A Travellerspoint blog

Hal and Blake’s Excellent Adventure

Kiteboarding in Noosa

overcast 75 °F

Have you ever watched a Kiteboarder? Man, let me tell you that it is something to behold. I sat in my car one day on the coast Highway in Del Mar California and watched in befuddled amazement as a guy unfolded what looked like half of a parachute, attached some stings, slipped on a harness, stepped onto a wakeboard, then slowly floated this thing into the sky and took off at 20 knots across the face of the wind. He sliced through breaking waves and then skipped from top of swell to top of swell, launching himself 20 feet or so into the air every so often, only to land skipping off the tops of swells once again. Skip, skipskip, skippity, skip, launch, float, skip, skippity, skipskip… I was blown away. The whole thing looked so adrenaline producing, so simultaneously elegant, and so easy that I had dreamed myself into that harness many times since.

Fast forward to Noosa Australia, where we are staying for the month of December as we travel around the world. I’ve seen a few “KITEBOARDING!” brochures as we’ve strolled the town, which has dreamily conjured up visions of skipping across the swells, replacing the very obviously experienced guy in Del Mar with me. I mention to my buddy Hal that I would really like to take a Kiteboarding lesson and he’s on the phone the next day – finding out about the local scene. Seems Hal shares the delusion of skipping over the swell tops as well.

The next day, after a bit of a surfing at the Noosa river mouth with the family, we stumbled across a van that reads “www.noosakiteboarding.com.au 0404838773”. Hal called the number and spoke to Mike, the instructor who was just motoring across the river mouth in his inflatable boat, returning from a lesson. What seemed like seconds later he was standing beside us along with his student. The student, a 20 something Norwegian gal, had just stood on a board for the first time and went for about 200 meters. She wore an ear to ear grin. Another ex-student of Mike’s was just hanging out and watching Mike’s lesson. He was a recent retiree, and spoke of his lessons with Mike fondly and how he looks him up whenever he’s in town. This 60 year old retiree is now an avid Kiteboarder . “Hey, if a 60 year old can do it, no problem for a 48 year old, right?” I thought to myself. I should probably mention that he had the body of a 25 year old triathlete. Mike hung out and casually spoke with us about Kiteboarding and we were ready to sign up. Hal and I were sold on Mike’s abilities and we began making arrangements for our first lessons. We were told that with four or five hours of instruction we should be up on a kiteboard. I of course envision myself skip-skip-skippitying my way across the swells… Mike gave us a quick kite control lesson and loaned us a min-kite to practice some flying skills until our lesson. “Kiteboarding is all about Kite control.” Mike told us.

A few days passed. Hal and I practiced with the min-kite, and felt good about our kite control. Lesson day came and the wind was good enough for the lesson. Mike called and we headed out to meet him at the Noosa River mouth. We motored across the river mouth in his inflatable boat to a beach that was relatively deserted. Mike gave us a technical lesson on the do’s and don’ts of kiting. He described things simply with analogies and Hal and I basically understood what we were supposed to be doing. “Look directly ahead.” “3:00 is on your right, 9:00 is on your left and 12:00 is directly above your head.” “These are the positions of the kite when it isn’t powered and with these positions, you will launch and land your kite and get into position for boarding.” “The wind just glides over your kite in these positions”. That concept seemed simple enough to Hal and I. “Now, that arc in front of you, if you can envision this, forms a quarter sphere between 3:00, 9:00 and 12:00.” This is where the kite gets its power.” “This is a dangerous place.” Mike actually referred to it as the “power zone” “death zone” or “kill zone” . “The way you generate enough power to move your body is to control your kite within this zone.” Mike said. You either keep your kite at a 45° angle when you have great wind, or you move your kite through this zone, sharply diving the kite down and back up again to generate power”. Hal and I had practiced this maneuver for a couple of days with the mini-kite and said, “Right! No problem! We’ve done that!”

Mike then told us, “What you don’t do is also important. You never move your kite into the zone directly in front of you. The Kite creates huge resistance here and generates way too much power.” “Do you know what a super man is?” Mike asked us. “No.” Hal and I both shook our heads. “A superman is not a trick, It is a f*ck-up, and it can happen when your kite enters this zone.” “The kite will jerk you into the air at warp speed and you will fly like superman until it loses power, and if it fills with air again, it happens all over.” “One other very important thing… You can release power simply by letting go of the bar attached to the lines. The kite will totally depower and wind will just pass over it”. If you pull the bar in, it creates more resistance, and you just go faster.” The superman analogy is visual enough for both Hal and I to get it. And to be scared to death. We are now ready to strap on the kite.

I am the first lucky guy to try this out. First we learn how to unroll the kite, pump it up with air, (the kite struts and leading edge are filled with air for stability), connect the harness to the lines, and step into the harness. On the sand, I maneuver the kite through the air from 3:00 to 12:00 to 9:00 and back multiple times. I can raise and lower the kite into position and I feel pretty confident. I then wade out into waste deep water with the kite hovering at 12:00, and begin dragging myself along in the water by moving the kite up and down through the power zone. When the kite enters this power zone it literally picks your body up out of the water and drags it forward in the water. “If I had a board on my feet, I just might be Kiteboarding right now!” I thought. There was a pretty light wind that day and it made the power zones a little more forgiving. Hal went next and performed the same excercises and was equally capable of controlling the kite. We were far from good, but we were learning. The wind began to die and Mike told us it’s actually harder to control the kite in a light wind, so we were doing quite well. A stronger wind would be easier and tomorrow was supposed to be stronger. End of lesson one. On the drive home, Hal and I chattered about how easy it seemed and how much power that kite can produce. It is so fun! We can’t wait for our next lesson!

The next day was much more windy and the lesson was on! It was a great day for Kiteboarding! Fantastic kiteboarders filled the rivermouth, skipping and launching through the air right next to each other in full control of their kites. We excitedly met Mike and motored to a deserted beach downwind, a safe distance from the skilled kiteboarders. Hal went first. Hal did a great job launching the kite in the stronger wind. Maybe it is easier in a stronger wind. Hal practiced controlling the kite as he stood on the beach. Every time Hal’s kite got close to the power zone, Mike would grip Hal’s harness, and pull back hard like he was the lead man in a tug-o-war. Mike was just trying to keep Hal on the ground. After 20 minutes or so of this beach work, Hal waded out into the water and began dragging himself down the beach. The tide was going out, so the water was pretty shallow and getting shallower. Hal returned to shore and had a small gash and some scratches on his leg, evidence of a submerged tree. He was bleeding, but feeling good. I’m next!

I strapped on the kite and walked into the water, controlling it pretty well. Mike pointed to a newly exposed sand bar “beach” about 600 meters down the river and said “drag yourself over to that beach and we’ll meet you there”. I began dragging myself through the river while Mike and Hal took the inflatable. Sand bars were everywhere at varying depths as I drug myself through the water. As the tide goes out, the river gouges tiny ridges in the sand and they felt funny and coarse on my feet. I finally arrived at the beach where Hal and Mike were now standing. I emerged from the water and controlled my kite as I walked toward them. My confidence with the kite was peaking. I took my eyes off the kite for about 2 seconds and looked at Mike and Hal to engage in a bit of conversation.

Then all hell breaks loose. My kite quickly moves into the death zone, and in what seems like a millisecond, I am running faster than Michael Johnson (but looking like Michael Moore) across the sand ridges in my bare feet, desperately trying to catch up with the kite. Of course, I’m not smart enough to let go of the bar attached to the lines which is exactly what Mike is screaming at me as I blow past him. “Let go! Let go! Let go!” No. I pull the bar into my chest as if I’m pulling on the reigns of a horse. Wooooaaaa boy . Woooooaaa boy. Woooaaa Sh*t! I am now flying through the air horizontally at the speed of a Randy Johnson fastball. I land with a thud and drag across what feels like a sandy cheese grater. I finally let go of the bar. Now, I didn’t let go because I heard mike screaming at me. I let go because I hit the ground so hard my muscles involuntarily released. My bowels didn’t, thank god. I am now lying face down on the sand, and I’m humiliated. I get up quickly faking an amused smile and showing no pain. My big toes feel broken, my knees are skinned, my hips feel dislocated, and I am thoroughly embarrassed. Hal is doubled over laughing. Mike would be too, but he is the respectful teacher. While the audience of onlookers on the river bank is ooohhhing and ahhhing at the graceful kiteboarders, a broken marionette is being jerked through the air by a spastic puppeteer in the distance. I pray I’m not noticed. Hal walks over to me, still laughing and says “Sometimes in life Blake, you just have to let go…” cracking up… and it is pretty funny, especially if you know me. I don’t think I laughed. I am in pain and ready for Hal to take the Kite for a while, or Forever.

Mike has a quick come to Jesus conversation with us telling us that all the confidence we have built up to this point will be lost, because this is much more difficult. Too much confidence isn’t a problem for me at this point. Up until this moment, we have only been practicing the ‘kite’. Not the ‘boarding’. Hal straps on the kite and wades out into the water where Mike hands him the board. I watch and nurse my aches as Hal tries to control the board while also trying to control the kite. It is not easy. Hal Rotates his body under the kite as it hovers at 12:00. He spins and tries to straighten for about 5 minutes. Once his body is aligned, Mike gives Hal the go ahead and off he goes. Hal stands up and moves a few feet. He goes through this a few times, and then tkes off on the water moving for about 100 meters. In the blink of an eye, Hal is now flying through the air with too much wind in his kite. God it looks so much more forgiving on the water. I am comforted knowing that even good athletes (which Hal is) “supermans” at some point. I laugh out loud and silently forgive all those that were laughing at me only 15 minutes before. Hal goes through a few starts and stops then boards a few hundred meters successfully moving left and right, finalizing his session with a spectacular aerial that would have been so much better if his board would have come with him when he was jerked into the sky. Somewhere Christopher Reeves is jealous. Hal is now ready to give the kite back to me. And I am scared sh*tless.

I strap on the harness and kite, ready to try the board, and I slowly raise my kite in the air when it happens all over again. I let the kite fill with air in the superman zone accidentally and I am franticly chasing the kite as I pull the bar into my chest. Wooaaaa- Sh*t! This time though, there is an unfortunate would be Kiteboarder downwind from me getting a lesson. I am running directly at him and his instructor looking like a defensive back about to lay a hit on a receiver. Their eyes are wide. My kite whizzes past them both followed by me, also wide eyed, spewing apologizes. “Let go!” I say to myself, and I let the bar go. The wind passes over my kite and all is calm again. Except me. I am freaked.

Mike asks (concerned) if I want to go over kite control basics again and I say, “No. I just want to get the board on and go.” I wade out into the water and Mike hands me the board. I try and align my body as the kite hovers over me at 12:00. I struggle. Once I’m aligned, Mike says ,”Go!” I take off and am able to board about five meters. I do this a few times. I don’t have enough air in the kite. Perhaps it because I’m scared sh*tless of filling the kite with air right now. Finally, I take a deep breath, and position the kite into the power zone, and off I go. I skip across the water about 300 meters or so and turn the kite in the other direction. My board follows the kite and I’m off skipping in the other direction. This is awesome. This is worth it. Doh! Once, again I am flying through the air horizontally bracing to hit the ground. It’s just water this time. I crash face down after 10 meters of board less flight, and it is painless. Painless until I find that my prescription sunglasses have been ripped off my head and are now on the river bed somewhere behind me. I signal to Mike and Hal who are now about 500 meters away that my glasses are gone. I do this by repeatedly pointing at my head with both hands. Mike thinks I’m flexing my biceps because I’m so proud of my last 30 seconds. When he and Hal realize that I can’t see so well, they motor the boat toward me and we all sweep the area for my Maui Jims. They are gone. And I am done with the lesson for today.

Hal and I got home and were about to tell the story to Carol and Maria. We didn’t have to. It turns out they were part of the audience watching the incredible kiteboarders from the shore. Carol described watching the amazing kiteboarders and seeing some poor dork off in the distance madly chasing after his kite on the sand, then flying through the air and dragging on the ground. She was telling Maria how funny it is watching someone wreck when they’re doing risky sports like this. When she realized the dork was me, she covered her mouth and convulsed as you might do in church, when you’re desperately trying not to laugh. God – I wish I could have seen it.

You know the crazy thing? I can’t wait to get back out and try it again. Superman beckons.

Posted by Blakei 20:33 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Noosa and the Sunshine Coast

A little slice of paradise

Happy 2008 to all of you! It’s hard to believe that we’re writing about a place while we are still here. We haven’t done that since Beijing, where we started this trip. We’ve been here for almost five weeks and have been so busy having fun in the outdoors, we haven’t taken the time to update you. Our bad. Now, on to the good stuff....

Noosa - Paradise Found?
Most of you have never heard of this place. It isn’t world famous like the Great Barrier Reef or as visually recognizable as the Sydney opera house. There is no world renowned sporting Events here like there are in Melbourne, and there aren’t millions of people here. You’ll find Noosa in an area of Australia known as the Sunshine Coast. I know that when Americans visualize a “Sunshine Coast” in Australia, they conjure up Kangaroos and red sparse landscapes that run to the ocean. I was guilty of this misconception. The Sunshine coast is about 100 km or so north of Brisbane on the east coast of Australia. It meanders for a few hundred kilometers up the coast. The Sunshine coast is covered in lush forest with eucalyptus trees, tea trees, pine trees, and untold other greenery for as far as the eye can see. Noosa is a town that is nestled on a beautiful bay with a spectacular National Forest nearly surrounding it. The town itself is pretty small, but just like San Luis Obispo, other towns run together to form a community much larger than a single town. Noosa Beach, Noosa Junction, Sunshine Beach, Sunrise Beach, Perigian, Coolum, Noosaville, and Tewantin, are all towns in the Noosa area that form this community. The downtown areas in both Noosa Junction and Noosa Beach are designed for walking, with quaint shops, restaurants, bars and pubs, surf shops, or even travel agencies for local excursions. Noosa Beach is a bit more up-scale and touristy with brand stores like Hugo Boss, Billabong, RipCurl, and higher end restaurants and jewelry stores. We have spent most of our time in these two towns, whether playing, shopping, going to the movies or dining out.

The main feature of the Noosa area is the ocean and all the activities that take place in, on, or around it. Water sports are king here, and every day the local Sunshine Coast paper carries sports articles, human interest articles, and even business articles about the beach, or for that matter the rivers, the waves, competitive surfers, competitive lifeguards, and even competitive nippers (children lifeguards). The surf and the ocean is a way of life here and we have seen all things surf-able in the swells; Long thin paddle boards, short thick paddle boards, hobbie cats, kayaks, jet skis, kite boards, surf boards, boogie boards, ironing boards (ok, I’m kidding about the ironing boards). We’ve always thought that San Luis Obispo is a very healthy and sports minded place, and by American standards it is. But SLO town and the surrounding area doesn’t hold a candle to Noosa. Just about everyone looks incredibly healthy, and in tip top condition. It isn’t uncommon to see buff 50 year old women out for a paddle, or a run, or a group of 65 year old men in stellar condition striding from the water in their speedos after a few kilometers swim. There are a lot of cyclists, runners, hikers and of course water enthusiasts of all kinds.

Even with the sunshine coast label, the weather hasn’t been perfect while we’ve been here. We’ve seen oodles of sunshine but a fair few storms as well, with greater than average rainfall for this time of year. For the past two weeks, we’ve had a few cyclones hovering off the coast that have produced some very wet days. In fact, the sliding glass doors are being pelted by sideways rain from an offshore cyclone as I write this. But even with that, this sports minded community doesn’t seem to slow down in their outdoor pursuits. I’ll give you some prime examples later.

Sunrise Beach
We aren’t actually staying in Noosa, but rather Sunrise Beach, just two communities (and 3km) southeast of Noosa. Our Condo is 3 bedrooms and is on the beach frontage street, overlooking Sunrise Beach. There is no daylight savings time in Queensland, so when they call it Sunrise Beach, it’s for a good reason. At 4:30 in the morning, the Sun Rises and blasts directly into the bedroom and Living room of the Condo. It has made for some very early and hot mornings. I have some shots of the condo (we’ve got the top floor) and the view from the balcony. Most mornings we go for an early surf, and then do some studying followed by more beach time and maybe more surf later, depending on tides. Hal, Maria, Nate and Kyle, have been here with us most of the time in a condo just next door, and we have pretty much done just about everything with them , collapsing at the end of the day, just from activities. We’ve traded nights holding dinners. One night would be chili at their condo, the next night fish at ours, etc…

We have become more attuned to the local tide charts then anywhere else we have stayed, and have started to use them to determine which beaches we will go to based on swell size and direction, wind direction and tides. We have become pretty familiar with the local points and beaches and have been selective as to where we are going to head out. We have four boards. We’ve been taking them on and off the car every day (literally) since December 2nd. Everyone is surfing and improving session by session. The point breaks in Noosa are absolutely incredible. Kevin Merck, probably are biggest surfing buddy would blanch at the incredible waves. Every morning at low tide they have been super fun. They haven’t been huge and scary but rather super nice at 3’ to 5’or smaller and super clean. Even Parker and Griffin who haven’t had much experience surfing, have been able to get long rides and learn how to stay in the green “breaking” part of the wave, snapping up pretty fast. Surfing has been a family sport for us here in Australia and in sharp contrast to the US, it seems to be a family sport for Australia. In the USA, folks think of surfers as zealous individualists who have a reckless and unquenchable desire for waves. In Australia, it is good family fun and entire families show up at beaches with boards under their arms. We saw 30-something dads with their babies on boards. We saw dads pushing their 6 year olds into waves. We heard “Hey Dad!” or “Hey Mom!” yelled as a little kid proudly finished off a great wave. And these weren’t little beach breaks. These were point breaks that required a few hundred meters of paddling to get to the wave. It was refreshing to see how much wholesome community surrounded the whole surf scene. It’s hard to imagine how any other country can produce competitive surfers with the support and geography that Australian surfers enjoy. We found ourselves surfing with this community everywhere we went in both sun and rain. The surfers were incredibly friendly and there was no territoriality at these beaches. Great people out for a great time.

Australia Zoo
We thought the Sydney Zoo was beautiful and it is, but the Australia Zoo in the Sunshine Coast is the nicest Zoo we have ever been to. This is the Zoo that Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin called his home from childhood until his recent and tragic death. This is his zoo, no mistake about it, and there is the most impressive collection of alligators, crocodiles and reptiles you have ever seen. The birds are incredible as is the Tiger exhibit. There are Koala Exhibits and a Kangaroo area where you just roam around with the little Joeys, petting them and feeding them as you cruise around. The viewing areas are spectacular and it is the cleanest zoo you will ever visit. The zoo features a giant stadium called “The Crocoseum” where they hold shows with snakes, birds and crocodiles. The shows are incredible and fun and the performers (really zoo keepers) show how much they love their work and their animals. In the show we saw, it became incredibly clear why crocodiles have remained off the endangered species list since the days of the dinosaur. They are purpose built for killing things that come near the water. The show lets you see up front and personal how they hunt and how quickly they can kill. The point is also driven home that this is a critter found “in your own backyard” because they end the show giving you tips for ensuring you aren’t the next meal for one of these guys. They tell you “When you’re in the north, stay away from the waters edge!” “NEVER dangle your feet over the water!” “If you go camping, make sure you camp at least 200 meters from the water’s edge”… stuff like this…. Scary!!

On the way to the zoo we found this awesome little carting track that wasn’t really little. It was called the “big track” and it was like being on a real scaled down race course. It was probably about a mile long and had lefts and rights, rises and falls. The carts weren’t super fast, but probably got up to 60kph or so and it seemed that Parkers went faster as he passed all of us at least once.

Christmas in Australia:
Let’s just say that if you’re from the states, it’s plain odd and maybe even wrong having Christmas in the summer. Remember that December and January are summer months in the Southern Hemisphere, and it is warming up, not chillin’ down. The sun is hot, there is no “white Christmas” and there aren’t flocked trees all over the place. You’ll also notice a lack of commercialism that is quite refreshing. It seemed to us that Christmas was more about a summer vacation and a good party than it was about a presents, lights, decorated trees, and a red guy in a suit. Oh, and I guess I should say that there aren’t very many visible churches here in Australia either. Maybe that has something to do with it as well. For our Christmas, we shipped our stockings to Noosa and had a nice little morning with a few Australian gifts, and our stockings filled with funny trinkets and candy. We left to visit Hal, Maria, Nate and Kyle, who took off to the south for the last two weeks of their stay. They moved to another surf town called Lennox Head which is just south of Byron Bay. We drove the 350km or so after opening our stockings and we enjoyed a few festive days and nights with them, surfing in a few spots like Byron Bay, Wategos bay, and Flat Rock. The air and water were unseasonably cold due to the cyclone off the coast, but it made it feel a bit more like Christmas. We spent the evening cooking, eating, drinking and of course watching Anchor Man, that wonderful Christmas film starring Will Farrell.

Gold Coast:
On the way home from Lennox Head, we drove through the Gold Coast and an area called “Surfers Paradise”. This is a clever name brought about by marketers who know what people who aren’t surfers really want, which apparently is ultra tall high rises, a few theme parks, lots of people close together, and a big beach break. It sure didn’t feel like a surfer’s paradise to us, but the downtown skyline is impressive, sporting the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, which of course got Parker completely stoked. He prefers Surfers paradise over Noosa. Man, does he like tall buildings or what. There is a ton of investment going into this area and no sign of that slowing down. Still, I like the slower pace of Noosa and the Sunshine Coast.

Outback around the corner:
We took a day trip up toward rainbow beach and Frasier Island, the worlds largest sand island. We used a map that wasn’t quite so hot and we found ourselves taking dirt roads and gravel paths for about 50km that were well maintained, but deserted. It is amazing how quickly you end up in the middle of nowhere. Within a 30 minute drive from Sunrise Beach you felt as if you were in the middle of nowhere and you could see rainforest that rolled to the horizon. Even in the Noosa National Park (that lays claim to some of THE best and busiest surf spots I’ve ever seen), you could take a path that would put you in what felt like the middle of nowhere. Griffin and I hiked one morning for a few hours and found a ton of huge skinks and a giant monitor lizard in the brush right next to the path. This was only 5km from our house. In this same park we saw Koalas just hanging around and sleeping in the trees. Hard to believe.

The Cyclone:
A cyclone settled off the north eastern coast of Australia and kicked up, *gulp*, 15 to 20 foot swells and the waves have been insane for a few days and will be until we leave. The swells have grown from one meter to 6 meters (yes 6 meters today) and it is something to behold. The wind is also blowing at about 30-50 knots. In the USA an approaching cyclone would mean evacuate and head inland. In Australia it means “Great Surf! Let’s get out there”. And out there they went. The swells are ballooning to 18 feet today and folks are in the water. In front of our House it is impossible and almost certain death to go out, even for the best, but the points are “going off “ and there are hundreds of people in the water.

Carol and I went out to surf on the 28th but didn’t go out. We backed off for three reasons. 1st, there were 100 people in the water every 100 meters surfing around each other; 2nd, Carol had a lesson at 11:15 and she didn’t want to be burned out by the morning session, and 3rd it was just to hairy. We took some pictures of the insanity for your pleasure. We saw some great waves and some great crashes too.

Carol took a lesson on this day which in itself was kind of crazy, but she had scheduled it, and they said “No Worries, the lesson is on!” The first bullet in the list of reasons to take lessons from the surf school reads: “Safe! - Noosa is the safest surf beach in Queensland. Learn in safe, soft, gentle waves in waist deep water with your coach right next to you”. Man, that is some comforting text, isn’t it? So carol takes her lesson at Noosa and the waves were breaking at about 13 feet in a giant ripping wall. There was a slight right break, but it was so fast, that only pros dared to go out. What a great day for a lesson! Within the first 5 minutes of her lesson, the instructor had to abandon her to save some swimmers that were caught in a nasty rip and were being sucked out to sea. Damn, this is good fun! This kept happening because the instructor could tell when a surfer or boarder was about to get over their head, and sure enough in a few minutes, someone else needed saving. Carol cut the lesson short – but said he was a great instructor and she learned some important tips to get her to the next level.
The waves were so big, they “closed” the beaches, which means the lifeguards stop patrolling it and just say the beach is closed. If you’re puzzled, you’re not alone, but I think they spell “beach closed” L-I-M-I-T O-U-R L-I-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y.

Later in the day, in front of our house in Sunrise where the swells were breaking outside of the shark nets, (which means probably 20 foot waves) we saw two Kiteboarders in the water. They were taking on the 50knot winds and just jamming north on the coast. I heard Carol scream “Oh my god” and I looked down to my right and a 3rd kite boarder (This is no joke) was sailing through the air at least 20 meters or so in the sky and he was in the air for 100 meters just screaming along. We couldn’t believe it. This guy made the X-Games extreme air competition look like a white guy high jumping contest. I guess this is what the Australians (or at least Queenslanders) do when they get told a cyclone approaches. The cyclone is supposed to continue to affect the surf for four more days and the wind is expected to continue to howl. I guess we’ll see more antics. Oooooo….. Kiteboarding…. More about that later…]1228NoosaBlog23.jpg

Posted by Blakei 19:44 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

The Great Barrier Reef

Heron Island Resort

sunny 81 °F

No visit to Australia would be complete without visiting the most well-known geologic feature of this continent. In virtually every documentary you’ve seen on global warming or climate change, the Great Barrier Reef is mentioned as one of the most fragile ecosystems on earth. You’ve probably heard that just a few degrees of ocean temperature change will kill the reef, and further that there is evidence that it’s happening now. We did see evidence of coral bleaching, but the reef is still teaming with life and is absolutely stunning. No matter how big a cynic you are about climate change, this is the place that will convince you that we must change our behavior.

Location, Location, Location
The Barrier Reef runs along the north east coast of Australia. We are visiting in Australia’s summer months which are notorious for increasing numbers of Jellyfish as you travel up the coast. Tiny little “Stingers” are the most common and if you are visiting the northern parts of the reef, you are required to wear “stinger suits” when you enter the water, to avoid an “all over stinging”. Worse than this, there is the Box Jellyfish whose sting is lethal within minutes of the sting. Northern lifeguards place vinegar bottles on the beaches and post CPR instructions in case of a box sting, in the hopes of keeping the victim alive long enough to receive anti -venom. Hmmmm… I think we’ll stay in the south! So we started looking in the southern reaches of the reef to see what was available. Through a few internet searches we found a place called “Heron Island”. It is a 32 acre island surrounded by a HUGE reef. Heron is part of the Great Barrier Reef system, but stands alone and you can take a boat all the way around the reef. The island houses a very pleasant little resort with one hundred or so rooms and is also the home a University of Queensland Marine Research facility. The island at one time was home to a Turtle goods (e.g. Turtle Soup) manufacturer and was purchased by someone that decided to turn it into a tourist location that has gotten more politically correct over time – hopefully solving years of way-bad turtle karma.

The Sweaseys
We were inspired to take our trip around the world by some friends who were planning their trip around the world with their kids. As we planned our trip, we checked with them to see where we might overlap. Hal and Maria Sweasey are Carol’s and my good friends from San Luis Obispo, while their two kids, Kyle and Nate, are Griffin and Parker’s buddies. We knew we would hook up in Noosa for a long bit of surfing in December, but didn’t realize we would overlap on the reef. It turned out that we overlapped for almost the entire 5 day visit on Heron Island, giving the boys a much needed break from each other in the role of “sole playmate” and in a sense, doing the same for Carol and I 

Getting There
At 50km from the mainland, you can either take a ferry to Heron Island or you can take a helicopter service. We wanted to see the reef from the air at least once, so we opted to take the helicopter to the reef and take the ferry back. On the way out of the little port town of Gladstone, that proudly claims home to the 2nd largest aluminum production plant in the world, you couldn’t help notice the mess that man has created here. There was a huge coal factory to produce electricity, a giant electricity station, the massive aluminum plant, and many little factories supporting these behemoths. As we flew over Gladstone into the Coral Sea, we were struck by the contrast. 20 large tankers waited off shore to take aluminum around the world, and just five minutes past them, there sat the most beautiful reef system in the world. It just seemed wrong. As we approached the islands, the pilot trimmed our elevation and swept the ocean from a couple hundred feet. We saw beautiful turquoise water, coral atolls, sea turtles, and the most stunning view - a family of 6 Manta Rays whose “wing” span was easily 10-15 feet across. We could see our little island in the distance, and as we approached you couldn’t help think that it looked just a bit like Gilligan’s Island.

The Resort
The “resort” portion of the Island wasn’t really anything to scream about if you think about your typical Island resort. There were no giant pools, no swim up bars, and no incredible restaurant. There was one restaurant which usually had a buffet going on, and selection was pretty minimal. The rooms were modest and clean, plenty large but had no phones nor locks on the doors. The overall facility was sort of “best western meets community center,” complete with pool tables requiring change to operate, and 70’s furniture in the lounge. There was no internet, no cell service and only three pay phones. But you know what? Who cares. The staff was awesome, and this place is so beautiful, we could care less. We were surrounded by perhaps the most stunning snorkeling and diving in the world and views that you’d expect on a postcard. We were also surrounded by 10s of thousands of birds.

The Birds:
Heron Island would be nothing but sand, if it wasn’t for the bird guano that has made it possible for plants to germinate, and boy have they germinated. There is a pretty good size forest on the island now that would make Gilligan and the Skipper proud. Huge trees, vines, grasses and shrubs cover the island providing a terrific home to well over 20,000 birds. The birds and their nests are so thick on the Island, that you have to duck down the pathways as you head to your room, so you don’t get hit as they fly by. Every one of us at one point or another got dumped on by a bird. Since this is an eco-resort, birds seem to know that no harm will come to them regardless of their behavior, so they don’t try to avoid us humans. Watch your bag of chips carefully or it will fly away. Watch over your head or you will leave with a eco-reminder of Heron Island on your shoulder. We all did. Another amazing thing about these birds is the incredible freaking sounds they make. They sound like people. I swear to god this is true. Close your eyes and imagine the sound of someone writhing in pain, lying in the curb, after being struck by a car as they crossed the street – it’s sort of a low moan in surprised kind of way… Woooooooaaaaa… and then imagine that same person finishing his moaning with a question about who hit ‘em? Whooo? That’s what it sounds like: Wooooaaaaawhoooo?!! Wooooaaaaawhoooo?!! Wooooaaaaawhoooo?!! And guess what? They don’t start making the sounds until the sun goes down and then they do it until the sun comes up!! Isn’t that great! Man, I love wildlife! Only better than this is the sound the baby birds make in their nests at night which is a bit louder and sounds like a new born baby that has just sucked boiling breast milk through their bottle…. Waaaaaaahaaaaaa!!! Waaaaaaahaaaaa!!!! No surprise that the hotel furnished 6 pairs of earplugs in our room. First thing I’m going to do when I get home is join the Audubon society! God I just love birds!

Snorkeling within the reef:
We snorkeled every day, multiple times a day. The difference between low tide and high tide was quite a few feet, so the beset snorkel sports changed hourly. We would snorkel by an old ship wreck, which was incredibly eerie, then up to sharks bay, and we even took a boat out to snorkel the outer reef surrounding the island. Sharks bay was a very shallow area that teamed with Rays and a variety of Sharks. The Sharks were up to 6 feet in length, but we were told that they really don’t harm snorkelers, so we shouldn’t be afraid of them. OK! How about a family snorkel with the sharks? We did this and it was a blast. We swam with Black Tip and White Tip reef sharks, guitar fish (a bizarre shark-ray thing), thresher sharks, sting rays and manta rays. We lazily followed sharks around close enough to touch them, while the rays would steer clear of us. Only on a couple of occasions did I think “Holy crap, that’s a big shark!”, and one of these occasions came when a shark ripped a jerky trail in between parker and I because we had startled it. Man, those things are wicked fast. There was on old ship wreck in the harbor entrance that we snorkeled to a number of times and it was as beautiful as it was creepy. We saw fish of every size and color and the reef colors were beautiful. This was contrast by the rusted and rotting hull and deck of an old ship that ran aground on the reef years and years ago. Fish love to hang out there in the skeleton of the ship as do the sharks. We would swim out to the ship, hang out for a few minutes, get a bit freaked out, and then swim safely away to shallower, far “happier” water. Carol and I went out one morning to the shipwreck and saw a pretty good size Octopus that was hanging out on the reef. I was able to snap a picture of this Octopus. It’s camouflage is so good, you can barely see it.

Snorkeling the outer reef
At low tide, you can’t snorkel near the island because the water is only knee deep, but you can use this opportunity to take a boat to the outer reef. At low tide, all the fish that were swimming near the island move to the outer reef that surrounds it. The outer reef rises up from the ocean bottom forming walls, hills and jagged cliffs of Coral that form the atoll surrounding Heron. The fish that were in the inner reef now team in the cracks and crevices of the outer reef. A boat took our families, some scuba divers and a few snorkelers to a spot on the outer reef, and then drifted with us for an hour (or about a mile). We lazily floated face down rolling in the swells, diving occasionally to get a closer look at brilliant colors, be it coral or fish. We were also treated with a sea turtle, two dolphins, and a shark or two. We also saw scuba divers forty feet below us looking much more closely at their surroundings than we were. Hmmmm… we gotta try this…..

The Scuba Lesson
We adults had watched longingly at the scuba divers on the outer reef as their bubbles rose to meet us. We sure wished we could do that. Be careful how you wish. It turns out that Heron has a program where you can get trained in the morning and take a real dive in the afternoon. Hal, Maria, Carol and I thought we’d try it out. After filling out wavers that would relinquish the resort of any liability for what we were about to do, we met our 19 year old instructor. He began our instruction with a video that explains the risks of Scuba and what you should and shouldn’t do. It was a damn long list of do’s and don’ts and all of us walked away with one important lesson: Don’t stop breathing. Even if you are scared shitless, have thrown up in your mouthpiece, filled your mask with stingers, or have soiled yourself, don’t stop breathing. And don’t stop breathing as you are rising to the surface or your lungs will explode. Man, this is relaxing isn’t it!

We were fitted with our scuba gear and headed for the resort pool where we did our first “dive”. We tried out our mouthpieces, hung around under water and learned to breath. We all had to clear our masks before we were allowed to dive in the open ocean, which consisted of filling our masks full of water, flipping over on your back, and then blowing air into them through your nose until there is no water left. This actually works – in a pool. The ugly side affect being that anything that was in your nose before your blow is now in your mask. We were now ready for the open ocean? Oh, that’s supposed to be a sentence, not a question. We were now ready for the open ocean.

At noon we took a boat with experienced scuba divers and snorkelers and we headed for the outer reef. All the other folks were in the water and now it was time for us to marshal down the anchor into the water. I gotta tell you that it’s different than snorkeling in the pool and we all had panic attacks at one point or another. Maria went first, then me, then Carol, then Hal. As we descended down the anchor line to 30 feet, we let the air out of our floatation vests, and we sunk, at least we were supposed to sink. After about two minutes from being on the ground floor, I took the express elevator to the surface – without trying – I just rose up. I looked at my instructor shrugging my shoulders and he indicated with his fingers that I have to kick downward like I was swimming to the bottom of a pool… Duh! I looked down, and started kicking and was soon down at 30 feet again. We stayed down for about 40 minutes and it was soooo cool. We were all concentrating on the task at hand so hard that I think we missed much of the views we enjoyed as snorkelers, but it was super cool nonetheless. I took pictures galore with my underwater camera and traded the camera with Hal at one point. You did want to stay away from everyone else, as you were certain that if someone touched you, you would forget to breath, shoot up to the surface and see your chest expand and explode red-pink as you looked on in horror . None of us wanted that. Seriously – it was really fun and we hope to do it again someday.

The Last Day
The last day on the island started with a nice but overcast morning. At about 6:30 am I ran into Maria an Hal who were running around the island and had just spotted a green turtle that looked to be either laying or coloring her eggs. I ran to get my camera and took off for the site on the east part of the island. We sat and watched for an hour or so as this beautiful and huge turtle covered her eggs to protect them from the birds and then lumbered back to ocean before the tide went out. This was a real treat and Carol watched every last movement having encountered a turtle in Sydney who she thinks was somehow related to her. We all think it was somehow.

As we walked back to the resort area, it started to rain and the wind began to pick up, soon blowing at about 20 knots and driving heavy downpours completely sideways. We were about to get on a ferry and cross the 50 km of ocean in this storm. Oh goody! We and about 50 other guests had checked out of our rooms already and we were now ready to catch the ferry. We hung out in the lounge for a bit, and then moved to the dock when we were told the Ferry was almost here. While huddled under a roof on the dock as we were lashed with wind that turned umbrellas inside out, and pushed the rain sideways under the roof. After waiting 20 minutes or so on the dock for the Ferry to poke its bow through the grey, and then waiting for passengers to exit the boat, we all climbed on board. All of us were soaked and a bit apprehensive about getting onto a boat in this weather. We felt a bit like evacuees leaving an island in a hurricane. Man, I’d hate to experience that. As it turned out the Ferry was new, smooth, fast, and felt very safe even with an occasional lurch, and it had us to the mainland in less than two hours. We passed the time by playing cards and goofing off, trying to do all we could to keep our minds off of the nasty swells outside. We made it into Gladstone Harbor without any scary moments or sea sickness, and the passengers let out a collective sigh of relief when we tied up the boat. After 6 days on Heron Island we were all ready to head to Noosa for some quality surf and sun.

Posted by Blakei 17:13 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (2)


The "other" city

overcast 70 °F

We had heard “Sydney is like LA and Melbourne is like Seattle” enough that we were a little predisposed to the analogy. It wasn’t far off. We arrived in Melbourne to temperatures in the 90s, and as we cabbed our way to our hotel in the Central Business District, it was apparent that this city wasn’t used to the temperature. While Sydney would be wearing mainly short pants and flip flops to cope with the heat, Melbourne was wearing suits, dresses, long pants and dripping sweat. The next day, it rained all day with temps in the 70s. The analogy was fitting. Melbourne was very different from Sydney. It had a very cosmopolitan feel to it, more so than Sydney, but didn't feel like an international city. Sydney felt like an ethnic melting pot, where languages from all over could be heard just in our hotel lobby, while Melbourne seemed very Australian with most folks sounding and looking quite Australian.

We enjoyed Melbourne for different reasons than Sydney - primarily the shopping and the food. The shopping was great, and there were streets specifically for different types of shopping. Jewelry on one street, outdoor stuff on another street, vintage clothing on another, skateboard and surf gear on another. And the quality of the shops was about as good as we’ve ever seen. There was fabulous selectoin and sizes to fit everyone. There was a great walking street, (Bourke Street), in the center of town with little alleys that offered great shopping and lunch that was hard to believe. Sure, I’ll have mussels for lunch if they’re available and delicious. They were. One thing that we noticed was that Australian’s shop and they BUY. I know that Americans get pegged as the world’s biggest spenders, but holy cow, the Australian’s really know how to lay down the cash for goods. We were surprised to see so many folks shopping and holding bags stuffed to the top. Maybe it had to do with Christmas being around the corner…

The dining was fantastic and there were little alleyways filled with outdoor restaurants again with different themes. One alley was Italian, one Chinese, one continental, etc.... The Italian alley was right near our hotel and we took full advantage. Combine the shopping with the food, and for us, that kind of captured what Melbourne seemed to be about. It was an active and athletic city by most American comparisons, but it didn’t feel like life rotated around athletic endeavors the way Sydney did. The architecture was pretty cool in Melbourne as well, counter positioning very modern art against older buildings.

We took a trip about 100km outside of Melbourne down to Bells Beach, home of the Rip Curl pro surfing event and we visited Torquey, which is the corporate home of Rip Curl, and the Australian surfing museum. We intended to make it out to Philip Island on the Ferry to watch the penguins at sunset, but unfortunately we missed the Ferry by about 5 minutes. In Melbourne proper, we did find a nice skate park by the river (Riverslide) and the boys frequented the park after completing their homework, getting there and back on their own most of the time. The boys ran into Louis Marnell, one of their favorite skaters from the “Let’s Live” Volcom video. Griffin and Parker both chatted him up and got an autograph.

There seems to be a pretty fun but serious rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne with folks landing on both sides of the fence arguing which is better. They are so different it's really hard to make an apples to apples comparison. Both are awesome and we could frankly live in either place if it came down to it, but for our family, Sydney was tops – making this a pretty short Blog entry.

Posted by Blakei 19:27 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Ohhhh.... Sydney

We just can’t go back to the US now …

76 °F

Well, that’s not really true, but Sydney was so nice, that we couldn’t help but contemplate a life without moving back to the US. The people, the harbor, the skyline, the CBD, the shopping, the food, the weather, the kid friendly venues; this city has got it all. As much as we love our favorite big cities in the US, there is no city in the states that compares favorably.

For the first time on our trip, we didn’t have to stay in a hotel. We stayed in a serviced apartment that had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a laundry room (yeah!), and a full kitchen (yeah again!). Better than that, it was on the 76th floor or the Meriton tower and had great views looking west over Hyde Park on to Bondi Junction, and we could see Airplanes land and take off from the Airport 12 km away. The Meriton tower was on the edge of the Central Business District, in a lively neighborhood, and literally sat atop a mall with some great shops, convenient restaurants, a large grocery store, and even a monorail stop. We could easily manage downtown with a quick monorail ride and a little walking. Most days, we didn’t really get started until noon or later after the boys had completed their homework, so the speed of getting around town was very nice.

Animals, Animals, Animals:
Griffin is all about animals, so we had to check out all the animal venues in the city. We had heard that there were some great places in Sydney for viewing animals; The Sydney Zoo, the Sydney Aquarium and right next to the aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World... so we of course had to see ‘em all. We started our animal adventures viewing the native animals at Sydney Wildlife World. It was great to learn little facts about indigenous animals, for instance, did you know that if a stick insect looses a leg in an accident, it can grow a new one, or did you know that during mating, a female praying mantis may bite the male’s head off.. see the photo for the rest of the incredible (though predictable) fact. We also got up close and personal with some Koala Bears for some photos … who, just like Pandas, are super cute. However, unlike pandas, aren’t really bears, are perpetually high on Eucalyptus leaves , and present no risk of gouging your eyes out. From there, we ventured over to the Aquarium which featured underwater glass tunnels that allowed you to view fish around and above you. Sharks, Rays, Turtles, and giant cod swam around us and made us all feel so relaxed. .. Carol came nose to nose with a turtle and she swears it followed her around the tank. I think it just might have – perhaps foreshadowing for events later in the trip? A little more about the Zoo in a minute.

Skating Maroubra:
Skate boarding in Australia is like nothing I’ve seen in America, and we’ve only seen the Sydney area so far. The boys skated Maroubra, Bondi and Monster , which were the parks we researched from the states and each park was better than the last. Not only that, the ability of the skaters was off the charts. Young kids, 20 year old and even 40 year old skaters were fantastic. It seems every community has a skate park, and in beach communities like Maroubra and Bondi, the parks are right on the boardwalk. We took the bus to Maroubra, a beach town toward the south of Sydney that was very local and apparently used to be a pretty sketchy neighborhood, sporting race riots a few years back. It seemed to be a pretty nice community beach and I’d wager a place ripe for investment as it swings up. Carol and I hung out on the beach as the boys skated. I tried to skate but my knees were toast. Taking the bus to and from Maroubra was super easy and made the Sydney area seem so small (it isn’t).

Bondi Beach:
I have a buddy that I’ve known for some time who lives on Bondi Beach. Julian Holman is a super-fun, high-energy Aussie who is virtually impossible not to like. I hit it off with him the first time we met, and we’ve stayed in contact ever since. We were lucky that Julian was in town given his hectic schedule, and he arranged a breakfast at his business partner’s condo (Daniel Haigh) in Bondi Junction. The breakfast was awesome, and we took in the views from Daniel’s top floor apartment. We could see downtown Sydney and the water toward Bondi Beach as we ate our breakfast. After a delicious breakfast and great conversation with Daniel, Julian and their significant others ,(Lucia and Tanya respectively), we were off to Bondi beach so the boys could have a skate and Carol and I could lay out and swim or body surf. As it turned out, there was a press conference and peaceful protest at Bondi Beach that day protesting the Japanese slaughter of Humpback whales. To gather media attention, an American artist was trying to break a world record by creating a giant mural of a humpback whale, out of human bodies on the beach. Carol and I thought it would be novel to be a part of this, so while the boys skated, we joined the throng of nearly 2,500 people that created the outline of a humpback whale. Surfers, shoppers, grandmas and kids sat on the sand in the outline of the whale, while an aborigine blew whale songs on a didgeridoo. Helicopters hovered overhead and took pictures of the mural which garnered local media attention, but unfortunately didn’t break the world record, (hard to believe there was one to break). It was fun nonetheless, we learned some new things about whaling issues, and we met some great people that had also decided to be a part of this event. We picked up Griffin and Parker at the skate park and watched them throw down with some of the locals who were pretty skilled. It was fun seeing both the boys improving and gaining confidence in the mix with other skaters.

Monster Skate Park:
The boys and I left our condo at noon after studying to take the train to the Sydney Olympic Park where the new Monster skate park was built only two years earlier. Again, lending to the sense that this big city was small, getting there was a breeze in spite of it being 20km or so out side of the CBD. We had to transfer trains only once and the second train dropped us to within 600 meters of the park. The trains were clean , comfortable, fast and quiet, and made us all realize how cities like LA or even the bay area suffer from a lack of reasonable public transportation. This skate park was insane with outdoor wooden ramps, an indoor street section and a on-site shop. Also insane was the number of skaters. There must have been 200 or 300 skaters celebrating Monster’s second anniversary. A competition was being held and the boys recognized some of the skaters from skate videos and U-Tube. The quality of the skaters was incredible – and both Parker and Griffin held their own, but steered clear of the competition area until it was open for casual skating. I was ready to strangle the announcer of the event who belted loud “wooohooos!!” and nicknames, and phrases into the microphone without noticing that his comments were being broadcast at approximately one billion decibels to the entire park “ YAH JESSE!! LAYIN DOWN A 360 FLIP TO AN OVERCROOK GRINDAH!! YAHHHH JESSE! Followed by me and a few other folks “FREAKIN SHUT UP DUDE!” The train ride back to town was uneventful, but we had to switch trains a couple more times due to a track repair closure. Carol took the opportunity to hunt for some last minute things in downtown Sydney for Griffin’s Birthday which was taking place the next day.

Griffins Birthday:
Griffin turned 11 in Sydney and called all the shots for his special day. He decided we would start our day by taking the Ferry to the Sydney Zoo, then either going to Monster Park again, or doing a street skate all over Sydney’s CBD. We would follow this by opening presents, eating Pizza in our room and watching scary movies until late. That is the perfect day for Griffin. It was about 80 degrees and beautifully sunny. We took a Cab to the Ferry which takes you across Sydney Harbor to the Zoo. From the Ferry we were treated to gorgeous view of downtown, the opera house and the rocks, so pretty it felt almost cliché, where every picture we took reminded us of a post card or advertisement we had seen before. Incredible. The Sydney Zoo is the most gorgeous zoo we have ever been to, and we had debates about whether San Diego or Sydney was the best. Sydney is smaller than San Diego, but it is well laid out a bit more walk-able, cleaner, and has the great views of the Harbor and Skyline. We cruised the Zoo for a few hours and took in the animals and then took the Ferry back. We wouldn’t have time to go to Monster again as it turned out, so Parker, Griffin and Dad got on Skateboards and skated all over downtown, skating from our Hotel all the way to the Opera House, through the Rocks (the original settlement of Australia), and almost all the way back to the Hotel through Darling Harbor. The kids stopped all over town to do tricks when they saw a spot they recognized from their favorite skate videos. The kids would gasp excitedly when they recognized one, in the same way an artist might gasp when coming upon a well known piece at the Louvre. The kids got pretty tired on the skate back to the hotel and so we caught a very quick cab. We ate Pizza, opened presents and watched “Lady in the Water” and another unmemorable scary movie that kept us up past midnight. We needed some sleep because the next day was planned to be a big one.

The “Boat”
I met a business friend of mine for lunch in Sydney the second day I was in town. He had always said “when you come to Sydney, you must look me up and we’ll do lunch or take in a surf or something”. I didn’t expect to be retired when I got there and was hesitant to visit, but after some encouragement from some friends at Microsoft and yahoo, decided to ask James Packer if he’d like to do lunch. He said sure and so we had a great lunch and a lively conversation. James is an excellent businessman, a great guy that anyone would be glad to have a pint with, and someone who is incredibly unassuming. At the end of lunch, James asked if the family would like to take the boat out. I thought that would be a lot of fun and said sure. I had no idea what to expect. I talked to the captain of the boat and asked if 4 friends could come along and he said no worries, and so I invited Julian, Daniel, Tanya and Lucia. When we showed up at the designated boat dock (at the opera house), I was astounded to find a 110 foot Yacht with a 43 foot tender boat to take us back and forth the Yacht. This “boat” had a full crew, a fantastic chef, and sported a couple of living rooms, four bedrooms, two 4,000 horse power diesel engines, and a couple of Jet Skis for having some more fun. We were flabbergasted. We cruised to Palm Beach and dropped anchor in a protected bay. We dove off the sides of the boat and swam around. The back of the boat opened up and two Wave Runners were hoisted out by electric winch. Griffin was taken to a secluded shore about 600 meters away, where he built a fort and hunted for Geckos, while Parker and all the adults raced around on the wave runners (which could go 90kmph), swam, dove and listened to great tunes. Carol swam to “Griffin’s beach” and both were brought back on a Wave Runner. At the end of the day, we were all pulled on a “tube” just like you would on a ski boat behind the wave runners. That was incredible and the highlight of our Sydney visit to be sure.

When we arrived back at the dock, the kids just wanted to go to the condo, so gave them the keys and cab fare and off they went. The adults stopped for drinks at the opera house and had a great dinner at the Rocks. What a perfect end to a perfect week in what feels like the perfect city – ahhhh Sydney. We’re coming back for sure, but we’re not sure we can really leave…

Posted by Blakei 00:01 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

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