Saturday, 26 July 2014

Australia: Cairns & the rainforest

On our second day in Cairns we went for a trip up to Kuranda, up in the tropical rainforest.  Conveniently enough there's a round trip you can do: up on the SkyRail and back down on the scenic railway which winds down the mountains.

Here's a view from the cable cars back over towards the ocean.

And a couple looking out over the interior from the first stopping point.

There were two stopping points on the way up to Kuranda village.  Both were very contained to boardwalks, but they did allow us to run about chasing each other, and to see something of the forest flora.  We did note just how very tall the trees were, but I didn't photograph any, so you'll have to believe me.  Rainforests have tall trees.

This was the first cable car we went on - more followed in Sydney - and it did take Marisca a while to feel comfortable in it.  Slight bumps over the towers felt like enormous tremors to her.  Tom just loved it from the start.  It really was a great way to get up into the forest.  Quite quick, airy, and with really stunning views, especially swooping up the first hillside through the canopy and emerging to see forest stretching for miles and miles.

Kuranda village is now a tourist place.  Actually, although it started with the gold prospecting and lumber industries, it's been a tourism spot for at least 50 years, with an alternative hippy thing.  It was nice to wander around the markets although without buying anything more than a few postcards and some very tasty coconut ice cream.  We did see rock being made and came away with a bag of vibrantly coloured sugary treats.

Following a walk along the river back to the station, we took the scenic railway back down, pulled by a locomotive painted with a snake that is the spirit of the forest, or some such.  Either way, it was pretty.

It was a nice run down, but we were all very tired and on a hot day we'd have rather been outside!  We did see some good rockage and waterfallage though.  Definitely a good day trip.

We had a morning left before flying back to Brisbane, and so went down to the esplanade, again.  Australian coast town life does seem to focus on the beachfronts, although at Cairns there was nobody on the beach (Beware: Crocodiles signs may have been something to do with it).  It's a nice place to run, and we saw plenty of powerwalking too.  Exercise stations with equipment, volleyball courts, water fountains every couple of hundred yards and a few public BBQs scattered around too.  The water fountains were a great discovey - not really for the water, but for the impetus they gave Marisca to move and keep moving, as she loved them.

Another water park!  This is part of Muddy's Playground which had half a dozen good areas with play equipment, as well as a couple of water areas and (of course) a cafe.  Over the course of the holiday Tom certainly fell in love with slides and Marisca seems to be getting more and more confident with different types of climbing frame.  Sitting with a cup of tea and watching them play really is the stuff of holidays.

And here's my only photo of Cairns beach.  The sun came out and made for a lovely last morning.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Australia: the Reef

I can't do a post for every day of our holiday.  That would be a lot of posts, and my writing isn't original at the best of times.  So to spare you 21 versions of "We woke up, had breakfast, and headed out", I've been combining days here and there.  However, this day is noteworthy as it contained my highlight of the whole trip: the Great Barrier Reef.

We'd flown up to Cairns the day before, coming down through the clouds to a stereotypically tropical landscape of beaches and forested hills.  It was hot but not sunny, although we were sure that would change.

The next day, that had not changed.  It was overcast and windy.  However, we'd booked the reef trip and were sure that the reef itself didn't much mind what was going on overhead.

So here we are, pulling away from the shore, enjoying the ferry.

Then, well, it was rather rough.  Very bouncy, jouncy, flouncy, all kinds of things that boats shouldn't do.  Marisca was a superstar (she just decided to sleep).  Tom was unperturbed, although that's just because he's got a poor standard of personal hygiene anyway.  Other passengers were very perturbed, multiple times.

Anyway - this sets the scene for not a great time at the reef.  We went on a glass bottomed boat - very rocky and with wind whipping spray allover us, but it was *fun*.  Great to see the corals and the fish beneath our feet.

There was also an observatory where Risky and Tom enjoyed watching the fish shoaling around and Elspeth got a marine biology talk.  Later on we went on a semi submersible boat which was probably disappointing for most people as we couldn't get particularly close to the reef for fear of smashing into it with the choppiness.  Tom and Marisca, however, loved it.  Almost entirely because they thought it was a bubble boat and the whole point was to enjoy the bubbles whizzing past when they turned the engines on.  Just goes to show that how much you enjoy something is all about you expectations!

And then I spent the rest of the day snorkelling.  It was incredible: the sheer abundance of life and how close you get to it; swimming through shoals of fish, following individuals as they go about their daily lives, watching clownfish darting in and out of the coral and seeing little cleaner fish hoovering up after the bigger parrotfish.  Sea turtles too.  Fantastic to see the fish that I've read about and seen in tanks so much as an amateur fishkeeper earlier in my life.  So much life, and so colourful.  Brilliant.

I did take Tom into the water but it was pretty cold and he wasn't convinced.  Long enough to get a photo though...

And finally, this is about the only picture of fish and coral I have, from the observatory.  I've seen many better photos of fish, and none of them are as good as the real thing, so this is just a token really.


 Well this post is a good decade or two earlier than I expected.  Marisca had a graduation party at Bonbons this week.  Although she'll keep going through the summer until school in September.  I am very impressed with the mortarboard and certificate.  What a lovely girl, and how can we be at going-to-school time already?  6 weeks until the 'first day of school' post...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Australia: Brisbane

Come Sunday and it was time to go and see the city.  We were staying on the outskirts of Brisbane and so took the train in to the centre, walking on the boardwalk (cue me humming the tune, Every Single Time.  You can't pass up a good song like that).  

Brisbane has some sights that are nice, in a city kind of way.  We liked this strangler fig tree, for example.

And the children liked the river when we stopped for coffee.

This is a bridge.

In the afternoon we took a ride down the river on the ferry to South Bank, which is a nice park type thing.  Playgrounds abound, as do coffee shops.  The highlight for all of us (those participating and those assisting) was the water park.  They seem to have lots of these in Australia, and they're all pretty busy even in the winter, I do wonder how much more so they would be in summer.

Marisca discovered a love of goggles and water jets.

Tom took a little while to warm up to the idea but once he did he also had lots of fun...

... although his fun was somewhat less controlled than Marisca's!

There will certainly be more water playground photos to follow from other locations.

What else about Brisbane?  Well, we're not really city people so won't be raving about it.  It's definitely a nice river city and we enjoyed coffee and lunch 1 in a nice spot, and lunch 2 in another nice spot.  Coffee 2 and ice cream now I think about it.  So it must be ok for food as well as for playgrounds and, really, what else do you need?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Australia: chilling

Well, let's begin.  A good way of getting over jetlag is to just chill out for the first few days of holiday.  If you want to do this, it's helpful to be having a lovely long holiday (3 weeks minimum) and to be staying with lovely friends who are also happy to just chill out.

So our holiday began!  Our first day was a Friday so everyone else went about their business and Sian took us out to the centre of Sandgate for a playground/coffee combo.  A combo that would repeat many times during the holiday.

Here you have Marisca doing jumps on the way to the station.

And here is Tom playing at the playground.  It's much like the playgrounds we have here, but instead of pigeons they have ibises which came as something of a surprise.  Tom continued to call them chickens though, the same as he does pigeons despite being 5 times the size of pigeons.  Ah well.

What else did we do for the first couple of days?  Well, Marisca got to know Jess and Anna and were soon as thick as thieves.  It was quite fun to watch the older girls jockeying for position as Marisca's favourite until they worked out they could all play together nicely.

On Saturday (I think...) we took another trip to Sandgate to see the sea and have fish and chips (then coffee and a playground).  The fish was very good, the chips fine, and the ginger beer also very tasty.  

And then a stroll down the beach for Marisca to do some jumping and Tom to do some landscaping.

A good start to the holiday!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Eating out

'Eating out' takes on a different meaning with children.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Le Tour

It's been a while - that may be the first blog-free month since it began back in 2010!  Most of June was spent on holiday, of which more later once I've dealt with the many, many, many photos.

Our first weekend back in the UK was our chance to experience Le Tour de Yorkshire.  Yorkshire has been building up to the two stages for some time, and lots more had happened while we were away.  Bunting, yellow bicycles, and the like have sprung up everywhere, and most statues in Leeds seem to be sporting yellow jerseys.

It has been incredible.  The atmosphere on race days in the county has been brilliant, everyone at work on Monday was talking about it.  Two good days of weather helped Yorkshire to look absolutely stunning for everyone watching.  And going down to watch it all whizz past in Ilkley was super.  Marisca got a squishy cow and we got some Yorkshire The (with apologies that I can't seem to get accents on blogger...)

Here are a few photos.  Thank you to Claire for hosting!