Something Fishy at AQWA

Since Patrick has not experienced the reef life here, and he will not get a chance to go snorkeling, we took a trip to the Aquarium of Western Australia just north of Perth on Sunday. It was also great for us to see the same fishes up close and personal, but safely. We did not have to worry the jelly fish swimming around us, or whether the reef sharks were getting too numerous, or whether we were drifting too far and at risk of being pulled out by the rip. So although a bit more sterile, it was much more relaxed.

Michael was able to use his ‘good’ camera this time since everything was behind glass. You will likely notice the colours are more vivid also since the lighting was much better.

The highlight of the aquarium is ‘the shipwreck coast’ aquarium. It is 40 metres long, 20 metres wide and 4.5 metres deep and holds 3 million litres of seawater. You can walk or stand on the conveyor belt through 100 metres of tunnel which wraps through the tank and the sealife is all around you. There are several species of sharks (nurse shark here), rays (including some gigantic manta rays), hundreds of fishes as well as turtles and eels. The tank is so large, that it was quite dark however and it was difficult for Mike to photograph.

Having swum over top of the rays up at Coral Bay, it was quite spectacular to be underneath as they swam directly over you in the tunnel. And being so close to the animals, you get a much greater respect for their size. The turtles are massive – you could ride on their backs – and their necks would even impress the Godfather!

Outside we caught the sealion training session. While they do not train them to do tricks for display purposes, they do train them. The keepers need to be able to handle the seals, and they also try to mimic some of the wild behaviours. The seals here were both born in captivity, so they also try to teach them what would be learned actions in the wild. One example is teaching the male to ‘bark’. This is not a trait they would do if not trained since they are not exposed to the normal activities which would induce it. Similarly, they teach them to jump which mimics the natural behaviour of avoiding predators (such as killer whales). Not quite the same motivation, but uses all the same muscle groups – kind of like us going to fitness classes!

On the drive home once again we had mixed showers and sunshine. It doesn’t seem to stay totally overcast here – it is always so windy that the clouds blow in and out constantly. This type of sky makes for great rainbows, and we have seem many so far. This one (and it was a doubler at times) stayed with us for much of the drive home. It really was quite spectacular – it doesn’t translate well in the photo, but it was very wide with the full spectrum of colour.

And oh yeah, as for the rootbeer – they really DO NOT LIKE IT down here. So guess we’ll have to suffer through it on our own – wish you were here to share it with us J (I hear you’ve become a fan also)!!!

A ‘Two Four’ of Anniversaries

Michael and I celebrated 24 years of marriage this past week. He brought some lovely flowers home, and we went out for a very nice dinner to mark the actual day. Notice my tricky method of getting Mike into the photo (his school photos were delivered 🙂

The weather has certainly turned to ‘winter’ with rain and clouds along with the cooler temperatures. However, we are getting nothing like the weather on the east coast of Australia. Had we succeeded in our original exchange match, we would likely be living in a shelter at this point. There has been extensive flooding, road washouts and closures, ocean transports beached, and billions of dollars in damage – all right near where we were originally assigned. We definitely lucked out exchanging to W.A. with Theresa in many ways.

When the weekend came about, both boys had their own plans for the start of the weekend. Patrick stayed behind for Friday evening with the Gravity folks. Some of the team went rock climbing then out to a bar on Friday night, and Pat joined them, not returning here till late Saturday. They have quite the international contingent up there – there is mix of levels from Patrick up to Ph.D. candidates, male and female, from all over the world – from India, some Chinese, a French, 3 Americans, Patrick from Canada as well as Aussies. They eat on their own for lunches, but have communal dinners when they tend to cook mostly Indian dishes as they all enjoy their curries.

Kyle had plans to go mini-putt on Saturday, but the weather was not co-operative and they had to switch to bowling – which worked out fine also. So since both boys had their own plans, Mike and I took advantage and did a one night get-away on Friday night to Perth (anniversary was a good excuse).

We got a good last minute deal which included brunch at a nice hotel (views from the hotel photoed here). And the rain held off enough on Saturday morning for us to be able to walk around Perth (some more of the photos) to do some shopping without getting soaked. Mike managed to find a good pair of sunglasses (when the sun shines, you really need them!) thanks to birthday monies from his parents, and we bought some other stuff including A&W Rootbeer. Rootbeer is not available here, and it is one of the things Kyle has been missing. I splurged and bought enough for him to share with some friends, so we’ll see what they think of it!

By Saturday evening, we were all back home as a family for a night of cards, and then Sunday was off to the Aquarium of WA (tomorrows posting!).

Happy Fathers Day from our Seascapes Escape

Well we are actually here for Michael to work, so we had a weekend at home here in Seascapes (our subdivision) as Michael marked assignments for the upcoming report cards. While teachers do have to put in lots of extra hours planning and marking, at least it is generally predictable – as was this weekend. We’ve known for a while that this would be a weekend for Mike to work, so the rest of us were all set with our own leisure activities to keep us occupied. The library here loans out puzzles as well as books – great concept!, and Kyle is quite content with his computer companion.

Patrick has been missing his guitars immensely, and we have been looking for a solution almost since he arrived. We’ve tried renting, buying used, and even buying cheap all with no luck. Any guitar we could consider, he really did not like playing.

Our last chance was to check out the store near Perth where the school music teacher buys their guitars. We were extremely lucky and found that they rent guitars, and Patrick immediately found one that he liked. So I drove home serenaded as Patrick played in the back seat of the car, and he has hardly stopped since. His fingers are raw and his hand muscles are sore, but he’s loving every minute of it. We even managed to get a hard case so he is trekking it back and forth to Gingin on the bus with him!

We still managed to fit some R&R into the weekend for Michael – We were back to the dog races on Friday evening for a Pinjarra H.S. staff social. A fun way to spend some cash – or gain some cash as a couple of lucky folks managed. It turns out that betting on dog #1 in every race will make you some decent cash! There seems to be some secret at the gates it looks like.

On Sunday the boys headed over to a local computer gaming outlet (you play on their computers) with a bunch of Kyle’s school friends. Mike & I took a nice long walk along the local beach as a break from his marking. The local limestone formations all quite spectacular, and with winter approaching, there seems to be less sand on the beach (maybe it was just since the tide was out, but it does seem more rocky).

So Michael was still able to get his photography fix for the weekend despite the lack of travelling 🙂

And last but certainly not least….

HAPPY FATHERS DAY !

to our Dad’s. Although Mother’s Day is shared with Canada, Father’s Day down under is on the first Sunday in September. Now since I only get one Mother’s Day, we (or at least I) decided that it is only fair that Michael also only get one day – so we will celebrate locally here on September 1. But for both of our Dads, and all our other Fatherly friends and family members back in Canada (and Argentina) – Hope you had a Fully Fantastic Father’s Day. Love you all.

Walk-a-Bout Weekend

Some Aussie Trivia for you: Western Australia celebrated June 4 as Foundation day – that was our long weekend just past. Meanwhile, the rest of Australia celebrated the Queens Birthday on June 11 – while WA will celebrate that on October 1. Even Labour Day is recognized on different dates around the country. I keep having to lookup what the public holidays are of course as they differ from ours – this is one of the links I use.

So for us in WA, it was a normal weekend. Mike & I joined the Exchange group for a walk ‘around the bridges’ in Perth. It was a lovely 10km loop around the Swan River. I walked with a teacher who has been on 2 previous exchanges to Britain, and is going to New Brunswick in January. So we had lots to chat about and the walk went by very quickly.

The waterfront has been very nicely preserved and enhanced with bird wetlands and pathways. Michael finally managed to get some shots of the black swans which the area is well known for.

Once again, the weather was fantastic (or as they say on the weather reports ‘Fine’). We are still waiting for the really cool weather to hit – the day time highs are normally into the 20’s at this point even though the nights and mornings are cool.

We had Richard and Philipa for dinner on Saturday evening to finally sample Michaels well loved BBQ ribs. We found a wonderful butcher who custom cut some rather meaty ribs. The food and company were, just like the weather, ‘fine’ (which you should realize means exceptional).

Sunday once again saw Freemantle Dockers at home, and Lisa again very kindly passed her tickets to Michael. He seems to be their good luck charm as they won the match despite going down early. Perhaps that is why she is letting Mike attend – she is quite a fan and naturally wants them to win!

While Michael attended the footie with Richard, Kyle was off to the movies with a friend. Patrick and I checked out Shrek 3 also. And so passed another relaxing weekend.

After a couple of painful drives into Perth on Monday mornings to drop Patrick at the university, we now have the bus route to Perth sorted out. Michael can drop Pat at the Mandurah station on Monday morning and he catches the express (faster than driving) bus into Perth, and then one bus over to the university. So Patrick was back off to Perth on Monday morning to head to Gingin for the week. It is working out quite nicely seeing him on weekends, and he has something very interesting to do during the week.

Surf & Turf

We continued our relaxing weekend on Sunday and Monday with leisurely mornings and casual touring. Sunday we checked out the renowned surfer beaches near Yallingup. Even though it was not an overly windy day, the breakers were impressive. It must be quite unnerving to be out on a surf board when the bigger waves come in – these were already much more than I can imagine ever riding.

Patrick and Kyle (and I) love to explore the rocky shoreline, so the 3 of us went off to investigate whirling pools of waters and breathtaking ledges as Michael played with his camera toys. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely.

From the beach we headed for some tastings – fudge, and chocolate shops. Again, Kyle had some studying to do (4 exams in 4 days next week – each one 2 1/2 to 3 hours long), so we dropped him back home and the 3 of us went back out for some alcohol tasting (Pat is legal here). As a diversion, we dropped by a ‘design’ studio hoping to find a wood working shop. Instead we found a jeweller who also did photography. Michael had a lengthy interesting chat with the bloke. He had many interesting pieces of jewellery – we may return at a future date when we’re ready to spend some cash. For those who know me, you’d be surprised that I left without a pair of earrings!!!

Patrick voted to try a brewery tasting first, so off we went. The place was PACKED – cars were everywhere and there was a huge party atmosphere with live music. We were quite certain that there was a corporate function running or such. We had a beer each, but decided the food lines were much too long, and to move on. As we were drinking our beers, we ran into one of Mike’s coworkers who told us that in fact, it is always this busy on a long weekend. Unfortunately, with the winter weather, several of the restaurants in the wineries close down and those that remain open are extremely full on long weekends. After our next stop at a winery, we soon found that without a reservation, we were not likely to eat! Kyle had the advantage of fixing himself lunch – so he was able to eat.

As the afternoon wore on, we realized that the lunch service hours had passed. Our last culinary experience was an olive farm. We each had a decadent cake and coffee which certainly did the job of tiding us over to dinner – once again, not an overly healthy lunch!!!

Monday meant the trip home. This time we stopped by the Tuart Forest for a stroll (and yes, you do see some pine trees in the photos). This small area of forest near Bussleton is the last remaining tall Tuart forest in the world – and there is a mining reserve in the middle where they are clear cutting. All for some uranium – sometimes you wonder about the free enterprise system.

We came across several kangaroos crossing our paths, and even found a newly dead fox. They place poison baits (and warning signs) to try to eradicate these introduced predators. The foxes decimate the local indigenous animals – in this area especially the possums. So despite feeling bad knowing it was poisoned, it really is necessary.

One last roadside stop en route home to capture these delicate pink flowers in amongst the trees.

And we will definitely be back this way again when wild flower season comes in the spring – besides, we’ll need to stock up on more wine by then!

Margaret River Encore

As predicted after our first visit, we returned to the Margaret River area this past long weekend. The South-West corner of WA is a now discovered beauty spot with it’s incredible coast line, caves, forests, wineries and numerous artisans who now call the area home. Sort of like the Niagara area in Southern Ontario, but less densely populated and a different variety of diversions.

This time we stayed at a self catering apartment just outside of Busselton. It was actually more like a modern holiday home. Large and spacious 3 bedroom with a well equipped full kitchen, laundry and 2 baths. We were more than comfortable! (and it allowed us to save some cash by eating in)

Saturday morning Michael rose early (all alone I might add) and headed down to the Busselton Jetty to take some sunrise photos. He rarely gets to take shots when the lighting is ideal. We are usually touring sites mid day, and at dusk and dawn you have to take care driving due to kangaroos, so you try to avoid it when possible.

After a full breakfast, we headed out for the day. Our first stop was at the roadside for Mike to take some forest shots. We do that a lot – Mike trudges off to take photos while we either sit in the car (I read a lot of books these days), or hike around after him. On this occasion, the boys had contests throwing stones and hitting things. When bored of that, they took up sticks and played swords – sometimes they really don’t seem to be growing up!!

We stopped by the Cave Works discovery centre to learn a bit about caves. Patrick was able to comment on the reasons for the variety of crystal formations – why some are multi nodal, and others are long and thin. If you’re ever interested, just drop him a line.

There are numerous caves, and this time we decided to visit Jewel Cave (we had a coupon). Unlike Mammoth Cave, this time we had to take a guided tour. Mike was not able to linger back and take photos at his own pace, but still managed to get a few good shots.

From the cave, we headed all the way down to the southern end of the region to Augusta. We had a fish and chip lunch with a side of battered pineapple slice. Very yummy, although perhaps not that healthy.

Near Augusta, Patrick dipped his feet in the ‘southern ocean’. (the rest of us had already done so in Bunbury on an earlier trip) Our family has been debating over the actual oceans of the world. Kyle and Patrick were taught there was no such ocean, I learned of the Antarctic Ocean. The link above explains the confusion – in 2000 it seems that the Southern or Antarctic Ocean was firmly accepted as an official ocean although mariners had referred to it for years – so perhaps the Canadian curriculum had not yet caught up with the recent change for Kyle (and Patrick was probably older when the official change was made).

 

We then looped around to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse which marks where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet at the south west tip of Australia. You can see it here in the background from either side as we rounded the tip. It marks the very south western tip of Australia.

Once back at the hotel, it was just about dark. We dropped Kyle off so he could do some studying – he is in the middle of a two week exam period (rather poor timing over a long weekend!!!).

 

Mike, Patrick and I headed back down to the jetty where Mike got some nice sunset shots and Patrick had a chance to walk out to the end of the almost 2km long jetty.

Patrick and I also caught sight of a ring tailed possum around the base of a fig tree. Very rat-ish, but still cute.

Then back to the hotel for a late dinner – and that was our Saturday.