Listful thinking

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Cous cous bread

One of the nice things about living in a remote place is that you get to try out lots of inventive recipes.  This is partly because you have time to do things without the distractions of modern life (she says writing a blog post from a field camp in Antarctica) but also because the selection of ingredients is often somewhat eclectic.  We bake a lot of bread out here at Cape Bird and we’ve been experimenting a little this year.  One of the winning recipes is an adaptation of Alison and Simon Holst’s rice bread recipe from their excellent New Zealand Bread Book, bought about by a seemingly never-ending pot of leftover cous cous.  It’s particularly good if your cous cous has bits of sundried tomato in it like ours did.


Cous Cous (Rice) Bread

3 t Surebake yeast
1 cup warm water (plus a little more depending on how wet the rice/cous cous is)
2 t sugar
1 1/2 salt
2 T oil
3 T non-fat milk powder
1 cup wholemeal (or country grain) flour
2 cups high grade flour
1 cup cooked rice (i use brown rice or cous cous)

  1. Mix yeast, water and sugar in a bowl and leave for 5 mins.
  2. Mix in rest of ingredients and knead for 10 mins.
  3. Cover and leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Knead again and place in a greased loaf tin.
  5. Leave to rise for another hour.
  6. Bake at 200C for 30 mins.


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Cape Bird

Flying into Cape Bird hut from Scott Base felt a little like flying home – being greeted by familiar faces, sites and sounds, slipping into familiar routines around the hut and out around the colony.  It is certainly nice to be back.

Ross Island

Cape Bird is often referred to as the Riviera of Ross Island and for good reason.  We probably have the best weather as we’re relatively sheltered from the southerlies by Mount Bird and Mount Erebus and we certainly have some pretty sweet accommodation compared to some of the other field camps.  Our hut is pretty palatial, with a large living area, a lab, two bunk rooms and a shed complete with clip-on outhouse.


There’s even a wringer for when you need to wash your stinking penguin socks.


The pantry is well-stocked and, as long as you don’t look at the expiry dates, you can find most things you want (as long as you don’t want anything fresh or have a particular fondness for tinned fish, surprise beans or christmas pudding).


There’s even a secret stash of marmite, which made me happy!


But it’s hard to believe how fast the time is going.  Already, I’ve been here for over two weeks, making today the halfway point for me this season.  This year we have seven people for what the same amount of work we did with three the first season, so while the hut is super-busy, we’re getting way more done and not working ridiculous hours.  We also had a pretty slow start this year as the birds seem to be running a bit behind schedule but it has nice to ease into the work and get settled in before it got all crazy busy.

I’m going to leave you with a pretty penguin picture to wet your appetite for stories about penguin work in the new year.  Happy nearly 2013!!


*Thanks to Papa John for the use of his photos from last season!

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Heading south

It seems slightly wrong to be able to send blog posts from a remote location in Antarctica but it does mean that I get to tease you all with photos, so it’s not going to stop me!

This year we flew down in a C130 Hercules which made for a different experience. Imagine sitting in a deck chair for eight hours with your knees touching your neighbours, inside a cake tin, next to the cake mixer. Not the most comfortable of flights and definitely limited inflight entertainment.


So it was a grateful plane of well-insulated sardines that landed at the Pegasus airstrip out on the ice shelf.


From the plane, it was a 60 minute trundle in Ivan the Terra Bus around the edge of the iceshelf to Scott Base and McMurdo. That’s a door to door service of about 13 hours.DSC_0267

We’ve spent the last few days at Scott Base organising our field gear and getting ready for heading out to Cape Bird for a season of wrangling Adelie penguins.

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Penguin wrangling in Antarctica

In a few days time, I’ll be heading south for another summer of penguin wrangling in Antarctica. It’s going to be a bit of a stark contrast from cruising the city streets of Melbourne in 30 degrees to stalking the beaches of Cape Bird at -15 degrees but I’m looking forward to it.

Hopefully this season will be a bit more relaxed work wise, with nine people doing the work that three of us did the first season but it will make for a super busy hut. There are rumours of internet access this year which I’m not sure I’m that happy about. It seems a bit weird to disappear to one of the more remote parts of the planet and still be able to check facebook. But on the plus side, I will hopefully be able to tease you all with pictures of penguins.

But just in case the technology fails us……

Merry Christmas from Cape Bird!

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Everywhere but Melbourne

As usual I keep promising to post about my adventures in Melbourne to date but it hasn’t happened.  Mainly because I spend most of my days sitting in front of my computer in my office thinking about maths.  Not a highly exciting blogging topic.  I’ve taken a couple of photos of the garden but that’s about it.  I’ve made it to the museum and a lot of homeware shops but really not a lot else has happened that seems worthy of writing about.  Which doesn’t mean that I’m not having fun but it’s all been a bit on the domestic/work side thus far. Except for a couple of trips that have taken me further afield in the last week or so.

The work that I’m doing is related to conservation and development in around Perth in Western Australia and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.  Which means that I need to visit these regions from time to time to meet with people and see the areas we are working with. Which is all rather convenient when the boy lives in the Perth and work pays for me to visit.

This was my third trip to Perth and with just four days and a meeting, there wasn’t a lot of time to be lazing by the pool.  So we set off on a short jaunt south to test out the new Hilux and see if we could get it dirty.

the new hilux

We took it for a spin around an easy 4WD route about an hour south of Perth, and while it didn’t really get put through its paces, it was fun.  And there was lots of fun wildlife, including


GIANT skinks


(the little guy is a normal sized skink!)






splendid fairy wrens,

DSC_0230    IMG_0526

and people pondering streams.

There were also trestle bridges in varying states of rickety-ness

DSC_0234A little bit rickety but safe to walk over

IMG_0517quite rickety but okay if you step carefully

IMG_0514Far too rickety to be standing this close to the edge

It was an entertaining drive.  The rest of the weekend was filled in watching films about climbing, having drinks with climbing people and pretending to be a climber myself by scaling a slabby wall at a local quarry of a terrifying grade 14!  Oh, and eating cherry tomatoes from in the pool (which has nothing to do with climbing but was a tasty treat).

Then it was off to Newcastle in the Hunter Valley for a couple of days of meetings and some tripping around the countryside checking out littoral rainforest and beaches.  And some very impressive phosphorescent algae causing the surf to glow blue!

 Next week is a conference and then it’s time to head south for another five weeks of penguin wrangling.  So stories of Melbourne may still be some time.  But they will come one day soon……

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33 Things

Somewhere along the line it has got to the middle of October already and I haven’t put up my new list of 33 things.  To be fair, the past couple of months have been pretty busy, what with interviewing for a job in Brisbane, spending three weeks visiting respective family with the boy, getting a job in Melbourne, finishing up my old job, packing up my Christchurch life, moving to Melbourne and starting a new job!  All of these things mean that the new list has been somewhat harder to write than usual as I wasn’t really sure where I was going to be and what I would be able to do but it has also hastened the crossing off of bunch of things.

So, here is the list of 33 things to be achieved while I’m 33.  Always willing to have help with these!

  1. Climb a route out of the Melbourne book
  2. Bike to Akaroa
  3. Start a postdoc position
  4. Submit an Antarctic paper
  5. Learn to play the ukulele
  6. Submit an oi paper
  7. Go cycle touring
  8. Complete a half marathon
  9. Move to Melbourne
  10. Go to the Brewery
  11. Be my sister’s bridesmaid
  12. Submit the shrub paper
  13. Learn a new skill
  14. Finish the crochet vest
  15. Go on holiday with the boy
  16. Cross the Nullabor Plains
  17. Sell at least five things on Trade Me
  18. Wear a skirt every day for a month (skirtember)
  19. Join a club
  20. Live below the line
  21. Run 10 km a week for a month
  22. Go cross-country skiing
  23. Compete in a road bike race
  24. Make Aunt Maggie’s slippers
  25. Crochet the Baby Boobie Beanie
  26. Organise a stuff swap
  27. Have an awesome leaving party
  28. Ride a Melbourne mountain bike trail
  29. Make ice cream from bananas
  30. Buy a fancy dress
  31. Walk the Overland Track round Cradle Mountain
  32. Do something crafty at least once a month (SONDJFMAMJJA)
  33. Have an outdoor adventure at least monthly (SONDJFMAMJJA)
More on my Melbourne adventures soon…..

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32 things – a recap

So another birthday has come and gone and it’s time to reflect on the year of 32 things.

1. Bike the Great Divide
So, the grand plan was to take 4-5 months off work and bike the ~4500 km with the boy along the length of the Rockies.  But life kinda got in the way and it all got a bit complicated and I couldn’t get enough time off work to make the trip worthwhile.  But I did buy the book.  Surely that has to count for something, right?!  This trip looks like an amazing mission and is definitely still on the to do list.  It might just need to wait a couple of years until we can both have the time to cycle off into the sunset.

2. Compete in the 12 hour Spring Challenge
So the Mighty Midgets had done the 6 hour Spring Challenge a couple of times and, despite being super-scared, we decided it was time we sprung up to the challenge of the 2011 12 hour event. We trained hard all winter and had some awesome missions.  We were fairly nervous but confident we would survive as the morning of the race dawned.  It was an amazing day, with a nice smattering of rafting, mountain biking, bushbashing and rogaining to keep us occupied.  We had a fabulous support crew (thanks Ash, Nomes & Graham) who fed and watered us and even tied our shoelaces.  It’s not very often that we push ourselves to see what we can achieve but the Spring Challenge is an excellent opportunity to do this and it was extremely satisfying to cross the finish line after 15 hours and still be smiling.  In fact, we could have kept going for longer, which might imply that we didn’t go hard enough!  Thanks to the Miniest Mighty Midget Michelle and the Mightiest Mighty Midget Maaike for being awesome team mates!

3. Put my clipless pedals back on my mountain bike
Ok, so they are on there.  But it doesn’t mean i like them!  I’m still a wimp and bought pedals that are flat on one side, so I can indulge my wimpiness but they are technically on my bike.  Now I just need to ride the thing.

4. Run 500 km
So I just went back and looked at the excuse that I wrote for not completing this on the list of 31 things and it was pretty lame.  Unfortunately I think this year’s excuse is probably even worse and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t even run as far as I did last year.  I kinda lost my running mojo this year but I’ve just bought a new pair of shoes (although I’m not entirely sure how I wore out the old pair!).  And this spring weather is making me more enthused about the whole running idea, so maybe next  year.  Although I feel I may need to scale down the distance somewhat!

5. Compete in a triathlon
Similar problem to item 4.  A combination of laziness and a distinct lack of triathlons after my return from the ice.  Oh well….

6. Photograph a snow petrel
These funky little birds hang out in Antarctica and are snow white and very cool.  I would love to get a picture of one, only they don’t really hang about for very long during the season and, when they are actually there, you get a 30 second glimpse of them as they glide past.  This year I think I saw one for about 20 seconds.  Not even enough time to register in my brain that I should grab my camera before it was gone again.  Maybe next season??

7. Publish the remaining whio papers
I seem to be writing up a list of excuses!  There really isn’t any excuse for not having done these.  I did do a bit of work when I was in Perth but it’s hard to find the motivation to do work when I’ve already spent 8 hours at work doing maths.  But it would be really helpful to have these papers out there, so I really just need to pull finger and do them!

8. Complete a half marathon
Refer to item 4.

9. Go cycle touring
I didn’t really go cycle touring per se but we did do an overnight mountain bike trip which I like to refer to as tramping with bikes.  So not really cycle touring at all since there was very little cycling actually done.  But entertaining nonetheless.

10. Make Albert Monkey
Finally something I can cross off! Albert Monkey came into being in October and set off on the adventure of a lifetime.  First to Auckland where he took in the sites of the rugby world cup.  Then off to Raoul Island.  He must have had a fabulous time and been super busy because he never even sent a postcard.

11. Publish an Antarctic paper
It’s close.  Well the finishing of the analysis and the writing of the paper bit.  The actual publishing bit will be totally dependent on whether the third reviewer is having a nice day when they read it.

12. Compete in a road bike race
I bought a new road bike this year and it seemed like it was time to actually do a race.  So a group of us headed up to do the Grape Ride, a 101km race from Blenheim to Picton and around the bays.  It was a little on the damp side and super windy, which made the Blenheim to Picton leg less than fun.  But the return trip was awesome.  I rode with my sister’s future father-in-law for a while before he had a mechanical and our team of girly awesomeness left him behind to lament his poor bike maintenance record.  We were pretty awesome as we flew along the road, passing people up the hills and being passed by a dude with panniers on the downhill.  We rolled across the line in just over four hours which made for three happy and tired girls, having each just completed the longest ride of our lives.

13. Knit/crochet a jersey
So I started a knitted vest when we got stuck by snow in Queenstown last year and nearly had it finished when, true to form, I decided I didn’t really like it and I frogged the entire thing.  The wool then languished in the stash for quite some time until I found a pattern for a felted crocheted vest with crazy  multi-coloured stripes.  This seemed more my style, so I’ve been busy crocheting away and it is nearly done.  I don’t think this one will get unravelled but I don’t have a good record for keeping jerseys intact (all four knitted thus far have been unravelled), so I had better felt it soon before I get the chance!

14. Compete in a mountain bike race
Every mountain bike race that I wanted to do seemed to be on a weekend when I had something else on.  At least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

15. Climb a grade 17
I did it once.  And have never managed it again.  I am enjoying climbing though, even if it is only inside – there being a distinct lack of outdoor rock to climb in Christchurch, what with it all being shaken of the hillsides and all.  Hopefully I will be able to climb something real in the coming year.

16. Buy a macro lens
I didn’t buy a macro lens but I did accidentally buy a new camera.  So maybe they cancel each other out.

17. Ride a century in a day
Refer to item 12

18. Spend a night at the Sign of the Packhorse
This has to be the longest standing item on the list, having started out on the original list in 2007.  But it finally fell this year with an excellent election weekend escape with some friendly resident poms.

19. Sew an item of clothing
In a fit of sewing crazy, I constructed an infinity dress, a reversible hooded dress and a reversible skirt, all without the benefit of a proper pattern or in some cases any pattern at all.  In hindsight, patterns may have been a good idea.  To date, there have been limited outings of the fore-mentioned items, so a distinct lack of photographs.  But there is a hint of spring in the air and a slightly mad scheme afoot that will see this predominantly trouser-clad lass breaking out the skirts, so hopefully you will get a peek soon.  More on this in the list of 33 things….

20. Organise a clothes swap party
It is completely coincidental that this follows on from item 19!  To be honest, I’m not sure there would have been many takers either.  But I have now been to two clothes swap parties which have been an excellent way of cleaning out the closest and gaining a few new items.  I’m now planning a stuff swap to clean out the rest of the crap that I’ve accumulated over the past 6 years.

21. Present a paper at ICCB 2011
Four mins of petrels and I was outta there.  Easiest conference talk ever.  And not a bad conference either, even without my organising committee hat on.

22. Empty out my storage shed of crap
When I went to Antarctica in 2010, I moved out of our house of 4.5 years and put all of my crap in storage.  Then I came back and got out a few boxes and the rest languished in storage for a ridiculously long time, costing me a ridiculous amount of money, because I was too lazy to move it and I didn’t really have anywhere to put it at the new house.  I slowly managed to pawn a lot of it off onto unsuspecting friends until I was left with a couple of boxes of unknown contents, a desk, washing machine and a broken rat trap and little motivation to actually shift it.  But the storage shed o’ crap has finally been emptied, the stuff sort of sorted and I’m working on ways to hide in the back of various family member’s garages as I get ready to set off on another adventure (more on that soon).

23. Buy knee-high boots
They are red.  and awesome.

24. Make bagels
Antarctica is a good place for experimental bread making, given that we are given a bag of flour and some yeast and we have plenty of time.  The rising conditions for yeast are less than ideal but it is possible.  This year we feasted on a wide variety of breads, including bagels, naan and beer bread.  I swear I had a picture of the bagels somewhere but you will have to make do with some bread instead

25. Go back to Antarctica
A second stint in Antarctica was calling and so I set off to pester some more penguins with Dad in tow as my field assistant.  Many people expressed some concern about being cooped up with my Father in a confined space for eight weeks. Indeed, it could have gone horribly wrong.  But we happily spent our time poking penguins with needles, baking bread, swimming at Christmas (in Santa hats), excitedly examining comb jellies and sitting about reading the dictionary without too much drama. Good times.

26. Have a hot pool party
We tried.  This was the infamous tramping with bikes expedition where the tramping part took so long that people who were sans bike were faster than we were.  Which meant we ended up staying at a different hut from the one we intended and never made it to the Hope hot pools.  I realise that this was in October and there has been plenty of opportunity to try again but (here come the excuses) it never quite happened.

27. Apply for a post-doc position
I applied for a post-doc.  In Brisbane.  I went to Brisbane for a day for an interview.  It seemed like a nice place.  So nice I spent an extra day there (not voluntarily.  Never fly with me to Australia – I think I am cursed).  I didn’t get the job.  But they put me in touch with a guy in Melbourne.  He offered me a job.  Which apparently, I learnt today from the lady who needs to order me a computer, starts on October 1.  Although I haven’t seen a contract yet, so not counting chickens just yet.  But, yup, hopefully moving to Melbourne.  In a month.  Boy, have I got some stuff to do between now and then. (Hence the blog updating and other sundry procrastinatory activities).

28. Publish the shrub paper
It’s on that list of things to do before the end of September.

29. Lecture in a university course
Three riveting lectures in Biology 112 on things ecological, courtesy of my PhD supervisor swanning off somewhere exciting.  This year I didn’t get in trouble for showing Green Porno videos.  Bonus.

30. Do some volunteer work
Allegedly I did this – I crossed it off on my list on the desktop of my computer.  But I do remember it being somewhat tenuous at the time and I have absolutely no idea what it might have been, so I’m leaving this unchecked.  Slacker.

31. Learn to jugular bleed penguins
How to have fun with needles and penguins – stick them in them blindly in the jugular.  While it sounds horrific, and seems awful the first few times you do it, it is by the far the fastest way to extract blood from a penguin.  And is infinitely more “fun” than trying to bleed them from the foot.  Definitely my preferred vampire method.

32. Go on an outdoor adventure at least once a month (SONDJFMAMJJA)
Lots of outdoor trips this year, although the term adventure is perhaps somewhat debatable for some of them.  We started out with a hiss and a roar with the Spring Challenge in September, then tramping with bikes up the Hope in October, November was up Sign of the Packhorse, followed by two months in Antarctica.  February scraped in with a camping trip to Lake Taylor while March and April were spent camping in the wilds of Western Australia.  May just caught a quick blast up Scott’s Saddle, while June was ice climbing and other adventuring at Fox Glacier. July hosted Laura’s annual birthday tramp to Lake Daniell’s, while August was graced by a short jaunt up Mt Oxford (& hopefully cross-country skiing this weekend).

and other fun stuff

33. Sleep in my new tent
It’s light and small and you need to be short.  And a little on the damp side, being a single skin and all.  And clearly pitched outside a perfectly good hut but it was full of children.  Now I just need to make sure I get in the right one!

34. Buy a new road bike
It’s light and small and you need to be short.  But it’s carbon and fast and a really nice ride.  I just need to actually ride it more.

35. Go on a Western Australia roadtrip
South-western Australia has been given a cursory go over and places to revisit properly have been duly noted.  Middlish western Australia also revisited.  It was good times.

So all in all, not a bad year.  There are a few lingering things on the list that should really have been crossed off (but they are mostly the boring work-related things).  The list of 33 things is currently under construction but should be ready for general release soon.

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Scott’s Saddle

The end of May was looming rapidly and featuring a distinct lack of outdoor adventures.  So we decided to grasp the last weekend with both hands and set off into the wilderness for a weekend tramp.  Only the weather didn’t get the memo, with a last minute check of the forecast on Saturday morning sporting a giant red blob of nastiness descending over the South Island.  
So we ditched the heavy overnight packs and set off for a day walk that would hopefully stay dry long enough to allow May to be crossed off the list.  A quick search on the internet identified the Scott’s Saddle track near Mount Hutt as a good candidate.

After a few geographically-challenged detours, we made it to the start of the track and zig-zagged our way steeply up through beech and rata forest before popping out on to the Mount Hutt skifield road at the saddle.  It was a bit of a grunt and my legs paid the price.
There wasn’t much snow for skiing (oh how things will have changed – I currently have 15cm on the front lawn) but the views out over the Canterbury plains were pretty.
The pizza lunch was tasty and the company pretty good.

The norwester was starting to blow, so we hightailed it down the hill, stopping briefly to poke a huhu grub.  Luckily for him, we were all pretty full from lunch! 
May: done.  Just, by the skin of my teeth!  And June too.  But that’s a different story. 

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Road trip: Western Australia (bonus)

An unexpected windfall of days off for the lad meant a bonus road trip was hastily planned and we once again loaded the car and set off. 
This time we headed north towards Perenjori and a farm on the edge of the wheat belt where Hamish used to work. We oohed and arghed at the big tractors and harvesters and marveled at the small (36,000 acre) farm. The boys were busy waiting for the first rain of the season so that they could start planting. 

Leaving them to it, we set off to set up camp at Camel Soak, a watering spot for camels, livestock and people as they headed east towards the goldfields. This was another hole cut out of a granite dome that collected rainwater runoff, although it was pretty much empty and populated by frogs which wouldn’t be that helpful if you were a thirsty camel.

The dawning morning revealed that we were camped next to the Rabbit Proof Fence No. 2, which was the second fence built to try and prevent the westward movement of rabbits after the first fence failed. The second fence failed too but is apparently quite useful for keeping emu out of the wheat fields. 

The scenery was the archetypal Australian countryside; red soil, gum trees and long road disappearing into the distance.  It was pretty nice.

Driving off into the distance, we came across a huge salt lake – 182 km long and up to 7 km wide.  The edge of the wheat belt is characterised by natural salt lakes and this one was a monster. 

Being the end of the dry summer season, the lake was completely solid salt and perfect for a jaunt out into the saltiness.  It was quite surreal, walking out across the solid surface of a lake.  Anything on the surface was covered in salt crystals and we even found some perfect salt cubes. 


From the salt lake, we headed west towards to the coast to check out the surf and test the water temperature.  Once again the surfboard accompanied us on our roadtrip,  unused and taking up unnecessary space in the back of the car.  And once again, it remained unused as the surf was rubbish.  But the water temperature was perfect for a spot of swimming.  And the warm evening perfect for a picnic on the beach, watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean.

Heading south the next day, we did a driving tour through Lesueur National Park.  This was country we had seen on our 2011 Aussie road trip but it was totally worth doing again. 
The highlight of this tour was a flock(?) of wedgetail eagles that were feeding on a dead kangaroo on the side of the road.
These guys are big!  And pretty impressive birds.  I wouldn’t want to be a small child out there in the desert all by myself.  
My slight fear of wedgetails was forgotten after another swim and a pleasant night camping at the beach. 

And then we headed off to the Pinnacles at Nambung National Park to once again enjoy the geological marvels.  
And then it was homeward bound to Perth for a few days before I had to head back home to do some real work.
But not before a quick 70km jaunt out to Fremantle on the bikes to stretch out the legs after all the driving!
But don’t fret, we’re already planning the next roadtrip and I get the feeling it’s going to be a doozy!  Will keep you posted…..

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Working by the pool

After couple of weeks of hard-core road tripping, reality decreed that it was time for the lad to go back to work, while I worked from home.

Working by the pool has proved to less than productive.  But I’m on a working holiday, with much more emphasis on the holiday than the working.
I wiled away the hours by cruising the riverside on a friend’s bike, swimming in the pool, playing with the Instragram and Phonto apps on my ipod, a spot of blogging, and generally relaxing.  Oh, and there was some work in the somewhere, honest!
And then pretty soon it was the weekend again and we headed back south to Margaret River for a spot of climbing.  Well, the boys did.  I headed south for a spot of relaxing in the sunshine and admiring shirtless boys scaling cliffs.
And snake spotting on the climbing crag.  This python was hanging out in the sunshine on one of the routes and was over 2m long!  It’s times like this I’m glad I don’t climb.
Then it was back to another week of working hard by the pool.  A tough life!