After months of planning, preparations and waiting we left for Australia and New Zealand on Sunday November 14, 2011. Our flights took us though Salt Lake City and Los Angeles and by the time we boarded our flight to Sydney it was after 11 pm so I got all comfortable, took my sleeping aid, and was falling asleep as the airplane took off. When I woke up I figured I had been asleep for nearly 8 hours and felt pretty good. We had strategically chosen our seats so we were on an exit row that was at the front of the cabin so we had all the room in the world in front of us. As luck would have it the seat next to me wasn't occupied since the TV didn't work so we had an extra seat to use as we wanted. Needless to say Cameron and I had a great flight and the 15 hours in the air didn't seem bad at all. When we arrived in Sydney we went through customs and found our way to our next gate for our domestic flight to Cairns.
We had a 5 hour layover and by the time we got on our 3 hour flight we were ready to be done traveling. When we arrived in Cairns (Northern Australia; the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef) we had been traveling for approximately 30 hours, but we were ready to stretch our legs and see something before the day ended.
Our hotel was a few blocks from the beach so we strolled down there and dipped our toes in the water and marveled at where we were. In the picture below you can barely see the area marked safe for swimming. With crocodiles and jellyfish a plenty, swimming in the netted area is the only safe option.
Just a fun picture with some spider looking wood.
We walked all along the beach and at the end there was a little trail onto some rocks that jutted out into the water. This is a view back towards the beach as the sun is getting lower in the sky.
After getting some dinner at a little shop on the beach we were ready to call it a night and get some sleep on a real bed. Since we hadn't quite adjusted to local time we woke up before 6 am and decided to go back down to the beach and watch the sunrise.
(One thing that I loved about this beach is that it smelled like honey)
Here's our just woken up faces.
It was so beautiful to see all the pretty green trees and how they went on forever just like Vermont, just hills and mountains of green.
The Comfort Inn and Suites that we were staying at had an open air lobby and we saw a little lizard next to one of the pictures.
Our first full day in Australia (11/16) we had booked a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef (all our pictures are on a waterproof camera that we haven't developed yet). This was an interesting trip... we get on the catamaran and head out towards the Reef and I had planned to wear these acupressure bracelets that are supposed to keep you from getting sick. Well the waves were too big and after about 15 minutes I got sick. It was pretty interesting to see the Reef and get in and snorkel. There was a huge fish that swam up to me and tried to kiss me! We decided that we should have scuba dived because the Australian reefs are deeper than Hawaii and it's hard to see much when you can't go too deep. I'm glad I can say that I've been to the Great Barrier Reef but I don't think you could talk me into taking a boat out there again (if we ever go back I'll take a helicopter).
On 11/17 we took a tour of the Rain forest, which was neat- I didn't know that Australia had a rain forest. This is our first view of a crocodile while we were on the Daintree River.
When we first got on the boat it starting raining pretty hard and we were the last ones on so we were in the front getting most of the rain but luckily it cleared up after about 5 minutes.
Our little river tour was about 20 minutes and then they dropped us off on the other side of the river and we went to the Daintree Environmental Centre.
It was pretty neat because they had different levels and canopies so you could see all the levels in the rain forest and how everything grows and works together. The next two pictures show some of the different plants. I really like the droopy vines that are all over the place and link from different trees.
Our tour guide, Peter, was telling us all day to keep an eye out for a Cassowary since they are seen a lot in this area. A Cassowary is like an Emu, it's a large bird that walks around and can't fly. The Cassowary also does a lot for the rain forest by eating fruit and eventually spreading seeds around from it's waste. This was a funny sign that had been changed, the bottom sign used to be a speed bump sign.
Our lunch was amazing! We stopped in what seemed like the middle of no where and there was a Bowery type structure and someone had lunch read for us. There was water buffalo steak, Emu sausage, and Sea Bass as well as a few salads and Vegemite to top your bread. It was a quintessential Australian meal and we tried just the tiniest bite of Vegemite to say that we had eaten it.
Here we are with Peter and our monster bus/truck or whatever it was. I liked riding around in it all day and it was actually a really comfortable (which was nice after being on the water the full day before.)
Some of our views at Cape Tribulation
Here I am getting some video, our unofficial assignments during the trip was for me to take video and Cameron to take still photos.
Here's the sign warning everyone not to swim in the ocean because of the crocodiles and jelly's.
If you look really closely you can see a spider on the tree. It's a live spider, it does a great job of camouflaging itself.
This view is from Alexandria lookout
Next we stopped at Mossman Gorge. It was a fun area and there were some people that were playing in the water and riding the water over rock slides. We didn't spend too much time there (there's always a strict schedule when you're with a tour group) but I did get in the water to my knees. After the ride back to Trinity Beach we realized what a busy, full, and fun day it had been!
On 11/18, we got up and took a stroll up the road to a field of Wallabies in the wild, which are just cute miniature Kangaroos.
It was fun to see Kangaroo/Wallaby crossing signs on the roads.
(and this is where our camera battery went dead and we started taking still pictures on the camcorder)
That same day we flew back to Sydney and I was SO excited to start looking around. We ate dinner down in the harbor and our HUGE cruise ship was sitting right there- I was ready to walk on a few days early :) Then we walked around the Botanic Gardens-- I love walking around gardens and seeing plants and flowers. This place was just great in size and content.
There were lots of cockatoos and they were funny to watch fly around, squawk and interact.
Yes, this is a huge bat. There are TONS in the park there and they started waking up as we were there and the sun was setting- it was disgusting! After dark you can hear them all around downtown.
On 11/19 we took a tour of the Blue Mountains, the first stop of the day was Featherdale Wildlife Park.
Aren't the Koala's cute!
It was fun to get to touch the animals!
Next we headed to Wentworth Falls and Echo Point. There was an aboriginal man sitting there playing a didgeridoo.
These are the Three Sisters. There's a whole 'dreamtime story' about them- but I'm sure you're hoping to just get to the end of this post soon so I'll save it for another time.
We drove around to another point where there was an attraction called Scenic World. We took the stairs and walked down over 500 stairs and found this water fall that we played around in and got some great views but our legs were sure tired by the time we got to the top again.
On our way back to Sydney we stopped at the Sydney Olympic Stadium for a few minutes before taking a ferry down the Parametta River and into Sydney's Darling Harbor.
On 11/20 we ate some delicious mangoes for breakfast that we had bought at a grocery store in the Blue Mountains (no joke, the best mango I've ever eaten!) and then explored the city a bit more before attending a little LDS branch in the building next to our hotel (I couldn't believe how convenient it was).
After church we looked around the Art Gallery of New South Wales and started getting antsy to get on our cruise.
We got our luggage and got on the boat right in time. Our first stop on the boat was the Windjammer buffet until we were sufficiently fed to watch our boat leave Sydney harbor and venture out to the great open sea... and that's where my next post will pick up... thanks for making it this far!