A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

Bitezize Brisbane

3 weeks in a nutshell


View 1. A Land Down Under on Where's Willy's travel map.

Seeing our friends in London I was asked if it was possible to do a bitesize blog. Obviously I can’t hold Simon’s attention for 1000 words so here is a bite size picture diary of Brisbane:

Found some kangaroos fertilising the grapes in the vineyards at Sirromet Vineyard

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Made friends with the Koalas at Lone Pine koala reserve

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Explored Brisbane by boat and checked out the amazing riverside beach and markets

Walked out to an island while the tide was out at Wellington point.

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Got the obligatory photo with a kangaroo road sign

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Took a boat to Coochiemudlow for a day of island living

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And rode a giant turtle!!

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Short but very sweet, there's our bitesize photo round up of Brisbane!!

Byron Bay

We also spent a day down in Byron Bay and went on a kayak safari to see some dolphins and whales. Unfortunately the dolphins and whales didn’t want to come out on this day but still had fun paddling around and surfing the waves back onto the beach.

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Cool lighthouse in Byron too:

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British and Irish Lions Game

Our penultimate day in Australia was Dads birthday and the day the British and Irish Lions took on the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

It seemed that Brisbane was teaming with friends from afar. Bumping into family friends, Uni friends and others before the match, taking our friends and family seen abroad count up to 27! It’s almost like we never left.

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Queensland Reds gave the Lions the first proper test of the game and arguably should have won but didn’t have enough to take it over the line. It was great to see the Lions play again having seen them play in New Zealand in 2005. I have to say though, we saw nothing but Lions shirts enter the stadium but the fans didn’t make much noise. Maybe they’re saving themselves for the test matches later this month.

A fantastic end to our Australian and New Zealand leg of our round the world trip! Happy Birthday Dad! We're missing you both already!!

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Posted by Where's Willy 14:55 Archived in Australia Tagged koala surf kayak brisbane kangaroo byron british_lions Comments (0)

Cairns

A photo diary; koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, crocs and the Great Barrier Reef

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View 1. A Land Down Under on Where's Willy's travel map.

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After recharging our batteries and catching up with Mum and Dad, it was time to take an Adams Family holiday up to the tropics of Cairns. Our flight was at 0630, meaning a check in at 0500, leaving the house at 0400, out of bed 0355, right? Bed head is a given on early morning travel and an accepted norm. Mum had seemingly got up at 0230 to prepare herself for the journey though had neglected to remember whether or not the hair straighteners had been unplugged, remembering just as we reached the terminal. It’s that awkward choice between risking missing your flight or having the house burn down. They build houses with wood in Australia – back we go!

Two hours flight up the coast, Cairns sits in a tropical bay surrounded by tree-covered mountains facing out to the Coral Sea, Pacific Ocean and eventually South America. Having escaped the mythical Australian sunshine in our journey so far, we were pleased it was quite a lot hotter.
Ditching our bags in our amazing apartment, including a bath overlooking the coast line, we headed up to Port Douglas and spent an afternoon meeting the locals at the Wildlife Habitat. Dad was first to make friends with this stalk. ====>

Turns out dad is a right Dr.Doolittle making friends with a stick insect too!

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We took a tour through the habitat learning about the native birds, fish and animals of Australia. At $20 per person cheaper than the zoo, this really would be our top tip if you find yourself in the area. Loads to see, get up close and personal with the animals and the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Couldn't recommend it enough, even with on the red eye from an early morning flight!!

Cassowary

When people think of native Australian animals, they think kangaroos, koalas, crocs, possums, snakes, wombats and maybe even an emu. Even spiders make a mention in most peoples repotoire. An animal that is often left out is the cassowary. If you were to describe it to someone or even show a photo, most people would think it was as real as a drop bear.

This prehistoric bird can reach up to 2m in height and is burdened with a 18cm casque on their heads with which to part the rainforest and protecting them against falling fruit! No wonder they're endangered if falling fruit can kill off animals that have a fruit only diet!

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What an interesting looking animal!

Koalas

The main reason for our visit to the habitat was to meet Australia’s cuddliest looking inhabitant, the Koalas. Having seen them in the wild in Melbourne, I couldn’t wait to give one a squeeze.

The most common misconception about koalas is that they are bears. They are in fact marsupials and closer related to humans than they are bears. With a gestation period of 35 days a baby koala the size of a fingernail will climb up its mother’s pouch where it will suckle for 6 months. Emerging from the pouch they will live the next month feeding of its mothers ‘pap’ of faecal matter………mmmmm not so cute now!
And don’t let that cute face deceive you, despite being incredibly docile (it is a common misconception that eucalyptous makes them high), if you poke this non-bear he will quite literally rip your face off.

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It wasn’t long before we got to meet Kody. Kody is a 7 year old male with a working contract you could only dream of; A maximum of 30 mins ‘work’ (if you consider cuddling work) a day, 3 days a week, and all the gum leaves you can eat, he had it sorted. His fur was like a matt cotton wall, very soft but water would bounce off it in the rain. He was also surprisingly heavy, and his claws are sharp as hell. All the better for climbing trees with!

Once hunted for their fur by settlers, often sending 100,000 skins back to the Britain in one boat, the outlook for these fuzzy balls is not so bright. Where they used to dominate the eastern coast of Australia, the current estimate is of 75,000 still in the wild. Their problems don’t stop there; being solitary, territorial creatures and given the vast size of Australia, their habitat is decreasing through deforestation, and about 1/3 of koalas having chlamydia, the chances of finding a successful mate are looking slim. Here’s hoping the work of the Habitat and numerous other voluntary groups can reverse their future.

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Feeding the Wallabies

The habitat also had a great walk through grasslands sections where you can get up close and personal with the wallabies and kangaroos. And they are inquisitive little fellas!

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Port Douglas

After a day spent visiting the fantastic local market in Cairns and walking round town, we headed back up to Port Douglas to soak up the sun and browse the festival that was on. This is outdoor living at its best, tons of local produce, crafts and art to keep you entertained. A boat was docked in the Marina with a live band on and fish was being sold fresh off the boats.

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A massive box full of prawns later, a photo stop of four mile beach, and we were on the road home. As I was driving we crossed a river and saw a group of people on a parallel pier looking into the water. Deciding to go see what all the fuss was about, we were treated to a real spectacle. A couple of locals had bought a few chicken carcasses off the butcher, tied it to a length of rope and thrown it in the water. Turns out this guy was quite hungry!

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I would not like to mess with him. About 4m long and some pretty gruesome looking teeth, you could tell from watching him just how powerful he was.

As luck would have it another friend was in town too. Although we hadn't seen each other in 9 years, a few happy hour jugs of beer later in the Rattle and Hum and it was just like old times. Great to see you Laura, friend and family #22 seen on our travels!

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The Great Barrier Reef

A trip to Cairns, or even Australia wouldn’t be complete without a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, and she does not disappoint. At over 2,000km long, you are spoilt for choice for the number of operators and dive sites available. Thankfully, large parts of the reef are marked as protected land and we should be able to enjoy this marvel long into the future.

We took a trip with Silver Series stopping at three different dive sites for a snorkel. A 90 minute boat ride out to the reef took down the three weaker Adams members; I of course was fine having gained my sea legs on the Cook Strait!! Clambering into our lycra suits, fins and snorkels, we grabbed a noodle and jumped in. There was plenty to see.

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I think ironically, that when most people think of the barrier reef they think of the wildlife, where in reality it’s the coral that is really quite something. Bright colours and a thousand different types builds the reef that homes a plethora of fish, crustaceans, rays and turtles.

Our favourite for the day was the Maori Wrasse, named after the detailed pattern on their faces similar to the tattoos of To moko worn by Maori people. This territorial fish can grow up to 2m long and most interesting of all, only has one male per territory. When the dominant male dies, a female fish in the area will change sex to take over the area, how amazing is that?

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Sunrise and Wild Kangaroos

The final morning was an early rise for me to play with my camera and catch some snaps of the sunrise. Couple of important rules for taking photos of sunrise:

1.) Don't guess what time sunrise will be, set an alarm and wait for the sun. It's in no rush
2.) Check the weather for clouds!!! Doh!!!!

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On the way to the airport we stopped in a field to snap some roos. They are as common as rabbits in Oz and are, as you can see literally everywhere! Cute little things!

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Posted by Where's Willy 14:09 Archived in Australia Tagged snorkelling australia kangaroos cairns great_barrier_reef koalas cassowary Comments (2)

Melbourne

A City, Native Wildlife, The Great Ocean Road and Wine - by Willy Wifey


View 1. A Land Down Under on Where's Willy's travel map.

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So after another early start it was off to Auckland airport to catch our 6:30 flight to Melbourne. Whilst we were sad to leave New Zealand, the thought of seeing Melbourne, the home of one of the greatest daytime tv shows, Neighbours, was exciting enough!

Picking up our third hire car of the trip at the airport (Toyota Yaris, an improvement on poor Lucy) we set off into town to find our friend Sara. Sara moved to Melbourne in January after a few months of travels, and very kindly agreed to put us up and explore the city with us. Amazing to catch up with Sara after so long! We decided to make the most of the day and go exploring in the city to find some tourist information on what to do.

Melbourne is a great city to visit, we feel it has a bit more character and history to it than some other Aussie cities. There are great colourful buildings, walks along the river which dominates the central business district (CBD), and buildings with a sense of history such as Cook's Cottage in the park. Public transport is also varied, but mainly filled with tram lines wherever you go. Top tip: if driving on a tram road, do not attempt to drive on the tracks as all you will do is scare your passengers as the tires slip on the metal!

After arriving in the CBD, we called in at the Tourist information centre in Federation Square, the main square in the city. We spoke to a lovely woman called Carol who had a badge stating '15 years as a volunteer'. That should have been our warning because when you ask something general like 'So, what is there to do in Melbourne in 3 days?' be prepared (as we were not) to spend at least 20 minutes being told to go to 68 different places, and for your map to start resembling a child's scribble.

A Loo with a View

A cheeky tip for a skyline view of Melbourne

Carol had some great ideas for things to do all over the city. Best of all was for a free view of the city from 35 stories up. This was brilliant: we strolled casually into the Sofitel hotel lobby (wearing our hiking boots and rain jackets, really blending in well with those enjoying their afternoon tea), took a lift to the 35th floor, and went to the bathroom. In both the men's and women's bathrooms, there are floor to ceiling windows showing a great view of the city for free! Save yourself the $35 fee to climb the Eureka Tower (link) for a similar view!

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The Great Ocean Road

The following day, we decided to tackle the Great Ocean Road, a 600km round trip out to the see the 12 Apostles . Along the way, there are numerous spots to stop at to see local surfers (very brave in winter!), wild koalas who live in the trees behind a caravan park (thanks Carol!) and other points of interest along the way. It started out as a nice day with a hint of blue sky, however rain clouds made themselves at home pretty quickly and within an hour the wipers were going full blast and photo opportunities were getting slimmer! We thought we'd left the rain behind in NZ but it caught up with us! Still, it was a great drive (between downpours) to enjoy the spectacular scenery the Great Ocean Road has to offer:

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We even found the Lighthouse from Round the Twist in Airey's Inlet. Remember that show? Have you ever, ever felt like this? With strange things happening, are you going round the twist?

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Meeting the Locals

We followed Carol's advice and went looking for the local wildlife. The Anglesea Golf Club along the Great Ocean Road is well known for its resident kangaroo population and we were not disappointed. We parked up in the car park (I moved from the President's spot where I initially parked as Will said we didn't qualify) and just ahead of us on one of the fairways was a kangaroo! We saw a group more of them off in the distance all over the various holes just eating the grass and relaxing, amazing!

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Further along, behind a caravan park in Kennett River, we were told that the trees along the road usually had a few native inhabitants in the form of Koalas, and we were really lucky to see 3 koalas just resting in the trees. Our resident photographer got some great photos of course capturing just how cute and cuddly the koalas look!

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Getting to the Apostles at 5pm, we had our best scenery of the day seeing the cliffs and Apostles at sunset:

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The Apostles were formed thousands of years ago by waves repeatedly wearing away the softer stone in places, leaving the harder stone (the Apostles) in tact and separated from the cliffs. Over the years, some have eventually collapsed into the sea altogether, so currently there are about 10 and a half Apostles remaining. Having taken our photos, we got back in the car, drove the 300km back to Sara's flat, and ordered takeout. Brilliant day!

Visiting the Kennedy's and the Yarra Valley

Final day in Melbourne and the weather being agreeable, we decided to take a tour of the wine country nearby, the Yarra Valley (link). However, not before we went on an adventure to find Ramsey Street... We finally tracked down the real life street (real namePinoak court) and got out to take some photos with the Kennedys!!

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Leaving Ramsey St behind, we decided to reward ourselves with a drink. Similarly to NZ, there are some beautiful vineyards around, big and small, with some great tasting wines. We also stumbled across a vineyard that does cheese tasting along with the wine. Of course, it was always going to be the case that Will chose one with an amusing name, this particular one being a compte by the name of Julius Cheeser!

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I couldn't say Australian wine beats a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that we tried in NZ, but still was a great trip and we came away with some souvenirs from Badgers Brook, a smaller vineyard in the region with picturesque scenery and the best wine from our tour.

Since we had an early flight the following morning to Brisbane, a night out in Melbourne was called for! With another friend Rhiannon also being in Melbourne, we made it a group affair and headed out for some Mexican food and drinks at Radio Mexico. All in all, would highly recommend Melbourne as a great city to visit in Aus, made all the better when you're with friends. Big thanks to Sara for putting us up and great to see you Rhiannon!

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Posted by Where's Willy 01:02 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne great_ocean_road australia wine kangaroos yarra_valley koalas Comments (1)

Sydney Bridge Climb and Opera House

Ascending a bridge in a hurricane and a trip to the Opera!

all seasons in one day
View 1. A Land Down Under on Where's Willy's travel map.

Sydney Bridge Climb

Having travelled over 7,000 miles to escape the British weather, Sydney decided to show us the best of its patriarchal rulers wind, rain and hail on the day we decided to climb its' harbour bridge. It rained so hard the drain at the bottom of the road had a water fountain a foot high from the water flooding its system. Luckily I opted to wear my walking boots for the climb, unluckily Natalie had not. A short piggy back through the flood planes of Circular Quay later and we were on our way.

After being fitted with boiler suits, thermals, waterproofs, hats, gloves and radios (all of which clipped onto the boiler suit so they didn't blow off!) we began our ascent of the Harbour Bridge. Not that we climbed the bridge alone, we had a guide and a group with us including double Olympic GB rowing champion Tom James MBE!! For somebody who doesn't normally get tongue tied, Natalie watched and laughed as I stumbled over my words. He was seemingly excited about meeting me too, and so he should have been, I am after all a "dedicated athlete".

The bridge was built in 1923 and took 9 years to complete taking 6 million rivets, 52,800 tonnes of steel and 16 lives along the way. The bridge was built by a firm from Middlesborough employing Australian locals only and showing off the best in British engineering is the widest single span bridge in the world. When people think of Sydney they think of the Opera House but I have to say the bridge gives the Opera House a run for its money, it is absolutely gi-normous, more than just a launch pad for the New Years Eve fireworks! Australian legend, Paul Hogan a.k.a Crocodile Dundee himself even worked as a rigger on the bridge before finding his "fame and fortune"!

As me, my new best mate, double Olympic gold medalist Tom James MBE and the rest of the group climbed the bridge the wind set in, then the rain, then the hail. There were points on the climb when we just held onto the railings as the wind howled past. Though I am prone to the odd exaggeration, checking the weather report later in the day showed average winds of 44km/h and gusts of 63km/h! I think the picture says it all!

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After descending through the bridge past the road and railways that crosses over we were told the interesting and amusing story of how the bridge was opened. for ease, I'll let the Australian Government tell the story.

The Bridge has an interesting past including its official opening on 19 March 1932. Before the NSW Premier, the Honourable John 'Jack' T. Lang, could cut the ribbon to signify the opening of the Harbour Bridge, Captain Francis De Groot of the political group The New Guard slashed the ribbon with his sword. Captain De Groot believed that the only person to open the Bridge should be a member of the Royal Family. Captain De Groot was detained, the ribbon tied together, and the Premier then officially cut the ribbon.

Nothing like a bit of showboating!

A huge thank you to those who contributed towards our climb, Natalie, double Olympic champion Tom James MBE and I had an absolute blast despite the hurricane and it certainly made a great memory of our first anniversary.

Opera House

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It wouldn't be a trip to Sydney without a visit to the Opera House and Saturday night had a showing in the concert hall of Cirque de la Symphony, a duet of Cirque de Soliel performers with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Having not seen a Cirque performance before, I quickly learnt how squeamish I am watching high wire acrobatics. Although I did thoroughly enjoy the show my main enjoyment did come from the relief of not watching someone plunge to their death on top of the woodwind section.... Probably would have sounded pleasant though!

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Sydney by night also provided an opportunity open up the camera shutter again, I think I did ok on this one!:

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Posted by Where's Willy 17:59 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Blue Mountains

They're blue ab-a-di ab-a-di!

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View 1. A Land Down Under on Where's Willy's travel map.

Two hours train ride from Sydney Central takes you through the city suburbs and out onto the plateau of the Blue Mountains. It is not known what gives the Blue Mountains their colour. The mayor of one of the towns even commissioned a study from a university (great use of local taxes) as to why they looked so blue. The answer? Light deflection. Money well spent!

The double span windows on the doubled decker train lend themselves to an entertaining in-rail movie of ever changing, ever beautiful vistas of the ground dropping into the valleys carpeted with plush rainforest.

As an anniversary surprise for Natalie, and as a light relief from two whole days in the slums of Sydney backpackers, I booked us into the Fairmont Resort Hotel in Leura where we where upgraded into a superior room with a view of the imaginatively named "Mega Long Valley"..... you can guess how long it is!.

Still, only there to sleep.....out to the mountains!

When packing our bags we had umm-ed and agh-ed over whether or not to bring our hiking boots. What a perfect excuse to break them in, particularly with the infrequency and cost of local transport! We walked down to sublime point for our first 270 degree view of the blue mountains. They say pictures are worth a thousand words so enough of me rabbiting on:

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The walk took us two hours round the cliff edge down into the valley and into the pools of Siloam for my first fiddle with the shutter speed on my camera, trying to slow the water to get that smoothed silk effect:

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And of course the obligatory explorer poses:

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The problem with descending into the valleys to see the lovely waterfalls is eventually you need to climb back up. Two sets of burning thighs later took us to the viewing point for Gordon Falls which puzzled us and other tourists as no one could seem to find them! After half an hour of scouring the area we found a stream the strength of a leaking tap that appeared as a white thread of cotton against the mountain face. Thanks for that one blue mountains - from the bottom of my aching feet!

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A dip on the hot tub and a good nights sleep later we were recharged and ready to take on the mountains again. Breakfast even included honey straight out of the honeycomb. Absolutely delicious until my second trip to the breakfast bar saw some snotty handed kids sticking their fingers in the honeycomb trying to find the bees! Winnie the Pooh never had to put up with this!

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We returned to Leura cascades for another camera session before taking the Prince Henry cliff walk round to the three sisters, a formation of three needles on the edge of the blue mountain valleys.

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Legend has it (at least the one we where told) that three sisters fell in love with three brothers from another tribe which was at war with the first tribe. A wise man, who saw the weird scenario of three sisters marrying three brothers, puzzled over whether the situation constituted incest, before turning the sisters to stone promising to turn them back once the war was over. The wise man was killed during the battle and the sisters remained locked as stone forever, never to confuse their children of who was an uncle or aunty at Christmas ever again.

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Posted by Where's Willy 15:43 Archived in Australia Tagged walking waterfall katoomba leura cascades blue_mountains three_sisters Comments (1)

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