Rory Gardiner's Webpage

16, Mar, 2010

Tuesday 16th March 2010


Happy 8th Birthday Kody Johnston.  Rory made a dog tag for Kody at Movie World.  It reads

"Kody Johnston    Best friend in the west    from Rory". 

I know being at school with Kody and Korie is what makes Rory's day, every day. 

To continue on with our adventures ......

Wednesday 10th

I think we were all a little theme parked out so a day in the wilderness in the middle of our trip was well timed.  It was a 4.30am get up, and we were at the bus stop at 7.30am to catch a bus to Surfers and collect a rental car.  Apparently because it was a Holden it was a cool car, according to Sam.  We drove west, stopping at Sportys Sports Warehouse for a nosey.  It was good to leave the city and see more open space, tall gum trees, and meandering rivers.  We stopped for morning tea at a lovely little rural town called Canungra.  As we drove up into Lamington National Park there were high ranges and deep valleys  in every direction as far as we could see.  The final 45 minutes of the drive was very windy, a continuous climb, and in many places was only one way.  We watched lizards nip across the road, large colourful butterflies in flight, and Sean found a run over snake on a pit stop.  The vegetation changed as the altitude increased, to tropical rainforest with slightly cooler temperatures.  The boys travelled well all day, playing games and looking out the windows.  Our first stop was the National Park Information Centre where we had a chat to the Ranger about what we had observed.  He showed us giant seed pods and a massive leaf from a Stinging tree.  We walked along the Booyong board walk to the aerial walkway which rose into the canopy (top) of the forest.  There were several suspension bridges on the walkway and when I looked down between the slats I felt my usual fear of heights.  At one spot you could climb a ladder (inside a cage) to a second, then third platform higher in the tree tops.  Sam scampered up quickly with Sean at his heels.  Even Sean commented "it was very high" and he felt nervous having Sam up there.  We saw several species of small bird flitting through the rainforest around us as we moved quietly through.  The tall Black Booyong trees had huge buttressed roots, and there were lots of different twisty vines.  At the start of the aerial walkway was a huge Strangler Fig.  It grows up around a host/existing tree eventually smothering it, killing it.  The original host tree rots and disintegrates leaving a high open column inside the Stranger Fig.  It was amazing to look up into it.  As we left the walkway we poked out nose into O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat.  It was named after a local man who conducted his own search for a missing light aircraft crashed in Lamington National Park in the 1920's.  After the official search was called off he discovered the aircraft eight days after the crash.  Two of the passengers were still alive, but a third had died falling down a water fall when he went for help.  O'Reilly's is a peaceful place totally in keeping with the environment.  Both Sean and I commented we would have liked to spend a few days there.  It had a fantastic education room with a touch table (the boys held a snake skin), photos, books, and cabinets of samples; leaves, nests, feathers, skulls, seeds, eggs etc.  We had lunch at O'Reilly's cafe.  The food was delicious and there was a great view of the ranges and valley's.  We bought a plate of seeds to feed the parakeets but they sat above us in the trees hot, full and totally disinterested.  It made me realise who was really in charge!  As we drove down the mountain we saw three wild wallaby.  Our next stop was Mt Tamborine.  The drive to the plateau was shorter but steeper.  At Gallery walk we browsed in the craft shops.  Many had a 'fairy' theme with grottos and displays.  We took a track through the rainforest to Curtis Falls spying a Blue tongued lizard, a Bearded Dragon, a huge black spider, and small copper skinks on the way.  There were lots of mosquitos in the damp darkness.  There was a pool at the bottom of the falls but the sign said no swimming to protect glow worms and platypus (the one animal we never saw).  On our drive home we passed Upper Coomera where Auntie Teri and Uncle Graham live.  We had to ask four people directions before we found our way to their door.  When we arrived they were on their way out with Grannie Gardiner to meet Uncle Harry (Grandad Gardiner's brother) for dinner.  There was a quick exchange of hugs then we all hit the road in different directions.  As we drove back to Magic Mountain in the dusk we watched fruit bats swooping through the sky. 

Thursday 11th

It was our usual early morning start.  Sean drove the rental car back to Surfers and ran back along the beach while the boys and I walked down to the local grocer for a couple of supplies.  We all caught the bus at our usual stop to Dreamworld.  The attendants let us straight through the gate so we didn't have to queue.  There was a lot to do at Dreamworld and it easily kept us entertained all day.  While there were a number of scary rides there were also many suitable for Rory to enjoy and get excited about.  He chose to ride the Vintage cars first.  He was the driver and I was the passenger.  Rory loved driving and was keen to catch Sean and Sam in a car in front of us giving us cheek.  We walked through the Australian Wildlife Experience and got our first taste of Australia's icon animals; koala, kangaroo, wombat, dingo, bilby, glider, and crocodile.  There was an aviary which contained a range of Australian birds.  I was taken with the Eastern bush curlew with its large dark eyes.  We watched part of the Oakley Creek Farm Show where two blokes were making damper over a smokey fire, mustering sheep with a cattle dog, shearing, and catching a live snake.  It was a spoof of Aussie outback life and very funny.  We wandered through Dreamworld to Wiggles World.  Sean, Rory and I rode the teacups.  Rory spun us round faster and faster so we all felt giddy when we got off.  Sam sat on a nearby bench watching and muttering 'babies'.  Sean and the boys rode the Motorcoaster, motorbikes on a rollercoaster.  It was a bit bumpy for Rory who was in a sidecar.  We all rode the Thunder River Rapid ride through the old west.  The vessel was like a giant tyre and spun around.  We all got wet but enjoyed it so much we went again.  After lunch the boys skippered the remote control boats and then picked something sweet from the Candy and Chocolate shop - rainbow sherbet and grape bubble gum.  I have a sweet tooth but there were more treats in the shop than I could have handled, or imagined in my life!  We walked past the Claw and Wipeout, two of the scarier rides but Sean and Sam weren't keen.  The theme parks have giant fans equipped with water tanks set up in strategic places.  On a hot day it is quite nice to be sprayed with cool mist as you walk past.  We watched several people surfing, and wiping out, on the Flowrider, then the boys and I rode the Stingray and Sean and Sam rode the Reef Diver.  We had a quick look a Tiger Island then spent quite a bit of time in Nickelodeon.  Rory enjoyed the rides; Spongebob Flyplants, Angry Beavers Spooty Spin, Swinger Zinger, and the Runaway raptor (which Rory said was like flying).  The boys had their photo taken with Sponge Bob and Patrick.  By far the favourite activity of the day was an interactive game called Alien vs Predator.  It is similar to laser maze.  The boys were equipped with vests containing lights and sensors and a weapon is connected via a cable.  They were given instruction by the Sargent then sent into a dark smoky building with mazes, rooms, and visual effects to shoot the opposing team and the enemy.  I waited outside.  After the session all three boys burst through the door buzzing so I was dragged in for a second turn.  I remember Rory saying to me "don't worry mum I'll take care of you" but when we got inside I couldn't even find him, and Sam always seemed to be shooting me as the kids had joined the Sargent on the elite team.  The final ride of the day was the Tower of Terror, the tallest and fastest ride in the world.  You shoot out of a station at warp speed then rocket up a tall vertical tower.  Sam rode it with Sean after some persuading.  They both came running out of the exit and passed Rory and I yelling "we're going again".  They loved it and we bought Sam a t-shirt as evidence of his prowess.  After the park shut we caught a bus to Pacific Fair shopping centre for dinner and late night shopping.  When I unpacked out bags I was surprised at how little shopping we did.  We were too busy having an adventure to shop, and most of the spending money generously given by Make a Wish was spent on food. 

Friday 12th

Our final 'day' in Australia was spent at Steve Iwin's Australia Zoo.  We were picked up by the Croc Express at 6.40am, first on, last off!  The bus made a number of stops along the Gold Coast then drove north.  It was interesting for Sean and I to see a little of Brisbane as we drove through (and picked up more passengers).  We continued north up the Sunshine Coast past the Glass Mountains.  The ground is fertile and chokos, pineapples, ginger and strawberries are grown.  We arrived at Australia Zoo at 10.30am and were given Crocs Rule badges as we entered.  We passed the American Alligators on our way to the Australia pavilion where the boys had their photo taken with a koala.  After a bite to eat we settled in the Crocoseum to watch the live wildlife show.  The keepers were all dressed in Steve Irwin tan and khaki and were young and enthusiastic.  They brought out the snakes (two trainers swam in the pool with one), a crocodile (which they fed), and a number of birds.  Cockatoos, parrots and parakeets flew fast around our heads to the song Thunderstruck.  There was a big screen showing footage of the animals, and giving a conservation message.  A beautiful Jabiru (like a stork) flew down into the middle of the Crocoseum.  During the day the boys were able to get up close to some of the Australian animals.  They felt a one year old crocodile, patted the koalas, stroked and fed the Kangaroos and Wallabies, watched the echidna lick nectar off a log an arms-length away, and photographed the keepers taking a pair of dingo for a walk.  Australia Zoo is a large open park with lots of native vegetation and creeks.  It took us all day to explore.  The crocodiles are housed separately and all have names; Charlie, Bluey, Casper, Scrappa.  The Koala looked as though they had fallen asleep in the middle of doing something, and they sleep in the oddest positions.  We watched one open his eyes, use his foot to scratch his armpit, yawn and nod off again.  They sleep 18-20 hours per day and their eucalyptus diet is the human equivalent of cardboard!  The keepers hang signs in the trees indicating a koala is present so you can do some spotting yourself.  The wombats appear to lead a similar lifestyle as we observed them sleeping upside down in their tunnels.  We all spent quite a bit of time in the snake exhibit.  It was indoors, cool and dim.  There were many different species of snake all up close in their enclosures.  They were very impressive.  Across the Australia Zoo carpark is a Wildlife Hospital which Steve Irwin dedicated to his mother.  We were able to go in and see the operating rooms, and the incubation room for the 'babies'.  The vet was undertaking an operation on a possum, and a massive sea turtle was up next.  We talked to Rory about how animals sometimes need to have operations, much like he did.  As we left the Zoo we walked up to see the elephant and tiger exhibits.  It was a very long bus ride home.  We left the Zoo at 4pm, and it was around 7.30pm when we got to our stop.  The bus driver stopped at a fruit shop as we left the Sunshine Coast so we were able to get a drink and a small supply of snacks; grapes, pineapple, macademia nuts.  We were all hungry and a bit cranky when we got back to Magic Mountain.  Auntie Teri and Grannie Gardiner were waiting for us.  Auntie Teri said good bye and left Grannie with us for the night. 

Saturday 13th

I think we all could have slept in but had to get up at 3.30am in order to be down at the bus stop for our ride to Coolangata airport (4.45am).  There were other sleepy looking tourists on the bus when we got on.  It was quiet at Coolangata airport when we arrived.  We checked in then had pancakes, hot chocolates and hash browns for breakfast at Hungry Jacks.  Our AirNZ flight departed at 8.10am.  Again we received wonderful service from the AirNZ staff.  The flight took 2hrs48mins and we flew around 900km/hr at 1100m high.  We got a second breakfast on the plane but none of us were very hungry.  The boys watched movies while I read the newspaper.  We were one of the first off at Auckland and one of the flight attendants gave us a ride through the airport on a buggy (complete with siren and flashing light) as Rory was tired.  Our bags came off the carousel as priority luggage so we were able to clear customs/immigration quickly.  After picking up the car from Koru parking we drove north, arriving home around 6pm.  After dinner the boys were keen to get into their treasures so I had to wind myself up again to unpack.  We put our watches forward three hours when we landed in New Zealand so it was hard to get to sleep even though we were tired as it was 7pm Gold Coast time (10pm NZ time). 

On Sunday (14th) we had a quiet day at Whakapara, unpacking, organising, and catching up on what had occurred while we were away.  I couldn't believe how much work was required to put our lives back in order after only 9 days absence.  I think the fact we were all tired made the going a little slower than usual. 

Yesterday (Monday 15th) we started the day slowly.  At assembly Mrs McLean welcomed the boys (and myself) back to school.  The class day started with writing.  The children came up with verbs and adjectives which described a picture, then completed a work sheet on sentence construction.  After morning tea the children had a basic facts test for maths, and Kody and Rory did some construction.  Before lunch Rory gave a talk on his Make a Wish trip and showed the photos.  At lunch time I took Rory up to Dargaville Hospital to meet with Catherine the Physiotherapist from the Child Health Clinic in Whangarei.  She put Rory thorough some motions/tests to assess his needs.  At first glance, his hair, scars and shunt aside, there doesn't appear to be too much wrong with Rory physically but when the specialists drill down and push him the weaknesses are evident.  He has already learned to cope and masks his deficits well.  It always breaks my heart to see him struggle with things which he would have found easy before i.e. using his left arm/hand to put pegs in a board.  He struggles for control and is conscious of his inadequacy.  We arrived back at class in time for library.  After school Sam had a swimming lesson at the Dargaville pool.  Rory and I played with a ball in the hydro therapy pool, in the adults section because it was warmer.  When I noticed a number of boys in the children's section, and our bodies had adjusted to the water, I suggested to Rory we move over.  I threw the ball to a couple of the boys and they joined in our game.  Slowly and quietly I left the pool leaving Rory to throw and catch with three other boys his own age from school.  I felt proud he was capable of continuing the game without me.  I noticed the other boys made allowances for him, throwing the ball more gently and so it didn't splash water in his face.  Sam is doing well at swimming lessons.  Swimming is in his blood and I think if he gets the opportunity to do more training at some stage in the future he could be quite a good competitor. 

Today is a special day at school.  Kody's birthday.  He and Rory have been in the same class, and friends, for almost three years.  Kody (and Korie) bring a degree of normalcy and contentment to Rory's life I don't think we will ever be able to measure.  He couldn't have picked two better best mates.  Rory gave Kody his present before school and the boys have been surrounded by extra children at morning tea trying them out.  The morning has been spent exploring language, writing, and the children visited the Life Education Caravan with Harold the Giraffe.  Reading Granny Groggin and maths has followed morning tea.