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Exploring Melbourne with Shalyn and Randall

Geotag Icon Show on map Friday, January 1st, 2010 by Lisa

Shalyn & Randall in Melbourne Just after Christmas, we picked Shalyn and Randall up in the Melbourne airport to spend a handful of days exploring the city, driving the Great Ocean Road, eating at only the best restaurants, becoming thoroughly engrossed in the sport of cricket, and simply enjoying the company. We packed a lot in to the few days with Shay and Randall and we wish we could have held on to them even longer.

Shalyn & Randall in Melbourne We spent our first day together exploring Melbourne with a visit to a couple of the popular Sunday markets and a long walk across town to the beach side neighborhood of St. Kilda. It didn’t really matter where we ended up, we were just excited to see each other and catch up.

Shalyn & Randall in Melbourne Day two we rented a car (Slim isn’t suited to take four people on a scenic drive) and headed to the Great Ocean Road. Although the entire day was spent in the car, save a few delicious burgers in Lorne, the sights were beautiful. The guide books warned that the scenic part of the drive doesn’t start until you reach the 12 Apostles, what is today 6 rock stacks just off the coast. The funny thing is that it was the opposite for us. The initial part of the drive from Lorne to Apollo Bay was stunning … turquoise blue water, lush green hills, and a curving skinny road. Despite the fact that it was Monday, it was the perfect Sunday afternoon drive. Once we reached the highlight of the drive at the 12 Apostles we also encountered every single tour bus and its occupants in the country, as well as the flies. Yes, it was really pretty, but the crowds took a bit of the splendor away and we only truly appreciated where we were when we looked through the photos at the end of the day.

Shalyn & Randall in Melbourne A theme was quickly building during our visit as Randall was engulfed by the intricacies and wonders of the sport of cricket. This is a sport that BJ and I have continuously looked upon with a set of rolled eyes … boring! Oh, but how wrong we were. It just so happened that Australia was playing Pakistan in Melbourne for a test match. A test match is old school cricket, spanning over 5 days. Players start at 10am and play until 6pm daily, with breaks for lunch and, of course, afternoon tea. We hadn’t made any plans for our final day together and at the last minute decided to catch a half day of the match. I won’t go into all the details but after prying Randall with questions over and over again during the match, I think we all discovered a new found respect for the sport.

Shalyn & Randall in Melbourne One of Shalyn and Randall’s favorite activities while on vacation is finding and eating at great restaurants. They had done their research and had picked out a handful of places to eat before flying into Melbourne. I could go on and on about every place we ate but nothing will compare to our final lunch together at Movida. We were denied the evening before because we had failed to make a reservation, but we were able to sneak in for lunch the following day, just after a morning of cricket and right before Shay and Randall had to head to the airport. Movida is a tapas restaurant so all but a few of the dishes were single servings. We must have ordered about 20 things all together and my mouth is starting to water just thinking about it. At the end of our many-course-meal with dishes like anchovy with tomato sorbet, croquettes, truffle custard in a perfect egg shell, shaved lamb in macadamia gazpacho, and our favorite, smoked mackerel with pine nut sorbet, I honestly felt like we should go hug the chef. If you love food, go drool over this menu for a while: www.movida.com.

New Year's Eve in Melbourne We said goodbye to Shalyn and Randall as they were on their way to spend New Year’s Eve in Sydney, home of unarguably the best firework display in the world. We were almost convinced to drive the 10 hours as they flew the 1.5 hours to meet them to ring in the New Year in Sydney, but we ended up with no plans but to head downtown Melbourne on New Year’s Eve. Just as we hit the streets, dark clouds started to close out the evening light and we soon found ourselves trying to dodge rain drops. We spent most of our evening in a bar just below Federation Square with fellow travelers and others avoiding the rain, but made it back outside just before midnight to join in on the countdown and firework display over the city. 2009 was an eventful and fun filled year for us but we can’t deny our excitement to return home, see friends and family, and of course, plan out a number of adventures for 2010. Happy New Year!


Merry Chrissy

Geotag Icon Show on map Saturday, December 26th, 2009 by Lisa

16, viagra 60mg 023 kilometers around Australia

Esperance and the Nullarbor Plain We drive barely two hours to Melbourne (southeast Australia) today to pick up my sister and her husband and Western Australia seems like ages ago. It’s hard to believe that we were there, 1800 miles away, just last week. Since our last post, we spent a couple more days in the town of Esperance, the highlight of our stay being a visit to Lucky Bay and climbing Frenchman Peak. At the summit a huge cave, called the “Eye,” looks out over the coast line. To everyone in Jackson, I think this climb was the equivalent of climbing about half way up Mt. Glory and the most vert we’ve hiked since we arrived in Australia. We are going to be in tears when we get to Jackson and back on our skis in January.

Esperance and the Nullarbor Plain The much anticipated drive across the Nullarbor Plain was painless and, in fact, covered in trees. The road follows the southern coast of Australia, which in most places is one seamless cliff wall. We took a few detours on some not so well maintained roads to look out over the cliff edge and to the sea below. I’m not sure what made the drive go by so quickly but all of a sudden on Monday night we arrived in Adelaide where Christmas cheer was definitely in the air. Every RV and family size tent at our caravan park had twinkling lights and even full size Christmas trees. Other than a bright red $2 Christmas t-shirt that BJ found at a thrift store and a Christmas tree headband that I found at the grocery checkout, we felt a little unprepared.

Grampians National Park For Christmas Eve and Day we splurged on a cottage in the shadows of Grampians National Park. The air is pleasant and cool up here and the rocky terrain and mountainous relief are a nice change. We spent Christmas morning (yesterday) reading, drinking coffee, and making heaps of phone calls to family in Idaho, Arizona, California, and North Carolina before whipping up somewhat disastrous eggs benedict (it tasted good, but didn’t look very pretty). A few rounds of coffee later we headed out to tour a couple of the top attractions in the Grampians, including a huge waterfall. When we returned “home” we were still bouncing with energy and decided to pick up a game of tennis at the on-site court. Neither BJ nor I have played tennis since P.E. in high school but the court and rackets were just sitting there beckoning us to give it a shot. The game was highly entertaining, especially since we were barefoot.

Halls Gap Kangaroos This Christmas has hit us harder than we were expecting. We definitely miss home and the feeling of being around family at this time of year and I can’t wait to pick up Shalyn and Randall this afternoon.  Everyone in Australia loves talking about plans for Chrissy. I can’t tell you how many people (including a number of grocery store clerks) asked us “So, what are you doing for Chrissy?” On behalf of Australia, Merry Chrissy!


Southern Coast

Geotag Icon Show on map Thursday, December 17th, 2009 by Lisa

13, healing 299 kilometers around Australia

South Coast Western Australia 028 We spent a few days in the sleepy town of Walpole exploring the giant Tingle trees and walking along the 38 meter tall Tree Top Walk (totally worth it and not as touristy as we were expecting) before we pushed on further down the coast to the super hip and hippy friendly town of Denmark. This was a place that we could have called home for a while. One of the first days we were there a huge craft market and free concert took place on a large green right in town. We couldn’t get enough of one of the bands called Laliya . . . two musicians, more about one didgeridoo, one djembe drum, a bunch of shakers, and one crazy instrument called an Appalachian dulcimer. It’s not the type of music that will make you really shake it, but it’s perfect for a Saturday afternoon in the sun. Here’s a little sample:

Our last day in Denmark was definitely the highlight as we spent it on Ocean Beach taking a surf lesson!! The waves were miniature but they were perfect for learning and we had a blast. It was so shallow that you could actually walk out into the waves with board in hand. It made it really easy to go over and over and over again. No photos to share for that because we were having way too much fun to get out of the water. Besides, we should probably wait until we are a little better to start posting photos of each other surfing.

Greens Pool - South Coast Western Australia We left Denmark via the gorgeous Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks and then continued east toward Bremer Bay for one night and on to Esperance. Although the town is a little more industrial than we expected (BJ says Idaho Falls on the beach but I don’t think it’s that bad) we are very close to beautiful beaches and a national park. We’ll spend a few days here before making the trek along the Nullarbor across southern Australia.


Southern Forests

Geotag Icon Show on map Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 by Lisa

12, healing 227 kilometers around Australia

Voyager Estate - Margaret RiverWe spent a week in Margaret River wine tasting at Voyager and Leeuwin Estates, visit this riding our bikes along a couple awesome unmarked mountain biking trails, enjoying our proximity to town and drinking way too many coffees, and actually seeing some live music by the regionally well known Grace Barbe. The relaxing week seemed to fly by and in the middle of our weekend, we decided it was time to drive a little further south. We stopped at Cape Leeuwin where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet and then headed east.

Bicentennial Tree ClimbThe road heading inland from Margaret River runs straight into an area known as the southern forests. Huge karri trees, basically a huge type of eucalyptus, tower over the forest floor. These enormous trees are almost as tall as the famous giant redwoods in Northern California. Back in the day, fire lookouts used to shimmy up these trees with a rope and spikes on the inside of their boots. It would take them 6 hours to complete the round trip up and down. Finally they decided to build a sort of ladder made out of rebar that is drilled into the tree and spirals to the top. Each bar is about two feet above the previous bar and if you were to slip through the bars, there is nothing to catch your fall. At the top of the tree, they built a four story platform, each story connected to the next by a skinny ladder, which reaches well above the smaller branches and provides the perfect lookout to watch for fires.

Bicentennial Tree ClimbSo what? Well there are three of these climbing trees in the southwest that are open to the public. They are free to climb and there is no tree-lifeguard on duty to make sure you don’t fall. You just park your car and start climbing. We arrived at Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree early in the morning and had it all to ourselves. The tree is 75 meters (246 feet) tall. I don’t consider myself afraid of heights, but this thing was terrifying … in an exciting sort of way. You have to make a point to not look down and can only move one limb at a time. My hands actually hurt afterwards because I had been squeezing each bar so tightly. The view from the top was definitely worthwhile but the climb itself was the highlight, especially coming down.

Slim Photos Our next stop was the very small town of Northcliffe, where we had heard about a number of great mountain biking trails. We stopped by the visitor center and received a couple of “maps” of the trails from a very enthusiastic lady who had us convinced that we had come to the Moab of Australia. She pointed us in the direction of the local campground, called Round Tu-It Camp, but forgot to mention that the campground itself has actually built their own 5 km bike trail. We weren’t expecting much but it turned out to be a really fun trail and the campground will be hosting the first ever 24-hour mountain bike race in Western Australia on the same trail come January. We should have stayed at camp the following morning to ride the trail again. But instead, we took our cute mountain biking brochures and headed out to try the local trails. Our first clue should have been the access road which was covered in leaves and branches and looked to get very little use. But we were determined and proceeded to spend the next hour thrashing along a trail that was totally overgrown. To give the town credit, it could be a really cool trail if it were maintained. But while BJ kept wiping spider webs off his face and dodging tree branches, all I could think about were the snakes that were disguising themselves as sticks all along the trail.

We are now further south at a place called Walpole, along the southern coast. We are sharing a huge grassy field with a kangaroo family and some very loud kookaburras. I am really going to miss waking up to the birds when we go home.


Margaret River

Geotag Icon Show on map Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by Lisa

11,742 kilometers around Australia

Wellington National Park - Southwest Australia While we may not have had the most traditional Thanksgiving celebration around family and lots of food, we kept ourselves busy and thoroughly entertained on the mountain biking trails in Wellington National Park. We zipped around a few purpose built trails at Leonard Hill but our favorite ride ended up being a trail that left right from camp and followed the Munda Biddi, a cycling track that spans the length of SW Australia, before meeting up with a walking track that followed the river back to camp.

Cape Naturaliste - Southwest AustraliaAfter we had our fill of biking we pointed to the coast and to the Margaret River region. Picture Napa Valley. Then picture beaches and water in the Caribbean. Finally add in epic surfing. Put it all together and you get Margaret River. We’re not sure what the next few days will bring, but we like the town, we like our little camp, and there are beaches, trails, and wine tasting within minutes.


Campfires & Bike Rides

Geotag Icon Show on map Friday, November 27th, 2009 by Lisa

Dwellingup Mountain BikingA few things have changed since we arrived in southwest Australia. We sleep cuddled up in sleeping bags instead of sprawled out with the van doors open and our feet hanging out the back. We’ve found huge forests to camp in and awesome single track mountain biking trails. And we get to play and relax on the weekends instead of trying to cover a bunch of ground to the next town. We’ll be in the southwest for about four weeks until we will point it back east and drive across the Nullarbor (you got it . . . “no” “trees”) to Melbourne to meet up with my sister Shalyn and her husband Randall.

viagra order WA Australia” href=”http://riverecho.com/photos/photo/4135940420/fremantle-wa-australia.html”>Fremantle, <a href=physician WA Australia” width=”240″ height=”180″ /> As we drove through a very rainy downtown Perth, it didn’t take us long to move along to the next artsy hip town of Fremantle. The cafes, one of which we visited every day, pubs, used bookstores, and weekly craft markets kept us entertained for a few days. But as the weekend approached we decided to head to the hills and seek out the local mountain biking trails. We found two awesome trails, Marrinup and Turner Hill, just outside of a town called Dwellingup, where we set up camp at a free campground for a few days and had our first campfire since we’ve arrived in the country. We’ve been camping our way around Australia but for some reason it hasn’t really felt like camping until we had a campfire.

Dwellingup Mountain BikingSlim needed a bit of a tune up so we had to spend our short work week in the big town of Bunbury. But to our surprise, Bunbury was a pretty cool little town. Our camp was surrounded by water, the Indian Ocean on one side and a lagoon on the other, and there were tons of rabbits. Apparently that rabbit proof fence that runs north to south through Australia didn’t work very well.

After the short week, we made our way up to a place called Wellington National Park where we’ll spend the next couple of days on another series of mountain bike trails at Leonard Hill. The national park is one big Jarrah (a type of tall eucalyptus tree) forest. We are camped below these huge tall trees at Potters Gorge, which may just be my favorite campground so far. It reminds me of camping in Yosemite, minus all the granite cliff walls.

Eucalyptus trees are fire tolerant so when fires spread through the area, they leave their trunks pitch black and their leaves green. A couple of the mountain bike trails we’ve been on weave right through forest that has recently burned. The colors are stunning . . . black trunks against the bright green new growth along the forest floor.

Wellington National ParkIt’s still hard to believe that it’s Thanksgiving. Jean is cooking up a turkey and oyster stuffing at our house in Victor for her sister and family and apparently our fat cat, Salsa, wasn’t going to miss out on the feast and brought in his own mouse to eat under the table. My mom, stepdad, and Anni are meeting up in Sequoia National Park and from the sounds of it, might end up at a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I also just chatted to my Grandma in Arizona, whose voice I haven’t heard since last year. Our call cut out really quickly, but it was so good to talk to you Grandma! I’m not sure we’ll celebrate the holiday in any tradition and although we miss the holiday feel at home, we’ll just have to make do with campfires, mountain bike trails, and the company of each other in this large eucalyptus forest for now!


Into the Red Center

Geotag Icon Show on map Friday, November 20th, 2009 by Lisa

Uluru - Australia As I sat at my computer this morning, bundled up in my sleeping bag and listening to the rain fall outside, it boggled my mind that we were in over 100 degree heat just a couple days ago before we parted ways with Jean to return to the southwest.

The second part of our vacation with Jean was spent in the vast red center. Believe it or not it was vast, covered in red dirt, and in the center of Australia. Our destination was Uluru, commonly known as Ayer’s Rock, or simply known as the big red rock in the middle of Australia. But before arriving in Uluru, we made a few stops along the way.

Devil's Marbles Australia Just south of Tennant Creek, we pulled of the road for a quick stroll through the Devil’s Marbles. It was amazing that some of these “marbles” were still balancing as they looked like they would roll away at any moment. Our walk through the marbles was a quick one as we scurried between shady patches, but we did gather a handful of cool photos from the walk.

Desert Park - Alice Springs, AustraliaWe continued on to Alice Springs, were we spent a night and visited the Alice Springs Desert Park, which hosts a display of various desert ecosystems. The park is entirely outdoors, except for the nocturnal display. As you can imagine the desert park was pretty hot and as much as we loved watch tons of birds swoop above our heads, the nocturnal area was the best. And no, it’s not just because it had air conditioning . . . well that’s only partly the reason. Our eyes adjusted slowly in the nocturnal house, where the lighting is always set to “full moon mode” during the actual day. It is just enough light to watch critters like rats, snakes, owls, wallabies, and horny devils move around as if it were the middle of the night.

Uluru - Australia The drive from Alice Springs to Uluru takes about 5 hours and we arrived just as the sun was setting. We parked the camper and quickly walked up to a lookout to take in the view. From the distance of our campground it was hard to make out its enormity. We awoke early the following morning and drove into the national park to watch the sunrise. It’s hard to describe just how massive Uluru is. Standing roughly 2,800 feet tall, it gives us just a glimpse of the size of the entire rock which is mostly underground. Think of it like an iceberg, where about 90 percent of the rock is hidden below ground. Its many contours and groves seemed to move as the sun slowly rose and when we took a closer look along a short trail up to its edge, it seemed to tower over us. Although there is a trail to the top of Uluru, it seemed impossible to attempt it from where we stood as it was overhung at the base. We all agreed that it would be a pretty amazing sight during a rain storm.

Kata Tjuta - Australia Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas, is another rock formation not even an hour drive from Uluru. Kata Tjuta stands slightly taller than Uluru but takes a different shape with many tall adjacent mounds instead of just one. Although on everyone’s “hit list” it also seemed way less busy. BJ and I strolled up a trail through one of the gorges that divided the rock mounds and it was impressive to stare up at the towering rock walls as the sun rose. We noticed that Kata Tjuta wasn’t smooth like Uluru, but rocky and rough. Turns out Kata Tjuta and Uluru were formed by totally different forces, but how bizarre that they just happen to be so close together in the middle of nowhere.

Sunset dinner at Kata Tjuta The extreme heat and the crowds took a little bit away from the experience but I think we were all impressed by the sights of the red center. Jean splurged one night and took us all out to an event called “Sounds of Silence.” A bus came to pick us up from camp and took us to a remote bush setting we watched the sun set over Kata Tjuta, drank champagne, ate dinner which included kangaroo and crocodile (Jean wasn’t about to try this bush tucker and order the vegetarian meal), and watched the stars slowly come out, complete with a presentation on the different constellations that were overhead. The entire evening was set outdoors on the outback’s sandy surface and although we feared that it would take a turn for “touristy,” the evening was one of the best we had in the red center. Thanks Jean!

After two nights in Uluru and many dips into the campground pool, we decided it was time to head back to Alice Springs. We spent our final evening with Jean at a restaurant called Overlander’s Steakhouse. It featured steak, as well as kangaroo, emu, crocodile, and camel. BJ and I ordered a sample platter and here is the verdict. Crocodile tastes a little like canned tuna but they put so much sauce on it that it seemed like they were hiding something. Emu had a duck taste to it. Camel was sort of bland. Kangaroo was the favorite, but it wasn’t nearly as good as when BJ cooked up his own version just a few weeks ago. We were surprised in the middle of dinner when the matradee approached the table with a few props that we were supposed to use in a restaurant-wide song and dance. What proceeded was pretty silly, but we made sure to do our bit and participate.

The following morning Jean flew back to Sydney for a couple of days before flying home and BJ and I flew back down to Perth. It feels like the last two weeks flew by way to fast with Jean. But as we look back through all the photos and remember little stories here and there, we actually covered a lot of ground, made the most of the heat by seeking out every swimming pool possible, and of course, enjoyed each other’s company.


The Northern Territory with Jean

Geotag Icon Show on map Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Lisa

about it Australia”>Ubirr - Kakadu NP, <a href=order Australia” width=”240″ height=”180″ />Welcome to Australia Jean, let’s go see the crocodiles. After a visit to one of Darwin’s well known outdoor markets, we left the city a day early to head to Kakadu National Park. Kakadu has been recognized as a World Heritage Park because of its diverse species as well as its Aboriginal culture and history. It turns from a drastically dry and fire swept countryside in the “winters” to a bright green and flooded area in the “summers.” We arrived at the end of the dry season known as the “build up.” Every afternoon, clouds build and build in the sky, making you think a storm is inevitable. Only when it barely starts to sprinkle do the clouds start to deteriorate and float away. This is also the hottest time of year up here. Thank the Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent for air conditioning in the big RV.

Yellow Waters - Kakadu NP, AustraliaOur first stop in the park was a casual stroll along the East Alligator River at Ubirr. There are actually no alligators in Kakadu, or anywhere in Australia for that matter, but … oh my god … there are crocodiles. We were not expecting to actually see one and when we got to the first lookout along the trail, not even five minutes from the car, BJ spotted a dark shadow in the water. Sure enough … crocodile. Thankfully, since we visited the Steve Irwin Zoo along the east coast, we remembered that crocodiles will not chase after anything on land as their very heavy tail makes them extremely slow. But they do strike right at the water’s edge and it is advised to not approach the edge of the water or hang out over the water on, let’s say, a viewing platform. We were well away from the water so we hung out and watched and Jean convinced herself that we invited her to Australia just so we could feed her to the crocodiles.

Ubirr - Kakadu NP, AustraliaDuring the very hot afternoon, BJ and I strolled to the Ubirr rock art sites, a number of galleries depicting drawings that were made thousands of years ago using either ochre or blood. Aborigines used rock art to share stories and the act of drawing the art was more important to them than the artwork itself. They would paint directly on top of an old drawing. So each rock art “gallery” could have hundreds of layers of drawings. The figures and forms were mostly obvious and included different kinds of fish, kangaroos, crocodiles, turtles, as well as humans with dilly bags and spears. One of the things that distinguish Aboriginal art is the depiction of internal organs and bones in each of the animals or human figures. They refer to this as x-ray art. We made one more stop before heading back to camp to walk to the top of a lookout over Arnhem Land and Jean, the trooper that she is, grabbed her walking sticks and made her way up the steep incline along with us.

Yellow Waters - Kakadu NP, AustraliaWe stayed in Kakadu National Park for two nights and on the second morning took an early morning boat cruise up the Yellow River. It was an awesome tour and way better than we expected. We saw tons of birds. Some of them could walk across lily pads and looked like they were walking on water. The Darter had a very long neck and actually spent most of his time spearing fish under water. Another one, called the “fire starter” learned that it could move a burning stick to a new area if it wanted to eat escaping grubs and bugs. But even with so many birds it was hard not to be constantly scanning the waters for another set of spikes or a pair of eyes barely breaching the surface. Once again we were surrounded by crocs and for some reason they always seemed to appear closest to Jean. The boat captain assured us that the crocs are used to these boats, but they looked pretty hungry to me. At one point a crocodile splashed out of the water and was heading straight towards a flock of geese along the shore. It made us all jump until the boat captain started yelling out “get a duck, get a duck, get a duck!!”

Daly Waters, NT AustraliaWe left Kakadu and drove towards Katherine Gorge, where BJ and I had spent a couple nights about three weeks ago. We felt like we had the entire campground to ourselves and spent much of the day in and out of the salt water pool. After two nights in Katherine we made our way south to the popular outback pub of Daly Waters to set up camp for the night. It definitely felt like the off season at the pub but it was easy to picture the place bumping with people. Jean encountered tons of frogs in the bathroom, one of which was hiding out below the toilet seat and got a bit of a ride when she flushed the toilet. We had dinner at the pub and then hit the sack as BJ and I had to be up at 1:30am for a quarterly meeting at Vertical Media. We attempted to sleep for a few hours and then woke up to coffee and breakfast just before the meeting. With the very loud hum of the air conditioner, Jean managed to stay asleep on her bed in the back of the rig as we jabbered away on our computers in the wee hours of the day. Needless to say, we were pretty tired throughout the rest of the day.

We are now in the outback town of Tennant Creek, slowly making our way down to Alice Springs and Uluru. We explained to Jean that there is no sign that announces that you’ve arrived in the outback. It’s just a feeling that overcomes you. You might be spacing out for a while, watching the scenery go by, and all of a sudden, you announce “hey, we’re in the outback.” Jean experienced this epiphany today as we crested the top of a small hill. “Okay,” she said, “now we are in the outback.”


Back to the Northern Territory

Geotag Icon Show on map Friday, November 6th, 2009 by Lisa

The Pinnacles at Cervantes We made it to the local tavern in Cervantes right in time for the Melbourne Cup to begin and as exciting as it was to watch those horses run their hearts out, cheapest I had barely had a sip of my beer when the race was over. It was especially entertaining to watch our friend from the evening before, decease who apparently forgot meeting us or was too drunk to remember, yell out “go horses!” in the middle of the race.

The Pinnacles at CervantesWe had one destination in Cervantes, other than the unplanned Melbourne Cup outing. The Pinnacles is a large sand dune covered in hundreds of mini limestone pinnacles.  Most of them were about our height but a few towered above us, almost giving us the feeling that they were watching us. We arrived just as the visitor center closed, so I still don’t know how they formed or why they are there, but you could drive the skinny sand road through the park and walk anywhere you pleased.

The Pinnacles at CervantesFrom Cervantes, we quickly drove south to Perth to catch a plane up to Darwin, where we will be picking BJ’s mom up from the airport in a few hours.  She will be joining us for two weeks as we explore Kakadu National Park and make our way to the Red Centre to see Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). We left Slim behind in Perth and have rented a monster of an RV for the three of us to live/travel/work/cook/lounge in for the next couple weeks. This thing is insane; it has two “lounge” areas and air conditioning. Slim would be very disappointed in our extravagant ways. We better not get too used to it, but I’m sure it won’t be too hard to enjoy living the high life.

Oh boy, BJ just discovered that we have a Playstation/DVD player and guess what game it came with … MotorX World Tour. Looks like we suddenly have plans for the next couple hours.


Coral Coast, Western Australia

Geotag Icon Show on map Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 by Lisa

10,403 kilometers around Australia

Ningaloo - Exmouth, WA From the Ningaloo Marine Reserve to Shark Bay World Heritage Park, BJ and I explored beaches that I thought only existed on honeymoon brochures. The water was the lightest shade of blue surrounded by a deeper turquoise set against a white sand beach and the encroaching outback desert. Unlike up north there are no crocs or stingers, so we got our “snork” on in a couple different places, once at Turquoise Bay and once in coral Bay, where we ended up camping for three nights. There were tons of fish but not the brilliant coral that we found near the Great Barrier Reef along the east coast. The highlight for us has been the larger sea creatures that we have spotted from the shore, like whales, dolphins and even sharks.

Shark Bay - Monkey Mia, WA Monkey Mia, in the heart of Shark Bay, has been made popular by its daily dolphin feedings. It sounded pretty touristy but ended up being one of the coolest things we’ve done and we both got a chance to feed one of the dolphins. For those skeptics out there, they actually only feed five of the dolphins that come into the bay and they feed them a very small amount so they are forced to continue hunting and fending for themselves. A local resident started feeding a dolphin in 1965 and this dolphin taught its calf who taught its calf to return to the area for food. So they now only feed these five related dolphins and you can stand right there with them in the water.

Shark Bay, WA Before leaving Shark Bay we stopped at eagle Bluff and finally saw the sharks that give the bay its name. The bluff looked down over a huge shallow bay where we must have spotted at least a hundred shards cruising the waters below. I’ve never seen so many sharks. According to a sign, the sharks that we were watching were of the “Nervous Shark” species. This is one place in the park that posted a large no swimming sign.

Kalbarri National ParkAs we made our way further south the terrain changed drastically. Rolling hills, large trees, tons of greenery filled the landscape. Our first destination was Kalbarri National Park and before setting up camp for the night we watched the sun set over the Kalbarri River Gorge.  We continued our tour of the park this morning along the Coastal Cliffs, an area that reminded me of Moab if it were located along a beautiful ocean. It didn’t take long to spot dolphins, whales and seal lions. But we finally encountered the notorious Australian flies. There is not much you can do to keep your sanity when the flies come and you almost feel violated when they leave. You have to talk out of the side of your mouth as they love crawling around in any facial orifice that they can get to. Although we had planned a second night in Kalbarri, the only way to escape the flies was to drive and we found ourselves suddenly on the way to our next destination. The flies literally drove us out of town.

Kalbarri National Park We are now in the small town of Cervantes where we will hopefully be able to call home for two nights. We have a campsite right on the beach and after going out to a so-so crayfish dinner at the only cafe in town, we already seem to have plans to watch the Melbourne Cup, a huge annual horse race, at the local tavern tomorrow. The strangest thing about the area is that there are no waves. The ocean is completely still here as if we were on a giant salt water lake. We’re not sure if this is normal or not, but we’ll have to ask our new friends at the pub.

Click on the dolphin image below to take a look at our Coral Coast photo album (oh, and be sure to watch the Pelican Drinking Fountain video):

2009 October :: Coral Coast, Western Australia