Australian Journal - January 2003
December 24, 2002 - January 7, 2003 - Christmas and the Snowy Mountains: We had an enjoyable Christmas Eve - and did something we had never done before - we celebrated Christmas (at least partially) on Christmas Eve. We opened all the gifts from family on Christmas Eve and then on Christmas morning we opened the gifts that Santa left in our stockings. The reason that we celebrated a bit early was our trip to the Snowy Mountains. We were departing on Christmas afternoon, so we weren't able to have our usual leisurely, all-day affair. So, the rest of this tale will be told in a special set of pages documenting our trip. There isn't much content yet, but the Snowy Mountain trip page is here, and the associated picture page is here. Since the year rolled over, we've also archived the last few months of regular pictures from the usual Oz picture page to make room for new pictures. We'll be incrementally updating the Snowy trip page as we get time over the next week or two, so check back often.
January 8, 2003 - More Snowy Mountains: We added a bit more to the Snowy Mountains trip pages.
January 9-10, 2003 - And Still More Snowy Mountains: The girls have continued to enjoy their summer vacation - this week, they've had art class in the mornings, and swimming (lessons for Clara - just plain swimming for Lucy) in the afternoon. In between, Sandy has been trying to unpack and get the house back in shape. Since Lucy had to return to Parkwynd Hospital again for day surgery on Friday, we went to her choice of restaurants (Fasta Pasta) Thursday night for dinner. Her procedure (which was really more of an inspection and clearing of sinuses and examination of her larynx) went smoothly, and she was home by early afternoon. After the early morning trip to the hospital, all three girls took a nap in the afternoon, and later on Clara went to her swimming lesson. Meanwhile Tim added a bit more to the Snowy Mountains trip pages.
January 11, 2003 - A Bit More Snowy Mountains: We added a bit more to the Snowy Mountains trip pages.
January 12, 2003 - Snowy Mountains - No End in Sight: It's been a hot weekend here; Tim and the girls made it to a new park on Saturday morning, but the slide was already too hot to use, even though it was in the shade. The slide was unusual, being built on the stump of an old gum tree approx 7 feet across at the base. We also added a bit more to the Snowy Mountains trip pages.
January 13-19, 2003 - The Snowy Mountains Saga Continues: The weather broke on Monday, and cooled off, so we were all quite happy with that. Clara's swimming lessons started up again on Tuesday. On Thursday, she passed her test to move to the next level, which quite excited her. However, the weather warmed up again towards the weekend. We did finish a first cut through the Snowy Mountains pages. They will probably change a little in the future, mostly through the addition of a few more pictures - but the text is largely complete now.
As we mention in the body of the travelogue, the bush fires that have started up in the Snowys have become devastating over the past couple weeks. High temperatures, high winds, drought conditions, and inaccessible terrain have resulted in what is effectively a "100 year" fire. The fire is even burning the high alpine meadow regions, something that has not been seen before by the local fire fighters. Kosciuszko National Park is completely closed, many roads are closed, Thredbo Village has been evacuated and others are threatened - even Canberra has lost over 100 homes so far. This is truly a horrendous situation, much like the fires that hit Montana and the American West a few years ago.
January 20-23, 2003 - Bush Fires and Heat: The weather has continued its mostly hot trend (days of 95-105 F), with occasional days down in the 80s providing brief respites. The eastern parts of Australia continue to be hit with massive bushfires (in Canberra, 4 people have died, and over 500 houses have burned down), and we're all wondering when it is going to be our turn, given the high temperatures and dry conditions we continue to see. The girls have continued their busy schedules, with swimming lessons intermingled with visits with friends. Clara also received a nice letter from a friend, Katie, who went to school with her back in Kent - and the letter came from her family's new home in Bozeman, Montana. She got a horse and dog for Christmas (which made Clara and Lucy extremely envious), and the thoughts of living in Montana made Tim and Sandy wistful, too! We've also added a few more pictures (and a word here and there) to the Snowy Mountains pages.
January 25-27, 2003 - Heat and Bush Fires: We've been feeling somewhat confined with the heat reaching 44 C (111 F) on Saturday. However, Lucy and Clara still went to Jessica's birthday party on Saturday and had a good time playing on the beach and in the water. Fortunately, the predicted change came through overnight, and things cooled down dramatically on Sunday. Sandy and the girls have also been taking care of neighbor Donna's cat, Mavis, while Donna is out of town. This is great fun for the girls and as close as they can get to having a real, furry pet for a while!
While the bushfires continue to be the number one topic in the news, a close second is the ongoing debate about a potential war in Iraq. John Howard, the Liberal (i.e., approximate equivalent to the US Republican party) Prime Minister, has been one of George W. Bush's staunchest allies, outside of the UK's Tony Blair. Howard has essentially committed Australia to support the US, and the first Aussie troops to be committed to a potential action in the Persian Gulf left Australia this past week. (Note that Aussie troops regularly train with US and UK forces and engage in exchange programs, so it is entirely possible that some Oz units or members have already been in the region for other purposes.) This somewhat-unilateral committment by Howard has raised an uproar within Australia, with both the public and the Parliamentarians (including some members of Howard's party and coalition) have suggested that more public discussion and consideration in Parliament should be undertaken before Oz commits to supporting any US (as opposed to UN) initiatives.
Monday, we celebrated Australia Day with Pete, Anj, Katarina, and Zofia. Katarina and Zof go to school with Clara and Lucy, and are the owners of Tinky, the only cat in South Australia with a quilt of his own (that we know about!) The weather was much better (i.e., cooler!) than it had been, only making it into the low 80s. We had a relaxing time over lunch, and played a game of Quiddler, followed by enough jump rope to get all four girls into bed early (check out the form of Lucy and Clara)!
We've pretty well finished with the Snowy Mountain pages. We have a lot more photos, but have a pretty representative set online now, along with a fairly full description. Now it's time to start planning our next adventure!
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