Published: October 31st 2007September 1st 2007
Australia - Ayers Rock, at sunrise
The Red Centre, and the centre and origin of everything Australian! The tranformation at sunrise was worth the wait, it really was quite something, amazing how it changed so drastically!
Day 197 - Day 253 (11.07.07 - 09.09.07)
Australia's biggest attraction is its natural beauty. The landscape varies from endless sunbaked horizons to dense tropical rainforest to chilly southern beaches. Scattered along the coasts, its cities blend a European enthusiasm for art and food with a laid-back love of sport and the outdoors.
Melbourne - briefly
Our first stop in Australia was Melbourne, a 2 and a half hour flight from Christchurch, NZ, and we were really excited to be in Australia. We stayed friends we had made in Buenos Aires a few months earlier in a suburb of Melbourne, the first things we noticed, were the streets all looked like they do in Ramsey Street! Jamie and Craig looked after us well, took us to see the kangaroos that hopped around in a paddock near their house, and we drank home-brew beer in their bar “Schumer’s Bar” for a couple of days! Unfortunalely though because of the rain, we didn't get to see much else in Melbourne in the short time that we had here, we aimed to go back, but ran out of time, that will have to be another
Schurmers Bar, Melbourne!
Here's where we spent many hours drinking quality home-brew in our friend Jamie's bar, it was great to meet up with Jamie and Craig again since meeting them in Buenos Aires, thanks a lot guys!
trip, and we feel there will certainly be another trip!
Heading south-westerly, our next stop was a overnight bus ride along the Great Ocean Road, but as it was dark we didn’t get to see much on the way to Adelaide, we were getting into cooler weather too, not warmer like we had imagined Australia to be. We stayed with our good friends James and Lina and their family, whom we had met on the very first day of our trip in Rio, six months earlier! Good food and a gorgeous home were just what we needed after all this time in hostels! James and Lina took us out and showed us the sights of Adelaide, inc the Botanical Gardens, Adelaide zoo, where we fed and petted our first kangaroo’s and held a koala as well as a day in the Barossa Valley. Even though it was winter, the skies were clear and the sun shining in the Barossa Valley, one of Australia’s top wine regions, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves going around the cellar door’s tasting wines, Jacobs Creek was our favourite, and the largest and they were not
Cuddling the Koalas in Adelaide zoo
they really were cuter than we imagined but they sleep most of the time, so it was quite rare to be able to get a pic like this
a bit stingy with their samples!
NEW SOUTH WALES
Sydney is Australia's oldest city, the economic powerhouse of the nation and the country's capital in everything but name. It's blessed with sun-drenched natural attractions, dizzy skyscrapers, delicious and daring restaurants, superb shopping and friendly folk. Flying around Australia is the best way to get around, if time isn’t of the essence, and although our original plan was to buy a van and drive all over, realistically that would have taken a whole year and we had 2 months to see as much as we could.
Arriving into Sydney, we were met by Kate’s relative Susan and we stayed with her family in their lovely home in Malabar Bay, right near Maroubra beach, and just a board walk away from Coogie beach and the famous Bondi beach, where we had lunch one day watching the surfer’s! Sydney was extremely likeable, and is an exciting city, with a lot of energy and a lot going on, where food and drink are celebrated; Susan and Kathryn took us to the coffee festival in Sydney Harbour, and we had cake and irish tea in the
getting this close and patting and feeding these kangeroos was very cool!
tearooms. We have to say their charm and the Sydney lifestyle rubbed off on us rather easily..... maybe one day we'll be back at least for a while (a
pattern is emerging you may have noticed, we keep finding amazing places we'd like to live in! To take in the city and its surrounds, we stayed for a few hours and watched the sun go down from the top of the Centre Point Tower, we took a river cruise under Sydney bridge, popped across to Manly for fish and chips, and had cocktails in the Sydney Opera house bar watching the sun set... happy days!
From here we made our way up the east coast, a famous backpacker route, and one that absolutely had to be done. We stopped off and spent a few days in Byron bay, a very likeable, relaxed and mellow beach town where we took our first surf lesson and surprisingly did extremely well, well if you consider standing up and following a wave all the way to the shore well!
The Gold Coast
On Queensland's southern border, the Gold Coast is the most aggressively developed stretch of
This little fella was munching on a newly-dead animal, in Adelaide Zoo
land in Australia. High-rise condominiums, restaurants, theme parks and airport-sized shopping malls line the shore, enticing fun-seekers to consume and party. As early as 1884, the Gold Coast began gaining a reputation as a holiday destination and hosts the Billabong Pro surfing competition each year - it reeks of sun, fun and surfing!
Our first stop was Surfers Paradise - a glammed up Blackpool with all the charm and tackiness (gold chains and tattoos were big here and the surfer "dudes") actually this area reflects its name ‘The Gold Coast’ because when the sun sets, the white sandy beaches and the high rise buildings that line it all turn gold....it’s very cool, and postcard perfect, like a mini-Rio in an Australian style, we liked it a lot, for a few days at least!
Then with a brief overnight stop off in Brisbane we went to Noosa, and visited Australia Zoo, famous for being home to The Crocodile Hunter, the late Steve Irwin. Boasting thousands of acres of land, and whole-hearted carers, the zoo has an ‘interactive - hands on approach’ to zoo keeping, getting visitors involved with their animals. From feeding demonstrations, walking around with animals such as
Wine tasting at Jacob Creek, Barossa Valley
Our fiends James and Lina took us wine tasting in one of Australia's finest wine regions, it was a great day, and there was a lot of tasting involved!!
snakes, iguanas, wombats and croc’s. There was a lot of respect and love for Steve everywhere and his legacy certainly lives on in all that are involved in the zoo.
We took the "happy bus" over away from the coast into the grassy forest area known to those who know it as Nimbin - a hippy commune formed by hippies sick of the system in the 70's, they believed in freedom, free loving and chilling, so 30-odd years on there’s an interesting mix of people walking around and a peculiar stance to the place, everyone’s well happy though, hemp is available from the "hemp embassy" in many wonderful forms most famously disguised in delicious cookies, sweets and much much more!
Another destination, that simply had to be seen was Fraser Island, its one of those places you hear about and always hope you’ll get chance to go, and luckily enough we did! Fraser Island- the world’s largest sand dune island - was fantastic, we embarked upon a 3 day 2 night tour with Trailblazers, it was a forever memorable trip; long dune walks, swimming in natural water holes, beach bonfires, and a near
James and Lina showed us a grand time in Adelaide, good friends!
attack by a dingo (wild dog)! With more sand than the Sahara desert, and enough fresh water beneath it to supply to all of Australia for many years, it is an incredibly beautiful place, full of natural wonders. They say the stars are best viewed from Fraser, and it was here we first saw The Milky Way and more stars than we had ever seen before. There are no roads as such on Fraser, the beach being transformed into a freeway, so it was only a matter of time before it was all hands to the deck to push us out of the soft sand. Though the sea was stunning, and all too inviting here, swimming is strictly not encouraged as with the continental shelf just below, sharks prevail in these waters and other deadly stingers, so we had to just lay back and watch!
The Whit Sunday Islands
We picked up Helen, Kate’s sister from Cairns airport and began a new stage of our trip, she was joining us for 5 weeks of travelling - it was really great to have her with us, after not seeing her for so long, and it made us
Even the pigeons in Australia have a funky edge!
check out this quiff, they are much more tolerable when they look as cool as this!
feel like we’ve been away longer than we actually have! The 3 of us went down to Airlie beach, a nice happy backpacker beach place from where we went on a 3 day sailing trip of the Whitsunday Islands - it was incredible we helped sail ‘Matador’ a maxi yacht - incredibly fast and powerful as it glided effortlessly through sea around the islands, it won the world championship twice in 1991 and 1992, so was built for speed not comfort but that was all part of the experience. Sailing was only part of the fun, we spent the rest of our days sunbathing on deck, snorkelling and diving around the crystal clear waters, one bay in particular was incredible, known as ‘fish bowl’ for a good reason, the coral and fish variety and colour was amazing and would leave the Great Barrier Reef with a lot to live up to! One of the many islands was truly memorable, for its world famous beach - White Haven beach is apparently the 4th most photographed place in Australia and something similar worldwide. From here we saw and walked amongst sting rays in the shallow clear shore waters of the white sand
Sun set on Sydney Opera House with reflections Sydney Harbour Bridge.
A spectacular sight! We enjoyed a cocktail at the Opera House bar whist watching the sun go down with Kate's family Susan and Kathryn
Cairns - The Great Barrier Reef
Then we got up to Cairns and the weather started to get better thankfully, and despite being Australia’s winter it was finally almost beach wear here, after we have been following winter around the world this was a welcome change! It was time for what we had all been waiting for, for a good while, one of the most exciting and expensive parts of our trip - to go the Great Barrier Reef - a world famous - world heritage site!
Flying over it we simply could not wait to dive on the reef. We embarked upon a large liveaboard luxury speed boat for 3 days and dived on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) - an incredible experience, we did 11 dives in 3 days (that’s a lot and tiring but worth it, we couldn’t get enough) inc 2 night dives, the days dives were at times scary enough, but always very very cool, with millions and millions of fish around everywhere, really beautiful and colourful fish like the parrot fishes and of course lots of Nemo's and his brothers and sisters though they were hard to
spot, and also the huge green turtles and lots of them everywhere it was soo good, though the coral was not as colourful as imagined even though we dived on the outer reef, supposed to be less damaged, there were really interesting bits but on the whole it was a little disappointing - we have since seen better. The night dives were another experience altogether, a first for the three of us so needless to say we were a little apprehensive, especially as the cook on our boat fed leftovers from dinner to the sharks at the back of the boat...this was exciting to see, as they snapped around but was not so cool when 10 minutes later we dived in for a dive! In the pitch black water, it was only possible to see the tiny bit in front of us in the torch light, wafting the torch around we often caught sight of eyes, shark eyes and several of them, the boys loved it, not so much the girls however. We swam around into the coral, almost banging into it no idea what to expect, in one cave we saw huge bump head parrot fish which look pretty
Susan and Kathryn showing us the sites of Sydney
my family are little like me! they really took care of us in Sydney and we had the best time staying with them!
scary in the dark esp. when they are almost 30 in a group, more of those tales another time! We saw so many amazing fish, turtles, and sharks!
Diving on the GBR was a fantastic experience, something we will never forget, and something we are grateful to have done.
Next, needing some relaxation and time away from Cairns and the busy-ness of the last few weeks, we headed north of Cairns to "the world’s oldest rainforest", even older than the Amazon we were surprised to learn, actually we were surprised that Australia even had rainforest, it wasn’t what we had in our heads when we think of Australia!
Cape Tribulation, is an area where tropical rainforest meets the sea, and some trees literally spend their time between freshwater streams and saltwater depending on the tides. We had a great time here, being scared by things that rustled in trees (like the wild pig who is rumoured to be 2.5 metres long that squawked at us when we walked past in the dark one night) and tried to dodge the cassowary that was on the loose in the forest bit surrounding our lodge
Sydney Harbour Bridge
As foamous as it is, it was still cool to sail beneath it, we didn't have the capital to climb it though
(a huge emu like bird that is a living relative of the dinosaur age and has tendencies to disengage people with its vicious claw) and try not to stand on the bird-eating-spiders that were almost everywhere (or so we heard, though the drunks that told us could have been trying to scare us off) and not forgetting the croc-infested waters almost everywhere in this region, which posed a bit of a problem as we ambitiously embarked upon a trek to a creek and had to cross it knowing there were beasts around, the good news is we live to tell the tail.....anyway it was nice despite the day it had a torrential tropical rainfall all day, and left us no choice but to play scrabble for hours!
The Red Centre - Ayers Rock
Christian and i left Helen for 3 days and went west-across-country to outback Australia to see Ayers Rock - famous for being a huge rock in the middle of the flat desert of central Australia which in the sunset and sunrise goes incredibly red. A 2 and a half hour flight over a lot of nothing got us to The Red Centre, this
The 3 sisters, The Blue Mountains, Sydney
these rocks are really famous for their formation and their spectacular surroundings
was a totally different Australia to anything we had seen before, the land was red/orange, the sky was the bluest sky we’ve ever seen and there were strong competitors, and the heat was exhausting even in winter, this place almost never has rain and some of the aboriginal kids that live here have probably hardly ever seen clouds. It is a very interesting and powerful place, rich in the culture and lifestyle of the aboriginals. We hired a car and trekked 7.4 km around another rock formation in the region known as ‘The Olgas’ or Many Heads, or Valley of the Winds, which has a big part both socially and spiritually to the aboriginals, it was hot but a good insight into the lifestyle out here, as we wafted flies away and sweated a lot!
Paying a visit to the Visitors Centre was definitely worth while, and we recommend going before you actually go exploring, it was interesting and informative and gave an insight into the lives of the aboriginals who live off this land and have done for thousands of years. Perhaps a good way for us to explain the effect this place had on us and also
The Blue Mountains, Sydney
just 2 hours out of Sydney are these incredible mountains, they really look blue, it's something to do with the eucalyptus trees that fill the valleys, it was a wonderful retreat for a few days to my families mountain cottage
of particular interest because it showed how deeply moved people are by Ayers rock and the (spiritual) effect it has on even the least suspecting person was a book, known as the ‘Sorry Book’ in which were displayed thousands of letters written by visitors to the rock, who for one reason or another had ‘taken home / removed’ bits of Ayers Rock, as keepsakes or souvenirs for family members, and then had later, and in some cases many many years later, realised this was wrong and that Ayers Rock was a sacred place and so should not be disrespected in such a way - and so had written to apologise or return the particular piece of rock, with requests that it should be returned to the exact reference point. These letters were very moving, but more interestingly, some of those who took the rock seemed to have been deemed with bad luck ever since, experiencing family illness and or death of drastic natures or frequencies which they acquitted to the un-sacred nature of their act when visiting Ayers Rock.
As expected Ayers Rock turned red, at sunset, but was most impressive at sunrise, when magically the huge rock transformed
itself from a dull reddy brown to an electric red colour just for a few moments - it was pretty mesmerising we have to admit and definitely worth waking up at 5am for!
WESTERN AUSTRALIA (WA)
Perth and around
To see as much of this great diverse country as we could, we flew west again, (6hrs from Sydney for Helen and 2 and a half hours from Ayers Rock) to the much talked about Perth. As the world’s most isolated state capital we were expecting something different, but Perth was a likeable, small scaled clean city that probably looks great when it’s not raining! It was not our favourite city in Australia, but was crying out for workers in all possible fields, there’s fortunes to be made in and around Perth especially with the mining if anyone’s interested! WA was completely different to the east coast, more rugged and wild and uncommercialised here, which is a good thing, and it was nice to see (its not all that less expensive though, as we imagined in might be -that was probably wishful thinking!)
Yet again we were dealing with larges stretches of nothing
Family day out, Maroubra beach
our last day in Sydney from left to right:
Colin, Sasha, me, Kathryn, Phil, Susan, Zoe, and Kate
in between the sites on the west coast, so the three of us hired a car and drove on the famous open stretches of road for many an hour. They say there are more than 100,000 cases of kangaroo road kill to be seen on the roads of Australia, each year, and we certainly saw more than a few in the 10 days of driving we did, we stopped counting after day 2! They also say, don’t drive between dusk and dawn, in fact the insurance didn’t cover us for it, as kangaroos choose this time to warm their feet on the road, or cross from side to side, and are often and very often indeed attracted to and startled by car headlights. This was not good news for us, when one night, the road seemed never ending and we just weren’t getting any closer to that tiny town we were supposed to be stopping off for the night in and the sun went down. It was a harrowing 2 hours drive, nerve wrecking and stressful even with 6 eyes on the road and going no faster than 30km an hour, when 4 or more kangaroos jumped out infront of
Surf School, Byron Bay
look who's the odd one out, a big board for a big boy!
our car, near misses if it wasn’t for Hel’s excellent driving!! Not to be done again, we planned every route from then on to avoid the dusk-dawn driving hours!
Stopping off a number of times along the way, it took us 3 days to get up to Monkey Mia - famous for being home to wild dolphins. Staying in the only resort in the area, we were literally on the beach - and a stunning beach it was. With soft white sand, palm trees and the warm clear waters right in front of us, we whiled away a good few days soaking in the sun, fishing for whiting before putting it on the bbq, and of course making friends with the locals. Dolphin lovers would be in heaven here, and even those who aren’t as enticed by these intelligent mammals would have to admit this place and the dolphin encounters you experience is amazing.
Monkey Mia was a wonderful resort, a world heritage site, with white sand beaches and the bluest turquoise sea, its was gorgeous, not to mention the frequent vistitors to the shore, the dolphins which swam up and down the
Torvill and Dean on water!
best kids in the class, we were loving surfing
shallow waters right by people swimming almost every half hour, they are completely wild though, and come in for feeding in the morning but other than that come and go as they please, there were 25 of them or something close to that that are frequent visitors, it was soo nice to see them in an area they have lived in for hundreds of years, and not incaptivity!
Half way between Monkey Mia and Perth we found the Pinnacles. The area is part of the Nambung National Park, where thousands of eerie limestone pillars, up to 4m tall form the Pinnacles Desert. The moonscape scenery is made by the pillars rising out of the stark desert landscape of yellow quartz sand, the raw material for them came from sea shells which millions of years ago became lime-rich sands which by the wind were carried inland. It was a very different kind of landscape and very surreal to drive around, but extremely impressive to see!
Several hundred kilometers south of Perth we found ourselves in the much adored Magaret River wine region. Situated in Australia’s South West premier wine
Crusing the waves
went better than we first anticipated!
region, the Margaret River township is 10 kilometres from the Indian Ocean, positioned on the banks of the stunning Margaret River. Some of the most picturesque scenery in Western Australia is found surrounding Margaret River, incorporating towering forests, rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, and lush green pastures that become a blaze of colour with wildflowers in Spring. Margaret River is centrally located amongst world-class wineries, awe-inspiring caves and world-renowned surf breaks. In the few days that we had here, we made the most of it, and went wine tasting! With our wealth of knowledge of wines by now, well sort of, although we have had considerable practice, we made our way around the windy dirt roads working our way through the green pastures and vineyards - it was, as it always is, a lot of fun and we met some local characters along the way! Other days, we sunbathed on the rugged beaches, having to wade through the mouth of the Margraret River itself and Christian whiled away the afternoons fishing! This place is very moreish, with the cellar doors, chocolate and cheese factories and just lovely countryside next to wide stretching beaches, we could have stayed a lot lot longer!
hmmmm after 2 hrs in the chilly waters, i was managing to take each wave, even though i wasn't mastering the pose!
The Aussie Way
Australia was truly great; we enjoyed it so much more than we ever thought we would, it is an amazing country and the people are definitely interesting if a little amusing and incredibly friendly. Australians know how to have fun, they have a different outlook to people on our side of the world, their time is spent being active and out doors doing things, and not a second is wasted doing anthing else!
We were thinking a few weeks ago, we have been so spoiled so far it is quite hard to appreciate things, esp. as we are seeing so many incredible things, or to keep appreciating things as much as we did in the beginning, but we will look back and be more appreciative. So next stop South East Asia, which will be nice with a change of culture again, make it all that much fresher! We couldn’t imagine a life any other way now though; it’s going to hit us hard to come home!
Time flies, and since Australia we have been in Indonesia, Malaysia and now we are in Thailand. This trip has been incredible, we are so
Nimbin, Hemp town
a funny little place,a hippy commune that still thrives today
grateful to all the people we have met along the way, who one way or another have looked after us or shown us a good time. Australia is ultimately an incedible country - we will be back!!!!
There are more photos below