Non-market rainy Sunday

The weather today wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, given yesterday’s dire forecasts. It was quite rainy, but there were a few dry spells, and the rain didn’t get really heavy until this evening. Monday and Tuesday are forecast to have heavier rain again though.

There is major flooding along much of the coast from Sydney north to Port Macquarie (where we were staying the last week). Some regions have been hit with what the emergency services are calling a “once in 100 years” flood. As of now, 137 schools will be closed on Monday due to flooding. Parts of western Sydney around the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers are expected to get floods roughly at the levels of a flood which occurred in 1961. Water levels there are expected to peak late Monday or on Tuesday. A “major flood” of the Hawkesbury River is defined as a water level of 12.2 metres above normal, and the predicted peak at the moment is 15.6 metres.

Oh, I just checked the latest news, and the Nepean River has now exceeded the flood level of 1961. This is crazy stuff.

I’m fine – we’re not in a flood-prone area. I spent most of today working on new Darths & Droids comics, catching up for the week spent away on holiday. And a bit of time building a new Lego set that I spoilt myself with recently. I also went out in a relatively light drizzle to take Scully for a walk, and get a few groceries for dinner and breakfast. I’m planning to do a big grocery shop tomorrow morning, when most people are back at work. Sunday shopping is always really busy, so it’s better to avoid it.

Oh, yesterday I also worked on some more photos from the trip. I have some birds to show off:

Bar-tailed godwit

This (above) is a bar-tailed godwit. These birds migrate to southern Australia from northern Siberia. This species in particular has the longest non-stop migration flight of any known bird. This guy will be heading back to Siberia some time in the next month or two.

Sooty oystercatcher

A sooty oystercatcher.

Pied oystercatcher

Two pied oystercatchers.

Little wattlebird

A little wattlebird.

Willie wagtail

A willie wagtail.

Superb fairywren

A superb fairywren.

Diamond python

Not a bird… I think this is a diamond python. It was very close to where we were walking I could probably have reached out and touched it.

New content today:

Extreme rainfall

It continues to be about the rain here in Sydney. We’ve had 150 mm of rain in the last 24 hours, and advice from the Bureau of Meteorology is that the rainfall will get heavier in the next 12 hours. They also say it won’t stop raining until at least Thursday. Also, when I woke up this morning, we had no power. It was out for over two hours.

Many towns up the coast north of Sydney are experiencing flooding and have evacuations ongoing to get people away from rising floodwater. Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main water reservoir, is at 100% capacity and spilling over. The river downstream has a wide flood plain, covering dozens of Sydney suburbs, which are now anxiously watching and waiting for evacuation orders. The highway north is cut off at Taree, which we drove through yesterday. If we’d left Port Macquarie a day later, we may not have made it home at all.

Here’s what it looked like outside this morning:

Heavy rain

The rain has been heavy to extremely heavy almost all day, with just a few brief periods of light or no rain. The garage downstairs in our apartment block got flooded:

Flooded garage

Fortunately my car space is up the slope, and stayed dry, but some people’s spaces were ankle deep in water. The water was deepest near the garage entrance door – about calf-deep:

Flooded garage

There’s a lift here, and it was sandbagged to try to keep water out of the lift shaft:

Flooded garage

It couldn’t hold all day though, and water eventually got in and flooded the lift shaft. In a separate incident, some people got stuck in another one of the lifts, even though the shaft wasn’t flooded. It was a family with a baby. The lift guy arrived after about 45 minutes and I happened to be outside when he got here, and since I had keys I ended up helping him get to the floor above the lift so he could climb onto the roof of the lift car and release the doors to get the people out:

Rescuing someone stuck in the lift

Beyond staying indoors and avoiding the rain, I mostly spent the day working on photos from my trip. I have some to show off, but maybe tomorrow. It’s been a curiously exhausting day, following the news for weather alerts and flood warnings.

New content today:

Road trip day 5

If you thought yesterday was about rain, then you hadn’t seen today yet.

We woke to frequent showers of extremely heavy rain, with close to gale force winds. There was a break in the rain during which we went to get breakfast, but the rain returned and we got very wet just climbing back into the car to return to the hotel. After packing our bags and checking out, we had to return to the car, which again involved getting very wet. The inside of the car got very wet as we climbed in.

Our first stop was back near the brewery where we’d had lunch yesterday. Next door to the place where my wife got the free coffee was a place that made condiments, jams, preserves, and similar stuff. We’d planned to go have a look at the retail outlet and perhaps buy a few things, but exactly as we’d left the brewery to walk over, they’d closed up shop for the day. We arrived back there, and the rain was pelting down. We parked maybe 10 metres form the door, but again got very wet dashing over to look at the shop. It was worth it though, as they had a lot of really nice looking stuff. We bought six different jars of sauces, jams, and mustard.

From there we set out on the drive home. It was very wet. At times driving on the freeway visibility was reduced to maybe 50-100 metres due to the rain. It took more concentration than usual, so we had a welcome rest break about halfway home, stopping at the town of Bulahdelah. Leaving the freeway, we headed into the town… only to be stopped by floodwater across the road. Turning around, we saw another road cut by the floodwater as well, but were able to find another route to get into the centre of town.

We stopped at a cafe, but because of Scully we needed to sit outside, where all the tables were getting drenched by the rain. But the woman running the cafe offered to set us up at a table out the back, under an awning on the leeward side of the building, which was significantly drier. The cafe owner told us that part of the town was being evacuated because of the flooding.

After lunch, we continued the drive home, again through some ridiculously heavy rain, although as we got closer to Sydney it eased off and stopped. However, once we got home and caught up on news (we typically never see any news while travelling), we discovered just how bad this storm system is. Port Macquarie, our departure point this morning, is now under a flood evacuation warning for some areas.

And this rain system is moving south. It will hit Sydney tomorrow, and flood warnings have been issued. In fact, the State Emergency Service has issued a warning for all people in Sydney not to leave home tomorrow, if possible. Given the expected danger from the weather this weekend, I also received notification from the organisers of Sunday’s market that they were cancelling the market. So that’s another one where I was planning to sell my photography cancelled. It seems starting a market stall during COVID and leading into a la Nina event is not a great idea…

New content today:

Road trip day 4

The theme of the day was rain. Rain. And more rain.

The forecast for Port Macquarie was 80-120 mm of rain, with heavy bursts, developing into thunderstorms in the afternoon. But the morning had some dry spells, allowing us to get breakfast and then take Scully out for a run in the park near the hotel. Although by the time we got back from the park it had started raining.

Storm over Port Macquarie

We lined up a few wet weather activities. We started by driving out to the suburbs of town, where there is a small craft shop that my wife was keen to check out. After that we went to a large craft warehouse, where my wife bought a bunch of different material to use for her sewing.

Following these, it was my turn to choose a destination. So we ended up at the Wicked Elf Brewery… where I tried some of the beers and we had a lightish lunch. They did a tasting paddle of four small glasses of different beers, which I ordered, selecting four of the different ales. The woman who poured the beers completed the four glasses, but then said she’d accidentally done a glass of another beer that I hadn’t ordered, and she said rather than pour it down the sink, I could have it for no charge. So I got a free (small) glass of beer.

It was a very nice place to sit for a while out of the rain. My wife wanted a coffee, but they didn’t make coffees there. However, she saw across the street a place that had a coffee sign on it, and so walked over, while I waited with Scully. She returned with a cup of coffee and a story…

She said that the place across the road was actually a warehouse for espresso machines, but they also ran courses to train people to use them. So they had a row of machines set up. She had poked her head into the warehouse to see what was inside, and someone had asked her what she wanted. She said she thought it might be a place to get a coffee. The staff member said no and explained it was a warehouse and training facility… but then said he was just about the clean the machines and he could make her a cup first. So she ended up getting the coffee she wanted, and didn’t even have to pay for it! So we both ended up with a free drink.

We drove back to the hotel, and decided to go for a walk through the shopping area of town, to see what interesting shops were around. We looked at some crafts and homewares and my wife checked out some clothing. I found an old record and collectibles place, which had some cool comics and books and other stuff. We returned to the hotel, through increasingly heavy rain.

For dinner we had a reservation at a nice restaurant in town, a few blocks from our hotel. Because we had Scully, we needed an outdoor table, and we hoped they had one under cover well out of the rain. They did – there were tables against a wall under a large awning, so we were about two metres from the rain. We enjoyed a good meal, and watched the rain fall…

Until it got REALLY heavy. It absolutely pounded down for several minutes. Despite being well under cover, we both got soaking wet, our dining table got wet, we had to pick up Scully’s cloth mat from the ground as it was getting soaked.

Rainy dinner

Fortunately this downpour didn’t last very long, but the damage was done. I was soaked through my clothes to the skin on one side, and my wife as well. We finished our meal, and then had to walk back to the hotel in the heavy rain. Now we’re here, and we have entire sets of clothes including socks and underwear arrayed around the room to dry.

Tomorrow we drive home to Sydney. The forecast is for 120-200 mm of rain here in Port Macquarie, and up to 120 mm of rain in Sydney. I think it’s going to be a very wet drive.

Road trip day 3

Today we had a lunch booked at The Byabarra Cafe, based on a recommendation from a friend. This is in a tiny settlement that doesn’t even count as a village, in the mountain hinterland inland from Port Macquarie.

Since it was only about 40 minutes drive, we took some time in the morning after breakfast to go for a walk down to the beach and along it the grassy parkland just behind the sand. It had rained very heavily overnight and was very windy this morning, and threatening drizzle. But the rain held off enough for us to let Scully run around in the park a bit, which was good.

We set out in the car and stopped at the town of Wauchope to have a look around. It’s a typical small country town, with a single main street lined with a couple of blocks of shops. But down a tiny narrow alley we stumbled across a coffee shop called Dark Alley Coffee. We only went in because my wife felt like a coffee (I don’t drink coffee), but then we noticed the whole place was decorated with Star Wars posters, models, toys, and trinkets. I chatted with the owner while he made my wife’s coffee. He was into Dungeons & Dragons too, so I mentioned Darths & Droids and gave him the address, which he said he’d definitely check out.

Lunch was excellent, sitting on the back veranda looking out over a long valley stretching into the distance, partly forested with eucalypts and partly grazing land, listening to the calls of numerous birds in the trees.

After eating, I wanted to see if we could return to Port Macquarie via a different route, and there was a promising looking road that would form a convenient loop via the coast. I asked the staff about the road, wondering if it might be unsealed gravel or dirt. They confirmed there was a dirt road, but said it was in good repair and should be fine.

So we set out, on a beautifully scenic road through dense forests, taking a turn off the main road onto the dirt road that cut across back to the coast. It started off okay, but after a few kilometres became very rocky and bumpy, shaking and rattling the car alarmingly. We pressed on, eventually returning to paved road, and it was then that I noticed a strange sound…

We pulled over and I went out to check the car, to see if there was a branch caught underneath or something. I found instead that a rear tyre was flat, obviously punctured by a sharp rock somewhere on the dirt road. Well, we were basically in the middle of nowhere. It was about 15 km to the nearest town. And our car is so small that it doesn’t carry a spare tyre.

My wife called her roadside assistance membership organisation, and they said they could arrange a tow to the town, where we could get a new tyre. The problem was that by the time a tow truck could get to us and then return us to town, it would be about closing time, and we might have to leave the car overnight. Which would mean we were stuck about 50 km from our hotel, and might have to get a taxi there… and then back again in the morning.

Well… we waited, and it rained… and eventually the tow truck showed up. The driver said we had to leave Scully in the car, it was illegal for him to drive with a dog in the cabin of the truck. So we had to leave her there alone for the ride, which she didn’t like at all.

Anyway, long story short, we arrived at the service centre at 4:55 pm, and the receptionist said the mechanics were just about to go home for the day… but the head mechanic saw our predicament and said they’d do the tyre change for us before they knocked off for the day. Phew!

So 15 minutes later we had a new tyre and were on our way. So it was all a bit of an adventure which we’ll laugh about later.

Road trip day 2

Today we drove up from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour for lunch… and to see the Big Banana. This is a famous roadside attraction, a giant fibreglass banana, which you can walk through, and pose in front of for photos and so on.

We didn’t really have any plan for lunch, so I asked one of the staff at the Big Banana and they recommended an area down by the Coffs Harbour Jetty, with several eating places to choose from. We didn’t really want a big sit-down lunch, so we found a bakery there and had pies for lunch. And we were glad we did, because they were incredibly good, so much better than what we had at Heatherbrae’s Pies yesterday. After a walk around the foreshore and marina area to see the sights and exercise Scully, we went back past the bakery to the car, and I got a lemon meringue tart too, and it was also amazingly good. Now I’m going to be upset that this wonderful bakery is over 500km from home.

On the way back to Port Macquarie we stopped at Urunga to have another walk. Here there is a boardwalk over a mangrove swamp in a tidal inlet, all the way out to the beach. This was a lovely walk, and we spotted several interesting species of birds, many of which I photographed.

Following this we drove back to our hotel, then went out for dinner. We found a very nice Mexican place, and had some excellent soft tacos. This was a nicer meal than last night. So all round it was a great day.

Road trip day 1

It’s the first day of our road trip holiday. We left home this morning after baking some fresh sourdough bread, which we took with us to give to my mother along the way. She lives an hour north of Sydney, and we stopped to have morning tea with her on the way.

After that we continued on, stopping at Heatherbrae’s Pies for lunch. This is a famous pie shop on the highway north, with a high reputation. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to the hype. The food was good, but not really exceptional in any way.

We continued on, stopping at Taree for petrol and to stretch our legs. We let Scully run free in a park by the river to get some exercise. Then it was back in the car for the final leg to Port Macquarie.

We arrived, checked into our hotel, and then went for a walk into town to get dinner, finding a Turkish place open with al fresco tables where we could sit with Scully.

After eating, we walked back along the river shore, which treated us to an amazing sunset.

Hastings River sunset

(No new content links today – it’s too much work to do them remotely. Check my usual comic sites.)

Wet and wild market day

The alarm went off at 5:30 this morning, so my wife and I could head to the market by 6:00 to start setting up. It was still like night when we left… and it wasn’t helped by the heavy rain.

To take all of our stuff to the market, we need to make two trips in our car. I left the first load there with her and Scully to mine while I drove home for the second load. This load includes two large easels which I use to display large photo prints. The trouble is they don’t fit in the car with the roof up (it’s a convertible). The rain had eased off to almost nothing, so I risked it and put the easels in with the roof open. It was actually fine driving back to the market, although the rain started falling again lightly. But when I got there I expected to be able to drive into the tunnel to start unloading under shelter… but there was a queue of other stallholders waiting to drive into the parking area, and the parking marshal was being very slow in letting people in. As I sat there, not moving, the rain got heavier… and heavier…

Eventually I got in, and unloaded the gear. I had to use a towel to dry stuff, including the interior of the car. My wife parked the car and returned while I set up the stall. I made some space on one side for her dog bandanas. We were excited and hopeful.

But the weather was dreadful. It rained heavily and with strong winds. Although we were inside the road tunnel, we were given a stall right near one end, and spray from the rain came in and got all over our stuff. And there was a drain grate right in front of the stall, and it was overflowing from all the water, meaning that anyone who wanted to browse our stall basically had to stand in a puddle.

Some stallholders had obviously elected not to come today, as there were a few vacant stalls. I asked the market admin if I could move our stall, and they said yes, so we moved to a more central location, further from the rain spray. But that didn’t help with the number of customers, which was painfully low. Mostly we chatted with other stall-holders, lamenting how nobody was out browsing the market today.

Then at one point a really strong gust of wind blew through the tunnel, and scattered stuff all over the place. Other stalls had to deal with racks of clothes falling over, or artwork falling off tables. One of my greeting card display stands fell over, and all the cards fell out…. into the gutter where there was a stream of rainwater.

It was a horrible day. There were eventually a few customers – maybe 5 or 6 people stopped to browse through my photos. I made exactly one sale… of 3 greeting cards. It wasn’t even enough to cover the cost of my lunch.

The market officially ends at 3:00pm, but most stallholders were packing up by 2:00, with a shrug and a sigh and a “maybe next month”.

We got home and crashed, just watching comedy TV until bed time.

Tomorrow we head off on our 5-day holiday road trip up the coast. I think we need it.

New content today:

Vision and market prep

Today was hectic. I had another class to teach my Human Vision course on Outschool. Then it was time to prepare for tomorrow’s market at Kirribilli.

I’m helping my wife to start selling some of her dog bandanas as well, and we had a checklist of stuff to run through: doing a sign with prices, setting her up to process payments using Square, taking some photos of Scully with sample bandanas so she can post on Instagram – she’s calling her brand Scully xo. Check it out!

Labels for dog bandanas

Scully xo bandana modelling

Scully xo bandana modelling

And I really needed to wash the car. The park where I take Scully every week has nearby parking, but it’s all under fig trees, and the rainbow lorikeets hang out and chew on figs and drop sticky bits of half chewed figs all over the place. So it gets peppered with this sticky residue and needs to be cleaned regularly, but I haven’t done it for a long time.

And… gosh… that actually ate up the whole day. Tonight it’s an early night, so we can get up at 5:30 to haul stuff to the market and set up…

New content today:

Board games night

This entry is a few hours late because we had board games night last night, in person at a friend’s place. After the obligatory pizza, we played two new games: Legacy of Dragonholt, and The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine.

The first is about halfway between a traditional roleplaying game like Dungeons & Dragons, and a giant choose-your-own adventure book. Up to six players create characters using a very simple system: choose race, class, then pick skills from a list. You have a Stamina score of 14, but it’s reduced by 2 for every skill above 5 that you choose. Then write yourself a free-form background, appearance, and personality notes.

We had a catfolk rogue, orc brawler, gnome apothecary, human wildlander, dwarf knight, and I played an elf sage. Although I had archery skill (which I took from my elven background), I decided my character was a man of the world – a traveller interested in all things foreign, keen to learn new things about other people and cultures and history. So I liked meeting people, and having fun, and attending fancy parties, and enjoying the finer things in life.

The game proceeds by one player (or in our case we used a spare person as a pseudo-GM) reading entries from a large booklet, describing our mission to travel to the village of Dragonholt to assist a long-time friend, who has sent us a letter asking for help. There’s a physical letter that we opened and read, and then the booklet describes our journey to the village. Without spoiling what happens, the text comes to various decision points, where you need to choose from a range of possible actions. At each decision point, one of the players must choose what action to take, and then that player spends their action token. Once spent, you can’t decide anything. So after five players have made decisions, the next decision, whatever it is, must be made by the only player not to have yet made a decision. Once all players’ tokens are spent, they all reactivate.

Some decision options require you to have certain skills. For example (made up by me, not in the game), if the decision has the options to try some mushrooms you found, or ignore then and continue on the road, then the option to try the mushrooms might only be available if the character making the decision has Alchemy skill. So when it comes down to the final character deciding something, sometimes your options are very limited. In this game there was one decision point where there were 7 or 8 options, but the character making the decision only had the skills to choose from two of them. Various events that happen depend on your Stamina or may reduce Stamina, or may deprive you of skills temporarily. And several events and choices depend on what previous things you’ve chosen to do, and how much time has passed.

The opening part of the adventure ended when we arrived at Dragonholt. The game suggests this is a good time to take a break, so we did. There were a lot of decisions, but the first part felt quite linear, like we had to eventually make it to the village. I expect the next part will be more divergent and open-ended. The game is well-written and was a lot of fun, especially with our pseudo-GM adopting amusing accents for all the characters we met. It was very light on rulesy stuff, and no dice rolling, so it felt very light compared to D&D, but there was plenty of scope for character roleplaying. This game definitely suits character roleplayers over crunchy game mechanicy dice-rolling fans. We had a lot of fun, and I recommend it.

The second game, The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, is a lightly space-themed card game. It’s basically a trick taking game with cards numbered from 1-9 in four suits, plus a fifth suit of trump cards numbered 1-4. It’s cooperative, rather than competitive. The players are ostensibly a space crew, working together to survive on a space mission. To survive, you need to complete an increasingly difficult series of tasks.

Each mission is a round of the card game. You deal out all the cards. Whoever has the 4 of trumps is the mission commander, and will lead the first trick. Normal trick-taking rules apply (follow suit, etc.). Before leading the first trick, however, a set of “challenge” cards are turned over. This is a small deck with copies of the non-trump cards. For an easy challenge, you just turn over one of these cards, and the commander takes it. To win the mission, each person with a challenge card must win the trick containing that challenge card.

For example, the commander gets the challenge card “3 of yellow”. The commander must try to win the trick containing the yellow 3 card. And everyone must help. As soon as the commander wins that card, the mission is a success and you stop taking tricks, and go to the next challenge. If the commander fails to win that card, the mission is a failure and you need to re-attempt it.

The first challenge is easy. It ramps up in difficulty pretty quickly. After several hands we were at a challenge where three different players had to win specific cards, and those cards had to be won in a specific order. (Earlier challenges had multiple cards but you could win them in any order.) This was getting quite difficult and we had to repeat this challenge 3 or 4 times before we won it. I don’t know how much higher in difficulty the challenges get, but it could end up being a real brain-buster. It was fun, but yeah, you really need to hone your trick-taking skills to do well in this game.

New content today: