Snow & Ice… But This Time Last Year…

More of the white stuff has fallen and is still falling this weekend.

It is bitterly cold outside – and in – as we are both confined to the one room warmed by the wood-burner. The rest of the house is cold on account of our ’emergency level’ of low oil. Unfortunately the long-suffering forgot to check the oil gauge as red light and pump sign flashed frantically on and off warning of dangerously low levels.

 

In his defence it is situated behind the door, not always visible, and this is our first whole winter in our house, nevertheless his shoulders are slumped as it is his job in our house to check these things.

A quick phone call to our supplier would not relieve the current situation for at least 10 – 14 days! The recent Beast from the East has meant delivery times have been extended to cope with the backlog. The present ‘mini beast from the East’ will no doubt have the potential to extend delivery times further still.

As I leave the comfort of the wood-burner and add some warm layers to make a hot cup of tea in our freezing kitchen, my mind drifts off to warmer climes……..

This time last year we had no such worries as we relaxed at the end of nearly two months away on a warm beach.

GROUNDS-11Thailand was the last leg of our indulgent long holiday after four weeks touring New Zealand in a Motorhome, followed by two weeks in Australia.

We stayed at The Shore Katathani resort for a two-week relax and unwind from an amazing adventure packed six weeks of travelling. Our villa – expertly researched by the long-suffering was a dream. Set into steep lush hillside with beautiful sea views and its very own private infinity pool he and I were not disappointed with his choice.

GROUNDS-14

The steep walk up and down many steps/ramps gave us ample cardio in-between just lazing around and generally being waited on, and if the heat got too much and sweating man made an appearance we could always take the ever available golf buggy up instead. With high humidity outside and air-conditioning inside, drawing back the blinds in the morning revealed condensation covered glass doors out to the view. Luckily the Long-suffering duly obliged with his window cleaning skills!

Primarily Thailand was our down time however, we did do one all day excursion involving a ninety minute coach journey followed by a speed boat trip to the Phi Phi Islands archipelago in the Andaman Sea.

Maya Bay shoot location of the film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo di Caprio was one of a few islands our tour guide took us to.

This island has recently been in the news, reported to be temporarily closing from June this year due to the extremely high visitor numbers – 5000 or more people a day.

From our experience last year, controlling visitor numbers can only be a good thing for the conservation of these beautiful islands and reefs.  Nothing prepares you for the sheer volume of people on what is promoted to be an idyllic beach. The posters depict it almost devoid of people and boats. The reality is anything but!

Brochure Picture………

Reality……….

IMG_1414

There were quieter moments walking through the lush vegetation out to the lookout, a welcome retreat from the masses.

We also visited Monkey Island……

For our part we preferred to view the Macaques from the boat which was just as well as the shore was busy with other tour boats, although the monkeys from a distance seemed at ease with the attention!

Bamboo Island our first stop…….

and Ko Phi Phi Don………..

DSC_3826

Sadly all the islands on our visit were just parking lots for the many boats lined up along the shores or bobbing in the water. I am sure in the non tourist times when the masses have left they would once again resemble the idyllic Islands the Brochures suggest!

An encroaching storm meant a rough and wet ride back to Phuket as we sped accross the water, even the plastic ponchos we were kindly supplied with were in danger of being ripped from us by the strong winds whipping around the open to the elements boat. Exhilarating to say the least!

IMG_1386

Back in the vicinity of the wood-burner our time away from the british winter last year is but a distant, happy memory. Nevertheless spring is around even if it is currently under a blanket of snow!

 

 

Buses, Ferries, Coastal Walk, Gondola ride, Zoo with a Spicy ending too!

Day 3 – After a good nights sleep and hearty breakfast we were back out front of our  hotel ready for the long-sufferings planned itinerary – fine tuned by the very helpful Concierge waving us off from the lobby!

For the first time since arriving we turned right out of our hotel and up the hill away from the harbour to catch a bus north to Coogee Beach.  After 19,000 + steps worth of  walking the previous day our legs were still feeling slightly fatigued.

The bus journey to Coogee Beach was almost the same journey our daughter from the house of two halves in Cyprus had taken ten years previous during her own travels in the ‘Sunshine State’. And now here we were following in her footsteps!

IMG_1257Coogee Beach was our start point for the 6km clifftop coastal walk to the famous Bondi Beach.

 

A medium effort walk along paved paths, some boardwalk’s, steps and steep inclines awaited us as the trail snaked and hugged the sandstone cliffs affording stunning panoramic views and beautiful beaches to stop at along the way.

COASTAL WALK-1

COASTAL WALK-5

IMG_1265Clovelly Beach

 

Gordons Bay – small, tucked away between Coogee and Clovelly, the tiny rocky beach covered with boats reminding us of a small Cornwall fishing cove.

 

Waverley Cemetery – here we were rerouted away from the coastal path due to a wild storm in June 2016 causing a landslip, buckling the board walk with it. A temporary route took us on a straight path through the famous state listed cemetery opened in 1877. Had it not been for the diversion we would not have experienced the real beauty in this graveyard with its huge sculptural memorials and crypts. I can think of no better place of rest than high up towards the sky overlooking the beautiful blue of the ocean as far as the eye can see.

 

Bronte Beach – surfs up!

IMG_1271

 

BONDI SURFER-1Bondi Beach – The view as we rounded the last corner was spectacular of this famous beach.

 

DSC_3466

IMG_1280Once on ground level we were on the beach discarding our walking shoes for the soft sand between our toes. We were slightly overdressed although this I think was a blessing given the competition all around!

 

Bus to…Watsons Bay – walk and steps up to Gap Bluff viewpoint. Lookout from tall ocean cliffs facing the Tasman Sea affording stunning panoramic views. Peering over and down from the safety of the angled barriers onto the rocky platform and crashing waves constantly pounding the rocks below it is hard to believe people would willingly throw themselves over the top to an almost certain death. Sadly like our own Beachy Head The Gap is now synonymous for the horror of suicide as well as the Beauty of its location.

 

A short walk through the park down to the wharf short stop for chips and cold beers before our Ferry arrived to whisk us off to…….

 

Taronga Zoo – after many weeks of all things high up the long-suffering has – whilst still not cured – become slightly less uptight about the whole ‘scared of heights scenario’. Just as well, as on arrival at Taronga we were offered the option of the Gondola to the top of the zoo! The photo opportunities this afforded swung the decision in favour, much to my amusement!

 

The zoo opened in 1916 and covers a vast area of 69 acres and houses 4000+ animals of which we only managed to see a small percentage. Nevertheless in the two hour time frame we had before it closed for the day a lot of ground was covered – including ground covered twice due in part to my useless sense of direction!

IMG_1301

DSC_3517

 

 

Back down at the bottom our ferry was there waiting for the crossing back to Circular Quay and the now familiar steep walk back up to our hotel.

 

After a short rest, refreshing showers, quick change and we were ready for some food.

IMG_1275Walking back down the hill for eats, the Spice Room took our fancy and although busy we were squeezed in at a recently vacated table for two. Here we enjoyed good food – a shared buffet for two – lovely atmosphere and charming service… the perfect wind down to another hectic day. 20,624 steps and counting 15.56km and we still had to step back up the hill!

Tomorrow day 4 would sadly be our final day in Sydney and Australia……….