It’s a simple enough concept. Find a ridiculously tall mountain of sand. Sit on a piece of board. Go downhill very fast! Squeal loudly. Repeat.
And that is precisely what we did on Stockton Beach, or as Devilboy dubbed it, the “big sandpit”. We slid, we tumbled and we giggled as we went faster, faster down the 40 metre dunes. Who knew hanging a sandy ten down a steep sand dune with a two year old tucked between your knees could be so much fun? Eventually growing weary of the slippery fun (especially the muscle tearing climb back up) and every last orifice filled with fine grains of sand, we explored the dunes from a relatively sand free 4WD, feeling very “Paris to Dakkar”, a train of camels disappearing slowly into the golden mounds of sand only adding to the surreal desert feel of our location.
Devilboy is embracing the “terrible” part of his two’s with great gusto and we are, to put it mildly, exhausted. So we we figured that getting back to nature and away from it all in ‘sunny’ Port Stephens might be just the thing for a quick recharge. A weekend in a cabin surrounded by bush, beach and wildlife sounded perfect for our plan and in the spirit of getting back to nature, we stayed at on the site of a former nudist colony. These days the resort is strictly clothes on and thank fuck for that I say, for seeing us frolic naked through the wetlands with only the key to our cabin for company is something nobody needs to see.
Our plans to embrace the great outdoors, clothed or not, were somewhat scuppered on the first day of our break when we awoke to find it pissing down, biblical style, leaving us three options.
1. Remain trapped in a small cabin with a crazed toddler and nothing to do.
2. Find some indoor amusements and attractions in town.
3. Build a fucking ark.
Option one seemed only slightly less unpleasant than spending the day chained to a nest of bad-tempered vipers and the thought of collecting all those animal twosomes in a two-door hatchback whilst the boys toiled away constructing a large boat also lacked appeal. So off we went to see what Port Stephens had to offer a two year old boy on a rainy day… and that is how we found ourselves knee deep in a tank full of sharks.
To say Devilboy likes sharks is like saying seagulls like chips – so to discover an indoor shark centre, where inclement weather couldn’t spoil the fun, was like an aquatic dream. We fed “tiny, little sharks” (which were actually several feet long) and patted silky stingrays before deciding to throw DB to the big ones… Donning a wetsuit, my pint-sized Jacque Cousteau braved the not-so-deep to meet a two-and-a-half-metre shark called Mungo and a 100kg black “stungray” that “tickled mine feet, mummy!”
An afternoon dolphin spotting cruise, participation in which is virtually a legal requirement when visiting Port Stephens (I’m sure there are on-the-spot fines if you don’t have proof of dolphining), was less successful as the little loon was far more interested in admiring the one dimensional dolphin silhouette on the boats dirty carpet, rather than the flesh and blood dolphins merrily flipping about outside the boat.
The sun returned the following day allowing us our induction into the joys of sand boarding and a quick stop on the way home to a farmyard where sheep, goats, chickens and kangaroo’s wander freely, only to be stalked by predatory toddlers. And where Devilboy, though captivated by the camels and delighted by a donkey, saved most of his excitement for a metal rocking horse…
Just like the one in our local park.