The second leg of my six-week trip was to Australia. I flew New Zealand Air from Honolulu to Auckland, nine hours, and then a three and a half hour flight to Sydney. I left Hawaii on March 1st and arrived in Sydney on March 3rd, skipping March 2, 2004, and losing it forever. I crossed both the International Date Line and the equator, firsts for me.
The first afternoon in Sydney was nap time, since I didn't sleep on the overnight plane ride. For dinner that evening, my first meal in Australia, I chose lamb. My hotel, the Crowne Plaza, was just across the street from Darling Harbour. The activity there was intense with restaurants, shops, ferries, aquarium, museum and convention centers.
The first day of my scheduled mini-tour took us around the city of Sydney. We visited an area known as the Rocks, Botanic Gardens, Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, areas around the harbour, areas of very expensive real estate, overlooks with grand views of the city and the harbour, and Bondi (bond ?) Beach. My pictures will show some of these beautiful sights. We were dropped off at Circular Quay (Key!) in the afternoon where I took a ferry to Manly. I found the ferry offered the best views for pictures of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The harbour cruise was beautiful. Arriving back in Sydney I took a city bus up to Chinatown for souvenir shopping and then went to the Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour.
The next day we were off to the Blue Mountains. First stop was the Featherdale Wildlife Center. I handled a koala, saw a huge crocodile, and enjoyed the wallabees, birds and other native animals. We then made our way to Govett's Leap, the name of a waterfall, for views of the mountains and valleys. At the Jamison Valley we saw the Three Sisters rock formation and went on a railway that went straight down, I swear. After a walk through the woods we took a cable car back to the top. On the way back to Sydney we stopped at the Olympic Park, a vast complex of flags, sculpture, stadiums, and arenas.
The mini-tour provided a free day in Sydney and I opted to visit friends in Canberra, the capital of Australia, instead. The hotel concierge arranged my round-trip bus ticket and a taxi took me to the bus station for a pleasant three hour ride from Sydney to Canberra. My friends met me at the bus station and we began an incredibly beautiful day of sightseeing in Canberra, even though the sun chose not to make an appearance. First we went to an overlook on Mt. Ainslie to see an astonishing view of the city and the surrounding areas. The National Botanic Gardens were beautiful, with native species and birds. We ate our lunch there. On to the National Library of Australia for photos of it for a friend who writes books about libraries. Inside the library were stained glass windows, modern and lovely. We then visited the old Parliament building and took pictures of the roses, and emblems on the building. The War Memorial was a very impressive place. It brought me to tears in its beauty and majesty. We stopped along the Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Parade to look at a few of the memorials. The Parade is a powerful sight in its straight line from the War Memorial to the Parliament Buildings. Our last stop was to the Australian National Museum where we went to the Royal exhibit of Queen Elizabeth's 1954 visit to Australia, the first visit by a monarch to Australia. We then went back to the bus station for coffee and a visit before my departure. It rained on the way to Sydney, but I was happy and content after a wonderful day with such good friends.
Travel day - Qantas flight from Sydney to Melbourne. Friends were awaiting my arrival. Hugs all around. I rested up that day for the marathon of traveling to follow.
Melbourne is a huge city which spreads out in a great area. It takes time to get out of the city no matter in which direction you're headed.
The first day we headed east to Walhalla, a tiny village of 20 in population, to visit the gold mine there. Lunch included meat pie, pasties, potato cakes, and dim sim. Lovely. On to Mirboo North and dinner at relatives of my friends, before driving on to Phillip Island to watch the Little Penguins come in from the ocean at dusk to feed their young ones. We weren't allowed to take pictures but you could do a WWW search and find pictures online. We walked down a boardwalk built on the sand dunes and sat on concrete bleacher-type steps to await the penguins. These little guys are about twelve inches high. They come out of the water in small groups and waddle across the beach, their bellies heavy with fish for the babies. They climb the dunes to their burrows. On the walk down we saw young ones about 6 inches high waiting for their supper. I'll never forget this fabulous experience. And apparently it occurs year round.
Our next adventure was to head northeast out of Melbourne to go through the Mystic Mountains and a section called the Black Spur. Here there were very tall, straight trees, beautiful ferns and curves and hairpin turns. We ate a picnic lunch in Marysville and purchased excellent custard tarts at the local bakery. We went to Steavenson Falls just before lunch and in the afternoon we went to the Healesville Sanctuary, a wildlife park. At the ticket counter I petted a dingo, which was a bit thrilling, since he was somewhat aggressive, but not dangerous, just very friendly. Saw a platypus, but didn't get a good picture.
We packed for an overnight trip down the Great Ocean Road. On the way out of town we drove on the Formula One track, which is set up on the streets of Melbourne. The race had taken place only a few days before. Part of the Great Ocean Road was next to the ocean with fantastic views and then we drove through a section of the Otway Ranges and then came back to the ocean. The Twelve Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge were beautiful. If you go to Australia, don't miss this place. We walked for one and a half hours looking at these sights. That evening we stayed in Apollo Bay and there I had the best Porterhouse steak I've ever eaten for dinner. The next day we enjoyed the views of the Great Ocean Road as we headed back to Melbourne. We took a ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento and drove around the opposite side of the bay. We went out to dinner that evening and coming out of the club, we saw the Southern Cross constellation and Orion, which was upside down.
Are you tired yet?
Sovereign Hill was our next trip, which is northwest of Melbourne. The town is an authentic replica of a mid-1800s gold mining town. The steam powered machinery was fascinating. We went into the gold mine for a tour and saw the wretched working conditions of miners of that era. We visited a tin smith store, saw gold smelting, and numerous other trades and crafts.
The next day we went to city center in Melbourne. We visited the Queen Victoria Market (a huge flea, farmer's market and I could have stayed there all day), State Library of Victoria, the Old Melbourne Gaol, the Crown Casino, the National Gallery of Art, Federation Square, St. Paul's Cathedral, hopped the tram for a short ride, went up to the observation deck of the Rialto building, and lastly to the Shrine of Remembrance. We climbed the outside steps; I counted 19, 20, and 14, only to be told we couldn't go in that way. So down we went to another entrance and climbed all those stairs, plus more, on the interior of the building. It was worth it. The memorial was a moving experience.
And the next day we rested.
Now, I've mentioned the pasties, pies (meat) and dim sim. Then there's this lovely wine, fruity, my favorite, called Spatlese Lexia by Brown Brothers. I could import it and be happy forever! I enjoyed flat whites, which is really strong coffee with an equal amount of frothed milk. I added sweetener. I enjoyed that so much that I've purchased an Aerolatte frother, a steam-free frother, and am making my own flat whites, cappuccinos, etc. There was this cinnamon cake with a layer of custard in the middle. That was to die for. Then there's this thing called Pavlova, which is a large meringue that you can add to with a layer of whipped cream, and top off with strawberries. They sell this stuff in the supermarkets!!! Yum!
My last day in Melbourne we visited an estate called Rippon Lea, toured the mansion and wandered through the beautiful gardens. Then we drove to the Dandenong (dandy nong) Ranges for an overlook view of Melbourne. We also visited the William Ricketts Sanctuary, a place of sculpture in the woods. Ricketts sculpted in clay and attached his sculptures to the trees. The sculptures seemed to be representative of creation stories. It was a very spiritual experience.
As well as souvenirs, I brought home PK gum which is similar to Chiclets, Quick-Eze which is similar to Tums, but works better, and two Stable Tables from Kmart, which are lap top trays with a bean bag underneath to mold to your lap. They are terrific for eating in front of the TV, writing letters, kids doing whatever and assorted other activities. I can't find them in the United States.
Chock a block = a lot or full up
Lollies = candy
This brings to a close my visit to Australia. The country is vast and I saw a small part of it, but I am so grateful to have seen this much. Please enjoy the pictures on my web site.
Joyce N. Church
Written April 2004
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