Australia (including Tasmania)
27th-28th June 2004
Boarded our last foodless, alcohol-less American Airlines flight (hooray) to Los Angeles in the morning, where we connected with our yummy Quantas flight and experienced a proper company's flight again. 14.5 hours later, and an extra day for crossing the date line, arrived in Sydney in the evening. Somewhat unhelpful shuttle-bus driver dropped us in the middle of the red-light district, nowhere near our hostel. Wandered the streets a bit with all our luggage, looking every bit as odd as the rest of the people in the area, until we found it!
29th June-11th July
Played the game of musical hostels, settling in the Travellers Rest, while hunting for a flat to lease for the next few months. Susana signed on to a few agencies to make the most of her working-holiday-maker visa. Meanwhile, we looked at several flats in various parts of the city deciding that we liked the sound of Woolloomooloo, so should live there (it's quite convenient too!). Submitted an application and should be moving in on the 14th.
Visited Sydney's Aquarium & Taronga zoo to see wombats, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and duck-billed platypus.
Took the opportunity to catch up with Nick (ex-LTSB) and some reasonable beer at last, along with some good old bangers & mash.
12th July-22nd July
Application approved, so moved into studio flat in Woolloomooloo (1-2km to Sydney City Centre, or CBD as it's called here). Went to a dive, surf, action show and entered Mike Ball's competition for a free 4-day scuba trip to Cod Hole (near Lizard Island, Barrier Reef) and later discovered that Roger won!!! Didn't win the coffee maker though.
Visited a few of the white sand beaches (Bondi, Coogee, Manly) and finally discovered that the clear blue skies of Sydney weren't a permanent fixture - Sydney did the dirty on us, and some clouds appeared.
Meanwhile, Roger has turned into a budding chef, and does a mean pesto sauce (courtesy of HeCooks - a men-only class (free beer & wine provided), teaching him how to use a vicious-looking knife!).
23rd July-26th July
Hired a car and went a few hours north to Nelson Bay to catch the tail-end of the northern migration of humpback whales. Jumped on board a 60ft catamaran and managed to see a mother whale and her calf blowing into the air (well, their fins and some water going vertically!). As it was nearby, we did a tour through the wine-making Hunter Valley region (in a minibus so we didn't have to drive!) and sampled far more wines than our taste buds remember. We think they were nice... Did some walks through Koala habitat, where Susana displayed her prowess at spotting the “cute, fluffy, stoned teddy-bears”, as she put it.
27th July-6th August
Went to see a winter concert at a floating stage in the harbour - shouldn't admit it, but it was by Bjorn Again doing Abba stuff (hey, it was free!).
Not content with clouds over Sydney, we decided to give the blue mountains a try. Spectacular scenery, with the blue name reputedly caused by oil from the eucalyptus trees during summer. We think it was because it was so cold at night. Anyway, with such sheer cliffs to see, curiosity got the better of us, and we dangled ourselves off ropes for a closer look (…er, abseiled down some, that is).
Susana earned some money here and there to buy us some dinner.
STOP PRESS: Blue skies return to Sydney.
7th August-21st September
More temp work for Susana, and studying for Roger as he adds a couple of Java qualifications to his name. Various trips to national parks (e.g. Botany Bay, to see where Captain Cook landed), museums, cinemas - the kind of things normal people do, but in and around Sydney. Roger completed his HeCooks course without getting food-poisoning or chopping any fingers off. Had another couple of beers with Nick (ex-LTSB), and visited Canberra and Lukas (ex-karate, training for 2nd dan black belt, so didn't argue with him.). Had an excellent time being whizzed all over Canberra and surroundings, including a trip to Tidbinbilla - part of NASA's Deep Space Network monitoring stations (the other 2 are in USA & Spain) that track spacecraft across the solar system (www.cdscc.nasa.gov) including receiving and relaying 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' from the moon.
22nd September - 30th October
Celebrated Susana's birthday with a trip to Sydney Opera House (inside - to see an Opera!) - saved on the taxi fare since it's within walking distance of the flat! In between Susana's work and Roger's next Java qualification (SCWCD) we managed to visit a few more places - drove a couple of hours south of Sydney to Jervis Bay for a long weekend, and even saw some wild echidnas (look like overgrown hedgehogs) and several kangaroos ('roos) one with a Joey poking its head out of mum's pouch. Enrolled into a photography course to gain some new tips - you'll be the judge of whether they were good or bad, though! Had lots of leaving drinks, went to Ragan's house-cooling party (she was moving out), and we moved out of our Woolloomooloo studio flat and back into the realms of backpacker lodgings again. Time to get back on the road - er, to the skies - again.
31st October - 6th November
Flew to Alice Springs to see what all the fuss about the red centre and the rock was about. Hired a 4WD Toyota LandCruiser for a couple of days to visit the West MacDonnels range with gorges and watering holes, Gosse Bluff comet crater (5km left) and then drove through some pretty bad dirt roads (though Susana reckoned they were quite good in comparison to some Brazilian dirt roads!) the Jurassic Palm Valley (through which the Finke River - oldest in the world - flows, mainly underground) 4WD essential! Next took a break from driving and let someone else do it by jumping on a 3-day tour with Wayoutback to Uluru (Ayers Rock), the Olgas, Kings Canyon and surrounds. Watched a lovely sunset whilst supping "Champagne" & sunrise - look out for forthcoming pic! Slept under the stars in "swags" (overgrown heavy-duty sleeping bags) around campfire.
For the bird-lovers amongst you, we've come across the following species, that we've classified by their call:
- "echo sounder" bird (think of WWII movies and destroyers hunting subs)
- "R2D2" bird (think of R2D2 in Star Wars having a conversation with someone)
- "Can't be bothered" bird (yes it does make a noise. Wa Wa Waaaaaaah - the last one tailing off as if it's all really rather too much effort to bother with the rest. Typical Oz!)
7th - 10th November
Kakadu National Park
Headed up north to steaming Darwin to check out Kakadu National Park and other interesting parks nearby. Finally twiddled our thumbs enough to get around to updating this website!
Boy, were we glad the air-con worked in the car. In the time we spent outside it, we got through about 10 litres of water between us per day! In between swigs, we had a look at some well-preserved aboriginal art (they had some very strange ideas, these people - see pic). We made use of the tent again in the "packed" campsite (just us and 1 other tent!)
- Everyone else must have realised it was a bit hot! Flicked off all the green-bottomed-ants (very weird) the following morning, and jumped on a boat up the strangely named Alligator River looking for estuarine crocodiles ("salties"). They look mean. Don't argue with them.
Finished off Kakadu with a visit to Gunlom falls - very picturesque spot so had a splash around (pic).
11th - 14th November
Had enough of the driving and decided to take some exercise by hiring canoes at Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge N.P.) (see pic), where temperature in the sun reached 50C! Then headed for Lichfield N.P. making use of the 4WD capability to find ourselves a campsite to ourselves. Got a little worried at the sound of thunder and the thought of the state of
the track for the return leg... Fortunately, little rain fell, and we were able to make it back to tarmac and Darwin ready for our 26-hour coach to Broome (Western Australia), leaving the Northern Territories with a spectacular thunderstorm - so much lightning that it felt like
the strobe-lighting in a disco!
15th -18th November
Arrived in Broome to find that most of the Kimberleys range was inaccessible due to road closure (wet season started), so settled for a one day trip to the western edge. Learnt a bit about Broome's pearling industry, and decided that little else was going on here and headed for Perth.
25th - 29th November
Caught a flight to Melbourne where we met up with Di & Pino and headed towards Australia’s southern-most tip on the mainland, on Wilson’s Promontory N.P. After meeting Dave, Becky and Fleur we embarked upon 3 days of trekking with 15-20kg backpacks (tent included) through some beautiful rugged terrain, varying from scrub, forest to sandy beach. We managed to avoid treading on a few snakes before staying the night at a lighthouse, where the munching sounds of the resident wombats alerted
us to their presence once darkness fell. Then it was back to basics for the second night at Little Waterloo Bay campsite with water from the creek, and out with the camping stoves preceded with a 10 minute frisbee session in the somewhat chilly waters from the antarctic. Headed back 8 hours to the cars and civilisation via another beach and a few hills to keep the heart pumping.
30th November - 14th December
Tasmania - The great platypus hunt.
After becoming clean again, we took a flight to Tasmania (higher population density of platypuses there) for more trekking and a visit to Port Arthur - site of one of Australia’s first convict settlements (where people were sent if they didn’t behave in Sydney) and then got the body working again with a 5 day overland trek from Cradle Mountain
to Lake St Clair through some of Tasmania’s pristine wilderness. Stepped past a few more snakes (which quickly slithered away), whilst spotting numerous wallabys, pademelons, and an echidna, but still failed to spot any platypus. Susana’s urge to see over every hill ensured we scrambled to the top of Cradle Mountain, and then trudged
through the snowy tracks of Tasmania’s highest peak, Mount Ossa (1617m). Great views! Stopped by some lovely waterfalls before finally testing out the resilience of Roger’s panama hat with some low over-(or not!)-head branches. The hat passed with flying colours; Roger’s head grew a few lumps.
After a day’s break to take a look at the carnage caused by some dams built 30 years ago we needed more exercise, threw off the packs and spent 7 hours hiking up Mount Field West. Pristine wilderness again, with a mix of forest, scrub, and bog (with wooden tracks through many bits).Reached the top to find most of Tasmania’s beetles using the uplift there to start their journeys with a bit of height to discover some had hitchhiked on us on the way up. Whipped out the camping stove for an evening meal on the shores of a lake for a spot of platypus-waiting, and were finally rewarded with a brief glimpse as one glided by on the surface just after dusk. Easier to spot in Sydney’s Aquarium, but at last we’d seen one of the elusive a ‘wild’ ones!
For our finally taster of Tassie, we took a 6-seater plane to the south-west (Melaleuca, pop: 2) where there is a landing strip, and a hut, and that’s about it for a couple of hundred kms. Labelled as some of the most remote wilderness in the world, we headed for the coastline and had an entire beach to ourselves on 2 of the 3 days we were there, with great sunny weaher for most of our time in Tassie (unusual, apparently!).
15th - 20th December
Back to Melbourne, where Diana took us to the Dandelong ranges for a view of Melbourne from up high, and some clay aboriginal sculptures. Then down to Torquay for some body-boarding and a visit to a surfing museum near the home of surfing in Oz. Dodged (or didn't) spray during a morning's sail with Di, Pinno, Fred & Nicky, whilst narrowly avoiding getting sunburnt! Spent our last 2 days in Oz with Roger's relatives Shirley & Jim enjoying a trip to the 'Shed' and stripping the rather full cherry tree bare.
... and so to New Zealand (via Brisbane) for The Great Kiwi Hunt!
See our New Zealand Page!
That's it for NZ. Now back to Oz, this time to the north-east coast... Cairns.
Caught up on sleep, tested out Cairns' ice-cream stalls and swam in the 'new' lagoon (no jellyfish there!), and generally prepared ourselves for...:
Boarded Mike Ball's (www.mikeball.com <http://www.mikeball.com>) Supersport (93ft catamaran (no sails) ) at 8pm for our 3 full days + 2 half days (4 nights) dive trip - My prize and 1 extra ticket bought! We had a great time with the chef trying to feed us so much good food we almost burst, doing 5 dives per day, and mastering Roger's underwater housing for the camera. No, you won't escape the underwater pics! Sadly, the fins were a less than perfect fit for Roger, so some of his toes are a little slimmer now (ouch!). Saw lots of colourful fish and nudibranchs (like underwater slugs but much prettier) and even spotted a manta ray, a large cuttlefish and a sea snake as well as the inevitable non-plussed white-tip reef sharks.
Rested for a day to recover from the exhausting but enjoyable dive trip (In and out the water every hour or so!) then took a trip to the Atherton tablelands for a bit of canoeing, a crater lake, some mountain biking and to some waterfalls (including the one used for the Timotei advert!). Next went to Cape Tribulation (not far from where Cook ran aground - he named it!) for some jungle, exotic fruit tasting and a bit more relaxing by the freshwater swimming holes and pools. Steered well clear of the beautiful beaches owing to a few hazards (box jellyfish and crocs!). Counted our pennies and decided that Oz is getting WAY too expensive and we'd better get back "on the wallaby" (on the road) off to Asia pretty quick else we'd have to come back a bit sharpish!
No ticket yet... watch out for forthcoming news from your happy little vegemites... :-)
8th - 14th Feb
Headed back to Sydney were we said our farewells to Ragan, Nick & Michelle, tidied up some loose ends and got stabbed a few times by innocent-looking nurses wielding syringes (claiming to be innoculating us), prior to departing for Asia. First stop Malaysia.