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The Land of Oz (Australia)

Author: Roy
Date of Trip: August 2006

Aug. 26

lv Jax, change in Cinci, then Chicago to Korean Air. This is the best booking we could do in the time frame we wanted (spring in Aust.) using our Delta Sky Miles. The price was right at $117 roundtrip. With a short layover in Inchon we continued to Sydney, arriving at 0430 Mon., 28 Aug. The flight wasn’t quite as long as indicated as we crossed the Int’l Date Line whence Sunday became Monday.

After clearing customs, we (I) loaded up on the copious rack travel and lodging literature, then had a cup of coffee while waiting for the shuttle to our hostel. Surprise! Coffee was $2.80 (2.50 US)/cup. This was pretty much true throughout our travels. The Aussies have two kinds of coffee – that brewed in an expresso type machine – and instant. This means no coffee pot or urn as we know it, so there can be a long line at times. As we both like strong coffee, we had no problem with this. We DID miss free seconds though.

We arrived at our hostel named the Pink House (it was), signed in, then took a hostel recommended walking tour which included scoping out part of Sydney harbor. This area of town is pretty hilly so by the time we returned to the hostel in the afternoon we were ready for a real bed. We slept the night through. The following morning we had our included “breakfast” of coffee (instant), toast and jam. Cereal was also available. This was the typical hostel breakfast throughout our trip, and proved quite adequate.

Aug. 29 – 30

After checking out buying a car, which we decided against as it didn’t seem worth the hassle for a short term, we took a local bus to Circular Quay which is the departure point for many bus routes as well the many ferry routes. We bought an unlimited train/bus/ferry day pass for $15.40 which was a terrific bargain considering just the ferry trips alone.

About midday I used one of the many internet cafes to access my e-mail where I was saddened to learn that my sister Sherry had lost the battle to cancer. I had hoped to share my trip with her but it was not to be. The positive was that she no longer had to endure the excruciating suffering. I spent the next few hours doing the paperwork to transfer space in the family plot to Sherry and her husband Don. The American Embassy was reluctant to verify my signature but I finally got a supervisor to agree that I was me! Bureaucrats just love to say NO.

Aug. 31

Spent part of the day visiting museums/galleries and more ferry rides. Tried to find a vehicle repositioning trip to /Melbourne or Adelaide, none available. The best deal turned out to be a flight to Adelaide, over flying Melbourne.

Sept. 1 – 2

Arrived in Adelaide after a 2 1/2 hour flight. Shuttled into town to a centrally located hostel near the bus station and market. Adelaide has a free tourist bus that loops around town to the major tourist sites. A nice touch. We visited the local market, ate Chinese at one of the many food courts, toured the Migrant Museum, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens.

Sept. 3 – 7

Flew Quantas to Perth. The train across the Nullabor plain takes two plus days, costs more and is often booked. The scenery missed was no loss as it is pretty desolate. We shuttled from the airport to our hostel named the Witch’s Hat which was one of the nicer hostels we stayed at. We went to the Visitor’s Center then checked out the three free bus routes to get the feel of the city. We made two train trips to Freemantle which is the port for Perth and has a great Maritime Museum. The second trip was expressly to see the movie Ten Canoes which had an aboriginal coming of age plot. Great scenery. We also visited an old Greek seafood restaurant located in the fishing boat harbor. I tried the barramundi which is an Australian favorite. It reminded me of catfish. One of our meals in Perth was at the Hare Krishna cafeteria. All you can eat for $5/senior. Good deal.

Sept. 8 – 12

After searching the various travel options towards Darwin, finally locked on to a relocation deal. The outfit we used is called “Standby Cars”. They act as the clearing house for dealers needing to relocate rental cars and campers. If one matches your itinerary, it can be a good deal. We got a 4wd camper for 6 days at $1/day and $500 gas allowance. It was about 2500 miles from Perth to Darwin. We made it with about 6 hours to spare and a total diesel bill of $1100+. The highest we paid was about $5/US gal. Had we needed water, it would have cost us $4/gal ! All told, the fuel cost to us was a bit over $600 or $300 each. The bus fare would have been higher, we would have traveled at night missing scenery, we could not have prepared our own food and we wouldn’t have been able to make some of the stops we did. The negative is that the tight time frame doesn’t leave much time for exploring.

Our route from Perth was the inland route rather than the coastal one. We traveled the Western Australia Outback which, tho scant of trees, has plenty of ground cover- not nearly as arid as is the center of the country. We passed gold mining operations and iron ore mining operations. As fast as the iron ore is dug, its loaded on ship and sent to China. As a result of this mineral wealth, Western Australia is booming. We saw many kangaroos – some live – and many road kill. I bought kangaroo steaks in the store and fried them. Tasty, lean and rich.

We made side trips to Port Hedland where the ore ships are loaded and to Broome which is a resort town for those escaping the winter down south – remember, Australia is “upside down”. Broome is reported to have the world’s third highest tidal range – over nine meters, nearly 30 ft. The tide was out and, unfortunately, time constraints did not permit us to wait for the incoming rush.

Sept. 13 – 14

We arrived in Darwin late morning, parked the truck at the foreshore and walked half a dozen blocks to book a hostel. We were located in the center of town and amenities included a swimming pool (common in the warm climes). Once booked, we scoped out a route so we could drive to the hostel and drop off our gear. Left side driving and one-way streets requires some forethought. Unloading done, we dropped off the camper. We could have continued immediately with a delivery to Brisbane via Cairnes at the same deal but one of the six allotted days had already passed and we would have had no time in Darwin. Tried to get the time extended but no go.

We explored Darwin center and hiked to the waterfront area and some of the sites that were bombed by the Japanese during WWII. On the way into Darwin we passed many WWII airfields. Darwin, weather wise, was like being back in Florida. Our timing was good in that October is the onset of the “wet” with 90″ of rain over the next four months.

Sept. 15 – 18

Left Darwin in the middle of the night for the night flight to Melbourne. Free pickup to Allnations Hostel. Free beer for every day you book! Took the free tourist trolley which loops through the central city. Went to Chinatown for a good, cheap Chinese meal. The next day we toured the Farley Mowat the Greenpace anti-whaling ship which was moored in the harbor awaiting the coming whaling season. We walked the restored dockside warehouse area which sported several murals of events past. One spelled out that England legislated against asbestos in the 30’s!!!

We lunched at the Victoria Market which is a combination farmers, flea, clothing, food court emporium. A city landmark. We spent more time than planned at the Melbourne Museum – that much to see. Enjoyed a replica of the city sewer system. Really did. On Sunday we got an all day bus/train pass for $2.50. We went to the St. Kilda Flea Market located at a seaside area near Melbourne. We then took a ferry to Williamstown, an old port city, then returned to the city via bus and train. Then back to the Victoria Market for lunch. Bought some Blood Oranges. Have tried several times to grow this tree at home but have lost all but the last planted. We did the botanical gardens which is one of the best we’ve seen. We then walked the river esplanade and watched the moving statuary. Several pieces of metal sculpture cross a bridge on a conveyor arrangement. when they reach the other side, they rotate and nest accordion-like. At first, I thought I was seeing things. Had an Indonesian meal at the food court in the Crown Casino topped off with durian ice cream. Strange, sweet, taste with a garlic aftertaste.

Sept. 19

Took the 0730 Firefly Bus to Sydney. Comfortable ride and interesting scenery. Mostly rolling hills ’til we came to a perfectly flat valley as we entered New South Wales. Booked at the Pink House Hostel again. Found a place serving bacon, eggs and fries for $4. Good supper! We missed eggs but were loath paying $4/doz. Most places were charging that for toast and coffee. An American breakfast would run from $8-12 in most places.

Sept. 20

Mary Lou explored more of Sydney and I shopped camper vans. We had decided to do the Blue Mountains and Brisbane – the last major city unvisited.

Sept. 21

Made the deal for a camper van. Went to Paddy’s Market for lunch. This is a large, multistory market with a large food court. Bought longans – like a grape with a brittle shell – saved seeds to plant at home.

Sept. 22 – 25

Picked up van and headed for the Blue Mtns. These are part of the Great Dividing Range which separates coastal Aust. from the interior. It took many years for a route to be discovered through them. Finding same lead to the development of the interior.

We never made it to Brisbane. We found the Blue Mtns. and surrounding areas more than enough to captivate us. We camped along side a running brook; alongside a reservoir (where we saw roos across the road in the morning), and a couple of commercial campgrounds. We visited an olive orchard and a semi-abandoned gold town. We hiked in the mountains in the area of the “discovery road”. The route finally determined followed the mesa like tops of the deeply eroded ravines. The topography in this area is like the Grand Canyon with tree cover.

On our last full day in the mtns. we took the zig zag railway. Instead of looping around the mountain, the train descends to a certain point, a switch is thrown, the back of the train becomes the front, and the descent continues in this manner. We finished the day with a visit to Tomah Botanical Gardens – especially profuse with rhododendrons. Great colors – especially the reds. Bought some great flower seeds but they were either stolen from my luggage or the customs got them.

Sept. 26 – 27

Did final tour of the Blue then back to Sydney. Booked at Traveller’s Rest, best place of the trip. On the last day I bought another day pass and rode the ferries that I hadn’t yet been on. Met Mary Lou for Chinese then to Pyrmont by ferry to the Maritime Museum which included a self tour of a cruiser and a sub. Bought some boomerangs and had a long talk with the dealer.

I wanna go back!

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