So here’s a round up of the BIG TRIP back ‘home’!
As you may or may not be ware, I get no holiday. Well, that’s not strictly true – I get the same amount of holiday that the majority of workers would get. It’s just that Nic gets lots, lots more. She works an extra 30 mins here and an extra hour there and all of a sudden she’s got another 3 weeks to use up. Somehow.
Hence the surprise trip back last year.
I works an extra hour here, or two hours there and gets a ‘see you tomorrow Midge’.
Anyway, I’m not bitter. So Nic left for the UK a whole week earlier than me and did ‘the rounds’ a bit – seeing a few friends etc.
Once I arrived it was straight of to the cottage in the Peak District for Mum and Dad’s 40th wedding celebrations! And what a lovely cottage it was! All of the family were together with all wives and grandchildren present and correct (big thanks goes to Martin for providing grandchildren – I owe you at least a beer for that!).
We had plenty of room, an open log fire, fantastic food and a beer or three (sorry Mum!). I think the bins were overflowing with recycling by the end of our time there – no one can say we don’t care about the planet!!
Yay! I made it half way up a hill!
The weather was absolutely beautiful for the first few days – imagine the perfect English countryside scene and you’d be spot on. Spectacularly beautiful (but we still prefer Australia 😉 !! But the UK being the UK, the weather soon turned on us – it provided a good opportunity to hole up in a free-wifi coffee shop/bar for a while though – even if the coffee was terrible!
We also had lots of fantastic food with everyone taking turns to cook – Dave and Hanka even tried to kill us all with an excess of spectacular curries!
After leaving the cottage Nic and I headed to Colin and Karen’s for more food! Nic had planned a fantastic 7 course degustation menu for Dave’s birthday (Gemma’s Dave that is!). Of course this in no real surprise as Nic just can’t help herself when she’s near a kitchen!
Foie Gras Parfait
Egg yolk salad
Savoury Slow Roast Beef Profiteroles
Epoisse Cheese with Maple Syrup
Course 1 didn’t go down too well with all the guests, with Karen gobbing out one of the anchovy fillets lovingly prepared by her daughter onto her plate in disgust! It was no real surprise however as this is the sort of behaviour we’ve come to expect from Mrs Abinett senior! Luckily the rest of the meal went much more smoothly – even the egg yolk salad which involved cooking egg yolks in cling film at 65 degrees (sounds weird but it’s something to do with setting the protein). It all went swimmingly and was very, very tasty!!
Attention then turned to a certain younger sisters 30th birthday! A multitude of people were invited to a surprise BBQ – and the amazing thing was that we all actually managed to keep it a secret from the birthday girl! Incredible!
Nic had yet again arranged a big spread of food, spearheaded by a huge lump of very slow roasted pork which went on at 6am! Even Graham managed to BBQ the home-made burgers and marinated chicken without burning/overdoing/poisoning anyone (I think!). The weather held out on us and a great time was had by all!
The very next day Nic and I had to hire a little car and get ourselves down to London village for a ‘meat-up’ (geddit?) with a few of Nic’s fellow cyberspace charcuterie bloggers!! (By the way check out niccooks website for all her food exploits if you haven’t already!). A bit weird meeting people you have only talked to on forums etc., but we have done it before with some success (in fact one of our best friends in Australia we met via a forum!) – and also some failures (but I won’t talk about them!) but it went really well. It may have been a success because we all met at a great restaurant in central London village called St John which was fantastic!! A proper ‘foodies’ place! This is the sort of place which really makes the most of the whole animal – ‘nose to tail’ eating they call it – bone marrow, ox heart, snails, tongues, liver, trotters and more were on the menu. Most importantly they had Jersey Royals for potatoes – very hard to get hold of in Australia! Very tasty it all was was too!!!!
Then it was off to Stansted for the trek to Malaysian Borneo and the scuba diving we had booked! We were off to a area around the island of Sipadan off the coast which has some of the best diving in the world.
We were staying on a converted oil rig – now painted pretty colours and used solely for diving! It was a really good experience – like a big liveaboard boat but without the swaying!
The diving was awesome – we managed to squeeze in 22 dives in the 5 days we were there – even pretty much foregoing lunch on one day to get another dive in underneath the rig. We saw turtles-a-plenty, sharks, schooling barracuda and jack fish along with lots of amazing small stuff including angler-fish, ribbon eels, jaw fish, many different types of shrimp and even tiny sea horses!
The main ‘draw card’ of the area is the island of Sipadan itself which is a national park. It is a pinnacle of an old volcano where the drop off’s are awesome. You can walk off one of the beaches into waste deep water and then the ground drops away 600m into the depths! It means that it has fantastic wall diving (normally drifting with the current) and attracts all sorts of marine life due to the nutrient rich upwellings from the depths! The government only issues 120 permits per day for people to dive around the island to try and keep it in ‘good nick’ so we dived it 2 of the 5 days we were diving.
We had a few boat dives each day and on top of that we had unlimited diving beneath the rig itself. Even under there we saw lots of really cool stuff. There were strong currents on a couple of dives which was interesting though – of course it’s not like on one of the ‘wall’ dives where there’s a boat to pick you up at the end of the dive, under the rig you have to get back to where you got in! On a couple of occasions people got swept off! But it was ok – they got plucked out of the water soon after!
Nic and I also did our ‘Enriched Air Nitrox’ course whilst on the rig. It is a course we had been meaning to do for quite a while and when the opportunity came up on the rig (not to mention the fact that it was 1/2 the price of doing it in Sydney!) we jumped at it to get it under our collective belts.
It basically means we are certified to dive on ‘Enriched Air’ – that’s air with more than 21% oxygen in it. During our time on the rig we were a diving 32% oxygen mix mainly. What this does is allow you to dive at depth for longer before you get ‘the bends’. It’s funny – we met so many divers on the rig who were apparently ‘experienced’, but who didn’t have the first clue about the effects of nitrogen on the body when diving. Nitrogen is what can cause the bends if you a) Absorb too much into your blood and b) surface too quickly. This is lesson 1 when learning to dive!
Anyway, no matter how we tried to explain it to many of our temporary diving buddies, they all though we would be able to stay underwater for hours! No idea – which was a bit of a worry.
UK April 2011
The food was excellent and the evenings were very pleasant – spent with a beer going through photos of all the creatures we’d seen. Click on the left for a small gallery of some of the things we saw, and click on the right for a small gallery from the UK leg of our trip!