Stand up and be Counted – The Weekend   Leave a comment

After trailing a few of the inflatable Stand Up Paddle boards (SUP) on show at the Wetspot Open Day the other week, I was convinced enough to go ahead and purchase one for myself. After chatted to the manufacturers rep at the open day as to the best option for me, I found out that the one I had decided upon would not be available in this country until the new year. I could buy another model (in fact the one I was going to buy before I changed my mind!), but I would only kick myself for not waiting, so not wanting to miss out on some practice I decided to hire a SUP for a weekend in order to test it (and myself) out.

Friday, 28 November, 2014

Molonglo Reach

This is a place that I’ve ridden past many a time on my way around the lake. Molonglo Reach on the junction on the Molonglo River and lake Burley Griffin is home to some sort of canoe club and it looks a perfect spot for SUPing as there’s a small beach and a pontoon to launch from. As well as the canoeist, I’ve seen many a SUPer out on the river in the evening and as it’s just off the main road that runs down from work, it makes it a perfect place to drive to after work and have a paddle.

As I was telling the folks back at the office of my plans for the weekend, I realised that Karen’s husband is a keen canoeist, so I asked if she and her family would like to join me for an hour or two on the water. Left work at the usual time for a Friday and drove over to Fyshwick and the Wetspot shop to pick up the SUP and was on the water with an hour and half. As luck would have it I was only one on a SUP tonight, although there were plenty of club members going through their paces in their canoes and after a very shaky start, where I struggled to stand up on the board itself, I was soon paddling back and forth across the river. Karen and her team rolled up not long after this and helping Andrew, her husband and two kids Dylan and Kylie unload the two canoes they had brought with them, we were soon on the water enjoying the early evening sun.

I’m always amazed how kids have no fear and how quickly they pick things up, as within seconds of showing Dylan and Kylie how to use the SUP (I call it the 30 second intro, as that’s about as much I know!) they were off. Of course, like the big kid I am, I wanted to have a go on the two canoes they had brought along and after a brief stint in the inflatable kayak, I squeezed myself into the extremely short canoe that I couldn’t seem to paddle in a straight line.

After drying off (I still seem to fall off the SUP quite a lot) and packing up, we all took a trip over to the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar on the Kingston Foreshore for a hot chocolate before heading home.

Saturday, 29 November, 2014

Yarralumla Beach

Lots to fit in today, haircut, shave (not normally a big deal, but I needed to get rid of the Mo I grew for Movember), a bike ride around the lake, before taking the SUP down to Yarralumla Beach at the lake, meeting Barry at the club tonight to watch a Sydney A-League game on the telly, as well as squeezing in some shopping, washing and cleaning. So I started the day off with a lie-in!

The bike ride went well with me recording a new record time for the 40km route down to and around the lake and back. Decided to leave the shave till later as I knew that would be needing a shower after being in the brown water of the lake. I arranged to meet Glenn and his windsurfer down at Yarralumla sometime in the afternoon and as it was I was set up and on the water well before Glenn arrived. In the meantime, a couple of blokes had turned up with their SUP and had given me a couple of pointers to improve my technique, especially when trying to move across the water at a faster speed. I was still finding it hard to actually move around on the board, I think through fear of falling in, but once I had watched the other guys practicing stuff and ending up in the water, I wasn’t so embarrassed about getting wet. The wind was a bit hit and miss, which was fine for me, but Glenn was struggling to get his windsurfer going in the light winds, so he had a go on the SUP while we waited for the wind to pick up.

Towards the end of the day, Ya, Glenn’s wife turned up after finishing work for the day and showed me how much she has learnt on the windsurfer since the last time I seen her on one. She was even keen to have a go on the SUP and was soon off across the lake after my usual 30 second training session.

I was feeling pretty shattered by the time I got home, but I still had the energy to shower, shave the Mo off and get myself over to the Southern Cross club to meet Barry in order to watch the Sydney derby match, have a few beers and walk home to bed ready for a long day tomorrow.

Sunday, 30 November, 2014


Good job I had a lie in yesterday as I was up early this morning ready for Glenn to pick me up at 8 o’clock in his smart new car. I’ve driven to the coast a few times in the last few weeks but today it was great to be chauffeured all the way there. It took us just under 3 1/2 hours to get to Merimbula and this included a stop at Bombeka Pie shop for breakfast. We were little unsure as to where we were going, but we knew there was some sort of competition happening on the main beach. Eventually we saw some of the sponsors tents lined up near a beach so we parked up a wondered over to see what was going on.

We soon discovered that the SUP competition was being held in the surf just over the sand dunes. Wow, those guys were good and watching the 30/40 of them do their stuff, I was keen to have a go myself. Not in the surf mind you, but in the more sheltered lagoon behind the beach. We found the perfect spot by the water’s edge with a little beach and after setting things up and donning our gear, we were both off and running or windsurfing in Glenn’s case and SUPing in mine. Glenn was having a ball in the stiff off shore breeze which made my paddling a lot harder and I really had to work hard to stop myself being blown onto the beach.

After a couple of hours practicing various things on the board, I was feeling pretty confident on it, enough to venture out into the open sea where the SUP competition had been replaced with kite surfing and wind surfing. However, I soon found out that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was and struggled to stay on the board for more than a few second in the swell just beyond the breaking surf.

After packing up our gear, Glenn and I returned to the competition/sponsor area just as they too were packing up, so we showered off, ate our sandwiches and headed home.


I’m knackered, but I’ve had a great weekend and learnt a long of things about SUPing and myself. Big thank you to Karen and her family for joining me on Friday night and also to Glenn for being such great company over the last couple of days (and for the lift to the coast of course!). I’ll return the hire board tomorrow and have a word with the guys at Wetspot about putting in an order for the one I want, shame I won’t be able to get it till after Christmas, but maybe I’ll be able to do a deal with them on getting hold of one for use during the holiday season!

Posted November 30, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

Cricket Manuka Style   Leave a comment

Wednesday, 19 November, 2014

Skipped off work this afternoon to travel down to Manuka Oval with Patrick and a couple of friends from work, Glenn and Ron to watch the third in the series of One Day International (ODI) cricket match currently being held between Australia and South Africa.

Arrived at the ground well before the scheduled start of 14:20 and found a great spot on the grass bank underneath the main scoreboard. As we were chatting in the lead up to the toss, we were approached by a television crew who were conducting interviews around the ground. They had spotted that Ron and myself were sporting Mo’s for Movember and told us that they were doing a spot on the programme later about cricket and November and would we be willing to be interviewed. So 10/15 minutes later I found myself down at pitch side telling the world about my Mo and the money that I and the Movember Team at work have raised so far. I tried to contact the folks back in the office so that they could catch my 2 minutes of frame on the office TV, but it looked as though the piece wasn’t broadcast live outside the ground.

Anyway Australia won the toss and elected to bat on what is always considered a batsman friendly pitch and not long after that the South Africans were entering the field of play along with the two Aussie opening batsmen. Manuka Oval has a new increased capacity of 13 thousand and by the time the match started I would say it was two thirds full and we were entertained by an opening partnership of well over a hundred before the first wicket fell. Not all of the crowd got to see it though, as Glenn was at the bar getting the beers in when Warner was caught in the field for 53 runs. As suspected, wickets were at a premium while the batsmen made hay in the middle and after their allotted 50 overs Australia had made 329 for the fall of 5 wickets.

Today was a hot day, not as hot as the last time I watched cricket on this ground, so I was glad that I had elected to cover-up completely and it was good to see that the organisers had learnt the lessons from the last one dayer and had plenty of water stations dotted around the ground for me to re-fill my water bottle up. However, by the time the South Africans came out to bat the sun and the temperature had started to drop, so I could switch from drinking water to beer!

Like Australia, South Africa made an excellent start and the first wicket didn’t fall until 3 figures were on the scoreboard. I managed to miss the next couple of wickets while I was waiting in the queue for the loo and bar. The next couple of batsmen (Alma & De Villers) started to build a big partnership and it looked as though they were cruising to victory as the Aussies struggled to press home their attack, in fact I took the opportunity to grab my camera and take a walk around the ground capture some images. When I got back to the boys on the hill I was given a beer by Patrick and just as we were sitting down to drink it, Alma hit an almighty six and guess what, it was heading straight for me! Jesus, what do I do?

  1. Coolly put down my beer, stand up and safely catch the ball two handed and accept the adulation of those around me and the millions watching on TV.

  2. Keep hold of my beer, catch the ball one handed and become a viral internet sensation.

  3. Sit there frozen to the spot, spill my beer all over my lap and meekly stick a hand out in a weak attempt to catch the ball only for it to sail pass and thud into the grass bank behind me.

I’ll let you decide!

Not long after this, alma reached his hundred and de Villers clocked up his fifty, but that’s when the wheels came of the South African innings as within a couple of overs of this, both were out and after that the South Africans started to lose wickets on a regular basis and in the end the Australians won the game quite easily by 73 wons.

Posted November 19, 2014 by yermandownunder in Canberra Events, Observations, Out and about

Stand up and be counted!   1 comment

Sunday, 9 November, 2014

Up early this morning to drive back from Sydney in order to catch one of my favourite days of the year, the Wet Spot Watersports open day on Lake Burley Griffin. On the way in Canberra I received a couple of phone calls from some people who were meeting me later in the day. As it was, I made good time after leaving Sydney at 7:30am and was rolling into the site of the open day at 10:30 to be greeted with a vast array of watercraft already on the water. The weather gods were also smiling on us today, as the sun with out and there wasn’t a breath of wind to speak off.

After signing in and donning a lift jacket (insurance proposes!), I was just taking a couple of pictures of the scene when James and Grainne rolled up on their bikes after riding down from their place up in Garran. James is keen as mustard on getting a kayak of some sort, although Grainne isn’t so keen! So the first craft we jumped into a couple of single kayaks and were soon paddling off across the lake. By the time we got back, Nick had arrived and was looking to jump onto a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) where he showed off his balancing skills which were in no doubt honed on the slopes of ski fields up in the Snowy Mountains. Not long after this, Patrick and his son, Owen turned up, complete with matching rash vests! They too were keen to try out as many of the kayaks as possible and soon everybody was out on the water in or on some sort of craft. We even bumped into Glenn, who was trying out of the windsurfers, even though the wind was hardly blowing at all.

One of the major SUP manufactures, Naish, were showing off their latest range of SUPs and I was keen to try out a couple of their inflatable models which pack away into a bag whilst not in use instead of having to be strapped to the top of your car. One of my major concerns was would they be able to carry someone of my size and weight without folding in half like standing on a lilo at the beach! I tried out at least three of their range and I can happily say that even the smallest one stood up to the test without any problems.

After a couple of hours messing about on and in my case in the water, we decided to de-camp and meet up again farther  down the lake shore at the Yacht Club for coffee/beer, fish and chips and a chat under the trees on the lake side lawns. A great day with a couple of decisions made as to what people want to do about purchasing any of the equipment we played on earlier in the day.

Watch this space for an announcement!

Posted November 9, 2014 by yermandownunder in Canberra Events, Out and about

Sculpture Trail   Leave a comment

Friday, 7 November, 2014

Up very early to drive over to the eastern suburbs of Sydney and the beach of Tamarama. Arrived just after the crack of dawn to witness the sun popping up above the sea off the coast and throwing its first light on the sculptures I’d come to see.

Sculptures by the Sea is a popular annual event where artists are invited to create and display their works along the 1.2km Bondi to Tamarama Coastal Walk. It generally runs for a period over three weekends in late October/early November and this year there were over one hundred sculptures of varying shapes and sizes dotted along the coast.

A couple of years ago I took a look at the artwork on a weekend with Kerry, Christina, James and Donald on James’s last full day in Australia before he flew back to the UK. The only problem on that day, was the thousands of other people vying to take a look at the sculptures at the same time. Lesson learnt and so this year I drove up to Sydney last night after work with the intention of avoiding the crowds. The good thing about being up so early is that you see places in a different light and this makes for great photgraphy. I was also amazed to see Bondi beach so empty and was kicking myself for not bring my swimming trunks along so that I could take a dip in the famous Bondi Iceberg pools.

Never mind, there’s always next year!

Posted November 7, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

Dash to the beach   Leave a comment

Saturday, 14 September, 2014

Did I tell you that I’ve finally got another car! A beautiful 1.8 Toyota Corolla which has made my life so much easier and allows me to get out and about.

Anyway, on Thursday I noticed that the weather on the coast was looking good and decided that I could kill two birds with one stone, by firstly giving the car a good run out to test its capabilities and secondly to check out a new route up to Jervis Bay that I spotted on the map. Generally, when I (or anybody else for that matter) go to the NSW South Coast, this means a drive along the Kings Highway through Bungendore, Braidwood, down the Clyde Ravine into Batemans bay and then turn left to get to Ulladula, Mollymook and Jervis Bay or right to travel down to Narooma, Bermagui & Eden. This means that driving up to Jervis Bay by this route means that it would take 3 to 3 and half hours to get there from Canberra. However, just before Braidwood there’s a road that forks off up towards Jervis Bay through the small town of Nerriga. I had a suspicion that part of this road would be un-sealed, meaning that I would have to slow down for fear of wrecking my new car.

Anyway, left Canberra early without any breakfast, as I knew that I would be stopping off at Braidwood for the usual coffee and pie in the bakery (As you know, it’s the law that you have to stop in Braidwood for a pie!). The Nerriga road veers off the King’s Highway just before Braidwood, but it was only an extra five minute drive to get into the centre of town and the bakery. The traffic was fairly heavy on the way down to Braidwood, but immediately I turned off the main road I hardly noticed any traffic at all and I was just congratulating myself on a good move when I hit the first stretch of gravel road! It was a bit of a shock at first, but once I realised that the road conditions were actually pretty good, with the gravel surface well packed down, I soon started to increase my speed and fairly soon I was nearly back up to the sort of speeds I was doing on the main highway. This first stretch lasted for around 10km and then I was onto a 50/60 km stretch on sealed road that wound its way through some beautiful countryside, part of which I stopped and took a look at before continuing on towards the coast. The second stretch of gravel road was a bit of a bone shaker and I had to reduce the speed considerably in order to spot and avoid some of the larger potholes. I soon worked out that by driving in the middle of the road allowed me to proceed at a decent lick and on this 15 km or so of road, I only saw a couple of other cars coming the other way. At the end of this road, I joined the main coast road that runs from Sydney all the way down the NSW coastline to the Victorian border and headed toward Jervis Bay. So 3 hours after leaving home, I found myself pulling up into a small car park just of the beach at Hyams Beach.

Wow! three hours, including time spent at Braidwood munching pies, to get from home to one of the best beaches in NSW, not bad. Mind you I don’t I’d be using this route when its wet, but then again I wouldn’t be coming to the beach in the rain anyway.

First things first was to take a dip in the crystal clear waters of the bay, bloody hell the water was freezing and as I was drying off by the waters edge I heard my name being called out across the beach. Canberra in not a big place, but I never seem to meet anybody I know when I’m out in town, but when I’m away seem to bump into loads of people I know and today it was Phil, from the Big Hike group and his wife Barbara who just happen to be on a week’s holiday in the area and were taking a walk along the beach. We chatted for a while, during which they told me about some of the best places to visit in the area including the Booderee National Park, which is within the Jervis Bay Territory, which in turn is actually classed as part of the ACT.

So after taking my own walk along the Hyams beach towards the strangely positioned HMAS Creswell Naval base, I took a drive around to the Booderee visitors centre to enquire about camping in the National Park and what it had to offer. After having a chat with a couple of the excellent park rangers inside, I found myself booking a two night stay at the Green Patch camping grounds for the first of the upcoming public holiday weekends.

Hoping to avoid any potential conflicts with any kangaroos who fancied taking me on during a twilight drive back to Canberra, I left the coast at around 4pm and taking the same route back, I arrived back home after just two and half hours.

Posted September 14, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

Americas Cup Racing (Only joking!)   Leave a comment

Saturday, 30 August, 2014

This not having a car lark is becoming a bit of a pain! I’m up in Pittwater Bay, after completing a day’s sailing with some friends. However, getting here involved a lot of organising starting with me packing all my gear into a rucksack on Friday morning, jumping on the bus into work, meeting Meryl outside the Viking Club at five O’clock (where I had a couple of farewell drinks with Verity who is off to Sydney to start a new job/life there), driving round their house to pick up her husband, Glenn, then setting off up the Hume Highway to rendezvous with the other Glenn, his wife Ja and daughter Beam at a service station, where I swapped cars to complete the journey up to the Big4 Lakeside Holiday Park on the northern beaches near Mona Vale for our overnight stop.

Anyway, after an early breakfast and a quick trip to the supermarket to grab some supplies with Glenn, Ja and Beam, we set off up the road to the marina where the yacht we were sailing today was moored. Here we meet Glenn’s old uni friend Bernie, as well as Glenn and Meryl again, who had also bought along their friend Ros. So it was the eight of us who walked down onto the floating pontoon to catch a first glimpse of our boat for the day, ‘Out of Sight’ and what a Beauty she was! We quickly stored all our belongings and food below decks (please note the liberal use of sailing terms in this post!), and joined one of the deck crew up-top for a demonstration of the boats features. These were mainly the safety features, including, life jackets, life raft, radio, charts, etc. but also included more mundane items like the heads, cooking facilities, seating arrangements etc.

With the formalities over, it was time to be on our way and with Bernie and me manning the ropes and Glenn and one of the shore crew steering the boat out of its mooring under engine power, we headed out into Pittwater Bay. Once we were clear of any potential trouble, the man from the shore crew bide us farewell and jumped into the powerboat that followed us out to return to shore. Glenn pointed the bow into the wind and we got about raising the fore and main sail so that we could start sailing. The wind was fairly stiff so Glenn decided to put a reef into the sail in order to reduce its size, but once we caught the wind we were making good progress.

Before we set off from the moorings, we had discussed what everybody wanted to do during the day. Obviously, it would have been great to go sailing all day, but the we had to eat at some time and not everybody on board was as keen as others to go hammer and tongue at exploring the boats capabilities. The weather wasn’t helping either and nearly as soon as we set off the rain started to fall as well. However, as we approached our planned morning stop off point at Coasters Retreat, the wind and rain abated and even the sun made an appearance, so it was in relevantly calm waters that we had morning tea.

For the next stint, we sailed up and across the mouth of Pittwater Bay between Box bay and Palm Beach. Palm Beach is famous, as being the home of the fictional Summer Bay in ‘Home and Away’, it is also one of the most expensive suburbs in Sydney! This part of the trip made for some interesting sailing, as the wind was really up at this stage and Glenn was having fun putting the boat through its paces, although this wasn’t to everybody’s liking, see pictures below! We had planned to stop of lunch at one of the sheltered bays along the main Pittwater Bay estuary, but the wind was against us and after several aborted attempts to sail into one of these, we turned back and headed back for the safe haven of Coasters Retreat again.

Lunch was a very civilised affair, with the BBQ being started up for burgers and sausages, roast chicken and cold meats from the supermarket, salads etc. all washed down by a couple of bottles of wine and a few beers. Again, the weather was kind to us and I even thought about a swim, until someone mentioned the ‘shark’ word!

After lunch we decided to stay in the calmer waters that were protected from the worst of the wind/weather by the headland, however this gave us all a chance to have a steer of the boat, under strict supervision from Glenn of course and I for one was surprised how much you could throw a big boat like ‘Out of Sight’ around whilst under sail. Unfortunately, time was against us and all too soon we had to make our way back into port and our planned rendezvous with the shore crew, who guided us into the mooring. Then it was just case of unloaded everything that we had brought with us, posing for a team photo and heading back to the holiday camp to shower and get ready for a meal out in the Pittwater RSL located just up the road.

Posted August 30, 2014 by yermandownunder in Out and about, Travels

Going Home   Leave a comment

Wednesday, 23 July, 2014


A bit of a flap right at the start of my, as was getting on the bus this morning to go to work, I realised that I had forgotten my UK Debit Card. So, after a quick phone call to James, who was giving me a lift to the airport later, we arranged for an earlier pick-up and then we swung by my place on the way to the airport to retrieve the card.

After my previous performance at Sydney airport when I was checking in with Emirates for my flight home at Christmas 2012 (it’s a long story, but the short version is that my tickets had been cancelled and I had to be re-booked onto the flight home), I was a little worried when the Check-in lady was pulling a few faces when attempting to check me in all the way from Canberra to Manchester via Melbourne and Abu Dhabi. Fear not! she said it was just the system being a bit slow and I was soon on my way through security, where I bumped into Tracey, one of the ladies from the Spanish Course I took a couple of years ago. After a quick chat with her and her work colleagues, who were on their way to Sydney, I was soon boarding my first flight from Canberra to Melbourne. The Virgin flight was about 3/4 full and I found myself on a empty row of seats with a window seat to look at the mountain ranges all the way down to Melbourne.


As my baggage was checked in all the way to Manchester, I went straight from the Domestic terminal to the International Departure lodge, where I found a pleasant open space with hardly anybody around. Looking at the boards, I noticed that there weren’t too many international flight leaving Melbourne, but through the windows I spotted what was hopefully my plane being prepared for the flight. Only four hours to wait!

Abu Dhabi

Wow, never thought that a thirteen hour flight would be so enjoyable! I was looking a bit dodgy before takeoff, as I noticed a couple of engineers working on the engine of our plane for a good couple of hours up to and including us being call to board the plane. I was sat in an elsie seat right at the back of the Etihad Boeing 777-300 next to Diane, a young lady from Melbourne who was going to a wedding in northern Greece and then on to Italy for a two week holiday with some relatives. She had the window seat which meant that there was only to two of us in our row, which gave me a bit more room to settle into. I would say the flight was full and there certainly wasn’t much overhead luggage space available by the time I got on board. Dinner was served as soon as we achieved our cruising attitude and straight after that I watched Shadow Recruit on the fantastic on-board E-Box entertainment system. Then whilst listening to Van Morrison’s album Astral Weeks on the headphones, I even managed a four hour sleep, which is surly a first for me on a long haul flight. We was woken up by a bit of turbulence, so I watched 3 episodes of Season Four of Downton Abbey before trying to get some more sleep (again accompanied by Mr Van Morrison). as dawn broke over the United Arab Emirates, the plane came back to life with breakfast being served by the attentive staff and everything being prepared for landing right on time at what looked like a half built Abu Dhabi airport.

This airport is going to be one seriously big place once it’s finished, as even the terminal we walked through once we got off the plane was massive. There was a pointless exercise of going through a security check, complete with scanners, body searches etc, especially owing to he fact that we had just stepped off a plane, but hey-ho, such is life. there was a bit of confusion as to which terminal/gate Diane and I were supposed to be at for our connecting flight, but once someone had sorted that out we wished each other a safe journey and went our separate ways. After a bit of searching, I found myself at gate 41 in terminal 3, which three members of airport staff assured me was the correct gate for my Manchester flight, although I was still a bit worried as it had the 8:55 Frankfurt flight on the the tv screen and I was surrounded by Germans!

After confirming that Gate 41 was my actual gate, I took myself off into the Duty Free shops, where I nearly bought a set of Bose Headphones ($330), but ended up buying a new 32GB Pen Drive instead ($24), cheapskate! With my change, which arrived in the local currency, I bought a coffee and then ambled back to the gate to find that the Germans had gone and had been replaced by Mancs! Got talking to a young lady who worked in Dubai (Apparently, only about an hour’s drive away) and she filled me on the history of the airport, Etihad Airways and all things concerning life in the United Arab Emirates.

Even thought the airport was full of air-bridges to the many waiting Etihad planes, we were eventually loaded onto a bus and driven along the front of the terminal to our plane, onto which we boarded in what seemed like 50C heat! The flight itself was uneventful, except for the fact that a couple of passengers were off loaded and we had to wait while their luggage was removed from the hold. Again, I managed to get some sleep, after eating breakfast (or was it lunch, or dinner or…) and watching The Hunger Games on the E-Box system. When I awoke, I was surprised to find out that we were only an hour or so from landing and a spent most of this time looking out of the window at the changing scenery below.


Passport control and retrieving my luggage was a breeze and I walked out into the Manchester Sunshine to jump on a bus which took me to the Car Hire Village, where I jumped into the rental car that I’ll be using for the next 6 days.

Posted July 23, 2014 by yermandownunder in Back Home, Observations, Travels


A Blog about Mario's life down under!


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