August 30, 2009

if you're looking for a whale of a time....

Bec, Vincent, I, George, Agnes, and Emily went on the Ocean Dreaming yesterday in pursuit of migrating Humpback whales.
And the whale-gods were definitely on our side because we didnt' even leave Sydney Harbour for five minutes when we met up with a pod of three Humpbacks meandering back to their homes in the south.
(can you see the one under the water--huge!)
And even luckier for us, they weren't in any hurry to be anywhere so they hung out and "mugged"* our boat a few times! Incidentally, when the first mugging was occuring another whale-watching boat came up right next to us--which is illegal and it really irritated our whale-master-guide-driver. However, to make lemonade out of lemons--it did give us a good view of how big whales really are! 'Massive' is one word that comes to mind.
We had such a lovely time! And I think the consensus is that if any of you come to visit--we'll be happy to take you too, because it's really worth it to go again...and again. :)
Here are a few other photos our new whale friends! They tell the story better than I can...

(note-this was taken by a member of the Ocean Dreaming staff--he had a waaaay better camera than we did, so Bec bought me the photos he took for my birthday! THANKS BEC!)

See the full lot of photos here!

* a mugging occurs when a whale swims right up to a boat so that it can't use its motors (we wouldn't want to hurt the fellow). The law says that it is illegal to approach a whale closer than 100m, but if it swims up to you--you must turn off your motors so not to harm the anima

August 18, 2009

for those of you considering taking a hike in the royal national park

Be advised: This post is (necessarily) long due to the dramatic and harrowing adventure being recounted. Some portions may be unsuitable for children and some adults.

A week or so ago I convinced Vincent that we should go hike the Coast Walk, a 23-26km (14-16 miles) trail that meanders along the coast as part of the Royal National Park. I had been tipped off to this “day trip” by a WeekendNotes email that said it was a gorgeous hike full of beautiful everything. I was sold. The email also said that the hike can be completed in one day by fit people, even though many choose to camp-out overnight and make it a weekend away. I put it down on the calendar for Saturday; afterall, I don’t camp and Vincent and I are “fit” people. Or so I thought. This proves to be the first of many mis-calculations made by me on this trip.

The second mis-calculation occurred as we bought train tickets. I had explained to the ticket-seller-man that we wanted to get off at Cronulla but would be returning from Otford because we’d be walking the Coast Walk in between. His reply, “You can’t walk that trail in one day. It’s impossible.” As I think back now, perhaps I should have taken his warning more seriously. But at the time, I just calmly explained that my sources said otherwise and that we were in a hurry to catch our train.

After the train ride and ferry to Bundeena we made our way to the start of the trail. The day was sunny and crisp—perfect for our hike! We started at 10:30 in the morning (after taking a short detour down the wrong trail) and were immediately greeted with a gorgeous skyline of Sydney! Also, I had already started to notice some lovely little birds coloured in bright yellow, black, and white. They seemed to follow along with us, twittering among the wildflowers. “This is going to be a great day,” I thought to myself. The trail headed straight to the coast—well, at least to the very high, sheer cliffs separating us from the ocean. So, SO beautiful. The ocean here is crystal green and blue and when the waves slam into the rocks below they’d break into the whitest white. If we had just seen this view over and over the whole day, I would have been happy.

After some time, we started our first descent—to Marley beach. The water looked pretty inviting, but unfortunately we still had a long hike ahead and didn’t have time for a dip (and let’s be real, there’s no way on the planet I would have gotten into that water anyway—WAY too cold and WAY too many deadly animals swimming around. Vincent however was a little disappointed). This is where we discovered how hard it is to “hike” across golden-sandy beaches. This is also when I first started to get anxious about how fast we were walking compared to how far we had to go. This nagging apprehension would only manifest over the course of the day ultimately testing Vincent’s patience with my Type-A personality (otherwise known as the personality that likes to ensure survival from the harsh elements of the natural world—why do you think I don’t camp-out?).

In spite of this, the scenery was breathtaking (both figuratively and literally). We trekked up mountains, down mountains, up more mountains, down more mountains—winding our way through all kinds of forests, over pristine beaches, climbing our way back up more cliffs that were placed there just to challenge our understanding of the concept of “being fit.”

We reached Wattamolla in about 2.5 hours. Vincent and I took a rest gazing at the ocean eating our sandwiches contemplating the second half of our trek. Could we make it in time? The sun, we reckoned, would set around 5:30 or so—leaving us 4.5 hours to go 15kms. With no time to waste, we headed onward—leaving all the Asian tourists and families with little babies to their cars and amenities—like toilets—for the open trail. Picking up the pace we made our way into new scenery—a bit away from the ocean through this kind of bush-forest. We were sure we were going to see snakes—but I guess it’s still a bit cold for them, thank whoever-I-need-to-thank-for-that. Even though all seems peachy, I (and hopefully Vincent) was really starting to get worried about finishing before dark. We kept seeing different mile markers and we never knew how fast we were going. The cliffs we kept having to walk over instead of around was one sure factor for our slow progress—but I mean come on, we had to look around some of the time too, or the whole trip would be a waste. We started walking faster though…and it started getting hotter. The mountains kept getting steeper and bigger. I was getting tired. And we still had hours to go.

Then we reached Garie and environs. Full of little shoddy cabins—Garie would have been a perfect stopping place for the day. Right at a gorgeous beach with a canteen—sigh, what were we thinking?! Did I mention it was really hot, and we had been hiking for like four hours? As we started scaling this grassy “hill” cursing mother nature—Vincent came across our first bit of land-dwelling wildlife: an echidna!!!! These ridiculous creatures are awesome and I have been wanting to find one in the wild since I got here. The poor thing though was scared out of her mind and just froze in the grasses—so we couldn’t get a look at her face. I considered picking her up—but for all I know echidnas can spit fatal saliva or some crazy nonsense. So we left her alone—and moved forward, our spirits just a bit higher.

Our good mood abruptly, and I mean abruptly, ended when we descended to the next beach. Do you know what a masked lapwing is? Vincent or I must have gotten too close to his/her nest, because before I knew it Vincent was running like mad and screaming for me to follow him. I didn’t even see the bird. I did see his shadow when he’d attack me from behind, swooping a few centimetres from my head. We were on a beach! What kind of birds have nests in the middle of a beach!? I kept running—it was so hard on the soft sand. I didn’t know what to do. My legs were going to quit soon and I knew then I’d be dead (this may be a slight exaggeration). The bird flew so fast…I couldn’t breathe. Vincent turned around and stopped running—I fell to a halt trying to catch a breath—then as I looked up I saw his face change. He screamed, “No, he’s coming back! Run Lindsay!” I grabbed my jacket and started waving it in circles above my head—I wanted to cry—I couldn’t make it to the end of the beach. I was ready to just crumple to the ground and brace for impact when the crazy bird decided we had enough and went back to his nest. Have you seen Land of the Lost when Will Ferrell is running from the T-rex? That was us. In all of the same zigzag glory.

When we reached the end of the beach—I had had about enough. Just in time for another mountain to scale. And we had lost the trail—it disappeared amongst all the petite cottages that we were not spending the night in. I stopped to ask a group of beer and wine-drinkers if they knew where to the trail was, and a god-honest Aussie in his budgie-smugglers with his plastic glass of white happily pointed us in the right direction (while trying to convince us to stay for a beer).

Now, we had 6-10 kms to go and only a few more hours of daylight. To put it simply, we started booking it. We hurried through a scary forest of huge palm trees over some more mountains through trenches up to our shoulders (all the while questioning if we were going the right way). The signs stopped and we found ourselves squinting to find our way through the darkening sky. I, at this point, was freaking out. Vincent stayed positive—but maybe he was just trying to prevent me from having a meltdown—isn’t he just a great guy? I told him I was sorry I got him into this mess—and that if we ever made it, I would never ask him to do such a silly thing again. I reviewed my lack of research and cursed my various miscalculations throughout the day.

Needless to say, much of the beautiful scenery in the last K’s were lost on us—but that’s okay because the minute I saw the highway with cars on it I felt a kind of relief rush over me that I have rarely felt. This was a near-near death experience. I’m sure of it. We had hiked for 7.5 hours probably equalling over 28 kms (17 miles). We got to the deserted train station and waited in the freezing cold for two hours—but it didn’t matter, because we could make it back to our concrete jungle that we know and love so much.

We couldn’t walk right for the next few days—I am so glad I take pilates now or I’d be in much worse shape. And I think an investment into proper hiking shoes could be beneficial. An adventure for sure, but Vincent suggested that we stick to exploring Sydney for the next few months. I agreed immediately. See the full adventure here in photos!

August 13, 2009

typical day at the office

This morning at work I passed a sign that read:
WARNING Explosive-powered tools in use KEEP OUT
And I thought magpies in the spring were scary.

August 10, 2009

What a lovely day to run to the beach...

Well folks, the largest running event on the planet has come and gone...fairly successfully, I might add. Vincent and I woke up early (but not as early as for the Bay Run) and headed our way to the city to meet our partners-in-running-crime, Isabelle and Erik. They, awesomely, live not far from the start line--which proved VERY useful when the bag-check proved a fiasco and we had to drop our stuff back at their apartment.

But no matter, we were destined to be awesome--and as the gatorade flowed through the shoes got very sticky and all the cups got caught up in everyone's stride. Wahoo! Race Day!

We started together. We did. But after about two minutes we lost each other--well, Isabelle and I lost Erik and Vincent. Boys. Sheesh. Whatever, it's hard to keep tabs on people when you're surrounded by thousands upon thousands of others.

*look at all the people by the church!

There was a rock band.

And Superman.

And Spiderman.

And Batman...wait, no batman, but we did see a superhero personal trainer, which should count for something (especially because Vincent and I saw him at last week's race too!).

I took some photos along the way--not that you can get any appreciation for the absolute chaos that was this race.
A nice man took my photo along the 11kms-ish mark. They couldn't believe I'd stop to take a photo. I explained that I never get to see this part of the city. And anyway, I'm not very fast.
There was a band playing a trombone, tuba, and a saxophone...I even think there were some really fluffy dogs nearby.

At the end, we got medals! MEDALS!

And miraculously, we all caught up with each other around the P-marker. This was my biggest worry because only one of us had a cell phone. (In reality, that was okay though b/c there were so many people the race advised that there'd be blackouts on cell phone use--and we all know how much that'd would irritate Lindsay if she ran 14kms (8.5 miles) with a phone and at the end couldn't use it).

The afternoon ended with greasy yakisoba and beer. Too good people, TOO GOOD.

A repeat is scheduled for next year. Please call ahead if you'd like to join.

August 3, 2009

The Bay Run 2009

Next weekend, Vincent and I, along with a couple friends, are running in the biggest road race on the earth!!!!!!!

As a mini-preparation for this insane, absolutely unprecedented race (there's going to be 75,000 people in it for cryin' out loud!) we decided to warm-up, if you will, with the 2009 Bay Run. This run, much milder and quiet in magnitude, runs 7 kms (4.35 miles) around a scenic and peaceful bay. It's also famous but only boasts a mere 1,500 participants. Much more my style.

So, I made Vincent get up very early on a Sunday and head down to Leichhardt. It was so cold. Even Vincent agrees. I couldn't feel my right arm or feet until half way through the race. (I have since bought super awesome warm socks for the run next week). Anyway, after a (ridiculously expensive) coffee/ hot chocolate we checked our bag and waited for the start gun.

The race was gorgeous, and the event was organised very well for a community fun run. Very pleased.

I ran well and Vincent ran better:
Out of the 1,465 that finished Vincent placed 100th overall and I, 595th. Then, amongst the boys Vincent placed 92/ 770 and out of the girls, I got 108/693. Not bad I don't think. Then out of our gender age groups--Vincent got 38/205 and I got 34/210. So, not a bad show after a last minute entry I don't think.

Stay tuned for next week's race--it's going to be CRAZY.