Kimberley Road Trip

Like many others, exploring the Kimberley region of Western Australia, a vast pristine wilderness full of beautiful gorges cut through ancient orange and red Kimberley rock and possessing a dramatic and largely untouched coastline has been on our bucket list for a long time.

Windjana Gorge, the Kimberley region, Western Australia

While there are many ways to experience this wonderful part of Australia including luxury cruises and tours, we allocated ourselves six weeks and leaving on the first of June, drove from Byron Bay to Cape Leveque and back in our trusty Toyota Prado towing nothing.

All packed, only 15,000 kms to go!

Choosing this option gave us the freedom to customize our trip. We were able to visit parts of Queensland we had never seen, detour to Darwin to visit family and veer a little from the usual tourist path when opportunity presented itself. And our decision not to tow a caravan or camper trailer enabled us to sample a variety of accommodation which included motels, airbnb, roadhouses, outback pubs, glamping at spectacular resorts and camping in our very own, quite comfortable, two room tent. We loved the variety and the occasional touch of luxury and choosing to travel like this saved us a lot of time over all as we were able to travel faster and didn’t have to set up and pack up camp all the time.

Byron Bay to Katherine

The first stage of our adventure involved driving from Byron Bay to Katherine in the Northern Territory, a journey of around 3000 kms. We wanted the journey as well as our Kimberley destination to be memorable, so only drove for approximately 600 kms each day. This gave us an enjoyable taste of what there is to see and do in this part of the world. We stopped at Mitchell, Longreach, Mt Isa and the Three Ways roadhouse on our way to Katherine. Each destination and sometimes the little towns in between, many of which I had never heard of before, had something special to remember them by.

Our first stop was the little town of Mitchell in the Maranoa Region of South West Queensland.

Mitchell is on the Maranoa River, which despite the drought is still flowing. Beautiful gum trees line the banks. And actually it rained a little overnight. The only rain we experienced on our trip.

We stayed in a delightful Airbnb, Serenity House which was a delightful little cottage on acreage on the outskirts of town.

A magnificent sunset was just the start of a delightful stay.

Although we could have easily dined in, we chose the friendly restaurant attached to the local motel for a delicious dinner. But really, the most memorable thing about Mitchell was the Great Artesian Spa.

Situated in the main street, not far from the river bridge, the Spa sources mineral rich water at 40 degrees from the Great Artesian Basin, a blissful temperature on a frosty winter’s morning. We swam, soaked and swam some more. Kenn did try the cold pool for a ‘refreshing’ change but not surprisingly, he didn’t have any followers. A wonderful way to begin our drive to Longreach.

We especially enjoyed the drive from this point on as we had an excellent straight road mainly to ourselves.

We were traveling along the Matilda Way, an iconic outback highway. We stopped at Tambo but as it was a Sunday, couldn’t stop at the famous Tambo Teddies but contented ourselves with an early lunch at the Tambo Lake and rest area.

The lake was lovely and the rest area very well appointed.
And there was a very pleasant walking path around part of the lake which took you to a bird watching hide. If we had felt more energetic, the rest area also boasted a great outdoor gym.
And I couldn’t help but notice that the locals still know how to have a good time.

All too soon, we were back in the car and on our way to Longreach, still a few hours away. We arrived with plenty of time to find our motel and visit the Stockman’s Hall of Fame before dinner at the Services Club.

This is an excellent museum. Lots of interactive features as well as great items from our pioneering past. There was an informative indigenous section and an art gallery.

There is a lot to see and do in Longreach but we couldn’t see it all on this trip. After all, the Kimberley was our priority. Our next stop was Mount Isa but on the way, we stopped at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum at Winton. This spur of the moment decision, (we just happened to see a billboard on the side of the road) became one of the highlights of our trip. The museum is located on the top of a ‘jump up’ a kind of flat topped hill, about 20 kms from Winton. The views over the plains from the top are wonderful.

It is easy to envisage that there was an inland sea out there, millions of years ago. The kind of place where dinosaurs liked to hang out.
And at the entry to the museum, a replica of Matilda, one of the most complete dinosaur fossils to be found in Australia, is waiting to say ‘hello’.

The entry fee is not inexpensive but so worth it. And it is possible to customise your visit to suit your family or personal interests.

Firstly we viewed a short documentary about the dinosaur discoveries around Winton, their lifestyle back in the day and the manner of their death. A paleontologist then showed us the actual fossils of the two most famous dinosaurs found at Winton, who have been named Banjo and Matilda, explaining what can be deduced from them. To be so up close and personal with the remains of creatures who roamed Australia so long ago was a thrill. While this was a great orientation what really appealed to us about this museum was the visit to the Dinosaur Canyon. This is situated a kilometer or two from the main building and is accessed by a cute motorised train. The Dinosaur Canyon attraction consists of a spectacular building perched on a cliff overlooking a 300 metre elevated concrete pathway through a gorge, along which five outdoor dinosaur galleries have been positioned.

As you can see, the path is very accessible and follows the natural contours of the jump up. Surrounded by massive boulders and aromatic Australian bush, the dinosaur galleries give you a glimpse of life as it would have been during the Cretaceous Period, over 95 million years ago. The galleries include
The recreation of the billabong where Banjo and Matilda met their deaths. How the paleontologists can put the bones back together though is a mystery to me.
And further along, a little group of pterosaurs sits precariously atop a giant boulder. These were flying reptiles, members of the Pterodactylus family, not dinosaurs and definitely not the ancestors of birds or bats. I thought they looked a little grasshopper like but with big beaks.
And then there was the recreation of the famous dinosaur stampede found at Lark Creek. Hundreds of dinosaur footprints have been found and they believe that these little dinosaurs were running away from …
This … a big bad and hungry sauropod! I would run too.
And then there were these dudes. Just hanging out having a good time. They had a very fancy name: Kunbarrasaurus ieversi. I think I prefer cool dude.

While it was fascinating to look at these wonderful bronze exhibits in the wild as it were and listen to the informative commentary, children and adults alike were encouraged to make brass rubbings at each exhibit and take away a personal reminder of their visit.

One gallery remains very much a work in progress. This is the valley of the Cycads. This is because drought and white ants have damaged the original plantings but the curators are determined to succeed.

These beauties are waiting to be planted.

I will admit that our visit was enhanced by the weather. It was a glorious early June day and all around us, the bush was flowering and the birds were in full song.

I couldn’t capture it, but this bush was covered in butterflies.
I assumed that this was some kind of wattle tree
And even the grasses were lovely

Back at the reception area, we lunched at the cafe, which also has a lovely outlook. I appreciated my cappucchino, something not always readily available in the Outback. Back in the Prado, we still had a quite a way to go to reach Mount Isa by nightfall but managed it easily.

Our overnight stay at the Copper Gate Motel was very pleasant and after refueling we headed north and west over the Barkly Tableland. It was sad to see how the drought has really put its mark on this area. Even so, it had an eerie beauty of its own.

The dry grassland and the sky just seem to go on forever
And the road just keeps on going west all the way to the Northern Territory.

Our next stop was the Three Ways Roadhouse where luckily we didn’t have to fill up with fuel as it was well into the $1.90’s for diesel. Our accommodation in one of the ‘Glendale’ rooms was very basic but clean and relatively quiet.

However the sunset certainly wasn’t basic!

Next morning, we were on the road early as we wanted to stop at Mataranka and take a dip in the Thermal pools before reaching Katherine. I could easily spend a couple of days here and noticed that the camping facilities were very good. The area was made famous by the novel We of the Never Never – a book written about nearby Elsey Station by Jeannie Gunn and there is a lot of memorabilia about Jeannie at Mataranka Homestead where we stopped for lunch and had a quick swim in the Thermal Pool. This was a lovely experience but we enjoyed our trip to Bitter Springs which lies about two kilometers to the north even more.

The walk into the Springs is framed by these lovely palm trees. So lush in an otherwise dry landscape.
And the springs themselves are a lovely colour and are not crowded. It’s just you and nature.

But our time in Nature’s hot tubs was not at an end. Arriving in Katherine, we got to spend quality time with our daughter Lyndsay, husband Reece and eleven month old Ilyssia. And where better than the Katherine Hot Springs which are in the middle of a major restoration.

There are two main sections separated by a little waterfall. As we had Ilyssia with us, we stayed in the shallower, less occupied upper section.
This was an excellent option as we could float, swim or walk down the creek to the waterfall and we had this section virtually to ourselves.
After her swim, Ilyssia was ready for a nap while her mum and grandparents sampled the delights of a pop up restaurant in the adjoining park.

As we had two nights in Katherine, we also visited Katherine Gorge. Although we last visited the gorge a few years ago, I was surprised to see that the cost of kayaking and cruising the gorge had more than doubled. This time, we chose to complete a bush walk which brought us out to a great lookout.

All the colours of the rock reflected in the water! So beautiful.

The first part of our big adventure had come to an end. I was surprised by how rewarding this part of the trip was. Even though I experienced some serious twinges of NB (numb bum) syndrome as a result of sitting for too long in a seat that could only recline a couple of inches, the changing landscapes, the experiences and the people made the journey a worthwhile end in itself. And still the Western Kimberley beckoned. Would it live up to all the hype? I’ll let you know next time.

Byron Bay’s beautiful and peaceful Three Sisters’ walk.

Looking down at the incoming surf from the Three Sisters’ track, at Broken Head, Byron Bay

Most visitors to Byron Bay love the walk that takes them up to the Bay’s iconic lighthouse and down to the Australia’s most easterly point. It offers those who are willing to tackle the steps to the top, lovely beach and coastal rainforest vistas. And leaning on the fence at the point, you can gaze out over a seemingly limitless Pacific ocean or peruse the bottom of the cliff where turtles and dolphins like to hang out. And because it is so lovely, there are always lots of people to share the moment with you.

But if you hanker for a little bit of shady solitude or want to imagine yourself castaway on your own private, pristine little cove then meandering along the Three Sisters’ walk at Broken Head just to the south of the centre of Byron Bay might be for you. It certainly suited our daughter Lyndsay who together with baby Ilyssia was visiting us from Darwin.

Ilyssia loves hiking with her mum.  Perfect for a cat nap

Jingi Walla” you are welcomed to the track, which begins to the right of the Broken Head carpark, by the traditional owners and joint custodians of the Broken Head Nature Reserve, the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay. The track is only 1.6 kms return and follows the clifftop to a lookout over Kings Beach.

Initially, you enter a shady tunnel of greenery where
the lighthouse can be glimpsed through the trees, standing firm at the northern end of Tallows Beach
Even though it has been very dry, the Cottonwood canapy provides welcome shade as you wind around the headland and …
across little wooden bridges.

And then the rainforest comes to an end and you find yourself high on a grassy headland overlooking the Three Sisters which give their name to the track.
A sad but cautionary tale.
These little coves are easily accessible at low tide but the currents can be quite dangerous. It is a paddle and picnic spot for me.
There is always a lovely breeze here as well as stunning views.

From the lookout you can see Kings Beach in the background.
At low tide you can access the beach from the lookout otherwise access is via a steep rainforest track found along the Broken Head Nature Reserve dirt road. Although this is a clothing optional beach, it is a lovely excursion for cooler days.
And then its back to where we began.

As well as the Three Sisters Walk, Broken Head has a beautiful beach which is patrolled in school holidays. Across the dunes from the beach is a large grassy play area complete with undercover picnic tables and barbecues. There is also an amenities block and basic supplies such as an essential ice cream or two, can be obtained from the kiosk in the adjoining Holiday Park.

Maybe I’ll see you on the headland sometime soon.

Darwin dream baby

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The sea, the sky!

 

 July 2018: a wonderful time of year in Darwin when the days were endlessly sunny and it wasn’t too hot and humid. When there was nothing much nicer than floating around beside the Arafura Sea in one of Australia’s most scenic swimming pools or savouring fresh barramundi and chips on an evening picnic,  as you watched the sun sink in a fiery ball into the sea.

July 2018: and we could finally go to the famous or ‘infamous’ Beer Can Regatta which is held each year on Mindil Beach. We discovered that there was a special protocol which needed to be followed for building and propelling your hand made, beer can vessel.

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Gives a whole new perspective to recycling !

And as well as the main race, the Battle of Mindil,  there were lots of other events to keep those camera phones busy: people watching,  kayak races, tug of war,  an Iron Person competition, Thong Throwing (only in Australia!) and the  Henley on Mindil.

 

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So entertaining!

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Despite the heat, unlike the swimmers behind me, this was as far as my toes went into the water.  I wasn’t convinced that the irukandji jellyfish knew that they were supposed to be taking a holiday away from Mindil Beach

As well as the formal programme, there were lots of entertainment for young and old alike and fabulous stalls to explore at the market.

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Didj players

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and a really cute puppet show among many other acts.

 

July 2018: when we were able to witness a  fabulous star gazing event, a blood red moon caused by the longest, total eclipse this century and accompanied by Mars, which was at it’s brightest and closest for 15 years.

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Obviously, the moon didn’t appear this big to the naked eye, but it was still very impressive. Did you, like me get up early to watch it in the early dawn?

And  most importantly at  11 pm  on the 26th July, 2018, our Darwin Dream baby arrived.

After a delay of a week or two, Ilyssia Claire Black finally made her way into the world following an emergency Caesaraen section and she was just so beautiful!

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That was all a bit much, Mum. Think I’ll just  rest for a bit!

It has been one of the joys in life for Kenn and I to witness each of our children welcoming their own little miracles into the world. Words and images can’t really capture that extraordinary depth of feeling as you experience so many firsts.

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That first sleep on Mummy’s tummy

 

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That first sleep with daddy

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That first meeting with her canine protector, Hannibal.

 

And even though I can see Reece, her father looking out at me, gazing at her asleep takes me back to when Lyndsay was a wee little baby.

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Lyndsay was a little older, perhaps three months old.

Alas, all too soon it was time to share her with other members of the family and we had to fly home to Byron to prepare for our trip to China. But I wasn’t too sad as I had already booked my return ticket to Darwin for a catch up visit.

Early September, and it was feeling a little like deja vu, as I traveled to Brisbane to catch a flight to Darwin. Lys was now 6 weeks old and Lyndsay was finally able to get out and about.

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This is the life, a cruise along the Foreshore and a nap while Mum and Nanna enjoy dinner at the Pop-up Pizza restaurant. Looks yum!

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did we really eat all that by ourselves?

Ilyssia has already become a cafe aficionado. She enjoys acai berries and matcha tea lattes! She is such a good baby: just feeds, sleeps and gurgles. Lyndsay  looked quite rested for a new mum as well. Lys has obviously decided that she’s not a party animal yet. Sleeping for 5 to 6 hours at a stretch through the night, she is being very considerate of her parents.

Luckily for us, four weeks later, Lyndsay had to attend a conference of the Gold Coast and present a paper as part of her PHD and she asked if Kenn and I would like to babysit Ilyssia between sessions. Of course we jumped at the opportunity to spend more time with our Darwin baby. We were staying at Broadbeach, within 5 mins walk from the Crown Casino where the conference was being held. There we went for long walks with Lys along the beachfront.

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Even though it was a little cloudy, the weather agreed with this beach babe.

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And made for very atmospheric skies

A couple of times, Lyndsay was able to join us and we would explore further afield. One such place was the Cascade Gardens. Snuggled close to Mum, Lys  took in the sights.

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I’m just a wee bit squished

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The gardens back onto the canals and are a lovely picnic spot

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And we noticed that there was a Vietnam memorial there .

 

Following the conference, Lyndsay and Lys were able to spend a couple of days in Byron and meet her cousin Hudson. Huddy didn’t really want to share his mummy with Ilyssia but did think Lys was very special, especially when she came on a beach walk with him.

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This is such fun! Soon you’ll be running like me, Ilyssia!

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Even when it’s windy, Byron doesn’t disappoint.

Far too soon, it was time for Lyndsay and Ilyssia to fly home but not before Lys had filled our home with smiles.

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I wonder what she’s thinking?

 

As with our other wonderfully unique and special grandchildren: Genevieve, Francesca and Hudson, little Ilyssia fills our lives with love and hope, such precious gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Cowls and a little Jumper

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Two years ago, our family and friends were celebrating Lyndsay and Reece’s wedding at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. Although it didn’t snow, it was cold. So cold that everyone was rugged up in beautiful coats and jackets, hats and  beanies and interesting scarves that flowed this way and that,  while we enjoyed exhilarating walks that ensured that blood still flowed to our extremities.

Coming from Byron, my cold weather garb was particularly uninspiring: of course I had purchased a lovely outfit for the wedding itself, after all I was the mother of the bride! But everything else I had was comprised of items designed to brave the New Zealand wilderness on walking treks. Practical, yes! Stylish, well only if you’e modelling the yeti look!   I cast an admiring eye over the stylish casual attire and accessories everyone else was wearing.  Before this, I hadn’t really noticed that infinity scarves or cowls had become a fashion accessory. My sisters, Jenny  and Maryanne looked particularly good in theirs so I resolved on my return home to give knitting one a go.

It’s only taken two years to follow through and I can’t even use the excuse that I didn’t have the materials on hand. Nestled in my stash were two skeins of very special,  hand dyed, hand spun wool that Lyndsay had brought back from her travels in Montana a few years ago and I had found a free pattern on Ravelry that would be perfect for the job.  Still better late than never as they say.

 I  knitted the cowl on a circular needle.

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I decided against knitting in rounds and joined my cowl using mattress stitch. Even though the wool was very chunky, the join is virtually undetectable and you don’t have to worry about twisting stitches or moving stitch markers.

What was interesting about this pattern was the edging: it formed a very natural roll on the finished cowl while the lacy middle section made for an interesting textual contrast.

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The finished cowl can wrap around two or three times depending on the look you are after.

The pattern does suggest you use a stretchy bind off. I had never used one before, so I consulted You tube to find out how to do it.  As you can see from the photo above, it gives your cowl an elliptical shape ensuring that it sits better when you wrap it around your head.

I was so pleased with the finished scarf, that I decided to knit one as part of a birthday gift for my sister Jenny. I knew that she already had a couple of chunky cowls in her wardrobe so decided to try something different. I settled on 2ply Silk Mohair.  I  wanted something unique, so I sourced the yarn from Lara Downs, an independent Australian Merino Wool and Fine Mohair grower in Victoria. Pam has a wonderful Etsy shop and luckily for me, she had just enough left of a beautiful  rosy pink silk mohair yarn for me to purchase. Very quickly this beautiful yarn arrived. It was super soft and had a beautiful sheen but was so, so fine.  For the first time, I felt just a little daunted. I had never tried to knit cobwebs before!

 Luckily, you knit this yarn on quite big needles. I used  5mm straight needles. You have to be careful because it is very apparent as you knit, that if you were to drop a stitch, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to retrieve it! Even unraveling  the knitting would be well nigh impossible.

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I used the same pattern as I used for my Montana cowl but added a few rows of garter stitch between the lace sections to give the cowl more stability.  You can’t really see from the photo, but the silk gives the yarn a beautiful, subtle sheen and of course it is very, very soft.

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Of course the cowl isn’t as long as the Montana cowl as the yarn is so fine but it wraps around twice easily.

If I was to knit another in such a fine yarn, I think I would purchase  Addi specialist lace needles which have a very sharp point to make the job a little easier.

Of course I am still knitting little bits of this and that for the grandchildren. I finished a little vest for Lyndsay and Reece’s new baby which is due to arrive at any moment.

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This will be a Darwin baby, so I knitted this in  scraps of King Cole 4ply Bamboo cotton. This is a really lovely yarn and knits up to any 4ply wool pattern.  I have knitted a lot for the other grandchildren and wanted this baby to have a little something from his or her Nanna.

Most projects are still on ongoing but I have finished a  jumper for Huddy in the same yarn. Bamboo Cotton is designed for the European summer but is perfect for winter in the Bay.

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I was using up yarn in my stash and only had white and blue left. Didn’t realise I was knitting  a Geelong jumper for an Adelaide supporter!  This is also my first ever V neck jumper and was really pleased with how it turned out. The instructions in my Patons Baby knitting book were really easy to follow.

The jumper fits Huddy with plenty of room and I think suits his colouring much better than brown and yellow don’t you think?

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I feel good … swinging high, sliding down the slippery dip, crawling through a tunnel, eating my cupcake or scrutinising the skateboarders, I’m dressed for success!

Having actually knitted something for myself that worked, I’m thinking about knitting a top or cardigan for summer. Loveknitting has a great sale on for July and I’ve started collecting ideas. There are so many fabulous yarn with interesting combinations of natural fibres such as linen, cotton or silk to choose from.  And I have found some easy patterns as well.  If I actually follow through, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

A friend sent me an affirmation the other day and I thought I’d share it with you. ” Love, creativity and dedication. That’s what goes into handmade!”  The human touch means so much don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas the Tank and B1 and B2 live it up at Huddy’s 2nd birthday party

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‘I’ve got my boiler steaming so come aboard Huddy and I’ll  take you on an adventure,’ whistled Thomas

Hudson turned two on the 16th June and it was time to party. Where has the baby boy gone? Almost surreptitiously Huddy has morphed into an adventurous little boy who has mastered the art of making his desires known (can say ‘No’ in many different languages) and who can put on a turn of speed that forces his grandparents into embarrassing public displays of sprinting. (When I was 13 and participating in the school athletics carnival,  I recall my mother remarking that I ran like a duck and that I should retire from sprint events while the going was good!  Sadly,  I haven’t improved with time. My inner duck has not learnt to fly.)

Like many children, he loves the outdoors, especially finding ‘buff flys’ and birds and picking unsuspecting flowers ‘for Mummy’.  And like most little boys I know, Huddy loves Thomas the Tank engine and the Bananas in Pyjamas, B1 and B2. I must admit to having developed more than a passing regard for them as well. After all, every afternoon after bathtime, they deliver a peaceful half hour or so before Huddy goes home.

Not suprisingly, Thomas and B1 and B2 provided the theme for Huddy’s birthday brunch. It was amazing to see how with just cardboard, masking tape, paint, stripey pyjamas, some imagination and  a smidgen  of time,  a memorable birthday celebration was created that amused and delighted the birthday boy and his guests.

In secret, Ben wrangled cardboard into a tank engine while Melissa slapped on paint and attached  essential accessories such as smoke balloons and a driving wheel complete with sound effects.  Huddy couldn’t believe his eyes when on the party morning, he walked out of his bedroom and saw that Thomas had come to play at his house!

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‘There’s room for two in my cab’ tooted Thomas.

Soon the guests were assembled and the party fun began. A delightful brunch was served complete with Byron Bay coffee.

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While the adults devoured the croissant bar and the cheese platter, the children loved the coconut fruit yogurt pots and the fruit platter. They were such good sharers as well!

 

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Huddy  was almost too busy to eat. After all who wants to eat when you can race with new firetrucks  with my friend Harley?

After brunch, there was a knock at the door. Huddy ran over to the stairs and couldn’t believe his eyes: B1 and B2 were there.

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Are you thinking what I’m thinking B1?  I think I am, B2! It’s chase Huddy time!

B1 and B2 sang, danced, fell over and played games for the children.

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‘It’s bubble. bubble, bubble time B1.’ ‘ That’s right B2. Listen everyone, we have prizes for anyone who can catch a bubble and bring it to us, that’s right isn’t B1?’ ‘Yes that’s right B2!’                    Sadly no bubbles were caught.

They were hilarious. This animation which Google photos created from a video gives you an idea of their performance.

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As you can see, they had a captivated audience.  Even Ninja the dog got into the act.  What a lovely surprise for all. Thank you B1 ( Kenn) and B2 (Helen Jarvis) for your wonderful shenanigans. 

Soon it was time for the Bananas to make their departure to the refrain of

‘Bananas in pyjamas are going down the stairs / Bananas in pyjamas are going down in pairs  / Cause on birthdays, they all  like to escape unawares’ ( apologies to the ABC)

And then it was time for cake, presents and home time.

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This was very tasty, but the cake was so long, Melissa had to use a snowboard  as a cake stand.

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So many thoughtful gifts! Huddy really enjoyed opening his presents. 

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There’s always something special about a party box. 

We had a lovely time and no child dissolved into tears. Always a plus.  With the little ones all headed for an afternoon nap,  and Kenn divested of his B1 costume, we made the most of the beautiful day and walked up to the Lighthouse for some whale spotting. And they were there, just off the point, jumping  and flashing their tails around. Always a special moment. It was a great way to finish a special day. Happy Birthday, Huddy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivid at Taronga Zoo

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Turtles swimming above us

 The Vivid Festival is on in Sydney and will run until the 16th June. Like so many others, Kenn and I traveled to Sydney last weekend  to wonder at the wonderful outdoor lighting sculptures and installations that surround the harbour. Coincidentally, there  was also an exhibition of Medieval French Tapestries, The Lady and the Unicorn, at the Art Gallery that we’d been wanting to see and best of all, we had some quality time with our beautiful little grand-daughters, Genevieve  and Francesca.

Although generally the weather could have been better, we did have one beautiful sunny winter’s day. Kenn and I spent the morning with Genevieve revisiting favourite haunts: the train park down the road, a bushwalk down to Forty Baskets on the harbour and the playground at Middle Harbour Reserve.  It was such a beautiful day that you just knew something wonderful was going to happen and it did. Opposite the playground at Middle Harbour reserve is a delightful cafe: Forty Beans. It had been a hot and thirsty morning trekking uphill and down dale not to mention the upper arm workout one gets from pushing an enthusiastic 3 year old on the swings. I eyed off an inviting table nestled in the sunshine.

“Genevieve would you like  to visit the cafe for some morning tea and a babyccino?”

“That sounds delicious,” she replied.

So hand in hand, Kenn, Genevieve and I walked across and snared our sunshiny table. Drinks ordered, we made ourselves comfy and looked around.  There, lying right in front of us, was the loveliest, most gentle Malumute.  He  was so, so big yet so, so quiet. He had found himself a shady spot and was patiently waiting for his designated human to finish her coffee.  We were captivated.

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Titus’ owner helped Genevieve to pat him and say hello and chat. Such a beautiful moment.

All too soon, it was nap time for Genevieve and ferry time for us.

Following the foreshore path along Fairlight Beach, we reached the ferry with two minutes to spare. Perfect timing I thought.  We spent a delightful afternoon at the Art Gallery ( will share soon in my next post) before exploring the Vivid installations around Circular Quay, all of which are free. While the installations on the major buildings are spectacular, I particularly liked the installations in the Botanic Gardens which we accessed from the Opera House gate. You can wander through a light forest, watch a  lagoon awash with tiny twinkling lights that resemble thousands of tiny glow worms or see images of some of the world’s most famous floral artworks projected onto easels in an enclosed garden just to mention a few. And all the while, the gentle sounds of the harbour and the twinkling lights of the city surround you.

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incredible trees

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the lagoon awash with lights

 

But the best was yet to come. Christian and Kelly had organised for us to go to Vivid at the Zoo on Saturday night. As the time drew closer I was a little concerned as the weather was looking decidedly dodgy: very cold, rainy and windy.  But nothing ventured, nothing gained so rugged up like Eskimos (I was wearing more layers than an onion) and armed with umbrellas, we set off.  Much to my relief, the wind dropped and the rain ceased and the wonder of the night unfolded before us.

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We entered under a canopy of lights with turtles swimming overhead.

There is a designated circuit that you follow and it was a surreal experience to wander along  familiar paths being delighted by the light sculptures knowing that just beyond the light, in the darkness, the animals were sleeping or maybe watching us. I loved how around each bend there was another surprise: sometimes in the trees, sometimes beside us, sometimes in front of us.

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Yes, we are watching you!

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This was definitely a tiger burning bright

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in the forest of the night.

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The sculptures also remind us of endangered creatures

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like this magnificent rhinoceros

 

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While the detailing is  intricate and beautiful, the sense of menace remained

And here and there, as you wander down the path before climbing to the entrance, there are views across the laser-lit harbour to the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Of course this was difficult to capture on a mobile phone but hopefully, this pic gives you an inkling of the vista.

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Nor were the birds and insects ignored.  These are a couple that particularly caught our eye.

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He looks ready for a chat

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They captured the gossamer wings I think but thank goodness we don’t have insects this big!!!

And the way our Australian animals were re-imagined was truly magical.

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Isn’t the little devil cub cute?

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And I love the aboriginal art work here

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The echidnas were animated. Their tongues flicked in and out eating the ants.

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Anyone for a swimming platypus  suspended above a river garden?

And of course the creatures of the sea: from sea horses and turtles to a huge shark that we exited through.

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I decided that this was a girl sea horse: so pretty in pink

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Turtle mania

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At the end, you exit through the belly of a shark

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The exterior view of this giant installation! So impressive. What a final memory.

Vivid at the Zoo is not free but is well worth the price of admission. I can only show you a snippet of what there is to see and hopefully you might get the opportunity to go and experience Vivid at the Zoo for yourself.  And as well as the installations, we loved seeing the look of delight on the faces that surrounded us from little ones to the elderly. There is something very uplifting about being in such a throng of really happy and enchanted people.

There were plenty of public transport options but we decided to drive and there was enough parking at the zoo. If you felt like it, there were plenty of food and drink outlets as well.

I cannot recommend this experience highly enough and can’t wait to go back next year.

PS:  A special thank you to Kenn for letting me share his lovely photos with you all.

 

 

 

 

Sunflower Magic at ‘The Farm’, Byron Bay

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A touch of the South of France in Byron Bay

Visiting ‘The Farm’ at Ewingsdale is always a delight. Not only is it a working farm but it features an award winning restaurant where the food is sourced from the local community, much of it being grown in the paddocks that surround the restaurant hub, a bakery, a nursery and organic whole foods market.

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A very relaxed vibe permeates the Farm

Children are really catered for as there is plenty of space to run around and explore, animals to see and a wonderful playground.

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The slippery dip is quite steep, so those with younger children would have to be careful.

But at the moment, there is something really special to see. The people at ‘The Farm’ have created a simple maze through their sunflower field which is in full bloom.

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The bees were in heaven

Huddy was keen for an adventure especially when I  promised him a cupcake from the bakery for morning tea! The holiday season has abated so parking wasn’t a hassle and soon with cupcake safely devoured, we set off to explore the maze.

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The path was particularly muddy, so Huddy decided he would like an elevated view of the sunflowers

It was so beautiful. I was almost in a Van Gogh painting.

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I love the pollen on the leaves, looks like gold dust.

The path winds here and there and then emerges beside the vegetable gardens and the chicken pens.

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had fun trying to identify some of the veggies

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Very fat, happy chooks

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There were some baby chickens which Huddy particularly liked. I thought they were super cute too.

A run on the lawn and a play on the slippery dip and it was home time.

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A lovely view of the Byron Hinterland from the lawn

I hope if you’re able that you’ll be able to tip toe through the sunflowers like we did.