Karkarook

2nd December, 2015

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On this day I drove over to Heatherton in some pretty solid morning traffic and joined a group of lovely people from BirdLife Melbourne​ at Karkarook Park at 10am. Birdlife Melbourne are an amazing group based in Carlton that run monthly birding activities at various sites across Melbourne and sometimes further afield, as well as being heavily involved in conservation work and public education. I’m a member, one of the many hobbies I signed up to in my long convalescence, and one of the few that have stuck.

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I’d never been over that side of town to go birding, and I’m happy to say the day was a huge success for me!! We had a decent turnout with nearly 30 people. As with any event run at 10am on a Wednesday, the large part of the group were older, maybe retired, and quite a number of them were experienced birders able to guide newbies like me. One or two are known among the group for their dogged opinions on identification questions, even though their vision and hearing are failing them! But we smile and let them go.

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I love birding! It’s so convenient, you can do it from your window, front door step or verandah, or it can take you just about anywhere! We inadvertently got into birding on our South America trip. What with the multitude of unique birds of the Galapagos, the Amazon rainforest filled with macaws, toucans and so many others, and generally nice areas of forest/bush with brightly coloured birds it was an eye opener to the birds of the world. We were very lucky with enthusiastic guides, and Naun in particular in the Amazon jungle who provided, at his own cost, a spotting scope on a tripod and binoculars plus an amazing trick of taking phone photos down the scope for amazing close ups!! We spent hours more than any other group with hubby, myself and Naun with him pointing out birds up the 46 metre tower (!!) above the canopy. Amazing and terrifying views, and excellent shots of all manner of birds that you wouldn’t see from the ground.

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Everywhere we go on holidays now I look up potential bird spots. I’m a bit of a Nervous Nelly about going on my own, so I do appreciate going with the group. But as I’m getting more well, I’m getting less frightened about going by myself. Most of what I’m afraid of is probably only realistic in scary movies, which I cannot watch, so I try to be brave and go.

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We didn’t get a huge number of species on the day. There’s are a couple of  lakes, one which is a filled in quarry and a couple of others in a natural wetland, but all the grass areas have died off to brown, and the bush areas are fairly dry as well. Nothing to see from the bird hide, birds buzzing around the eucalypts at a rate of knots, and no new species.

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But in one of the fenced off areas, I got some amazing shots! These are the best ever shots that I’ve ever gotten of a male Superb Fairy Wren!! And I have done a lot of trying up to now! So it’s saying something that they are the best. The fact that they are so far the best as to make the rest seem pointless, is thrilling! They came close, out in front of the bushes, and sat still, and didn’t move far when they took off, and the sun came out at just the right moments, and everything came together to mean some fabulous shots that I’m very proud to show you!

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Smiling!

You can hardly wipe the smile off my face! Just sitting here chilling out in a comfy chair at the end of the day, I’m smiling 🙂 No one’s making me, nothing is happened to draw a smile out of me, there’s just a good humour welling up out of me, and it’s delightful!

I suppose this is what they talk about when they say riding and exercise increase your serotonin levels. When I was unwell, exercise was just torture, even though everyone said how good for you it was supposed to be. I could never understand it! It’s only now that I’ve become fit and can do longer rides that I’m getting some of that effect. Ah well, better late than never!

So, what a great day!

The plan was always for a great day: the Wheel Women Christmas ride! What a cause for excitement, end of year festivities with all the fabulous ladies I ride with at one time or another! Wouldn’t miss it for almost anything!

A bit of a reminder to myself at this time: this is my first Wheel Women Christmas, because I only joined Wheel Women in March! March!! Can you believe it?? I can’t! What kilometers, what skills, what adventures, what misadventures have been gained in barely 9 months! Those who have been there for the misadventures only need these words: velodrome, baby ducks, emergency braking, whoops that hill and corner came out of nowhere! That last one? Today!

What a perfect way to celebrate the year of riding that Wheel Women across Melbourne have had; getting together for a large group ride from Kensington to Williamstown.

[Note: every time I say something like “what a perfect…” and it’s attached to something bike related, it gives me this little jolt, well not jolt, but just a little flashback to March, or was it April, when they told us we were going for a ride, an actual ride not just practicing stopping and starting, and 6 kilometers sounded like a death sentence!!! I have a little giggle to myself now, and have a little moment of wow, how far I’ve come so quickly! Not in a bragging way, just in a ‘Woah! How did that happen?!’ way].

So we gathered together outside Cyclic Bicycles in Kensington. And lucky for me that we did, because Dum Dum Dugan Danika here forgot her helmet! I mean, there are very few essentials in the world of riding, but a helmet you must always have! The day would have quickly soured if Evan from the bike shop wasn’t ready and willing to lend me a helmet! Lucky he opened the store an hour early just for us! A hat tip, and a recommendation that if you’re looking for anything bike related in the general area, he’s your guy!

Riders of all shapes and sizes (I mean that in the best way, and I should know!), and all abilities, with 4 wonderful coaches and great excitement for the day’s activities! There were jingle bells and baubles dangling off bikes, The Tinsel Bike shedding silver Christmas cheer all over the place apparently whenever the brakes were applied, coordinating glistening shoes covers for the coaches, Christmassy T shirts and earrings, and a sleigh bell dinging!! Hard not to get into the spirit with so much effort put in!

We were taking a new route today for me at least, up the hill (!) from Kensington, along the beautiful old Stock Route with cobblestone sections under the shade of huge old peppercorn trees and lined by the original post and rail fences of the stockyards. Then onto the gorgeous riverside bike path that follows the Maribyrong River more or less to Williamstown. I can never get tired of the stunning views we are treated to along this river and out into the bay; really they are such a delight each and every time I ride this way.

And the weather was perfect! It was meant to get hot, but it was overcast so it didn’t heat up and there was a breeze around; ideal conditions!!

So we got to Williamstown, partially along the road this time rather than all on the bike path. I have to say, I did enjoy it a lot more than the path for that section that we swapped because you don’t have to give way and face the rumble strips at every crossroad, it’s a lot smoother and I think I can go faster! Which is always fun 🙂 I know people are nervous of the road, but in that instance I would recommend it! There’s a good sized bike lane and all.

What can I say about arriving in the lush green park in Williamstown, with views of the marina and across the bay to the city?? Need I say more? A champagne toast followed (pink plastic cups!), Lyn’s delicious rumballs then a Christmas speech, and an award!!

This part I am so stoked about! Because…drumroll…I was the recipient! I am so so touched, and thrilled, and encouraged, and heartened by Tina and Tracey and Alicia and Deidre’s choice, and inspired to keep going further and further! What an absolute honour, and of course it would never have happened if it weren’t for Wheel Women and the hard work these 4 ladies put in to keep us riding safely and enjoyably every week!!

The award was for courage and bravery! Warrior status! And it even included a quote from this here blog!! Amazing!! I’m just thrilled over and over!! It’s incredible to have people believe in you, and see the effort that you put in and respect that effort! Every skill I’ve learnt from them has given me the ability to develop bit by bit. I never saw myself going this far from the beginning; I couldn’t see how I’d ever be able. Pottering around the suburbs was more of my vision. But I’ve got the momentum now, so 2016, let’s see what you have in store for me and my bicycle!

As if that didn’t cap the day off as pure amazing, we then had the arrival of Santa!! Dear Ray who is a great friend of all Wheel Women and brings life to every party, had dressed up in a great Father Christmas outfit with huge black boots and all, and was ready to distribute the Kris Kringle gifts! His wife Lyn had to go first, because she was his favourite, said Santa, then we all lined up for our gift and a kiss! Then Ray gave us another delight for the day, his alternate Santa hat that turned on, and the top and the bauble danced around on his head while it sang carols!!! We were in stitches laughing, loving his enthusiasm!! What a great friend, to give us so much Christmas joy!

All that was left was to head to the cafe for eats, drinks, chats and laughs galore! I do so love these ladies who have added such a great social aspect to my life from when I was bored stiff at home alone 5 days a week, right through til now when I’m working half time. It’s such a pleasure to meet up again at the next ride, and pick up right where we left off!! LOVE YOU ALL!!

Well if all of that doesn’t leave me smiling for weeks I don’t know what will! Of course our moods being fickle and subject to sudden change without notice, that won’t be the case. But tonight, I’m smiling!

Thank you to each and every person who made it so!

Oh, I did forget one thing. The award? Came with prizes! All of them exactly what I would have wanted for Christmas!! A Wheel Women riding backpack (now I’m part of the crew! Jokes), a solid high quality bike lock (YAY, out with the old fuddy duddy one!), bright rear and back lights (perfect because although mine allow people to see me, they don’t show me the path ahead!) and the smallest, most adorable set of tyre levers and patch kit!! Absolutely perfect! Couldn’t have picked them out better myself! Thank you, thank you, thank you!