Bondi to Coogee

First, an answer to yesterday’s question – the US Coast Guard ship we saw in harbour is the Polar Star (WAGC-10), an ice breaker, so presumably in port here on the way to the Antarctic.

So the 37 degree day didn’t really materialise, although I suspect the temperature was in the low 30’s. There was cloud cover pretty much all day, but still hot and sweaty!

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Cloudy start at Bondi

Bondi was still absolutely packed and the waves were strong despite the lack of wind. Only a narrow strip between the flags again today.  The kids bought some Bondi t-shirts and we had an hour on the beach – although the water temperature can be guessed from the expression on O’s face…..

Around 12 we left to walk round the Eastern Beaches coastal path, through Bronte and Tamarama to Coogee.  Around about an hour and a half later, a slow meander and 10,000 steps achieved for the day, we made it round to Coogee. The waves there were also fairly slow, although there were a few successful surfers.

Back round the city on the bus back to the hotel, with a pitstop in Pandora and a local sports shop – a koala and turtle charm purchased in the first, a new Wallaby rugby ball for O and a Sydney Swans shirt for me in the latter!

Later on, dinner booked on McMahon’s Point, followed no doubt by a walk through Luna Park and the funfair…..

Messing about on boats…

So, 29 December, spent out in Manly and around the City. Although it was fairly cloudy, everyone still managed to get some more colour; the beach was packed, although the area open for swimming was pretty narrow given some dangerous surf conditions.

Quick detour to St Vincent Hospital to get Ollie’s toe looked at after he sprained it playing cricket on Boxing Day. The bruising has gone down, and there isn’t really any treatment beyond painkillers and maybe strapping, but still worth a quick conversation with a doctor.

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View back over Manly

Plenty going on in the harbour, with a big Royal Caribbean ship in and also, bizarrely, a US Coast Guard boat being refuelled. Not sure if he’s here for NYE, or some other reason. There are also the usual Aussie Naval ships, including two small aircraft carriers.

Dinner in Darling Harbour, and a pretty quiet day otherwise.

Onwards to Sydney

28 December was spent travelling down from Hayman to Sydney.  A 10am departure from the resort, by launch to Hamilton Island airport.

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Sun Goddess

The airport is a basic departures hall attached to a runway, and a short 2 hour hop to Sydney on a Qantas 737-800.

Transfer was again very smooth, in to the Shangri-La on The Rocks, 26th floor with a great harbour view.  We’ve booked a spot in the Botanical Gardens for New Year’s Eve, mainly for the 9pm fireworks, but we could equally have a good view from here (although a trip to Bottle-O might be required given the minibar prices…)

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Room with a view!

We had barely checked in when we headed off out for the evening – boys to the cricket, girls to the circus.

The cricket was a Big Bash match between Sydney Thunder and Brisbane Heat. A good 50 from Eoin Morgan was overshadowed by a penultimate ball loss (Match report for those interested!).

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Thunder

The girls loved the circus which was full of old-fashioned acrobatic acts.

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The Circus of 1903

Post Christmas lull…

So after a busy Christmas day, the next few days were spent largely by the pools.

On Boxing Day, we took a hike (which was a lot harder than expected climbing over the steep hill behind the hotel) to Blue Pearl Bay for some snorkelling. Although straight off the beach was pretty much all rocky, once you were 50 metres off shore the coral garden was amazing.

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Clams – around 20cms long

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Lined Butterflyfish

None of has had quite prepared for an hour’s hike in each direction in hot sunshine, but in the end we made it back to the air conditioning and then the poolside bar.

The rest of the day was spent lying in a poolside cabana, with dinner in the Aquazure tapas bar.

The 27th was spent pretty much the same way. Some threatened wind meant that the planned snorkel trip to Langford reef was cancelled, which was a shame as the weather was never actually that bad. Dinner in the Italian, Amici, packing and bed.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

What an amazing Christmas Day.  An early start opening presents, followed by a couple of quick phone calls home (slightly odd with the Christmas Eve / Christmas Day difference!).

Then off for a quick breakfast before Santa’s helicopter arrival on the beach. This was preceded by the elves’ arrival on jets and a quick rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

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Santa’s Elves at Hayman Island

Then it was off for the real treat of the day – we had chartered two helicopters for a tour of the outer reef (Bait, Hook, Hardy, Heart) followed by an hour on Whitehaven Beach. The flight was amazing. Giulio, the pilot, explained how the copter worked and made us feel completely at ease with what was happening.  We flew out at about 1,000 feet and 110 knots, which gave great opportunities for photos out over the reef.

We overflew the Reefworld pontoon, before moving on over Hardy Reef, which is home to the amazing, and smaller than expected, Heart Reef.  It’s only 3 metres square, and the only piece of reef that’s been identified to be heart-shaped from above.

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Heart Reef from the air

The water was so clear, we could spot turtles, rays and even bigger fish from above.  Picture postcard stuff.

Whitehaven Beach is about five miles long and made of silica sand – the only beach made of this – which means that it isn’t hot under foot. No-one is quite sure why this is the only silica beach in the region.  We got dropped off with a bottle of fizz and some water, a couple of umbrellas and a stinger suit for swimming in.

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Pristine Whitehaven Beach

The hour was up too quickly, and we were back on the helicopter for a fifteen minute transit back to Hayman.  Our junior pilot had ‘control’ for a lot of the way back, making some smooth turns and adjustments to altitude (although to be fair, Giulio had his hand on the stick throughout in case of emergency!)…

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First Officer Scott in control

Back on land, we headed into the buffet lunch, which was much better than anticipated. J eagerly signed us up for the bubbly wine buffet, which meant that by mid afternoon, a bottle of Perrier-Jouet had been drunk each, followed later by a third bottle on the balcony of our room!! The food was really good with an extensive seafood buffet and roast beef or turkey with all the trimmings.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in a poolside cabana, snoozing and soaking up the sun.  Everyone was too full for any more food, so the evening was spent finishing off the bubbly and playing Uno on the balcony.

An amazing day all round.

Christmas Eve on Hayman

Christmas Eve was our first full day on Hayman. We investigated the various pools and bars, and although there was some cloud cover it was still very hot and needed full slip slap slopping!

O was desperate to get out on a jet ski, so we booked up for an afternoon tour. I wasn’t at all looking forward to it, but agreed to go along for the ride. We had a jetski to ourselves, with an instructor alongside.

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Off we go……for a few minutes

It was pretty easy operating the switches for forward and backwards, not many controls to master.  Heading out of the harbour was a breeze…..until we hit the waves! The idea was to zigzag out behind the instructor to Langford Island, about a kilometre away. But the minute we hit wash, we were all over the place and my nerve totally went – so arm up, escorted back to the harbour! The instructor took O out for a burn on the back of his, while I sat back on dry land.  O loved it, but not enough to take a hand off to shoot with his GoPro!! He came back soaked through from the spray.

We spent the rest of the day by the pool, so not much else to report.  Dinner was a dodgy set menu in the Italian restaurant, which for various reasons ended up being free!

And then some room decorating before the kids disappeared off to bed to wait for Santa…..

Not much wildlife, but plenty of forest fun

20 December, 2016

So, an early start – around 5.15am – to try to see the platypus living next to the Silky Oaks Billabong.  Very quiet on the way down by torchlight and a few heart-stopping snake-like shadows! I found a little rock to perch on and waited…and waited…. There were a few interesting things to see; an azure kingfisher, bright red chest and blue back; the little eels and river perch, and plenty of noise from the birds. But no platypus.

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Azure kingfisher

The general levels of food and service at Silky Oaks was fantastic, so after a leisurely breakfast we headed off for a croc cruise, about half an hour north of Mossman in Daintree Village. Village is probably an exaggeration though – about four shops and a boating ramp! And not a crocodile in sight, after an hour on the river. The guide was a local with plenty of good stories and information about the local wildlife. I’ve never seen Izzy sit so still, with her hands well away from the side of the boat! But no crocs.

We then headed an hour further north still, to Cape Tribulation.  On the way up, we spotted a Cassowary crossing the road. One of only 2,000 left in the wild and a beautiful big bird with bright blue plumage.  Fortunately we didn’t run it over as it crossed the road.

Cape Trib beach was beautiful, quiet, bright blue inviting seas – and signs warning of marine stingers, estuarine crocs etc to keep you out of the water! We arrived way too early up there – there is pretty much nothing to do apart from the beach and a small boardwalk. Lunch at a bar called Whet was really good, with an English girl staying locally the main server.

Eventually, the time came for the jungle surfing. Run by typical, dreadlocked, cheerful bearded twenty-somethings, Ben, Astro, Dan, who actually turned out to be brilliant. Knowledgable about the forest, and very funny.  Once we were harnessed up, the winch up to the first platform was by ‘hamster wheel’ and then as everyone arrived, set off down eight zip wires to the bottom.  There was a good variety; long one, steep one, upside-down one, but no sign of much wildlife; the tree kangaroos were obviously elsewhere!  We spotted a golden orb spider about the size of a side plate, but that was about it.

After a brilliant afternoon, back to Silky Oaks for dinner, then another night in the rainforest with all the attendant noise.