A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

Reef to rainforest

Our final two weeks in Australia . . .

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View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Daintree Rainforest meets South Pacific Ocean with the Great Barrier Reef just miles off shore.

There isn't much to say about Cairns unless you are crazy about tacky T-shirt souvenir stores. There area heaps of them everywhere. For us, Cairns was a home base to explore the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, which is one of the few tropical rainforests to meet the ocean.

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Cairns does have a pretty swimming lagoon right in downtown.

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Great Barrier Reef below and around this boat near the Frankland Islands.

The Great Barrier Reef extends roughly 1100 miles, primarily down the northeast coast of Australia. There are more than 1500 species of fish living in the region, 400 types of coral, and more than 100 boat operators who want to take you there. We decided to visit the reef surrounding the less traveled Frankland Islands, allowing us to snorkel around the islands and hike inland to check out the rainforest.

It was sunny on the day of our visit, but the ocean was murky from recent rainfall and storms. Regardless, we thought the view through our novice masked eyes was exceptional. There were plenty of coral and colorful fish. A highlight for Dave was swimming with green turtles.

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Snorkeling without a waterproof camera. Sorry! Please note the funky one piece jumpers we are wearing. These are to protect us from jelly fish.

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We also viewed the reef further from shore through a glass bottom boat. The photos don't do it justice.

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On the island, there was plenty washed up coral and shells to check out on the beach. Inland was full of enormous trees and spiders.

A few days later we headed north to visit the Daintree Rainforest. We hopped on a tourist bus from Cairns to Cape Tribulation where the driver started with something along the lines of
"since you're all in your 20's..." Shhhhh.....

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Along the way we visited a part of the forest with massive trees. The leaves are bigger than me.

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The Strangler Fig Tree wraps around another tree, ultimately strangling it over hundreds of years. It is nourished by the nutrients of its host, which ends up decomposing and leaving the Fig Tree hallow.

We also went on a crocodile wildlife boat ride along the Daintree River. Unlike our ride in the Adelaide River (last blog) the ride was very tame.The captain of the boat told us it was illegal and inhumane to feed the crocs meat to get them to jump out of the water, as we had seen before. We couldn't agree more. The last croc ride was bothersome; very contrived and unnatural.

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We saw two crocs in the Daintree River sunning themselves on the shoreline. Look closely! You'll be able to see one of them.

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Mangroves along the Daintree River.

Dave was in Cape Tribulation ten years ago with his friend Matt and had memories of beautiful, white sandy beaches, colorful birds, incredible hikes and probably hammocks, cabana girls and free beer, so expectations were high. What we failed to digest ahead of time is that his experience in September would be very different than his experience in March.

The northeast of Australia has two main seasons; wet and dry. We are here on the tail end of the wet season, which has made the tropical rainforest extremely lush, but the beautiful, white sand has been flattened and hardened by harsh rain, and long hikes to watering holes are out of the question because it is breeding season for crocodiles, which means young crocs and their moms are hiding in creeks, rivers and along the ocean edge. It is also breeding season for box jelly fish who flock to the ocean's edge in this area. If stung by a box jelly fish, it will paralyze the part of the body it stings.

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Cape Tribulation Beach during the wet season. The beach isn't too welcoming!

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Warning signs for box jelly fish, as well as crocs, are on every beach in tropical north Queensland.

All of the amenities in Cape Tribulation are run entirely on generators. The area has few stores (not even a real supermarket), and although very peaceful, five days was a bit much, especially with the hiking and swimming restrictions. On the flip side, we saw our first Australian snake on a mini hike (not sure what kind.)

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It rained buckets at least once a day during our visit. It was an unbelievable site.

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We spent a little too much time playing backgammon.

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When the sun shined, we splurged on a pina colada. Ok...we shared it. Pretty lame, but I'm cheap and was craving a tropical drink!

We also participated in jungle surfing, which if done right, is a great way for an adrenaline junkie to view the rainforest.

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Unfortunately, we were disappointed with the tour as the zipline was pretty slow, and although we did get a great view, we expected to see more colorful birds, flora and other wildlife. Additionally, our 'expert' nature guide didn't seem too knowledgeable about the area.

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Dave went on a night walk to see nocturnal creepy crawlies. Ironically the guide was from Jungle Surfing, but this time she shined with knowledge.

(FROM DAVE) The best way to appreciate the tropical rain forest is definitely on a night walk. All of the interesting critters are nocturnal and their adaptations to the rain forest are fascinating! Here are some of the creatures I saw.

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The Boyd's Dragon is only found in this part of Australia. It always sleeps on vines hanging far away from any trees. This is so snakes, it's main predator, can only get to it is by climbing up the vine. The snake would either shake the vine or bite the lizard's long tail first, which would wake the dragon up and allow him to escape.

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The Golden Orb spider is the largest web spinning spider in the world and gets it's name from the golden glow of it's web. We saw these all over north eastern Australia and the female orbs are huge, but harmless to humans. The male is very tiny comparatively. The fiber they spin to make their web is the strongest natural fiber in the world. Apparently scientists are trying to recreate the fiber artificially for human needs. Female Golden Orbs sometime mistake their mate for another insect in their web and eat them. Oops!

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This looks like a leaf that fell and got stuck in a spider web, but what you are looking at is actually the home of a spider. The spider carries the leaf up the tree and hangs it in the middle of the web as protection from rain and predators.

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This Huntsman spider doesn't spin a web and is harmless to humans. When I was working in Port Stephens they had a huge huntsman spider that lived on the office wall. It protected me from mosquitoes. Thankfully, we never saw some of the world's most poisonous spiders Australia is known for... namely the Funnel Web spider.

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This cricket has super long antennas - of course good for getting local gossip on other crickets. It is always found about a meter above the forest floor in little trees to increase it's cell reception. Airflow is poor on the floor and much better off of the floor.

On the way back to Cairns we took a ferry over the Daintree River, stopped at an ocean lookout and pulled over to view the Mossman Gorge. Then we stopped in Port Douglas for two days, primarily to take our second painting class. Port Douglas is a classy coastal town just north of Cairns.

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Dave busy at work.

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The results: I painted an embrace, shown on the left. Dave's post box is on the right. Start your bidding now! The early paintings of Chernack and Greenstein are slated to be big sellers!

Back in Cairns, we spent much time at this McD's as it was the only free internet spot in town. To help keep the economy going we bought plenty of 50 cent (30 cent US) ice cream cones while we were there.

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We are definitely sad to leave Australia, but we are excited for the unexpected in Asia, as neither of us have traveled there. We fly to Bangkok, Thailand, tomorrow morning and get things rolling with a two week biking, hiking and kayaking tour of the country. We will extend our visit in that country by a few weeks and hope to volunteer with a charitable organization.

We wish you well, and happy travels wherever the road shall take you.
Stay tuned for details from Thailand.
-Elizabeth and Dave

...................
Three general observations about Australia that we've yet to mention in a blog, but thought were interesting.

- Australians can drink! Granted we are light weights who drink about one beer and call it a night, we are more than savvy to know that a case of beer or three bottles of wine a night for seven nights in a row can't be good for you. This is a trend we saw to some degree everywhere. More puzzling is how Aussies can afford to drink. Alcohol is heavily taxed and prices in the smallest of towns are comparable to New York City. More concerning is that the government has a strong “drink driving” (DWI) campaign in the media and on the roads, but with no laws to prevent drinking on the streets, or even as passengers in a car, it doesn't seem to be working.

- Backpackers in Australia are from all over the world, but primarily from Europe and Japan. The crowd is in their early twenties, a lot younger than the 30-somethings we met campervaning in New Zealand and hosteling in South America. For one, most of these 20-somethings are on holiday working visas, which Australia readily hands out for jobs like fruit picking and bar tending. (Not sure of all the rules, but these visas seem to be available for those under age 30, and especially those from a British commonwealth.) Residents of other British colonies have reciprocal rights to health care here making it an appealing country to visit and live. Australia is also a great place for these travelers to practice or learn English, which seems like a prerequisite for many jobs these days. (We are very lucky to be native speakers.) And reputation is everything. Positive word or mouth from traveler to traveler has continued the cycle of tourists visiting and living in Australia. It is unfortunate that this form of traveling is not part of the US culture. It is great way to showcase ones country.

- US tourists we talked with were primarily college students on their study abroad programs, or adults in or entering retirement. With such a great distance between the US and Australia it is an understandable challenge to visit, but we urge everyone to take at least two to three weeks in their lifetime to make the journey. It will be worth it!

Posted by daveliz 05:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Modeling at Litchfield and Kakadu

Move over Giselle and Tom, Elizabeth and Dave are on the rise!

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View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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I'm scared, how about you?

We arrived in Darwin, on the northern central coast of Australia, at the end of the wet season. During this time of year the weather is very hot and humid, and several areas are closed to the public due to flooding. Thankfully we missed most of the torrential downpours and were allowed to visit nearby national parks, including Kakadu and Litchfield, which are both on aboriginal lands.

However, given the potential for flooding, the extreme weather, and the danger of aggressive estuarine crocodiles (a.k.a. saltwater crocs or salties), we joined a small guided adventure tour. Our guide Hamish came highly recommended, but little did we know the tour company was on a maiden voyage, breaking away from one of the bigger operators in town.

We quickly became models for Territory Expedition's first brochure and website. Along with two women from Singapore, we were also joined by a photographer, Wade, and his wife Fae. Let's just say 96 degrees and 90% humidity aren't the best conditions to launch into your modeling career!

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Wade taking action pictures of our Land Cruiser for the Territory Expeditions brochure and website.

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Cruisin' around in the Land Cruiser. Dave, Grace, and Jo.

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Elizabeth strutting her stuff for a picture on a suspension bridge crossing. Too sexy!

In the parks we did several hikes while also learning about the area's flora, fauna and aboriginal rock art. The highlight though, was definitely ending up at watering holes at the end of a long hikes to cool off. Hamish assured us there were no crocodiles where we were swimming because we were sticking to parts of rivers above waterfalls, and salties who migrate up the rivers from the ocean can only crawl up to the first waterfall it reaches. This information, plus stories about crocodile attacks didn't make Elizabeth, who gets creeped out swimming in unknown waters to begin with, feel much safer, but dripping in sweat she was one of the first to jump in ... I don't think a crocodile could have gotten in her way!

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Elizabeth about to brave the unknown. Look out crocs!

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Elizabeth and I swimming at Motor Car Falls. Ahhhh, an escape from the humidity.

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Motor Car Falls.

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Some of the aboriginal rock art in Kakadu NP. This is the most famous site. This form of art was popular amongst the aboriginal people to communicate their social, cultural and natural history. The oldest sites are thousands of years old.

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[i]Our guide Hamish next to a magnetic termite hill. The hills always face north and south within a few degrees for warming and ventilation purposes.

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Baby wallaby with his mother.

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Tolmer Falls in Litchfield NP.

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Old buffalo hunting vehicle. The animals are so strong they need serious protection for the side of the car!

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We saw lots of lizards throughout the trip. This was a guana crossing the road. We saw some really big Monitor lizards as well.

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Jabirus. This bird is endangered worldwide. It looks like a prehistoric creature when it flies!

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Water lillies at Fogg Dam Conservation.

The trip ended with a 'Jumping Croc' cruise along the Adelaide River to see estuarine crocodiles (they also have freshwater crocs that are smaller and not aggressive), as well as birds of prey in their natural habitat. This river is the second most crocodile infested river in Australia (not sure what #1 is, but I think I'll keep my distance.) Our boat captain told us to keep all arms and heads within the walls of the boat since the salties can surprise you and jump out of the water without much warning! He also mentioned that the life jackets on the boat wouldn't do us much good if we went overboard due to the aggressive nature of the salties ... comforting!

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Our guide feeding the raptors.

As we moseyed up the river we began to see croc eyes lurking near the shore. All the captain had to do was put some meat on the end of a stick, splash it in the water, and then the croc was on the prowl. These are incredible and scary creatures. The oldest known reptile has been around for 200 million years, surviving several extinction periods, and believed to have changed little in all that time. They're extremely aggressive, typically grow up to five or six meters (the size of the largest salty is controversial, but was measured around seven meters long with some claims of a nine meter croc), can live up to 100 years, and can jump out of the water using the power of their tail.

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Typical crocodile warning sign found throughout northern Australia.

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Saltwater crocodile approaching our boat.

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I'm scared.

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Woah.

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Yikes.

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Another salty we saw in the wild. Don't worry, it's not eating the birds! It's just cooling itself.

Feeding the wildlife goes against everything we've been told throughout our travels. It's bad for wildlife and people as the wildlife starts to expect food from humans causing more of a safety concern. So while we were surprised and a little disappointed to see the boat operator feed the crocs, the resulting jumping crocs definitely gave us an appreciation for their strength and it certainly scared us away from hiking in any croc infested areas. We also heard about four fatal crocodile attacks in Australia just this year.

We returned to Darwin to spend a few more days exploring the town. Darwin is definitely a city catered for backpackers. We used the time to mainly relax in air conditioning, use the library for free email, explore a market, and take advantage of a free backpacker dinner at a local bar.

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Dave emailing and blogging at the Library

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Darwin's Library/Parliament Building

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Emblem of the Northern Territory, of which Darwin is the capital.

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Elizabeth ordering crepes at the Parap Market.

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Eating our free, healthy meal. Lasagna and french fries. Yum!

We also experienced one of the sad sides to Australia. Darwin is home to many aborigines who have a rich, yet humble culture. As the first known people in Australia, they believe they were put on earth to be caretakers of the land and animals, and in most cases they do a good job of it. The government has even adopted some of their traditions for land "cleanup".

However, many aborigines have issues with alcoholism and psychological disorders. Quite possibly their problems are a result of being a part of the "Stolen Generation". This is a long period, from around 1869 to 1969, where aboriginal children were taken from their families for "reeducation" and assimilation into European style society (see the movie Rabbit Proof Fence if you haven't). This process caused a lot of emotional wounds that many aborigines are still recovering from today.

For us, it was difficult to witness these challenges up close, but it is a reality in Australia and we're told the government is finally taking steps to correct it. (google Stolen Generation apology by Kevin Rudd and aboriginal land rights acts).

Hopefully some care given back to the aborigines will help lead them to a better future.

- Dave

Posted by daveliz 21:57 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Classical to Clapton in Sydney

plus, the value of a home away from home

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View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge (photo 2) from land and by sea.

I had my first real breathtaking “moment” of the trip as I walked up to the Sydney Opera House. The Opera House is one of the places I have seen for years in books, on TV and on postcards. To be on its steps and then inside to learn about its architecture was pretty incredible. I had to just stop, stare and revel in what I was viewing.

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A few different views of architect Jorn Utzon's masterpiece. He actually did not finish the project, but much of the design is attributed to him. Google for details on him and the building or ask me in 2010.

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A look at the inside of the unique Sydney Opera House roof and walls.

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View from inside the Opera House to Sydney Harbour. During intermission of shows people gather here for drinks.

The Opera House is made up of several theaters, but on my visit the actual opera theater was closed for a dress rehearsal. Just my luck. Dave and I did attend a concert in the main concert hall. Sydney Symphony Orchestra conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy led Shostakovich Symphony #10, a rather dark symphony about the life of Stalin. Never the less, this symphony really showed off the amazing acoustics of the hall. Everything about it, from its mouth-like shape to beech wood seats and walls, played a role in creating a great sound!

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Quick illegal photo of Concert Hall before I got yelled at to put the camera away. Pardon the light reflections.

From inside the Opera House you get a beautiful waterfront view of the the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which has become just as much of a symbol of Sydney as the Opera House itself. Many tourists climb to the top for a spectacular view, but due to the cost we opted for the cheaper route, a simple walk across.
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From classical to rock and roll, we moved to a different beat at an Eric Clapton concert at the Sydney Entertainment Center. My cousin Larry was coincidentally in town working with the Eric Clapton tour. He treated us to the show, plus some freebie beers behind stage, and of course, good catch up time. A real treat for his cheapo cousin.
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Elizabeth and Larry backstage at Clapton concert.

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Clapton and band in action, Sydney.

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Dave, Elizabeth, Alisha and Jody at Clapton concert.

Jody and Alisha (shown above) are our new friends and lovely hosts in Sydney. We were introduced to them via email through my friend Stacy, who unfortunately left a long work stint in Australia for Fiji just months before we arrived.

After sleeping in cars, on bunk beds, and in hostels with walls, but no ceilings, it is a treat to do a home stay. Thus far, we've been welcomed into the homes of Valeria and Fernando in Santiago, Chile, and with Jody and Alisha in Sydney. The value of a home stay is off the charts for us. It is a clean, quiet place to stay, a meal or two, laundry and good, local conversation, which are all immeasurable.

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Dave trying his first taste of kangaroo with chef Alisha. We learned that Australia is one of the only nations to eat both of its national symbols, the kangaroo and emu!

I urge everyone to take a risk on a stranger, and open your door to a friend of a friend who may be popping through your city. What may seem like an inconvenience at first, will hopefully turn out to be a pleasurable experience, and I can assure you the visitor will be forever grateful!

Jody and Alisha live in Stanmore, which is a convenient 40 minute walk to downtown Sydney or a 20 minute bus ride. They also live in “The Castle” (1980 Australian movie reference – go rent it if you haven't seen it.)

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The cozy flat was great, but came fully equipped with an alarm clock as it was directly under the flight path of planes landing at the airport. By 6:30 a.m. we had our first wake up flight to get us going, and going we did, mostly on foot.

Here are some photos of our stops.
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The University of Sydney is on a beautiful campus that reminds me of Wellesley College.

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Glebe Market is one of several craft, clothing and food markets throughout Sydney. It is in a charming, European feeling neighborhood.

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The Orbit Lounge is at the top of one of the tallest buildings in Sydney. The cost of the drink paid for the view!

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An aboriginal man dressed in traditional garb plays a didgeridoo for street entertainment.

Bondi Beach . . .
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Bondi Beach has been rated by the Travel Network and several publications as one of the sexiest beaches in the world. Right now there is an Australian reality TV show centered around the lifeguards at Bondi, so this beach is flooded with curious onlookers. The beach and its boardwalk were crowded, but the surrounding homes were fantastic. After seeing helicopters flying overhead for sharks, we opted to stay out of the water. Yikes!

Manly Beach . . .
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Ferry boats are a common mode of transportation for people in Sydney. We took a ride to Manly, a well known beach area north of the city center.

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Another day on the job! Life is tough for people here.

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All guards are cloned!

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Beach bum, or plumber in training...your call!

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Dave left his speedo at home.

We skipped the area with the Sydney Olympic venues as we were told there wasn't much going on there any more. Plus, Dave and I aren't prepared to publicly display our synchronized platform diving skills just yet. And we skimped on museums as we were museumed out from the last few cities.

Having just been in Melbourne it was easy to compare the two cities. Locals say you are either a Sydney person or a Melbourne person. Although we enjoyed both and would urge you to visit both, we are Melbourne people. Sydney is a multicultural mecca with more than one third of its residents born in another country, which is quite visible. Melbourne has the same international flare, but the city seems much more manageable with quaint neighborhoods and unique arcades and alleys. Sydney seems to have better year round weather, but the feel is much older and a little rundown. It seems overly crowded, and workers seem rushed and stressed, a feeling we haven't experienced since leaving the States. With that said, our hosts who both lived and worked in the States feel people in Australia, in general, and in Sydney, are much less stressed out than in the US.

After Sydney, we flew to the northern city of Darwin where we visited some crocodiles, among other things. Soon we're off to the Great Barrier Reef around Cairns. Details soon.

A quick plea... if you haven't done so already, please send us your tips for Asia. We are heading to Thailand in two weeks, followed by Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Japan and China. If you have any friends who live in the area, let us know! I promise you it will be a treat for everyone!

And send us an email about your life. We are curious about your whereabouts too!

Until then,
- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 21:11 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Exploring Victoria

Our journey from the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne

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View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Arch along the Great Ocean Road

For one week Elizabeth and I explored Victoria, which is in the southeast of Australia. The main city is Melbourne, which is where all of the bush fires have been occurring, so we were a little nervous about heading there given the rumors of temperatures in the 100s and extreme dryness. Low and behold, when we walked off the plane it was chilly and rainy, which was welcome weather for us and the area!

We started our tour by driving the well known Great Ocean Road, which follows a beautiful limestone coast between the towns of Torquay and Warnambool. Torquay is the surf capital of Australia and is home to an entire mall dedicated to surfing. We're not really shoppers, but given my new surfing "skillz" we had to stop in!

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Along with several other tourists, we stopped at several sites along the Great Ocean Road, including the 12 Apostles, of which only 6 are still standing, the London Bridge, which fell down in 1990 (is that where that childhood song came from?), and the Loch Ard Gorge, named after a ship wreck in the area due to treacherous rocky waters. The coast has a lot of pretty scenery with all of the limestone cliffs, but apparently this national park is having trouble hanging onto their fragile attractions ; - )

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On the road again, but with new, hot wheels! And a nice road reminder for us Americans.

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The 12 Apostles of which 6 still stand.

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London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down . . .

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Loch Ard Gorge

Leaving the coastline we headed north to Grampians National Park to do some hiking. When we arrived the extremely hot and dry weather returned. Locals were so traumatized by the bush fires they closed schools, closed some roads, prohibited buses from visiting the park, and recommended no one do long hikes in case another fire broke out. Even the Great Ocean Road that we just finished traveling was closed entirely for a day. But this didn't stop us from visiting a few park waterfalls and look outs. The heat and the flies were definitely getting to us though! Elizabeth, who is having a little trouble understanding temperature in Celsius asked me what 40 degrees really meant in "our" terms. I told her it was 110 F outside. With sweat dripping down her face and out of breath from a walk she responded with my favorite quote of the week, "No wonder I'm so f-ing hot!" You had to be there, but it was damn funny! Good thing she doesn't know the conversion trick yet or we would have been stuck in the air conditioned car all day!

In the Grampians, we definitely noticed the dryness of all the underbrush and trees. It reminded me of the conditions in Colorado during the wild fires a few years ago. Also, it should be noted that much of Grampians were burned from fires in 2006. Never-the-less, we managed a hike to the Pinnacles in the cool early morning the next day which was spectacular.

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Walking up the "Grand Canyon" trail to the Pinnacles.

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View from the Pinnacle.

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Another view from the Pinnacle.

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Trees half burned by the fire two years ago. The outsides were visibly charred, but oddly new life was sprouting out of the top.

A note about budget travel... living in a car, crowded hostel, or tent over the last several months has been a lot of fun. We meet a lot of people and are closer with nature (especially bugs) as a result. It does, however, pose some obstacles for privacy. So, we take advantage of what our accommodations afford us. For example, one of our rented tents along the Great Ocean Road had a pole in the middle, allowing me to provide Elizabeth some entertainment.

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Pole dancer Dave. (I'll be keeping my day job!)

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This was one of our more luxurious accommodations... the cabin at a trailer park included our own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and AC (or AirCon as they call it here)!

Next up - Melbourne! We immediately fell in love with this city which is beaming with character. The city has several large sports complexes (rugby, cricket, and Australian Open home), has a large arts center, several unique neighborhoods and several theaters around town, but what sets Melbourne aside from other cities is its wealth of narrow alleyways that have been transformed into social meeting places with heaps of cafes, restaurants and shopping. The city gets much of it's character from these alleys and arcades.

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Alley cafe

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Another cool alley cafe

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The alleyways turn into graffiti art centers at night.

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Arcade gargoyle that has been watching over shoppers for many years

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Free trolley that takes you around the central business disrict.

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Old historic bathroom entrance. Elizabeth knows every bathroom in every city.

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Big Purse sculpture on the road, with a peaceful protest behind it.

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Fun street sculpture of working people crossing the road as people cross the road.

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St. Kilda is a hip neighborhood surrounding Melbourne city center. It has lots of great restaurants and a carnival with an old rollercoaster. Notice the guy standing in the middle of the coaster car operating the break! St. Kilda also has a city beach.

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Bohemian Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, is another section of Melbourne where we had the best iced mochas ever .... came with ice cream. Yum!

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Mmm... mocha.

Melbourne also has a remarkably safe and friendly feel to it. Not only because the alleyways, rather than being dark and scary, are filled with artsy cafes. One day, we noticed school kids (12-14 years old) wandering around the city on a fact finding hunt. They were unsupervised and using public transportation, walking through city streets, and asking strangers for information. We couldn't believe it! Melbourne is a city that is much bigger than Boston and has roughly the population of Detroit!

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Kids roaming freely around the city.

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They even advertise the laid back attitude!

And a note to our biker friends... road bikers were everywhere around the city. Just about every street has a bike lane. There are apparently more than 500 km of bike paths in Melbourne. This made us Bostonians quite a bit jealous!

For domestic flights Elizabeth and I were never asked for identification at the airports, not at check-in, security, or boarding our flight. Get this... We didn't even have to remove our shampoo or toothpaste from our bags, nor our shoes from our feet. The Aussie security agent chuckled at us silly Americans for even asking about these measures we have become accustomed to at home.

Are Australians overly trusting or are we just scared and paranoid? Probably a bit of both.

Our sense is that the Australian government takes better care of its citizens and Aussies have a better work to life balance. There is a lot less poverty, health care is a given, and five weeks of vacation is the norm for someone starting a job. People here appear less stressed and there are less reasons for crime, although it does exist in some areas. Of course the country has fewer people to take care of compared to the States, taxes are higher, the health care system has some flaws, and Australia has dealt with their own issues with racism. Even so, when the economy takes a down turn as it is doing right now, it certainly relieves a lot of stress to know that you'll have health care at the end of the day if you lose your job and that your kids higher education is taken care of or significantly reduced in fees. This makes me wonder how we can improve our lifestyle in the US. Perhaps our leaders should live in Australia for a little bit to get a fresh perspective! We suggest Melbourne, with a weekend getaway to Noosa!

We just flew from Sydney to Darwin after a whirlwind tour of Sydney. More on that soon!

- Dave

Posted by daveliz 00:05 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Australia - Coffs Harbour to Noosa

A few weeks of giving . . .


View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Watch out! Take hold of your children in the water! Dave is now catching waves!

The middle of February is holiday time for Dave and me. In the span of a week we have Valentine's Day and several birthdays, including that of Abe Lincoln, George Washington and me! These may not be your top holidays, but we like to celebrate in style and this year's gifts were creative, thoughtful and fun (and relatively cheap)!

For V Day, I gave Dave surf lessons. In Byron Bay, he joined 20-somethings Geraldo and Giseppe from Italy for a beginner lesson, but Dave's 30-something body outshined them. He caught good waves first and in my humble opinion he looked pretty good!
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Dave was extremely creative for my birthday. He scheduled painting lessons for both of us throughout Australia, starting in Noosa. Our first lesson was with artist Bill MacKay. Teaching us quick techniques on how to use the brushes and paints, he had us working with oils within minutes. Our assignment was to copy a Cezzane painting and have it finished by the end of class in three hours. Neither Dave nor I had painted since elementary school. With that said, I don't think we did too bad. The MFA (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) isn't calling yet, but soon enough .....
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Elizabeth's masterpiece

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Dave's masterpiece (unfinished)

There was also some much appreciated pampering to celebrate my 34th courtesy of my parents ... a hair cut, color, massage and a few other treats. Thank you! I'm glad most of you missed my two inches of grey hair ; - ) Let's save that for a showing in my fifties.
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Ok ... back to our whereabouts for the past few weeks.

Coffs Harbour: For some reason this coastal town is known for two major things: surfing (understandable) and a big banana, which is on display on the side of the road. We're not sure why the big banana is so popular, but since I like bananas, we decided to stop and take a photo.
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While in Coffs Harbour we also caught a junior surfing competition. In heats of four people, the surfers have 15 minutes to catch as many waves as possible and showcase their best moves.
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From Coffs, we drove up to Lennox Head, a quiet town just south of the bustling Byron Bay. Unfortunately, when it rains in Australia, it pours, so we spent multiple days hanging in the crib and looking out the window. When the sun did flicker, we got a quick glimpse of the beautiful beach, a long stretch of white sand, primarily filled with kite surfers. (Not shown here!)
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Dave also took a swim in Lake Ainsworth, which is surrounded by tea trees. The trees make the water a murky brown, but it is supposedly full of natural conditioners that are good for the skin.
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Lennox Head had lots of holiday homes. I love this mailbox!
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We also are amused by the road signs.
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We were warned that our next stop in Byron Bay would be "touristy." However, we loved it! There was a fantastic downtown full of life and energy! It was full of fun surf shops, restaurants and bars. The town has about five beaches all along the same strip. This is where Dave took his surf lessons. We also hiked in the bush and along the coastline to see the town lighthouse with beautiful, rocky scenery.
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My friend Cheryl recommended Noosa to us, which was our next stop, and we couldn't be more thankful. It was the first community Dave and I felt like we could relocate and live comfortably. Don't worry, realistically that won't happen! Noosa is broken up into several smaller towns: Noosaville, Noosa Junction, Noosa Heads and a few more. This is where we took painting lessons. We particularly loved all of the bike and hiking trails along the coastline.
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Dave also spent time at the Eumundi Market with more than 500 stalls of crafts, food and music, while I was at the spa.
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In Noosa Woods, we caught a beautiful sunset, before heading out to dinner, a treat in itself. Dave found a place that had a special two for one dinner, keeping in line with our budget, and he enjoyed telling me he bought the cheapest bottle of wine that came with bonus cadbury chocolates. I'm so proud ; - )
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Back to reality (traveler's reality), one of my favorite things to do is go shopping for food. In every city, I just love browsing through supermarkets. I should work for Wegmans : - ) Plus, I found it funny that the big market here is Woolworths (for those of you who remember the five and dime store in New England, it is where all of my parakeets and gold fish were bought).
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Too many granola bars to choose from.
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Noosa was also our last overnight location with our Jucy Crib. It was sad to depart with our home, but in all honesty, the heat was killing us and we desperately looked forward to a good nights rest in an air conditioned hostel in Brisbane. I will miss living in a car, which we surprisingly did for two months, and would seriously consider making a campa van at home for local travel!
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The last supper!

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The last sleep in the heat!

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But look at all of the storage space!

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We'll miss our home on wheels for sure!

Relatively speaking we had a very conservative campa van. Check out the competition. Wicked vans are everywhere, each with a unique 'pc' quote. Fragile readers ... close your eyes!
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Brisbane: Brissie, as the locals call it, is the third largest city in Australia, and our last stop on this leg of the trip.
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It is a medium sized city, with a large arts community. The city architecture is a dichotomy between old and new.
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The City Council building is industrial, yet modern.

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Where as the casino in the former treasury building has a much older style.

Here are a few highlights from our walking tour of the city:
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Bell tower at City Hall, with a view of a church from above ... looks like a doll house church.

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Pagoda given at World Exhibition.

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Sculpture and city view from arts center.

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An interesting walking bridge.

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An Australian White Ibis, a bird we see everywhere.

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It was move in day at Queensland University of Technology. With our backpacks we looked like students, so got all sorts of freebies as we walked through. There were also some odd meet your classmate activities going on around town ... check out the elephant walk.

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School kids on a field trip. Every school has a different uniform, which is mandatory. Some teens asked us about 'free dress' in the US. They seemed a little jealous. We also learned that Aussie and Kiwi students are in school longer than most Americans. They only get a six week summer break, with one to two week breaks every ten weeks.

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This is a great family pool and beach area in downtown. Makes the Boston Frog Pond look extremely weak!

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Every place you go there is a BBQ for free use ... shirt and shoes optional!

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We also visited a retro club area called Fortitude Valley and wrapped up our tour at a popular street mall on Queens Street for a drink and some cricket, which we still can't figure out.

In closing, we are still amazed by how friendly everyone is in Australia. Unlike my experience in Boston, it is common for us to strike up conversations with people walking on the streets, at a beach or at a bar. Everywhere we go, people inquire about us and tell us more than enough information about what we should do, see and experience in their country. They are very proud of Australia, and we certainly understand why!

Even the immigrants have taken on this philosophy of kindness. When we visited the Contemporary Arts Museum, which exhibited the theme of optimism, we lucked out by parking poorly on a side street. A nice man named Herman, originally from Germany, came out of his house and started chatting with us. Herman, now in his 60's used to travel like we are doing and ended up staying in Aussie after meeting a woman. He took a liking to us and had us park in his driveway. He invited us inside his house to look at his art gallery as well. He was about to host a show to raise funds for the Melbourne Bush Fire victims.

....
A few sayings in case you plan to visit the land of Oz...
- I love Dave heaps. Heaps and/or heaps and mounds is used in almost every sentence here.
- How you going? This phrase for "how are you" is a common greeting.
- Easy. This is used at the end of sentence in place of the word ok.
- Reckon. I reckon that if you are reading this, you are one of the few people who reads our entire blog. This word is extremely popular. I think it has just been dismissed from the more casual American English language.
- Ta. This is short for thank you.
- Where is the toilet? This is the polite way to ask "where is the bathroom?" I find it sort of crass, but using the words restroom and bathroom don't get you very far.

Interestingly enough most Asians and Europeans we've talked with say it is much easier to understand people with American English accents than Australian, New Zealand, English, Scottish, Irish and South African accents. They say we enunciate each letter a lot better making each word more clear.

We're in Melbourne now. More on that soon!
We miss everyone!
Until then,
- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 16:06 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

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