It’s Christmas Eve and amazingly we’ve now been here for 9 days, our feet have hardly seem to have touched the ground since we arrived; the pace of life is definitely faster than it was in Mauritius!
Our well laid plans to meet up with Thomas at Kuala Lumpur went astray as his flight from London was late arriving so we left KL without him. Apparently his plane was actually on the ground but there was no gate available so, after waiting for an hour, our Malaysian Airlines A330 finally took
off, minus 62 passengers from the London flight. Half of the 8 hour flight to Sydney was over Australia, crossing the Western Australian coast high above Broome, more than 1000 miles north of Perth. After 4 hours overflying Australia we had a good understanding of why some people call it the Great Bugger All!
Arrival at Sydney airport was smooth and trouble free; the signs at immigration informed us that filming for the Border Security documentary was in progress but, as we didn’t get pulled over, we missed out on our chance of a starring role. We then hit the bar at our cheap, but perfectly adequate, airport hotel in an attempt to fool our body clocks into sleeping 7 hours earlier than they were used to. This was moderately successful and, after a quick night, we were finally able to collect Thomas, whose delayed flight arrived yet another hour late as it had to circle round waiting for a tornado to finish destroying Kurnell, a local town near the airport. (We were blissfully unaware of this as we were inside the terminal building at the time!)
Then it was a 2 hour drive south to Kiama, just after Woollangong, where we spent the first 4 nights with Ian’s aunt and uncle, Agnes and Jimmy, getting over our jet-lag. Not surprisingly we found it very different after Mauritius, with more of an American feel about the suburban landscape. Also the temperature was very pleasant, in the mid-twenties, after the oppressive heat which had been building in Mauritius in the weeks prior to our departure. (Little did we know
what lay ahead!)
Kiama itself is a nice, laid-back, sea-side town with some quaint old buildings, loads (or heaps as they say here) of coffee shops, a lighthouse, a blowhole and 4 beaches. On the first morning Ian was awake enough to get down to the seafront to watch the sunrise – after that we reverted to normal waking hours.
We spent the next 3 days exploring the varied landscapes in this part of NSW, whilst being well looked after by our hosts. We were impressed and surprised by the variety of NSW landscapes; from the views atop Saddleback Mountain above Kiama,
the rainforest at Minnamurra, the town beaches at Woollongong, (populated mainly by students), the escarpment looming over the rural coastal strip, Seven mile beach to the south of Kiama and the coastal flats out to the fishing village at Greenwell Point. We enjoyed fish’n chips for lunch here one day, keeping a wary eye on the pelicans before returning for a couple of
hours laying on 7-mile beach and getting battered by the surf. With no reef here to protect the beaches we were literally getting swept off our feet by the huge, powerful, waves.
By the weekend the temperature had climbed to the low 30s and the local TV news was dominated by the bush fires to the south, in Victoria. We left Kiama behind on Sunday and drove for a couple of hours westwards, climbing up the escarpment face into the southern highlands and up to the farm owned by Chris and Bettyann , the parents of Natalie’s good friend Belinda. Their flight down to Sydney from Cairns had been delayed so we arrived a few hours before them to 38 degree heat.
The house is built on a plot of several hundred acres of land, deep in the bush at the end of a long
dirt track road. It sits at the top of a slope overlooking a lake formed by a creek which had been dammed some 50 years ago by Chris’s father – a successful Sydney doctor turned cattle rancher. On the other side of the lake is a steep, wooded slope where the Kookaburras were making their presence heard. (Laugh Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra, etc)
With no a/c in the house and the fans just pushing hot air around, we really didn’t think we were going to survive 2 hours up there, let alone 2 nights! However by the end of the afternoon it had cooled enough for us to venture out for a walk up behind the house, through the woods to the open fields beyond – all the time watching out for snakes whilst trying in vain to fight off the aggressive local fly population. Although we saw lots of evidence of their presence, we weren’t lucky enough to actually see wombats but we did see a number of Kangaroos hopping across the open fields in the distance. Our hosts eventually arrived just as it was getting dark and in time for dinner and we spent that evening and the following day, just chilling and helping out with odd jobs around the homestead.
By the following day the weather had followed the course predicted by the forecast and had cooled significantly with a day of rainfall and by the time we left on Tuesday morning it was down to 12 degrees, forcing us to wear long trousers and socks for the first time since leaving England in late September. After a 2-hour drive to Sydney in pouring rain and heavy traffic, we arrived at our AirBnB accommodation in Randwick a trendy suburb to the S-E of Sydney. Once we got ourselves moved in we didn’t get up to much as it rained non-stop all day. But we DID spend time appreciating the unlimited wifi access throughout the house and the multiple channels on the TV – luxury after our apartment in Mauritius!
Wednesday was a manic day for us as we crammed all of our Christmas shopping into a single day. We started by food shopping at the local mall in Bondi Junction, continued by shopping for gifts on Pitt and George Streets in downtown Sydney and finished off
by joining the crowds at 11pm at the famous Sydney fish markets. Along the way we fitted in dinner at a bar down by Circular Quay and caught our first glimpse of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House (floodlit by that time of night). By the time we finally got home just after midnight we were laden with bags and totally exhausted. But at least we had everything in for Christmas and we’ve been able to enjoy a relaxed Christmas Eve, checking out the local beaches (Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee are all close with Bondi not far away either) and getting everything ready for the girls’ arrival on Christmas morning.
So it’s now late afternoon on Christmas Eve, it 29 degrees outside, Thomas and Ian are just back from 2 hours on Coogee Beach whilst Jan has been preparing tomorrow’s food. The last of the booze has been bought, Thomas is decorating the tree and we’re about to download some Christmas songs from the iTunes store.
Merry Christmas Everybody!