Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Australia, Back to Sydney and Out (photos)

5 May - 15 May

We woke up in Emerald Beach the next day, 5 May, and then drove in to Sydney. We went back to the same guesthouse as we stayed in before in Kings Cross, which is near the car market. We went over to the car market to get a sense of competition and prices and were a bit disappointed by what we saw. Lots of cars and everyone said it was very slow. We had the newest car and the only shiny red one and the only one with a spare tire on the roof so we thought we'd be OK. That night we went to a car wash and polished up Betty and then had canveyor belt sushi for dinner and beers on the guesthouse terrace.
The next day, 6 May, was our first day at the car market. It is in a underground parking garage and filled with people selling cars and cold and smelly and dark and miserable. We were in good spirits the first day, even though only one person looked at our car. That night we bought manila folders to make signs for our car, showing off the model year (1994) and the Western Australia registration (the best one to have).
The next day, 7 May, the second day we finally had some interest. An Irish guy actually asked to see the engine. I think he bought someone elses car. At the end of the eight hour day another Irish guy, who I could barely understand asked me what my "rock bottom" was. I wouldn't tell him. No cars sold and everyone was despressed. A couple vans sold though, and since the custom is to buy a carton of beer when you sell your car and hand them out to the other sellers, we had a couple free beers. That night we saw "Kingdom of Heaven", which was just like every other movie I've seen.
The next day, 8 May, the third day, we spent eight hours down there and there were maybe two buyers walking around the whole day. It was pretty bad. At this point our price was dropping one to two hundred dollars a day. We had the highest price since we had by far the newest car, but nothing was selling. We had pizza for dinner.
The next day, 9 May, the fourth day, a young Swedish couple looked at the car at the end of the day. Ohhh OOhhhh. Nothing. I expected them back the next day but never saw them again. It wasn't exactly fun, but we were having a pretty good time hanging out with all the other sellers. Conveyor belt sushi for dinner and beers on the terrace.
The next day, 10 May, we sat there all day and nothing happened. A car behind us failed inspection with almost no compression on cylinders 3 and 4. We had full compression on four cylinders, and 80% or so on the other two. We knew this. What was wrong? Price drop. Then, an English guy came up and asked about the car and took a look at the engine and, can you believe it, asked me to start it up. He went upstairs to ask about registration and came back and wanted to get it inspected the next morning. We knew it would be fine. Then, he made an offer, magically hitting our low and I countered for fifty dollars more to pay for the carton of beer, and I told him that the price would not change after the inspection and that he should not pay for it if he was going to try to get an even better price. We shook on it and arranged to meet the next day. We were pretty psyched. The price was AUD$350 less than what we paid for it. Just as we were leaving, an Irish couple (tons of Irish) came by and asked us about the car. They had just had another car inspected and it needed AUD$1600 worth of repairs. They were very interested but were too late since I had already shook on a deal. They wanted us to call them if anything changed. It looked like we were in a good position since I had a back-up if the other guy tried to lower the price. We went back to the guesthouse and ate dinner, soup I think.
The next day, 11 May, we met the car inspection guy, who had done the inspection for us when we bought, and the seller. The inspection went great. We had fixed some of the things that he had suggested when we bought and nothing else got worse. In fact, changing the fuel filter, or something else, brought our compression up from the previous inspection, so we had full compression on all six cylinders. The buyer had to go downtown to get money so we went OUTSIDE and ate lunch in the SUNSHINE. Then we waited around, he came back, signed some papers and then we got the money and Betty was no longer our car. We went out and bought a carton of beer, went back down and handed them out, hung out for just a little bit and then left the horrid place forever. That night we went out and met our Irish friend Helen that we had met in the Whitsundays. We met her and her boyfriend and two other Irish folks at a pub in Paddington and then went back to their place for dinner. We had a great time and drank a lot of beer and I learned some great jokes, which aren't as funny without the Irish accent but still work.
The next day, 12 May, we packed our stuff and got out of Kings Cross and moved to a nicer hotel downtown. Here is a view from the window.
The next day, 13 May, we confirmed our Air New Zealand tickets, took a bus to Bondi Junction and bought some jeans since NZ is cold. Then we headed back to the room and then to the subway station to meet John, our friend from Noosa, and went over to John and Larah's place, had some beers, went out for Mexican food (cheap at home, expensive in Australia) and then back to their place and then back to the room.
The next day, 14 May, we walked around an art market at The Rocks and then took a ferry to Manly Beach. Here is a surfer on the beach, and here is the beach. We came back toward downtown at sunset, which was crazy orange.
The next day, 15 May, we got up early, took a taxi to the airport, got on a plane and flew to New Zealand. I slept until the end, when Dara woke me up to see the view as we were landing.

Australia East, Part III (photos)

24 March - 4 May

My notes are pretty scant for this section.

We left Gladstone on Sunday (24 March) and continued heading south, stopped in Agnes Waters for some pies and bought some ice. The pies here are something we enjoyed. They are an inexpensive lunch and are like a pot pie, filled with gravy and beef or chicken. My favorite were steak and mushroom. We ate them all the time. From there we headed toward Deep Water National Park, on the coast near Bundaberg. It was a long ride in through bumby gravelly road and we weren't sure we would get a spot since it was ANZAC Day (commemorating the Gallipoli landing by Australian and New Zealand troops). We rolled in and saw an unoccupied campsite that was reserved. Since it was pretty late in the day and toward the end of the holiday weekend, we figured we'd be safe to just snag it, so we did. When the ranger came around he noticed the name it was reserved under was the same as a big group on the other side of the grounds so he asked them and found out they didn't need the site so we were in. We set up and went down to the beach. It was a fantastic empty beach with big clear waves crashing against an outcrop of rocks. We were the only ones there. Back at the campsite a solemn looking man (with a beer in hand) walked up with his son and told us they would be having a ANZAC commemorative ceremony on the beach at 4:18am (I may have the time wrong). We figured it might be fun, since there was a full moon that night. We decided we would set out clock for it. Then, we made dinner and had a few beers and Dara saw a turkey in a tree and we went to bed. We didn't make it up for the ceremony.

The next day (25 March) we said goodbye to the beach and I caught Dara dancing. From there we headed out and south to Noosa, a great little riverside town. We got there and got a campsite right next to the river and watched the sunset over the river each night.

On the next day (26 March) we went on a coastal walk around a big point of land. Here is a view from the trail. We looped around and came to the point and sat down for a picnic lunch. There was a huge inlet below us and we could see turtles. Here I am enjoying lunch overlooking the inlet. We saw some great sunsets from our campsite and I spent that evening fishing. I didn't have any bait so I was using little bits of cooked pork sausage and they worked great. Here is a bream that I caught, just over 22cm, so a keeper (I let him go). The pelicans are keen to whats going on and as soon as they see the excitement of a catch, the pelicans come over to see if you'll give them the fish. That night we met an Australian couple, John and Larah and chatted with them for a bit.

The next day, 27 March, it was pretty rainy so we went into town and did some internet, had some pies and saw "The Interpretter", which was pretty lame. We did laundry that night.

The next day (28 April) we rented a boat and cruised around in the river. I'm sure some other stuff happened but I only have financial notes. He had burgers and wedges for lunch, I bought a pair of cheap sunglasses and we bought groceries (ice, tuna, coffee, cereal, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemon and garlic). That evening we watched the sunset and I fished again. That night we hung out for hours with John and Larah. I think it rained.

The next day, 29 March, we took a route suggested by John and Larah into the hinterland. We drove inland through the hills and had some great views. We didn't want to push the car too much on the hills since we were going to sell it soon. We stopped in a cute little town called Maleny and ate at a diner and read celebrity magazines. Then we carried on and got some sausages from a grocer and ended up at a campsite on the Somerset Dam. That night we had our second fire of the whole trip. There was a fire ban in most of the places we were.

The next day, 30 March, we woke up and had breakfast and saw a bunch of people near us looking up into a tree. I grabbed my camera and headed over there and saw that they were watching a koala sleep. We also saw him wake up.
From there we headed to Brisbane, more rain so we went to the mall. We had a couple of slices of pizza for lunch and went and saw "The Hostage". All movies seem to be the same these days. Not sure what else happened. My financial notes indicate that we bought a 30 pack of VB (Victoria Bitter) and a liter of milk.

The next day (1 May) we drove to the ferry and took a boat over to Moreton Island. It was a bit of a tourist trap and the weather wasn't so great but we spent three nights there. Not sure what happened. We went for a really long walk on 2 May and saw starfish. We rented DVDs and made food and did some walks. At night they had a dolphin feeding. They line up scores of tourists (mostly Japanese) and each person gets a single fish and then two people from the resort take you by each arm into the water then you give the fish to a dolphin. Someone videos it and sells it to you for thirty dollars or something. It was pretty obscene and we didn't do it. Not big marks for Moreton Island, but, it is the location of The Spooky Motel in the first Scooby Doo movie. Oh yea, they also feed the pelicans.

We left Moreton Island on 4 May and started the big drive to Sydney. We spent that night at Emerald Beach and camped right near the beach and ordered in pizzas. It was windy I think, and it rained.

Australia East, Part II (photos)

Sailing Whitsunday Magic
Whitsunday cruise
Whitsunday harbor
Hamilton Island Overlook
Whitehaven Beach
Jim and Dara
Whitehaven proposal
Whitehaven view
Whitehaven boat
Hamilton Island sunset
One more cockatoo
Whitsunday overview
Whitsunday swirl
Heart Reef
Heart Reef
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
Whitsunday Islands
More Whitsunday Islands
Jim and Dara
The plane
Airlie Beach rainbow
Gladstone Beach

Australia East, Part I (photos)

1 April - 16 April

Australia's East Coast

Cape Tribulation

This is a beautiful section of Australia. Cape Tribulation is a World Heritage Site, and it is the only place in the world where the rainforest meets the ocean. We camped right off the beach, and we went for a walk before it poured outside. We crossed the estuary during low tide so we could actually see crocodiles. Thankfully, no sighting. We continued to the rocks when the rain came down.

While leaving the campsite, we saw a hercules moth, the largest moth species in the world. It's lifespan is only for a day. Wild, huh? We then went on a tour of the rainforest. Fascinating overall. We also saw our first forest dragon. Here is another picture of him. Overall though, I liked the strangler trees. These trees use another tree as their host. Slowly, over a period of a couple hundred years, they suck the life out of the other tree. No picture though.

Driving South From Cape Tribulation
Mossman Gorge
Port Douglas
Hitchinbrook Island

Mission Beach

We spent the day driving down the coast from Cape Tribulation in the rain. Our guide book described Mission Beach as the perfect place to rest and relax. We were ready ... We were ready to get out of the rain. We splurged on this great beachfront hotel. The ocean view was fabulous, and the palm trees swayed in the wind and rain. We were out of the rain, warm and dry, enjoying cable. We stayed for three days. It was a little slice of heaven.

Finch Hatton Gorge

Our next step was to see the Whitsunday Islands. We made our plans and then took a side trip to Eungulla National Park for the platypus and Finch Hatton Gorge for the swimming holes. It was a lovely drive out there through the valley and the sugar cane fields . We passed through the small town of Finch Hatton towards Eungulla.

So, there was this huge mountain, and we decided that we could make it to the top. I was driving, of course, and the car started to overheat. I pulled over as soon as it was registering way too hot. We opened the hood, and steam was pouring out. We looked closer, and one of our radiator hoses sprung a leak. Worse yet, we were not close enough to town.

Thanks to Jim's quick thinking, we turned the car around, went back downhill and hoped to arrive in Finch Hatton without ruining the engine. We made it with no coolant left. We then waited in front of the mechanic shop on a Saturday. We had a long day waiting for Dave (the local mechanic) who ended up going camping for the weekend with his family. Thankfully though, Dave's dad was a mechanic too. He agreed to fix Betty the next morning. Yay!

We had a wild night hanging out with the locals in the pub. We ate some burgers and fries with gravy. We also played lots of pool and listened to some classic Australian tunes, like Silver Chair, Jet, AC/DC (which we just learned is from Australia, not England).

Early in the morning, Joe, our retired mechanic, started working on Betty. His eyes were not so good, but Jim helped him here and there. He fixed it though. $40 and Betty was as good as new.

After the car was running again, we decided against climbing the mountain to see the spectacular views from Eungulla National Park. Why risk it again? Instead, we crossed four flooded creeks to see Finch Hatton Gorge. We did finally swim in the refreshing, but freezing cold, water there.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Australia North, Part II (photos)

Drive Back to Australia's East Coast

There is not much along the road here from Kakudu National Park to the East Coast except too many miles (or kilometers for everyone else). The scenery is fabulous, and we enjoyed the peacefulness of the Outback.

We stopped the first night in Daly Waters. It was the first place that airplanes would land when they crossed from Asia. It is more popularly known for the colorful local pub. We decided to camp near the pub and treat ourselves to a little dinner. Little is not quite the right word. There was so much food, and we were sharing a burger and potato wedges. After a couple of beers and too much dinner, we went back to enjoy an evening under the Southern sky.

As we were walking back, an excited German man met us on the path. He found a snake near his camper. Of course, his camper is right next to our tent. When we neared the campsite, we saw his German wife and three blonde kids freaking out inside the camper.

I would like to think of myself as not a girly girl. But honestly, I was not in for hanging out and going on a snake hunt of all things. Jim, on the other hand, joined in the fun. Instead, I decided to hang out with Betty.

After a few misses and losing our friend Mr. Snake for 15 minutes, the snake was found in the engine. The locals were excited, because the python was larger than usual. The locals took him out to the nearby field - and let him go FREE.

Yes ... free ... even though I realize that pythons are not poisonous, I still did not sleep well that night.

More of the Outback

These are some great photos depicting the Outback. It is a great experience to drive and drive for miles with this scenery. I love the endless sky. The sunrises and sunsets are fabulous too. It is so peaceful.

State border crossing
The Outback
More sunset
A little more sunset

Overall, our longest day on the road was from Barkly Homestead up to Normanton. We could not find a campsite in town. The town seemed deserted. Instead, we decided to check out another nearby campsite. Before leaving though, Jim was pictured with the 28 foot Normanton crocodile. The crocodile was found near the town in the 1950's. It was killed, and later, displayed in the town center. Crazy, huh?

Anyway, we continued out of town past Normanton. Here I am driving and dodging toads on the road. I was never quite good at Frogger though.

Australia North, Part I (photos)

March 23-31

Jim & I made a decision to head towards Darwin, which may have not been the best idea. We got there between the rainy season and the humid season, so when it wasn't raining, it was really hot and humid. I feel as if we gave the place a little bit of a chance though.

First of all, Darwin has a lovely location on the ocean. Unfortunately though, you cannot swim in the ocean for fear of being stung by these giant jellyfish. Their tentacles alone reach 9 feet, and they are invisible. If stung, death is possible for the weak hearted, but the scars are permanent and painful. They look like burn marks. We saw a picture of these red lashes on a woman's thigh. Could you imagine living on an ocean where you could not swim during the hottest times of the year? Why live on the ocean?

Then, there are the crocodiles. We thankfully did not see any of these. People die from being eaten by those. Most are found in the saltwater rivers along the estuaries. And according to one of the campsite owners, the crocs are fast. You would not be able to outrun them.

Aside from these minor nuisances, we were there during the end of rain season, and the temperatures were outrageously hot and humid. It was not our ideal weather for sleeping outdoors in a tent. We would either swim or shower before going to bed and immediately get out of the tent in the morning. We also found ourselves hanging out in the shopping malls and movie theaters to cool down. Sad, but true ... but then, we realized that we could leave ... we can hop in our car and get out of here. Of course, it takes a good three to four days. But, it was possible.

All was not lost though. There were a couple of good highlights for this region.

Katherine Gorge National Park

We would have missed out on one of the coolest animal moments. We camped in Katherine Gorge National Park, and there were wallabies (smaller version of a kangaroo) everywhere. Take a close look.

Mother and child
There is a little baby bulge in the pouch of the mother.
More mother and child
A little head is peaking out of the second photo.
A little more
It is starting to get dark, but there is a head outside of mom's pouch.

Litchfield National Park

A unique attraction in Litchfield National Park is the magnetic termite mounds. It was pretty interesting. Here is an explanation of the termite mounds. Check out the size of these termite mounds in comparison with Rover.

However, Litchfield National Park is better known for their beautiful clear natural swimming holes. Our favorite one was the Buley Rockhole, a clear creek with deep swimming holes. We would sit on the rocks and the water would flow over us. Or we could jump in the deeper clear swimming holes to cool down. This was one of our favorite places to relax and enjoy the day.

When we were leaving Buley Rockhole, we saw a good sized goanna. Jim was able to get a couple of great photos of him. Later, the same day, we had another goanna visiting our campsite. This one is hanging out under the table, and he continues towards our tent.

After a day of relaxing in the swimming holes, we did a little bit of the usual. We cooked a little grub and enjoyed a couple of beers, while watching this fabulous sunset. We also played another vicious game of scrabble. Jim probably won this game. That is the only reason that we have a picture of it. :)

Kakadu National Park

This is the biggest and the best of national parks in the Northern Territory of Australia. Unfortunately, for us, the major roads were closed due to flooding, and we only saw a few exhibits in the visitor center. We did get a picture of a sea eagle in a nearby parking lot. From here, we decided to get out of dodge and head for the East Coast.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Australia Red Center, Part II (photos)

20 March - 23 March

On 20 March, we woke up in Kings Canyon and headed out for a hike. We pulled up and put on our fly hats and headed out. After a bit of up and down hiking you get to a huge cliff where you can lay on your belly and look over the edge. This is the view from edge. We hiked down to a water hole and back up, carefully sticking to the trail. It was a good hike, hot and buggy, as we were accustomed to.

After Kings Canyon we drove up to Alice Springs, the largest city in the red center. We pulled in to a caravan park, set up and had pizza for dinner. My notes indicate that we boiled eggs that night.

The next morning (21 March) we got up around 5:30am and headed west of town into the West McDonnell Ranges. We hit all the sites; Simpson's Gap, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Serpentine Gorge (where we saw Rock Wallabies), the Ochre Pits and Ormiston Gorge. We skipped Stanley Chasm because they were charging for entry. We ate egg salad sandwiches for lunch.
Afterwards, we headed back into town and checked out the shopping district. We went to a jeweller and checked out their opals. We learned all about the different kinds and which are most valuable (we had already learned about them in Coober Pedy, and the stories matched). Red is the most expensive and they had some great stuff, at much better prices than in Coober Pedy or Melbourne. Dara bought (actually, I was carrying the money, so I bought it for HER) a really nice necklace that has a little speck of red in it that glints when viewed from the right angle. Then we got groceries and headed back to the caravan park for dinner. That night, I re-organized the car.

The next day, 22 March, was a big drive. We burned lotsa gas (we bought 75 liters according to my financial records, and bought more gas first thing the next morning. Since we "forgot" to pay for camping that night, our only other expense for the day was AUD$3.30 on popsicles). Days driving in the outback all meld together, but I bet we saw some dead animals and eagles and excellent clouds and listened to Neil Young Harvest and The Frames and Josh Ritter and maybe even some Velvet Underground or White Stripes. We probably talked to some people when we stopped for gas, and we probably waved at all the cars going by as is the custom to always wave when you come upon another car in the outback. But, according to my notes, this is the day the we crossed the Topic of Capricorn. As I recall, Rover was particularly excited about the event. The next major excitement of the day was reaching Wycliffe Well, which is the UFO capital of Australia. We carried on and made it to the Devil's Marbles, arriving before sunset. We parked and put on our fly hats and headed out to take some photos. The Marbles are excellent especially at sunset and sunrise. They were obviously placed there by aliens.
We saw there was a wooden platform and assumed it was there to protect from snakes or scorpians or poisonous toads or something so we put our tent on top of it. We slept pretty well except for a violent wind that caved the tent in on us, making it easy to get up to see the sunrise on the rocks. Here is our camp at sunrise. Dara didn't like the flies, but she's pretty tough.

So, 23 March, we broke camp and headed north. We passed through Tennant Creek, Elliot and Daly Waters. Then, it started to get a bit greener and we stopped in at Mataranka and had a swim in a waterhole there. From there we pressed on to Katherine, which has a big gorge which is supposed to be great to go canoeing on. The clouds were great and we made it there just around sunset. It was pretty hot, and we had crossed from dry heat to wet heat, so it was pretty uncomfortable. That night, sitting at our table, we saw flying foxes for the first time. They are huge bats and you can hear them as they slowly flap their wings. They flew by in hordes. It was pretty cool.

That same night we saw the mother and child wallabies. It was one of the highlights. The baby, more of a toddler, was hanging out eating beside its mother, and then it decided to climb into her pouch. I saw it coming and I figured it was regressing to infancy or something because it looked like it never would fit. It was amazing. I filmed it. Photos in the next entry.

Australia Red Center, Part I (photos)

14 March - 19 March

From Adelaide we headed north to Port Augusta, arriving there 14 March. We wanted to find a mechanic to fix a few things on the car and check it out again before we headed up into the outback. We were told that if you break down in the outback, it is so remote and desolate that you have no choice but to pack your bags and get on a bus since it costs more to tow a car than the car is worth. So, we wanted to be sure. We found an odd mechanic named Cootsie and had him check over the car. We replaced the oil pressure switch and the fuel filter and a couple of radiator hoses and flushed out the cooling system. We felt pretty good about things so we headed back to the caravan park and enjoyed a nice bottle of sparkling red wine. If you haven't tried this, you should. It's kind of like red champagne but tastes better and you can drink it like beer as opposed to drinking it like wine (e.g. quickly). The next step was to fill up our 40 liter fuel can and our 40 liter water bottles and all our other various water bottles and hit the road (on 16 March).

In the outback, you are on a two lane road and the one scary thing are the road trains, which are trucks carrying two to four trailers. They can't slow down and they take a long time to pass so no matter what your speed, they are scary.

We made good progress on the first day, making it all the way to Coober Pedy, which is an opal mining town. The place is so hot that most of the people who live there build their houses underground, dug into the sides of hills. We checked out the town for a bit and looked at some opal stores and then got some beer and went back to the caravan park. We set our tent up on some gravel and I found some bits of opal right under my feet. It was in Coober Pedy where we first encounter the outback black flies, which swarm you in search of moisture, which means they go for your eyes and nose and mouth. It's maddening. More on them later.

The next day (17 March) we woke up and packed up and went to The Old Timers Mine, where we went on tour of an opal mine. It was pretty interesting and they had seams of opal in there worth thousands. Then we headed north, passing opal mining fields. The next stop was The Breakaways which is where Mad Max Beyond Thunderdown was filmed. Here is a photo of us with Betty. It was here where we first started seeing the huge wedge-tailed eagles. Further along we would see them feeding on dead kangaroos. Sometimes we would even pass hugely bloated dead cows with eagles picking away at the carcass. Sometimes you would smell an awful smell and then you would see a deflated dead cow that just popped. It was pretty cool.

We made it all the way from Coober Pedy to Ayers Rock that day and enjoyed some beer in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. My notes don't say what we ate, but I bet it was pasta.

The next day (18 March) we woke up and drove out to The Olgas, seeing Ayers Rock for the first time seeing Ayers Rock for the first time on our way. We stopped at the car park where the hikes begin and got so attacked by flies that we retreated into the car and proceeded to kill the ones that came in with us. We sat there and watched people running across the parking lot to their cars. On account of the flies, and the fact that it was near noon and wicked hot, we decided to abort the mission and head back to the caravan park. We sat and had lunch and I was determined to save the eight dollars required to buy a fly hat. Our car had come with some mosquito netting and I made us some fly hats by stitching some string through it and tying it on top. Here is Dara modelling my creation.
After lunch we went over to the rock and went into the visitors center. It was about how the aboriginals used the land and found food in the area and the spiritual significance of the rock. We considered climbing it, but the locals consider it sacreligious and it was pretty windy and hot, and we didn't really feel like it, so we didn't. We decided instead to drive around the rock a couple times, once clockwise and once counter-clockwise. I have more film of this than I care to admit.

We went back to the caravan park, met some French people who sold us their New Zealand guide book and then we went to watch the sunset over the rock. The colors really come out in the sunset.

The next day (19 March), having learned our lesson the previous day, we went EARLY and with fly hats to hike the Olgas. Here is a nice shot of a valley. We were covered in flies, but we had our our fly hats on, so it wasn't so bad.

After our hike we had our final look at Ayers Rock and headed to Kings Canyon, arriving there and camping for the night.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Southern Australia (photos)

March 7-10

The Grampians National Park

After driving down the Great Ocean Road, we moved inland to the Grampians National Park. It was a nice way to spend a couple of days. The weather was better too, although the temperatures were colder than normal for this season.

Being on an animal hunt and all, we learned that there were emus at the nearby golf course. Jim was able to get a couple of good close-up photos of emus. We decided to get their attention by waving a red dish towel at them. It worked for a few moments, and they moved a little closer. But then, they trotted away. Go figure.

We did a moderate hike up the pinnacle the next morning. It was a relatively steep climb up the mountain over flat-edged rocks. It took us about 2-3 hours overall (being out of shape and all), but the view was worth it.

After the hike, we decided to rest and eat a little lunch in the sun. We then journaled for a couple of hours. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Collection of Animal Signs

Yes, animal signs .... after the little penguin sign on Phillips Island, Jim started a collection of photographs of animal signs along the road. Lots of koalas, kangaroos, emus, cassowaries, etc, are often hit by drivers. In the case of cassowaries, there are only 40 noted in the Mission Beach area of Australia. We never saw one of those either. Anyway, this is the beginning of a rather large collection of animal signs.

Below are two of the signs found in the Grampians National Park:
a wombat
an emu

Mt. Gambier

From the Grampians National Park, we decided to cruise back down to the coast to catch some more ocean views. We passed through this little town known for their volcanic lakes. Mt. Gambier Lake was a nice place to eat lunch, but definitely nothing too spectacular.

Coorong National Park

This campsite was listed as one of the top 10 in Southern Australia. Definitely for a reason. Our campsite was on a small piece of land surrounded on three sides by water. A perfect location for the sunset and sunrise. There were so many birds resting near our campsite. The pelicans were fun to watch off shore too. A peaceful place to be ... better yet, we were the only ones in the campground.

That night, the wind was strong and cold as it traveled across the water. We actually postioned the car to block the wind for both our table and our tent.

Check out the sunset shots:
Sunset Dara & Dinner.
Sunset East
Sunset West

With the great location, we decided to wake up early and watch the sunrise. This is the reflection of the sun to the west. It was still a little cold. That is me underneath that blanket. Looks like Jim snuck in another picture of Betty.

Deep Creek Conservation Park

Well, we found another secluded campsite along the coast. This conservation park was overlooking the ocean from the hills. Just another spectacular view of the coast here in Australia. :)

Check out a couple of photos:
coastal views #1
coastal view #2

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Australia Southeast, Part II (photos)

March 1-6

Philip Island

Near Melbourne we stopped for a few days (1-2 Mar) on Phillip Island, which is famous for their "penguin parade." The penguin parade, which happens nightly, consists of herds of "fairy penguins" waddling up the beach after feeding out at sea for up to two weeks. They come in around 8pm every night. After the first one arrives, you can watch them storm the beach and rush to climb up into the bush to their burrows. It's pretty fun to see, but, due to the "touristic" appeal of the traffic, you end up paying a good bit of money to sit on concrete stadium-style stands and listen to a boring commentary until the floodlights come on. Even after PAYING, you have to be stealth if you want to video or take any photos. BUT, not to be negative, we were there, so I can't complain about it being touristic.... as the woman said to her husband when he arrived home complaining of rush-hour traffic: "you are the traffic."

Anyway, we also went to the location of the penguin parade during the day and they have an "interpretive" boardwalk which we walked on and we saw that the penguins were hanging out under the boardwalk. I got a photo of this penguin by hanging over the edge and filming underneath. Here's a profile of a penguin giving me the evil eye. When you leave, you need to check under you car for penguins before driving away.

Bending over the edge of boardwalk and stooping down to check under the car was more work than I'm used to, so when we got back to our "trailer park", I had a nap. That's our tent and table there and those big trees are Eucalyptus, which are the kind that koalas live in. AND, you may be surprised to learn that koalas attack. Everything is very dangerous in Australia. Even the cute little platypus has a venom-filled talon on its back foot. You also need to watch out for seagulls.


After Philip Island, we continued our clockwise journey and came into Melbourne. It's a nice city with some good old buildings, and we had a good time doing the self-guided walking tour. The Grand Prix was also there the same weekend, and on Thursday, you could get in for free, so we went and had a look. The cars go fast and you only see them for a split second. I don't get it. Here's a photo. We did a long walk and checked out the "alternative" part of town and had a great dinner at a place called "Deelish." We don't eat out much so it was nice.

Great Ocean Road

Melbourne is the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, which runs along the coast to Port Campbell or so. It was fantastic with great views of roaring abandoned beaches. We were going clockwise. The first place we stopped was Torquay which is a famous surfing location. We don't surf so we didn't really care but we stopped in the visitor's center and got a brochure listing the interesting sites along the way. We read it, digested it, created a mental map of the journey and checked off the locations as we went along. We like doing things like that sometimes.
--- The first place we stopped was Torquay, another famous surfing spot. The ocean views were nice, and we watched some surfers. CHECK.
--- The next stop was in Anglesea. It was raining. We went to a golf course known for its population of kangaroos. We saw herds of them. And, as I said, everywhere in Australia is dangerous. Ok, kangaroos. CHECK.
--- My notes tell me we next saw a lighthouse, a big arch and some waterfalls. Probably took photos, but they aren't uploaded. CHECK.CHECK.CHECK.
--- Next stop, KOALAS! There was a little turn off near the town of Kennett River. We were instructed to turn left at the caravan park and head a couple kilometers up the road. Then, we were to look up into the gum trees. We weren't sure what size they were but once we saw one (I spotted it first, hah!) we knew what we were looking for. We saw probably twenty or thirty different koalas, some of them were even awake. I got some great video of one climbing... a rarity during the day (they sleep twenty hours a day). We later learned that the koala population is in danger because a lot of the females are infected with clamydia. As I said, Australia is a dangerous place. Here is a picture of Betty on the road in Kennett river and here is a picture of a koala. Allright, koalas, CHECK.
--- Next we stopped for the night in Marengo, which is right next to Apollo Bay. It was cold and stormy, and we hung out in the camp kitchen. When we arrived, there was a pretty cool rainbow. Apollo Bay, CHECK.

The next day, 6 March 2005, according to my notes, I showered. We left around 11:30am and headed to the Melba Gully and did a short hike. There was a sign at the beginning of the hike warning of snakes. Then, we continued along and made it to the vicinity of the Twelve Apostles. We stopped off at Gibson Beach, which is just before the apostles. Since they didn't have color photography in the time of the apostles, I shot some photos in black and white. Here is Dara walking on the beach and here is one of the apostles, as viewed from Gibson Beach in black and white. Here is a picture the two of us on Gibson Beach. Ok, Gibson Beach, CHECK.
--- Next stop was the Twelve Apostle viewing boardwalk. Here is a picture looking back at Gibson Beach. Here is the standard Twelve Apostle photo and here is a photo of us, in sepia. The sky was very overcast, so we decided that we would check out some of the other sites and head back for sunset. When we went back to the carpark, I noticed a lot of helicopters. We prefer wheels. Twelve Apostles, CHECK.
--- Next we went and checked out some big blowholes. The ocean had carved out a channel and roars into these narrow passages and spurts up when it hits the edge. This photo, in my opinion, fails to convey these features. Thunder Cave Blowhole, CHECK
--- Next, we went and climbed down to Loch Ard Gorge. It was pretty cool. Here is a photo of us at the gorge. Notice that the weather is clearing up. Gorge, CHECK
--- Next, the Seabrooke River. We saw a lot of rivers hitting the sea in Australia and they are always interesting battles between water forces. Here is Dara, backlit. Seabrooke River, CHECK.
That was it, we checked off just about everything on the list, time to go to the campground. We stayed in Port Campbell that night and saw this coastal view on the way. We set up our tent, and according to my notes, had cocktails. Then we went back to the Twelve Apostles for sunset. It was pretty cloudy. Back to Port Campbell. It rained, and we played cards in the camp kitchen.

Australia Southeast, Part I (photos)

February 24-28

dara / We were off on the road and heading South along the ocean road. We wanted to see the main sights in Australia (the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Ayers Rock & the Olgas in the Outback, The Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands and Whitehaven Beach). We also wanted to see all the fun Australian animals in their natural habitat.

In Saltwater Creek Camping Area in Ben Boyd National Park, there are tons of kangaroos . The kangaroos hopped around the tents and ate grass. Pretty wild. Then, Cape Conran National Park had these cool goannas in Australian speak or iguannas for the rest of us. They also had one of the best beaches, and it was deserted.

Wilsons Promontory is another national park along the Southern Ocean. We decided to camp here for a couple of days. There are great beaches and clear water perfect for snorkeling. We went for walks along the beach at sunset (romantic, huh?). We also enjoyed a little resting and relaxing after our first couple days on the road. I took an afternoon nap in Jim's hammock .

The birds are pretty cool in Australia too. Check out a kookaburra and an Australian parrot .

We like to cook dinner before it gets too dark. It just makes everything easier. Here is a picture of me when we are hanging out after dinner. We are catching up on our journals. It is a constant struggle for us to keep them updated. :)

Jim's favorite animal is the wombat . It is much bigger than this picture illustrates. They are a big, thick animal, that looks for food at night.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Unfortunately, we have not had the opportunity to update the blog. We wish that there was a good reason. The only real reason - there are not many internet cafes in the national parks and in the Outback. And once you fall behind, it is hard to catch up. In summary though, Australia was great. We are now traveling around New Zealand in a campervan. Life is good, and we are enjoying every minute, although we miss all of you (of course!). We are looking forward to seeing you soon. More importantly, we are updating tonight ... There might be more pictures than text for the second half of our Australian trip unless a description is warranted.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

On the road in Australia (photos)

February 19-23

dara / Jim & I spent the first couple of days checking out the backpacker car market in Sydney. It is this fabulous place where you can purchase a Ford Falcon, a camper van or a 4WD vehicle with all the backpacking gear. The idea is drive around Australia and when you are finished, come back and sell the car to another backpacker like yourself. Crazy, huh? Tons of travelers do it, since it is so much cheaper than renting the car.

Our plan for Australia is drive from Sydney down to Melbourne on the coastal roads. Then, we follow the Great Ocean Road over to Adelaide and check out wine country along the way. Next, we head up the middle from Adelaide through the Outback to Alice Springs. Then, we go northeast over to Darwin in the tropical north, and back across the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns, and back down the East Coast to Sydney.

Below are two fun pictures of Betty (our Ford Falcon):
Betty and Me
Jim's Organization

Our main plan is camping in the national parks. The national parks are absolutely beautiful! When it is raining, like the wet season in Darwin, or cold outside, like Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, or just because we need a break, we splurge on the luxury of the carvan parks. There is nothing better than hot & cold showers, swimming pools and laundry facilites.