Friday, September 30, 2005

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Australia Trip - Final Part (Sydney)

It is Sunday and my last night in Sydney. The weather has been really crazy here in the city. I got my first rain here in Australia as we drove in to Sydney on Friday. I was expecting it to stay cold but the sun came out on Saturday and today with clear blue skies. It still has been pretty windy but no problem. The first night in Sydney was pretty low key. A group of us hung out at a pub and then had dinner at a Thai restaurant before calling it a night. It had been a long day driving in the coach.

Saturday was a really full day. We started out by walking to the famous Opera House in the morning and then walking across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The views of the harbor and the city from the bridge were amazing. After a walk around the city, we went to the Sydney Aquarium. I like aquariums and this one was great because it concentrated on the fish and other aquatic animals of Australia. Checking out the platypus was my favorite part. It was a lot smaller than I expected. We finished off the day with a nice Italian dinner and a evening cruise out on the Sydney Harbor. The lights of the city were nice to view from the water.

Today I went out to Bondi Beach with some of my friends and checked out that famous Australian Beach and visited the markets they have every Sunday. There was some waves but the strong winds was making them pretty rough and formless. After the beach, we visited the Hyde Park Barracks that was constructed by and housed the convicts in the earlier times of Sydney and then we finished the night and my trip off with a visit to the Sydney Tower. It was nice to complete my trip with the panoramic night-time views of the city below us and check out all the places we visited in the city from up high.

Tomorrow I will be flying home. Damn! :)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Australia Trip - Part 4 (Surfer's Paradise & Toowoomba)

Well, I am sitting at a really nice resort in Coff's Harbor. One more day until we are in Sydney. Today we stopped at a Wildlife Sanctuary where I was able to see a lot of the iconic Australian Animals I have missed up to now, including a dingo which I missed out on seeing at Fraser Island.

Driving down the coast today we crossed the state line from Queensland into New South Wales and visited Byron Bay, which is the most eastern point of the Australia mainland. There was some great views from up on the cliffs with the light house overlooking the bay, including watching a pod of dolphins swim past.

The past two nights have been spent in Surfer's Paradise. (I was hoping to get in some surfing here on the Gold Coast but there has been no swell and the waves have been tiny.) Oh well! :) My cousin Vern, who lives in Brisbane, took me on a drive of the Gold Coast and showed me all the famous surfing spots and treated me to lunch and gave me a tour of his lifesaving club where he is a volunteer lifeguard. Thanks, Vern!

The final night in Surfers was spent at Dracula's, a cool dinner cabaret show that was really funny and the food was excellent.

But one of the most interesting parts of my trip was when we stayed at the "Adora Downs Farm" which is located in the Darling Downs area of Toowoomba. We had a excellent country meal and had a fun time learning different country Bush Dances. It was exhausting but great fun. They also had some pet kangaroos which would come right up to you for a quick pet. Tomorrow we drive to Sydney where I will spend three days before coming home. I can't wait to explore that city.

Australia Animal Watch: I have a big list now since visiting the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, the highlights were Australia's most dangerous snakes, the dingoes, and the Tasmanian Devil.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Australia Trip - Part 3 (Fraser Island & Rockhampton)

I have now spent two nights on Fraser Island. We left the tropics and crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn to arrive here on the island. The first night was cross-dress night. The guys dressed up as girls and vice-versa. It was pretty funny and we headed over to the Dingo Bar to dance until midnight in our crazy outfits. Heh!

Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island and we explored it today in a 4WD vehicle. One of the most impressive parts was driving down the wet sandy stretch of "75 Mile Beach" (which is actually only 59 miles long) and stopping to take a short plane ride which took off from and landed on the sandy beach.

The other fun stop was at Lake McKenzie. The sand around the lake is pure white and the water is crystal clear and slightly acidic which makes it a natural skin exfoliant. The water was pretty chilly but a few of us had a fun swim.

Before taking the ferry to Fraser Island, we stayed the night in Rockhampton, the Beef Capitol of Australia and visited the Koorana Crocodile Farm. One of the crocs we visited was "Shaw", a 90 year old croc who killed one of his keepers in the 1940's. We also got a steak dinner with some nice Crocodile Chowder Soup and some Crocodile Kebabs. It didn't taste that bad, though it was a bit chewy.

We are now headed inland to stay at a farm for a night and then further south to the Gold Coast for two nights in Surfer's Paradise.

Australia Animal Watch: Well, I can check off salt-water crocodiles from my list, but I didn't see any of the dingos that live on Fraser Island.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Australia Trip - Part 2 (Whitsunday Islands)

Its me again on the last night of my stay on the Whitsunday Islands. I went sailing today through the islands on a nice boat, the "Ragamuffin", a retired maxi racing yacht that had won two championships in the past and raced all over the world. We stopped for a few hours at Whitehaven Beach. The sand there is made of white silica and it was the whitest beach I have ever been on. The sand was super fine and squeaked when you walk on it. Heh!

After a nice day of sailing I went on a nice hike through the nature preserve on our island at twilight. The woods were full of wallabies, it is interesting to walk through the woods and have the little miniature kangaroos hopping around you on the trail. I was a little worried on the hike because there was hundreds of spider webs with some interesting spiders hanging in them along the side of the trail.

Yesterday was mostly a relaxing day at our resort. We played beach volleyball and I went sailing in the cove in a little two-man cateraman with one of my roommates, Craig, who is from South Africa. He knows how to sail and let me operate the boat for awhile.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Rockhampton where we will stay the night and visit a Crocodile farm.

Australia Animal Watch: I have now seen the Agile Wallaby, an Australian Brush Turkey, and two interesting Birds, the Kookaburra and the Curlew.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Australia Trip - Part 1 (Cairns & Great Barrier Reef)

I have had three busy days in Cairns, Australia. It looks like the great weather has followed me from San Diego, the rain stopped and the skies cleared the day I arrived. Cairns is the major sugar producing area of Australia, surrounded by miles and miles and miles of sugarcane fields.

Today, I went white-water rafting on the Tully River. It took 4 hours with a half-way stop for lunch. I managed to stay on the raft through the rapids except when our river guide, Nick "the Prick" flipped us on purpose. (That's what he wanted to be called. Heh!) One of my favorite parts was standing up in the raft as we went under a waterfall.

Yesterday, I had two scuba dives out in the Great Barrier Reef. It was the most amazing visibility I have ever seen. We rode a huge cateraman out to a floating platform moored on the outer Agincourt Reef. It was quite the operation with scuba diving, snorkeling, an underwater submersible and even helicopter rides from a floating helo-pad. I would have like to try some of the other options but the diving took up all my time. My favorite dive was the first one. We took a smaller boat further out to a spot called "The Point" on Phil's Reef, where we dove down to 60 feet and explored along the edge of the reef. I didn't see any reef sharks. Bummer!

The first day we took in some Aboriginal culture. We watched some spear throwing. It was amazing how far and how accurately they can toss them. We also got to watch and throw some boomerangs ourselves. We also watched some Aboriginal dancing and I was pulled up to give it a try myself at the end. I think I did pretty well. :) We finished with a cable car ride over the top of the rain forest. It was pretty cool.

Tonight is our last night in Cairns. Tomorrow we take the bus down to the Whitsunday Islands for three days. I am going to spend one of the days on a sailboat exploring the islands.

Australia Animal Watch: So far I have seen a Koala Bear and a Bandicoot, but no Kangaroos or Crocs yet.