekend to be a little ill. His illness luckily revealed itself to Nick whilst I was out taking Ol and Al to the park. He stayed behind and fed Ed his supper. When I returned I found a whole load of food over the floor and walls and could hear Nick shouting help in the distance. On arrival at the shower room I found a smiling naked baby in the arms of his equally clothless father both covered in poop. 'What do I do, what do I do??'. 'Looks like you are doing well to me Daddy!!' I said. Edward was placed on a strict no food only fluid diet for the rest of the weekend and, in his usual way, he did not complain and this seemed to do the trick.

We also did a dolphin watching little boat cruise. Fabulous. This is where I took the following pictures. I have never seen dolphins in the wild and it really took my breath away. Oliver was equally impressed.

On our last day, and having seen so many signs warning of koalas on the roads, we decided we would go on a koala bear hunt. We headed to Lemon tree Passage as according to the guides this was where you were most likely to have success.

We entered the reserved and Nick then spent the next two hours looking up into the leafy canopies above us . At the end of the two hours we opted to have our picnic on the most peaceful beach. On our way we bumped into a friendly local who said chances of seeing a koala were pretty much zero as locals had been letting their dogs out overnight and these had pretty much wiped out the koala population. The best time to see koalas is at dusk when they come down from the safety of their trees. This ultimately had been responsible for their demise. Whilst we were listening to this tale we didnt pay attention to big eared Alex who was avidly taking this in. And because the man used the word die and dogs he then spent the rest of the afternoon stopping every passer by to tell them with lots of hand movements and great expression. 'All the koalas have died, they are all gone because of the dogs!!'. He still recounts this story even now if he hears the word koala. Here we are on the beach after the above said hunt.