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My first destination down under

So CUTE!!!!!

So CUTE!!!!!
These are my new best friends

Monday, August 8, 2011

Deliciousness of food and drink in Melbourne

I got into Melbourne yesterday afternoon and it was a quick check-in and then off to the other part of the CBD (what Aussies call their downtown - guess what it stands for correctly and I'll give you a lolly!) to find the start point for the Colonial Tram car dinner.  It rolls around the city while you eat an incredible meal.  And I'm not gonna lie - it was delicious.  Like SO delicious.  Like HUGELY delish!

I'm talking a white chocolate parfait with a raspberry and praline sauce that had the texture of silk.  Yuh-me!  I was almost prepared to marry my new friend Dean so I could get my hands on the recipe.

Anyhoo....after I slept off that meal it was time to go for a tour of the Yarra Valley wineries.  Can I just say as a general piece of advice that any wine tour that starts with a 9:30 am pick up is probably gonna end up being a total gong show!  I was loop-de-loop by 11:45 in the morning! 

 Lunch was a big help and I was able to maintain some composure after that.  The most rustic of the wineries was this one....

The most posh/lush was this one.....

The lush one served bubbly.  Yummy.  Good way to end the day!  Cheers to all of you! 

Tomorrow is the 12 Apostles and shipwrecks along the Great Ocean Road!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I survived "The Alice!"

Back from the frontier!  Holy smokes - I did NOT think it was possible for something to seem like a frontier town in this day and age anymore but WOW!  If there is a frontier town left anywhere...its Alice Springs!  I took this cool picture of a 2nd-hand store logo cuz it was SOOOOO funny.  Look:

Anyhoo, I went camping in the outback for a three days.  In that time, we drove more than 1500 km and walked over 20.   We did a base walk around Uluru...

...then drove to a point further away to watch the sunset over the rock...

...the next morning we were up at 5am (yuck) to do a sunrise walk around Kata Tjuta which was AMAZING!  I took over 300 pictures on this trip so you are lucky you're just getting a glimpse and a smattering. 

The final day we scaled Kings Canyon and did a 6km walk along the ridge. 

This is the top of a cliff face about smack in the middle of the hike.

This whole things was intensely amazing. One of my favourites is that out of PURE necessity, the trees grow out of the rocks.  Thats called wantin' it!

In my humble opinion, the rainforest holds nothing to the outback.   I mean....check out the desert sunsets!
Anyhoo....if I picture tells a thousand words....I just wrote a russian novel.  *yawn*   Time for bed.  See you soon!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Out of commission for a few....

Heading to Alice Springs in the morning and then the following morning, out to my camping trip to Uluru. 

Internet is likely to be dodgy during this part of the voyage so I won't be able to update for a few days or know....just in case you were worried.   :)

Promise to put up a super-MEGA-post as soon as I can and definitely by the time I hit Melbourne. 

P.S.  I miss my here he is in all his squishy-faced glory to hold you over until I return.....

Traditional railway? Or sky railway? How 'bout BOTH!

Last full day in "Tropical Northern Queensland" today - I'm so OVER this rainforest!  Ha!  I've gotten to walk in it, drive through it, river-boat through it, and ARMY DUCK through it!  The one thing I haven't experienced with this damn rain forest is any RAIN!  Maybe next time, I shouldn't come during the dry season!

Started out the day going up the longest sky rail in the world (7.5 km) via one of these funky mint green dealies and saw the rainforest canopy from above. 

Look at me Nan!  No hands!  See?  I'm okay!

Good vista.  A bit of a switch.  From up there - it looks like this:
There is a village at the top of the skyrail called Kuranda - its a bit of a hippie haven from an earlier age.  Its got a ton of cotter's markets from which I bought an Aboriginal painting of a platypus - did I mention its getting to the point where I'm having to ditch crap from my luggage to make room for the new crap that I have accumulated?

Anyhoo....from there I spent the afternoon at a place called Rainforestation.  Kinda hokey except for the fact that they have one of these and its SOOOOOO cute!  I want one.  Moosh needs a brother!

More koalas...yawn once.  More kangaroos....yawn twice.  More wallabys...yawn three times.  Then....FINALLY!!!!  I get to say it and I get to mean it!  The DINGO ATE MY BABY!

Looks kinda like Dakota. 

Anyhoo....on the way back down out of the rainforest we passed this waterfall and I have to admit, its one of the prettiest things I have seen yet.

So...thats what I did today.  What'd YOU do?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Port Douglas

This is a town that began as the main port town in the area.  It competed with Cairns (the major city up here) unsuccessfully until it eventually shrunk to become a small fishing village.  Revived by tourism, its now a resort town full of vacationers from every corner of the globe.  Today I had no tours planned so I decided to walk from my end of Four-Mile Beach to town.  I wanted to take a look at all the little shops and galleries (even though I have been warned that everything here is overpriced - why must the shopping gods punish the tourists).

I set out just before 10 am and walked with my CRiPod in my ears and my toes in the water all the way into town.  What a great beach!

The town actually sits on a peninsula so I walked up one beach, down the main street in town and ended up at the beach on the other side.  This is the more historic of the two as the old wharf and church are right on the water.

After sampling the coffee at a couple of cafes I headed back along the beach back to the resort.  By now, it was approaching low tide and the beach was a lot wider than it had been in the morning.  These really tiny crabs burrow up from beneath the sand, pushing perfectly formed little sand balls out of their burrows as they go.  It makes a really cool dotted effect all along the beach thats about 2 metres wide.  Close up, it looks like this (the little holes are where the crabs live):
 Boring day relatively speaking but I'm gearing up for tomorrow.  Back into the rainforest.  Plus, I have to save up my energy - I'm leaving for Alice Springs in a couple of days! Sweet!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Played in the Rainforest today!

Asad, you would be SO proud of me - I took over 200 pictures today!

Today was a whirlwind tour of the Daintree rainforest.  Met a bus at 8:30 am and headed for a wildlife park where the Wallabys are SO used to getting hand fed that they come right up to you and stand up and give you puppy-dog eyes in hopes of getting some grub.  Uh...needless to say, I petted one on the head and scratched behind his ears and I no longer think I could eat kangaroo meat.  Once you pet something, it becomes off limits.  Remind me never to touch a cow.  Or a chicken.

From there we went into the forest itself.   The government has spent a lot of time and money constructing boardwalks for visitors in an effort to stop the degradation of the forest.  They allow you to get right into the forest without damaging the forest floor and causing erosion and a loss of habitat.   Not a lot of species were about as there were a couple kids charging around like a herd of elephants.  But, it was still pretty. 

At that point, we went down to Cape Tribulation.  This is the spot where Captain James Cook (credited with the "discovery" of Australia) ran smack into the Great Barrier Reef and had to come ashore to make significant repairs to his boat.  He named the Cape as it was the site of his greatest trials and tribulations.  Although treacherous...also very pretty.  :)  We got to walk along the beach and I took some great pics of the Cape.  At this point, after being told by the guide that mounds of sand excreted by sea cucumbers was likely the most pristine sand on the beach, the American kids took to stomping on every mound of sea cucumber poop they could find.  I still wonder if the guide made that up just to get those little effers to stomp on as much poop as they could.  Ha!

We then got to jump in a boat and cruise up the Daintree river - a tidal river that empties into the ocean.  I took about eight million pictures of crocs.  There was Nelson - a 70 year old big guy and then a lesser male named Scarface and a smaller female named Fang.  My theory is that Nelson, by virtue of his age, size, and preferential living space 50 metres from the town's public boat launch doesn't need a ferocious name but the smaller guys, being insecure, need to jazz it up a little. 

We then headed up the mountains (so amazing) and got to take in the view of what we had just seen and done.  What an incredible view.  Anyhoo, after a day outside wandering around a tropical rainforest, I think I deserve to sleep in tomorrow. 

Yay!  The pics uploaded! 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reef Day!!!! Bucket list you are getting smaller!!!!!!!!!

What an awesome, awesome, awesome place!  Met the bus to go to the marina at 9 am.  By 10 am we were headed out to the reef.  Waters were a bit choppy as there was a wind warning today.  Lucky for me I don't get seasick....but I can't say the same thing for a bunch of other poor souls out there today.  We arrived at the outer reef at about 11:30 on this lovely vessel.  It lands at a pontoon that lives out at the reef.

At that juncture, it was time to go for a snorkel!  Here's where you get in the water (and no, I am not in this picture):

When I got out of the water, I went for a reef tour in a semi-submersible vessel where we got to look at some deeper parts of the reef.  Its really affected by sunlight so when you are in direct light, its brilliant with a lot of cool colours.  Deeper out though, or when the sun goes behind the clouds, it looks more like this:
After some hard earned lunch it was back into the water for a final snorkel before we had to leave to get back to the marina.  It was low tide at that point so more and more of the reef was exposed to the air.  Its really cool since this part of the reef is right at the continental shelf - just beyond it, the water drops off to over 500m deep!  Yikes.  Kinda makes me glad the current was going in the other direction!

Anyhoo, even though its 5:30 am your time, its supper time here....14 hours in the future!  Gotta run, I'm hungry!  Tomorrow, I'm off the the Daintree Rain forest, Cape Tribulation, and the Mossman Gorge!  Stay tuned!

Food Poisoning! Gak!

Alrighty...made it to Cairns okay....made it to the resort in good shape.  Showered, dried my hair, caught a shuttle into town to wander around.  Bought me some groceries cuz I noticed there was a fridge in the room (sweet)!  Then I decided to hang out and have some dinner on a patio before catching the shuttle back.  Evil, evil, evil.  Four hours later I was in food poisoning HELL!

I was kind of paranoid as I had to meet a bus at 9 am to go to the marina and get out to the reef but by 7am I knew there was NO WAY I was going to make it.  Luckily, as is the Aussie way, I called and told them the problem and they said I could just choose to go another day.   Thank you Quicksilver!

P.S. If you ever happen to have the opportunity to dine half way across the planet and someone suggests the happening joint called Rattle and screaming in the opposite direction!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Look what I did today!!!!!

I had to commemorate both my trip to Australia and my outing to one of the world's most famous beaches.  In order to kill all birds with one stone I got this......
Mostly because I want my grandfather to look like this when he finds out.......

Sunday, July 24, 2011

For my Quilting friends....

Found a couple of quilt (or Patchwork - as the Aussie's call them) shops and went to visit today in the Sydney suburbs not too far from where I am staying.  Everyone will be happy to note that I have discovered Amy Butler is as alive and thriving on this side of the planet as she is at home.  It even made me miss home a little less for a minute or two.  I took a couple pictures of me in the stores :D  and even got one of the shop ladies to pose with me. 

The shops are smaller than they are at home (based on my shop-hopping experience) and many of the fabrics are actually the same.  There were Amy Butler's, Kaffe Fasset's, and Moda's.  I was able to find a great local fabric however with three or four varieties of Australian flowers featuring and in one of the shops got myself the coolest looking Aboriginal fabric with really intricate traditional dot patterns in bold colours on a black background.  The plan to display that fabric to the best of its' potential is to simply stretch it on a big canvas.  Yup...its THAT pretty. 

Anyhoo...the talent is thriving down under and I'm glad I was able to check those out.  I fear this may become a lifelong travel habit now that I've started and I have to be honest - I don't mind at all!

Four words: Sydney. Harbour. Bridge. Climb

So I decided to follow in the footsteps of Oprah today and engaged in the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb today.  Essentially, you climb up the outside steel girding and spend some time checking out the views from 141 metres up!  Yup.  141 meters....something in the neighbourhood of 435 feet.  Pretty sick.  Go look at an internet picture of the harbour bridge and then picture me on top of it waving at helicopters and (just for my Bub) leaning as far out over the railings as my harness would allow me!  Or...just look at this and picture me at the top!  :)

We took a cool picture at the top but its a hard copy so will have to wait till I get a scanner to post. 

We then hung out in an area of the city called the Rocks where the first convict ships landed and where Sydney really began as a city.  The buildings are the oldest and the whole area is an amalgam of heritage sights.  It reminds me of a cross between St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District in Toronto.  Here├Ęs one of the cool areas down there....

Good day.  Very good.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spent the day with my Paesan's!

Yesterday was a fun-filled day of work related junk!  Yay!  I know only I could possibly get excited about that so there is no need to comment on what a sick person I am.\

I went to a place called Endeavour Sports High School where they have one of the largest populations of Aboriginal students in the state.  There were 58 students enrolled as of yestereday.  They have implemented the policies established by the Department of Education related to Aboriginal Education and just 2 days ago were recognized by the government for having the lowest suspension rate for Aboriginal kids in all of New South Wales.   The very proud Principal is a great guy named Dale Palmer (see below) who was kind enough to let me spend the day touring around his school, meeting folks and getting the low-down on whats being done and whats working for the kids.

There is a "koori" room at the school which is a place for Aboriginal kids to gather with each other.  In addition, there are two Aboriginal Liaison Officers who help the kids to manage whatever it is that needs managing so they can succeed in school.  I got to see the process for establishing Personalised Learning Plans which are completed for every student and which are monitored on a regular basis.  There are two Aboriginal teachers at the school and I got to sit in on an Indigneous Studies class during the day.  In addition, I got to see a mural painted by the girls' group (Strong Sister) and saw the area where the boys, through Stong Brother, and girls get to engage in traditional dance.  The best part is that, for the first time, the school captain is an Aboriginal boy.  This is a BIG deal here. 

Check out the article on him: Kingslee

It was jam-packed agenda and I least in terms of the research aspect, this one day will have made my entire trip worth while. 

Trying to process all of the information I guess I'd better get to it.  :(
Comin' at ya from the future!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Its my 2nd day at Moorefield Girls High School just outside of Sydney. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I'm HERE!!!!

After 22 total hours on a plane and 8 hours of stopovers in various airports I have arrived.  I actually got here in the evening a couple of days ago but had to catch up on my sleep before I could even think of stringing together a couple of coherent sentences!

Anyhoo....I have already ben down to Darling Harbour and Circular Quay (in and around the Sydney Opera House) and have discovered this city is HUGE!  I have also determined that roundabouts make me seriously directionally challenged!  I have no idea where I am and can't get my bearings.  Additionally, what they say about us Canadians down here is Oz is correct.  We are never cold when we are outside but we are FREEZING cold in the house.  No central heating means I'm wearing pretty much ALL the pyjamas I brough with me. new best friend is a Snuggie.  Ugh....I'm so ashamed of myself!

I checked out the Sydney Aquarium and have have a hint for you who might want to know what I want for my birthday:  FYI....I NEED a platypus! Or a koala (went to the Wildlife Park too)!  Either or.  Surprise me.  Also....dugongs.  Check 'em out.  All they eat is lettuce and they are HUMONGOUS.  Just goes to show should just eat pizza and enjoy. 

So...mostly just a note to let you know I am here and safe and excited.....taking a ton of pictures which I will post as soon as I get my own computer up and running!

See you soon!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

8 Days Till Take-off!

Today is July 5th and I am trying to finish up work from the school year so that I can leave for Australia on the 13th with both a clear conscience and a clear desk!

Needless to say - the day-dreaming about the trip is going better than the cleaning up of the workspace. 

The plan is to land in Sydney on the 15th of July, spend my exchange time with my host-partner until the morning of the 28th and then head up to Cairns.  No use in heading the the other side of the planet without giving myself the opportunity to see its most amazing natural wonders.  Great Barrier Reef - here I come!  From there, I head to Alice Springs on August 3rd with plans to do a camping trip to Uluru.  On the 7th, I head down to Melbourne and leave the land down under completely on the 10th. 

There will be lots of pictures and information as I make my way through the country so keep checking back!

Until then....