Closing this bad boy down, and moving to a new place!
why hate your own life when you can laugh at mine?
Closing this bad boy down, and moving to a new place!
this post has to be dedicated to A, because i feel like her right now after one of her dorkisms....
frisbee tournament this wkd with our friends from georgian bay ultimate up north. have no idea how we latched on with them last year, but we came out in last year's "pull for a cure" tournament with the championship, so we were back to defend our title.
we started out with a bang, 845AM, winning our game. then after a long break, took down our second opponents. but after this, it was all downhill. with the other team wearing dark colours, we were forced to switch to whites and we proceeded to lose 3 straight games, to knock us out of the tournament.
blame it on the poor scheduling, (4 straight games??? WTF!), blame it on the uniforms, blame it on the testosterone fueled womyn of berzurk.
it don't matter - cuz "If you ain't first, you're last."
OK - one last post on Australia. I just wanted to say thanks to all of the people who showed us a great time while we were down there and those in town that helped suggest things before the trip had even started. It meant a lot to us that you would spend the time to help make our trip as memorable as possible. Its true, friends make everything better. I can only suggest to all of you out there - if you have friends living in other locales, go visit them before their gone - you'll have the time of your life!
Wow - finally done blogging about Australia. Now I can finally move on with my life.
We boarded the ferry and headed back to Hamilton Island for our flight out to Sydney. Our flight this time, was on discount airline Jetstar. Unfortunately, discount air means less perks, and apparently, lower baggage allowances. My bag, getting more and more stuffed with crap, ended up over by about 10lbs, meaning that I had to pay $100 if I wanted to see my stuff ever again. I reluctantly paid, and we were on our way. Stupid Jetstar.
Flight was uneventful. When we got to Sydney airport though, my baggage had disappeared. After all of that crap, and paying an extra $100, my baggage went missing. Had to sit around and fill out forms, and ranted on the dumb guy there, so our day was delayed by a bit. Stupid Jetstar.
After this fiasco, we decided to head to the airport train, that would take us into town. Stupid me, (I was on a roll today), I convinced Linda that we should only get the one way pass, and that we should take a cab back to the airport when we were leaving. This act of foolishness ended up costing big. More on that later.
Anyways, we headed onto the highly convenient train, which dropped us off about 1 block from the hotel we booked, the Westin Sydney. We decided to treat ourselves, given that we had stayed in hostels pretty much the whole way. We figured it would be a good way to end off the trip. Since we had points, and Linda had “gold” status from her work travels, we ended up with an upgraded room after check in. Room was huge, bathroom was huger. Complete extravagance.
We ended up walking around for a bit, and then met up with Kev and Caroline after they finished work. We ate at some thai place, with some insanely spicy food. I dug it. Linda liked it, but couldn’t handle the fire. Haha. After that, we decided to take the bus up to the harbour for our first look at the Opera House and world famous harbour front. It didn’t disappoint. We can only wish that the gov’t will spend some money on ours.
Next day took us to da beech. The problem was, which beach!?? Bondi is the more popular choice, so we decided on Manly. D Betts highly touted this as the best beach, so we decided to take it on his word. We got onto the very convenient ferry, and over to Manly beach. The area was pretty laid back, with typical surf shops lining the area. We took a walk along the coast, realizing that we wouldn’t really have time to lay back and relax. But we got our feel of it and took off.
Back to town in a race for Chinatown and the market. At this point, we hadn’t really gotten enough souvenirs to satisfy Linda, so in a panic, we got there as everything was closing. Unfortunately, it became very clear that everything there was crap. Though there were about a million different stands, they all sold EXACTLY the same stuff. Hardly any handmade crafts, just crappy “Australia” or “Sydney” labelled crap. Dissatisfied, we headed home to await dinner with my long lost cousin Rachel. Hadn’t seen my cousin since I was about 10 years old, so it was nice to catch up with her, meet her husband and two kids.
Its funny how most of the cousins in my generation are doing some form of business or finance. Was I meant to be an accountant? Is it in my genes? Nah. Couldn’t be. HML. No wait, still on vacation, can’t HML right now.
Anyways, we ate at this Spanish restaurant, that was playing live music that night. So we ended up sitting outside on their pseudo patio (meaning the sidewalk). The food was OK, but not great. Oh well, didn’t really matter, that wasn’t the point. We got some good recommendations on what to do the rest of the time there (which wasn’t much), and since the kids had to go to bed -
we went our separate ways. Hopefully, it won’t be another 19 years until I see my cuz again.
Night fell, and we decided to check out the other harbour, Darling Harbour. It was a pretty short walk – our map seemed to show that it was a long way away. Darling was nice, but clearly not Sydney Harbour. However, it happened to be convenient close to the Star City Casino….ding ding ding!
We agreed to head in for a short while. Went to the poker table, and the list was about a million players long. Of course, they only had about 4 tables in play, and about 20 empty ones. So I inquired about whether they would be opening another table. They said no. dumbasses.
After getting my souvenir players card, which came with a match play coupon, Linda and I decided to play a little roulette, which quickly became not fun and unexciting, except for the big shooter, coming to the $2 table and dropping $100 chips on #’s, losing and leaving.
Anyways, we gave up on that, and went to the blackjack table. As soon as I was dealt my first hand, I was called. So I took my $10 win, and left. The game they had going was $5/5 no-limit, with $1 rake PER HAND. What a rip off. So the house collects $10 per hand regardless of the pot. I basically waited and waited and waited, since I started short stacked. In the one hand I played, I had KK and was called all the way by some garbage hand, and doubled up. OK. Hour’s up, late, and time to go. But wait, where’s Linda? She was waiting around before, but decided to walk off. Oh shoot. Is she mad at me? Did I stay a bit too long? Yikes. I jumped from the table with my winnings, and went looking for her, finally running into her. She had been at the crappy souvenir gift shop. Not mad at me. Phew.
Next day was our final full day in Sydney. On Kev’s recommendation, we decided to hit the harbour and the Opera House during the daytime:
and then head to the Botanical Gardens. The what? OK, I don’t think either of us would naturally pick this spot as a place to check out, as we are not exactly horticulture freaks. In fact, I’m pretty much allergic to every plant alive. BUT, this botanical garden was the habitat for a colony of bats. So we went, and checked out the bats, pretty ugly and freaky.
Then, one last blitz of shopping, and a quick trip to the Rocks for dinner. We were supposed to meet up with Kev and Caroline that night, but Kev bailed out last minute. We later learned that this was because of he was to propose to Caroline the next day (congrats!), so all is forgiven.
Anyways, Linda and I enjoyed one last look at the harbour, and headed back to the Westin to pack up every piece of junk we had lugged around for 3 weeks.
Next day was an early day to get to the airport on time for our early flight of 9AM (since it was international, we figured we would have to be there at around 6). So we got there, and strangely, there was no check in for Toronto. Hmm, very strange. We got frustrated, and started to look around. On top of this, our flight didn’t seem to be appearing on the departures board. Could our flight have been cancelled? WTF? OK, recheck tickets. What? Yes, recheck our tickets. Oops. Flight is not til around noon. We’re 3 hours early. I read our flight time from LA to Toronto. Idiot idiot idiot.
So we passed the time with breakfast, duty free shopping, and the free internet at the kiosk. No huge deal, except for the fact that we gave up an additional 3 hours of sleep, and a few minutes of lost life due to stress.
The one good thing, was that we managed to snag an exit row on the long ride back. Not only would this give us first privilege to jump from a burning plane, but also gave us the opportunity to stretch our legs while we waited for said burning. Linda was seated beside some Aussie lady who was heading to LA to visit her boyfriend. Ironically, she kept talking and talking to Linda, and Linda couldn’t really get a word in. I didn’t really want to hear any of it, and bailed out on Linda, and closed my eyes, and went to bed.
The cabin seemed unusually cold, even with a blanket, I was freezing. Must have been because of the fact that we were near the exit door. Bad idea?
At one point, the flight attendant tripped and spilled water near the Aussie lady and Linda. Not on, but near. No big deal, they cleaned it up and were on their way. Finally, as our flight neared the end, after some dumb movies, and watching “Mythbusters” over and over, the flight attendant came over and gave the Aussie lady and Linda a bottle of champagne each, because of the inconvenience of the spilled water. Have I told you how I love Quantas? But wait. The Aussie Lady said she didn’t drink. So she gave us her bottle! Sweet. Two free bottles of bubbly for us. A wonderful capper to our great trip to the land of Oz.
Just the pics? Head here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwswong/sets/72157594195182571/
Next day was another early day to catch our flight out of Carins to the Whitsunday Islands, a little further down the coast. The flight was uneventful, and we landed in Hamilton Island (one of the Whitsunday Islands). We spent a bit of time on the island just waiting for our ferry and took a few pictures.
Just looking out at the harbour, we knew that this was going to be a great trip.
The ferry ride stopped enroute to Arlie Beach at another of the Islands, Daydream Island. Daydream and the rest of the Islands feature resorts that are both lavish and expensive, as noted by the welcome band when the ferry docked.
Alas, we had money to stay there, and had opted for our adventure sailing tour, so off we went to the mainland.
At port, we had to take a bus into town. We stared at the bus map for awhile, trying to figure out which bus we would have to take. After some trouble, asking questions, and looking at the map again, we realized that there was only one bus, and that it would take us exactly where we needed to go. Basically, there is one main road in Arlie Beach, and the rest is not really worth going around to.
We dropped our crap off at the hostel we would be staying at for the night, and headed for the main strip in search of food, internet, and the “Beach” at Arlie Beach. Unfortunately, there really is no Beach at Arlie Beach, just a fake, man made lagoon. Basically, a big swimming pool. We felt the beginnings of a scam….Nonetheless, we enjoyed a good swim. Rest of the day was pretty much a write off, checking into our sailboat, buying random crap that we thought we would need, and eating off of recommendations from the Lonely Planet (which were once again pretty accurate in their descriptions).
Next day, it was up early, and over to the docks, where we boarded our ship, the Summertime. The Summertime is a classic style wooden sailing yacht, with around 16 beds. 2 are “private” cabins – which basically amount to a useless door. Of course, we chose to have the private cabin, and I realized that we had been had. Fortunately, the “upgrade” had only cost us about $50AUD, so not a big deal. It did give us a bit of extra space and few extra hooks, so I guess it was ok…
Stangely, one of the couples (an Austrian couple) from our Uluru trip seemed to be following us everywhere. There were on our plane ride out of Alice Springs to Cairns, and now they suddenly appeared on our boat in the Whitsundays! Crazy. We didn’t talk to them a whole lot though, because of the severe laguage barrier.
The boat was pretty compact, but still managed to have 2 bathrooms, a dining area, a kitchen, a jacuzzi, and plenty of space on deck.
Though I had expected it, I didn’t feel clausterphobic at all. Anyways, we took off, and embarked on our sailing tour - and i realized that this was no scam. The cruise took us to various spots on the islands, in order to enjoy the views, the beach, diving, snorkelling, and kayaking. Every spot that they took us to was fantastic, including the pristine Whitehaven Beach. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our cameras there, because we were afraid of the silica sand on the beach. So we don’t have too many pictures available. Fortunately, a DVD with all of the group pics were available for sale by the crew…how convenient!
Anyways, we can’t explain everything on the trip, and really, the gist of it is in the pictures.
Here's the full set at flickr.
This areas is absolutely spectcular, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Kev said it was the highlight of his entire stay in Aussie, and I can’t say that I would disagree. It is simply breathtaking, and no $2000 camera can capture it correctly. You just gotta see it for yourself.
Linda ended up going on an introductory dive, and I unfortunately, came down with an ear infection. This was likely from the swim day on Uncle Brians, where we were swimming in all of those natural swim holes. Oh well, no regrets. Anyways, ear infections obviously preclude you from diving, since you need clear ears to regulate the pressure build up underwater. So I stuck to being careful with my ears and snorkelling. Its funny though, I have a feeling I saw more than Linda on her dive, because she was more concerned with learning how to dive, and missed a few things. In one instance, I was floating right above her, taking pictures, of the scuba guys floating around a giant clam. When I asked linda if she had seem it, she told me no, even though it was right in front of her. So I had to take her over to see it in snorkel gear. I still wish had had gotten to scuba, as I was really looking forward to it, but oh well – gives me an excuse to go back!
Anyways, that’s really all I will say about our 3 days in the Whitsundays. What a great time! We decompressed for a day on Arlie Beach before heading off to Sydney, for the final stop of our tour!
After a night at the Cairns night market, which included buying a bunch of souvenirs and getting a masage from the chinese contingent in the night market, it was off to the Atherton Tablelands. I was looking forward to this for the picture taking oppotunities it would afford.
We joined a tour called Uncle Brian's. This tour had been recommended by a number of sources, including the Lonely Planet and the dirrty hot chick at the hostel. They are a bit gimmicky, so we can't tell you everything (as per their request), but you can tell by the pictures, that we had a pretty good time, being immature....
Basically, the day consisted of driving around in a fun bus, stopping at swimming holes and waterfalls along the way, including the world famous Millaa Millaa Falls.
We were supposed to see the Platypi at the end of the day, but because of the rain, they wouldn't come out. Slightly disappointing, but no big deal.
Because of all the wet activities, and the rain, the fun bus became the ass stank bus by the end of the day. Reminds me of the days of my good ol Red minivan, with the homeless people smell in it...ah the memories....
anyways, day ended, and so then, did our time in Cairns. We frantically tried to figure out how to pack, with our bags growing, with more and more souvenirs stuffing our suitcases...
next stop, the whitsundays...
Our next day took us on a Day trip to the Great Barrier Reef, on the appropriately named "Reef Daytripper". The boat was kinda slow, and many boats passed us going out of the dock, but our understanding was, that we were not going out as far, so we'd still have the same amount of reef time. Unfortunately, we only snorkelled in one area for the day, because there was no wind, so our slow boat wouldn't be able to move fast enough to make it worth our while. But that was ok. We still had fun in this area. PLUS - we really should have had rain. Our trip to Queensland overlapped the rainy season for the area. In fact, while we were in Uluru, it rained EVERYDAY in Cairns. But when we got there, sunshine openned up, and we did not see rain for these two days. Clearly, we were DESTINED to be there! Overall, good value for what we paid. No pictures were to be had from our $40 crappy camera bought on board. I think some sun leaked into the film cannister before we developed the pics...oh well. But even though there were no pictures to show you, it wouldnt hagve done the area justice. You just have to go there to experience it for yourself. Warm water, beautiful colours of fish and coral. Unbelievable!
We rolled into Cairns around 4-5pm after the time change, and headed for the phones in order to try to find a place to stay. This was the one place on our itinerary where we had booked absolutely nothing. No room, no tours. Being accountants by nature, we started to panic at this point. We started calling the places in the lonely planet, and the first few places we called were booked up. Plus, we were running out of change, and couldn’t find a place that would give us any more. One last chance. Alas. A booking. So we hopped in a cab and headed over to Ryan’s Rest. A small hostel, outside of the main strip, but close enough to walk. We were greeted by a hostess who clearly spent a lot of time tanning, and she showed us the room and facilities. We unpacked, and then back upstairs to try to get some bookings. Crap. Office closed. Now we started to panic a bit, as we had no idea what was out there, and things were starting to close up. Luckily, as we went downstairs, we saw dirty hostess in one of the rooms. I guess she was dating someone / living downstairs in one of the rooms. So we politely knocked, and she told us she would help us out.
She made some good suggestions on tours, and started making calls to book us up. Next thing we knew, we were set up for the next 3 days. Sweet! Panic subsides.
Hungry, we headed to the mall, which was closing fast, and ended up eating noodles from this fast food place. One of the few times that I ate Chinese food out of one of those typical Chinese take out boxes that you see on TV, with the metal handles.
Anyways, no one cares about this crap. On to the first day trip.
Our first day tour got us up early in the morning to head to Cape Tribulation, north of Cairns. Our tour started with a bus ride along the coast, and a stop for a quick breakfast. Next was a boat cruise on the Daintree River, where we got to cruise around, looking for crocodiles.
Crocs are in my mind, the clear top of the food chain. They have been around for more than any other predator. They rule the areas that they inhabit without a doubt. The tour operator told us that the males are territorial, and have many lady friends in their territories. They fight the other crocs for territory. This is basically the only way that they die. When a younger croc comes in and fights the older croc and either kills the older croc, or beats him into submission, such that he leaves the territory. In those cases, the losing croc must find a new territory, or die of starvation. Apparently, their fights can go on for hours and days. Just bashing each other constantly with their tales…..
I love my zoom lens by the way. At one point, I was looking through my lens at a croc, and it made a sudden move. I flinched, before realizing that I wasn’t even close to the croc.
Anyways, after the river cruise, we headed up to the Daintree Rainforest and did a hike through the rainforest, and saw Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef. It has some significance, as the only place where two distinct World Heritage Sites meet.
Anyways, after lunch, we did a little more touring, back to base camp, stopping in Port Douglas on the way back. Port Douglas is a small sailing town. Basically, it is Cairns for rich folk. Rich white folk. Sort of like Newport beach. OK. Seen it, move on. A cha cha cha.
Kings Canyon is just that, a canyon. Reminds me of the Grand Canyon, but smaller. Either way, it was a beautiful hike. If you want some info on it, here you go.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Here’s one. Head to flickr for the rest.
After that, was the long drive back to Alice Springs. I was a little concerned about this drive, given that it was a long drive, with no real rest stops, and Linda still feeling pretty lousy and dehydrated. But she was a trooper and hung in there, even desite the bumpy dirt road that we did our driving on.
Once in Alice, we headed to our hostel – I little joint called Annie’s Place, that was recommended in the Lonely Planet, and cleaned up. How nice. We went to dinner in town with this german dude that we had adventured with on our trip, and he told us about how he hated the French guys, and couldn’t stand to be with them any longer (he was actually booked to travel on with part of the group on an additional 2 days, but bailed out, last minute). Haha.
Alice was pretty low key, and uneventful. I was vetoed on the Alice Springs Casino (which likely would have been hugely lame anyways), and we spent the rest of our time repacking, and cleaning laundry to get ready for our flight the next day. Off to Queensland next!
Off for a beautiful sunrise at uluru. It was what it was cut out to be, spectacular. We then headed to the rock to walk around the site, and potentially climb the rock itself. But we were thwarted by bad weather, so no climbing for us. Whether we would have chosen to climb the rock or not (either out of fear, or respect for the aboriginals), will forever remain a mystery. But for the record, the task of the climb seemed daunting, given the worn out rock, and chain that looked like it would uproot at any minute.
After this small disappointment, the tour guide kind of left us with “free time”, since some people wanted to walk the entire way around the rock, while others opted for a condensed route, and some didn’t care to stay out in the heat. Linda and I decided on the condensed route, given our need to be near the facilities. So we did our walk, taking the occasional picture. People were walking at their own pace, so eventually, it became just the two of us walking along the path.
We finally came to the end of the path, which led onto a road. The tour guide had told us that the air-conditioned cultural centre was just “over there”, down the road, close by, a short walk. That is where our bus would meet us.
And we walked,
And we walked.
In the blazing heat.
Honestly, there were times when I thought that we were just going to get forgotten and left there to roast.
Finally, after a 20-30 minute walk, we reached the cultural centre, where we basically collapsed and slept on a bench until the calvary came to get us.
After yet another sweaty meal of bread and cold cuts, we headed out to a campsite near Kings Canyon where we ate a decent hot meal cooked over a campfire and rested for the night. The night was hot, but considerably more comfortable than the night before. We got smarter this time, and slept outside of the tent. I was a little apprehensive at first, given the snake incident from the previous night, but I got over it, and exhaustion prevailed.
getting back to the campsite, I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure what to expect. we were given fairly scant details by our travel agent, except that it was a tour, we would be fed, and would be sleeping in private camp facilities.
as we drove up, you couldn’t really miss Uluru (or Ayers Rock). There is really nothing else around, and its pretty darned big. Part of me, due to the heat, was saying to myself – ok – great, seen it, now we can leave.
we got to the campgrounds and were greeted by the rest of the group, who had actually driven as a tour from Alice Springs, starting in the morning (our flight didn’t get in til after they left). Since the drive to and from Alice Springs is filled primarily with nothingness, we probably took the more luxurious route anyways.
We had some lunch of cold cuts and stale bread, and unpacked into our tent. All I can remember, is going into the tent, and realizing that it had just gotten about 5 degrees hotter, just from being inside. I was hopeful, that after sunset, the tent would cool down.
Anyways, after lunch and unpacking, we headed to the Olga’s for an afternoon hike into a valley. Since we were provided very little information by our tour guides, i can’t really present you with any fun details.
Back to campsite for a quick dinner of BBQ. It was pretty bad, but I suppose adequate enough, and what were we expecting? Perhaps knowing that other groups were doing a “Sounds of Silence” gourmet dinner was making me jealous.
Back to the Uluru site, were we witnessed a fairly unspectacular sunset, due to the clouds and generally overcast skies. Oh well. Such was our luck.
Back to the Uluru site, were we witnessed a fairly unspectacular sunset, due to the clouds and generally overcast skies. It wasn't too bad tho. you be the judge:
We went back to camp, relaxed as much as we could in the 30+ degree heat, and attempted to go to bed.
I don’t think I can ever describe in words, what we felt that night, lying in a tent that hot, sweating as we attempted to sleep.
Anyways, part way through the night, I couldn’t take it anymore, and got up from my bed/puddle and headed for the canteen, in hopes of some cold water to cool off. Of course, there was none. Oh well. Had some strange conversation with one of the frenchmen on the tour, who couldn’t speak a lick of english. I tried my best to communicate with him, but it ended up being completely incoherent. How awkward. Heading back to the tent, though it was dark, my eyes had adjusted, and I swear, I saw a snake wrapped up in the tree beside our tent. I froze for a minute, trying to think of what my next move was, but really, all I could think of were the brochures and steve irwin, talking about australia and all the most poisonous snakes in the world populating on this continent. I cursed myself for thinking that somehow, picking the tent near the tree was a good idea. Composing myself a little, I got back into the tent, and quickly closed the flap that we had openned to get some minimal airflow. Snake bites preceeded crappy airflow, so I made the executive decision to increase the air temp in the tent by 1 degree. I considered telling linda about the snake, but she was sleeping for the time being, and I figured it would make things worse, so I let her sleep through.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night, and before we knew it, the guide was getting us up to get ready for sunrise.
So for those of you who are wondering about whether I’m in for a trip to algonquin or other such camping adventures….i’m going to go ahead and pass on that. I’m a city person, and I don’t think that’s going to change!
A late night packing, and an early morning flight brought us to our final morning in Melbourne. I grabbed a final coffee from Steve’s great Saeco espresso maker (which is actually the Starbucks Barista), and we headed for the airport.