Last Day Exploring in Australia

So today (Saturday) was my last full day in Australia – and it was a full day, as I ventured outside of Cairns to Kuranda.

I had a fun day, and it was action packed!

But first, I will share with you my adventure on Friday – Friday I had no plans, the weather was gross – so I took the opportunity to do laundry (as dull as that is) and some paperwork I needed to knock out, as I have about a 24 hour turn around when I arrive back to Wellington before I leave for Dunedin and my road trip with the awesome Rachel to the Energise Conference in Queenstown. However, in teh late afternoon the showers had cleared a little bit, so I spent some time at the pool, then decided that I wanted to try something new for dinner, so I headed to the Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant to give it a try. I settled on the be sampi mebase bali (braised beef in coconut milk) – and it came with rice, pickled veggies and some sort of sprouts side dish that was spicy and good. It was delicious – and the portion was huge – I only finished about half before I was stuffed.

But anyway – back to today. I caught my shuttle at 7:30 and headed to the Railway Station to take the Scenic Railway to Kuranda.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare, so I spent some time exploring the railway station, museum and old cottage before boarding the train.

The construction of the railway was treacherous, and was completed with hand tools. . . Crazy!

The ride up was gorgeous.

The train stopped briefly at Barron Falls Station – with great overlooks:

Then we finished the journey and arrived in Kuranda.

Kuranda is small and super touristy – but I decided to hit up the 3 wildlife parks – starting with the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.

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Then, my next stop was the Bird Sanctuary – these birds were amazing – and very mischievous – you can see my friend (A Macaw) who decided to hang out and try and open the zippers on my backpack!

At this point it was pouring, so I stopped for lunch, where I had a reptile join me beside my table and I had a sampler platter of Emu, Kangaroo and Crocodile – and made the mistake of posting the picture with #minifigmerry on Twitter – and got some interesting tweets – about the inhumanity of consuming meat – whoops. . .

After lunch, I headed to the last of the Wildlife parks – the Koala Sanctuary – I had not planned to do a wildlife experience here, as I had done one in the blue mountains – but the girl convinced me – they had an extra spot – and I could actually hold the koala – so I did it – the cost was less than $15 USD, by the way.

Meet my friend Yoshi:

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It was like holding a sleepy toddler – Yoshi kept leaning his head in.

I explored the rest of the park.

Then I headed back to the Cable Way. There were 2 stations on the way down – and I was able to stop at each, walk around and enjoy the rain forest before ending my journey and catching the bus back to the hotel.

It was a great day – and a neat way to end my Australian Adventure – now I guess I should pack – I have an airplane shuttle to catch tomorrow!

Beautiful Monday in the Blue Mountains

Monday was an adventure packed day, to say the least – we packed so much into a day – and that was thanks to Anderson’s Tours, and my awesome tour guide: Scott (I think – I should have written down his name) he was superb and added things to the day that weren’t on the itinerary because the group wanted them. The group was 20 people – 2 of use were solo female travelers, there were several older couples who were doing this trip before boarding their cruise ships headed to NZ and other cities in Australia, a mother daughter pair, and a few other couples just vacationing in Sydney. It was a fun group – with Americans, Kiwis, Aussies, Canadians, Germans, Brits and South Koreans all represented – so we were a multicultural, quite fun group.

The day started at 7:30 at Circular Quay – I walked from the hostel (3k). We loaded up on our bus, and set out to the Blue Mountains.

After about a 2 hour drive, we arrived in the Blue Mountains, and were greeting with fantastic vistas. Much like the reason the Blue Ridge Mountains back home are “blue”, the Blue Mountains in Australia are  so named because, from Sydney, they look blue. The eucalypts (gum trees), which in the hot sun discharge a fine mist of eucalyptus oil from their leaves. This mist refracts light, which makes the haze look blue at a distance.

Our first order of business was to explore Scenic World a “theme park” with some cool scenic rides. Ride #1 was the Funicular Railway – the steepest incline railway in the world. It has a 128% incline – or 52 degrees. I captured a video going down:

The mountain you see is Serenity Mountain. You will see in the pictures below that I was REALLY happy they updated the cars – the original ones were freaky scary!

After we go off the railway, our guide took us on a little bush walk – talking about the cool flora and fauna we were seeing. There were also remnants and information from the coal mining roots of the village.

After our little walk, we boarded the Cableway back up – the car was crowded, so I don’t have the best pictures, but trust me, the views were amazing!

The next stop was the glass bottom Skyway, which gave us more vistas, a look down at the gorge and a small waterfall.

Next we got back in the mini-bus, and headed to Echo Point, where we looked at the overlook to the 3 Sisters rock formations. There are several legends about the 3 sisters, and most relate to the Pleiades star cluster – I encourage you to Bing or Google and check some out. The Gundungurra and Darug tribes of Australia’s Aboriginal people are a few of many tribes that hold this area sacred. It was tourist-palooza – but an amazing sight to see.

Our next stop – I told y’all it was a fun-filled day – we aren’t even to lunch yet! – was the Waradah Aboriginal Center and show – I learned so much about Aboriginal cultures, and really enjoyed the history of the Didgeridoo and the other stories they shared with us! I have a few videos as well as some pictures.

Once the show was over, we thought we were headed to lunch, but our AMAZING guide had a bit of a surprise in store for us. If we were willing to miss a little lunch time, we could actually take the hike back to the bus, since several folks wanted to walk the trail. Most of us agreed – and a few were shuttled back, and we did the trail. It was totally worth the amazing views – I mean – I am so glad he took us on this journey – because I would have missed these amazing views!

After our hike, we did go have lunch, at an Australian Country Club – lunch was fine – but I was so glad that we traded the hike for the longer lunch – after all – I am a teacher – I can eat in 10 mins – no problem!

But my friends, this day still wasn’t done – our next stop (we thought) was the Wildlife Park – where we knew we would see some of Australia’s most famous creatures, but our guide had another surprise for us – I mean – seriously – this guy was amazing – there were 2 other tours operated by the same company that day – and I think my bus definitely got the best deal and bang for our buck.  He took us to Lennox Bridge – which is the oldest stone arch bridge on the Australian Mainland – cool, right?

We then headed to the Featherdale Wildlife Park, a conservation and animal rescue. . .I got to touch a koala – and I have pictures to prove it! 🙂

I also saw wombats, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, blue penguins, kookaburras, pelicans, the most venomous snake in the world and all sorts of amazing animals – it was definitely a bucket list experience. I will let the pictures speak for themselves though!

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We left the park, and headed to our final adventure – cruise on the Parramatta River to the Sydney Harbor – at sunset. It was the perfect way to end a fantastic day.

I disembarked at Darling Harbor, and went to an Irish Pub with WiFi to have dinner, a nice stout, and work on my blog. It was a fantastic, amazing, unbelievable day! One more day in Sydney (no plans, so we will see what I get up to), before heading to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef!

A day in Picton – a tramp to Bob’s Bay, Ships Cove, Dolphins and delivering mail by boat.

I got up the morning to a beautiful sunshiny day. I got dressed and headed next door to the famous Picton Village Bakkerij (filled with Dutch treats), which I just knew I had to visit in honor of my friend Simone. I grabbed a coffee, a breakfast pie, a vegetable cheese bread for lunch and a dessert treat before heading on my way. I had no plan for the morning, and only had to be back to the harbor to catch my Mail Cruise by 1:15.

I decided I would follow one of the shorter “tramping” trails and venture out to Bob’s Bay. It proved to be a great choice!

I started by walking across the harbor and across the harbor bridge, then set out along the opposite side of the harbor for the start of the trail. I was amazed by some of the boats in the harbor – there were “boats” with boats on them – actually yachts with smaller yachts in some cases.

Once at the trail, I was faced with a choice, the high route of the low route. Both were said to take about 30 minutes, but the low route came with a disclaimer about not being good for kids due to bluffs and cliffs – which translated to me as great views, so I went with the lower. It was beautiful, but they were not kidding about being right by the cliffs – I would not want to be walking with a child on that path – thus the warnings – I even made a stop to grab a trusty hiking stick for myself, just in case. . Still – the views made it clear that I made the right choice – while I enjoy tramping through the bush – the sea views on this trail were amazing.

The trail was quick, and not terribly difficult, and I made it to Bob’s Bay, where I was rewarded with a beach to myself for quite sometime – I sat, enjoyed my picnic lunch and just enjoyed watching the various boats, ferries, kayaks and other vessels pass by as the waves lapped on the shore.

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Once my alarm went off to go back for my next activity, I headed back on the trail, and crossed back over the bridge to check in for my next adventure, a ride on the Mail Boat through Queen Charlotte Sound. At this point the clouds had taken over a bit, and the sky was spitting rain, but hey – whats a little bit of rain on the sea, right?

We departed on time, and our guide was a stitch – he had funny stories about the area, about his mail delivery experiences, and the local history. I started at the top of the boat for the view, but as we were heading out into the coves rather fast, got chilly and went downstairs for a bit, returning to the top at key points to see birds, dolphins and great scenery. Check out these Hector’s Dolphins we saw:

 

Hector’s Dolphins are small (only about 1 meter) and found only in New Zealand – they are also highly endangered.

Once the mail delivery started, it was less fast and windy, so I spent more time up at the top, just savoring the view of this beautiful part of the world.

For some perspective, and so you can see the lay of the land, here is a screen shot of the area we cruised through.

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About 1/2 way through the cruise, we journeyed to Ship’s Cove, most famous for being a landing area and refuge for one Captain Cook. We were able to get off the boat here, and learn a little about the history of this area before continuing on our journey.

We delivered more mail, then headed back to Picton.

At this point it was quite wet and chilly, so I decided that I would go grab dinner before going back to the hostel, and what better to warm me up that some Irish Stew at the pub – while it was March 18th for me – it was still (sort-of) March 17th in the states, so I just celebrated a bit late here.

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Tomorrow is Sunday, and I get to journey to Nelson for my exciting week of school visits. I have a few hours before my bus departs in the afternoon, so who knows what fun I will find before I head out.