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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Well the bags are packed again and it's time to run the gauntlet of transfer to the airport, bags checked in (see if I can sneak any more in to baggage allowance otherwise I'll need to start offloading some of my clothes!) 
Well I'm quite sad to be leaving this area. Mollie and I have had a fantastic time and had the opportunity of seeing some of the best sights in the world. 
When we arrived on the Wednesday after driving from Tannum Sands I was really tired so Thursday  was literally a wee wander round Airlie Beach & then back to the pool. Airlie Beach itself is just a beach side town with loads of shops and lots of streets with accommodation. The accommodation range from YHA backpackers type stuff to 5* Peppers resort. We were lucky and got a room in 4* Coral Sea Hotel which is lovely. Last minute.com or late rooms is proving invaluable. Originally we  were only going to stay for 2 nights but that has extended into 5. This  area really calls for a decent stop in order to take everything in. And there is no way I was driving back down.
From here you can book all your trips so a look in the hotel foyer reveals about 20 different excursions you can do. 
The main ones are out to the Great Barrier Reef and round the Whitsundays. so the Reef was booked for the Friday and then Whitehaven beach and Hamilton Island for the Sunday.  I booked with a company called Fanta Sea. They were the most popular and good reputation (they also offered a kids activity club on the boat which I hate to say swung the decision!) 
The trip out to the Great Barrier Reef is a very long one. Made even longer when one is focusing on the horizon and trying not to think about the boat moving sideways and up and down all at the same time. I did spend the middle section of the journey with my head round the side of the boat getting the breeze in my face. Mollie on the other hand wanted to go inside to watch the films about the Great Barrier Reef. A quick chat with one of the staff (whilst focusing on the horizon AND getting a breeze on my face) and Mollie had her wish. I must admit if I could sit and watch the DVDs about all the life in the GBR I would have too but that wasn't going to happen without consequences. The last half hour or so was alot calmer. Then before you knew it the pontoon we were docking beside came into view. 
This pontoon thing was brill. It had a wee semi submersible submarine so you went down into it and you could see through the glass bottom as it moved through the water. It also had a large glass viewing area at the end of the boat which meant you could watch the fishes and snorkelers and see if there was anything large coming their way. There was a slide at the end of the boat which was certainly not for the faint  hearted. It went almost straight down but dropped you at least 20feet from the water, a sun deck on the top of the pontoon for sun bathers and a paddling bit at the side which kids could happily sit in and watch the fishes swim underneath them. It was cool. We did everything (but not the slide! I was scared in case I lost some items of clothing!!) 
I decided to spend time with Mollie first doing things together and talking about the fishes. So we started with the submarine. Her wee face was like "wow"! It was cool. The submarine took us along the edge of the reef before it drops off so we saw lots of fishes, clams and different types of coral. The man driving it and giving us commentary, Cameron was a marine biologist who was employed by Fanta Sea. What a cool job! 
Once we had had a lovely BBQ lunch on the boat I put Mollie into the kids club, put my stinger suit on and jumped into the GBR. The water was really clear. You could see the effects of sun bleaching and the warmer temperatures. A lot of the coral on the top has died but you can see new stuff growing. There are loads of different kinds too. Whilst I'm snorkelling around I'm aware of a wee speed boat zooming around. It's one of the Fanta Sea staff just checking on each of us. Funnily enough the next thing that comes into my mind is a scene from jaws and I find it hard to get out of my head! I'm on a time limit so I have to come out after 45 minutes to give myself time to shower off and change. As I'm walking back to the top deck with Mollie I hear the news that two reef sharks and a sting ray had just passed through. I'm not sure if to be happy or sad that I missed them. Funnily enough when I was diving last year we saw black tipped sharks all the time and there was no concern. Here in Oz, there is constant hype about sharks. From the life guards and helicopter patrols on the beach you can't help but have that 'fear'. Maybe it's because there are more attacks here. I don't know.
The afternoon passed too quickly and before we knew it we were packing up stuff and on our return journey back to Shute Harbour. Mollie wanted to sit inside and colour in so I did think it would be fine. Nope, I lasted 10mins of reaching open water and then I was outside. It got fairly choppy for a while. Anyway, we ended up outside with Mollie sat on my knee and falling asleep for the remainder of the journey which was fine. I had a chance to watch the ocean turn into islands and then eventually mainland. It was gorgeous and certainly a moment to remember.  The transport was waiting for us when we came off so it was a quick 15mins back to the resort. It had been a stunning day. Upon reaching the hotel mollie wanted a swim in the hotel pool which i was more than happy to do also. The salt doesnt half dry your skin out. Thankfully Saturday was a rest day! 
Disaster!!! Saturday I woke and I couldn't move. I had pulled all the muscles in my lower back. I'm not sure if it was from the boat journey or from the jumping into the sea or more than likely carrying Mollie round a boat, lifting her so she could see over the edge of the boat and then having her asleep on my knee for nearly 2hours! Yep that would just about do it. Painkillers and ibuprofen did the trick. I did have an offer of a massage from one of the male guests but I declined! I wasn't sure how I was going to fair on the boat journey on Sunday. I didn't want to cancel but I also didn't want to end up in agony. Just needed to get a good nights sleep. Hmmm. 
There was a wedding on at the hotel on the Saturday which Mollie and I watched. The location is truly stunning. The ocean, the palm trees, the wee jetty where they had their reception. Many similarities to my wedding. I remember watching the wedding in Antigua on the beach and getting upset. This was no different. I don't know why I do it to myself. Mollie wanted to see it I suppose. It was a lovely wedding. I would give anything to go back to that time but I know it won't happen, ever. Will I ever marry again? Do I want to go through it again? At the moment I would say a resounding no.
The party went on into the night which was fair enough but by 1am most guests had disappeared. However, one guest had booked in for the night - directly across from myself. 2am she was continuing to sing and swear so a couple of trips to the night porter and by 2.20 it was quiet at last. Eeek we were up in 4hours.

I'm going to give it a break there! 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The end of the road trip....

Airlie Beach!
Well I have done it. We set off at 7.30 am this morning and arrived just before 5pm. It took a further 15 minutes to get a room in a hotel. I checked Tripadviser and after finding a couple and going in I must admit I did panic a bit wondering if 'schoolies  were going to have everything booked up. I needn't have worried. 'schoolies may have everything booked up but they can't get quality at 16 years old lol! We found a lovely hotel at the top of the hill, just out of Airlie beach for a couple of nights though I suspect it will turn I to 4 nights. This is why........
After spending a frantic couple of hours on the Internet last night I couldn't find any accommodation in Mackay which was the next feasible stop just up the road. So after a vey serious discussion with Mollie about the time involved and the distance the decision was made - Airlie it was. It was 6 hours 40 minutes without stops and road works!!!! What on earth was it going to be with? We said bye bye to the manager and his wife. Another lovely couple running a family motel business. We left Tannum Sands and headed North. It was about an hour and a half til Rockhampton and I started to get cold feet. Could I do this? The oversize lorries were out in force. How many more could there be?!!!!! We did see three houses being moved on the backs of some trucks. That was quite funny. A brainstorm - we could drop the car at Rockhampton and fly to Airlie beach. A quick call to a friend scuppers that idea. No flights. Right, Airlie beach and it's 686km here we come. It better be worth it that's what I say!!!!
This journey although the longest was by far one of the easier ones. Once we got through Rockhampton the roads were straight, long and largely empty! I did start to worry that I was the only one going north - apart from the oversized lorries of course! We managed to make good time on the road and Mollie with my iPad and several films was fine. I did make sure I stopped at particular points so she wasn't sitting for too long. She was a  star.She didn't once say "are we there yet?" 
The surrounding countryside changed so much in those hours. When we headed through Rockhampton for Mackay you can see the evidence of the mining. Big piles of stuff! And loads of machinery. Oh a train passed alongside us with containers which Mollie tried to count. She got to 25 and it was disappearing in the opposite direction but it was still pulling many more. The ground is very dry and dusty. Goodness knows how anything grows. I could see for miles and miles either side of me. It was so flat and nothing really to look at but it was still very nice to see.
We had some sandwiches in the car that we had picked up in Rockie so just after 12noon, time for a stop. All the trucks and lorries i had passed now sped passed,  never mind. I was also desperate for a wee at this point but with all the different hisses and squeaks and chirps I could hear in the wee shrubs and bushes, there was no way I was going into the undergrowth! I could wait! In the time I've been driving I must admit I have had little moments where I think I feel things on my feet or legs as I'm driving and do try to brush things off. There is of course nothing there but your mind can play tricks on you especially when you have been reading about the various insects and reptiles in the area the night before! 
The landscape itself was very dry and dusty for this part of the road. Lots and lots of road kills of kangaroos. Looking at the size of the lorries though they wouldn't stand a chance. I didn't see one live wild 'roo' on our trip. Mollie was desperately looking. At every sign at the side of the road which would indicate kangaroos or koalas for the next 30kms she would get excited and say she was looking. But of course we never saw any. 
We hit Mackay just about mid afternoon. (yippeeee) it was only another 2 hours from here  It actually looked a really nice place. Very tropical, lovely houses and even more being built. The mining trade is obviously doing well. There were even adverts at the side of the road for steel fitters, skilled miners, drivers and other jobs at the side of the road. 
Once through Mackay the scenery does turn alot more tropical. I could see hills looming in the distance covered with greenery. That's where we were heading.
 Airlie Beach is right beside the ocean but there was no hint of that yet. It really isn't until the last 4kms that the sea starts to make inroads to the landscape. 
I could actually feel myself getting quite excited and emotional! I had done it. Tannum Sands to Airlie. In fact no, Wollongong to Airlie. I'll work out the kms later! We left just after 8 and hit Airlie just before 5pm! I will never moan about Craigellachie to Elgin again.
Right, last challenge was to find accommodation. I went into one right down at the water, Airlie Beach Hotel I think it was called, a snotty girl acknowledged me - just! ggggrrrrr. I did fight to keep my cool with her. She informed me that they had no rooms and that I would be hard pressed to find anything. If I tried the backpackers info desk round the corner then I might get some information on what was available. I know I had just been driving for close to 9hours but excuse me! If I ever look as if I need a backpackers hostel please tell me!!!!! The centre of the town was full of schoolies again. So my thinking was to head out of town which I did. Just down the hill coming into the town I had spotted a sign for a hotel. Success! And the receptionist is from Glasgow. Even better. Double room with an ocean view and balcony. Gorgeous.
Well we have settled in. Mollie has found the pool so she is delighted, I am away to find a glass of wine. I was planning on taking the car back down to Brisbane but I'm shattered. Enough is enough. The hire car is being handed in to Avis tomorrow. I think I've blown my super deal with them lol. I got the car cheap as it was to be returned to Brisbane. Well I over shot Brissie by a few hundred kms! I'll still save loads. $129 for a 1 hour flight to Brisbane or 3 nights motel, food and fuel and hours of driving!!! Hmm, show me the airport.
Well the next few days will be just as awesome as anywhere else we have been. We have the Great Barrier Reef trip to do, a trip to the Whitsundays and a Rainforest excursion. But for the moment I need sleep and tomorrow I am doing nothing! 
I have been thinking would I do it this way again given half the chance and the answer is a resounding no! But at least I can say I have done it. We also spent time in areas that maybe we ordinarily wouldn't have met but what we got out of it most of all was the people we met. Every single person we met through staying in their accommodation wanted to hear about Scotland or our journey and where we were going. A few even went above and beyond the call of duty in their help and assistance. I won't forget that. So maybe it isn't about what you see and the places you go. Maybe it is about who you meet and the friends you make along the way..........

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Noosa to Tannum Sands

Well I packed up the car from Montego Sands in Surfers Paradise. I was quite sad to leave Brian & Kaye. A lovely couple and so nice. But we had to get on. I must write a report on Tripadviser! Anyway, I was aiming for Noosa which I made with lots of time to spare. The road trip wasn't that exciting except as you drive up the Bruce Highway you see loads and loads of blackened trees and vast areas of nothing. I've since learnt that the trees were burnt during the huge bush fires that swept that area a few years ago. You can clearly see that there is new growth and things do seem to return fairly quickly but lots of wildlife suffered and lost their homes or lives. This was a great concern to Mollie. We did see Koalas at the koala hospital that had been burned and lots big patches of fur through fire. One had even had his wee face and paws badly burned :-( The treeline anyway is on the mend but even today as we were driving we saw smoke up in the hills from bush fires. It has been very warm and very dry over the last few days. All the signs at the side of the road are on a medium-high risk for bush fires.
There are road works on our main highway, the Bruce Highway (original!!) and it does slow us down quite a bit. However, what slows us down even more are the huge lorries carrying dumper trucks that are wider than the road. It's even more interesting when you get another oversize lorry coming the other way.
We made good time to Noosa and found another gem of a place. Noosa Head Motel. As I'm discovering over here many of the motels are in better condition than hotels. Just enough time to drop the bags, find the cozzy and find the pool. Check! Mollie was in in seconds. She loves the pool. I even purchased a wee pair of goggles for her and she swims under water, or she thinks she does. Her head goes under but her bum stays on the top of the water and then she bobs up and down like a duck. She is still doing really well with the swimming and I'm very proud of her. I was watching her in the pool and thinking how much she had grown over these last few weeks. Her legs are definately longer and her face is changing again; a lot more like Graham again I think.
Noosa is a lovely place but can get very busy.it has a lovely beach area and harbour/jetty type bit none of which we saw as we were only there for the night but maybe on the return leg we might stop in and see more.

Tannum Sands
This morning we left at 7.30 having been up since 6am. I had Rockhampton in my sights. It was going to be tough but I was going to try it. Poor Mollie. She knew it was going to be a long trip but she was well armed - iPod, vtech Storio, books and as a last resort iPad filled with movies and games!
We didn't have breakfast before we left. I wasn't fussed for it and Mollie said she wanted something later. Ok! Off we set. What's striking here is the number of roadside fast food chains. McDonalds, Hungry jacks (our Burger King I think) the coffee club, pizza hut, subway and the list goes on. So you're never short of anything. However, we have been on the road for just over a week and with the exception of Coffs Harbour, eating has become bland and yeuch. I'm looking forward to getting back to cooking (I never thought I would say that) and eating fresh stuff.
So, anyway, Mollie and I toddle on along the Bruce Highway. More roadworks and more oversize lorries. We eventually stop in a place called Gin Gin because Mollie saw a play park! Fair enough as she had again sat patiently in the back without moaning. As soon as we get out of our air conditioned car you can feel how hot the sun is. It burns you within 30seconds. RUN!!!!! Luckily all of the play parks have covers over them. Right, 20mins later Mollie is exhausted and it's time to go. Here's the funny part. Gin Gin was the last fuel stop for 200km!! I of course didn't realise this so as I'm driving along I notice that the needle has dropped significantly but yet there were no petrol stations. Hmm, there will be one soon...............nope! My needle hits E. Not the place you want to be caught out with no fuel. I feel like Fred Flinstone and I'm going to have to start running with the car soon. AT LAST! I reach a shell station with a queue at it. Glad to see I wasn't the only one!!
I never made Rockhampton. Mollie was just about done in and after 8 hours off and on behind the wheel so was I. So a lovely picture popped up at the side of the road; Tannum Sands. It's a big mining place. Lots of guys come here for the week and then return home at the weekend which means no accommodation. I was very lucky to get the last available room in another motel room is fine but more importantly it has a gorgeous pool 10 steps from the patio doors. Mollie was in it within 5 mins of getting in the room. I didn't even have to say find your cozzie.
Tomorrow I should have been hitting Airlie Bech but the distance is too much so we I'm aiming for a place called Makay and then Airlie beach on Thursday. Great Barrier Reef hopefully Friday/ Saturday. I can't believe I've got to come all the way back down again. Anyone fancy driving us down? I'll sleep and Mollie provides great in car entertainment! Let me know ASAP :-) xxx

surfers Paradise

I'm trying to write the blogs as I go but it's not always possible for me to connect to wifi in order to post them. So a few may appear at the same time. 

Well the Kookaburras did wake us and it was a lovely sound to hear even at 6am. Mollie I may add slept through it and east to west across the bed! I quite often lie and listen to the sounds wherever we are. First thing in the morning and last thing at night (with a glass of wine) you can hear the best things. The latest sounds have been crickets, lorikeets, parrots, cockatoos and frogs. That's not too bad! The other thing that strikes you as you travel this way are the trees that grow and what's on them. I've taken great delight in showing Mollie trees growing in gardens and what's in them. For example in Melbourne we saw lemon and fig trees. In Fiona's garden in Coffs Harbour she had banana trees, mango trees and something else that hadn't developed enough for me to identify!!! But this brought on a conversation with Mollie about why things grow over here and not in the UK. We also tried to catch a lizard or a skink but no luck! 
We only spent three days in Coffs but it was fab. Fiona has a wee labradoodle called Tilly and Mollie loved running along the beach with her on her afternoon walks. The beach was always busy. Whether it was runners, dog walkers, families, swimmers, life guard training the list is endless. The beach and parks which we have found many are always busy and full of activity. It's been brill to see. We have met many people and made friends in these areas. Usually the Aussies ask which part of Ireland I'm from?!! But it starts up a conversation.
Coffs was just lovely. The beaches, the sights and sounds were fab. The first day Mollie and I headed out into the town to have a nosey. Heaps of shops and coffees bars. I even had a chat with one of the owners  of the coffee shops about Glenfiddich whisky. That was funny! People have been very friendly and sooo nice and so laid back.
Whilst in Coffs I had the chance to get my hair returned to the natural blonde it is. Mollie had to sit in the hairdressers with me during this time but she was sooo good. She spent most of the time laughing at me  and the sheets of tin foil in my hair. She in return got lots of attention and her hair in braids! Hers was most definitely a cheaper thrill. I might have to be brunette by the time I get back to Scotland. Oh and I've had my hair chopped even further. I have short hair and it feels good. 
So, let's sum Coffs up. Lots of shopping, gorgeous beaches, great people, heaps of nature type stuff and the highlight has to be the trip to the porpoise and dolphin pool. Here Mollie and I were pulled in to the show which was lovely. I got to feed the dolphin Ziggy some fish whilst Mollie got to tickle their tummies and received kisses from a seal and a dolphin. Kodak moment? Most certainly. 
Well Friday 18th brought the return to the road trip. Where are we going? Not the foggiest. I was aiming for a place called Byron Bay. A very popular resort. However, as I discovered from Fiona, this weekend signalled the start of 'schoolies' week. This is when the seniors all finish their HSC (high school certificate) exams and literally flood Surfers Paradise and other beach areas. Byron Bay was only 2.5 hours up from Coffs and from looking in the car mirror Mollie looked quite happy singing along to The Saturdays so onwards we went. Hmm where's next on the map? Aaahh Surfers Paradise!that looks good. Let's aim for there. The drive was long but quite scenic. The names of the creeks we passed over kept me laughing. Big James creek, lemon tree creek, big shark creek, bald knob creek! Seriously! I'll stop there though.
We eventually hit surfers paradise and to say the least it was choc a bloc. Teenagers walking around with rucksacks and crates of beer (oh gawd!) I tried a few apartment type accommodations but no luck. Going by the size of the buildings (MASSIVE!) and the numbers of kids going in I'm not sure I wanted to be in there with them. I eventually stumbled across a Best Western. The owner couldn't help but he very kindly called someone in an apartment block round the corner called Montego Sands. Result! They had a room.  We got directions and off we set. This place is a wee hidden gem. It's a family run resort, the owner refuses to take any 'schoolies' so it's mainly couples. Our apartment isn't huge but it has a lounge/diner, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and a wee patio area which goes onto the minuscule pool. Fab. Oh and it's 60m to the beach!!!! Even better. Three nights it is.
So for the past two days Mollie and I have parked ourselves on the beach and built sandcastles, dug tunnels, chased crabs,  (but not in the grass as we might get a nasty surprise?!!) jumped waves and watched kite surfers in the sea. Ok, so it was more of a one sided interest in the kite surfers but oh me they are good. I even got chatting to a couple. Hmm they workout alot!!!!  Mollie was more interested in the wee white crabs and how fast they could run when she chased them. It has been really hot so lots of sun cream on and hat for Mollie. I'm still looking for a quality Aussie hat before I buy one :-) 
Tonight has been our last night here. There is so much we could have done including movie world, wet n wild, sea world and another couple but most of them are suited to children older than Mollie and I think we got alot more out of playing on the beach and on the many parks that surround the beach area. We went out for dinner tonight and it took us nearly 40 mins to get there due to Mollie wanting to stop and play at every playground. Seeing as it was such a lovely night and I was quite happy to soak up the atmosphere Mollie had loads of play park action. The parks here by the way (sorry if I'm repeating myself) are awesome! Not just a slide a swing and a climbing frame. Nope, these are super parks with swings on a roundabout, cargo nets up a 4foot pole with a trampoline thing in the middle of the net. Twisty turny slides. I have lost count how many she has been on but they are geared up so that kids WANT to play on them. One of the parks today even has a wee mini bike tram where the kids have to cycle it round the park. It's brill. As we walked past them I noticed that lots of families had turned up with chairs, tables, food and BBQ. Yep, there were a few BBQs going on this afternoon with lots of people at each one. A good family / friend affair. We also watched many surfers heading back to apartments/homes with their boards. Nothing strange there except we saw them on skateboards carrying a board, a bike carrying a board, rollerblades carrying a board and even on a moped with the surf board tucked under the arm! 
Well tomorrow Mollie and I are back on the road. I was going to do Beerwah over the next couple of days as that's where the Australian Zoo is but I'm on a race to get up to Whitsunday islands and back down again to Brisbane by 1st December (DECEMBER??? you are joking. Where is the snow?!) a challenge anyway.  oh one last thing. Blooming time zones. For one day I was wandering around an hour out of sync. When you cross the Queensland border you gain an hour. I thought it was 9am on saturday as Mollie and I wandered round this huge shopping mall place called Pacific Fair. Nope 8am! Ggrrrr.
Right, yet again I have to pack the suitcase and make sure everything has been tidied up but that's ok as I know we are heading onto another stunning part of the world. Hmm fantastic 
Pen x

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Kookaburra Life Saving Mission

I know I only blogged the other day about arriving in Coffs Harbour but today has been so funny that I had to mention it.
Mollie and I headed out and about this morning. Temperatures were quite quickly rising so after lunch time we decided to return to our accommodation and head for the pool. Once changed and when just about to jump into the pool I spotted a kookaburra bird in the corner of the pool on the steps. I was scared to look incase it wasn't still with us if you know what I mean. However, Mollie quickly informed me its eyes were still moving - phew! A towel in hand I managed to cover it and get it out of the pool. It did squawk at me. Eeeek now what do I do? It was soaked so we stuck it to the side to dry out. Just then two men, garden types were passing by so I coaxed them into coming to deal with it. Well did it notary out completely and make a full recovery and then disappear off into the skies a couple of hours later. Bliss.he was looking alot more teddy bear like when it disappeared so it must have been better.

I also had the opportunity of going for a run thi evening. Fiona watched Mollie for me whilst I did a quick jaunt down the hill and back up! I could smell all the flowers as I ran and hear all the birds. It was lovely and a very nice feeling. I tried to get back into running a couple of times back home but never had the same feeling I did tonight.

Night night
X

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Road Trip Begins

A Drive & A Half
11th - 15th November 2011

Well after having a fantastic time in Sydney we headed south to Wollongong to catch up with a friend for a couple of nights. She has a wee girl similar ages to Mollie so that gave Mollie a chance to play with another wee girl for a bit. 
Lots of memories here too as Graham and I stopped in Wollongong for a few nights. Some quite strong which got me upset but it was to be expected.

It was in Wollongong that I had to sort car hire out anyway. I managed to get a bit of a bargain. A car with Queensland plates had been left in NSW and was needing returned and so I was happy to oblige of course. It's a Toyota Corolla (AUTOMATIC!!!) 1.8 so it will make good time on some of the roads we travel on.

Well Sunday morning and we all headed to Symbio wildlife park which has an enclosure where you can feed the kangaroos. It's a bit north of Wollongong so at least Mollie and I were a bit into our journey before actually leaving. I got lots of photos of Mollie feeding the 'roos' They are sooooo cute.
We stayed at the park until lunch time and then said our goodbyes. I was heading for a place called Newcastle which is an old industrial type town but seemed like a natural stopping point as it was around 3hours drive.
The drive, if I'm honest was scaring the hell out me! I had to manoeuvre our way round/through/over Sydney (ahhhhh I would have stopped here forever if I could have) and then get on to some highway and avoid Roos, Koalas, snakes and OH really important - stick to the speed limit of 90-110kmh.
Well I managed Sydney ok. I got forced into taking one wrong turn but then I was in the wrong lane. That was easily sorted though - through the housing area and back onto the highway. Done! Easy peasy. The big trucks scared the life out of me going over roundabouts and when they overtook me. We aren't talking UK sized trucks. We are talking Megastructures!  Wheels bigger than the car. Thankfully there weren't too many of them. There were, however loads of police on the roads. Patrol cars up and down the highway, police cars in central reservations with speed guns. It is very noticeable that no one speeds, well not outrageously so. As I was travelling ALL cars were within the speed limit which changes constantly on the roads. It can be 80kmh to 110 kmh but you have to know otherwise you could get a serious fine and points taken away. Here you start with 12points and then you have them deducted after each offence. The courts can increase the deduction if you have been caught before etc once all 12 have gone you licence is gone. 

Well we made good time and no sarcastic comments from Mollie. We did a quick stop just before Newcastle and at 4pm I thought we could do Port Macquarie by tea time ish. By getting there it meant we could do 2 nights instead of one. Quick chat with Mollie. Agreed. In all fairness she did really well in the car. She has her nintendo, her VTech Storio, my old iPod and her own pair of earphones which mean she can listen to music without disturbing me. She had me in stitches as she was singing along to Hapiness' "gotta hurry, hurry hurry, be quick quick quick, just step on the gas......"it was funny! 
We arrived in Port Macquarie just after 7pm. A quick bit of bargaining with the receptionist about rates for two nights and breakfast included, Mollie is free of course because she is under 4!!!!  - sorted! We stayed in a Rydges hotel in PM. It's probably one of the better ones. It looks out on to the harbour area which is teaming with life. On the Monday we took a walk along the front and saw pelicans, fisherman, little boat tours taking trips out to see whales, dolphins and such like. There was a wee sea plane taking off and landing. Oh and the joggers! Up and down they went. Mind you I've begun to feel like I could join them. 
We sat down by the pier for a good hour or two and watched the fisherman. We watched a beginner fisherman land A puffer fish (well he cut his line because he didn't want to handle it) then an octopus. Mollie watched as another fisherman quickly killed it and took it for bait. We have chatted a bit about this and I wondered if she should have seen it as she quite likes octopus especially in the aquariums we go to. But it's called the food chain and the octopus became food for the bigger fishes. She seems to be ok with it and accepts it. We promptly left after this thinking we had had enough life discussions for the day. 
The afternoon brought a visit to a Koala hospital (aaaah) Up on the outer edges of PM there is a koala hospital which takes in injured and sick koalas. They get no funding and rely solely on donations and volunteers. It is a fantastic place. We had a lovely time going round and meeting all of the koalas. I think Mollie was expecting some in bandages! Anyway, the website is www.koalahospital.org.au Worth a wee look. 
Today is Tuesday and we have left Port Macquarie and headed up the coast to Coffs Harbour. Only 168 km today instead of the 400km I  did on Sunday. I took a road called the Pacific Highway which is undergoing some upgrade but it made the drive north so easy and pleasant. It was noticeably green and tropical the further north we came. There were a few road kills on the way and we aren't talking deer and bunnies -  kangaroos and koalas. There are things in place to try and prevent the deaths such as huge nets going across the trees up above the road so that the koalas can cross the road but occasionally they lose there grip and fall. It's not nice to see.
We are now in a house belonging to my aunts friend, Fiona. It's a stunning house set at the top of Coffs Harbour overlooking the rest of the town. I've been able to sit and watch the sun disappearing and also to listen to the many sounds of the wildlife outside. Kookaburras I've been informed will probably wake me tomorrow. Bliss, can't wait. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Sydney part 2

As soon as we arrived in Sydney I was immediately hit with memories of when I  was last here which was 4 years ago and with Graham. I looked out on to the Harbour Bridge on Tuesday evening remembering when I climbed the bridge and the walks round Sydney Opera House we did as a family. Good memories. 
I suspect it was because of the memories and partly because of the stunning views I found myself awake before 6 on Wednesday morning. I watched the sun coming up and shining over Sydney. Not a hint of the previous nights storm. I watched the roads getting busier and the traffic on the bridge increase and eventually grind to a halt. I suppose if you needed to do rush hour and sit in traffic for an hour or so there is no other place I would rather do it! 
I took in the views which were stunning. Even though there are numerous high rise buildings, it is extremely flat and full of water ways all mixed in with big boats and high end businesses. I can see why this place  attracts so many of the rich and famous. Everything is here; business, shops (drool, drool.......) beaches, surfing, views to die for. The lot, but it is soooo expensive. more about that later. 
I wanted to make the most of our visit here so I got Mollie up early for breakfast ( she was not impressed!) Our room was on level 33, we had to go down to level 30 for breakfast. The whole side of the hotel was an intimate dining area with views, naturally, out over the harbour. Breakfast was lush. Mollie got quite a bit of attention from the two attendants which she just loved. Anyway, breakfast done let's go!
I won't bore you with details but this is where we went. A walk down to the harbour naturally, along past circular quay, up to the opera house, round the opera house (24 degrees and rising) Onto the Choochoo train which took us round the botanical gardens. Saw the fruit bats and lots of lovely flowers and trees. Right, Mollie asking about Sydney aquarium so headed there. Thought it was a good idea to walk! (27 degrees and still rising) Stopped for lunch at a lovely indoor boutique type place $32 (ham sandwhich & a bagel!) later we are off to the aquarium. At this point I will give you a tip if you decide to come out this way. If your child is anywhere near 4years of age quickly agree a plan with your child that he/she is NOT YET 4! it will save you loads. Most prices seem to start at 4. There was one instance when I thought Mollie was going to insist that she was 4 but a few choccy buttons and the stubbornness was quashed. 
Aquarium was brill but I really didn't fancy walking all the back so we took a water taxi back which was brill. Once back at the hotel it was up to level 30 for soft drinks and cakes which they lay on every day. After 6 it becomes alcoholic beverages and canap├ęs. Fab. Curse JetStar for making me miss this on Tuesday!! Oh quick dip in the hotel pool then showered and changed ready to go our for something to eat. In the evening time we headed back to Darling Harbour for something to eat. Everyone recommended it and I would go along with that. It's a buzzing type of place. Lots of atmosphere, loads of resteraunts, bars, ice cream...... We ended up at a pizza place (Mollie loves pizza!) They were delicious. However everything does seem to be a bit slower. Mollie did really well. It was well after 8 before she got her pizza. Taxi back to hotel around 10 in bed for just after whilst I sat on the window ledge again taking in the sights. Sydney all lit up is gorgeous. No other way to describe it. 
Thursday! Right let's go...........well maybe in a bit. Lol thought we would take things a bit slower. Headed down to the quay and happened to see the boat for Manly being advertised. Hmm that looks good. Let's do that! So we did. One return ticket (remember Mollie IS NOT 4 YET......)  to Manly. Gorgeous place with a superb beach on the ocean side (but it is a bit cold!) be prepared to pay through the nose for stuff. Lunch set me back 37 dollars! I couldn't do this everyday. We had fun though. Mollie was delighted to have some time on the beach. We haven't picked up a bucket & spade yet so that is on the cards before we head north. Back on the boat late afternoon just in time for.....drinks on level 30 :-) Drinks on level 30 turned out to be a wee bit longer due to the lovely people we met; Louise & Matt. She is from.......scottish borders. Her & husband now live in Perth WA. 
Too many late nights meant I wanted, nay needed an early night so we decided to eat in the hotel. Sadly this was a disappointment. My steak (yes steak!) was under cooked and so gad to wait longer. Meanwhile Mollie loved her(posh)  Fish & Chips and was eyeing up the puddings being dished out on the next table. By the time we finished it was well after 9 so a later than normal night. I sat and watched another night overlooking Sydney. 
This morning mollies comments as she woke up and came through to the lounge "you're not there AGAIN mummy. Ok at 4 years old it's a bit much to ask that she appreciates the scenery of the harbour but at least she will remember mummy being perched on the window ledge looking at two big structures.  

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sydney

Before I write the next bit of this blog about Sydney I need to let you know where I am whilst I type this as I don't want to forget this moment ever! I am sat on the window seat in the lounge overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. For the last two hours I have watched the sun get higher ink the sky and the traffic build up ovr the bridge. I've watched the wee boats at circular quay come and go as they bring their commuters in from the outer districts of Sydney. The fitness fanatics are always on the go here. From the early morning cyclists to the runners - my goodness people run EVERYWHERE here! Sydney is constantly on the go. I am in awe of it's energy! But I am transfixed by the bridge and opera house and I don't know why but I could look at this view all day.

Wow!What can I say? Sydney has been absolutely spectacular and made even more so by the people we have met whilst here. Melbourne leg of our journey had gone well. I w due to meet a friend in Sydney and we were staying at a lovely hotel for a couple of nights, I was all set and looking forward to the next leg of our adventure. Hmm, not all went smoothly!

Sydney didn't get off to a great start. Mollie and I were booked to leave on the JetStar early afternoon flight which would have got us into Sydney for around 3pm and probably at hotel by 4pm. At 6pm the plane due to take us to Sydney landed in Melbourne. This was due to a culmination of JetStar not being able to crew the plane and horrific storms in Sydney that prevented them getting the plane to Melbourne. However, we had to tour Melbourne airport for 5 and a half hours! JetStar gave us 2 $10 meal tickets!!!! That's the equivalent of £15 to get a snack! A baguette as I discoved cost $11. one was not amused. Mollie did so well but she was just about at the end when JetStar eventually called us to the gate. We had a further 30mins befor they explained they were waiting on the plane arriving!!! This was not the end - were not landing anytime soon! Our pilot informed us that due to backlog of flights we would have to circle for 30minutes!!!! It was now 8pm. We had arrived at the airport at 11.30, wandered around for 6 hours, had minimal to eat (food really wasn't that great) and we were both tired. I just wanted to get to the hotel. I had text my friend several times during our meanderings in Melbourne airport but it was looking like we would miss each other as I would arrive too late before they flew out again :-( Grrrrr.9pm we were on the ground, bags in hand ready to grab a........what the??! The queue for the taxi rank stretched for miles. The storms in Sydney had knocked out the trains and buses wre running behind schedule so everyone had the same thought - taxi. The thing is the queue w made up of one and two persons who were heading to the same area but it would be too sensible to suggest doubling up or anything. Mollie and I had a nice chat with a doctor in the queue while we waited. She was back in Melbourne for exams to be a radiologist. Her bag was made up of 20books and 4 items of clothing but seeing as she was on limited time she laughed and said she could have fitted more books in instead of the clothes!
Eventually we got a taxi and got to the hotel. A very nice hotel which I had managed to hold out on late rooms and get a discount on lol! Anyway as we were waiting to be checked in Mollie decided it was a good time to play up and have a meltdown! In my eyes this was the worst time. Airport - yes, plane - yes, 5* hotel - NO! someone must have been looking after us as the very nice lady at the desk explained she had just upgraded us to a suite and she hoped we liked the room!!! Room?! It's a house!! There is no doubt that this place is just stunning. I tried to remain calm as the bell boy dropped our bags off. But to be honest 2bathrooms in the suite is pretty cool! I'll give you a quick tour. There is a hallway with lamp and table which is dutifully turned on by the tuck down service each night (note to self -don't leave underwear lying on floor in 5* establishments!) The hall leads into the lounge which has those to die for views. The harbour and opera house. The lounge with the plasma tv and DVD system leads on to the bedroom with the two double beds and more stunning views which have a double aspect. The suite is on the corner of the building hence the views. Then we have the bathroom with the double shower and bath which looks out over Sydney. The windows are floor to ceiling and allow you to watch Sydney with it's hustle and bustle as you relax in the bath. Lush! The other bathroom is back off the hallway. This place is stunning and I have enjoyed every minute.
Mollie is awake and so I need to get moving. There is still so much to say but it will have to wait for the moment.
X

Sunday, 6 November 2011

That was some journey!

For the last 10 days Mollie and I have been in Melbourne. In 2 days we will leave our stunning accommodation and head to the even brighter lights of Sydney. Melbourne has been a mini adventure in itself. Let me see, what have we been up to.......
After arriving back on the 27th October (that seems like sooo long ago) we were made so welcome by our hosts. I quickly found myself left with a gorgeous house with pool, a car and two cats, one defo a psycho cat. If you are part of FB then that will make sense! Anyway, almost to lull us in to a false sense of security the Thursday, Friday and Saturday were gorgeous encouraging Mollie and I to head in an Aussie styleeeee to the beach. It didn't get any better! We strolled along the Mentone beach complete with Life saving huts but thankfully no David Haselhoff or Pammie! However by Sunday it quickly cooled down. In fact I think Scotland might actually have been warmer! I found myself rushing out to the shops in search of long sleeved tops or at least something resembling warmth. Nope! Not possible. Summer stock was well and truly in and shops did not possess such items. I was informed the reason Melbournians layer up is so that they can derobe or increase clothing according to the weather. I was loaned some items by the family of our hosts and Mollie was given a fleece which might actually still come in use for the time we (possibly) return to Scotland. Anyway, much to mollies disappointment she wasn't getting near the pool any time soon!
I have also navigated the train system into the centre of Melbourne which went smoothly. I will never forget the feeling of stepping out of Flinders Street station and looking up! The buildings are just awesome. And then you look down to see trams, horse drawn carriages as well as cars. It's a complete mix. I had an appointment to make at the bank but that wasn't till later so I had time to kill.......where were the shops?! SHOPS to die for. Louis V, Mont Blanc, Chanel, Tiffany drool drool. My travelling budget sadly does not include these. I still have over 5 months to go! So after Mollies exclamation of 'not more shops' we headed into the lower end of Melbourne only to catch the latter half of the Melbourne Cup Parade. Riders & owners are sat in cars and driven through the CBD. Much to Mollies delight there were acrobatics going on in between each of the cars. So, Mollie on my shoulders we took in the display. Whilst chatting to Mollie a local lady started to speak to me and ask how Mollie was enjoying the parade and where we were from. It was lovely. There was such a good atmosphere. Mind you considering that the majority of folk were off the next day on holiday I'm not surprised!
We also had the opportunity of meeting up with some friends we made in Singapore who stay literally 10mins away (except when I'm driving but more about that in a min) we were invited to a meal and a chance to quiz them about life in Melbourne which I think I did. The evening gave Mollie a chance to play with another child her age instead of shops and adults! I think she was quite relieved. Her wee eyes lit up upon seeing Emma's gorgeous Princess outfits! A good night was had by all.
The end of the week has brought warmer weather to the point where Mollie felt brave enough to get in the pool. Well going by her shallow breaths after leaping in I would say it was still on the cold side.
Friday and Saturday also meant catching up with family and memories - good memories. Just under 4 years ago Graham and I walked along an area called South Bank which is a very trendy bar/dining/socialising area. Graham and I had hired a babysitter within the hotel and had our first romantic meal and it couldn't have been in a nicer spot. This area has a buzz about it. There are street acts and entertainers, people busy on the river, usually rowers or kayakers. There are also flames which light up the place and of course there is that fantastic city backdrop. If you like people watching you would love this place. It didn't disappoint last night. With an aunt, cousins and partners in tow we enjoyed the sights and buzz that was on offer. It also happened to be final race day which means lots of gentlemen with ladies in very high heels, gorgeous dresses, and fascinators pouring into the bars. As we walked along the Yarra River in shorts and strappy tops there was a conversation about not being able to do this back in Scotland at the start of November. Well you could, but you would severely regret it the following day as you recovered from frostbite. A fantastic night.

One of the main things I have had to 'conquer' has been the driving. Now, in theory it should be a dawdle as a) we drive on the same side b) the car is an automatic c) the laws are sort of similar!!!! So why do I break out in a cold sweat heading out on to the Nepean Highway? Is it because I ended up half way to the airport the other day? No. Is it because I regularly get stuck in the middle of the road behind a truck who decides he wants to turn right and leaves me diving for the other side long after the lights have gone red? No. Is it because my daughter, upon reaching our friends address which should have been a mere 10 minutes away and turned out to be a bit longer says to me 'gosh, that was some journey?!!!!' I would say so. What she doesn't know is we are making the journey north after Sydney by car. I hate to think what her comments will be then!!!
I'm sad to be leaving here as it has been a fantastic start to our trip. But we are due to return for the whole of January. Looking forward to it. We might even get use of the pool.
Night night