everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Roaring and Snoring at Taronga Zoo

On Saturday night, a wonderful tradition continued for me here in Sydney. Actually, I think I have written about it here before, but that was a while back, so I’m sure it’s ok if I tell you about it again. It all started almost six years ago, when my eldest niece turned eight. Given that her birthday is in December, I gave her a combined birthday-Christmas present of a Roar and Snore adventure at Taronga Zoo.

(If you’re not familiar with Taronga Zoo, it’s in a fabulous location with some of the best views in Sydney (especially if you’re a giraffe) and they have a really strong commitment to ensuring that the animals are well looked after – which makes for some large enclosures and interesting activities.)

Life is good, especially at Roar and Snore. [image from Taronga Zoo website]

Life is good, especially at Roar and Snore.
[image from Taronga Zoo website]

Anyways, last weekend it was finally the turn of the youngest of the three sisters in the family to head off for our overnight excursion to the zoo. LG was super excited about it – I know that for sure because she had written I AM SO EXCITED! on the gift voucher in giant letters. She had also started a countdown on her calendar and her whiteboard some time before we were due to go and had written a long list of things that she needed to pack in her bag – she’s an organised gal, alright.

The view from our tent. Uh huh.

The view from our tent. Uh huh.

And so we headed off to the zoo on Saturday evening in perfect weather. Arriving around sunset, we settled into our glamping accommodation – the large ‘tents’ have wooden floors, nice beds (with electric blankets) and two layers of zipped material doors to keep the pesky possums out. Over drinks and nibbles we had a close encounter with some new friends – including a snake, blue tongue lizard, leaf insect and a few others. And then after dinner, we went on a fantastic night tour of the zoo, when a lot of the boring daytime animals become very active creatures indeed.

Our new lizard friend. Did you know that lizards have ears and snakes do not?

Our new lizard friend. Did you know that lizards have ears and snakes do not?

LG makes a new pal - the Children's Python (named after a guy called Children, not because it eats kids...apparently)...

LG makes a new pal – the Children’s Python (named after a guy called Children, not because it eats kids…apparently)…

Overnight, we heard some roaring and some snoring (not from within our tent, I swear) and then it was an early start for breakfast before heading off for more behind-the-scenes interactions. Feeding the tall and frankly bizarre-looking giraffes their carrot breakfast was an incredible experience – some people even got a bit of a slurp from their loooong blue tongues. And then a close-up look (while staying dry) at the leopard seal being trained – amazing stuff. After that, we said goodbye to our new friends (humans and animals) and then spent the morning wandering around the zoo.

She looks lovely, but we were grateful for the extra thick glass between us, just in case...

She looks lovely, but we were grateful for the extra thick glass between us, just in case…

Yeah, yeah, hello everyone. Now hand over our breakfast.

Yeah, yeah, hello everyone. Now hand over our breakfast.

Hello, possum.

Hello, possum.

A tortoise (I think). Shows its age through the rings on its shell, like the rings on a tree trunk. Just in case you were wondering...

A tortoise (I think). Shows its age through the rings on its shell, like the rings on a tree trunk, apparently.

Up close and personal with the amazing leopard seal.

Up close and personal with the amazing leopard seal.

Show-off.

A beautiful show-off.

One of the highlights (which I wish I could’ve captured better, but it was actually pretty scary at the time) happened when we were checking out the chimps on our early morning tour. The guide was telling us about the male boss chimp and, right on cue, he came to the front of the enclosure (you can hear her in the video advising not to make eye contact). He was right up at the glass and started tapping on the ground in front of us. The guide suggested that we could tap back at him.

And then he went a little bit nuts and hurled his large self at full pace right up against the glass and ran towards us. Thankfully, the $10k per pane extra-thick glass did its thing – but it definitely woke us up first thing in the morning!

I really can’t recommend this experience highly enough – for adults and kids alike – especially as a great gift idea for visitors or people who might be tricky to buy for around Christmas-time… If you’re interested (and you really should be, according to LG, her sisters and me), you can find out more at the Roar and Snore website here.

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My first parkrun

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of parkrun – I hadn’t heard of them until I read an article in the local paper last week about one starting in our area. Such a cool idea – I’ll let the parkrun people explain it: parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all.

Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Sounds pretty good, yes? And when they launched a parkrun at Balmoral Beach in Sydney, a picturesque part of the world not far from where I live, I thought I would go along and see what it was all about. As an aside, I haven’t been running for over 12 months after being scared off by a couple of big injuries in quick succession. And I wanted to avoid going back to the physio’s torture chamber and putting on those horrific communal short shorts (which I wrote about here last year).

I was in there somewhere! [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

I was in there somewhere!
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Saturday was a lovely day in Sydney and I arrived at Balmoral about 10 minutes before the 7am start. There were an assortment of people there – almost all of them looking like super fit and fast runners, sponsored by major sporting brands. I started to suspect that the parkrun promise – encouraging people of all abilities to take part – had not quite reached glamorous Balmoral.

I skirted the edges of the group, still thinking I could skulk away and get a coffee and just watch them, but then summoned up the courage to speak to a volunteer in a fluoro green vest. Meg was a parkrunner from Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches and had come to help out with the first ever Mosman parkrun. She assured me that there would be lots of ‘normal’ people there, even some walkers, but as we looked around the group, I think we both doubted whether that was true. Then I saw some people with prams and a few older ladies and thought I might as well give it a go.

Flagging the end of the run.  [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Flagging the end of the run.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

And so I did. I ran the whole way – more of a shuffle than a run, mostly – and when I was tempted to walk, the words of my Camino buddy Shane rang in my head: DO NOT STOP. And so I didn’t. The atmosphere was lovely and there were lots of smiles and high fives from the 102 runners – the fastest ran past like a blur and finished in half the time it took me, but I was very happy just to get to the end and find the earlier finishers hanging around to clap and cheer the slower peeps.

Some Mosman parkrunners. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Some Mosman parkrunners.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

So, that was a great start to Saturday morning – exercising (for free!) in a beautiful place with nice people – and all done before 8am. Everyone was nodding and smiling and looking forward to building this little community that had just formed.

Now I don’t want to get political, but this story has since taken a bad turn. By yesterday, Mosman Council had squashed the new parkrun community like a bug – cancelling the Balmoral run because of blah blah blah. An annoying setback, but hopefully the organisers will be able to come up with a different route that doesn’t upset the precious people and lets the parkrun community thrive. If only so I can try and beat my first run time and feel like an Olympian with a new PB!

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Life after the Camino

It’s so hard to believe, but it’s already one month since our Camino family arrived in Santiago. At that time, I think the magnitude of what we’d done was only just starting to sink in – I do remember wanting to blurt out to some of the day trippers crowding the streets of Santiago “HEY, I WALKED HERE FROM FRANCE”. It was such a great feeling to be fit and relaxed and happy after our month on the road.

A pretty spectacular finish line in Santiago de Compostela.

A pretty spectacular finish line in Santiago de Compostela.

And now I’m back at home and it’s been really lovely to catch up with my family and friends and tell them a bit about our great adventure. I have found it a bit tricky to explain though – it really is one of those ‘you just had to be there’ kind of situations. And the return to the pace of ‘the real world’ has been a challenge for me – every day, it seems there are so many different decisions to be made, timetables to follow, commitments to meet, things to do.

I miss the simplicity of just getting up when the alarm goes off, getting dressed in one of only two available options, packing up everything I have and walking, walking, walking. I haven’t forgotten about the heat, the bites, the flies, the tendinitis, the shower without a door – but even at the time, all of those things just felt like part of the Camino experience.

And an incredible experience it was too (captured in the following YouTube clip by our resident rapper, Idol C).

So now I am home and I feel a bit restless. My work situation as a consultant means that I didn’t have to rush back to an office or a workplace routine – I think that is both a blessing and a curse though, as it means that I have had a lot of time to think and try and work out what to do next. And I feel like I should do something BIG after doing the Camino, as I try to hold on to the things that I learned about myself and the world when I was walking. But I am not entirely sure what that is yet.

And I am reminded of when I first moved home after living overseas for a couple of years – it felt like everything here was pretty much the same, but I felt soooo different (not in a lah-di-dah, I-am-so-awesome kind of way) and there was definitely a transition period to work out how to fit back in to everything. Maybe it’s like a snow globe – things are settled and look a certain way, then when the globe gets a shake, everything turns upside down and gets covered in large white flakes – or preferably glitter – before it settles again.

Stepping out at the end of the earth - morning walk on the beach in Finisterre.

Stepping out at the end of the earth – morning walk on the beach in Finisterre.

So, after the Camino-shake, I am sort of upside down and covered in large white flakes (metaphorically, not from another Camino skin condition, I assure you). I am more active, walking a lot and even completing my first timed 5k run last Saturday (more on that in another post) and trying not to get sucked back in to the rush of doing all of the things. I watch less TV and I do less shopping – after carrying every single thing I required in a bag on my back for a month, I definitely have a different perception of how much stuff I really need.

In the Phoenix Park kitchen garden, Dublin.

In the Phoenix Park kitchen garden, Dublin.

But I don’t want to make it sound as though I’m now all woo-woo-woo herbal and alternative and changing my name to Starchild – I am not a totally different person and am sure that most people don’t notice any change at all. Maybe the snow globe has just settled in a slightly different way this time. And I am sure there are countless scientific studies that agree it’s a good thing to have your snow globe shaken every now and again, just to see what happens.

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