Tag Archives: Family holiday

Y – Yachting Holiday – Hawkesbury River, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my series: Places I’ve Been for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

Today, we’re jumping back into our time machine and re-setting the date for the 13th December, 1982. We’ve just arrived at Mangrove Creek, where we’ll be picking up the yacht and sailing down onto the Hawkesbury River. Of course, you’ll be meeting my Mum and Dad, my ten year old brother and my 13 year old self. By the way, you might notice that my Dad bears an uncanny likeness to British actor, John Cleese. I always used to wonder why people used to say to him:”Nudge, nudge wink wink, say no more”. However, the world’s full of so many mysteries for a kid, and this was just one of many which were never sufficiently explained.

My apologies for the lack of photos. My 13 year old self wasn’t much chop with the camera, and the camera wasn’t much chop either. I’m pretty sure I was still using my Kodak Instamatic, which had the cartridge of film you put in the back which you dropped off at your local chemist for processing. My parents and brother have also requested not too subtly, that I don’t post their photos on Facebook or the blog, and I mostly honour that request.

Anyway, on the 13th – 18th December, 1982 our family spent five days onboard a yacht slowly sailing from Mangrove Creek along the Hawkesbury River into Pittwater.  Mangrove Creek is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River which flows into Broken Bay not far from where we now live at Umina Beach on the NSW Central Coast.  We also stopped off at a picnic spot called The Basin where they have a shark net set up for swimming. My Dad flew over the Hawkesbury River once when he was young and saw loads of sharks in the water. So, beyond The Basin, swimming was out.

My Dad’s had an almost life long interest in sailing, and has since become a fully-fledged sailor. That is, even if he hasn’t completed the Holy Grail…the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

However, back in 1983, he hadn’t quite gained his stripes. So when the bloke hiring out the yacht asked Dad if he could sail, he could give an honest “yes”. However, I only found out a few months ago, that Dad didn’t actually know how to stop the boat. Of course, this was only a minor detail, and thankfully, everything went swimmingly well. My Dad in his typical try his hand at anything fashion, pulled it off and we were right.

By the way, “she’ll be right, mate” is something of an Aussie creed. It’s more or less  the reverse of catastrophizing where you just take everything in your stride. Of course, the little Aussie battler who’s even had it harder than most, will always triumph in the end. If they don’t, they’ll probably just find their way down to the pub.

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One of the things I clearly remember from the trip, is that the yacht came with a dingy out the back with a pair of oars for rowing out to shore. While Dad took us out for a bit of exploring, clearly the idea was to go out by yourself. However, Dad had this thing about needing to pass your rowing licence first. Of course, my younger brother who was more sporty and better coordinated, received his licence straight away, and was able to scoot off without me. However, it took me a few goes, which I was naturally unhappy about. Indeed, I was a ball of angst…sad, angry, jealous, disappointed…every intense emotion you can think of under the sun. Of course, being 13 and the eldest didn’t help either. Well, eventually, I also managed to get my rowing licence and loved exploring the little bays and beaches along the Hawkesbury River as well.

 

Another indelible memory, was when we sailed across the heads into Pittwater battling against strong winds and a larger swell. Indeed, I still remember the slap of the salty wind in my face, and my hair taking flight. As the yacht keeled right over with the gunnels in the water, I was helping Dad with the ropes and loving every minute. The exhilaration of speed and flying into the salty, ocean wind was incredible. However, my mother and brother were both below deck and couldn’t stand it. After my difficulties getting my rowing licence, it felt particularly good to be outdoing my brother at this point, even if he was younger than me. This was my moment of triumph, but I also truly loved sailing.

Above: we went out sailing around much the same area on the 19th December, 2010 with my parents and our kids almost 27 years to the day after our family sailing holiday and now, even that’s 10 years ago.

Although we’re now mostly a sailing family, we’ve only ever had that one family holiday sleeping onboard the yacht. Indeed, we still haven’t christened Dad’s current yacht, which is quite a shame. It would be rather magical to fall sleep on nature’s water bed, don’t you think?

Have you ever been out on a yachting or boat holiday where you’ve actually slept onboard? Or, perhaps you’re more of a day sailor? Or, you love your land legs. Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

M- Melbourne…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to what I believe to be Day 13 and halfway through the Blogging A to Z April Challenge. As you may be aware, my theme for 2020 is Places I’ve Been and today, we’re off to Melbourne.

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A Melbourne Tram.

While we’re all armed to the hilt to evade the coronavirus, while we’re in Melbourne you’ll also need to keep your eyes peeled for the trams. They look innocuous enough from  a distance, but don’t be fooled. They can become terrifying missiles of personal destruction. That’s why there’s plenty of signage to keep you on your toes. So, my first word to you, is to heed the advice.

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When it came to writing about Melbourne, again I wondered whether I really had the goods. Being Sydney born and bred, Melbourne’s always been that abomination South of the border. In other words, it was the enemy.

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The Entrance to Flinders Street Station (constructed 1909) 

However, then I finally made it down to Melbourne in my early 20’s, I actually quite liked it (not that I actually let on when I came home). The trams made it very easy to get around and were quite a novelty. Moreover, I loved all the fashion outlets, especially checking out Melbourne’s great fashion Mecca, Chapel Street.

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Jules Joseph Lefebvre: Chloe, 1875.

There was also the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). However, that’s not where you’ll find Melbourne’s most famous portrait. Rather, you’ll find Chloé located in the upstairs bar of the Young and Jackson Hotel, where it’s been since 1909, and not without controversy.

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Of course, as a Sydneysider, it’s very tempting to point out all the things that Melbourne hasn’t got. First cab off the rank, of course, is our beautiful harbour, and Melbourne seems a bit short-changed with its alternative… the muddy Yarra River. Adding to that, there’s no SYDNEY Opera House and no SYDNEY Harbour Bridge. It doesn’t live up to us on the beach front either. After all, it doesn’t have Bondi either!!

 

However, there’s one thing Melbourne has which Sydney’s sorely missing.  That is Masterchef. Yes, Masterchef is based in Melbourne. So, if Melbourne wasn’t the Australian food capital before Masterchef, it certainly is now. That in itself could be reason enough to defect. I wouldn’t be the first, and I won’t be the last.

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Watching Aussie Rules Football. Sorry Melbourne. This photo was taken at the SCG and I’m sporting my Sydney Swans Scarf.

Melbourne is also the capital of Australian Rules Football, and the finale is held down there every year no matter whose playing. I’ve never been to a match in Melbourne, but the family would like to make it down for the final one day, although it is very expensive. By the way, I’m a Sydney Swans supporter, our son goes for Greater Western Sydney, while Geoff goes for Essendon and any team that’s playing Collingwood.

Of course, Melbourne isn’t completely devoid of beaches. While I haven’t really checked most of them out, I have been to Brighton Beach, with its brightly painted bathing boxes, which are well over a hundred years old and date back to the Victorian era where one didn’t strut down the main street showing your ankles let alone in your bikini.

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Early Morning Port Melbourne Viewed From The Spirit of Tasmania. 

This brings me to Port Melbourne, which we experienced at sunrise after sailing overnight  on board the Spirit of Tasmania. However, although I didn’t know it at the time, my Great Grandfather, Reuben Gardiner, who was a Second Mate on board the Adelaide Steamship Company’s coal steamer, the Dilkera,  had had a very different experience of Port Melbourne.

On Tuesday 8th April, 1924, the Dilkera, ploughed into a small coastal steamer, the Wyrallah, which had steered right in front of the Dilkara’s path in a treacherous stretch of water near the entrance of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay, known as The Rip.  Five crew members and one passenger on board the Wyrallah drowned. Indeed, the Wyrallah sank like a stone in less than ten minutes, while the heartbreaking cries of the drowning men could still heard from the Dilkera, until there was nothing but silence. If you would like to read more about the collision, you can reach a previous post HERE.

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Yours truly at Federation Square.

We probably shouldn’t leave Melbourne on such a tragic note and so I’ll take you on a quick virtual tour of the National Gallery of Victoria (the NGV). Firstly there’s the Marking-Time exhibition of Indigenous art. “This exhibition explores drawings and markings of figures, signs or text made on public surfaces across Indigenous Australia, from rock face to now. ” There’s also Top Arts 2020 Top Arts 2020 which celebrates the exceptional and thought-provoking work of VCE Art and VCE Studio Arts students. Drawn from a range of media, topics, schools and students, Top Arts 2020 is part of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s annual showcasing of excellence. This LINK will take you on a virtual tour of the exhibition. To be perfectly honest with you, I found it a little creepy exploring this vast white gallery space designed for large milling crowds of people, but is conspicuously empty. Of course, this has nothing to do with our current scenario of social distancing which has naturally closed the gallery altogether leaving the artworks together to haunt each other in this ghostly space. BTW I also had a bit of fun running through this virtual gallery with my mouse, where there was no one to throw me out and spoil the fun.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our tour of Melbourne. You never know quite where you’re going to end up on one of my tours. However, by now you’ve learned to expect the expected.

Have you ever been to Melbourne? Or, perhaps you live there and can really show me up with a few more detailed posts. I acknowledge this barely scratches the surface. Indeed, I freely admit that I barely know the place. However, since it’s looking like we won’t be able to go overseas for quite a long time,  an extended trip to Melbourne where we could also catch up with family is probably on the cards.

Sending love to you and yours through these difficult times.

Love,

Rowena

 

 

Flying Through The Eye…Friday Fictioneers.

As a five year old, Molly’s perspective of their European vacation was very different to her Mum and Dad’s.

While they were engrossed in the minutae of the architectural details, Molly’s gaze wandered upwards, drawn towards the huge eye peering down through the roof. The eye of a friendly giant.

“Molly! Molly!” he beckoned.

Sensing a miraculous adventure, Molly let go of her mother’s hand and started rising higher and higher. “OMG! Mummy! Daddy! I’m flying”

Then, she looked down.There was only blue sky, clouds and teeny weeny rooftops as small as Monopoly houses and the moon lay up ahead.

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Dipping My Toe in the Snow.

Wow! After more than seven long hours of driving and spending our first night in Jindabyne, we arrived bright and early in Perisher, otherwise known as “the snow”.

As I looked around soaking it up, I felt like I’d landed in a huge tub of cheap, whiter-than-white, vanilla ice cream. You know the stuff that’s pure white and not one of the better, creamy vanilla ice creams. The snow was deliciously thick and the skiers out on the slopes looked like those miniature figures you stick on top of birthday cakes. All we were missing was the candles, a match and Happy Birthday!

The weather wasn’t the best on our first morning. It had rained a lot the day before and the mountain was shrouded in mist. You couldn’t even see mid-station, let alone the summit. Visibility is a good thing when you’re skiing. By midday, the mist had lifted clearing the way for azure blue skies, which we enjoyed for the rest of the week. It was serious beach weather and all that was missing was the water. However, despite the balmy sunshine, it was still only 6-8°C out there and definitely NOT bikini weather…even for our daughter!!

Sun shining through the Snow Gums, Perisher.

Sun shining through the Snow Gums, Perisher.

While our kids went straight to ski school and my husband headed out to the slopes as soon as he could get the rest of us organised, I’d booked an adaptive ski lesson at 11.30 and had a bit of a wait. I am a member of the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association and I receive lift tickets and ski instruction half-price. We also received some much appreciated financial assistance under the Flexi-Rest program.

My instructor helping me on the Magic Carpet last year. I didn't need that hand this year. Could get up the carpet myself.

My instructor helping me on the Magic Carpet last year. I didn’t need that hand this year. Could get up the carpet myself.

I was stoked to book a lesson in with Tom, my ski instructor from last year. Tom is a specially-trained, adaptive ski instructor. He’s mean on two skis but I’ve heard that he’s also a legend in a sit chair. While it’s an achievement to be able to ski at this level, it is such an inspiration to see someone use their physical strength and expertise for good and to help people who are experiencing a few extra challenges, achieve their dream of skiing. This not only takes exceptional skiing ability but also a detailed understanding of the subtleties of so many different disabilities, treating people with respect and knowing when and how to encourage while bearing real and potentially risky limitations in mind. I was going to say that this is a gift, a talent but it’s no doubt taken a lot of hard work, a good set of listening ears and a real passion and empathy for helping people with disabilities to reach their potential.

I can’t tell you what this has meant to me and our family. It really is a terrible thing when you can’t go on a family holiday and do things together. That one member of the family is shut out and excluded when with a bit of patient, qualified assistance, they could be taking part. While I always appreciate a bit of “me-time” and having a break, it’s quite something else to be shut out of family activities. Through Tom’s help, the bird was set free from her cage and truly able to soar!!

Last year, Tom actually skied backwards down the mountain for me. That’s right. Tom skied backwards down the mountain so I could ski forwards feeling safe yet encouraged. This was much the same way as you see a parent encourage their toddler to walk beyond their first few tentative steps. How many people can say that anyone’s done that for them? Not many, I’m sure!! But Tom did that for me. Being a ski instructor, skiing backwards down a mountain wasn’t a big deal for him but it made a huge difference to a completely freaked out, panic-stricken me. There I was gobsmacked, perched on the very edge of the world holding my breath as I looked down, down, down. Perisher Village had shrunk into nothing more than a handful of dots. It was such a long, long way down and I was held in the very grip of fear. Indeed, I was frozen to the spot until I fell over. As much as I wanted a skidoo to come to my rescue, Tom went backwards down the steepest part at the top of the mountain holding my hands to encourage me down. I’m surprised that he wasn’t needing to dangle chocolate in front of me to lure me down, I was that frightened. At the same time, I desperately wanted to pull off this challenge. It had been in the pipeline for an entire year and I wanted to ski down this blasted mountain and turn my personal mountain around. I wanted to ring that victory bell!!!!

So having reached the bottom of the mountain, you can understand why Tom is my hero and has earned my respect. Oh please! I’m not some shameless, gushing cougar. No, I’m a skier! Tom and I discuss life, philosophy, writing, books and of course skiing while we’re out on the slopes. You do get to have a bit of a chat while you’re on the magic carpet. It takes awhile to crank you up even a small slope.

So there I was (along with Geoff who wanted to see how I went) a year later meeting Tom for my lesson on day 1. It was great to catch up but at the same time, I was apprehensive. How was I going to go after getting through pneumonia, a flare up of my auto-immune disease (which attacks and destroys my muscles by the way) and chemo? This savage trifecta might have knocked me down and tried its best to wipe me out but I’d got up again. Not just on my own strength but because effective treatment is available and also through the power of prayer. God wasn’t sleeping on the job either.

When it came to getting back onto the snow again, that’s where having a qualified instructor really made a difference. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have known quite how to get myself back onto the snow. However, Tom had me moving my legs back and forwards to get used to gliding and we did a few other bits and pieces and my ski legs almost came straight back to me. I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat amazed.

In no time at all, I was back up on the magic carpet and we were both seriously impressed. I had pretty much picked up where I’d left off last time. I was fairly smooth aside from some serious jolts and wobbles getting on the magic carpet. We did some snowploughs, turns and once again he drew the `S’ in the snow with his pole to illustrate turning. It all went so well…almost uneventful, which was pretty hard to believe after everything I’d been through. Last year, Tom even had to remind me to breathe on my first couple of days. Talk about progress!

It turned out that Tom was going to be away for a few days and so I’d be having some different instructors. I was initially very wary because Tom knew me so well and I hate having to explain my issues over and over again. Tom had also been quite literally my tower of strength last year. I am quite tall and when I fall over, it can be quite difficult for me to get myself up again even on land let alone on slippery skis in the snow. I knew Tom could do that. It really helps when you know someone knows you in this way and can help you.

Yet, while Tom and I are great mates, it was good for me to go with the other instructors because they each brought something new or emphasized a different element and so I developed quite a lot of depth to my skiing. It also meant that I came to rely more on my own strength and appreciate that it was me and not just Tom that was bringing about my success. I was practicing for an hour every day in addition to my lesson so I’d made quite a commitment to improving my skiing and was working as hard as I could. While practice might make perfect and it is tempting to try to get value for your ski pass, I do have a “smaller engine” and I really had to pace myself to get through the day. Two hours of skiing for me was my limit.

Close up a snow gum. They are so tenacious, enduring often extreme conditions yet so beautiful.

Close up a snow gum. They are so tenacious, enduring often extreme conditions yet so beautiful.

While my first day of skiing went exceptionally well, I hit an unexpected snag. Someone took my skis. Everyone stacks their skis on the racks provided and given that it’s mostly hired gear, you can understand people getting their skis mixed up. However, I had been using Geoff’s own poles and these were clearly labelled in not one but three places. At first, we spotted a pair of similar skis near where I’d left mine and thought there had been a mix up. Night skiing was on so people were still hanging around at the end of the day waiting to go out again so there were still quite a lot of skis out there. Soon those skis had been claimed and things were looking bad. Geoff rang through to the ski hire company and fortunately, someone had dropped my skis back to a ski hire place in Jindabyne. It turned out their skis were a different colour to mine on a different rack so you’ve really got to wonder what they were thinking. There I was with all sorts of memory issues from chemo brain yet someone else mixed their skis up and took mine!! You could say it takes brains.

That night, Geoff logged in and check out our ski stats. While my altitude metres were pretty woeful and that included my trip up to mid station as a walker to get my hot chocolate, I did actually score the most lift rides for the day. That’s the advantage of taking the magic carpet. It’s short and sweet.

The easy way to get down the mountain.

The easy way to get down the mountain.

As pleased as I was with my progress, the mountain was still looming ahead. How would I work up the courage to get down the mountain again?

I still didn’t know.

Stayed tuned for further installments!

xx Rowena