Pedals to the Pavement

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G’Day!

Heck, it’s been a month since my dad left Australia and I am pretty sure I am still sore from all the activity. What I love about my dad is that he is a things-doer. Thus we did lots of things! All of which targeted my thighs and calves and sleeping muscles, ha. We hit the ground running (well, biking) as soon as he got here. No time for jet lag, must find the steepest hills immediately! This was followed by more hills the next day as we meandered through side streets to the Taronga Zoo with stops in Sydney Harbour National Park. And since neither of us can admit when we’re tired we just kept on biking. Downtown on an “installation art” tour with my friend Peter; to movies at Town Hall and Circular Quay; to every conceivable angle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House; and my personal favourite, down Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas in Far North Queensland. We’d never ridden on a beach before, and it was pretty darn cool. It was also pretty darn windy! Like 100 kilometres an hour winds. Con: some light exfoliating occurred. Pro: these more than zephyr winds were perfect for kite boarding. I so want to take lessons, but obviously that day was not the day to do it. My dad will just have to come back so we can try it out another time.

To space out the activity (i.e. mentally prepare for the next hill to summit) we also did heaps of sight-seeing. I must say it is great to have a guest around to remind me that Sydney is a beautiful city. (Not that I really need much reminding.) We crammed as much into each day as possible and still there were things we had to leave out. Though I think we definitely would win the “German Efficiency Badge of Honour”, assuming this is a real thing. If it isn’t I am sure a German will politely inform me of my error and make a mental note that I play fast and loose with the truth. Ha.

So yes, all the things! After watching Tosca at the Opera House we went on a backstage tour to see the mayhem that is three opera sets for three separate operas crammed into the smallest area imaginable and experience the bedlam that is the world’s tiniest orchestra pit. It was so cramped that musicians have to monitor the decibels of their instruments to make sure they don’t damage their ears. It was interesting to see that such an iconic building still hasits limitations for those who actually have to use it! Then maybe we’d catch the ferry up the Parramatta river to zip around on a segway in Sydney Olympic Park. Which, I must admit, was not lame but actually totally awesome. Or maybe we’d catch a ferry in the other direction to Watson’s Bay and serendipitously find beautiful local beaches filled with beautiful Eastern Suburbs dwellers. Honestly, those who live out there must sweat diamonds they are so bling! But good for them. Or maybe we would climb 1302 steps up and down the Harbour Bridge and then spend an hour trying to decide what movie to watch while our muscles seize up on the couch. Apparently our movie tastes are still not perfectly aligned 🙂

We did take a few mini-trips as well, out to the Blue Mountains and up to Cairns and Port Douglas in Queensland. I was glad my dad got to see the variety of landscapes here as even the Blue Mountains, which are only a few hours inland from Sydney, are noticeably different from the coast. Being one for the facts he would always look up every discernible item of interest and fill me in the following morning. Which is another reason he is a pretty rad dad. I know I wrote about the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef already but I will say it again: what a powerful and humbling reminder that nature is amazing. Truly. This trip up to Queensland was just as excellent as my trip with the Winters back in March. With the aforementioned winds we were a bit landlocked though, so we delved a bit deeper into the Daintree Rainforest. Want to know what it was like when Gondwana was being a big ol’ landmass? Then visit the Daintree, it is beautiful in its old age. The highlight of my time there was getting to see where the rainforest meets the reef in the ocean. The rainforest vegetation has adapted to the salt-water conditions and that is pretty bad-ass.

So basically, I had a fantastic time with my dad. It’s been 20 years since we took a trip just the two of us and I think we did pretty darn well. I was sad to see him go but will be so excited to hit the bike trails with him again when I get back home.

Much love to everyone,
Heather

P.S. Curtis is still alive. His job was bonkers crazy while my dad was here but he has since resurfaced to a world of normal work hours. He spent this past weekend being lovely and patient with me while we went diving for my birthday. He’s read like six books this week. He has discovered a new UK comedy panel show starring David Mitchell (how many programs is that guy on!? Not that I’m complaining…) He dressed up like John Lennon from Abbey Road for a 60s party and was very cute. He is not liking the sudden surge on our local thermometer. He is still liking Sunday night chicken dinner after dancing. He bought another fountain pen, much to my chagrin. He is pretty swell overall. He sends his love as well.

Winter(s) Down Under

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Hello!

Okay okay okay. Six weeks have zoomed by without a single update. How does this happen? I reckon it’s because we haven’t been home long enough to collect ourselves in a while! So thousands of photos uploading, I am sifting through my calendar and the dust has settled. The Winters have just returned to Canada after five jam packed weeks of ‘Straylia. We had a fantastic time! Hitting up our favourite live music venues and restaurants; riding ferries around the harbour; mini-hikes in the Blues Mountains; beach walks; ping pong tournaments; Opera House symphonies; wine.

We also took a trip to the far north of Queensland around Cairns and Port Douglas. I had no idea Northern Queensland was basically Papua New Guinea! We were at the same longitude as Fiji to give you a level of tropical-ness. While small geographically, this region contains a richness of biodiversity that I will probably never see anywhere again. We started with a train ride to Kuranda, a section of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Ready to have your mind blown? The Wet Tropics is home to about a third of Australia’s mammals and contains one of the most complete living records of the major stages of evolution going back 200 million years. 200 million years! I can barely record the last six weeks properly. We’re talking old school Gondwanan flora and fauna, bad ass marsupials included, in a rainforest that covers less than 0.2% of Australia. This blows my mind at a Graham’s number level of amazement. So anyway, we tootled around the oldest rainforest in the world. It was nice…kind of cluttered. The only thing that could excite me more is the largest living organism in the world: The Great Barrier Reef! Two record breakers side-by-side, I wonder if they duke it out for “most awesome”?

We drove north from Cairns along wending coastal highway to Port Douglas. Look out one way and you see pristine beach-lined ocean, look out the other and the fields of sugar cane are thick and hearty. Look behind you to see the Tablelands, remnants of recent volcano eruptions covered in fertile, tropical green. We arrived at our hotel and discovered that Curtis scored us the most luxurious place ever! Off-season travel for the win! (Though I felt very uncomfortable with the multiple rooms, and walls, and seating areas. I have grown accustomed to watching Curtis sleep and eat and brush his teeth inches away from me. What is he doing in that other room I wonder??? I had better go check it out and sit as close to him as humanly possible.) After a wonderful dinner, delicious wine, and hours of bat watching we are ready for our trip to the Reef. The trip we chose took us out to the outer edge of the Reef, just a few kilometres from the continental shelf. These agincourt ribbons are supposed to be great for snorkeling and that they were. I can’t really describe how it feels to swim over thousands upon thousands of coral poylps. It is surreal. This great BBC doco gives you a better inkling:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0198pww/episodes/guide

I just watched it for the third time! When you watch it though, try to picture all of us wearing full head-to-finger tips-to-toe wet suits. Off-season travel means you are snorkeling in jellyfish land. Those gelatinous umbrellas will kill ya’! Seriously though, everything in the ocean wants you dead. Why you gotta be so scary yet beautiful? Discomfort of being in an endless body of murder water aside, this was one of the most special and stunning places I have ever been and am grateful I had the chance to see it.

Before you know it, we’ve flown through Easter dinner with as many Canadians as possible and it is the Winters’ last weekend here! Naturally they have more family connections than me on every continent (I joke, but it is probably true) so we spent our last weekend all together in the Kangaroo Valley in a funky beach house right on Jervis Bay. It was lovely. Food, more food, beach, kangaroos with joeys, sand castles at the beach. It was a wonderful way to end their trip, and it is so nice to have a family contingent close by. Now I have kids to push my arts and crafts onto! I need to buy crayons 🙂

Up next: WWOFing at an apiary, diving school in May, sailing classes.

We miss you, we love you!

Xo H & C.

Year of the Snake

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Happy Chinese New Year! What an appropriate year for us to be in Australia. It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months to the day that Curtis and I met up in Sydney, but the calendar says it is so! Time is flying! At first I didn’t think we had done that much until we started making a list and it turns out I was mistaken. At this time the calmer vermilion turkey reminded me that we don’t have to manically run around absorbing culture and sights like I sometimes feel I need to….thank you for that. So! With a reasonable, enjoyable pace to our steps, here’s some whats and wheres.

  • The Village Bizarre was exactly what you would imagine it to be; as long as you imagined it as streets with roving poets, silent dance parties, free straight razor shaves, invitation only sideshows and of course, a secret bar only accessible by following the white rabbit tracks. It is a testament to a city when you find several streets blocked off to celebrate the wacky, weird and and wonderful; Heather and I have found a city that is right for us. (Curtis wrote something finally! We’re all very proud.)
  • We managed to find a great place to live! We now have our regular deli, fish shop, butcher and coffee place that knows exactly how I like to consume my caffeine dependency. Everyone has been bonhomous and we even have two almost-pals in our building. Way to successfully interact socially with others, us! And with our new wheels we have enjoyed many bike rides around the narrow Europeanesque streets of Kirribilli; especially at dusk when the harbour is alight, the 1930’s amusement park is alive and the “secret garden” we so enjoy is deserted.
  • I love this 46 degree heat!” said no one, ever. We’ve finally adjusted to the humidity and climate in general but still seem to end up going out at night a lot more than the day. We are not very good at sight-seeing actually! But we are good at going to quirky things that we like. Improv shows in tucked away boho venues, outdoor movies in parks with bats flying above, bike rides across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to eat dessert in the Rocks, night time pyrotechnics on a giant man-made fire organ. Yeah, that one was particularly amazing! They literally played a giant pirate ship of scrap metal with propane torches. The torches would suck the oxygen out of the pipes and “play” a pitched note. Minds were blown. Video example here: http://tinyurl.com/a59plu7
  • Dancing! Live jazz! Beautiful early 20th century buildings in which to enjoy them. I am finally un-crippled enough that I am allowing myself to get excited about swing dancing again. It’s been a year and a half since my running injury and while I’m only at about 60% it’s enough that I can manage a proper swing out! This is quite exhilarating! Curtis and I have met some lovely dancers here as well and they are doing a fabulous job of inviting us to everything swing. We’re both loving the new dancing partners and constant dirty brass and plunky piano.
  • Meeting up with friends and family, new and old. We’re so grateful for our community so while meeting new people is great, it’s nice to have a familiar face or two along the way that we can just be ourselves with and enjoy the sights.
  • The Blue Mountains are not actually mountains, Australia is mistaken. Sorry mates!They are beautiful cliffs and rugged valleys though, with heaps of oil bearing eucalyptus trees. The trees emit droplets of oil which scatter short-wave length rays of light, hence the blue. Not violet mind you, (http://xkcd.com/1145/) ha. We’re planning on going back there soon to do another day hike. It’s so easy to get out there by transit, woot!
  • Shoebox projects. What we do instead of sight-seeing when we are being terrible tourists! Deciding to live in another city as opposed to traveling around means that we can put our roots into the ground, just a little. I mean the “ground” of our studio is concrete, so we can’t go too crazy, but we’ve been working on a few fun activities.

               1) Herb Garden which should do well in this magical land of sun.

               2) Ukuleles. Blue and Orange, matching calluses, how adorable.

               3) This: http://www.petapixel.com/2012/12/31/diy-make-a-waxed-canvas-camera-bag-on-the-cheap/

               4) Bike maintenance classes for accident-lovers (I may have lost some skin on the road.) 

              Up next: beer brewing in the courtyard and diving classes.

Meanwhile in the land of work: Curtis and his behemoth brain are rocking it. He is enjoying his new job for the most part and has even been able to see some actual outback on business trips. He says it’s been a steep learning curve, but he can solve rubix cubes so I am pretty confident that he will master everything immediately. As for me, I just got hired onto the New South Wales Public School board as a casual (substitute) teacher. School just started last week so I haven’t received any calls yet but spent this week working on making some packages that I can take to schools in person. Hopefully this improves my chances of getting actual work! It’s a little overwhelming having to navigate a brand new system, but since I made the decision to try it’s tough to be grouchy about it for too long. Overall, things are great and we’re feeling settled…and we miss you all.

Stay warm up there in Canadia, much love.