A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

Pinnacles

We started the day with a tour of a wildlife park. We got to feed kangaroos, touch koalas, and pet a wombat. Wombats aren't fat, they're muscular, although they sure look fat to the unknowing eye. The other two animals I had already seen in the wild, so seeing them in a large pen wasn't as exciting as it was for some other people. We then headed for a flower center and grabbed a quick lunch. Afterwards, we had a chance to go touch the Indian Ocean. I know I've touched the Southern (see the Great Ocean Road entry), Atlantic, and Pacific. I'm pretty sure that while in Kotzebue I touched the Arctic, so this was the last ocean on the list. I believe that I've now touched all of the oceans. Not bad for a twenty-something. Next came the really neat part: the Pinnacles desert. The Pinnacles desert is a sandy desert with rocks (pinnacles) sticking up out of the ground. They are like icebergs in that the majority of them is underground, and depending on how the sand has settled on any particular day you can see more or less of any particular pinnacle. In general, the shorter ones are 2 feet tall, but the taller ones are many feet taller than a person. Some of them are generically shaped, but there are a few that are shaped in a way that almost everybody sees the same thing in them (like trying to find designs in clouds or ink blots, but everybody sees them). I thought the desert was pretty neat. Even though it was hot, the walk wasn't bad because there was a good sea breeze going, and it wasn't too humid. After the Pinnacles, we went somewhere else sandy- the dunes. Nearby the golden sands of the Pinnacles desert are some white sand areas. Whereas in the Pinnacles area, the wind blows a little sand all over you, in the dunes areas, the sand is blown al over you all the time. It is actually quite abrasive. We spent the first while on the 4WD bus, duneing. We drove over some pretty big dunes and down some pretty steep hills. I was surprised the bus made it. Check out the video of the bus going down the hill. We went over that hill repeatedly. After the bus was done, it was our turn. We got out, grabbed a surf board, and walked up a large dune. Physically, it was pretty hard. Every time I stepped up a foot, I fell back 6 inches because the sand would slip. It took much longer to get to the top and much more effort than I expected. Also, my sunglasses and hat weren't enough to keep the sand out of me, so I ended up covering the rest of my face with my shirt. The sand was getting in everything, but it was worth it. From the top of the dune, we each sandboarded down. It was pretty fun. I'm glad I did it and I would do it again.

Tomorrow: on to Sydney

Indian Ocean

Indian Ocean


Joey and mommy

Joey and mommy


Pinnacles

Pinnacles


Sand dune

Sand dune


wombat

wombat

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Boxing Day

I had done my research- online it said that the Perth Mint was open public holidays except for Christmas Day. My dad and I headed over to see them pour gold, to touch a solid gold bar, and to learn about the coins and medals they made. Unfortunately, the website was incorrect. The mint was closed for Boxing Day. Great. We headed down to the river to rent ("hire") our bikes as that was the next thing on the plan. We got them for 3 hours, but only used them for a little over 2. We made it pretty far along the river though. Overall, the city seemed pretty empty. After lunch, we headed to the train station to go over to Fremantle. On the way, we passed through the shopping district with all of the Boxing Day sales. Apparently that's where everybody in town was. In Fremantle, we saw the Maritime Museum. It was pretty good. There were actual boats and full-sized boat replicas hanging and on display all over. There were tons of hands-on activities, artifacts, and even a working lighthouse beacon. Afterwards, everybody met up for dinner at the market. Then, Mike, Shanaenae and I went on to Fremantle prison. The prison tour was fabulous. The tour guide had some volunteers act out what would happen when the prisoners first arrived and were searched. I got to flog my brother, what nice revenge! It was light just long enough for us to see some of the outside parts like the prison yard, but then the sun set and we wandered around the prison in the dark. We heard some ghost stories and stories of people who died there. There were even a bunch of actors playing prisoners who came out and talked to us. One actor attempted to "steal" Shananenae's purse and she recoiled right into my protection. It was pretty funny except that the "prisoner" actually did look pretty scary. Toward the end, we saw where they hung the prisoners who were sentenced to death. I highly recommend the torchlight (flashlight) tour to anybody who happens to be in Fremantle.

Tomorrow: Pinnacles tour

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison


The river we biked

The river we biked

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

A traditional Christmas

We got up and packed while watching some Muppet Christmas movie on tv. Because we didn't have some list of stuff we had to accomplish today, we were very ready to relax and take things easy. We started out by wandering towards the Eureka Skydeck, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. On the way, we noticed the very unique architecture all around Melbourne. We also noticed that there was a 7-eleven on every corner and a Subway sandwich shop every other block. Rachel and Shanaenae had become Slurpee addicts at some point during our stay in Melbourne- so much for staying away from American brands. We took the elevator up to the 88th floor of the Eureka building and looked out at the city below. The view was marvelous. We could see all the way to the ocean, the mountains, and much of the suburban sprawl because the day was so clear. After that, we wandered over to the Docklands where the new Southern Star ferris wheel is. By new, I mean it opened last Saturday for the first time. We rode to the top in an air conditioned car that you could walk around in. Again, the view was amazing because the day was so clear. We took a tram to the part of town back near the hotel and just sat on a bench by the river for a while. The cool breeze felt good as we sat, talked, and people watched. Eventually we got off our bums and walked around some gardens. Later, we met up with mom, dad, and Mike back at the airport and went to celebrate Christmas traditionally- with Chinese food. Since it had been warm all day, it didn't really feel like Christmas, but somehow Chinese food with the family helped. We flew to Perth.

Melbourne architecture

Melbourne architecture


Melbourne architecture

Melbourne architecture


Park by the river

Park by the river


the view from Eureka skydeck

the view from Eureka skydeck


View from Eureka skydeck

View from Eureka skydeck


View from Southern Star

View from Southern Star

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Savannah Walkabout

I got up early and ran. I probably didn't do more than 2 miles, but since I hadn't run in at least a week, even that is ok. Then, we went for our tour. The tour guide was very nice and very knowledgeable. He is apparently some sort of ornithologist, and I guess he does these tours to pay the bills. Our first stop was a park. Think Lake Nockamixon or Lake Needwood area- somewhere you might go just to hang out in nature of hike and might coincidentally see deer, foxes, squirrels, or rabbits. Now, imagine that instead of those animals, you saw kangaroos, wallabies, koalas or, well, they still had rabbits. We saw quite a few koalas in the wild. They are a little easier than foxes to spot because they really don't do a lot of moving. Only one of the ones we saw was awake, but it was still fun. Each time we'd get near one, the guide would ask "Who can spot the koala?" and we'd all start playing Where's Waldo up in the trees. Some of them were pretty hidden. We also learned a lot about the birds and trees in the area. For example, eucalyptus is toxic unless it is cooked or unless you have some crazy stomach lining that the koalas have. Also, eucalyptus trees shed both bark and branches, so you should never sleep under them. We hiked up to an area called "Big Rock" that the aboriginals used to use as a meting place. We saw the water hole they made, scars from their campfires, and some rocks they had sharpened to use as tools. Also, the view was amazing- we could see for miles. This view helped the aboriginals see if there were any other groups of people in their territory that didn't belong. After that, we went to lunch. The sandwiches and fruits weren't too exciting, but we did lear a lot about the first Australians. Another group met up with us and their guide sang us a song called "Waltzing Matilda." In the song, a wandering Aussie "cowboy" (called a swagman in Australian) is looking for work from a rich guy, but the rich guy refuses him. One of the rich guy's sheep wanders over to the swagman, who kills it and shoves it in his bag. The rich guy calls the cops, who chase the swagman until he jumps into a billabong (dried up river/lake bed) and kills himself. From then on, his ghost haunts the rich guy's area. Apparently, the point is that Aussies like being free or something like that. After some Eucalyptus tea (cooked so it was not toxic), we headed off to see some kangaroos. The kangaroos were at another park. This one was designed as a bird sanctuary, but there was plenty of non-bird wildlife in the area as well. We did see plenty of birds though. We saw some rare grey geese, some sort of black duck thing with a gobbler, and some emus. The emus make a sound similar to a timpani or base drum. We were able to get pretty close to them before they startled. Next, we went in search of kangaroos. There were quite a lot around, although like deer, they run when they see you. Because the sanctuary was so big (miles by miles) and the kangaroos weren't even confined by the short fences that marked the edges, it was really hard to get that close to them. We eventually did sneak up on some by using our mad quiet skillz. When we got back from the tour we went out for Mexican food, which was pretty standard. The theory was again, come back to the hotel and rest, then go out on the town. It was still about two hours before the night clubs would open, and we were completely beat by the sun, all of the hiking, and me also by my morning run. Oops, we did it again. At about 3 in the morning, we were all up, but it was a little too late to go. Plus, I was still exhausted and ready to go back to sleep. Apparently we're not too good at this "going out" thing, but hopefully we'll get to in Sydney or someplace.

Tomorrow: whatever is open on Christmas day.

Can you find the koala?

Can you find the koala?


Kangaroo

Kangaroo


Koala in the wild

Koala in the wild

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The great ocean road

We got up relatively early and grabbed a quick breakfast of fruit. There were some normal fruits in there- green grapes, strawberries, melons- but there were also some unusual ones. The apples were identifiable, but not nearly as sweet as the ones we get in the US. There was also something unidentifiable. It was almost a cross between an apple and a peach. We went to catch the free bus to take it to Queen Victoria Market, but once we got to the stop we realized that it didn't start running for about an hour. So, we walked there. It was worth it. The market was huge! We started in the clothes section, where you could get a bargain on all sorts of souvenirs, scarfs, shirts, pants- even underwear! Then, we made our way to my favorite part: the food section. There were aisles and aisles of vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, an entire building of deli stands, and even a wine tent. I wish our hotel had a kitchen. The produce looked great. I would have loved to have been able to pick up some veggies to make something with. Plus, there was homemade fresh pasta that looked great. If only I had something to cook them in! Mostly, I wandered around the fruit and veggies section. I picked up a container of berries that had red, black, and yellow raspberries along with some kind of berry that looked like a mini bunch of grapes. It tasted more like slightly sweeter pomegranate seeds though. If I see them again, I'm going to get somebody to identify them because they were really good. I also picked up some cherries. I forgot that it's 2 lbs to a kg, not the other way around though, so I have about 4 times what I wanted. They'll just last the rest of the trip, I guess. After that, I started asking for items in volume, not by weight. My method of going around the market was pretty much just stopping at all the fruits I couldn't identify and asking what they were. I got these great tasting "chilli chips" that resembled mini baked churros and had a great flavor on them. I got some passion fruit and I also got some fresh lychees. At home, I've only seen lychees canned and most certainly never had to peel and pit them myself. This was an adventure. However, the real culinary adventure came when I asked about a fuzzy green football shaped plum looking thing. The guy at the stand was foreign and didn't know what it was called in English, but he told me to try one. I had to bite into it to break it and take out the middle, which turned out to be an almond. I have NEVER seen fresh almonds anywhere at home- not even Wegmans. Actually, based on how the fresh one tasted, I'm not surprised the roasted and coated ones sell better. Still, it was fun. I went over to the cheese section and got some fabulous King Island brie. It was just the right consistency- creamy like a thick sauce, not like the thick jello-like ones we get at home. The flavor was great as well. All of the cheeses I sampled were pretty great, so I got one more, some quince paste and this fabulously chewy Turkish bread. We wanted to get going on the Great Ocean road, so we left, but I could have spent hours more at the market and not have gotten to see and taste everything I wanted to. We got our rental car and headed for the ocean. To be completely honest, the first part of the Great Ocean Road was disappointing. I could tell the ocean was somewhere out there, but we couldn't really see more than a few glimpses every few minutes. Further down though, the views were spectacular. We drove, stopping at the tourist picture stops to take our photos, for quite some time. We stopped at a lighthouse as well. Finally, we got to a point where the road was right next to the beach. We got out and put our feet in the ocean for a little. On the way, we met a hang glider and saw his friends in the air. Apparently, that's the thing to do. I wish we'd had enough time to do it. The ocean smelled surprisingly fresh. Unlike Ocean City and the other beaches I'm used to, there was no smell of salt air. There were also not hordes of people all over the place, even though the beach was very nice and roomy enough that there could have been. We pretty much had the beach to ourselves. After our venture into the water, we turned around because we had to get the car back. We did stop on the way to take a picnic lunch of the stuff I got at the market the morning. We also stopped in Torquay, where EVERYTHING was surf-related. Even the library had "surf" all over it. By the time we returned the car and got back to the hotel, we were exhausted. the plan was: nap, go to this restaurant I discovered, go out on the town. Rachel started to take a nap that she thought would take an hour. At some point, Shanaenae and I fell asleep as well. Hours later, we awoke, only to realize that it was a little too late for our plans. Shanaenae kept sleeping, but Rachel and I went out to Chinatown for dinner. We walked around a little and then came back, only to pass out again. I guess a day in the sun will do that to you.

Tomorrow: The Savannah Walkabout.

Notice the hang gliders

Notice the hang gliders


Queen Victoria Market

Queen Victoria Market


The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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