Saturday, February 28, 2015

Holy Cow!!!

We took a train ride to the city of Geelong today, which was really nice. Peaceful little place along the bay. We had a very good pizza, walked along the esplanade, saw some of a very big air show from the train. One of Geelong's things is that all along the esplanade there are tall bollards that have been painted up. Walked by one that was a meter maid, with her bag slung over her shoulder, a ciggie hanging from her lip, and she's knitting a sock. So I whipped out my sock project:

After our visit there we decided to go to a Thai restaurant in downtown Melbourne that we had read about. In the Asian area, second floor. We figured cheap and cheerful, Pad Thai and beer. 


We fell through the looking glass to hipster heaven. With Thai food. There must be 500 people up here, all talking at the top of their lungs. The music pounds away. We're the oldest people in here by a long shot. And the waiters have the most hilarious hipster facial hair. 

I feel kind of sad because the record album covers that are clipped to the walls - obviously meant as ironic statements about something? Yeah. I'm sure I have owed most of them at some time. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Vive le difference

Woke up in Port Douglas - 30 degrees and humid. 

Stepped off the plane in Melbourne- 23 degrees fresh and cool. That's better!

We're looking forward to exploring the city. Found this alley last night:

Completely covered in all manner of street art. There was also a photo shoot of wedding dresses going on - Korean group. Not the first time in this trip that we've seen bridal wear being photographed in 'interesting' locations. 

Anyhoo - there's a city to explore. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Don't play with your food.

Or, when good food goes bad.....

Prawn assault!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

As promised, so delivered

We've been snorkelling before, and enjoyed it very much. We figured - snorkelling in Australia, more of the same. 

Boy were we wrong!

It was fantastic!!!!!

We knew we were going to take a trip to the reef - who would come all this way and not? The question was - how would we do it? There are many choices. We decided we wanted a smaller boat experience, rather than taking a big boat out to a platform with hundreds of people. We also wanted to deal with snorkelling - no scuba. We settled on a company called Wavelength, and they were super. They picked us up and we joined the group at the marina - 30 passengers, three crew. From Port Douglas it is about an hour and a bit to the reef. 

We were very lucky with the weather. It has been blazingly hot, humid and sunny - the cyclone to the south had swept away all the cloud cover. Yesterday was still hot and humid, but high cloud cover had returned, reducing the chances for spontaneous human combustion. 

Because it is summer here the ocean is warm - about 30 degrees. Makes for easy swimming. Also means dangerous stinging jellyfish are hanging about. Not so much, maybe, on the outer reef. Maybe. But the beaches have nets up to provide safe swimming and we were told not to wade on the beach outside the netted area. And there are also stinger suits. On our snorkel trip we were all issued a suit. Black Lycra onesie with built in mittens and a hood. Very fetching. We were assured that there really weren't stingers as far out as were headed. Probably not. Hardly ever. The real purpose of the suit was sun protection. Which was a good enough reason for me. Quite a sight to see 30 people in their swimsuits, already hot and sweaty, trying to fight their way into slightly damp stinger suits. No one got hurt in the process!

We made three stops to snorkel and each one was magical. 

I know - isn't he cute? Well, we really did see anenome fish, among many other things. We don't have a waterproof camera, and we could have rented one, but I wanted us to concentrate on the experience. I wanted us to be comfortable and relaxed in the water, and we were. The little guy above is actually a flash drive, loaded with pictures from the day. When we get home we can relive it all again. 

We did see many wonderful things, including a white tipped reef shark and more colourful fish and fascinating coral than you could shake a stick at. An amazing variety. Huge underwater structures. But the most amazing thing to me, and something I never expected to actually see where the giant clams. Truly huge! And they would close up if something passed over their light sensing spots, which was  really cool. 

Truly, the reef delivered,and then some.  And because I love you all and am dedicated to your entertainment - here we are I our stinger suits:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

From Cairns to Kuranda

From subtropical Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast we headed north to Cairns. Just in time, too. A huge cyclone made landfall on Friday in the area. When we woke in Noosaville on Thursday the rain had begun and when we got back to Brisbane things were starting to get pretty wet. 

Then we got to Cairns. No cyclone here - in fact Cyclone Maria was tearing things up to the south and Cyclone Lam was swinging North, leaving things hotter, sunnier and more humid than normal in Cairns.  And you know how I love hot and humid, right?

In the hills above Cairns is the town of Kuranda. Once upon a time it was important to the logging and mining industry.  At some point in time the hippies discovered it, and now it is a tourist day trip town. Back in the day a narrow gauge railway was built up to the town, and it still operates. There are several ways to get to Kuranda - bus, private car, rail line and cable car. We took the cable car up. 

It was quite wonderful skimming above the rainforest, seeing how it changed as we moved from one side of the hills to another. There were two stops along the way, where there were boardwalks that took us out through the forest. And Mike from Austria was the friendly and informative naturalist

He made sure we knew what we were looking at. Things like this...

Female golden orb spider - I was waiting for Wilf at the interpretive centre, looked up and saw her above me. I moved. 

Way on the other side of the gorge we could see the train making its morning run up the valley. 

Being that it was a summer Saturday and Chinese New Year and there was a cruise ship in Cairns - well Kuranda was hopping. We decided to head for the attractions and try and beat the crowds - and the heat. 

First up - Koala Bears!!! 

A little sleepy bear!

At Birdworld they told us to take off all jewelry and hearing aides and shiny things before going in. So, were standing there and I fell something land on my head. 'Wilf, what's on my head?'  Nothing. Again -  'Wilf! What is on my head?' I finally got his attention and this is what was going on. 

Actually Wilf was of much more interest, what with the buttons on his shirt and his sunglasses. 

And while we were there - another cassowary!

And a black swan...

And then, after bears, birds and butterflies a ride back down in a heritage train car. The rail line was a real engineering marvel, full of twists and turns and tunnels and bridges. It was built in the late 1880's -  34 very challenging kilometres. 

Great ride!

And a cool one to refresh on the way back 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Just when we think we've got it figured out

Eh, not so much. 

So, the world cup of cricket is underway. But you all knew that, right? Riveted to the tellie? 

On Saturday evening we took a look - Australia had just finished it's innings and they were on a break. We went out for a walk and then dinner and upon our return  England was into it's innings. We settled in with the iPad at our side, knowing our friend Mr Google would explain things to us. We know the broad strokes of the game, but there are many details to get sorted. And statistics - yikes! Puts the baseball boys to shame. 

I thought we were doing well, figuring out what was going on until the very end. There was a penalty - or there wasn't. The batter was out - or he wasn't. The other batter was out? Eventually a call was made and the game was over. Australia over England by 111 runs. We looked at each other 'What the what?' I turned to Twitter for clarification, only to discover that all of Twitter was biting its paws in a rage over the call. It wasn't just us not understanding, apparently. 

Turns out we missed one item of interest in the Australian innings:

A golden duck is when the batter is put out on the first ball bowled to him. No score, thanks for coming out. 

So, we've either been watching a game or a recap in the evenings. We're starting to be able to tell which teams are better and see some strategy. Yep - another decade or two of watching and we might know enough to have an opinion. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Um.... oops?

We've moved up the coast from Brisbane to the resort community of Noosaville. The main resort area is on the ocean at Noosa Head - big beaches, high street full of shops, lots of people. Not, thankfully, overdeveloped like, say, Waikiki or even the Gold Coast south of Brisbane. Noosaville is a few kilometres up the Noosa a River - it is quiet, low key. And full of restaurants!

The day after we arrived we met up with a fishing guide - Wilf wanted to see if he could catch something on his fly rod. So, there we were, standing on the dock at 5:00 am. Too hot to fish later in the day! 

 The sun is barely up, Wilf is casting and it is raining a bit. 

He kept at it. 

And at it even though it got very windy. 

Wilf and Phippsy, our guide consulted about various courses of action. Phippsy decided to toss out an artificial lure with a spinning rod to see what was out there. You know what happened next, right?

I had my hands free, so he handed me the rod to land what turned out to be a big mangrove jack. With teeth!

So - I landed the only fish of the day - sorry honey.....

We also saw a Jabiru, which is an Australian stork. This one is a chick!

Something familiar about this place...

Sydney is a big place - somewhere around 4 or 5 million people, depending upon who you ask. It looks like a city that works. Like any big city I'm sure it has its problem areas, and as tourists we saw only a little bit of it but I'd give it a big thumbs up. 

Our next stop was up the coast to Brisbane. Brisbane seems like Calgary and Denver - younger cities with a real go getter attitude. The bones of the older city of Brisbane are there, but they've been layed over with a glittering new city. 

We stayed in a very nice hotel a short walk from the river, which meant we could use the crazy 'deconstructed' footbridge to the other side.  It is very pretty at night when it is all lit up. That's our hotel with the swoops on it in back. 

The bridge brought us to a collection of cultural buildings. There was the gallery of modern art, the state library, the regular art museum, performing arts centre, science centre and much more, all in a series of connected parks. Apropos of nothing there was this guy:
'Cause sometimes that's just how it goes. 

And while this area, called Southbank, is on the river it doesn't have a beach. No problem - let's make one!

Complete with sand and bathing beauties. 

We also took a ferry ride up the river and back, which is always a great way to see a city. 

As much as I enjoyed our brief time in Brisbane, the best thing about it was visiting with my friend Susan. We worked together back in the day in Calgary and she headed off on an Australian adventure before Wilf and I moved to Victoria. We had been out of touch, but reconnected through the magic of Facebook several years ago. And that has been great, but it was wonderful to see her again and meet her husband. I hope we didn't bore him too utterly with our reminiscing!
We had a delicious dinner at the Breakfast Creek Hotel - my pictures aren't very good so I pinched Susan's from Facebook. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Guess what we saw!

Part of the whole 'we're not in Kansas anymore' aspect of being in Australia has to do, of course, with the flora and fauna. In Sydney there are beautiful parks full of beautiful trees. It is summer here and there are trees and shrubs flowering - some look familiar to us as house plants, but here they are big. And the birds are all different. I looked up at one point because I heard a harsh squawking - and there was a sulphur crested cockatoo, just flying around like it was a crow or something. 

We decided to go to the Toranga Zoo in Sydney to look at more local critters. The zoo is a short ferry ride across the harbour from downtown. Originally built in 1916, only a few of the beautiful old buildings remain as the rest of the zoo has been totally modernized. They had African animals:

But we were really there to see the Australian animals. We saw the platypus in its special dark house - no pictures, but I will say that they are much smaller than I expected. We have both seen emus and ostriches - and there were emus here. But neither of us had see a cassowary. And the resident specimen was right down at the fence, giving us the hairy eyeball. 

Isn't that a fabulous face! With all the research being done on dinosaurs and whether they had feathers and coloured skin - well there is definitely something of the dinosaur about this critter. 

And then there were these guys:

But I know what you really want to see. This guy:

He only had his eyes open long enough to get that leaf in, then it was:

He was positively scintillating compared to this guy, though. 

Doesn't look very comfortable, but what do I know!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Learned a new phrase today.

I had a comment that travelling in Australia must be easier because we understand the language. Well. Yes, In theory. Certainly we don't have the challenges of, say, Japan. But all is not obvious - I could and probably write about coffee culture here. Ordering a cup of coffee is not a straightforward thing. But that is not the topic for today. 

Politics at the federal level here is in the midst of a big to-do, which leads to the new phrase. The prime minister is faced with a leadership spill. In Canada a spill would likely have something to do with petrochemicals - right? In this case, it appears to be a case of a loss of confidence in the leadership of the prime minister. By a member of his own party. There will be a vote either tomorrow or Tuesday and the media, at least is totally obsessed. It does seem like the Australian political parties like to eat their leaders, loudly, publicly and fairly often. 

But, speaking of Aussie politics. The New South Wales Liberal party is having a meeting at our hotel, and when we came out this morning look what was outside. 

I'm short, but come on - that thing is huge! The label on the grill says 'Behemoth'. The blue label on the side is advertising the candidate - a Mr Baird. We were stunned. Can you imagine a Canadian politician being associated with a thing like this? With a 12.9 litre engine? Our politicos have buses that run on fryer oil, or pure thoughts and good wishes. Hard to imagine one having their name on something that looks like it could eat a Hummer for lunch and use a Smart Car as a Tic Tac. 

And hey - speaking of things that are different and eating things for lunch. We've been watching rugby. I think those guys eat crybaby footie players for lunch. Tis a very fine line between rugby and a brawl!

Surfing town

Sydney is famous for its beaches and we figured we had to go for a look. For many people Bondi is the iconic beach, but we decided to go to Manly. Not only would we get a very nice ferry ride but a fellow Wilf knew from Sidney lives in Manly now so we could have a visit. 

The ferry docks on the harbour side at Manly - there's a small town beach there. But a short walk up the pedestrianized street and - there - the wide open ocean. And a truly beautiful beach. 

Walking around the town, walking along the promenade, admiring the views - we were trying to decide what the town reminded us of. We decided it had the fun, fizzy energy of a place like Waikiki, but without the crazy and the development. Back in the day Manly was a place for Sydney folk to get away from the city and through some miracle they have not torn it all down and built hotels and condos all along the water. There are neighbourhoods with little brick cottages from the 1920's and small 1930's apartment buildings mixed in with more recent construction. 

This weekend was also the beginning of a week long surfing competition so the activity level was even higher than the usual summer Saturday. 

I know - I can hear you asking where all the people are. Big beach - seemed to be room for everyone, even viewing stands and VIP tents for the competition. 


Friday, February 6, 2015

Well, that was a first.

I So there I was. 9:15 this morning. Getting a breathalyzer test. First time ever. But Mom - don't panic! It turns out that before they'll let you climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge you have to prove that you are sober. Doesn't matter what time of the day or night. No drinken fools allowed!

I first saw pictures of the bridge climb during the Sydney Olympics in 2000. I told Wilf that if we ever got there I was doing it - with or without him. Of course during the ensuing 15 years we've done the Grand Canyon Sky Walk, the giant Ferris wheel in Yokahama and other adventures, so away we went. 

In order to be certain that Nothing gets dropped onto the 8 lanes of traffic or the two train lines everything is very tightly controlled. We were issued jumpsuits and tethers for our glasses, sunglasses and hats. Our wireless radios and headsets were also clipped to us. If they didn't think your shoes were up to the  task then appropriate shoes were issued. If it had been cold or wet then rain suits and fleeces were available. And gloves. With clips...

We also had wide belts that had a cable with a clip on the end. It connected to a wire system so once we started onto bridge we were tied on. 

We walked out under the bridge below the roadway. Eventually we came to a system of ladders - more like steep stairs. Up up we went, at one point emerging between two lanes of traffic before continuing up into the bridge upper structure. We were thoroughly caged in and busy climbing so the traffic was incidental. 

Once we were up top we began to climb up the curved top of the bridge. Because we had solid metal decking to walk on and hand rails on both side, and our cable tether I didn't feel overly exposed. And the climb up was more like a long flight of stairs. 

In yesterday's post I had you look for the two flags on the top of the bridge. That is where we went. Amazing views all over the city. We weren't allowed to carry anything with us, including cameras. Pete our guide took pictures, including a group shot at the top. 

Aren't we all so snazzy in our jumpsuits? (And no I do not know how to rotate the darn picture and Wilf won't let me go to sleep until I finish this so you are just going to have to turn your head)

We had a breezy overcast morning, which was great. I'm so glad we did it!

Blame it on the jet lag

I'm We got ourselves to Sydney - 15 hours is a long flight! Once we napped and refreshed we felt fairly good, so we decided to explore the city a bit. We made our way to the Circular Quay, where we could feat our eyes on some iconic sights.....

Just a couple of tourists and their selfie stick. (See the flags on the top of the bridge? Remember those - we'll talk later)

After exploring The Rocks historic area we settled on a late 19th century hotel/pub called The Australian for a meal. Great beer, delicious cloudy apple cider and pizza. Instead of Italian style pizza we decided to go with the local speciality - half emu and half kangaroo.

Looks yummy,eh? The emu was sort of like pulled pork, with onions, a BBQ type sauce and cherry tomatoes. The kangaroo had mild peppers and dried cranberries. All good. So there we are, eating our pizza, thinking about the name of the pizza.  The coat of arms. I'm going to blame it on the long flight that we ate the whole thing before we got it. Coat of arms. Emu and kangaroo. Like the coat of arms of the country.... 

Time for some sleep!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

We're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!

We're down under! Having a 'flat white' coffee while we wait for our room after a 15 hour flight! We did it!