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Tuesday, 11-Jan-2011 19:32 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Happy Hogmanay!!

Mike Byson the boxer with his European friends
The French themed Murder Mystery Crew!
Inverness fireworks bring in the New Year!!
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Happy Hogmanay everyone!!

Well 2011 has gotten off to a great start for us! Well, mostly – after a great night with Jenny and her friends for New Years, we found our beloved Beast had been vandalized. Boo! Someone decided to wrench off the passenger side mirror during the festivities. Once we overcome this little challenge and find a replacement mirror, we’ll be out and about enjoying our camper van weekends once again!

Also, we’re finding the Queensland floods to be a prominent topic of conversations, especially with the comparison of France and Germany being the size of area affected. Crazy weather in Aus over the past few years! It’s impossible to think of coping in that situation – hope the waters go away soon.

For New Years this year we spent it in Inverness and went over to Jenny’s place for a murder mystery dress up night with her friends Rob, Cammy, Rebecca & Jane. What a night! Everyone was in great theatrical form for the French-themed murder mystery party with many funny European accents and laughs. Jenny, being a music teacher at Anth’s school, got the singalongs started with her mates as well, and after the countdown to 2011 (the countdown is called ‘The Bells’ in Britain) we danced little Highland jigs in her front yard to Jen’s furious fiddle playing with fireworks from the town centre to back us up too. Brilliant!! We had a great night, and loved spending it with Jenny and her fun mates – thanks heaps for the yummy food and we’re very glad the neighbours didn’t mind our early morning singing!

After New Year’s we set off for a long planned ski trip to Austria with some Nessie mates Heather & Greg. But first, we had a cheap and nasty 13hr Megabus trip to London to deal with. Felt like déjà vu, having done the same this time round last year! But it was all worth it, once we landed in Innsbruck and got set up in our little Austrian village apartment, we were all glowing and buzzing despite the lack of sleep. Our excellent apartment was just outside the little village of Neustift, south of Innsbruck, and only a 20 minute shuttle bus trip to Stubaital Glacier, one of the biggest ski fields in Austria. Stubaital Glacier is a little different to Falls Creek & Mt Hotham back at home – there is no village on the mountain so you have to bus it in, the surrounding villages are quiet and laid back, but the ski runs were between 2200m to 3200m above sea level and as far as you could see were jagged snow capped mountains everywhere – just beautiful!! The Austrians take skiing very seriously, and know their stuff – down from the grooming of runs, snow conditions, quality of hire gear – although it wasn’t a big party atmosphere like Falls & Hotham, the quality of the skiing (& the scenery) was just amazing. Plus the valley we stayed in was like picture book stuff – snow capped mountains all round, wooden chalets covered in snow, just beautiful. But the four of us did our best to party Austrian village-style. One night we found a tiny sign-less wooden hut in the middle of Neustift, and after a glance through the little windows we realized it was a bar! And, it was just packed with fun-loving Germans, Russians and locals – more opportunities to practice our little German vocabulary! Trying to communicate had its hilarious consequences – when Bronnie told a group of Bavarian lads that “my brother in law is from Munich” it got confused with “my sister is married to my brother” – hilarious consequences!! We also noticed pictures of Queensland floods on Austrian newspaper front pages, and people wanted to talk to us about it when they found out we were Aussies. On our bus trips back to our apartment we spied a bar within a massive chalet hotel at the end of the ski runs – there was even a path to ski straight to the bar. So the plan was set for a big finale to our ski trip – and we had a great time on our last evening in Austria. It was an outdoor circular bar, covered in a massive umbrella with strobe lights, night club inside, and was absolutely heaving at 10 past 5 in the afternoon. Amazing!! Everyone of all ages were dancing around in their clunky ski boots and puffy ski jackets, doing the conga line around the bar and all were very merry and having a ball. So much fun! After a feed at our apartment we ducked back into Neustift and found a bar with friendly Austrians, tried a couple of Austrian schnapps with some friendly local Neustiftians and sang ‘Barbara Streisand’ arm in arm all the way back home. Thanks Heather & Greg for an excellent week in Austria!

When we left Austria and flew into London Gatwick, Anth had a depressing return to reality. Stepping off the plane into the corridor leading to the airport, there lied a newspaper on the floor – front page up, with a big picture of Jimmy Anderson arms outstretched under the heading ‘HEROES’. All this time in Austria we’d managed to forget about The Ashes, and now back in the Old Dart we could not escape the fact our national team sucks! But before we went back home to Inverness, we stayed in London for the weekend just gone with Fran, Andrew & Rosie. We stayed with Fran & Andrew a couple of times when we lived in England during 2005/6, and it was just great catching up again – even if they did remind us a couple of times about The Ashes. Rosie is 18 and all grown up now, and is planning a backpacking trip through Europe in the summer, which we were very happy to give some tips for fun and interesting hostels and places that we have stayed in. Also, Andrew is keen to complete an unfinished assignment – hike the munro Ben More in the Scottish Isle of Mull, which we hope to do together later in the year. Thanks heaps for the yummy curry, the delicious kippers for breakfast and for the wonderful chats again!

While in London, we managed to catch up with Patto n Tash as well. They showed us the Camden Town Markets, which was a massive, sprawled out array of clothing, food and touristy stalls – most selling the same stuff, but with lots of character. Sitting on Vespa motorbike seats alongside the canal with a massive bronze lion on our side while eating our lunch was very tourist-pleasing! Later in a pub in Angel Islington (only 100 bucks in Monopoly, but a little classier these days) we caught up with Kirsty as well which was great. How could we leave all this fun behind to get back to work in Inverness? Ah well, it’s the only way to fund this travelling lifestyle of ours. See you again soon, Patto Tash & Kirsty!

Hope all is well in your world. Big congratulations to Bencey & Stacey for their safe arrival of little Ella Louise – 19 hours in labour, you guys are amazing!! Big hugs,

Bronnie & Anth

Sunday, 9-Jan-2011 18:48 Email | Share | | Bookmark

Hyde Park, London - looking a lot like Alaska!
What a couple! Kurt n Rose at London Victoria
English drivers showing how it's done in the snow ...
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Friday, 31-Dec-2010 18:57 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Merry Christmas from Inverness!

Hey hey!

Hope you are enjoying the festive season wherever you may be!!

We’ve been keeping busy and having fun with Anth on school holidays and Bronnie scoring some little bits of time off here and there too. London for a weekend, Christmas feast, fun in the snow - where do we start?

London it is – for the weekend before Christmas we braved the travel disruptive ice and snow to fly into London only 2 hours later than planned. This was quite lucky as the huge dump of snow in mid December made travel across the country near impossible. Thought we lived in the 21st century …. But our whole idea for a weekend in London was to catch up with some good Langy mates – Patto n Tash, Josh n Lolly & Kurt n Rose. All 8 of us were able to hang out for a fantastic Saturday afternoon that didn’t want to finish, it was brilliant! Especially the pub in Crystal Palace that had table tennis – spent a good half a day in there! The weekend didn’t last anywhere near long enough, it was just great catching up with good friends on the other side of the world. An urban fox in the backyard and watching the locals try and ‘drive’ up hill in the slippery snowy roads captivated our attention – but we all resolve to beat Josh at table tennis next time to take his claim to the European Table Tennis Champion title! Good times! Good luck to Patto n Tash, with their London work leading to the Olympics (Patto is running the Road Cycling event), BIG congratulations to Josh n Lollie for getting engaged a few days later in Bath (not in the bathroom, but the pretty pommy town of Bath!) and farewell to Kurt n Rose on their way back home to Aus – it’s been absolutely brilliant catching up with you and hearing your funny travel stories over the past 7 months!

For our second white Christmas in a row we were invited around to Scotty & Judy MacDonald’s home for lunch with their family. Like a family away from family, the MacDonalds are great and we ate soooo well, with Judy as always proving the Home Economics Department at Anth’s school is full of talented teachers. Playing plastic mini golf and snow sledging with 3yo Mytilda, and dominos and whisky with Scotty and his father Mr Rattray, it was a really nice time again. Thanks MacDonald’s for a lovely Christmas and for helping ease our homesickness!!

After a nice rest on Boxing Day, the event we had been planning for ages finally arrived – our 2 day winter hiking skills course with a local mountain guide, Russell Zenthon. Over the course of the year we had really got into our hiking and hill walking, and was not looking forward to giving it up for the winter until someone suggested to us, “Why don’t you learn how to walk in the ice and snow instead?” So that is what we did – but it took some planning and preparation, as the winter gear we needed had to be collected and advice sought so our hard earned pennies didn’t go to waste. Luckily, we got to know some of the guys working at a local mountain equipment store in town, who helped us out heaps with selecting the right gear at the right price (& I’m sure we helped their business out greatly too!). Russell worked at the store too, and agreed to take us out in the hills to teach us how to use crampons, ice axes and advice on route selection and winter weather patterns. Although we’re pretty confident hikers and navigators in summer conditions, our skills needed to be greatly improved for the winter. Snow and ice, along with the freezing temperatures, add so much more for us to consider. Little things like making sure all our gear was fixed to us or our pack by clips or rope (if we dropped something on a slope, it will just slide away – bye bye compass, gloves, map etc) and wind direction – the snow must get blown somewhere, and where it gets blown we need to steer clear of for fear of the dreaded avalanche. Also, being able to do anything you need to do with gloves on, so not to expose your fingers to the cold. And when stopping for a bite to eat, having an extra jacket to put over everything you’re wearing rather than taking off a jacket to add other layers on to stave off hyperthermia threats – let alone the footwork and ice axe skills. On our first day it was a tad overwhelming at times, especially when our guide told us of recent accidents and falls people had had in the hills – but the skills we picked up were so valuable and also just heaps of fun too. Bronnie and I still can’t believe how fast you grip to the ice when you wear crampons (strapped to the bottom of your boots, they have 10 knife-like points that dig and grip into the ice) – but it still feels hairy walking downhill in them! To be able to stop ourselves sliding head first on our back with our self arrest techniques using an ice axe, and to spend the second day navigating ourselves on a 3000ft hill in white out conditions with a map, compass and our guide’s confidence, we were very proud of ourselves and just can’t wait to do some more exploring – safe exploring! – in the Scottish hills.

Well we wish you all a fantastic Hogmanay (New Year’s) – we’re off to Jenny’s place for a murder mystery French-themed night, with a possibility of heading into town and seeing the interestingly named rock-folk-bagpipe act Peat Bog Fairies play – should be a blast! Bring on 2011, take it easy

Anth & Bronnie

Wednesday, 15-Dec-2010 20:36 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Loch Quoich Hiking and Christmas Party Fun

Getting ready for our hike
Our campout at Loch Quoich, beautiful!
Bronnie on our hike up Gleouraich
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Hi again!

It’s certainly been an interesting few weeks in Inverness since our last posting. The weather has been nuts – minus double figures with ice and snow all over town, with a long winter ahead!

But before it all started, with snow just snow on the peaks we headed out on a sultry 3 degree night in The Beast to Loch Quoich for one last decent hill walk before we had to learn how to tackle the Scottish Highlands in winter conditions.

It was an amazingly clear night with the full moon lighting up the sky, after dinner we wandered down to the edge of the loch over rocks and peat, the moon providing enough light to not need torches, beautiful!
We were heading up the hills of Gleouraich and around over Spidean Mialach, the plan to see some more amazing views while bagging two more Munro summits (not that we’re counting!) As prepared as we could be we headed up, expecting a little bit of snow but feeling prepared enough. We were ready however to make the decision to turn around as soon as it seemed too dangerous without crampons and ice axes as we didn’t yet have everything we needed, or know how to use them properly!

It was a great day of walking however as we approached the summit slog up Gleouriach, the snow got thicker, Bron was almost up to her knees at times, and we started thinking we may have to turn around. We made it to 930 meters (thanks to the fellow walker with an altimeter) and decided to see if the cloud would clear and think about the next move to make. After chatting to a few English guys following us up - more like "you guys aussies?", "yes", "oh right, guess we don't want to talk about the cricket or rugby hey" - aside from winding us up about sport in the middle of nowhere, they also had their crampons and ice axes, we decided that we’d made it as far as we were going to this time. We weren’t quite expecting that much snow for mid November but liked having the opportunity to assess a winter walk. With our walk cut a few hours short, we decided to drive down to the remote community of Kinloch Hourn, a few farm houses at the edge of a loch that make up the other gateway to the Knoydart Peninsula where we walked in August. It was a bit of a challenge for The Beast to get down the tiny road but thankfully we didn’t pass too many other cars!

We realised that may be the last hill walk before we arranged to go out with a guide on a winter skills course. We’re really keen to learn how to use ice axes and crampons and how to navigate safely in winter conditions, as well as how to test for avalanche conditions. Therefore we have now made many purchases, thanks to all the great outdoor stores in Inverness and our new hobby, Ebay, and have booked 2 days of walking and learning winter skills with a local guide for just after Christmas, and we cannae wait!!
Work’s been busy for us both, it’s harder to feel like Christmas is approaching sometimes over here cos there’s not the same level of winding down for the long summer holidays as back home, but the snow, pretty Christmas lights and mulled wine is helping to get us in the Christmas spirit! We both had our Christmas parties on the 4th December so after a quick pre-party drink together, with friends, we headed off to our separate nights, Bron to the classy New Drummossie Hotel, where ‘Elvis’ entertained and there was lots of dancing and laughter, and Anth off to the Columba for an 60’s, 70’s and 80’s night of mayhem! Fun nights all around, and a lazy sleep in required the next day!
But with snow all around, it was too hard to stay at home for long so the next day we headed out with Jenny, Mike and his son James for an afternoon of sledging, great fun, albeit a little scary at times too 

The last week we’ve had a bit of a thaw, but with more snow forecast for the next couple of days, we’ve got all our fingers and toes crossed that we can get down to London this weekend for a catch up with Kurt, Rose, Lollie, Josh, Patto and Tash. After almost 2 years away from home we’re pretty excited about a long awaited catch up so will be hard if the snow stops us from making it down, but we’ll see what happens. Great to hear you’ve landed safely and Josh!

Talk soon, bring on Christmas!

Anth & Bronnie x x

Monday, 8-Nov-2010 20:47 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Bonfire Night and a Ben Wyvis Hike

Bonfire night in Inverness at Bucht Park
A nice one of Bronnie and Heather at Bonfire Night
The Jan 2011 Austria SKi Crew, warming up on Bonfire Night!
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Hey again!

Thought we’d tell you about our weekend of hiking and fireworks.

Guy Fawkes’ Day is huge over here in Britain, and Inverness certainly celebrates it well. This is our second Bonfire Night we’ve experienced over here now, and they are heaps of fun, so different to anything celebrated in Aus. Friday night saw a massive bonfire lit on the park where we saw the Shinty vs Hurling match last year, with a big fireworks display after it as well. But it doesn’t stop there – all weekend people were letting off crackers and all sorts of explosions in town. For a week or so leading up to the night local shops and supermarkets were selling little fireworks to the public, and everywhere you went at night you could hear fireworks going off – emergency wards and pets must hate the annual event!

The Sunday saw us take off for a hike up Ben Wyvis. This is a massive, isolated hill – a munro, being 3000+ feet high – that we see all year round walking across the bridges at Inverness. It’s also one of those hikes that we’d been meaning to do for ages, but never got around to – even though it’s only a 40 minute drive from home. Seeing the weather reports to be in our favour, we got up nice and early on Sunday morning and took The Beast out to the start of the hike. It was soooo cold!! The highest it’s getting to now in Inverness is about 5 degrees at the moment, and starting off on a hike up a hill with snow on the top made it feel even colder. But we had a great day, the skies stayed blue and the wind died to nothing quite a bit so it was all really peaceful trudging along the well made paths to the unique and expansive summit plateau on Wyvis. An interesting part of this hill is the delicate moss that grows up there 12 months a year, even in below zero temperatures with a blanket of snow most of the year. Also, the plateau is huge, with gentle rises and falls, so although we didn’t have any snow crampons or axes with us, the snow wasn't thick and there was no need as the walk was really comfortable underfoot and nowhere near as strenuous as others we had completed this year. Apart from it being absolutely freezing, we loved the sights and felt very proud of ourselves for getting out and about on an early Sunday morning, when we’d usually be sleeping in all day!

This weekend also gave us another opportunity to hang out with Tanya and Paul, who stayed with us to cruise round Inverness for Guy Fawkes’ weekend. Tanya is an old primary school friend of Bronnie’s, and Paul (her boyfriend) is actually an old footy team mate of some of our Langy mates – small world! Bronnie and Tanya hadn’t caught up in 16 years, so it’s pretty cool for the girls to catch up and hang out again, over on the other side of the world. Tanya and Paul are braving the cold and are volunteering for an organic farming family in Ullapool and the Black Isle, so we’ve been able to catch up a couple of times now as they work quite locally to Inverness. All the best with the farming volunteering, guys – much respect for your outdoor work in the approaching Highland winter!

Hope you enjoyed the little pics, take it easy

Bronnie & Anth

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