And here we go......2020 was planned to be a special year of celebrations, life changing moments, travel and hosting International friends and buddies. However who would have predicted a Global Epidemic that would for-ever change the 'Norm'.
So, I will now summarise a time-line incorporating the 'Moments' of good times, memorable events and drama's.
January was proving to be a good indicator for the start of the year, and my plans were going off without a hitch. I had spent the last 3-4 months secretly planning a huge 'Surprise 60th' birthday party for my wife Karen with friends and family from all parts of her life from childhood through to current life pathways.
I had secretly contacted and schemed with people from as early as her Kindergarten friends, Coles staff, School staff and close friends, even getting her best friend to secretly fly in from Canberra. With my stress levels high, fingers crossed no-one leaked the details with what Social Media is like the preceding several weeks were horrendous.
Well the day and night finally happened with 110% success-I pulled it off making it the most special night for her. Yep, she had NO idea!
As life continued along a normal path, Karen, myself and our youngest son Matt commenced house renovations after he settled on buying his 1st 'Home' - a 2 bedroom unit. We had a mammoth job ahead of us with a full reno involving bathroom/laundry replacement, flooring, lighting and full painting etc etc etc.
Karen and I worked tirelessly 7 days a week with Matt working weekends and some nights where he could stripping the place back to bare, very bare bones. Just imagine the dust, dirt, smells and unknowns we found as the previous owner had lived there for 32yrs without any substantial maintenance or repairs.
Works halted for me for a few weeks as I was due to go on a dream trip, and it was time for me to pack for a lifetime moment of scuba diving Raja Ampat, 'The Last Paradise" with a stop-over to Ambon-Indonesia.
Sooo looking forward to finally going to dive Raja Ampat, I left Australia sooo excited with high expectations and ticking off a 'bucket list' dive location. Upon arrival and boarding the Liveaboard and meeting the other guests and crew it was surreal to be in the moment. The euphoria didn't last long though as the boat was embargoed, not being allowed to leave dock due to a previous marine breach.
So here's where 2020 started to head for a downward spiral with the faint start of the global viral outbreak......
Land-locked for 6 of the 8 day liveaboard truely ruined the trip and the reefs and dive sites I was hoping to experience.
After the nightmare of Raja Ampat I headed onward to Ambon, a small Indonesian Island to witness the Psychedelic Frogfish (PF) and Rhinopia species endemic to this island. It started well and thought I was finally on a winner with an efficient transfer from the Airport to the Resort.
In a nutshell the trip didn't quite live up to my hopes, in that the dive guides were inattentive, self absorbed and very poor at customer service. To continue the drama, I didn't get to see the PF and only 1 species of the Rhinopia for the whole trip, yeeeah :( 2020.
I returned to Australia flying in on 16 February to meet my guests from England, Richard & Hailey of Blackmanta Photography that same day. The next morning with very minimal recovery from jet-lag I commenced my privately guided diving tour of Sth Aust to search and find Leafy Sea Dragon's and other marine creatures endemic to Sth Australia.
Car and trailer packed with enough dive gear, camera setup's and tanks to make a dive crew jealous we make our way towards the Fleurieu Peninsular to a location I have been assured South Australia's Marine Emblem-the Leafy Sea Dragon has been regularly sighted.
So entrusted with my local knowledge and our tight lipped dive community advice, we arrive, do a site assessment of the area, dive briefing including the Code of Conduct re divers behaviour around Leafies, and suit up armed with camera gear that would make Sir David Attenborough jealous (Not).
Luck was on our side, and to quote "One the best Leafy dives I've ever done" and to highlight why, it literally took 3 seconds to find our first leafy on our descent-'Amazing'.
The dive continued along the weedy and rocky reef where I found another 4 leafies for my guests, an amazingly lucky dive especially for local's let alone International travellers. If it wasn't for our air running out we would have stayed longer, but we rushed back to shore to change tanks, expire our surface time and went straight back in while the leafies were there and the conditions were prime.
The tour continued onto Edithburgh Jetty and Pt Hughes over on the Yorke Peninsular to seek out more Leafies, Pyjama squid and Blue Ring octopus. 2020 was redeeming itself, with little to no issues and luck on our side. The dives at Edithburgh jetty however did not reveal any pyjama squid, but the marine life, soft coral growth and pylon life is world class and did not disappoint.
Onward to Pt Hughes to do the last 2 dives of the tour in search of Blue Ring octopus that reside predominantly inside old razorfish shells on the ocean floor. During the 2 100min+ dives I found no less than a dozen Blue Rings for Rich to see and video, along with a very special treat even for me when I found a Blue Ring cohabitating with a Frogfish inside a razorfish shell-'Special'. In total approx 730kms ravelled across the State in 3 days.
As we say goodbye to our English mates (Safe Travels guys) at a joint farewell dinner with other dive buddies, we leave Rich & Hailey with excess baggage of Australian biscuits and snacks they couldn't resist-Tim Tams, Vegemite Shapes and Clinkers.
Karen, Matt and I re-group and get stuck back into a full blown Renovation Makeover for the next solid 14 weeks @ 7 days a week.
All I can say is work progress flowed well and mostly went to plan with only a few minor hiccups. The Unit was transforming before our very eyes, and was becoming a real diamond from the rough.....a place Karen and I would be proud to live in.
So Matt finally got to move into his newly transformed Unit only days before 1st June 2020, which was a very moving, emotional and weirdly strange moment for all of us. It has been nearly 3 months now (Aug) and he seems to be settling in fine (adult life) and Karen and I have climatised to being Empty-Nesters.
During the last few months, my fitness and health unfortunately took a back-seat to Matt's renovations, so it was time to get back on track and start a healthy eating plan, re-commence my daily walks and loose weight. So from 1 July I started to cut out complex carbs, sugars, all whites and confectionary and ordered a program of meal replacements.
The week got off to an average start, as do all diets and health kicks but with determination I pushed forward. However at the start of the second week I was again headed to Pt Lowly-Whyalla for the giant cuttlefish mating aggregation. So pack the dive gear, sleep wear, snacks and alcohol for those cold nights after diving/snorkelling in 12dg water.
The 3 days were busy volunteering with EMS and guiding guests along with setting up and packing every day. Most nights were relaxing sitting around an open fire-pit, chatting and sipping our drinks along with a hearty warm dinner, which made it difficult for me to limit my intake to behave for my new healthy fitness plan.
Time to drive home, in total around 800kms travelled for the few days to relax, clean dive gear and get back to home life.
I re-commenced my healthy eating plan, committed to my daily walks of 8-10km every morning, along with a 3km evening walk with Karen most nights. So the switch in my brain went off, and I pledged 110% to the program. As of 1 June I weighted 104.5kg's with a goal of loosing 7.5kg to get to a happy goal weight of 97kg.
Even though I continued with my daily walks and protein shakes etc etc, it was again time to pick up the tool's for Karen's mums place to get some maintenance which was long overdue. A driveway decorative privacy screen, with fence post and rails etc with some selective paving to finish the lower section. Next was to give the en-suite and bathrooms a small facelift with some painting, new IXL ceiling units, wall and ceiling repairs and painting.
This few weeks went quite well, and Karen and I were in need of some rest as I still continued to do my daily 8km walk, then go and work for a few hours every day until we finished....A very physical and mentally challenging time.
A week or so passed, and I made a long time deferred decision to venture out to the Neptune Islands with Rodney Fox Great White Shark Expeditions to dive in the cages with great whites (GWS).
So, alas welcome back 2020 let-downs as Andrew Fox said this was the first time that any Charter has had NO GWS for any guests for the year. And to add icing on the trip, the weather and seas we had were rough, chopping and very surgy making the diving very uncomfortable. It also made the boat trip to and from Adelaide very rough in the open waters, having to deal with 3-4mt waves making it difficult to sleep, eat and deal with seasickness.
Andrew apologised to us, however as I know from sooo many previous dive trips, Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress, and noting in the marine/nature world can be guaranteed. As a point of Policy he offered all guests a return trip at 50% off and to keep an open line of contact with them. So, considering the forecast weather, I have decided to wait until late Sept/Oct to return back out.
Time to settle back into a simple non-complicated home life and wait for the next challenge that 2020 throws at us, hoping that Globally a vaccine is found and made available to all Countries and all person's to put an expedited halt to illness and deaths.
So in summary for my fitness regime and healthy eating plan I have lost 3.5kg with a goal of another 4kg in the next few months. I have walked literally hundreds of kilometres burning off a kazillion calories, however I believe the muscle toning from walking has balanced out the fat loss, hence not showing the desired weight loss on the scales.
I will soldier on and continue to assess my new idea that I am becoming slightly intolerant to Gluten and Wheat, however I am not showing true signs of being diagnosed as Celiac. I am doing this as a process of elimination because when I eat a lot of breads, pasta, rice and wheat based foods I feel lethargic, mood depression and all in all just not right.
So I have removed as much wheat/gluten based foods, sugars, complex carbs and concentrate on high protein meals with salads, fruit and vegetables. My energy levels are up, internally feel energised and moods are much better....method in my madness I think, even so that Karen is following along the same path.
I have also take to making my own health protein ball snacks to keep those sweet tooth/sugar rush cravings away with only around 100 calories each. Also I am making my own strawberry flavoured healthy yogurts for an evening snack with low fat greek yogurt, frozen strawberries and Monk-Fruit sugar (GF & low Cal) replacement alternative to the yogurt.
It is now the end of August, my State of South Australia is locked down with Border controls along with all other States & Territories in Australia. There is also no International travel without the approval of the Government, predicted until approx. June 2021, however I am looking at re-visiting The Neptune Islands on The Rodney Fox Charter in mid November.
Stayed tuned for further up-dates for the remainder of the year, with hope for a vaccine, improved Global safety and a recovery for all Countries, Large Corporations, small business and the entire human race. Let's regain 'Normal Living'..........