home sweet home…

We are home. Its been three days. We all are going through a major adjustment period. My brain is foggy and just keeping up.

photo 1Bailey and Gracie we excited beyond words to see and hug all their friends again. We all received such a beautiful welcome and it makes us feel really loved and missed. Oh and it just reinforces over and over what we already know, how great our home town and friends are.

We walked in to a lovely clean and cared for home and have to thank Margaret, Neville, Mum and Trevor for all they have done. Plus the whole Southside team led by Jeremy. All of these beautiful people make it possible we can take off and see the world. Hugs xx

The past few days have been literally filled with catching up, hugs, glasses of wine, dinners stories of ‘the best bits’. Bailey has been playing is guitar, Gracie has been brushing her dolls hair, Geoff mowed the lawn and I hung out with my chickens. Our three poodles are happy to see us and remember! They are back too snuggling on the bed. So hello again to waking us up early and scratching for fleas. Really, its joy.

photo 2Geoff and I drove our cars and turned on our laptops for the first time in 105 days. I really had to think about the buttons and controls for each to get it right. Everything feels weird.

On the first morning home I cooked eggs on toast for us all. When the toast popped up I said out loud ‘wow that is so cleaver’. The miracle of toast popping up automatically ready to eat. What an appreciation for the little things.

The kids are back at school, Geoff is back at work fixing cars, and I am at home catching up on all the stuff here. Some of that includes walking around aimlessly scratching my head, watering plans, making lists, washing clothes, visiting the chickens again and yes all the paperwork.

It feels like two worlds – one where we are carefree with nothing to worry about and the other is structured full of responsibility. You cant really have your brain in both. Its either in one place or the other. So now we are a bit stuck in the land in between and working our way back.

We get asked all sorts of questions from our friends like ‘best bits’ and ‘was it awesome’ and ‘was it hard’? I would have to say the BEST thing we seem to all have noticed is that it was a very special family time. We all were together, grew together and just hung out. No matter what was going on or what we were seeing – we were together. That was the best bit.

And to see the maturity and growth in Bailey and Gracie is gold. Both have come back different, especially Gracie. Both have blossomed from their love and appreciation of everything through to decision-making and responsibilities. So its not where you go or what you do, its the opportunity for growth that is the real adventure.

Thank you for following our journey over the past few months. I know so many of you have loved it as much as we have. It was just as much your journey as it was ours.

With love… the CapROCKWatters xx

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Little Bay Sydney

We have all thoroughly enjoyed our five day fun in Sydney. It was so great to be with our Sydney family and Steven K came over as well. Its becoming a great habit us all getting together for more fun times.

We didnt stray far from the house or do much ‘sightseeing’ apart from our one bus ride to the the two major city icons.

Bailey, Gracie, Mia and Ned played non stop the whole time. Day and night fun, laughs and some bingles. While us adults drank champers, beer and chatted the days away. The boys took the kids to the beach and park a couple of times and Tanya and I made one trip to the shops and caffe latte gossips.

The big highlight and reason why we all came together this time was for Grants 50th, oh and what a fab night it was. Grant had a venue with a awesome ocean view in Maroubra Beach. A whole collection of lovely people, food, drinks, a birthday playlist and long conversations nearly to sun up.

It has been so nice to hear familiar voices and begin the big process of catching up with everyone. Especially lovely to hear the kids on the phone with their school friends bursting at the seams with excitement and love for their pals. Reminds us how cool our home town and friends are.

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So today is fly out day. The final homeward bound flights to Perth then Geraldton. New release movie mania makes the time tick away. Right now we are at the Perth Terminal for our few hour layover. In a couple of hours we will all be home sweet home with Mum, Trevor and our poodles! Yippeeee……

Little Bay Sydney

We woke early. I am not sure what time zone my body is in now. We lost 18 hours – one full day yesterday. Its our first day back in Australia for a long time. My phone rings for the first time in 100 days. We start hearing from friends and family welcoming us home. It is so special. Gracie gets a phone call from Keeley and they talk like long lost friends for ages.

After breaky we catch the bus into the City. The kids want to see the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. I reckon that is about all we have the stamina for today. The weather in Sydney is dry, hot and windy. Doesnt take me long to get a dry cough and dust blowing around gets in our eyes. Gracie starts sneezing.

We get off the bus at Central Quay and walk over to the Opera House for a close inspection of the steps and sails. Its always a pretty amazing sight. And we take in the awesomeness of Australians most famous bridge. The kids are impressed. image

We walked across the bridge to the other side and had some lunch at a cafe. We notice the dryness of Australian service and the price of food is mental. By this time we were all stuffed so caught the ferry across to the other side and bused home. Just in time for Mia and Ned to come home from school ready to play.

imageWe all had a great night in drinking wine, eating yummy curry and talking our heads off about life and of course our big adventure. Just fab…image

Little Bay Sydney

Our day started early… its going to be a long day! The alarm went off 5.30am. Just for a moment, we all stood together in the early twilight to celebrate and soak up the journey we have just completed through USA and Canada. It is quite surreal. It feels like we have been on the Amazing Race, averaging 2-3 nights in each location it is incredible how much we have seen and done. We think about the best bits. The list is long as we have just done so much from building snowmen in BC, picking up dinosaur bones in Drumheller, walking through deserts, swimming with dolphins and turtles in Hawaii, catching salmon with our hands in Squamish, watching black bears with tears in our eyes, climbing a crater, mountain biking, watching killer whales doing backflips in San Diego, snow falling on our faces, a wolf walking through the woods, ice carving 600 year old glacial ice, helicopter ride with the doors off looking at lava, horse riding in the Rocky Mountains, staring at the Grand Canyon, walking through redwoods in Oregon, climbing The Chief, watching ice calving off Hubbard Glacier in Alaska, wild grizzly bears eating berries in Denali, cruising The Strip in Vegas, jumping out of massive trees on a zipline, riding gondolas in Whistler, walking through a water filled canyon in Zion, ocean kayaking to the Captain Cook Memorial and looking for yellow banana slugs in Fern Canyon. We have created our own unique fun filled Lonely Planet. It contains also a healthy mix of blood, sweat and tears, as any adventure traveller will appreciate. The more multilayered the task the greater the personal reward.

Johnny, from Hong Kong who has called Big Island home for over 20 years, dutifully collected us for our last taxi run to the Hilo Airport. His accent is still so thick he is difficult to understand and talks a million miles an hour about life, how big the mountain is and tells us about his last passenger who is here to import fish cakes. Taxi drivers are like a box of chocolates.image

The first leg of our day was from Big Island back to Oahu Honolulu. We had a three hour breaky layover then boarded for Sydney. Now just as we sat in our seats on the Sydney bound flight in our row of four centre plane the strangest thing happened. Listening to everyone finding their seats, passing overhead luggage and organising themselves was weird. It was the first and only moment I can recall hearing how thick our accents are. It was like when we first arrived to America and we notice how unfamiliar the words and sounds are. Well we just had it in reverse and notice the Aussie accent. Geoff, Bailey and I just lost it laughing realised how strange Aussies must sound. We are truly like the Castle movie.image

Any flight for the kids is about the inflight movies. They have the square eye and melting brain stamina to last any long haul watching none stop movies. So soon as we were in the air off they went doing their best to smash every movie on offer. Food and water comes second.

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We landed in Sydney and made it through customs at warp speed to be met by Grant. Yippee back to Ben and Tanyas for the final little leg of our world tour. It is so lovely to be with our special friends again, and a comfy clean bed we didnt have to find or pay for! It is so welcome and we are well and truly ready. We worked out its been two years since we were all together last at our 20 year Gnaraloo reunion in WA. Bailey and Gracie got straight into playing with Mia and Ned, those four kids were happy as larry.

We have been away from Australia for 99 days, taken 7000 photos, stayed in 40 hotels, 10 plane trips, 2 trains, 3 buses, 3 hires cars, brought 1 car, 1 helicopter charter, 1 luxury cruise and 2 ferry trips. We travelled about 9000kms by car and thousands more via air and sea. Plus many public buses, taxis, trains and skyrail rides. We have been a family of four with our four backpacks who visited the new destinations of Western USA, Canada, Alaska and Hawaii.

Hilo Big Island Hawaii

We packed up our gear and headed for the bay. Geoff had hired a couple of double seater kayaks and this completes the last of our wish list activities – kayaking in the sea.
The bay is home to the Captain Cook Memorial, often spinner dolphins and magic snorkelling. And were in for the entire treat!

We launched on one side of the bay and had to paddle across the other side to view the memorial. Its in a difficult location and only accessible with a big mountain hike or by sea. We chose the sea route, same as Cook. The view looking back to the island is magic. We had a great view of all the homes on the volcano slope. Big Island is made up of five volcanos. Two active, one extinct and two dormant. They all join together to form the biggest and newest island in the Hawaii group. Plus one more is forming now off this coast as a result of constant lava pouring out into the ocean creating a new mountain. It has been geologically fascinating to be on this island. Seeing how people have adapted to live on such a harsh environment. How the island has settled and vegetation begins to take over. Even the farm we are living on is covered in lava. The plants just work their way through and take over.image

I think we made about five attempts to paddle to the memorial however we kept being welcomely interrupted by a pod of about 20 Spinner Dolphins. It was the same group we snorkelled with yesterday in the other bay. We knew this because the same little super energetic and cute baby was playing just the same, plus the one spotted one. It was awesome. Us out at sea with a pod of happy dolphins. They swam past and around. Sometimes they left and came back. Sometimes we paddled after them or just waited floating about resting. The mother and baby put on a good show flipping and somersaulting close to our kayaks. After nearly a couple of hours we declared again ‘lets go to the memorial for a look’.image

The memorial is great. Gracie and I swam to shore and took some photos. It was a moment, to stand the spot Captain Cook had been negotiating with the locals and receiving repairs to his ship. It too was the last place the man who found Hawaii and Australia lost his life.

We got in for a snorkel and tethered the kayaks around our waist, towing them along as we enjoyed the coral. Again it was magic. Full of colour in shades of brown, tan, green, whites and yellows. The fish were pretty plentiful. We followed another eel, saw a bright yellow trumpet fish and the awesome large red Ina Ula Sea Urchins. Geoff even picked one up for a closer look. We could feel it crawling across our hand. The spikes are thick and hard like stone.image

We paddled back, returned the kayaks and headed back to our B and B. We had showers, packed up and said our farewell and thank you to Miles and family. Bailey was sad to be leaving Sean as they wanted to spend more time together and climb a coconut tree.

We headed back towards Hilo this time through the middle of the island via the massive extinct volcano Mauna Kea. On the way we travelled through more crazy errie lava landscape. This time it looked like a black river that had set in time. We got out and climbed over this ancient flow site. You really get a bit lost for words taking it all in with the what, when and how questions all flying around in your mind. We also seen some black horn sheep.

imageMauna Kea is 3850 metres up. Its a bit of a deal to drive up because you rise very quickly 4kms. Such as our story, snorkelling this morning to the top of a volcano in two hours. We were advised to stay one hour at the half way point to allow our bodies to acclimate. We all suffered the effects of mild altitude sickness – feeling a little sick, light headed, unable to concentrate and lethargic. The weather change was mentally dramatic. From warm tropics to cold torrential rain, through thick fog to 3′ and just snowing at the top. It was nearly too much. It was bloody freezing and our heads were feeling weird. We stopped for sunset and got out of there.image

Mauna Kea is actually for worlds tallest mountain at 10 kms high when measured from its base at the bottom of the sea. Only 4kms is visible on land. How is that for a massive volcano! It is also home to some of the worlds most powerful telescopes. They alone are pretty impressive structures. We spent one hour in the visitors centre to acclimate and checked out the interesting displays, tried astronaut icecream and watched a video.image

It was now about 8pm at night and what a day we are buggered! Like I said, from coral to snow. Phew! Who would have imagined Hawaii delivered so much contrast, and we thought NZ was epic. In Hawaii the natural extremes I think are possibly greater. In one day you could fly over lava, snorkel, bask in the sun, visit a waterfall, walk in a tropical rain forest, , get rained on, drive through a black lava wasteland and play in snow.

We are now back at Uncle Billys in our lovely lava beach view room and all packed. Yes we did it… Tomorrow is fly out day.

 

Captain Cook Napoopoo Kona

I can see my children growing up right before my eyes. Sometimes, I just stop and watch, and really look. I see their faces changing one week to the next. I see them maturing. I see them working things out. I feel their struggles and I observe their wins. Bailey calls it ‘his journey’, already recognising that we all make our own path. I talk about this more with the kids noting that no one can take it for you. It is yours to discover and unfold as it should. I have just told the kids when they are off ‘discovering life’ will they pack me in their backpack. This journey we have taken as a family has been life changing, while at the time being a opportunity for each of us as individuals. We have had it all from fears to joys. I dont know that we will ever do a holiday like this again. So we are already reflecting together what a BIG trip it has been.

We spent a couple of homely hours this morning soaking in the magic of our B and B property. It is located on a working macadamia and coffee farm owned by Americans from Fairbanks. They are a cool bunch. It is very much like cruisey Bali living. To get the green and lush you have to be okay with the dampness.

Bailey has enjoyed making friends with Sean who lives here and also is ten. Sean brought us a red fresh coffee bean to look at and taste while we were eating breaky. We borrowed some snorkelling gear and headed to Two Step as recommended by Miles as ‘the best snorkelling place ever’. Two Step is named because of the natural two steps you take on the lava rocks to get into the water.image

We can tell you the place was beyond words. Soon as I got in and popped up and yelled to the rest ‘its like an aquarium’. Now we can concur it has got to be the best snorkelling we have done. The clarity was like a freshly cleaned window. The coral was pristine and colourful. The fish were out of a tropical fish identification book.image

We were so blessed in so many ways. That we had all the gear to snorkel together and the weather was perfect. We snorkelled around for most of the day getting in and out for a rest when needed. We had heard this was the place to keep an eye out for dolphins, so when they came into the bay it was major excitement. We swam over and spent about an hour with them swimming around us. It was magic. We spent some more time with them in the later in the afternoon. The little baby was really energetic and was jumping out of the water and twirling around.

imageWe were also treated to more swimming with Hawaiian turtles. This time in super clear water so it was really special and such a beautiful experience.

We all came home so exhausted from all the hours in the water, to our lovely home B and B on the mountain overlooking the bay we spent the day. We all talked about being gobsmacked about what we had just seen and done for the day.

Captain Cook Napoopoo Kona

Three sleeps to go. Who says we are counting? The first thing we see this morning right out our window is a big cruise ship coming into dock. What a sight.

We pack up our backpacks again ready to move hotels. It is difficult to close and zip our bags. Everyone is loaded up. We have been really careful not to accumulate any extra stuff and to get rid of anything we dont need or are not using. When we left home our bags were already full and packed with near precision. Despite this, we still have managed collected a few things to upset the packing formation.

At our simple included breaky this morning we squirrelled away a few muffins and two egg sandwiches. Geoff and Bailey went to collect our hire car and off we set on our three day final hurrah to circumnavigate Big Island. There are some things on our wish list like swimming with dolphins, snorkelling, star gazing observatory, volcanos and black sand beaches. Let see if we find what is sold in the glossy brochures. The kids have become savvy to sales and advertising and know that things are only true when you experience it for yourself. Another useful life lesson from travelling.

By now the whole world knows the American Government is busy calling each other names and in shut down mode. So because of this all National Parks are closed. This effects us directly because the Volcano National Park is shut. It was a disappointment because we could not drive the volcano loop road. Once again grateful we made the decision to helicopter yesterday otherwise we would not have seen any live activity.image

Our first stop then was Black Sand Beach. This is a famous beach to visit on Big Island because of course it is black, and the giant Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are here. And there were plenty to watch closely eating seaweed. They clamber right over the reef and position themselves in what seems very awkward positions just to get in the right spot. They are just so tame and will come out to nap on the beach. The black sand is actually fresh lava washed onshore where the lava enters the sea from the lava tube we seen yesterday. What is interesting is that the sand is not broken down lava rocks. Its created that way when it flows into the ocean it fractures directly down into small particles. Bailey searched for small pieces of the semi precious volcanic green glass called Olivine. It looks like Peridot.image

As we drove further south the landscape was awesome. People living on old lava flows. It is a very harsh unforgiving environment. The rocks themselves are jagged and sharp as glass. Very old flow sites have some vegetation returning while other areas remain stark and barren. It really is a pretty amazing sight. Plus the fact people move back and carry on living. Lava has eaten up homes, whole towns and roads. And back they come and build again.image

The whole area we travelled through was surprisingly dry. Again we are shocked by the real Hawaii. It not what we imagined at all. The extremes in landscape are unexpected. Later our host Miles explains the diversity and complexities of Hawaiis weather.

We arrived in Kona and are staying above Kealakekua Bay near the little villiage of Captain Cook. It is the bay where Captain Cook was killed in 1779 by Hawaiians during a failed attempt to resolve the theft of one of Cooks smaller boats. Cook was killed on the beach and a large monument now stands in his honour. This is also a famous bay for snorkelling and swimming with dolphins. We could see bright yellow fish through the water.imageThe sunny day closed in with the late afternoon storm clouds arriving quickly so we headed for our B and B. We followed the directions through a skinny winding road across the steep lush mountain overlooking the bay. If it wasnt for the old lava and rocks poking out you may forget it was once a lava wasteland. Now its a tropical oasis. Our B and B is on a working coffee plantation. The kids were happy to spend time swimming in the pool, even in the warm tropical rain falling on their heads.