Monday, 29 March 2010


Sydney is beautiful, but a bit damp. It was sunny the first few days while the wet weather that has been following me merrily around the globe made a pre-emptive strike on Perth, but it started raining yesterday, and doesn't look like it has any plans to stop.

The city is spectacular. The opera house really is all you imagined, and the harbour bridge is even more. I was too cheap to pay for the bridge climb, but had a great time at the bridge museum and lookout. I'm staying with Amy and John at their place in Balmain, a charming suburb about 10 min by ferry from the city.

I spent the first couple of days here wandering around downtown, mostly in the botanic garden, fascinated by the (24,000!) bats, the cockatoos, and the joggers. People here are serious about staying in shape, almost on a par with pre-Carnival Trinidad. It's definitely a nice place to go for a run since there's waterfront just about everywhere. At least, I imagine it would be. I just sat on the grass, enjoying my ice cream.

On Saturday afternoon, Amy, John and I went kayaking in the middle harbour, which was a lot of fun. We didn't see much wildlife - though we could hear kookaburras everywhere - just lots of yachts and some pretty impressive houses in the woods. Then we walked along the water with some fabulous evening views to a town called Manly for a picnic on the wharf.

I also went to the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours away, to get a taste of the interior. That's when it started to rain. The views were still fantastic, maybe even more so with the mist clinging to the valley. The rain probably kept some of the tourists away, too. I was pretty wet, though.

Next stop: Melbourne. My original plans to take the train from Sydney to Perth have been foiled, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to see a bit further south. The Great Ocean Road awaits.
Picture: I have several dozen of the opera house/harbour bridge, but I thought this one was a little more interesting.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

North Queensland

This would have been the Great Barrier Reef section, but Cyclone Ului had other plans. While devastating Fiji, she (he?) also found time to foil my plans to see wild sea turtles. No boats were leaving Cape Tribulation. No swimming at the beach either, because if the saltwater crocodiles don't get you, the box jellyfish will.

I had to content myself with the other World Heritage site in the area, the Daintree National Forest. No sea turtles, but I did see a cassowary, some scrub fowl, lots of bats and lots of spiders. Also some pretty spectacular butterflies, including my personal favorite though apparently not all that rare, the Ulysses butterfly.

I went on a crocodile cruise on the Daintree River (you're looking for them, not cruising on them, in case that was confusing) and saw a 4.5m long one, apparently known to the locals as Scarface. We didn't get too close. Saw any number of
"logodiles", too. I think the one in the picture above is a pretty good example.

On the way back to Cairns - my launching point for the 3 day trip to Cape Trib - we stopped for a swim with the Jungle Perch (possibly the only non-lethal living thing in North Queensland) in Mossman Gorge, which was really spectacular. That was one of the best parts of the trip.

Over the 4 days I spent in the area, I amassed quite a collection of apalling amateur wildlife photography. Sadly that was all on the memory card I lost when I got back to Brisbane, so I won't be able to inflict that on anyone when I get home.


Arrived in sunny Brisbane on March 10. The first thing I saw coming out of the airport was a spectacular sunset. It's rainy season here and everyone has been apologizing for the weather but it seems pretty good to me. I still managed to get sunburned.

I'm impressed by how pretty Brisbane is. Unfortunately I don't have any good pictures. Most of them are on one of my memory cards apparently in a format that no computer can read, and the rest (including the view of the highways along Brisbane River shown here) are on a memory card that I lost. :(

Otherwise I've been having a really good time.
It has been great hanging out with the old Mcr crew. I'm staying with Amelia and Rob, and was here for Gordon's birthday, and even had a chance to catch up with Lucy M. I've been taken to a rugby league match - Brisbane Broncos just beat the North Queensland Cowboys - and camping for a beautiful weekend on Byron Bay. We visited a koala sanctuary, where besides dozens of koalas we saw lots of other native animals, even a tasmanian devil (sort of - he wasn't really interested in coming out of his log), and got to feed the kangaroos. I had a great time at the Queensland Museum, too, learning about the state, including about Aboriginal and Torres Island cultures.

Just wish I had some pictures of it all!

Monday, 8 March 2010

New Zealand

Six days is not enough to visit New Zealand. I knew that before I came, but what can you do? I wasn't going to come all the way out here and not visit. Still, I'm ashamed to tell the Kiwis I meet how short my stay has been - I don't want to offend them.
I had 2 days in Auckland, a day on the Overlander train to Wellington, a day in Wellington, a day en route to Christchurch by ferry and then train, and about a day and a half in Christchurch. No bungy-jumping or skydiving but it feels like I've been running the whole time.
The Interislander ferry trip was great. It was a beautiful day, the water was calm and the views are spectacular. Of the cities Wellington was my favorite. Both the botanical gardens overlooking the city and the Te Papa museum are really impressive and free (bonus!), and I could have spent a lot more time in each.
Auckland was much hillier than I expected. I had no idea it was built on old volcanoes (didn't get the guidebook until a couple of days before). I spent a day walking around Rangitoto island, which has only existed for 600 years. That was pretty amazing.
Christchurch suffered a little because I was exhausted by the time I got here, but I've had a nice, relaxing time, strolling around town and enjoying the botanical gardens.
It has been a really good visit, and each of the cities has a lot of charm. There are just so many things I haven't done: the west coast, kayaking, hot springs, glaciers... Another month should do it.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Coast Starlight

I'm a little behind with my blogs - actually in New Zealand now - but I spent 4 days in all on the Coast Starlight train from LA to Seattle (and back), so I had to get a plug in for Amtrak.
It's slow (very), but the views are sensational, and the seats are way better than airplane seats, and I really enjoyed it. We went along the Columbia and Willamette rivers, right out of a Woody Guthrie song.
Union Station in LA is fabulously art-deco, and King Street station in Seattle will should be pretty impressive too, when they finish restoring it.
Didn't have time to get off at Salinas to go to Carmel - that'll have to be next time.

Pictures: The train at Klamath Falls, Oregon station (I think).

Redwood City

Redwood City is a little south of San Francisco, hence the picture of Alcatraz. You can't really tell, but that's the golden gate bridge in the background.

We visited Alcatraz on possibly the most beautiful day ever, which made it seem like a reasonably nice place to live. They are restoring the prisoners' gardens. Not what you expect on the Rock, but they're lovely.

On the mainland everyone seems to have an orange or lemon tree and the fruit was all ripe and delicious-looking. It made me think of our Manchester apple picking. Wish we could spend the winter picking oranges, too. Who knows, possible perk of global warming?

Thanks, Christina and Jo, for putting me up so nicely and helping me deal with banks and letting me hone my floor sanding skills on your new house. Turns out my skills could use some serious honing. Hope there's no permanent damage!