As expected, we have been in busy travel mode since Matt’s mom, Steph, arrived in Australia a couple weeks ago. She is one well traveled woman and knows how to see the most out of a place in a short amount of time. On nights that I don’t immediately crash once my head hits the pillow, I have been replacing my blog time with winter Olympics catch-up. Oops… now we’ve just arrived in NEW ZEALAND and I’m so behind! Fortunately, super mom Steph has kept such beautifully written documentation of her adventures through Sydney, Uluru, Melbourne and The Great Ocean Road that I couldn’t resist asking if she’d mind me posting it on her behalf… She was gracious enough to share it with me and thus, I get to share it with you! Enjoy :).
“Why does it feel like I live on turbo time when I travel. It has already been one week. Sydney, Uluru and most of the Great Ocean Road is in the past already. I could not wait to see Matt and Lindsay and now we have settled into an awesome travel rhythm and it seems as if they had not been gone ten months. I was able to see where they lived and met some of their friends. I would compare St. Kilda to “boys town”, the right blend of youth, funk and cool. I was fortunate enough to have been there on a Thursday night when there was the St. Kilda’s local market. The back drop is the infamous Luna amusement park and the ocean. They had a combination of unique food booths, clothes and the usual street market stuff. After sunset they had a drum jam and ﬁre dancers for entertainment . Some ﬁre dancers were really bad and others were really good. Throwing the ﬂaming sticks high in the air and catching them was a very popular trick. Sitting close could be a little hazardous as near misses were a frequent encounter. All in the life of a ﬁre dancer. It was the right mix of entertainment and danger. Matt took us to his restaurant where he made me a cappuccino with a ﬂower in the cream. A true Barista. Of course his boss and fellow workers loved him and were sorry he was leaving and they whipped us up a breakfast of beans, eggs and toast. It doesn’t sound that appetizing but it was great. We also took a few of their friends to the local pub for dinner. They really developed a nice group of caring friends.
I had a great time on my own in Sydney. Day one, I walked across the Sydney Bridge and proceeded to the Zoo. A twelve mile excursion through many neighborhoods and very smart areas. It was Sunday, so there were quite a few interesting craft and art markets. I decided on the zoo because I did not want to take a chance that on my second trip “down under” I would not encounter these awesome marsupials in the wild. A bit of a cop out, but I really enjoyed the experience. On Sunday night I was able to catch a performance of Opera Hits at the Sydney Opera house. Amazing. On Monday, I signed up for a guided hike in the Blue Mountains. Hard to believe that a park like that could exist just one hour outside of Sydney. There were four of us, one British girl, Liz, living in Hong Kong and two americans from Nebraska. It was an beautiful hike and such a beautiful day. The blue tint to the mountains was from the oil that is secreted from the Eucalyptus trees and it really looked blue. So much of Australia’s original infrastructure was built by convicts. They would indenture themselves and then gain their freedom when a large project would ﬁnish. They ﬂew in quarried stone for the walking paths. They had ladders and guard rails for the steep parts and beautiful stone riverbed crossings and lookouts. The Blue Mountains were visited by Darwin when he was only 25. He was a devoutly religious Christian at this point. The animals and especially the Platypus made him ﬁrst speculate that they were such contradictions in nature. He wrote for the ﬁrst time that their appeared to be two creators, an original thought that served as a basis for his Evolution theory. For dinner, Liz and I took the ferry to Manly Beach in Sydney. We walked around, had a great Italian meal and took the ferry back to Sydney with all the night lights in the background. I really loved Sydney. If I had to choose one city in the world I had to live in, it would be Sydney. Matt and Lindsay claimed that I had not experienced Melbourne yet. More of this later.
Tuesday morning I headed to the airport to meet the kids for our adventure to the Red Center. They looked wonderful and seemed very happy. What more could a mom ask for?
On to the Red center. It’s hard to describe Uluru. Not our usual type of excursion but I was glad we did it. Our bus driver from the airport warned us about the heat and the ﬂies. He told us that our ﬁrst stop had to be the store to invest in mosquito nets. Our nets became our Uluru fashion statement. Hitchcock could of had a ﬁeld day. Invasion of the black ﬂies, down under.
We only hiked and experienced the sights at sunrise and sunset because of the dangerous heat. 110 F on both days. The light hit these Aboriginal sacred sights in the most amazing way. We did get to hike the 11km around Uluru and had an amazing sunset dinner and astronomy lesson the ﬁrst night. I never realized that the Southern Cross constellation was on the Aussie ﬂag. We also had our ﬁrst big nature encounter. Two dingo pups hung out by our dinner area. The second night we went to Kata Kjuta and saw probably the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. Our adventure culminated with a rainbow sunset over the Kata Kjuta????? It was truly amazing. The three of us were completely blown away. We could see where the spiritual vibe came from and why these sites were so sacred to the Aborigine. As you walk around the rock, there were many places that you could not even take photos. These were sacred areas where men or women would tell their stories. It was funny because these locations had natural holes and caves and you could see where the inspiration came from and visualize the types of stories that were told. They were gender speciﬁc. Women sites for their story telling and men sights for their story telling. We learned a lot about the Geology of the formations but nothing about their sacred signiﬁcance or history. What we did learn was that the Aborigines do not regard time the same way we do. There is no past, present or future, only the now. No birthdays or holidays. So when you inquire about their history they only refer to the ongoing. You could see how it could be inspirational, but we left knowing little more than when we came. They do not tell their story to the unworthy. (Us Gringos). We were only there for a day and a half and it was perfect.
I am falling so far behind that I am going to continue with the present and than I will back track. I should learn from the Aborigine. I would not have to get upset with my timeliness. Our days are so full and when we ﬁnally collapse, we always say we could of packed one more activity or sight into our day. But the attractions close at ﬁve and kitchens close at nine so our days are fairly structured.
After Uluru and our night in Melbourne we started on our Great Ocean Road Adventure. Since we had several days we were told to ﬁrst go to the Mornington Peninsula. It is about an hour south of Melbourne. A great weekend get away for the wealthy. Beautiful waterfront homes, quaint towns, beautiful vineyards and a gorgeous National Park. We were told we had a good chance to see wild Kangaroos in the park. We did not hold out a lot of hope, but soon after we entered the park we saw them. Not one or two, but packs. We saw them hanging out, eating and hopping. Wow, was it exciting. We were able to get pretty close. They were so cool. They stand on their back legs and stand tall. And than when they hop they use their two smaller limbs. Just like on National Geographic. It was the ﬁrst time Lindsay and Matt saw them in the wild too. The Kangaroos and lunch at a Vineyard were the highlight of our day in Mornington. We stayed in a town called Portsea so we could catch the early morning ferry to the mainland and the start of the Great Ocean Road.
We did not have any reservations on the road because we were not sure how far we wanted to go. Some do the whole road in one day. It is a real shame because not only do you see the coastal scenery but you go through an amazing Rainforest called the Otway, that had great treks. The rainforest had Myrtle and Beech trees the size of the California Redwoods. There were around three hundred feet tall. On the ground were giant ferns that had tree trunks. Everything was huge. We were lucky to see a black snail. Completely indigenous to the Otways. It is the only snail in the world that is a Carnivore. There were also beautiful water falls. It was an incredible micro climate. On one side of the rain forest was dense agriculture on the other the arid coastline: amazing. Our next detour was down to the Otway Lighthouse. Rumor had it that there were Koala’s just hanging in the trees in their natural habitat. We didn’t hold out a lot of hope again but we thought the drive would be beautiful anyway. As soon as we turned off the road we saw a Koala in the tree. Than another and another. It reminded me of the kids from Mary Poppins hanging out of the trees. After taking about 100 pictures with my telephoto lens we saw one at eye level. They sleep 18 hours a day, but this one was awake and interested. It was indescribable. They were the cutest animals I have ever seen. We were mesmerized by them, event though he just sat there and looked at us. The ﬁrst couple of beaches we stopped at were on the Surf coast. World class waves and surfers. The waves were so big and the surfers were so good. It was so much fun to watch. As we headed down the Great Ocean Road, the cliffs got bigger, the seas rougher and the landscape much more extreme and dramatic. There were giant limestone columns sticking out of the surf. There were extensive boardwalks and lookouts. We could only go down to one beach. The rest were protected and too dangerous. We were standing at the top of about one hundred foot cliffs. There were not only giant columns but arches and caves, gorges and grotto’s. The most famous and dramatic was called The Twelve Apostles. At one time there was twelve limestone columns, now there is only eight. The whole coast was a ship captains nightmare and many, many ships were lost. We were able to explore one of the beaches that a shipwreck washed up. Some of the most dramatic scenery I have ever seen. Every beach had a name, a unique geologic formation and an extensive boardwalk. On the second night we were able to see the most beautiful sunset over the ocean. No shortage of unbelievable beauty.
We had enough time when we returned to Melbourne for a personal city tour from our guides Matt and Lindsay. They were determined to get me to love their city. They knew how much I liked Sydney so they had a challenge. At night we walked through the heart of the city and the river walk. I had to admit it was pretty sensational. There were the most beautiful architecturally unique bridges that we walked across. On one side of the river was the Federation square where there was an Omnimax, tourist ofﬁce and one huge TV where all the major sporting events are shown. The square was a deﬁnite heart of the city. All along that side of the river were cafes and a boardwalk. On the other was new buildings with up market restaurants and bars, boardwalks, and artistic displays. Every hour ﬁre spouted out of these concrete columns. We walked back to the hotel down the main drag. There were the usual stores but in addition an ethnic restaurant every other building. it was nothing to have a sushi take away, next to a Vietnamese soup restaurant, next to a Krispy Creme, or a Kabob house. Every country had a store front selling their street food. I had never heard of a lot of them. But the kids knew all the cheap eats and they have really diversiﬁed their food choices. With more time, I would of tried some of their favorites. We stopped for some Meze. Of course, my comfort food. The next day we continued our walking tour. The highlight for me was visiting the many alleys. There were some just devoted to Grafﬁti. Others to high end cafes and others to shops. A city within a city. I had to admit that Melbourne was pretty amazing. More culturally diverse than Sydney. Not as Pristine as Sydney, but in a good way. I think if I was the kids, I would of liked Melbourne also.”