Tag Archives: Southern Highlands

A taste of Summer

8 Apr

Well Summer is well and truly over. Although it officially ended a month a go, we managed to grab on to a few warm and sunny days into March before the storms hit – and boy, have we had some storms. Living up high gives us a pretty spectacular view of the lightning shows and storm fronts, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Storm front over Sydney

Storm clouds build over Sydney

Luckily we had a pretty good Summer, although the oppressive humidity was not always welcome when battling morning sickness!

Now I am back on my feet, I can finally post some of the pictures from our third Summer in Australia. It is incredible how quickly the time has gone. Our third Summer of beach trips and barbecues and our third Australia Day, which fortunately was not as eventful as last year’s camping trip! In fact it involved a picnic overlooking the harbour at Manly – and a few flags just to show willing!

Australia Day celebrations

Australia Day celebrations

Australia Day picnic

Australia Day picnic

Manly for Australia Day

Manly for Australia Day

With James on course, it has meant we have been able to spend a lot of time together before he heads away next month. His routine has been a little more relaxed, which was useful when he had to come home and cook, but he has discovered some new culinary skills, in particular, sausage rolls, which he proudly showed off with the help of our friends’ daughter at their house.

One man and his sausage rolls

One man and his sausage rolls

We also managed a trip down the coast to Kiama and into the Southern Highlands, one of our favourite areas.

Beaching in Kiama

Beaching in Kiama

Lookout point across the Southern Highlands

Lookout point across the Southern Highlands

So, as we start to ‘rug up’ for Autumn, which over here involves wearing a cardigan over a T-shirt, and suffer the temperatures dipping to the low 20s, I will leave you with an image of our local beach where we have spent a few very pleasant Summer afternoons going for  swim.

Shark Beach, Sydney

Shark Beach, Sydney

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Bracing for summer: Bushfire season comes early

18 Oct

Well, long time no blog, and despite best intentions to update several times over the past few weeks, other things, primarily work, has got me sidetracked and taken priority. I have been spending the last few days going through a huge database of thousands of businesses, ready for our new app. The launch date is now hopefully just three weeks away and so it is all hands t the pump.

I expected to update, when I could, about the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review, which took place a couple of week’s a go here in Sydney and was a true spectacle. At some point, I will blog about this and post all the pictures, but today I had to write about what we are experiencing right now.

Nearly every day, we feel so very lucky to live here, waking up to blue skies and looking across the harbour and appreciating that we live in a very beautiful city. The contrast to our view yesterday was quite startling.

Yesterday, after heading back from a work meeting in North Sydney, I looked out the train window and had to do a double take. There was no sky. There was a large, yellow, grey mass, crawling across it, obliterating the blue and turning Sydney an eerie shade of sepia.

Smoke cloud starts to engulf Sydney

Smoke cloud starts to engulf Sydney

Sydney smoke cloud from the train

Sydney smoke cloud from the train

It had been a scorching 32 degrees with a fiercely hot wind gusting through and it was only when I got home that I realised the seriousness of the situation just kilometres away, as close as Northwest Sydney and stretching up and down the coast. Bushfires had ignited everywhere from down in the Southern Highlands, up to the Central Coast and out to the Blue Mountains. After the hottest September on record and barely any rain, the flames had spread quickly and ferociously, ripping through neighbourhoods and rapidly burning out of control.

It is always hard to hear of those situations when you are relatively safe in your apartment and feeling very removed from it all. This time it felt much more real, as the fires made their presence known even in central Sydney. The smoke cloud hung, suspended over the skyline all afternoon, streaked with orange and we went to bed smelling burning in the air. This morning the haze remains, as does the smell of smoke, which catches in your throat.

It is an indication of how bad these particular fires are, with the smell and smoke reaching the CBD.  The reports state these have been some of the most ferocious fires people have seen due to the constantly changing conditions and how rapidly they have spread. The high temperatures and strong winds we have been experiencing have meant the fire services have been preparing for and expecting a bad bushfire season but it has started early this year and people are now dreading what is ahead this summer.

Sydney smoke cloud near Bondi

Sydney smoke cloud near Bondi

Smoke cloud obliterates the sky

Smoke cloud obliterates the sky

Smoke cloud hangs over Sydney harbour

Smoke cloud hangs over Sydney harbour

Smoke cloud shrouds the Sydney skyline

Smoke cloud shrouds the Sydney skyline

Due to how quickly the fires started and spread, there was little time to prepare and save much at all. People hearing about the fires were rushing back from work, trying to salvage what they could, search for animals and rescue treasured possessions.  Others were not so fortunate, they had to be told to move on and get to safety as the intensity of the fires increased and it proved too dangerous to return. Some people have lost everything.

Tragically, one 63-year-old man died, after trying to defend his home. His neighbours said he didn’t have much but he felt rich with his friends.

Watching the families on the news, going back to the blackened shells of their properties, picking through the wreckage, telling of lost photographs, treasured items, and missing pets is heartbreaking.

The heartbreak has been felt not just by the victims, but by those involved with fighting the fires as well. Particularly poignant was the press conference given by NSW RFS Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, who had to fight back tears when asked about the pride he felt in the firefighters who are risking their lives. “We have the best firefighters in the world, they are second to none,” he said before having to stop to swallow back tears in front of the cameras.

I am always in awe at how some people cope with these tragedies and how they retain their sense of humour. A prime example was the woman who walked through the charred remains of her home, burnt fully to the ground, pointing out the trampoline “with not much bounce in it” and the fact they still have the kitchen sink.

There are still nearly 100 fires burning and it is going to take weeks, not days, to tackle all the blazes. More than 200 homes have been destroyed and it is feared more will be lost today as fast moving fires continue to spread in certain areas.

In one town on the Central Coast, forty homes have been lost in one street and in another, a historic, heritage home, dating back to 1887 and in the same family for generations, has been completely gutted.

Some of the most beautiful areas are currently ablaze, clouded in thick, black smoke and forming large scars on the countryside. This morning, there was some welcome relief as temperatures cooled to the low 20s but no one is becoming complacent because as the day heats up, the fires are gathering pace again and flaring up in other spots. The initial reaction was to protect life and property and as days go on, firefighters will be able to work more on containing the fires. They know they will not be able to extinguish all the blazes by the weekend and on Sunday, temperatures are expected to soar again, causing more problems.

Our thoughts go out to everyone affected and to the exhausted firefighters and volunteers working round the clock to tackle the emergency. Australia is prone to natural disaster but when it strikes it still hurts. The stoic Australian spirit shines through in these situations and so whatever happens over the coming months, I am sure there will not just be more stories of tragedy, but also of communities pulling together and facing such adversity as only people living with this constant threat can.

The Salvation Army have launched an appeal to help those affected: http://salvos.org.au

To everything there is a season

2 Apr

The months of March and April we used to associate with days growing longer, temperatures getting warmer and winter melting away.* Of course, now we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, this is completely reversed and where spring would have sprung, autumn now starts to fall. We have begun to notice a slight chill to the air first thing in the morning and until our clocks go back at the end of this week, it is a very dark day we wake up to when the alarm goes off. Easter was a time of  blossom on the trees and lambs and calves wobbling about, trying out their new legs. Having said that, with the temperate weather here, it appears lambing can also happen in autumn so at the Sydney Royal Easter show there were enough baby animals to satisfy anyone pining for a burst of spring (probably something the UK is in need of right now.)

We went along to the event on Easter Monday: a huge fair at the Olympic park with rides and attractions for children, exhibition halls for food, wine, produce, fashion and home styling, arenas for animal  judging and stadiums for parades and spectacles. My highlight was petting the adorable baby goats, lambs and calves, which due to my fear of cows, was quite an achievement! James’ highlight was the wood chopping championships. I have to admit I disappeared to the craft hall at that point and left him to watch great hulks of men wield axes over great hunks of wood. The event dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Wood Chopping’ attracted huge crowds and despite the heat, the arena was packed. (If you are interested the New Zealand team won the World Championship and these men can hack through a tree stump in under 60 seconds.)

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The Easter weekend itself, we travelled to the South Coast and stayed in a small B&B in Berry in an idyllic spot, run by the parents of one of James’ Navy colleagues. If it seemed like spring in Sydney (or still summer if we’re honest right now) we woke up to a truly autumnal morning in Berry. Fields (of cows) were shrouded in mist as the sun came up and the temperature was below 20 degrees for the first time in a while.

We drove into the Southern Highlands, up through Kangaroo Valley and to Fitzroy Falls and went to Gerroa in the afternoon to try and take the paddle board for a surf but the wind made it very difficult. That evening, we walked over the rocks, saw dolphins jumping through the waves and then had a meal at the Hungry Duck in Berry – highly recommended.

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We took a big detour back to Sydney, back through the highlands and then Kiama to walk the coastal path (more cows but I gave a wide berth) and stopping at the Scarborough Hotel for a drink and a pretty incredible view.


Back to the city and the only cow was the one on our plate that evening at a friends’ barbecue. Fantastic Easter weekend.


*We note that this year, spring seems to have ignored this rule in the UK.

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