Sunday, March 20, 2011


For Christmas Amber and Ashley bought us a voucher to go abseiling. They knew we were taking every opportunity to do something adventurous so they researched and found something fun for us to do and we finally went today.

It’s been a rainy weekend so we didn’t know if it was still on but we called and it was still a go. We showed up, got our helmet, harness and glove and headed up to the top of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. On the walk up we talked to the only other participant swapping stories about Spreets vouchers including the Storey Bridge climb, kayaking and other various offers. We met our instructor at the top and she showed us how to put on our equipment and what we would need to do. The other participant went first since she had more experience than us, easy to do since this was our first time.

After we watched her disappear over the edge and she walked back up to the cliff, it was my turn. I don’t like leaning back and trusting the harness but I backed up to the edged determined to make it. On the first step I put too much weight on one side and swung around banging my leg on the rock. That was enough for me to climb back up and plant my feet on the ground. I watched Greg tie in and get going really quick.

He came back up to the cliff really quick with a smile on his face. I watched the other girl go one more time then I gave it another go. This time was no easier getting over the edge and I was about to give up again when I finally felt relaxed and confident enough to make it work. One step at a time, I made it down the rock and made it safely to the bottom. Once was enough for me but I watched Greg repel one more time from the bottom of the cliff. Overall, we had a great time! Thanks again girls!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


If anyone is looking at the blog for info on the floods then I just wanted to say really quickly that we're high and dry. We live on the 7th floor and still have power as of 10:30PM (local time). The river should peak around 4:00AM and start to recede around Friday. We still have our cell phones at the moment too and are updating friends and family on Facebook.

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers! Please pray for the people of Brisbane who will be severely more so affected than us tomorrow.

The only thing we'll experience is loss of electricity but we have plenty of water, food, batteries, radio... not too much different than a hurricane and we've survived our share of Texas floods. We'll talk to y'all soon.

Nat and Greg

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hamilton Island Christmas

We decided to take advantage of our time off during the Christmas break and plan a few trips. We would have loved to go home for the holidays but plane fares were outrageous. So, we thought we would take an adventure and celebrate Aussie style, at the beach. So many people rave about Hamilton Island and the Whitsundays that it was the top destination on our list.

Arriving on Christmas Eve, we were greeted by our welcoming hostess and the rain. Much of the accommodation on the island is serviced condo style units which offer personal golf buggies as part of the transportation. After receiving our luggage in a pretty non-conventional way, from the back of compartments steered by mules, we followed our hostess to our condo on our own golf buggy. Our unit was nice and offered a pleasant view of the bay but it needed some Christmas flare.

After we decorated the unit and settled in, we made our way back to ‘town’ and had a nice lunch at the pizzeria next to the harbor. The rain had not let up so we were soaked but didn't mind too much since it was Christmas Eve and we were on an island, with a golf buggy for transport.

We enjoyed amazing Italian food and wine at one of the restaurants on Christmas Eve, not unlike going to Spaghetti Warehouse in Houston after church and the seeing the big Christmas Tree downtown. We woke up on Christmas and exchanged our presents then Skyped the family. It was so fun sharing the view with everyone and seeing how bundled everyone at home was. They even got to see the cockatoos try to attack us on the balcony. Skype is a wonderful thing!

We even got to watch our families open presents on their Christmas morning. We definitely missed the comforts of home though, turkey and dressing, apple pie, fajitas and guacamole. What? With so many Christmas dinners, you have to mix it up a bit. But overall, it was definitely a Christmas we will not forget.

On Sunday, the rain finally cleared up a bit and we took a ferry over to Dent Island which is the Whitsunday golf course. We enjoyed a very nice lunch and a tour of the back nine.

Monday was pretty cloudy but thank goodness it wasn't raining. We finally got to enjoy the beach and the pool a bit and were even able to get some sun through the clouds.

We had planned a tour on Tuesday which could not have worked out better for us since it was the nicest day of our stay. The boat took us to a snorkel spot close to the island, not the reef but attractive all the same. Then we stopped at Hill Inlet which overlooks Whitehaven Beach, voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It definitely has our vote! If you have not seen Fool’s Gold, you need to watch it, mostly because it's a great movie, ;) and because it was filmed in various parts of Australia including Whitehaven. In the movie it’s the Caribbean, but every tour guide in Australia reminds us of the truth. The breathtaking view from Hill Inlet speaks for itself and was the absolute highlight of our trip.

The last stop on the tour was Whitehaven itself. The sand on the beach is 98% silica and actually squeaks a little when you take a step. We didn't spend too much time in the water because they advise you to wear your Lycra suit since it was still stinger season. We didn't feel like dying from invisible jellyfish stings so we mostly kept to the beach.

Back on Hamilton, we once again visited the lookout for cocktails at sunset. Greg took his camera to capture a million more shots but the battery ran out right before the most amazing sunset we’ve ever witnessed. I’ve said that sometimes we rely on pictures too much as memories so we just took it all in as this was an experience that couldn't be captivated in a picture.

We very much enjoyed everything about Hamilton Island. The restaurants were amazing, the service was friendly and the islands beauty is overwhelming. Overall, we had an amazing experience and a wonderful Christmas adventure.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

We arrived in Cairns on a rainy Friday afternoon. After checking into the hotel, we ventured out in the rain. It didn’t take long to learn this small town was built around tourism. Rightfully so as the views were amazing and the Great Barrier Reef is only a short boat ride away. The Esplanade is home to many quaint restaurants, mostly seafood, and shops.

Early Saturday morning we packed our beach bag and walked a few hundred feet from our hotel down to the main terminal at the harbour. After checking out the other reef boats, we were pleasantly surprised at the day tour we had chosen for our first GBR experience. The hospitality on the boat was extremely helpful and generous, thankfully so because it would be a long eight hours otherwise. The crew thoroughly briefed us on safety and the importance of our lovely, form fitting, Lycra stinger suits. The summer waters invite invisible jellyfish, some even lethal. Let me tell you, Lycra does not look good on anyone but we decided not to take any chances and ruin everyone’s vacation. The weather hadn’t let up too much from the day before, if anything, the winds had picked up. It was a bumpy, almost sea-sickening hour long ride out to the outer reef but we finally arrived at our first stop. We spit in our goggles, tugged at the Lycra suits, slipped on our fins and jumped in.

Immediately we saw colourful fish swimming around the endless corals. We floated around in the waves taking it all in for almost an hour. We spotted a reef shark resting below the shelter of the coral, a long, sly eel we couldn't catch for a picture and tons of Rainbow fish.

The second and third stop allowed for us to witness movement of huge blue clams and many Nemos. I actually spotted Nemos as big as my fist but the current was so strong, by the time I got to Greg and the camera, I forgot where I had seen them. Overall, the day could only really be described as a Discovery Chanel episode. Swimming along with the fish was everything we expected and more. Even though the visibility could have been better, the day was perfect.

On Sunday we woke up to the rain again but didn't let that hault our adventures. Cairns is home to more tourist options than just the reef or great water activities. The area is actually known as “Where the Rainforest meets the Reef.” We decided to participate in the amazing rainforest experience that the Sky Rail has to offer. Spanning 7.5 kilometres, the Sky Rail glides over the rainforest stopping at amazing lookouts on the way up to Kuranda. We enjoyed the amazing views of the Coral Sea and the Rainforest canopy on the way up to the Barron Falls.

Once we reached Kuranda, we shopped the somewhat unique, mostly not, markets. The town itself thrives on these markets and the tourist experiencing the Sky Rail and the Kuranda Railway. After walking the markets and failing to find anything we couldn't live without, we opted to take advantage of the other side of the mountain and decent by way of railway. Arriving at the stop at Barron Falls on the other side of the gorge, we were glad we did.

After navigating through bends and turns, the train reached the bottom of the mountain and we walked though the historical terminal on our way back to the hotel.

Feeling extremely satisfied with everything we experienced in Cairns, we headed back to Brisbane on the early flight Monday morning. We’ll definitely go back to experience the reef again but we were excited to be able to check that one off the bucket list.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Back to our favorite website, Spreets…. we purchased a voucher months ago for River Life which included kayaking, abseiling, rock climbing and roller blade or bike hire. With a completely free day, we chose to go kayaking on the Brisbane River.

Our instructor led us around the boat docks, under the Storey Bridge, around the bend and back again. We enjoyed the blazing sun the breeze in our face and the cool salt water that splashed down from the paddle. When we were getting out, a group of around 15 women were getting going. Two of them tumped over shortly after getting into the kayak. Reminded me of the Guadalupe and watching people get in at Texas Toobs. Only we didn’t have a cooler kayak, and we definitely had to work harder to get anywhere. We’ll definitely hire kayaks again and enjoy the city sites from alternative views.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fishing Attempt - Number Two

We were all set to go fishing on Sunday. This time we watched the weather all week and didn’t make hotel reservations. However, we woke up on Saturday and the weather was beautiful. Our friend Fiona was down from the Sunshine Coast and wanted to enjoy the sunshine as well. On the way to the Gold Coast we decided that even if we didn’t go fishing, we could at least stay overnight and try to enjoy the beach on Sunday as a backup plan. So we booked a room at Jupiter’s Hotel and Casino from the iPhone on the way and not five minutes after confirming the reservation, the clouds rolled in. Things cleared up again but when we checked into the hotel and started walking towards the beach showers continued. Good thing we marched on in the rain because when we finally made it to the beach, the clouds disappeared and the sun came back out to stay.

 After soaking up enough sun, we enjoyed cold beverages and a snack at a café in Broadbeach. We walked back to the hotel and got ready for a night out, an early night out because we were set to go fishing at 6 am.

Before heading to the Hard Rock Café at Surfer’s Paradise, we had to stake out the casino and decided where we’d place our bets later. HRC, I imagine, is quite the same in a lot of places worldwide, but there’s no doubt it’s American. We enjoyed great food and great company and as promised, we headed to the casino when we got back to the hotel.

Security almost didn’t let me in to the casino because all I had was my TXDL. The guy even had to look at Greg’s to make sure it wasn’t fake. After I lost $20 on Roulette, Greg put in another $20 while I went to get him a beer. When I got back he was up to $80, not bad. We kept betting 29 black and it FINALLY hit! We decided to cash out and take our winnings, after all we were getting up in a few hours to go fishing. Not so fast, we had to play penny slots before we left. So I put in another $20 and hit the bonus games. The wheels kept spinning and when they finally stopped, I had won more than I thought in 20 minutes with 20 bucks. Cash out. When is the last time you went to a casino and it spit out your winnings in coins instead of tickets? No ticket machines at this casino. Luckily there are $1 coins though. We won enough to pay for the hotel room, not bad for a Saturday night.

Our alarm went off at 4:45AM. We arrived at the pier around 5:30 and found our fishing buddies, Ali, Frank and friends waiting for us. After everyone was onboard, we left on schedule and the guides informed us it should be a good day despite the fact the winds had unexpectedly picked up overnight. After leaving the protection of the bay and surviving the bumpy ride through the jetty, we hoped for the best. However, we immediately feared that with the 8-12 ft  waves, it would be a long day.

 Wave after wave, we held on as best we could and small talked with the guides in between swells. One mahi-mahi bit while we were on our way out and a guy reeled him in only to find he was a bit too small. Our excitement heighted as we once again hoped for the best. We finally weighed anchor. The guides demonstrated how to bait and drop our lines and let us loose.  Greg and I held on tight as we made our way to the back of the boat to our designated rods, trying not to look around at a few of our fellow fisherman/women chumming.

After casting my line I was watching intently, waiting for a bite. Not the best idea to stop looking at the horizon. As I contemplated waiting for the yuk feeling to pass, I could hear the guide asking for a show of hands of who was not feeling so well, yes sir, that would be me. At least four of the twelve people had already been sick and oh how I couldn’t help being number five. “There goes Texas over the back,” the captain said, “There’s no way we’re going to catch a fish in these conditions,” he continued. All of our lines were tangled and almost half of us were sick so they graciously took us back and refunded our vouchers. We were back on solid land by 7:45 and more thankful to get off a boat than ever before.

We decided not to let our sunny day go to waste and after a much needed breakfast back in Broadbeach, we spent a few hours by the hotel pool. After a tan and a snooze by the pool, we headed home. We still haven’t rebooked our fishing trip but we will try to go in February or so.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers started in 1949 to boost the city’s appeal as “The Garden City,” and over 60 years later, the Carnival attracts thousands of visitors and raises over $40,000 a year for local charities. Greg heard about the Carnival at work. Knowing the weather wasn’t going to be great for the beach, we decided to go check it out. Sian so graciously volunteered to drive us, so all three of us enjoyed celebrating flowers. The festivities take place over two weekends. We missed the wine and food festival that goes along with the flower festival, but we feel like we probably skipped the crowd too.

On the way to Toowoomba, we decided to stop at Mt. Coo-tha, about 20 minutes outside the city to enjoy the best views over breakfast.

Sian had a brilliant idea when we arrived in Toowoomba: stop at the visitors’ center for a map of the best gardens.  Every year the city holds a competition for the best private gardens, or yards, but they also host beautifully landscaped public gardens. We visited two amazing exhibition gardens with bright, fragrant, creatively placed flowers and took tons of pictures.

At lunch time, we drove up to the lookout point and enjoyed more magnificent views of hills and valleys. After lunch we browsed around the Japanese garden much like the one in Memorial Park in Houston, only more extensive. The Japanese garden hosted at least three weddings that afternoon. We were so close to all of them that we forgot that we weren’t invited. Our final stop was the Grand Champion garden, a meticulously landscaped yard, front, back and sides. The homeowner’s were definitely not amateur gardeners and there was no shortage of time that went into planting where each and every flower was placed.

We learned that we don’t have to go to the beach every weekend to find amazing landscapes.