Saturday, 10 January, 2015
Jez, I’ve just woken up from a nap after returning from my latest hike. I don’t normally sleep during the day, but I think I earned this one, let me explain…
Every three month a gang of us from work take part in a hike somewhere in the country around Canberra. The 25th ‘Bike Hike’ in this series was supposed to take place up on Mt. Kosciuszko in the Snowy Mountains about two hours’ drive from the ACT, but the expected 40mm of rain in the region forced us to re-arrange the venue to Mt Gingera in the Namadgi National Park just to the south of the capital.
So this morning six of us, James, Ronan, Patrick, Phil, Tony and myself found ourselves in a MacDonald’s restaurant (is that what they call then these days!) at 7am preparing ourselves for the drive into the national park and up to far end of the Corin dam where the hike would start.
Even though the skies were grey, it was still very humid morning and I think we all found it hard work scaling the steep climb out of the valley in which the dam is located. Four hours later we were at the highest point in the ACT looking down on some fantastic views of the ranges that surrounded us.
Coming down only took two hours, but in some ways it was harder than coming up. Near the end a couple of us were struggling to make it down in one piece and to make thing worst, we could hear the thunder rolling in over the hills. As it was, we just made it back to the cars in time to beat the torrential downpour that surely would have soaked us all if we’d been caught up in it further up the hill. The rain did put paid to our planned BBQ and beers to celebrate the 25th edition of the ‘Big Hike’ series, although we still had the beers! So we had to make do with a coffee and egg/bacon sandwich at the café halfway down the mountain on the way home.
Sunday, 14 December, 2014
A few weeks ago, Glenn contacted me to see if I fancied driving up to Sydney for the day to watch some competitive sailing in the harbour near the Opera House. Always one to have a day out, I naturally said yes and so it was I pitched up at Glenn and Ja’s house this morning at 7am with my camera and camp car in tow!
The plan was for all of us to pile into their new family car (Glenn, Ja, Bang, Beam, Hannah (Beam’s friend) and myself) and drive up to one of the outer suburbs of Sydney, park up near to a train station on the east Hill line, jump on a train into the centre of city ($2.50 for all day travel on any mode of public transport in Sydney on a Sunday, bargain!) and then for us to spilt, with Glenn and myself heading off to the Opera House to catch the racing and the rest of the bang hitting the shops for the day.
Made it to Sydney without any dramas and managed to find a decent place to park up the car at one of the train stations on the East Hills line, just off the M5 on the outskirts of Sydney. From there we took the train right into the middle of Sydney, with Ja and the gang of three jumping off at Central to start the shopping trip and Glenn and I exiting at Circular Quay in order to take the short trip across to the Opera House. Now, Sydney has just recently joined the modern world with the introduction of the Opal card (simular to the Oyster Card in London) and as part of its roll-out, Sydneysiders (not sure if that’s a real word!) get to travel on any Train, Bus or Ferry all day on a Sunday for $2.50, that’s a bargain in anyone’s money! Realising that we had not eaten since around nine this morning, we took the opportunity to stop off at the always excellent Opera bar just below the sails of the Opera House itself for something to eat and a quick beer.
The actual racing itself was scheduled to start at 2pm in the cove between the Opera Hose and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair (farm Cove), so we took up a position at the top of the step leading up to the Opera House which gave us an excellent birds eye view of the course laid out below. To start with we watched some small sailing boats race around the cove, but our attention was soon drawn to the beautiful 40 foot catamarans coming towards us out of the bay across the harbour. Wow! these things could move and by the time of the first race in a series of eight (or was it nine?) was about to start, we counted ten of these beauties.
Then we were off, it was amazing to see these big boats with a crew of five on board, pick-up speed and ‘fly’ across the water towards the first ‘mark’. OMG how are they all going to get around that buoy at the same time without smashing into one another, I thought to myself. Well incredibly they did and over two laps of the course they managed not to make contact with each other, despite the fact that they were in such a confined space. In the first four races I think there were three different winners with every boat looking competitive in the melee. At around the halfway mark, we decided to change positions and headed over to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair on the other side of the cove. This is where the main spectator base was located and as it was near the first turning point (Mark), it certainly made for a fantastic vantage point to see the boats coming in from the start and around the buoy.
Throughout each race I was amazed that there were no collisions between any of the boats, even though they were crossing in front/behind each other at high speed. However, mid-way through one of the latter races, all this changed. I was down at the water’s edge getting some low level shots of the boats as they came around the corner when there was a almighty crash out in the bay between two of the boats. By the time I had located the crash site, one of the boats was on its side and the crew were disparately trying to right it before the mast head started to sink into the water. After several minutes, all this effort proved fruitless as the boat completely turned turtle and they were left sitting on the upturned hull waiting to be rescued.
All too soon it was the last race and as a testament to the closeness of the racing, everything hinged on this to reveal the overall winner of the series. All we had to do after this was to pack up, meet up with the shoppers, have something to eat and drive home.
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
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
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!
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?
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.
Keep hold of my beer, catch the ball one handed and become a viral internet sensation.
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.