I woke up this morning and I had trouble remembering where I was - like what city I was in. We haven't been rushing through the country or anything, but we've seen so much it gets hard to keep track. We're in Adelaide right now, and we're preparing to venture into the Outback, driving to Uluru and Alice Springs over the next few days.
We spotted our first kangaroo yesterday (we've been here two weeks!)
We came across two lizards. The first one was quite large, probably in the range of 15cm across its back.
Over the last few days, including on the Great Ocean Walk, we've seen more birds than you can shake a stick at. Not pictured are a couple of emus at the side of the road that I didn't photograph, but I hear we're going to see plenty more in the outback.
During our walks recently, while we've been watching the ground for snakes, we've noticed that the ground is often covered in snail shells. Most of them have been bleached by the sun, but a few were quite recently leaving their telltale silver trails.
We haven't spotted any wombats yet, but we've seen their signs (most of which I will spare you from viewing!)
Short hikes and walking around Adelaide
Lunch: Coorong mullet burger
I'm so excited by the friends we made, sites we saw, and adventures we had since our last blog post! We met my friend Kat's family, saw penguins and koalas, experienced Melbourne's beach lifestyle, and hiked Great Ocean Road.
We headed to Melbourne on Friday evening to stay at Barb's house. We'd never met Barb before, but she's the mom of my friend Kat from Tantra Fitness. Barb generously opened her home to us, let us relax to comfortable home cooking (something we've missed very much on this trip!), and showed us around Melbourne and beyond. When we arrived after a long day of travelling, she had a delicious lasagna waiting for us. After sleeping in a comfortable bed, we woke up Saturday morning and headed for Phillip Island. There we were able to walk on the beach, see koalas in a conservation park, see a wallaby with a joey in its pouch near the beach, and go out for a lovely dinner.
It was a fantastic day, but it was the penguins we saw at sunset that really stole the show. Phillip Island is home to a large penguin population. At sunset, they emerge from the ocean and head to their breeding grounds. The government of Australia has set up a program on the island to allow us to watch the penguins while maintaining the safety of their habitat. Though we weren't allowed taking any pictures of the penguins, they suggested we visit their website and use those pictures instead, which is where we acquired the one shown below (and pretty much exactly what we saw).
They were so cute I wanted to take one home, but settled for a plush one instead.
On Sunday, Chris and I headed to Saint Kilda, which is a trendy beach neighbourhood on the east side of Melbourne. Upon arrival, we headed over a pedestrian bridge. I don't know if it was the way the warm breeze swept across my face, or the look of the palm trees, but I had an instant recollection of Santa Monica, California.
On Monday, Barb took us to the CBD (Central Business District aka Downtown). What stood out to me so much were the heaps of parks and walking paths available to those living and working in the CBD. As Monday was also our last night in Melbourne, Barb, her son Andrew, and his partner Dylan put together a BBQ dinner for us.
Tuesday morning we woke up early and headed to Great Ocean Road. Our plan was to drive the road next to the Southern Ocean for about 100km, park the car at the 12 Apostles Visitors' Center along Great Ocean Road, and take a taxi back to an inlet near a campground off Great Ocean Road called Devil's Kitchen. From there, we would camp the night and walk 16 km back to the car along what's called Great Ocean Walk.
Great Ocean Road itself had spectacular views, but it was a bit crowded for my taste. However, Great Ocean Walk, which mostly runs parallel to Great Ocean Road, was amazing and we only saw about 6 people throughout the entire camp night and hike. It's amazing how many sights and places you can get all to yourself if you're willing to go just a bit more out of the way. Our hike started when the taxi dropped us off at the Wreck Beach car park (not the same as Wreck Beach in Vancouver!). From there, we hiked a couple of kilometers to the Devil's Kitchen campsite. We spent the evening enjoying sweeping views of the ocean. The campsite also had the best compostable toilet I've ever used! I wouldn't normally mention a toilet except this one also had an excellent view of the ocean and was super clean.
We've been a bit scared of snakes, spiders, and other crazy Australian wildlife since we arrived. Being so secluded in Devil's Kitchen brought that fear out further. Chris and I both awoke in the middle of the night, convinced the noise we were hearing outside was a large animal trying to get inside our tent. However after analyzing the situation (with our hearts pounding!) we realized the noise was simply a loose piece of rope from our tent that was brushing up against the tent's fly. Phew! Fortunately, we still haven't seen a snake or other scary creature, though we did see a few wallabies and some exotic birds on the hike.
The next morning we packed up our gear and began the 16 km trek from Devil's Kitchen to the 12 Apostles. If you've never heard of the 12 Apostles, they are stacks of limestone emerging from the Southern Ocean. Originally there were 9 stacks of limestone (though they were awarded the name 12 Apostles), but due to erosion, one collapsed in 2005 and now there are only 8 Apostles.
Chris and I hadn't seen a glimpse of the 12 Apostles when we dropped off the car at the visitors' center, as our goal was to see them for the first time on our hike. We were about an hour into our hike when we turned a corner and were given a fantastic view of the ocean with the 12 Apostles far off in the distance. We had to stop for several minutes to admire the view and take in what we were doing and where we were. In fact we loved the view so much, we both wanted our own picture of us in front of it.
The walk continued for another 3 or 4 hours, and on each turn we could see the 12 Apostles getting clearer and clearer.
The views were lovely, but wow were there a lot of flies in some sections. There were so many flies at one point, I made up a children's song about them:
40 flies on Chris' pack, pack, pack, pack
40 flies on Chris' pack
How ya gonna get them off? How ya gonna get them off?
Swat, swat, swat, swat.
Now spin round, round, round, round
39 flies on Chris' pack, pack, pack, pack...
We sang, talked, and watched out for snakes until we were turned another corner and saw we were only a few hundred meters from the 12 Apostles. There was one view in particular that we loved so much, we must have stayed for 20 or 30 minutes looking out over them. Eventually we made our way back into the tourist crowds, found our car, and continued driving up Great Ocean Road. Tonight we're camping in Port Campbell in a more "urban" campground with warm showers (gotta wash all that sunblock off us!).
Our packing list for camping at Devil's Kitchen and hiking Great Ocean Walk:
You'll notice one missing thing: Bug repellant - sigh... we forgot that in the car.
5km run with Barb's dog Narlah (Monday)
16km hike (Wednesday)
Breakfast: Porridge and fruit
Lunch: Peanut butter sandwiches
Dinner: BBQ chicken skewers, roasted root veggies, and greek salad
We have a new ride! After spending five nights in Australia's biggest city, we rented a car to explore other parts of this wonderful country. Chris nicknamed our new ride the MOBO-40, our MObile Base of Operations for the next 40 days.
In Sydney, we spent five nights at the Sydney Harbour YHA hostel. Though we had stayed in hostels in New Zealand, this was our first time in a shared room. We were a bit nervous about who our roommates might be and how the shared accommodation would work. Our roommates on our first night were a couple from France and kept to the same sleeping schedule as us. We didn't even meet our roommates for the second night as they came, slept, and left very quickly. Our roommates on our third through fifth nights were two women from London, UK and were quite nice as well. Though our roommates and the hostel weren't as social as we were hoping, I declare a success on the shared accommodations! The hostel itself had a great rooftop patio with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House - Our friends Rachel and Ling from Vancouver happen to be in Sydney at the same time as us so we invited them to join us on the rooftop for drinks and bat viewing (see Chris' post below).
Sydney felt like a large city and we got to do typical city things, like we do in Vancouver, only under slightly more crowded conditions! I was able to take a pole class at the famous Bobbi's Pole Studio, go to a crossfit-style community center gym, walk over the Sydney Bridge (just like walking over the Cambie bridge! - just kidding), and visit the beautiful Bondi beach. My cousin Stephen introduced me to his friend Vicki in Sydney who also took us around the sunny, white-sand northern beaches, where we got to experience more of the local culture.
(If the above image appears upside down, perhaps your browser doesn't understand what hemisphere we're in.)
During our time in Sydney we also thought about what we would do next and what we wanted to get out of our time here. We made the bold decision to drive 7000km through this country from Sydney, to Melbourne, to Adelaide, through Alice Springs and the red center, over to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, then down to the coast to Brisbane and back to Sydney. We had originally thought we would not go to the red center, but both of us were disappointed with this decision. After talking to some of the locals, we decided we would test our courage and luck and drive through the Australian Outback. Chris and I are going to earn our Crocodile Dundee hats!
We left Sydney on Wednesday in our MOBO40. Our first stop was a beautiful campsite at Mystery Bay, right on the ocean. I felt at home immediately upon arrival to this campsite. I loved putting up our tent, relaxing to the sounds of the ocean with Chris, and sleeping in our own tent with our own sleeping bags. We made our typical camping breakfast the next morning and ate it overlooking the outgoing tide. After breakfast we took a walk along the smooth, sandy beach. In some places, where the tide had recently been, the sand had hardened slightly from the salt water and the heat of the sun. Walking over those sections felt like soft creme brulee under my feet, with the sand crunching between my toes as I stepped, then feeling my feet sink into the soft sand below the surface layer.
After a night at Mystery Bay, we hopped in the car to drive a couple of hours to spend our next night camping at Ben Boyd National Park. This presented much more trouble than we thought and our two hour journey turned into seven hours. As it turns out, once you leave the highway for Ben Boyd, you end up driving for about 45 minutes on dirt roads until you see a sign indicating that you cannot camp at Ben Boyd without a prior booking, which of course we didn't have. We turned around and headed back for the highway. The next few hours were spent trying to find wifi and another place to camp. At one point, the journey turned a little desperate and we thought we might end up at a large campervan site (which is not the way we like to camp!), but Chris was able to find a wifi signal and book us in at Shipwreck Creek. This turned out to be well worth the extra travel, as we were able to camp among the trees, just a few minutes from Shipwreck Creek beach. The only thing that made me nervous was the sign at the start of the park indicating how to deal with a snake bite. I decided I would not be simply trampling through the woods and instead stay in open areas to hopefully avoid any snakes - at least in my mind. Though not as scary as the prospect of snakes, there were flies everywhere! But no worries, I was able to protect myself with a towel.
I headed down to the beach the next morning for a workout on the sand (much harder than a workout on regular gym flooring as I discovered!).
I look forward to seeing what the rest of the trip will bring and what we will learn in our 7000km journey through the cities, beaches, and deserts.
HIIT-style beach workout
Breakfast: Egg McMuffin (Macca's has free wifi!)
Lunch: Roasted chicken, cucumber, and spinach on a bagel
Dinner: Parmesan pasta
We've been in Australia for a few days now, and we haven't really left Sydney yet, but I've already seen some interesting creatures. None of them are the scary critters Australia is known for that want to kill you, but some of them are fuel for nightmares nonetheless. Here they are in order from cool to "holy crap!"
Kite: We saw this guy while walking along the coast from Freshie (Freshwater) to Curl Curl beach. When I first spotted it, there was a guy standing very close by and I thought he was flying some cool little kite because of how it was fixed in one spot in the air... but I couldn't figure out how he was making it fly into the wind! I wasn't really surprised when I found out it's called a Kite.
Water Dragons: There were a few of these little monsters on the walk between Manly and Shelly (named for the very shelly sand I think) beaches. They're quite large as lizards go - this one was probably 70cm tip-to-tail.
White Ibis: Okay, so these are probably pretty tame, but the oddly shaped necks, long curved beak and weird way they walk all add up to remind me of some creepy part of a Cirque de Soleil show. These seem to hang around the many parks in Sydney, and in particular we keep seeing them around Circular Quay.
Giant friggin' Bats: Also known as Flying Foxes (yes, foxes) or megabats. These just nonchalantly fly over Sydney at dusk. Jeez! They're quite massive, and I'm hoping to get a better picture. It was getting a little dark when I was trying to capture some shots and they move too quickly for me to get a good shot while zoomed in.
One quick housekeeping note: we've moved our older posts from New Zealand into a new archive section, which you can find at the link below, or in the menu at the top. Enjoy!
Walking around the North Beaches
Breakfast: Egg and cheese sandwiches
Lunch: Thai salad
Dinner: Ricotta and spinach stuffed pasta with tomato pesto sauce