Author Topic: A traveller's guide to Australia  (Read 6527 times)

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oz diva

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #30 on: October 20, 2011, 08:14:37 PM »
So, details, how was your trip?

Victoria

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #31 on: October 23, 2011, 01:49:56 AM »
I'm probably going to have to do this is increments, as I am at work (my laptop's keyboard has been quirky of late).


We landed in Sydney at 6AM, and had a 6 hour layover until our flight to Cairns, so we checked our bags in at Qantas and took the train to Circular Quay. Since it was so early, we saw the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from the outside. I was pretty excited, the Opera House is such an iconic building, and it was so great to see it up close. We then wandered around the Royal Botanical Gardens, which were absolutely fantastic - which surprised me because I am not a plant fan. We couldn't help but be jealous of all the people whose morning commute takes them through there.
We then walked through The Rocks (boring) looking for a place for breakfast, and at this point we were hit with the sad reality of prices in Australia - $4 for a cup of coffee?? You guys must make really good livings. So back to the airport, and fly into Cairns.

Cairns is a beach town with no beach, overrun with tourists and tourist traps. Apparently there is nothing to do in Cairns unless you take a (expensive!) tour. We had a day to spare before our Scuba diving cruise left, so we went rafting on the Barron River. It was fun, and the guides were really professional and entertaining! The next day we went on our cruise which was absolutely fabulous. The guides were incredibly professional and nice, and everything worked like clockwork. The food was good, the ship was always clean and there was a really nice atmosphere. The way out was rather choppy, but the rest of the cruise was fine, and the dive sites just got better and better. I can definitely recommend the company. We had an extra day before we could fly out, so we beat the system and went on a walk on our own to Mt. Whitfield. It's a short, but not at all easy track (especially in the heat and humidity of Cairns). We finished ahead of schedule and went to see the botanical gardens.

We flew to Darwin, which is also quite a boring place, but with a nicer atmosphere than Cairns. We went to the aviation museum (DH and I both like planes), but despite Darwin having a very interesting history, the museum was far from impressive, and the exhibits were mostly old and rusty, with no new exhibits since the '80's. We then went to see the Oil Storage Tunnels, and down to the harbour to have a beer, and I insisted on splashing around in the sea for a bit. The water was great, I was sorry we didn't bring our bathing suits with us, but it was getting late.

The next day we set off to Litchfield National Park, and spent the night there. We didn't see all of Litchfield's attractions, but most of them. We were sorry there weren't any mid-range walking tracks: it was either the 30km Tabletop track or short 1-2 km tracks. The next day we drove to Kakadu, which took most of the day and went to see the rock art at Ubirr, which was really impressive. We spent the night in Kakadu and joing a 4WD tour to see Twin Falls and Jim Jim the next day. I guess the best way to see Kakadu is with organized tours/cruises because then you get access to places  you wouldn't normally get on your own with a refular car, plus you get the added bonus of hearing all about the area from the guides. All the guides we listened to had an amazing amount of knowledge about the area, the wildlife, the history - everything. It was great. We left Kakadu the next day and drove to Katherine with a short stop at Edith Falls.
We loved the fact that there were so many fresh water falls easily accessible at the end of the dry season - where we live the falls are from melting snow, and are freezing (and only at the end of winter, when it is still cool outside)!

More to come :)

oz diva

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #32 on: October 23, 2011, 03:02:32 AM »
I agree with you about Cairns, it's not a particularly edifying city. My sister lived there for 15 years and adored it, but living is different to visiting. She lived near where your Barron Falls trip ended.

I went to Kakadu about 20 years ago and my tour also went over the Alligator River into Arnhem Land. There's a real atmosphere about Arnhem Land, such an old old culture. When you see rock art of thylacines painted about 15,000 years ago you get a sense of the history.

I live in Melbourne and we don't quite spend $4 on coffee. But commodities are more expensive than they are in the States.

If you like it up there, I recommend hunting down Ten Canoes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Vzf9BAVGZc a movie about a goose hunt back in the Dreamtime.

Victoria

Iris

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #33 on: October 23, 2011, 03:22:28 AM »
I went to Cairns about 10 years ago just after the collapse of one of Australia's (then) major airlines. The remaining airline had a monopoly on the route and were charging unbelievable prices. Literally, I could have flown to England for the same price (it was a work trip, not MY money  :P ). Also I had to work so except for one trip to the reef (I went up a day early to do it) I had to do without tours and just fit in what I could around meetings.

On the surface of it these were misfortunes but perhaps not, because I loved Cairns. The people were amazingly friendly and I had an awesome time and there were very few tourists. Mind you at the time they were very proud of the fact that unlike many other towns their economy was not dependent on the tourism and so the collapse of the airline didn't hurt them as badly as many other towns - they had a thriving agricultural sector as well.

I'm wondering if after last year's cyclone you got the reverse experience - agriculture is struggling so it's over touristy. Or maybe not. A lot can change in 10 years.
"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.

Shopaholic

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #34 on: October 23, 2011, 03:58:14 AM »
I have a few more minutes so Part II:

In Katherine, we joined a two-day canoe trip. The trips are usually organized for 3 days, and that would have made us a bit stresssed on time, but we were able to join a trip organized for a couple with a great interest in bird-watching for two days. The trip was fantastic. I don't especially like birds, and can't differentiate between them so that part got a bit tedious, but it was a really nice experience. The views were fabulous, and the atmosphere was great. The guide was incredible, and he organized the trip perfectly. The water was also great, we went swimming and floated down rapids. What is great about Australia is that while these organized tours are expensive, the are all-inclusive. The organizers think of everything, plus all sorts of perks (like chocolate when you least expect it! :D). I did learn a lot about birds :D. I think DH's favorite part of the trip was meeting an orphaned 3.5 months old wallaby named Matilda, who was being cared for by one of the guides.

We continued south from Katherine, with a short break in Mataranka. The thermal springs aren't what I'd call thermal, more like tepid, and the water wasn't very inviting. What was awesome was the walkway, which was under a literal canopy of flying foxes. I have never seen so many in one place! We spent the night in Daly Waters pub, which was not only entertaining (people leave memorabilia - everything from name tags and money to their underwear and flip flops, and all of this is on display), but also had terrific food. Seriously, the best burger we had in Australia!

The day after was dedicated to driving just under 1000 kms, with a short detour due to a fire that swept accross the Stuart Highway. During this drive we had one of the only not-nice encounters with Australians - we stopped at a place called Banka Banka, 70 kms from the next stop, and despite the sign saying "Visitors Welcome", when we stopped there the woman who greeted us told us that the kiosk was closed, and that the toilets were being cleaned. I'm sure they get tons of business a day. She was just very unwelcoming, and bearing in mind that the next stop is 70kms away, I would have expected her to be a little more accomodating (as in, "the toilets should be ready in X minutes", not "you're welcome to use my private bathroom").

We spent the night in Alice, and drove to Uluru-Kata Tjuta the next day. We did the 7km trail in Kata Tjuta, which we enjoyed very much. The rock formations are as impressive up close as they are from a distance. We saw Uluru at sunset, and at sunrise the next day then did the base walk. We were a bit disappointed with the base walk because such a large portion of it takes you on a regular dirt road quite a distance away from Uluru, but the short, marked trails had much more interesting things to see on the way. The visitor's center is very interesting and informative. I love hearing the native people's stories of their land, and I did get the feeling that Uluru is about listening and feeling more than climbing to the top - which I wouldn't do.

We returned to Alice that day, and took a very nice hike in Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges the next day. It was actually one of the best trails we did. The views were good, the way was varied, and we got to a swimming hole at the end (always the mark of a good hike!). Unfortunately I got no photos of this place because DH conviced me my camera might get wet on the way (but the only thing that got wet was DH when he slipped and fell *snicker*).

End Part II  :D. Next chapter: the Great Ocean Road.

Redsoil

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #35 on: October 23, 2011, 04:17:19 AM »
Glad you had a good time in Australia!  Looking forward to the next installment.

(Add me to those who had NO idea we were supposed to be quiet about taking over the world.  Quiet?  Isn't that what happens when we're sleeping?)
Look out... 
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Iris

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #36 on: October 23, 2011, 04:59:45 AM »

(Add me to those who had NO idea we were supposed to be quiet about taking over the world.  Quiet?  Isn't that what happens when we're sleeping?)

Clearly you've never heard my husband...
"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.

Zenith

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #37 on: October 23, 2011, 10:49:49 AM »
Ahh the Great Ocean road. Fond memories of being left behind on a car trip along it because I was such a brat  ;D. I'm glad you like our strange, wonderful, bizarre country (mostly the freaky animals, what's up with the platypus and koalas are evil).


(Add me to those who had NO idea we were supposed to be quiet about taking over the world.  Quiet?  Isn't that what happens when we're sleeping?)

Clearly you've never heard my husband...

Clearly you've never met my brother... ;D


katycoo

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #38 on: October 23, 2011, 11:07:41 PM »

We then walked through The Rocks (boring) looking for a place for breakfast, and at this point we were hit with the sad reality of prices in Australia - $4 for a cup of coffee?? You guys must make really good livings.

Welcome to Sydney :)

Salaries are higher but in order to match cost of living.  It all evens out in the wash.

ie.  My DH and I make a combined income of over $100,000 p/a plus superannuation.  We live in the outskirts of the city due to housing affordability and our house was cheap for Sydney ($380,000).
And yet we're low-middle class :)

And you're right, there's not much in the Rocks except for old buildings which house modern and expensive shops.

We flew to Darwin, which is also quite a boring place, but with a nicer atmosphere than Cairns. We went to the aviation museum (DH and I both like planes), but despite Darwin having a very interesting history, the museum was far from impressive, and the exhibits were mostly old and rusty, with no new exhibits since the '80's. We then went to see the Oil Storage Tunnels, and down to the harbour to have a beer, and I insisted on splashing around in the sea for a bit. The water was great, I was sorry we didn't bring our bathing suits with us, but it was getting late.

I'm a little suprised by this.  I've never been but my ILs LOVED Darwin.

Sounds like you saw some amazing thing in central OZ.  I've not been to NT at all, but dying to go.  I want to take the Ghan railroad from Adelaide to Darwin.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2011, 08:00:36 AM by kam0706 »

Iris

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #39 on: October 24, 2011, 01:29:09 AM »

And you're right, there's not much in the Rocks except for old buildings which house modern and expensive shops.


And the Rocks markets if you time your visit right. I love the Rocks markets but I agree that they (and the bridge climb) are the only reason for normal humans to visit the Rocks.
"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.

Redsoil

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #40 on: October 24, 2011, 07:16:54 AM »
Oh yes, The Rocks Markets ROCK!  (Seem to recall the ones I went to were the Firecat Markets or something like that?)  Beautiful artworks in various forms.  I quite like wandering about the back streets and laneways of the Rocks, just looking at buildings and people.

See, I knew Aussies couldn't possibly take over the world quietly.  With all the raucous "Oi, Oi, Oi's!!!"; rousing renditions of "Waltzing Matilda", Rip-roaring rooting *snerk* for our sporting teams, and raising the roof in general (especially by snoring relatives) - it just can't be at a whisper.  Subtle, we ain't.
Look out... 
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Shopaholic

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #41 on: October 25, 2011, 02:42:40 AM »
I think with Darwin what happened was that we missed the actual attractions - the markets, Mindil Beach, stuff like that. We were stressed with organizing the rental car so we did just some "small" things (and my husband just HAS to see any museum that has to do with aviation). I actually liked the city and the atmosphere, and the harbor was really nice. I wanted to see the pearling exhibition too, but it was closed that day.
Heck, I liked Darwin before I got there because I thought it was so awesome that a city was named after Charles Darwin (yeah, I'm a geek).
We missed out on markets everywhere we went :)

Part III:
We rented a car at Melbourne Airport, and planned on spending the night in Geelong, but there were no vacancies, so we continued to Torquay. The phone number for a hostel in Lonely Planet was switched with a place that rents cabins, so we spent the night in a really great cabin on a farm, with excellent views. After two weeks in QLD and the NT, the change of scenery was extreme, and we felt like we were in Europe (A local saying, when something is nice - it's "just like in Europe", we'll have to switch that one around :)!). Torquay was really nice, but the weather was wet and windy. We went down to Danger Point to look around, and it was breathtaking. I don't surf, so that aspect of Torquay really didn't interest me, but it was a nice town.
We spent the next morning looking for a fleece for my husband, who for the second time did not pack warm clothing (!), we found one and set off.

At our first stop, we went down to the beach and talked with some surfers. The weather was rather nasty, so we were impressed by their dedication! We continued on, stopping at some points to take in the view. We did stop at Erskine falls, then out to Teddy's Lookout for a great view, and had lunch on the wharf in Lorne. We also stopped at the Lighthouse in Apollo Bay, but didn't go up (it was closed), but there was a short 20-minute trail that took us down to an inlet. We missed the turnoff at Kennet River to see the koalas, but we caught up with them on the way to Cape Otway (not that it is hard to catch up with a koala).
We were driving down the narrow, winding road when we saw people standing on the side, after a few comments about how rude and stupid it is to leave your car like that and stand in a road like this, we realized that they were all looking up into the trees and taking pictures, so we stopped too and there were lots and lots of koalas, sleeping up in the trees. They didn't even open an eye when we approached. I was amazed at how an animal evolved to be so lazy :) Anyway, that totally made my day.
The Cape Otway Lighthouse was just closing, so we didn't enter, but took a short walk around.

We made the mistake of reserving a room at Warrnambool. We didn't think it would take us so long to go along the road, with all the stops and the difficult driving. So we decided to see the Apostles, and then make our way to Warrnambool. We planned on coming back to do the Fly Treetop Zipline tour the next day, so we would stop at the places we missed on the way back. So we saw the apostles. It's always a great experience to see something you've seen so many times in photos! It was incredibly windy and so cold, so we only braved it for a few minutes, then continued on. On the way to Warrnambool we saw the most amazing sunset, unfortunately it was inland, from the car.

The next morning we went to Tower Hill Reserve early, and saw lots of animals! It was so great - we even saw kangaroos boxing! (Well, it was one punch, but still). It was the closest we got to kangaroos and to emus as well. On the way back east we stopped at London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge and the Arch, all amazing places. It was cold and windy, but we could see how powerful nature is, and the force with which the ocean hits the cliffs. Made us feel really insignificant :).

The weather took a turn for the worse, and at one point we couldn't even see where we were going - so we stopped for lunch and contemplation. We considered going to Phillip Island or back to Melbourne, and eventually decided to return the car and head into Melbourne. So, we didn't see the penguins at Phillip Island, but we realized that it would require many more hours of driving in less than ideal weather, and we were ready for some city sight-seeing.

We spent the next day in Melbourne, the weather started looking up, but we went to the Aquarium and took a ferry to ScienceWorks. Both were geared more towards kids than we realized, but we made the most of it :). We also came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as bad food in Melbourne. The first night we ate at Camy's Dumplings in ChinaTown which was the most cost-effectice meal we had in Australia, and delicious as well!

Next, part IV - Sydney and heading home.

Iris

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #42 on: October 25, 2011, 03:57:57 AM »

 They didn't even open an eye when we approached. I was amazed at how an animal evolved to be so lazy :) Anyway, that totally made my day.


Geek fact on koalas: They are a great example of every niche being filled. Eucalyptus leaves are very toxic but a plentiful source of food. So the sleep-all-day thing is so that their bodies can process the toxins. Basically all they ever do is eat and sleep :)
"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.

oz diva

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #43 on: October 25, 2011, 04:57:15 AM »
A friends greyhound once attacked a koala, the koala won. The dog survived, but with terrible scars.

Victoria

katycoo

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #44 on: October 25, 2011, 08:04:11 AM »
I always forget how dingdangity cute koalas are.  Then I go to the zoo and they look so snuggly!

There aren't really any wild koalas near me.