2003-12 (DECEMBER, 2003)

Andy's Birthday - Sydney, Australia

On December 5th my better half turned 35. To commemorate this slip into decrepitude I took her to the Harbour Kitchen & Bar for dinner. We were given a magnificent table over-looking the water. After our entrée dishes had been cleared the massive fireworks display I had jacked up kicked off over the harbour outside our window (Andy was most impressed). During the main course the sailing barque 'James Craig' (1874) swept into the harbour and moored outside our window (that took some organising, I can tell you). After dinner we walked home down by the water and under the moonlight. Bliss.

Andy, if you are reading this, please look away now... OK, basically the fireworks and the sailing boat were a big fluke and the walk home under the moonlight was because I forgot to order a taxi early enough. Sounds more like me now, doesn't it!

Bobby Comes To Stay And Dave Comes Down To Play - Sydney, Australia

Andy's Dad, Bobby, came to stay with us on the NSW section of his tour of Australia. To commemorate this event Dave trekked down to the Big Smoke and the boys (including Paul B) did a mission to The Welcome Hotel, last visited with The Bobster on St Patrick's Day, 2002 📷.

The other reason for Dave's visit was to help me with the latest phase of my canoe building efforts - fibreglassing the hull. I had ordered the last of the required supplies from the USA five weeks previously on the understanding that I would have them within a fortnight. Yeah, right. Despite delaying Dave until two weekends after that originally planned, the items were still not in my possession. Thus we had to go and drink beer instead of muck around with fibreglass. Shame.

The postscript irony to all this is that Dave went home on Sunday evening and the stuff turned up at 06:00 on Monday morning. Shite.

Christmas 2003 - Christchurch, New Zealand

On the 18th of December Andy, Bobby and I boarded our flight to NZ to go and spend the Christmas and New Year season with my family in Christchurch.

The next three weeks were one, long, divine, debauched trip to food & drink heaven punctuated with bouts of gift buying, giving and receiving. At least it was for me - Andy was not officially on holiday and had to work for most of the time we were there. Notable events were pretty thin on the ground, with three exceptions: a family trip to the final episode of 'Lord of the Rings' (way cool); Chris & Andy's Alternative New Year's Eve; and punting on the Avon River.

In order to save ourselves having to think too hard about what to do on New Year's Eve we elected to go tramping (hiking) up into the mountains to greet the New Year in complete isolation, under a canopy of stars. We chose the Mt Somers Subalpine Walkway as our destination and decided to spend our overnight stop under canvas, mid-way between the two public huts. Both days tramping were hot, sunny and clear (great for the scenery, but hard going with very little shade above the tree line).

We arrived at the first hut mid-afternoon on Day One and congratulated each other on our fine rate of progress over the rough and steep track thus far. The self-congratulation stopped as a bloke overtook us running (albeit red and puffing) - he had jogged up all the way from the start (he was in training for some endurance event) in half the time it had taken us to walk there. We felt suitably abashed. We continued on for another hour or two before looking for a spot to call our campsite - easier said than done due to a marked shortage of flat ground. After finally finding a suitable spot, we pitched our tent, broke out the food and red wine bladder, and proceeded to enjoy a fine sunset and evening. I set my alarm for the wee, small hours so we could get up and look at the stars, but in the event the night was a little hazy and the stars were not on form.

On the first day we only did about 6 hours walking in total, which resulted in a longer-than-expected Day Two. This section of the track was much steeper than the day before (fortunately mostly descending) and both Andy and I were pretty knackered by the end of it. The scenery was spectacular, though. A highly recommended tramp.

Our last activity of the holiday was a gift from my Mum - punting on the Avon River. The Avon runs through Hyde Park, in the heart of the city. Punting on the river, departing from the 120-year-old Antigua Boatsheds, is a delicious way to relax for half-an-hour-or-so on a hot day. We followed this with coffee in the Botanical Gardens and a visit to the Christchurch Arts Centre.

We all flew home to Sydney on Saturday, 3rd January.