Easter Saturday in the mountains

With a break from my teaching meaning I had free time, my wife suggested that today we go for a driving day trip. We set out about 9:30 in the morning and drove west up into the Blue Mountains. Google Maps says the route we drove up is 106 km. We came back via a different route, which it says is 111 km. So 217 km of driving, plus a bit extra to account for some back streets we drove around at the destination.

The first stop was Leura. This is a small town which has become a bit of a day tripper attraction, with the sort of cafes, antique shops, and other things that attract tourists. So it’s fun to walk up and down the short main street. After doing that, browsing in a few shops, we went to the Bygone Beauties Treasured Teapot Museum and Tea Rooms. They have a small museum with a collection of fancy tea paraphernalia, and a cafe serving high teas, sandwiches, cakes, and drinks. And Devonshire tea: scones with jam and cream. We had the scones, with my wife having a coffee and me electing to substitute a chocolate milkshake (since I don’t drink tea or coffee). They were soft and fluffy and very good.

After this morning tea, we drove out to the Sublime Point lookout, which has a beautiful view across the Megalong Valley and the Blue Mountains wilderness area.

Sublime Point

It’s impossible to capture it all in a single photo, so I took a panorama:

Sublime Point

This is also a great spot because it’s relatively unknown compared to the famous and extremely touristy Echo Point in Katoomba, just 10 minutes’ drive away. There, it’s impossible to park, and it’s crowded with tourists, and also you can’t dogs to the lookout spots. Here at Sublime Point, we shared the place today with maybe a dozen people, and we could walk Scully all the way out to the lookout (where we met a couple of other people who had brought their dogs too).

After this we drove over to Katoomba, although to the centre of town and not the lookout. We walked up and down the main street, which is larger and has more places than Leura. One spot that my wife likes to check out every time we come here is The Hattery. Today we both bought new hats, her a floppy felt one, and me a simple sports sunhat to replace my old decrepit one.

We grabbed some sushi rolls for a quick lunch. All of the cafes and restaurants were packed with people, often with queues waiting for tables, so we just got the take-away sushi and ate as we walked. We departed around 3:30pm for the drive back home.

The different route we took was down Hawkesbury Road, which I’m pretty sure I’ve never driven before. There is a lookout spot overlooking the Hawkesbury River and providing a view east over the Sydney plain back towards the city.

Hawkesbury Lookout view

Again, a panorama:

Hawkesbury Lookout view

We stopped near home to grab a few groceries to make a salad for tomorrow’s family Easter lunch, and made it home a bit after 5pm. It was a full day, but lots of fun!

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Booking travel again

The big thing I did today was to book an overseas trip for the first time since 2019. The next ISO Photography standards meeting is in Cologne in Germany, at the end of June, and we are finally having a face-to-face meeting again. My wife and I are both keen to travel, since we missed the chance to take our planned 25th wedding anniversary trip last year. So today we booked flights.

We decided to fly into Frankfurt as it’s the easiest access to Cologne, and then back home out of Amsterdam, after spending some time after the meeting touring around and visiting the Netherlands for the first time. We’ve arranged to leave Scully with friends while we’re away. She’s stayed with them before and they have a dog who is Scully’s friend, so that will be good.

Now I need to find and book hotels and train connections and stuff like that, as well as figuring out exactly where in the Netherlands we want to visit. Amsterdam obviously, but we want to visit a smaller town or two and see some things a little quieter than the main tourist attractions.

Also there’ll be handling COVID requirements for travel, which we’ll need to work out. Looks like we need proof of negative test results both before leaving Australia and before leaving Amsterdam to return to Australia. I’ll also need to see if we need a test before crossing the land border from Germany into the Netherlands. But I’ll work that out between now and departure.

And I took this photo of Scully on our walk today:

Scully exploring the streets

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Ethics of tourism

Today was a busy day with my online ethics stuff. I had to write the new lesson for this week, on the topic of the ethics of tourism. Then I had two extension follow-up classes with students on last week’s topic of artificial intelligence, followed by three iterations of the new class.

In between, I managed to do some work on the university data engineering course. Mostly going through slides prepared by the lecturer and providing feedback on those.

Speaking of tourism, Australia closed its borders to non-citizens on 20 March, 2020, due to COVID. The Government recently announced that from 21 February Australia will once again allow tourists to enter the country. 703 days, almost two years the ban has been in place. Life has been very different here without tourists, since I live in the most heavily visited city in the country. In one sense it’s been nice – you can walk around tourist sites like the Opera House and The Rocks without the usual crowds of foreigners. In another sense it’s been eerie, since some parts of the city that are usually bustling are virtually dead.

I saw a suggestion in a Sydney discussion group that now is a good time for us residents to go visit tourist areas, before they start filling up with tourists again. Honestly, that sounds really appealing. Maybe in the next week or so I’ll take a trip into the city and walk around the Opera House, while I can before the crowds return.

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Planning travel for 2023

I got an email this morning, from the convener of the ISO Photography standards committee, requesting feedback on a planning issue. We have a plenary meeting every two years, in which all of the different working groups get together for one big meeting. (Normally the digital photography and the other groups meet separately a few times a year each.) Anyway, the 2021 plenary was planned for Japan, but never happened because of COVID, and so it was decided to hold a plenary in 2022 in Japan – but now that has also been cancelled due to ongoing COVID travel issues. So now Japan is beginning planning to host a plenary meeting in 2023.

To this end, the email I got today asked me to fill in a form indicating which weeks were more or less convenient for me to attend. There was a list of 9 different weeks, ranging from the end of April to the end of June. And the request was to rate them all from A (most preferred) to E (least preferred). A 5 point scale!

I looked at my calendar for April-June 2023…. and surprisingly enough, it’s completely empty. So honestly it makes no difference whatsoever what week they choose. I even checked when the school holidays are, because it’s less convenient to travel when school is out, due to more families wanting to travel, but the nine weeks they picked line up exactly with the 9 weeks of second term, so there’s not even that to make any difference.

What else…? My wife and I did a long walk with Scully this morning. We started out and it was sunny. I put on sunscreen, and a hat, and sunglasses. But by the time we got home it was raining. It’s been a ridiculous summer, and there’s no sign of the rain and humidity going away.

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Lunch trek

With my wife off work all week, we decided to have a bit of a day out. I looked for and found a nice looking cafe/restaurant where we could have lunch. I phoned them up to check they had dog-friendly seating, under cover, since the weather was threatening rain again. They did, but they didn’t take reservations for parties under 4 people, and told me to just show up and we’d probably get a table within 10 minutes.

So we hopped in the car and drove out there. The place I’d selected was out in some rural suburbs, where there aren’t too many people. I figured it’d be a bit quieter and less COVID-ridden than places closer to the city.

We drove out into the region, passing various farms and properties with horses and chickens and stuff. When we got to the cafe, we found it was in a nursery, and there was a huge car park almost completely full of cars. There was a queue of a dozen or so people waiting outside the cafe, and more arriving as we circled the car park. That looked like a lot more than a 10-minute wait, so we left and continued up the road.

Further along is another cafe where we’ve been a few times, also in a small nursery, and it’s never been anywhere near that busy. I turned off the road to enter the driveway… to find the gate closed and a sign saying it was closed. Presumably they were closed for this week between Christmas and New Year, as many places do.

Two prospective lunch places down, we continued driving. Further on there’s a bakery that we visit occasionally, the Glenorie Bakery. When we got there, it was open, and not too busy, although I did have to wait in a queue for a few minutes before ordering our lunch. I got a lamb pie and a Mexican pie, while my wife had a cheese and spinach roll.

After eating, we went to a nearby park where we let Scully run around and chase a ball for a while. She was running really fast in the huge open space, with no other people or dogs around. Normally she’s too distracted by others to really let loose like that.

On the way back we stopped at a roadside vegetable stall, where a farmer was selling produce. They had punnets of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants… and the most enormous figs I’ve ever seen. I grabbed a punnet of the figs. They’re about the size of tennis balls – much bigger than the golf-ball sized figs you normally see in supermarkets. I had one when we got home, and it was nice, though not quite as sweet as some figs I’ve had. I’ll have to think of something to do with them tomorrow. Or maybe for New Year’s Eve.

We decided to take a scenic route home, via Berowra Waters.

Berowra Waters

There’s a road leading down to the river here on each side, but no bridge. You can cross the water on a car ferry, which carries 12 cars at a time.

Berowra Waters ferry terminus

We arrived at the ferry terminus just as the previous trip was departing, with two cars queued up ahead of us. So we’d be in the next trip across. But unfortunately, there was a sign up at the gate saying that the ferry would be closed for 25 minutes for cleaning. When it reached the other side, we could see the cars disembarking, but none got on, and yes, it was about half an hour of waiting until it loaded up and came back. This gave us time to wander around a bit and enjoy the scenery.

Eventually we made it onto the ferry and across the river, to continue our journey home, making a big loop. According to Google Maps, we drove a total of about 90 km just to get lunch and take Scully for some exercise. It was a nice day out though, and I got to go on the Berowra Waters ferry, which is a thing I’ve never done before.

At home this evening I made a sweet potato and cashew pizza. I also put some corn and beans on my half of the pizza (my wife wanted just the sweet potato and cashews), and when it was baked I added a drizzle of mayonnaise and chilli sauce. Pretty good! Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo until after I’d sliced it.

Sweet potato and cashew pizza

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Good Friday… was good

Good Friday is a public holiday in Australia, second only to Christmas Day in everything being closed for business. A few cafes and restaurants are open, but basically all retail stores and other businesses are closed. So my wife had a day off work, and we slept in very late this morning. She spent much of the day sewing her dog bandanas. I did some catching up on various small tasks that I needed to get done – tax accounting and answering emails and so on.

I also worked on a travel diary for my recent road trip to Port Macquarie a couple of weeks ago. I expanded the posts I made here and inserted many more photos. I haven’t done a proper travel diary for a couple of years due to COVID restrictions on travel, so it was good to do one. It’s now complete and viewable here.

Tonight was the inter-fortnightly virtual games night between face-to-face games nights. Normally we have a turnout of 6 or 7 people, but tonight most people were either doing family things or were away on vacation with their families for the Easter weekend. So I played a couple of games with one friend, and we called it a night to go do our own things. We played Parks on Tabletop Simulator, followed by CuBirds on Board Game Arena. I won both games, which was good!

New content today:

Road trip day 3

I’m back home tonight, after a day on the road with my wife and Scully. We left our accommodation Kangaroo Valley this morning, and drove to Bowral in steady rain. We had a nice lunch there, then headed back home, arriving around 5pm. Overall, since leaving home on Friday morning we’ve driven 438 km.

I’ve had time to process a few photos from the the trip, so here they are. First, Kiama Lighthouse:

Kiama Lighthouse

The ocean pool at Kiama:

Kiama rock pool

What I’m guessing is an unnamed intermittent waterfall (that only appears after heavy rain), spotted on the escarpment of Budderoo National Park, from our drive up Upper Kangaroo Valley:

Budderoo waterfall

The road that was flooded, cutting our progress up Upper Kangaroo Valley – you can see from the flood depth marker that the water is more than a metre deep over the road:

Gerringong Creek flood

A view of some farming country in Upper Kangaroo Valley:

End of Treefern Road

And a view from Cambewarra Lookout, over the Shoalhaven River and the towns of Bomaderry (this side of the river) and Nowra (far side):

Cambewarra Storm

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Road trip day 2

It rained overnight. Heavily… really heavily. And with a lot of thunder too. Fortunately Scully isn’t one of those dogs who freaks out with thunder; she’s very relaxed about it and doesn’t really react at all. But still, it was an interrupted night of sleep with the storm.

Heavy rain continued as we got up and went out to a nearby cafe for breakfast. They had outdoor tables under a verandah, so we managed to stay mostly dry while eating.

The rain slowly eased up a bit, and we did a drive to Upper Kangaroo Valley, which is basically a dead end road, but I wanted to go there to see an old suspension bridge over the river which would make a good photographic subject. We got there just as the rain eased to a halt, so we could walk around and I could get some photos without getting wet. But the road there crossed the river at a causeway and the torrential rain of the last few hours had swollen the river so that the road was now under more than a metre of water! So there was no way we could drive across the river. We continued up the same side of the river for a bit, hoping to reach another interesting spot, but we were again stopped by floodwater over the road.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting drive and the scenery was well worth it. We saw a large waterfall appearing through the clearing mist, falling off the escarpment in the distance, and I got some photos which will hopefully be good.

We had some sandwiches for lunch back in Kangaroo Valley. Then we took another drive in a different direction, to Cambewarra Lookout, which is on top of a nearby mountain and provides an amazing view over the Shoalhaven River valley to the south. The road up there is narrow and winding – there are a lot of very cool roads in this area.

Back in Kangaroo Valley, we had dinner at a Thai restaurant. The afternoon had turned out fine after the morning storms cleared. But apparently there were serious hailstorms back in Sydney today. Hopefully there’s no damage at our place.

Heading out on a road trip

Just a short update today, as I’m on the road with my wife and Scully, taking a long weekend trip. We drove south from Sydney, stopping at Scarborough for morning tea, then at Kiama to have a walk and see the lighthouse and blowhole.

We had lunch in the town of Berry, and then headed inland to Kangaroo Valley, where we’re spending two nights in a nice accommodation. Dinner was actually back in Berry, which is only about 20 minutes drive away, in a nice Italian restaurant.

The drive between Berry and Kangaroo Valley is along a very narrow and winding road that threads up over the intervening mountains and back down again. It passes through dense forest, and is an amazing drive.

I won’t link today’s new comics, because it’s tricky using an iPad and I don’t want to spend too long on this before getting some sleep…

Weekend away, day 3

Scully slept better last night in our motel room. I think the rain helped, as the sound drowned out a lot of the minor noises that kept distracting throughout her the previous night.

The rain held off for the evening, and my wife and I went out to a nice restaurant on one of the nearby winery estates. We’ve been here once before and really enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere, so made sure to rebook it for this trip. They said over the phone that us bringing Scully would be fine, but I wasn’t sure if we’d need to sit outdoors – I think they mentioned something about a private room. When we got there, it was sprinkling very lightly. I said we had a booking and had informed them we’d be bringing our dog. They showed us straight into the main dining room and gave us a table in the corner!

Now, I’m pretty sure that restaurants here aren’t allowed to have animals (other than assistance dogs) in indoor food serving areas, but we weren’t about to point that out, and nobody seemed to mind at all. The diners at the tables nearest us were delighted and waved at Scully and scratched her when she wandered over (on leash, but she had enough room to move around a little). So we were nice and warm inside, and enjoyed a most wonderful meal. This place does a five course fixed menu, which changes daily, using a lot of ingredients they grow on their own property, and sourcing other ingredients from local farms.

This morning we got up and went to a cafe for breakfast, before packing the car and checking out of the motel. It had rained very heavily overnight, but stopped while we were having breakfast. It started up again by the time we were packing the car, and then got heavier as we drove off, heading home.

We took a different route for the first part of the trip, through a couple of small towns along a longer road that we hadn’t driven along before. It was nice to see the towns, but it was raining fairly heavily when we were there, and it was also very cold, so we couldn’t fully appreciate the scenery and historic buildings. We stopped for lunch in Lithgow, just the western side of the Blue Mountains, and then drove straight through form there to home, through heavy rain.

It was a good trip, and the rain wasn’t nearly as bad as forecast for Saturday, but it did hamper us a bit today. Scully’s glad to be home, however. After two days of being on the road in unfamiliar places and being on edge, she’s crashed and been sleeping most of the afternoon and evening since we got home.

New content today: