Australia from Sydney to Perth: February
1 to February 25
(Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view. You may click on the subjects listed to go directly to them.)
Subjects: Australia Museum Sydney Hunter Valley Wineries New South Wales Central Coast Kangaroo Hospital Port Macquarie Nambucca Heads Dorrigo National Park Grafton Lennox Head Surfers Paradise Cairns Wild World Zoo Cairns Ellis Beach Great Barrier Reef Kuranda Train and Barron Falls Skyrail Rain Forest Aborigine Cultural Center Ayers Rock Resort Uluru (Ayers Rock) Kata Tjuta (The Olgas Rocks) Rottness Island Perth Margaret River
The Rich Family has just finished a fun and satisfying 3-1/2 week Australian Odyssey, and this update will review the highlights of the four states we visited. We had a chance to see friends previously met in New Zealand, visit cousins we hadn't yet met, and visit friends that we had not seen for many many years. All in all, we enjoyed [nearly] every minute of it!!
Two of Australia's famous animals are seen here. When in Grafton, New South Wales, visiting Jennifer's cousin, Philippa and John Houge, we woke one morning to see many large gray kangaroos eating grass in their backyard. Later, we visited Wild World zoo in Cairns and Stephanie had a chance to hold one of their Koalas. When a Koala gets tired of people, the keepers can just go get another one. Regulations permit only a 1/2 hour "workday" per animal. Lots of fun!
Australia is a wonderful and beautiful country, but... IT IS HUGE!!! Australia is virtually the same size as the United States when comparing it to the lower 48 states. So when we were in Australia, especially after leaving the comparatively smaller islands of New Zealand, the distances we traveled were mind-boggling! When traveling by car, as we did in New Zealand, it was clear that we were only going to see a small portion of this vast land. Fortunately, we traveled the longer distances by air. Once again, we will just have to come back again to sample some of the other cities and states.
Here is a map of Australia you can review. The Riches were not very aware of the geography of Australian states until we arrived and began to travel the countryside. We hope this map helps you follow our travels.
Australia has 6 states and 2 territories: New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria (south east corner), Tasmania (Island to the south), South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, and lastly, the relatively small Australian Capital Territory (equivalent to the U.S. District of Columbia) surrounded by NSW. The capital, Canberra, is located in the ACT.
We started our travels in Sydney, drove up the east coast Pacific Highway to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast and then returned quickly to Sydney on the inland rural New England Highway. A 3 hour flight from Sydney to Cairns brought us to the rain forests and the Great Barrier Reef. Another long flight took us to the Ayers Rock Resort. After a tour of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), we flew on another long flight to Perth.
As usual, click on Maps Australia to see maps showing exactly where we have been. This time, we're showing maps in chronological order rather than in reverse order as we have in the past. Also check out some Interesting Australian Facts as well as some New Zealand and Australian Phrases.
We are now in Hong Kong, beginning our 2-1/2 weeks in the Orient after which we head to Nairobi and Cairo for our African segments. The next web update may be a little late, so please keep in touch with us by email!
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After arriving in Sydney in the early morning, we decided to visit the Australia Museum which was just a block from our Marriott hotel (thank you Marriott for all those reward points and free stays!). There were many outstanding displays from a new one showing a lot about Australia in times past to other great displays on minerals and early man. The first picture shows a picture of two long extinct Australian "mega fauna" or giant animals: one a very large marsupial and the other a thylacine or Australian tiger. Another exhibit featured skeletons from many animals including man. The picture shows an automated domestic scene with a man rocking his chair while reading with his faithful dog and a cat chasing a mouse into the wall behind. The cowboy shown riding his horse was particularly effective at showing the movement permitted by the differing skeletons.
Finally, there was another display showing the origins of early man shown reconstructed in wax in the first picture. The next picture shows the kind of problems early man would have had when a leopard got the better hold. As you can see, this would be a very bad day at the 'office.'
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The next day we took a delightful harbor tour, which showed off the Sydney Opera House and the massive Harbor Bridge which you can clearly see in the first two pictures. The harbor opens into the Tasman Sea at a point which is only a couple of kilometers wide. This picture shows the sea just around the corner from the harbor entrance with a light house marking the point. We were particularly impressed by how many houses and apartment buildings have great views of the harbor, clearly one of the most beautiful in the world.
As we walked around the city, we got another good view of the Opera House. We hadn't known it is actually three buildings. The one on the right rear is the Opera House, the bigger one on the left is the concert hall, and the small one facing the camera and the city is a restaurant. The shine on the roof comes from white ceramic tiles which imitate stitching on sails. Along the waterfront many mimes gather in various costumes to entertain and make their daily living. Quite colorful.
This is a view out the window of our hotel room showing the large and beautiful Hyde Park. Directly across the park is a building that contains a private club called the Queens Club. We had the delightful pleasure to have dinner with Nancy Bird Walton, Australia's first lady of aviation, at the elegant Queens Club. They even loaned Denny a coat so he could be properly dressed! Nancy is a friend of Iris Critchell's who had advised us to look her up. We are glad we did! Nancy gave Stephanie some excellent maps of Australia and a copy of her book, My God, It's a Woman!, which recounts the early days of flying in Australia. Unfortunately, we forgot to take our camera along to get a picture of this wonderful lady who has made a big impact on her country. Last, you see Denny and Stephanie in front of a beautiful fountain in Hyde Park.
On a Sunday, we met the Ross family (new Sydney friends met at Milford Sound), for an outing to Manly Beach. To get there, we took a ferry from the main downtown Circular Quay. Sydney's public transit system including trains and ferries is excellent. The first shot shows a natural salt water swimming pool that is fed by the ocean. We went to a small beach right behind it to get out of the wind. As we came back by the pool, we noticed people were avoiding swimming in it. The reason was the "Blue Bottle" stinging jellyfish you see on the concrete in the next picture. There are lifeguard (surf life saving) swim clubs all over Australia. This neat sculpture of a swimmer on the wall of the Manly Beach Surf Life Saving Club was particularly well done. After a day of beaching it, Jennifer and Anne Ross relax in front of the larger (and windier) Manly Beach.
We came back into Sydney for a nice walk through China town and had a Thai/Chinese meal with the Rosses. Here you see Anne, Ian, and their two kids, Emily (Stephanie's new buddy) and older sister, Katie. The next view of the city and the harbor is from the tall ANZ observation tower. The last picture is a Sunday at Bondi Beach, a VERY popular place for the locals -- it reminded us of beaches in Southern California, only more beautiful. The large crowd in the water in the background is swimming between two flags where the local swim club lifeguards are watching.
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Hunter Valley Wineries
We left Sydney and proceeded north to a fabulous and historic (from the 1860s) wine growing region called Hunter Valley. On a very rainy day, we toured a number of wineries including one shown here called Tyrell Vineyards. Murray, the Scottsman shown in the picture, gave one of the best tours of traditional wine making we have ever seen. He is explaining the settling and clearing processes used for red wines. The last picture shows some French oak barrels used for settling and aging. It was a busy time at the vineyard since the harvest was ready to be coming in. They were waiting for the rain to stop to pick the grapes, and everyone was quite worried about getting this year's crop in before the grapes got too ripe and split.
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New South Wales Central Coast
Going up the eastern coast, you are always close to the beach although you can't see it much of the time due to the thick green 'bush.' We pulled over to a park and walked a short distance to a beautiful white sand beach and saw absolutely nobody, as you can see. It makes the point that Australia is a huge country with not very many people - even along the ocean. It also makes us wonder what is lurking in the water if we were to go swimming. While shark attacks are rare, they are discussed in the newspapers quite a lot. Also, as we were to learn later, stinging jellyfish are a real problem, but mostly further north where the water is warmer, such as in Cairns. At Port Macquarie, Stephanie snapped a picture of Mom and Dad enjoying lunch overlooking a town beach along with many of the locals. We wished we had more time to put on our suits and jump in too!
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Kangaroo Hospital Port Macquarie
Our Sydney friends, the Rosses, told us not to miss the Koala Hospital near Port Macquarie. We took their advice and were not disappointed. This place on the east coast is the main habitat of the Koala, and these people take care of animals that have been hurt (usually by cars) or females who are suffering from bladder infections that stains their rear ends red, as you can see in the first picture. The second picture is a female named Pebbles who had been hit by a car and suffered a broken jaw. The hospital has taken care of her for several years. She has, however, been able to have four joeys. Wild males get into the enclosures from time to time, and nature takes its course.
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We stayed at a B & B further up the coast at Nambucca Heads. This is a very small community but it has a huge Holiday Park where people bring their campers and stay year after year. Near the park is a long breakwater where one of tne of the traditions is to paint a rock and update it each year they come for holiday. You can often see dates going back 15 years with an entry every year, and some of the graffiti is quite elaborate. We read in the newspaper that 40% of Australians don't take a holiday during the year and the remaining 60% like to go back to the same place in Australia every year. While that adds to 100%, it does not account for the large number of Aussies who travel abroad, especially to New Zealand. It is a telling statistic, however.
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Dorrigo National Park
We visited Dorrigo National Park (one of 540 in the country!), which has been declared a World Heritage Site for its natural rain forests. At the Park, there is a long platform which extends out about 100 meters over the rain forest canopy and gives you the view you see above. In the top of one of the nearby trees, we spotted a snake at the very top of the tree sunning itself. We learned from the ranger that is was a Brown Python which is not venomous or harmful to man. Stephanie and Denny took a hike down into the floor of the rain forest where Steffi spotted something jumping away. We found out later is was a Red Necked Pademelon coming out of the forest late in the afternoon to nibble on the ranger's lawn. We saw three of them eating away as you see here. Late afternoon or early morning is the best time to see various marsupials eating grass. Any rain forest has its share of beautiful waterfalls. Here is one on the road to Dorrigo National Park.
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We next visited second cousins Phillipa and John Houge, whose Dunedin invitation to visit them we were delighted to accept. They welcomed us to their home in Grafton, and we had a great afternoon and evening with them. Steffi even got to put her slightly rusty soccer skills back to work with a little scrimmage against Jamie and his younger brother Mark. She found out Aussies start young at soccer and get pretty good at it, even at the young age of 7! In their backyard, we were treated to the sight and sounds of many Lorikeets. They are drawn there to eat stale bread which is thrown out on the lawn. As you read in the intro, we also saw a lot of gray kangaroos the next morning. Here are another 6 of the 15 that we saw.
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This is a shot from Lennox Head, near Byron Bay, the eastern-most spot on the Australian coast. The view to the south shows another beautiful beach. The lighthouse at the head dates back to 1903 and is 'lovely' as the Aussies say. Steffi snapped a shot of Mom and Dad at the sign noting the eastern point. The next land east of here is South America, way across the Pacific Ocean.
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Continuing up the east coast, we approached the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise, where our friends, the James Smiths, live. We were warmly greeted and stayed several days at their lovely home which borders one of the canals in the area thereby allowing boats access to many kilometers of waterway. We enjoyed a real Australian meal cooked on the 'barbie' with the Smiths. At the table going clockwise from the top, you see James, eldest son James, Jennifer, second son Andrew, wife Sherri, daughter Victoria, and Steffi. If you carefully look in the background, you can see a real 'American' barbeque, which James prefers to use! Here is another shot of us all before going out to dinner at the Surfers Paradise harbor.
A short drive from the Smith's home is the main Surfers Paradise beach shown in these pictures. While the beach has some similarities to Miami Beach, including many high rises, it is much prettier and uncrowded. Next you can see Jennifer and Steffi in the waves trying their luck at body surfing. Steffi is a champ at this, but really needs her boogie board which we left in Denver.
When we went to dinner, for an unbelievable seafood buffet, we crossed a pedestrian bridge to the restaurants which was lighted with blue neon. It is very lovely. Here are the Riches getting ready for their wonderful meal featuring seafood and other local delicacies. It was great! Thanks again!
After our visit with the Smiths, we discovered we only had one day to drive all the way back to Sydney. We went on the inland New England Highway which is very rural with many diary farms and some sheep. We did not pause to take pictures along the way as we needed to hustle to catch an early flight from Sydney north to Cairns. Despite a very long 12 hour day, we made it to the plane!
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Cairns Wild World
We have mentioned previously that we went to the Wild World zoo in Cairns. We got a chance to see some Australian animals that we had not seen before. First, you see a pink beaked Australian Pelican whose warning honk and sharp bill got your attention very quickly. The next picture looks like an American alligator, but actually it is an Australian fresh water crocodile, or freshie, which we did NOT see, luckily, in the wild. Finally, a couple of Koalas in the maternity ward. You can see the female on the top may have a bladder infection. Hopefully, they are treating her with antibiotics just like the Koala hospital was doing.
Talk about a petting farm! Denny and Stephanie especially liked feeding the smaller red kangaroos. They were well educated as to where the food came from and we also learned that the bigger ones would intimidate the smaller ones to leave when food was available. We, of course, then made a point to feed the younger kangaroos. The pictures we have all seen of kangaroos boxing is, in fact, real. While feeding the small kangaroos, two of the bigger ones were actually sparring with each other. Neither landed a major blow with the front paws, but the rear legs looked pretty fierce. Finally, here is a view of some Rainbow Lorikeets, the same birds that we saw in the Houge's backyard in Grafton.
We also saw an Emu, which are present all over Australia except in the rainforest. The next bird is a Cassowary, which is a bird that lives in the rainforest and is endangered due to the ever decreasing amount of habitat. Finally, as we were leaving, we saw a very large (3 or so inches (8 cm) in diameter) spider making a web in one of the covered picnic areas. Being Australia, we decided to leave him or her very well alone. It was quite a pretty insect in any case.
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Cairns Ellis Beach
On a short trip north of Cairns, we stopped at a popular beach called Ellis Beach. A large sign said it was closed to swimming because stinging jelly fish are present at this time of year. The worst one is a Box Jelly and the signs said contact with its tentacles can cause paralysis and death if not attended to! The messages said to get the victim down, apply vinegar (bottles of which were right there) and dispatch someone else for an immediate ambulance. Behind the warning sign you see in this picture is a net apparatus that is used to keep these nasty stinging things out of the swimming beach. Apparently, it is run out on weekends so that locals can swim. Being a weekday and rather rainy, it was reeled in when we were there. Since the smaller species of box jelly is only a centimeter across and there is no hope of seeing them, we abandoned all ideas of beaching at this latitude during this time of year!
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Great Barrier Reef
One of the things we were all looking forward to was a trip to the Great Barrier Reef off the coast at Cairns. The reef is so big that astronauts can actually see if from space. The trip is made in a boat like you see accompanying our boat. Behind the boat in the first picture is the tropical city of Cairns, quite a tourist attraction with lots of people even though we were there during the rainy season in mid-February. We were wondering about the stinging jelly fish, but found out that they only like the shoreline near the estuaries where they feed on prawns, so the reef out to sea is no problem. On the way to the reef, the boat made a stop at Fitzroy Island where we got a brief tour of the rain forest. Among the things we learned, adding to our increasing wealth of new information, was that trees in the rain forest harbor the growth of epiphytes, plants that take advantage of trees, but does not harm them. This basket fern grows in the notch between two branches in order to get closer to the sun at the top of the canopy and captures falling leaves and other debris which become nutrients for its own growth. Finally, this picture of some tuna-like yellow-tailed fish is a glimpse of what we saw at the reef. We don't have other pictures because we were very busy snorkeling and our Nikon doesn't work well under water. Suffice to say that we are now spoiled and other snorkeling will never be quite as good as the Great Barrier Reef. Steffi especially liked swimming with hundreds of schooling fish as they were being fed from the boat. Quite a sight!!
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Kuranda Train and Barron Falls
The next day we took a train from Cairns to the tourist town of Kuranda, which you can see in the first picture. Behind the train is glorious Rock Creek Falls, another of the ever present waterfalls in the rain forest! We traveled along the Barron River Gorge which is quite beautiful. At one point, we stopped to get pictures of the outrageous Barron Falls. The name is ironic because in the dry season when there is no rain, the falls and the river are actually barren... no water at all. But this day it was one of the most powerful falls we've ever seen -- even the small side falls would merit a visit in their own right, but as part of a cataract like this it took your breath away! While in Kuranda, Steffi and Denny toured a butterfly pavilion and saw some great butterflies and caterpillars. Most of them were sleeping because the temperature was cool and it was raining... something they apparently knew even though they were in an enclosure.
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Skyrail Rain Forest
After the train ride up, the trip down was made on something called the Sky Rail. It is a gondola (exactly like the one at Vail) which traverses the canopy above the rain forest on the way back to Cairns. It was an incredible journey which we could actually not get enough of. Jennifer is smiling broadly as we depart the station in Kuranda. These pictures do not do the experience justice. Another view of Barron Falls from the other side of the river may give a sense of the huge volume of water flowing during this particularly wet weekend. Next, you can see the tops of the rain forest canopy with the gondola cables disappearing into the mist and rain. If you click on the last picture, you can see the brownish strangler fig, with its long skinny tentacle vines. It climbs to the top of a big tree, enveloping it and eventually killing the tree as the strangler fig becomes enormous. You can also see the lawyer palm, the only palm that is a vine. It has stickers on its runners which cling to everything, allowing it to climb to the top of the canopy for adequate light.
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Tjabukai Aborigine Cultural Center
After coming down from the Skyrail, we were right next to the Tjabukai Aboriginal Cultural Center which is owned by the local group of indigenous Aborigines. We learned a lot about their culture, history and traditions. We also learned they are now modern and every bit Australians. Here we see some of the 'actors' painted in their traditional fashion with Stephanie and Denny on stage. The experience was fun and very enlightening.
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Ayers Rock Resort
By this time we were really tired of the rain and were happy to proceed to the airport for our long flight to the much warmer (29 degrees Celsius) Ayers Rock Resort, which you can see in the first picture. This resort is relatively new and is located right near the National Park for Uluru and Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock and the Olgas). The architect made good use of sails both for aesthetics and to keep off the intense desert sun. Stephanie always loves the pool, even with its little swimming bugs, which had two legs looking exactly like oars. They could propel themselves under the water very fast and were both fun and hard to catch. We encountered a colorful desert monitor lizard on our walkway who only wanted a drink from an air conditioner condensation drain. Finally, we took a great picture of the sunset after we got there. Colorado and Ayers Rock Resort have colorful sunsets in common, but they might win any contest!
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Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Of course, the main reason to go to the Ayers Rock Resort is to see and visit Uluru, the Aborigine name for the rock. All this land was returned to the Aborigines in 1985. They agreed to let it remain as a National Park, but they have a majority (6 of the 10) of the governing council which controls the park itself. We got up before dawn to see the rock at sunrise and to hike the 9.6 kilometers around its base. This was really a lot of fun and quite a unique and beautiful experience. You see a picture of the sun rising as we hiked around Uluru and the next picture shows the effect of the sunrise on the large rock itself. The strong red color is caused by iron which has oxidized (rusted) in the air turning it a very bright red. Up close, it is too large to capture in one photograph and even our videos do not do it justice. Once the sun was up and we were around on the backside, you can see its distinct character even though it really is just one very large rock. The colored undulations are typical of the nuances you see while hiking around Uluru.
At one point, we stopped at a water hole caused when rain runs off the rock and is trapped. See the dark black staining where the water runs. Click on the first picture so you can see the heart shaped indentation in the rock. We heard Aborigine creation legends about this and many other shapes in the rock surface. As we went around the rock, we learned that many places (specific erosion patterns or unique shapes) are sacred to the Aborigines cannot be photographed. Some of the places are where 'men's business' is conducted and others are where 'women's business is conducted. What the Aborigines actually do at these locations on Uluru is not communicated by the Aborigines to others. Next, we are all studying one of the more interesting erosion patterns on the other side of Uluru. It makes what appears to be an actual wave pattern. Finally, a good look at some of the unique erosion patterns in the rock.
As we left Uluru, we got a good picture of the entire rock at about 12 noon. It is far more red in the morning and evening sun. That evening, we had a lovely dinner under the stars with views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) which you see in the next picture. Last, we are getting ready for a great dinner by sipping on some sparkling white wine. Stephanie had only apple juice. The dinner was followed by some excellent star gazing after the clouds cleared, including a talk and the use of some very nice telescopes.
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Kata Tjuta (The Olgas Rocks)
After our long hike around Uluru, we felt we were ready to take on Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), which are a series of large rock formations about 50 kilometers away from Uluru. We planned a 8 kilometer hike on our own through the canyons of the rocks. Jennifer got up early to take this gorgeous picture of the sunrise behind our Sails of the Desert resort showing some of the sails. Next is a picture of about 50% of the Kata Tjuta. Click on it to see the formations. Unlike Uluru, which is a 90 degree uplift, Kata Tjuta is on a 15% uplift plane and is made up of what appears to be petrified mud with lots of boulder sized rocks embedded in it, as you can see from the last picture. Again, the iron content is very high, so the rocks are very red.
As we got to a stopping point on the hike, Denny and Stephanie are enjoying their breakfast. If you click on the picture, you can see that the funny hat Denny is wearing is actually a mosquito/fly netting that he has rolled up in order to eat breakfast. We had heard about Australia's flies, but had not really encountered them on the east coast. However, the flies were very present here in the desert and were very annoying, although they don't bite you. We all wore nets for parts of the hike. There is a term called the 'Australian wave' which comes by seeing Aussies constantly waving the moisture-seeking flies away from their face.
Jennifer decided that she did not feel like eating breakfast and did not eat much along the hike, especially as it got hotter. While she did drink plenty of water, the end of the hike 3 hours later found her wiped out suffering from heat exhaustion! While we all thoroughly enjoyed the hike, Jennifer did not recover until the morning after our afternoon flight to Perth. The last picture shows a typical canyon that we walked through on the hike. Note the vegetation due to the rain (only 2 - 4 inches per year!) captured off the rocks into the valley.
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After arriving in Perth for our last four-day stop in Australia, we decided to take a ferry to Rottnest Island, about 20 kilometers west in the Indian Ocean. This island does not allow cars, but there is a bus that travels around the island allowing you to hit all the beaches along the way. Unlike Mackinac Island in Michigan, there are no horses around to transport you. Lots of bicycles though. At Freemantle, Jennifer and Steffi are waiting for the ferry shown in the background. Behind the ferry, you can see another example of the vertical cranes used to unload container ships. Seems like this is the main way that goods are now transported onto ships. At the first beach we visited, we discovered that snorkeling would have been a great idea, except we forgot to bring our snorkeling gear. Denny and Steffi are wading out to check out the reef and the fish anyway. Later, with swimming suits on, Jennifer and Steffi get a good look at lots of fish hanging out at this rock off the beach.
We were lucky to see another of Australia's unique marsupials -- the Quokka. This small animal used to be present in large numbers on the mainland west coast, but now is only found in numbers on Rottnest Island. We were advised that the Quokkas were in need of water and that it was OK to give them water from our fingers. After dropping a little water that they could see, they would immediate approach for a drink. The last shot shows a beach and some holiday property. The island is a popular spot, and we would certainly come back often if we lived near Perth.
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Like most Australian cities we have visited, Perth is also very beautiful. The temperature is much hotter than the east coast and most lawns are not watered (much like Portland, Oregon in the summer) and therefore are brown. The open land around Perth looks a lot like California with brown fields and dark green trees and bush. The first picture is of a street in their beautiful King's Park (this is a British country after all). This street, and most of them in the park are lined with tall Eucalyptus trees. Below each tree is a plaque, most of which are honoring WW I and WW II dead soldiers by name. A very nice tribute. The next picture from King's Park is of downtown Perth. It is very clean and has a few very new and modern skyscrapers. The city is defined by the large Swan River, which flows west a few kilometers to the Indian Ocean near Freemantle. In the foreground, you see more Eucalyptus species in the large Botanical Gardens.
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We left Perth after two days and went south down to Margaret River. This is a holiday and tourist destination, with beaches, wine country, caves and more National Parks nearby. We were only there overnight, but could have easily stayed a week. On the way into the town of Margaret River, we saw our first Red Kangaroo, munching away in a very brown field. His bones are showing so we guessed that he was not getting a lot of nutrition from the brown grass. There were also lots of birds around, although we don't have great pictures of them here. It was fun the next morning when Jennifer woke up laughing as she listened to some noisy 'Kookaburras laughing in an old gum tree.'
The next morning, we set off to tour some caves along the west coast. The first picture is of Mammoth Cave. It was interesting in that it is VERY large and the tour is self guided with a CD player that comes on automatically as you walk through the cave. Next, we visited Lake Cave, a smaller limestone cave nearby that is also very spectacular. If you click on the next picture, you should be able to see the stalactite/stalagmite formation in the picture is suspended right over the lake without actually touching it. The space between the bottom layer of the formation and the surface of the lake is easy to see. The last picture shows a "wishing well," which is just a stalagmite that is getting dripped on by a lot of water forming the splash cone below. Even though it was now dry summer, the cave is very wet because it takes several months for the earlier winter rain to filter through the layers of limestone. Conversely, in the winter the cave is much drier since the water flow had subsided in the dry summer months.
No trip to a wine growing region is complete without at least one stop to sample a local product. We went to a large winery, Leeuwin Estate, and had a great lunch and sampled their red wines. On the porch of the winery, we happened to meet a wire sculptor working on his creations. He turned out to be Hobart Brown, the creator of the Kinetic Sculpture Challenge that is sponsored by KBCO radio station in Boulder each year. It turns out there are many of these challenges around the world, and Hobart, a Californian, invented them and still monitors most for rules compliance. He was invited by the lady in this picture to come to Perth to make sure their challenge was done properly and by the rules. Hobart was even nominated for a Nobel Prize last year, since his work is thought to help reduce suicide rates for young people, which is a major problem in Australia. It IS a small world!
The last picture shows a proud winery owner displaying the Australian flag over his fields. On that patriotic and lovely note, we bid adieu to Australia, leaving with a lot of great memories. We hope to return, but next stop: the Orient!!
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