Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Home"

After a long and hard week of work, we were pooped. So instead of packing up and travelling somewhere ... which we love to do so we (and you, through our website) can see more of Australia ... we decided to stay home, relax and go to the beach.

Now you get to see what we call home here in Australia.



Our house, after we ...

... cut the grass (we hadn't cut it since we arrived a month ago because we don't have a lawnmower ... luckily our parish priest offered his to us). While I was cutting the grass, Gillian was ...


... photographing a little visitor to our front porch.

The back of our house ... as you can see, they don't use screens here, so bugs can come in as they please when we have the windows open (which was necessary until the nights started getting cooler in the last week or so).

Our tropical backyard ... yes, that's a palm tree, and there is also a lemon tree and frangipani trees, whose blooms ...

... look like this and are incredibly fragrant.

Now for the inside ... our dining room ... which was empty until a few weeks ago when we took a trip to Ikea to get some much-needed furniture.

Gillian hard at work in our kitchen (which is where most of the bugs seem to appear, unfortunately). We make good use of plastic storage containers.

David hard at work standing in our kitchen ... the sun makes for beautiful light in our house, to the delight of Gillian and her camera.

Our all-purpose room used for ironing, clothes-drying and storing our colleagues' surfboards.


To get this shot, Gillian burst into the bathroom while I was showering ... or is my surprised expression not convincing enough?

Our bedroom ... with the morning sunlight streaming in (for those like Gillian who noticed she's wearing a different outfit than in other pictures, this was taken on a different day).

And our living room ... the coffee table is actually an end table donated from someone's bulk garbage pile at the side of the road ... nice and simple.

We didn't take a picture of our spare bedroom, but it's empty, just waiting for visitors. We miss having family and friends over to our house, so we hope to see you soon.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Never judge a mountain by its outside

... because even if you think the mountain is beautiful, there may be something even more spectacular inside. That's the case with the Jenolan Caves, just outside of the Blue Mountains National Park. These caves were discovered in the late 1800s, basically a network of caves under a mountain, formed by water moving through limestone. We got ourselves oriented with a self-guided tour of Nettle Cave and the Devil's Coachhouse, then took a tour deep inside the mountain to the cave known as the Temple of Baal. Inside we saw the gorgeous, gorgeous Angel's Wing, a gigantic shawl (or deposit) coming down from the top of the cave. And crystals sparkled in and around and above these deposits.

the end of our tour gave us enough time to take a walk along the river and across from the caves. Then back on our bus for our weaving/winding/rainy drive back to Katoomba (not a bus ride for Mom...). The highlight of our drive... Danny, the friendly bus driver, stopped at a place he discovered where wild kangaroos roam. Amazing! We got close enough for pictures and to have a nice chat with them (if only I spoke kangaroo...).



The entrance to Nettle Cave through the Devil's Coachhouse. According to the guided tour, one of the early explorers saw the devil driving his carriage led by horrible beasts through this huge entrance. Turns out he was drunk and imagined the whole thing, but the name stuck.


Some of the crystal helactites, oozing through the clay walls of the cave.



The Angel's Wing... the largest sheath in any of the caves at Jenolan. It's over 9 metres high... just a beautiful sight as you come around the corner of the cave.


The Angel's Wing and, beside it, Gabriel's Wing.

Our first kangaroo!! She was just sizing me up, making sure I was friendly.



Portrait of a kangaroo. She gave me her good side.






And this kangaroo had an itchy armpit. She tried to scratch it on the sly without me noticing. But I noticed.

Happy Kantors after our kangaroo adventure.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bushwalking

We decided to celebrate Easter by walking ... bushwalking, as it is called here in Australia, through some of God's stunning creation in the Blue Mountains near Katoomba (two hours west of Sydney).

Five hours of bushwalking took us down the Giant Stairway (down the side of a cliff), past the Three Sisters, through lush, damp and rich rainforest (much of it filled with eucalyptus trees), over rivers, below waterfalls, over a former landslide, past an anthill almost Gillian's height (seriously) and up the Golden Staircase. All the while, we were treated with incredible views of the green valleys surrounded by reddish cliffs.

It's been a month since we finished the Camino, so we were quite exhausted by the end of the day ... but joyful to have been out again enjoying nature.
From one of the landings as we descended the Giant Stairway into the valley below.

Team photo in the rainforest.

Through the rainforest we walked past towering eucalyptus trees, which filled the air with an incredibly fresh scent ...

... tiny mosses and plants growing on rocks along the trail ...

... huge ants in tunnel-like hills (that's just its head) ...

... Katoomba Falls ...

... and huge vines, which brought out the "Jane" in Gillian.

We were walking over the former landslide and this huge rock began tumbling towards us. Rather than getting out of the way, I decided to impress my wife and throw the rock aside.

As we were stopped to have a snack, we heard a loud crack that sounded like thunder ... but was actually parachutists jumping off the cliff just ahead of us. We still are puzzled as to where they landed ... there were no clearings anywhere.

Ascending out of the valley gave us a beautiful view ... the three lumps on the left, where we began our trek, are the Three Sisters. According to local legend, they are the three daughters of an aboriginal witch doctor who turned them into stone to proctect them but was unable to reverse the spell.

Happy Easter from David and Gillian


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Just Keep Swimming

After a morning of horribly boring practical things, like doing dishes and getting groceries, David and I grabbed our bus passes and camera and headed to the Aquarium! Hurray! Today is Aquarium Day! (But in a moment of complete insensitivity, we stopped on the way and got sushi... how thoughtless of us, really.)

The Aquarium is like the zoo - crowded, lots of crying kids, and expensive - with the added confusion of it being very dark in there. Once our eyes adjusted, we saw all sorts of marvellous, lovely things. Jellyfish. Cattlefish. Cuddlefish. Sharks. Nemo. Stingrays. Sea horses. Seals. Turtles. Our favourite displays were the tunnels, which allowed the crowds of visitors to walk under the water where the sharks and stingrays and fish were swimming. May we take you on a tour?



David and a stingray... we loved the tunnels visitors can walk through... way cheaper than scuba-diving.


Gillian's close encounter with a shark.



A penguin just hanging out in the pool... relaxin' and chillaxin' and all that.

The jellyfish. They are not actually this colour - there are lights shining in the water so we can see them better... though it is fun to imagine that jellyfish are the disco-dancers of the ocean world.



Seals are very speedy and hard to take pictures of... so this is all I got. It's a speeding seal head. If you can look at this picture up close, it's very cool to see their eyes... very bulbous with a special layer to protect them from the water.



Look - it's Nemo!! This aquarium had the largest number of children around it... but I pushed my way to the front.


Cattlefish. A red angus, I think, Matt.


The stingray I made friends with at the Great Barrier Reef display.

We went all the way to Sydney to the Aquarium and David wouldn't buy me this.

... or this....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Happy, Holy Triduum

That's what we wish for you.

And this is where we will be spending most of our Easter weekend... in a Church. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil... most of our time will be at our local parish, Holy Family. After a Lent of Camino-walking and moving to a new city, we're looking forward to the tradition and familiarity of the Easter celebrations.


This picture was taken at St. Mary's Cathedral in downtown Sydney on Palm Sunday. It's a beautiful Church (presently undergoing some renovations... that's what's barricaded off on the left side of the photo... but it will be all spiffy and new for World Youth Day) and we'll spend a lot more time there during our five months here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Our (other) roommates

You've seen the other photo of our lovely Polish roommates, Tomasz and Anna. We also share a house with a number of charming cockroaches. They like to hang out in the dark and scuttle across the floor when we're not looking. Oh the funny games those cockroaches play.

(Please note: no cockroaches were harmed in the taking of this picture... it was harmed before the pictures were taken.)



Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Very Fine Day

That's how they describe the weather here... instead of 'partly sunny', 'chance of precipitation', or 'few clouds', Australian weather people define their weather in varying degrees of fine. Becoming Fine. Mostly Fine. Fine. So we were particularly excited when we saw that Saturday was going to be beyond fine... they actually said, 'Sunny.' Amazing. So we ditched our plans to go to the aquarium and took the advice of many people to do the beach walk, a route that runs along the coast from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach. And being ex-Caminoers, we decided to make it a little longer and start from our house at Maroubra Beach.

So, the walk from Maroubra Beach to Coogee wasn't that interesting... we walked along the street and so had a view of buildings and houses. But when we turned the corner and walked down toward the coastal pathway... that's when things turned bee-yoo-ti-ful. This is Gillian hanging out on the rocks just south of Coogee Beach. They are constantly being bashed by waves coming from all different directions, so have been smoothed down and rounded into some stunning formations.


David being a daredevil and sneaking close to the edge...



And here we have Coogee Beach (small in comparison to the upcoming Bondi). David and I guess that the sunbather in the foreground (in the green trunks) is trying to tan the side of his stomach. Or his armpit.

And one for Dad Kantor... this was our stop for lunch.
A little clarification please... the dog or the poo? (Someone wrote that on the sign and it gave Gillian the giggles.)



A quiet little bay. This one had many snorkelers swimming around... we didn't get close enough to see what kinds of fishies they were looking at, but that's on our list of things to do!



The walk along the coast took us through this very old cemetery along the coast.



And ta da! Bondi Beach. Destination of many tourists and avid surfers (... and some topless sunbathers... avert your eyes...)


One of the topless bathers. Ha ha - just kidding. This is a friendly seagull.