Archives for posts with tag: Koala

If there is one spot in the world that I have found to be as close to idyll, it would have to be Port Stephens on the NSW coast about 30km North of Newcastle. It is an absolutely beautiful part of the world and less than 3 hours drive North of Sydney. The port itself is a drowned valley estuary, and the large natural harbour that it makes is 134 square kilometres (52 square miles) in size. Here is what it looks like from the sky.

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For me it has everything that I want for a holiday at the beach, and one day I will live there (maybe when I am old(er)…). If you want water sport activities and fishing – tick. If you want quiet harbour beaches with no surf – tick. If you want bushwalking – tick. If you want sand dune adventures – tick. If you want relaxing by the beach – tick. And if you want riding then big tick.

So when my wife said “let’s go up to Port Stephens for the Australia Day long weekend”, I was dead keen to go up there again. This would be the first time my boy would be old enough to comprehend that this would be a fun trip, so a family trip was the order – with my road steed on the roof racks ready to go. This is where I thank my wife profusely for allowing me to indulge in some two wheel exploring of the port, and over the course of the long weekend I managed to squeeze in over 180km.

The riding is mostly flat, but when it does get to the hilly bits then it is a bit Jekyll and Hyde. What I mean by that is that it is either flat or stupidly steep. There is one hill leading from Corlette to Nelson Bay which hits 16% gradient – ouch! The steepest road I have ever ridden up is in Corlette, and it would definitely be over 25% gradient. I haven’t run the GPS over some of these routes yet, I will keep that for another time.

It is so picturesque riding through here, even when you are in the suburbs. There are many roads like this, with the beautiful and natural Australian bush right on the side of the road for kilometres on end.

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With all the surrounding national parks and preserved bush and wetlands, you are bound to see the natives. If you look closely you can see not one but two koalas in the same tree.

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A ride around the area always involves destinations like the serene Soldiers Point, which looks Westward and in the evenings to a setting sun. Early morning is not just the dominion of us cyclists, the fishermen love getting out on their boats too. But what is awesome about Port Stephens is that even at the boat ramps you can still find one that is not bustling.

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From Soldiers Point, to the West you can see a similar location known as Lemontree Passage. As the crow flies it is only some three to four kilometres away, but a round trip on the bike is close to 50 kilometres of riding. Of course I had to do that ride, and I was greeted to an awesome sunrise at the boat ramp at Lemontree Passage.

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I had to get a shot of my road steed posing with the boats of the Marine Rescue of New South Wales, who voluntarily commit to supporting the saving of lives on the water – 24 x 7. I never knew about this organisation before this last weekend, until I had the opportunity to talk to one of the volunteers who was raising money to keep their operations going. Just in Port Stephens alone last year they went out to over 100 calls.

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Finally, I had to snap this shot of a sign that held very true this last weekend. Yes Australia has some nasty critters, and Port Stephens has many of them. You have been warned…

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I often joke about the fact that the critter danger in Australia is overhyped, but on my rides I had to twice swerve to avoid a couple of small snakes on the road shoulder. No problems at 30+kph. But the crap my pants moment came when we spent the day at Fingal Bay where my son was begging to go for a ride on his balance bike. He got very tired after 3 kilometres in the heat and I ended up carrying his bike in my left hand with him sitting on my shoulders (as usual). Gazing at the beach and not looking where I was directly walking, I stepped on something rubbery but fleshy. As I turned around I saw what I didn’t want to see, one of these scurrying off into the sand dunes.

Eastern Brown Snake

And it was big, at least two metres long! Yes, I crapped myself. Because while I was trying to deny it what I had just stepped on was an Eastern Brown Snake – the second most venomous snake in the world. But he was scared, I was scared, and we called it a truce. My son from his perch said to me “Don’t worry Daddy, he is a nice snake because he didn’t eat us.”

I can’t wait to ride up here again next time – hopefully minus the serpents.

The weekend had arrived and I picked up my son – the Pok – from day care after I had finished work on Friday. He was looking forward to the weekend too, so when I asked him what he wanted to do on Saturday I was taken aback by his response – “the Zoo!”

So with sunscreen liberally applied, and hats donned, we trekked over to King Street Wharf near Darling Harbour in Sydney. The Zoo we decided to visit was the Wildlife Sydney Zoo – which features a colourful cast of native Australian animals. We had never been here, and at first I was a bit sceptical that this would be a tourist trap but boy was I surprised. Housed in a large building enclosure that has been built over Sydney Harbour with a high netted ceiling is a wonderful small zoo within an easy walk of Sydney CBD. The proximity you get to the animals left our son in a bit of a fright at first – particularly when snakes drop down from their branches to within a foot of your face having only a sheet of glass separating you. There were plenty of open enclosures for you to get close to the animals, but also safely away from those that require distance. The one I am talking about is “Rex” the 5m Saltwater Crocodile – the prime example of an apex predator.

The zoo staff support conservation and animal care and you can see they spend a great deal of time taking care of the animals and their habitats. So with my Canon Powershot G15 in hand, I tried to see if I could get some shots as opposed to snaps. I was quite happy with some of the results, even the ones that were shot through glass. BTW all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.

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Our 2 year old son had a great time visiting this zoo, and his fear of the reptiles abated ever so slightly by the end of the trip. The zoo also has plenty of other attractions to appeal to kids. In the end we all left extremely impressed, and I don’t think that this will be the last time we go here. If you visit Sydney, and only have a day or two up your sleeve, skip the tacky tourist traps like the Madame Tussauds next door and check out some of Australia’s native fauna here.

Pok at the Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #1

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