Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Vacation 2013 - Tasmania, Australia - more animals, old trees, and sheep

We arrived at the port in Hobart, Tasmania after a day spent at sea (sea days will be addressed in their own post).  We were off on another day long shore excursion.  We started with another Animal Park/Sanctuary - Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, where we saw, petted, and fed some more:

We also saw some kangaroos with Joeys in their pouches,
Notice the legs and tail dangling from the pouch
more koalas (we didn't get to pet them this time, though),

more tasmanian devils (Bonorong had quite a few more than Ballarat),
Tasmanian Devils enjoying running in circles
more Wombats (when they are born, they are about the size of a jellybean),
A baby wombat (Ballarat also had a fairly young Wombat)
and a few other animals (including birds) as well.

After Bonorong we headed to Mt. Field National Park, where we were able to see some of the tallest trees in the world (Swamp Gums)
A fallen swamp gum tree, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Russell Falls,
Russell Falls, Mt. Field National Park, Tasmania, Australia
and some Wallabies in their natural habitat.
Wallabys and Mt. Field National Park, Tasmania, Australia

Interesting tidbit: A cross between a kangaroo and a wallaby is a Wallaroo.

We left Mt. Field National Park, traveled through areas affected by the recent fires,
Tasmania bush fire aftermath

and stopped off at a sheep station/farm to enjoy a barbecue, a sheep shearing demonstration,
Bah, bah white sheep have you any wool?
a sheep dog demonstration
After the demonstration the dogs took a swim in the pond
and a tour of the farm.

Our tour guide was good at talking up all of the many wonderful aspects of Tasmania, including how it has the purest water and air in the world, how it produces ~50% of the poppies used to manufacture narcotics, and more (as you can tell, I didn't remember most of it).

After Tasmania, we spend two more days crossing the Tasman sea before we spent a day cruising around Fiordlands National Park in New Zealand.  I'll write more about that and other vacation adventures in the coming days.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  Can anyone recognize the denomination of this church we passed on our bus ride?


Vacation 2013 - Ballarat, Victoria, Australia - There's gold in them there hills.

Our first cruise ship port was Melbourne, Australia.  We decided to go and strike it rich.  We had booked a shore excursion to go to Ballarat Wildlife Park and Sovereign Hill.  We boarded a bus soon after docking, and we were off!

Ballarat is a bit of a drive from Melbourne.  We arrived first at the Wildlife park where we saw, petted, and fed:

Saw and petted:
Wombats - Aren't they cute?
 We saw, but did not pet (due to their bone-crushing jaw strength)
Tasmanian Devils
We also did not pet:
The Crocodiles

My dad also saw snakes.  I chose not to go to the reptile house and see all of the poisonous snakes, however my dad did go.  I am not including those pictures at this time.

Sign Gem - This was also a picture taken at Ballarat Wildlife Park.  

We re-boarded the bus and were off to find gold at Sovereign Hill.
Sovereign Hill near Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

I panned for gold, but apparently it is not one of my talents, as I didn't find any.
Panning for Gold at Sovereign Hill near Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
We also took an opportunity to bowl,
Bowling at Sovereign Hill near Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

watch a gold brick being poured (the same brick has been reheated and poured over and over and over again for the demonstration - so the brick is very pure),
Gold brick pouring at Sovereign Hill

Tour a Gold Mine,
The Crib Room of the Gold Mine (where eating, not sleeping, occurred)
and visit some other old fashioned shops, brass works, etc.

We then headed back to the ship and wished Melbourne "Gidday" as our ship headed onto the high seas towards Tasmania.

Melbourne from the Diamond Princess - February 2013

Vacation 2013 - Day 3 - Taxis and phone numbers, Boarding the Cruise Ship, Where's the iPad?, Bon Voyage

It's the day to board the ship!  But we still have plenty of time to see more of Sydney.  We pack up and call the taxi.  Unfortunately, since we don't have a local number, apparently they can't help us out.  Although they didn't make this quite clear and we waited about 20 minutes waiting for a taxi that never came.  We finally asked the owner of the house if we could use his cell number (we actually spent quite a bit of time that morning talking with him about various topics).  He was going to call the cab company, but when he learned we were just planning on taking the taxi to the train station rather than clear to Circular Quay (pronounced Circular Key) he offered to give us a ride.  We took him up on this and we loaded our bags in the van.

There were several steps at the train station, so it required multiple steps and since we timed it to get their after rush hour due to all of our luggage, we had to wait a bit for the train.  We did make it down to Circular Quay, and when we went to turn in our luggage, we learned that they would let us check-in early.  Wonderful! 

The Diamond Princess in Sydney Harbour

We got on the boat, grabbed a bit of lunch, went back to our cabin to grab the camera and iPad for the rest of our Sydney sight-seeing and...oh, no!  Where was the iPad??  We racked our brains about the last place we had it?  Did we set it down when we carried the luggage up the stairs at the train stop?  Did we leave it in the train or at the train stop (we didn't think so.  Dad thought it was in his electronics bag.  He had purposefully not taken it out of the bag)?  We had cell phones but didn't get cell service (even expensive cell service) in Australia or on the cruise ship.  We couldn't call the place we had stayed using Skype, as we didn't have the iPad.  So, we had to go back.  Luckily we discovered it missing when we still had time to go back and check for it. 

Aborigine playing the didgeridoo at Sydney Harbour
 We took the train back to Tempe station, and took the long walk up the hill at the hottest part of the day, back to where we stayed.  Luckily the owner was home when we arrived, and the iPad had been discovered sitting outside where we had been waiting for the cab that didn't come.  The owner was also very nice and allowed us to drink a few glasses of cold water and offered us another ride to the train station (which we gladly accepted).  This side trip took a bit of time out of our day, but we did still have some time to visit the botanical gardens and enjoy the nice weather.
Sydney Hospital on the way to the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens - Sydney, Australia
At the Royal Botanic Gardens - Sydney, Australia
At the Royal Botanic Gardens - Sydney, Australia
View From the Royal Botanic Gardens - Sydney, Australia

The Sydney Opera House

Vacation 2013 - Day 2 - Manly, The Rocks, and the Library

We pretty much visited the Blue Mountains on Day 1 because he had been offered a ride to the train station and that is pretty much all we had planned to do for sure in the Sydney area before we had arrived.  On day 2 we decided we wanted to take a Ferry Ride and had read that the Manly Ferry was not a ride to be missed.  So we took it.

Cool Fact:  The Manly Ferry offers free wifi

Sydney from the Manly Ferry
We arrived in Manly, and there was a very small little beach with only a few people on in.  Could this be the famous Manly Beach of the two famous Sydney area Manly and Bondi (pronounced Bond-eye) beaches?  It turns out the answer to that question was no.  The real Manly Beach was a short walk away.  Along the way were several decently priced souvenir shops (as opposed to the rather expensive food)

Travel Tip 1:  When buying liquid refreshment on vacation, grocery stores and/or drug stores are usually the cheapest place to obtain these.  The first day we payed an arm and a leg for water as we were thirsty and the convenient nearby water was expensive.  At Manly, we found a grocery store and bought some liquid refreshment and chips and enjoyed them at the fake Manly Beach. 

The Real Manly Beach
We made it over to the real beach, took a few pictures and spent some time enjoying it (although we had not brought our swimming suits).  We then headed back to the wharf, and my dad got some massages at a booth near the wharf and grocery store we had utilized earlier, had lunch, and headed back on the ferry.

Harbor Bridge (sometimes called the Coat Hanger) From the Manly Ferry
When we arrived back in Sydney, we took an audio tour of The Rocks that my dad had downloaded on my iPad.  It was very informative and interesting.  The Rocks was the area of Sydney that was settled first.  One of my favorite parts was learning about the wood block streets.  Along the way, we stopped at the cruise terminal to see if we could drop off our bags early and learned that we could - hooray! 

replica of wood block roads
A short time later, we realized that we had forgotten to print our boarding passes and our luggage tags.  We didn't have a printer, and we hadn't really seen any internet cafes - but we had seen a library.  After our Rocks tour, we headed off to the library (which has free wifi, by the way - but no printing options from the wifi) where I obtained a library card and we added money to it for internet use and printing and printed out our boarding passes and luggage tags.
The Customs House, where one of Sydney's Libraries is located

Quantas Ad sand sculpture in front of the Customs House

More of the Quantas Ad sand Sculpture
Lesson Learned:  The cruise ship did have luggage tags available on site that could be filled in by hand so we did not have to print those.  It is probably a good thing we printed our boarding passes, though.

After that, we grabbed a bit to eat and headed back to where we were staying.  This time we decided to take the bus, because it looked like it dropped us off a little closer to where we were staying, and I was hoping to avoid the hill climb.  Unfortunately, the stop was still at the bottom of the hill, but we did having the opportunity of taking the not-so-famous Perry Steps, and it was closer to our accommodations. 

Vacation - Day 1 (not including travel) - The Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

We arrived at the Sydney Airport on February 6th.  We Skyped home, got some cash from the cash machine (in case the cab didn't take credit cards) and then headed to the place we were staying (which we acquired through airbnb.com).  Our taxi driver was kind of like one of those frustrating taxi drivers on Amazing Race if you are trying to win the race.  He did not understand English well.  He did have a pen and a card, though, so I could write down the address and he could put it in his GPS.  Unfortunately his GPS did not have our exact street, but he was able to find the neighborhood.  I kept an eye out once we were in the right neighborhood and told him where to turn.  He dropped us off, we went to the door, and some Asian College students opened the door.  We were at the wrong place!

We double checked the address, learned that we were a few houses off, and went to the correct house...or was it.  Dad stayed back a little and I went and rang the door.  It took a few minutes for the person to respond, and the person that opened the door looked nothing like the guy whose place this supposedly was.  I wasn't really sure what to say after showing up at the wrong place a few minutes before, but the guy said, "Are you looking for Max (names changed)".  Relief swept over me - yes, we are.  Come in, he's in the shower right now but will be down in a few minutes.  We put our luggage in a corner and sat down (we could leave our luggage here, but not check in so early).  The roommate came back and asked if we had any questions and we said, "Yes. how is the best way to get to the train station from here?"  He responded that he was actually leaving in five minutes for it, and could give us a ride if we wanted.  We hurriedly looked through our bags for things (a brush, deodorant, some different clothes) but weren't amazingly successful.  He was back quickly saying, "okay.  Let's go."  He introduced us to the salesperson at the station who was very helpful.  We made it to the central station and then stopped for the bathrooms (and I changed my shirt - the shirt I had warn on the long train dirty, had not only been on for almost 2 days straight, but had also been spilled on).  Unfortuately I hadn't been successful at finding my brush or different pants in the time I had.

Looking lovely after 2 days of travel and no time to change!

We headed to the Blue Mountains which are an hour or two from Sydney, bought a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off trolley, and also took several trails at the different stops.  It is a beautiful area.  We saw the 3 sisters,
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia (near Leura and Katoomba)

 some cascades and falls,
Leura Cascades, Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
and the mountains themselves.
Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

We ate at Subway for lunch, and at a place that serves breakfast all day at supper.  We also had some shakes there.  I had a strawberry shake, and my dad had a chocolate shake.  They were more like a strawberry milk and a chocolate milk. 

When our train arrived back at the station, we trudged up a hill back to our accommodations.  We still had not met Max, due to some of his friends being in town, and the roommate showed us the room.  I was beginning to wonder if Max really existed :).  There were several other people there that night. It was a bit weird, in my opinion, but when we finally did meet Max, he was very nice, and even drove us to the train station a couple of times on our last day there.

Lessons Learned:

1.  The cabs do take credit cards
2.  Most of the train seats are pretty cool - they can switch directions (see illustration below)

Right-facing seat
The same seat facing left (isn't that cool?)