Drysuits take 3. Or is that 4?

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By , August 29, 2010 10:39 pm

Well as you may know, we bought ourselves drysuits, ohhhhh, maybe 18 months ago with the intention of doing lots more diving in the colder waters of winter. We didn’t really get going last winter – we tried a few dives but Nic had problems with water leaking into her suit, this is generally NOT the idea with a drysuit! If you remember, she poured LITRES of water out of her suit on one dive!

Well now we’ve got Peru out of the way (that makes it sound like an inconvenience, but I can assure you it was not!) we decided to have a weekend at one of our favourite weekend spots – Nelson Bay. We love this place and not just because of the great diving!

We have great friends there and so a visit always involves a good catch up, usually some food and definitely some wine!

Kitting up!

Fly point Dive Site

With great trepidation we donned our drysuits again on a beautiful winters day ready to try them out again before it gets too warm (both above ane below the water!). Things went well!

We had a short dive, at only 30 minutes, but we (and particularly Nic) were pretty much dry (this is the main aim of ‘diving dry’!), warm(ish) and pretty happy with things!

We surfaced pretty early as Nic, and I to a certain extent, felt like we were getting wetter and colder than we should be. However on stripping off all the gear on land there was a sigh of relief! We were both very dry, with the exception of small spots here and there. So we came to the conclusion that it was just the cool drysuit pushing against skin which gave the impression of water getting in. So we really need to get to grips with the undersuit situation – this is the layer you wear to actually keep you warm, with the drysuit keeping you warm…

Nic in Drysuit

Fly Point, NSW

Fish!

Sunday morning we went for another dive, and with the exception of problems of balancing the weights (you need enough weight to actually be able to sink when diving, and more importantly stay down when you come towards the end of a dive – and you need much more weight when ‘diving dry’) it all went well. We are much more positive about drysuit diving after this weekend that’s for sure!!

And, of course, as always we had another fantastic weekend in Nelson bay!!! We’d go there regularly if there was no diving at all. But fantastic shore diving on your doorstep can not be ignored!

Back on track

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By , August 22, 2010 1:16 pm

After a five week break it’s time to get cooking again! When I got back from Peru I had withdrawal symptoms from cooking, but I couldn’t get straight back to Jamie as I needed to cook hearty British food! I then whizzed off to Tasmania for more eating out and last week I really had to use up some of the food in the freezer. But now I am back with a vengeance!

Artichoke & Beef Carpaccio

The five week break has meant a change in season, and spring has pretty much sprung, which means I can finally start cooking or should I say assembling some salads and artichokes are in season so I can give them a crack (instead of opening a tin or ready prepared ones!). So last nights menu was an entree of artichoke salad (p38) served with beef carpaccio followed by pan seared scallops with crispy bacon and sage and puy lentils (p84).

Scallops & Puy Lentils

I have to confess I did stick to the salad recipe, but couldn’t help tweak it a bit a add the beef.  This is very important for my bid to become Australia’s next Masterchef! I’ve put in an application so I’m now eagerly practicing in the hope that I get an audition.  So there will definitely be a few more desserts cooked soon! You never know, but these could be the dishes that take me through!

Arequipa

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By , August 22, 2010 11:08 am

The Monastery

Arequipa was the first stop on our Peruvian adventure. Arequipa is at 2380m above sea level, so not technically, but very close to the level that altitude sickness can become an issue. Well we didn’t get sick, but we certainly knew we weren’t at sea level any more. On arriving at the hostel I got half way up the stairs before I was short of breath! Then we realised we couldn’t walk down the street as fast as we’d like, and our noses were sore from the dry air, so this is when realised altitude was no joke! We were also very pleased that we’d planned the trip this way round so we gradually got higher and higher.

Arequipa’s tourist centre is pretty small, and we were on strict instructions from the hostel not to stray from the tourist centre. However, it was small but perfectly formed, and a good introduction to Peru. We really enjoyed the colourful buildings of the monastery and we also had a cultural moment in the museum that houses Juanita the Ice Maiden, the frozen remains of an Incan girl, who was sacrificed on top of one of the Andean Mountains.

Go to the gallery for the photos of Arequipa.

Colca Canyon

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By , August 15, 2010 9:16 pm

Colca Canyon

I think we covered the canyon pretty well whilst we were away as we were both fresh faced, healthy and enthusiastic! So all there is left to say is the up hill walk was a rude shock to our calves and we couldn’t walk for 4 days afterwards but I think the photos say it all and it was definitely worthwhile! I have also come home from a holiday, for the first time in my life, having lost 5lbs so I think I should keep up the exercise regime! The only problem is I am still waking up at 5 every morning and I desperately need a holiday to recover!!!

Here are my photos from the Canyon, Graham assures me he will get his online soon…

The road from Puno to Cusco

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By , August 15, 2010 7:49 pm

Now we’re back home it’s time to fill in the gaps and add some photos. There are so many to go through that it will take a while, but here is my first offering.  The fateful journey from Puno to Cusco where Graham’s food poisoning materialised!  It was definitely a good job that we upgraded and took the tourist bus instead of the local bus because thankfully it had a toilet!

Halfway stop

In order to break up the 9 hour journey we stopped at some note worthy places on the way, starting with the pre-Inca ruins in Pukara; followed by an important Inca temple in La Raya; followed by the highest point in the Andes between Puno and Cusco – another stop that takes your breath away  by merely stepping off the bus!

There was also a stop for lunch and a church with an amazing interior that I previously blogged about. Here is a link to the photo of the interior, but it really doesn’t do it justice!

The chill out day in Cusco was timed perfectly with a local fiesta so we got to see all the locals performing their traditional dances, which provided us with the perfect photo opportunities as there was no obligation to tip! We also have some video footage which will be uploaded in the following weeks.

At this stage of the trip I was optimistically packing our bags for the trek and desperately trying to feed Graham up so that he had enough energy to walk. Unfortunately the fantastic tapas dinner that I enjoyed didn’t stay down too long with Graham, so at 5am Monday morning Graham had to make the tough decision to stay in bed whilst I went off to walk the Sacred Inca trail alone.

Here is a link to the photos from Puno to Cusco! They are all mine as Graham was too ill to even pick up a camera! That says it all…

Rain!

By , August 15, 2010 9:58 am

Rain!

A friend once emailed us and asked whether we were on commission from the Australian tourist board as all our photos were showing perfect blue skies and pristine beaches etc. We assured them that we weren’t, and almost four years later I finally have the proof, the sun does not always shine in Australia!

Following our trip to Peru, I hot footed it down to Tasmania to present at a conference, and I couldn’t go all that way without seeing a bit of the island. Unfortunately for me I timed my visit with the first rains they had had for six months, and boy did it rain! However, I was armed with my new coat that came in handy in Peru to keep out the cold, but wasn’t needed for the rain. And I’m pleased to say it was money well spent, and despite the rain I braved the tourist trail, including historic Port Arthur, a national park, the penguins in Bicheno and of course the odd winery!

Here are some photos of my little expedition!

Into the wild!

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By , August 4, 2010 8:38 am

Well what a difference a 40 minute flight makes! We left Cusco on Saturday for the short flight east, off the edge of the Andes and down into the Peruvian jungle *. Part of the Amazon basin.

Back down at sea level, or there abouts, we were positively buzzing with the oxygen levels back up to the heady heights of 21%! The heat and humidity was also in stark contrast to the highlands, where we have spent pretty much all of our holiday so far.

The trip to the lodge we are staying at took the form of a short bus ride from the airport to the office in town, where we sorted out luggage to take into the jungle, then another short bus ride to the river, followed by a 45 minute boat ride, followed by an hour hike.

The lodge is fantastic and we are having several trips a day into the ‘jungle’. This takes the form of hikes or, much more relaxingly, boat trips (paddle boats of course) onto the lake where the lodge is based.

Just around the lodge, without barely moving from our room, we’ve seen Pink Footed Terantulas (lots!), Vine Snake (beautiful, and harmless), humming birds, lots and lots of Monkeys and huge rodents (think large cat with no tail). As well as multitudes of other little critters.

Our forays onto the lake have so far revealed Black Caymen (similar to crocodiles), sting rays (one silly English woman decided to go paddling (despite ‘the rules’ saying not to) and got speared by one! Ha!), very cute Squirrel Monkeys in the trees adjacent to the lake, Vultures, Kingfishers, Herons (Blue, Tiger, Agame – very rare), Long Nosed Bats sleeping on trees…. The list goes on and on.

Tomorrow we are going to a clay lick early in the morning so hopefully we will see Macaws and parrots up close.

As you could imagine, Nic is in her element. Spotting is her thing (as many of our dive buddies are well aware – underwater photographers, including me, follow her around like lost puppies in anticipation of her next find!) and I think she sees it as a challenge to spot things before the guides!

I’m sure there will be a photo/video update soon!

* to our mild disappointment our guide confirmed that there really is no such thing as a ‘jungle’. It’s really a made up word and originates from the Hindi word for forest. So was no doubt adopted by the Brits in colonial times as a generic word for ‘thick rain forest’.

Observations on Peruvian driving

By , August 1, 2010 12:11 am

As I’ve mentioned before, Peruvian driving is up there with the worst in the world. Every journey seems fraught with danger, you seemingly take your life in your hands when accepting a ride in a taxi, or a bus transfer across the Andes.

The roads are chaotic with smoke belching, un-roadworthy cars and trucks. Carbon monoxide poisoning can’t be far away by just walking down the street! No-one gives way to anyone, people ON roundabouts are meant to give way to those entering the roundabout – yeah, good luck with that one.

And then there’s the honking of horns, which seems to be a national pastime. There are a number of messages a driver seems to be conveying when honking said horns:

1. I appreciate there is no way you can go any faster as we are in a slow moving line of traffic, but I will honk to try and get you to move out of my way nonetheless.

2. I am overtaking you, but have now run out of momentum, thus rendering my overtaking maneuver useless. I will therefore honk my horn repeatedly in the hope you will brake, and let me in.

3. I am on the wrong side of the road trying desperately to overtake someone and I am on a collision course with you. I am in the wrong. Not you – for you are on the correct side of the road minding your own business, however I will hold my position whilst honking my horn in the hope you will move into the gutter and risk pedestrians lives to allow me to complete my maneuver.

4. I am unsure why I am using the horn, it just makes me feel better.

5. I am too slow to even contemplate trying to overtake you, I will therefore blow my horn in frustration.

6. Watch out tourists, I’m coming through ready or not!

7. The speed limit through this small, rural village is 50km/h. I shall therefore tear through at 100 whilst blowing my horn, hence completing the pass in complete safety.

8. I am a taxi with no passenger, please flag me down for a ride.

The list goes on (and on). I may add more as and when they come to me – oh and don’t get me started on policemen and the reasons they blow their whistles, that’s a whole other blog which may be coming tour way soon!!

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