Enjoy the view of the clearest beach in Mauritius, Perybere. These are my roots.
Visiting my parents in Summer is always a fun opportunity to get up to mischief in the backyard pool. The Pok (AKA my son) loves the opportunity to go for a swim with his cousins and anybody else that is prepared to jump in.
But this year Santa delivered a variety of water weaponry; water pistols, water pumpers, and the piece de resistance is the nerf water rifle with its water cassette.
I grabbed this last one as my weapon of choice, and so the battle began. I thought I was doing pretty well with my 20 feet of hyper accurate water sniping over the other low volume weapons (and the equally inferior family opponents who were carrying them) until my 9 year old niece, C, yelled out…
“Hey Uncle Chris. If you unscrew the orange lid on the cartridge, and keep that part of the gun underwater while you keep shooting, you never have to reload. You will have unlimited shots”.
What ensued for me was total domination of the battlefield (the pool). And I just got schooled in re-engineering my weaponry.
My niece C will either become the next “Tony Stark”, or end up being a globally hunted weapons smuggler. Either way, she has that “criminal cunning”. Respect!
PS – no permanent casualties were suffered in the pool, and whatever applicable parts of the Geneva Convention were adhered to.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
So I have seen some pretty weird stuff on my rides. Most times I am on the handlebars pedalling away wishing I had a camera in my eye like the 6 Million Dollar Man (yes, I just showed my age but gee that was an awesome show). But sometimes I just have to stop and take a quick snap with my mobile phone in my back pocket. This morning I saw the biggest yellow rubber duck I have ever seen in my life. I think it is part of the Sydney Festival, and was here in Sydney last year.
For the record my ride this morning was a struggle as I was pushing against a mild bout of office communicated man flu. Still, my mate JB and I pumped out a good 80km and I fought through it to get some of my fastest Strava segment times. We took a detour through Sydney Olympic Park on he return. Perfect Sydney Summer morning for a ride, no wind, few riders, perfect temperature, and low humidity.
Off to the beach this arvo I think.
OK – so this post may make some of my fellow Northern hemisphere bloggers slightly jealous, but sorry I am in the “back to work” doldrums. My Christmas Summer holidays are over and it is back to the desk in the middle of a Sydney Summer. It seemed like it went so quick! Christmas day was very wet, we belted the poms in the cricket to win back the little urn and restore balance to the force (for non-Aussies I will not translate this), and I got to take my family to the beach – several times!
We are lucky in Sydney that we have a great selection of beaches to choose from. My favourite surf beach is Maroubra because it is not full of tourists, but with a 3 year old in tow our favourite beach would have to be Balmoral within Sydney Harbour. It is family friendly with minimal surf and easy to get to, the only downside being the limited parking (which may also be the blessing to stop it from getting overcrowded).
And our boy loves it too! Whether he is pretending to be a starfish in the sand.
Or jumping over the sinkholes that we have dug in the beach.
Balmoral is a very nice stretch of sand and is very welcoming. Even for fellow beach goers trying to signal planes flying overhead with sand bucket writing.
And camping out under the sun tent is the ideal location to get stuck into the snacks that would otherwise not be allowed at home.
I have one more long weekend at the beach booked at the end of January, so hopefully looking forward to some more beach fun. It is the little travel trips that sometimes provide the best enjoyment.
Summer in Australia means many things, but one thing that I love about it is outdoor dining. Sometimes this means eating out, but more often than not it means eating in and a BBQ. We are so lucky in Australia that the quality of produce that we can get our hands on is excellent, and that the majority of Australians can afford to put a meal on the table. Add to that the vast diversity of backgrounds that make up modern Australia, and you get awesome times for lovers of eating (I am not a cook – but I am a great eater). I decided to shoot off a few snaps in between tall stories when I was invited to a mid-week meal down at my Brother and Sister In-law’s place in Melbourne (see Sal, told you I would give you a mention). Good times, and my Canon Powershot G15 is proving quite adept at low-light photography. One tip, don’t get your camera too close to the BBQ – you may get splatter on the lens. BTW all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.
Just a quick post today. I was kicked into gear yesterday morning after reading the post from another rider blogger – RevRider – “Finding Motivation Early in the Morning“. My knee had been playing up on me over the Christmas break (I had a knee reconstruction at the age of 20) and was causing me all sorts of trouble with my quadricep muscles. Dehydration from both the Summer heat and a few festive drinks over the break probably didn’t help either. For yesterday’s ride I needed all the motivation I could get, because the Bureau of Meteorology was predicting heatwave temperatures – 43 degrees Celsius (or 109 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sydney!
I planned the ride to be super early, and set my alarm clock for 4:30am. My bidons had big blocks of ice in them, and summer riding kit was donned . At 5am it was already 22 degrees and climbing, and the sun was about to present itself. As I took off on my warm up loop, which is probably one of the best in the world – along the edges of Sydney Harbour – I was awestruck by the sight that greeted me. At the end of the street it looked like what appeared to be a wall of cruise ship. It seems like everywhere I turn in Sydney now there is a cruise ship, and this is not the first time I have published a blog with cruise ships in them (Sunrise at Middle Harbour, Riding in the Silly Season in Sydney). Still it is pretty awesome to see the big ships bringing visitors keen to see my home town.
Of course I was also greeted to another glorious Cycling Sunrise, this time overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a beautiful silhouette against the dawn light.
I took all these shots with a little Christmas present I received – a Canon Powershot G15. This is an awesome prosumer compact that I will be writing up an “amateur” review of in a later post. It is small enough for me to carry in my back pocket while I go for a ride too!
I am glad I got out, because not only was I greeted to a glorious Cycling Sunrise, but also I was able to smash out a few PBs against a couple of segments on a regular route around Glebe, Annandale, and Canada Bay. Quite chuffed that I was able to get a PB up the Lilyfield Road pinch too (12% maximum gradient over 300m climb). I got back home before 7am with the mercury pushing 25 degrees by this point. By 2pm that day it had hit the stifling 43 degrees as predicted and the last time I felt heat like that was on a stopover in Dubai.
Looking forward to some more riding later on in the week and I now how have a camera that can do the shots justice on me all the time. Although there are more heat wave temperatures on the way in the coming week… better that than rain.
Cycling in the morning is offering me a few absolutely spectacular sunrises – awesome way to kick off the day. It is quite hard to capture some of these unless I stop and shoot the photo. So I have decided to now take along my little point and shoot on my rides just in case. Here are a couple captures from two dawn rides I did last week, and I am hoping to see a few more over the Christmas break. Enjoy!