Saturday, 18 February 2012

Ah the serenity...

Today finds the family camping on the banks of Lake Dyer, just a km or so away from central Laidley. It's a beautiful campsite, set up only about 50m from the water, with plenty of shade trees, well appointed sites with lots of room, lush grass and picturesque views across the Lockyer Valley.

We stumbled onto this place quite by accident. My husband was born out here, and on a Sunday drive out to his birthplace we followed the signs to assuage our curiosity. That was about four years ago, in the middle of the drought. There was about 20% capacity back then and the grounds were a barren dust bowl.

Post floods and we now have 99% capacity, and it's green all round.

If you listen closely you can hear the trains as they travel through town on the way west to Toowoomba and beyond. There are plenty of boats on the dam as well, so the throb of boat engines is a constant, but not annoying sound.

Jordan and I came up last night with the camper trailer to set up. Now when we got here there were 20+ people in the communal area next to us, watching me drive in, back up and set up. I'm not one for looking like a fool in front of strangers, but have to admit I was proud of our efforts and we were soon sitting in the comfort of our annex enjoying the cool afternoon breeze, listening to some tunes and just passing time in our own little piece of country paradise.

As the sun sank toward the horizon, we wandered over to the banks of the lake to watch the spectacle of the sun setting behind the mountains in the distance. There was a distinct chill in the air and we congratulated ourselves on having the forethought to pack light coats "just in case". We followed that with a text to the boys to pack for a cool night when they come up.

They stayed behind the first night so Hayden could play cricket on Saturday morning and once that was over, the plan was to have them tow the boat up so we could play on the dam.

I love just getting back to the easy life, pitching camp and watching the world go by. I've finished one of my books already (Jordan is onto her third) and am catching up on a few magazines as well. Camping is ideal for me, because I don't feel the need to do anything while we are here. We don't have to organise excursions or activities, we just take each day as it comes. If we want to wander over for a swim, we do. If we want to have a nana nap in the afternoon, well that's ok too.

I love the sounds of the country, the birds singing, the wind rustling the leaves on the native trees that are abundant on our site. I love watching the way the colours change on the leaves as the sun begins to wane in the sky, the galahs flying overhead on their way home and the sounds of silence as camp begins to settle. The clink of cutlery, pots and pans as dinners are prepared, the whistle of kettles boiling, the hiss of gas stoves cooking away - all sounds that bring a smile to my face.

And as night sets in, the bats come out and wing their way across the sky, dark silhouettes on a darkening backdrop. The birds go quiet and one by one the stars come out. Last night I reacquainted myself with some old friends - constellations that are only barely visible in the city night sky are luminous in the country where light pollution is low.

Taurus, Aries, Pleiades, Orion, Canus Major and Minor, Leo, Triangullum, Scorpio and of course the Southern Cross all twinkled across the night sky - ok, I saw Scorpio on a toilet run at 2am, but still saw it! It also helps having an app on my iPad to help me identify new clusters in the night sky.

And so to bed. Gorgeous night, not too hot to sleep and cool enough to enjoy the light summer doona's comfort. Can't wait to see what the new day brings...

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Mudflats to mangroves

Hubby and I decided we needed a good hard bike ride this weekend, and with such beautiful weather in the mornings, we had a little brekkie, pumped up our tyres, packed our gel packs and water bottles and made our way from Wynnum West to Redcliffe return.

Bren always sets a good pace, but is also mindful of not killing me in the first 20km. We wound our way through Lindum, Lytton and Hemmant and before we knew it, we were prepping to ride the Leo Hoelscher bridge (Gateway).

With fresh legs on my side, I stuck with the big cog on the way up - a slow pace but a great warm up for the quads and hammies. Quick check in at the top and we began the fun part - the downhill after the hard slog to the top.

This is a great ride that takes you through a stack of different environments. Rural, industrial, airport, bike paths, wetlands, foreshores, back streets, with plenty to see on the way. Relatively uneventful on the way there, and after some nice hills around Shorncliffe, it was nice to rest the legs as we made our way along the picturesque foreshore bike path and over the purpose-built shared walkway on the bridge that links Sandgate and Clontarf.

Stopped for a rest and a drink before the return ride. Toilet stop at the end of the bridge in some high-tech, interactive toilets. Push the button to open the door. Push the button to close the door. Simple enough. Then the toilet man (electronic) welcomes you to the loo. Explains how it works and that you have ten minutes to do what you came to do. Some pleasant elevator type music plays (mine was "What the World Needs Now"). However midway through my business the man advises that scanners have detected no movement (pardon the pun), and that if I wanted to keep the door from opening I needed to move. Now with my butt planted firmly on the seat, the last thing I needed was an open door, so I frantically waved my arms. Toilet man thanked me and advised I had a further ten minutes.

Need toilet paper - press the button and it comes out of a slot in the wall. On completion of your task, no need to flush - this one flushes automatically when you either wash your hands or press the button to open the door. By far one of the more entertaining toilet sessions I've ever undertaken!

Stopped quickly at Shorncliffe to inspect a bike I wanted to buy and we were back on the way home.

The ride home was just as uneventful as the ride out - although we did get to see Emma Jackson (world class triathlete) on a training run. Midday sun, long run, and she was striding it out like a Sunday stroll. Worked out she was running at about 20km/hr - made our bikes look relatively slow!

Trundled along nicely until the 95km mark, at which point I began to doubt whether I'd make it home. Legs were cramping a little with some tightness in the upper left. Made it home ok, and had a fabulously cold shower as my reward.

Would recommend sections of this ride if you don't want a big day out on two wheels. Drive to Boondall Wetlands and the kids will enjoy the ride around the parklands. Alternatively, drive to Sandgate and take in the esplanade bike path - nice and flat with views out across the bay. The ride across the bridge is on a good bikepath and there are lots of parks on the other side where the kids can have a rest and you can rejuvenate before the return ride.

Off you go - on yer bike!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Watching others have fun can be just as rewarding.

My son turns 11 on Friday and our gift to him was a surfboard. Normally he would have to wait to use it, but we were heading off to Caloundra this weekend. Who am I to stand between a boy and his newest love?

Hayden joined the surf groms program at Surfers Paradise last December. It's similar to the Auskick program (Aussie Rules), where they teach the basics of the sport over a series of one and a half hour lessons. After a four day intensive, Hayden was hooked! His coach said he had a natural talent for the sport and he's one of those kids who just keeps persevering when he wants to learn something new.

Surfing bit him hard. Our recent trip to Sydney included a trip to Bondi, where he hired himself a board and spent an afternoon riding the waves. The board was the natural choice for his present.

We spent a couple of hours each day this weekend up at Kings Beach at Caloundra trialling out the board and getting the feel of how it performed. Day one saw a nice windy day, which made for quite choppy conditions. Hayden ploughed through the waves to get to the right spot and proceeded to smash and get smashed. It makes me proud to see him pick himself up after being dumped and get right back onto the next good wave.

Today saw him get frustrated though. Not with the board and not with the waves, but with his fellow beach goers.

There are very clear rules for surfers at the beach. Under no circumstances are they allowed to surf between the red and yellow flags. This is not an issue - he understands that his board can hurt when it hits, not to mention the fins cutting skin like a sharp knife at speed.

There is a section of beach reserved for surfers. It is designated with a blue and white check flag, as well as a large permanent sign that states "Surfcraft" with a directional arrow. Unfortunately, in this beautiful weather, the swimming area is busy, so people see the relatively empty surf area and swim there instead.

For someone as aware of the rules as Hayden is, this is a difficult pill to swallow. A number of times today he was on a great wave, but had to abort to avoid hitting a stationary swimmer who was just wading in the area. While he wasn't aware of it, I did hear one mother who had her two toddlers splashing in the water complaining about how close he had gotten to them with his board. I politely set her straight about the surf zone and suggested if she was really serious about somewhere safe to swim with her kids, perhaps she could move to the patrolled area. She didn't take my suggestion well, and let's just say we agreed to disagree!

Hayden voiced his frustration himself as we left the beach. He couldn't understand why people chose to swim out of the patrolled area and insisted on swimming in the surf zone.

What could I tell him? There are people out there who think it is their god-given right to do whatever they like. To hell with everyone else, rules be damned. If I choose to swim here, I choose to swim here. Gone are the days of courtesy, of sharing, of harmony.

But here's something to ponder. On Main Beach at Surfers Paradise, the surf zone is also in the area where there are often rips or other dangerous currents. Hayden's learn to surf lessons were held right in front of the "Danger No Swimming" signs. While there were a few idiots who still entered the water to swim there (yep, tourists), the majority did the right thing.

The same applies at the north coast - board riders often find they are in the heavier surf zone. This is because learning to read the signs of the beach are all part of the sport. Any surfer will tell you it can be hard enough sharing the waves with fellow board riders, and surf rage is alive and well - especially if you don't follow surf etiquette. But adding swimmers to the mix just rubs salt into the wound!

So next time you're at the beach, take some time out to look for the surfer's designated area, and if you don't have a board, move on up to the patrolled zone. Spread the word. It's a big beach and it's much more pleasant if we could all just learn to share.

And next weekend, when it's Hayden's actual birthday, look out for us in the surf zone at Main Beach - he will be the one on the big blue board. Happy birthday buddy!