Thursday, 31 May 2012

Mr June adds a hint of warmth to a chilly winter's day, and an announcement: Blog a dog (aka conversations with le chien)

I haven't posted for a while because it's cold and raining - again. No swimming in the darkened seas. All work. No fun for me. 

That's no excuse. After four years, I'm moving on from my swimming blog to focus more on conversations with my dog. The dog in my life is the only one who understands me. She uplifts and inspires. I would go so far as to call her an oracle. 

Cats get all the good publicity but they're not as smart as their smitten supporters make out. I am firmly on the side of team dog. Team cat has too many misguided followers who have been unwittingly sucked into the feline's magnetic fur field. Slaves to the cat, they scamper about madly, gorging social networks with videos of crazy cats involved in madcap antics.The thing is: cats are killers. Bell? What bell? I never hear the tinkling of bells around the necks of the cats in my middle-class suburban street. 

It's a cat conspiracy.

Now it's the dog's turn to shine through a series of eloquent quotes that I envisage will become a message of hope for humankind. 

But first up, here's Mr June. He's as cute as a button to this leg of mutton. 

 You can find Mr March, Mr April and Mr May in previous blogs. Worth a look.

PS: I think Google is going to shut me down because I'm using some sort of legacy blogger system and I'm having trouble re-setting my password, username, etc. So, this may be my final blog. Let's see what happens. Tomorrow is another day. Farewell, adieu...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The swimming season is over for me: Blue Mountains weekend

Here are some pics I took last weekend in Leura, a village in the Blue Mountains that is overrun by tourists on the weekend.

I drove to the mountains, two hours northwest of Sydney, to celebrate my friend Mr Snorkel's 'Big 0' birthday. Mrs Snorkel arranged for me to stay at the Megalong Manor, a beautiful old guesthouse that started out as a library in 1913.
Megalong Manor

It was lovely and so too were our hosts, who happen to be old friends of the Snorkels.

On Saturday arvo Mrs Snorkel, Ms Onyabike, her hubby Mr Toothless and I set off on a bushwalk to the Lyrebird Dell, Pool of Siloam and Golf Links Lookout. The view from the edge of the escarpment across Jamison Valley is spectacular. The pic doesn't really do it justice.

We stood for a while in silent awe. 

On the way back from the lookout (the track is clearly signposted) Mr Toothless and I took a wrong turn. Sad but true. You'd have to be a dill to get lost but we made a fist of it.

Ms Onyabike pretending to be a nymph

 If you're interested, here's a link to this walk:

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Five things to do in Byron Bay - without going far

1. Hire a bike. We got ours from Byron Bay Bicycles. We asked the bloke who served us to give us the lowdown on the bicycle lanes in Byron. He was blunt: "There's not a lot." We cycled to Belongil, Tallows (twice) and Wategos. Unreal.
4.5 rating for honesty

2. Walk from Main Beach to The Pass at Clarke's Beach and check out the surfers. Climb the wooden stairs at The Pass and gaze down at the surfers who gather en masse to catch the big waves that roll in off the bombora. On the weekends this place is the Pitt Street of the surfing Byron Bay community. I've never seen so many old blokes on long boards in my life as I have off The Pass. They're dreamin'.

3. Swim at Wategos. Just around the corner from The Pass is Wategos Beach, an alluring chunk of paradise dipped in gold and blue. Dolphins frolic here at dawn - and sometimes stay all day - and the water is always pristine and the conditions usually less turbulent than those off Main, Clarke's, Belongil and Tallow Beaches. It's where the too-rich-to-care build their holiday retreats/fortresses - but they can't stop the riff-faff from using the beach.

4. Eat tapas on The Balcony. Every year after the Byron Bay ocean swim, we go to The Balcony for dinner. It is on the first floor of an old (Federation?) building that overlooks Jonson Street, Byron's main drag. The floorboards slope down slightly but it's so comfortable on the lounge that we're sure we'd land with a gently thud. Far from the madding crowd.

5. Trek to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. The views are breathtaking. One one side there's the town of Byron Bay with views up the coast to Mt Warning and beyond, on the other there's the terrifying wildness of Tallows Beach at Suffolk Park, and out the back there's the lush hinterland. Volvo has made an ad here.

There's so much more but I'm not getting paid to do this.

Speak soon. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Reflections on the Byron Bay Winter Whales Ocean Swim Classic 2012: the perfect storm

Clarke's Beach and Main Beach the day after - not so benign

What a week. I hate it when work and general lethargy get in the way of life.

A week after the Byron Bay swim's cancellation, I don't have much to say except that I 'dunnit' with Mr Very Big after the organisers told us (and 2000 other punters) not to.

The swim was cancelled last Sunday shortly before the start. Everyone was pumped and ready to go, so when the announcement was made a collective cry of disbelief could be heard at Wategos Beach.

A woman next to me who was about 50 but had the toned body of a 20-year-old elite athlete (jeeeeez - she had a six pack), muttered: "It's because of Kurrawa."

She was referring to the death last month of Matthew Barclay, 14, at Kurrawa Beach on the Gold Coast during the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships. In 2010, ironman Saxon Bird, 19, drowned at the same beach during the titles after being hit by a stray surf ski.

In April two Sri Lankan men drowned at the Byron Bay's Belongil Beach after they got caught in a rip.

No wonder the organisers were nervous.  Two thousand punters. That's a huge responsibility.

Apparently, numerous young competitors were hauled out of the water during the 800-metre mini-swim from Clarke's Beach to Main Beach, which takes place before the main event. 

This caused the organisers to make their last-minute decision to stop the show.

After "umming" and "ah-ing", my swimming mates Mrs Snorkel and Mrs Onyabike decided not to swim. My friend Mr Very Big had joined us on the sand. It was to be his first time and he was incredibly disappointed that he was going to miss out on what is usually an amazing swim. 

As we considered our options - you'd think there would only be one - we noticed a lot of the swimmers had ignored the organisers and were heading out towards the buoys that were still in place on the course. 

While we wriggled our toes in the sand and argued the pros and cons, a couple of hundred nutters set off before us. A sea of multi-coloured caps bobbed in the ocean like a packet of lollies being tumbled out of the pack.

"Let's do it," we said. "We'll regret it if we don't."

And the rest is history.

Thank you dear God that I am hear to tell the tale because it was a bloody wild ride. The main issues were, according to the organisers, the bombora off The Pass, which is the rocky outcrop off the point that separates Wategos from Clarke's Beach. Surfers congregate off The Pass in the hope of finding the perfect barrel.

On Sunday it was wild and the bombora was pumping. Mr Very Big and I were lucky/clever because we swam wide of The Pass. Those swimmers who attempted to cut corners and by swimming close to The Pass were smashed by the bombora onto the rock shelf. Afterwards we heard that some poor bloked cracked his head.

The swim at this point was hairy and I had to keep my head screwed on. Panic simmered around my throat. I had to keep pushing it down. 

The swell was massive. Seriously, it felt like The Perfect Storm when the fishing boat soared down the face of the mighty swell and up the other side. That's what we were doing. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. You could hear the squeals of the swimmers ahead of us as the swell came through and lifted them up. 

Mr Very Big told me later that because I was breathing to my left side, I couldn't see the big swell raising its massive paws to pounce. He breathed to his right so he could see it all. (After the swim he also revealed that he nearly shat himself on several occasions). 

Once we were around The Pass, it was pleasant for a while but I could see the shore and the waves looked pretty mean. I couldn't see them breaking, but I could see their white tops and the sea spray flying backwards. They were dumpers.

Although the swim had been cancelled, the organisers took the precaution of sending out several surf life savers to manage the eejits. They were on their surf skis guiding swimmers into the beach. We stopped and asked one for advice. "Swim straight in," he said, "because the rip will drag you along anyway."


That was when I started to pray: "God, I know I'm dumb - I can't help it - but today could you please help me out of this mess? Could you stop the 4 metre dumpers for a minute so I can reach the beach in one piece? I'll be really nice to everyone and won't get cranky in the traffic or drive too fast when I get back to Sydney. Please God - yes, yes, I know I'm always making promises but this time I swear I'll go to church... soon."

And then a miracle occurred. There was a break between sets and I made it in without getting dumped. Admittedly, it took me a while to get my footing and the rip dragged me a fair way up the beach but I managed to finally feel the glorious sand between my toes. 

It was a wonderful feeling. 

Mr Very Big and I hugged each other because we were both relieved to be alive! 

I owe God one (well, more than one). 

PS: The swim has been rescheduled as a "fun" swim on June 3. I won't be going. No money. No time.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Drama on the high seas: Byron Bay Winter Whales Ocean Swim Classic postponed but we still swam it

Byron Bay was wonderful as always except for the dramatic turn of events on Sunday when the Byron Bay Winter Whales Ocean Swim Classic was postponed at the last minute due to rough conditions. The event has been rescheduled for June 3. 

My mate Mr Very Big and I - lemmings/eejits/nongs/rebels/losers/daredevils (circle the correct answer or all of them) that we are - followed the other dissidents into the surf at Wategos and did the swim, with a flagrant disregard for authority.

Was it the right or the wrong decision for a woman of a certain age (and a man who doesn't think he's of a certain age)? I'll let you know tomorrow (after I'm home from work in the real world - YAWN).

Here's the story that ran in the local paper The Northern Star (love that name Bizzy Butterworth):

And here are some pics of one the most beautiful places in the world.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

A mini swimming holiday to Byron Bay

Off to one of my favourite places in the world. Byron Bay.

I'm heading north with peeps Mr and Mrs Snorkel and Mrs Onyabike. This will be the fifth year in a row that Mrs Snorkel and I have dived into the Byron Bay Ocean Swim Classic. The others are hangers on.

We'll do the usual. Casual shopping, swimming, eating, drinking, a walk up to Byron Bay Lighthouse and a visit to the Sunday markets across the railway line.

I almost forgot - and the swim on Sunday morning.

I love it. Can't wait to hop on that jet plane to fly away from Sydney, if only for four days.

I just checked the weather in Byron. There's a grey cloud with two lightning streaks through it over Thursday (today), a grey cloud with rain drops under it over Friday and two bright unobscured suns over Saturday and Sunday. WOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOO! 

Leaving the family behind but Spanner, he don't mind.

Turn green with envy. Very green.