Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas with the Family

Christmas is a special time of year and one that we like to spend with family. We don’t venture out on Christmas day and we’re pretty traditional when it comes to having a big Christmas lunch with loved ones. This year we wanted to continue that tradition and thought it’d be wonderful to spend Christmas Day with Dave’s family on the far north coast of NSW. Having said that the immediate thing that sprung to mind is the logistical nightmare it creates ensuring Santa arrives at a new location for the kids and we cater for an extended mob with lashings of gifts for all.

Having Santa stop at a new location proved difficult as the kids wanted large presents so with a little bit of help from creative grandparents gifts were shipped and assembled well before we made the trip north, which proved to be a godsend for us anxious parents. The rest of the shopping and packing was very mundane. It pays to have a ute!

With Christmas on the Sunday we were like many others and started heading north on the Friday with the unofficial half-day work ethic in full swing. We stopped a night with Leonie’s parents before pushing further north on the Saturday reaching Lennox Head just on lunchtime. Festivities were soon in full swing with a swim and beverages the order of the afternoon. A pleasant surprise was the early arrival of my sister who’d come down to join us for Christmas. Christmas eve night was awash with excited kids and the traditional stroll around the park as many like-minded families took in the amazing decorative lights that adorn the many houses.

Christmas day started early as the kids awoke to the surprise of Santa’s arrival and the many gifts which filled the lounge room. A new bike for Sam and an RC buggy for Ethan were among the many presents that filled the room. For me, I love the smiles and joy the kids experience and this year being with my family was very nice and special to me. The weather gods played their part in dampening the day as by mid-morning the rain had put a dampener on any outside activities but we managed to try most outside toys before it got too wet.

Lunch was a nice affair but soon after my sister had to return to home and for us there was the usual afternoon siesta to have. The kids continued to play with their new toys with Ethan making a small jump track through the garage, while Sam was happy to get the occasional ride on her bike in between showers of rain. By late afternoon we’d consumed a mountain of snack food all washed down with a smothering of alcoholic beverages.

As daylight faded and the glow of Christmas passed for another year we enjoyed a relaxing evening opting to retire early after our early morning awakening….. What a lovely Christmas its been!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A weekend in Sydney

Its always nice to have a night away with the family, when the opportunity arises we love taking the kids to the “big smoke” (Sydney). There’s something about the towering buildings, the pace and hype of the place coupled with a night staying in the heart of town that has us all buzzing.

Bagging a good accommodation deal we headed to the city for a midweek stay. Under sun filled skies our first stop on our winter solace was an upmarket car yard where Ethan was super keen to check out all the exotic brands that he’s come to love all because of his PlayStation games. Cautiously we entered the showroom where most of the cars would have cost me a year’s wages thinking that we’d be soon ushered to the exit saying rubberneckers weren’t welcome but to our surprise they were happy show Ethan and I around, even offering him a dealer’s cap for showing an interest. WE mingled amongst such brands as Porsche, Ferrari, McLaren and Lamborghini for almost an hour. Needless to say by the time we left Ethan was on cloud-nine and the adventure to the city was a huge success.

Checking into our motel we were pleased with our great views across Darling Harbour and the ever beautiful skyline. Our next adventure saw us walking around the harbour taking in the rays of sunshine as they set across the buildings. This part of Sydney with its amazing watercraft and countless eateries is a mecca for tourists like us. Our adventure didn’t stop there as we’d promised Sam her favourite city meal “Pancakes on the Rocks”. Gorging ourselves on a yummy dinner we headed back to the streets again in an attempt to walk off our meal while taking in the city lights.

 The next morning we awoke to the pita pater of rain and plenty of it. The city was such a contrast from yesterday. People bustled from shelter to shelter or the well organised strode to work under their umbrellas. The waterfront was lifeless except for the occasional water taxi. Fog blanketed the tops of the skyscrapers but that didn’t stop us. We took to the streets and soon found ourselves wandering around Paddy’s Markets picking up a few bargains. By lunchtime we’d seen all we wanted so with the rain persisting we decided to head for home, knowing we’d had a great family adventure in the city.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

20 Years of Navshield

When I first joined the SES I recall some guys asking me to compete in a 2 day rogaining event specifically for Emergency Services, at the time I didn’t take up their offer but loved hearing of the their adventure the following week.

A year later and at a different SES Unit I once again had an opportunity to participate in what’s called Navshield and this time I jumped at the chance. The year was 1996 and I recall went to the Blue Mountains, to area called the Blue Labyrinth where over 2 days we hiked to various checkpoints in the bush (mostly off-track) in attempt to gain the highest points score. By the end of the weekend I was sore and scratched but I was hooked.

Now it’s 2016 and I’ve just competed in my 20th Navshield event. It’s something I’m very proud to achieve and something that I look forward to each year. I’ve only missed one year since I started and I think that was due to the birth of our son.

Those 20 appearances have been filled with so many highs and a few lows as I reflect. Considering we would average 25-30km walking in a 1-day event or 40-50km in a 2-day event I’ve covered a lot of bushland and seen some amazing country. On 5 consecutive occasions we won the SES category, I’ve placed 5th outright in the leading class of the 2-day event, I’ve placed 3rd outright in the leading class of the 1-day event and then in my 20th year when some would say “I should be slowing down” we won the class 2 category. Couple those achievements with the countless team members I have hopefully shared my skills and knowledge upon.

Each year the stories of past events are told over and over again to unsuspecting newbies, like the time we walked in the snow or walked in the torrential rain for 8 hrs straight or stealthily hid in the bushes to avoid other teams or did the event without sleeping or camped under the tension power lines only to joke in the morning that glowed from the radiation given off by the lines and so the tales get bigger and bigger, but one thing is for certain – I’ve loved my 20 years of participation at Navshield.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

School Holiday Adventure Week

As the kids approached the second week of their April school holidays I decided to have a week off work and spend it with the kids. All too often we never seem to have enough time in our busy lives for our children so I planned to devote my week with the kids.

Our first full day of action was the Tuesday when I took them to the Nowra Tree adventure park. The park is a self-paced high ropes course offering people of varying skill levels the opportunity to fly through the trees or climb rock walls safely. For our kids who have grown up with adventure in their blood we jumped straight in to the 2nd highest skill level. Sam and Ethan quickly grabbed the concept of locking-off their safety lines and we were soon scaling our first adventure….. The course took us across 50m single rope ravines, up rock walls and webbing nets before we took the plunge on our first flying fox, these had the kids buzzing as they sailed along the wire at times for up to 100m long.

We’d soon finished our first course but with adrenalin running high the kids were keen to do another challenge so we started a similar course with equally as many challenges. This course had more suspended logs and novel high wire activities. At one point I had to rescue a boy who’d become stuck in the tangle of ropes and nets. He was fine and soon back on his feet traversing the course. By the time we’d completed our second course time was getting away from us and with other places to go we had to reluctantly leave but with such an adrenalin rush we vowed to return for another expedition.

Wednesday was a day of rest and relaxing around the house before getting back on the adventure wagon. For something a bit different on Thursday we got the canoe out and headed up to the Nepean River for a canoeing trip. For me there was the ulterior motive of a cache being at the end of our paddle, however for the kids it was the excitement of something new. Launching the canoe at Douglas Park and headed down the Nepean, the hustle n bustle of city life soon left us behind as the highway noise gave way to the serenity of birds whistling in the trees and the sound of nothing. After a little while we turned and started paddling up the Cataract River where the river narrowed and the silence grew louder. At the times the only thing we heard was the water tumbling over rock cascades and it was one of these that halted our progress. Thankfully for us it was right near the geocacher so we docked the canoe and spent some time exploring the area on foot. The allure of getting wet was too great for the kids and they’d soon stripped off to their swimmers and were frolicking the cool water.

Time flew by as we swum and explored the river. All too soon it was time to start heading back, the kids each took turns paddling and steering our path down the river. Often we had to duck under fallen trees and around submerged logs but eventually as we rounded the last corner of the river the regrettable sounds of day-to-day life greeted us again. Back on terror-forma the kids had one last swim before we headed for home and another great adventure was complete.

The rest of our week wasn't any slower, after kids sport on the Saturday we headed off for a 4x4 adventure in the Brindabella Ranges outside Canberra, but thats best left for another story.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Weekend in the Blue Mountains

As a bit of a family getaway we booked a weekend away in the Blue Mountains late last year. It was so long ago that Leonie and I had almost forgotten all about it. Nonetheless we soon were planned our weekend and what we wanted to see and do. I was keen for some family bushwalks while the kids wanted to check out the IMAX cinema.

Perfect weather greeted us as we headed out west early on Saturday morning. Our first stop was Wentworth Falls where we found ourselves at an overcrowded lookout. Knowing the crowds wouldn’t be where we were going we set off on our first walk. For years I’d wanted to head down the National Pass and explore the Jamison Valley. The initial part of the walk was relaxing as we headed along the clifftop and over a number of small creeks, then all of a sudden we were heading down the very exposed sandstone steps which hugged the cliff wall. Every few metres we would stop to admire the vista and magnitude of this pass. We couldn’t imagine how the trail blazers of the area had managed to cut a path into the side of this sheer cliff-face. After numerous stops and countless steps we were at the bottom where the beauty of the Wentworth “falls” could be appreciated. Like others, we stopped here for a bit of lunch and the kids paddled their feet in the cold water. Others around us were keener than us using the waterfall as a place to cool off. Moving on we traversed the lower cliff track towards the “Valley of the Waters”. The walk offered amazing views of the valley and memories of when I use to travel through the valley for work. In what seemed like no time but was actually 90min we were at the base of Empress Falls. Here we got to watch a few of the commercial canyoning groups’ abseil down the 30m waterfall having completed the picturesque Empress Canyon. The walk from here was a little demanding but we soon found ourselves back at Conservation Hut and then finally back at the car. I was so proud of our 6km family walk.

 Continuing further up the mountains we soon found our accommodation and checked-in. The kids were buzzing with excitement at the prospect of staying in a motel for the night. After getting comfortable we headed into Katoomba where we picked up a few supplies and checked out a few tourist spots. We’d decided to have dinner out but to our detriment so had everyone else in town, Katoomba was packed and every restaurant informed us of the 30-40min wait just to get a seat. Apparently the 6-foot marathon was on leaving the town packed with people making a weekend of it in the mountains. In the end we chose to get some takeaway pizza and headed for a secluded lookout where we watched the sunset over the 3-sisters.

Sunday morning we were all a little stiff but I offered some good advice and we were soon headed out for our second walk of the weekend. Heading to Echo Point we joined the mobs who flock to this spot for that special photo. Leaving the crowds we headed around to the “Giant Staircase” and after a short walk we were standing at the base of the first “sister”. From here our trek took us down the 700 steps to the valley floor, once again we were amazed at the people who built these risky tracks and stairs….. It appeared that many of the people of the track seemed to be doing the walk the wrong way, why would you climb up these stairs unless you were a fitness junkie. Once at the bottom the trail snaked its way around the spur of the 3-sisters and along the valley floor. No sooner did we start than we found ourselves at the base of the Furber Stairs and then the “Scenic Railway” where we chose the easy option of a train ride on the world’s steepest train line back to the top. The kids were keen on the front car and the thrill of looking out at the vista as we made our way up the incline. The quick trip is breathtaking and we’d soon completed another 4km walk in the mountains. A short bus transfer had us back at the car and our time in the mountains was coming to an end.

So many memories of my childhood growing up in the mountains and doing family walks with my parents had been filling my head all weekend and to now I was sharing those experiences with my family which was very rewarding and special. As we headed for home I quizzed the family on what was their highlight, our answers were all mixed but there was one common response. The fact that we’d had a family weekend away.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How time flies

This should be a post filled with joy and it is if I look back on the memories that keep flooding back, but and its a "BIG BUT". Its been 12 long months to the day since we returned from our magical holiday around Australia.

How time has flown by. The time away still feels like yesterday and the constant reminder of places visited, stories shared or the kids seeing something on tv which prompts them to blurt out "we've been there" is amazing and I think that'll go on for years.

But (and I shouldn't start a paragraph with but) but I'd love to be on the road again doing it all over again with my "bestie". Is it wrong to wish for retirement. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Christmas Time

For our family Christmas is a time of excitement and joy. It starts with Leonie and Sam who are like kids in a candy shop with the joy and exuberance they display about the presents under the tree. My parents joined us from Lennox Head to share in the festivities which were great as it’d been a few years since they’d been with us at Christmas.

The lead up to the big day is always chaotic as we dart about getting all the last minute treats and supplies to ensure our day is filled with fun and love. This year we’d planned a typical Aussie Christmas lunch comprising lamb, prawns and ham with the usual salads.

As always Santa didn’t disappoint in the gifts he left our kids, the excitement they displayed as they unwrapped a new pool and games table was priceless. Not to be outdone the rest of us enjoyed gifts from loved ones. Our lunch on the back deck couldn’t have been better, the weather was perfect and a great time was had. By late afternoon the traditional siesta was a must but with more toys to construct time was limited.

Boxing Day was the same as Christmas day but on a bigger scale. Leonie’s parents, sister and her offspring joined us for another lovely day where once again we proved you can stuff yourself with too much food.

With Mum and Dad hanging around after Christmas we got a chance to share Dad’s 73rd birthday with him as we all went out and celebrated at the Shellharbour Golf Course.

New Year’s Eve for us is normally a quiet affair but having built in babysitters this year meant Leonie and I could go out and let our hair down. We all went into the harbour to watch the 9pm NYE fireworks before ditching the family and heading to Balgownie pub where we met up with friends and celebrated the New Year.

At this time of year when we celebrate with family its extremely saddening to hear of the tragic passing Gavin Murray who was killed in a car accident 3 days before Christmas. RIP mate.