New South Wales (Sydney) (January 16 - February 3, 2002)


New Zealand

Victoria (Melbourne)
ACT (Canberra)
NSW (Sydney)
Queensland (Brisbane)
Northern Territory


Rainbow Lorikeet

Well... we'll have to add Sydney to the list of cities that we'd like to live in. Its population is about the size of Toronto, but its seaside location has many of the nicer attributes of Vancouver... and more. The coastline is filled with surf beaches, and the skies are filled with birds that you would typically find in pet shops:  Cockatoo's, Red Rosellas, Galahs, Rainbow Lorikeets, Kookaburra's, and Crested Pigeons are everywhere. We also seemed to leave the flies behind that had plagued us since Melbourne. 

One of the first things we did in Sydney was visit the Guides Australia centre to get the girl's book signed and get some Guide badges. The staff at Guides Australia mentioned that there was a guide camp on next week quite near where we were staying. A little more checking revealed that the camp had room for Heather and Chloe, so we signed them up. 

While in Sydney we stayed with Marianne Lions in the North Sydney suburb of Gordon. Marianne is a James family friend, a distant cousin of Sarah's father, and the mother of Kate who we saw in Canberra. Originally, we were going to only stay a few days, but with the girl's camp, Marianne graciously put us up for 10 nights. We had a wonderful time with Marianne.

Blue Mountains

fire damage near Sydney

We saw the typical tourist sites: Dee Wye, Whale, Terrigal, Manly, and Bondi Beaches, the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour (including a water ski show and a didgeridoo demonstration), The Gap (a cliffside lookout on the south side of the harbour entrance), and the Sydney Aquarium.  The outstanding part of the aquarium was the recreation of the barrier reef. It was magical - large plate glass windows looked over reef vistas and multi-coloured fish, while classical music played in the background. People were just sitting on the floor watching it, mesmerized by the colours and the activity. I'm looking forward to seeing the real reef when we get to Cairns.  We took a day trip to the Blue Mountains (blue because the eucalypt smell leaves a distant bluish hue). From a distance, the mountains seem like rolling hills - but they are full of picturesque ravines and gorges that make most of the hills as impassible as mountains. There was quite a bit of evidence of the recent serious bush fires. However,  bush fires are not uncommon - in fact many of the trees bear scars of fires from years ago and yet they still survive. Some seeds actually will not germinate until they are heated by a fire. 

We also visited various 'locals'. 
  • We went to Gosford to see Elizabeth, Nathan and their two kids Jayden and Ashleigh. Elizabeth is Marianne's youngest daughter. We had a fun beach day with them near their home.  
  • I was reacquainted with one of my RMC classmates, Mike Knowles.  He and his wife Elisabeth and two children Christopher (13) and Lara(10) almost qualify as locals because they have lived in Sydney for the last 6 years. We met them for a barbeque and then again on Australia Day to celebrate the Aussie national holiday on January 26. Mark even got to take a little break from Mum and Dad (or maybe it was the other way around) when he was invited to a sleep over with Christopher. 
  • We had a very nice evening with the McDonagh's. These are another of my parent's friends from their time in Melbourne in 1956. A mutual friend had put them back into touch a few years ago over the internet. It's wonderful how the internet has allowed so many old friendships to be rekindled. The McDonagh's house is one of the 100 year old houses that we have been very taken with since we arrived in Australia - lots of fancy brick and wrought iron. Mark, I am sure, will remember the collection of spiders on the bushes outside. It was dark, so we could not tell exactly what kinds they were - but they did seem awfully big.  

We managed to get some administration done. Sony fixed the flash on our digital camera, and Air New Zealand gave us tickets on Qantas for all the Ansett flights we missed. This was a shock as we had been told by Air New Zealand in New Zealand that we had lost the flights. The tickets were both good and bad news - good that we're on track and have all our flights back, but bad because we'd made other arrangements assuming that we had lost the flights. We now have a car that we have to drop off in Brisbane, but we do not have any Ansett (now Qantas) flight tickets from Brisbane. You would think we'd be able to trade in our Sydney > Cairns ticket for a Brisbane > Cairns ticket, but we have had no luck yet. We'll keep trying. 

For a report on the guide camp, here is Heather. 

Guide camp

Guide camp was very fun. On our first night we had an introduction and then we sang a few songs.  Chloe and I taught the others "Three short necked buzzards" and "Herman the Worm" which we had learned at guide camp in Canada. I could go on and on describing things that we did so I've decided to shorten it to the four days I liked best.

#1) We woke up to squawks of noisy cockatoos and laughing kookaburras.  It was the beginning to a very hot day.  We did our duties in patrols (they are almost the same duties).  My patrol was the Siamese and our patrol leader was my new friend Alison who was also our patrol leader yesterday. We switch patrol leaders every three days.  After breakfast we went ice blocking.  Ice blocking is sort of like tobogganing but
A. You do it in summer and 
B. You have a block of ice to sit on not a sled.

We ice blocked a while then had a little 'rest'. Lunch was hot dogs. That's all for the first day.

#2) Woke up this time to noisy girls and leaders and I did my jobs with my patrol. After breakfast we did the Adventure course which is where you can walk on ropes and rock climb etc...  Then we did this little fun gymnastic thing with a person who worked at a gymnasium.  This lasted all day long.

#3)  Today was our outing to The Maritime Museum, which I had not been to, and the Sydney Aquarium, which I had been to.  We had fun at both places but it took us a long time to get out of Sydney and back to camp.

#4) This day, in my opinion was probably the best day in Sydney.  We first went to a conservation place to have a bush walk and learn a bit about the bush from the park rangers.  Then we went canoeing and kayaking.  If you
didn't know those are some of my favourite things to do, I'm sure you can imagine my delight when they told us what we were going on that day.

Well those were my four favourite days out of five days at camp. I hope you enjoyed reading it!

Thanks Heather!

Mark and I battled through a bit of the Ontario Grade 9 math course over the internet. We are signed up as "beta testers" for a new internet based Ontario Government math course - and I think we've given up. It would work better if we were in Ontario on permanent internet connection, but it is proving to be cumbersome to do over a telephone connection. This was not a requirement from UCC (Mark's School). UCC will issue a math credit if he passes the exam on our return - but I thought the internet course was convenient and would save Mark a bit of stress by not having to do the exam. We did make some good progress on his project for UCC - one of his requirements during the year off was to do a project that encompassed three subjects. While in Queenstown, Mark came up with the idea of doing a business plan for a bungy jump in Canada. He has been busy this week taking measurements of his jump from our video, and doing graphs to show the physics of the jump (distance, speed and acceleration).

We left Sydney on January 28 for the two day drive to Byron Bay at the northern end of New South Wales. En route, we stayed at the very nice Pembroke Holiday Park in Armidale, where the kids had fun playing tennis, ping pong, swimming, and watching James Bond (Moonraker) on TV.

We stayed in Byron Bay for 5 nights in a two bedroom apartment. Byron Bay is a surfing holiday town with an eclectic mix of people and stores - everything from gems and the latest surf gear to tie dyed clothes and other throw-back items from the sixties. When grocery shopping, one nice older fellow in a pink lei with matching pink thongs and a pink sarong wrapped around his waist complimented me on my family. Thanks! 

Mark surfing

The town was filled with backpackers, and our centrally located non-air conditioned apartment was noisy at night -particularly at the 3am bar closing time. We had fun despite the noise and the frequent rain. Mark and I started to learn to surf and the whole family took turns on the two boogie boards that we bought. Both Chloe and Heather are very comfortable in waves, and they don't seem to be as concerned about the marine life as they once were. (Our surfing instructor told us not to worry about sharks because the crocodiles got them all. Just kidding. There are no crocs here, although we saw on the News that they had to remove a 3 m croc from a downtown Cairns street - we'll be in Cairns in the next few weeks!). All three kids wore their pool goggles in the ocean - they looked a little out of place, but it worked for them.  

I'm getting old - and seeing the proof in the strangest places!  There were people handing out flyers on the street corner at night in downtown Byron Bay. I handed flyers out in Toronto for a few hours last year as part of a promotion for MPL's new web site - and ever since then, I have grabbed flyers from anyone trying to give them out, just out of sympathy. As I walked up, I heard the flyer guys tell the people in front of me that it was about a band at a local bar. When I passed (all set to grab a flyer), they did not give me one - they sort of eyed me from a distance and then turned away as I got closer. So far, I have passed them 4 times on two separate nights (with different people each night) with the same results! Can you imagine not meeting the pre-qualifications to get a flyer? Perhaps my hair really is gray - not blond from the sun. Maybe I just look too much like an old fogey who wouldn't go to a smoky bar to listen to loud music. Sarah bought 'boardies' for the two of us - these are surf shorts that are all the rage in Oz and New Zealand. Maybe I should walk by the flyer guys again in my cool boardies before we leave to see if I pass their test! 

On February 3, we left for Surfer's Paradise in Queensland.