When I arrived in Australia and saw all the beautiful beaches I knew there was one thing I had to do before I left but up to this point the right opportunity had not presented itself…..until today.
After a good night’s sleep I woke to the sounds of countless birds all around. One thing I have loved about Australia are all the “exotic” (different from the US) birds and their unique sounds and this (as you can imagine) was intensified in the rainforest. I just laid in my bed and listened to the birds for 10-15 minutes…..it was a great way to start the day!
Ok, I know I’ve said this several times in other posts but my day today did begin very early….and not just my definition of early. 🙂
I started my last day at sea with a good breakfast and a cup of coffee on the upper deck looking out over the ocean. I “missed” the 6:30 dive again (darn :-), but was planning to do the other 2 dives before lunch and then heading back to Cairns mid-afternoon.
My day started early (well, early for me), but not as early as it could have. Breakfast was served at 7:30 so I woke up at 7:27. 🙂 There was an early morning dive at 6:30 (wake time 5:45) but anyone who knows me well would know….”Homie don’t play dat” (ok, who remembers that show?)…..
Before each dive there was a mandatory dive meeting to discuss the geography (we changed reefs twice a day) and go over the diving logistics (see yesterday’s blog). After breakfast we had 30 minutes before the dive meeting….so I went back to sleep (7:30 is still too early for me). 🙂
Our dive location for the next 2 dives was Saxon reef (Google, Images). My dive buddy for this morning was one of my Belgium friends I met yesterday Stef. Stef was a certified dive master and had dove many places around Asia and the Middle East. He was a great guy and a really good diver.
As for the dives, unfortunately the water was kind of cloudy today so the viability was not great. In spite of that we still had some good dives and saw quite a bit of marine life (NOTE: The camera I had this day did not capture the colors very well. The reef and fish were much more colorful than what you see in the pictures)….
Here are some pretty cool videos of the marine life….
After dinner we had another incredible sunset from the back deck of the boat…..
We did another night dive (with the sharks 🙂 and it was really cool seeing all the lights from other divers under the water…..
This was pretty cool…..the divers who were still working on their certifications could not do the night dive so they allowed them to lay on the dive platform with their mask and snorkel and get an up close view of the fish….and the sharks! A couple came right up to them…..
Once we returned from the dive, put away our diving gear and got cleaned up and changed we sat in the lounge and talked for a while but we were all pretty beat from the long day so we turned in early.
|Where Am I|
After a restless night of sleep I woke early this morning. I packed up, ate breakfast and was out front waiting for the dive bus by 7:30. The bus arrived at 7:45, I climbed aboard and we took off for the dive center.
During our ride we broke up into three groups; those previously certified, those getting their certifications and snorkelers. There were probably 50-60 people on the boat and about 10 certified divers. The dive team gave us the information for the first dive (site geography, dive rules (time/return bars/etc)), and gave each of us a number. They then broke us into 2 teams and we chose our dive “buddy” (you never dive alone).
After that we went to the dive deck, grabbed a wet suit, fins, mask and found our dive equipment (based on the number we had been given). Since I know most people reading this have never dove (dove, dived, have doven 🙂 I’ll take a minute and tell you about the equipment. The typical dive equipment consists of a tank (duh), a BCD or buoyancy compensator device, a regulator (connects to the tank (stage 1) and delivers air to your mouth (stage 2 – primary & alternate), depth gauge, dive computer, weights, mask and fins…..
Once we arrived things moved very fast. The certified divers are usually the first to go in so we were in the water in just a couple of minutes. Now here is where the fun begins…….usually.
Before I continue I need to provide a little background information…..about 2 days before I left for Cairns I started feeling like I might be getting a head cold. It’s a common diving recommendation that you do not dive if you have a head cold. This is due to the potential difficulties of equalizing your ears as you decent and ascend. So this absolutely could not have happened at a worse time since I had already booked, and paid, for 3 days at sea on a dive boat!
So I took a lot of vitamin C, echinacea, garlic, zinc and pretty much anything I could think of to try and keep from getting sick and it definitely helped. By the time I arrived in Cairns I could tell I had a little something but it wasn’t bad. Since I had already paid for the dive trip I decided to go and told myself if I had any issues equalizing my ears I would abort the dive and snorkel instead.
So now, we’re in the water for our first dive and we start down. I get a few feet down and can’t get my right ear to equalize. So I come back up and try two more times but still can’t get it. The other divers in my group descended and were waiting, so rather than hold them up (since it wasn’t looking like I was going to get it) I decided to surface and sit this one out. In 16 years of diving this was the first time I ever had to sit out a dive. I was bummed but I didn’t want to push it. I did some snorkeling and returned to the boat.
The next dive was scheduled an hour later. I wanted to give it another a try and this time I was able to descend and equalize both ears with no issues…great! Diving the Great Barrier Reef had always been on my diving bucket-list so I was excited to finally be doing it. It was a good dive. The colors of the coral on the reef were amazing and the variety of fish and marine life was equally amazing.
After the dive we had lunch and the folks who were doing the live-a-board (about 10 of us) transferred to a larger boat called the Ocean Quest….
Once we were aboard the Ocean Quest we received an orientation for the boat and were assigned our cabins. As they were going through the cabin assignments they mistakenly had me and a girl who had also transferred over listed as a couple and assigned to the same room. They said, “you’re not a couple” and we said, “we just met about 10 minutes ago”. (ha ha) So they left me in the first assigned room and moved her to a different room. It actually ended up working out great as I had paid for a double occupancy cabin but, because of their mix up, ended up having a room to myself the first night. 🙂
After checking out the boat I took a nap and got ready for dinner. During dinner I met a couple of guys from Belgium and started a good conversation. After dinner we had about an hour to hangout and watch the sunset……
|Dive friends from Belgium and Norway|
Our last dive of the day was a night dive. In all my years of diving I had never done a night dive so I was pretty excited. My excitement increased as I stood on the upper deck at the back of the boat and watched all the fish….and sharks, swimming under the lights around the dive platform (where we dove from)…….(the pictures aren’t the best as it was dark but you can clearly make out the sharks)
The night dive was pretty cool. Many fish and marine animals are nocturnal so it’s interesting to see the different varieties at night. Oh, and in case you are wondering the answer is “Yes”…..I do still have all of my appendages. ha ha
When we returned to the boat we had a visitor who I think was probably a regular on this boat as he/she had no intention of moving and was definitely not afraid of us. It was funny listening to him/her…..he/she never moved…..
After we got cleaned up and changed my Belgium friends and I sat on the back deck of the boat and continued our conversation from dinner. We had a great conversation about everything you can imagine (our countries, our families, travel, politics, religion, relationships and on and on). We ended up talking for almost 3 hours. I know we all wanted to continue the conversation but we reluctantly called it a night around 1 as we had a full day of diving tomorrow….uh, later today. 🙂
|Where Am I|
Today was another transition day. After a week of rest and recovery from my marathon trip around New Zealand I traveled to Cairns Australia to dive the Great Barrier Reef and explore the Daintree Rainforest.
|Where Am I|
Today was Easter Sunday. I woke early, ate breakfast, got ready and headed out….
It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, as I drove the 15 minutes to the C3 church (Web) in Oxford Hills, the church I attended my first 2 weeks in AU. As I drove I began to think about last Sunday and the great worship I experienced at the Hillsong (Web) church and wishing I would have an opportunity to go again before I left.
When I arrived at the C3 church it was (as I expected) very crowded, so I parked in an overflow lot next to the highway. Before I got out of the car, just for curiosity, I googled the directions to the Hillsong church. I thought it would be 15 minutes further than it was from Rick’s but I found that it was about 5 minutes closer than from Ricks. I knew the last service at the Hillsong church started 1 hour later than the C3 church so I knew I would have time to spare if I wanted to go. After a couple of moments of deliberation and thinking this might be my last chance to attend Hillsong, I texted Rick (to let him know and make sure he did not need to car) and headed to Baulkham Hills.
Just as I had experienced last week the worship was great. I also had the opportunity to hear their lead pastor Brian Houston this week (he was traveling last week) so that was cool. He gave a mostly typical Easter message but the way he delivered it was different….. He and a group of folks from the church had just returned (the night before) from a trip to Jerusalem. While there, he had recorded his message from several of the historic sites around the Holy Land and they showed the recorded message during the service. He recorded some of the message in The Garden of Gethsemane, some from outside The Garden Tomb, some from a small boat on the Sea of Galilee and some at a point just below the traditional site of Golgotha. It was a interesting way to add modern day tangibility to the 2000 year old Easter story.
It was a great Easter service and I was glad I decided to attend the Hillsong church again.
I spent the afternoon relaxing and hanging out at Rick’s and had a great Easter dinner with my Aussie family….complete with chocolate Easter bunnies from Rick and Linda (I’ve become the “son” they never wanted, ha ha).
|Where Am I|
It was another good day in Oz…..much the same as the last two….
|Where Am I|
Today was much the same as yesterday. Alaska and I sat on the deck writing blogs, getting information for next week and bird watching….
|Where Am I|
I woke today with no place I had to go and no place I had to be…..and it was pretty cool. So I took some time to catch up on emails, FB and read some US news…
The first week I arrived in Australia I visited Sydney (Day 8) and purchased a multi-pass that included 5 attractions around the Sydney area. There was so much to see that first day that I only made it to one of the attractions (Sydney Tower) so I planned to return later in my trip. Well, today was that day…..
The skies were blue and the weather was perfect as the bus made its 55 minute track from Mona Vale to Wynyard station in CBD Sydney. Once I arrived I made my way to the Darling Habour (Day 10 post) area and my first stop the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium where I saw many of the aquatic life native to Australia including: sharks, rays, jellies, clown fish, penguins and Dugongs. I really liked the Dugongs. They are like Manatee’s only smaller and unfortunately, like Manatee’s are also endangered. 🙁
One thing I saw at the aquarium both surprised and saddened me. However, after the information I saw at the Royal Albatross Center in Dunedin (Day 39 post) I probably should not have been surprised by this….
After the aquarium I grabbed some lunch at a nice outdoor restaurant in Darling Harbour with a great view of the city and the harbour…..
|Where Am I|
For most of the day today I picked up right where I left off yesterday…..just chillin’. 🙂 Alaska and I sat up a little “office” on the deck and (I) began working to try and catch up on my blog posts….
I am definitely going to miss seeing all the “unusual” (for the US) birds and animals around here and the “strange” sounds they make…..
I had told Rick and Linda that I would make dinner for the family tonight so in the afternoon I headed to the grocery to buy the indigence for my “world famous” spaghetti sauce….which a “lucky” few of you have experienced first hand. 🙂 In the place of traditional pasta we used string zucchini which I’ve always wanted to try….it was delicious! I’m happy to say that dinner went well and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
After dinner I retired downstairs and watched a movie before calling it at night.
|Where Am I|
Today was a get “somewhat” back to “normal” day (my “normal” for Australia). I took care of a few things back in the states during the early morning (before everything closed in the US and everyone went to sleep), ate lunch, did some reading/research for my trip to Cairns next week and took a run.
As I was running I stopped to take a few (more 🙂 pictures of the bay and just happened to catch another rainbow (see below). I’m thinking maybe this (and NZ) should be called the land of rainbows because I’ve seen so many since I’ve been here….
After my run I came back home and basically chilled for the rest of the day. I know, it sounds like a really difficult life, and it’s probably not for everyone, but it suits me just fine for now. 😉
|Where Am I|
It’s Sunday and the only thing I had planned for today was to attend church in the morning and rest and relax around the house in the afternoon. And that’s just what I did….
One of the things on my Australian “bucket list” was to attend the Hillsong church in Sydney (Google, Web). If you’ve listened to any contemporary Christian music at church or on the radio over the past 15 years chances are pretty good that you’re familiar with at least one or more Hillsong / Hillsong United songs. While the Hillsong church came first (previously known as Hills Christian Life Centre) it’s the music from this church that has really catapulted Hillsong into a global mega-church. Today they have several church “extensions” around Sydney, more in several other cities throughout Australia and several in major cities around the world including New York and Los Angeles. They hold many conferences and concerts around the world every year.
After the service I met a guy from the US who recently moved to Australia to attend school. He started going to the Hillsong church in Los Angeles and was now attending and volunteering here. We had a nice conversation and in the mean time the parking area cleared a bit. 🙂
I took my time going back home and, as planned, spent the rest of the afternoon/evening resting and relaxing around the house. It was just what I needed after almost 3 weeks of “running” around New Zealand. 🙂
|Where Am I|
While I was in New Zealand Rick told me that he and the family would be going out of town the weekend I returned. They were traveling about 6 hours south to attend a birthday celebration for a lifelong friend so I tried not to take it personally that they left the day after I returned :-)…..
After I left the beach I decided to walk up to the lighthouse. The path to the lighthouse begins on the beach on the bay side. The beach on this side is much smaller and the water is much calmer, but it’s still very pretty…..
The hike to the lighthouse is short but steep. As you start up you get a great view of the bay and once you get closer to the top you get an excellent view of the narrow, and quite beautiful, peninsula….
The view at the top of the Tasman Sea and Broken Bay are really beautiful….
After a while I returned to the car and drove back to Mona Vale where I stopped at the grocery, picked up some food and made a nice “surf & turf” for dinner…..
It was another really good day….and all within 30 minutes of Mona Vale. Yeah, Rick and his family live in a pretty great area. 🙂
|Where Am I|
Today began very early (for me anyway). I woke up at 6, made and ate breakfast and finished packing the clothes that were still drying when I went to bed 5 1/2 hours earlier. When I checked in last night they said that passengers with checked luggage needed to be at the airport 90 minutes before boarding and no checked luggage 60 minutes before boarding. I was a little surprised by this since it was an international flight and I had luggage to check (I expected 2 hours) but it said 90 minutes, so there you go.
Rick came downstairs and I told him 90 minutes and he said we would leave at 7:15 to give ourselves some extra time. My flight was at 10:15 and the drive to the airport is usually 1 – 1:15 so leaving at 7:15 gave us an hour and a half. Good deal.
We got on the road and everything was going well for about 10 minutes. Then we came to a 4 lane road with traffic as far as you could see and Rick said, “Ok, so it’s going to be one of those days”. Long story short, we arrived at the departures terminal at 9:15! Rick did the best he could but there was absolutely no where to go so it took almost 2 hours to get there! When we passed the 90 minute before boarding mark I thought, “ok, my bag may not arrive with me but I can just get it later”. Now, when we passed the 60 minute before boarding mark I thought, “ok, not only is my bag not going to make, I’m not going to make it”.
So Rick pulled up and we said our goodbyes and thank you (I huge thank you to Rick for driving me!!!) and I started running. Of course the Emirates check-in counter was at the other end so I was hurdling little old ladies and children and doing spin moves around old men with walkers and families pushing strollers. I turned the corner at the Emirates desk and they were removing the temporary posts for the lane markers and closing everything up and my heart sank. There was one lady standing at a counter with probably 15 check-in stations (all vacant) so I ran to her. She asked if I was on this flight, what my last name was and if I had checked in on-line. I said yes and asked if I could still check in. She said we were seconds away from closing, but we can check you in.
If I had been 60 seconds later she would have been gone and I would not have made the flight! Ok, even for me this is getting CRAZY! (reference the other what, 5 times this exact thing has happened on this trip…the latest being the ferry to Bruny Island). So she hurriedly checked me in and took my bag. Ok, first step complete, but for any of you who fly through major airports you know I am far from out of the woods (especially for an international flight).
So next I run the 3 miles (what it seems like) to stand in the customs line (or queue as they call it in AU). No normally this moves pretty fast for US citizens (and some other countries) in AU due to the electronic facial recognition they use; however, today they were having issues with the system and for those unfortunate enough to get a machine that was having issues (me of course) they put us into another line for manual processing. Are you freakin’ kidding me!!!! 🙂
So I finally made it through customs and then proceeded to the security line. Fortunately that did not take too long and I was once again hurdling small children and farm animals (ha ha, just wanted to see if you were paying attention) as I ran the 15 miles (again, what it seemed like) to the gate. And of course, the gates went from 1 – 63 and my flight was at….anyone….anyone….wrong, it was not 63 but you were close….it was at gate 61!
So I finally made it to my gate about 5 minutes before they started boarding…yay!
As for the flight, it was really good. In spite of the fact that someone (who wasn’t even sitting in my isle) brought a backpack the size of a small car (seriously) and took up all the overhead storage. Why do they allow people to bring carry-ons the size of a hot water tank….seriously, why? Oh well. It was a very smooth flight, the food was good and I had just enough time (2:30 hours) to watch a movie. All in all a pretty good way to spend an afternoon. 🙂
We landed on time and deplaned fairly quickly….Welcome to New Zealand! I have to say this was kind of funny to me…..I walked off the plane and through the tunnel and when I looked out at New Zealand through the first window I came to I saw 3 US Air Force planes…..
Along side our Emirates 777….
So I proceeded to customs and while they had the facial recognition systems for AU and NZ citizens all other counties had to go through the manual line. 🙁 That took a while. After that I proceeded to the next line, the declaration line. Those who travel internationally know this but over the past 10-15 years many countries have become very concerned (as well they should be) with what potential bio hazards travelers may unknowingly (or knowingly) be bringing into their country. So in most countries you cannot bring any fresh or unprocessed produce, meats, grains, nuts, etc. and they are very interested where you’ve been and if you’ve come in contact with any farm animals or even the ground where farm animals or wild animals (have you hiked in the wilderness) live.
So the customs and declaration lines are pretty common. But I did have something today that I have not seen before. There was a third line where you had to wait and have all of your luggage x-rayed. Now, this of course is standard before you board a flight. But I have never had my luggage x-rayed after I’ve flown and arrived at my destination. Apparently they do it to look for any food items that you may have in your luggage that you did not claim. They, they’re pretty serious about keeping out food born insects and diseases.
So I finally made it through the NZ airport gauntlet, got some New Zealand dollars and found my bus to get to my room for the night. After about a 50 minute bus ride and a 10 minute walk I arrived at my room for the night. After greeting my host and getting a tour of the place I walked to a Mexican restaurant and had some dinner. And as luck would have it this just happened to be “open mic” comedy night at Alvarados Mexican Cantina. So I sat, ate my dinner and listened to some (mostly) bad jokes. ha ha It’s funny because, while they do speak “English” here some of their accents are so thick and with their local saying I can’t understand some of them. But regardless it was still a good time and I enjoyed listening to all the references to the US and the jokes about American politics….one candidate in particular but I won’t say who (I’m sure you can guess). 🙂
And for those keeping track I am now 18 hours ahead of US EST (it was 16 in Sydney).
|Where Am I|
Today was strictly a “prepare to leave….again” day. And as usual, I was stressing…again. 🙂 It’s funny because I was thinking today, as I was running around crazy, “why am I stressing…I should have this down by now” and then the thought hit me….I just returned from a 12 day trip and after 2 days I’m leaving for an 18 day trip and all while I am on a 3 month trip. If I was “at home” I would certainly stress over any of these trips singularly. So, I cut myself a break (just a little one) and went on with my preparation….while continuing to run around crazy. ha ha
I spent the day doing laundry, made a trip into Mona Vale to replace my phone cover (which took a little tumble on the top of Cradle Mountain (Day 19)) and picked up some snacks for the flight tomorrow. When I returned to Rick’s I hung out my last load of laundry, ate lunch, took a short nap and then took a run to reduce some stress. Like my last run I ran in the Bayview area and just as before it was beautiful….
After my run I came back, had a great dinner of zucchini spaghetti and had a very nice conversation with Linda and showed her pictures of the snow in PA and Jack….lots of pictures of Jack. 🙂
The rest of the evening consisted of packing and booking a place in Christchurch for tomorrow night. I set me alarm for 6:00 (anyone who knows me knows how much I love getting up this early….NOT!) and went to bed around 12:30.
|Where Am I|
Today was another transition day as I traveled back to Rick’s place in Mona Vale. I started the day with another huge, delicious breakfast from my host in Hobart Sommai. I have to admit, I’m really going to miss her delicious breakfasts and Hobart as I really like this town. I hope I can come back someday.
In my Day 3 post I talked about how I like to have a plan and how I am challenging myself to be a little more spontaneous on this trip. Well, part of the down side of not planning is you sometimes end up far from where you ultimately need or have to be….which can be a good thing at times I suppose. 🙂 Anyway, how this applies today is that instead flying from the Hobart airport which is 15 minutes away, my flight is out of Launceston which is 2:30 hours away. Fortunately however I “planned” for this (I just couldn’t help myself 🙂 and gave myself time for the drive. So off I went to Launceston.
The drive to Launceston from Hobart was pretty uneventful. Most of it consisted of open fields on rolling hills and a lot of sheep….Tasmania has a LOT of sheep. 🙂 One cool thing I saw was a small lake just covered with black swans. I’ve seen quite a few black swans over the past 2 weeks but nothing close to this many at one place. Unfortunately I was driving by at 110….km not mph :-), so I was not able to get a picture. You’ll just have to take my word that they were pretty and it was cool.
One thing that is definitely not cool is the price of petro (gas). They measure by the liter and for those who may not know there are 3.7854 (to be exact) liters in a US gallon. I’ve paid as little as $.98/liter ($3.71/gallon) and as much as (on Bruny Island) $1.51/liter ($5.72/gallon). Most everything I’ve seen in Australia is more expensive than the US but, as I mentioned in a previous blog, with the current USD <-> AUD exchange rate of 1.40 most things have worked out to be just a little higher than US cost. Bottom line, it’s a very good time for US citizens to travel to Australia, and New Zealand is even better (USD <-> AUD exchange rate = 1.52).
After stopping for lunch and to fill the rental car…..$1.19/liter = $.85/liter with the exchange rate. So 3.7854 x $.85 = $3.22/gallon, I arrived at the Launceston airport on time.
The flight from Launceston to Sydney was about 1:30 hours. It was funny that the same ocean crossing that took 11 hours on the ferry a week before only took 25 minutes in the air :-)….
|The north coast of Tasmania, AU|
|The south coast of Victoria, AU|
It was a very smooth flight and the skies where mostly clear so I was able to get some really good pictures flying into Sydney….
Once we landed I took the train from the airport to CBD (central business district) where I caught the L90 bus to Mona Vale. About 2 hours after we landed Rick (the ultimate host) picked me up in Mona Vale and I made it back in time to have a wonderful dinner with Rick, Linda and the kids and afterwards we celebrated Josh’s 21 birthday!
It’s an exciting time for Josh as he just turned 21, he will be graduating college in a few months and he just found his first apartment with some friends (mates) and will be moving out in a month or so. So as you can see from the picture there was a definite “set up your first place” theme with the gifts. It was a good night and I really appreciated being able to share this special time with them! Congratulations Josh!
My day began with a huge, delicious breakfast prepared by my host Sommai. I ate quickly, jumped in the car and headed South to catch the ferry for Bruny Island (more below). I had read it was about a 45 minute drive but had been told you can make it in 35. I left a little before 9 so I assumed I probably would not make the 9:30 ferry but would have to wait for the 10. However, I arrived at the entrance at 9:27 and they were just getting ready to start loading the ferry…score (or so I thought).
When I pulled up to purchase my ticket I found out they do not take credit cards (they take “tab” cards but I don’t think the US has that yet) and I did not have enough cash….ugh! But the lady at the booth said, “there is an ATM about 100 yards ahead….you can pull down there, get the money, run it back to me, and they you may be able to catch the ferry”. So I quickly pulled forward, got the money from the ATM, ran back to the booth (the lady was nice enough to meet me halfway :-), got my ticket, ran back to my car and pulled up just as the closed the gate behind me (this is like what, they 3rd time this has happened on this trip so far? ha ha). So now I’m safely on the ferry heading to Bruny Island….
Bruny Island (Google, Images, Web Page) is an island off the south-eastern coast of Tasmania….or as Rick’s son Josh said, “so you went to an island, off of an island (Tasmania), off of an island nation (Australia)”….yeah, that’s it. 🙂 According to Wiki, “Geologically, Bruny Island is actually two land masses – North Bruny and South Bruny – that are joined by a long, narrow sandy isthmus” (isthmus = “a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land”). My first stop after reaching Bruny Island was the lookout at the “Neck” (the isthmus). It was very beautiful and VERY windy. Seriously, we’re talking tropical storm winds here….crazy windy. But the view from the top of the dunes was well worth it…..
While I was standing at the top looking around I asked a young couple if they would take my picture. As soon as I spoke they asked where I was from, as they could tell I was from the US :-), and we started talking. His name was Tenzin and he was from Salt Lake City. Her name was Aranya and she was from London. They had met while studying in NY and were both doing exchange studies in Melbourne. After a few minutes they asked if I could give them a ride to the next small town beyond the Neck (Lunawanna). I said sure. I asked where they were headed and they said they were not sure. They confessed that they hadn’t really planned the day very well and thought they would just walk around or bike around Bruny Island. The problem with that is that Bruny Island is over 100 km long (a little over 60 miles)….as Homer Simpson would say….D’oh! They had actually done pretty well to this point as they had taken a bus from Hobart, came across on the ferry without a car and a “nice older lady” had picked them up at the ferry and brought them to the Neck. So I said, “I’m heading to the lighthouse at the southern tip and then working my way back up through the island and planning to catch the 6 PM ferry back….you’re welcome to ride along if you like”. They were elated. So off we went. 🙂
As we began to drive south a very cool rainbow appeared just above the ocean….
So as we began talking and getting to know each other we drove no more than probably 8 miles or so and saw another girl standing at the side of the road and looking for a ride. I stopped and she asked if we could take her to her job about 5 miles down the road. I said, “sure, we’re heading that way and I still have one seat left” :-). So I came to Bruny Island alone and within 15 minutes I had a carload. ha ha These are exactly the kind of spontaneous things that happen when you travel (fellow travelers know what I mean) that I LOVE! Like the overnight train I took from Vienna to Zurich one time with 6 people (from 5 different countries) crowded into a small room about 3 times the size of a toilet stall….it was awesome!
So our newest “carmates” name was Sophie and we could tell, before she told us, that she was from France. She said she had been working at a winery on Bruny Island for the past 2 months. She said she was leaving in a few weeks to travel to Cairns (I will also be in Cairns around the end of March to dive the Great Barrier Reef). We all asked her questions about Bruny and her experiences there. She said she loved it and had made some good friends. It only took about 7 minutes for us to arrive at the winery where Sophie got out, thanked us for the fire and invited us to stop in later if we had time and do some wine tasting. I told her we just might and headed south once again.
On our way to the lighthouse we passed a small bay where the water was just an amazing (#1) shade of green….
After about 15 more minutes of driving we topped a little hill and got our first look at the Cape Bruny Lighthouse. All 3 of us literally said in unison, “WOW”. The whole area was just unbelievably beautiful. We immediately stopped and started taking pictures….
The Cape Bruny Lighthouse (Google, Wiki) was first placed into service in 1838 making it the second oldest extant lighthouse tower in Australia. It was a beautiful site perched on the hill and glistening in the sun.
We drove up to the parking area and I took a few minutes to tour the small “museum” which used to be the light keepers residence.
And it was really cool to me (a guy from the northern hemisphere) to stand there and look out over the Southern Ocean and know that the next piece of land was Antarctica. There is just something that is really cool about that to me. I would love to go to Antarctica…but that will have to be another trip. 🙂
As some of you know I checked in on FB while standing beside the lighthouse (for some reason the best reception I had all day was at the point) and said that may have been my most southern point on this trip. I said may because I was thinking that New Zealand was more south but I didn’t know which was closer to Antarctica. So that night I checked and the southern tip of New Zealand is further South; however, because of the shape of Antarctica the southern point of Tasmania is actually closer to Antarctica than New Zealand. So there is your geography lesson for today. 🙂
After a long visit we left the lighthouse and headed to a place I saw on the map called “Price’s Lookout” (of course I had to go there :-). Price’s Lookout looks out over Cloudy Bay (Wiki). Cloudy Bay is a large bay with big waves crashing over a long, gradual sloped beach. Standing at the point and looking out at it I immediately thought, “this looks like a great place to surf” (admitting that I know nothing about surfing, :-). Well, as it turns out each year Cloudy Bay plays host to the ‘Bruny Island Surf Classic’ – a Tasmanian surfing championship held on the island. So I guess you don’t have to be a surfer to know good surfing areas when you see them. 🙂 Looking out over the waves I couldn’t help but to think of my good friend Rob and his brother Jim..the only “surfer dudes” I know. 🙂
We said hello to Sophie and then left the winery and started driving back to the northern part of the island. We drove back across the “Neck” and stopped to see if maybe any penguins had come out (they frequent this area) but unfortunately they had not. They normally come out later in the day/evening and since the last ferry leaves at 7:15, unless you’re spending the night on the island (which we were not) you may not see them. But it was worth stopping for. We did see an echidna from the road but he disappeared into some thick brush before we could get his picture.
After touring the northern beaches we started to make our way back to the ferry. In speaking with Tenzin and Aranya earlier in the day I found out that they were flying back to Melbourne later this evening from Hobart. They were planning to take the bus back to Hobart. I told them that I have to drive straight through Hobart to get back to the place I was staying so I would be more than happy to take them back to their place. Once again they were very excited and appreciative.
As we sat and waited for the next ferry we saw a black with white spots eastern quoll (Google) (see blog post from Day walk across the street in front of us. We got out and tried to get a picture but it hid and we did not see it again. It was kind of funny because there was an Australian couple who had also seen it and were looking for it and they had no idea what it was. I told them, “it’s and eastern quoll” and they were like, “how did you know that….we’re from Australia and we didn’t know what it was”. I had seen them at the Devil habitat that I visit on Day 22 – Convicts and Devils. Here are a couple of pictures I took that day….
We loaded the ferry and during the trip we took a couple of pictures to remember our day together…
|Tenzin (left) & Aranya (right)|
We drove back to Hobart, I dropped them off at their place and I headed back to my place to get cleaned up. On my drive back to Hobart (from the place I was staying in the mountains) I saw well over 75 wallabies on the short 1 mile gravel road including one open field that had at least 50. It was really cool and I took it all in knowing that I would not see this again once I returned to Sydney. I went back into Hobart and had another nice dinner (Thai) and listened to some more great music from a male/female duet.
|Where Am I|
My day began with a wonderful breakfast prepared by my host Sommai and some great conversation with her and the couple from Melbourne. From the front deck Sommai has a great view of Hobart (see below). After breakfast I spent some time catching up on yesterday blog (Convicts and Devils) and deciding on how to spend the day. My intention for the day was to travel to Bruny Island (more on that tomorrow) but I decided that it would be better to do that with an earlier start tomorrow.
So with the first decision of the day completed (what not to do) I turned my thoughts to what I would do for the day and quickly decided that I would do some things in and around Hobart and my first destination…the top of Mt. Wellington (another mountain top…surprise! :-). So I packed up and headed out.
Mt. Wellington (Google., Images) is a 4000’+ mountain just outside of Hobart. I’m not sure if there are trails to hike to the top but given the time I had I chose to drive to the top. The steepness, distance and number of very sharp turns reminded me of the drive up Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs (for my CO friends). The drive from Hobart to the top took about 30 minutes. About halfway up I realized that I had not come prepared for this. Since I had been moving from place to place almost everyday I was used to having all of my stuff in the car with me. However, since I was staying in the same place for 3 nights in Hobart I had unloaded everything…including my fleese and rain jacket….and this proved to be a mistake for today. In center city Hobart it was mostly sunny and around 70 degrees. Another very nice day. However, at the top of Mt. Wellington it was rainy, cloudy and around 48! So as i climbed out of my car in my short sleeve t-shirt and shorts I got a few funny looks from the other folks running around in their arctic parkas and rain suits (ha ha). Oh well, what are you gonna do?
|Where Am I|
My day began in the small village of Swansea (Google) located across the Great Oyster Bay from Freycinet National Park (day 21 blog). After breakfast I headed south along the coast heading toward Port Arthur on the Tasmanian Peninsula (Wiki). During breakfast my host mentioned a “short cut” through the mountains…..
I left the Unzoo in a pouring rain and then briefly stopped at the Tasman Arch, The Devil’s Kitchen and The Blowhole (Tasman Peninsula). They were each pretty cool in their own way….
I then drove for about an hour to just outside of Hobart where I will be staying for the next 3 nights. When I arrived my host Sommai made an awesome dinner for me and the young couple from Melbourne who were also staying. We had a wonderful conversation over dinner and it turns out that he is a professional musician (guitar). Pretty cool huh?
|Where Am I|
Ok, I know you’re getting tired of hearing it so I’ll say today was a day that starts with and “A” ends with a “g” and has a place you can get lost in the middle. 🙂 It began with a 2 hour drive from Launceston (where I stayed with a great host in a great little place) to Freycinet National Park (link) in Southeastern Tasmania.
Ok, so I wasn’t actually “lounging” in Launceston, I just thought that sounded good :-), but it was a somewhat intentional “rest” day between hiking Cradle Mountain National Park (the past two days) and hiking Freycinet National Park (the next two days). Yes, contrary to popular belief even I have my limits. ha ha
It actually worked out well as the day began cloudy with a lite rain. So I spent the morning writing yesterdays blog, communicating with a few folks, doing some laundry and chatting with my Airbnb host Philippa over a cup of coffee. As anyone who travels knows a big part of the experience is meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds and sharing conversations with them. We talked about Launceston, our dogs and her cats, her children, her brother who is a professional musician (guitar) in Hobart, her upcoming trip to the Blue Mountains (day 11) and a few other things before she had to leave for work. She left me with everything I needed to head out to Launceston, which I did after I finished hanging out my laundry (it had cleared and was sunny at this point).
I drove into city center Launceston (Google, Images) and just spent some time driving and walking around and checking things out. It’s a nice town and it was fun just to street “hike”. Launceston is the home of Boags brewery (Google). I considered a tour but knew I wouldn’t have time so I headed to the Launceston Cataract Gorge park (Wiki, Google, Images). It’s a river gorge that was formed by the South Esk River, the longest river in Tasmania. The interesting thing about this park is that it is just a couple of minutes from the center of the city so it’s a mix of natural rugged beauty with the river, rock covered cliffs and trees and urban dwelling with a community swimming pool, hiking/running trails and a chairlift (don’t know what’s up with that).
As I walked the trails on my “day of rest” I was passed by several runners and I just couldn’t resist. I hadn’t planned to run but I did have my running shoes so….off I went. 🙂 I did a short run and crossed a bridge to the other side of the gorge. This was the steeper side so I decided to hike to the high ridge to get a better view of the gorge from above (pics above).
So after a pretty good day of “lounging” around Launceston I checked out some local restaurants on Google and decided on a place called The Jailhouse Grill where I had a delicious cajun salmon with (of course) a Boag’s draught. 🙂
As I read the menu I came across one dish that made me think of my hunter friends/family Toby Wyatt, Steve Allen and Josh Henson. Here’s a dish for you to make….although you’ll have to go further than eastern NC, SC or GA to hunt one of the ingredients :-)……
|Where Am I|
Hello everyone. Before I get started on today’s adventure I just wanted to take a moment and say how very much I am appreciating all of the blog & FB comments, emails, texts and FB messages I have been receiving from so many. It’s so cool (in today’s world) to be able to stay so connected with everyone back home. It is really encouraging to me to hear so many say how much you are enjoying the blog, pictures and videos and to receive the encouragement to keep them coming. As I’ve said before, my main purpose in doing this blog was to have my friends and family share in my adventures and based on the feedback I’ve received so far it seems to be successful. So thank you all for coming along and sharing this adventure with me and for adding to this awesome experience!
I got up early today as I was anxious to hit the trail. The weather forecast was supposed to be sunny, but as we all know you can’t always trust the forecast so I have to say I breathed a big sigh of relief when I walked outside and saw nothing but clear blue skies….YES! What a difference 24 can make in the weather huh? So I knew immediately we were heading to the Cradle Mountain summit.
I ate breakfast, loaded up and drove the 20 minutes to the Dove Lake (Google) parking area. Dove Lake is beautiful (Images) and even though I had taken several pictures here yesterday I just had to take some with the sun shining…..
From there I stuck out on the Dove Lake Circuit heading to a steep connecting trail called the Lake Wilks Track. They have signs like this on 3 of the steepest tracks (what we would call trails) in the area…..all of which I just had to do of course (please don’t tell my mother, ha ha)….
As I climbed the steepest part of this track I could not help but to recall a hiking trip me and my friend Walt Fromm took to the Adirondack mountains in upstate NY a few years ago. I was thinking how the state of NY could learn a few things from Australia about how to help people climb sheer rock faces (Walt knows what I am talking about) as they install anchored chains so you can pull yourself along…..
I made it to the top and connected to the Face Track which (as the name implies) traverses the face of Cradle Mountain. After about 25 more minutes I connected to the Summit Track, took a hard left and started straight up. The first 1/2 mile or so was basically just a steep trail straight up the side of the mountain. This was just a prelude for what was to come….
After about 1/2 mile the “trail” turned to the right and we started to climb over gigantic boulders. It was steep but we were moving across the mountain (vs. straight) up and heading around to the other side…..
Once we got around to the backside it got really fun as we turned straight up! At this point we were literally rock climbing, only without the “safety” of ropes. 🙂 It was at this point that I came upon two couples. From what I could tell they were not together….other than suffering through the climb together. 🙂 For those who rock climb or hike you know there is no way to capture the steepness of a mountain with picture. It’s one of those things in life that you just have to experience for yourself (I’m sure some are thinking, “uh, no I don’t”, ha ha) but I took a couple of pictures along the way to try and capture the moment…
Fortunately most hikers are not like Philly drivers so they don’t have a problem letting faster hikers pass (my friends in Philly know what I’m talking about, ha ha). So after about 15 more minutes of intense rock climbing I finally made the plateau and was thrilled to see that I had the whole place to myself! I walked for about 2 minutes to the summit and was absolutely blown away by the view! WOW!!!! Absolutely one of the best summit views I have ever experienced. No clouds or haze whatsoever. Everything was clear as far as my eyes could see in every direction. I just stood in amazement for 3 minutes and thanked God for such a magnificent creation and for allowing me to experience it. And then I whipped out the iPhone and started snapping away. And although I fully know that pictures could never fully capture what I was looking at some of them were still pretty amazing….
After taking a ton of pictures and a video (all of which can be viewed by clicking “View Photos” on the right), I found a nice spot to have some lunch and enjoy the scenery. After having the place to myself for about 20 minutes one of the other couples joined me at the top. But I never saw the other couple at the top. My Airbnb host last night congratulated me for the summit and said that most people do not make it to the top so I guess the other couple must have turned back short of the summit.
After about an hour at the top I finally forced myself to leave. I didn’t want to leave the top because it was so beautiful but I knew I had a 2:30 hour hike to get back to the car and then a 2 hour drive to Launceston where I was staying the night. So reluctantly I started back and as expected the decent was every bit as challenging (in some ways more) than the ascent. I made it back down the Face Track in about 35 minutes, took at right and headed to Hansons Peak. From there it was a very steep decent to the Dove Lake Circuit track and back to the parking area.
On the hike out I briefly stopped at the Hanson Peak hut and saw these two quotes written on the walls and thought they were cool….and true….
And even though I had already taken over 50 pictures I could not help but to capture a few more before leaving this beautiful area….
So goodbye to Cradle Mountain National Park. If you’re ever in Australia and have time this is a must see!
|Where Is Stephen|
While I sat eating my lunch and enjoying the view (and trying to stay warm) I had a new friend join me. Turns out that he, like me, really likes peanuts….
I began speaking with the man and it turns out that many wombats frequent this field about this time of day to graze. So we walked slowly looking for more. As we walked we talked about travels. He is from Canada, is retired and he and his wife basically spend Oct.- Mar traveling every year to get away from the Canadian winters. I told him about my situation and he said that he did the exact thing back in his career. He took a 9 month severance package and traveled, rather than going straight to another job. He said it was one of the best things he ever did and it worked out great for him. He encouraged me to continue to pursue this “dream” and trust that things will work out (hmmm, I’ve heard that before). We only spoke for 10 minutes or so and then went our on ways but needless to say it was a pretty cool conversation.
I spent about 30 minutes watching them and then walked to the shuttle stop. Again, I thought my adventure was over for the day, but I was wrong again because during the shuttle ride we saw two Wallabies (a smaller version of the kangaroo, Images) and an Echidna (Wiki,Images). These were the first Wallabies and Echidna I have seen on my journey….
As I was trying to get a picture of this little guy he all of the sudden just dropped down and rolled over and started scratching. Unfortunately it happened so quickly that I was not able to get the beginning but it was so funny (you’ll hear everyone on the bus laughing in the beginning). You can also hear the very Australian bus driver speaking in the video…G’Day Mate! 🙂
All-in-all I think my first day in Tasmania was a roaring success! Tomorrow we climb to the summit!
|Where Am I|
My day began as many of them begin now by having breakfast with my Airbnb host. This time it was a very nice lady named Rosemary who lives in Port Melbourne. As I ate my breakfast of muesli and coffee Rosemary went out of her way to make sure I had everything I needed for my day in Melbourne….
The top of the memorial was a great place to snap some photos of downtown Melbourne….
|Where Am I|
Today began early as I was anxious to tour everything the Great Ocean Road had to offer. I started by sipping my coffee in the sitting room at the b&b where I stayed the night. This was my view to begin the morning…..
After my coffee I packed up and drove about 10 minutes to Apollo Bay to find some breakfast. Apollo Bay (Google, Web) is a nice little town with several cafe’s and shops and (I believe) the largest town on the Great Ocean Road. I had a nice breakfast at an outdoor cafe and had a good chat with a very friendly, and funny, Australian “bloke” sitting at the next table.
After breakfast I backtracked (which I normally hate) to Kennett River. Kennett River is known as one of the best (if not the best) places in all of Australia to see koala’s in the wild. It was just luck (or maybe a little help from above 🙂 that I just happened to stay 15 minutes from Kennett River the night before.
As I mentioned in my FB post yesterday (for those on FB), even before I left the US people were asking me for pictures of koalas. I had been told and read seeing them in the wild was getting more and more difficult as the particular eucalyptus trees they feed on are dying off for some unknown reason. So after doing some research I learned that Kennett River was the place to go.
I had also read that the best way to see them was to get out of the car and hike the road into the mountain and knowing how much I love to hike….no problem. 🙂 So I took off up the Gray River road not knowing what to expect. For the first 1/2 mile I saw only a couple. Then in the next 2.5 km (1.5 miles) or so I counted 24 more!!! I was soooo excited! I even saw two trees that had two of them….which I witnessed was not always good (check out the video on the “View Photos” link to the right). Anyway, it was so very cool!
I was amazed at how high some of them were. Most were sleeping as the the eucalyptus leaves they feed on offer very little nutritional value so they conserve energy by sleeping up to 20 hours a day (sounds like a few people I know, ha ha….just kidding). Mostly they lay in the forks of the big trees with their arms wrapped around the trunk but some of them where way up in the small branches…sleeping. I read that they do something fall from the trees and after having seen them in the wild I can easily see why.
Here is a very small sampling of what I saw today. You can see many more by clicking the “View Photos” link on the right. I don’t know how the formatting will work with theses as picture formatting on Blogger is quirky at best. We’ll give it a try and see what happens.
I spent roughly 2.5 hours just hiking in the forest with my head straight up in the tree tops and I honestly could have stayed there all day. The only regret I had from the day was that I didn’t have a better camera. Most of them were so high in the trees that it was difficult to photograph them. If I would have had a good camera with a telephoto lens I could have taken some unbelievable pictures.
I also took some pretty dramatic videos (yes, even of creatures that barely move 🙂 but videos take much longer to format and insert and now that I’m traveling everyday I barely find time for this. You can view all videos by clicking the “View Photos” link on the right.
When I was finally able to pull myself away I turned my attention to the beautiful cliffs, beaches and ocean that was right in front of me….
I headed south on The Great Ocean Road passing the place I stayed last night and Apollo Bay on my way to Otway National Park (Google), The 12 Apostles (Google), The Arch (Google), London Bridge (Google) and several other places….
I drove from Kennett River to Port Campbell. From their I turned inland and did the 2:45 drive to Melbourne where I stayed for the evening.
|Where Am I|
So today was a transitional day and I spent most of it in a car on the M31. I began my day in Albury with a nice breakfast with my Airbnb host Brian. I briefly met his wife Sally the night before but she had already left for work by the time I woke.
Sadly there was not too much to report from today. The drive, although a bit long (close to 6 hours) was pleasant. The last 1.5 hours was definitely the best as i traveled the Great Ocean Road from Geelong to Sugarloaf (my destination for the evening). Unfortunately I arrived in the area after dark so I did not get the fantastic views that this road offers; however, because it was night and there are very few idiots (seriously) who travel this crazy, winding road after dark I pretty much had the road to myself. So it was time for Stephen to “play”.
Being from the mountains and having grown up with crazy, winding roads I LOVE to drive them. Of course the only small potential downside was the 300′ cliffs the plunge straight into the Southern Ocean…but that’s all part of the challenge. 🙂 This drive reminded a lot of driving Hwy. 1 in Northern California.
Anyway, long story short I arrived at my room around 10 PM safe and sound.
|Where Am I|
Ok, so I’m fairly confident that at least some of you (especially those of you in the US NE) are getting a little tired (ok maybe a lot 🙂 of hearing me say how amazing it is here (in the 80 degree weather) but I’m really having a hard time thinking of other superlatives to describe it….so maybe you can help by leaving your “superlatives suggestions” in the comment section. 🙂
Today I planned to drive from Canberra to the Mount Kosciuszko National Park and hike the highest peak in Australia….Mount Kosciuszko. The Airbnb couple of stayed with in Canberra told me about a great 21k (13 miles) loop hike to the top and I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately I had to take care of a few things before I left so my day began a little slower than I wanted and I didn’t end up arriving at the park until after 1. As a result, I didn’t get to take the longer hike but took a shorter, but still totally awesome, 7.5 mile hike to the top.
The mountains around Kosciuszko reminded me of the mountains in the Scottish Highlands (for those who have traveled to Scotland or have watched Braveheart). Most of the Kosciuszko area is above treeline, very rocky but extremely beautiful….
It took about an hour and twenty minutes to hike to the top. Along the way I met arguably one of the most amazing (wow, I do use that work a lot huh? 🙂 and interesting people I have ever met….a girl named Nuran. She is from Australia and has worked for the Red Cross doing natural and man made (wars) disaster relief for 16 years. She recently returned from a long term deployment in Nepal where she had been since last years devastating earthquake. In her time with the Red Cross she has served in places like Haiti, Mogadishu, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Iraq. She leaves in a few weeks to go back to Afghanistan and expects to be called to Siriya in a few months. Through her time in all of these remote places she has had many illnesses like Malaria and Dengue fever (among others) and has worked in multiple war zones. Through it all she has managed to maintain a positive attitude and not to become cynical, hard hearted or numb to the pain and suffering of those in need.
Of course the obvious question (to most I think) is, why does she do it? Her response was short and confident….I go to serve the victims of these tragedies because they need help. She said, “many times my being there can make the difference between someone living and dying”……WOW! I asked her how she felt when she went to these places, was she scared or nervous and she said not really, she focuses on the people she is serving and does not think about all the other things.
We spent almost 5 hours hiking and talking about her experiences and life in general and I at the end I found myself wishing the mountain had been taller so we could have spent more time talking. I always say that there are no coincidences when it comes to God. I firmly believe that He places people and circumstances in our lives at the right time, with the right things we need to hear, say or experience and I firmly believe he did that yesterday. Maybe for me….maybe for Nuran….maybe for both….but certainly for a reason….definitely for a reason.
When we reached the top it was cold! Of course, not Philly in Feb cold :-), but it was in the mid 40’s with a strong wind that probably made it feel like the mid 30’s. But man-oh-man was it breathtakingly beautiful!
I left Kosciuszko and began my 3:30 hour drive to Albury where I would be staying for the night. As I drove out of the park just before dusk I was keeping a sharp eye for Kangaroos as I had been told they are bad to run in front of cars at this time of day (like deer in PA). Also, I had not yet seen a Kangaroo on my journey….but that would change soon.
I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of one off in the bush. About 200 yards further there was a gravel road that led to a camping area. I took the road hoping there were other Kangaroos in the area. I drove for about 500 yards and saw 4 more grazing in a field. I was very excited. I tried to take a some pictures but the sun was shining right in my eyes and the pictures would not take. So I drove about 200 more yards just to see if there were any more and “BAM”, I come to a field with at least 100 grazing and hopping around. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. It was sooooo cool!
I finished the day/night with a 3 hour, white knuckle (watching out for kangaroos) to Albury. Again, I know you’re probably getting tired of hearing this but this day seriously may have been the most amazing day yet of a completely amazing trip. More to come as I head to the Great Ocean Road tomorrow.
|Where Am I|
My morning started out crazy as I was rushing around like a madman packing, eating breakfast, showering and running out the door to make the bus to manly where I had a rental car reserved. I’m happy to say that the bus ride went off without a hitch and I was at the rental car agency in less than an hour. After signing the form and initially in the 27 places I was told to initial (come on man….it’s 2016 and we’re still going through this antiquated process to rent a car?!?!
|House of Representatives|
After leaving the Parliament building I drove about 15 minutes to a place called Mount Ainslie. On Mt Ainslie you can view most of the city of Canberra and get a good, birds eye view, of the geometric design/layout of the city…..
|Where Am I|
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I began my day by attending the church service at C3 (C3 Church C3 Facebook) in Oxford Falls again. Their regular pastor spoke this week about the 2016 vision for the church. He referenced one of my favorite passages from Philippians 3:12-14 and used it to support the idea of focusing on the “one” top priority thing in 2016. I really appreciated the service again this week and really like this church. If you’re ever in the Sydney area I highly recommend it.
After church I ran a few errands as I needed to pick up a few things in preparation for “hitting the road” tomorrow and returned home for lunch. I spent some time researching places to stay on Airbnb and basically trying to figure out where I was going. 🙂
Later in the day, after it cooled down a little (it was 88 today), I took a run from Rick’s house, beside Winnererremy Bay (Google Maps) up to Church Point (Google Maps, Images). I had a great run. The bay is beautiful and there are some really nice houses, and boats, in this area….
And I couldn’t resist this one because the little boy playing in the water with his dad was just too cute. 🙂 His bleach blond hair reminded me of my cousins little boy Brantley Stephenson.
Toward the end of my run I stopped at a park bench, in a park by the water just to sit and take it all in. In a few minutes I was joined by a man named Jerry and his black American Lab Jed. We sat and talked about dogs in general and what great dogs Labs are as Jerry and Jed played with his tennis ball. We talked about traveling and he told me about his trip through the US many years ago (Jerry, not Jed :-). When I mentioned I was heading to Tasmania next week he told me his son (James) works at the Hobart Yacht Club and said I should stop by and ask him if he knows Jerry and Jed. 🙂 We sat and talked for probably 20 minutes and had a great conversation. Before I left I asked if I could get a picture of him and Jed and he happily agreed….
|Jerry and Jed|
Once I returned to Rick’s we had a wonderful dinner of salmon, veggies and salad and Linda pointed out a king parrot in a tree just off their deck (see below). I have not yet gotten used to seeing parrots and cockatoos flying around in the wild but I saw several cockatoos during my run and another parrot this after noon.
And of course Alaska (the cat) saw the parrot too and wanted to eat him….uh,check him out…..
|Where Am I|
Today (Saturday) Rick and I visited an area called The Blue Mountains National Park. After taking his oldest daughter (Zara) to her job and Woolworth’s and his wife Linda to her office, we were on the road.
The best way to see the most of the Blue Mountain area in a short day hike is to go to a place called Scenic World (Web Site). Scenic World is kind of like doing the “touristy” things at Niagara Falls. It has a gondola (with a glass bottom) that takes you for a short ride across the valley and “The steepest incline railway in the world”…..
We rode the train down to the valley and I have to admit that it was pretty cool. I don’t know of any way to capture the steepness of something on film but it was incredibly steep….over 50% incline. And for those of us who ski steep slopes (Rob & Kusha), you know how steep that is.
Once we were in the valley we began a 6 km (I think) that culminates with a climb up the Giant Stairway (Giant Stairway) which I think is basically the equivalent of climbing a 70 story building. We purposefully chose to go this direction just to do the Giant Stairway and it did not disappoint. Rick and I managed to do it with only a couple of brief stops to catch our breath but it was very challenging.
We finished the hike with a couple of mile walk along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk (Cliff Walk) where we stopped often to take in the great scenery and snap a few selfies….
Rick was a great sport but by the end of the hike I kind of get the feeling that he may have been getting a little tired of all the selfies (ha ha) …..
We finished out day in the Blue Mountains with a ride back across the valley on the tram. I tried to get a picture of the waterfall through the glass bottom but it didn’t really go that well….aside from the kids foot that turned out great. :-)…..
All in all it was a great day with great weather and a great friend. What more could you ask for?
|Where Am I|
My plans for today were to do a few things on-line in the morning, have some lunch, take the bus to visit the Barrenjoy Lighthouse and beach at Palm Beach (Google, Images, Web Site) and then have dinner with the family in Sydney. My plans went well up until…..
The whole Darling Harbour area was really cool and absolutely beautiful at night. Strolling through the harbour after a great Thai meal, the Chinese New Year celebrations and all the fun conversations made for a wonderful night. Thank you Rick and Linda for this great idea and for including me!
|Where Am I|
Hello my friends and family. After having a full, long day traipsing around Sydney on day 8 I decided that Day 9 would be pretty mellow. It’s the “calm before the storm” as I prepare to leave on my next adventure on Monday (more on that later) so this post will be rather light.
I spent the morning doing laundry and researching future travel plans. Earlier in the week I learned that it’s customary for each member of the Elliott household to take his or her turn making dinner for the family and well, tonight that honor fell to me. 🙂 So I took the afternoon to venture into town, shop a few markets and decide what “delicacy” I wanted to create for my Aussie family. 🙂 I decided the main course would be a roasted pork loin with a raspberry balsamic glaze (yummy) along with my usual grilled zucchini, roasted brussel sprouts and a tossed green salad. We added some grilled chicken at the last minute just in case anyone did not want pork (which did not happen)…..
They have a fantastic setup with their “outdoor” grill located on the large, beautiful deck (just remembered that I owe you pictures of their home….I will remedy that in a future post). I told Rick and Linda that if I had this setup and this great “always warm” weather (temps in the 60s in the “winter”) I would never cook inside. 🙂
My only concern with dinner was that I sometimes tend to cook too much. Well, I’m happy to say that dinner was a hit as there were 4 small pieces of zucchini left and that was all. Everyone enjoyed it. Yay!
After washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen Rick and spent some time discussing my travel plans (more on that later) to get his input and as always he had some great suggestions. After I made some tasty chai, did some more reading and fell asleep with my laptop in my lap (which I guess is an appropriate place for a “lap”top to be :-).
In lieu of the “Where Am I” here is some information on the town where Rick’s family live and where I am staying….enjoy.
Once I arrived at the harbor I had to walk about 10 blocks to the Sydney Tower (Sydney Tower) for a 1 PM “SkyWalk” reservation. I know this is an extremely “touristy” thing to do but I wanted to see the views. Sydney Tower is Sydney’s tallest structure and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. There is an indoor observation deck and an outdoor observation deck. The outdoor deck is 268m (879′) high and the indoor is a short distance below that. They call the outdoor deck the “SkyWalk”. They make you put all of your positions into a locker (no phone or camera for pictures) and make you wear a blue “jump suit” (which is a really bad name for something you have to put on just before you go out to an 879′ high outdoor observation deck). 🙂 Once in your blue suit you have to go through a metal detector (you go through another before you come up) to make sure you’re not smuggling anything in. They say this is to protect the people below from any falling debris, but I think it really to sale pictures…and it works! 🙂
Once we were outside, it was quite windy but very beautiful, The guide showed us around and described what we were seeing and then took us to a glass bottom sections and told us (among other things) to jump up and down. Then he took a series of group and individual pictures….
Once we were back inside I took quite a few pictures of the harbor and buildings below. Here are a couple. Remember you can see all travel photos by clicking on the “View Photos” links on the right.
Once I finished at the top I descended to the 5th floor and ate lunch. After lunch I walked through Hyde Park and passed St. Mary’s Cathedral on my way to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair (Mrs Macquarie’s Chair) and the Royal Botanic Gardens (Royal Brotanic Gardens. The views along the harbor shore were very beautiful and I stood and watched a cruise ship leave the port.
I began to walk toward the Opera House and noticed a man looking up in a tree and taking pictures. When I got closer I realized there was a wild Sulphur-crested cockatoo perched in one tree and a wild King Parrot in another tree.
|King Parrot lower center of photo|
A few feet beyond the birds I found something under a shade tree….ME! I love to lay under shade trees in the cool breeze (must be a left over from growing up on a farm) and this was just too inviting. So I took a little cat nap on the grass in the Botanic Gardens right in the middle of Sydney. It was sooo relaxing.
After my nap and a nice stroll through the gardens I finally made it to the Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is probably one of the most recognizable structures in the world. Well I can tell you, it’s every bit as impressive close up. It’s just really a beautiful set of buildings in an extremely beautiful location. What more is there to say?
I spent quite a bit of time hangin’ out around the Opera House because it’s really a pretty cool area with lots of activity. Once I left I walked over the The Rocks (The Rocks,Wiki) and found a place to have dinner. It was an interesting place called Phillip’s Foote where you cook your own meet on one of two flame grills. My steak was excellent….my compliments to the chef! 🙂
There were actually many other small things that I did in Sydney today but I think this is enough. I will definitely be going back at least once (probably more) because I really love it and I have passes to the zoo, the aquarium and a couple of other places that were included with my SkyWalk tickets. Oh, that’s another GREAT thing about being in AU right now….the exchange rate is fantastic for the US dollar. $
Ok, so for today’s “Where Am I” I have two. And if you actually read everything in the blog above these should both be simple…..
Where Am I
I originally planned to travel down to Sydney today but instead decided to stay close to home and do some laundry, go to the grocery, pay some bills, relax and plan my trip for tomorrow. So that’s just what I did. 🙂
So in the absence of any sight-seeing/travel information to post today I thought I would take an opportunity to post some general Australian information that I have seen or heard over the past week. Some of this I knew prior to coming to AU but some of it may be new to you…as it was to me.
Today was a bit weird but kind of fun. It was Monday morning. So I woke up, made breakfast and a cup of coffee and sat down to watch the Super Bowl….wait….what? 🙂 Due to the time difference (and the international date line) Super Bowl “Sunday” happened at 10:30 AM on Monday morning here. I felt a bit like I was watching Wimbledon from London (for those who don’t know it happens early AM in the US). It was a bit weird but I was just happy that a major AU network was carrying the game.
Unfortunately, my team lost (hey I’m from North Carolina, who do you think I’m going to pull for). I’ll be honest that it was somewhat bitter/sweet as I happy to see Peyton Manning go out on top (maybe?), but was sad to see Carolina’s season end on a down note since they had such a great season. Oh well, that’s why they play the game.
Now my next two sports challenges while here are the Daytona 500 and March Madness. I told my mother (before I left) that as far as US sports go I could not have come at a worse time. But it’s summer in AU now so it was the best time to be here. Hopefully I can find the race on the internet….of course it will be at 5AM :-).
So I watched the Super Bowl and checked the local bus schedule to figure out my route, connections and times to get to/from the local shopping center. Me being me (the trying to reform over planner) I came up with 3 alternate times for both going and returning and sent them all to my phone so i would have all I need to assure a “smooth” trip….or so I thought.
I made it to the local bus stop and had a very nice chat with a little old lady (literally, she was about 4.8′) who gave me some “tips” for navigating the regional buses. Right on schedule our bus rounded the corner and started up the street. Then, for some unknown reason, it stopped about 200 yards short of the stop and just sat there for about 7 minutes. Hmmm, this is odd I thought and immediately knew that all of my planning just went out the window as I would never make my connecting bus now….and I did not. But no biggie, I got off at my connection spot and just waited for the next one.
Now I had been told that, if you want to get off the bus just push the red buttons that are located throughout the bus. So when I got close to the shopping center I pushed the red button, the “Bus Stopping” light came on but the bus just kept going….and going….and going. The bus finally stopped about 1/2 mile past my desired stop and a flood of school children began rushing on. I felt like a salmon trying to swim upstream in a flooded river. 🙂 20 minutes later I was at the shopping center (“mall”).
The local shopping mall is much smaller than most US malls. Many of the shops and services are still located in the “downtown” area which I personally think is very cool. So after 1.5 hours of shopping I check my bus schedule and head out to the stop. After about 10 minutes my bus arrives and I make it to my connection stop right on time. Now here is where it gets “fun”. When I get off the bus I double check the schedule posted at the stop just to make certain I am at the right stop for my desired bus. According to both the on-line schedule and the schedule posted at the stop my bus should arrive at 6:13. So I’m standing at my stop and at exactly 6:12 I see my bus top the hill in the distance. I’m feeling pretty good at this point. As it get’s closer I’m not sure if it’s going to stop so I began to wave. It get’s closer….and closer….and VROOM it blows by me at 50 and never slows down. I’m like, “what the heck”. I double check the schedule and verify that it was “supposed” to stop. Well crap. Ok, no problem I’ll just wait for the next one. I check the schedule…I look and find out that the next bus (to my desired destination) does not come for another 1:30 HOURS! UGH!!!!
So with no real choice, I strike off on foot. I check every bus stop I pass but they all say the same. So long story short, about 40 minutes later I arrive home covered with sweat but none the worse for the wear. When I walk in the door I get a big cheer from Linda (Rick’s wife) and his two daughters Zara and Natasha. Apparently they were a little concerned about me thinking perhaps I had been eaten by an AU land shark :-). I love my AU family. 🙂
So what do I after a 40 minute urban hike….go for a run of course. 🙂 I’m still learning the area so Linda suggested I run down to the beach and provide directions. This was a fantastic idea. As many of you know, I’m not a “huge” fan of the beach….well mostly the baking sun, so my favorite time to be at the beach is around sundown. How amazingly beautiful it was to run along the beach and watch the surfers along the way…..
|Cruise ship leaving Sydney harbor|
* Click on photos to enlarge. View all travel photos by clicking the “View Photos” link on the right.
Reluctantly I finished my run on the beach and ran to the downtown area. I stopped and picked up some Sushi and ran back to the house. After dinner I chatted with Rick for a while talking about my trip into Sydney later this week and my future travel plans. He suggested I visit Canberra, the capital of Australia, on my way to Melbourne and we discussed my “Southern” Australian travels. Lots to see and do and I hope you can join me for all of it…..so stick around. 🙂
|Where Am I|
It’s Sunday in Australia and my day began much as it does in the US. I woke up, made breakfast and went to church. I attended a fantastic church called C3 (C3 Church C3 Facebook) in Oxford Falls. The worship was contemporary with a band whose energy, passion and seamless, flowing and engaging worship reminded me of the old COS evening service days with Gregg Hytha (those of you from COS know what I mean). It was great!
They had a guest speaker from the UK named Paul Scanlon (Paul Scanlon) who was amazing. I always say there are no coincidences when it comes to God as He orchestrates all things and the message Paul delivered on Sunday was so spot-on for what I needed to hear. The service was 2 hours but it seamed like 15 minutes. I hope my travels allow me to return to this church again.
|Busy day in Sydney harbor|
|View from Fairfax lookout|
*Remember you can click on any photo for a larger view and you can see more photos by clicking the “View Photos” links on the right.
|Where Am I|
Today began with a great breakfast with Rick at an outdoor cafe in Mona Vale. It was a perfect day to sit outside and enjoy the weather with blue skies and temps in the upper 70s. Mona Vale is where Rick and his family live and is close to where Rick grew up. Mona Vale is a suburb of Sydney located about 17 miles north of downtown Sydney.
|Click to Enlarge|
It is a cool little “village” that has all kinds of shops and restaurants as well as personal services like doctors, barbers, banks and a supermarket. And perhaps best of all, “downtown” Mona Vale is about 500 yards from the ocean (more on that later). Here’s a wiki link with more information on Mona Vale if you’re interested: Mona Vale, NSW
After breakfast we came back and picked up his youngest daughter Natasha and went to buy shoes for school (the shop was closed on Thursday) and a new guitar! That was of course a lot of fun for me as I sat and played some high dollar Martin acoustics 🙂 as they worked with the sales clerk to pick out a good starter guitar. With a starter guitar in her hand and very expensive Martin’s in my head 🙂 we took her back to the house (she was anxious to play her new guitar) and headed to the beach!
As mentioned above it was about a 5 minute drive to the local beach (Mona Vale Beach & Basin Beach). This was my first experience with an Aussie beach and it did not disappoint. It was beautiful with the large sand beach area, big waves with white capped breakers and cliffs of ancient volcanic rock: Basin Beach
They also have a “Rockpool” (see below) at Basin Beach. Rick said these are very common around Australia. It’s basically a man made swimming pool built on rock at the edge of the ocean. It is filled by the ocean during high tide and provides a “pool” for people to swim without getting pounded by the waves in the ocean.
* For more pictures click the links under the “View Photos” on the right side of the page.
After some time at the beach we headed to the supermarket to pick up some things (yes Bill Reichard more food 🙂 and then back to the house where we relaxed on the deck with his wife Linda, had a drink and a great conversation.
As for the evening, Rick and Linda had dinner plans so Josh (Rick’s son), Natasha and I order Thai (yummy) and enjoyed our time talking about everything from the craziness of their cat (check out the video in yesterday’s blog) to the craziness of American politics. 🙂
So armed with the information provided above today’s “Where am I” should be cinch.
|Where Am I|
Ok, So I began my Day 1 blog with, “those of you who know me well will certainly not be surprised by anything I’m about to tell you”. Well, today’s blog begins with….those of you who know me well WILL certainly be surprised by what I’m about to tell you….
After 31 hours of travel (door to door), 21 hours in the air and 10,100 miles I arrived in Australia on time Thursday morning. The flights were good except for some pretty good turbulence for a couple of hours while flying over the equator and Fiji. Customs was a breeze thanks to ePassport and electronic facial recognition (bypassed a very long line), I got my bag and met my great friend Rick Elliott who had just arrived (perfect timing). We threw my bag in the car and were off to deal with rush hour traffic.