Visiting my cousin...

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'd not seen my cousin Brendan for well over 10 years, but as he lives just a few hours south of Sydney, I certainly wanted to meet up with him. I'd spoken to him on the phone the week before and he said that Rie was more than welcome too, so at 7am on Sunday morning we embarked on a 3 hour train journey to Bomaderry where Brendan would be waiting for us...

Within minutes, I needed to go to the toilet, but there was one small problem...there were no toilets on the train! And I didn't have a bottle. I thought it was ridiculous how a train going quite a long distance didn't have at least one loo, but on this occasion we were lucky in that we had a hold up at a station about 2 hours in. The fact that the toilets at the station in question were closed was irrelevant, as a number of people headed for the trees before emerging with smiles on their faces.

On arrival, I recognised Brendan walking towards us and it was nice to see him after such a long time. We chatted as he drove us to his home, about 30 minutes away, and it became clear that he'd planned an exciting itinery for us. I was looking forward to it as the scenery on the latter part of the train journey was lovely, and I wanted to see more...

After meeting Brendan's girlfriend Helena, and her son Jamie, we were on our way again as we were booked onto a dolphin cruise at 1pm. We had time to eat some fish and chips at the beach before the cruise, but we made sure that we were first in the queue to board the boat as we wanted to get prime viewing spots. As it turned out, the boat was less than half full so we had no problems in that department, having the entire roof area to ourselves at one point.

By the time we spotted our first lone dolphin, we were settled at the front and were happily drinking a few beers. It wasn't of the same standard as the amazing Kaikoura cruise, but it was so relaxing and Brendan summed it up when he said "this is the life." Things picked up dramatically after about an hour and a half, when we encountered a pod of 30-40 more dolphins - up until that point we thought that we'd have to settle for the one solitary sighting of "Nigel no friends" (as Helena referred to it!). Luckily that wasn't the case, and again it was very special following them around, particularly as there were a couple of adorable calves in the pod.

The 3 hour cruise was a major success, and we had more fun immediately afterwards when we drove to a beautiful white sand beach for a swim in the sea. The water was lovely and warm, and there were a few waves around that added to the enjoyment. I thought to myself how nice it would be to be able to pop down to the beach for a swim every day after a shift at work.

No taste of the Aussie lifestyle would be complete without a good old fashioned barbeque, so we made our way back home to tuck into some grub. Before that though, we called at another beach and saw the biggest stingray ever - it must have been a good metre and a half in length!

In passing, I'd mentioned that we were disappointed with Taronga Zoo's policy of not being able to touch the kangaroos, particularly as Rie had never done it before. Brendan said that we'd soon sort that out, so after dropping Helena off to get started with the barbie, we went for a drive around the estate...

Within minutes, we came across a group of five kangaroos hovering around in someone's front garden! It looked very bizarre, but Brendan and Jamie were used to them as they are very common in and around the area. As I soon found out, it takes patience if you want to actually feed them, as they are naturally suspicious. The idea is to walk very slowly in their direction, holding a slice of bread out for them the whole time. I was lucky as one of the 'roos took my bread, but for some reason they didn't like the look of Rie and hopped off when she got too close! She didn't mind though as she was content to be so close to's not a common sight on the streets of Japan afterall!

Back at the house, Brendan proved that he was a fully fledged Aussie by doing a great barbeque, although we ate inside because the mozzies were biting in the garden (they seem to follow me around!). It was a pleasant end to a hectic day, and we proceeded to collapse in front of the TV for the rest of the evening, gradually falling asleep one by one. I called it a night just before midnight, leaving Rie as the last person standing (wonders never cease!).

The next morning, I borrowed Brendan's truck so that Rie and I could explore the area a bit more while everyone else was at work. Despite a few concerns with the handbreak, it felt great having my 'own' vehicle to drive around in, and there was hardly anyone else on the road. While one day wasn't nearly enough to see all the sights, it was enough to make me decide that I want to return in the next few years...

It was a bit overcast, but it didn't deter us as we made our way to our first point of interest, namely Chinaman's Beach. We walked the full length of the beach, paddling in the water and breathing in the fresh air. I remember remarking that I'd be back home in a week's time, which is fine of course, but it made me appreciate my surroundings that little bit more.

We saw more kangaroos at the local Botanic Gardens, but once again they scarpered when Rie approached them! She didn't take it personally though, and we had a nice stroll through the gardens, seeing some bright and colourful birds along the way. Unsurprisingly, we got lost walking along the maze like tracks, but we were in no rush and eventually emerged at the car park again.

There were so many detours to different beaches, but I thought I'd made a mistake when I chose to follow the signs to Steamers Beach. The gravel road led to a car park, and it was a further 2.5km by foot to get there. Still, the weather was clearing a bit and I fancied a stretch of the old legs, although I sensed that Rie was less enthusiastic about it!

I shouldn't have doubted my intuition because we eventually emerged at a beautiful stretch of sand that we could rightfully call our own - it was only accessible by foot and there was noone else around (we only saw 2 other walkers the whole time). It was so peaceful and idyllic, and we stayed there for over half an hour until we had to make tracks...unfortunately! Time was pushing on and we were both hungry, so we called at a takeaway in a small village nearby and I had another hotdog. It is here where I nearly lost the truck due to the handbreak issue (as the parking space was on a slope), but I managed to move it to flatter ground to rectify the potentially expensive problem...

I pretended that I didn't know how to get back to Brendan's house, much to Rie's horror, but I'd been watchful the previous day so I had a reasonable grasp of the area. Once there, we just watched TV for a couple of hours before Brendan drove us to the train station. It had been a bit of a whistle stop tour, but we'd fit a lot in and it had provided some respite from life in the city. It's certainly a lovely part of the world and like I've said, I'll be back in the future...

The train journey back to Sydney was enjoyable as amongst other things, Rie and I messed about writing Japanese on eachother's hands. For the umpteenth time, she taught me how to write my name in Japanese, and I'll make a concious effort to remember it this time...promise! By entertaining ourselves, the three hours flew by and, shock horror, Rie didn't fall asleep once!

My time in Oz was nearing its conclusion, and perhaps realising this, Rie and I went and sat down near the Harbour Bridge...until 4am! We virtually had Circular Quay to ourselves by that point, and it was pretty special as we looked out to the Opera House...a view I'll never get tired of. We eventually made a move in order to get a few hours sleep ahead of my last day in Sydney, which turned out to be a good one all round...
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