Hope you're well and getting through January ok...
When we last wrote, we'd just left Sydney after a fun and festive couple of weeks of sun, catching up with friends and cricket fever (well, one of us was struck down with that, at least...)
Following our not very successful trip to the Blue Mountains (obscured by categorically black clouds) we headed back to the coast South of Sydney, camping in an area called Corrimal. We had a couple of nice days there, in particular a perfect beach day in a lovely little place called Austinmer, with tasty al fresco lunching and the biggest (supposedly single scoop) ice creams we'd ever eaten, although most of Roland's was smeared across his chin, down his t-shirt, behind his ears...
Unfortunately, the sun didn't keep his hat on for long and after a couple of days, it was pouring again. So, with our planned next stop of Jervis Bay rained off, we did an about turn and decided to go to Australia's capital, Canberra. We figured that at least we could find ourselves some rainy day activities there.
Canberra gets a bit of a bad rap as being a touch, well, boring. It certainly is very quiet, although in fairness, we did see it when parliament was in recess and the university students were on holiday. But while it's certainly not the most inspiring capital we've been to on our travels (and does have a touch of the Milton Keynes about it), it suited us well.
We checked out the modern parliament building, only completed in 1988. Security seemed surprisingly chilled out, with a friendly guard on a push bike outside and visitor parking directly beneath the building, but I suppose we're just used to London paranoia. It was interesting wandering around and looking in at the House of Representatives and the Senate - bit of a shame we missed out witnessing some fiery debates as they were all on their hols though.
We also took a look at the National Portrait Gallery, also relatively recent and a really attractive space. Had a pleasant wander around, hardly recognising any of the Aussie faces (but learning a bit of the history, culture etc along the way) and feeling a bit crestfallen that Rolf Harris' and Kylie's portraits were in storage at the time of our visit.
I also tried my hand at glass blowing at the Canberra Glassworks. It was a brilliant experience, really enjoyed it and I made my very own paperweight (so that's a handy heavy and fragile souvenir to lug around Asia!)
The worst of the Queensland floods were hitting at the time we were in Canberra, so we followed the latest on the news. It's incredible that such a vast area (more than the size of Germany and France combined) has been affected so terribly. And it was pretty bizarre hearing about places we'd been to only a few weeks earlier (Rockhampton, Bundaberg) that were amongst the hardest hit. Poor Eve, who we'd met up with in Sydney, went to spend the end of her time in Australia with her sister in Brisbane - and spent the most of the remainder of her holiday with no power, sandbagging and packing up belongings...(thankfully, they were fine). We also saw on the news the other day that the koalas that we so loved in the sanctuary near Brisbane, had had to be carried out one by one to safety by volunteers!
From Canberra, it was a hop, skip and a jump to Kangaroo Valley (via another Big Thing – branching out from fruit now, it was a huge Merino sheep). Kangaroo Valley is a lush green area, which in some places feels very rainforesty and in others, looks uncannily like Wales minus the sheep. Had a relaxed few days here, while the sun began to get its mojo back, and enjoyed a fast 'n' furious game of lawn bowls which seems to be really popular here – although, admittedly, we had the whole bowling lawn to ourselves (which is no bad thing given the accuracy of my bowling).
Then it was time for Jervis Bay take two, but we'll post that as a separate entry.
Lots of love
Helene and Roland xxx