A Travellerspoint blog

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First week down the eastern coast....

Cairns to Rockhampton

overcast 25 °C

CAIRNS

We left Sydney on November 14 and arrived at Cairns, a quaint town with many backpackers as it’s one of the jumping off points to go snorkel/dive the Great Barrier Reef. We flew into a bit of rain, but excitedly stared out the airplane window at the lush tropical scenery, including large hills and mountains in the distance.

Flying into Cairns

Flying into Cairns

When we arrived at the hostel, we found out that Andy as well as the driver from the hostel, German who was from Germany (yes, that’s not a typo, he was German the German! ) – they both came to look for us at the airport! They soon returned and all was well. We stayed at a place called dreamtime, a cute and very clean place with really nice people. Later that night, after we got settled into our room, we headed to a Mexican place down the road for a drink and all you can eat nachos for $10. That fit our budget nicely!

The next morning our Greyhound bus left at noon, so we walked around Cairns and found a cute breakfast place called “Calypso” – for $13 we got freshly squeezed orange juice, a flat white (similar to a latte but has a bit less milk and no foam – we are quite addicted to them, coffee is amazing here!) It also came with eggs, bacon, sausage and toast. It was delicious!

Breaky in Cairns

Breaky in Cairns

Jacq and a flat white!

Jacq and a flat white!

We took a walk around the town, on the boardwalk and by the Cairns lagoon (basically a swimming pool near the Ocean). It was a beautiful day, around 30 degrees and was quite humid. UV index was extreme!

Cairns Lagoon

Cairns Lagoon

Jesse in the Cairns Lagoon

Jesse in the Cairns Lagoon

After our walk, we boarded the bus for a 7 hour drive to Townsville, our take off point to Magnetic Island...

MAGNETIC ISLAND

We spent two nights on Magnetic Island (an hour ferry ride from the mainland city of Townsville). There we stayed at a hostel called Bungalow Bay, where our accommodations were actually small huts situated within a tropical and eco friendly resort. On the Island, we explored the local eateries including a delicious Mexican restaurant called Noodies. We also spent some time soaking up the rays on the beach in Horseshoe Bay.

One of the major highlights of Magnetics island was doing the hike up The Forts – a former military stronghold during WWII. The Fort now serves as a spectacular look out point of the entire island and one of the few places where visitors have the opportunity to observe and spot Koalas in the wild! On our way to the Forts, we ran into some locals who gave us a few tips on Koala spotting. Since Koalas sleep close to 20 hours a day, they don’t move very much. Consequently, when someone spots a koala up in the trees, they will often make an arrow sign out of sticks to point others in the right direction. We were a bit sceptical at first, but after our first, second and third koala sightings courtesy of the arrows, we were convinced! Other animal sightings on the island included the wallabies (they look like miniature kangaroos).

The Forts Hike

The Forts Hike

Arrows pointing to the Koalas

Arrows pointing to the Koalas

Koalas!

Koalas!

View from the top of the Forts - Horseshoe Bay

View from the top of the Forts - Horseshoe Bay

The four amigos on the Fort Hike

The four amigos on the Fort Hike

On our final night on the Island, we went to the bar at our hostel to participate in trivia night (although we didn’t win, we learned a lot of new useless trivial such as the fact that apparently netball is a serious sport over here) and had a few jugs of beer (not quite as large as our pitchers back home – 1 jug = about 2 and ½ pints). When we got back to the mainland, we also learned that Townsville has absolutely no restaurants that open before noon. After an annoying 30 minute walk in several different directions, we gave up and returned to the bus station only to realize there was a cafe in the bus station!

AIRLIE BEACH AND THE WHITSUNDAYS

After a relatively hot and sunny first few days on the east coast, we ran into our first patch of rain at Airlie Beach. To kick things off we checked into our hostel – Beaches Backpackers. Located on the main strip, it was definitely the place to party but also the dodgiest hostel we stayed in so far. On our second day we got ready to embark on our 2 night sailing adventure through the Whitsundays (a chain of 74 islands that run along the eastern coast of Australia and offer some of the nicest beaches as well as scuba and snorkel locations along the great barrier reef).

View of the Whistundays - Nara's inlet

View of the Whistundays - Nara's inlet

As we checked in for our sailing trip it began raining and then in began pouring, and then rain just seemed to come from every direction and soaked us to the bone. Along with 22 other, equally drenched passengers, we waited on the dock for our catamaran, Tongarra, to pick us up. The deckhand, Pinky showed up in a full stinger suit and a snorkel attached to his head and basically said in his quintessential Australian accent – “Welcome aboard Tongarra everyone, the weather for the next few days is shit!”

Then he proceeded to recommend that we all load up on extra “beverages” and that this trip would still be awesome as long as we kept a good attitude and make the most of it. We certainly we did! Everyone on our boat was in their 20’s and we soon made a whole bunch of new friends. We learned many new drinking games, got our first taste of Ozzy rap music, and slept outside underneath the stars (who were up there somewhere underneath those clouds and all that rain).

The Tongara Crew

The Tongara Crew

In between, we also did some amazing snorkelling along the great barrier reef where we saw crazy colour fish, turtles, reef sharks and colour coral.

Fishie Business in the Whitsundays

Fishie Business in the Whitsundays

Here fishie fishie

Here fishie fishie

We went to gorgeous White Haven beach where the sand is pure white and 99% silica – we looked pretty sweet on the beach in our stinger suits.

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach

Looking sweet in the Stinger Suits

Looking sweet in the Stinger Suits

On our second night we saw one of the most gorgeous sunsets.

Suset in the Whitsundays

Suset in the Whitsundays

The food was home cooked every day and night by Pinky and our skip Eddie and was delicious!

Skip Eddie and Jesse

Skip Eddie and Jesse

Map of our travels through the Whitsundays

Map of our travels through the Whitsundays

We had an amazing time – but after 2 nights on a boat, with lack of sleep and wet clothes, we were ready for a hot shower and a nap! Feeling recharged we later met up with many of the people who were on our boat that evening for drinks. Round two of staying at the Beaches Backpackers was much better! The next morning we boarded the Greyhound, heading to Rockhampton for the night. Beef capital of Oz, here we come!!

Posted by jacqjesse 03:26 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Steaks, Sun and Sand

A dingo’s dream

all seasons in one day 25 °C

ROCKHAMPTON

We arrived in Rockhampton (the beef capital of Oz) on Sunday evening after a long 7 hour bus ride (which felt more like a rollercoaster ride). There wasn’t much to do as most of the town was closed. We did however grab some steaks at a local place where it was a serve yourself style . The steaks were alright but they didn’t compare to good ‘ol Alberta beef!

We called it an early night because we had to get up and catch a 6:30 am bus the next morning.

HERVEY BAY (Big Pimpin)

We arrived in Hervey bay in the afternoon after another long 7 hour bus ride. When we got to the hostel, we were pleasantly surprised when we were told they ran out of dorm rooms and we would have to “settle” for a private villa!! Big pimping!! After two straight nights in 8-bedroom share hostels and 2 long 7 hour bus rides, we were so happy to have our own villa to lay out our stuff, take a nice shower, and relax. We spent the afternoon and evening playing ping pong and beach volleyball. We even picked up a few oysters from a local fish market and paired it with some wine to complete the evening. However, the oysters we had “chilled” in the fridge ended up being frozen because the fridge was so cold! Impatiently we held them in our hands long enough to warm them up so we could eat them.

Warming up frozen oysters!

Warming up frozen oysters!

FRASER ISLAND

We were picked up at our hostel at 7:45 am to embark on our two day, one night adventure to Fraser Island! Fraser is the world’s largest Island made entirely of sand and is about 30 minutes away by Ferry. After getting to the Island, we boarded a large bus – but this wasn’t a regular bus. It was a 4X4 coach equipped with massive tires to trek through “roads” which were really just mounds of sand and tree roots. The ride got pretty rocky and seatbelts were a must – sometimes it even felt like we were getting back massages in our seats!

Our 4X4 Coach

Our 4X4 Coach

Our first stop – a 1.5 km rainforest walk was so amazing that Jesse took 63 pictures of in a matter of 30 mins! We can’t fit them all here, but here is a taste!

Rainforest walk

Rainforest walk

Fraser Rainforest

Fraser Rainforest

Next, we headed along 75 mile beach, which is also the Island’s major highway! The waves along this beach are so rough and shark infested that you can’t swim in it. There are 6 varieties of sharks in the area including great whites, bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. There are only certain times of the day that this highway is driveable as its under water during high tide.

Jacq on 75 mile beach

Jacq on 75 mile beach

The "highway" - 75 mile beach

The "highway" - 75 mile beach

Along the beach, we came across Maheno, an amazing shipwreck. It’s been through both World Wars, has even been the target practice for bombing tests and stubbornly it has remained on the shore for many years.

SS Maheno

SS Maheno

Jacq checking out Maheno

Jacq checking out Maheno

Next we went on a hike up to Indian Head, which was an amazing lookout point at the Northern tip of the Island.

Jesse at the base of Indian Head

Jesse at the base of Indian Head

Hike up to Indian Head

Hike up to Indian Head

Jesse on top of Indian Head

Jesse on top of Indian Head

Then we cooled off in the Champagne Pools (we were 3 of the 5 people who went in – most of our group decided not to!) It was amazing, the bottoms were sandy and they even had a few fish swimming in them. Every now and then, waves from the ocean beside the pools would splash over the side. The only thing missing was real champagne to toast in the pools!

Champagne Pools from above

Champagne Pools from above

Champagne pools

Champagne pools

Swimming the Champagne Pools

Swimming the Champagne Pools

Finally, we waded through Eli creek – a cold fresh water stream.

Wading through Eli Creek

Wading through Eli Creek

Eli creek meeting 75 mile beach

Eli creek meeting 75 mile beach

The next day, we headed out to the famous Lake MacKenzie. We got there first thing in the morning and it was perfect timing – we were the first group on the beach and the sun decided to come out (we’ve been missing it for quite some time now!)

Lake MacKenzie

Lake MacKenzie

As we walked onto the beach and turned the corner to check out the view, Jacq yelped as she was caught by surprise when she saw a huge “goanna” eating breakfast on the beach - a couple of turtle eggs that he had dug up in the sand!

Goanna having breaky

Goanna having breaky

We spent the next two hours lounging around on the beach and even walked around the lake to a more secluded beach.

Jesse on the beach at Lake MacKenzie

Jesse on the beach at Lake MacKenzie

Jesse and Jacq at Lake MacKenzie

Jesse and Jacq at Lake MacKenzie

On our way to our next destination, we ran into some Dingos, which are wild dogs, Asian wolves in fact. While they look cute, they can actually be quite aggressive. In 2001 a small child was killed by one on the Island. We are pretty sure this is where the Seinfeld phrase “a dingo ate my baby” came from.

To end off our trip, we went on a 5 km hike to Lake Wabby, which isn’t likely to exist in a 100 years, as its surrounded by “Sand Blows.”

Lake Wabby

Lake Wabby

Basically these are huge sand dunes that keep moving 1 – 2 meters per year towards the lake. The dunes were spectacular and we had some fun doing some sand jumping!

Jesse at Lake Wabby

Jesse at Lake Wabby

The Sand Blows

The Sand Blows

Fraser was amazing – and definitely one of our favourites so far.

We are spending the night back in Hervey Bay (back in big pimpin’ accommodations as they ran out of the dorm style rooms again!  Then to finish off our stint down the east coast, tomorrow we are off to Surfer’s Paradise, then we’ll be heading to Byron Bay and Brisbane to learn how to surf and meet up with our friend Jamal.

Posted by jacqjesse 04:07 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Finishing up the East Coast

Surfer's, Bryon and Brizzie!

overcast 27 °C

SURFERS PARADISE

We headed to Surfer`s Paradise, a few hours south of Hervey Bay. It’s a busy city, with tons of attractions, a lot of nightlife and turns out a lot of Schoolies! Now “Schoolies” is when all of the grade 12 high school students graduate and they spend a week in a beach town basically taking over the place! So we decided to only stay 1 night, as we heard it’s a must see.

At this point, Jesse was not feeling well as he was starting to suffer from a cold. We all decided to take it easy, so we found a good Sushi restaurant and then took a walk around Surfer’s before calling it a night.

BYRON BAY

Byron Bay was for a lack of a better word – delicious!

This is the one town in which we were forced to to step up our accommodations as the schoolies were in full force here and had booked up anything relatively cheap over a month ago. Although we had to pay a bit more to stay in a cute beach house called Atlantic Guesthouses, it was well worth it!

Accomodations at Byron Bay

Accomodations at Byron Bay

Soon after we arrived and settled in, our friend Jamal, who has been going to school and living in Brisbane, arrived at the bus station to join us. We hadn’t seen him since he was in Canada almost a year ago so it was amazing that he could come out and meet us in Byron for the weekend!

IMG_9263

IMG_9263

We decided to walk along the beach and over to the lighthouse walk, which had amazing views. We timed it perfectly, as the sun was setting, so we got some amazing shots.

Jesse at Byron Bay lookout point

Jesse at Byron Bay lookout point

Rocks at Byron Bay Beach

Rocks at Byron Bay Beach

Walk on Byron Bay beach

Walk on Byron Bay beach

The most easternly point of Australia

The most easternly point of Australia

Jacq at Byron Bay

Jacq at Byron Bay

Sunset over Byron Bay

Sunset over Byron Bay

The hike took a bit longer than expected, so when we finally finished, it was just before 8 pm and we were starving! We grabbed some pizzas and burgers at a pub in town, along with a few beers. There was an amazing band playing on the street a few shops down – so we ate outside and enjoyed the music. After dinner, we went back to the beach house, where we drank some beers and sangria. Then we called it a night – as we had to get up early for surf lessons the next morning!

We took our surf lessons from “Black Dog Surfing” which proposes that if you don’t get up on your first lesson, they’ll take you on another lesson free – so we thought it was worth trying out!

The staff there were awesome! Very friendly and they certainly knew their stuff. Before we knew it, everyone had gotten up on their surf board! Jesse even got up on his first try – which he still says was his best one!

PB270083

PB270083

Now if you have a cold – surfing might be the best cure. After the salt water has washed down your throat, ears, and nose – your sinuses will be cleared right out!

After surfing, we grabbed a burger at the “Rail station” restaurant, which was recommended by our surf instructors. It was delicious and much needed after surfing all morning – one thing we’ve learned, anytime a local recommends a place to eat, just do it!

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Beach, working on our tan, swimming in the ocean and playing beach volleyball.

The beach

The beach

The second evening in Byron was round 1 of Andy’s birthday celebrations! We tried to go to the Beach Hotel, which had live music, but given the Schoolies, the line was ridiculous – so we headed to Cheekey Monkey’s – a famous backpacker’s party. At midnight we sang happy birthday as Andy turned 26! Party Jesse was in full force that night. Whether it was Picnic tables, tables in booths, or anything that had 4 legs, Jesse was dancing on it that night – especially when the song Barbra Streisand by Duck Sauce came on -

We ended the night by sharing a noodle box, at yes, “the noodle box.”

The next morning we made breakfast and grabbed a coffee at a local coffee shop and then waited for our bus to Brisbane (Brizzie!)

BRISBANE

Brisbane is Australia’s 3rd largest City and currently home to our good friend Jamal Lake. As such, we spent two days and two nights exploring Brizzie with Jamal, meeting his friends and experiencing the Brisbane nightlife.

Our first day, we checked out the downtown core, walked through the queen street mall and to this awesome bar called the Beach house. This was Andy’s official birthday so naturally we went straight to the bar. However since this was already day 2 of our celebrations, we decided to ease our way into the night with some mimosas. To our surprise, the bartender picked up the fact that we were Canadians right away and insisted we have a round on the house!

Maimosas in Brissie

Maimosas in Brissie

Maimosas at the Beach House!

Maimosas at the Beach House!

The Beach House - live music

The Beach House - live music

Soon afterwards, we found ourselves by the pier meeting all of Jamal’s friends and having a $7 pizza and a schooner at the Boardwalk! We had a few more drinks and then we made our way to the Vic bar where we bought Andy a few more Birthday shots and hit the dance floor.

The boardwalk in Brissie

The boardwalk in Brissie

Jamel showing us around Brissie

Jamel showing us around Brissie

Brisbane marked the last stop of our 2 week excursion down the East coast of Australia.

On our second day we spent the first half of the day at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia’s first and largest Koala sanctuary. There we got to hold Koalas and feed Kangaroos and Wallabees.

koala jacq

koala jacq

Jesse cuddling a koala

Jesse cuddling a koala

Jesse-roo

Jesse-roo

Afterwards, we checked out South Bank park – where there is an outdoor lagoon. We ended up having a relatively quiet evening as we were all pretty “tired” from the last two nights.

Jesse at Southbanks

Jesse at Southbanks

the WOB (wheel of Brisbane)

the WOB (wheel of Brisbane)

Brizzie on the "City Cat" Ferry

Brizzie on the "City Cat" Ferry

Next , we meet up with Jacqueline’s family in Portsea (a small town south of Melbourne) where we’ll be spending the next two and half weeks getting some much needed R&R followed up by some visits to Melbourne (Australia’s second largest City) and the island of Tasmania. We’ll also be visiting a few of the many wineries in the area and taking the scenic drive on the Great Ocean Road. Stay tuned!

Posted by jacqjesse 18:09 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Adios Australia!

Our last few weeks in Australia

all seasons in one day 22 °C

PORTSEA

We arrived in Melbourne on November 30 and headed to Port Sea to join up with Jacq’s family. Portsea is about 2 hours away from the city of Melbourne and is located on the Mornington Peninsula. This area is well known for its wineries, surf and is basically “cottage country” for those living in the Melbourne area.

Mornington Penisula at night

Mornington Penisula at night

Not going to lie, the first couple of days we mostly just hung out. We swam in the pool, unpacked our clothes, did laundry, etc. Boy was it nice to have our own room and not have to wear sandals in the shower!

Then we started to check out the surrounding area – wineries, restaurants and beaches! One meal in particular was delicious! It was at Monalto, a winery in Red Hill. We started off with cold pea soup. Peas are alright and cold soup is a bit odd, but this soup was amazing!

Cold pea soup

Cold pea soup

Jesse had lamb and Jacq shared some Salmon sashimi and steak with her mom. The best part was dessert – we’ll let you drool over this picture!

Dessert at Monalto Winery

Dessert at Monalto Winery

One day we even went cherry picking. The Aussie that owned the farm was impressed with us, he thought us Canadians would come back with only half a kilo, and there we were with 8! I think we may have found us some part time jobs, cherry picking!

8 kilos of cherries!

8 kilos of cherries!

We are also a 2 km walk from a good surfing beach! We couldn’t find a place to rent surf boards so we decided to buy some boogie boards instead. BEST DECISON EVER! A few days we’ve spent our time down at the beach, riding waves, and swallowing salt water. The ocean is actually the Indian Ocean and boy is it cold (17 degrees Celsius). While almost everyone else on the beach was wearing wetsuits, we decide to go in with just out bathing suits, that we can handle it because we are Canadian eh!

Jesse rocking the Aussie suntan look

Jesse rocking the Aussie suntan look

Jen riding the waves

Jen riding the waves

While in the Portsea area, we’ve also taken some road trips and in some case plane trips to check out other areas of Australia!

THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

Anyone who’s been to Australia and those that live there will tell you that travelling the Great Ocean road is a must. Picture a red convertible, top down, sun shining driving on a winding road along the coast. OK, so that’s probably the brochure. Scrap that – picture a huge 12 passenger van, the Toyota Commuter, driving along the windy road, its overcast and every time Jacq’s Dad takes a corner too fast, her mom, ‘Boo Lou’ is holding on for dear life and asking him to “please slow down!”

Our trip down the Ocean Road first started bright and early at 7 am, where we caught the car and passenger Ferry from Sorrento over to Queenscliff. The Great Ocean road starts in Torquay (the surf capital of Australia), and extends along a stretch of road that takes nearly 4 hours to drive.

Ocean view on the Great Ocean Road

Ocean view on the Great Ocean Road

This does not include the time it takes to stop and admire many of the amazing sights including one of our first stops, Bells Beach - ranked one of the top surfing beaches in the world, we even spotted some seals swimming in waves!

Bell's beach

Bell's beach

Some of the other stops along our drive, included the views at the lighthouse, Apollo Bay, the Otway national park where we saw plenty of wild koalas.

Ocean view on the great ocean road

Ocean view on the great ocean road

Koalas in the tree!

Koalas in the tree!

On the way we also stopped in Lorne to take some pictures of the signs there as Jacq’s uncle’s name is Lorne! He’s lucky we decided to take a picture in front of this sign and not “Lorne’s Diva shop”!

We made it to Lorne!

We made it to Lorne!

Our last stop was the famous 12 apostles, a beautiful rock formation formed along the cliffs of the southern coast of Australia.

View of the 12 apostles

View of the 12 apostles

Jesse at the 12 apostles

Jesse at the 12 apostles

Jacq on the beach at 12 apostles

Jacq on the beach at 12 apostles

With all the driving and stopping we soon learned that our plans for a one day excursion were a little ambitious and that we would be late catching the last ferry back to get back home that evening – so we found a quaint little town to spend the night

The next morning we continued our way back and stopped at Geelong, a city just southwest of Melbourne which was situated on a bay. They had some interesting statues there made out of wood, like this one. At first Jesse went to pose at the back of the line, but quickly moved to the begging of the line when he realized to stand there he’d have to follow the pattern....

Good thing Jesse is at the front!

Good thing Jesse is at the front!

It was a great road trip – one which lasted 2 days instead of 1! But it was a must see for us, so we were glad we were able to do it!

MELBOURNE

We decided to stay in Melbourne for a few days in order to check out the city. We also have friends there, so it was great to be able to see them and have them show us around!

We arrived on a rainy Wednesday where we tried to meet up with Taryn, a friend of Jesse’s from Calgary, who has been living in Melbourne and supply teaching. We were supposed to meet up with her at 6:30 pm at the night market – but in a series of events which makes Jesse’s blood boil just thinking of them (picture two lost, soaking wet tourists trying to hail a cab when a car splashes dirty street water on us..... yeah...) so finally we arrived at the market at 8:30, yes 2 hours later than we should have been! But soon enough we were sampling delicious food and sangria!

Sampling at the night market

Sampling at the night market

Finally about half an hour after that, we were able to meet up with Taryn and her friends. After the market, we went for some drinks and learned about the real Melbourne and got lots of suggestions of where to go out and what to check out while we were there.

The next morning, Jen, Andy, Jesse and Jacq headed out to check out the city.

Jesse viewing the Melbourne skyline

Jesse viewing the Melbourne skyline

Our first stop was Federation Square (where Oprah was scheduled to make an appearance the next day).

Jesse at Federation Square

Jesse at Federation Square

Then we hopped on a free (yes FREE) city centre tram that took us around different parts of the city including the Queen Victoria markets and the Docklands shopping district for some outlet mall shopping. After a full day of exploring and shopping we returned to our hostel to drop off our goods and grab dinner at a delicious burger place up the street, as we had a 2 for 1 coupon from our hostel!

That evening we decided to explore the Melbourne nightlife. We first stumbled upon a patio bar/Chinese restaurant called Red Silk, which conveniently sheltered us from the rain as we split a couple bottles of wine and Jesse decided to have a second dinner. Our next stop was a bar called, Section 8. The night before we had learned Melbourne is famous for its hole in the wall bars – our instructions were to find the dodgiest ally possible, walk down it and you would likely a find the newest hot spot. Section 8, fit this description quite well – once a former parking lot, the bar included wooden skids laid down on the ground, and a bar out of what used to be some type of mobile home. There we decided to share a jug of “Grandma’s punch” – which came complete with a set of candy false teeth.

Grandma's punch! Fake candy dentures included!

Grandma's punch! Fake candy dentures included!

Next we headed to “Cookies” where we tried some interesting beers and Jen had some sparkling wine!

Checking out the nightlife in Melbourne

Checking out the nightlife in Melbourne

The next morning, we met up with our friend Tyler, who has been living and working in the Melbourne area for about 10 months. He took us to one of his favourite cafes, where we had breakfast and coffees. Then Tyler had to get back to work and we had to head to the airport!

TASMANIA

We met up with Jacq’s Dad at the airport, where we were going to fly Tiger Airways, basically the cheapest flights you can buy... ever. We heard some horror stories about delayed flights and cancellations, but had a very smooth and comfortable trip as we boarded the brand new plane and we all got the first row, which meant plenty of leg room!

We arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, which is on a harbour on the southern part of Tasmania.

Hobart Habour

Hobart Habour

Pants are must here! During the evening, there is an Antarctic wind which chills you to the bone! We walked around the harbour, took a walk to the Salamanca markets and then settled on going to the Drunken Admiral for dinner.

Chilling in Hobart

Chilling in Hobart

The Drunken Admiral restaurant

The Drunken Admiral restaurant

It was delicious! The best seafood we’ve had in Australia, including oysters with champagne sauce and caviar!

Delicous oysters!

Delicous oysters!

The next day, after eating breakfast at a nearby cafe, we headed to the famous Salamanca Markets. There were hundreds of vendors, selling amazing things, from vegetables and fruit, to baked goods, to souveniers, pieces of artwork, clothing.... the list goes on!

Fresh veggies at the Salamanca market

Fresh veggies at the Salamanca market

Fresh Bread at the Salamanca Market

Fresh Bread at the Salamanca Market

It was definitely the best market we’ve been to in Australia!

After the market, we grabbed some lunch at “Fish Frenzy” voted the best fish and chips in Hobart. Then we headed off on our day tour of Port Arthur, the prison and settlement of where convicts were sent from England.

We first stopped in a town called Richmond, which was built by convicts and many of the building remain the same. We did a tour of an old house, which had some interesting rooms, including this one, which was furnished with a bed.

Take a sleep, my sweet

Take a sleep, my sweet

We hit up the old candy shop before walking over to the oldest bridge in Australia and seeing the ducks in the area.

Richmond Bridge - Australia's oldest bridge

Richmond Bridge - Australia's oldest bridge

On the way to Port Arthur, we stopped at some viewing points, including Pirate Bay, the Tasman Arch, and the Devil’s Kitchen.

Pirate Bay

Pirate Bay

Tasman Arch

Tasman Arch

Devil's Kitchen

Devil's Kitchen

We also stopped at the Dog’s line, which is where solidiers and dogs lined up to catch any prisoners from escaping.

Jacq at the Dog Line

Jacq at the Dog Line

We arrived at Port Arthur in the early evening and took a walk around the area in the daylight. Hundreds of convicts built the settlement and many were confined to the Prison, including the Seperate prison, where you weren’t allowed to look or anyone.

View of the Port Arthur settlement

View of the Port Arthur settlement

The seperate prison

The seperate prison

Jesse decided it would be funny to hide into a cell and jump out once we were close, but another person on our tour walked into the room first and Jesse almost gave him a heart attack!

Jesse needs to be locked up!

Jesse needs to be locked up!

We went for dinner at “Felon’s Bistro” and later that evening, we took a Ghost Tour. With a guide and four torch barriers, we headed out into the night and listened to the stories that took place there a few hundred years ago.

The Ghost Tour begins!

The Ghost Tour begins!

The Church at Port Arthur

The Church at Port Arthur

There was one building in particular that freaked Jen out, it was the reverend’s house and we heard many stories about people who saw the ghost of the angry reverend or the lady in blue, a ghost who was supposedly searching for her baby who was buried behind the house.

Listening to ghost stories in the Reverand's house

Listening to ghost stories in the Reverand's house

Jesse gave the tour “PG” status, but it was a good amount of scary for Jacq. We didn’t see any ghosts, except maybe the Wallabee ghost, as Jacq’s dad had Wallabee for dinner earlier that night!

The next morning we headed to the airport to head back to Melbourne and Port Sea. The rumors of Tiger Airways soon made reality as we found out that our flight was cancelled! The rest of their flights out to Melbourne were fully booked, so our options were to take another carrier or take tomorrow’s flight and stay the night instead. Given tickets were $300+ each, we decided to stay the night and fly out the next day. We ended up staying at an amazing timeshare villa on seven mile beach, giving it was on Tiger Airways tab and not our own! It even came equipped with heated blankets!

Biggest bed we've had yet!

Biggest bed we've had yet!

We spent the day swimming in the pools and spas, playing table tennis and Cluedo (the Australian version of Clue!) We also borrowed bicycles and took a bike ride down to Seven Mile Beach, which had amazing views, but the sandy was more like mud!

Jesse riding his bicycle

Jesse riding his bicycle

View of seven mile beach

View of seven mile beach

The next day we arrived to the airport and thankfully our flight was not cancelled, so we finally made it back to Melbourne!

PHILLIP ISLAND

Phillip Island is about 2 hours away from Portsea and is the home of the world famous little penguin parade. We headed out in the morning and stopped by a few places on the way, including a animal park and mini golf place, as Chris (Jacq’s brother-in-law) had just arrived and had yet to see Australia’s wildlife of Kangeroos, Wallabees, Koala’s and wombats, among others. We decided to head into the park only to see Chris and Addison hold a baby wombat, but the timing worked out that we feed Kangeroos instead (we’d have to wait for the Wombat encounter). These kangeroos must have been starving, as when they would eat from your hand, they would nip your hand! One even put her claws up on Jacq (she was not impressed) and tried to tell this huge animal to relax!

Fiesty 'roo

Fiesty 'roo

While we were waiting for the Manser clan to finish in the animal park, Jacq and Jesse played a round of mini golf. The course was called Pirate Pete’s and had a sign which said “best mini golf in Australia.” We figured it had to be good – but soon we realized this was the most ghetto course ever!

Our next stop was at a Chocolate Factory on Phillip Island, in which we took a tour inside! It included a mosaic made of chocolates, a chocolate waterfall and a machine where you could make your own chocolate design. It was delicious!

Chocolate waterfall!

Chocolate waterfall!

Next we headed to “Amazing things” which had mini golf, mazes, a playground and other games for kids. Addison was in heaven!
We then headed towards the Penguin Parade, and stopped at a beach, where the wind was blowing so hard sand was going everywhere. It was in our hair and would whip against your skin, but we managed to get a few pictures of the beach.

We then headed to the Nobbies, which are rock formations and a place where you can view the Seal Rocks, where 2,600 seals live. It was amazing to see them, but was quite cold and windy!

The Nobbies

The Nobbies

We grabbed a bite to eat before making our way to the Penguin Parade. The penguin parade occurs every night, as little penguins, which grow to 22 cm tall and only weigh 1 kg or 2.2 lbs, swim up to the shore and walk along the beach to their homes in the burrows of the hills. There are hundreds of them! The night before 1300 swam up and climbed up on the beach. You can also follow them along the boardwalk and watch as they come home to their baby chicks with full bellies in order to feed their young. It was an amazing experience and definitely one of our highlights!

Little penguin burrow

Little penguin burrow

Sign in the parking lot at the penguin parade

Sign in the parking lot at the penguin parade

What’s ahead?

In our last few days, we’ll be checking our Point Nepean as well as a few wineries and then getting ready to pack up!

We’ve been in Australia for just over a month and half and felt like we got to see a good portion of the country! It has been amazing but we’re looking forward to the next part of our trip, two weeks in Fiji for Christmas and New Years. We aren’t sure what internet will be like there or how much it will cost so it may mean that you’ll read our next blog in 2011! In which case, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Posted by jacqjesse 04:59 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Bula from Fiji!

Spending Christmas and New Years in the Fijian Islands

sunny 30 °C

BULA! (Hello!)

We spent two weeks in Fiji, including the hottest Christmas and New Years we’ve ever had. The island we stayed on was called Taveuni. It’s the 3rd largest of the islands that make up Fiji and is commonly known as the garden island due to the lush vegetation and tropical climate.

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To get to Taveuni we had to fly in from Nadi (one of the cities on Fiji’s largest island). The plane we took was a small 18 passenger plane, that flew below the clouds and over the all the beautiful islands.

Our plane to Taveuni

Our plane to Taveuni

Plane ride to Taveuni

Plane ride to Taveuni

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

When we arrived, we were greeted by our local hosts – Pita and Lo, who along with their three kids and other friends, took care of us our entire time on the island.

Jesse and Lo

Jesse and Lo

In fact, all the locals went out of their way to show you, where to go, what to do and what to see. They were probably some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met.

As our stay progressed, days of the week became blurred, was it Monday or Saturday? Without the distractions of internet or TV and the urgency of phone contact, we were officially on island time –laid back and relaxed.

Coconut cup

Coconut cup

With nothing to do but sip from freshly picked coconuts, watch some of the most amazing sunsets we’ve ever seen and marvel at the new world around us, it was a little surprising that we still managed to explore a lot on Taveuni.

More sunsets

More sunsets

Here are some of the highlights:

Snorkelling

Surrounded by some of the best coral reef in the world, Taveuni was a snorkeler’s paradise.

Snorkling

Snorkling

Besides the abundance of fish and sea life in our very own backyard, our best snorkelling probably happened at Waitabu Marine Park, where locals took us out by traditional Fijian raft to an incredible snorkelling spot.

Traditional Bamboo Raft

Traditional Bamboo Raft

Blue Fish

Blue Fish

We saw a giant clam, reef shark, eel and too many different kinds of fish to name. To complete our afternoon, the locals made us a delicious lunch, sang us songs and made us some beautiful necklaces. It was quite the experience!

Lunch at Waitabu

Lunch at Waitabu

Waterfall Hikes

It seems the garden island has no shortage of waterfalls and to see them all we did several day hikes. Our first expedition was to Torovo falls, where we hiked to two waterfalls.

Waterfalls at Tavoro

Waterfalls at Tavoro

To get to the first waterfall was an easy 10 minute hike while the second one was much more difficult! It was supposed to take 30 mins to get there, but on slippery, muddy rocks and a tiny trail and after going the wrong way, we finally made it. Both falls were beautiful, but the first you could actually swim in – and we did! The locals even showed us how it was done by jumping into the pool below the falls - Jesse and Andy decided to follow suit! Boy was it refreshing after that long, muddy and slippery hike!

View from the peak during our hike to Tavoro Falls

View from the peak during our hike to Tavoro Falls

Hiking through the rainforest

Hiking through the rainforest

Our second hiking expedition was to the Lavena coastal walk. It was a 3 hour, 10 km hike along the coast of the ocean and then up to a double waterfall.

Hiking

Hiking

Rocks

Rocks

Unlike the first hike, this trek also involved crossing a suspension bridge and a swim at the end to get the waterfalls.

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

Waterfalls at Coastal Walk

Waterfalls at Coastal Walk

However, some things are the same – just like the first hike, we ran into some local kids who showed Jesse and Andy all the coolest and sometimes questionable places to jump from!

Fishing

It doesn’t take a fish-o to learn that the odds of snagging something awesome out of the marine-rich waters surrounding Fiji is pretty high. One day the boys – (Jesse, Andy, Jim and Chris) decided to make a trip and find out for themselves. Within 3 hours, they were back with 2 fair sized rainbow-ranas and 2 bigger skip jack tunas. Maybe next fishing trip the girls will be invited, hey Mr Mo?!

Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day

Golf

At the beginning of the trip, the boys made a pact to golf at least once in every country we were travelling to. Fiji was no exception and although there was only one 9-hole course on the island, we managed to find it. So just exactly how different is a round of golf on Fiji? Well for starters, the humidity and heat have you dripping buckets of sweat before you’ve even teed off on your first hole. Jesse and Andy’s golf balls managed to find a few palm trees down the fairway while the others did their best to dodge some unusual hazards: giant frogs, lizards and coconuts. If getting to the green wasn’t bizarre enough, once you were there, the putting was a whole different ball game. Think you know how to read a golf green? Think again. The wild grass that makes up the green will make you feel like you’ve never putted in your life! In the end we all shot an average 25 over par, on a 9-hole par 3, but it was definitely an experience we’ll never forget.

Eating

Normally eating is kind of given but in Fiji, it’s more of an art. During our stay we were privileged enough to have our local hosts cook us up dinner almost every night. And every night without fail, we encountered an array of amazing foods unlike anything we’ve had before– soups, breads, curries, fresh seafood and decadent desserts, inspired and infused with local flavours including coconuts, papayas, and pineapple - all put together by chefs in our very own kitchen.

On one of our last nights, we even had a traditional Lovo (an underground oven, much like a Hawaiian luau) dug into the ground in our own backyard and covered in banana leaves. The end result was delicious!!

Cooking the Lovo

Cooking the Lovo

Lovo

Lovo

Kava

You can’t go to Fiji without drinking “kava” with the local Fijians. Kava is a plant that is native to Fiji. To prepare the drink they take the root, dry it and grind it up into a powder. It is then mixed with water and everyone drinks from a cup which is made from half of a coconut. Our security guard Spout (not to be confused with “Sprout” Boo Lady) shared this tradition with us. Jacq thought it looked and tasted like dirty dishwater but Jesse didn’t mind it, and sure enough, he had Kava with Spout on several occasions. Kava essentially makes your lips and tongue numb and relaxes you.

Drinking Kava

Drinking Kava

Christmas & New Years

We experienced our first Christmas and New Years without snow and the only ice was the ones in our glass! On Christmas morning, we woke up at 6 am to watch the sunrise as we drank Champagne and orange juice (mimosas). We were a bit sleepy but it was amazing!

Merry Xmas!!

Merry Xmas!!

Christmas Morning

Christmas Morning

Sunrise on Christmas morning

Sunrise on Christmas morning

Incredible Sunset on Christmas Day

Incredible Sunset on Christmas Day

We were also one of the first places in the world to ring in the new year (almost a full day ahead of most people in North America). The 180 degree meridian actually passes through Fiji on Taveuni Island. About 50 years ago, they moved the “international date line” so it was east of all the Islands in Fiji, but the Fijian government moved it back to the 180 degree meridian in October 2010. One day we visited the sign which told us when we were in “today” and when we were in “yesterday.” New years was relatively quiet, we spent it playing games, popping champagne and viewing the amazing stars in the sky, while local Fijians drove up and down the road honking their horns, shooting off fireworks and throwing water and flour at each other!

Postcard from Fiji

Postcard from Fiji

All in all, we had an amazing time in Fiji and would love to go back someday!

Goodbye Fiji!

Goodbye Fiji!

Sunset

Sunset

Posted by jacqjesse 04:08 Archived in Fiji Comments (3)

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