Sunday, October 01, 2006

va•ca•tion: a time of respite

The McMillin’s came to visit for two weeks in early September including Brian’s parents, sister and niece. I had a two week mid-semester holiday and we both really needed to recharge our batteries and not think about work and studies for a while. And of course, it was wonderful to see faces from home midway through our stay here.

Jenn and Teagan on Mt. Ainslie

Just after the above photo was taken we went to find some kangaroos, or hop-hops as Teagan affectionately named them. We spent the first couple days showing the family around our favorite spots in Canberra including Lake Burley Griffin, Mount Ainslie and our favorite pubs. Then we got in the car and drove halfway to Melbourne, spending the night in the gourmet food and wine region of Milawa. Visited a fabulous winery, Brown Brothers, and an apiary/meadery with mead nowhere near as good as that from Warblers Roost Meadery :) Wondering what mead is? See

Then off to Melbourne with our first stop being Phillip Island and the Koala Conservatory. This was perhaps one of the best parts of the trip because we got to view a koala up close in its natural habitat.

The conservatory has elevated boardwalks so you can see the koalas (usually sleeping) in the trees. While we were there though, a mama with a baby on her back climbed down out of a tree and walked along the whole length of the railing as we followed along giggling with glee. Did I mention that they are absolutely adorable?

That same evening we went to the Penguin Parade where you sit on the beach and at dusk watch the little penguins come out of the sea from their day of fishing to return to their burrows. They are so fascinating as the waddle ashore in little groups squeaking to each other and being social before they return to the next solitary day of fishing. Here’s a photo, but it’s not mine, as you are not allowed to take pictures.

The next day we met up with our friend Chris in Melbourne and drove out on the Great Ocean Road, which stretches along the southeastern Victorian coast. The road covers some of the most photogenic coastline in the world, because of its dramatic natural rock formations. The following photo is of Heather and I at the Twelve Apostles, a series of limestone stacks just off the shore of Port Campbell National Park.

After spending the night in Port Campbell we drove back to Melbourne and spent an evening there before flying to Cairns the next day. Cairns is in far north Queensland so we really covered some territory in this trip!

We spent the next week in Port Douglas in a lovely three bedroom townhouse privately owned by a local couple who were fabulous hosts. They helped us arrange our travel and were always there to wave goodbye and welcome us back from our days of sightseeing.

We were staying just off of Four Mile beach in Port Douglas, a tourist town that reminded us of Lahaina, Maui where we lived for a winter.

Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas

We spent a day in the outer Great Barrier Reef where we all got to go snorkeling and Carl, Heather, Brian and I all tried scuba diving for the first time. Great fun as you can imagine and the reef was spectacular!

The next day we drove up into the Daintree and Cape Tribulation where two World Heritage sites meet. Here one of the oldest rainforests on the planet, the Daintree, meets the coastline of the Great Barrier Reef. The Daintree Rainforest contains 30% of the frog, marsupial and reptile species in Australia and 65% of Australia's bat and butterfly species. 20% of bird species in the country can be found in this area. All of this diversity is contained within an area that takes up 0.2% of the landmass of Australia.

We took a cruise on a solar powered boat up the Daintree River looking for saltwater crocodiles and saw mostly small ones, the oldest being about six years old and still pretty small.

We also visited the Daintree Tea Plantation and had a tour of this family run tea farm. Brian and I are becoming quite the tea connoisseurs so it was really fun to see how the tea is harvested, dried, oxidized and sorted. We think our next big journey may be a trip around the world in search of the best teas!

There was a day of horseback riding on the beach and through the Daintree rainforest. My horse Bo, tried to eat everything in sight so I was constantly yelling at him to stop and keep moving as directed by our guide.

Heather, Jenn, Jan and Brian

Our second to last day in Port Douglas started off with Breakfast with the Birds at The Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary. This was great as all these tropical birds come and poke around while you’re eating. Here’s me with two Rainbow Lorikeets.

Our last day in far north Queensland was spent on a gondola traveling over the Daintree Rainforest to get to the village of Kuranda for an afternoon of wandering. We returned via the scenic railway with some fabulous views of waterfalls and a great stop where a guide explained the “bush tucker” and medicines of the Aboriginal people.

From Cairns we flew to Sydney where we had two days to explore the city before the McMillins flew home. We went to the Sydney aquarium which was the best aquarium we’d seen and spent the last day riding around on the Sydney Explorer bus, seeing the sights of the city (including the opera house) and feeling pretty exhausted as you can imagine.

Sydney Opera House

So there you have it…the highlights of our trip around eastern Australia. It seems like we did so much but when you think about it, this place is so huge that you can barely make a tiny dent in two weeks. But we tried!

1 comment:

  1. Nice summary. I have a good picture of you feeding the roos. My tea plantation pictures came out terrific - maybe better than when we were there with the flash. I think Jan put then on the server.