Archives for posts with tag: Australia

Summer is in it’s final month here in Sydney. But being Summer it also means water and outdoors at night. One of our favourite things to try and do each year is to attend the Open Air Cinema between the Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. It is not cheap, but seeing at least one movie during the season has become a tradition of ours. The first time we went was to see the movie “Saving Grace” which turned out to be quite hilarious for two reasons. Firstly good movie, and secondly we watched the entire movie in a torrential downpour with ponchos on. I suppose a big part of what you pay for is the stunning location to watch the movie – here was our movie theatre for the evening.

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For the uninitiated, you can get caught out with the way the whole thing works. There are no reserved seats, and one of the first things you have to do is lay claim to yours for the evening (not before grabbing a Lindor ball though – though no black or blue ones were on offer).

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For the evening I was ‘Bill Collins’ of “Golden Years of Hollywood” fame (it’s an Aussie thing).

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Once the seats are secured, then it is off to get fed and watered. This is the best way to catch dinner and a movie with a great view. Again, reserving your seats for the dining is essential to.

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We went with friends this year, and managed to get tickets to the Christopher Nolan film – “Interstellar”. I was quite chuffed! It was the first time our mates had been to this Open Air Cinema – which for me was a real shock because they are proper movie buffs. Every year we try and go see anything, so long as we go. But it was a bonus to get tickets (and they sell out real fast!) to a movie that we both wanted to see. [side note – last year we saw “Anna Karenina”… nuff said about those two hours of my life lost forever]

So as the sun set on our meal which was watered with a couple of bottles of New Zealand’s finest, the pre-show experience begun. Lift the screen!

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Yes, the screen is firmly planted within Sydney Harbour. Now the only gripe that I had about this year was that I missed out on the latest Peroni beer advert which is usually screened before the film. Apparently there was a minor firework display which was more important. [second side note – unless the fireworks display is great and loud, us Sydneysiders will be very critical. New Year’s Eve anyone?]

With all that harbour and skyline behind the screen you would think it would be a major distraction to watching the movie. Except, the sound is awesome! No chance of a directionally challenged fruit bat ruining the evening by crashing into the screen, its sonar is overpowered by the fantastic audio setup.

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So we settled in to watch the movie, and had a good time interrupting our fellow movie patrons by discerning whether there were flaws in Hollywood science. The robots were cool, the spaceships were cool (not Rebel Alliance cool, but cool), and the story was cool.

[third and final side note – sorry ladies but I don’t know what the fuss about McConaughey is, he looked a bit ragged in this movie 😉 ]

While it is hard to get tickets, if you are in Sydney over the January / February period this is quite an experience. Our friends loved it and I think they will be return patrons. I definitely recommend it, and look forward to going again hopefully next year. Just be prepared with a poncho…

Nothing to say, just the photo (with a little help from Pixlr on my Android).

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I have been long overdue for a blood donation at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. I was booked in for a donation this morning for a blood plasma, when I was asked if I could donate platelets instead. Apparently I have a high platelet count (for no other reason than I have), and some poor soul does not. He or She is in desperate need on a daily basis of platelet transfusions until they can find a suitable bone marrow donor – not an easy job. So my Friday Fone Foto is a simple one, a new blood sucking machine that I have become acquainted with. 🙂

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I don’t like pushing my causes on others, but if you can donate then why not? The needle only tickles, the staff are always awesome, and plus they give you a free milkshake after your donation!

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We were fortunate to have spent the weekend just past up in the New South Wales Hunter Valley – wine country! Of course with a drive of just over two hours it provided me the opportunity to pack my road bike steed on the roof and plan for a ride. I had never ridden up in the wine country before, but have driven through the valley on many occasions. What I recall is the poor quality of the roads up there in certain sections, and many of the smaller vineyards being access via unsealed roads. So to be honest, I was a bit nervous riding up there – particularly with the speed differential between me as a cyclist and the cars travelling at 80kph (50mph). And being wine country, I had noticed that many car drivers are a bit tipsy wobbly behind the wheel. I planned two morning rides on the Saturday and the Sunday, but this trip is the only one where I prioritise the vine before the bike and I only managed to squeeze in a Saturday morning ride (I know that this breaks Rule #11 – I will pay penance at Velofix later this week).

I set off at 6:30 on Saturday morning, and what a glorious start to the day it was. The sun rising over the hills gradually illuminating the vineyards from long shadows. The air was fresh, wine country is farming country. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, which provided me good access to high quality tarmac to roll on from the get go. The first part of my ride was up North through Lovedale.

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The vineyards on some of the properties are quite close to the roads, and you get a real sense of what you are riding through. It kind of makes you thirsty…

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The other non-wine farms are just as picturesque. This view of the rising sun through the eucalyptus trees created stunning shadows for many metres along the northern stretch of my route.

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I was disappointed that there were no grapes on the vines, but it was the wrong time of the harvest season. Still, the weather has been pretty good, the vines looked healthy, so hopefully it will be a bumper year.

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It was not flat on this ride, and as soon as you get off the main roads it becomes quite bumpy and gravelly. There was also a fair amount of roadwork going on that is not due to be completed until next year some time. For the stretches that were complete, the road was smooth as glass – the sort of road that cyclists dream about on a perfect ride. But it was far too bumpy for my liking through Pokolbin on 23mm tyres. It was so bumpy that as I headed back through the Eastern section of Pokolbin, the rattling shook my light completely out of its socket at 45kph. I had to slam on the brakes and backtrack to see if I could find where it had bounced off to. Fortunately it was still working and easily found, albeit with a few battle scars inflicted by some harsh gravel. While there I decided to ride up to Hope Estate winery, where I got married. It was surreal being in the saddle riding up the long driveway, knowing that my wife and two children were sleeping back at the hotel. Since we were married back in 2008 the property has changed significantly, not to mention the paving of the driveway.

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As I was heading back, the wind was beginning to pick up quite strongly. Later that afternoon as we were driving from cellar door to door I noticed the wind was properly buffeting everything. By the time I headed back the morning had well and truly arrived, with the South Eastern part of the valley in full morning glow. Quite a sight.

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I will definitely ride up here again, but now better prepared. Here are my tips for riding up in the Hunter Valley:

  1. Recon your route in the car properly (via a few cellar door tastings if you can). The conditions of many stretches of road were not what I remembered them to be. And for whatever reason, many of the roads are not very well maintained.
  2. Go early – the valley is practically asleep before 8am and the roads are only being traveled by sober drivers who are trying to go about their business. For this ride I only passed one other cyclists and perhaps was passed by 30 cars in total.
  3. Swap out your rubber to some wider and harder wearing tyres (28mm if you can). It was like riding pave or cyclocross in some sections. Which leads me to my next point…
  4. Consider riding a cyclocross or flat bar hybrid / mountain bike. While the road bike was good for riding on the good roads, there are many unsealed roads that are more akin to riding the Strade Bianche.
  5. If drinking copious amounts of wine the day/night before then hydrate up. I was parched before I had even started riding.
  6. Be prepared for the elements. It is windy and exposed through the valley, and the sun is quite strong.
  7. Enjoy the view! There is no point racing through this area, it is picturesque and beautiful. I made sure to take it in while in the saddle and I definitely noticed many different things riding than I have ever done behind the wheel of a car.
  8. Be self sufficient for the ride, nothing is open in the early morning. It would appear that the valley does not kick in until 10am, so sourcing any refills would have been a no go.
  9. Watch the speed difference between you and the cars. While most of the roads I rode on were marked at 80kph, I would not have been surprised many were travelling faster.
  10. Make sure you ride up there! I was contemplating leaving the bike behind, but it was a beautiful ride up there in the wine country.

 

Jack Mundey, the man who stood up to save ‘The Rocks’ in Sydney. You might not agree with his background, but the outcome has benefited all Sydneysiders.

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It’s a public holiday long weekend in Sydney, so my riding buddy AC made the call – time to go for a ride 120km of epicness. Sounded good to me. The proposed route would be to head south of Sydney, through ‘The Shire’ and into the Royal National Park (RNP). With the return leg via some out of the way roads following one of the train lines. Here is the route, and the profile (yes a bit of uphill ouch in this ride):

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Now Sydney is not known for being friendly for cyclists, us riders wish it was, but it is not. If you want that, then go relocate to Melbourne or Adelaide. So for this ride we set off at 4am, not to get a clean run down to the park, but to avoid the dreaded Sydney traffic on a Saturday on the return. Yes, 4am is when sparrows are farting before they wake up, but hey. This was a tough ride, but also one of the strangest that I have done in a long time.

Firstly I made the mistake of dressing for the cool pre-dawn conditions, and not the warm morning temperature. I got cooked, and received multiple visits late in the ride from the dudes who live in cramp city. Those dudes are buggers, and I am sure they are mates with the ‘Man with the Hammer’.

Secondly after about 30 clicks into our journey, just past 5am, we came up to this rather large guy in khaki shorts riding a flat bar hybrid bike with pannier racks. Our pace was much quicker than his, but as we were coming to overtake him, he looked at us and then buried himself just so we couldn’t overtake him. It was hilarious. He even ran a couple of red lights to get ahead. We were toying with him like a lion does with a mouse, after all we had nothing to prove and had another 90 clicks to go. But as we neared the road that would take us to the RNP we dropped the hammer and dropped him.

Thirdly we had fun(?) on some stupid gradients as we climbed out of the first of several valleys we would be hitting for the day. Only to be buzzed and yelled at by a couple of kids on their learner plates who probably don’t even shave. That would have been around 6:45am – seriously boys, don’t be idiots and get a life.

The final bit of weirdness though was in the final stretches of the ride, with our end in sight. I was cooked and AC rode ahead through a roundabout turning right. I was a good 200m behind him at least, struggling with those cramp city dudes. As I came to the roundabout I signaled with my arm that I would be turning right. I had right of way and the oncoming traffic by law would have to yield, particularly as I was already in the roundabout turning. Rapidly advancing towards me was an Mercedes AMG C63, a car I wish I could afford to drive. But instead of giving way, the Merc sped up and flew into the roundabout cutting me off and forcing me to slam on the brakes and hold the back end of my bike from flying out. The driver didn’t even indicate his change of direction. This is not the first time this has happened and probably won’t be the last, but…

This NEVER happens on a bike ride

The Merc driver took off with me waving my hand at him for the danger he had put me in. Then another large sedan, a Holden (GM) Commodore, came flying past me from behind with its engine revving. This was strange indeed. The Holden flew up behind the Mercedes, almost bumping him. Then a set of red and blue lights in the Holden’s rear window started flashing. The siren came on, indicating to the Merc driver to pull over. Sure enough an unmarked police car witnessed the whole incident and the Merc driver was about to cop a fine or two. The real rub for the miscreant driver is that given it is a long weekend in Sydney it is also double demerit points off your license for any traffic infringement. Ouch! This never ever happens, never! I rode past the cop and the miscreant driver, shaking my head at him. AC was waiting for me and he asked what happened. I gave him the low down, and his jaw dropped – “No way!” The miscreant driver ended up catching up with us, and as he drove past he tapped his finger against his head. Lesson learnt perhaps, I hope so because as riders we are very vulnerable to any metal engined machine on four wheels and we always come out second best.

I am not sure whether I should buy a lottery ticket or not, but thanks to the cop for taking my safety into consideration. And thanks to AC for pulling me along on an epic and weird bike ride.

 

 

Nothing to say, just the photo

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Spring has truly come on in earnest in Sydney, and it is wonderful to see in all its glory. I think that quite often this is the best time of the year. Warm weather, but not too humid. Days are not too short, but the sun is not rising at stupid times in the morning. And the Gardens are in bloom.

The Sydney Botanic Gardens are very accessible from the Sydney CBD, and it is about now that people flock to the grounds to enjoy lunch on the grass or go for a run. Unlike European gardens, you can walk on the grass and sit down to enjoy nature. So with camera phone in hand, I took a short visit at lunchtime to the gardens and snapped the flora in bloom. These didn’t turn out too bad being taken with a camera phone, but I suppose the light was at its brightest. As usual, the images link through to the larger photos on my Flickr account.

Enjoy!

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Nothing to say, just the photo.

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Nothing to say, just the photo.

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