On Christmas Day evening we arrived at the campsite in Waitomo and set about having a Christmas BBQ. Like a few other people seemed to have done we had some yummy steaks, as well as some sausages, peppers and mushrooms. We had far too many leftover sausages, but they made good breakfast for Matt! It wouldn’t be a Christmas dinner without leftovers anyway. Our Christmas cake was a pretty exciting versoin of a caramel slice. It was two big squares of chocolate chip shortbread with caramel in the middle – yummy!

Christmas BBQ

Christmas BBQ

Waitomo is famous for its glow worms, so that evening once it got dark we went on a short drive up the road to do the night time glow worm walk. It was a really excellent walk, and turned out to be one of the top 10 short walks in New Zealand. It went through a forested area with a river (which you could hear but not see becasue it was dark). The walk went though tunnels and into lots of caves with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as heaps of glow worms. They lined all the banks by the sides of the rivers too. The walk was a really good mini-adventure and we even saw a possom.

Glow worm walk by Waitomo

Glow worm walk by Waitomo

The next day (Boxing Day) we were signed up for 8 hours of caving adventures with the Legendary Black Water Caving Co. They had a deal on when we booked, so we did the 5 hour, dry Black Labyrinth in the morning, and the 3 hour, wet Black Odyssey in the afternoon. We seemed to have got a really really good deal as when we got there to pay they said we had the ‘old’ prices and should have been paying more, but they honoured the quote I had via email which was good.

There were three of us on the Labyrinth Tour, and three guides (one of whom was learning the tour). We were lucky as they normally take up to 6 people at a time.  Before we were allowed on the trip we had to crawl through a wooden tunnel in the reception, so show we were OK with tight, dark spaces! After getting kitted up in our boiler suits, wellies, harnesses and hats we set off on the caving via Ruakuri Cave.  Ruakuri means Den of Dogs, which is from when the cave was first discovered by Maori hunters 500 years ago. They do a walking tour in the cave too, so the start was the same with a very cool lit-up spiral ramp down into the cave.

Caving in Waitomo

Caving in Waitomo

The guides were really friendly and very talkative.We had a clipping system like for Via Ferrata, which worked with magnets and was set up so you always had one clipped at any time for safety. The caving started walking through tunnels and then gradually doing more squeezing and climbing as the spaces got smaller! Some of the climbing was a bit tricky, mainly becasue of wearing wellies rather than proper shoes. We exploired a lot of the caves and saw lots of cool formations and lots and lots of glow worms. The guide explained to us they are actually “shiny sh*t maggots”, but that that doesn’t sound so good to the tourists!

The caving included a few abseils including one fairly long one down a slot above the river inside the cave which was cool. A couple of times we were above the people doing the wet tour, so we had to stop and wait for them so we didn’t distract them or kick dust into their faces.  There was a ladder to walk up too, and a monkey bridge to go across. There were a couple of cool flying fox swings, which we did in the dark with our torches off for added excitement! the whole thing was really good fun. When we came out into the daylight we realised we were where we had walked on the glow worm walk the night before.

 

Caving in Waitomo

Caving in Waitomo

After the trip we got free soup and bagels for lunch, and had some kumara (NZ name for sweet potato) chips too to fuel us up for the next adventure!

The second trip we did was the Back Odyssey which is the most popular one. We had a group of 12 (I think the limit is 14). This time it was a wet caving adventure, so we got dressed in our swimmers, wetstuits, wetsuit jackets and smaller boots. We each got given a black rubber ring, in different sizes. The tour was basically all about floating along the river inside the caves in the tubes, including jumping off waterfalls, going down some moving water, floating through tunnels and looking at more glow worms.

When the trip started the guide asked if we all knew the trip involved jumping off some waterfalls – ummm, no! It turned out they weren’t too high, so I was OK. We did a practice jump off some steps outside into the river, and then nice and wet got the bus down to the start. The first waterfall jump was pretty soon, and I managed all of them without loosing any of my contact lenses which was handy! You have to jump off backwards so you land in your ring – scary! The water was very very cold. If I did something like that again I’d be tempted to take a thermal! Allegedly there was an eel in the cave which Matt saw. There are photos of it, but I’m still sceptical!

Black water rafting

Black water rafting in Waitomo

We rafted up into a chain to go through one of the tunnels and all turned out lights off so we could look at the glow worms while the guides towed us along, which was good of them! There were really masses of glow worms (maggots!) At another point we ditched our rings and crawled through a little wet tunnel called the laundry chute! Near the end we all turned our lights out and had to paddle to the end of the cave without turning them on which was quite a weird experience as there wasn’t a lot of current.

Black water rafting in Waitomo

Black water rafting in Waitomo

I definitely preferred the dry caving trip by quite a long way, mainly becasue it was more like a climbing adventure, involved more skill, wasn’t cold and didn’t involve chucking yourself off a waterfall backwards!

The next day we headed back to Auckland and flew back to Sydney ready to meet the Shorts for New Year.

Rafting the Kaituna

Rafting the Kaituna

After our trip to Hobbiton, in New Zealand, in the afternoon we went rafting on the Kaituna (Okere) river. It has the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world on it, with a 7m drop. The rafting lastest about an hour, with several waterfalls and a lot of rapids.The raft was very bouncy and floaty. Our raft did some crazy flip spin thing going down the waterfall, so the guide and I both managed to fall out and have a swim in the water becasue we were on the same side! It made me feel better that he fell out too! We bought the photos of the trip which came on a raft shaped memory stick with Matt particularly appreciated.

Rafting the Kaituna

Rafting the Kaituna

After a busy day, we headed into Rotorua and found some dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant. They were very friendly, the food was yummy and they had entertaining place mats – Matt’s had a flow chart on it for working out what type of pasta your pasta was!

The next day (Christmas Eve) we headed to Te Puia. This is a geothermal area with bubbling mud pools and geysers, as well as a lot of Maori culture including carved houses and giant canoes. We booked tickets to the cultural show in thee big carved meeting house. Before it started we gathered at the meeting point and were greeted by our Maori guide. She explained we weren’t allowed in until the Maori people had determined if we were friendly or not. We nominated a leader for our group, and the Maori warrior ran at him with a giant spear. He performed the Hakka and made him an offering. Our leader accepted it, they rubbed noses in the traditional way and we were allowed in. The performance was really good with a lot of traditional signing, dancing and ball spinning. The men performed the Hakka and explained about it and then had a lot of the men from the audience join them on stage to do it together.

 

The Hakka

The Hakka

After the show we joined a guided tour of the park to learn a bit more about it. We saw the Prince of Wales geyser erupting and lots of bubbling mud pools, steamy areas and craters from old geysers too. The whole place was pretty smelly of eggs which reminded me of parts of Iceland. We saw a kiwi bird in the kiwi house too and had the biggest cheese scone i’ve ever seen for elevenses!

Te Puia geysers

Te Puia geysers

 

We had a talk on weaving as part of the tour. At Te Puia they also have a state sponsored Maori weaving school and a carving school to make sure these traditions continue with the younger generations.

Modern Maori carving

Modern Maori carving

After Te Puia we drove down to Lake Taupo. We found out about an attraction called the Prawn Park – a prawn based theme park! You can go fishing for prawns, go on a prawn themed ride and play prawn golf. We really wanted to go, mainly becasue it sounded so cheese but unfortunately we got there late and it was closed the next day for Christmas. Instead in the evening we walked from near our campsite up to Huka falls. Huka means foam in Maori. Its a very impressive falls with 220,000 litres of water a second going over the falls. Most of the falls is quite a shallow gradient down a 15m wide slot in the rocks, with the actual main drop only about 12m.

Haka falls

Huka falls

The next day was Christmas Day. We started off with a walk around Aratiatia rapids. The rapiuds are next to a dam, and about 3 or 4 times a day they release the dam which makes the rapids fill up from hardly any water to massive rapids over anout 15 minutes. We watched the dam release, and the water level actuially went up a fait bit slower than I expected. It was cool to see. They filmed the barrell scenes from the Hobbit 2 here, where the dwarves and Bilbo escape from the Elves in barrels down the river. I guess they could contorl the dam release how they wanted for that which made it safer for filming.

Rapids

Aratiatia Rapids

From there we drove over to Wiatomo, via the Tongariro National Park. Its where Mt Ngauruhoe is, which was Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately it was quite a cloudy day, so we couldn’t get a good view of the mountain. We did go on another short walk to a nice waterfall with a plunge pool though, and drove up into the ski fields where we found some actual Chrismtas snow!

NZ17

Christmas snow

 

Carrying on the drive we went past this T-Rex made of driftwood, and a giant sculpture of a man shearing a sheep in Hangatiki, the sheep shearing capital of the world!

Driftwood T-Rex

Driftwood T-Rex

Stay tunes for next week’s post on our Christmas evening in Waitomo and Boxing Day caving adventures!

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

For Christmas we went on camping holiday for a week to the North Island of New Zealand. We didn’t get there before when we went on our honeymoon to the South Island. We flew into Auckland and picked up our little car. Our first stop was up north, in the town of Russell in the very Scenic Bay of Islands. After about half an hour is started to rain – very hard. Even Matt said he wondered if the campsite we were going to had cabins! As we got the car ferry across the bay to Russell it was still drizzling, but luckily we hit a brief dry spell when it was time to put the tent up.

Pahia

Pahia

On our first full day we booked on a 5 hour boat tour around the Bay. We started off getting the passenger ferry back across the bay and exploring the town of Pahia, which was bigger than Russell and where most people visiting the area seem to stay – we preferred our quieter spot the other side. After some lunch, and then some tea, cake and beer on the wharf, our boat trip started. The bay had hundreds of islands in it and is surrounded by green rolling hills, wich was all very scenic. We managed to see dolphins three different times which was really good, and even got some pretty good pictures of them too.

Dolphins at the Bay of Islands

Dolphins at the Bay of Islands

 

Dolphin at Bay of Islands

Dolphin at Bay of Islands

The trip went out all the way to the edge of the bay to the Hole in the Rock sea arch, and the boat even went through it because luckily the tide was right. Matt got dripped on, which according to Maori tradition is lucky. They used to paddle out to the rock and go through the hole before important events. Near the rock we spotted a seal hanging out on the rocks. On the way back we stopped at Otehei Bay on one of the islands, and went for a short walk up the hill to a lookout with excellent views all around the bay. We got to have a quick paddle in the sea too, before it was time to head on back on the boat.

Hole in the Rock, Bay of Islands

Hole in the Rock, Bay of Islands

The next day was mainly spent driving back to Auckland, and through it onto our next campsite at Rotorua. Rotorua has a high level of geothermal activity, with a lot of sulphur in the air, so it smells quite eggy. We were staying out of town up in the hills by Blue Lake, which was much less smelly. After an ice cream and Matt having a dip in the lake, we stocked up on some supplies and had a tasty BBQ dinner with some local wine.

Gandalf at Hobbiton

Gandalf at Hobbiton

After all the driving, the next day was quite action packed. In the morning we drove north west to Mata Mata, to go on a tour of Hobbiton. It’s the movie set where they filmed the scenes for Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit which were in Hobbiton, including the Green Dragon pub.  You arrive at  the visitor centre with a cafe and gift shop, and then get the bus down to the set. Tours leave very regualrly, about every 15 minutes in peak time, but the routes seem to be fairly well thought out so although you could see the other groups it didn’t seem too busy on the site.

Bilbo's Hobbit Hole

Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole

There were lots of Hobbit holes around, which were very cute. We saw Bilbo and Sam’s holes, and lots of other ones too. There were lots of props around like vegetables, pots of honey, washing, carts and little benches, as well as an allotment area. Our guide was full of lots of interesting facts about the films and the set, like how they made the fences look old with yoghurt! We got to go inside one of the holes. Sadly there is actually nothing inside – all of the inside scenes were filmed somewhere else! The farmer on the land managed to keep secret that the set was there until after the films came out which was quite impressive.

Sam's Hobbit Hole

Sam’s Hobbit Hole

We learned that the tree on top of Bilbo / Frodo’s hole is actually fake. It was moulded based ona  real old oak tree, so looks realistic, but it was thousands of artificial leaves, all made and added on with wire by hand! At the end of the trip you get to go into the Green Dragon pub for a complementary drink. It was cool inside with a fire and lots of props like cloaks hanging up, dragon carvings and old looking books.

The Green Dragon Pub

The Green Dragon Pub

After Hobbiton, we headed back towards Rotorua through the town of Tirau where we had some lunch. The town has lots of art including giant sculptures made of wrought iron. This sheep below is actually surrounding a shop, which you walk into through its mouth!

Sheep in Tarau

Sheep in Tarau

Stay tuned for the next post on the rest of our trip, featuring rafting, mud pools, geysers and caving!

Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation

After the Great Barrier Reef, we headed up to north to stay in Port Douglas for a few nights. We rented 2 apartments between us, right by the beach and with an outdoor pool which we got good use out of.

The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world (135 million years!), and we were keen to explore it. After enjoying the tour we did at Uluru earlier in the year, and having had some recommendation from others we booked onto a day tour with Billy Tea Safaris. See here. We got picked up from our apartment, and drove for about an hour, hearing stories about the local area, the sugar cane plantations and flooding from our knowledgeable guide, ‘Uncle’ Nev.

Our first stop was to have some local Daintree tea, and hop on a cruise along the Daintree River for an hour, trying to spot crocodiles. Unfortunately because of the hot weather they all seemed to be hiding, so the only one we saw was the one the guide was handling at the start. Still it was nice being on the river, having a close up look at the mangroves and learning about the area.

After that we stopped at a very scenic lookout with views down the valley, and went on for a short walk in the rainforest, looking at some cycads (tall ferms) which were hundreds of years old. From there we went on to an animal rescue centre where we got to hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies. Nev cooked us up a very tasty BBQ with some locally reared, grass-fed steaks.

Me feeding the rescue kangaroo

Me feeding the rescue kangaroo

 

Next up we drove along the 4WD Bloomfield Track, which goes up north to Cape York. It takes days to drive up there and there are basically no shops or other towns on the way. It really have us a good feeling for how remote that bit of Australia is. After a while we stopped and took a refreshing swim in a pool with some fish. Just downstream was a warning sign about crocodiles, but apparently they don’t come up as far as where we were swimming. I kept my eyes peeled just in case!

CrocSign

Beware, Crocodiles!

After surviving the swim, we had some more tea, fruit damper bread with golden syrup from the local sugar cane and a selection of about 7 different local tropical fruits. I can’t remember the names of all of them, but it included jackfruit, soursop (like a lemon), black sapote and chocolate pudding fruit – which really did taste like chocolate pudding.

Bushfruit

Rainforest fruit

After heading back down the 4WD track we stopped for a walk at Cape Tribulation, the beach where ‘the rainforest meets the reef’. It was really very pretty, but you’re advised not to go in the sea because sometimes there are crocodiles. We took a walk along the beach, keeping a respectable distance from the water! On the beach there were loads of tiny balls of sand, made by little crabs. You couldn’t help treading on the balls, which made me feel bad. I have no idea why the crabs make them, but they were all over the beach in Port Douglas too. For the last stop we went to the Daintree Ice Cream Co, for ice creams made of local tropical fruits – yum!

Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge

The next day we went for a hot and humid walk around Mossman Gorge and the surrounding rainforest. The gorge is pretty big, with lots of large boulders. The water was quite low as it was summer time, but in the wet season it must be pretty powerful. We spotted a water dragon hanging about on a tree, and lots of bright orange butterflies.

Water Dragon in Mossman Gorge

Water Dragon in Mossman Gorge

After the hot rainforest we went to chill out on the beach. While James, Laura and Tom dug a big deep hole (because that’s what you do on the beach), Matt, Monika and I went for a swim in the sea. We went for the part where the net was – to avoid the jellyfish and possible crocodiles! We checked the sign, and in the sea it was 29 degrees! Getting in, it was the only time very I haven’t even felt a tiny bit cold in the sea. It actually felt like it had been warmed up, which was very very strange – but nice!

PortDouglas

 

The next day we had to go back to Sydney and leave all our Horsham friends behind 🙁 It was an excellent trip, and lots of fun. Come back soon guys!

 

 

Turtle

Turtle

After Cairns, we went on a 3 day, 2 night live aboard cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef with a company called Reef Encounter. Considering the price of hotels, for about $600 each including all our meals and the boat trips it was a pretty good deal.

First up we hopped on the day boat at 7.30am for an 8am departure, and relaxed while they cooked us bacon and egg rolls on the BBQ on the top deck!

Blue Sea Star

Blue Sea Star

The day boat took us out to the bigger boat, plus a load of people just doing a day trip. While we made the trip we watched Cairns disappear into the distance, and went to a presentation by the on-board Marine Biologist about all the different fish in the reef. She explained that none of the reef sharks would eat us, or even try and nibble us! Apparently they’re less dangerous to people than the average dog.

Maori Wrasse

Maori Wrasse

About 10am we got transferred across to the main boat, had a safety talk, got shown to our rooms and went right out for our first snorkel at Saxon Reef. The other reefs we went to were Norman Reef, Norman Playground (near Norman Reef) and Hastings Reef.

Matt-fish

Matt-fish

When we first got in the water it was in a pretty deep area, obviously becasue they had to anchor the boat. But after just a short swim we were surrounded by masses of coral beds. They were really quite close to the surface, some of them in the shallow bits only about a 1-1.5 meters below so you had to be careful not to hit them.

Parrot Fish

Parrot Fish

The types of fish we saw included Parrot Fish, which were my favourite becasue they were really bright and great blue and purple colours.They eat the coral, so when you are near them you can hear them crunching off bits of rock.

Other fish we saw included: unicorn fish; seal faced puffer fish; angel fish; cardinal fish; clown (nemo) fish; groupers; surgeon fish (Dory); trigger fish; Mauri wrasse and sun fish. We also saw some long-thin fish which i’m not sure what they were!

Anemone Fish (Nemo!)

Anemone Fish (Nemo!)

I’ve seen the reef on TV and in books, but I really was amazed by how many different fish there were in any one place, and the diversity of the different types of fish too. On TV I always cynically assume they show the best bits, but the amount of fish around was really amazing, and they were so many different colours. They were lots of different kinds of coral to and anemones, again with lots of different colours.

In some places there were lots of dead bits, which was sad. It was all grey and just looked like lots of stick shaped bits of stone. We asked on the boat about it and they explained most of this was cyclone damage from storms. Because the reef is so close to the surface it can get damaged easily when the big storms come through.

Seal-faced Puffer Fish

Seal-faced Puffer Fish

I was swimming in my long rash vest. Although getting it felt a bit cool, the water was pretty warm and unusually I wasn’t cold. Annoyingly, about half way in to our first swim our underwater camera died! Despite a lot of attempts to revive it it just got worse so we had to give up on it! They had some on the boat you could hire, so we did that and kept on snapping away.

Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray

Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray

On our second swim we saw a turtle and followed it for a long time which was brilliant. They’re so beautiful to look at and graceful with their swimming. I saw turtles two more times, and each time followed them around for ages. You have to be careful not to swim on top of them, becasue they need to come up for air every so often, and if you’re above them they get scared and won’t do it. I saw them do this twice and dive back down again which was really cool. Before we went, my aim was to see a turtle, and swimming with them was definitely my favourite bit of the reef trip. It was even better than I imagined.

White-tipped Reef Shark

White-tipped Reef Shark

On the morning sessions and the last ones of the day we also saw grey-tipped and white-tipped reef sharks. They were a close second to the turtles, and really cool to watch slinking around looking for food. Swimming with them messed with my brain as it has totally been programmed to think sharks are bad and will eat you. We swam with two at a time at one point. I enjoyed swimming with them a lot, but my brain kept telling me I shouldn’t be doing it as they’d spot me and have me for dinner! Luckily the Marine Biologist was right and none of us got even the slightest bit nibbled!

Surgeon Fish and Mystery Fish

Surgeon Fish and Mystery Fish

At night we saw a LOT of sharks circling around the boat. Apparently the pipes leak a bit, so they are attracted to the boat becasue they smell the food. Watching them circling and seeing their fins above the water was pretty cool. I certainly didn’t fancy swimming with 7-8 of them at once!

Sharks!

Sharks!

Matt and James did a night dive with them! The boat we were on was one of only a few where you can do a night dive if you’re not a certified diver becasue they have a special licence. You have to do a day trial dive first, which Matt did. At night there are lots more predators about, including the sharks and trevalli, plus turtles sleeping in caves and hidey holes. The night divers had torches to see, which you could watch from the surface – it looked fairly surreal.

Orange Sea Star

Orange Sea Star

The days were jam packed full which was really good, with a nice balance of time to relax, play games, sun bathe, drink tea or recover. The schedule was roughly:

6.30 – Morning snorkel / dive

7.30 – Breakfast then boat moves

8.30 – Snorkel / dive

10.30 – Snorkel / dive including new people

12.00 – Lunch

13.30 – Snorkel / dive then move boat

15.30 – Snorkel / dive

18:00 – Dinner

19:00  – Night dive

20:00 – Dessert (yum!)

 

Giant clam

Giant clam

I got up for the early session on our first morning and we saw a turtle and shark so it was well worth it! There were less other people about which was nice, and it was a good way to start the day and wake up my stomach ready for a nice big breakfast. On the second day we were at a reef I had already swam at twice and where we were staying until after the 8.30am session so I had a lie in instead!

On the first night we had a really good view of the stars and even saw a shooting star so close and bright it looked like a fire-work.

Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish

The rooms were reasonably spacious considering we were on a boat, and the dining room / lounge was nice and big for games. The meals were really good, including a breakfast fry up, fresh pastries and full cooked lunch which was very welcome after lots of swimming! The desserts were good, especially the ice cream bar one, and there was lots of tea, coffee and Milo to help yourself too whenever the boat wasn’t moving. We took along snacks in-case we were under-fed, but definitely didn’t need any of them! (Well, apart from some chocolate Freddo frogs!)

Turtle!

Turtle!

In the cable car

In the cable car

For the start of our Tropical North adventure we flew up to Cairns, and spent a couple of nights in an apartment near the wharf. Flying in was surprised how hilly it was, with hills covered in trees going right down to the sea.

On our first full day we went on the cable car up into the Daintree rainforest to Kuranda, had lunch at the top in Kuranda and came back down through the gorge on the Kuranda scenic railway. It was a really good trip. On the way up you get great views back over Cairns and the surrounding area, and of course of the rainforest all around you. We paid a small bit extra for ‘diamond’ gondolas which had a clear floor, so you could see below well.

There are 2 stops on the way up. At the first one we did a short guided walk and learnt about the different plants, animals and fruits in the forest, including the musky rat-kangaroo. We saw some bush turkeys, but no rat-kangaroos.

The second stop was a lookout over the impressive Barron Falls. As it was getting into summer there wasn’t loads of water going over it, but the gorge itself was still very impressive.

We had a couple of hours in the rainforest village of Kuranda, so had a look around the shops and then got some lunch. We had lunch in a place overlooking the rainforest with lots of kookaburras about.

Kuranda Railway Station

Kuranda Railway Station

The train station was quite 1920’s retro and the train had booths of seats inside and open windows with bars across for some good air flow. Matt managed to pick up a frozen, chocolate coated banana for a quick snack, which was a healthier version of an ice cream. It tasted pretty odd, texture wise.

The train ride down was 37km and took about 90 minutes, and the views were really cool across the Barron Gorge National Park and down the valley out to Cairns. The whole line is a pretty impressive feat of engineering considering it was built in the 1880’s! You can read more about its history, here. We stopped at Barron Falls to check out the view from the other side, which was even more impressive.

Kuranda Train

Kuranda Train

Once we got back to Cairns, that afternoon Laura joined us from New Zealand, where she’s working at the moment. James made us all a yummy dinner, and we had a pretty close (and slightly too long) game of Munchkin before bed.

The next day we were up early for a 7.30am meet up with our reef boat. More about that in the next post!

View down the gorge

View down the gorge

In November, five of our awesome friends from at home in Horsham came over to visit us in Australia (Tom, Kate, James, Monika and Sammy). We were very excited to see them, and just like when Phil and Rhainnon came last year, we gate-crashed part of their holiday and went on with them up to Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef and Port Douglas.

Here’s some highlights of what we got up to in and around Sydney for about 5 days. If you come and visit you can do some of this cool stuff too!

Welcome BBQ and hot-tub: For their first night in Sydney we hosted a welcome BBQ and hot-tub night. It featured Aussie classic foods like kangaroo burgers and FIVE kinds of Tim Tams, plus Batch 1 and 2 of the home brew which all went down very well. I reckon the hot tub is good for jet-lag.

Hot-Tub

Squishing in the hot tub

Bondi Coogee Coast Walk: We went along the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi, about 5km, stopping for some lunch at Clovelley on the way. James had a go at snorkelling, and picked up some bonus sunburn at the same time. Annoyingly I got a bit burnt to when I missed some bits with the sun cream – amateur mistake!

O Bar for dinner: After the walk, complete with our sunburn, we went to the O-Bar for dinner. It revolves around Sydney, 47 floors up, so has some pretty awesome views and nice food and cocktails to boot. We went in at 6pm and got to stay till about 8.30pm so saw it getting dark and the city light up which was cool.

Dinner at the O Bar

Dinner at the O Bar

Drinks at the Opera Bar: After dinner we walked up to Circular Quay to check out the Opera House and Bridge closer up, and stopped for some drinks at the Opera Bar which also has some awesome views.

Mixed day: The next day we split up and did lots of different things, including: Taronga Zoo; the Botanic Gardens and Art Gallery NSW; the Guillian chocolate cafe and surfing at Bondi beach. In the evening James and Monika did the Bridge Climb at syunset which they said was really good. Matt and I will be giving that a go soon. Kate, Tom, Sammy and I went to the Escape Hunt to try the hard ‘Murder in the Pub’ room. You have 1 hour to solve puzzles and clues to work out who the murderer is and escape the room. Matt and I went and did an easier one a while back (see here), and just didn’t make it (we blame some teething problems with their puzzles). I was keen to see if we could do the harder one with more people. We did it, with over 3 whole minutes to spare – woo! It was a bit tricky, especially when the torch batteries we found didn’t really work!

Super-sleuths

Super-sleuths

Blue mountains tour: On the Saturday we hired a car and took a day trip out to the Blue Mountains. We went to a lot of lookouts, plenty of cafes and did a few different short walks in scenic places. We found a really nice cafe in Bilpin with a nice garden to sit in, home made apple pies and an overly friendly dog. After a late lunch we accidentally bought 3 new games for the holiday at the game shop in Katoomba, and headed home for take away pizza, board games and another dip in the hot tub!

Bridal Veil Falls, Blue Mountains

Bridal Veil Falls, Blue Mountains

Photos by the bridge: After the mountains we stopped for some long exposure group shots by the bridge, like we’d done with Phil and Rhiannon on their visit. Timing jumping off the wall right proved quite tricky, and there were quite a few other people waiting to get photos so we only had a couple of attempts. One more and we’d of had it I reckon!

Bridge Ghosts

Bridge Ghosts

 

After Sydney we flew away on holiday to Cairns, the  Great Barrier Reef and Port Douglas. More about those in the next posts!

Uluru sunset

Uluru sunset

Last weeks post covered the start of our Red Centre adventure. Here’s what we got up to on the rest of the trip.

Day 3 – Kata Tjuta and Uluru sunset

Day 3 was unfortunately a 5am start! There were still a lot of stars about, and I’m pretty sure I hadn’t had any decent sleep! We were all up, had camp packed up, ate breakfast and were on the bus and off by 6am.

We headed off past Uluru, admiring it out the windows as we went, and on to Kata Tjuta – also known as the Olgas. Kata Tjuta is about 25km west of Uluru, and a collection of many dome shaped rock formations. We went on a walk around them for a few hours, admiring all the cool shapes and the bright blue sky against the red rock and green of the plans. The walk included a climb up between two big rocks with cool views back down the valley afterwards.

The area was very cool. We had researched it, so would have gone if we had done the trip ourselves. It was formed by similar geological processes and around the same time as Uluru, but is nowhere near as well known. Maybe it’s harder to market when it isn’t one big rock. If you’re going to the area I’d definitely recommend a trip.

Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta

After lunch we headed to Uluru and spent some time at the cultural centre, learning about the Aboriginal Anangu people in the area, their culture and why they ask that you show them respect and don’t climb up Uluru, which is a sacred place for them. As well as the spiritual side there are environmental issues with climbing it too – as you’d expect for a natural chunk of rock, there’s no toilets or bins and many people seem to think its OK to leave all their rubbish at the top. We only had about an hour there, and I would have liked to of had more time. There is a board of 8 people who manage Uluru, 4 Anangu and 4 from Government, 1 of which is the tourism rep. They need to all agree to close the walk up, and every year the tourism people vote no. (In 2084 it will stop anyway, when the lease runs out). There are some condition now, where if less than 20% of people visiting walk up, or there are 40 total deaths on the rock they will close the walk (there have been 35 so far).

People walking up Uluru

People walking up Uluru

We did a short part of the walk around the base, saw a cave with Aboriginal art in and learnt about some of the different symbols used in the artwork. The views of the rock from around the bottom are really interesting, so we didn’t see the need to climb up.

That evening we watched sunset while Kellie cooked us dinner. We even had some sparkling wine. The viewing spot was fairly quiet when we got there, but rapidly filled up with A LOT of tour buses. We had a good spot and mainly ignored them, but it did slightly detract from the experience. I guess any other designated spot would be pretty similar though. I had my tripod so got some cool shots. The rock really did change colour as the sun went down and lit it up differently. Apparently geologists have worked out it extends a full 6km under ground which is pretty impressive.

That night we had another fire and ate smores – a toasted marshmallow and piece of chocolate sandwiched between biscuits! Whilst they were good I reckon the marshmallows by themselves are just as tasty. We caped in the swags again, and I slept really well having been so knackered from not much sleep the night before!

Day 4 – Uluru sunrise and base walk

On the final day of the tour we for a lie in and got up at 5.30am – woo! We packed up and headed back to Uluru to watch the sunrise with our breakfast. The sun actually rose slightly to the side of the rock, and it was a bit cloudy so not that impressive. Sunset was definitely better views, but there was nobody else there this time which was much better.

After sunrise we went on the rest of the 10km walk around the base of Uluru. It was really very cool, with loads of different shapes and features in the rock. There were smooth undulating bits, foldy bits, bits with holes and part that looked like a whale. I really enjoyed the walk around the bottom. The classic picture of Uluru is the whole rock with sunrise / sunset, but when you walk around it you realise how many interesting features it has. We saw a watering hole, and some more caves with paintings.

Whale shape in Uluru

Whale shape in Uluru

Some of the areas were specific sacred sites for the Anangu people, so you are not allowed to take epicures of them. They are used for sacred rituals, mainly related to gender, so people of the opposite sex aren’t allowed to see the place, and if you take photos of it they might come across them.  I took a lot of pictures of the other bits though, some of which are below. For me this was my favourite part of the trip, followed by Kata Tjuta.

After the walk we got dropped back at the resort. This is basically the only official place to stay in the National Park, and it has a range of options from camping which we did to hotels, apartments and posh camping in tents. We chilled out there with an ice cream until it was time to get the free shuttle bus back to Ayers Rock airport. This seemed more efficient that completing the full tour by spending 6+ hours in the bus going back to Alice, and about 3/4 of the group did the same thing!

Domey bit of Uluru

Domey bit of Uluru

Overall we really enjoyed the tour. The schedule with the long days and early starts was pretty gruelling, but we managed to fit a lot into a short time, and having all the food and arrangements sorted did make life fairly easy. The tour was pretty active which was good, and we certainly didn’t have any time to get bored. There was some faff, and I probably would have got frustrated about sticking to someone else’s itinerary for anything longer than the few days we did. It was definitely good value for money and we had an excellent time, even if I did feel like I needed a holiday after to recover! 🙂

Foldy holey bit of Uluru

Foldy holey bit of Uluru

Mount Connor

Mount Connor

One of the places on our Australian holiday list was Uluru, and we decided to this year. Being in the middle of the country it gets very hot, so we planned to go around September, once winter was ending so it wasn’t too hot in the day or too cold at night.

We only wanted to take a couple of days off work, so spent a while debating whether to do the trip ourselves, or join in with an organised tour. In the end the big distances involved in the drive, the fact hire car companies don’t insure you to drive at night in case you hit a camel and the cost actually being cheaper for the tour meant we decided to go with the tour. We booked through the YHA, although the company was actually Rock Tours.

The tour was pretty action packed, with a lot crammed in, so this will be a two parter.

Day 1 – Alice Springs

We flew out to Alice Springs on Saturday morning, which is about a three hour plane ride. Time passed quickly with X men on, and we enjoyed seeing a lot of not very much out the window.

Once we landed it was pretty much lunchtime, so we checked into the YHA and headed out for some lunch and an ice cream. We stocked up on some snacks for the trip which was definitely a good move. There was a 24 hour disco as part of a festival week which was pretty comical to look in on.

There is some stuff to do in Alice Springs (but not a weeks worth probably). We didn’t have a lot of time though, so just went on a short walk up Anzac Hill to watch sunset. Alice is bounded by the MacDonald range if mountains, but apart from that it’s not especially pretty, and the sun went down mainly over big industrial units and car parks! We had some nachos for dinner which ended up bring free because the messed up our order, and headed to bed nice and early ready for the tour the next day.

Anzac Hill Memorial

Anzac Hill Memorial, Alice Springs

Day 2 – Kings Canyon and bush camping

We joined the tour very early at 5.25am, and turned out to be the first people on the bus. We spent about an hour driving around Alice picking people up, including going to two places twice because the people failed to get up. Grumble.

After a quick coffee stop Kellie got some good 90s tunes going on the stereo and had us drawing our names and pictures on the bus windows (in special pens) so be could work out who everyone was a bit easier. There were 16 of us in all.

All in it took about 6 hours to get to Kings Canyon. We went on the 3 hour rim walk around the canyon, which was very cool with lots of big red layered rocks. It was about 34 degrees, but a fairly dry heat. We stopped a lot and drank a lot of water (having all taken the 3 litres each recommended by the safety signs). Kellie explained a lot of things to us about the area which was good, including about the rare Pygmy koalas only found in Central Australia. I was sceptical about this, but then we saw some real ones in a tree….Some of the people in the tour believed they were real ones a bit longer than they should have done!

Pygmy Koala

Pygmy Koala

After the canyon walk we drove a couple more hours, stopping to collect some fire wood for the evenings fire. We also caught sunset over Mount Conner, which at first we spot bought might have been Uluru. It looked pretty cool in its own right and would have been interesting to see closer up.

We got the camp pretty late, built a big fire and cooked chilli and damper bread on it which was tasty. Because there was literally nothing around the stars were amazing. I tried some star photos, but need more practice on those. That evening we did bush camping, sleeping out in swags around the big fire. The swag is basically a big thick army style bag with a foam mat inside it. You sleep inside your sleeping bag inside the swag. We got taught about making lines around them and putting salt down to stop snakes and spiders!

It was very cool opening your eyes and seeing so many stars out above you. That said, I didn’t sleep very well because 1) I was scared of snakes and spiders and 2) I was actually really really hot with the combined heat of my winter down sleeping bag, the swag and the fire. I tried to solve this by sticking my arms and legs out to cool off, but that just made problem 1 worse! Cool as it was, and although I did survive the night, I’m enough of a spiderphobe to want to sleep in a tent in future!

Stay tuned for more about Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the next post.

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon

 

22. March 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Travel · Tags: ,
Camping by Wilsons Promontory

Camping by Wilsons Promontory

In December / January we went on a long camping trip, with lots of moving between places. Lots of Aussies seem to camp in the same spot for a week or two and bring the kitchen sink with them – I’m not joking – we did see a portable table with a built in sink, plumbed and everything! Anyway, I thought I’d write a bit about some (car based) camping tips which I find helpful. Of course if you’re in the UK you can ignore this for another few months!

1. Starting at the beginning, pack the right stuff. As well as the obvious stuff like a stove, lighter, gas, sleeping bag, tent, mat and a torch, there are some other bits and pieces I tend to take which just make camping life better:

  • Tongs for the inevitable BBQ and a spatula
  • Our mini frying pan
  • A scourer, washing up liquid and tea towel as you don’t always get these and I hate greasy stuff
  • I have both a summer and winter sleeping bag and often take both if the weather might vary as I hate being cold! I still use my down bag even in Oz as I like being toastie
  • Bug spray
  • A canvas bag to use for taking my clothes in to the shower. This also comes in really handy for transport things about like food for your lunch or dinner from the car to the picnic spot
  • A stuff bag thing – I forget its proper name, but like a semi- dry bag with a roll top. I stuff all my dirty clothes in this to keep them separate from my clean ones. I hate having to rummage for ages in my bag to find stuff. I know it’s too organised, but it makes me happier!
  • Some 2 litre water bottles to freeze and put in the esky to save buying ice

2. Bring some luxury items (if you have space). My number one luxury item for camping is a full size real pillow, followed by a chair. The pillow is so much better for sleeping, and considering you sleep for (hopefully) 8 hours a night it’s definitely worth it! This trip I’ve also thought it would be worth investing in a small folding table, just to save cooking on the floor when there’s nowhere else to sit and we can play board games on it too!

3. Pack the car efficiently! I put all the camping bits and pieces like the pans, stove and cutlery in a big box so they are all together. Admittedly it’s often hard to find things and all the things you want are always at the bottom, but it’s a step in the right direction. Work out the best way to pack the car, and try and replicate it when you move campsites. That way you’ll always know where stuff is. I put pillows on the back seat in case I want a cheeky nap during the drive!

4. Get a decent tent! If you’re going to be camping a lot it’s well worth investing in something which isn’t a dome or pop up tent! They might be cheap but I’m afraid they just won’t cut it in any dodgy weather. Even if they don’t actually fall down they’ll wobble about all over the place, noisily, possibly even bashing you on the head! I love our tent although sadly it now has a dead pole which I hope we can fix. It’s semi-geodesic which means it basically stands up on its own even without any pegs, apart from the porch (hence the semi part).

5. Get a tent erection routine. We are pros at putting our tent up now. We have done it so much we know our jobs and get on with it pretty quickly without even talking about it! If you’re new to your tent, just make sure you communicate about who should be doing which job and remember it’s meant to be fun!

6. Organise the inside of your tent too. I know I’m over organised, but I have a system going on for the inside of the tent too. I like to know where stuff is and have a few things I keep my my head in the night which I’m likely to need including my book, water bottle, torch and watch. (Not you’re phone – you’re meant to be camping and away from it all so turn it off!) I also generally keep my shoes inside now, at the foot end. Even places where there aren’t nasty spiders about possums tent to like running away with shoes apparently! Remember to camp with your head up hill!

7. Plan for bad weather or burning! Make sure you take some waterproofs, and sun cream if the weathers that way inclined.

8. Take games! No camping trip is complete without some games, even if it’s just a basic pack of cards. Either games or a good book are an excellent way to pass the evening once it gets dark.

I reckon most people are just put off by traumatic childhood experiences with leaky tents from Duke of Edinburgh and sleeping bags from Argos designed to be used inside in summer – it doesn’t have to be like that so get out and give camping a go!

Remember, with the right attitude and preparation, camping can definitely be fun. I almost always sleep really well in the tent and enjoy the whole outdoorsness of it – especially when you have kangaroos and wombats to entertain you too!

When’s your next trip?!

Day 18: Philip Island to Albury
4071 km, 67 hours 9 mins

When in Melbourne I had a bit of a change of plan for my trip and swapped a second night in Philip Island for a night near Lake Hume on the NSW VIC border. This meant I didn’t have an 8.5 hour drive one one day and I realised that apart from the penguins there wasn’t too much on Philip Island to warrant a second day there.

So I efficiently packed up the tent all by myself, and managed to get it back in its bag! The lady from the caravan park even complemented me on how quick and efficient I was which made me feel rather smug. The drive was super boring, back west, around Melbourne and then north for 5.5 hours in total. A lot was freeway so very dull, even with my awesome playlists! I even stopped for a power nap to relieve the boredom!

I camped by Lake Hume and although the water looked temping with the weather a balmy 26 and stark contracts to the mornings’ 16 degrees it was a bit muddy so I gave that a miss. After masterfully performing surgery on the broken tent pole with a mallet, concrete block and a lot of tape I went to see the dam. It’s right by the campsite and very big. It’s in a scenic area with lots of trees downstream and if you walk across you can cross the state border to Victoria the other side. The footpath was closed or I’d have been tempted. I cooked some pasta by the lake as the sun went down which was very scenic, although the wind meant the stove took forever!

Lake Hume Dam

Lake Hume Dam

Day 19: Lake Hume to Snowy Mountains
4415km, 72 hours 17 mins

The next day I drove the windy and scenic Alpine Way up into the Snowy Mountains in the Australian Alps area. They are part of the great dividing range. I stopped at a couple of lookouts on the way and in the village of Threadbo to pick up a pass for my car and some leaflets about the area. Threadbo is a very pretty village which is a major skiing centre in the winter as it’s right up in the mountains. There were chair lifts and chalets aplenty, along with lots of places to stop and out on your snow chains along the road. On the way I went past one of the big sites of the Snowy Mountains Power Scheme, a giant hydroelectric power system with multiple power stations.

Snowy Mountains Power Station 1

Snowy Mountains Power Station 1

30km further I reached Jindabyne and had lunch by its giant lake while lots of people came and launched boats and jet skis for some hooning about. The final campsite was about 15 minutes north from there, 5 mins inside the park boundary. After chucking the tent
up again and a nice cup of tea I went for a drive the other way up the valley into the mountains and ski area. I went through Perisher with its giant, empty, potholed car park and static ski lifts and on to Charlottes Pass at the end of the road. You used to be able to drive on a lot further but the area was getting damaged so they shut the roads. At the lookouts to Mount Kosciusko I saw actual snow again! There were quite a few bits of it this time and it certainly felt a chilly 13 degrees at the pass (1900m elevation). The views of the mountains were good, although they were the quite vegetated rather than totally rocky variety. There were lots of white snow gum trees – lots of them had lost all their leaves, maybe fire damage, I’m not totally sure. Apparently the gum tree is the only tree which exists in deserts, alpine environments and the bit in between.

Charlottes Pass View - with snow

Charlottes Pass View – with snow

On the drives around there were a lot of birds including a massive flock of flying cockatoos (over 60 I reckon) and red and green lorikeets too. On way way back to the camp in the evening I saw a group of kangaroos, and some more at the campsite who had been hanging out earlier in the day at the adjoining fields. I had a BBQ for my dinner and headed to bed.

Day 20: Mount Kosciusko
4510km, 73 hours 42 mins

My main reason for coming to Kosciusko was to go up Mount Kosciusko, Australia’s highest peak at around 2230m. The walk started from Threado so I headed back there for about 10am. The walk is billed as 13km and 4-6 hours from the top of huge chair lift which takes you to about 1900m. This was half the amount of up from the Cradle Mountain walk and they classed it as moderate!not hard, so I figured I’d be fine. To do the walk from the village is another 4km and 2 hours as it’s very steep. I always planned on getting the chairlift down because of my dodgy knee which breaks going down hills. The return pass for the lift was only a fee more dollars than the single so I figured I’d get the lift up too. The lift ride itself was very scenic, although chair lifts do scare me slightly as you can just lift the bar up!

The walk itself was either metal boarded or had a well defined path, so wasn’t particularly hard. There were lookouts along the way including of Australia’s highest lake (Cootapatamba). Along the way there were lots of granite boulders, wild flowers, crows and several deposits of snow. One was just a short walk off the path to touch but I decided to resist the urge to feel snow again and stick to the path like the signs said! The views along the walk and at the top of the great dividing range were great and it was nice and clear too – they went on for a a long way! It was a good temperature for walking with a nice cooling breeze too. Along the way there were various signs including about the Aboriginal peoples use of the area as a sacred place where lots of different spirits live.

Lake

Lake Cootapatamba

In the end I got to the top in 90 minutes, spent half an hour there eating lunch and admiring the scenery and then got down in about 80 minutes. The walk wasn’t particularly strenuous and I did feel slightly cheated as I’d expected it to take a whole day. If I’d have known that I probably would have walked for the bottom! You can do it from Charlottes Pass too which is 18km and 4 hours each way (allegedly) so if we come back I think we should try that.

After the walk I had some tea at the highest cafe in Australia as I wanted a brew and the views were better than at the one down the bottom!

At the top of Mt Kosciousko

At the top of Mt Kosciousko

Day 21: Home time!

So after a 3 week holiday it was finally time to drive home. The trip back to Sydney was about 6 hours and pretty unremarkable!

So all in all in our trip we drove a whopping 5009km for 79 hours and 7 minutes (although some of this was looking at views and faffing rather than driving!) That’s an average of 238km a day and 3 hours 45 mins a day. It was an excellent holiday with a lot of variety, especially for me with the extra week. Three weeks is long enough to totally forget about work so going back is going to be really strange!

Day 12: Fortescue Bay to Freycinet NP
2759 km, 47 hours 17 min

We woke up too a wet morning on New Years Day, but also without a hangover having not had the chance to drink a lot because of the penguin spotting. We managed to pack the tent down in between the drizzle spells and headed to the shelter round the corner from the campsite, by the bay to cook some bacon and egg rolls for breakfast (woo!)

We drove up the east coast to Freycinet NP where we drove on our first Australian dirt roads. I liked these better than gravel as they were generally smoother and nicer to drive on, and probably better for your car too without tons of stones hitting it! We stopped for a picnic lunch at Honeymoon bay by which time the weather had cheered up quite a bit.

After lunch we did the hours walk to Wineglass Bay lookout. It was very scenic with a curve beach shaped like wineglass surrounded by big hills each side. Stories vary about whether the name comes from the shape of the bay or the water which is clear like a wineglass. On the way to the campsite we took a quick detour to the lookout and boardwalk at Cape Tourville lighthouse which again had good coastal views.

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

We couldn’t get space to camp in the NP as it’s very popular and booked out months in advanced so we camped just up the road in Bincheno. After finishing the remaining Hunter Valley Cab Sav with dinner we went for a night time walk to see the town and coast. They have another penguin colony there and we were lucky enough to see them! A group of about 20 were on the rocks near the see waiting to waddle up to their nests. I managed to sit about 8m from them and watched them hop over a ledge, make their way up the rocks and then huddle about for a while. I thought they were going straight up the beach but then they started penguin faffing and not really going anywhere which our guide the day before said they don’t normally do. I thought my e I we in their way so I moved really slowly up the bank. They came forward some more but then seemed to change their mind and want to head at me again so I shuffled round some more. I think by this point, after about 15 mins of good penguin watching Matt got bored and came to see me! which scared all the little penguins into the pool near where they were waiting. We headed back to the campsite and heard lots of them chatting on the way back and even saw one waiting by the wide of the the road. We could even hear them at night from the campsite. Hopefully they all got back to their nests OK.

Day 13: Launceston and Port Sorrell
3031 km, 51 hours 50 min

I woke up and actually felt awake oddly early, about 7.30, when the sun warmed up the tent so decided to get up and get on with the day. We were back on the road before 9am, heading towards the second largest city in Tasmania, Launceston. Launceston is inland but does have a big river and gorge which is where we headed for. After a quick ice cream we went for a walk around the gorge and saw lots of climbing routes which Matt obviously got excited about. The gorge was wider thank I thought but still impressive and looked like a mode spot for a swim. We opted out of the sedate cable car ride but did go on the comical free ‘Inclinator’ which took you up and down some steps in a little pod, very slowly!

Launceston Gorge

Launceston Gorge

As the cafe was full we went for lunch in town (Mexican) and then took poor Jeffrey through the car wash to remove all the filth we covered him in from gravel and dirt roads. We headed on no the hour after that to Port Sorrell on the north coast just east of Devonport where the ferry goes from. We indulge in a B and B for the last night, so we didn’t need to pack away the tent before getting the ferry early in the morning. I was hopeful of free port like we had in the Gampians with Phil and Rhiannon (the only other B and B we’ve been to in Oz). Sadly no free port, but we got a wonderfully w arm reception from Rosemary, also an expat who moved from Selsey in the 60s via a 30 day boat trip! The. B and B was in lovely gardens and we spent the late afternoon drinking tea and playing a couple of very close tactical games of chess in the upstairs area overlooking the garden. To regain some cool father that we went to eat take away pizza on the beach!

Intense Chess

Intense Chess

Day 14: Devonport to Melbourne ferry ride
3031km, 51 hours, 50 mins

The ferry ride back was 9 hours and we boarded an hour before departure. The time actually went pretty quickly, something like this: play Ingenious, read book, drink tea and eat Tim Tams, read book, feel a bit sea sick, play Tantrix, go to cinema and watch Eden surrounded by kids, eat lunch, read book, play cards, look round shop, read book, provide tips on Tazzie to my boss, eat hummus, write blog posts on iPod, the end!

We stayed in St Kilda to the east of central Melbourne, on the cost with it hits own Luna Park and scary clown, but more about that in the next post!

Tasmania overall

Overall in Tasmania we had a great holiday. It’s mainly rural with lots of lovely countryside, cool geology and outdoors things which we always like. There is good food and wine to be had and some fun roads although not much opportunity to overtake if you’re stuck behind slow people! Most of all I liked the amount of proper wild wildlife we saw. Included in the count were loads of pademelons, wallabies and possums, about 40 penguins, about 20 wombats, 3 echidnas, a probably harmless snake and a platypus!

There would be plenty more to do and see on another trip including some longer walks, climbing for Matt and of course spotting a wild Tazzie Devil. But first, next year we’re thinking of a winter trip to the centre and the Barrier Reef in November time with our next lot of visitors.

But our holiday this time didn’t stop in Tasmania! We had most of a day in Melbourne and then I carried on the trip by myself with my extra weeks holiday so stay tuned to hear more about Philip Island and the Snowy Mountains!

 

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Day 10: Hobart to Fortescue Bay
2506km, 41 hours 49 min

On the drive to Fortescue bay we passed through Sorrel which is a big fruit producing region. Having missed out on this in the Huon valley we decided to swing by a fruit farm for some weird sounding berries. When we got there the business model didn’t really stack up for us. We only wanted a small amount as we had no real way to keep stuff properly cool no just wanted a taster really. It was $14 per person including a giant punnet of whatever you picked, and there was no negotiation on sharing. We decided to give the picking a miss and bought $6 worth of cherries and strawberries from fruit market down the road instead which was more than enough.

After that we headed for the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Centre on the Tasman peninsula. Sadly a lot of the devils are affected by a facial tumour disease like cancer (TFTD) and population numbers have really fallen in the last. 20 years. It’s really contagious, fatal and they spread it easily when feeding, mating and generally interacting with each other. As the peninsula is only joined into mainland TasmanIa with a 100m wide stretch of land (Eaglehawk Neck), the centre are doing a lot of work to keep out infected devils and contain a healthy population on the peninsular which seems to be working. The centre is mainly conservation focused and also included some birds, kangaroos, an albino possum and an awesome talking parrot (helllloooow!).

I’d only seen a Tasmanian devil before at the Australian reptile park north of Sydney and although that one got fed, it was by itself. When there two together they are pretty different and more like the cartoon! The pair we saw first were chasing each other around their enclosure pretty much continuously like right little rascals with a fair amount of grumpiness and teeth baring to boot. They had a proper tug of war over their lunch! They were really nice to see and pretty cute when they were trotting around in the sun being friendly!

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Devil lunchtime

Devil lunchtime

 

We camped at Fortescue Bay, a bargainous $13 a night. The site was 12km down a gravel road right on the bay, just setback from the beach in the trees. The camp itself was fairly basic with two female loos, a shower which sort of got hot if you had a token and a BBQ in the day use area next door. Before our veggie burger BBQ dinner that night we went to see some local geology including the remarkable cave (not that exciting!), blowhole, Tasman arch and Devils kitchen, which were all cool coastal features.

Day 11: Port Arthur and Totem Pole
2723km, 46 hours 6 mins

I made the effort for an early start the next day so we could fit in both the Port Arthur historic site and the 4 hour walk to Cape Huay where the candlestick and totem pole climbing areas are.

From the mid 1800s some of the worst convicts from the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth were sent to Australia. Of those, the worst were sent to Tasmania (or as it was called then, Van Diemens Land). Of these bad guys, the seriously bad bad guys ended up at Port Arthur. It even included a boys prison for kids as young as 9. For $33 we got the basic bronze pass which included day entry to the site, a 20 min boat ride past the boys prison (on its own island) and the Isle of the Dead where the buried convoys are, and a 40 minute guided walking tour. This was pretty good value as the site is big and there’s a lot to see. You could easily spend a whole day looking around all the old buildings which included the penitentiary, governors house, church, asylum and separate prison which was added later. The site had a couple of big fires in its history and was neglected for a while, so only about 1/3 of the buildings remain. A lot of them had exhibits inside to look at which were interesting and it was nice to see some history as there’s not always a lot of old stuff here in Oz. The prison focused mainly on seriously hard graft, education and religion at first. Later on when the separate prison was added the focus moved to confinement. Men were kept in their cells 23 hours a day in silence, doing work like making shoes. They had one hour exercise each day, again in isolated separate yards. We saw the punishment cells where they could be kept for up to a month for talking or doing anything else wrong – these were about 2m by 3m, had 1m thick stone walls so they were totally sound proof and 4 doors to get in so they were also totally dark. Lots of men broke here and hence they ended up building the asylum next door! After just a short time with the door shut I can see how it would be deeply disturbing!

Port Arthur

Port Arthur

Eventually the prisonwas shut down, the site abandoned and Van Diemens land was renamed Tasmania to try and break free from its convict past. Of course when they realised the tourism potential it opened back up again!

After some lunch we headed back to the campsite for the walk to Cape Huay including the Totem Pole and Candlestick (sea stacks) which both have climbing on. Matt had been reading a book about these from the library and was very keen to see them first hand. The first half of the walk was mainly bush! with good coastal views for the second half. We saw some climbers on the candlestick and Matt scrambled down for a better look (which did have me pretty worried when he didn’t come back for over 40 minutes – grrrr!).

Climber leaving the Candle Stick (left), past the Totem Pole (centre)

Climber leaving the Candle Stick (left), past the Totem Pole (centre)

As it was New Years Eve we broke open our $50 super tasty 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon for the Hunter Valley with dinner. Then we couldn’t resist a free guided spotlight tour run by the national park staff which promised night sightings of animals including penguins! Our guide was very knowledgeable and we were lucky enough to see a group of about 20 little penguins (also called fairy penguins or blue penguins) head up the beach to the their burrows, as well as some smaller groups and one penguin in its Ernest right by the path. It was very strange to see them hopping over rocks and then nesting in grassy areas, I still can’t get over thinking penguins need to live in ice!

We spent longer than planned watching the penguins (which was totally worth it), so by the time we got back it was a bit dark and cold to be getting on with the wine and we didn’t make it awake until midnight!

Day 8: Southport to Hobart

2298km, 36h, 47min

In the morning we took the short drive to Hastings cave and went on the first tour of the day. The tour guide Laura was very knowledgable explaining about all the different formations and giving us some broken stalagmite out hold. The cave itself was very impressive with lots of different formations including stalagtites with horizontal bits coming out the sides called helictites. I’d not seen these before and scientists don’t agree how they form, maybe capillary action.

Inside Hastings Cave

Inside Hastings Cave

At the visitor centre are also Thermal springs which average 28 degrees, and entry is included in the ticket. We went for a look but rather than natural looking springs the water is pumped into a fairly small swimming pool which was brimming full of families with kids and inflatables, so no chance of any actual swimming. I dunked my toe in and the water didn’t feel especially warm so we decide to give them a miss and head straight into Hobart.

After a bit of parking faff we managed to make it to Hobart in time for the weekly Salamanca market with over 300 stalls. There was lots of jewellery, wooden products, local food and crafts. I managed to escape with just 1 pair of earrings. It had elevated up to a toasty 28 degrees so I was a bit warm for any proper browsing.

Over the Christmas period the Taste of Tasmania festival was also on right next to the market. It was held in one of the giant wharf sheds with stalls outside too and food vans near the entrance. There were loads of local foods and drinks on offer including wine, beer, juices, oysters, berry products, cheeses, ice creams and international foods too. It was incredibly busy being a warm Saturday afternoon so we opted for a bacon and gruyere potato rosti outside, followed by a nice cream sundae dusted with sherbert which Matt wasn’t quite expecting and made him cough!

After a quick trip to Treasure Island camp site to put the tent up and a mince pie, we went back into Hobart for the evening. Mainly by coincidence and a bit of internetting we were lucky to catch the end of the Sydney Hobart annual yacht race. We saw the winner Wild Oats XI come in through the harbour from a prime spot and they then sailed (motored) right past us to moor up for their prizes. Being by the harbour we were obliged to go for some fish and chips after that from one of the floating fish and chip stalls. We pieced the one shaped like a fish! Matts chip box had an unfortunately collapse due to too much vinegar which bought the circling Chip Vultures (seagulls) very close! Out of spite at their incessant annoyance he picked them up and put them in the bin in the end! For pudding we went back to the Taste festival and had ice cream sandwiches – locally produced ice cream sandwiched between two freshly baked warm cookies – yummy!

Wild Oats 2

Wild Oats 2

Day 9: Around Hobart.
2406km, 39 hours 15 mins

From early on on our trip we had two key activities for Hobart planned out – the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and Putters mini golf! We picked up a leaflet about Putters on the ferry. Not only did it have an indoor and outdoor course, the leaflet also entitled us to a free fries and soft drink so we really were obliged to go. Of course we signed up for both courses ($22). The first one was outside with lots of water features which were both scenic and hazardous to my playing! Along with the sand traps they caused me a lot of penalty points and I lost by quite a lot. But having won the earlier pirate mini golf, that made it one all.

Inside we played the decider with a lot of friendly banter. This time the course featured a lot of wood and tubes and tunnels to transport the balls up down and around to different parts of the holes. My game was match improved, and I even did some decent putting from longish distances which normally I’m rubbish at. I totally psyched Matt out and won by a massive 12 points in the he mend, which took me to 2-1 up including the Pirate golf! We had our free fries which were massive and tasty with Cajun flavour salt. The frozen raspberry fanta was just weird though so we won’t be having that again!

Mini Golf Round 2

Mini Golf Round 2

As the sun was mainly out we decided to make another trip up Mount Wellington to try and see the views of Hobart. The top was cloud free with excellent views although totally freezing. It was only 4 degrees and with a lot of wind it definitely felt below freezing. There was even a small amount of snow left on some of the big rocks at the top.

Back on top Mount Wellington

Back on top Mount Wellington

After lunch half way down we headed to MONA. Unfortunately it wasn’t free like my book said but the lady took pity on us and let us in for the concession rate of $15 instead of $20. The book was also wrong about the opening times and it was shutting at 6 instead of 7 so we had just over 2 hours to look around. MONA is bit, over 4 levels set into the hillside by the river, so we were a bit rushed looking around. They had a thing called the O Device which you use – its an iPhone with info about all the exhibits loaded on including audio so there are no signs. Matt loved it, I personally found clicking through and all the searching ruined my experience of wandering about looking at art and made it too disjointed. Maybe i’m too old fashioned!

Matt and his O Device

Matt and his O Device

Some of my favorite bits were a gigantic metallic head with robotic birds and moving bits inside, sculptures by Hubert Duprat and a giant Buddha. It is made using a giant mold with incense from temples in Nepal so it smelt nice too. Unfortunately its head had fallen off (!!) but I thought this made it more interesting.

Incense Buddha

Incense Buddha

That evening we took the main opportunity of the holiday for a meal out and went to a curry house called Annapurna. It’s one of the highly rated places in Hobart and according to their sign also Tasmania’s best curry house 2013 (out of how many we don’t know!) After the tasty meal we went to see some more of the boats that had arrived from the yacht race and ate some more ice cream sandwiches from Taste of Tasmania for desert.

 

 

Russell Falls

Russell Falls

Day 6: Cradle Mountain to Mount Field National Park

1496 km, 22 hours 38min

We left Cradle Mountain in the rain for the bendy scenic drive to Mount Field NP past rainforest, rivers and mountains. We had a quick stop at Lake St Clair for lunch, which is Australia’s deepest lake at 167m. It’s also the end of the Overland Track walk, a 6 day epic across Tassie from Cradle Mountain.

En route in two different places we saw two wild echidnas crossing the road! They didn’t seem bothered by the car at all and luckily we did to hit them or we might have had a nasty puncture!

We camped by the river at a self registration campsite amongst the giant Pencil Pines. Before dinner we went for a short drive and walk through some epic rainforest scenery to Junee cave where a river comes out the cave mouth.

For dinner we invented a new tasty camping meal, kangaroo red pasta splat. This is pasta with tomato sauce, peppers, leftover kangaroo meat from the Summermas BBQ and of course cheese (because every camping meal is better with cheese, except possibly some breakfasts!)

Because we were quite far south it stayed light until gone 9pm. We took the opportunity to do the short walk from the campsite to nearby Russell Falls and on up to Horseshoe Falls for some long exposure photos. Russell Falls is a cool 2 tier waterfall with a giant tree in the middle between the two tiers.

On the walk back there was a glow worm trail but it wasn’t quite dark enough and we were being eaten by the local mozzies. We did see lots of other wildlife though including a lot of brush tailed possums and more pademelons including ones with babies.

Day 7: Mount Field to Southport
1956km, 30 hours 11 mins

British Style Bacon!

British Style Bacon!

We started the day with some exciting ‘British bacon’ sandwiches. Bacon here in Australia is weird and not translucent. It looks like a cooked ham but it isn’t cooked. There must be something different about the way the cure it. It’s still tasty (bacon always is after all), but just looks plain wrong! Over breakfast we were also lucky enough to see a platypus swimming in the river near the tent!

In the morning we drove up to Lake Dobson in Mount Field NP and did a walk around the lake amongst the rainforest and snow gums. We then made our way down the Huon Valley to Southport via the edge of Hobart.

We took a detour up the road to the top of Mount Wellington over Hobart. It was cloudy but the book suggested often there is an inversion you can see from the top so we drove up anyway. From about 1/3 up there was total cloud cover right to the top. In some places visibility was down to about 4m which made for an interesting drive! At the top it was so cloudy I struggled to find the toilet! We stopped on June way back down for a picnic in a shelter amongst the clouds.

We carried on our drive along the Huon trail, past lots of places selling apples and berries and camped at Southport behind Australia’s most southerly pub, where of course we had to go and have a drink. After putting the tent up we took the drive down the southernmost road in Australia (24km of gravel) to Cockle Creek (population: 3!) for a look at the beach.

View of Hobart from Mount Wellington!

View of Hobart from Mount Wellington!

Giant Penguin in Penguin

Giant Penguin in Penguin

Day 4: Devonport to Cradle Mountain
1,459km, 21 hours 4min

After getting woken up by the ferry staff at 5.10am for our 6am arrival, a quick quarantine check and recovering our camping gas from the firearms man, we headed for a swift bacon and egg roll (with cheese, it’s a thing here). Then, still a bit bleary eyed we headed for our first exciting stop – the town on Penguin on the north coast. Not only does it have a cool name, in Penguin is a giant 3m high penguin! And he was all dressed up for Christmas! There was also the Penguin Pharmacy and the slightly concerning Penguin butchers!

On the way to Cradle Mountain we stopped at the scenic Guide Falls for some long exposure photos. Being 8am there weren’t a lot of people about!

Guide Falls

Guide Falls

We got to the Cradle Mountain visitor centre, and after a quick cup of tea and map purchase went on some of the short walks we got the shuttle bus as entry to the park by car is restricted to avoid traffic jams on the narrow windy roads and small car parks. We did the Enchanted Walk, King Billy track (with tall King Billy pines), Rainforest walk and Pencil Pine falls. We managed to spot a pademelons which looks quite like a wallabee and is only found native in the wild in Tasmania.

Our first two nights in Tasmania (Summermas Eve and Summermas Day) we stayed in Cradle Mountain in the north west. In a rare moment, Matt agreed rather than camping we could get a cabin so we had an actual bed and roof for some comfort in case the weather as bad for the festive season. The cabin was wooden, cute and cozy. The campsite was really well equipped and having checked about the cooking facilities in advance we made ourselves some yummy festive pizzas in the pizza oven and enjoyed then with some nice Tassie Pinot Noir, topped off with a mince pie.

Day 5: Cradle Mountain – Summermas!
No driving.

Last year we had a 30 degree Christmas in Wanaka, New Zealand with the Millis’s with kayaking and a picnic by the lake and dinner in t-shirts in the garden in the evening. This year we were lucky enough to have sunny weather again and temperatures of about 22 degrees. Apparently it’s only sunny in Cradle Mountain about 1 in 5 days.

After some tea and presents we set off fairly early to walk up Cradle Mountain for Christmas Day. Entrance to the park by car is restricted so we made sure to get there early so we could drive to the top car park and not have to faff with the shuttle bus when we were knackered.

The car park is about 900m and Cradle Mountain is 1554m, so it’s over 650m ascent and takes 6 to 8 hours depending on your speed and some route options. It’s made of dolerite and sits in front of Dove Lake and some smaller lakes too. The route we took went around the lake to start, steeply up the side of a hill to Marion’s Lookout after about an hour, along a ridge to Kitchen Hut for another hour and then a final hour up the mountain itself. The views were awesome and we met lots of happy people who we exchanged Christmas wishes with.

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

The last 45 mins of the walk to the top is some full on hands required scrambling over giant boulders which was good fun although seemed to catch some people out. I much prefer this to just trudging up a hill. Near the top we even saw some unmelted remains of winter snow – only about 5 square meters so. Of a lot, but enough to get me and everyone else we mentioned it too excited. White Christmas in Australia!

We did the walk in 7 hours 10 mins with half an hours lunch at the top. When we got back we had some well deserved celebratory ice creams and a Summermas BBQ with wagyu beef burgers and kangaroo kebabs. It did feel mean eating the kanagroo after seeing so many wallabies but it was tasty!

After the BBQ we headed out for some night time wild life spotting. We saw a lotof pademelons and about 12 super cute wombats, some very close up! Here’s a joke (made up by me):

Q: Why did the wombat cross the road? (Answer at the bottom)

At the top of Cradle Mountain

At the top of Cradle Mountain

 

Wild Wombat

Wild Wombat

A: Because Elly was chasing it with a camera*!

*Proven on at least two wombats!

Spirit of Tasmania 1

Spirit of Tasmania 1

Day 3: Wilson’s Promontory and Bass Strait
1276km, 17h 33min (plus 444 km and 9 hours on the ferry)

After surviving the big storm, we woke to a wet and cloudy morning. On the third day of our trip we explored Wilson’s Promontory National Park which is on the coast about 200km east of Melbourne. It’s a popular spot where hills meet the sea with lots if wildlife and cool views. Allegedly there are emus, kangaroos and wombats, but they must have been hiding with the bad weather.

We went to the main centre, Tidal River for a look around. You can camp there in summer if you enter a lottery draw 6 months ahead of time but it was packed out so we decided we wouldn’t have enjoyed it. We took a drive to near the top of Mount Oberon and had a walk on Squeaky Beach with very white squeaky sand and some cool boulders. The area is very scenic with wooded mountains heading down to the sea and a whole lot of wilderness.

After a lot of queuing, we sailed at 9pm on the ferry for a 6am arrival at Devonport in Tasmania. The ferry leaves from central Melbourne. If you go overnight you have to have a cabin or a reclining seat which is super expensive over Christmas. The cheap days and rooms sold out quicker than we got around to booking, but in the end we ended up with a 4 berth cabin for the 2 of us which was good. Unfortunately due to the quarantine rules we had to hastily eat some apples and dispose of the peppers and cucumbers we bought about an hour before, so I’ll remember that if we come back! We adopted the newest addition to the Short family on the trip, Derek the Tasmanian Devil – awwww!

Derek the Tazzie Devil

Derek the Tazzie Devil

It was ages since I’d been on a ferry (to France mainly) and I’d never had a cabin before. It started well enough and we even had our own en suite but it was pretty bumpy during the night and really hard to sleep with all the rocking about. I’m scared by the sea and drowning anyway so irrational terror of sinking kept me awake too! If we sail at night again I think I’ll take drugs or some medicinal alcohol!

We did survive though, check out the next post for more details of our first stop – a town called Penguin!

Summermas

First up, as Christmas here is weird in the heat and I struggled to get in the festive mood, I renamed it Summer-mas! Summermas has decorations, presents and holidays in the heat.

This Christmas Matts’ work had a two week compulsory shut down, and mine had three! We figured it was a good excuse for a holiday and decided on driving down the coast to Melbourne and catching the ferry to Tasmania and then travelling round there before heading back again. The Barrier Reef and Kakadu in Darwin are also high on the list, but as I’m still getting used to the summer heat and they’re both up north it didn’t seem like a good plan to head there.

As we’re had a big trip I’ve broken it over a whopping 9 posts so get ready for a bumper special with posts every other day!

After looking at options for flying and hiring a car or driving we decide to drive, so we could take lots of camping gear and do the drive down the coast too. Price wise it was pretty similar and Jeffrey (the car) also wanted an adventure!

Day 1: Sydney to Eden
481km, 6 hours 26 mins 

After horror reports on the Sydney Christmas traffic I dragged myself out of bed and we left by 7.30am on Saturday morning. The drive done to Eden was one of the longest on the trip but we made it in good time and hardly saw any traffic issues. In fact one we got out of Sydney there weren’t a lot of cars about at all. The drive was scenic with lots if trees and we stopped off regularly to swap over and grabbed some lunch in Batemans Bay.

We also dropped into the cheese factory in Bega, where Bega cheese comes from. We had some samples, watched a film and I ate a toastie! They also make tinned cheese which looks pretty nasty, mainly for export apparently. Matt was brave enough to sample it and decided it was rubbery.

In Eden we camped right on the edge if Lake Curalo and a couple of minutes walk from the choppy sea. We went to a couple of lookouts and last the Whale Museum which has the skeleton of Old Tom the giant killer whale, but it was shut so we didn’t go in. The town has a long whaling history – the killer whales used to help drive the other whales into the bay for the fishermen to hunt them in return for a share of the meat. After a few games, including our latest game, Ingenious (travel version) we went to bed pretty early after the long drive.

Pirate golf - yaaaar!

Pirate golf – yaaaar!

Day 2: Eden to Yanakie
995 km, 13 hours 3 mins (cumulative total, not in one day!)

Day two was another long drive down the coast to Yanakie on the edge of Wilson’s Promontary National Park. After about half an hour we crossed the border into Victoria and drove through lots of trees and then lots of fields. Again we made good progress, overtaking various caravans and campers on the way.

We stopped for lunch in Lakes Entrance on the edge of the big Gippsland lakes. Lakes Entrance is also on the edge of 90 Mile Beach which we cheeked out quickly although because of the angle you couldn’t see very far. There were some rock and roll (or evil) black swans chilling out in the river. The guide book mentioned mini golf, a Short favourite so we set of in search of the courses. We found two next to each other, one pirate themed and the other unthemed, so it was a bit of a no brainier. The course had boats, a whirlpool, light house, beach hut, mermaid and of course pirates! Surprisingly I actually won, and by a whole 5 points, woo! I reckon I must be better with the upside down gravity down under!

At the camp site I practiced putting up the tent myself successfully and we had a BBQ dinner. We camped right on the edge of the bay, near the beach again. About 15 mins from the end of a walk along the bay thunder started. My tent construction was tested to the limit with a big thunder and lightning storm and some serious rain, and proved good – woo! No leaks or collapses and we both had a good nights sleep!

City Circle Tram

City Circle Tram

At the end of our trip along the Great Ocean Road we spent two nights in Melbourne with Phil and Rhiannon.

Melbourne is just over an hour south of Sydney on the plane, so a bit cooler and more temperate weather wise. It has a lot of culture going on, being a UNESCO City of Literature, the Australian capital of coffee and chocolate and a foodie and shopping lovers dream. Quite often we’ll meet people and discuss being from the UK, and they’ll say we would like Melbourne becasue its very European. It definitely has more of a European city vibe than Sydney in the main city center, maybe becasue of more historic buildings, dodgy weather (yes I know some of Europe is hot) and lack of beaches.

There is a lot to do, but we weren’t there long, so we picked out some of the key stuff:

On Monday night we arrived, had some yummy Laksa noddles near our hotel and went for a wander around the city. We were lucky to see some Christmas projection onto the Town Hall  a bit like the Vivid festival.  We also found Federation Square and the Yarra River.

On Tuesday morning we decided the best way to pack in a lot was with a free city tour from I’m Free. After a quick coffee in the library coffee shop we headed out on the tour with our excellent guide, Dan. Dan was friendly, knowledgeable, had a good style and pace, kept things interesting and got in a lot of jibes about Melbourne being better than Sydney – most of which were pretty dubious. There is a big rivalry between the cities dating right back to when they were first founded. The tour covered the historic and modern bits of the city including the Parliament, parks, Gaol (where Ned Kelly was hung), Street Art and lane ways with fab cafes. We learnt a lot about the history of the city in an interesting way, and the 3 hours went by very quickly. We did pay Dan a good tip but it was still excellent value.

Expo building

Expo building

After a yummy pancake lunch in the lanes we headed to the Immigration Museum as in the words of Dan ‘ the story of immigration is the story of Australia.’ Its also the story of the Shorts  now, so I found it really interesting from that perspective too. They museum had a timeline of immigration over the last 100 years and a replica boat with different cabins dating back to the late 1800’s. It was good to learn more about the history including the £10 Poms and made me feel better about our 24 hour plane trip – better than 30 days on a boat! There was a good exhibit on Identity and racism and we got to to the Citizenship test and passed with a score of 18/20. We also got to interview prospective immigrants and decide whether to let them in or not which proved entertaining!

Tuesday night we had a nice meal at the Hairy Canary and went to see King Long at the theater. More about that here.

On Wednesday the weather was a bit dodgy and wet. We started off with a very intellectual middle class trip around the library which is also a museum. As well as lots of old books and maps and a very cool octagonal reading room we got to see Ned Kellys armor and learn more about him.

Library Reading Room

Library Reading Room

Melbourne has a free tram which runs around most of the city, so we caught that after the library to check out the Harbor area. Its not as good as Sydney! We skipped the Glow Golf in the end as the reviews were dodgy and we didn’t have too long to spare. After another tasty lunch of burgers it was time to head back to the airport and fly back to Sydney. Leaving Phil and Rhiannon at the airport for them to go to Singapore and us to Sydney was pretty weird, but I was very brave and didn’t cry!

There is plenty more to see in Melbourne, and luckily for me i’m spending some more time there in January. Also on the list are:

  • St Kilda area and its fab cake shops
  • The zoo
  • The Eureka Tower and lookout
  • Botanic Gardens
  • The James Bond exhibition (maybe more for Matt)
  • Vampire cabaret (intriguing)
  • Art galleries and of course
  • Shopping!
Street Art

Street Art