The Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road

Arrival and Trolly Tour

We arrived in Melbourne and took a little dinner tour of the city on a dinner trolly. We thought it would be mediocre food, but a good way to see the city. It turned out that the food was better than expected, and in the end we didn’t see too much of Melbourne. Still fun, and we got to see “The Original Taco Bills”. Those of you who were at Luther in the 80’s will appreciate the Taco Bills excitement.

Dinner Trolly

Taco Bill

The Great Ocean Road

The great ocean road was built along the southern coast of Australia in the 30’s by men in the ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps). These were primarily WWI soldiers who needed work, and time to recover from the war. The statue at the beginning of the road commemorates these men.


Aside from our morning tea, and a lunch stop we made three main stops today: One for a Koala and Parrot viewing, the second for a 30 minute hike in the rain forest and the third at the 12 Apostles. Although the crowds were as thick as the flies the 12 Apostles were really the highlight of the day. Fun fact: The Australian government originally called these “the apostles” since there were only nine of them, but the tourists kept referring to them as the 12 apostles so eventually some marketing person in the government gave in and they renamed the site to the 12 Apostles and it remains that to this day. The name is increasingly less accurate at the moment as one of the 9 came down a few years back. However, in a few thousand years it is likely that the numbers will increase again as erosion along the shore does its work.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

Great Barrier Reef (batman)


WOW! we haveve just finished a day on a live aboard dive boat where we did 4 dives and 2 snorkels on the great barrier reef. I saw Nemo, Dory and all the rest, except for Crush! Plus we saw sea slugs, octopus, sharks (not Bruce!!) lobster, and many many more. My ear is a bit plugged up from the four dives, but its worth a few days of having the world sound a little muffled. I haven’t even mentioned that one of the dives was a night dive! We stood on the ship and looked at the reef sharks swimming next to the ship and still jumped in with our “torches.”

Night diving is definitely a bit eerie and I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about that one. It was quite the sensation to be underwater-weightless and in complete darkness except for the light from your own flashlight. We saw a lot of fish that we did not see during the day and of course we saw a bunch of sharks. Not the man-eating kind, just the normal kind that are more afraid of us than we are of them. The most common fish we saw on the night dive was the Giant Trevally. They were not afraid of our lights, and in fact knew just how to take advantage of them. If you held your light on a smaller fish for too long one of these big Trevallys would swoop in and … there would no longer be a smaller fish there. Unfortunately we did not get any pictures during the night dive, but the next morning we did a 6:30AM dive and were rewarded with a glassy sea and crystal clear water for viewing lots of active fish.


The boat we were on was called Reef Encounter and was by far the best diving experience ever! The crew was really knowledgeable and really helpful with novice and rusty divers alike. Our guide for the whole trip was Hugo and and he was fantastic. He was very patient with reminding us of all the details of setting up our gear, and let me descend as slowly as I needed to in order to keep my ears from exploding.


The live aboard boat is really the way to do the great barrier reef as you don’t spend three hours of your day getting out and back from the reef. Rather you can spend most of the first day diving, and again the second day you can start first thing in the morning. We transferred to the boat from shore on a day excursion boat that tied up with our ship to let us off and then pick us up again the next day. We had great company while onboard and because we were a part of the “Top Deck” program we ate our meals on the top deck with just a few other people that we enjoyed getting to know. In addition since things are very informal and everyone is on there to snorkel or dive we only brought our day packs with swimming suits, toiletries and an extra t-shirt. They don’t allow any shoes on board so there was no worrying about extra shoes to wear to dinner either.

When we returned to Cairns it was pouring rain and our guy Hugo offered to escort us off the boat with his umbrella. Sadly it was not an umbrella built for 3 and the wind was blowing so hard that the rain was mostly horizontal anyway, so even the nicest umbrella in the world would not have helped too much. The reception at the Shangri La was super nice when we arrived and immediately gave us towels to dry off with while they checked us in and retrieved the luggage we had stored there while we were on the live aboard.

Hiking the Valley of the Winds


Today we flew three hours and 1.5 timezones out of our way to see a big red rock! I’m not sure where to start unpacking this, the 1.5 timezones or the big red rock. But if you do a bit of research on Australia and the aboriginal people you will quickly learn about Uluru, or Ayer’s Rock. If you are on the right side of the plane you will get a nice view of this huge rock rising up in the middle of hundreds of miles of flatness. The picture above was taken at our outdoor dinner experience called “The Sounds of Silence.” There were about 60 of us out on a sand dune in the desert with a great view of Uluru and its sister called Kata-Tjuta. We were seated at a table with a family from Melbourne and a family from the US. The one son that I sat next to worked at Google as a software engineer, needless to say we had some good conversation that night.

Our plan had been to rent some bikes and ride around Uluru, but unfortunately last week they had massive rainstorms that washed out many of the trails, so they were closed except for one very short walking trail. We visited the head of that trail on the afternoon we arrived but didn’t go very far as the temperatures were over 100 degrees, and no shade in sight! We changed our plan to drive a short distance and hike the Valley of the Winds at Kata-Tjuta.

First View Point

We got up and out the door by 6AM to make sure that we could hike in the coolest part of the day. They actually will close the hiking trails around 11AM if the temp is forecast to be over 37 Celsius! The hike to this first view point was easy and and a good way to warm up our hiking trail legs. However when we arrived at the first viewpoint the sign told us that the rest of the trail was closed! We, and the four other people that were a few minutes behind us assumed that this was simply a left over from yesterday and they hadn’t changed the sign yet that morning. So, we ignored the sign and pressed on for the Karingana lookout.

First View Point

What a reward for an excellent little hike!

Although Ayer’s Rock is definitely a bit out of the way it was definitely worth the time and effort to see it. It is considered a sacred place to the Anangu people. Maybe it was the remoteness of the place or the lack of crowds, but you could definitely get a sense that it was a special place.

Happy New year!

Happy New Year!

Celebrating the new year in Australia is definitely something special. Everywhere we went the air in the city smelled like barbecue, and people were queueing to get into the free parks all afternoon. There is definitely a lot of pride by the people of Sydney in their preparations for the big show. We spent a good part of the morning hiking around Bondi beach and the surrounding area. Then we just chilled at the flat for most of the afternoon, watching the families queuing to get the best position to view the fireworks.

When they opened the gates to the park right below our flat at 6:00 it had the feel of a giant family picnic!

Eucalyptus in the Air

Lincoln's Eoxk

One great way to get over jet lag is to just get up in the morning and get going again. Although we only made it until 8:30 last night we did manage to sleep until about 4 AM. Our Blue Mountain tour started at 6:30 AM so we were wide awake and ready to go with no trouble. We had a great guide for a day long tour out into the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. After a 90 minute drive from Sydney we stopped for Tea and Scones before our visit to Echo point to see the three sisters Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo. Legend has it that their father turned them to stone rather than let them marry three brothers from a rival tribe.

Three Sisters

Aboriginal legends in Australia are just as believable as the native american legends in the USA. However if you look closely at the picture you’ll notice there are actually four pillars of stone, the smallest one is their little brother Dave. Made famous a few years back when the locals started a social media campaign to #RememberDave.

There are a lot of great hiking trails in the area, including one which will bring you right over to the three sisters. We were on an easier tour instead of a several mile hike we got in line at Scenic World and rode the gondola across. This gave us a great, if fleeting, view of some waterfalls. From there we took another gondola on a steep descent into the rain forest.

Once you are in the rainforest they have three options: a 10, 20 or 30 minute walk through the forest on a nice safe boardwalk. At the end you can ride up the train (the steepest in the world) to the top. All in all it was very scenic and a nice walk but I think we would have preferred to skip the lines for the ‘rides’ and just walk the trails on our own.

After a very nice lunch of fish and chips we made our way to Featherdale to have our picture taken with a Koala and to feed the Kangaroos. Before we arrived I was calling it the ‘petting zoo’, but in the end it turned out alright. Coming face to face with a real Kangaroo is definitely cool.


In addition Featherdale had lots of really interesting native animals including a Tasmanian Devil – it doesn’t look anything at all like the one from the bugs bunny cartoons. But its jaw muscles are among the strongest in the animal kingdom. We also saw a Cassowary - think a turkey crossed with a Velociraptor. In fact they say it is a holdover from the dinosaurs. They have a hard crown (called a casque) on top of their head which is probably used as a sound box or radar for picking up the low frequency calls these creatures make. The Cassowary an endangered species but almost nobody has heard about them because they are not nearly as cute as the Koalas. They can jump six feet in the air and sprint 30 mph! I would not want to be chased by one.

To round out the day we had a quick tour through Sydney’s Olympic park. Still a very vibrant area to this day. And then a water taxi ride back to the Circle Quay in the heart of Sydney.

Note 1

The picture of me at the top of this post was taken on another little side trip to a place called Lincoln’s Rock. It just demonstrates the importance of perspective when you are framing a photo. I can assure you that I was never in danger of anything more than a broken leg had I managed to somehow slip off that ledge.

Note 2

The title of this post is also an explanation for how/why the Blue Mountains got their name. You can see there is kind of a blue haze in the background. This is because the mountains are full of eucalyptus trees and there is enough eucalyptus oil that evaporates into the air that refraction causes the air to look a little bit bluer. Australians also like to talk about how fresh and clear the air is in the blue mountains, in fact one enterprising Australian apparently even put blue mountain air into cans and sold it in China!

Hello Nemo!

Airbnb view

I’m sitting by the window of our flat in Pott’s Point with the view you see in the picture above. (Except its morning now). We are starting to get past the jet lag that comes from being 15 hours ahead of home base with the help of a couple of event filled days that kept us moving and awake. Today we are going to do something more relaxing in advance of the huge new years eve celebration tonight.

The flat that we rented has this spectacular view of the harbor and the city skyline. But it lacks one key ingredient for the three days we happened to be here for. Air Conditioning! The weather in Sydney is very unseasonably warm. When Jane did the research we learned that the average temp is in the high 70’s this time of year, so AC didn’t even cross the mind. Unfortunately our first day here the temp was nearly 100 and yesterday was mid-90’s. So we come home at night to a very warm place to sleep. Luckily even the heat can’t keep us awake come 9-10:00 at night. I slept pretty well through the night last night so I’m hopeful that midnight is an achievable goal. I’m definitely looking forward to wishing everyone a Happy New year when it is only morning of New Years eve in your time zone.

Our first day in Sydney we explored the Botanical Gardens and the area around the Opera House and the bridge. It was miserably hot and we were way out of whack with jet lag, so even now, I’m not sure how clearly I’m remembering everything. We had a nice lunch at a place right on Woolloomooloo bay - yes thats a real name. Lots of things in Australia have the ‘oo’ in their names. This is a combination of Aboriginal pronunciation and the teaching of phonics (Not sure phonics was a thing in the early 1800’s). After our late lunch we walked to the Opera house, we were able to get into the lobby but no further as their was an afternoon performance going on.

Opera house

At this point we had planned to hike over to the bridge and go up one of the towers. But we nearly cracked in the heat. A short rest and some re-hydration gave us a second wind and so we continued to wander around, eventually making our way to the bridge. We made our way to the top of the tower just 15 minutes before closing and were rewarded with some really spectacular views of the harbor!

Harbor view

By this time it was after 5pm Sydney time and the middle of the night to our bodies. Our feet were tired from walking so we gave in and grabbed a cab back to the flat. We worked really really hard to stay awake until about 8:30. But sleep took us, at least until about 3am!