Sunday, January 25, 2009


This is a feature Gregg wants in our next house....

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sydney Day 4

Day 4 was another full one. We stared with a guided tour of the Royal Botanical Gardens, which included an introduction to aboriginal customs. Our tour guides were of aboriginal ancestry.

The Gardens were beautiful and filled with birds.

Flying Foxes were present here as well. I was able to get much better photos of them in the trees than I was in Cairns.

After the tour of the Gardens, we had lunch, then caught a ferry to Manly, a beach town north of Sydney.

Sydney Day 3

Day 3 was very busy. Our first stop was the Sydney Aquarium, which has several Dugong on display. The Dugong are relatives of manatees.

After the aquarium, we had lunch along along the harbor. I had kangaroo. Very good, somewhat like venison but less gamey.
After lunch, we caught a ferry back to downtown Sydney.
The ferry route took us past the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Day 2

Day two was spent at the Powerhouse Museum, an outstanding hands-on museum much like the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Powerhouse had a Star Wars exhibit on display that Drew loved.

Lunch was spend in the Powerhouse garden where Drew had the opportunity to burn off some energy.

We found a nice rotary sushi house near our hotel for dinner.

Sydney Day 1

We spent most of day one traveling from Cairns to Sydney, a 3-hour flight. After arrival, we unpacked and headed out for dinner along Sydney Harbor.

Cairns Day 4

We spent our last day in Cairns shopping. Our first visit was Kuranda, the mountain village we had visited earlier in our trip. Anna and Drew posed with an opal and gold prospector:

Next stop was a downtown mall, where I discovered a store called JAG. Turns out there is a jeans manufacturer in Australia named JAG. Of course, I had to buy some stuff with the logo printed on it.

After shopping, we had dinner along the esplanade overlooking the ocean. I had "bugs," which are like prawns but with much more meat. Very good.

Cairns Day 3 - Part 2

After our trip to the Crystal Caves, we planned our dinner around dusk so we could watch the local Flying Fox (bat) population take to the skies. We had dinner at Outback Jacks, which is just across the street from the nesting trees in downtown Cairns.

Here are the way the bats look during the days, when they are resting:

At dusk, the bats take to the skies in search of foods. These bats are somewhat different from the ones you probably learned about in school. They do not use echolocatoin (sonar) for guidance as most bats; instead, they have very sensitive sight and smell. They feed on fruit and nectar, and have a range of up to 40 miles.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cairns Day 3

Day 3 in Cairns was Sunday, so we began by finding a local church to attend. The closest and most suitable was the Churhc of St John the Evangelist, an Anglican Church. The service was great and the people were very friendly.

After church, we headed south out of Cairns for Atherton and the Tablelands. The drive was beautiful and dizzying. The road between Cairns and Atherton skirted the outside of a mountain and was probably the most curvy road I have ever driven. I remarked to Mary that it was almost like playing a driving game. Lots of fun for me, but eventually it started to make the others sick.

At last we reached Atherton, had lunch at McDonalds, and then proceeded to our ultimate destination - the Crystal Caves. Although somewhat toursity, it was a lot of fun. The Crystal Caves are home to a collection of rocks and crystals from around the world, put on display in a fun environment for kids. Here is a picture of Drew and Anna with the world's biggest amethyst geode:

After the tour, Anna and Drew were able to pick out their own unopened amethyst geode and crack it open. These geodes are more than 40 million years old and look like a big egg. After opened, however, they reveal a beatiful cluster of purple crystals.

Here Anna and Drew pull down on the cracking mechanism while Mary holds the geode in position:

After cracking it open, Anna and Drew each took half of the newly cracked geode:

Very neat for them to be the first to see inside of this 40 million year old rock! And now they will always be able to look at their half and remember the experience, and know that the other is with their sibling wherever they are in the world. The experience was definitely worth while.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cairns Day 2

We began day two in Cairns by renting a car and plotting a course north along Captain Cook Highway. This road runs north along the coast of Australia to the northern most point one can travel to by car, the town of Tribulation. Travel after that point must be done by 4WD or on foot.

The drive was very nice and the views were wonderful.

We took a boat tour of a river where crocodiles are known to live and breed, but unfortunately the recent rains and high tide drove most of the crocs to the bottom of the river. We were only able to see on baby croc, about two feet long.

After the tour, we were back on the road again on our way to Tribulation. The road skirts the Daintree National Forest and goes through Cassowary territory. There were numerous roadsigns warning drivers to be careful, and speedbumps were placed along the way as well. Here is a set of signs that together warn of an upcoming speedbump and caution drivers about the Cassowaries:

Someone saw an opportunity for a little humor and altered a later set of signs to the following:

The townfolk of Tribulation apparently thought this was funny as well and appear to have adopted it as their unofficial slogan. Post cards and t-shirts with the signs were all over town.

I took the below photo at our last stop in Tribulation. Beautiful.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cairns Day 1

After a late flight from Guam, we arrived in Cairns at 12:35am and met our ride to the Holiday Inn. The accomodations are great. We are on the top floor and have a magnificent view of the harbor and ocean.

We slept in (until 0730 - we are usually up at 0600) and had breakfast at the hotel. We then checked with in with the tour desk in the lobby to see what we could do for our first day. Turns out we still had time to book a full day tour of Kuranda, a village in the rainforest just outside of Cairns. The tour would start with a cable car ride up the mountain to Kuranda, then several hours to see the sights, and end with a train ride back down. It promised to be a spectacular day, and it didn't disappoint.

Our guide picked us up at the hotel and delivered us to the Skyrail for the first leg of our trip. The view from the cable car was incredible, even though it was a little overcast. We passed near a waterfall that was nearly 1,000 feet high, then stopped at an intermediate station for a better view of the falls.

We made one other stop on our way to Kuranda where we took a guided tour through the rainforest.

We finally reached the town of Kuranda and had a wonderful lunch before continuing our sightseeing.

Our first stop was a Koala Farm where we all had a picture taken with a Koala. After the pics, we walked through along a garden path and had the chance to feed and pet kangaroos and wallabies.

Next was the bird sanctuary, where we saw a number of beatiful cockatoos and parrots. There were also two cassowaries, very rare flightless birds that are close to extinction. There are only about 1,200 of these birds left.

We then visited a butterfly sanctuary, and finally a small zoo named the Venom Museum. Drew just had to see the "most venomous spider in the Australia," the Sydney Funnel Web spider.

It was finally time to catch the train for a 1.5 hour ride back to civilization. We stopped again along the way down for an even better view of waterfalls.

At last we found our way back to Cairns, had a bath, then went out for dinner at the night market. We finished the day with a quick swim, then retired for the night.