Sunday, October 25, 2009

G'Day! G'Day! G'Day!

It's been a long several weeks for me lately, but all have been highly enjoyable. Now that I'm finally getting some down time to look back on all the great memories, I'll try to start recording them here. Right after I got back from my last trip to Florida (previous post), I had just a couple days to pack and get ready for two weeks Down Under.

A couple years ago, my good friends Nathan and Dina moved to Sydney, Australia. It was sad to see them go, but it's pretty easy these days to keep in touch (thanks, Internet!), and I've looked forward to visiting them over / under there ever since they left.

I timed the trip so the first week I was there was during Nathan's spring break. And we set off to a) show me around Sydney and New South Wales and b) prove that a couple late 20-something (aka 30-something) dudes aren't too old for spring break. Wooooo!!!! Unfortunately, as evidenced by us reaching exhaustion by about 9 pm every night, we were only able to accomplish a). Now we know.

Nathan and I walked / cabbed / bused around all of Sydney and greater New South Wales. We saw the Opera House and took a ferry ride to Manly (where copious "manly" jokes were made - repetition is the key to comedy, just ask Nathan). We took in dinner and drinks at the Rugby Juniors League Club with Ian and Tas (Dina's parents). A number of cafes and pubs were sampled (Australian coffee and wine rank far above Australian beer). We walked the awe-inspiring beaches from Bronte to Bondi. We took a day trip to the Blue Mountains. And we did a lot of hanging out with Dina, Haley, and Lana, which were some of my favorite times. Haley, incidentally, likes me a lot more now that she lives 10,000 miles away. But in fairness to me, she likes everyone a lot more now.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge - I'm doing the tour next time

dinner by Tas; wine by Ian

Bondi Beach

Manly Ferry (obviously - we were on it)

To finish up his recess, Nathan and I went for an overnight camp in Jarvis Bay. We were greeted to our campsite by bright red Lorakeets. The wildlife theme would continue throughout our time there as we saw kangaroos, wallabies, dolphins, and (briefly) an echidna. Also there were at least three types of possum that scurried around our feet while we had dinner. They were lucky we didn't drop anything for them as it was perhaps the worst dinner on record. Easily the best part of the camping trip was taking a 3-mile hike down to a secluded beach. Gorgeous to be sure, but there was absolutely no one else there. This is the only time I can recall that my party were the only visitors to a beach. Just incredible.

only our footprints on this beach

one of the rodent visitors to dinner

So the next week, with Nathan back to work, I decided to take a trip up to the Great Barrier Reef to see just what is so, you know, great. With a little guidance from my Australian friends I booked a last minute flight to Cairns and a budget rate hotel. I know now that budget rate means shared bathroom. No biggie. Good news was there weren't any bugs as some people suggested there might be. But the door knobs were strangely high. I booked a spot with a snorkeling outfit and spent the remaining of the first night walking around the small tourist town.

I woke up the next morning to complete disaster. I had left my contacts in their cleaning canister all night without any solution. They were dry, warped, and, I thought, ruined. I had also forgot to pack an extra pair for the trip. I woke up early enough that I still had an hout before the boat left, so I dropped them in some solution just in case they could be revived. By some miracle they were good enough to wear again in about 30 minutes. I went from bummed to elated in less than an hour. So off I went. Good as new.

As it turns out, the reef is poorly named. It should definitely have been named The Awesome Barrier Reef. I've really never done anything like it. The boat took us out about 30 miles from shore and docked near two different reefs. Once I got comfortable with all the gear and surroundings, it was so much fun. Unfortunately this was about the time my camera battery ran out. Oh well, I couldn't really capture how amazing it was anyway.



The next day (my last in Cairns) I took a scenic train tour to a nearby rainforest. Not much more to tell about that than is in the pictures. To get back into town, one can take a tram ride over the top of the rainforest to a shuttle bus station. Cool.

train ride to the rainforest

tram ride high above the rainforest

So after that it was back to Sydney for a couple days for some more time with the Kinkaids. We all went out to the pizza place for dinner one night, and Dina and Nathan and I went out on the town the next two nights. So much fun. And Dina took a day off to give a big assist with souvenir shopping.

I had such an incredible time. Thanks to the Kinkaids for letting me crash with them and showing me such a good time. And to Ian and Tas as well, a thank you. I miss you all a lot, and cannot wait to go again. More pics here.

the gals with their shirts; thank you!