Big Days in Kent

Big Days in Kent

Easy Like Sunday Caching

Kas planned to take the kids away to her mum’s for a few days to finish off their summer holiday and I was due a couple of days to go caching, having managed to worm my way into a two-day pass as a result of some good behaviour at some point.

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I planned to head down into Kent to have a pop at a lot of puzzle caches all in one day. I thought if I was lucky I’d be able to manage to do 100 puzzles in one day. Yeah, I know ! That’s an aggresive target, especially if you’re starting your day a hundred miles away. But not to be deterred, I left home while it was still dark and made it into Kent the fastest I have ever done. It’s funny how the M25 is fairly quiet at 5am on a Sunday. The QEII Bridge was also kind of quiet, and a sailed through it quickly as a result of them having installed a cunning ANPR system, which means you no longer have to stop to pay a toll. You do have to remember to pay online within a certain time though, or, as I did, you have to set up an account on direct debit so they charge you whenever you cross. I’d set up an account a couple of months previously after our trips to Dover ( see Doing Dover ).

So meanwhile, back at the plot, my first target was the “Cool Cuban Spirit” series, which I started by parking in West Kingsdown and walking round a big clockwise loop. It was quite easy aside from the three that I couldn’t find. 58 finds up in about 4.5 hours was a pretty decent start to my attempt at 100 puzzles in a day.

I then ventured into West Kingsdown village and parked up to do a bunch of Church Micros (puzzles, pre-solved) and a couple of nearby Challenge caches. Again, so far, so good.

But then in the early afternoon it all started to go a bit Pete Tong. I’d set aside whole groups of puzzles and challenges just to the west of West Kinsdown that looked like easy walks and easy finds, however I started to get bitten by the twin bugs of caches not being there, and me not being able to find them. I became increasingly grumpy at the high DNF rate and at about 5pm I had concluded that the 100-in-a-day target was a no-hoper. There was one series of 10 or so challenges where half were either missing or too awkward to get at. Then there was another series based around the Solar System where I missed 4 or the first 7, and couldn’t be bothered to try the remaining ones.

Up to this point I’d made 80 puzzle finds and 3 random others, and whilst there was still some daylight left, the 16 DNFs I’d had on puzzles I had banked on finding now meant that I’d have to drive 30 minutes and start a whole new series to be able to get even close to the 100 target, so at that point I basically decided enough was enough, and I just drove down to my hotel for the evening. Had I found half of the ones I’d DNF’d I might well have kept going, but once it got to 6:30-7pm I decided I didn’t have the will to try to find a further 20 puzzles. So I gave up on 83 finds, 80 of which were puzzles.

The hotel was the clean, tidy but uninspiring Campanile that sits right under the Kentish end of the QEII Bridge. At least you couldn’t hear any road noise.

Quite Close to Drowning

Monday (the August Bank Holiday) began quite wet. From there it degenerated into “exceedingly wet” around lunchtime, before starting to improve a bit towards the middle of the afternoon.

On my radar for the day I had the Assiduous series of Challenge Caches over in Scadbury Park, which proved to be a little gem – a part of south-east London I’ve never been to before. I found all of them bar one, although there’s several I’m not actually eligible for, but I’ve signed them anyway, just in case I have a day where I do multiple tree climbing or swimming caches on the same day at some point in the future.

From there I drove back up the A20 towards te M25 feeling as miserable as sin, what with me being totally soaked and rather cold. I was on the verge of going home because of the wet, so I stopped at a McDonalds to grab some lunch and phone Kas, to give me the opportunity to get warmer and drier before spending 2 hours in the car to get home. While I was there, the weather started to improve a bit and I got a second wind, so I decided I’d go attack a few more rather than just giving up.

There was a small series of mainly challenge caches that was accessible by parking in the car park at Hall Place just outside Bexley. As with the morning session there were a couple of challenges here that I didn’t qualify for but signed them anyway, as they looked like things I might well qualify for in the future. As it happens, I do qualify now, so I converted the “Write Note” logs to finds.

After this there was a good looking series of 12 puzzles on a French theme over at Dartford Heath, so I moved the car and went for a pop at these. By this time it had actually properly stopped raining and I was feeling a bit better about the world. The caches were good fun, mainly because the heathland terrain was a bit different to everywhere else I’d been over the weekend, and I actually enjoyed these ones. I didn’t enjoy that I couldn’t find the bonus cache for the series though. Grrrrrrr !

And after all that lot, it was most definitely time to start heading home. I’d got half a mind to stop somewhere easy in Essex on the way home to colour in that county, but when I got through the tunnel on the way home I’d got nice and warm and cosy in the car and quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered to stop again.

When I gave up I’d bagged a further 37 finds (making 120 total for the two days) and have subsequently been able to convert a couple of the speculatively signed challenges into actual finds, now that I qualify for them. One of those 37 was the conversion of a challenge that I’d speculatively signed in Hampshire in 2014. It required the finding of 10 other challenges on the same day, which we’d spectacularly failed at on the day we were in Hampshire. On my two days in Kent I’d bagged 8 challenges on the first and 20 on the second. The 20 is now 22. The 8 would have been 14, had I been able to find them.

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The caches I found over the course of the weekend were :


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Elsworth Excursion

Elsworth Excursion

15-08-22 Elsworth.pngThis was my first day out caching after our rather epic journey to the Algarve for our summer holiday. The weather was quite Algarvian though.

I chose to drive up to a loop on the way to Cambridge that had been sticking out like a sore thumb ever since I finished the Cambridge CacheAthon series the previous year. The series in question is the Elsworth Excursion, and it consists of 37 caches (plus 8 others not in the series) over a distance of about 11km. That looked like an easy afternoon, so I made it a bit more interesting by trying to pick up a few drive-bys near Papworth Everard on the way in. One fo them was a challenge cache I’d had on my radar for a while.

The walk was pretty and not too long, but the main problem I had was that I’d forgotten to pick up anything to drink on the way out. I managed to acquire two quite small bottles of water at quite high prices from the pub in Elsworth as I set off, but they weren’t really enough to keep me going comfortably all afternoon.

By the time I got around to Knapwell, on the west side of my loop and about three quatrters of the way round, I was out of water and suffering a bit. Knapwell doesn’t have any pubs or shops.

Once I got back into Elsworth I availed myself of some further drinks from the pub before jumping back into the car and doing some more drive-bys on the road back to Papworth Everard. By the time I gave up I’d found a total of 53 caches, which is not a bad afternoon out.

The caches I found on this day were :


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Coming Home

Coming Home

As it’s a package tour you sort of get used to flights at horrible times, and this was no exception. We were in the car at 6:30am, scheduled for a 9:55am take-off from Faro Airport. It was so early it was still dark when we got in the car.

By the time we got to Faro it was light. The return of the rental car was very easy and we managed to get checked in really quickly, however “Oh oh!” the plane’s going to be late.

So we went into terminal and had some breakfast at a coffee place. We then sat around for a couple of hours doing sudoku and getting bored. And then we went into Costa Coffee for another drink. The service was really slow but it’s not like we were in any kind of hurry. I got bored enough to try to photograph a few planes coming and going.

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We rushed in through the passport control and got inside to start loking for our gate. It changed while we were waiting in the departure lounge and we actually saw our plane coming in to land. It’s not going to leave for at least another hour then…..

Once the plane finally got off the ground the flight home was fine. Birmingham Airport was no trouble and the car was where we’d left it.

On the way home we stopped for one geocache in Northampton, just so we could fulfil all the criteria for the final one of this year’s August souvenir jamboree.  It was a puzzle cache. All we found was a bag with a log sheet in it. No container. Still, it was definitely the cache, and it was in the right place.

By this time though it was getting late and we’d been up for quite a long time, so we asked the Burlaces if they’d keep the guinea pigs for one more night. We eventually reached home at about 7pm, so 12 hours after we set off, and began the usual “night home” jobs of unpacking and ordering takeaway curry.

We got the girls into bed around 8:30 and then I watched the highlights of the Test Matches that the Sky+ box had recorded. I then fell asleep on the sofa while Match of the Day was on.


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The Final Day

The Final Day

We had no particular plans for today other than to chill for a while, pack, and empty the fridge of food and beer. The food wasn’t too much of a problem as we’d had a go at it the previous evening, but the beer was definitely a problem. There was a fair amount of it.

We got off to a lazy start before the girls decided that “lazy” was definitely going to be their theme for the day. That’s not really my scene (man) so I headed off for a bit of final-day caching. It proved to be a bit frustrating, as these things often can be.

I started off by heading in the general direction of Guia, finding a handful of caches there (with more than a handful of DNFs too), but then got bored of the constant driving down rubbish unsurfaced roads and decided to head for Albufeira instead to look for a series of caches stuck on the various roundabouts on the main road that runs around town. I found all five of them but couldn’t do the bonus because a couple of the bonus codes were missing, so I had no coords.

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From there I drove up to the top of a hill overlooking the marina to find one final cache. It was another rubbish road and I parked somewhere that I would not normally park, if I’m honest. The view from the top was good, but the housing around the way up was not so nice looking.

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By this time is was getting towards late afternoon, so I decided to scoot off home and get on with the packing and the beer consumption.  Packing was easy because we’d been washing and ironing as we went along. The beer consumption was hard work.


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Back to Sagres

Back to Sagres

We weren’t really sure what to do today so we decided to go back over to Sagres and The End of the World to get a new gift for Ami (after Izzy had accidentally broken the one she got last time) and to chase down a puzzle cache that I’d been working on but only solved after our first visit.

We set off fairly early and arrived in Sagres just after 11. First stop was to go to Sagres Fort to find this puzzle cache. It was a bit of a hike around the outside of the fort and practically over the cliffs, but it was an easy find once we got there.

After that we went over to the end of the world to get a replacement starfish necklace for Ami. Sadly though, we couldn’t get one because that stall wasn’t there. So Ami grabbed some earrings and a little brooch else instead. She takes a little while to decide, but when she does decide, she has pretty good taste.

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After this we went through Vila do Bispo and then took a hair raising road down to the nearby Praia do Castelejo, which was probably the most beautiful stop of the whole holiday, if only because it has a very windswept, remote feel much like the west coast of Cornwall. The scenery was similar too, except hotter and with less greenery.

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We had some lunch at the only restaurant on the beach, then girls retired to beach while I went caching. I didn’t get to go where I’d planned, mainly because the satellite view and maps don’t give a sense of quite how steep and unpleasant looking the cliffs are. I found an earthcache on beach then two traditionals up the cliffs, but it was dangerously windy on the cliff top so I decided to beat a retreat rather than continue on for another headland. It wasn’t very nice up top.

So we got back in the car and drove down an even worse road to a nearby miradouro/viewpoint above the southern end of the beach we were just on. Whilst the road down to the beach was a bit steep and winding, but covered in tarmac, the one to the viewpoint was dirt track most of the way, and I was very glad that it wasn’t my own car.

The view from the viewpoint was absolutely spectacular. I grabbed a further 2 caches on the cliffs but again the access was a bit dodgy given the state of the wind, so I decided it was better not to risk anything.

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On the way back through Vila do Bispo we grabbed three caches, but the girls were looking a bit drained, so we plumped for finishing the day off on a beach. We drove into central Lagos and parked up, then retired immediately to the nearest cafe for ice cream and coffee. The cafe was on the beach, so the natural next stop was cooling dip. It was late afternoon by this time and it was a bit windy and cloudy, so the temperature was not too bad.

As it was our next to last day we drove home and had a “fridge clearance” for tea, including pizza, nachos, Pringles and various fruits and other stuff.


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Zoomarine

Zoomarine

This morning was meant to be an early start, but we had an attack of not being bothered and eventually didn’t leave the house until nearly 11am.

Our plan for the day was to visit Zoomarine – a nearby theme park based roughly on marine life, but actually containing a lot of additional bits dedicated to birds of prey, wave pools and consumption.

We bought our entry tickets from tour rep, which I have to admit I wasn’t so sure about, but when we arrived it all worked just fine. We didn’t have to queue to get in at all.

It was late enough that we mooched about a bit and then went to get a drink. After this we retired to the tropical bird display, which I personally thought was the best bit.

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We had an interesting lunch in one of the cafes, which involved a fair amount of queuing and some fairly mediocre and relatively expensive food, after which we shot of for an early seat at the dolphin show.

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We then had an hour or so to spare so we went to see the crocodiles and alligators, and then went for a ride round on their big wheel and their swingy pirate boat. And then we had ice creams.

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We arrived early for the sea lion show too, but I was quite disappointed in this. It didn’t seem as impressive or well planned out as the similar event we’d seen at Deltapark Neeltje Jans the year before.

After the sea lion show we went for a quick look at the queue at the aquarium, but it was so long that we decided to give up. It was hot and none of us fancied standing around waiting for the 45 mins or so it was going to take to get in, so instead we went to the Zoomarine Beach area for swimming, splashing, fountains and lying on the grass. It’s like a whole beach, with a wave pool and everything, except most of the onshore area is grass not sand, so you don’t get abrasive stuff stuck in your orifices, which I personally find to be a good feature. We must have spent an hour and a half here with various phases of the girls getting wet, wanting drinks, wanting toilets and getting wet again whilst Kas and me tried to chill. It was pretty busy in this area too. It seemed to be the place everyone went to calm down a bit after spending the earlier part of their day queuing up for things.

On the way home we stopped off at the supermarket for more provisions, mainly of the snacky variety, and then when we got back the kids went off to bed quite early.

Honest opinion ? It was OK but I wouldn’t rush back.


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Praia do São Rafael

Praia do São Rafael

This post might well have been another in the series of “Not a Lot Happened” entries. I’m writing this retrospectively and just had to chase up which geocaches I found on this day to try to get some form of memory about it.

We had a lazy morning at the apartment and headed out at a sort of late lunchtime.

Kas dropped me off above Praia do Arrifes then took the kids to Praia do São Rafael. I was off to do a bit of caching.

There was one right by where I started and then another to the east which required a scramble down some rocks onto a beach. After far too long a walk along that beach I reached a headland that I couldn’t pass because the tide was in, so a DNF there then. On the way off that beach I tried a set of steps halfway along, to avoid the scramble I’d done earlier, but the steps went nowhere and I had to go back down them again and return to the scramble.

From here I walked west along the coast to meet the girls, continuing to search for caches with mixed fortunes.

By the time I arrived Izzy seemed to be confidently paddling around on a body board all on her own, which was a major step forward in confidence.

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We packed up late in the afternoon and went home to get cleaned up before heading out to Albufeira town for dinner. We ate in a small restaurant at the end of Fisherman’s Beach – the service was quite slow but the food was good when it arrived.

We were quite late getting back home.


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Parasailing

Parasailing

This morning we got up quite early because Kas and Ami had an appointment with some parasailing.  Izzy and me were going caching for a bit. So we arrived down at Albufeira Marina without having breakfast.

The caching was on the hill up above the marina mainly, with one cache being out on the jetty on the south side of the marina. Getting to this last one involved a very dodgy bit of road and a scramble down a bit of a cliff. Izzy did well.  However, when we got to the end of the jetty we couldn’t find the cache.

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Before we could say “how’s yer wotsit” Ami and Kas were on their way back in from parasailing, so we figured we’d better get back to the marina. When we got there it was well past breakfast time, so we found a cafe and ate something that was well past breakfast.

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After breakfast we went back to the cache on the jetty, except this time we stuck to the reasonable roads, park outside someone’s house, and proceeded to walk through a boatyard and around the edge of the headland at sea level (well, slightly above sea level) rather than scrambling over the rocks. It was significantly easier.

When we got to the end of the jetty again the cache was an easy find, partly because this time I decided to ignore the hint and just follow the arrow on the GPS.

We didn’t do much in the afternoon – just some chilling and some swimming. And we had dinner at home, ready for another day.


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Seville

Seville

We got up fairly early, had a quick breakfast and got onto the road by 9:30 am.  We were on a mission to go to another country. Spain if you must know. We were heading to Seville for the day, partly just so we could say we’d been and partly because it’s somewhere both Kas and I have always wanted to go. Partly also because I wanted to do a few caches there so I could “get another country”

On the way we stopped to put on suncream. Somehow the previous day in Carvoeiro I’d managed to get myself seriously sunburnt through the armpits of the shirt I was wearing, and to put it mildy, I was in some discomfort. I have no idea how I managed to achieve that.

The journey along the motorway towards Spain was pretty uneventful until we decided to stop for fuel. We had several problems. We couldn’t figure out whether we had to pre-pay or not (we had to), and we also couldn’t figure out how to get the fuel filler cap open. There was no lever like my car has, and it didn’t lock with the key. It took us ages, having pulled up to a pump, then pulled away again to allow the queue behind us to clear, and so on. Eventually we enlisted help from the kids. Sure enough, within a minute or so, Izzy had got it sorted. The fuel filler cap on a VW Golf is spring loaded apparently, and you just have to press the cap inwards to make it pop out properly. D’oh! I’m sure this foreign driving game is easier in your own car.

When we got into central Seville it was about midday Portuguese time, but we’d completely forgotten that Spain is 1 hour ahead. The phones remembered, but we didn’t. We thought we’d just wasted an hour somewhere without noticing.

So we parked up (eventually) and grabbed a fairly leisurely (but relaxing) lunch at a cafe just outside the Plaza de España.

The Plaza de España is apparently a landmark example of the Regionalism Architecture, mixing elements of the Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival (Neo-Mudéjar) styles of Spanish architecture. Whatever that means, it’s pretty impressive, consisting of a very wide semi-circular promenade with big towers at each end and in the middle. Within the semi-circle is a series of canals with little squares, fountains and bridges. It’s really pretty. The whole place gets a bit of a fairytale look from the fact that many of the surfaces (especially around the waterways) are ornately tiled in bright coloured ceramics.

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One of the great features of the Plaza de España is the row of tiled “Provincial Alcoves” set into the inside ring of the semi-circle. There’s a little alcove for each Spanish province (all 48 or them at the time it was done), each of which is ornately decorated with a religious or historical scene representing the relevant province. Each is big enough to have a couple of tiled benches guarding its entrance and therefore allowing the opportunity to rest up a bit and approeciate the architecture.

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While we were in the Plaza de España we found a few caches in the park and on the building.

From here we meandered our way past a couple more caches on our way to the Reales Alcázares de Sevilla – a substantial complex of palaces and gardens originally built by the Moorish kings. The current Spanish monarchy still uses the upper floors as an official residence when they’re in town.  It’s quite impressive.

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From here we wandered towards the Catedral, where we bought souvenirs and mooched about a bit. The cathedral is the largest Gothic, and the third largest Christian church in the world. It’s also (one for the pedants here) the largest cathedral in the world, as the two churches that are larger aren’t the seat of a bishop. Given that one of the larger two is The Pope’s Gaff it seems a bit harsh claiming to be the biggest on a technicality like that.

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Anyway, by this time we were getting a bit hungry, as it had been a while since lunch. This is when we hit upon a bit of a problem. Sunday evening in Seville seems to involve restaurants not serving food. The first place we tried made sure we’d ordered and received drinks before telling us their kitchen was shut. We drank up quickly and moved on. The next place we tried left us sitting unattended for ages before we finally just got up and left.  At the place where we had lunch they were still serving, but not food, just drinks. At this point we decided to cut our losses and start heading home.

We managed to get out of town with only one navigational error, and we drove all the way to the motorway services at Olhão before needing to stop for a drink.

Oooh look ! There’s a cache in the car park.

When we eventually got home it was quite late, so we had some quick snacks out of the fridge for tea and then hurried the kids to bed.

Paragliding tomorrow for Kas and Ami.


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Silves and Carvoeiro

Silves and Carvoeiro

Day_8_Silves_Carvoeiro_02.JPGWe got up fairly late today and decided not to go to the nearby waterpark place, as this essentially would cost us €75 for something we were planning to do later in the same week at Zoomarine.

We therefore packed up some stuff for the day and headed off for one of the other trips on our hit list – the trip to Silves.  We took swimming stuff with us too, as we had the chance to scoot down to the coast to a supposedly lovely beach (with Portugal’s only webcam cache) at Carvoeiro.

Meanwhile, back at the plot.

The drive up to Silves was uneventful and we parked up in a massive and apparently free car park at the bottom of the hill, right underneath the castle. There was a geocache in the car park.

We walked around the road to get to the top of the hill. There evidently used to be a convenient boardwalk route up the side of the hill which started at this car park, but the ticket office and fencing was dilapidated and obviously not open for business, so we walked around, generally following the crowds.

When we got to the top we were greeted by full scale planning for a local medieval festival of some kind. There were wooden trestle tables and straw bales everywhere and the distinct aroma of roasting animals.

There was also an entrance to the castle, so that’s where we headed. For the purposes of this exercise Ami was demoted to being a 10 year old. Well, she’d only been 11 for a few weeks.

Day_8_Silves_Carvoeiro_27.JPGInside there were a lot of walls (presumably the same walls also appear on the outside, but you know what I mean), most of which could be walked around and upon. In the centre courtyard there was an array of real fruit trees of various kinds – apples, pears, lemons, oranges, limes, figs, dates, and the like. Ami took a real shine to these. Maybe she’s not actually seen fruit in its native habitat before. Anyway, she was rather taken by them.

On the way out it was time for lunch, so we stopped at the most touristy cafe possible and ordered ourselves some pizza and nachos. They were good though.

While we were waiting for our order I tried a quick walk to access another cache that was supposedly halfway down the old boardwalk I mentioned earlier. From the top of the castle though there didn’t seem to be a way down that side, so after a fruitless few minutes I retired to the cafe for lunch.

On the way back to the car I scrambled up the old boardwalk to fetch that cache, quite easily as it turned out, even though by now the sun was fierce and it was extremely hot.

We drove around the bottom of the castle and parked up in a car park so I could grab a puzzle cache I’d solved while the girls sat in the car with the air-con running.

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From there we drove down to Carvoeiro. Kas got to drive down the narrow, cobbled streets again.

After a couple of fruitless laps we drove up to the top of the hill at the east end of the beach and parked up right next to a cache that was part of a 3-cache mini series.

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 The centre of Carvoeiro has Portugal’s one and only webcam cache. It’s right outside as ice cream shop. It would have been rude not to.

From here we wandered over onto the beach, making a quick change and heading for a dip in the sea.

Ooh ooh ooh ooh cold !

After half an hour of beachyness I scooted off up the cliffs on the west side of the beach to find the other trad cache in that mini series and its bonus puzzle cache. The view from the bonus was spectacular.

I headed back down to the beach for some shade, cliffs and incoming tide. It’s a really nice beach, if you’re into that kind of thing. I would imagine it can get ridiculously busy at times.

We came off the beach at about 5:30 and grabbed a cold drink to sip at while Kas walked back up the cliffs to fetch the car. The kids were jiggered.

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The drive back home was uneventful and we stopped off at new favourite supermarket to grab some things for doing a barbie in the evening – some sausages and chicken/pepper kebabs. And some cold beers.

The apartment complex was busy with new visitors going through the normal first-day motions. Many of those motions involved barbeques. Some involved jumping in the pool after hours.

We had a fairly lazy tea then got ourselves all cleaned up before getting the girls to bed nice and early. We weren’t much later ourselves as we’d got a big day planned for the following day.


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