Monday, December 21, 2009

Home Sweet Home



Well, we sadly boarded our plane for Los Angeles this morning, thus bringing an end to a trip we will never forget. We are safe and sound now, back in our Pasadena apartment. We don't finish this trip crossing it off of our list of places to go and things to do, but hope to return again in the future.

Looking back, we can't say that this trip went too fast ~ it actually went by at a perfect pace. And there wasn't one dud of a day; each and every day was great and memorable. We enjoyed perfect weather, good health, safe travels, and delicious food. And we can honestly say that the people of Australia are among the most warm, hospitable and friendly people we've ever met. If you have not gone to Australia, you must!

Our brains are too tired and jet-lagged to think straight, so this will be all for tonight. But hope to keep up the blog (right, heard that before)...

G'day mates.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dolphins and BBQ



Even thought today was sadly our last day in Western Australia it was nonetheless BRILLIANT. This morning we got up and got ready to go out to see wild dolphins! Lisa’s mum’s boyfriend Rusty happens to own a very nice boat and graciously offered to take us out to a place nearby where wild dolphins hang out. We weren’t sure what to expect – but it turned out to be un-be-lieveable. When we got to the spot, all the sudden Dolphins popped up all over the place and actually came over to our boat to check us out on several occasions. But that wasn’t enough for us. We got our snorkel gear and fins on and hopped in. When we got in the water there weren’t actually many dolphins nearby – so we just swam around and looked at some of the other fish in the water. All the sudden we heard a ‘clicking’ sound under water and I looked down and a dolphin was swimming right under me (tim) – just 3 feet below me. This dolphin ended up swimming with us for about 2 MINUTES. It really was unreal. We didn’t touch it or ride it or anything like that. It was actually kind of intense because this was a wild animal and we weren’t sure what it would do. But it just checked us out and then went on its way. Pretty incredible. We sadly didn’t get any pics of that – but hopefully the story will suffice. Rusty took us around a bit longer and then we headed back in.

The rest of the day was spent swimming, chilling, taking Harley rides, and eating amazing food with Bree and Lisa and their family. We are just so blessed by how welcome we’ve felt here and the time Bree and Lisa have given us. In many ways this short visit has been a highlight of our whole trip. We’re sad to have to leave them tomorrow morning.

So tomorrow we head back to Sydney, spend the night (Sunday), enjoy our last remaining hours in this amazing place on Monday morning, and then head back to America on Monday evening and return to America on…Monday evening. We may pop another blog off before we head out. We’ll see. Enjoy some pics from today.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pastries and Candy and Wineries ~ Oh my!

We just thought it would be nice to “introduce” you to the Dudek’s - for those of you who don’t know them. This is a picture of Bree and Lisa, with their 15-month-old daughter, Abbie, and Johnson, their golden retriever. Bree will be starting a new job as an assistant principal in February (when summer is over here and the kids return to school), and Lisa is a full-time mom, and she sure is good at it! Their hospitality has been phenomenal!!! They have taken the time to show us all over Western Australia to see all sorts of really neat sights and to good places to eat. The fridge was stocked full with Carmel Koalas when we arrived ☺ and they have really gone out of their way to give us a really wonderful visit.



Today, we are going over to Lisa’s mom’s house to relax around the pool and have a BBQ together with the rest of the family. Yesterday, Bree took us around town to show us some more beautiful beaches, the southern tip of Western Australia, some really neat karri trees (they grow really tall and really straight), to a winery, a candy shop that makes their own candy fresh there, a local bakery with all sorts of meat pies, pasties (sort of like a potpie filling in a fluffier pastry that you eat with your hands), and pastries, and we enjoyed a rather peaceful ride in the car out through the bush. We went for a walk in the evening as the sun was setting and spotted some more kangaroos in the field by their house. Bree had a basketball game that he played in, so we went and watched his team dominate the court and beat the other team. It was rather brutal… Here are a few pictures from our day yesterday. More to come from our adventures today.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our day with the wonderful Aussies!

We are rather sore this morning after our day of waterskiing and tubing yesterday. What fun it was though! Lisa’s sister, Kim and her husband Sean took us out on their boat (that can go really fast!!) to play at a local freshwater dam. The sun was shining and the flies were buzzing ~ the flies are pretty nasty here. Thankfully, they do not bite, but at any given time you can easily have 20 flies on you. We were quite thankful when the wind kicked up and blew them away. We went skiing – both of us at the same time – and we both managed to get up! Everyone there went for a few laps around the lake either on the wakeboard, knee board, slalom ski, or water ski’s. Our favorite was the big “biscuit” – sort of like a big tube with no hole in the middle that can hold 2 people at once. Tim and I were out on it together, while Sean and his mate Paul were driving the boat, trying to throw us off of the biscuit around turns and such. We were laughing so hard and having so much fun trying to hold on for dear life and being thrown around back there. It was great! But, again, all of us woke up this morning feeling the after effects in our sore muscles…




We went to a party in a friend of Bree’s back shed. (Everyone has a back shed here that the men sit around in, drink, eat, and talk. It’s like a local pub in someone’s back yard). It was a neat experience to be the Americans invited in to shoot the breeze with these men. But we sat around for the evening and enjoyed some genuine Australian company. We also had a taste of rabbit (tastes a lot like chicken), maron (kind of like a freshwater lobster/huge crayfish) ~ it was Delicious!! You eat it cold with a little bit of salt, we’d have to say it’s better than lobster in our opinion. We also ate some homemade meat pies prepared by Bree’s dad ~ best meat pies ever! ☺ Tim entertained the gang by playing some songs on the guitar and singing for everyone. Not everyone recognized all of the American songs, but they still seemed to enjoy it and sang along to the ones they could. Bree’s dad also sang for everyone – 7 songs, each in a different language! Very impressive.

Anyway, we were pretty tired when we got home and had no trouble falling asleep. Waking up this morning was a bit more difficult… but we are ready for another day filled with adventures here in Perth.

Hope the holiday season is treating everyone well!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And we've made it to Perth!

After a 3 hour flight to Sydney, camping out in Sydney's International Airport last night (because the domestic terminal closes...), getting up at 4am to catch a taxi back to the Domestic Airport, and hopping on yet another plane for 4 more hours - we are finally here on the west side of Australia in Perth under the wonderful hospitality of Bree and Lisa Dudek. In case you are wondering who Bree and Lisa are, Tim and I met them in the United Kingdom on a 3-day tour of Scotland and have kept in touch ever since.

After our long 16 hours of travel, Bree was our knight in shining armor as he rescued us from the utter exhaustion of travel. He showed us around Perth, which felt like we were home in LA because the air is smokey from the bush fires. We enjoyed some more delicious Aussie breakfast, saw some BEAUTIFUL beaches, and then went to the Marapana wildlife world to see some Australian wildlife. Here, at this off-the-beaten-path zoo, we got to see dingo's, Tim got to drape a python around his neck, we got to feed (tame) kangaroos, ostriches, goats, deer, sheep, etc., and Deb got to fulfill her dream of holding a real-live koala! It was actually quite heavy, but surprisingly softer than imagined, and smelled of fresh eucalyptus.










We ended the day with a refreshing, much needed shower and then headed out to spot some wild kangaroos with Bree, Lisa and their 14-month-old daughter Abbie. Kangaroos are quite the pest and supposedly out number humans here. They knock down fences, eat plants, and cause car accidents. Sound familiar Pennsylvania...? Anyway, they were still neat to see them hopping and carrying a joey in their pouch. Bree and Lisa even made us feel more at home by frying up some food and cooking macaroni and cheese for dinner. Yum!

Tomorrow we're off to water-ski in the morning and to a genuine Australian BBQ tomorrow night. :)

P.S. ~ I (Deb) passed my final and am officially on winter break from school! Yippee!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Into the Rainforest

Today was yet another wonderful day exploring another corner of this great continent (Australia, in case you’re just now joining us on this blog). Today we explored the tropical rainforests of north eastern Australia – just southwest of Cairns – through a tour company called “On the Wallaby Tours.” Our guide, Bart – a man of the world who has been in over 40 different countries, knows a ton about everything, doesn’t care much for shoes or cell phones, and can speak several languages – showed us around a specific part of the jungle called Atherton Tablelands. We got to see some fantastic vegetation – including a HUGE fig tree, which has a majority of its roots growing above ground. Apparently, 500 years ago, a bird pooped on a random (non-fig) tree and in that poop was fig seeds. After some time, those seeds began to grow on that tree and sent it’s roots down into the ground. Eventually, it grew so much that it choked out and killed the host tree and became it’s own, slightly freaky, fig tree. Check it out!


We also got to see some crater lakes and some beautiful water falls – all the while learning tons of random facts and jokes from Bart. We’re so glad we did this tour, despite the fact that we’re still recovering from 10 dives and 3 days on a rocky boat. No joke, I (timmy) am literally still swaying back and forth. Kinda hoping it goes away soon. I’d rather not get seasick while on land. Enjoy some of the photos from today.



Tomorrow is our last day in Cairns and tomorrow night we head back to Sydney and then to Perth on the other side of the continent. And if you think of it, say a prayer for Deb. She has to take a final online tomorrow for her grad course.

And the journey continues!

G’day
Tim and Deb

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Great Barrier Reef? Try AWESOME Barrier Reef!



Well, we have returned safely to land after an incredible 3 days at sea, diving one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. We are officially PADI open water diving certified!

Friday morning, we boarded a diving boat that took us an hour and a half (60 kilometers) away from land and to the reef. Here, we did our first few dives in the warm water. Theses dives were training dives and we had to perform certain skills, like fill our mask up with water and empty it out again underwater, for our certification. We then boarded the overnight boat (a much bigger boat) in the afternoon and got settled there. We did some snorkeling in the afternoon and could see tons of fish right from the surface. The reef is so colorful and alive with so many different fish and life. It was fascinating to watch. The gentle rocking of the boat put us to sleep that night.

Saturday morning we work up bright and early for a 6:30 dive. This was our final certification dive, and despite the moderately strong current, we managed to complete our tasks and pass for our certification. Shortly after breakfast, we went for a “free dive” and could finally go where and do what we pleased. We buddied up with a lovely couple from the Netherlands – Jon and Ineka – and went for a dive. It is absolutely breathtaking (no pun intended) and there are so many different kinds of fish down there. So much to watch and observe. We really enjoyed trying to swim past at a very slow pace to try to see as much life as possible.

Saturday night was a unique experience in that we participated in a night dive. Yes, indeed, we are officially crazy… but we were with many other “crazies” as well. ☺ At 7:00, it was dark out, and after a brief training session, we followed a guide out into the ocean at night. It is a completely different world at night! The smaller fish have gone to sleep and are no where to be found. The bigger fish, however, are out and about. We saw what we like to call “puppy dog” fish – big fish, roughly about 2 feet from fin to face, that swam just beside us the entire time and tried to find food using our beams from the flashlights. They would spot one and dart past you to go get it. We saw some other neat fish as well. Very cool to be diving at night.

Sunday morning we again woke up early for a 6:30 dive and this time spotted a sea turtle! We were probably about 5 feet away from it and watched it eat some breakfast in the coral. Throughout our diver, we saw some sharks, Trigger fish (mean, territorial fish – actually bit another diver (he’s ok though)), chocolate-dipped damsel (fish that looks like it was dipped in chocolate), murray eel, lion fish, and a million others that I can’t name. And we found Nemo!!! Anyway, the list goes on – we saw a lot of cool things out there.

It was a fantastic trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. And we made it back without getting eaten or stung by anything! Or puking ~ neither of us got sick. These pictures do not do it justice unfortunately, but we tried… Now we are relaxing back at the hostel and still feel like we’re rocking back and forth on the boat. Tomorrow we are off to the Tablelands for a guided rainforest tour. More pictures surely to come.





Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day #9




Yet another incredible day in OZ! Today we finished up our in-class portion of PADI open water diving certification. Debbie got a 48/50 on her final - well done Deb! I, on the other hand, got a 49/50. How do I do it, you ask? 3 words: by being awesome.

So tomorrow morning we're on the boat for our HUGELY anticipated 3 day/2 night boat trip into the reef for 9 dives - including 1 night dive. So we're kinda flippin excited. I have my dramamine ready to go so I don't get the pukes and Deb and I bought brand new goggles and snorkels to use. So we are set. We rented an underwater camera - so expect some amazing pictures soon! We probably won't have web access on the boat, so this is our last entry for the next 3 days. But enjoy some pictures from last nights festivities (the fire dancers and Deb giving the didgeridoo a go)!

Cheers,
Tim and Deb

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Scuba Class

Well, the internet is acting up again... so no pictures from today. Unfortunately you'll just have to read about our day.

We started our scuba class today and had half a day in the classroom, then spent the other half in the pool learning some skills on how to scuba dive. It was really fun and in talking to some people at our hostel, the reef sounds like it has many colorful and neat things to see. We're excited to go out on the boat and see it!

We enjoyed a BBQ at our hostel tonight and the exotic food they offered was kangaroo meat and cod that he had caught out on the reef (he hadn't gotten any crocodile). The kangaroo tasted pretty good, actually. They also had some fire dancers perform and we got to try playing the didgeridoo. It's really hard! And sounds so funny.

Well, we're off to bed now. Early start tomorrow for our second day of dive class.

~Tim and Deb

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Safely in Cairns






We arrived safely in Cairns this morning and checked into our hostel with no problem. It's actually a really nice hostel, with lots of open windows and colorful wall paintings; it has a laid back, easygoing vibe to it. We've got a great room that even has a balcony attached to it! (this is a picture of the "common room" here).

We spent the afternoon walking around town and checking out the local scene. There is no swimming in the ocean here because it is pretty muddy and there are crocodiles in it. They have a "swimming lagoon" by the beach, which is basically a really big swimming pool. It was pretty crowded with lots of swimmers and sunbathers; I kept seeing skin cancer and was hoping that everyone was wearing their sunscreen! :) The marina is quite spectacular too, with the mountains in the background.

Tomorrow we start day 1 of 2 days for our dive course, then we head out to the reef on a boat for a few days. We discovered some yummy Cadburry Carmel Koalas that we've been enjoying. Tomorrow, we try kangaroo and crocodile at the Hostel’s BBQ. Gotta love that Australia.

Good on ya, mate!

~Tim and Deb

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day #6 in Sydney




Today was one of our favorite days so far. We started off by meeting up with Tim’s mom’s cousin Judith; what that makes them, we don’ know… but we’re family. She treated us to a lovely breakfast right on the bay, overlooking the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Then we caught a ferry ride over to Watson’s Bay ~ a quaint little town in Sydney ~ and explored around there. There was an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean on top of these cliffs there, and we probably spent a good hour enjoying the view and taking it all in. We ate some yummy fish and chips, then returned on the ferry and parted ways. The rest of the afternoon we spent lounging around in a park by the Opera House and ended our day at Harry’s CafĂ© de’ Wheels ~ a meat pie cart. They load up the meat pie with mashed potatoes, mashed peas and gravy. Lovely.

We head up to Cairns tomorrow to start our scuba diving adventure. Great Barrier Reef ~ here we come! video

Sunday, December 6, 2009




(The internet has not been nearly as readily available as hoped... but alas, we are at trusty old McDonald's with their free wifi to enjoy!)

Yesterday (Saturday) we went to Paddington Market and enjoyed a bunch of outdoor stalls selling clothes, food, and hand-made goods. Breakfast came first, of course, and it was fried eggs, grilled tomatoes ("tah-ma-toes"), fries ("chips"), toast, bacon and tea. Yum. We enjoyed a lovely dinner right on the harbor, with the Opera House in view behind us as we ate. Then it was off to our cultural experience at the Drag Christmas show. We were all rather entertained, to say the least. Today we said good-bye to our travel mates as they are on their way to Cairns now. Tim and I took in some free museums around town and read some leisure reading in a park near the harbor for the afternoon.

I have yet to see a real-live Christmas tree. All of the Christmas decorations and festivities are pretty lousy over here compared to American standards... The weather was better today, and we are still free from sunburn!

Our last day in Sydney is tomorrow (Monday); I think we are going to try to track down some meat-pies to try. (Can you tell that food is an important part of the experience...?) :)

Until we find some more free internet ~
Tim and Deb

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day at the Beach







For the past few days we have been at the Northern Beaches - the beaches on the peninsula that extends North Sydney. They have all been gorgeous! Our "travel guides" Natalie and Andrew took us around and showed us all of the good parts of town and the best beaches. These few days have been filled with lots and lots of walking. We've gone on some pretty incredible hikes, saw a moon rise (just like a sunrise, but with the moon), rode the ferry across the bay, saw some penguins, and done a lot of exploring. We also visited the Sydney Fish Market, and took a behind the scenes tour to see the bustling auction floor where all of the fish are sorted and sold. We weren't expecting Sydney to be so cold... It's probably remained in the 60's, dropping down lower with the wind and at night, getting warmer when the sun is shining. It has been a whirlwind of a trip so far, but we are both very much enjoying Sydney. Tonight, we are off to the Opera House to take in a rather "cultural" show. :) Oh, and they have some really interesting signs here too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

We Made It!!

We are here - safe and sound in Sydney. We hit the ground running too. After getting our stuff locked away in our hostel - we met up with our good friends Andrew Scandrett and his wife Natalie Thomson and headed out into Sydney. I think we ended up walking 10 miles today - ALL over. Enjoy some pictures from our day!