Saturday, January 26, 2013

After the deluge

After a few weeks of high temperatures and no rain it was a great relief to see the rainclouds gathering yesterday.  However the rain when it came was more of a deluge than a soaking, accompanied by lots of lightning and thunder and high winds. We had over 40mls of rain during the storm; other parts of Canberra had over 60. There were over 400 calls for emergency services during and after the storm, for flooding problems, uprooted trees, power failures and missing tiles etc etc. Luckily we had very little damage at our house other than overflowing gutters causing a bit of minor flooding in our front entry (outside not inside) and back deck.

It had all mostly cleared by a bit after 8.00pm. We went outside and were amazed to see this sight, over the road, at the end of our front driveway!  Three, no doubt very hungry and thirsty kangaroos, grazing on the bit of bushland that Rob keeps rough mowed (the shoots must be juiciest there).

We've suspected that a small number of kangaroos have made their home in the bush over the road in the past year or so as we have such regular sightings of them hopping up the streets early in the morning. This sighting confirms it for me...grazing in such an open position..they must have been ecstatic to get a break from the dry hot conditions.

A lovely little celebration of Australia Day - far better for us than all the flag waving and belligerence that seems to go with the territory these days.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Porcupine Rock walk

After our challenging walk the day before we wanted to take it easy on Sunday.  Maxie and Rod headed to the Wild Brumby Distillery in the Perisher Valley (for the coffee) and the girls voted for a relaxing day at the Lodge. We started out in  a leisurely way, late morning, and completed the relatively easy 3 klm walk from the Perisher Valley Reservoir to enjoy the spectacular views from Porcupine Rocks. There was a bit of haze around but you could still enjoy fantastic views here of the Thredbo River Valley, Bullocks Flat and Lake Crackenback. This is one of our favourite short walks in this area.

We were feeling pretty good at this stage so made the decision to walk the 6.4 klm track back to Charlotte Pass from here, leaving our car in the car park near the cafe (closed today) and the chairlift.

This "track" is a ski trail, marked by ski poles, but there is no actual walking track. At first it is pretty easy, as we made our way over the soft tussocks of alpine grass and wildflowers (including native orchids) and admiring the rocky outcrops and fire damaged treescapes all along the escarpment.

But it gets much harder. We struggle to find our footing in the springy, boggy, wombat holed, alpine heathland. It goes on for kilometres like this. I fall over a few times but it's like falling into a foam springy (prickly) bed - very difficult to get up from too! It's soft on the feet but very hard on the legs, knees and ankles - harder than yesterday in many respects.

It takes us HOURS to make our way back criss crossing across the ridge trying to keep our ski poles in sight while trying to find a sure footing on the ground.

We were so happy to eventually cross this pretty creek (bubbling down to join the Snowy River) and see Charlotte Pass village in the near distance.

Our walk was a challenging 4 and half hour marathon - and no stops after our break at Porcupine Rocks because there were so many ants nests spread around the heaths and springs along this trek.

There were so many times I thought how easy and picturesque this track would be in winter, covered in snow and we were all on skis.

These weekends at Charlotte Pass are a great opportunity to share some great times and great walking challenges and rewards together as well as some fantastic food and wines in good companyThis weekend had all of that.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Main Range and Summit Walk

Here we all are again - bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to tackle the Main Range Track to Rawson Pass / Mt Kosciuszko then back to our starting point here at the Charlotte Pass lookout (about 21 klm in total).  This has become an annual mid-summer trek for us, to the Southern Alps Ski Lodge in Charlotte Pass village, and two days of walking in this amazing mountain environment.

We're doing this walk in an anti-clockwise direction this time, making our way down the steep incline to the Snowy River crossing below Charlotte Pass at the start of the trek (as opposed to finishing off the 21 klm mountain trek with a killer climb up this steep slope).  We'll debate whether this was an easier way to do the trek for the rest of the weekend.

It's a relatively gentle 5 klm walk through alpine meadows, past Hedley Tarn to the Blue Lake Lookout.  It's very warm for this time of the year in the mountains so we are surprised to see there are still some patches of hard set snow around.

With the hardest part of the range walk ahead of us Maddie and Sophie set out well ahead of us, becoming small figures in the distance.  They kept up this pace for the rest of the walk.

We're walking across some of the highest points in the Great Dividing Range here - on the rooftop of Australia.

On this part of the track we we have clear views towards the Victorian Alps in the West and the Kosciuszko National Park (NSW) to the East.

We stopped for lunch at the side of the narrow stone track high above Albina Lake - a great vantage point for admiring this remnant glacial lake.

The track is well maintained and undulates (relentlessly) across the top of the range. The uphill bits seem never ending. It's hard work at this altitude, but everyone seems to agree that the down hill bits are hardest on the knees.  Luckily we can justify frequent stops to admire the views.

At this point on the track we're walking just below the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, heading towards Rawson Pass and the welcome "pit stop" below Etheridge Ridge.

There are beautifully sculpted granite outcrops all around this part of the walk.

Rob and the girls were the first to get to the multi million dollar toilet block below Etheridge Ridge. By this stage we were passing lots of walkers from the opposite direction. The Summit Walk to Mt Kosciuszko is a popular trek from Thredbo Village (using the chairlift for most of the way).  We thought Maddie and Sophie looked much fitter and more enthusiastic than most of the young people we saw coming from "Thredders" for the day.

They led the way back along the 8klm gravel road that forms the Summit Walk from Charlotte Pass.  Some of us were somewhat dismayed at the thought of walking another 8 klm  at this stage of the day and kept a close eye on the distance counters marking each kilometre along the track.

Maddie and Sophie had some fun at this particular spot in the Snowy River - allowing us some much needed down time, while cursing the hordes of flies that seem to be a part of the Kosciuszko experience.

 We took 6 and half hours today to complete this magnificent mountain walk. We ended up much more dusty, sunburnt (surprisingly), bruised and battered than the way we started, but surviving nonetheless - and feeling pretty satisfied with ourselves.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


This is another uneasy January. We've already had too many high 30o-40o days with hot windy conditions and  we're reminded of that black Canberra day a decade ago when 500 homes were destroyed or severely damaged by the firestorm, and four people died.  This year Tasmania has been really copping it, but there are fires burning all around the Eastern states and the smell of smoke greets us every time we go outside.

It's best to stay indoors this weather, after about 11.00am anyway. It's been a good opportunity to put some hours in OS trip planning on the Internet while we watch (with dismay) the hydrangeas in the back garden wilting and the top leaf layer of the Japanese maples frizzle up in the hot winds. I guess it's not much to complain about when other people are worried for their lives, their families, their homes and livelihoods, with the fires bearing down on them.

Ella is in a swimming program at Erindale Pool each morning. Her swimming is much improved this year and it won't be long before she can join her Daddy doing laps as she is already getting the breathing thing down pat.

January is the month to celebrate Rob and Joshy's birthdays. Rob had his turn today, a celebration made even happier because we were able to catch up on everyone's holiday adventures. I really enjoyed hearing Ollie's and Angus's travel tales from Singapore and Koh Samui.  They seem to have grown up so much in the few weeks since I've seen them. OS travel does that to you!

And Abi is getting cuter (and cheekier!) with every passing week.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Lunch on the river

We've had a long standing invitation to join Ann and Tony (a work colleague) for lunch at their place in Chiswick. It was a big adventure for us getting there today...a bus to Circular Quay then the Rivercat ferry up the Parramatta River, past Balmain and Drummoyne to the Chiswick jetty where Tony was waiting for us.

Tony and Ann live right on the river - a spectacular setting, with just enough room below the swimming pool for a vegie patch for Tony.  I'd like to do my gardening in a spot like this!

They have their own jetty, and their own Sydney rock oysters growing on the pylons and on the black Sydney sandstone lining this part of the river. There are plenty of leather jacket fish to be caught off the jetty too. Although the river is not considered clean enough in this densely populated part of Sydney to consider eating them. 

Tony was explaining to us that the approval of that new set of steel stairs leading from the house to the jetty is causing a few headaches, despite its exorbitant cost.  Riverside living does bring its challenges apparently.

The views are spectacular here. In the pic below taken from the jetty we're looking past Ann & Tony's neighbours towards the next suburb (Abbotsford).  The new development is on the grounds of the old Nestle family mansion.

This pic below was taken at an unusually quiet time. The river is normally filled with pleasure boats and ferries making their way back and forth between the city and the riverside suburbs all the way to Rydalmere.

After our lovely lunch it was back to the Chiswick jetty to catch the Rivercat back to the city.

The bridge and the harbour looked breathtakingly beautiful today - under these clear blue sky conditions. It's always a thrill for me to see it like this.

...and back to Circular Quay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Coogee New Year

The last day of 2012 was our changeover day at Coogee. J&J & E&A were looking tanned and rested after a week of beach, movie and eating out fun.  We had a picnic lunch together in a shady patch under the trees lining the beach and then admired the girls' prowess on the playground equipment.

Ella had an AWESOME week. She looks and sounds a few months older than when I saw her a week ago.  She told me the main difference between Canberra and Sydney is that there are lots of people with tattoos in Sydney and that the TV remote is much quieter.  Josh reminded me that because Ella has been coming to Coogee/Sydney for most of her life it seems totally normal to her (apart from all the people with tattoos).

Her big news for the week is her now wobbly top front tooth (first noted when chewing on a pizza at Bar 100 at The Rocks).

It felt very quiet when they all left.  Coogee itself, however, was already gearing up for its family friendly New Year celebrations.  By 8.30pm crowds of people were making their way down to the beach and the esplanade, finding the best vantage points to watch the fireworks display on the headland of Dunningham Reserve.  The mood was relaxed and celebratory with hundreds of kids running around with glo sticks and sparklers set up in the sand.

Sydney is one of the New Year's Eve capitals of the world and this year the harbour side fireworks  drew crowds of over 1.6 million people.  Kylie Minogue (the "iconic chanteuse" as I heard her described by an ABC newsreader) provided the inspiration for this year's efforts (the best ever so they say!) We could hear all the booms bangs and whistles of the 15 minute New Year display quite clearly from our bedroom in Coogee.

By contrast the fireworks at Coogee Beach provided much more modest entertainment - but very much appreciated by the thousands of people lining the beach. 

We enjoyed walking home by way of a car free Coogee Bay Road.  We went for our first (not too) early morning walk for 2013 the next morning and there were few signs around of the previous night's excitement apart from the sight of a few people staggering around the beach a little the worse for wear. We are wishing all our loved ones a happy, wonderful 2013.