Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Big Holiday...... Day 8

The big day has finally arrived – off to our first theme park. Sea World!

Got away at a reasonable hour and took our first, tentative steps inside. Had a quick look at the dugong display & aquarium and then got a general idea of the layout by catching the monorail. This led to Ben & Chloe wanting to get to the playgrounds they saw as soon as possible – if not sooner.

By this time, however, Lorelle as well as Chloe were getting hungry (the most common comment we’ve heard so far this trip is Chloe saying “I’m hungry”). The food was reasonably good if a little expensive (aren’t these things always overpriced at such places?). A couple of seafood baskets and a chicken & chips – nearly 40 bucks. While we were eating these, the water skiing show was on so that formed an interesting distraction.

Next stop was the playground. An aeroplane ride, merry-go-round, helicopter rescue and big truck train kept everyone busy and entertained for quite a while. Next door was one of those fountains that spouted water upwards from the ground and also down and about from the top. So, a quick change for the kids and they frolicked in that for a while. This whet the appetite for the main water play area, so it was off in search of that. A bit of rain at this point, but not a great problem as it wasn’t too cold.

The water here wasn’t as warm, but they were still wet from the fountain. Water cannons, slides and general wading & running all came under close scrutiny and testing. Chloe, who was quite tentative in the waves out front, was very keen and Ben, as usual, just loved the water. We overstayed this attraction and missed the dolphin show, but when you’re on a good thing, stick to it.

Chloe wanted to spend more time at the playground, so Ben & I went on the GIANT ferris-wheel. I don’t like heights, so Ben probably handled this one better than GP. Got some great shots from way on high. We then joined the others and finished our day in the playground.

That is, apart from a couple of souvenirs on exit from the park. Had hoped to get time to go to an internet café to try to get the e-mails working and the blog updated, but it was getting too late and dark. And, we just made it, as the rain pretty well set in just after we got back to the car.

The Big Holiday...... Day 7

Our first full day on the Gold Coast. Up reasonably early – at least for me, that is. Last night’s shopping gave us the provisions for a good brekky, then it was down to the beach.

One added bonus of staying in this area is that it is near the Coolangatta Airport. In fact the flight-path for landings is just behind the building. We can watch the jets circle around over the ocean and then come in low, to land. They disappear behind the building next door, and then re-appear briefly, just before touchdown – so we get a really good, close-up view. Others may see this as a disadvantage, but we love it. The noise is barely discernable inside and not very loud outside. We even saw what appeared to be two Airforce trainers, flying in formation, coming in to land. As you will see from the photo, it’s a bit like September 11th – look at the top, right-hand corner of the building.

On the way to the beach, I organised a different parking space and the family inspection of the pool took place. Might take the opp if it arises to try to get some swimming lessons in for the kids.

Ben, without stretching the truth, took to the waves like the proverbial duck to water. Chloe started off pretty well, but got knocked over by a wave, so that was the end of her paddling.

On the way back, it was sand-castle time. Chloe had a fairy princess castle, while Ben had a racing car in the sand. Spent a good hour-and-a half on the beach – a real hit. Even Robbie had a paddle, but ankle deep was plenty for her.

For lunch, I cut up the fresh fruit we got last night. Cold, crisp and fresh – absolutely fantastic. Pineapple, paw-paw (our least favourite – give it a miss next time), strawberries and water-melon. Did the rubbish run to the chute outside and then it was back down to the pool. I actually had a swim, but the old trunks, which hadn’t been worn since our last trip north, gave way. Luckily, for everyone, I was wearing jocks as well. Ben & Chloe loved the pool, especially the “hot”, shallow tub at one end. Couldn’t get Rob into the water. After my swim, I expected the Whale Rescue Unit to turn up, but nothing eventuated.

A bit of a victory – ah, but bitter sweet. Visited local IGA type supermarket and then found an internet outlet. Able to hook up on wireless and thought, beauty, process my e-mails and update the blog. Able to receive e-mails but couldn’t send any. When we got back to the unit, Lorelle discovered that if she held her laptop up, in one corner of the balcony, she could get a wireless signal – and it wasn’t a secure connection. But, same story – able to do some things, but not able to send e-mails. So, will have to find a suitable and comfortable connection so I can do that – and update the blog.

The Big Holiday...... Day 6

Talk about service – bacon and eggs for brekky at the Hutchy’s, then we were off and running – headed for the Gold Coast. Nice, easy trip, though Chloe was sick at one point. Not a bad effort – the first problem she has had for the entire trip.

Started hunting for accommodation when we arrived. Tried our old favourite, the “Foreshore”, but it seems (as we confirmed during the arvo) that most of the offices at the buildings close around 1pm or 2pm. Still, the old mobile phone came to the rescue on a number of occasions. Eventually got to talk to someone – price not bad but too much of a squeeze for the extra bed.

What we really wanted was ground floor, or first floor; direct access to the beach (plus a good view of the ocean) and of course, sleeping five. Tried the “Spindrift” just down the road but couldn’t get close enough to our requirements. Moved farther south, around Tugan. Three bedroom, right on the beach but too many stairs (this brought to the fore an extra requirement). Another three bedroom, really nice but couldn’t see the ocean at all. Then, two places we have stayed at before, in Tugan. The “Pacific Sands” and the “San Simeon”. Pacific Sands was by far the cheapest, but could only get third floor and too tight a squeeze. San Simeon, pretty well filled the bill. First floor, direct beach frontage, overlooking the ocean, only two bedroom but enough room for a fold-up without too much of a squeeze.

Once we had settled in and discovered that the parking space provided was all but impossible to get a Falcon into, it was off to the Woollies at Coolangatta (or Tweed Heads, not sure) for vital supplies (grog) plus a few groceries thrown in. Did the usual, for my “Gold Coast Speciality”, and bought some fresh fruit. Bought some cards so we could continue the Rummy Challenge started on the run up. Two packs, so we could play “Coo & Can” instead of plain rummy.

Ben and Chloe were pretty good at bedtime, probably because we were able to separate them; one with us and the other in Lorelle’s room. They will alternate throughout the stay.

The Big Holiday...... Day 5

Did well to rise reasonably early after the very “heavy” night and set about finding “The Australia Zoo” – Steve Irwin’s love child. Helped greatly as Brian lent us his SatNav Device which led us there with few problems (Got mixed up once when I read “Do a U Turn” – figured we must have gone past it, but it was telling me to do the Yewey in about 6 km, in order to turn into the entrance).

The Zoo is pretty expensive, but as we found when we got in there, it is kept in absolutely pristine condition and the enclosures are top rate – so I guess it is money well spent.

Did all the usual stuff – had a look at the layout on their ‘safari’ bus, then saw the otters being fed. Investigated quite a few of the enclosures before a ‘pit-stop’ at the children’s playground. Jumping castle and a mini tea-pot merry-go-round. Unfortunately, Ben got eaten by a crocodile at this point, so that put a bit of a dampener on proceedings. Still, it had cost quite a lot to get in, so we thought we should push on regardless.

Saw the tail end of the main show in the Crocoseum – can you believe that name (has to be SO Steve Irwin). Real highlight wasn’t the croc at the end of the show, but the tame, yet free, cockatoos and macaws who were allowed to just fly, freely, around the entire stadium. Fantastic to watch and a great training achievement. A bit of attempted humour by the presenters left a few audience members with egg on their faces (NO, I wasn’t one of them, for a change) and that was quite funny.

Ben & Chloe patted some kangaroos – very brave of Chloe as she is normally very timid in such situations. Even braver, they both fed an elephant later on. It was getting late and kids a bit restless so we gave the tigers a miss and headed back. SatNav once again a life-saver, especially as I was running low on fuel.

Much quieter night - Dominoes Pizza (yes, of course it was thin ‘n crispy), a few ales and a relatively early night.

The Big Holiday...... Day 4

Got away from Moree fairly early. A pretty uneventful drive until we got to Brizzy and had to find Brian & Marion’s place.

Had a pleasant stop at a little town about two hours after leaving Moree – can’t remember its name. Cuppa tea and a good little playground, so we stopped there about half-an-hour. Took the Warwick path to Brisbane and got there in plenty of time.

Decided I would just drive along the Ipswich road until we got close to the City when I would call Brian to get directions. As it turned out, we had to make a toilet stop for Chloe, so stopped at a Safeway (sorry, Woollies). Got brief directions from Brian, but he suggested we call Marion “who is much better at such things”. Chatted to a ‘local’ about how to get back to the Ipswich Hwy – unfortunately, he missed one vital turn that needed to be made, so we got completely lost. A friendly service station got us back to the highway, and from there it was easy to follow Marion’s directions (she IS much better at such things!!).

Really great night – Rachel and her daughter Sylvie were also there. We all drank far too much red but managed to steer our way to the respective bedrooms without too much trouble (a pin-ball player would have been proud of the way we navigated).

The Big Holiday...... Day 3

We had planned this day to allow time to visit the Western Plains Zoo and then not too long a trip to Moree for the night.

Got to the Zoo early, but they let us in, so didn’t have to hang around too long. Decided that we would have a brief look around the area near the info centre and then slowly drive the 6 km through the Zoo, stopping whenever something interesting turned up.

First stop were the black rhinos that had just been fed. We also listened to a very informative talk by an attendant. What a tragedy it is that the rhinos, all over the world are endangered because of the activities by poachers and the greed and stupidity of those who trade in the products of their “horn”.

Just after the rhinos, we came across a rather unusual sight. Camels were sharing an enclosure with what appeared to be mountain goats or something similar. One camel just stood placidly in the centre of the field while the goats took turns at jumping on its back. They clambered up and down and back again, and that damned camel just stood there, seemingly not a care in the world. Maybe it was just pleased to have the company and attention.

Got lucky and arrived at hippos just on feeding time. The attendants are clearly very respectful of them and they have a very safe way of delivering the food. Three or four hippos then come out of the water and up to the concrete feeding area. I reckon their mouths are even bigger than mine when it comes to munching down all that food.

The plains animals were interesting if a little bland, but the giraffes and elephants were a treat to watch, especially given that they had plenty of space in which to roam. The tigers and lions were pretty boring because, as is their want, they were just lying around, sleeping. We just drove on slowly through the rest because we had promised Chloe lunch at Hungry Jack’s.

From there, after the lunch break, it was on to Moree. A fairly unexciting drive, although we did get to overtake a lot of semis.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Big Holiday...... Day 2

Overnight at Finlay, we planned the next couple of days. Dubbo on night 2 with Wednesday morning to have a look around Western Plains Zoo. Then on to Moree where we would stay Wednesday night. That would give us a reasonable run into Brisbane on Thursday where we can meet up with the Hutchy's. The bookings were made (at Best Western's) and off we went.

Got held up a bit by two huge Mining tip-trucks on the back of very large semis, but eventually got past them. Found a way-side stop for a toilet break, with one of those environmentally friendly toilets - boy, what a disaster those things are. Stank to high heaven, almost taking your breath completely away. Wonder the kids didn't pass out, having their noses much closer to the ground. The greenies must be really proud of these little victories.

Lunch break taken at West Wyalong, after a photo op for the kids at the old RAAF DC3 in the local park. This really opened their eyes a bit, especially when they were told that new jet planes were MUCH bigger and more powerful. No multi-nationals at WW, so had a cafe style lunch. Not too bad, but typical cafe food - not hugely appetizing.

Started telling Ben to keep an eye out for the giant "Satelite Dish" as we were nearing Parkes. For some reason, I seemed to remember it was on the right-hand side of the road (at least that bit turned out to be correct) BEFORE we reached Parkes. No sign of the pesky thing (maybe, the greenies had stolen it - creating too much green-house gasses?), so stopped at the Tourist Info Centre at Parkes Discovered it was another 24Km up the road - at least we hadn't missed it. And, it had its own visitor's centre to boot. Ben & Chloe amused themselves with something a little lower on the tech scale while we discovered all this.

Realized we would have time to drop into the visitor centre at the Parkes Observatory. Ben, as expected, found this experience really fascinating. I even bought a $58 short-sleeved fleecy windcheater (a BIG buy for tight-arse me) and we got them a few little knick-knacks for memories. The big dish there is really big - why, I believe you might even be able to have a hit of cricket in it!! Had our first nice coffee at the kiosk there - a relaxing break.

From there, on to the Motel - Blue Diamond Motor Inn - at Dubbo. Paid $8 for 12 hours of wireless internet hook-up hence this very timely update. The local delivery service for meals decided to take two weeks holiday at this time, so it was off to Safeway for some vital supplies (bottle of bubbly) and Red Rooster for dinner. Nice two-room unit again, with bunks and a single in the second bedroom and even a bath as well as a shower. So Ben has had his shower and Chloe was able to have a bath which she really enjoyed. At the moment we are trying to settle Ben and Chloe who are still too excited to sleep.

The Big Holiday...... Day 1

Robbie, myself, Lorelle, Ben & Chloe got away about 10 a.m. - pretty much on schedule. We saw off Aido and Chrissy before we left and headed east with an eventual turn north (remember, we are hoping to get to Brisbane) just before Camperdown. We passed, uneventfully, through the thriving metropolis of Foxhow and headed to Ballarat. It was just past Foxhow that we had our first little adventure.

I spied an orphaned, new-born lamb beside the road, so we pulled over to try to locate its mum. The only sheep in sight were a long, long way off, and this poor little critter wasn't going to last long by itself. So, we bundled it up in Ben's coat and headed for the nearest farmhouse. The farmer kindly took it off our hands, so on we continued.

After Shepparton, we needed to start planning the night's accommodation - it was clear we would have trouble getting to the next Best Western (I have a few "freebie" vouchers thanks to all the time I spend in Mt. Gambier). We diverged from our Best Western plan for one night and decided to stay at Finlay - at the Finlay Palm Motor Inn. Very nice 2 room family unit for $128. Would recommend this Motel to anyone interested; friendly service, nice room.

Ben & Chloe were really good for the entire trip. A bit unsettled at first in the Motel, but that was expected due to their excitement and strange surroundings.