Saturday, September 29, 2012

Port Douglas Day one

It was late afternoon before we were ready to take our first walk around "Port". We didn't take long to check out the length of Macrossen Street before heading to the older end of town - portside - where Packers Creek joins the Coral Sea at the narrow Dicksons Inlet.  It seemed such a contrast to the tourist resorts and flash beachy cafes everywhere else, to find the quaint old St Mary's by the Sea - where there was a wedding about to happen!

Lots of kids were fishing off the old timber jetty by the church. One of them caught a large mullet on a tiny hook, much to his mother's dismay. We were watching all the big sailing boats and yachts coming into the marina after their day's outings to dive spots on the Great Barrier Reef.

We walked further along towards the marina and found the famous "Tin Shed", the clubhouse of the old Port Douglas combined services league. It's beautiful position over the water, great views of the inlet and happy hour prices make it a great choice for a cold (draught) Peroni to end off our day of travelling and celebrate our arrival in the tropics.

We're relieved to see "our" Aquarius sailing boat for Tuesday's outing is much smaller than the mammoth Quiksilver cruise liners that transport hundreds of people out to the reef each day.  Tonight Aquarius is taking a select group on a sunset cruise - but unfortunately there's not going to be much of a sunset with this cloud cover.

We found Port Douglas beach this morning.  It's four miles long AND HAS CROCS in the water in the right season (but not at the moment). This morning it's lined with walkers and joggers (including us) but there are no waves for the swimmers and the full length beach is quite narrow and edged with a shady plantation of stumpy palm trees. It reminds us of some beaches in Bali - even to the sun lounges that you hire for the day. 

We decided to visit Mossman Gorge today - only a 20 minute drive from Port Douglas.  In 2007 the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people started to take over the care and management of their traditional lands, which include Mossman Gorge.  Their beautiful new Visitor Centre at the gorge opened in June this year and a new management regime came into effect. So we are all able to walk with much greater respect and knowledge on Kuku Yalanji land when we visit Mossman Gorge now, compared to visitors in the past.

We took nearly two hours to experience most of the accessible tracks through this area of the Daintree National Park: Wet Tropics World Heritage listed rainforest (part of the oldest continuous rainforest in the world); dry creek beds and granite boulder strewn waterways where the Mossman River finds its way down the eastern slopes of the Main Coast Range; amazing rainforest trees and plants and fungi and beautiful butterflies, scrub turkeys and fish, clearly visible in the pristine clear creek beds.

The buttresses on these huge old red cedar trees provided the makings for spears and boomerangs used by the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people in the old days.

We've been lucky to arrive in this part of Australia at a time when the weather is very mild - around 29oC, but with very little humidity.  We hardly raised a sweat today in the rainforest.

We loved the contemporary design of the new visitor's centre overlooked by Manjal Dimbi (Mt Demi) which is of great spiritual significance to the Kuku Yalanji people.  We stayed on for a late, delicious lunch.

I was intrigued by the design of the guttering for the pavillion style roof over the Mayi Cafe - obviously designed for the serious rainfalls experienced in these parts.

Back in Port we followed the signs to the fresh caught prawns available from one of the fishing boats moored in the marina.

Half a kilo of the large tiger prawns looks good to have as a "beer snack" this evening, on our balcony overlooking the Shantara Resort pool, with Rob and another Peroni.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tiger in the tulips

Spring in Canberra always means Floriade is open for business - yes it's garish, predictable and a bit too commercialised - but it's also a perfect opportunity to admire its setting in this most picturesque park on the lake, especially if it's a warm sunny day to boot.
Floriade for Ella means the jumping castle is back in town........

and a chance to score a Cornetto from Grandpa......

meeting a stilt walking (non talking) butterfly amongst the flower beds for the first time.........

...and a professional face painter (non permanent tattoos an optional extra).......

and being convinced to visit the baby animal enclosure (even though "I'm a big girl now").  Even I thought that silkie bantam was adorable despite it's bad hair day!

It wasn't until we'd exhausted all those possibilities that Ella became interested in the beds of tulips and daffodils - picking out her favourite colours (coral red, orange red and red!)

and agreeing to pose for the annual picture amongst the flowers at Floriade.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Arts rich

We ended off an arts rich week - attending another  brilliant opening at Form Gallery on Tuesday and a magic performance by Bangarra Dance Company on Thursday - with a long leisurely lunch today at the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden Restaurant.  My birthday's coming around again, so it was another good excuse to celebrate our rich life.

Ella decided early she liked the venue and seemed pleased with my latest sewing efforts (sunhat with special provision for a pony tail!) 

The Japanese fog sculpture started up at 12.30pm - perfect for exploring while we waited for our first course (duck liver parfait for me - yum!)

In between first and second course Ella and I had time to enjoy the lush grassy mounds of the main garden fronting the lake - looking absolutely gorgeous this afternoon with its avenue of Manchurian Pear trees in full bloom, all along the lake's edge.

Abi was very happy throughout our long lunch, having little milk and solid snacks, socialising with us and enjoying her little walks into the various magical spaces of the sculpture garden.

As the shadows lengthened and we'd had our fill of chocolate tart and pistachio icecream, the ducks came in for their afternoon snacks.

But Abi wasn't ready to call this lunch over...

Josh has commissioned a large public art work on the western wall of Auto Torque at Phillip. It's such an exciting addition to this industrial precinct, and his expanding business. The art work's been finished for a few months now but it's been hard to get a good shot of it (until today) because there are usually too many cars and too much traffic around it during the week (and on Saturdays).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Spring in Sydney

You know it's Spring in Sydney when
  • It's back to business on the beach - lifeguards on training swims, out in boats and the safety flags are fluttering
  • The beach volleyball courts are pegged out and fit looking players are getting warmed up, ready for the season ahead
  • The light has changed - turning the ocean more emerald than sapphire
  • Gordon's Bay on a Sunday morning is abuzz with teams of divers, fishermen, the usual runners and walkers, and a cheerful crew of volunteer locals clearing remnant exotic plants
  • Every second person is wearing fluoro trainers or sandals
  • The native plants in the community garden at the top of Carrington Road are in full fragrant flower
  • The papaws growing on the tree at the back of our block look about ready for a green papaya salad - and that fig tree on Coogee Bay Road is sprouting vigorously.
  • David Jones (the Elizabeth Street store) is ablaze with wondrous arrangements of cherry blossoms, thousands of multicoloured orchids, walls of roses, festoons of opulent lilies and big bursts of sunshine yellow gelsemium. The ground floor is filled with smiling people, taking photos, admiring, sharing the joy of all this retail exuberance (unexpected when spending is at somewhat gloomy levels)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

First day of Spring

We had a very cold start to Spring.  It was just under -7oC at 6.00am on Saturday with a thick blanket of frost to greet the day. However, that cleared to become a clear sunny day and a reasonably warm one too (relatively speaking!)

Granny K insisted we have a seafood feast for our family's celebration of Ros and Pete's visit from Sandy Beach. After we'd downed 3 kgs of prawns, sushi and sashimi, 3 doz pacific oysters and a kilo or so of Alaskan crab, Claire decided to give the kids a thrill by setting them a treasure hunt challenge. A message and a map were delivered by Pirate Jack...and the kids were off and running, up the back pathway, by the bush and over to Nanny and Poppa's back look inside the chest......

 to find the mysterious box of treasure...

full of wondrous delights......

including those precious gold wrapped pieces of chocolate money.
Being observers of the pirate adventure was fun for us too. A lovely highlight of a weekend for us "girls" planning the UK (and Paris, I think) parts of our trip together next year (with Rod, Rob and Pete of course).

Ella couldn't believe her pirate treasure luck: chocolate, fruit tingles, gel pens, lip balm....

Abi even sat up on her own for a second or two...better able to admire the collective bounty!

I don't think any of the kids could have had a better surprise. They kept saying it was just like Christmas!

The gel pens were a huge hit with Ella, and Angus was very gallant about showing interest too.

Granny K's day was made: family together (including Ros and Pete), fresh seafood for lunch and a card game and lots of laughs with Ollie and Pete to top it off.

As the afternoon shadows grew longer the kids could FINALLY light their sparklers - another key ingredient in the box of pirate treasure.

leaving just enough time for a final bout of mayhem in the back garden before going home time.  Maxie even convinced Abi to get involved.