Yes, I know (like most of those unforgettable Christmas ditties we all love) that Christmas is now long gone, but this little missive is a catch up on the the festive period, fun and frolics back in Sydney and a chance to reflect on our first Christmas ‘down under’. What beautiful moments there have been too. It’s actually hard to believe we are now in January – where has the time gone?! – and although we still have a month or so left, we are even more aware of how precious those moments now are. Anyway, before I get into a maudlin state, let’s instead consider things mostly beginning with the letter C: campsite wins, coastal beauty, cycling, changing faces and, of course, Christmas and cracking fireworks!
Having made our way around and back to Sydney, it was with some trepidation that we arrived at our campsite which would be home for the next month and a bit. Finding that a campsite is a bit pants when you’re only there for a day or two is one thing, but if you’re there for 5 weeks, it needs to be better than pants. Thankfully the site at Lane Cove has proved to be a belter. Not the most swanky (actually we prefer not swanky), the facilities are basic but work well, there’s a small pool, bbqs, camp kitchen and it’s got lots of lovely trees – being that the Lane Cove National Park is literally next door. “What’s not to like” as Timmo would say. Nothing at all Timmo, especially as surrounding this green oasis is the metropolis that are the north Sydney suburbs of North Ryde, Chatswood and Lindfield to name a few. What’s more, within 400m or so there’s a Metro Station and this has given us yet another taste of how good public transport is in Sydney (and indeed all of the cities we have visited). You jump on to the metro from North Ryde to Chatwood, walk across to the neighbouring platform to jump on a train into the City centre, then change to get another train out to Bondi Junction and then the infamous 333 bus to Bondi Beach. So flippin simple, always on time and as clean and safe as you like. Brilliant, so without hassle we can be at the kid’s house in just over an hour.
Now, if like us, you have the option of travelling by motorbike (Will’s lovely Triumph Bonneville which we have affectionately named Trev), then you can do door to door in 30 mins – OK so that’s using the toll tunnel under Sydney Harbour (we rode on the road over the bridge too which was tres exciting) – but it’s not particularly expensive and is so easy and straightforward to do. So yes, this site is serving us well and not pants at all. What’s more there’s a very good supermarket within cycling distance so keeping the larder stocked is no problem either. Big thumbs up.
Now behave and cleanse any unseemly thoughts that may have crossed your mind please! I am, of course, referring to our very lovely tent awning which I may have mentioned previously but which definitely needed to come out of the bag for our protracted stay. Two very exciting things to relay to you on it’s deployment this time around. 1) we actually utilised the ‘drive away’ funtion of the drive away awning for the first time with success! Took a bit of working out getting Bob back in situ on return but nowhere near as bad as we had anticipated. This allowed us to travel away for a couple of days – more on that later – and retain our pitch without issue. 2) it has served as an excellent home for Trev the Triumph when he has had a sleep over at our gaff. Sits very nicely in the corridor bit and is as snug as.
Having this longer period in one place has given us chance to explore a bit of the coast line in this neck of the woods. We have walked the coast path from Bondi towards Coogee a few times as far as the Clovelly Bowlo (or bowling green to the less familiar), but it was nice to do the stretch up to Watsons Bay in the Manly direction. The only slight disadvantage is that some of it is less of a cliff walk (as ‘advertised’) as a roam through various neighbourhoods, but the occasional reserve/park enables a much closer look at the ocean and it is always a pleasant surprise to look inland only to quite clearly see Sydney CBD and the Bridge as a reminder of just how close it is. The whole coast line is very dramatic and beautiful and, for us, quite reminiscent of the north Cornish coast.
There was also a lovely stretch between Loves Bay and Gerringong which we did on a very hot day with Will, Nicky and Caden. Some fantastic views not only out to sea, but also inland towards Kangaroo Valley which is meant to be well worth a visit – so that’s definitely on the list for next time.
Not a new topic by any means, but one to share nevertheless. This time we were Sydney City bound all the way from the campsite! We have mentioned in previous blogs how good cycling is in most of the cities we have visited in Australia, and so we felt we needed to put Sydney’s cycleways to the test. All well and good once we actually found our way from the campsite to the first cycle way – talk about fighting your way out of a paper bag. It felt very much like we were going round in circles and that we would never actually get more than a few kms away from our start point. But ever the intrepid explorers, we persevered and finally got on our way. Another hot day, we soon felt the pressure of a few hills and the heat off the tarmac as the cycle route into the city we were following was literally next to the main highway in! After a while it veered off and took us through some very pretty tree-lined suburbs which gave more shade and respite from the sun until finally bringing to the actual Sydney Harbour Bridge which the cycle way actually continued over – how amazing it was too!
Now with all the excitement and strenuous cycling it was only right and proper that we happened across a very excellent pub where we could recharge the batteries. Not any old pub either. The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel in the heart of the historic Rocks district of Sydney, is the oldest continually licensed hotel in Sydney still trading within it’s original building and is Australia’s oldest pub brewery. Fine beer it is too! Although Three Sheets is very nice it is, as the name might suggest, on the strong side, so the tipple of choice was Smooth Sailing which Timmo enthusiastically put to the test. After a nice lunch and couple of drinks it was back in the saddle to find our way back to base. This time we happened across Darling Harbour – very trendy – and which, to Tim’s delight, was the home of the Maritime Museum which he made a note to return to on another occasion. Then our route took us over the Anzac Bridge and a couple of others which afforded great views back into Sydney harbour from another perspective. I have to say I was starting to flag a bit (I know, I probably shouldn’t have had two wines!) and the route just seemed to get more and more hilly. There was no one more glad to see the familiar landmarks surrounding the campsite than I was I can tell you and the tired legs seemed to soon be a distant memory. 40kms on a hot day with falling down juice at lunch isn’t bad going for two old uns I’d say.
Whilst reminiscing about the cycle trip, I am reminded of 3 things (of many) wot I have learnt on this trip: 1) I didn’t realise until reading a plaque whilst passing over the Anzac Bridge that Anzac is actually an acronym for Australian & New Zealand Army Corps 2) Quantas is actually an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service, and 3) rather than get bashed repeatedly by big waves in the sea, you dive under or duck under them. Honestly, so simple when you know. Very pleased with myself I was (wth the wave ducking thing, not working out the acronyms, but that was good too!)
In order to spend Christmas ‘en famille’, we had rented an AirBnb down the coast a bit from Sydney in a very pretty place called Berry. It could not have been better and what’s more there was room enough from some of Will & Nicky’s friends to join us from Boxing Day so there were lots of good people, good times and good food and drink. On that note, I had decided that 30 degrees of heat was NOT going to stop me doing the full turkey roast dinner on Christmas Day. I know. So, fortunately, we had found a very good butcher in nearby Gerringong – Joel of JD Meats – when we were staying there on our way back to Sydney pre Christmas. I was full of confidence that the mahoosive turkey and sizeable piece of ham that I had ordered were in good hands – that is until Friday 23rd December when Timmo just happened to toss in the grenade of “have you been in contact with that butchers to check all is in order for tomorrow?” “No, no need” replies I with more confidence and bluster than I actually felt on realising that maybe one interraction with a butchers shop in the middle of nowhere might not have been as reliable as I had felt it was. Well, a very disturbed night ensued with me working through the options of where a similar sized turkey and piece of ham could be procured on Christmas Eve (Tim was sleeping soundly I might add) but by morning, I had convinced myself that all would be well. I was dreading it as the time to visit said butchers arrived. In I walked and immediately made eye contact with Joel:
“Hello” said I “How are you doing?”
“Great” says Joel “What can I do for you?”
“I’m here to collect my order” whimpers I beginning to feel a bit of a a strange twisting feeling in the gut area.
“What order?” replies Joel looking me straight in the eye.
The next few seconds seemed like a lifetime and just as I was about to let out a strangled gurgle of pain, Joel’s eyes showed the slightest hint of a twinkle and the corners of his mouth started to twitch far less than my buttocks were I can tell you.
“Don’t do that to me” shouts I as he breaks into full on laughing. Bloody Aussie humour (I love it actually). He clearly has no notion of what these seemingly simple things can do to a woman with a Christmas dinner to cook and little sleep….. Anyway, Joel delivered all as promised and what beauties both pieces of meat were too (sorry any veggies out there). Christmas Day was topped off by a typical Aussie trip to the beach and dip in the sea before lunch. As Bernard Matthews once said: “Bootiful”!!
In this I’m referring to dear old Bondi Bob. Not only has he served us so well as our home over the last 4 or so months, he has shown his versatility as a transformer. First of all I mentioned that we managed to do the driving away bit from the drive-away awning with no dramas. This was so that we could pop up to Gosford so that Tim could have a reunion with both John and Ray – first time all 3 school friends had been together for 50 plus years- and so that I could actually meet John, his partner Jane, and see Ray’s wife Sally again since our get together in North Freo. It was a great couple of days with much eating, drinking, chatting and laughing and although I know nothing about boats, listening to John’s enthusiasm for his business and understanding just what an accomplished sailor he is was quite something. If only I was better on water…! What a lovely thing it is to have great friends so far away. I can’t help but be quite humbled by it. So, although these faces will have changed since their days at school, their bond and connection certainly has not! What a handsome trio they make too.
The next Bob transformation was when we packed up to head down to the Christmas house. Camping kit was emptied out into Will’s garage, then with the bed down, we were able to fill him up in true van stylie. Christmas tree, tree base, decorations, lights, Caden’s equipment, food – it was full to the gunwales! But once all packed up and on our way with our Christmas hats on and Christmas tunes on the sound system it was absolutely the first time we had fully felt in the Christmas spirit. Well done Bob!
Just one more bit of excitement to share and that is our experience of New Years Eve. Ordinarily I’m not a massive fan of New Year’s. Very happy if family are down, but never been one to need to be ‘out out’ on the last night of the year if I’m honest – although having said that, there have been some cracking ones in the past when the kids were little down the Bowlo in Barwell! Images of the year 2000 and Uncle Chris in his clown suit are quick to come to mind!!
Anyway, that said, I have to admit to not being that proactive at getting something sorted for this new year – neither was Timmo I might add – and literally on New Year’s Eve eve, we had nothing much sorted. A bit of conflabbing with Will and between us a plan emerged which I think for both of us, resulted in a great NYE. We had planned to meet and have lunch all together but an early night was definitely on the cards for W, N & C which is no surprise at all. They had managed, though, to organise with friends to meet for the afternoon at the races in Sydney so that worked out very well indeed. I think they even came in evens so all good. I had been scanning lots of options without being suitably impressed (or finding availability even if I was…) until I happened across the River Postman Boat. Now we had joined said post boat on the Hawksbury River back in 2017 and had a lovely time. They literally do what it says on the tin – they deliver the post from the boat and you can ride along. A great crowd and lovely way to spend the day. Now, I discovered, they do a NYE cruise on Sydney Harbour complete with food, drink and live music and what’s more, there was space for us two to join! What a stroke of luck and could not have been better. It was clearly meant to be. Joining the boat at 7.30 we literally cruised around the west side of the harbour from where we watched the 9pm fireworks. Then our boat was allowed (only 3 or 4 boats were) to cruise under the actual Harbour Bridge to the eastern side of the harbour and past the Opera House and beyond until we were suitably positioned to watch the midnight fireworks and then we got dropped back off at the start point at 1.30am. It was magical. Best experience ever. What a treat and such a symbol for our whole trip. Needless to say, lots of wine and fizz were enjoyed, plus lovely seafood plus dancing – even had bagpipes for Auld Lang Syne! What’s more, even though anything but sober, we managed to negotiate the wonderful public transport back to base with no worries or dramas en route – although we nearly missed our stop as we were both snoozing by this point!! But all’s well that ends well and we were safely back in Bob albeit it not until 3am!
So, there we are. What a great time we have had in our Sydney ‘home’ We’ll be back again soon but not until after we have been back on the road again – Tasmania is calling!! TTFN