September 30, 2009 - October 14, 2009

Joan and I went  on a great trip to Australia.   Since we had our Antarctica trip earlier this year, Australia made our 7th continent that we visited.  We took an Overseas Adventure Travel tour and were joined by Joan's sister, Kathy and 13 other people from around the US.   The tour left from LA, so we used the opportunity to see Lisa, Jim and the kids for dinner during the layover.  The flight to Melbourne (or "Melbin" as the Ozzies pronounce it) took over 15 hours, but time passed quickly, since we had a new A380 Jumbojet that had about a hundred movies, TV shows, games, etc from the seat monitor.  By the time you add a few chapters of a book and some sleep, you have arrived!   

Melbourne is a modern city with skyscrapers, good restaurants and plenty of parks and sites.  It is the capital of the state of Victoria.  We visited the Melbourne Gaol, where Ned Kelly was hanged and toured the botanical garden and the architecturally striking Federation Square.

Federation Square in Melbourne

We traveled next to Adelaide, the capital of the state of South Australia.  We visited the Cleland Wildlife Park, where were able to walk amongst the kangaroos, koalas and other beasts of Australia.  Joan was in her element, cuddling a koala with me and feeding kangaroos. 


From Adelaide, we flew to Alice Springs, the capital of the Northern Territory and the only large population center in the "Red Center".  It was founded in the late 1800's as the best place for a telegraph repeater station to allow communications from the southeast colonies to the north coast.  It is in the middle of vast arid plane and desert environment.  We visited the old telegraph station and also visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the School of the Air, providing medical and educational services to the isolated populations in the center of the continent.   Also in Alice Springs, we went on an aboriginal culture tour with an aboriginal who has crossed into both societies.  We had a great barbeque cooked by our tour leader at the motel barbeque pit and it really brought the group together.  The interesting thing about Alice Springs is that we have no photographs from it.  Many of the aboriginals do not want their picture taken because of cultural reasons and we were told not to take any pictures, even of scenery where an aboriginal could be included.

From Alice Springs, we drove south and then west through the desert for about 6 hours towards Uluru (Ayers Rock).  On the way, we stopped at a cattle station (ranch) where we spoke to a rancher who explained life in the Outback.  Upon arriving at Uluru, we took a hike into the Kata Djuta (The Olgas), which is a rock formation near Uluru, which is equally as impressive.  We then had a sunset viewing of Uluru where we had champagne and hors d'oeuvres while watching the colors change on the rock until the sun set.  The next day we went on a sunrise helicopter ride up over Uluru and Kata Djuta.  The views were magnificent and are shown below.  After the helicopter ride we rode out to Uluru and walked around the rock.  It's 6 miles around and we did the half-way hike of just over 3 miles.  It was great being up at the rock.  You can climb it, but it is for younger folks than us.  In addition, the aboriginies frown upon it.

Uluru at sunrise from the helicopter

Kata Djuta from the helicopter

From Uluru, we flew to Cairns (pronounced "Cans" by the Ozzies) in Queensland, the "Sunshine State" of Australia.  It is on the northeast coast of the continent at 16 degrees south latitude (equivalent to Guatemala in the western hemisphere), so it has a tropical climate.  We drove further north to Port Douglas, where we stayed at a beautiful resort called the Sea Temple.  From there we went on our trip to the Great Barrier Reef.  The reef extends for over 1000 miles and is not one, but many coral structures.  There are a number of ways to see the reef, chief among them is to use SCUBA gear and go to the outer reefs.  We were less experienced and used snorkel gear from Lowe Island near the inner reef.  The water here was less clear than it would have been from the outer reef, but the views of the coral were still magnificent.


                           On the boat going out to the reef                                                         Lowe island, where we snorkled from

After two nights at the resort, we drove yet further north to Cape Tribulation, to an eco-tourism lodge in the middle of the tropical rain forest in Daintree National Park.  From here we took a river boat to see crocodiles, went on a rain forest walking tour and took a four wheel drive jeep journey even further north to a beautiful waterfall in an aboriginal community, called Wujal Wujal.  Why a four wheel drive jeep?  Because north of Cape Tribulation, there are no paved roads, only four wheel drive tracks!


Next was a flight to Sydney, the capital and largest city.  It was discovered by Captain Cook in 1770 and in 1788 started to be used as a penal colony by the British.  Many of the historical sites around Sydney deal with the old buildings used by the prisoners and British government during those years.  Of course, Sydney has now grown to be a major metropolis of five million people and is known for its fabulous Opera House and harbor area.  It has a first rate aquarium and wildlife park where we were able to see the animals we missed in the wild, like the wombat, wallaby and platypus.

It was a great trip and we brought back many great memories.