Australia

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. 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.

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

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!

 

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.

 

On The Road….
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After our dive trip in Cairns, we checked out of our hotel and picked up our new home, the camper van, a one bedroom/kitchen/dining room Toyota Hiace and started our journey of touring Australia.  First I needed to brush up on my stick shift skills as well as getting accustomed to driving on the other side of the car and on the other side of the road. After a few miles it’s like riding a bike.  So far, Jamie is doing most of the driving which is fine by me.

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The Mobile Home

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The interior, and some toast for breakfast!

We’ve been on the road a few days and our first stop was Port Douglas which is just about an hour north from Cairns.  We drove the Captain Cook Highway up which offered some great ocean views.

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Scenic Overlook

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Port Douglas is a really nice beach town with a load of great restaurants and shops on the Esplanade.  We hung out for only a few hours so we could unpack our bags and get settled into the van.  Then we started to cruise around the area and check out the local scene.

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Four Mile Beach at Port Douglas

This would be our first night sleeping in the van and while its nice to be self-contained you still need to park somewhere legally for the overnights.  After chatting with some locals we learned that the pull offs on the highway were fair game for an overnight park.  Our first night was on the beach, a great spot, and free.

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Overnight Camping Spot

The next day we made our way to the Daintree National Park.  We chose to hike the Mossman Gorge and into the rainforest.  Ultimate goal, find a wild Cassowary bird, a very large flightless bird native to north-east Australia.  Close in size to an Ostrich or Emu.  Unfortunately, I never found one but the hike was good and the trees in this rainforest are like nothing I’ve ever seen before…..

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A Very LARGE Fig Tree!

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Mossman Gorge Tree

After a brief visit to the north we turned around and started making our way south to officially start our journey of driving Australia.  Since we have nowhere to be at no certain time we took a turn to follow a sign that looked interesting, it said “Josephine Falls 2Km”.  Sounds like a nice place, we’ll go check it out. Turned out to be a good stop, it was a real short walk into the falls, to the overlook, and back out.

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Josephine Falls

We planned our next stop to be Townsville, because if you live in the state of Queensland and you’re a rock climber this is where you go to climb.  There is no guidebook unfortunately so we stopped off at the library to collect as much beta as we could about the crag, the access, the routes, and anything else we would need to know to climb the next day.  We set out to do some reconnaissance that evening and drove up the Mount Stuart and hiked into the top of the cliff

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Summit of Mount Stuart and top of cliff line for the main crag

We looked down and saw what looked like a great area, we found some bolts and anchors in the rock and made our descent to find the routes, a little practice for the next day and bam, we were shut down…..

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Shut down by the Department of Defence

This signs basically says, don’t climb here or you’ll be prosecuted.  We debated the gamble and decided it wasn’t worth it, especially since we did not know the area and had no other guidance. So we enjoyed the views and made our way back down the mountain.

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Mount Stuart, overlooking Townsville

There would be 2 more nights of camping before arriving in Airlie Beach to explore the Whitsunday Islands, home to one of the best beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach.

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The Whitsunday Adventurer

We booked ourselves on a 3 day, 2 night sailing cruise with Whitsunday Catamarans.  This particular cruise would be with only 10 other people and 2 crew, and we got lucky because everyone was awesome and fun to hang around with.

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With the other 10 passengers

This cruise offered snorkeling, paddle boarding, and kayaking plus a 3 hour stop at the famous Whitehaven Beach, which was definitely the highlight of the cruise for Jamie and I.

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Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands

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Sunset on the cruise

We are back on land now and making our way south to Gladstone.  Check out the extra photos from the trip on the Gallery page.

 

Catching up with Friends and Family
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We got on the road from the Whitsundays and moved further down the coast. We stopped one night at Clariview to break up the drive to Gladstone. The next morning we made our way to Gladstone, well, really Tanum Sands (just South of Gladstone), where our friends Ben and Jacinta now live. Ben and I use to be dive instructors together way back in the day, and it was their wedding I attended last year. They have also had a new addition to their family, young Ethan. Cathy and I agreed we don’t think we have ever seen such a happy baby! All the kid does is smile ;-) It was great seeing them, catching up, meeting Ethan, and seeing where they have settled down. We ended up taking a bunch of baby pics, so we are not going to post them, but here is a shot from a walk we took from their place down to the beach, we’re checking out all the kite surfers. They just moved into this new place and it is only a 5 minute walk to the beach from the front door, pretty sweet! It was awesome hanging out and Ben and Jacinta were nothing but great hosts……thanks guys, hopefully we will see you in the states soon!

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Taking Ethan for a walk down to the beach

After a couple of days, we unfortunately had to move on and head inland for the first time, toward the town of Gayndah. My uncle Kym moved up to Gayndah a few years ago to start his own quarry business. It had been a few years since I had seen him and his wife Nhuy, and I was looking forward to catching up and having them meet Cathy. Gayndah is a sleepy town, and you might say it is out in the middle of nowhere, but it definitely has the appeal of a slow quiet town. Cathy and I really enjoyed our time there, and it was great catching up with my family, and meeting Nhuy’s sister Lena. Thanks Kym and Nhuy for your hospitality, the pic below is after a BBQ they put on for us….. a lot of laughs and good times!

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BBQing with my Uncle Kym, his wife Nhuy, and her sister Lena

We moved on from Gayndah and headed back to the coast with our sights set on Hervey Bay. We set up shop at the YHA caravan park. We got in around 10am, and by 1pm had booked a trip to board the Tasman Adventure boat to see humpback whales. Hervey Bay is known as the only place in the world where humpback whales hang out at from June – Nov, before migrating to the arctic. It was really cool to see them in their natural habitat doing what they do. Here are some of the pics from the trip.

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This baby and her momma came right up to the boat

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Momma!

Check out the gallery page for more whale shots.

The next day we were picked up early and headed out for a one day tour of Fraser Island. The island is what makes up one side of Hervey Bay and is really neat from a ecological perspective. The island is the largest sand island in the world, and you have to get around the island in a four wheel drive vehicle, or you aren’t going anywhere. This was our tour bus. It was a pretty sweet ride!

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Mega bus!!!

One of the highlights we got to see was spending the morning at Lake Mckenzie. The lake only contains rainwater, and is not fed by anything else, it took over 7000 years to get to the size it is today. The sand and plant life on the bottom of the lake along with organic matter keep the water in the lake from seeping into the ground. The water is so clear and the ph value is just right that you can put your hair in it and it will condition your hair……..not that I really cared ;-) but Cathy really enjoyed it!

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Lake Mckenzie

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Cathy about to condition her hair

The interior of the island is basically rainforest, but as you move outwards towards the coast the vegetation changes until you reach the beach. There are 5 different types of forests on the island.  We drove up the beach about 50km until we came to the wreck of the Maheno. This 5 story ship was being towed to Japan in 1935 when during a cyclone it came loose and washed up on shore where it sits today, slowly burying itself into the soft sand.  It was an impressive sight to see on the beach.

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Wreck of the Maheno

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Another view of the Maheno

We left Hervey Bay yesterday morning in the hunt for some real rock! I was able to track down some climbing in the area. It has been tough, there is not a lot of info on climbing in this part of Australia, but I was able to find a web site, www.thecrag.com

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 , and find a crag called Brooyar. It took a little bit to get there, but we were able to get some sport climbing in this afternoon. The climbing is on some pretty rough/sharp rock, but it was good to be cranking after not climbing on real rock in over a month!

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Cathy trying to figure out this 19 (5.10 in the states)

We ended up setting up camp just at the top of the mountain. There was no one around and it didn’t say we couldn’t camp there, so what the hey! ;-) Another bonus….only a 5 minute hike to the crag.

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Our Campsite…no one around, pretty cool!

While setting up camp, Cathy had her first close encounter with one of these.

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Skippy!

 

Australia’s East Coast, from Sunshine to Central
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Brooyar turned out to be pretty good climbing, it was our first time on rock in over a month so it would be good no matter what.  The rock was the sharpest I ever experienced, sandstone, which left our tips raw but well worth it.  The overnight camping was scary as hell for me.  Jamie loves the isolation but for me, I spent the night listening to all the footsteps in the woods that surrounded us.  Was it a kangaroo, a dingo, or a rhinoceros lizard?? I held my bladder that night and woke up safe and sound!

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Skippy

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Dingo

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Rhinoceros Lizard!

Noosa would be our next stop and this place was everything a gorgeous coastal town could be.  We found a really good caravan park to spend the night, went into town for a walk on the beach and some cocktails then woke up to a beautiful day so we hiked the 10K coastal track.

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Noosa Heads Coastal View

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Coastal Hike, Noosa

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Coastal Hike, Noosa

We left Noosa to continue south and feed my urge to see more Koala bears and went to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo.  This is a conservation zoo so they are mostly rescuing the animals to rehabilitate them and send some back into the wild, at least that’s what they advertise.  We did enjoy it and found the crocodile feeding to be the highlight.

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Koala Bear

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Bosco getting fed fish

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Feeding the Kangaroos

The Glass House Mountains offered us our next opportunity to climb and it was not too far from the Zoo.  Jamie picked out a climb called Troposphere which is a 5 pitch sport route.  We had no guidebook and relied once again on the internet for beta so it took us a while to find the start.

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Pitch 2 of Troposphere

Unfortunately after only two pitches of climbing, bad weather rolled in and within minutes it started to rain down on us.  We repelled down and got out before it got worse, which it did.  It was such a bummer because it was a real fun climb and the view from the top of the Glass House mountain range is probably awesome.

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Stuck at the 2nd pitch belay to see what the weather would do

We moved on down the Pacific Highway and after enough driving for one day we settled in at Coffs Harbor for the night.  It was time for a free night so we pulled into a truck stop for the night and we were woken at 5am to the natural alarm of the area……

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5AM Rooster Call Outside Our Window : (

Port Macquarie would be our next stop and if we were to move to Australia I would consider moving here.  A real cool beach town that’s not too busy with loads of parks, good restaurants, a lot of surfing (would have to learn) and a vibe we had not felt yet in the other towns.  We talked to a local about free camping in the area and she pointed out some great spots for us where we could shower, access a toilet all night and have great views.

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Nobby Beach at Port Macquarie, our dinner spot

With 24 hours of free parking at nearly every park in Port Macquarie we were set on a free night with great views.  We chose the one with the toilets at Sea Acres Reserve.

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Our Overnight Spot

We woke up to a gorgeous day with an awesome view from the bedroom…..

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Jamie enjoying his breakfast at the beach

There was another coastal track just off this parking lot so we headed out for a workout

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Shelly Beach Coastal Track, Port Macquarie

After our workout we started moving further down the coast, minding our own business when Jamie noticed a sign that said “Seal Rocks”, it was the next left and we had no other plans for the day so he asked if I wanted to go check it out. I said yes of course and 20 minutes later we are on a dirt road leading to who knows where.  Turns out there is one gas station/convenience store and that’s it for miles.  We continued down this road that came to a dead end at a beach and sight that just blew us away.

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Seal Rocks

Australian Fur Seals used to gather here in huge numbers years ago which is how this place got its name.  We were told there were no more seals here but a few months back a few were spotted in the distance.  There is also an historic lighthouse on the cliffs, with the lighthouse keeper cottage available for holiday use at $4700/week!

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Seal Rocks Lighthouse

This place was so unexpected and too awesome to just pass through so we stayed a couple hours and had lunch, what a view….

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Lunch at Seal Rocks

As we’re eating our lunch we notice something peculiar floating around in the shallows. Shortly after, a young boy heads out with his surf board to investigate.  We got out of the van to check it out and as we got closer we realized what it was. A baby seal!! It was so close to the shore line, just playing around flapping his fin.  A few locals were around so we got to talking to them and the one man said he’d been living there 26 years and had never seen a seal, he said we should feel privileged!

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Baby Seal!

We are now headed into the Blue Mountains for a few days of climbing, to the shock of many Australians, a few days ago the Blue Mts just got a lot of snow and some roads were even closed.  We are hoping its all melted by the time we get there tomorrow : )

 

Blue Mountains
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We headed into the Blue Mountains with a leg up on the other climbing areas we had been to so far, the big difference….we actually had a guide book for the area! This makes all the difference in the world when you are climbing in areas you don’t know for the first time. On the way into the mountains we stopped off at Wentworth Falls to give Cathy her first look at the Blue Mountains.

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Cathy’s first glimpse of the Blue Mountains

The book gave us exact directions to the parking area, and a map to the first crag we wanted to try out, called the Grey Slab. The rock is sandstone with a lot of texture in it, and wears on the pads of your fingers pretty quickly. We spent the afternoon basically climbing all the routes on the wall from right to left, and left the wall feeling really good…..tired, but good to be cranking on some quality routes. I could easily spend a couple of weeks in these mountains…….there is so much to climb! Here are some pics from our afternoon.

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Hiking in to the crag

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Enjoying the rock at the Grey Slab

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Looking down from above

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Hiking out

We then referred to the guidebook on where we should camp for the night. It said one of the best free spots to crash for the night is a place called Perrys Lookdown. It is a bit rough getting there, since it is about a 5km drive on a dirt road, but you are truly rewarded when you reach the end. Once we parked we walked about 100 yards down to the lookout, and this was our view ;-)

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Perrys Lookdown camp spot

Another bonus, we only had to share the area with two other guys who were camping down there as well, pretty cool! The next morning we headed off to try some of the multi-pitch climbing at an area called James Bond crag. The approach was a little scary, because you had to scramble through some serious bush to get to the crag, and even though Cathy and I never mentioned it out loud, we were both thinking it….SNAKES!!!!! Thankfully we didn’t see any. The climbing was really good, and we had a great day. Some pics from the day.

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Cathy making her way up Mr. Big

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Chilling at the second belay ledge of a climb called Mr Big

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Having fun with the view

Our last day in the Blue Mountains we ended up climbing one of the true multi-pitch classic climbs there call Sweet Dreams. The climb was the biggest climb Cathy has ever climbed and she did really well at handling the exposure. Below are some pics from the climb.

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To get to the climb you had to scramble through the magic hole

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Cathy hanging out at the second belay

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Cathy making her way across the giant traverse of pitch 3

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Top of the forth pitch with the Three Sisters in the background

We then headed back to Penrith to spend the evening with my uncle’s wife Nuhy, and her kids Tony, and Kym-Ahn. We had a great dinner with the family, and both Cathy and I would like to pass on our appreciation to them for putting us up as we passed through more than once, thanks for everything!

The next morning we headed off from Penrith making our way further down the coast. We ended up stopping in a town called Nowra which is suppose to be the sport climbing meca of Australia, so we thought we would check it out. We hiked in to see what it was all about and the first climb we came to was a grade 12 route (5.4 in US ratings) and I was surprised to hear from Cathy “I want to lead this!” She has been learning a lot over the past few months, and after I checked out a couple of things, I thought it was a good route for her first lead climb. I am proud to say she rocked it! Some pics from her big day.

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About to launch off…with her draws racked the proper way!;-)

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Made it!

We ended up crashing for the night at one of the local rest areas just south of Nowra….which was great because it was free! We woke up this morning and hit the road to see where we would end up. We ended up stopping in a town called Narooma, and came across this cool rock formation on the coast.

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Cool formation…..we just couldn’t figure what it reminded us of ?;-)

We are currently just north of a town called Genoa, and for the first time we have started to make the turn from heading south to heading west along the bottom of the coast line. Hopefully, within the next few days we will be hitting the Great Ocean Road, and then on to some more climbing at the Arapiles Mountains. :-)

 

Great Ocean Road……And News! :-)
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The last few days have been driving days in trying to make our way from the Blue Mountains to the south of Australia.
We had a couple of options in making our way through the southern coast. We could drive through the city of Melbourne or stay on the coast line and drive the Mornington Peninsula then cross by ferry.  We chose the scenic route.
We stopped off in Sorrento, a beautiful beach side town where our friends Ben and Jacinta were married.  Jamie was here last year for the wedding so he showed me all around town and this is also where we would catch the ferry.  It would be 3 hours before we could get on the next boat because there was a huge cycling event going on, the 20th year of the “Bike Around The Bay” fundraiser.

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The Ferry Full of Cyclists

There were 10′s of thousands of riders riding the 250K ride around the bay of Melbourne. Many of these riders were using the ferry to cross so it was a busy day. We went on a hike to kill some time.

 

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Sorrento Hike

 

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Views From Sorrento

We finally arrived at the Great Ocean Road

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Probably the most beautiful coastal drive on the planet. We would take 2 days to drive it, stopping off at all the scenic lookouts and phenomenal rock structures. Our first night we spent free camping at Johanna Beach, one of the best free spots we’ve found.

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Johanna Beach

All the stops were awesome, the views and rock formations along the southern ocean coastline are unbelievable.
Here are some of the amazing views along the Great Ocean Road

 

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One of the many Great Ocean Road Scenic Lookouts

 

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Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell National Park

 

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The Arch

 

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London Bridge

 

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Grotto Lookout

My favorite stop was Apollo Bay.  Despite all the great pictures above with the sun shining, we had actually just drove through a bit of a rain and wind storm.  When we arrived at Apollo Bay the sky cleared up again and it was a gorgeous day so we walked to the beach……Where, to my surprise Jamie pulled from his pocket a shiny rock. He said he had something to give me, and proposed! After a lot of excitement, of course I said yes……we are now engaged!

 

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Newly Engaged at Apollo Bay!

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We will look forward to celebrating with family and friends when we return to the States this spring. For now, our only plans are to continue enjoying Australia and this great adventure of ours.

 

Mount Arapiles
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After we finished the Great Ocean Road we spent one more night on the Southern coast at a free campsite near Portland. We were cooking dinner when this little guy showed up.

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Skippy showed up for dinner

In the morning we headed to just West of the Grampian Mountains, to a place called Mount Arapiles. Home to some of the best trad climbing in Australia. We arrived in the early afternoon, and headed up to the nearest crag to give Cathy a sampling of the rock. We climbed 2 routes called Hornpiece and The Dirge.

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Just arriving at Mount Arapiles

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Some of the cliff line of Mount Arapiles

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Cathy on Hornpiece

We ended up spending that first night at the caravan park in Natimuk to charge up the van and fill it with water. We were lucky to get a great sunset over the lake we could see from our van while having dinner.

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Chilling at our campsite in Natimuk

The next morning we moved over to the Pines campground which is at the base of Mount Arapiles. It is a great spot where most climbers camp and hang out. You can park you car, leave it, and easily walk to all the climbs. We hiked to an area called the Pharos and jumped on the classic climb called Lamplighter. The climb was really good with a bunch of exposure, at an easy grade. The final pitch is a bit crazy with this tight squeeze through this chimney. Here are some pics from the climb.

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Cathy heading up pitch 2 of Lamplighter

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Hanging out on Lamplighter

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About to climb the crazy crux of the third pitch

In the afternoon we headed over to another wall to run up an easy climb called Arachnus Variant. A really fun and easy climb that runs up the Watchtower face. At the summit we were lucky to get some good shots.

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Summit of Arachnus

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Another cool pic from the summit

The next day we headed over to Tiger Cliff to do the longest route at Mount Arapiles called Syrinx. It is a really cruisy climb, and a lot of fun. We were moving pretty fast on the climb, so we didn’t take too many pictures, but here is one from the summit of Tiger Wall.

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Top of Tiger Wall

After finally finding the descent and getting down from Syrinx we moved left on the wall for one last climb called Kaiser. A great climb with some really interesting moves, and a great way to finish up the day.

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Heading up the 2nd pitch of Kaiser

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Final moves on the last pitch of Kaiser

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Last picture before heading out

We spent the night at the Pines Campground. The next morning we hit the road for the 5 hour drive to Adelaide. We are currently staying with my Uncle and having a great time catching up, doing laundry, replenishing supplies, and obviously blogging! We head out tomorrow for the big push up the center of the country. We are leaving the lush green views of the tropics we started with in the Northeast, and green hillsides of the South coast we just came through to head north into the red desert of the outback.

 

The Red Center
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We took off from Adelaide this past Monday to head into the red center of Australia. Once you get up past Port Augusta (about 3 hours North of Adelaide) the scenery and the amount of cars on the road changes drastically.

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Rush hour in the outback

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On the road……..not much around….maybe we are getting a bit loopy!

We drove for about six hours that first day and made camp at a rest stop about two hours South of Coober Pedy. It was a great stop just off the Stuart Highway, and we ended up sharing it with some nice people also traveling around Australia.

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Camping on the side of the road

The next morning we headed off to Coober Pedy. An old opal mining town right off the Stuart Highway. It gets so hot there during the summer months that most of the town is built underground.

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Coober Pedy…..it is a bit dusty there!;-)

One of the couples we met the night before suggested we check out the Old Timers Mine, so we did. It gave us a good look into what life was like back in the day, when the opal mining boom was going on. Here are some pics from the mine.

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Heading into the mine

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Digging for some opals

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Life under ground

We left Coober Pedy and we were able to make it all the way to Curtin Springs for the night…..free camping (woohoo!)

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Sunset at our campground at Curtin Springs

The next morning we only had about 100km to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home to the largest monolith in the world. Basically the biggest rock in the world, and only a third of it is above ground. The temperature that day hit 39C (102F) and when you were in the sun….it felt like it! We ended up just doing an easy hike up to check out Kata Tjuta (back when I was a kid it was called the Olgas) These are some huge rock formations about 45 minutes from Uluru (Ayers Rock). They are part of the same rock plateau, and are very cool to see. Cathy was starting to get an idea why they call it the red center.

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           Kata Tjuta from a distance

Afterwards we checked into the Ayers Rock Campground, and because it was so hot, we ended up spending the afternoon at the pool.

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Life in the outback;-)

Some of the highlights of this area are the sunrises and sunsets, and color changes the sand and rocks go through. We headed off around sunset to catch the changes of colors on Uluru. Luckily we were able to get some really good pics.

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Uluru at sunset

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Enjoying the sunset at the Uluru, and watching it change colors

The following morning we woke early to beat the heat and headed off to Uluru to do the base hike. To give you an idea of how big this rock is, it usually takes people 3 hours to hike around it. We lucked out with the weather being really nice in the morning (minus the flies!) and we got some good shots of the unique formation on the rock. You have to be careful though, because some of the areas are considered sacred and shouldn’t be photographed. We made sure to pay attention to this, and got some good shots of the public areas.

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Some unique formations on the rock…..is that me or is that the Darth Vaders helmet on the rock?

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Having some fun at Uluru

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More of the unique formations on Uluru

On a side note, Cathy and I calculated our mileage so far in Australia, and we just went over 10,000km in our groovy mobile, woohoo! Out of those 10,000km only a week of that has been here in the outback, mostly on the Stuart Highway. Some people reading this already know this, but for those who don’t……..man, do you have to be alert driving up here. Back home, the worst thing you could probably hit is a deer. Well, lets run through the list Cathy and I have come across so far here in the outback…..of course there are kangaroos……..then you have dingos, followed by emu’s (one big damn bird!), then you take it up a notch, cows walk un-fenced out here in the outback….imagine hitting a cow at 70!!! Then one step bigger….wild horses! Came upon a heard of them the other day. Last but not least, and thankfully haven’t come across a heard of these yet…..camels! You got to stay alert out here in the outback!

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Horses on the road……horses!!!

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COWS!!!……COWS on the road!!

Back to our fun! ;-) We left Uluru and headed for Kings Canyon. Unforutnately, the temperature was around 100 again that day. We arrived in the canyon and decided to just do a portion of the canyon, so that Cathy could check it out. It really is a cool place, and here are some pics of the canyon.

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Kings Canyon

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Enjoying Kings Canyon

We left the canyon a little later than we anticipated, but we were able to stretch our drive that day and make it all the way to Alice Springs. For those who don’t know, this is were I was born……always good to visit where you are from! :-) We are also lucky enough to have some close family friends let us stay at their house while they are out of town. Thanks so much Bob and Sue…..your house was a perfect oasis for us. Our van is very comfortable, but lets face it, when you get a chance to sleep in a regular bed and have a regular shower a day…..you learn it is the simple things in life that can make you happy! ;-)Alice Springs is the largest town in the Northern Territory, and we spent our first morning having a look around the town center. In the afternoon we headed over to the old telegraph station. This was a sentimental visit for me, because I can remember playing there when I was kid.

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My old stomping playground

This morning we woke early to beat the heat, and headed to Flynn’s Grave (the man who invented the Royal Flying Doctors Service here in the outback). At the grave sight is the start of a hike to the summit of Mt. Gillen. It was a great hike with some great views at the summit of the Macdonnell Ranges as well as Alice Springs. Here are some pics from the hike.

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Cathy on the hike on Mt. Gillen

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Summit of Mt. Gillen with Alice Springs in the background

After the hike we headed down the highway and checked out Simpson’s Gap and Standley Chasm, both short hikes, but well worth the visit. Some pics from those hikes.

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Simpson’s Gap

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Cathy enjoying a break on the hike in Standley Chasm

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Standley Chasm

Tomorrow we are going to head out and continue making our way North toward Darwin. First stop Tennant Creek.

p.s. We also posted posted a bunch of pictures on the gallery page. :-)

 

The Northern Territory
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The Australia Outback is one of the most unique places I’ve ever been, it is so barren and vast, there are amazing things to see such as Uluru, the Olgas, and Kings Canyon, just to name a few, but oh my sweet Jesus, it is so damn hot. It is close to unbearable so I was happy we moved north as quickly as we did. We left the Red Center to explore the rest of the Northern Territory. One stop we were looking forward to seeing was Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles). This is an impressive and peculiar arrangement of red rock boulders balanced on top of one another. As we approached, we found it in flames!

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About 20 km out from approaching Devil’s Marbles

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A little bit closer….

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Marbles on Fire!

Most interesting was that there was not a soul in sight, nobody was there from the fire brigade! Maybe it was a controlled burn, which is very common in the NT to manage re-vegetation of the land. But on this day, it was so hot, dry and windy it could have also been a bush fire.  Anyway, it was an unexpected sight!  We managed to get a good shot away from the flames…

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Devil’s Marbles

The further we drove North the quicker the landscape changed from red, dusty, and vast open spaces to lush green tropics. As you can see the traffic has gotten worse, but some how we have managed ;-)

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We do NOT miss the Beltway!!

With a tropical region comes lots of water and we indulged the whole way up to Darwin. Hot springs, thermal pools and swimming holes were everywhere. First stop was Mataranka, which is famous for its thermal pool and constant water temp of 93 degrees! On a smokin’ hot day this may not seem like the place to cool off but it was exactly what we needed.

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Mataranka Thermal Pool

We spent the night in Katherine, the 4th largest town in the NT and the ‘Crossroads of the North’ as it is the access point to head north, south, east and west. We explored Katherine Gorge and chose one of many hiking options called Butterfly Gorge. A 1.5 hour, 4km tropical walk brought us to an open gorge along the Katherine River. We woke up early, 6am, to do it before the heat set in but by 8am we were baking in the sun so it was a nice reward to finally arrive at the gorge and go for a swim.

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Katherine Gorge

We arrived in Darwin the same day and were impressed. The city was much bigger than expected and very modern. It was wiped out by a cyclone in the 70′s so the whole city was rebuilt. We camped in Darwin then had a great workout the next morning along the beach of the Timor Sea. We left soon after as we tend to spend too much money when we’re in the cities. So we headed back down south for Litchfield National Park. Unfortunately, we had to skip Kakadu National park as most of the sites we wanted to see require 4WD. Our Britz van wasn’t going to cut it.

Litchfield National Park is about 90 minutes south of Darwin and featured a diverse number of environments; monsoon forests, waterfalls, spring fed streams, ruins, and termite mounds! We summarized it as one big water park. There is a main road into the park with about a dozen park features to visit. We stopped at about half of them, the others required 4WD. Those few hours were spent in bathing suits hopping in and out of the van to visit each stop to swim and each one was a unique experience.

The first stop would be the Magnetic Termite Mounds, no swimming here. These mounds have been amazing us since we entered the NT. They are only native to Africa, Australia and South America. The termites build these mounds for their colonies and some of them are as high as 6 meters and have been around for decades.

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1st stop, magnetic termite mounds. This one is 5 meters high and estimated to be 50 yrs old!

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Buley Rockhole, Our 2nd Stop in Litchfield NP

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Florence Falls, 3rd Stop

Our last stop was Wangi Falls, the most popular stop in the park for visitors. It wasn’t until we were done swimming in the plunge pool that an Aussie tour guide came around to tell us that freshwater crocodiles were also in the pool. The “Freshies” don’t care too much for people so they hang out out along the outskirts of the pool. It’s the salt water crocs we need to worry about. Either way, we swam with crocs in the water!

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Wangi Falls

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Jamie swam out to the falls, to later find out he was surrounded by crocs

After Litchfield, we came back south to Katherine as this is the access point to the west coast. We camped in a tourist park near town and prepared to head west the next morning.

We crossed the border today into Western Australia, the last state for us to cover. We look forward to experiencing WA and getting back to the coastal temperatures and cooling off.

Finally, to all of our family and friends on the east coast who suffered terribly from Storm Sandy and are now dealing with all the snow, we have you in our thoughts and prayers during the clean up and recovery of your homes.

 

Start of the West Coast
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It is a long way across the top of Australia, so as we made our way from the Norther Territory to Western Australia we decided to stop off in a town called Kununurra. This was a small town out in the middle of no where, but after a long day of driving, it was right off the road……and it had a pool! Kununurra is also a great place to see the sunset over the mountain ranges.

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Sunset over the town of Kununurra

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The other side of the sunset

The next day was a long driving day….about a 10 hour push from Kununurra to Broome. We did this because there just isn’t a whole hell of lot to see.

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As you can see……..once again……the traffic is out of control!

We were rewarded though when we pulled into the coastal town of Broome.  First,  because it was around 5pm, and immediately you could tell it was going to be our coolest evening in a while, and second, the great campsite location we got was right on the beach.

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Campsite in Broome, right on the beach!

The next morning we woke up early, after 10 hours in the groovy mobile the day before, we were both itching for some exercise. We headed down to Cable Beach, one of the best beaches in Broome for a run. As you can see……….it was pretty cool. A lot of people walking their dogs, others riding horses, people surf fishing, and then people like us getting in a run ;-)

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Cable Beach…not a bad place for a run;-)

After getting cleaned up and checking out Broome a little more, we started making our way further down the West coast. After a few hours we decided to pull in and stay the night at the 80 mile beach campground, which is located on……you guessed it! 80 Mile Beach.

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One view of 80 Mile beach

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Enjoying the sunset at 80 Mile Beach

The two things 80 mile beach is known for is, one, the surf fishing…..we didn’t do any, but supposedly really good. Two, and we found this out the night we stayed there, turtle nesting. This is the time of year that the big sea turtles come out of the ocean at night onto the beach. They make their way up to the sand dunes, dig a big hole with their flippers, lay their eggs, cover them up, then make the journey back to the ocean. We ventured out to check it out and sure enough we came across five of them all in different stages of the process. It was really cool to witness, and definitely the highlight of staying there. Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures, it is frowned upon to take pictures, since the flash of the camera would startle them and disrupt their cycle…….and we didn’t want to mess with any Momma turtles!

The next day we headed further down the coast. There wasn’t a whole lot to see this day, except to add a couple other animals to our list of things we are trying to avoid on the highway!

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Let’s add sheep and goats to the list!

We ended up staying the night at a Roadhouse on the side of the road. Sometimes, you just end up timing it right ;-)

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Sunset on the side of the road

We woke early the next day to head off to Exmouth, and the start of Ningaloo Reef. I have always wanted to visit this area of Australia just to see and dive Ningaloo. Unfortunately, we visited at the wrong time of the year :-( The best time is March to June, this is when you can snorkel with the whale sharks.  We weren’t able to dive.  The good news is, the reef is right off the beach, so the snorkling is really easy to do. Cathy and I headed into the park to check it out, and hit up a couple of the coves to access the reef.

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Getting geared up for a snorkel in Turqoise Bay

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Turquoise Bay

Luckily the next day was a short driving day, as we ended up setting up house a few hours South of Exmouth at a place called Coral Bay. This place is spectacular, and I don’t think our pictures do it justice. It is a small seaside community with two campgrounds pretty much right on the sea. Where you can also snorkel part of Ningaloo reef. Some pictures of our time there.

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Coral Bay

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From the lookout over Coral Bay

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About to head out for a snorkel in Coral Bay

We drove yesterday to Shark Bay, which is a World Heritage Site. As you are driving around the bay there are these beautiful places to stop. One was Shell beach.

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Shell Beach

We ended up spending the night in the small sea side town of Denham. The views coming into the town are awesome.

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Views of the sea from just outside Denham

This morning we made our way further out onto the peninsula to a place called Monkey Mia. Monkey Mia is famous for it’s year round dolphin population. There is a research facility on site, and they study the wild dolphins who on their terms come into the bay each morning for feedings.

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The dolphins coming in for a closer look at the humans

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As the dolphins were taking off I was able to get this pic

We left Shark Bay and we made our way further down the coast. We pulled into the town of Kalbarri. We will probably spend a few days here checking out the national park…..and, if the information we have is good….hopefully get some climbing in! ;-)

We hope everyone is good back home.

 

Australia’a Coral Coast
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After too many days of consistent driving, with Jamie doing most of it, it was time to settle down.  Turns out Kalbarri was just the place to do it.  Kalbarri is a major fishing port set on the Murchison River which meets the Indian Ocean and is home to Kalbarri National Park.  We booked in for 3 nights to take some time away from the road!  Since arriving in Australia, we’ve picked out some of our favorite places where we could live if we were to ever move here.  Kalbarri has been added to that list.  The town has a real cool local vibe, the people are super friendly and they welcomed us immediately.  We spent one night out on the town (2 restaurants, one bar!) and we were placed as tourists instantly, but welcomed just as quick.  It’s a small town so everyone knows each other.  We hung with the locals that night and had a blast.  The town is surrounded by the national park so we spent the first day taking in the coastal vistas and walks, it very much reminded us of the Great Ocean Road.  The views and rock formations were once again incredible.  Here are pics from Kalbarri National Park……

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Island Rock

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Natural Bridge

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Jamie on the Cliffs at Mushroom Rock

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Mushroom Rock

The next day we headed deeper into the park to check out the climbing at ‘Z Bend’.  Problem is the access road is 25km of a gravel corrugated road and the groovy mobile does not do too well on these roads.  She held up well and we made it to the climb.

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Kalbarri National Park, Z Bend Lookout

Above is the lookout into the Z Bend, we hiked down into the gorge and this is the route we climbed….

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Z Bend Climb, ‘Keith Goes Blank’

Unfortunately, there was no way to rapel down after finishing the route, we had to scramble out and since it was blazing hot we had had enough.  We made one more stop at Natures Window, another tourist attraction and incredible sight….

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Natures Window

Jamie always looking for the next climb…

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Jamie Climbing on Natures Window

On our 3rd day we were planning to head out but not before stopping in town to view the daily pelican feedings, these are some big birds!

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Daily Pelican Feeding in Kalbarri

Kalbarri was awesome but its time to move on.  The rest of the Coral Coast, the city of Perth, Freemantle and some more climbing are our next stops.

 

Geraldton and Cervantes
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We left Kalbarri two days ago, and made our way further down the coast. First stop was the town of Geraldton. A really cool town right on the coast with a lot of history. We took the time to visit the museum and learn a little more about the local history. One of the pieces of history we really enjoyed learning about was the story of the HMAS Sydney. This was one of Australia’s great battleships used during WWII, and was sunk 1941. I won’t give the full history here, because anyone can google it to read the full story, but we really enjoyed learning about it’s history and even visited the memorial site for it in Geraldton.

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The 645 seagulls that make up the dome represent the crew that was lost on the HMAS Sydney

As we left Geraldton we discovered the giant sand dunes at the Southern end of town. They are pretty impressive, and people ride their dirt bikes, quads, and even sandboard down them. We got a few cool pictures while we stopped off to check them out.

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Sand dunes just South of Geraldton

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About to start climbing up the dunes

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Cathy at the top of the one of the dunes

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A cool angle looking up one of the dunes

As you are driving down the coast, you also notice a theme with all the bushes and trees. There is such a prevailing wind that comes off the ocean here, a lot of the bushes and trees lean away from the coast. About an hour South of Geraldton, there is one famous tree which has been forced to grow horizontal due to the prevailing winds. Check it out.

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Leaning tree

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I thought this was a cool picture to make B/W

That night we ended up setting up camp in Jurien Bay, another small town right on the coast. After getting our camp site we ended up having enough daylight for a little walk around and checked out the local pier and beach.

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Pier at Jurien Bay

The next morning we didn’t have to drive far for our next destination…..Cervantes. Home to Namburg National Park, and The Pinnacles Desert. There is a 4KM drive through The Pinnacle, which are these small limestone pinnacles that are just there in the sand. Scientists have a few theories on why they are there, but they aren’t 100% sure, and are still studying. Either way, it was pretty cool to see, and makes for some great photography!

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A view form the main lookout

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Another view of the pinnacles

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Some of the larger pinnacles

The other highlight of Cervantes is the Western Rock Lobster industry and factory….and yes, they give tours! The rock lobster season just started here, so the place was buzzing. It was cool to learn about how it all works, and they have a few meals you can purchase after the tour……there still not cheap, so Cathy and I split a small one…….it was yummy! ;-)

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We wish we could have afforded to eat this guy!

But…

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This is all we could afford……and it was good!

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It just says it all!;-)

Yeah baby!

 

Perth
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I subscribed to Budget Travel magazine for years before doing this trip with Jamie. I accumulated a wealth of information about where to travel on a dime and what to see and do all over the world. One issue featured the town of Fremantle in Western Australia which is a port town just west of the city of Perth. It’s actually a suburb of Perth. The article mentioned a lot of cool reasons to visit the town and also mentioned its “Cappuccino Strip”, this is where I became hooked and prior to ever leaving for Australia I told Jamie that at some point along the way I wanted to visit Fremantle.  After being in Australia for some time already I also learned that despite the drop in tourism all over the country due to things becoming more and more expensive here, Fremantle was a cheap place to visit.  We spent a couple days there to really take it all in. Fremantle was quickly added to my short list of places I could live in Australia. It was a small city in a big town, right on the water with so much to see and do. We visited the historic Fremantle Prison, walked everywhere and spent time on the strip.  It turned out to be true that the prices for food and drinks was quite a bit lower than every where else we had been so far.  I had my cup of cappuccino too and it was pretty good.

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Front gates of Fremantle Prison

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Fisherman’s Harbor, Fremantle

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Cathy at the Rounde House

We skipped Perth all together, too big of a city and you know how we spend too much money in big cities so we drove right past but not before making a quick detour into a climbing gym to buy some guidebooks and get beta on the local Perth climbing scene. We knew there was plenty of climbing around the city but did not have enough info to venture out. We bought a couple guidebooks for Perth and Western Australia Climbing and chose a couple crags to visit over the next 2 days.

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Attempting a tough reach at Churchman’s Brook

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Getting ready to head up a climb just outside Perth

Quite a number of closed quarries have been turned into climbing areas. They were not the best but we got in a few routes anyway. The cliffs were small and they were exposed to the sun most of the day so it was too hot to hang out for a whole day.

We are now settling into the southwest in the Margaret River Region. We plan to visit some friends of Jamie’s but not until after the first week of December so we have some time to kill in this region which is nice. It means we can settle down for a bit and take our time exploring this part of the coast. We will probably be exploring the Margaret River for the next 10 days. Our first day here was Thanksgiving and Jamie was set on having turkey. Unfortunately, no Thanksgiving type of turkey to be found here in Australia so we went for a grocery run and settled on a roasted chicken which was already made and hot! To accompany this lovely chicken we bought some cold pasta salad, instant mash potatoes (just add water!), and gravy in a bag. We also picked up some mini pastries from the bakery, apple pie and tiramisu. It was a lovely Thanksgiving, Aussie style!

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Thanksgiving Feast, Aussie Style. Before…..

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….After. We missed Mom’s turkey but this was pretty good!

 

Margaret River
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We have been in Margaret River for the past week, and we both agree this is a really cool part of the country. First off, the weather has been awesome, warm during the day and cool during the night. One of the first things we checked out was the Busselton Jetty. It is the longest jetty in the Southern hemisphere and extends out into the ocean 2km.

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Heading out on to the jetty

From Busselton we headed up into the little corner on the edge of South Western Australia to Cape Naturaliste. From the hikes on the coast line the scenery is impressive.

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Part of the hike of Cape Naturaliste

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Another view of Cape Naturaliste

From there we really settled into the Margaret River region. We spent one day doing some reconnaissance on the climbing in the area. While trying to find a particular area we stumbled upon the Contos boulders right on the coast. They were huge and the waves were pounding them.

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Waves pounding the Contos Boulders

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This one almost got me!

One of the biggest things that makes Margaret River so famous here in Australia is their wines, so the next day we drove around checking out some of the wineries. Now, most of you know that between the two of us Cathy is the wine connoisseurr……me, not so much….maybe if you mix it with rum……nahhh just kidding! ;-) Anyway…..Cathy being the best fiance in the world ;-) , and knowing that I don’t drink much wine, also came up with some other stops on our tour. After a couple of wineries, we stopped off at the liqueur factory for some tasting, followed by the chocolate factory, and finishing up at the local ice cream shop……yummy…best day of wine tasting ever!

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Cathy out front of the Dunkstein Brewery at Saracain Estate

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Just after our liqueur tasting with our newly purchased bottle of butterscotch liqueur…..can you say a ‘little slice of heaven!’

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and they had free samples as well!!

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Last stop of the day….family owned and run!;-)

The next day we drove about 20 minutes North to get some climbing in at a small crag called Willyabrup. This is a great place to climb, not a ton of routes, but the cliffs are right on the coast, with great scenery, and some of the climbs were really good lines. We spent two days there ticking off a bunch of the classic lines.

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Hiking into the crag

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Looking down from one of the climbs

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Cathy nearing the roof on the climb ‘One for the Road’

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Enjoying a beautiful day of climbing on the coastline

Today was to be a down day, and it was pretty easy since we got a taste of our first bad weather day. As we were getting gas this morning a woman told us a bad storm was coming in. She said 125km winds were possible…….hmmm, it is blowing pretty good, but not that bad. We decided to check out the coast and place called Canal Rocks. It was pretty neat to see mother nature ticked off!

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Canal Rocks with the wind starting to kick in

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Cathy trying not to get blown off the rocks at Canal Rocks

With the weather being the way it was we decided to check out one of the local caves here. We decided on Mammoth Cave. It was impressive and cool to learn about.

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Cathy about to enter Mammoth Cave with her cool 80′s style self guided tour radio

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Oh no…you just caught me listing to my favorite Duran Duran album;-)

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Inside Mammoth Cave

Tomorrow we are going to make our way a little further South and check out the area around Augusta.

Start of the Southern Coast
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The past few days, the weather has not been the best…probably some of the worst weather we have had on the entire trip. Basically for the whole day….the wind would blow…..then it would rain (sometimes pretty hard)……then the sun would come out……repeat……for the whole day! The great thing is though, despite the weather, we have gotten some really good pictures over the past few days.

We were on our way to Augusta when we decided to drive through the Karri Forest. It is a beautiful drive through all the these karri tree which dominate this part of Australia.

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On the drive through the Karri National Forest

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More of the drive through the forest

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About 3/4 through the drive you come to this lookout over the forest and ocean

Along the way to Augusta we also stopped off in Hamelin Bay. The wind was kicking pretty good (and the rain was about to come in) at this point, but we managed to get a photo before moving on.

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Trying not to get blown off the beach at Hamelin Bay

We finally arrived at Augusta which is the gateway to Cape Leeuwin, which is the Southwestern most point of Australia, and the point where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean. Despite the blue skies, the weather was pretty harsh while we were there, but we still had some impressive views.

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Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse….I don’t know if you can tell by Cathy’s appearance but it was a little bit windy!

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Close up for the Leeuwin Lighthouse

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I think this one explains itself!;-)

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My levitation skills have improved….It turns out I can now…FLY!….kind of a big deal;-)

That night we ended up spending the night in Pemberton. A really small nice town on the Southern Coast. While cooking dinner we had some guests show up….some how they always know…

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They just seem to always know when food is nearby!

The following day we drove down the road to see some of the tallest Karri trees around. The first one is called Gloucester Tree…..and yes…you can climb it! Crazy thing is, your not tied in, and there is no supervision anywhere, just start grabbing these ladder rungs they have stuck in the side of the tree and you can get to the top, 90 meters. Crazy! And in no way would you find this in the states!

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Just start grabbing!

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Cathy about to start up Gloucester Tree

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Looking down from half way up Gloucester Tree

We liked the tree climbing so we headed off for some more. The next one was called the Diamond Tree. This one was unique in that they still sometimes use the platform at the top to lookout for forest fires.

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View from the summit of Diamond Tree

From there we made our way to D’entrecasteaux National Park and some of it has breathtaking views over the Southern Ocean. Check it out!

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Souther Ocean coastline

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Another view of the coastline..and us trying to stay warm!

Our last stop of the day was to get our first view of some of the Tingle Trees in the area. These are some huge trees….I am guessing, the Australian equivalent of our Redwoods. They were massive!

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This sucker was not even one of the big ones!

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Peekaboo!

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This one was massive!

After we checked out some of the trees we decided to spend the night in Walpole, and as we were pulling into the campground after yet another rain storm……sometimes you just time it perfectly! ;-)

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Nice view to end the day!;-)

Today, the first thing we tackled was the Valley of the Giants. This is a eco park they have built to get more up close to the tingle trees. They even spent 1.8 million to put in this giant suspension platform, so you can walk along the tree top….pretty cool!

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Suspension walkway among the trees

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Cathy on the walkway among giants

We left all the tingle trees and made our way over to Conspicuous Cliff. This place had some spectacular scenery. It was a bit cold to go for a swim, but what a place!

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Cathy at the lookout over Conspicuous Cliff

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Another view of the bay

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Some of beautiful scenery of Conspicuous Cliff

We followed this up with a quick stop in Peaceful Bay…..just another small town on the coast with awesome views.

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Cathy at Peaceful Bay

We were making our way to Denmark, but we had one more stop, and that was Elephant Cove at Greens Pool which is part of William Bay National Park. This place is just beautiful! We walked around on all the rocks checking out the sights…..and all I can say is…..Western Australia does not disappoint!

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Greens Pool

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More of the Greens Pool…..can you find Jamie?

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Heading over to Elephants Cove

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Elephants Cove, because the rocks look like large elephants!

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The waves were crashing hard over on the cove side…anyone for a swim!

We have currently set up camp in Denmark. Our campground is just a short walk from the beach. Before dinner tonight we checked it out and we were able to get a couple of cool shots before settling in for the night.

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Wilson Inlet and Ocean Beach at Denmark

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Cool b/w picture we got of this tree near the inlet

Tomorrow we are going to make our way further West along the coast and check out more of the cliff line….might even be able to get a climb in or two ;-)

 

Denmark to Albany……and more!
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As we left Denmark and made our way towards West Cape Howe, we were optimistic in getting some climbing in there, but unfortunately, sometimes you have to read the fine print in the guidebook. Turns out there are only two ways to get to the climbing area (which is suppose to be some of the best on the Southern Coast). First, and the best/easiest, is via a 4WD only track…..and the groovy mobile wasn’t going to be able to handle that. Second, is to hike from Shelly Beach…….an hour and 45 minute slog. The good news is, the guidebook put us on to Shelly Beach, which is where we ended up spending two nights camping for free! As you can see from the pics…..not a bad place to set up camp ;-)

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Shelly Beach

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Our Campsite;-)

We decided to at least go check out the climbing without any of our gear….at least we thought it would be a good hike……..it was a butt kicker! Not the worst we have ever done, but just a slog, with a lot of bush crashing, and you have to spend a good part of it walking on the 4WD track…..which is steep and all sand! We finally reached the coast line, and it did not disappoint. We would love to get back there some day…….with a 4WD vehicle of course! Some pics from West Cape Howe.

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The gorgeous coast of West Cape Howe

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On the edge of one of the cliffs at West Cape Howe

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Cathy from a distance at West Cape Howe

The next morning we slept in and took our time getting the day started. Cathy wanted to check out some of the local wineries in the area. We visited a few and met some really nice people along the way. We walked into one and there was no one around except this guy doing the tastings. Turns out he was the owner of the estate, and we got to learn his story and he was curious about ours. He used to have a mushroom farm, and he ended up selling the farm to Campbell Foods in the US, and then decided to get into the wine business….interesting guy.

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Cathy at one of the wineries

After our wine tasting we made our way further along the coast towards the town of Albany. Before getting there we detoured off to check out Torndirrup National Park, home to some great formations on the coastline.

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We thought this looked like a foot

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You almost want to sit there, and just wait for this thing to collapse

We also hiked into an area called Peak Head that has some climbing on it. I thought about climbing one particular line, but once we found it….I thought maybe not.

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Peak Head from a distance

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The climb we were eyeing up was just around this corner…..but it drops off about 100′ into the ocean from there!

The next day we spent most of the day checking out the town of Albany and one of those giant windmill farms. There were 18 of them staged right on the coast, and they provided 75% of the power to Albany.

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Enjoying a beautiful day at the wind farm;-)

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A view of the coast from the wind farm

We spent the night in Albany, and after spending all this time on the coast we decided to head inland for a little while. First stop was Porongurup National Park. Home to some huge granite boulders and some cool views of the plains around it. We were racing the weather on the hike up the trail, but we were able to just squeeze it in before the thunderstorms came in.

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Balance Rock

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Cathy heading up to the summit lookout

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Summit view with a wildfire in the distance, and thunderstorms looming

We ended up spending the night at Mt. Barker. The next morning we took off for the Stirling Ranges, and Bluff Knoll. The hike to the summit of Bluff Knoll is a bit of butt kicker, but we both enjoyed it. The views along the way and at the summit were awesome!

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Bluff Knoll from a distance

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About a 1/4 of the way up the hike

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About half away up

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Made it!

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Chilling at the summit

Oh yeah, and on the hike up we came across our first deadly snake….Tiger Snake! I missed it…but Cathy spotted it right away…..yowzah!!!

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Tiger Snake

Today we woke up at our campsite in Lake Grace, and headed off to Wave Rock. This is a cool granite rock formation out near the town of Hyden. Here are some shots from the day.

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Wave Rock

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Some of the cool boulders around Wave Rock

We are now starting to make our way towards the town of Bridgetown, where we’ll be catching up with some old friends of mine, which we are looking forward to. Then we will start making our way back to Adelaide….life is good! ;-)

 

The Farm Life
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We spent the past few days in the Bridgetown area which is where Shane and Nicky live.  Shane and Jamie used to work together years ago in Cairns as dive instructors.  Shane and Nicky are now semi retired with Nicky still practicing as a Vet a few days a week and together they are building their house on the farm they bought 4 years ago.  After a couple days in down town Bridgetown we made our way to their farm about 25km from town called The Sitting Duck Farm. The following days were filled with all sorts of fun activities.  They certainly keep themselves busy with a vegetable garden, a new house to build, 55 cattle, 3 horses, 4 pigs, 3 chickens, 1 rooster and their dog Tigger!

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With Nicky, Tigger and just some of the cattle behind us

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Jamie and the cows

Shane also took us out shooting with his sniper rifle and M6 Scout rifle which shot 22′s and shot gun shells but not before we sat down to watch him make his own bullets!

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Shane making bullets for shooting practice

The shooting was fun, we set up targets and I nailed mine on first go : )

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Targets blown up by Cathy!

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                   Eyeing up the target
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Jamie gearing up for the first shot

Shane has some serious cooking skills so we ate really really well with his farm raised lamb on the barbie, home made pesto and hummus, pancakes with lemon and sugar and eggs with truffle oil, delicious! With all that cattle and pigs there is a lot of meat to be had.  We got to witness Shane at work with one of the cows.  I just watched!

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Start by trimming the fat!

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Jamie’s job was to vacuum seal each piece, again, I just watched.

Shane and Nicky have an awesome set up on their land, they are off the grid in just about every way.  They depend on rain water for all their water needs, solar panels for all electricity and a composting toilet in their temporary digs.  It’s a real eye opener and something we’ve been seeing a lot of around Australia.  It makes me think about our dependence on electricity and electronics, among other things, and the sustainability of it all for survival but what would happen if one day someone flipped the switch and it was all gone? Could we survive, live off the land for a while? Maybe forever?!  We’ve been really into movies lately since the camping life closes out the day around 7pm each night so we watch a lot of movies and trailers too.  I’m noticing more and more of these new movies with plots about the earths future without the things we depend on now.  Anyway, it at least gets me thinking that I wish we had a solar panel on top of our groovy mobile now, we wouldn’t have to pay for so many power sites at all these campsites!

We had a great visit with Shane and Nicky and really appreciate their warm hospitality.

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We had a blast in Bridgetown!

Now we’re off again, making our way to Adelaide by December 21 to turn in the van.  There is still a lot to see on the way back.  We hope you’re all well!

 

Nullarbor Plain to the Eyre Peninsula
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After sadly leaving Shane and Nicky’s farm we headed off towards the town of Esperance. This is a beautiful Southcoast town, and if the weather had been cooperating we would have gotten a lot better pictures. We had to deal with some harsh thunderstorms, but as usual, we made the most of it! ;-) Around Esperance there are some awesome picturesque views, and we took some pics, but if the weather had been a little better they would have been great. Here are a few shots from our coastal drive, and Cape Le Grand National Park.

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Coastal view near Esperance

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Cathy at one of the lookouts

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One of the many views in Cape Le Grand….too bad the weather wasn’t better:-(

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Frenchman’s Peak in Cape Le Grand National Park

After leaving Esperance we made our way North to Norseman, which is actually the gateway to the Nullarbor Plain and to start heading East. This is a very famous stretch here in Australia, since you have to drive across the Nullarbor Plain, and past the Great Australian Bite. The highway is very similar to driving in the outback, with long stretches of nothing, but then you get some great views of the coast.

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Still not a lot of traffic out here!

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In case of an emergency the Royal Flying Doctors Service uses the roads for runways

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Some of the cliffs looking out over the Great Australian Bite

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Yep, they are out there

Another famous item about driving this stretch of highway is the Nullarbor Links Golf course. It is the longest golf course in the world…some of you might be thinking, how long are the holes? It is not long in that way, it is long in the fact that you have to drive sometimes up to 100km between holes! ;-) We thought about doing it, but it cost $70 per person, so we thought nah, but we did stop off to play one hole for free….nothing like golfing in the outback!

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Nullarbor Links, hole #15

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After her drive Cathy ended up in the fairway…….yep, that is the fairway!

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After my drive, I did not end up in the fairway….but it’s the outback….who could tell!;-)

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We only had a 7-Wood (thanks PB!) so we had to make do….and yes…Cathy drained this putt;-)

We ended up spending that night at the Nundroo Roadhouse. We cooked dinner and then headed into the local bar for a drink. We had a great evening having drinks with a couple of locals who gave us a view into their lives. One was a farmer and the other was a house builder for the indigenous people in the area…..very interesting stories!

The next morning we started to make our way South down the Eyre Peninsula. Our first stop was a small town called Smokey Bay. Not much going in town, but their pier was very interesting, since we are right in the middle of great white shark territory. You can go for a swim very easily at the beach…..and I guarantee you won’t get eaten at this beach! ;-)

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Smokey Bay swimming cage….pretty sweet!

Speaking of great white sharks…..our next stop was Streaky Bay. Another gorgeous place right on the coast. An interesting fact about Streaky Bay is that back in 1990, before great white’s were a protected species, a world record was landed on rod and reel here. We stopped off at the local roadhouse were they have the newspaper article about it, as well as, a full scale replica of the big girl….impressive!

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Now that is a shark!

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The article from the newspaper when she was caught

We also had a pretty nice camp spot at Streaky Bay.

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Not a bad spot for breakfast

Today we woke up, had a workout, showered, had breakfast, then hit the road still moving further South down the Eyre Peninsula. Our first stop was Murphy’s Haystacks. These cool rock formations out in the middle of farmland. Check it out.

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Murphy’s Haystacks from a distance

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Murphy’s Haystacks up close…too bad you can’t climb them

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More of the haystacks

Our next stop was Venus Bay. At first when you pull into the town you think there isn’t much to see but maybe the local beach, but then you get to the backside of the town. The pictures of the coast are just awesome.

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Coast line at Venus Bay

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Cathy trying to stay warm at Venus Bay

We moved on from Venus Bay and stopped off at some interesting cliff formations right on the coast. One of the coolest ones was Woolshed Cave. Really impressive, and easy to get great pictures here.

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Woolshed Cave from a distance

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Cathy in Woolshed Cave

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Looking out from Woolshed Cave

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Water level view looking out from the cave

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One of the cool pools near the cave

On a final note, some of the signs here in Australia are great, and today we came across a few good ones. We thought we would share….. ;-)

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Pretty easy to figure these out;-)

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Apparently if you fall off a cliff…..your buddy is coming with you

And finally…..with all the things that you have to watch for while driving in this country……kangaroos, cows, dingos, horses, camels, sheep, snakes, lizards….and so on….now we have to add this to the list……

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HOLY CRAP!! ;-)

 

We Made It!!
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After 3 months and 12,500 miles (20,000km) we have made it around the entire country of Australia!  The last couple of days we finished driving the Eyre Peninsula and made our way back to Adelaide and Uncle Peter’s.

We visited Coffin Bay and Port Lincoln before making the last push to Adelaide.  Coffin Bay turned out to be another spectacular place that took us by surprise like so many other places in this country.  We would be driving along a road with not much to see on either side and then there would be turnoff for a lookout and once again we would marvel at the most amazing cliff line, beaches, and views.  Here are some shots from Coffin Bay National Park…

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Almonta Beach at Coffin Bay National Park

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Golden Island Lookout at Coffin Bay National Park

Port Lincoln was our next stop and it is a great coastal town at the southern most point of the Eyre Peninsula.  It wasn’t until after I left that I read Port Lincoln is reputed to have the most millionaires per capita in Australia, there was some amazing homes along the coastline and this explains it.  It is also the place to go if you want to go shark cage diving with the great whites.  This is something Jamie wants to do so we checked it out, but unfortunately it’s was a bit too expensive right now for our budget, so we had to pass for now….another time.

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Port Lincoln Campground

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Cathy, a pelican, and our campground on Boston Bay

A quick stop in Whyalla, north of Port Lincoln, gave us a break from the drive and great views of the Spencer Gulf

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Hummock Hill Lookout in Whyalla

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Hummock Hill Lookout, Whyalla

One last stop to break up the drive before arriving in Adelaide was in Port Pirie.  We had a great spot at the town caravan park, we also went for a swim at the beach next to the campground, the first swim in weeks since we’ve now returned to the blazing heat!

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Our last camping spot at Port Pirie

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Another great view from another great campground

We also got a chance to check out the shark exhibit in Port Pirie, and here is a replica of one of the largest great whites caught in South Australia…..they grow them big down here.

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Shakka, the longest white pointer caught in S. Australia

The real jaws!!

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The real jaws!!

We are now in Adelaide unloading the van and getting ready to return it.  We will get in Uncle Peter’s car on the 21st to make the 15 hour drive to Sydney where we’ll spend the holidays with Jamie’s other uncle, Kym, and his family.

We wish everyone out there a safe and happy holiday. Merry Christmas!!

 

Christmas in Sydney
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We spent a couple days hanging out with my Uncle in Adelaide. Taking care of all the odds and ends we needed to get done before we leave Australia. Cleaning out the van, turning it back in, shipping items back home, and finally repacking. One other thing we needed to do before leaving Adelaide was have one more BBQ at my Uncles house.

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Firing up the BBQ

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Cathy and Peter showing me how to get it done at the grill;-)

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Awesome dinner out on the back patio with my uncle Peter

The next morning we headed off to Sydney. It’s a 16 hour drive from Adelaide…not like we hadn’t done enough driving! ;-) We ended up breaking the drive into two days with a stop off in West Wyalong. The next day we arrived in Penrith, a suburb of Sydney where my other uncle and his wife and kids live. We have spent the past few days hanging around Penrith, swimming in my uncle’s awesome pool (it is pretty hot here), Cathy and I managed to get out for a day to the Blue Mountains for some climbing……turned out to be Christmas Eve! Not a bad way to spend it, and for most of the morning we had the whole crag to ourselves, but after a couple of hours the place was packed.

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Cathy flaking out the rope

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Climbing in the Blue Mountains on X-mas Eve….who knew it would be so crowded!

Today is Christmas here in Australia…..and Christmas Eve for a lot of you back in states. We woke to open presents with everyone, followed by an afternoon BBQ for Christmas dinner. It has been a very different Christmas here in Australia, since it is the start of summer here.

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Spending X-mas by the pool

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Prawns on the patio….great appetizer for X-mas dinner;-)

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X-mas dinner with our celebratory hats!

Unfortunately, it has been raining all day….we were looking forward to a Christmas swim, but it didn’t happen :-(  We now have only a couple of days left in Australia, because we are off to New Zealand on Friday. We fly into Aukland to start this leg of our trip, and pick up our new groovy mobile that afternoon. Cathy and I are really excited about seeing New Zealand, and I am sure we will have more to pass on soon.

We hope everyone has a great Christmas and we wish you all a Happy New Year! ;-)

 

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