Posts Tagged ‘australia’

Drop snakes and other remarkable sights

April 17, 2012

Most of my readers are Australian, and will know all about drop bears and hoop snakes.  For the other two of you (grin!), drop bears are unusually large, vicious, carnivorous marsupials (similar to oversized koalas, but of course koalas are not bears).  They drop on unsuspecting prey and devour them.  No-one has ever seen one and lived to tell the tale.

Hoop snakes, I believe, are also found in the US and Canada.  They can put their tails in their mouths and roll like a hoop, chasing their prey at great speed.  Fearsome creatures, especially to New Zealanders who, not having any snakes at all in our homeland, tend to be rather nervous of serpents.

Now, on with today’s tale:

We were at an estuarine lake, enjoying the cool sea breeze and shady trees.  I saw a fish jump right out of the water, at least 45cm or so.  I pointed and exclaimed, and we all went down to the water’s edge to see if it would happen again.  As we discussed the event, we heard a splash and glimpsed some movement just a few metres to our right.  But it wasn’t a fish.  It was a snake!  It had jumped (can snakes jump? this one did) from an overhanging tree branch, and was now swimming remarkably rapidly across the lake, its head sticking up out of the water so it could see where it was going.

Now I am worried about the infernal offspring of drop bears and hoop snakes: the drop snake!  (Hoop bears might also be a worry).

Some other cool things we saw today:

– more fish jumping right out of the water

– a kookaburra sitting, not in an old gum tree, but on a handrail

Kookaburra sits on the old... hand-rail

– an eagle’s nest on top of a light pole

Quite the place for an eyrie

– three children playing together happily at the beach

Three happy children at a beach

The beach was a long one, and Fainjin was a bit worried we wouldn’t find our way back again, so he marked a trail.  With spirals.  As you do.

Bless his wee heart

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

Someone who looks after the animals

April 16, 2012

Yesterday morning, Babess was unwell.  While she slept it off, The Dad took Pearl and Fainjin to the local zoo.  Just after they left, Babess woke up feeling much better (I’m convinced now she had overheated, rather than having a tummy bug, but at the time I couldn’t tell) and she was mad.  The same thing happened last year – she fell ill while we were here, and the bigger kids went to the zoo.  I promised that we would try to go another day when she was better, and we settled in for a morning of reading books and watching Disney movies.

This morning we went to the zoo again.  Pearl and Fainjin weren’t that interested in a repeat visit, so The Dad took them to the adjacent playground and Babess and I walked around saying hello to all the animals.  She found the chimpanzees intimidating, although they were rather placid, but was charmed by the dingoes and koalas.  We marvelled at the sheer bulk of the sleeping wombat and she bounced up and down in front of the very bored-looking kangaroos (who were lazing about and not bouncing as she had hoped).

At one point we were walking down a path and a zookeeper passed us, on some errand or another.  She said in her loud and crystal-clear voice, “And there’s the farmer…”

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

More reasons not to travel with small children

April 14, 2012

On the plane, Babess and Fainjin each had a window seat so were as far apart in the row as it was possible to be.  Fainjin called to Babess, waving the safety card.

“Babess!  Have you seen this?!”

“Yes!” she shouted back.

“It’s the instructions!  On the plane… you are not allowed… [very dramatic pause] to light fires!”

Luckily, the passengers around us seemed more amused than annoyed.

“No! Don’t put Dragy in the bag!  I will carry him!” sobbed Babess as I rescued her soft toy dragon from the luggage trolley.  About 15 minutes later, in a completely different terminal: “Oh no! I forgot Dragy!”


If you, or anyone you know, found a 12-inch-high blue dragon on Friday 13 April, somewhere between the Virgin Australia Domestic Transfer desk at Sydney International Airport, and Sydney Domestic Airport Terminal 2, Babess would be very grateful if you could email us or leave a comment here.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

Bear’s big adventure

April 11, 2012

Last year when we went to Sydney, Green Bear came too of course.  He mostly stayed at the hostel when we went out, although he might have seen one or two of the playgrounds we visited.

On our last day, we had to leave early in the morning, so The Dad and I packed the night before.  Green Bear went into one of the carry-on bags, but had to come out again to sleep with Fainjin.  In the morning, we got the children up, dressed them, stripped the beds and took the linen down to reception, left the duvets piled on the beds, checked under the beds and in all the cupboards for any forgotten items, and left while it was still dark.

A couple of hours later, on the plane, I noticed that Babess’ baby doll was in my bag, but Green Bear wasn’t.   “Do you have Green Bear?” I asked The Dad quietly.  He looked in his bag.  “Nooo…”  We wondered whether Fainjin had put Green Bear in his own little bag.  I checked.  Nope.

I wondered whether to bring it up.  We were still half-way through our trip, and I didn’t want Fainjin to be upset about losing his bear, if he had.  But I thought he might have put Green Bear in one of the checked bags.  So as we walked through the second airport on the way to our next plane, I casually asked, “Hey Fainjin, do you know where Green Bear is?”

Fainjin looked at me and giggled.  “He’s hiding!” he said conspiratorially.

“Hiding?!” I had a sick feeling in my stomach.  “Hiding where?”

“At the hostel!  Heee heee hee!”

“Fainjin… we’re not going back to the hostel.  We’re not even going back to Sydney!”

“I know!  Hee hee!  He’s having a – hee hee! – adbenture!”

He certainly was.  It turned out Fainjin had hidden the bear in one of the piled-up duvets.  Luckily the hostel were very kind and understanding and posted him back to us.  It took a couple of weeks to get him back, but Fainjin was supremely unconcerned the whole time.  He was perfectly happy knowing that he had sent his bear on a big adventure!

© UpsideBackwards 2012.


Celebrating their heritage

November 24, 2011

The Dad plays CDs on the way to work, unless I’m in the car and listening to Morning Report.  Fainjin and Babess like the music, mostly.  They sing along to the Beatles, Babess making up her own words but Fainjin has picked up the “real” words apparently by osmosis.

One morning, listening to the music, Babess said, “Is this the Beatles, Dad?”

“No,” came the reply, “it’s Cold Chisel.”

“Aw,” said Babess, but then The Dad told her a little more about them.  “They’re from Australia! Yay!” she shouted.

Fainjin joined in the cheering, and all enjoyed the music for the rest of the trip.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Rocking in Queensland

October 27, 2011

During our stay in Central Queensland, we took the kids rock-hunting.  There is lots of good rock-hunting to be done in the area – fossicking for emeralds and sapphires around Emerald and Rubyvale is great fun, although very hot and dusty work.

We weren’t that far west (Queensland is BIG. More than twice the size of Texas and even bigger than Alaska), so we didn’t go to the gemfields.  Instead, we took the kids to Mt Hay to look for thundereggs – or as Fainjin and Babess insisted, thunderstorms.

On the way there, we looked out for kangaroos (we didn’t see any this time, but have in the past)(*) but were surprised and delighted to see some camels – and their babies!  We assume they were being farmed, as it’s not the sort of area where they roam wild.

Finally we found the turn-off and went up a bumpy dusty road to the shop and fossicking area.  The kids loved looking at the beautiful polished gems and crystals in the shop, and we had to warn them that their thundereggs would not look like that!

We were given a brief talk on the history of the area (Fainjin was excited to know we were on a volcano!) and shown what to look for.  Then we armed ourselves with picks, buckets of water and plastic bags for our treasures, and hit the dirt.

All you need to go rock-hunting

A-hunting Pearl shall go...

Babess found the first non-broken thunderegg, she has a good eye as it turns out.  Hers were probably the best examples of all the ones we found.

Babess loved washing the rocks; hers were definitely the cleanest!

Babess' thundereggs - one is a double-yolker!

It didn’t take us too long to amass a worrying quantity of rock, especially Pearl who liked the look of several lumps of rhyolite.  Fainjin was the first to decide he’d had enough digging, but he was happy to scale the heights of the rockheap and slide down on his bottom while waiting for the rest of us.

Fainjin was thrilled to see that "one of them has a dinosaur face!"

Eventually the lure of ice-creams in the shop overwhelmed the temptation to look for “just one more, bigger” thunderegg, and we all went in.

Inside, we presented our treasures for approval, and the best examples were selected for cutting.  The ones I found turned out to be mostly empty, and a more interesting replacement appeared from a bucket behind the counter kept for that purpose.

The thrills weren’t over, though.  We took our ice-creams outside to eat under shade umbrellas, and found we were sharing the picnic spot with this guy:

His gift to us was 15 minutes of quiet, still, fascinated children.

(*) Actually, we did see one, probably, but it had met a truck in the night and was no longer recognisable.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

She’s small, but not *that* small

October 22, 2011

Continuing our “Playground Tour of Australia”, tonight we met friends for a barbecue dinner at a local park.  I must say, I have been impressed with the general quality of playgrounds we have seen on this trip.  Once again we found ourselves presented with a well-kept and very well-equipped play area suitable for several age-groups.  (It’s a shame the barbecues couldn’t cook a sausage in under 90 minutes, but I suppose you can’t have everything!).

Fainjin was thrilled that our friends had brought scooters, and did several laps of the bike/scooter track around the perimeter.  Pearl likes the spinning-things (what are they called?) and loved the flying-fox.

Babess enjoyed the sand-pit, and removed her brand-new sandals so she could get the full effect.  She soon spotted some ants, though, and became quite concerned.

She explained her worries to The Dad: “Oh no! The bugs might trip over me!”

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Darling Harbour Playground (updated with photos)

October 19, 2011

Forget climbing the Harbour Bridge, or visiting the Opera House.  If you are visiting Sydney you must go to the playground at Darling Harbour.  If you don’t have kids, borrow some from a friend.

We didn’t even see the whole playground (which is enormous) – we got “stuck” in the water-play area.  After about an hour I suggested to Fainjin that we investigate the rope-climbing, but he tossed “No! I’m having too much fun!” over his shoulder at me as he scampered along the water-course yet again.

scampering and having too much fun

At the top of the slope there are pumps of several descriptions, and a little water-wheel, and some fountains from which the water runs downhill in several channels, never more than ankle-deep.  Children can change the flow  by opening or closing gates or lifting sluice-gates.  There is an Archimedes’ Screw, which I was fascinated to see working, and Babess loved the Water Scoop, about twice as high as she is but she could still turn it.

Babess at the water-scoop - already soaking wet from the waist down!

I think if we had visited this playground on our first day here, the children would have tried to ensure we never went anywhere else.  I’d like to think we could go there every day for a week and play in a different area each time (slides! swings! whirly things! sand and diggers! rope-climbing! the flying fox!) but honestly, I think we’d end up in the water every time.

One of the things I loved was seeing little kids enjoying it so much and parents not worrying about how wet they got.  It was warm enough that it didn’t matter.  Some kids had togs (swimsuits), some had stripped down to their undies, a few were naked, some were soaking wet in their clothes – and no-one minded a bit.  And, as I heard one mother comment, “It doesn’t matter – if you get too wet we’ll just go to the markets and get you an outfit.”  Indeed, we had been to the markets (5 min walk away) that morning and Babess wore her $10 outfit – t-shirt, dress, hat and matching bag – home from the water-play area.

Make sure you have plenty of sun-screen.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.


October 18, 2011

We are in Sydney (Australia) at the moment, visiting family and having a great time.

Today we took a ferry over to Watson’s Bay, where we went for a walk along the cliff-tops of The Gap to look at the surprisingly small entrance to Sydney Harbour, enjoyed the playground (away from the cliff-top!), then had lunch at a delightful cafe in the local library.

While climbing up to the cliff-top, Fainjin noticed the sandstone boulders adjacent to the path, and enthused, “Hey Dad! I can do some rock-climbing!”

He chose a boulder of about his own height, and attempted to scale it, but found it was a bit too smooth at first attempt.  He stood back, regarded it carefully, then tutted.  “Dat’s the wrong rock.”

Luckily, The Dad was more than happy to lend a hand, and the pair of them scaled the “wrong” rock and then the one above it, only to re-join us a few minutes later flushed with their success.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.


His favourite place

March 23, 2011

Fainjin grabbed our map book this evening as we got into the car.  “Where are we, Mummy, where are we?”

I pointed out on the map where we were, and he was thrilled.  While we drove home, he leafed through the book and claimed to have found playgrounds and “this is where we went to soccer when I was a baby” and other landmarks.

Then he asked, “Where’s Melbourne on this map, Mum?”

“Melbourne isn’t on that map, Fainjin.  Melbourne’s in Australia and we live in New Zealand.”

“Yes it is.”  His tone brooked no argument, and he proceeded to look for Melbourne.  “Here!  This is Melbourne Mum!  I found Melbourne!”

He was pointing to a local suburb.  “How can you tell it’s Melbourne?” I was curious.  Perhaps he had seen an “M” and knew that was the first letter?

He regarded the map dubiously.  “I don’t know…”  Then he turned a few more pages and decided that another map was Melbourne instead.  He claimed to have located the dragon playground and told me that Heidi lives in a story tree near there.

He’s so sweet!

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

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