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My Blog

March 2011

Rain, Rain, Rain...

I don’t like to complain much.  Really, who am I kidding, I complain all the time.  I do sometimes feel a bit guilty complaining, because for the most part we’re so incredibly blessed that it seems a bit like when movie stars complaining about the horrors of fame and fortune.  But I’m sure there are downsides to that as well.  Anyway, I wasn’t going to complain about the rain in Sydney until this last weekend.
Usually when we go somewhere on vacation it rains.  We’ve just grown accustomed to it, we shrug our shoulders and just power through.  We assume that we bring the rain with us wherever we go and try to have a sense of humor about it.  But when it continued to rain and rain and rain here in Sydney I thought I’d try to figure out what was going on – and I was shocked when I did.
In the nine months we’ve lived in Sydney it has rained 764 millimeters.  Is that a lot you ask?  It sure feels like it so I thought it would be handy to make some comparisons.  First of all, let’s convert to inches.  764mm is just over 30 inches (about two and a half feet).  Next let’s compare to Seattle – which has had a really wet year so far – over the past nine months, Seattle has seen about 39 inches of rain.  Okay, so suck it up you say, it’s not as wet as Seattle. 
But here’s where it gets interesting….
It’s actually been comparably dry in Sydney over the past nine months (all of which changed in the past 72 hours, but more on that below).  In an average year, Sydney receives about 48 inches of rain – compared to an average year in Seattle where they receive about 40 inches.  And when you compare Sydney and San Diego (which is the weather comparison that sold me on Sydney), it’s downright depressing… San Diego gets about 10 inches of rain a year.  Here we were thinking that all this rain in Sydney is abnormal, and the truth is that it is abnormal… abnormally dry. 
So here I am, complaining, when I really shouldn’t because when things go well here they are incredible.  It’s nearly impossible to beat the natural beauty, and on blue-sky days even the very simplest thing like the sunset from our terrace can be breathtaking.  But I guess when the rain comes it pours.  Take this weekend… since Friday afternoon (over the past three days), it has rained over 7 inches.  That’s nearly 15 percent of Sydney’s average annual rainfall in just under one percent of the year, uggghhh.
Now wouldn’t you just know that this was going to happen when the house is full of cousins.  We’re so lucky to have Bob and Jennifer and their family here with us over the past week.  They came all this way and our boys have been absolutely over the moon with excitement to see and play with their cousins.  In addition to Sydney, Bob and his family are going to spend a couple days visiting the Great Barrier Reef and have already seen some of New Zealand.  We’re just so glad to have friendly, loving faces from home with us, that it seems petty to be thinking about the rain.  And, I know that there have been enough breaks in the rain so the cousins have been able to get little glimpses of all that Sydney has to offer; a Harbour Bridge climb, an Opera House tour, koalas & kangaroos, and surf lessons at Manly Beach just to name a few.  But, mostly the extended Ewing family has been able to see Sydney simply with a shrug of the shoulders and an attitude that just plain powers through.  Oh, and a couple well used rain ponchos helped too.  If you want to see some pictures of the extended crew of yellow ducklings on our visit to the very wet Blue Mountains, you can see them here.  
Hoping you’ll visit soon too – and while we can offer no promises that the rain will hold off while you’re here, we can certainly guarantee that it won’t be as wet as it has been in the past couple days. 

Incredible Tasmania

Among the places we’ve always wanted to say we’ve been, Tasmania, has for years been near the top of the list.  Up until this year it’s just been way too far away to even consider – but last weekend we were pleased to discover that “Van Diemen’s Land” is only a simple 90 minute flight from Sydney – although it’s a world away. 
The bottom of the world -- what an incredible place!  The rugged, remote beauty of Tasmania is simply remarkable.  Tasmania is an island off the southern tip of Australia that is about the size of Switzerland, or the state of West Virginia in the US.  I don’t know if there is anywhere on earth quite like it.  And, while I’m sure there are people who might say it’s like parts of Scottland or Ireland – rugged, green, pastoral – it’s at the same time a completely different place unto itself with some of the most rugged and beautiful coast in the world, and the characteristic red earth of Australia, it’s much larger parent to the north. 
Interestingly we visited in mid-February (Happy Birthday Wendy), and although beautiful, it was still colder than you would expect it to be at the end of summer.  We drove to the top of Mount Wellington just outside Hobart and it snowed most of the way up and there were probably 3-4 inches of new snow on the ground at the summit (and it was right at about zero degrees), which I can honestly say I’ve never experienced in August in the States.  It’s so tropical here in Sydney that it’s easy to forget just how far south Tasmania is.  (The capital of Hobart sits at a latitude of about 43 degrees South – which is interestingly just about as far from the equator to the South as Boston is to the North.)
All five of us also had the chance to experience something completely incredible on a three hour eco cruise off the Southern tip of Tasmania.  The scenery was absolutely stunning with soaring cliff faces, rock formations towering hundreds of meters above the crashing waves and abundant wildlife including both New Zealand and Australian fur seals (they don’t like each other), majestic albatross, Sea Eagles and dolphins who leapt from the water so close to our speeding boat that you could almost touch them.  The true highlight of the adventure was when the relatively small boat turned past the tip of Tasman Island into the great Southern Ocean.  With the tip of the boat pointed South there was nothing between us and Antarctica (except for thousands of miles of rolling ocean).  And boy did the sea toss us around.  Unprotected by land on any side, the waves must have been 20-30 feet high.  I thought for sure the boat was going to rattle apart, thankfully it didn't and despite being drenched we made it back in one piece.
Port Arthur, Tasmania also served as a history lesson and reminder of Australia’s roots as a penal colony.  In fact Port Arthur was the prison within the penal colony – so the men (and boys as young as nine) housed there were truly the worst of the worst, having proven themselves repeat criminals in a land full of criminals.  I’m sure it wasn’t a pleasant place to be a prisoner, but every angle I examined of the geography showed another incredible vista of rolling wooded countryside surrounded by wild and beautiful sea.  About 150 years after the prison closed for good, it feels a bit more like summer camp than the site of horrors I’m sure it was.
In all it was an incredible visit.  We were only there for three days, and if we had been able to explore more we would have loved to seen the rest of this magnificent island.  If you want to see our pictures, some of them are here.
Oh, and one final thought… it goes something like this.  We went to Tasmania… it rained… we almost didn’t care it was so incredible.
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