Thursday, November 14, 2019

North Harbour parkrun

Aussie rules football perhaps?
We now have a better appreciation of the hazards that can be encountered in the vastness of Australian - snakes, spiders, sharks and jelly fish are all well known threats to human life and Aussies are always on the watch out. Less familiar, and less easily spotted, are other creatures such as leeches, ticks and mozzies loaded up with parasites and viruses and finally various forms of dangerous plant life. We'd come across stinging trees on previous visits, one example being the Gympie Stinger - it's leaves and bark contain a toxin which can affect you not just for hours but for months. And then at the North Harbour parkrun I came across this warning sign! Didn't see anyone wearing crash helmets so maybe they've all fallen down for this year.

Proof of the pudding!
And what about this parkrun then? This is the real story. Having run in about 180 parkruns was I ever going to come first? I'd come in with several second and third places but there'd always been someone quicker than me. 7 am on Saturday morning sees me here at North Harbour which is out in the country north of Brisbane, it's located in a scenic reserve close to what is evidently going to be a large new town, lots of building going on and huge spaces cleared for new housing. This is a case of getting essential services in before the real building starts - parkrun being one of them. Clearly there were not going to be too many runners living in the vicinity and indeed a mere twenty of us toed the starting line. And we were off - me taking it steady in about 5th position as the course took us along a gravel track and onto a flattish path though grassy fields along a riverbank. I gradually picked off other runners until, at the turnaround point I saw that I'd got a good lead over the second paced runner. And I then clung onto my lead for dear life, avoiding stinging plants and football sized cones, to finish at the front. There's the second runner about eighty metres behind me but I was fading fast and he was closing in on me. My first first - but will it ever happen again?

Am I first?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Sensible beer drinking and fancy birds

Sydney is the brash busy archetypal Aussie city - we have steered clear of it following our one visit several years ago. But there is perhaps a good reason to return - this being to visit the home of the award winning Modus Operandi brewery in the Northern Beaches area. We managed to find a 4-pack of Modus Sonic Prayer IPA in a bottle store at Jindabyne - fabulous stuff! And one of the local Canberra breweries, Capital Brewing, were also represented with their quaffable Trail Pale. In Canberra itself we were within walking distance of the renowned Bentspoke Brewery Tap where we found a huge range of beer most of it brewed on site - we could have stayed there a week! We have noticed that many of the newer breweries are producing lower alcohol ales - Modus have a 3.2% pale ale called Easy and Balter, a very fine brewer from the Gold Coast south of Brisbane make a 2.8% beer called Captain Sensible.

Ooh just look at me!
I was quite taken with the sight of this chap sitting in a tree by a pond not far from the centre of Brisbane. This is a Straw-Necked Ibis in his finest mating plumage. Most of the year he's a bit dowdy and scruffy but in spring he puffs up his chest and comes alive to impress the ladies. There are over a thousand parks and playgrounds in the greater Brisbane area and they're full of cycling paths, sports fields, playground apparatus of various types and wildlife. In many of the parks remnants of bushland have been preserved and are maintained with native plantings and reintroductions.

What a show off!
I spotted the ibis pictured above in the Keith Boden Wetlands which is basically a big pond in the park with plenty of tree cover and a good sized island in the middle. (No idea who Keith Boden is - I did Google him with no results in connection with Brisbane.)  Among the other birdlife taking advantage of this suburban oasis were ducks, cormorants and different types of egret. I took this photo of a Cattle Egret sitting in the same tree - this bird is white all year round apart from, wait for it, breeding time when the male's head and chest turn a lovely shade of orange. These birds certainly know how to turn on the charm when the time is right.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Hot and Cold

Gosh it's hot!
Here's grim determination coming up towards the finish line of the Airlie Beach parkrun. Vicky's seventh parkrun here and her third best - not bad considering it was such a hot morning. She's done 141 parkruns in total so should reach 150 by the end of the year. I also suffered in the heat but sneaked into the top ten finishers. Airlie Beach is a tropical parkrun, it's about 500K north of the Tropic of Capricorn which bisects the Australian coast just south of the small town of Yeppoon. So we'll have to have a go at the Yeppoon parkrun sometime in the next year or so - watch this space!

Oooh it's chilly!
And here's the same young lady seven days later. After several weeks of warm weather in Queensland we headed south to Canberra for a couple of days and then hit the high road to Jindabyne which is close to the highest parkrun in Australia, not only is it 950 metres above sea level it's a lot colder than Airlie Beach - there was over 20 degrees difference!

So just where are the Spanish ones?
And a third shot of the same delightful lady in a more relaxed frame of mind meandering through a grove of birch trees at the Canberra Arboretum. This arboretum is like no other that we've seen, usually arboreta are areas of parkland with individual specimens trees dotted around - some of them are quite splendid. Canberra is different - they decided a few years ago to plant mini forests of trees of the same species, some of them threatened or vanishing species. OK you might say - these look just like ordinary birches in this photo, but these birches are sheltering a rare variety, the Spanish Birch, these are disappearing in their native home - once the Spanish Birches become established here the regular birches will be sacrificed - it's what you might term a far sighted long term project. Very impressive and a joy to look at!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ozzy Birds!

Let's  get cracking.
Managed to get a nifty photo of an Eastern Whipbird snuffling about in the undergrowth in the Mount Tamborine rainforest at Eagle Heights. This little blighter is often heard but seldom seen, I caught a glimpse of something beneath a bush beside the pathway and kept snapping away hoping that I'd get a decent picture and here it is. The call of the Eastern Whipbird is an unmistakeable drawn out note followed by a crack not unlike the crack of a whip - hence the name.

Grub up?
Quite pleased with this pic of two Kookaburra's perching on our balcony in Airlie Beach, the young one on the right was very tame whereas the adult kept flying away then returning to check on its offspring. We figured out that somebody had been feeding the youngster on a balcony similar to ours and the little bird thought we would be another source of grub (or grubs). Kookaburra senior was obviously concerned about possible violations of child protection protocols.

Not my photo but such a pretty bird it was! We took a stroll round Lake Jindabyne in the New South Wales highlands and spotted this chappie fluttering around - it wouldn't pose for us though apart from a flash of its unmistakeable tail. We were aiming for a pint at the Banjo Patterson Inn but got caught in a violent freezing hailstorm which completely soaked us - so it was back to the apartment for hot showers and a change of clothes - not the sort of weather we are accustomed to in OZ.

Chances of further scattered showers according to forced us to take the car up to the Jindabyne Brewery Tap - this was no great hardship!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Enjoying the warm weather - wish you were here!

Isn't she lovel
Well guess where we are again? This is Bredl's Country Farm, a delightful place out in the sticks of Northern Queensland. Lots of kangaroos, huge crocodiles, wombats, snakes, large lizards, etc. And what a very entertaining informative day we had. However it was dry, dusty and hot - by 10 am the temperature was already climbing towards 30 degrees and shade was at a premium. We were a little acclimatised as we'd experienced the heat a couple of weeks before at the Hidden Vale Trail Race many miles west of Brisbane. Vicky, Lyndall and myself all won age category prizes. In other words, to use a dreadful aberration that I heard recently, all three of us 'podiumed'!
It might seem a little odd to be winning cycling jerseys although they are rather nifty. However the trail race was the precursor to a weekend of mountain bike racing and my 11.5K race and the girls' 5K race were over the same terrain that the cyclists used later on - dry, dusty and hot and with lumps in the middle of the trail. I was rather jet lagged and losing concentration towards the end and managed to hit one of these lumps, found myself in a heap and had to avail myself of the first aid support at the finish - ouch! Our Lyndall managed to survive the run without mishap and the following day completed the 55K cycle race in fine fettle - cold beer was in order that evening.
The weekend after this we hit the St Lucia parkrun by the river in Brisbane, as you can see I was modelling my stylish trail race running vest. After many weeks of drought Brisbane welcomed a rainy morning and we got absolutely drenched during the race director's briefing - soon dried off though!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Back to the hills

Guess who got lost!
Nearly two years since I last did a fell race. Sixteen years ago I ran a couple of back to back fell races on Dartmoor, on the Saturday was the 11 mile Sticklepath Horseshoe which was followed on the Sunday by the Sourton Tor race, a 14 minute up and down quickie. This year, being in the vicinity, I spotted the Sourton Tors race - not quite the same as it started further away. This was a thoroughly enjoyable tramp on the hills, a traditional style fell race with registration and prizes out of the back of a car in a pub car park. Not that either of us won anything but it won't be two years until my next one.

A wet morning in Ulster
Recent park runs completed include Penistone in Yorkshire where we followed the flattish West Pennine Trail on an interesting surface - it looked like tarmac but was springy, nice to run on it must have had some ground up tyres mixed in. Also two in Northern Ireland - a sunny jaunt round the grounds of Stormont Castle and a very wet morning in Wallace Park in Lisburn. The latter is an undulating three loop course in a lovely park with a fine example of a band stand - I spotted myself in this photo of the race briefing - must have been about 200 runners under cover there.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Heading for Devon

Trundling down to our new house in Devon with all our worldly goods in a transit van, (well three vans in a row) we've been pitstopping halfway at Droitwich staying at the Chateau Impney (see post from May). This particular hotel is a popular wedding venue especially with wealthy Asian families from Birmingham. We spotted one wedding where 5 brightly coloured brand new Ferraris were revving up in the extensive and beautiful hotel grounds. On another occasion we spotted a stretch Porsche - here's Vicky trying to persuade the driver to let her go for a spin in it.

Just a quick one!
On arrival in Devon we fairly swiftly repaired to the Bell Inn, our nearest pub. We knew that a selection of real ale was on offer but this time we were delighted find Otter Brewery's OPA. The regular at the bar told us this stands for Old Peoples' Ale but of course Opa is Dutch for Grandpa so Vicky took to this quite rapidly. Other ales from local breweries were also tasty! Plenty of parkruns to go at down here and we soon ticked off several including Exmouth and Teignmouth both going up and down the sea front. Haldon Forest was a pleasant parkrun through the woods on the fringes of Dartmoor. However on August bank holiday we thought we'd better have a go at the Lustleigh Show 10K just 3 or 4 miles up the road - well this was almost a fell race with getting on for 300 metres of climbing mostly off road. And a hot day it was too. However Vicky was very well prepared and was equipped with most of the gear required for running the Marathon des Sables.

Where's my camel?