Cairns
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While I spent the past Wednesday and Thursday chilling by the hotel pool, and playing golf with an old friend (thanks Tomoo!) Cathy spent those days in her open water dive class with 16 other students. Half of their days were spent in the classroom learning about diving, and the rest of the time in the Pro-Dive pool practicing their dive skills. Cathy was a little apprehensive about some of the skills, but she pushed on through, and got herself ready for the big bad ocean. We got picked up at 6:10am Friday morning to head out to sea on Pro-Dive’s dive boat, ScubaPro. The weather was great, the visibility was awesome, and we really had a great trip. As expected on the boat, were people from all over the world, Italy, France, Israel, Germany, Czech Republic, Canada, and of course Australia! Cathy got better and more confident with every dive, and I am happy to report she is now fully certified as a PADI Open Water Diver. Below are some pics from the trip.

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Getting geared up for her first open water dive

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About to head down on her first dive

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After her last open water dive

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All certified and ready to dive the world!

After Cathy was certified, she was free and clear and we could dive together. On our last dive I rented a camera and was able to get some decent underwater shots.

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Chilling underwater

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Enjoying her dive

On the dive we were able to track down Nemo, and after about 20 shots, he cooperated for one.

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Clownfish, A.K.A Nemo!

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Cuttle Fish

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Close up of the cuttle fish

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Cruising around the reef

Check out the gallery page for some more underwater shots. We are chilling today, and getting some rest before heading out of Cairns. Tomorrow we pick up our new home for the next three months, our camper van. We will briefly head North and check out Port Douglas, before starting to make our way South and around the country.

Adelaide, Australia
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The next day after the big surprise my sister, Cathy, and I moved from our hotel in with my Uncle. Once we got settled in, we took off to spend the afternoon down at the seaside town of Glenelg. We spent a couple of hours walking around and checking things out. Here are a few shots from the afternoon.

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Hanging out in Glenelg

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On the Boardwalk

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On the Glenelg pier

We then headed off to another B-day celebration for my uncle with some more of his friends at a local hotel. It was another fun night with family and good people. Cathy also got introduced to an Aussie hotel tradition…..the pokie machines! Basically slot machines, they are in every hotel bar here in Australia. We each plunked in $4, and Cathy ended up winning in the beginning…$5! and had everyone laughing with her ways on how she was winning……but like most gamblers…..you got to learn to walk away, and the $5 she won was gone before she knew it :( How will we ever fund this trip if she keeps loosing! ;-)

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Another fun birthday celebration

The next day my uncle, my sister, Cathy, and I headed off to the Barossa Valley for some wine tasting. For those who don’t know, the Barossa Valley is Australia’s equivalent of Napa Valley in California. This is also where my family is originally from. Along the way to some of the wineries we stopped off and visited the old train my sister and I use to play on as kids. Brought back some memories for sure.

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Renee and I on our old playground

Renee and Cathy really enjoyed the wineries and sampling the different whites and reds. Even though wine is not my thing, (I really need to find some place with rumeries!) I have to admit a lot of the wineries were really cool, and some of their history was neat to learn about. The best part though, and the main difference between the wine tasting in the states and here…….in the Barossa Valley….it’s free!!

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Enjoying our wine

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Enjoying some snacks with our wine at another winery. This looks like a prison cell! It’s just an alcove in a real nice wine tasting room. 

Our last day we spent visiting with my 94 year old Aunt, followed by a nice lunch with my mom and step-dad. My sister, Cathy, and I then went for a hike in the Morialta Conservation Park in the foot hills of Adelaide. It turns out there is climbing there and I wanted to see if we could find it, and we did. It was a little too cold and wet to climb, but when Cathy and I come back through we will be able to sample some of the routes there. Here are some pics from the hike.

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Third Falls

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Hiking down the gorge

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Second Falls

A bonus from the hike was on the way out, Cathy got to see her first one of the these in the wild……

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Koala Bear

We headed out early Tuesday morning to catch our flight to Cairns, and seek warmer weather……and we found it. I am currently just chilling by the pool at the Coral Tree Inn, while Cathy finishes up her classroom and pool work for her scuba diving class. We head out to dive the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow with my old dive company, Pro-Dive, http://www.prodive.com.au/  We will be out on the water for three days, and hopefully our next post will include a pic of a brand new open water certified diver!

Chapter Two Begins, Sydney, Australia
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Well, after a week of catching up with family/friends, recharhing our batteries, taking care of the last minute details, and condensisng all our 6 months of needs into two packs we headed off to Sydney.

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Laying everything out the day before our flight

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Packed and ready to go….can’t believe it all fit!

The good news is, at the last minute we were able to switch our flight to the direct flight from LA to Sydney which allowed us to skip the layover in Seoul and 9 extra hours of flying time…woohoo! However, this did give us a 10 hour layover in LA. As luck would have it, Cathy’s sister Jenn was out in LA working and we were able to rent a car for $30 and head out from the airport and see her. She was working at the St. Regis hotel down near Laguna beach, so we got to spend the day hanging at the resort…..very faaannccy, thanks Jenn for hooking us up!

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Hanging out at the St. Regis

After 24 hours of traveling we finally landed in Sydney on Monday morning at 6am!

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Just cleared customs

We made our way to the Pullman Hyde Park Hotel, which we were able to stay at using Cathy’s Marriott points and some frequent flier miles. The hotel is right in the middle of the city and right across from Hyde Park which put us in a great location for walking around. After settling in we headed off to walk down to Circular Quay. Circular Quay is the main harbor to see the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. Along the way we passed through a few parks and St. Mary’s Cathedral.

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St. Mary’s Cathedral

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Sydney Harbor Bridge

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Opera House

As we walked around we started to get a little hungry, and headed to a cafe for a sandwich. This lead to our first reality of being in Australia. Things are really expensive here right now for Americans. Being on a fixed budget, we both agreed the cost of food is going to be one of our biggest challenge down under.

We finally made our way to a Vodafone shop and we now have a pre-pay mobile phone while we are here. Instead of posting it up here on the blog for the world to read, just e-mail Cathy or myself and we will e-mail it back to you if you need to get a hold of us. The jetlag caught up with us pretty quickly that first day and we ended up crashing fairly early. The next day we woke pretty early and headed back down to Circular Quay, and caught the ferry over to Manly Beach. We spent the morning walking around the beach, and then over to the Shelly beach lookout. The beaches are just beautiful and even though the temps were in the upper 60s people were still chilling on the beach, and a lot of people were out surfing.

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On the Ferry over to Manly Beach

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Manly Beach

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Looking down at the waters of Shelly Beach

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Shelly Beach

We then headed back to Circular Quay to catch another ferry over to Darling Harbor where we grabbed a late lunch. After spending the afternoon in Darling Harbor, Cathy came to the conclusion she liked it better than Sydney Harbor. It is just a little less touristy, quieter, and easier to get around.

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View of the bridge and opera house from the boat on our way to Darling Harbor

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Darling Harbor

That evening we were both craving a little exercise and I was able to find a climbing gym a few train stops up the road. We headed over to the Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym, and after a quick belay test, we were able to crank out a good workout on the 60′ high walls. After a couple of hours the jet lag was setting in some more and we headed back to the hotel to crash, and we both slept like rocks that night.

The next day Cathy had a late morning conference call, so we had a late start to the day.  It wasn’t entirely possible to disconnect ourselves form work life back home! We decided to catch the train and bus down to Bondi Beach and check it out. We had lunch on the beach and then spent the afternoon walking 4K from Bondi to Coogee beach. If you are ever down that way both of us would highly recommend this walk which is right on the coastline. The views are spectacular! The only shame is the rock of the cliffs is pretty brittle, because it could be an awesome climbing area as well.

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Bondi Beach 

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People surfing at Bondi

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Another view of Bondi

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Along the coastline on our way to Coogee Beach

Up until our final day the weather had been awesome, sunny and in the mid to upper 60s. Unfortunately, all things can’t be perfect and our last day the weather moved in and it rained most of the day with the temps dropping. We spent the day working out at the hotel gym, and Cathy practiced her mask clearing skills in the hotel pool in anticipation of her dive class next week. We then head to Surry Hills for a happy hour and an early dinner.

Friday we packed up our bags and headed to the airport to catch our flight to Adelaide.  We met up with my mom, stepdad, and my sister at their hotel. After a year of planning we all headed out that evening to surprise my uncle for his 70 birthday. Annette, a friend of my mom and uncle had helped us with coordinating and getting my uncle to a local restaurant. Once he was in the restaurant and settled in with everyone my mom and stepdad walked in and surprised him. Cathy, my sister, and I hung back and waited for things to settle down, and then we all walked in on him………..using the Australian term, he was gobsmacked! We had a great evening and he really enjoyed the surprise.

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Pre-surprise drink!

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One happy and surprised Uncle Peter

On another note, now that the surprise is finally out of the bag we are putting back up the travel plan page, so everyone can keep up with where we are.

Chapter One, Done….
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Sorry for the long pause….we are back in Northern Virginia to prep for the next chapter of this journey.
After Niagara Falls we stopped off in the Finger Lakes region of NY.  This region is really cool and worth the visit but its clear to see how autumn would be the most ideal time to explore the lakes with all the wineries and beautiful hikes.  We still had a good time.  We spent most of it around Cayuga Lake, one of the longest and deepest (below sea level) of all the finger lakes.  We stopped off in Ithaca, home to Cornell and Ithaca College, and then worked our way east.  My lacrosse colleagues and friends, Maggie and Peter, were awesome hosts to us on such short notice.  They have a beautiful home with awesome views and we enjoyed our stay there.  After leaving Maggie and Peter we made our way to Cooperstown, NY home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  We took 3 hours to get through this museum, it was interesting and Jamie really enjoyed it.

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Babe Ruth and the Hall of Fame

We were back in Windham where it all began, enjoying a couple more rounds of golf, home cooked meals and a great hike up North Mountain with my parents and sister Jen.

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Half Way Up North Mountain

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Summit Pose!

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Summit of North Mt

We stayed almost a week before making our way back south.  We made a couple stops along the way, to visit my nieces and nephew on Long Island and Jamie’s step brother and his family in PA.

This past week was filled with unpacking and repacking, refueling our gear, supplies, tanks, etc.

We are off again tomorrow for Chapter Two.

More to come once we get to our destination….