Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Coffs Harbour, NSW - Australia

We've loved spending three sunny and relaxing days in Coffs Harbour. The girls have been spending lots of time playing in the pool while Jay has really been loving soaking in the rays and doing his best to make the rest of us look really pale. We have an ocean view room from our hotel, it's really beautiful. You'd think we'd be tired of looking at the ocean!

Swimming in the beautiful pool

The View from our room at Aqualuna
On the drive here, we stopped in at Fredo's Pies, famous for it's award winning pies, and, most notably, their crocodile pies. And, NO, we did not eat one of those, in fact we also passed on the kangaroo pies and opted for chicken. The pies were delicious. Pies are as common in Australia and NZ as hot dogs are in Canada and the US. You can buy a pie at almost every gas station with a little store.

Today we visited the Pet Porpoise Pool, a small scale version of Sea World. We absolutely loved the smaller groups and hands on interaction with the animals.

Jenny & Bucky
Jocelyn and Cindy

Marg feeding the little blue penguins...I love these!

This afternoon, we took a drive out to Nana Glen, where Russell Crowe has a home, but since he was no doubt attending the Academy Awards in America, he was nowhere to be seen. The drive out there was beautiful.
Tomorrow morning, it's off to Brisbane, or Brisvegas or Brizzy as Andrew Swift calls it. A big city and we'll be staying right in the CBD.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Roos, Rocks and Rides

Our last day in Sydney was spent at the amazing Bondi beach, little did we know that this would be the last hot and sunny day for a while.

Bondi Beach

We stayed our last night at a hotel in Darling Harbour close to the Maritime Museum.

Navy ship and sub at Darling Harbour

We spent the past couple of days in the beautiful Blue Mountains, so named for the blue tinged mist that hangs in the valleys which we're told is actually vapours from the eucalyptus tress that are in abundance in the valley.

Blue Mountains

On the way, we stopped at the Featherdale Wildlife Park where we got to see all kinds of cool wildlife that we've never seen before. One of the highlights for all of us, was a chance to cuddle up close to a koala bear. We also totally loved playing with and feeding the kangaroos and wallabies - awesome!

Here we are with a cute koala seemingly unbothered by all the attention

Jocelyn with a cuddly koala bear

Jenny with a friendly wallaby


Bearded Dragon

Brown Herons

Tiny Blue Penguin - the smallest in the world


The blue mountains are a stunning plateau surrounding a breathtaking and dramatic Jamison valley. Waterfalls and wildlife abound in this area that has been declared a World Heritage Site. One of the nicest view points was Echo Point where we got a panoramic view of the entire valley and an almost level look at three sisters, a dramatic sandstone formation standing between 906 and 922 metres above sea level.

Three sisters

The Aboriginal dream-time legend has it that three sisters, 'Meehni', 'Wimlah' and Gunnedoo' lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe.
These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry.

The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle.

As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm. While he had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, the witchdoctor himself was killed. As only he could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.
It was at Echo Point that we heard the didgeridoo played by this most interesting fellow. The Didgeridoo is a wind instrument made from an irregular shaped eucalyptus branch that has been hollowed by termites. It has been played by Aboriginal people in Northern Australia for the past 1000 years.

Jay with the Didgeridoo Dude

There is a wonderful bronze memorial near Echo Point that honours the countless hours of labour performed by prisoners to construct many of the roads around Australia.

Also found around Echo Point and at other areas in the Blue Mountains Park are little rock caves designed especially for picnicking.

This section of rock, near the top of the plateau, was once submerged under salt water.

We visited several view points on our drive between historical Leura and Katoomba. Scenic World in Katoomba was very interesting. When we arrived we boarded the Sky Way, a large glass bottomed gondola that travels across the valley providing spectacular views of Katoomba falls and out towards the valley. Fortunately we did this ride first as we were blanketed by a rain storm, complete with thunder! 10 minutes later when we did the return trip, we could not even see to the other side!

Katoomba Falls

Skyway gondola

The foggy return

See through floor...ooooo

We took advantage of the rain storm to visit the gift shop (along with all of the other visitors) and after about 25 minutes of browsing, decided that we ought to just continue enjoying the parks other amenities. We hopped on the Cableway, another gondola, for a descent into the valley, there was only one other group of people with us. At the bottom, there is a really nice boardwalk through the lush forest, but it was too rainy and cold to do the entire thing, so we opted for the short walk from the Cableway landing to the base of the Scenic Railway. This railway is the steepest funicular railway in the world! We first rode it up...backwards, then rode it back down again. It was really cool and interesting to know that in days gone by, when the valley was an active mining area, workers rode to and from work in this fashion.

Railway car

Counter ballast for the train
Pretty steep!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Farewell O'vive......Hello Australia

David & Nathalie

Sydney Opera House

During the past two weeks, we spent as much time as possible with our good friends from O'vive. Dave, Nathalie, Emilie and Alec shipped O'vive home on Dockwise at the end of February and spent their last two weeks hanging out in Whangarei.

Glass beads made my Nathalie, Emilie, Jenny, Jocelyn & Marg

Beadmaking class - 800 degree flame!

Jenny creating a beautiful bead

Jenny & Emilie at the Whangarei library

Good friends and fun times at the park in Whangarei
We had some wonderful times together hiking, beading and (of course) eating. Dave and Nathalie hosted a farewell BBQ at their flat on Sunday and we had a wonderful time with them and with many other cruisers who we've met along the way.
BBQ at O'vive's flat - O'vive, Tin Soldier, Orca III, Candine, Ocealys and Malachi

Nathalie took this picture of me with my potluck contribution.
Dave, Nathalie, Emilie and Alec......we will miss you!
Bright and early Tuesday morning, after a tearful goodbye the night before, we set off for Auckland to catch our Air New Zealand flight to Sydney, Australia!
We had a great flight. The plane and crew were outstanding and, aside from a brief encounter with 120kn headwinds which jostled us around a bit more than we're comfortable with, the flight was smooth.
We're staying in a serviced apartment on the 36th floor but we still can't see the water! Lots of tall buildings in the CBD. We are; however, close to everything and yesterday we joined a bus tour of the city. The day started off rainy but by early afternoon, the clouds were gone and the sun was shining, it was glorious. The fair weather allowed us to take advantage of the open top deck of the bus and to enjoy panoramic views as we drove around the city. Sometimes we had to duck so that we wouldn't get smacked in the face by low branches.
Our Hotel - the pointy one in the background
Kids on open top bus

The highlight of our day was a tour of the Sydney Opera House. This outstanding piece of architecture has a rich and colourful history and we all really enjoyed the story behind this beautiful building. Perhaps us girls will take in a performance......not Jay though.

The roof of the opera house has over one million small white tiles

Beautiful reception area indoors

Autographed ballet slippers - Janessa, this one's for you!
Another point of interest for us girls was the Australia Opals. We went to one shop that had a museum. The owner, a paleontologist, has an excellent collection of opalized mollusks, wood and even dinosaur bones!

Like Vancouver, Sydneys streets are lined with an eclectic mix of old and new architecture. One of the most prominent and impressive buildings in the city is the Queen Victoria Building (1898), which is an upscale shopping mall. Sydney also boasts an impressive tower standing 305 metres above the city, a baby compared to the CN Tower at 553 metres.
Queen Victora Building - Front
Queen Victoria Shopping Arcade
There are news stands on most corners, just like in New York
This is the view of the city from Darling Harbour where we'll be spending the night today. That's the Sydney Tower in the background and just above the ships smokestack, you can see the big Australian flag that is flown off the Anzac bridge as a memorial to fallen soldiers.