Friday, July 29, 2011

Bula from Fiji

For many years we have wanted to venture off-shore for a holiday but have waited till the kids were old enough to enjoy it. At 8 and 6 we thought the time was right and thus we booked 10 nights in Fiji. Other Asian destinations didn’t appeal to us but the majestic and beautiful Fiji seemed to have everything we wanted.

The Fijian Shangri-La was chosen as our destination, it offered great facilities for the kids and a good variety of adult activities. The 14th Jul was our departure date and as the time grew close the excitement within the family also grew. We’d all flown before but never from the international airport.

Arriving in Fiji the first thing we noticed was the heat, it was the middle winter and a very warm 30deg. A far cry from the 15deg temperatures we’d left back in Wollongong. After clearing customs our airport transfers took us directly to the Shangri-La. Driving down the Fijian coast we were surprised by the lifestyle and roads, both were something new for us and our kids sat wide eyed looking out the window.

The Shangri-La was very welcoming of us, huge smiling faces and singing greeted us and we were quickly shown to our room. By now it was late afternoon and the kids were so keen for a swim that they were straight into their togs and off to the pool. Beauty was the first thing that caught our eye, the setting looked straight out of a postcard, swaying palm trees set against a setting sun.

We quickly fitted into “Fiji time” and the relaxed way of life. Nothing happens at a great pace in Fiji and that suited us, as we were here to relax. As our first day drew to a close we dined in an open-air restaurant overlooking the water with a beautiful sunset.

Over the following days we began to unwind and take full advantage of what the resort had to offer. The girls both had their hair braided, the kids literally lived in the pool, while Leonie and I enjoyed drinks by the pool or a swim in the tempered ocean waters. Watersports were high on our agenda with us all doing banana boat rides, snorkelling, kayaking and speedboat rides.

A couple of the highlights of our holiday was our day trip on the cane train riding to Natadola where we visited a native village, explored a tribes disused cave and met plenty of the locals. On another day we hired a car and went exploring the coral coast where we found numerous resorts tucked away as well as a few local geocaches. Our drive took us into the town of Sigatoka where we experienced the local shopping treats.

Like all good things our holiday was slowing coming to an end, but not before we experienced a few more local delights, which included a kava tasting, a relaxing full body massage overlooking the beach and a Polynesian fire dancing night where the locals delighted us with their amazing fire twirling and dancing.

After gathering our share of souvenirs it was till to head home. Boarding the plane in Nadi it was a balmy 30deg, only to be informed by the pilot that upon our arrival in Sydney it would be a shivering 14deg – welcome home.

We thoroughly enjoyed our experience in Fiji and have vowed to return.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

15 Years of Navshield

Who would have imagined that I’d accumulate 15 years of participation in Australia’s leading navigational event for Emergency Services, but that’s what I did on the 2nd July 2011 at Mt Werong. My first event was way back in 1996 at the Blue Labyrinth (Blue Mts) and since then I have competed at events at Dunns Swamp, Patoney’s Crown, Nerriga and Euroka just to name a few.

Over those 15 years of participation I have been to some truly amazing locations, I’ve witnessed some breathtaking and harsh vistas, I’ve been a part of some really great team efforts over the years and on one occasion I had to withdraw due to ongoing SES operations.

Some highlights over the years include our 5 consecutive wins in the SES 2-day category, our 7th outright placing in the 2-day event and the 3rd outright placing in the 1-day event. Along the way though there have also been some equally impressive lowlights which shouldn’t go unmentioned. These include, finishing late, being geographically lost for short periods of the night, some massive blisters and scratches on my body and on one occasion I suffered badly from body fatigue.
Over the years, my fitness has been relatively good and I’ve been able to keep pace with some of the best. However as age catches up with us so does the ability to stay competitive and of recent years I have been resigned to competing at a more social level where I have hopefully educated others on some of the more finer points of map and compass navigation.

Every year throws up new and exciting challenges and it’s these unknown hurdles which keep drawing me back. Whether it’s the weather (rain, ice cold temperatures or even snow) or the vegetation (thick spikey heath, scratchy lantana or fallen eucalypt forests) or finally the terrain (swollen creeks, climbing steep knolls or strolling through open paddocks) Navshield is a unique event.

I look forward to continuing this annual pilgrimage to Navshield.