From Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast

At the end of the week, we moved into the second leg of our Australia trip 2018! After a week of enjoying the chilly winter weather in Melbourne and catching up with friends, it was time to go our separate ways. We said our farewells as a family at Tullamarine airport my hubby flew back to the Bay and I headed up to Brisbane to spend a week with my sister and nephew at the Sunshine Coast.

For one of our first outings at the coast, the children enjoyed Wildlife HQ interacting with Australian native animals, they especially loved the free range kangas, emus and wallabies. My new point and shoot came in handy and I managed to get some beautiful pics and I found this super cool pic of a mama and baby koala – sweet!


Wildlife HQ was the perfect size to take little kids with each area marked out neatly to allow an easy trek through the animals. The South-American area was super cool with the tamarin monkeys going nutzo in their enclosures – these cotton top tamarins were chilling in the afternoon sun.


Like a bunch of old gentlemen, these emperor tamarins were sitting in their enclosure chatting away.


There were two friendly mini horses and we all loved this guys hairdo!


The rooster was hilarious with his constant crowing all day and indeed he was certainly a very handsome guy!


Other friends we were allowed to pet were the Wallabies and pademelons, super soft and cute.


Ash really enjoyed patting the emus, I had no idea how huge they were and at least these guys were very friendly.


At Wildlife HQ there are animal encounters and for the kids, we decided to do a group koala pic as our sitter just loved koalas. Missy was the holder of the koala and she said it was the weight of a baby.


Ash’s fave animal the meerkat in action.


An animal I had never seen before from South East Asia reminded me of a cat lazing out there in the sunshine.


Koalas were definitely our highlight even though they only stay awake 2 hours of the day and the rest of the time they are sleeping after they enjoy their feast of eucalyptus leaves.


On entry you have the option to feed the animals and buy a bag of feed for around $1, the animals know and they know the sound of the bag and will happily come to you for a small fest of hay.


For our first day in Queensland, we enjoyed a beautiful sunny day with the kids at the ocean and where the kids loved wave jumping between the flags.


We travelled to Chambers island for lunch and enjoyed low tide on the Maroochydore river, catching a glimpse of some wildlife – the amazing pelican.


We were sad to say our farewell to Melbourne on Saturday after all the fun we had with friends and food. This beauty was the on the ceiling of our Air BnB.


Our wanderings around Albert Park in the chilly weather I took my camera out to capture the wildlife around the place and found this rainbow lorikeet with its buddy in a tree hole nest.


I love the magpies but I think it was a bit of a close call to be near them as they can attack if they are nesting, whew lucky for me check out that pointy beak!


These lovelies are corellas and were digging about in the grass looking for their lunch.


I always love to find the Moreton Bay fig trees as they are perfect photography specimens and the best trees to climb.


On our walk we spied a flock of cockatoos and ended up finding them enjoying a feast by the golf course – this was shot across the road from where these birds were feasting.


The wind was relentless the day we went for a walk around the lake the swan was battling the waves.


The kids were all rugged up and thank goodness for my pussy hat to save the day.


On taco Tuesday my friends came over so we went for a walk down to the beach and stayed until sunset and it was brilliant. Melbourne beaches in winter are stunning and completely empty except for the dog walkers.


The girls enjoyed their time in the cold making a sandcastle on the deserted beach. All in all our time in Melbourne was so much fun and we now have a projected timeline for our house plan with the next stage of advertising to the neighbours and then the design finishes of the interiors and then to tender out to a builder! Proposed start of the project will be February 2019 with an estimated 8-month build. So I am feeling good and will be getting ready to leave to the USA mid-year 2019 and I am so happy to be getting out of there. Being home in Australia I am so grounded really feel it is time to come back home!


A piece a Week – Our creative family vacay in Maui

We arrived at our Air BnB on Friday the 13th – an ominous day to start our vacay! We arrived on the island and it was very windy and the locals were saying that the winds were wilder than usual. We went to Da Kitchen – to enjoy some tasty Hawaiian fare for lunch. I enjoyed a seared mahi mahi toasted sandwich with taro chips, welcome to Hawaii! The kiddos wanted fish and chips (a huge serving by the way!) and they were very happy. Most of the staff had tattoos and it gave me some ideas before leaving to get a sleeve done! Before we hit our Air BnB at the Haiku Oasis we visited the local organic grocery store Down to Earth with an amazing array of Maui fruits and veges – the lady at the store said try, try and so I did, the papaya and Lilikoi were just so tropical and tasty. We stocked up on Lilikoi (passionfruit), Pineapple, Mango, Avocado and Papaya – foods that are so rare on the mainland they all were such a treat to eat! 
Tropical fruit bounty!!
As it turned out the locals weather report proved to be a crazy wind storm with winds of up to 45 km per hour that blew throughout the whole night while we were tightly snug in our beds. With the ferocious winds tearing down branches and blowing the trees creating such a tremendous noise that we were frightened in the house. I had thoughts of a tree branch falling on the roof and crushing us in the night. Winds were battering the doors and the bamboo blew together and made a scary song! 
This picture looks quite still but the winds were blowing wild!
As it turned out – the morning after proved to be very eventful with no power and with no power at this place, came no running water – as there was a pump to get the water from the water tank! We decided that the whole day we would spend outside exploring Maui. The weather on the Saturday was constant strong winds everywhere we went on the island. It was not just in Haiku – though it seemed that it was the worst hit with all the fallen branches on the road! We had breakfast at the house and headed over to the Upcountry Farmers Market where we found some amazing avocados – bigger than your hand, local Kombucha, OJ and fresh sugar cane in a Mason Jar and Vegetarian sushi made by a local Korean family. The choice of fruits and vegetables was amazing but knowing that we had no power or water we did not want to buy anything to refrigerate. From the market it was a trip Iao Valley State Park which was lovely to see though we got really windblown wandering in the valley to see the big phallic structure. 
I see the phallic rock now!
After lunch we visited the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk in Kihei. Finally we managed to check out the beach at last and it was wild, the waves were terrifying with the wind blowing everywhere! Of course the time was traveling ultra slow with waking up super early and doing our tourist hikes out and about in the wind did not help as we were so windblown and exhausted from a bad nights sleep that we were counting the minutes away. As we were in Kihei I needed to go to the ABC Store to buy a gift for our neighbor – the ABC Store sells alcohol so we scored some red wine to prepare us for our night in with candlelight and no power. 
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind!
From Kihei we wanted to check out the beach in Pa’ia so at least we could get the kids out and about from the car and running on the beach! We drove up to the top of the island from the south to Pa’ia and by the time we got there it had started raining!! Man we were bummed so we just sat in the car and ate snacks checking our phones for the closest dinner plan. In Pa’ia there is no shortage of cafes and excellent places to eat. We decided on pizza which was fabulous at this wood fired pizza place called Flatbread – I highly recommend their Pele Pesto with Maui basil, macadamia nut and garlic pesto with Hawaiian goat cheeses, Haiku tomatoes with olives, mozarella and parmesan, so tasty! The rest of the family had a Mopsy’s Kalua Pork pizza made with free range pork – the biz for meat eaters. 
This plan worked out well though we had to wait half an hour for a pizza due to all the tourists packing in for an early dinner and an escape from the rain. We wandered around for a cup of chai and some hot chocolate and found a super cute cafe called Paia Bay Coffee that would be perfect in sunny weather with its outdoor dining area. They had the best macadamia slice for $5 and their chai was made from scratch and just right. While we were out we did our tourist shopping for our families back home at a store that sold a lot of locally made goodies. I found a beautiful Koa wood bracelet and some decorations for Christmas for family and friends. 
The pizza from Flatbread was perfect with a glass of red wine and while we were in our vacation rental waiting for the sun to go down we were thinking of the plan ahead. What if it takes forever to get the power and water back on, not cool at all! We are on vacation after all so we then decided to look around for alternative places to stay and with a lack of battery on our phones I sent a few emails to see if there was anything available… So this is a winter vacation for a lot of folks, which means that the choices are slim pickings. Saturday night we heard the calming rain and went to bed early as the wind had died down and had a very restful sleep. Getting up to the reality of no water and no power and no battery on your phone meant yikes what the heck do we do  next….
The gorgeous beach in Pa’ia – a surfers paradise
On Sunday we went out for breakfast at Cafe Mambo and as we went in, showered by the rains of the previous day, I asked the lady at the cafe if I could plug my phone in while we had our breakfast. She said, “are you staying in Haiku?” and knew all about the power outage. They had a great choice of breakfast options and some kiddos options such as pancakes and granola with yoghurt that were reasonably priced. I had a fresh croissant with cheese and egg with a cup of chai, that made me happy . I got the phone charged and listened to my voice mail from the owner of the vacation rental and he was very amicable about the situation offering us a free nights stay and apologizing for the situation being “an act of god”. That was great to hear but we had no indication of when the power was coming back on and what is going to happen with no water either. We were in ‘I think we gotta bail now mode!’ I now had half a battery worth of power on my phone to see what is available in Maui as alternative accommodation. We knew that Maui Electric was clearing up the trees and fixing the power in time and apparently that could take two days – our host mentioned in a text. I said to my hubby look there is a room at the Grand Wailea for $600 a night – what do you think? We still had 5 nights left of our holiday and the base rate (a AAA discount deal by the way!) is going to cost us over $3500 in accommodation!!! He was at the stage where at least there will be a pool for the kids, we can relax and we can have running water, power, a fridge and breakfast (we hope?)
Luxury at the Grand Wailea
For the next stage in our Maui accommodation debacle we made a booking online at the hotel and sucked up the cost on the credit card. I then contacted Air BnB HQ to cancel our stay at Haiku. Air BnB were excellent and they refunded our accommodation total and we were out of there. We went back to collect the rest of our luggage and packed the car and headed to the Grand Wailea Resort. As we were checking in there came the reality check – holy shit we are paying over $600 a night in accommodation, there goes the rest of our vacation cash for the whole year!! As my husband and I did not have a honeymoon we justified it as our long awaited honeymoon – after 8 years! Yes it was pretty crazy when we got married and moved to the USA with our 1 year old baby, living in a corporate apartment with crappy cable TV for a month in Cupertino before we settling down at our apartment complex for another 4 years.

Anyhow, that is another story so back to the Grand Wailea – I hesitantly handed over the credit card and then we were stuck in luxury for 5 nights! We were happy to have a room with a TV and 2 twin beds and all the luxuries you could think of but as this was a resort all the added items are charged to your credit card such as a resort tax of 13.42% per night and a valet service at $30 a day. Great, on top of $600 a night more money to shell out, I spoke to the front desk to check if our room rate had breakfast included – nope! We were then truly shafted but hey, we were living large in a fancy hotel with an amazing pool and a gorgeous view of the beach. Yep that is the deal luxury, the view and the relaxation of just chilling out by the pool or the beach all day – certainly a treat! We had to suck it up and do what we could do make our holiday a memorable one! Yes it had been memorable thus far indeed and somewhat stressful! My plan of a true upcountry Maui vacay was done and we were now like everyone else on the island living it up at the resorts. They are definitely a strange beast – a 780 room property full of people from around the world vying for the best place to hang by the pool or hang in your private cabana on your computer for $350 a day.

Looking at the resort and beach – beautiful!
On Monday morning we planned a trip out for breakfast, we landed at Joys Place at Kihei and had a healthy egg sandwich and a smoothie. We were ready to wander out to the Maui Ocean Center for the day, as I had planned it on our itinerary. I thought just a half day trip out there and we will be done but no, the Maui Ocean Center is a wonderful learning experience and we took the kids on a behind the scenes tour for $10 to their lab where we got to see baby turtles and sea horses, an octopus, touch starfish and learn about the invasive moon jelly. We also fed adult turtles, the hammerhead shark and eagle ray in their enclosure. It was fascinating to learn all about Hawaii’s Oceans and all the native names of some of the fish like the humuhumunukunukukuapua and how to pronounce them! 
Baby Honu – so sweet and so close!
We were pretty knackered after a day out so we headed straight for the pool with the kiddos, yes it is relaxing to just have everything at the resort good to go with a collection of pools and a beach right there. The day was done with us in a whirlpool hot tub to relax our feet and tired bodies. That night we found my fave place to eat in Kihei called Coconuts Fish Cafe – here I had an amazing dish of seared tuna with wasabi and a green salad with dried mango, macadamia nights and a pineapple vinaigrette – heaven! My first tastiest Hawaiian meal in days, maybe the fact that it had salad had something to do with it!! That night we wandered down to Kihei and were in time to watch a Maui sunset – that is an experience I will not forget in a hurry! The sun, gentle beach and rocks, a combination of pure contentment. That night we certainly slept well with a full belly and a big day out!
My favorite meal Seared Ahi Salad at Cocnuts
Sunset at Kihei – heaven!
Tuesday we decided that it be the pool and beach day. We had stocked up on supplies for lunch as the menu for the hotel food was pretty much meat based and hotel priced. With the $600 a night to spend unnecessarily it seemed a waste, hehehe!! It was lovely to just relax by the pool and have not a care in the world – let everything float away it was such a lovely way to spend the day. The water slide was a lot of fun and traveling from pool to pool with the mini water slides was super cool too. Missy just wanted to stay in the baby beach pool and practice her leg and arm movements so we tagged parent duties and had some water slide play in between hanging out in a 4 foot beach kiddos pool. We went in the ocean which was lovely and warm and played on the beach for a while, just beautiful and boy did we feel relaxed and warmed by the Maui sunshine.
Because we’re Happy!!
Wednesday I went to the complimentary yoga class and that was just incredible – on the beach doing yoga as the sun comes up is just the BEST thing!! I came back for brekky in our room – yogurt and fresh tropical fruit while the kids enjoyed the TV of PBS Kids. We then wandered down to Sugar Beach in Kihei – absolutely beautiful and not crowded at all with anyone. Gentle waves and a quiet beach with sea stars and a rare octopus in the rock pools. We realized it was the same beach we were at the other day when we were out and about in the wind storm – what a change in the beach, so calm and gentle. After our walk we had lunch at Kihei cafe – I had a fish sandwich and a tasty smoothie, the kids had a Honu pancake (a turtle shaped pancake with chocolate chips covered with chocolate sauce, man what a sugar rush!!) and hot dog with crinkle fries and hubby had a breakfast plate so he was sorted for the rest of the day – as Hawaiian plate lunches is all you need to eat! Mr Ash wanted to try shave ice and he was in for a treat. The Local Boys Shave Ice in Kihei had Shave Ice the size of Ash’s head with lots and lots of flavors like Tiger’s Blood?!? Missy had a small rainbow snow ball with ice cream that was way too much for her and Mr Ash had a large size 3 flavor combo the size of his head. I have to say it really is refreshing on a hot Maui day! When we were enjoying the Shave Ice I spotted our first gecko by the Tiki Bar and what a cutie it was! 
What that is a small shave ice?!?
Green Gecko by the Tiki Bar!
Thursday we had planned a trip on the Road to Hana – friends had been here and said it was a great trip though be prepared for the windy narrow one lane roads and bridges. It was definitely a scenic drive and the roads were very picturesque. Our first stop was Twin Falls a 1.5 mile in and out hike to the falls and back. We stopped at the car park full of cars and a fruit stand that made smoothies, and according to the guide book, we knew we were at the right place. The wander up to the falls was hot and lucky for us the farm there had a lot of beautiful shady trees and places to get cool until the next burst of sunshine. When we finally made it to the falls we encountered a concrete wall to balance upon and then down a couple of stairs to see the little river bed. From here the falls were across the riverbed, mmm OK no one said wear water shoes! So if you plan to do this hike wear water shoes as you are going to cross a small river with rocks on the bottom. We took off our shoes and balanced precariously on the river rocks – I was extremely careful with each step as I was carrying my SLR camera and I did not want to get that submerged! So with the walk across the rocks came a reflexology massage like no other – I felt pressure in the soles of my feet that I could feel hours later. We finally made it to the area where the falls are and took some pictures, ideally you should be in your swimmers here and take a dive under the falls with the other tourists and enjoy the magic. After our pics were taken we headed on back across very carefully as we had to avoid the flood of other people who came across at the same time! Still we made it back put on our shoes and hiked back to the car. We had planned not to do the whole road as we had left late so we did not even make it half way – we saw some lovely sites along the way such as the bamboo forest and the rainbow eucalyptus trees. The road did not seem as curvy as some of the roads in California like Highway 1 in Big Sur and the drive up to Big Basin (that can make you spew!). I can see why the road is so popular with Mustangs as the curves would be a pleasure to drive with your top down enjoying the sites along the way. 
Twin falls in all it’s glory
The precarious walk across to the falls – look out for the tourists!
All in all it was a luxurious trip to Maui and in the end a happy honeymoon with our kids! When I planned the trip I thought OK we can enjoy a cheaper accommodation and enjoy the foods and activities Maui has to offer like whale watching. In the end we enjoyed a relaxing, luxurious and grand vacation in a resort atmosphere that is fine once in a while but as a traveller, I prefer experiencing life as a local and having the Air BnB or Vacation Rental vibe. Staying at a resort is certainly a once in a lifetime experience for us and we have learned a valuable lesson on researching accommodation and locations whenever we go traveling to unfamiliar places.

Summer Camping – Sunset State Beach

Our second camp trip was planned as a beach weekend away and Sunset State Beach is very beautiful. The 3 or so miles of wild beach was spectacular with a campground just over that sand dune that has 220 or more log steep steps. My calf muscles really had a busy workout come Monday dance class! The campground was very busy as it is the holidays and very tightly squeezed in together which is fine as everyone is surrounded by their cars and you get your privacy. Still the State Parks system has to be supported no matter what and thank you California State Parks for the beauty you provide.

Our favourite dinner a Hobo dinner full of potatoes, garlic, olive oil and onion 
Gimme some s’mores! 
We had to make it for the Sunset at Sunset State Beach – absolutely stunning! 

Tidepooling at Pillar Point

Vibrant sea grass
Sea anemone – open in the shallow waters

One of the parents at my son’s school had a fantastic idea for the holidays and that is to go tidepooling near Half Moon Bay. It was lovely to be by the beach and looking for little critters in amongst the rocks and breathing the fresh sea air.

The gang walking on the sea grass
An orange sea star

The kids were having so much fun, though my oldest son was not too keen on stepping on the sea anemones – somehow that freaked him out so he got back to the shore earlier than planned. As for my daughter she was keen to explore some more and so we went right over to where the waves were breaking and that was just so special. There were sea stars in exposed amongst rocks and a guy who had caught an eel for his dinner, and for our dinner we ended the evening having fish and chips – for me corn cakes and chips (a vegetarian alternative). 

Banana slug wanting to go for a surf!

As we were walking back to the car we found 8 banana slugs in the bushes – I had never even seen a banana slug near the beach before so it was a strange site indeed! This pic above looks quite healthy and maybe even likes salty sand? We had found one that had crossed the path and was heading for the shore that was just like a slug covered in flour – who knows the slugs may enjoy a twilight dip? 

The evening sunset

As the sun set and the weather got cooler it was time to dash back to the warmth of the car and get to dinner. Here is the low tide at the contaminated beach side of Pillar Point which was very sketchy compared to the beautiful beach around the corner.