Saturday, 24 April 2010

Saturday 10/4

Over a leisurely breakfast, we discussed where to go and what to see today. Alex was pushing (really hard!!) to go to the Powerhouse Museum so we decided to head into the city on the train and take it from there.

We arrived at the train station to see one just leaving and were a bit concerned that we would have an hour's wait for the next one. I was looking around for a timetable when I realised there
was actually a manned (personed?) ticket booth with a friendly helpful looking person inside.

After overcoming my shock at there actually being someone around to help (a very unlikely situation on most Perth train stations!), I asked if there was such a thing as a family daytripper ticket. Miss Smiley Face in the booth (whatever she was on, I want some!!) replied that indeed there was and proceeded to sell me one at the jaw dropping price of $45.40. It was about then that I realised we weren't in Kansas Perth anymore. The same thing in Perth would cost less than $10!! Thinking this over later, I did come to the conclusion that there are a lot more trains, buses and ferries in Sydney than Perth could ever aspire to, so maybe the cost was justified after all.

The 9:40 double decker train on the 'light blue' line arrived soon after and the boys were fascinated with the seat backs that flipped over so you could change the direction you were facing. We did a deal with them that we would travel on the bottom level into the city and the top level on the way home, but only if they stopped changing all the seats and just sat down.

It took us just over an hour to get to the central station (there's something like 9 stations in the main CBD) and, after fighting our way through the lemmings people who knew where they were going, we emerged from the bowels of the Earth into the sunshine and headed for the Powerhouse Museum. When the tourist guides said that it was an easy five minute walk from Central, they must have used one of the Olympics' competitive walkers as a guide, because fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the very non-descript building and made our way inside.

I paid the $30 for us all to get in (forgetting to use the discount coupon I had specifically brought with me .. duh!) and we set off to explore. It is the kind of place you could easily spend a whole day or two in and still not see everything. Of course some things didn't interest the boys, or us, but we had a great time checking out the 'Back to the 80's' exhibit. Many great memories for Peter and I and the kids had wonderful fun trying to play all the old video games like Frogger, Space Invaders and Donkey Kong in their original formats on the original equipment. There were so many kids there, all fascinated with the fact that this was as good as it got back then! We spent about 3 hours wandering around, had a quick snack then checked out the souvenir shop. Total and utter waste of space unless you wanted designer home wares or very expensive toys. It was like a high-end department store instead of a souvenir shop. Not one thing was branded as coming from the Powerhouse Museum which kind of defeats the purpose of calling it a souvenir shop, in my opinion.

We walked back to Central station and caught the train over to Darling Harbour to check out the Harbour Bridge (from the ground this time) and The Sydney Opera House. It was getting quite warm so we treated the boys to an ice cream as we walked around to Bennelong Point, where the Opera House is.

There was some sort of triathlon going on, so a lot of the walkways were fenced off to protect people from the bikes speeding past, but we managed to get the boys onto the steps of the Opera House for a photo. If you squint really hard, you may be able to see them up there somewhere...

We then took a walk around to the other side of the Opera House to get out of the sun before heading back to to the train station. We had planned on taking the train across the Harbour Bridge to visit Luna Park, but Peter suggested we take the ferry instead. As you may or may not know, Peter has a 'thing' about boats so this was a very generous offer on his behalf and the boys jumped at the chance. We caught the 3:45 ferry and I realised why Peter thought he would be able to handle the trip .. it took literally five minutes!
We took the obligatory tourist photos out the front of Luna Park and then made our way inside (something with free entry .. yay!) to check it all out. The last time I came here as a kid, it was closed for the season, so it was good to be able to go in and see what all the fuss was about.
I'm still not sure what all the fuss is about, as everything costs an arm, leg and a kidney and was so crowded, there was a 20 minute queue for a bag of fairy floss, let alone the rides! We gave the boys some money but they were soon back complaining that it wasn't worth spending all their money on one ride .. taught them well! .. and they didn't want to wait 40 minutes for a five minute ride. We grabbed some food instead (goodbye kidney .. it was nice knowing you!) and then sat down quietly for a while.

Andrew had started complaining of feeling unwell, so he had a rest on Pete's lap while the other two and I browsed the souvenir shop. Peter got a travel mug with Luna Park on it, but the boys couldn't find anything they wanted so we left and just managed to catch the 5:31 ferry back across to Circular Quay. It was a lot rougher crossing the harbour this time and we were all glad to get off at the other end. After we got off, I noticed that the ferry was named Alexander so that may explain the difference!

We walked back up to the train station and managed to get seats together on the rather crowded train headed back to Glenfield. Drew was still feeling unwell, so he leaned on me until about halfway 'home' when he got a second wind. Then we I had to contend with all three four of them being hyped up and playing silly games, but luckily we had most of the carriage to ourselves so it wasn't too much of an issue.

It was well and truly dark by the time we got back, so we went to find the car (still where we left it thank God!) and went 'home' for dinner and a movie (Underdog). We all went to bed when it finished and I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Friday 9/4

The bed in this unit is nowhere as comfortable as the one in Queensland but we managed to get some sleep before being fully awake at 6:45am (otherwise known as OMG-it's-still-way-too-dark-o'clock). We all had breakfast while we continued our discussion of what we wanted to see while in Sydney. The final decision was that we would head out to the Blue Mountains to see the Three Sisters and whatever else took our fancy while we were there.

We arrived in Katoomba in time for morning tea at 10:45, after negotiating enough roadworks to rebuild an entire third world country's road system. We managed to find two bakeries in the main street so the kids had a hefty dose of sugar treat each then we went out to Echo Point to view the rock formation known as the Three Sisters.

As all things are apt to do, the area had changed dramatically from what Peter and I remembered from our childhood visits. The lookouts are actually safe now! We took a lot of photos then decided to take a drive along the tourist scenic route in hopes of finding somewhere nice to have lunch.

We stopped at Leura Cascades which, at first glance, appeared to be a drain 'cascading' into a very small creek. Turns out that that was the rainwater run-off from the road and the actual cascades were about 1.3kms down a hiking track. Seeing as my twisted knee was still giving me plentiful amounts of grief, we walked a small distance along the track and found this little cascade before turning back to the car.

We finished the tourist drive and went over to Scenic World to check out the 'rides'. Had a look around the rather extensive souvenir shop and left without buying anything or taking any of the rides. Managed to get this lovely photo though:

On our way back to Sydney, we stopped at a little roadside stall selling, of all things, ugg boots and cow hides. Peter wanted to buy a cow hide rug for the 'country estate' but I managed to talk him out of it on the grounds that shipping it back to Perth would cost as much as the rug. I liked the design of some of the pieced rugs but resisted the temptation, satisfying myself with a picture instead:
One of our main reasons for coming to Sydney was to show the boys where their dad grew up so, seeing as it was still quite early, we headed for North Ryde. Peter had a great time showing the boys his old haunts: where his house was (it has been demolished and replaced with a set of units), the old corner shop (also no longer there), the lane way he walked through to get to high school, the six-lane highway he had to cross to get to high school (complete with a fence down the middle to discourage pedestrians which he, of course, just jumped over daily!) and his primary school. The high school has been demolished but here's a photo of him in front of the primary school:
Grown up just a little bit since the last time he was here!
After that trip down memory lane, and a few wrong turns down other streets, we asked the GPS to get us 'home'. It directed us through the city at the beginnings of peak hour and we ended up going through the Harbour Tunnel, as well as almost every other tunnel possible! At least the kids can say they've been under Sydney Harbour but it took us 1.5 hours to get home. The GPS doesn't work in tunnels so we nearly ended up taking exits to heaven-knows-where on more than one occasion!

Once we got 'home', we had to find parking (in the car wash bay again!), then had a quiet dinner and were all in bed by 9pm. All in all though, a very good day out.

Thurs 8/4

Up early this morning to clean up and pack. I had serious doubts about fitting everything into the cases from whence it came, but we managed .. just! Better not buy too many souvenirs in Sydney or we'll be paying excess baggage for sure. Maybe we could just leave one of the kids behind and put the extra stuff in their seat .. hmmmmm, food for thought. Will get back to you on that one ...

Managed to get everything shoved into cases and cleaned up by 9:30am so we headed over to Mark and Bec's to give them the leftover food and to say goodbye. Had a quick chat then got into the car and headed into Cairns, where we had a (very) early lunch at McDonald's (blech!) on the Esplanade. I wanted to do a bit more shopping browsing but we had run out of time, so we went to find a petrol station, to avoid paying the $3 a litre the rental car companies charge!

As I mentioned before, Cairns airport is undergoing a major renovation/extension and as a result, the directional signage was open to interpretation. As you can probably guess, our interpretation was wrong and we ended up delivering the rental car to the right area .. if we were flying international.

The international terminal is not that far from the domestic terminal .. as the crow flies. As we aren't crows, we had to walk there and it worked out to be about 1.5kms. Now I can hear you saying "1.5kms isn't that far" but with our four suitcases, five backpacks, CPAP machine and Peter's 'manbag', as well as the fact that a lot of it was outside, over rough surfaces and in the rain, by the time we fronted up to check in, I was sweating like the proverbial pig (has to be the proverbial pig, because real pigs don't sweat!)

After giving the nice little man at Qantas all of our suitcases and assuring him that I wasn't going to pass out or worse, throw up, from heat exhaustion, we went up to the thankfully air-conditioned departures lounge to await our flight to Sydney.

We took off from Cairns at 1:10pm and had a nice smooth flight until we started our descent into Sydney, when the plane turned into a possessed metal bucking bronco, determined to rid the bellies of all of those in its belly of their lunch. According to the captain, it was mild turbulence. but according to my insides, it was the kind of 'mild' you get after eating a five alarm chili meal .. nothing mild about that people! I'm not normally a nervous flyer but it was enough to have me gripping the armrests on my chair whilst thinking to myself: must.not.scare.children. Luckily the children were distracted by the injustice of only two out of the three having window seats.

Andrew managed to get this shot of Sydney Harbour as we came in to land:

Once we'd survived the mid-air rodeo, landed and walked halfway back to Perth, again, to collect our bags, we then tried to find the rental car office. The office inside the terminal was unattended and had a sign that told us to make our way to their carpark office, with no directions on where that was. After getting caught up in the parade of lemmings crowd of people heading for the exits, I managed to spy the competition's office and figured, quite rightly, that our hire company couldn't be too far away.

We happened to walk in on someone returning their hire car and having a major hissy fit about the fact that they were to be charged for some damage to the vehicle. She was arguing that the damage was there when they picked the car up and that the staff had failed to notice it before it was given to them. She then started spouting on about how they hadn't done their jobs properly and why should she be late for her plane just because they were all stupid. I resisted the urge to point out that she wasn't going to win herself any fans, or any assistance from the 'stupid', inept staff and just had a nice little dialogue in my head instead.

"Did you not read the instructions on your rental form? You know, the ones that state to please inspect the car before leaving the lot and report any damage not noted on your copy to the office staff? The same office staff who were available to you at the ungodly hour of 2am when your flight landed, just to make sure you would be able to get your car? The same office staff who are now staring at you with disbelief and pure loathing while managing to keep their thoughts to themselves?

While you're noticing those looks, you may want to take a look at your partner's face. Can you see that expression? The one that says, 'for heaven's sake, shut up! You know we did that damage so for the love of all things holy, shut up before you get us arrested for making a scene'? Can't see that one? Well guess what sweetheart, everyone else can! Leave while you can!!"

After watching that little meltdown and telling the very apologetic woman who served us that some people just needed a good kick in the pants, we managed to get the keys to our car. this time we ended up with a Ford XR6, with Victorian license plates. Andrew was happy because he's a Ford man. Peter was happy because having the Victorian plates meant the NSW drivers would stay out of his way.

We found the car, inspected it (see stupid lady .. that's how you do it!), then spent the next ten minutes trying to work out how to open the boot. With the Commodore, you push the boot unlock button on the remote and the boot actually pops open. With the Ford, it just unlocks the boot but you still have to find the button on the boot itself to open it.

With that sorted, the boot fully loaded and the GPS programmed, we headed off into the organised chaos that is Sydney traffic. The GPS asked if we wanted to avoid the toll roads and knowing absolutely nothing about the toll system here, we decided to take the safe option of avoiding the toll roads and the possible fines. I worked out that we went an extra 19.7 kms to save what turned out to be a $5 toll. Better safe than sorry though!

We arrived at the unit (one in a complex of 25) and found the garage way too small for the car. After a quick look around, we parked the car in the car wash bay and lugged everything inside. Peter was getting very cranky at this point, so I made the executive decision that it was now officially time to get food.

We went back out to the car to find it was raining quite heavily. Must have brought it with us from Queensland! Headed off to the local shops hoping to find somewhere to get some dinner and found a food court. After a heated 'discussion' with the oldest and youngest boys about what they could have (Peter had decreed no more chicken nuggets and chips), I ended up storming off to find out what else was there and returned with two extremely healthy Wendy's hot dogs. At least they ate them and didn't complain!

Did a quick food shop for breakfast and lunch the next day, then headed back for a shower and bed.

Wednesday 7/4

Slept in this morning .. isn't that what holidays are for? ... then decided to take another trip up to Kuranda to see if we could actually see Barron Falls this time.

It was fairly overcast but there weren't too many low-lying clouds so, after a trek along a lovely rainforest path .. puff, puff, pant, pant, that's my exercise for the year! .. I managed to get some photos of Barron Falls in almost full flow. Taken from the top lookout:

and the bottom lookout: The lack of rain made it so much easier to take pictures but also made it so much more humid so after trekking all the way back up the rainforest trail .. puff, puff, pant, pant .. we poured ourselves back into the air-conditioned comfort of the car and headed for Kuranda.

We sent the kids one way (with their mobile phones of course) and we went the other way. It was lovely to be able to just wander through the shops on our own, especially when we came across a fudge shop! Had to buy some, just to compare to WA fudge. Very nice but not really anywhere close to Candy Cow fudge but I may have to try them both again just to be sure.

It was starting to get quite warm so we poured ourselves into the car again and headed back down the hill to the air conditioned shops in Smithfield, where Peter bought himself a rash vest and new swimming shorts. A bit late considering that we leave tomorrow and won't be swimming in Sydney .. too cold! .. but at least he's got them now. Then it was back to the apartment for lunch to try and use up the rest of the food.

After lunch we went down to the pool with the crocodile slide for a swim .. and for Peter and I to see if the girl that was checking Alex out last time was there again. She wasn't :-( I think he was relieved that he could just enjoy a swim and some more hot chips!

We headed back up to 'our' pool where I jumped inched my way into the freezing water with Brad and Drew. Well, I inched my way in .. they, already being dripping wet, threw themselves in with gay abandon, blue lips and chattering teeth. Can't let a little thing like cold stop them!!

They were just attempting to drown me .. exhibit A: ... when Peter came back from a visit to Mark and Bec to tell us it was time to get out and get ready for our walk down to the pub for dinner. We raced upstairs for a warm shower and quick change and met them downstairs and headed off to Palm Cove via a mangrove boardwalk and the main street along the beach.

Along the way, I spotted some 'sleepy plants' .. no idea what their real name is but we always called them that because the leaves close up and go to sleep when you touch them .. and Alex had great fun showing Lachlan and Kathryn how they worked.

The reason we picked the pub for dinner was that kids eat free .. every little bit helps people! .. but of course it was one of those "one-free-kid's-meal-with-every-adult-meal-purchased" deals. Alex, being a growing boy young man, wanted more than just the usual fare of nuggets and chips, so we ordered him a 300g rump steak, thinking that if he didn't finish it, Peter would. Just for the record, Alex is not a big meat eater; not in the form of steak anyway. He'll quite happily eat mince, sausages, kebabs, etc but not usually a hunk of meat of its own. Peter didn't even get a look-in! It was inhaled in record time and thoroughly enjoyed too, if the expression on his face was anything to go by. File that away for future reference .. Alex likes his steak done medium and hot!

Poor Bec didn't get much of a chance to eat her dinner as Mackenzie was rather unsettled and only wanted Mum; not even Dad would do. I remember those days and am so glad they're over! The rest of us enjoyed our meals and dessert (pavlova nest with white chocolate mousse, berries and cream ... very naughty but extremely yummy!) and then started the walk back.

Why is it that the walk back always seems longer? Nothing to do with the fact that we were now loaded down with food and drink and tired from all the exercise (sorry for the bad language!) of the morning. I was carrying Mackenzie for part of the way home. I had totally forgotten how heavy little ones get and when Bec told me she only weighed 13 kilos, I realised that she was only part of what I've already lost. I couldn't imagine carrying an extra 20 kilos around again!

Mark and Peter stirred poor little Lachlan all the way back by telling him there were crocodiles in the bushes along the beach. Every little noise was attributed to these fierce boy eating crocodiles .. "they only eat little boys because they taste better" .. and by the time we got to the mangrove boardwalk, the poor kid was just about jumping out of his skin. So when Uncle Peter disappeared from the back of the pack, right before the boardwalk, he was quite worried. I threatened to send Peter over to deal with the inevitable nightmares at 3am and funnily enough, he reappeared, none the worse for his ordeal. Apparently, he wasn't tasty enough 'cos he's too old!

In all the commotion at the back of the pack, no-one noticed Alex had gone missing too. Just as we reached the end of the boardwalk, Alex jumped out of his hiding spot and frightened the daylights out of Brad as well as Lachlan. In the ten seconds after he did it, I think Alex thought he was going to get in trouble, but when we all roared with laughter, he relaxed and had a laugh along with us. It was so good to see him being a kid and having fun with his cousins.
We finished the walk back, put all the kids through the shower again and then fell into bed for a well-deserved sleep.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The beginning of the rest ...

of the holiday journal, that is!


I was determined to check out the Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda, so all ten of us headed back up there after breakfast. It was still raining, a fair bit heavier than the last time we came up, but most of Kuranda is undercover so I figured it would be ok ... once we got from the car to the undercover part!

We went to the Butterfly Sanctuary and were the first ones there so we managed to get a tour guide pretty much to ourselves. She was lovely and took the time to talk to the kids, instead of just talking at them. She took us on a tour of the laboratory where they 'grow' more butterflies and moths, then took us to each of the different feeding stations. Each station had a different kind of food so there were different butterflies at each one.

Kathryn was wearing a rainbow coloured outfit (rather bright) and managed to take the fancy of one of the beautiful blue Ulysses butterflies. He didn't want to leave so she just stood there with him on her arm and let all the other tourists take photos. Such a good sport about it all!

I got some lovely photos of all different sorts but will have to play with them a bit to actually find the butterflies in them. They all moved so quickly, it was hard to get decent shots of them!

Once we were finished there, we headed down to check out the Heritage Markets where the boys bought some 'stress heads' (stress balls in the shape of a face with woolly hair) then, after dragging me away from yet another opal store (he's still not getting the hint!), I found the ultimate touristy thing ... a kangaroo fur bikini! Nope, I'm not kidding .. here's the photo to prove it: Who would wear this?? On second thoughts, don't answer that. I really don't want to know!

We did manage to buy all five of us a new hat, Akubra style but a lot cheaper, before having lunch at the fabulous bakery again, after which we all piled into the cars to go to Atherton for some more headstone hunting.

Stopped at a lovely little shop called The Humpy and bought some warm roasted cashews and honey roasted peanuts ... very yummy! Peter bought himself another travel mug (I know .. sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise! Excuse me .. just channelling Gomer Pyle for a minute there!)

Asked at the tourist bureau for directions to the cemetery and had to laugh at the look on the guy's face. Bet that's a question he doesn't get very often! Found out that there's actually three cemeteries but we managed to rule one of them out as the grave we were looking was classed as 'modern' not 'pioneer' .. that is, Aunty Veta died after 1950.

We wandered the cemetery for a while, not having much luck but after checking with the staff at the crematorium, we managed to find her headstone, clean it up and get photos of it for the family tree research.

It had started raining again by then, so we headed back into Atherton for some undercover entertainment at The Crystal Caves. The guy who owns this gemstone shop has built a 'cavern' underneath it and placed all sorts of gemstones and fossils into the walls and ceiling. It's supposed to look like an underground mine, so of course the two big boys didn't want to go .. "It's fake! We'll have coffee and pick you up later!" .. and that's exactly what they did.

Bec and I took the six kids down, with our ultra-sexy hard hats on, to look at all the, to quote Andrew, 'rocks and stuff'. There was a huge amethyst thingy down there so, being the horrible mother I am, I made the boys stand next to it for the obligatory tourist photo. Don't they look impressed??
Once I had dragged them kicking and screaming finished taking the children on the very enjoyable tour, we bought some souvenirs, collected the big boys and then parted ways with the other Hawkins family.

We headed off towards Cairns via the Gillies Highway with a quick detour to the Curtain Fig Tree. Hasn't changed much in five years but I managed to get some photos of the boys. I really like this one of Alex:
And introducing 'Andyinna Jones' (Indiana Jones) and 'Crocodile Bradley' (Crocodile Dundee) in their new hats:

After that nice little stop, it was off to brave the winding, often scary, Gillies Highway back down to the south side of Cairns. Last time we came down that highway, it was pitch black, raining heavily and full of little hazards caused by, and being fixed by, roadworks. Luckily this time we only had to contend with the road and the way it winds back on itself almost constantly. I swear, if not for the fact that you spend most of the time going downhill, sometimes you'd think you were going back the way you came!
A quick stop off at KFC for dinner then 'home' for a quiet night .. what was left of it anyway!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

We're home!

I didn't forget to blog the remainder of the time while we were away ... the laptop decided to take a little holiday of its own and, as a result, I'm now suffering major 'share-the-mundane-details-of-my-life-with-everyone-just-because-I-can' withdrawals.

Once I finish organising the children's school uniforms, what to pack for the trip to the block tomorrow and fitting in some more catch-up sleep, I'll finish typing out the rest of the holiday diary and post it for you all ... 'cos I know you're all just dying to hear more of my incoherent, sarcastic ramblings!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

A busy couple of days (part 2)


I demanded a catch-up sleep-in last night before going to bed and threatened them all, Peter included, with dire consequences if they woke me before 9am. Peter came down to the bedroom, making as much noise as possible, just as I was starting to wake up and started talking about what time we were leaving. I was getting ready to follow through on the dire consequences when I had the presence of mind to ask what time it was. Upon being told it was 10am, I (reluctantly) decided to not pursue the retribution and got out of bed.

We had made plans with Aunty Jenny to go down to the Esplanade for a BBQ lunch on Monday with the rest of the aunts and uncles, but due to the rain, it was changed to Sizzler. I was under the impression we were still going there for lunch, so when Peter started packing for a BBQ, I got more than a bit confused. Turns out Jenny had rung while I was asleep to say that the BBQ was back on.

It was a lovely morning; a bit overcast but no rain. I got to see all Mum's brothers and sisters again, even Aunty Joan who is here on holiday from New Zealand. Mum has 2 brothers and 3 sisters, who were all there, as well as Jenny's husband, her 2 girls and 1 of their friends, Nanna, and the five of us. A lovely time had by all catching up and exchanging memories from other times we were all together.

After lunch wound up, we went back to check out Pete's new girlfriend, Willow, the red-tailed cockatoo at Cairns Dome. She took more pieces out of his hat but didn't make him bleed this time! Tearing Peter away from her, we went off for a quick shopping trip to one of the big shopping centres at Earlville then home for home-made hamburgers for dinner.

Off to Kuranda again tomorrow to have a proper look at the shops and attractions and to hopefully get to go to the Butterfly Sanctuary. I've missed out on going there every other time we've been here and I'm not letting anyone talk me out of it this time!!

A busy couple of days (part 1)


Sunday dawned, if you could call it that 'cos we couldn't see the sun, with heavy showers and more clouds than we had seen so far. I had picked Sunday to go on the Skyrail because the weatherman had said that the rain would be clearing; he didn't mention that it would be at midnight into Monday!

The Skyrail trip was still worth it and, to be perfectly honest, I'm kind of glad it was overcast because that meant that we couldn't always see how high up we were! We went through the clouds and were even above them for most of the middle leg of the journey. The kids were a bit underwhelmed in stages (due to not being able to see much) and Bradley was a bit scared of the whole thing, but I think that was due to Bec's teasing and Lachlan's very matter-of-fact statements about 'if we fall, then we die' and 'if we crash into another car, then we die' and ... oh I'm sure you get the picture!

There's a limit of six people to a car/gondola so Bec and I took a car each with whichever kids wanted to go with us at the time. Kathryn attached herself to Bradley so wherever he went, she went. He nicknamed her "The Limpet" and "The Barnacle" and was starting to get a bit frustrated with her when I said that he had to come with me so we could have a photo of the just the four of us at the last station. The look of relief on his face was almost comical!

It was still raining quite heavily when we got to Kuranda and when we phoned the big boys to find out where they were, they told us to walk up the hill to the cafe. Not happy Jan! We all got pretty wet and once we got there, they had decided that it was too expensive to have lunch in Kuranda. Bec and I ordered the kids a milkshake each and a drink for ourselves and then popped into the shop next door to have a look at the 'hippy clothes' (made from hemp and organic cotton).

After that it was a matter of dodging the really heavy downpours to get up the rest of the hill and back to the cars. Because I kept holding them up by daring to actually look in some of the shops and Peter decided to buy himself a new hat, we ended up having a late lunch at the bakery at the very top of the village (and it worked out heaps cheaper than going to McDonald's!) Score one for me!! We had planned on going to the Butterfly Sanctuary but the big boys wanted to go out to Mareeba cemetery for some photos of family headstones and due to it getting late for the little ones, off we went. We wandered all over the cemetery and found what they were looking for about an hour later, then it was time to head back 'home' for dinner.

Peter and I have obviously forgotten what it's like to have little kids as we couldn't believe the day was over, that is we were back 'home', by 5pm! We could have gone out to do something else, but decided to chill out in front of the TV ... just like at home.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A quiet day

After having a bit of a sleep in, Peter and I were sitting quietly on the balcony enjoying our cuppas, when one of his cousins rang. Christine lives near Brisbane but just happened to be on holiday up here to visit a friend and heard we were here, so she came for a visit. Mark and Bec came over with their kids and the circus started. Six kids, ranging in age from 18 months to 14.5 years, plus 6 adults in one area equals noise.

There weren't any toys for the little ones to play with but I found the tennis balls from last night and then Bec and I spent the next couple of hours mediating the 'discussions' over whose turn it was to have a horsey ride from Bradley and who should have the tennis balls.

Once Christine left to continue her trek up to Cooktown, Bec and I went food shopping while Peter and Mark took the kids to the main pool at the resort. It has a slide in the shape of a crocodile and Kathryn was telling the boys all about the 'crocodile slide.' I had Brad and Andrew convinced that it was a slide for crocs to get in and out of the pool and they weren't too keen on going until Kathryn told them I was joking.

The kids had a great time at the pool while Bec and I enjoyed our kid-free shopping experience. Once we got back and unloaded the groceries, we went down to the pool to join them. It was pouring rain but the kids were having a great time, as were Mark and Peter. The difference was that Mark and Peter were having a great time ribbing Alex about the girls that were following him around, checking him out. My baby's growing up .. waaahhh! He was completely oblivious so there's hope for me yet!

After a snack of battered chips at the pool, we walked back to our rooms and had fried ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner ... we'll deal with our cholesterol when we get home!

Off to the Skyrail and Kuranda tomorrow.

Friday, 2 April 2010

And then there was blood ...

Today started out quietly with Peter and I awake before the kids ... again! We let them sleep in until 8am then got them up and organised for another day out. We didn't want to go too far as we had made plans with Mark and Bec to have dinner tonight so we decided to check out the Cairns Rainforest Dome.

The Dome is on the rooftop of the Reef Casino and Hotel and is full of all sorts of birds and other wildlife. We checked out the pademelons, the huge croc named Goliath, koalas, cockatoos, lizards and freshwater crocs. There was a talk about some of the local bird life and when the handler asked for 2 volunteers, Alex decided to give it a go. They both ended up pretending to be a tropical tree by holding a flower in their outstretched hands while the handler squeezed some nectar onto the petals. One of the rainbow lorikeets came down to feed on the nectar and kept jumping between the two 'trees' and walking up and down Alex's arm. His face lit up as soon as it landed the first time but by the end, I think the claws must have been bothering him. He said he enjoyed it but it was someone else's turn next time.

After the bird show, we went to have a look at Peter's favourite bird (apart from me of course!), the red-tailed black cockatoo. As soon as she saw him, she launched herself off her perch and landed on his shoulder. He was ecstatic until she started pulling on his earrings! When he covered them up, she got stuck into the little knob on the top of his cap. She dismantled it completely and then flew off back to her perch.

Peter couldn't leave it at that though, could he? He put his arm out and encouraged her to fly back onto it. As soon as she landed, she started trying to to peck at his watch so he tried to put her back onto her perch. She wasn't having any of that and promptly dug her claws in ... and then there was blood. Not much, but enough to frighten the tourists just walking through the door into the Dome. My comment of "Now that she's made you bleed, it's time to go" probably didn't help much either!

We went back into the souvenir shop where he got some first aid (a tissue and the offer of antiseptic, which he refused), then we watched some American tourists having their picture taken with a koala named Harvey. Typical Aussie male that he was, he had his paw on the girl's boob in all the photos! After laughing at the looks on the male tourists faces once they realised that, we headed back to the car and off to Crystal Cascades.

On the way there, we spotted a McDonald's and gave the kids an early lunch before they started complaining that they were dying of hunger. We were just finishing when Mark rang to ask where we were. They had arrived only to find that their room wasn't ready for them yet. We gave them the code to our apartment so they could have a bit of a rest while they were waiting and said we would see them when we got back. (They left Perth last night at 11pm and flew via Brisbane, with an hour's stopover, to Cairns. If they're anything like us, they would have been dead on their feet!)

I remember Crystal Cascades as a lovely swimming hole in a river just outside Cairns. I came to the conclusion today that time really does change things. Either that or everything just looked really different when I was a kid. It is now a very fast-flowing river with incredibly steep banks and an awful lot of rapids. This may be due to all the extra rain north Queensland has had recently (two cyclones in the area) but I'm starting to think I have just labelled a mental picture wrong.

We walked as far as we could, getting rather wet in the process as all the little waterfalls on one side of the path had turned into things resembling a burst fire hose, spraying everyone within range. The stream water was lovely and cool but as most women know, you can only put up with wet underwear (especially bras) for so long. We went back to the car, dried off a bit and then headed back to the apartment.

Once we got back, we sent the boys straight to the pool from the car so they wouldn't go barging upstairs like a herd of rampaging elephants, waking everyone up. Peter and I went upstairs to check whether Mark, Bec and the kids were still there and if they were asleep. We must have just missed Bec and the girls as we spotted them from our balcony,walking down the driveway to their block. Apparently they had just woken up and headed down to their room, where Mark and Lachlan were waiting.

Peter and I left the boys trying to drown each other trying to deafen the neighbourhood having a 'peaceful' swim and popped over to visit Mark and Bec. Poor Mark looked absolutely exhausted and, after visiting for a while, we left them to have a nap and to let us know when they were ready for tea.

They arrived at about 6:30 so Bec and I sent the big boys out for dinner and beat back the starving hordes with a whip and a chair until they returned. The food was soon inhaled, as were the follow-up ice creams and then the kids had fun playing with some tennis balls I found in the bottom drawer in the kitchen. (What? Don't you keep your tennis balls in the bottom drawer in the kitchen? No? Glad it's not just me that thinks that's a bit weird!) The kids all had great fun playing horsey when the tennis balls got boring, while the adults rest of us entertained ourselves by seeing who would fall asleep the fastest. If we had continued that game to its inevitable end, I'm sure Mark would have beaten the rest of us by a mile.

They ended up leaving just before 9pm and now I am going to head for bed myself as I have no idea what we're doing tomorrow and need a decent sleep 'just in case'. I think we discussed some possible options but for the life of me, can't remember if we're each doing our own thing or going out together. Oh well, I'll find out tomorrow ...

Thursday, 1 April 2010

It's raining, it's pouring ...

... but no, I'm not snoring! Not yet anyway ... it's not bedtime and besides I've got a CPAP machine to stop the snoring.

We've had rain for most of the time we've been here but it got a fair bit heavier today. Luckily, we had made arrangements to have lunch with Aunty Jenny and Nanna and to do some indoor shopping so the rain didn't really bother us.

After managing to buy nothing at Cairns Central shopping centre (apart from some brownies, lemon slice and caramel slice) we headed for The Pier for lunch. It was lovely to see Nanna again but she is really starting to look old. The fact that she is 93 and having difficulty walking may have something to do with that, but she still has her sense of humour. When I asked how she's been lately, she said, in a very matter-of-fact tone, "old". She then told me that I need to fatten my boys up because they are still very skinny .. just like last time she saw them. Or maybe it's just because I stretched them to make them grow taller. Apparently feeding them is easier than stretching them .. who knew? I hope I'm as well as she is when I'm 93 .. if I get that far!

After lunch we wandered around the shops at The Pier then were headed back towards the apartment when I realised it was the Thursday before Easter and that we didn't have any eggs for the boys or Mark's family (who arrive tomorrow), so we stopped at KMart and did a quick shop. Now the place is full of chocolate and none of it's mine ... waaah!! (Apparently some of it is mine because the boys have bought me something but have hidden it from me ... waaaah again!)

We were headed homewards once more, when Peter spotted the Outback Opal Mine. I had asked to stop in there at some point during the holiday and he remembered and pulled in for a quick look. The boys stayed in the car as it was pouring down again and Peter and I went in to check it all out. It's basically an opal and pearl jewellery shop with a museum section about opal mining. I love black opal (the most expensive kind ... damn it!) and found a lovely pair of earrings and a matching pendant but had to walk away without them. I'm hoping to go back before we leave Cairns but I'm not holding my breath.

Once we got back to the apartment, we all had some quiet time just reading and relaxing before the boys decided it would be fun to go swimming. (Bear in mind that it's raining quite heavily at this point.) I pointed out the rain but they still wanted to go. I knew they were determined to go swimming when they put their towels into plastic bags to stop them from getting wet while they were in the pool. Andrew wanted to keep swimming until the pool lights came on ... easily pleased that one!!

After yelling over the balcony that dinner was almost ready, Peter started cooking dinner. Nothing like the possibility of missing out on burnt 'heavily browned' sausages to make a kid get out the pool in a hurry ... not!! Once they were back upstairs and in the shower, the noise level in the bathroom required some intervention so I walked down there just in time to hear Bradley complaining that it was too steamy. "It's so steamy in here, I can't even see my wang in the mirror." (That's the word of the week at the moment .. 'wang'. Don't ask me where he got that one from ... I really don't want to know! ... and it could be much worse.)

Now I'm sitting in front of the computer screen yet again while Peter has gone out to see if the local fish and chip shop will be open tomorrow night. (A remnant of my Catholic upbringing .. fish on Fridays during Lent.) I have no idea what we're doing tomorrow but at least dinner is sorted out!!