Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Walkabout

We went on a walkabout today through the Blue Mountains and got to learn about aboriginal culture, and bush tucker (food) and medicine. 
We met at the beginning of the trail with our guide and the one other person who was going on the tour with us.  In a huge coincidence, the one other person on the tour was an American...from Tallahassee.  He's attending FSU Law.  Crazy!
While on the trail we got to learn about the Aboriginal dreamtime, and their rituals.  We got to taste fresh teatree, Eucalyptus (which we rolled up and shoved up our nostrils to clear our sinuses) and several other plants.  We also got to paint each other with ochre (rock paint). 
The hike was a lot tougher than the website made it seem, but it was great fun.  Awesome photos/videos to follow.

Throughout Sydney

We spent the last 3 days going through Sydney checking out many of the local galleries, museums, etc.

These first pictures are from Manly Oceanworld.  It was a fun little aquarium, although nothing to write home about.  Joe was really excited because they let him touch the Port Jackson shark.




The following are from the Australian Maritime Museum.  You were able to go aboard a destroyer and a submarine.  












We also went to the Opera House and the Aquarium, and Featherdale wildlife park.  Some of you may have noticed a lack of pictures on this blog.  It seems the one thing Australia does NOT have is fast internet.  Downloading pictures takes FOREVER.  So once I get back, I'll put all 1 million pictures onto a photo site, and let you all know the link.  Only 2 days left.

Abseiling

We went abseiling (rappelling) up in the Blue Mountains today. We started with a short, 5 meter abseil to learn, then worked our way up.  The second abseil was down a 15 meter face, although they didn't bother to tell you that about 5 meters down there was no more rock.  You were just hanging there, slowly letting yourself down with nothing to kick off of.  The last one was a 30 meters (98 feet), where most of it was hanging.  It was so scary and amazing.




The second part of the day was for hiking through the canyons.  The water itself was roughly 10 degrees celsius.  It was sooo cold.  We had on wetsuits and rain jackets and winter caps, all underneath our harnesses and helmets.  At the end of the canyoning we got to abseil down the 30 meter Empress Falls.

Yeti Crossing?




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I was a mess going down the waterfall. I bashed into the rock about 50 times. Fabulous.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Southbound Day 5-Australia wins

We went on a beautiful hike this morning through Hat Head.  While resting at one of the stopping points along the trail, we saw a pod of dolphins riding the waves, and even saw some whales spouting.  If you are ever in Australia, 6 hours north of Sydney, I highly recommend stopping here.

We continued on our trip (it was raining now) and almost had reached our next campsite when a warning light came on in our trailer.  Being only an hour from home, and cold, and tired, I gave up.  We arrived back in Sydney last night into the caring arms of Dmitra and Adam.

Southbound Day 4

Today was a short day, so we stopped off in Surfer’s Paradise.  It was a fun little town, and had a giant 5 story haunted house that Joe had to go to.  It had some awesome animatronics, and my favorite part was when you had to climb into the mouth of the ex-prime minister then traverse his intestines, only to come out his backside on the other end, with a rollicking farting noise.  Hilarious (most things seem hilarious when you’ve been on the road for 4 days).  We felt the water with our toes (so cold), and headed on our way to our campsite.

We camped in Hat Head National Park, and it was glorious.  The first thing we saw upon driving in were several wallabies (including a joey) in our campsite.  Joe was so very excited.  We set up, used the last of the water in our bottles to cook some food, and enjoyed the wildlife.  We were woken bright and early (6am) the next morning by a butcher bird, which sounds very much like a recorder/flute.  Joe’s exact words were “I’m going to find that hippy playing that recorder and kill him”.  He even went out to search for him.  The wallabies that had congregated around our trailer laughed at him, I’m sure.  We never did see it.

Southbound Day 3

We headed to Brisbane today.  It was mostly a long day of driving, so not much to write about.  However, we did find out that there is no way to hook up the water hoses on our camper, or even open the water tank.  So much for spaghetti (the only food we had that didn’t freeze). *sigh.

Australia 1: Nancy 0

To get to our camping spot tonight we had to travel through an area that was 4-wheel drive only.  I figured this wouldn’t be a problem, as we had a 4-wheel drive vehicle.  I was wrong.  After bouncing through the forest for about 20 minutes, we reached a sandy area and promptly got stuck.  We spent the next half hour digging ourselves out.  We spent the night at a hotel.  But on a good note, we did see two Kangaroos hopping along the side of the road during the drive.  We just had to be in the middle of nowhere to do it.

Southbound Day 2

We’re at the beginning of our second day of the drive, and I’m trying to catch up a little bit on the blogging I’ve been slacking off on.  It turns out that throughout most of the Australian countryside you are lucky if you can get one radio station.  I actually pressed the seek button and had it go all the way around twice before settling on a station.  Driving through this country is completely different from the driving I’ve done throughout the US.  There are hours long stretches of nothing but wilderness and dry creekbeds, and when you do come to a town, you’re out of it again almost before you realize you are in it.  There’s just you and a single stretch of long, winding road surrounded by untouched countryside.  Where in the US it feels as if nature is in the way of our roads, here it is the opposite.  Just a lonely bit of human presence pushing its’ way through, trying desperately to hold back the nature which is fast encroaching on either side. It’s beautiful, and desolate; empty and full of life, wide and claustrophobic, all at the same time.  Mostly, it’s awe inspiring.

At lunchtime we stopped at a roadside park by the beach.  The tide was very far out, and we walked down to the water.  Joe was convinced he would find a sharks tooth, but alas, did not.

Southbound Adventure-Day 1

We picked our campervan up today.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to get it until after 10, so we got on the road a little late, and to our campground even later.  Note: do not try to set up your camper in the dark.  It was a very pretty drive though, through scenic countryside.  I find it a little crazy to think that the main arterial highway through the Australia coast is a small, two lane road.  Joe is convinced that we will see a kangaroo hopping through the brush.  I’m of the belief that the only way we’re going to see one in the wild is if we hit it with the camper.

I scoffed when the campervan people advised us not to drive at night.  However, once the sun went down, there was very little light.  There are no lights on the highway, and the only light we encountered came from an entire burning field of sugar cane.  Without the light pollution of nearby towns, the sky becomes a never-ending expanse of star spangled loveliness, although it is rather disconcerting to have the constellations be in the wrong place.

We saw a good deal of wildlife in our campground (more than we actually saw on our day hikes), including a possum, some parrots, and some other beautiful birds that hissed at us when we got too close.  We also found out that the fridge in our camper was broken, and had frozen all of our food solid. Fabulous. After packing up, we were on our way.

Cape Tribulation and our nightwalk

After returning from our dive trip (not nearly long enough) we rented a car and headed up the mountains to the rainforest.  A few hours drive north landed us right in the middle of the Daintree rainforest.  We stopped at the Daintree Conservation center, in the hopes of seeing a cassowary.  It was unfortunately not worth the money we spent, although we did get to see the Gympie Gympie (stinging tree) that I mentioned in my first post.  After the center we drove up the road to another hiking spot, which was free, where we saw a good deal more wildlife (still no cassowarys, alas) and had an all around good time hiking through the rainforest.  We checked into our hostel and got ready for our night hike.

The hike started with a small talk about the area we are in, and the fact that the Daintree is still to this day mostly untouched by humans.  Even the aboriginal people didn’t travel into the rainforest, as it was too hard to eke out a living in that area.  We were given our torches and Joe strapped on his headlamp (thanks Rich!) and we headed out.  We saw several very large spiders, two sleeping Boyd’s tree dragons, a small frog, a large cricket, and a very beautiful strangler fig.  I also licked the backside of a green ant.  The green ant secretes ascorbic acid (vitamin C) out of its’ abdomen.  After biting you, it turns around and squirts the acid into the bite.  Jerk ants. The aborigines used to take nests of the ants and make a tea out of them for the vitamins.  Mmmm…ant tea.  That concluded our night walk, and all tuckered out Joe and I fell promptly to sleep.

The next day we headed back to Cairns, stopping off at the small town of Kuranda on the way back.  We wandered around the shops there for a while, and headed into the “Venom Zoo”.  There we got to see 5 of Australia’s most venomous snakes, as well as a good deal of spiders and scorpions.  I even got to hold a giant cockroach. Then back to Cairns to pack up and rest before our south-ward bound adventure.

The Great Barrier Reef

The bus picked us up for the dive trip this morning at 7am.  After a harrowing ride to the shop, we boarded the boat to head out to our living accommodations for the next two days.  The views heading out to the reef were absolutely beautiful, and both Joe and I were super excited to be there.  Joe expressed his excitement by promptly falling asleep and getting a sunburn on his face.  The rest of the trip people called him the panda. 

We reached the liveaboard two hours later, got to our berth, had lunch and proceeded to dive.  It was gorgeous.  The reef stretched for miles. It was almost unbelievable to realize that there were miles and miles of living animals right below our feet.

We managed 5 dives, including one night dive.  The night dive was spectacular.  I realized my lifelong dream of cuddling a cuttlefish on this dive.  There was a foot long cuttlefish that we found that tried to eat our guides’ torch (flashlight), then let me touch it.  It sat right in my hand.  It has probably been one of the high points of my life.  The next day on our last dive we came right up to a sea turtle, just chilling on the reef.  Joe thought it was funny that we found a sea turtle in the East Australian Current. 





Saturday, September 24, 2011

Botanical Gardens

Yesterday was the wedding.  It was held at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney, which was absolutely beautiful.  So enjoy the pictures of the flowers, even though I don't know what most of them are.







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Friday, September 23, 2011

The Taronga Zoo



After arriving in Sydney, we spent the first day sleeping, then had a lovely dinner with Joe's new in-laws and family.  So far the food her has been top-notch.  It turns out in Australia, fruits and vegetables are actually much cheaper than what they consider "junk food"- ie all fast food.  If only it were the same in America.

Yesterday we went to the Taronga Zoo, to experience some of Australia's venomous animals in a safe setting.  To get there we got to take a train into Syndey and a ferry across the harbor.  We also walked a little bit through Sydney. It was fabulous! Enjoy.

This is Central train station.  Sydney has some absolutely beautiful architecture.

My first encounter with an Australian spider. After I got  Joe to stop screaming like a girl, he was nice enough to take a picture of me with it.

This is us aboard the ferry.

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The opera house.


My second encounter with an Australian spider.

Grey Kangaroo.  You can actually buy their, um, bits, as souvenirs.


 If you look carefully, you might be able to spot the 30 or so GIANT stick insects behind me.  The craziest part was when we turned around we found an escapee.


He was a small one.


This is a frilled Lizard.  Joe spent about 10 minutes staring at it hoping it would frill up. 

Well, that's all for now. G'day!