I'm back!!!! I know it has been ages since my last blog...and some of you have also reminded me of that fact! I'm sorry, but I have been busy trying to decide what i am going to do next, and enjoying the sunshine of course!! But as it is a bit chilly and cloudy today (by chilly I mean 20 degrees rather than the usual warm 30 degrees obviously...sorry guys I know it's freezin back home!) I thought I should take this opportunity to update you all. I'll apologise now because this is going to be a reaaalllly long blog entry, so i'd suggest getting comfy and a cup tea or some other liquid refreshment as you could be here some time....
Ok, here goes...when I left you guys last I was still back in Queenie (Queenstown, NZ). i had a lovely last few days there, firstly I went up on the Gondola (just a cable car with a stoopid name) to the mountain where I had excellent views of the lake and surrounding mountains. As it was such a clear day I could see snow capped mountains which I hadn't seen previously because they are normally shrouded in cloud. I was also watching lots of paragliders having fun flying around. They were jumping off the edge of the mountain where I was enjoying my lunch and I was very tempted to give the tandem jump a go, but seeing as I had already completely blown my budget for NZ I resisted...well to be honest as I was weighing up the idea I overheard the guys saying that the wind had changed direction and they were struggling to take off!
The next day I got the bus out to Arrowtown which is an Olde Worlde former Gold Mining town. The journey there was very picturesque, we passed a gorgeous lake (Lake Hayes i think) and lots of snow capped mountains. Arrowtown itself is a very pretty, quaint little town with houses with rose filled cottage gardens and traditional style shops in the original timber buildings.
I spent my last day in New Zealand taking a trip on the Steam Boat across the lake for a visit to Walters Peak Farm. Now, Walters Peak Farm is not at all what I expected, i had prepared myself to visit a dirty, muddy farm and to be greeted by the smell of manure...but this was not a farm in my true sense of the word...we arrived at the farm to see a beautiful restaurant with rose gardens and an immaculate lawn....Yes they had animals, but that's it! To be fair, I think there is a proper working farm up the hill from where we were, but that's not what we visited. Anyway, I wasn't complaining, because i still got to see animals, and I didn't have to get dirty! The location is beautiful, and I did enjoy my visit, there were 2 highlights for me 1) Watching Meg the lovely border collie working. She sprinted up the hill on command to round up the sheep in the woods and bring them back to their pen in front of us. She was so excited, you can tell she really enjoys her work! 2) The scrummy afternoon tea...freshly baked scones, cinammon cake and scotch pancakes with jam and cream Mm, mmmmm. Yes, I did have all 3, well it would be rude not to!
23rd December - Fly to Sydney!!! I was sad to say goodbye to New Zealand, and yes I did actually say 'goodbye New Zealand...love you!' as i boarded the plane. But I was really looking forward to getting to Sydney and being with my big bro for Christmas. Marcus met me at the airport and took me to his flat, and I felt relaxed and at home straight away. I'm not sure whether it was because I was with family or in a home for the 1st time for 3 months, but either way it was a very nice feeling. It was such luxury to be in a home, we had our own kitchen where you didn't have to label your food in the fridge, lounge with stereo, and my very own bedroom and bathroom! Amaaazing! It also felt good to be back in Sydney again, even though I had only been there once before for a few days, it felt nice and familiar.
On Christmas eve Marcus finished work just after lunch and I went to join him and his work mates for a drink at his office, but like most other offices (well like Willis anyway) most people had ran out of the doors and home as soon as they were told they could leave! So I just met 2 of the girls from the office (either they are the hardened drinkers or they just felt sorry for Marcus waiting for me i'm not sure which!) for a couple of glasses of wine. In the evening my lovely brother (who has been spoiling me rotten!) took me for cocktails at the Shangri-La hotel overlooking the harbour (veerrry civilised darlilng!) We managed to get a table and sat drinking our champagne cocktails with excellent views over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, very nice. We did have to share our table though, with a german couple in their 60's, but they kept me entertained...They were sat next to us and had a very similar view apart from their view of the Opera house wasn't quite as good as ours, a fact that the German lady was clearly NOT happy about at all! She was obviously moaning about it to her poor husband as he kept looking over and rolling his eyes, and she kept giving me dirty looks...very amusing, I just kept giggling at her. Then a group of 20somethings came and stood in front of the couple, looking out the window and taking photos of the view...the grumpy German lady was really upset now, she was sighing very loudly and getting quite animated while moaning to her husband...eventually she moaned enough that her husband had to say something, so he called over to one of the group "Can we have our view back please?" I had to laugh out loud! The poor guys just looked at each other perplexed and moved away from the window. I just don't understand it...the Harbour Bridge and Opera house aren't going anywhere, what does she think she's gonna miss by the other guys standing in front of it for a few minutes, it was like she was watching a show, sat there staring at the window! And anyway, she didn't pay anything extra to have those seats, she just bought drinks there the same as the rest of us. I'm surprised she didn't send her husband down before the bar opened to put towels on the seats to secure the best view...maybe she did the next night...
Christmas day!!! We had a lovely day, and very civilised of course...starting with a Champagne breakfast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon out on the balcony. After present opening (thanks to the family!) we had a nice stroll round Darling Harbour, and then a late lunch in one the restaurants on the harbour (very nice) Then we went back to the flat and had a swim and sauna downstairs before dinner. Marcus cooked a joint of lamb on the barbie, which was very nice...not quite the same as Kerry's Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, but very tasty nonetheless. A very nice way to spend Christmas day...
Boxing Day, Marcus drove us up to some of the northern harbour beaches. We had some nice walks along the beaches and found some lovely little sheltered bays with warm shallow water ideal for swimming, and there were lots of families enjoying picnics and games. There were also lots of gorgeous multi-million dollar homes along the harbour which I enjoyed nosing at! We had intended to go and watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, but we hadn't accounted for how many other people would be heading out to do the same, so we didn't quite make it!
The next day we drove a couple of hours north to Palm Beach...aka Summer Bay in Home and Away! Palm Beach is a lovely long stretch of soft golden sand which is on a spit of land, and there is another nice long golden beach on the basin side of the spit a couple of minutes walk away. I could see it was a really lovely place, but unfortunately the views weren't brilliant because it was a really cloudy day :o(.
The next few days were fairly quiet, up to New Year's Eve!!! My wonderful brother booked us into a nice restaurant on Circular Quay with a great view of the Harbour Bridge! We had a couple of glasses of Champagne on arrival, with a 5 course taster menu. The food was really good, and the conversation of course, and with a different wine accompanying each course we even got a bit behind on the wine at one point. I had to take drastic action and stay quiet for a few minutes to catch up! I managed it though, and was back on track by the 4th course! We had a break at 9pm to watch the family fireworks display, which were really good, and back home we would have been really pleased with those as the main display,...but everyone was anticipating what was to come later....Just before midnight we all ventured upstairs to the bar to get our spots for the best view of the harbour bridge and expectantly watched for the big countdown, and then it started...in big lights in the centre of the Harbour bridge...10, 9, 8, 7, everyone was counting along and cheering...then BANG the whole sky lights up with an kaleidoscope of colour, continuous explosions all around, and flames soaring high from the arch of the bridge. At one point there were sparklers flowing down from the whole length of the bridge, it looked like a heavy rain storm. It was incredible, and the boats in the harbour were decorated with lights and sat in front of the bridge, which looked very pretty. It was an amazing night, and one I will never forget.
The next couple of days I sent trying to plan my time in Sydney properly. On Saturday I visited Koala Park Sanctuary, which is a bit of a ramshackle establishment, but I got to see lots of Koalas, Roos and Wallabies without too many other tourists, so it was good. Unfortunately, the law in NSW doesn't allow us tourists to cuddle a Koala, so I will have to wait until I get to Queensland for that, but I was able to touch and photograph one close up so that will do for now. The Wallabies and Roo's were brilliant though, I spent lots of time with them hand feeding them in their enclosure, they are so friendly and cute, and their fur is really soft and cuddly...I wanted to take one home with me!
On Sunday I decided to do the Bondi to Coogee beach Cliff top walk. It was a gorgeous day and all the beaches I saw along the 5km walk were packed! It was nice to see it like that though and I wasn't planning to do any sunbathing anyway! It is a beautiful walk, with panaromic views along the coastlline, and passing lots of little sheltered bays with golden sands and beautiful clear blue sea. There is also a really interesting cliff top graveyard which you walk through. It is really surreal as you walk through it, with the bright white head stones contrasting with the blue sky on the edge of the cliff.
Monday I took the river cat out from Circular Quay to Parramatta, a town an hour (by river) to the west of Sydney. It is an interesting historic place, the 2nd place in Australia to have European settlers apparently. But I didn't spend too long there, I went there more for the journey down the river, which was really nice.
On Tuesday I took the train to the Blue Mountains. It is a 2 hour journey west of Sydney, and I decided to stay there a night so I could go for some good bush walks. I did the three sisters walk on Tuesday afternoon, about a 4 hour round trip, and as Tuesday was 'el scorchio' it was hard work! The giant steps (900 steps!) were an absolute killer...my legs were like jelly when i got onto level ground again! The views were incredible though, and I got some good photo's of the famous Three Sisters. On Wednesday i did the 'Grand Canyon' Walk...not quite on the scale of the big hole in Arizona...but quite grand nonetheless. It was a brilliant walk, through the lush rainforest with tree ferns, and down to the Canyon floor, with small waterfalls and babbling creeks, walking over boulders and fallen trees, and under the edges of cliffs. It was really peaceful too, away from the tourists, and just meeting a few fellow walkers (and lots of lizards) along the way. I enjoyed having a bit of time out, away from it all.
Anyway, that's you all up to date. The (very sketchy) plan is to stay here to see Carla when she gets back, then very shortly (no date as yet) travel onto Canberra, then Melbourne, Tasmania and west to Adelaide, then up to Uluru and Alice Springs, then possibly up north to Darwin and down the west Coast, or possibly back down to Adelaide then across and up the coast...I don't know that far yet!
Take care and speak soon,