Christmas in summer - very very odd

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2008

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

WARNING  - this is a long 'un.  But it was Christmas after all

When we left England back in June, Christmas was not really on our mind.  With the build up to the trip and all that went with it, we never really considered where we would be, what we would be doing or who we would be spending it with.

As it turned out we would be spending Christmas in Australia, doing lots of fun and unusual activities (unusual in the sense that Christmas in the sun offers a whole different lot of options) and spending it with a great bunch of old and new friends.   There was myself and Nic.  Then Paul and Megan who we had been living with in Berry.  Then there was Sal and Mark, good friends of Paul and Megan (and hopefully now good friends of ours) who lived in nearby Gerringong.  And then to top it all, a lovely couple called Vito and Claire - friends of the others - who were also on their own year long round the world trip from England.

The start of the Christmas period was not a good start.  Unfortunately Nic had to work on a day that we had planned to head down to Jervis Bay and go for a bike ride then a swim in a place called Honeymoon Bay.  And to make it worse, the rain came.  And it came heavy right in the middle of our little bike ride down to Perpendicular Point.  The plan was to cycle to the lighthouse and see magnificent views of the bay.  However, due to the weather, the only view we got was of the lighthouse.  So, we headed back a little disheartened and very very wet, only for the sun to break through the clouds. Nothing more for it, straight down to the idyllic Honeymoon Bay with it's picture postcard crescent beach and soft lush sands.  So the day wasn't totally ruined by the weather - although had it continued to rain I still would have gone in the sea as us Brits don't let a bit of rain ruin anything.
The evening was dinner at Paul and Megan's for the eight of us which was the perfect way to finish off the day.  We even had our first sample of Christmas songs - you have to admit that is pretty impressive that it was December 22nd before I actually heard any Christmas carols! Normally they are forced down your throat from August.

Following day and more activities planned.  This time we would be heading off to Glengarry in the Kangaroo Valley.  Mark works for a private school called Scots and they have an outdoor biased campus that all the boys from the college attend during their time at Scots (Paul and Megan also used to work here). Glengarry is basically a huge campus in the midst of Australian bush surrounded by excellent facilities.  The plan was to head down there, go for a swim in the huge private lake and then go for a walk along Kangaroo River to some plunge pools.  In true style, the gentle stroll involved removing fallen trees, swimming in the beautiful lake, trekking for miles to locate the freezing, and I mean freezing, cold plunge pools.  Only the bravest went in the water, and only the clever watched the brave (stupid) people nearly die due to hypothermia.

And if that wasn't enough, Christmas Eve ended up being the most energetic Christmas Eve I have spent.  Just to give an idea of how Christmas Eve normally goes, it usually starts with work in the morning, finishing at lunch time, traveling home, changing then heading off out for a few pre-Christmas beers with friends before going home, waking up my niece and nephew, and then sleeping off the days merriment.
This year was a little different.  It started off with a 25km road ride to Gerringong and back with a stop over in the middle for a swim in the sea.  Stop for lunch and then off to Nowra to do two laps of the local mountain bike course - each lap taking about half an hour to complete.  Impressive eh?
The evening did take on a more familiar style though with drinks and food over at Mark and Sal's but unfortunately the exercise wasn't quite completed as we had a few mammoth games of table tennis just to make sure that we all slept that night.

And then the big day arrived. Christmas jumpers donned (you have no idea how ridiculous it is to be wearing a woolen fisherman's jumper with shorts and flip flops in 30 degree temperatures) we headed over to Mark and Sal's to unwrap all the pressies and spend the day together.
We all got ourselves a cup of tea and sat in the room and waited for all the pressies to be handed out, just like being back at home. To say we originally thought we would be spending Christmas alone, neither Nic or I did bad on the pressie front.  I got an Eskey (Cool Box), and some flippers, amongst other things, but the best best present by far was my Steve Irwin stubbie holder (a stubbie being a bottle of beer).  It has Steve on the front, being attacked by a crocodile with him exclaiming 'Crikey'.  A fitting tribute to the man - I am sure you will agree.

Presents unwrapped, it was off to the beach for a Christmas Day surf - or in my case, a Christmas Day body board.  I have never surfed before in my life and this became clear when I put on my loaned wetsuit back to front and inside out.  Doesn't matter - the intention was there.  After a surf it was back to the house for a traditional Ozzie Christmas Dinner - BBQ.  The rest of the day was spent chilling out, napping, having a couple of beers and basically relaxing.  A great Christmas Day all round.  Obviously nothing can replace spending the day with your family and to be honest, we both missed home, but it was an excellent day despite that and one will we remember for a long time.

Boxing Day.  Normally a day of getting out of the house and getting some fresh air.  No different this year with one exception.  Boxing Day attire usually consists of hat, scarf, earmuffs (!), vest (!!), t-shirt, jumper, fleece, jacket, gloves, long johns (!!!), trousers, socks, more socks and another pair just in case, finished off with a good thick pair of boots to prevent ice slippage.  This year, shorts, flip flops and plenty of suntan cream.  It was a hot day - very very hot. The decision was made to head to Jervis Bay again (this place is really beautiful and worth several revisits) and this time to Murray Beach.  We got ourselves set up on a nice quiet stretch of beach and did what all people should do in scorching temperatures - that's right; play volleyball.  We had made a picnic so spent most of the day dipping in and out of the cool clear blue waters, having a bite to eat, playing volleyball and sunbathing.  Just perfect again.  The sand on Murray beach is so white - the whitest I have seen and the waters are clear turquoise. (I hope the pictures do it some justice).

On the 28th Sal had arranged to cook a 'proper' Christmas dinner for us all so we made an executive decision that we would all contribute so that the burden of cooking for 11 people (there were three new arrivals by this point), didn't fall on one person's shoulders.  Everyone volunteered for a piece of the meal and unsurprisingly I volunteered for the cheese board! YUM!! We also had other things to do but this was the one that took up most of my mental energy. The meal was excellent - with everyone contributing, and chipping in, no one was tied to the kitchen so everyone was able to enjoy the meal and the company.  It started with mulled wine (expertly made by Claire and Vito), and then for main it was the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  We had Christmas crackers, party hats and bad jokes.  After a belly full of food, drink and laughter it was time for more table tennis, human pyramid building in the garden and sessions on Sal's drum kit in the basement.

On the 29th to top off all the Christmas festivities, we went to an outdoors jazz concert in nearby Kiama. Grrrrreat.  This was in a park next to the harbour and was splendid.  We enjoyed fish and chips Aussie style.  Forget greasy chips in newspaper, this was pan-fried salmon with a hollandaise sauce and a side order of rocket salad - how very bourgeois.

I think it is fair to say that we had a unique and unforgettable Christmas with a real good bunch of people. All we had to do now was get ready to spend New Year's Eve at the Sydney Opera House.  It just gets better and better and better.
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