February 28, 2013

Animal Adventures

Today's story is about the aquarium and the wildlife park in Darling Harbour, Sydney. Now there are aquariums all over the world, and the 38 dollar admission price of this one did not place it particularly high on my list of must dos. Make it free however, and everything changes.

Josh's parents lent us their passes to the two animal attractions, and we spent the day checking them out. The aquarium was first on the list. We bypassed the line with our member cards, and went right in. The first stop was getting our picture taken in front of a green screen by aquarium staff. They do this for everyone, three different poses and try to sell them to you for exorbitant prices at the exit.

Most aquariums have roughly the same assortment of swimmy things, and this was no exception. It had the usual crow of fish, but it also had some very uniquely Australian critters. There were rays and dugongs and sharks of all shapes and sizes. all sorts of pretty fish, and wait for it - platypus!

They are truly one of the strangest creatures I have ever encountered. They are much smaller than I thought, weighing no more than a few pounds. There were a whole crowd of them all swimming in this one tank, maybe five or six of them. They were busy catching food. These shrimp looking things with a silly name.

We stood for some time watching them swim around and eat. They really are weird. One of only two mammals which lay eggs, and one of only a few with venom. A duck bill, a beaver tail, and all manner of assorted random parts all attached to their small bodies.

Anyhow, after the aquarium we went next door to the wildlife park. This was not the zoo, but a small little establishment in the center of the city. Here, almost all the creatures were uniquely Australian. There were slithering creatures, flying creatures, jumping creatures and man more.

We saw the deadliest snake in the world, the eastern brown snake, and many other one which will kill you in a matter of minutes. There were totally harmless but none the less huge moths and butterflies. The things which really captured my attention however were the kangaroos, and the koalas. The kangaroos at the wildlife park are small grey kangaroos, and they also have wallabies  It was a pretty hot day, so they were mostly just chilling out, laying down and relaxing. Really cool to see them though. A few were hopping around, such a weird, but very efficient way of getting around.

There was a very chilled out kookaburra there as well. They have enormous heads. It is funny to see the birds that you hear in the morning. The sound and the bird are somewhat incongruous.

I think however the coolest thing there was the koalas. If you have ever seen a koala stuffy, that is pretty much exactly what they look like. At first I did not believe they were real. Even the one which was eating. They are the most harmless looking creatures I have ever seen. They just curl up into a ball in a fork of a tree and sleep. Sometimes they wake up and have a little nibble of eucalyptus before going back to sleep.

There were probably about ten koalas there, half male and half female. They look a little bit different, mainly the nose is different. It would have been worth paying just to see them.

There were also some crocs and other assorted things, but we were running short of time and needed to catch a train back to were Josh lives.

All in all a very good day. So cool to see these amazing critters I have seen in pictures so many times, even if it was just in a wildlife park. I have now seen some of the snakes, spiders and creepy crawlies in the real world, as well as kangaroos, and wallabies  I would really love to see a koala in the wild, but unfortunately they are very threatened and hard to find.

Anyhow, that is that!

My New Beach

This is my new beach. I live less than a few minutes walk away from it. It is an incredible tropical beach with palms right down to the shore. One can walk for ages, and last night I did. It is beautiful.

I could see the rain coming up from the city, a very menacing tropical thunderstorm to be exact. You can tell when the rain is going to hit, and when it does you want to be inside.

Taking shelter under a hotel entrance, here is the rain. It is hard to demonstrate in a picture just how hard it was raining. If one were to stand out in it for thirty seconds, all their clothes would have been soaked through entirely.

I took a taxi home.

February 20, 2013

The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are spectacular. Mountains is perhaps the wrong thing to call them, speaking as a person who comes from a place with some pretty nice mountains. What they are is flat tabletop highlands, about 700m high. They have sheer drops off the sides which go down hundreds of meters to the forest below.

They are near enough to Sydney, less than a couple hours away in fact. Josh and I drove up there for a little day trip. When we left Sydney, the weather was a bit iffy. By the time we started ascending into the mountains, it was looking worse and worse by the second. By the time we got near to Katoomba, the town were were visiting, the visibility was less than a hundred meters in driving rain and fog.

We arrived to the first lookout on Cliff Drive. We were both a bit bummed that it was so cloudy and foggy, but at least the rain had let off. We hopped out of the car, and noticed a couple of people over by a stone wall looking very much like they were searching for something. As soon as we got out, they walked way down a trail.

I thought I saw a GPS with them and I said that I bet they were Geocaching. We checked on Josh's phone, and sure enough there was a cache in the wall. We started looking for it, and after about ten minutes of unsuccessful looking, we saw them coming back up the trail, but they were waiting as if for us to leave. I called out to them and asked if they were geocaching, and they said that indeed they were.

We joined forces and chatted with them for about a half hour. They were from the Netherlands. It was pretty neat to chat. Just as we were about to give up, Josh found the cache, and we all logged it. They headed on their way, as did we. The short trail they had hid down leads to the actual lookout. We went down there and as we walked up to the edge, the clouds began to lift. It was amazing to see them disappear and reveal the incredible view they had been hiding.

After quickly stopping to get another cache, we headed along the Cliff Drive to the tourist center and the Giant Staircase. Basically it is a giant staircase which goes all the way down the cliff to the bottom, then there is a hike through the forest to a cable car back up.

From the top one can see the Three Sisters. Three rock monoliths which stick out from the edge of the escarpment.

The giant staircase is exactly that. It has something over a thousand steps, all very steep and many hewn out of the rock. It winds its way through the first of the Three Sisters, then down into the dense forest below.

It is about an hour and a half to the bottom of the cable car. The ideal way to get back up is via the railway, in fact it is the steepest railway in the world at over 52 degrees. It was closed for repairs though when we were there which was a bit disappointing. At least we did not have to walk back up the stairs!

Up on top again we walked back to the car and headed home. This was the view from that walk.

That was our trip to the Blue Mountains. They are spectacular, and I highly recommend a jaunt that way if you are ever in the Sydney area.

Next on the list of posts is the aquarium and the wildlife park. Here is a taste of what there is to come.

February 19, 2013

After Australia Day

Ok, here goes nothing. Or something. That expression has never made sense. It has been a while since I have put up a proper post, and I am sure you have been waiting for it. Here it is. Do not worry, there are more to follow. Instead of one gigantic post I am going to do several smaller ones.

I am writing this from Cairns in Far North Queensland. I have been here for four or five days, and it is hot. The temperature is high, but it is made so much hotter by the humidity. Using the Canadian Humidex calculator, it looks like the average day see the humidex hit the low 50s, and on a warm day it hits the high 50s. So when I say hot, I mean hot. Today was a cool day compared to most. It was cool enough that I considered a sweater this morning. The humidex now in the early evening is 42.

I am not going to talk much more about Cairns as of yet, apart from putting up a couple pictures from the flight in, a flight over the Great Barrier Reef.

That second shot is looking directly towards Cairns just minutes away from touching down. It is beautiful here, and I will get to talking a lot about it later, but for now I am going to take us all the way back down to Sydney.

We pic up the story after Australia Day. By this point, my first three days in Australia had included three barbies, two poker nights and one Australia day, a great start to any Aussie adventure. Now, I am not a hundred percent sure that this will all be in chronological order, most of it should be there.

This is a replica of Captain Cooks ship. This is actually from a different day than the one I am about to describe, but it works. It was a dark and rainy night. Well it was actually morning. It was morning and it was raining. My friend Josh and I were trying to figure out what to do, and what we ended up deciding on is going down to Darling Harbour.

We tried to get into the aquarium and the wildlife park, but to no avail. Both were super busy. We went instead to the maritime museum across the bridge. It was pretty cool on the inside, but it was the ships outside that really made it fun. They had a veritable fleet of heritage vessels. Three of them were open to visitors. We first went to the ship above.

The first thing I did upon boarding it was make friends with a very large red head. Here is me with that head.

It is a very cool little ship. It spends most of its time sailing around crewed mostly by people who come aboard for a week or two to live the life. It was really pouring rain, and an open deck ship is quite wet. I love old sailing ships. They are beautiful. Even this one which has a squashed look to it.

The old navy ship was next. We were already soaking wet so we wandered around the outside decks for a little while, looking mainly at the big guns.

The inside was as utilitarian as any navy ship. As we walked past the ships store, we overheard a mother say to her very young kids "Thats where you get your cigarettes". Good thing to be telling the kids.

Next on the list was a submarine. Submarines are very menacing looking, even when they are old and deactivated. They are also really cramped. Here is me going down the hatch into the sub.

After that we headed back home and had a relaxing afternoon doing not to much at all, but not before we stopped at McD's and lamb, yes lamb burgers.It was actually a little depressing how good it was....

We did pop out later that afternoon. We went to the park just down the street. The normally dry creek looked like this.

It is phenomenal how much water can come out of the sky in a very short time. That day Sydney got over 100mm of rain, and up here in Queensland there were places which got more than triple that amount in one day!

Next up, the Blue Mountains.

February 11, 2013


This is a beach, and this is me on that beach after swimming at the beach. It is a nice beach.

February 06, 2013

A Little Update

I know that I have been very sporadic in my postings. There is a reason for it. It takes a very long time to write a post the way I want to write them, and I dont like to do it half way. I have simply been doing to many things over the past little while to write a post. I am currently working on writing one, but that is only half the story, I have to upload and format all the pictures, and then get them all into the post.

Anyhow, here is a brief synopsis of what has been going on since last I wrote. I went to the beach in Sydney, I popped blue-bottles on the sand, I saw live kangaroos, I saw a kangaroo on my plate. I have found things which were hidden, scrambled under a bridge paralleling the sea, and seen spiders so fearsome I ran away. I have gotten rid of a farmers tan, I have gotten a farmers tan back like never before. I have seen blue mountains and black cockatoos. I have seen incredible rain and incredible sun. And I have not written a blog post, but I will.