Published: February 9th 2009February 6th 2009
We kind of did ourselves in early on the vacation front this year, spending 11 incredible days in the land down under. While the toilets don't flush counter-clockwise (i know you wondered), they do drive on the left side of the road. And while they speak English, I think we may understand Japanese just as well as their version of English.
We started our journey on an island called Hayman just off the north coast of Queensland, Australia. The great barrier reef runs for 1600 hundred miles throughout 900 islands in the Coral Sea. It's essentially just below the equator, and it is their Summer currently (Southern Hemisphere). So it's hot. It didn't take us long to feel the Sun. Upon arriving in Hamilton Island (closest airport to Hayman which is about an hour boat ride away), we were ushered to a yacht and handed champagne. We began sunbathing immediately. By the end of the boat ride, we were both burned to a crisp. For the next three days, we had to cake ourselves in SPF 70 and aloe (Australia has no ozone layer left). Mo kind of got a little over her skis on the boat ride (at
10:00 a.m), and didn't stop drinking Momosas until the sun went down, at one point suggesting that I should focus on and pursue a golfing career. I sure do love a buzzed Maureen.
Hayman is incredible. It's the place where they are currently offering the "World's Greatest Job". Our room was on the 3rd floor looking over fresh and salt water pools and the Ocean (Coral Sea). We spent our time lounging by the pools, sipping cocktails, fishing, and scuba diving. We caught and ate a wonderful tuna. Scuba was a little tainted. A storm moved through a few hours before we went out to the reef and churned up the sandy bottom. Our instructor literally said that it was the worst clarity she had ever seen. We made it about 6 feet down before we hit the reef (strictly forbidden). But we couldn't see our hands, let alone our feet. Scuba diving with one foot of visibility is a bit like walking through a haunted house with a blindfold on. It doesn't make you feel warm and fuzzy. We aborted the dive pretty quickly, but we can say we touched the great barrier reef (even if we weren't
bird who came to say hello
There were tons of exotic birds everywhere
supposed to - shhhhh).
For a country that is 22% immigrants, Australians are really proud of their heritage. I don't think we've ever seen the level of patriotism that the Australians exhibit. They love the place, and really don't like non-Australians...even though there are so few "locals". We were in Sydney for Australia Day (their 4th of July). This was the day they officially took the land from the Aboriginees. This isn't what they celebrate though. It's a day of liberation for them and a day off work. It is also a day they scream Aussie, Aussie, Aussie over and over again. This is every bit as annoying as our U.S.A. chant, though slightly more original.
While our weather was cold and rainy, it didn't stop us from enjoying Sydney. We shopped at a wonderful outdoor market called the Rocks, walked the Sydney Bridge, toured the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens, and sunbathed at Manly Beach. We also hiked a cliff at Manly. The Harbour Bridge was built about 80 years ago, and pretty much helped bring Sydney out of the Great Depression. We walked the entirety of it which has great views of Downtown Sydney,
It put up quite a fight
the Harbour, and the Opear House.
The great thing about Sydney is that for a city with 4 million people, five minutes outside of downtown, the place feels like a college town. The city is built on the water and surrounded by incredible beaches. We ended our time in Sydney having dinner and drinks with an old friend (one of my favorite people) and her husband, who we had never met. That didn't stop him from taking us out on the town even after his wife went home. In her defense, she did have work the next day. Cheers to Sue and Clive.
From Sydney, we jetted to Melbourne where a little thing called the Australian Open was occurring. We planned our trip around the tennis tournament and it really was the highlight. Rod Laver Arena sits about 15,000 people and there isn't a bad seat in the place. Tickets are quite reasonable and they were surprisingly easy to come by. We caught about 10 major matches in the Arena including the mixed doubles championship, Venus and Serena winning doubles, Safina beating Dokic (The Story of the Open), Roger beating Andy, and the coup de grace, Rafa
and Verdasco (Shelley's crush) going head to head for 5 hours and 14 minutes in a thrilling 5 set marathon which ended up being the longest match in Australian Open history.
We did a wine tour/zoo visit on our first full day there which was pretty amazing. Walking around a zoo is actually fun if you catch a buzz first... and that's what we did. We saw all of the animals that you associate with Australia, including Koalas, Kangaroos, snakes, lizards, and Wallaby's.
We absolutely loved Melbourne outside of the heat. I pretty much lose all semblance between right and wrong when it comes to golf. It takes precedence over most things in my life, including personal safety. I had the opportunity to play the number 1 course in Australia, and I wasn't going to let a little thing like 115 degrees stop me. I arrived at the course in time to hit practice balls (as i hadn't played in 3 months), and within 5 minutes, I was dripping. The starter suggested that I postpone my round because, "not even the caddies are willing to go out today". This meant I was going to have to carry my
own bag. Yep, I did. The heat can have a powerful effect on the mind, and around the 9th hole, i stopped caring about my score and started caring about making it throgh the round. Until I passed the 3rd dead possum on the course, I didn't put two and two together. I thought they were dying from the heat. Having caught my 4th and 5th possum in the process of dying, I began trying to coax them towards the shade...to no avail. It was then that I realized that the powerful smell eminating from the ground was indeed a possum poison. It then dawned on me that they weren't expecting any players to be on the course today, and as such, were probably shocking the possums to such a point that the chemicals could have an impact on a grown man. Now I really wasn't thinking about much other than survival. Around the 12th hole, the starter brought me a Pepsi Max. Gee, thanks. Not a gatorade, but a Pepsi Max. For future reference, DO NOT drink a dietary soda without a restroom nearby. Details spared, I shot 78 (it's easy when no one is there to check your
The Aussie Dollar is really weak right now, so we did a ton of shopping. Melbourne is truly an international city, and there is something going on within every nook and on every corner, down every alley, and behind every facade. It is a young and vibrant city that has a ton of energy to it. We will go back without doubt.
It was a trip of a lifetime that we know we were very lucky to be able to do with out the time change and with half the flight time. It was a trip that we will never forget.
There are more photos below