After our hard day sightseeing, Neil took us to Watsons bay, to watch the sun set over the harbour, whilst enjoying a pint and a fish and chips supper (or veggie option).
Did jer think we could leave Oz without buying a Didj????
Of course not!
We actually bought it a few weeks ago, and Stuart has been practising ever since.
OK, so here are some facts...
The bridge is the biggest steel arch bridge in the world. There are others that are longer, but they give it this title because it is so wide, 2 train tracks and 8 lanes of traffic plus 2 pedestrian walkways. It was built in the late 20s, early 30s and took about 8 years to complete.
The Opera House was built between 1959 and 1973, surrounded by controversy. It was budgeted to cost $7 million, but final costs were $102 million.
Both are spectacular!
and here's the other landmark....
A short bus ride into town, and we were at one of Sydneys landmarks.
Didn't they do well!
What a match to go and see. The Kiwis were talking about a repeat of the 140 - o match earlier in the tournament. They had obviously also heard the NZ advert saying that NZ were going to HUMILIATE Wales.
They started off very noisily, and got quieter and quieter and quieter........
a few Barry people said Hello to us, none of whom I recognised though!
I don't think I need to say anymore!
on Manly Beach. One minute it was boiling hot, the next freezing cold and tipping it down.
After leaving Brisbane we headed in-land for a 2 day drive with very little to see or do. But at the end of the drive we were rewarded with the fantastic views of the Blue Mountains. This formation is called the 3 Sisters. The whole area is beautiful with huge areas of Eucalyptus forests, and sheer rock faces. And only 1/2 hour from Sydney.
Brisbane reminded us a little bit of London, with a big river running through the centre, and lots of arty stuff on the south bank.
I don't remember seeing a beach in the heart of London city though.
I just couldn't resist putting up another picture of a Koala. This was also taken at Australia Zoo.
We went to the Australia Zoo, home of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter.
Would he be there? we wondered. Of course not, he's far too famous to still be working there! we thought.
But we went anyway. and CRIKEY! there he was........
Australia loves it's big things. Even more than New Zealand.
Another view of a lake on Fraser Island, with lots of sand.
The sand is slowly eating up the lake at a rate of 3 m per year.
Not a lot else to say...
When I pictured the biggest sand island in the world, I saw a big sandy island. I didn't expect 90% to be covered in vegetation. It even has rainforest, with huge Kauri and pine trees. The island has 40 lakes, and has more than half of the worlds perched lakes (resting on the rotten vegetation which has provided a waterproof layer above the sand).
This is one of them, and had the purest white sandy beach, and crystal clear water.
We took a 2 day tour to Fraser Island, the biggest sand island in the world! One day was part of a bus tour, but the other day we got a shiny new jeep to play with...
It was fun!
The speed limit on the beach was 80k (50 mph), but inland you were lucky to get to 20k it was so bumpy and very deep sand. Thankfully we didn't get stuck once, but we did have to help out another car that did.
This was a very luxurious liner in the 1920s. It crashed on Fraser Island in 1935, and is slowly sinking into the sand (4/5s are now below the sand). Since the crash it has been used for a wedding reception, party venue, SAS training, bomb practice and shelter. There's not much left now, but it does look fantastic!
We went searching for Hump Back Whales this time, who stop off at Hervey Bay for a few days rest during their migration south to the Antartic. All of the males have been and gone, but there are still mothers and calfs passing through. We saw quite a few pods, and a calf that they thought was about a week old, jumping again and again.
We drove 750km in a day (nearly 500 miles) to get through a bit of the East coast with not much on it. We ended up at the bizarrely named town of 1770, which has lovely sandy beaches. It was nice and quiet too, a bit of a change from the party towns we have stayed at so far down the coast.
Just to show that the sun doesn't always shine on the sunshine coast...
As we headed into Town 1770, the skies became darker and darker, ocasionally lit up by lighting. Then the rain drops started to fall...
All this time here and we still haven't got used to seeing cockatoos, parrots, parrakeets etc flying around like normal birds. These ones came down to say hello on the final morning of our cruise, while we were having breakfast. They don't half make a racket!
This is lots of fusilier fish being fed by our diving instructor at Manta Ray bay on the Whitsunday islands.
We are getting better at using the underwater camera. Still tricky though. You have to hold it still at arms length, hoping that you are pointing at the right thing, and be more than 3 feet and less than 6 from the subject. And remember to breathe at the same time.
Just had a look - bit of a monster photo! Not off the digital this time so size was guessed. Oh well.
We spent 2 days and 2 nights cruising around the Whitsunday islands in a fast little boat called Powerplay. There were 18 of us on board (very cosy). We went diving a couple of times, did some snorkelling, and sat on Whitehaven beach for a bit (in the picture). That was about it really! Very relaxing.
On our dive of the great barrier reef we searched long and hard for a true clownfish, made famous by the film Finding Nemo. We saw black clownfish and pink clownfish, but none of the True ones.
We had to resort to an aquarium, where they had a recreation of the dentists fish tank from the film, complete with little nemo...
(if you haven't seen the film, do, its very funny)
Road trains are huge lorries used for transportation through the outback. They can have 4 or 5 trailers and be up to 70m long. The roads around most of the outback are only one lane wide. If you see one coming, you get as far out the way as possible because they move for nothing!
OK, ready for the geology lesson:
The Undara Volcano erupted 160,000 years ago. It spewed masses and masses of lava over a ten year period. As the lava flowed down through the land, it flowed through the low lying areas, river beds etc. As the top layer of the lava exposed to the elements cooled down, it formed a hard crust. The lava underneath remained at such a hot temperature it continued flowing through these newly formed tubes, until the tubes reached 100 kilometres in length.
You can now walk through parts of these tubes. During the years, the minerals have turned the caves into kalaidoscope patterns of red, ornage and white.
Oh yeah, and loads of microbats too!
No not me! but the wallaby (It is a called a pretty faced wallaby).
Ah it's a hard life!
This is an extremely rare bird indeed, only a few hundred left in the wild. We were sat in our car, eating our lunch, when we turned around and saw the bird striding around the car park. It is similar to an emu, but more colourful. A lot more dangerous too, these birds have long talons, and will jump on a person feet first, kind of like the Eric Cantona of the bird world.
It was about 6 feet tall, and how can I best describe the noise it makes, like a car going over rumble strips. You could feel the vibrations!
The fig tree is a parasite. Seeds are dropped onto branches of other trees by birds, and start to spread their branches downwards, suffocating the host tree until it dies.
This particular fig tree was very, very old, and very, very wide. (Yes, I obviosly paid lots of attention to the information boards around the tree)
We picked up our new hire car this morning, and started our long trip south, by heading north.
We headed up through Daintree National Park, to Cape Tribulation, on an overcast day. Lots of rainforest, nice beaches, swimming holes etc..
This one was taken by a pro. Can you tell?
OK, so I managed to miss the turtle. It is off the edge of the pic. Its hard lining it up with a mask on!
We saw masses of brightly coloured fish, including Wally, the friendly Great bump headed napolean maori Wrassi (bit of a mouthful, thats why they call him Wally) at over 2 metres long!
We've done it! Didn't choose the best of days for it. They have had one day of rain in the last 6 weeks here. Today was the second. It was windy, and the sea was rough, which churned up the bottom. It was still good though!
Our 3 day tour of Litchfield and Kakadu national parks involved a lot of swimming in fantastic rock pools, with clear water and waterfalls. Good job too as it is about 38 in the shade, and very humid. This was taken at the top of Gunlom falls. It was fantastically beautiful, with a selection of pools to swim in. At the topmost one you could swim along a narrow gorge, sliding over the slippery rocks, to get to your own private waterfall at the end. Fantastic.
Clare is in this picture, at the front. Honest.
The pool at the bottom of these falls where we also swam was the spot in Crocodile Dundee where the american womans' waterbottle got snatched by a croc. Anyone remember that? We also saw Charlie, the waterbuffalo that Mr Dundee hypnotised when it was in the way on the road. Unfortunately it is now stuffed, and standing on the bar in a pub.
A member of the stork family, and our guide's favourite bird. It had greeny blue areas around its head that shimmered in the sun.
We saw loads and loads of birds on this trip. Jabberoos (more storks), white breasted sea eagles, Jakartas (also called Jesus birds as they walk on water), whistling ducks, magpie geese (thousands of them), sacred and glossy ibis, spoonbills, egrets (in all 3 sizes), snake necked cormorant etc etc
Lots of reptiled too, although we didn't get any good pics (they move too quick). We saw a frill necked lizard on the first day (although it didn't put its frill up). They run on two feet, and have a problem making eye contact. They will run away and up the first tree they come too. As soon as they are on the other side of the tree and can't see you, they presume they are safe (even though we could still see its feet round the edges of the tree). You can then just walk up, reach round the tree and grab it (as our guide did). We also saw huge yellow spotted monitor lizards, two striped dragons and loads of smaller lizards. No snakes though!
I also tried licking a green ant. Not quite as disgusting as it sounds. Tastes like sherbet!
on the Adelaide river, confusingly nowhere near Adelaide.
On our two hour cruise we saw 7 crocs. 5 of the deadly and huge (up to 4.5 metres) salties, and 2 of the smaller freshies. We got up close to them as they basked in the early morning sun.
A great example of Aboriginal x-ray art at Ubirr. The paintings in this region date back over 20,000 years (maybe up to 60,000), and are considered the oldest examples of painting in the world (by a long way).
The pictures of this style are of animals, and show the bones and fatty regions to help train the hunters.
After a hot day wandering around rock art sites (and no swimming!) we stopped to watch the sunset. And what a sunset it was too. At the top of the rock in Kakadu national park we had 360 degree views around the amazing scenery, with flocks of birds flying up out of the forest.
There are 82 different species of termite in the Northern territory. Two of the more impressive mounds are the cathedral and the magnetic ones. The cathedral ones like this one are up to 6 metres tall, with up to twice that below the ground as well. The magnetic ones are built like a wall, tall and flat, all aligned along the north/south axis (which is why they are called magnetic, they don't actually attract metal!), so that they get the early morning sun to its full extent. They have networks of tunnels and areas to store heat so they can keep the mound at a constant temperature all day. Very clever.
The queen, who lives between 20 and 80 years depending who you believe, gives birth to 3000 termites a day. Every day.
Until this day I didn't actually know what a termite looked like. I thought they looked like ants. They don't. They aren't actually related to ants at all. The cockroach is their nearest relative.
On the eve of our first day we attended an aboriginal corroboree. The three men performing have done so all over the world, and have even met the queen!
They performed some traditional dances, accompanied by singing and didgeredoo, before getting us all involved. It was a rare chance to meet and talk to some aboriginal people as they don't tend to get involved with tourists much.
We learnt quite a bit about their culture, and the way they live now.
(Apologies to dad Denley for this photo)
Danae, our guide, took great pleasure in telling us that the grand canyon is not actually a canyon at all, but a gorge. Grand gorge doesn't have the same ring to it though. Kings canyon was very impressive, with the sheer rock faces dropping for about 150 metres down to the bottom. We lay on the edge and looked down, where a rare rock wallaby hopped around in the shade under a tree. We walked the 6km around the top, and it was hard work.
We had perfect weather for the whole 3 days. The first two were sunny, but with a bit of a breeze to keep us cool, then for the hardest walk the clouds came out to give us some shade (still 30 degrees though). That night, once we were back in the hostel in Alice having our welcome back party, the heavens opened for a while. A rare downpour in the centre.
On the way back from our three day tour into the centre we made a rest stop at one of the cattle stations. In the cafe was a girl with a baby kangeroo. A local aboriginal tribe had killed its mother, not knowing it had a joey. A few phone calls later and the little joey was on the bus with us, heading for a sanctuary in Alice Springs. Stuart volunteered to be its surrogate mum on the way back, making a pouch out of his jumper and trying to get it to drink some water.
You can't buy experiences like that! He is now at the desert park sanctuary, and we will have to phone up in a week or so to see if she has survived. Fingers crossed everyone!
We had tents to sleep in, but our guide was so emphatic about how fantastic sleeping in a swag was (she said she sleeps in one at home) that the whole group slept outside under the stars. We were a bit skeptical, but a sleeping bag in the swag, and we were plenty warm enough. Our shoes are hidden under them, to stop the dingoes (wild dogs) stealing them, which apparently happens rather a lot. One of the guides claims to have seen a pile of shoes out in the bush one day.
The swag is a bit like a big sleeping bag made of tarpaulin, with a built in foam matress. We liked it so much everyone slept out again the next night, and it rained! (not much though).
We got up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the rock by sunrise. The group began the 9km walk around the base in the early morning light, with a cold breeze. 20 minutes or so later the sun peeked over the horizon, bathing us and the rock in a warming orange glow.
We've seen lots of photos of the rock before, but only from a distance. We never knew about all the patterns, holes, domes and grooves that cover it, visible from up close. We also imagined it to be in the middle of the desert, but in fact it is surrounded by trees and shrubs. It was a fantastic walk.
Kata Tjuta translates as 'many heads', a name referring to the 30 or so orange domes that cover the area. From a distance they look vaguely like Homer Simpson lying down for a nap.
Our group did the 8km Valley of the Winds walk. Our group of 20 was almost immediately strung out, from the 16 year old german students who shot off into the distance, to Pascale, Paul and us bringing up the rear. No hurry!
A lot of people find Kata Tjuta more impressive than Uluru. It is 200m higher at the highest point (546m to Uluru's 348m), and has a lot more shape to it. Its a hard choice between the two, but we would choose Uluru.
We knew that my cousin Pascale and her boyfriend Paul were in Australia at the same time as us, and we emailed them a week or so ago, only to find out they would be in the centre at the same time as us. It was still looking hard to meet up though, until we found out that we had all booked on to the same tour, leaving on the same day!
It was great to not just meet up with them, but spend the whole 3 day tour with them.
This is what everyone comes here for, and frankly it was a bit dissapointing. Maybe it is just too hyped up. Don't get me wrong, the rock is very impressive, but the colour didn't change that much as the sun set. Maybe we were just unlucky?
Had nice wine and nibbles as the sun went down though. Paul took this picture, and the crowds around were so impressed with the results he ended up playing photographer to a whole tour group!
In Grampians national park. A great view...
A cave painting in the grampians national park depicting Bunjil, the creator, admiring the world he has just created.
And two dogs.
Nearing the end of the Great Ocean Road, are the 12 Apostles. You can only actually see 5 of them from land, so here they are.
One of the most impressive buildings in Melbourne.
Here we are in Torquay, at the start of one of the greatest drives in the world, along the south coast of Victoria.
Here's some facts about koalas for you:
they sleep 20 hours a day because they get so little energy from the leaves they eat.
The babies are born the size of a jelly bean, with no back legs, and have to climb up into the pouch through their mums fur.
They spend 7 months in the pouch while they develop.
They have a plate of bone across their backsides to make it more comfortable to sleep on branches.
We have arrived in melbourne, and the first thing we did was go to Luna Park. Didn't actually go on any of the rides though! They are all a bit feeble compared to Disney and Alton Towers. Nice place though, and they have the last operating roller coaster in the world with a brakeman. He stands inbetween the carriages and pulls a big lever brake at the right moments. No idea how many times a day he goes round and round...
This rock isn't actually hanging rock, it is part of a big volcanic hill called Hanging Rock. We clambered to the top past all the weird rock formations to see the views all around.
we have seen some wild kangeroos now. It was 4 days before we saw any though. These are in a wildlife sanctuary, and we were lucky to see the little joey pop out of the pouch for a few minutes, before clambering back in.
we left New South Wales and drove into Victoria. No fruit allowed so we had to try and eat it all!
Here we are, driving through the snowy mountains. We had to carry snow chains with us, but luckily we didn't have to put them on.
We have only actually had one hot day since we arrived, a mid 30s scorcher. Every other day has been around 17 or 18 degrees and it has rained quite a lot. I'm sure it will be better up North!
we drove south from Canberra in our petrol guzzling van to a national park with a name I can't spell. As soon as we entered we were surrounded by burnt out trees, obviously the result of a recent forest fire.
we have very little time (10 days) to make the trip from Sydney to Adelaide, so we made a flying visit to Canberra, and tried to do the sights in half a day. Canberra is the nations capital and was designed and built in the last century. The centerpiece is the newly completed government house, a modern building covered in grass, and topped with an 81m flagpole and flag the size of a double decker bus. We didn't get any good pictures of it though, so here is one from the national museum. An introduction to the aboriginees.
we couldn't find a cheap one way car hire down from Sydney to Adelaide, but we could get a cheap camper! It is rented from Wicked campers. Every one of their vans is painted, and this is one of the more sedate ones. It's called Max.
We met up with Neil on arrival in Sydney, a friend from university, and stayed at his house in double bay. He had just bought a shiny new surfboard, and once he had waxed it was eager to get out and catch some waves. He did too, along with his friend Mark also visiting as part of a round the world trip.
This is Manley beach, Sydney. You can see the attraction of living there with beaches like this on your doorstep.