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I came across this post today whilst looking for something else. Thought I’d share.

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Water drips in fat splashy drops from every leaf of every tree.  It stopped raining half an hour ago, but it’s never dry.  Won’t be for months.  We’re right in the middle of the wet season, after the humid, temper-inducing build up, and before the violent storms of the knock ‘em down season.  Over a couple of months, the heavens are dumping their annual load of rain on Australia’s tropical far north.  We fall asleep to the thundering of torrential rain on our canvas roof, which almost, but not quite, drowns out the crickets, frogs and other noisy nocturnal creatures.  We wake up to the gentle pattering of drops on the deck outside.   Throughout the day, rain comes in waves, sometimes a fine mist that settles on your hair like dew, sometimes so heavy that it’s like standing under a dinner-plate sized shower head on the needley setting.  Occasionally, the rumble of thunder adds a bass note to the music of constant dripping and splashing.

Nothing, is dry.  The grass squelches as you walk, noisily sucking flip flops from feet, mud splattering up bare legs.  Clothes remain damp, day after day and mould creeps furtively across any surface that doesn’t move.  Sometimes the fierce tropical sun burns its way brightly through the heavy grey clouds, scenting the damp, steamy air with warm eucalyptus.

The rain performs magic tricks on the landscape.  Grass seeds that lie dormant in the cracked, red earth during the dry, suddenly shoot into poker straight, rusty pink and pale green spears, taller than a man, obscuring giant termite mounds and providing shelter for venomous snakes.  Trickling creeks become swollen torrents, drowning bridges and turning a gentle walk into an Indiana Jones adventure.  Roads and swimming holes are closed, as crocs take advantage of the rushing water to make their way from the coast into the deep interior.  Tiny flowers of every colour bloom for a short season.  Earth that’s organgey red when dry, takes on the colours of ancient rust and livid purple bruises.

We have the place to ourselves, everyone else is scared off by the rain.  Mile upon mile of stunning impenetrable forest teeming with wildlife, the noise of flowing water the constant soundtrack to our days.  I feel very privileged to be here now, alone, in this beautiful place.  But I’m glad we’re not here in the knock ‘em down season.

We were on Hawaii’s Big Island when it started snowing in the UK.  Sleeping in the jungle and being eaten by mozzies.  The children were disappointed that they were missing out on a snow day in London, remembering the wonderful day two years ago when the city stopped and the whole neighbourhood congregated on the Common to play.  We pointed out that they were missing nine months of school, which mollified them somewhat, but over the last month their one true complaint, has been jealousy of their friends on the snow front.

We’d always planned to see glaciers in New Zealand, but when we actually sat down with a map and tried to work out how to squeeze everything in, we decided that it just wasn’t possible.  But after an amazing first couple of days in Dunedin, during which we saw two types of penguin, albatross, seals, sea lions and dolphins, we decided that maybe if we shaved a day off Dunedin and a day off Christchurch, we could just about make it to Mt Cook, home of New Zealand’s longest glacier.

We told the children that they would finally see snow.  Will we be able to touch it, they asked.  Well no, probably not.  It’s right on top of the mountains, and the boat people won’t take Dickon on the lake to touch the icebergs, but we’ll see it, that’ll be good won’t it?  Can’t we fly up the mountain?  Probably not, it’s really expensive, but we’ll still have fun.

So after a bum-numbingly long drive, we finally arrive at our campsite and booked ourselves in.  While we were doing this, the woman from the helicopter company next door sidled up to me in the manner of a morrocan carpet salesman and asked if we were interested in a bargain.  Slightly nervous that we were about to be sold a carpet, or perhaps drugs, I said yes.  “We’ve got a flight leaving in 15 minutes with enough space for the five of you.  I’ll give the adults a 10% discount and I’ll take the kids for free.  How does that sound?”  That sounds marvellous, quick children, let’s go and get our thermals on.

So, we’ve touched snow.  It was good.

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Another old new post from Hawaii

There’s really no such thing as a bad beach in Hawaii.  We’ve been to long strips of sand, pounded by crashing waves and watched the surfers tumble into the sea.  We’ve walked along  dramatic, jagged coastline created by black lava, very beautiful but would cut you to ribbons if you swam.  We’ve swum at beaches with off-shore reefs rivalling anything I’ve seen in an aquarium.  The children have played in shallow rock pools, teeming with nudibranch, urchins, brittle stars and tiny hermit crabs, which tickle when you hold them.  I’ll never forget my first turtle at The Place of Refuge, a peaceful, perfect crescent of white sand, but the beach is sacred and not a place to eat sandwiches and build sand castles.

So none of the beaches are bad, but today I think we found the best.  There’s a law in Hawaii that says something along the lines of the public must always be allowed access to the coastline, even if it means crossing private property.  Don’t quote me on this, I haven’t done my research and I shan’t be springing you from jail.  About 15 miles north of where we’re staying there’s a Four Seasons Resort.  We reckoned that they’d have picked a nice spot, and the guidebook said it was a good beach for children, so off we went.  At the entrance to the resort we told the gatekeeper we were going to the beach and he waved us through.  We parked in the carpark and followed the signs to the public shoreline, past the infinity pool and manicured garden.

We found a beautiful, long, sandy beach, shaded by noni trees with rocks a little offshore to temper the pounding surf.  There was reasonable snorkelling (it wasn’t great, but I’m being picky here), excellent digging sand, waves big enough for the children to body board, but not so big you couldn’t swim.  And turtles.  Plural.  At one point I counted eight.  They spent the day swimming in the shallow water and basking on the rocks and the beach.  We spent the day watching them.

After lunch I walked round the headland to the Four Seasons for a look at their beach.  It was nice, but I didn’t see any turtles.  I didn’t stay long.

Watching Honu

The day before we left was an unreal, suspended in aspic, last forever kind of day.  Like a long overdue pregnancy, I desperately wanted what was going to happen to happen, but knew that the getting there would be arduous.  The hours before we were due to leave for the airport stretched in front of us, heavy with nervous expectation and the potential for something to go wrong.

But nothing went wrong.  We got on the plane.  We embarked on the adventure we’d been dreaming of for three years.  I should have been elated, as the weight of the previous weeks of effort rolled off my shoulders.  Instead doubts began to worm their insidious way into my exhausted brain.  Why exactly were we doing this?  Had we really made the right decision?  Was it all a huge mistake?

Those first few days in California were surreal.  Jet lag induced sleep deprivation, unfamiliar blazing sunshine and the relentless perkiness of the Disney experience all combined to make me anxious and uncertain.  Disneyland was exciting and magical, but why on earth had we dragged our children half way around the world?  We could have just gone to Paris and saved ourselves a lot of trouble.

As the days passed, we got more sleep, and the doubts started to evaporate in the warmth of the Hawaiian sun.  We enjoyed lazy hours on beautiful sandy beaches, ate pineapple just miles from where it was grown and watched surfers crashing into the waves on long palm fringed shores.  The children described their days using words like ‘fantastic’ and ‘awesome’ and we started to feel that we were doing something good.

Today we visited Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, an ancient sacred Hawaiian site.  A place of refuge.  Encircled by a monumental black wall, thatched buildings and wooden statues of gods sit beneath immense coconut palms on the white sand.  We wandered around the site, watching a loin cloth clad man carving a new statue beneath a noni tree, and admiring rippled patterns in the lava flow.  And then we saw it.  A green sea turtle, or Honu in Hawaiian, basking on the beach right in front of us.  A real live turtle, so close we could have touched it.  We stood in silence and watched it until it lumbered into the sea and swam away.  It was truly amazing.

I’m glad we came.