Lucky Bay on the Southern Ocean Coast near Esperance, Western Australia January 2011

(Click on image to enlarge)

Lucky Bay

Lucky Bay on the Southern Ocean Coast near Esperance, Western Australia January 2011

(Click on image to enlarge)

Lucky Bay

Lucky Bay on the Southern Ocean Coast near Esperance, Western Australia January 2011

(Click on image to enlarge)

Lucky Bay

Lucky Bay on the Southern Ocean Coast near Esperance, Western Australia January 2011

(Click on image to enlarge)

Lucky Bay

Esperance Coast on the Southern Ocean, Western Australia January 2011

(Click on image to enlarge)

Esperance

Boys boardingFor the third consecutive January, we went on a summer camping holiday to the Southern Ocean coast with our friends, the Fulwoods and the Currins.  This year we ventured a little further away, driving about 9 hours to the southeast to Esperance, Western Australia.  After one night at an Esperance motel, we camped 6 nights at scenic Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grande National Park.  Being a very popular place with a rather small tent camping area, we arrived at 9:00am to catch a spot being vacated - and were lucky to be the only ones getting in on the day.

(Click here to view several panoramic photos from Lucky Bay and Esperance)

We spent most of our time around our camp site and Lucky Bay.  The kids played in the crystal clear blue waters - especially the first days when it was warmer.  Karl, in particular, had a blast catching waves with the body board. Karl and Dane also had a couple of late nights fishing on the beach, catching salmon trout and herring (note that what Australians call salmon trout and herring are not the same as in North America).  We also spent heaps of time playing card games with the Fulwoods and Currins (Wizard, Phase 10 and Monopoly Deal).

We did some hiking and even summited a challenging Frenchman's Peak for fantastic views of the coast near Lucky Bay.

On our few 45 minute trips into Esperance for ice and groceries, we also drove the scenic coastline, shopped and browsed the local history museum (a true highlight for the boys who insisted we go in).

Peter took advantage of the great opportuniites for shooting photos. We'll post links to his photos here soon.

The weather was very nice.  Western Australians head to the south coast in the summer to escape the heat (it had been up to 104°F several times in the week or so before we left).  Although it was an unusual 106°F when we arrived in Esperance, it otherwise stayed cool in the 80s for most of the week, with several blue sky days.  It only rained on the last night at the camp site which didn't really cause any inconvenience.

Click here to open a Google Map in a new window and interact with it to view various landmarks and some photos. (Below here is a screenshot of the map)

Google Map

 

Dugite snakeToday we ticked off another item on our must-experience-in-Australia list... "a close encounter with a venomous snake".

When I came home from school, I walked my bicycle into the garage.  After leaving it in its spot, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  About a metre away from me there was a dugite snake coiled up in the corner of the garage.  It was just less than a metre long.  I stood still and watched it, wishing I had my mobile with me so I could take a picture.  It was moving around quite a bit, acting agitated maybe from trying to find it's way out of the garage.  After just a few seconds, it rather quickly followed the base of the exterior wall to the back corner.

Dugite snakeI told Lanette about it and then went to ask the natives next door about what to do.  Ellena found some numbers for snake catchers in the area (seems to be a list people here keep around).  I called the first bloke on the list - Paul Kenyon, a.k.a. "The Snake Whisperer" as his business card says.  He was just catching another snake but said he'd be right over.

Paul recognised Lanette right away.  He's a highly regarded cook at one of the hospital's Lanette has worked at.  Paul went into the garage and started pulling boxes and such away from the back wall.  After less than 10 minutes, he eyed it hiding under a palette.  He moved a few more things to get into a better position, and then picked it up bare handed by its tail.  He brought it outside and continued to hold it by the tail while telling us very fascinating stuff about it.  You'll enjoy listening to Paul in the video Peter captured.

Paul showed us the other snake he had just caught inside a local bank.  It was a baby dugite, only about 12 inches long.  He takes the 80-90 snakes he catches per year to a nearby national park (Serpentine Falls - one of our favourite spots to take visitors!) to release them.  He charges $50 to come out.

We see dugites from time to time on the walking path by our beach.  We usually just have to wait a few seconds before they move on off the path.  Like nearly every other snake species in Australia, they are venomous.  But they're not known for being aggressive.  Our Perth Zoo has a good downloadable information sheet on dugites.

See Australia and DieBTW - We have had a few more shark stories from our beach lately.  On this past New Years eve, Karl, Dane and I were swimming at our beach as the sun was setting when Lanette spotted a shark about 40 metres out from where we were.  That was pretty cool to see.  It probably was about 1.5 metres long.  Also, two Saturdays ago the shark patrol helicopter spotted a school of 120 hammerhead and whaler sharks.  They closed the beaches for the day but weren't too worried about them as hammerheads aren't very aggressive and these were all juveniles.  There have been a few other shark sightings this summer.  They think it's because of the warm water temperatures we've had.

This all reminds me about one of my favourite books about Australia - "See Australia and Die".

 

 

110304-F-LX971-077ANSWER: They all have recently taken up the sport of Aussie Rules Football (or "footy" as we affectionately refer to it).

See the photos from the Australian Prime Minister's recent visit to the Oval Office where she taught President Obama some hand passing and kicking:

Photos of Gillard's visit with Obama

Actually, Karl and Dane are no longer "new" to the game of footy.  They've been playing it at home and school for nearly 3 years.  Dane, in particular, was on a long run of playing it nearly every recess and lunch.  However, for the first time Karl and Dane have registered to play for our local footy club - the Warnbro Swans.  Training has just started as the season will run now through autumn and winter.

 

Family at Opera HouseIt's the end of April and I finally have posted photos from our trip to Sydney back in January.  It actually was our second holiday in January as we had just returned from our camping trip to Lucky Bay on the Southern Ocean coast.  Then the day after returning from Sydney I was back at work with the beginning of our new school year - and never got around to posting photos here.

We did have a terrific time in Sydney.  We were so fortunate to have Lanette's cousin Dana hosting us at their house in the northern suburbs.  Our boys really enjoyed their time with their Aussie cousins.  With 7 days on the ground, we had a chance to see almost all of the sights of Sydney that we had hoped for.  Highlights included a ferry to Manly Beach and a bike ride from there to North Head, a day in the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney, and of course the Harbour with the Bridge and Opera House.

Dane body boardingIn the past couple of months, we finally got around to doing more surfing.  We have a terrific surf beach just 10-15 minutes from home at Secret Harbour.  (Our beach on Warnbro Sound is protected by a reef - hence no surfing-size waves.)  Peter has become the most experienced and successful surfer among us as he now seems to hop up on the board with ease.  Or, I should acknowledge that he's the only one of us to successfully "get up" on a board.  A few of my Shed Men blokes have kindly taken us along on several early Saturday morning adventures.  The water is beginning to cool as winter approaches, so I'm not sure we'll get out again soon.

See the recent surfing photo galleries here and also here.

War MemorialApril 25th is ANZAC Day in Australia.  It's a day for remembering service men and women who have died in action, especially those members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who died in the battle at Gallipoli (Turkey) which began with a beach landing on this day in 1915. The "spirit of ANZAC" is an important part of the fabric of Australian culture today with its qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice.

See our ANZAC Day photos.

Most larger cities around Australia commemorate ANZAC Day with a solemn dawn service. This year we finally made it to the dawn service held at the War Memorial in Kings Park overlooking sunrise over the Perth CBD and the Swan River.  About 40,000 people attended, making it the largest attended ANZAC dawn service in Australia this year.  We boarded the train into the city at 4:30am and then caught a shuttle bus that took us to Kings Park for the 6:00am service.  In front of a silent crowd, wreaths were laid at the Memorial, a bugler played the "Last Post", a minute of silence was honoured and a speech was given.  Very moving and very worthwhile being there.

Read more about ANZAC Day at http://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac/.

You need to understand Aussie Rules Football to make sense of this article's title, lest you think Dane is in trouble for putting his foot to someone's backside.

A "behind" in the game of "footy" is when you are awarded 1 point for kicking the ball inside either of the outer two goal posts (there are four posts on each end of the oval field).  It's also called a "minor" score since the major score of 6 is awarded when you kick the ball between the two inner goal posts.

This historic moment was captured on video.  You'll see a kick coming Dane's way (#10) whilst he was playing at the full-forward position.  He was unable to catch it in the air, which would be a "mark" and deserving of a free kick.  But he did pick the ball up on a bounce after which he was tossed like a rag doll to the ground.  They are allowed to tackle, but Dane's opponent was penalised for the manner in which he slung him to the ground earning Dane a free kick.  As is the practice, Dane took the ball and backed up about 10 metres, lined up his aim at the goals and kicked away.  It was long but slightly off to the right, passing within the outside goal post for a behind.

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Karl chasing footyNow well into Autumn here, the winter sports season is underway.  Karl and Dane have joined teams of the Warnbro Swans Football Club (or, affectionately called "The Swannies"), and both had their first games today. Footy is also called Aussie Rules Football and AFL.  It may not be the easiest game to understand, but as the season continues, we'll try to give you a taste of the sport.

See photos from Karl and Dane's footy games today.

Footy is played with a leather ball that's more the shape of a rugby ball than an American football (less pointed on the ends and altogether larger) on an oval field.  At the professional level, footy ovals are huge when compared to soccer of American football fields. (See my 2009 story on the size of the oval here.) Karl's team plays on a field that's 50m shorter than the professional level, and I still had a difficult time taking photos from across the expanse of the field today.  18 players play for each team at one time (though, I didn't count at Karl's game today but am guessing there's a few less players on the field at his level).  At the each end of the oval there is a row of 4 tall goal posts.  The objective is to move the ball down the field by kicking or "hand-passing" (like a volleyball underhand serve) or running and bouncing the ball to the ground every 15 metres, and eventually kicking it between the goal posts.  Balls kicked between the two inner posts for a "goal" earn 6 points.  Balls that miss the centre but pass inside either outer post earn 1 point and are called a "behind".

The game flows pretty much non-stop and sometimes looks like a complicated game of "keep away".  Sometimes the strategies are described as basketball on an oversized soccer field.  Besides the kicking of the goals, the highlights of the game are often the taking of "marks".  A mark is given when a player catches a kicked ball that has travelled in the air at least 15 metres.  The reward is a free kick, meaning the defenders have to back off and let you kick it to a teammate or to the goals if you're close enough.

Karl and Dane are new to the organised version of the sport, but have been playing plenty of school yard footy over the past 3 years so they don't look all that raw on the field.  They actually are pretty good at passing the ball by kicking it on the run, and bouncing the ball off the ground and back to themselves as they run down the field (not so easily done with a ball of this shape!).

To get a taste of the game, check out these three videos below, one showing a bit of play from Dane's game today and the other two from archived videos of the professional (AFL) game.

 

From Dane's game today:

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A promo video for AFL footy:

 

A video compilation of the some of the best ever goals and marks: