Sunday, March 16, 2014

The National At Sydney Opera House

Seeing one of my favourite bands, off the back of a year with an album release that I loved, at the forecourt of one of Australia's most iconic buildings, on a warm Summer's night - can there be a better gig!? I worked hard on logistics to attend this, and all that wrangling of life was so worth it! What a night!

The National came on stage just as the light in the sky was fading, and Sydney's Opera House and Habour Bridge were lighting up. Jess and I had just caught the very end of the support band, and soon abandoned the long bar line as the starting time drew closer.

Opening with Don't Swallow The Cap and then I Should Live In Salt, the band then played Mistaken For Strangers, previewing the mix of albums this set list would feature.

Bloodbuzz Ohio brought the crowd and collective singing back, before Demons and Sea Of Love from the new album were played. Afraid Of Everyone and Conversation 16 rose the crowd again.

I Need My Girl was dedicated to usual bassist Scott, who was back home, having just welcomed a new baby - and just maybe, watching the live stream! The beautiful This Is The Last Time, was next.

Pink Rabbits, England and Graceless was a powerful trio later in the set, before an amazing About Today.

The encore of the near 2 hour show finally featured a rousting Mr. November, complete with Matt Berninger riding the tops of the crowd to "I used to be, carried in the arms of cheerleaders".

Back to the stage for the final two songs of the night, Terrible Love was an on-mass sing-a-long right there under the stars, before the incredible acoustic Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, where the whole band stepped to the front of the stage, and led the crowd to sing the whole song. The memory of this still gives me goosebumps.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The 2014 Aussie Open

After missing last year's Australian Open due to travel I was pretty excited to return to our family tradition of Days 1 and 2 at Melbourne Park for as much Grand Slam tennis as we could all possibly squeeze in. Mum and I stayed down at The Blackman for a couple of nights, and my sisters came over on the Sunday night to plot out our days ahead - which involves studying the schedule, deciding on which games each of us want to see as priorities, and pick a court to meet at in the morning. This is a serious operation!

So my pick for the first morning was Court 7, and the battle between Finnish Nieminen and Israeli Sela. A great pick and start to almost 48 hours of live tennis! We gritted through the first 3 sets of this match, oscillating between who we thought would take it out - stunned to see the end result after 5 sets later in the day.

Whilst over at Court 7, we had kept our eye on the proceedings of the Women's match on Court 2, and managed to time our court switch over there to settle in for the start of Aussie Ebden take on Frenchman Mahut.

One of the newest features of the Open was the sight of the roof on Margaret Court Arena (MCA), and from here we could see nothing without the Buddhist-temple-like roof filling our view!

The Aussie crowd were very good and vocal, and really powered the local hope along, watching him grab the first 2 sets with all his might!

By this time we were well and truly melting in the heatwave that Melbourne weather put on for that first week, and rejoiced at the fact that we always get Centre Court tickets for these days. We abandoned one Aussie working his way to a Round 1 win to watch another - a long time favourite, Stosur.

This 2 sets match inside gave us a sun break, if not really a heat break, as inside was just as stifling as outside with very little breeze. This year the heat policy, which we have seen enacted before, was not put into play until later in the week.

With Stosur through, I then went to watch an old favourite of mine - all one and a half sets of Germany's Haas before he retired hurt, and said goodbye to Melbourne Park. I met up again with the girls for another old favourite of ours, Cypriot Baghdatis, inside the new look MCA. Always the battler, Marcos just couldn't get much right in this match, and we saw he fall out of the tournament in this match, in straight sets.

Back fresh for Day 2, we went straight to Court 2 for Japanese Nishikori taking on young Aussie hope Matosevic. Another 5-setter, we again plotted our timing for a switch to Centre Court out of the sun and heat, for the Federer and Aussie Duckworth match.

My hope for this Open had been to watch my new fav player on the circuit, Delpo, play, although the gamble of getting Centre Court rather than mixing it up with a Hisense day loomed as an obstacle. When the schedule for Day 2 was released, I was delighted to see the big Argentinian slotted for the MCA. I ducked away to see the start of this match, as Federer was performing his standard magic!

I made it back into Centre Court after the Delpo win, in time to watch Hewitt and Italian Seppi battle out the final throws of their 5 set match....with the Aussie just not clinching it in the end. From what I saw, looked like another epic game.

Spilling out into the air, as the temperature had dropped a little, we all found our way to the Heineken Bar area and settled in for some wine and beer, a short break from the tennis, and some music - we had watched Saskwatch the night before, and World's End Press were on this second night.

When the Night 2 schedule was announced over the weekend prior, we had decided that we would cave in and buy the additional session. The return of Nadal to Melbourne Park, taking on Aussie Tomic, was too good to miss.

Making our way in, we settled in for what promised to be a good match, as the air got cooler, and everything was more comfortable. Nadal looked fit and determined and took the first set without too much bother.

And then, it wasn't really clear from our seats, but Tomic then spoke to the umpire, shook the Spaniard's hand, and waved to the crowd. He got a bit of a muffled boo as the full house realised he was retiring hurt. Not quite what we had imagined as the ending to our massive two days of tennis and heat.

Man, I love the Aussie Open! We are so lucky here in Melbourne to have it, and for it to be so amazing each year! I also love the family tradition we have of going along and soaking it all in. So good!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Finding The Scattered Remains of the B-25 Coral Princess On Top Of Nauru

Lying at the top of the island nation of Nauru, among the remaining phosphate pinnacles and between the jungle that has grown in the tropical environment of this Pacific Island, is the wreckage of a World War II bomber plane.

The plane is part of the occupation story of Nauru, when the Japanese had hold of the island in an important strategic location for it's assault on the Pacific. The plane, the US Coral Princess, was on a bombing mission but was hit by Japanese fire in June 1944. Wreckage landed all over the country, but most of it remains where it landed, being up on the highest point of Nauru, near the very anti-aircraft gunner that brought it down. All 6 men on board were killed on impact, with just 2 bodies initially recovered from the difficult terrain by the Japanese occupants.

Some parts of the plane are now on display in Canberra's Australian War Memorial, and a couple of pieces are in the Nauru Military Museum and in someone's front yard along the international runway, but the rest is still right where it landed.

Laying eyes on the crumpled but distinctly unnatural pieces of the plane is the reward for climbing in and over the trees, plants, and rugged pinnacles, after finding the right path from the middle road towards Buada Lagoon. I went with a couple of pretty sporty people, one of which had done the "bomber track" before, and was confident of where we were going.

Searching for the marking pink ribbons along the way, the track is sometimes clear, and most times not. It's hard going, and pretty dangerous at times, and a wrong foot could definitely have had me still up there! We got lost a few times, and I needed help to get through and down from the climb on more occasions than I would like to admit!

It started to rain just as our group had reached the top, and I gave way to safety and concentration rather than taking the volume of photos I could have. Much of the sights of the various parts of the plane will now have to remain in my own memory.

The wreckage is scattered all over the area, and it paid to keep an eye out for any metal-like bits, to discover another section of the small plane. Some lying on top of the pinnacles, some have come to rest down the crevices of this strange landscape.

So rare is it to have the opportunity to feel like you are discovering something, which is how coming across this wreckage seems. Knowing it's there, and hearing the stories is one thing, but putting in the effort to go and see it was incredible. I was pretty proud and pleased with myself for making the trek - and getting out of there alive and in one piece!

Nauru is a tiny nation, with limited tourist spots to check off, but this little adventure is certainly one to try - with someone who at least has a vague idea of where to go! Many locals I have spoken to have not done the walk, nor even know where to start it, so visitors need to do some asking around. The vision of the engine lying there on the highest point is reward for the physical challenge!

(Thanks to Pacific Wrecks, for the information on the wreckage!)

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Project 52: Tuesday Evening

(I am awaiting the paired collage for this one)

Christmas Eve last year was my second day off on my first work rotation, after which many of us gathered at the Reef Bar at the hotel where we were staying as employees on Nauru, for evening drinks. Whilst we were sitting at our beachside table, the power on the island went out as the moon rose up out of the was spectacular!

This is the last post of Project 52 from 2013 with Jess from FuShMuSh.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Pylon Climbing - The Poorer Travellers Bridge Climb

One of the most iconic structures in Australia is the bridge many of us affectionately refer to as the coathanger - the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I have completed the Bridge Climb many years ago, and whilst I recommend it because it is an incredible experience, there is a much more affordable, and faster alternative, for similar views.

The Pylon on the city side - here on the right - is open for exploring. You enter the stairs from the road level of the bridge. We had braced ourselves for a big, hard climb, but before we knew it we had reached the top look out point.

Completing the circuit at the top, we enjoyed each views, from the city to the bridge. We watched as ferries came and went past the Opera House into and out of Circular Quay.

Inside at the top level there is a photo exhibition of the Bridge, and also evidence of the crazy cat lady who used to live up here with her cats, and was the curator opening the pylon for visitors years ago.

In addition to the views, the pylon has several rooms of displays, including a video playing in the small theatre, outlining the history of the Bridge, from concept to design, to construction, and the role it has played in Sydney life.

It was such a surprisingly good and unusual thing to do in Sydney, and for such a small cost.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Big Axe And The Big Fruit Bowl

On our little roadtrip to see The Blue Mountains, we happened upon two Big Aussie Things! One of them was just around the corner (sort of) from B's, which she had never found before.

The Big Axe is positioned in front of a big woodpile, at Big Axe Firewood. Pretty impressive, with it's props behind it, we did have to ask to go into the paddock, and avoid the sheep roaming around, to admire our find.

The second Big Thing was the Big Fruitbowl, in Bilpin. Out the front of a fruit shop, the detail was pretty cool - the colours and the hanging grapes.

2 great Big Things! Made our roadtrip complete!

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Project 52: Tuesday Afternoon

Tuesdays on my first rotation in Nauru was my day off, and on the first one Monica and I made an effort to attempt to walk around the whole island. This was our view as we looked right on much of our completed 3/4 of the country that day.

This post is part of Project 52 with Jess from FuShMuSh.
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