Three Years in Oz

The other day – 25th January – marked our third anniversary in Australia. I wrote about the 2nd anniversary last year with a recap about most of those two years being under some kind of covid marshall law. To varying degrees and depending on which country you live in etc… At least this past year was relatively back to normal.

So here we are coming to the end of January and another school year about to start. Dani is about to begin year 5. That means several things will change in school. He gets a locker for one thing which I find quite amusing. But more importantly the format of the lessons will be different. They have real science classes with experiments instead of just reading from a text book. It seems the school makes an effort to give them more responsibility and treat them as (I guess) more grown up. Dani is quite excited about it. I wonder how long that will last?

Also the first term opens with a three day camp. The kids go away to a camp-ground/bush-camp about two or three hours drive away. As far as I know all schools do something like this here in Sydney (maybe Australia?). Can anyone confirm that please?

I think it’s a great idea. They actually start doing this in year 4 in Dani’s school but last year the camp was cancelled because of… No. I refuse to say it. Sorry. But you know… So this year will be the first camp-out, away from home, for the kids in Dani’s year. I see it as a kind of character building exercise, almost a coming of age thing. I saw something similar at first hand many years ago when I worked on a kids’ summer camp in upstate New York. It’s a big thing in the USA. Those kids – some as young as six! – spent six weeks or more away from home. To some people it may seem cruel but I will be the first in line to argue that it certainly does build character. You only need to look at the older kids who have spent several summer doing the same thing.

So this start to his fourth year in school in Australia – could prove to be a kind of make or break event. I think he will either love it or hate it- nothing in between. And that may affect how the rest of the school year pans out. Let’s hope he enjoys it. We will know soon enough…

Perth, Western Australia.

Perth Western Australia (WA)

On the map of Australia, Perth is a very long way from Sydney. By air it is about 3,300km and takes almost 5 hours! We set off on Boxing Day evening – three hours ahead of Perth time – arriving (Perth time) only 2 hours after we had taken off.

Perth City

Perth is a lot smaller than Sydney and Melbourne so much easier to get a feel for the city centre. It has the usual mix of old and new architecture. Well, “old” as in ‘original buildings’. None are really very old of course.

For me large cities are more or less the same but I did quite like Perth.

Classic Art Deco Hotel/Pub

Even in the summer sun there were reminders that is was still Christmas time
Old Perth Post Office. Now shops and offices
The Commonwealth Bank building. Now shops and offices
Entrance to London Court. A kind of themed shopping arcade
Inside London Court

Pouring Gold at the Perth Mint

Between 1899 and 1931, more than 106 million gold sovereigns and nearly 735,000 half sovereigns were minted in this place, for use throughout the British Empire. But the making of gold sovereigns stopped when Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931. The refinery remained busy as staff turned their skills to making fine gold bullion bars. A new facility was built in 1990 with the old mint becoming a tourist attraction.

Perth Mint
A newly poured gold bar proudly displayed by the man who made it. See video below.
Replicas of two of the largest gold nuggets ever found.

Gold played an important role in the development of Western Australia and still does. Although the gold rush died off a long time ago there must still be plenty of nuggets on or near the surface out there in the wilds of the outback and deserts. The last (very) large nugget was found as recently as 1995 and weighs over 25kg (see photo). It is the second largest nugget in existence. These days however most gold is hidden within the ore and rocks and is extracted by the hundreds of tonnes, then processed to extract the tiny gold fragments.

The Newmont Normandy Nugget discovered in a dry creek in 1995

The highlight of the tour was the gold pour. Most of it is captured on a video as we had front row seats. So sit back and enjoy the following video/photo montage… And see how quickly you can identify the backing song…

Fun Fact: Gold is such a good conductor that it only takes about 90 seconds for the molten metal to solidify.

 Pouring molten gold to form a Gold Bar

Here are some more photos of Perth…

The Lucky Shag bar… and a statue of Lucky himself

Scenes at Elizabeth Quay

Our minted “gold” coin and the world’s largest gold coin
Elizabeth Quay
Elizabeth Quay Bridge

While staying in Perth we made a couple of trips to Fremantle and also north up the coast. More on those trips later…

In and Out of Sydney

There will be a series of posts about our trip to Western Australia coming up (as promised) so please look out for those. But this weekend we had a quick trip to the Blue Mountains. I also got to see something close up that we have seen many times from the car on the main road to & from the harbour tunnel.

First, A Quick Word…

Before I continue just a couple of things I want to say. I have never done this before but I think it is worth trying to sell the blog a little. I have to suffer listening to some of the youtube garbage that Daniel watches and they seem to say the same things every time they introduce or close out their videos. So here goes…

Firstly: If you like any of the posts please hit the “Like” button. (Is there one? I think there is, but maybe as blog owner I don’t see it.) Or, as those (annoying) youtubers say, “Smash the Like button!!”
Secondly, and better still: Follow us on Twitter @beinganolddad. Also please subscribe to receive all posts via email. You may need to scroll down the page to find it but there is a place to enter your email address and subscribe. Also of course, feel free to share any posts with anyone you know who may like it.

OK, sales pitch done. Here is what we saw this weekend…

Is This One of The “Bigs” of Australia?

This “work of art” sits right behind the NSW Art Gallery in the centre of Sydney. It also overlooks the main highway leading to/from the harbour tunnel. We have passed this many times heading north on trips and returning home. I have been meaning to get a close up look at this for some time. But I never realised how big it was.

The Big Matchsticks

Called “The Big Matchsticks” on Google maps this piece is never listed in those lists of Big things in Australia (or “Bigs”). Not that I have seen at least. Maybe it should be. One is a complete (unused) matchstick while the other is half ‘burnt’.

As I walked away from this curious artwork it occurred to me that most kids today probably don’t know what a match is, or how to use one. You hardly ever see them now eh? Even most smokers use lighters.

Blue Mountains National Park – Quick Trip

We also took a quick trip up to the mountains – yet again! We only went as far as Glenbrook – the first port of call in the Blue Mountains National Park. But even after many trips here we hadn’t been to this particular part.

After entering the national park we went to the bottom of the valley, crossed the Glenbrook Creek and up the other side of the Glenbrook Gorge. Considering this is the first port of call in the Blue Mountains and at the lower altitudes, the views are stunning.

Stunning backdrop of the Glenbrook Gorge. Blinding new white shoes!
Views overlooking the Nepean River and the Glenbrook Creek and Gorge
Great scenery even here at the low end of the mountains

That was Saturday morning. Later in the day it rained and the rain and cloudy skies continued for the rest of the weekend. It’s turning into another wet summer in this part of Australia…

Getting Ready for the Big Trip

So, Christmas came and went but not without incident. I spent several hours of Christmas Eve morning in a hospital. My knee had swollen up and was causing a lot of pain. So much so that I genuinely thought we should cancel our planned trip to Western Australia (set to leave Boxing Day evening). Looking on the bright side, if that was the NHS in the UK I probably would have still been waiting when our flight was due to leave. Fortunately the Australian (public) health service is still far better than the disaster that is the UK’s NHS.

Always Ask For a Second Opinion (Medical or Otherwise)

After several tests, some x-rays and a second opinion – from an older more experienced doctor – I was sent home with a prescription for anti-biotics and told to rest my leg (knee) for the next two days. Easy enough as moving around was painful, even if it was just about do-able. They even told me that I could go on holiday. Great! But then I am not sure what type of holiday they thought it would be. Maybe they thought it was a week of sitting by a pool, feet up? I hadn’t told them this was a long range road trip with plenty of driving and walking involved.

Drip fed with anti-biotics for half an hour when they suspected my swollen knee may have been infected. A bit over the top but I can’t complain at the attention and treatment I received. If that was in the UK I would probably still be there… waiting!

All this basically meant that I did nothing for Christmas Eve and Day apart from sit on the sofa, leg up. Hardly fun but it helped. Sure enough by midday Boxing Day I felt like I could make the trip. But it wasn’t going to be easy. Little did I know at the time that shortly after my left knee had seemingly healed my right knee would suffer the exact same fate. Well; they are both the same age, and have been subjected to the exact same wear and tear over the years.

All would be fine with the aid of a walking stick. And as it was my left knee, driving the automatic hire-car would not be a problem.

Suffice to say, these knee problems seriously limited how much walking I could do and certainly cut out certain activities. This is exactly the kind of thing I feared when I started writing this blog. Any kind of illness, injury or health issues with a young (and usually hyper-active) child was something I have constantly dreaded.

At least I know what caused the problem. Not that that makes it any easier – and it can certainly happen again. The problem is at the front of the knee-cap (aka patella bone). Pain seems to come from all over the knee area but it is really only the knee-cap itself.  It is something that can happen to people who regularly work on their knees (like carpet fitters) and do not wear knee protectors. My knee-caps had become fragile after years of exercising without paying due care to them. Ironically doing regular yoga-type stretching exercises on hands and knees to help with any back pains and strains. One thing ultimately led to another etc… When they are finally fully pain free I must only do exercises on a suitable cushioned surface. Yeah, I know; like an exercise mat – DOH!!!! Easy to say, but even easier to forget come the time… We shall see.

WA Road Trip…

So please stay tuned for up-coming blog posts on our Western Australia adventure. We visited some lovely places, some a little off the beaten track.

Booderee National Park and Bherwerre Beach

Booderee National Park

One of the parks around Jervis Bay is the Booderee National Park. We have been there a few times on previous visits to the area but this time we went to parts of the park we had not previously seen.

We went for a two hour hike ending at Brook’s Lookout. Unfortunately we could not gain access to one of the beaches I wanted to see due to repair work on the pathways. But it is always worth reaching an ocean view in these parts.

Along the way I nearly stepped on this snake – and yes, I almost shit myself when I realised what it was.

A diamond backed python?

This was the first snake we had seen in all out walks in national parks. It turns out that it is not one of many venomous varieties that live in Australia. This one is a diamond backed python. At least I think so. If anyone knows differently then please let me know…

Hiking through Booderee National Park
Looking south from Brook’s Lookout
…and looking north

Bherwerre Beach

After the hike we headed to the western side of the park towards Cave beach. It was over 2 years ago that we visited Cave Beach in the Booderee National Park (see details on that visit in the post here). This time we went to check out another much longer beach just around the headland. Bherwerre Beach.

Pronounced Berwerry, this beach lies at the end of a 600 metre track that runs from the camp site at the western end of Cave beach. The path takes you past Ryans swamp before leading onto the enormous 7 km long Bherwerre Beach.

Maybe it’s because this beach is so long or maybe it is down to there being so many other great beaches in the area; but you can easily find that you have the whole beach to yourself/yourselves. We did!

The 7km long Bherwerre Beach

Ryans swamp

There was an odd mix of objects washed up by the Pacific Ocean. Among the usual seaweeds and shells were dead birds and coconuts. We walked about half the length of the beach and I spotted at least six dead birds dotted along the high tide mark.  Here are a couple of examples of the dead birds.

Dead birds along the Bherwerre Beach

These birds looked like cormorants but it was hard to tell as they were slightly decomposed. Does anyone know what type of birds these are? And why are there so many dead along the high tide line?

I have two theories:
The first one is that this area has white bellied sea eagles and they may be attacking other birds to protect their nesting/hunting grounds. Is this plausible?
The second theory is that these birds are attacked from the water where they become too injured to fly off and are simply washed ashore by the tide. Possibly by sharks or dolphins. Some may be eaten but not all. Does anyone know?

One thing I do know for sure is that we haven’t seen so many dead birds on a beach before.

Are Coconuts Native to Australia?

That’s a question I can’t find a definitive answer to but I think not. My guess is the ones we saw here were carried by the ocean from, well, who knows where? Anyway, Dani decided to pick up one of the more complete coconuts to take it home. He carried it for  few kilometres and stuck to the task.

Dani carried this coconut for over 2 miles

We got it back to our accommodation and I set about cutting out the centre so Dani could look inside. Not an easy task with simple kitchen knives. At least not for me. I finally got to the central “nut” and pierced a hole and poured out the “milk”. What a stench! The stuff was putrid. The actual layer of white coconut had long since dissolved leaving only a stinking slimy substance. Well, I suppose that’s what happens when it has been floating across the sea (from wherever) for many weeks or months…

And Finally…

I realise these things don’t come out too well on a mobile phone camera but the moon the other day, over the bay. It seemed unreal. Almost like something out of The Truman Show, a false light in the studio sky.