Aussie Hospitality: No Dramas, mate!
Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
57Trip End May 2010
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After our rad Great Barrier Reef dive trip, we raced South to escape the oppressing heat of FNQ (Far North Queensland). We made a quick stop at Eungella National Park (pronounced 'young-uh-la' with an accent on the 'young" part), one of those out-there, rarely visited gems. Eungella protects Australia's longest (and oldest) stretch of subtropical rainforest (Yes - more superlatives!).
Eungella at sunset
The Kookaburro! Just one of Australia's amazing birds!
This video shot just after dark captures the fantastic noise these birds make! It took us awhile to even figure out that this amazing noise was coming from a bird!
It's also home to the Eungella gastric brooding frog, which incubates its eggs in its stomach and gives birth by spitting out the tadpoles! We didn't see these bad boys, but we did see platypus--two of them in the wild. These cheeky creatures performed tricks like Sea World dolphins, copulated with proud public displays and one of them even bit Lindsey's toe. OK, maybe none of that happened, but it was still really cool to see these cuteys in action; they often swim with just their bill skimming above the water's surface that just makes you grin!
Platypus mate! Seeing these guys in the wild is pretty cool. Getting up at 5am to see catch these guys is not so cool! ;)
Queensland's central coast got hammered by heavy rains so we skipped on sailing the Whitsunday Islands (need good weather), diving the world famous Yongala wreck (water was too rough for boats to go out) or visiting Fraser Island (need good weather). Although we missed these goodies, we sure saved some money and now we can use this time to climb more!!
We motored down to the Glasshouse Mountains to visit to the Australian Zoo (the zoo started by the Irwin family in the 70s and was made extremely famous by the late Steve Irwin). This zoo is the most fantastic zoo we've ever visited! The zoo encompasses a large area of over 100 hectares, a 5000-person stadium, named the 'Animal Planet Crocoseum', where snake, bird and crocodile shows are conducted, running space for kangaroos (which visitors can enter and even feed the kangaroos) and the opportunity to pet koalas (which are marsupials, not bears). All of these attractions sound cheesy and hardly in the name of conservation, but Steve's and the zoo's main message is that by getting you to love and appreciate the animals, you in turn will help protect them. And we believe it works. We've never seen so many people so ready to donate after paying $50 just to enter the zoo! Here's a selection of the wildlife you see and often interact with!
Crocs at the Crocodile Hunter's zoo... who'd a thunk it!
The tiger show is really unbelievable!
Just look at this little beauty!
Here's a video of these cool creatures! The speaker has quite the QLD accent too!
Lindsey feeding a red roo! They are so soft and fuzzy!
After a full and exhausting day at the zoo, we visited our new friends, Gary and Elaine, who have a paddock in the Glass House Mountains! Gary and Elaine showed us around their beautiful property and had us over for a wonderful dinner! A big thanks to you both!
Gary, Elaine and Lindsey with Mount Ngungun behind
Despite all the rain that these parts had been receiving, we awoke to sunny skies, so we tramped up to the base of Mt. Tibrogargan to climb Troposphere, one of the many multipitch climbs on this hunk of rock. The mozzies (mosquitoes) were terrible though, so we had to race off the ground to get away from them!
Mt. Tibrogargan (and some of the climbing routes!) The climb we did was on the center/left-hand side of the mountain/
We just love to climb
We tore off in the afternoon to make our way to Springbrook National Park where we made a quick camp-out (cooked chicken tikka, drank a few beers and danced outside the van to Australia's KEXP: Triple J). All night we could hear the loud thumping of kangaroos bounding through the woods. Springbrook sits at the Southern border of Queensland (with New South Wales) on a 1000 meter plateau in the McPherson Range. We woke early the next day and hit a few of the hikes around Springbrook to see this rugged landscape of gorges, cliffs, waterfalls surrounded by dense temperate rainforest.
One of the many massive waterfalls in Springbrook (this one is over a hundred meters high)
Lindsey taking a dip at Natural Bridge, a beautiful area in the heart of the Springbrook. When we got out of the water, we ran into this guy:
A big python!
Ben's vid to go along with it!
From Springbrook, we headed out the Northern Coast of NSW, specifically to the famous and tourist-loved Byron Bay. Although we didn't get on boards to get bashed in the great surf there, we did play heaps in the sand and surf! We have to get back to this place and spend more time in the future!
The beaches of Byron Bay! Can't beat 'em!
The lighthouse lookout in Byron Bay
It was then onto Sydney where we caught up with our mate, Dan, whom we rafted the Sun Koshi river with in Nepal. Dan opened up his place to us and we had a great three days with him. Dan lives in Manly, the lovely northern beach community just a short ferry ride away from the downtown harbour, which sports a wicked surf beach. Good times and big thanks to Dan, Luke and Dave for letting us crash!
Dan, local Sydney legend, and Lindsey giving the Sydney nightlife a boost!
Making friends on the Manly ferry!
Dan and Ben got some surfing and boogie boarding in at Manly's great beach--just a few mins walk from downtown Manly!!
We hit up the Blue Mountains after Sydney for some hiking and climbing. What a beautiful area, and with lovely temperatures this time of year.
Dan recommended The National Pass hike in the Blue Mtns and we'd recommend this one now too! It's a beautiful track pretty much cut right into the sandstone that gives airy views of the park and you're sure to see heaps of bird life!
Ben awed by the shear number and size of waterfalls in the "Blueys"
Lindsey enjoying sunset at Mt. York, a climbing area in the Blue Mtns.
Next on the docket we hit NSW's largest inland city, Wagga Wagga, home to two other Aussies we met in Nepal, June and Michelle! June and Michelle showed us just a few of many highlights in this wonderful little city. We were also treated to the best Indian food this side of the equator!
Lindsey, June, Ben and Michelle at Wagga's famous Indian restaurant!
Michelle bought a house and a plot of land nearby and in order to pay off her mortgage faster, she lived in a container that she rigged up (that's off the grid - note the solar panel on the top!). The ivy growing on the side helps provide insulation as well!
Check this out! She's done up the inside beautifully!
Thanks to June and Michelle for their fantastic hospitality!
We sped through our final leg of the journey to Melbourne, arriving in this massive metropolis just before rush hour started! We had been in contact with Cynthia, Sally's (Ben's mom) penpal for over 40 years, who lives in Melbourne and has been helping us plan for Australia for over a year! Her excellent directions got us to her house despite the chaos of Melbourne's ever changing street names and hook turns! Cynthia, Geoffry, and their lovely daughter Lucy took us in and immediately showed us a fantastic time in Melbourne. This will be our base for the rest of our time in Victoria--thanks a million to you guys!
Cynthia took us to the famous Victoria Market!
We dined out at a favourite Korean restaurant. The food was exceptional and the company even better!
Our van continues to get us around without any problems! She is affectionately named Mitzy; the two Swiss-Germans who rented the van before us gave her this name. (They drove her from Adelaide to Cairns from October through February!)
We'll be heading to the world class climbing destination, Mt. Arapiles next!
More pics from stage two of our Aussie adventure: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/sets/72157623491868229/