Winter School Holidays: Sunshine Coast, Australia

Looking South from the top of Mt Coolum

Looking South from the top of Mount Coolum


The Candy kids are now enjoying their two week Queensland winter holiday. They’ve had fun and enjoyed the opportunity to do stuff that’s usually strictly forbidden, like watch TV and play on their computer games in the mornings. Ahem, they might be doing that right now actually.

But when I’ve got a bit of writing done, I’m always keen to get the kids out of the house and exercise them. We’re all happier with lots of running around and fresh air. Free activities are best, so the last two weeks have been an endless round of walks in national parks and on the beach, scooting, frisbee, football, handball, fishing, tree climbing, playing tiggy, basketball and loitering with intent at various playgrounds. Swimming at the Noosa Acquatic Center isn’t quite free but it’s got to be one of the best deals in town. There have been plenty of play dates and sleepovers too, so we’ve usually had more than three kids to entertain.

Explore the Sunshine Coast More

We’ve had time to visit a couple of new places in the Sunshine Coast too.

Kennilworth

This one horse town in the Hinterland, about a 45 minute drive from the coast, has a brilliant kids playground with a flying fox, a merry-go-round and a lot of unusual equipment. There’s a dairy opposite where you can have a cheese tasting and buy an ice cream. Take a picnic or grab a pie in town. Another great free day out. Next time I’ll combine this with a trip to Maleny which has lovely bush walks.

Mount Coolum

The landscape round the Sunshine Coast is quite flat, but every now and then a mountain rises up out of nowhere. Some are perfect cone-shaped peaks, but Mount Coolum is more of a dome. It’s a steep walk but after half an hour you’ll be rewarded with stunning views all down the coast both north and south, and inland to the hinterland. We even saw some whales spouting out at sea. Free activities don’t get much better than this and just like fellow Kiwi Sir Edmund Hilary, who we were discussing on the way there, the kids loved being fearless mountaineers and conquering the mountain.

Caloundra Rollerdrome

This was a blast from the past. Overcome your fear of shared footwear and ignore the pong of hundreds of sweaty feet. Buckle yourself into some rollerblades or rollerskates and whizz, stumble or fall round the rink, while the DJ plays Michael Jackson, Abba and Beyonce for you. They even organise games, which stops the kids from getting bored and keeps them rolling for the full two hour sesssion. It all comes in at just under $50 for four people but we had a laugh and got a free workout so I’d love to go again.

Enjoy the Photos!

Hinterland views from the top of Mt. Coolum

Hinterland views from the top of Mount Coolum

View north to Noosa from Mount Coolum

View north to Noosa from Mount Coolum

Weekend fun at the Noosa public pool

Weekend fun at the Noosa public pool

Everyone loves the red rocket

Everyone loves the red rocket

Adorable Roller Girl

Adorable Roller Girl

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Good luck with all your plans!

Read More About Queensland’s Sunshine Coast

If you haven’t already read these stories about things to do on the Sunshine Coast check out:

Culture Shock for New Immigrants to Australia

Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide: Family Activities

Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide: Australia Zoo

Racism in Australia

Stereotypical Aussie Koala

Stereotypical Aussie Koala


Cultural Insights on Life in Australia

Before I get to the meaty part I’d like to say a quick gidday to all my lovely Aussie readers. Please don’t take these notes about my perceptions on Australian culture and racism in Australia personally. Just think of me a whinging Pom and a backwards Kiwi reporting on cultural differences that I’ve noticed during the six months I’ve been living here in Australia.

I just want to give people who may be thinking of moving to, or visiting the lucky country a balanced view of what it’s like here, because some of them think life in Australia is all beach time, hunky lifesavers and sunny days. Then they get here and they don’t like it.

Is Australia a Racist Country?

Now for the juicy stuff, the cultural insights which I fear may incite the rage of my new, friendly and often funny Australian hosts. A month or two ago there was a big furore in Australia when the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said “adios” to the news that Sol Trujillo, a Mexican, and a bigwig in a major Australian telecommunications company, had been fired. You could call Rudd racist. Or you could call Trujillo humourless and a bad loser, because he then launched into a diatribe about how racist Australia is, and claimed that living here is “like stepping back in time.”

Some Australians were upset, even shocked, at being accused of racism, but none-the-less, the fact that Aboriginal people have a statistically lower life expectancy and literacy rate just looks bad. Of course, statistics can lie, but somehow the fact that there are loads of Aboriginals living here would have passed me by if I didn’t read about them suffering from alcoholism, child abuse and poor health care in the Australian newspapers. But then again, I live in Noosa, Queensland, a mostly middle-class enclave populated by lucky white folk, and there seem to be a few pre-conceptions about Noosa residents too, namely that we are all rich, stuck up ex-hippies. But I digress.

Racist Pre-conceptions About Australians

I’m sure that all Aussies aren’t racist any more than all Kiwis are sheep shaggers, or all Brits are football hooligans, and many of them may be racist sheep shaggers or hooligans too. However, I should mention that when I moved to Australia one British friend asked how I was liking it here in “the new land of apartheid.” Ouch.

I think I’ve been quite controversial enough now in my bid to expose a little bit about Australian culture, so rather than irritate my generous hosts any more, and risk being deported to the chilly shores I’ve escaped from, I’ll end here. I think I’ll save my thoughts on Queensland anti-hooning measures and street brawling until next time.

Thanks for having me Australia, I love you really, especially the hunky lifesavers, great beaches, sunny days and amazing Aboriginal culture.

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Good luck with all your plans!

Daylight Robbery, Little Cove, Noosa

Watch Out Watch Out! There’s a Thief About In Noosa

I’ve been feeling a bit lonesome this week. I’m now six months into my new life in Australia and I think anyone who’s moved overseas will know this feeling: the newness of being in a foreign country has passed and it’s still too early to have made good friends so there’s a gap that needs to be filled.

A surf with my surfer chick buddies-in-the-making was just what the doctor ordered. So when the rain cleared up to reveal sunny blue skies, the famous Noosa surf points were pumping and the surfer chicks were up for it, life looked good.

I have to confess I was a bit out of kilter. For example, I thought it was Wednesday when it was Thursday, but there’s nothing too unusual about that is there? After racing through my work and finding an elusive parking spot close to Little Cove where we’d arranged to meet, I realised I’d forgotten my board shorts. But nothing was going to stop me from surfing. At this point I should clarify that I was wearing a bikini and had my wetsuit top with me but the bikini bottoms are absolutely tiny and normally I wouldn’t be seen out in them unless they were under my board shorts. Basically, they’re completely unsuitable for surfing and the two tiny triangles of material barely covered my ample writer’s bottom.

The Show Must Go On

Still, undeterred, I knotted them on as tightly as possible, grabbed my board and headed out into the surf at Little Cove. There was no sign of my friends but I thought they might already be out in the surf so I left my bag carefully on a rock well above the high tide mark. This is a bag I got free with a magazine. Inside it was a t-shirt, a rash top, a dweeby surf hat that buckles under the chin, a pair of super cheap sunglasses from Costa Rica and my keys. That’s right, my car keys and my house keys which are both those new-fangled remote control keys that are fiendishly expensive to replace, all coupled together with one of my most prized possessions: a gorgeous wooden key ring with a painted toucan and the inscription Costa Rica. A lot of happy memories are tied up in that keyring and I truly love it.

Now, I count myself as being fairly savvy and would never leave any valuables unattended on the beach. As proof of how streetwise I like to think I am I should add that I recently spent 18 months traveling round Central America with 11 bags and not a thing was stolen from me during that time. 11 bags? I know, it sounds ridiculous but it was minimalist traveling for a famly of five and included a complete homeschool kit for three children as well as enough books to keep them all on track with their reading goals for a year.

You Little Ripper

But back to the Noosa surf. Down at Little Cove there was an flood of surfers walking, running and sprinting up the beach to get into the sea further north.

“Gosh.” I thought.
“I wonder where they’re all going.”

But being a complete novice I didn’t study the conditions much, apart from checking that the waves weren’t too big, and I didn’t notice the fierce rip that was pulling surfers south around the rocks to Noosa Main Beach. Until I got waist deep into the sea that is.

Suddenly, the rip was so strong that I was unable to stand in one place so I hopped on my board and caught the first wave that came my way. My pop up was slow and clumsy but hey, I was standing up and surfing, rushing in towards the beach. When the wave petered out I started paddling back towards the breaking waves to try again. At first I noticed I was just paddling on the spot and no sooner had that dawned on me than I realised I was being pulled backwards and quickly towards some rocks where bigger waves were breaking, and then around the corner to First Point where approximately 200 surfers were all milling around. This all happened exceedingly fast and probably less than five minutes had passed since I got into the sea.

“I’m being swept away.” I shouted to a bearded surfer nearby. He just shrugged and ignored me, too busy trying to save his own bacon I suppose.
“I’m trying to get to the shore.” I said to another.
“You’ll be right.” he said. Australians always say this and it’s very reassuring. Sure enough, he was right.

If At First You Don’t Suceed Try, Try, Try Again

Although I thought I was about to die I put on a paddling spurt and got to the shore, overjoyed to be alive. Now I joined the surfers climbing back over the rocks and walking back up the beach for another go. Yes, I’ve been taught that if you fall off your horse the best thing to do is get back on it and have another go.

So I did and I had a few nice rides too despite the dodgy conditions. At some point I noticed I’d forgotten to take my earrings out and one was missing but nothing was going to get me down after my near-death experience. My friends turned up and we had a surf together before heading back to the beach.

It was then that I realised my bag was missing, along with one of my shoes which I’d placed on top of the bag on top of a rock. So annoying. Why would a thief steal one shoe? And, presuming the culprit was male, what would he want with a few well-used pieces of ladies clothing? Perhaps most annoying of all was that I was now stranded at the beach with no car keys and clad only, in the world’s most revealing bikini.

Super Sleuth

Despite this I’m proud to say that I kept my cool and drew on my knowledge gleaned from over 20 years of reading trashy crime thrillers. Yes, thanks to a love of literature of all kinds, I am well-versed in many aspects of criminal profiling and criminal psychology. My expert analysis told me that this was a crime of opportunity committed by a young, and possilby itinerant, person who was hoping to get their grubby mitts on some cash, credit cards, a decent camera, an ipod or at the very least a complete pair of shoes, not just one beaten up sandal that’s been roughed up all over Central America.

In view of the fact that the loot held limited value for the crim (unless s/he was a one-legged tootsie with size ten feet) my guess was that the robber would be feeling pretty annoyed with the pile of crap they’d risked their clean record for and would probably chuck the entire contents of the bag in the nearest rubbish bin or bush.

Another young lady had also had her bag stolen so I left her to look after my surf board and went on a bin trawl. Now, despite being a country bumpkin, I’ve lived in big cities before and I’ve seen people, mainly bearded and ragged men, rifling through bins for sustenance. The middle-class demograhic means there aren’t many people doing it in the Noosa area though, and either my strange behaviour coupled, my scanty attire or a combination of those things attracted a fair bit if attention.

To make things even more pitiful Noosa has these really posh bins with a roof on so in order to see what’s inside you have to poke your head under the roof and over to the middle to even get a peep inside. If you actually wanted to get something out you’d have a hard job. Hmmm, maybe that’s why people don’t bother doing it.

There’s a Moral Here Somewhere

I wish I could say that there was happy ending to this story and that my bag and its contents, or at least my keys, turned up in a bin or under a bush but sadly that’s not the case. I came away feeling slightly nauseaous from the fumes of cigarette butts and fish and chips wrappers but alas empty handed.

So if you ever see a strange semi-clad lady rifling through the bins in an upmarket location don’t avert your eyes and cross the street, take pity and offer her a lift home. It could be me.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

A Winters Weekend in Noosa, Queensland

It May Be Winter But It’s Not Wintry

It’s almost mid-winter here in Queensland but we’re still getting out in the water and enjoying our new stand up paddle board. It’s perfect for exploring the canals and rivers of Noosa while getting a bit of exercise and the kids like playing round on it too. The weather was picture perfect all week and I even surfed so I still hold onto the title of crummiest surfer in Noosa, even if I did have to wear a wetsuit top.

On Sunday we went to the River Festival, organised by the Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club. I have to say that the Noosa River is definitely somewhere I’d like to spend more time and well worth celebrating, so celebrate we did. The kids fished, had a go on a bungy trampoline, got their faces painted and ran wild on the bouncy castle.

Then we went to Doonan, about ten minutes inland from Noosa, for the Steiner Children’s Festival. Doonan is a leafy enclave with gorgeous trees and big views from some places. There were heaps of fun things for the kids to do like a gem hunt, carpentry, making a sword, pony rides, a flying fox and a juggling show.

This is our weekend in pictures. Don’t get jealous, get over here. For life would be truly perfect if only we had some friends to enjoy all this with. Enjoy the photos.

Stand Up Paddling in Noosa Waterway

Stand Up Paddling in Noosa Waterway

Handsome man stand up paddling

Handsome male stand up padde surfer, Noosa

Face-painting Frenzy on the Noosa River

Face-painting Frenzy on the Noosa River

Lovely Little Hippy Chicky

Lovely Little Hippy Chicky

Fishing in the Noosa River

Fishing in the Noosa River

Hooked Sting Ray in the Noosa Waterways

Hooked Sting Ray in the Noosa Waterways

Forget Venice, take a gondala trip down the Noosa Canals

Forget Venice, take a gondala trip down the Noosa Canals

Flocking to the Children's Festival at the Steiner School in Doonan

Flocking to the Children's Festival at the Steiner School in Doonan

Juggling Act, kept all the balls in the air and was funny too

Juggling Act, kept all the balls in the air and was funny too

Don’t Give Up the Day Job?

Here are a couple of photos that I couldn’t fit into my article, Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide: Australia Zoo. I could expand on this theme and compile a book called “Why Animals Don’t Need Mascara (Apart from Reptiles)” Enjoy!

Cassowary: strangely attractive but violent horned bird

Cassowary: strangely attractive but violent horned bird

Asian Elephant: mottled and waiting to be fed

Mottled Asian elephant waiting to be fed

Lizard: running wild and free in amongst the zoo animals

Lizard running wild and free in amongst the zoo animals

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide: Australia Zoo

Thanks to a timely visit from my brother, his wife and their wee ones, we had plenty of excuses to drop tools and do the tourist thing over the Easter Holidays.

Human-Elephant Interaction

Human-Elephant Interaction

A definite highlight of any visit to the Sunshine Coast has to be Australia Zoo, home of the late ‘Crocodile Hunter’, Steve Irwin. Thankfully, his wife, Terri plus kids Bindi and Bob are very much alive and kicking and continue to own and run the zoo as well as live there. Well, probably not in the zoo exactly, but, as far as I can make out, just behind it.

Australia Zoo versus Disneyland

I confess, I relegate zoos to one of the many activities that we do purely for the children, but crikey, even if a couple of adults were visiting me with no rat bags in tow, I’d still recommend they visit Australia Zoo. Please note, when we were at Disneyland in Los Angeles last November I marvelled at the number of kid-free adults I saw there, Mickey ears firmly in place. I swear we even saw a couple of honeymooners push small children aside in their desperation to get their photo taken with someone dressed up as Bugs Bunny. And they weren’t even Asian.

Human-Crocodile Interaction

Human-Crocodile Interaction

The Crocodile Hunter Rules

But back to Australia. There are a few things that make Australia Zoo stand out from the average zoo, the big one being money. Thanks to the vast branding and the Crocodile Hunter TV shows, doubtless still being shown all over the world, as well as the new TV shows and a soon-to-be-released movie starring Bindi, cash flows freely. This means that the animals have gorgeous enclosures, the best care available and, according to the literature, fresher food than we humans get from the supermarket. Beaut.

As you can imagine, the difference between Australia Zoo and Guatemala City Zoo, the last zoo I’d visited, is noticeable. In Guatemala City Zoo, the animals lie listlessly in a concrete pen, their eyes glazed over and their coats dull. In Australia Zoo the healthy inhabitants roam beautifully landscaped gardens, and enjoy frequent cuddles with a bevy of beautiful volunteers. Guys, if you want to meet some gorgeous young Australian girls I recommend you reinvent yourself as a wombat or a giant tortoise in Australia Zoo.

Human-Tortoise Interaction

Human-Tortoise Interaction

Human-Animal Interaction for the Masses

Still, Guatemala City Zoo was cheaper. When I had recovered from forking out $177 for two adults and three kids to go in to Australia Zoo, we rushed straight into a frenzy of human-animal interaction. Now, let’s get this straight, I’m not a geek but I have got an MA in Design for Interactive Media, and, as a by product of that, a sad penchant for debating HCI or Human-Computer Interaction. Down at the zoo you can forget your computer mouse and have a much more rewarding time enjoying some quality Human-Animal Interaction. Think HCI (Human-Crocodile Interaction), HTI (Human-Tortoise Interaction), HKI (Human-Koala Interaction), HRI (Human-Roo Interaction), HSI (Human-Snake Interaction), HLI (Human-Lizard Interaction) and, my personal favourite, HEI (Human-Elephant Interaction).

In addition to all this there’s also a live animal show in the Crocoseum with an impressive display of birds and reptiles doing their stuff. We were lucky enough to see Terri herself take part in the show as they inaugurated their newest croc, Mungo. A large team was on hand in case it all went horribly wrong and sadly, despite my shooting lots of video in case of a disaster, everyone survived and Mungo was well-fed on some succulent chicken, not a zoo keeper’s thigh.

Human-Kangaroo Interaction

Human-Kangaroo Interaction

Crikey Mate and Fair Dinkum too

Fair dinkum to them all at Australia Zoo and to their grand mission of conservation through education. It’s all good, clean fun and worth the exorbitant entrance fee. Crikey mate, I’m already saving up for some HTI (Human Tiger Interaction) next time we go.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Kangaroos: cute, cuddley, and tasty too

Kangaroo is good for you

How about you? Could you chew on a 'roo?

Kangaroos are versatile animals. While at Australia Zoo we spent many happy moments feeding the ‘roos, stroking their soft fur and laughing at how human they look when standing up on their hind legs. The fur behind their ears is especially soft and seeing a mother kangaroo with a joey peeping out of its pouch is enough to make your heart melt. In fact the mummy ‘roos at the zoo are so cute that, like Hollywood stars, they need a personal minder, to keep the hoarding masses away.

Once a threatened species, kangaroos and their smaller cousins, wallabies, now number over 20 million beasts. Today, there may even be as many as 40 million of them bouncing around Australia. In fact, the effort to conserve kangaroos has been so successful that they are now culled in order to reduce their numbers and maintain ample grazing for domestic animals like sheep.

The Eco-friendly Choice for Meat Lovers

Australian farmers have been culling kangaroos for years, often selling their hides but doing nothing with the meat. Now there is a campaign under way to change this and get people to eat kangaroo meat for reasons of both conservation and sustainability. The marketing campaign extols the virtues of the meat which is ecologically sounds when compared to other red meat sources since kangaroos eat only native grasses, and don’t need food supplements, medicine or chemicals.

A Tasty Treat for Foodies

What’s more, kangaroo meat is not only tasty but healthy too because it is low in cholesterol and fat but high in iron, zinc and omega three. Apparently kangaroo meat is more popular with Germans and Belgians than it is with Australians and it is becoming better known in the UK too. But wait, there’s more: it’s cheaper than beef and lamb too.

Sorry Skippy, it just makes sense

It sounds great doesn’t it? So good that tonight, in a selfless effort to save the planet I will be eating a kangaroo steak instead of my usual iron-boosting favourite, the lamb chop.

How about you? Could you chew on a ‘roo?

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!