Category Archives: Australia

Brizz

Brisbane, Australia

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I reunited with Sylvia and Roy for one last weekend of fun and caught a bit of the Brisbane Festival. The city is gorgeous at night, though I don’t think I had the chance to see it during the daytime. Before you assume anything, though, it’s because my days were spent at a koala sanctuary and an island resort. And, maybe with some drinky drinkies.

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The city, as seen from the Mt. Coot-tha Summit Lookout.

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We went to see the koalas at Lone Pine and, just like the Sydney giraffe, I had to pay to cradle it in my arms and take a digital photo. Again, a photo was to be printed whether I wanted it or not, and now that photo is collecting dust alongside my giraffe one.

The koala clawed my right boob and smelled so strongly of eucalyptus, I suddenly felt my sinuses being cleared. One thing that I couldn’t understand though was how they maintained their balance curled up on a branch like this. Well, I guess I could understand the one on the left. It’s snugly lodged in the wishbone branches, ready to be slingshotted off.

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What visit to Australia is complete without seeing some kangaroos? It’s like coming to NYC and not seeing the pigeons and rats. Clichéd but still a must. Right? Oh, the NYC wildlife isn’t an accurate comparison? Yea, you’re right. Okay, something much closer to home and equally cool to see – New Zealand and the kiwi (the bird, not the citizen).

We also went to see the Bird of Prey show which was quite awesome. Kookaburras, owls, eagles, etc., all close-up and catching bits of meat and full-bodied mice thrown by the trainers.

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Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island, about a 1-2 hr ferry ride from Brisbane. In the distance are the Moreton Island Wrecks, which are a bunch of decommissioned ships, serving as a break-wall to protect smaller boats. It is also a habitat for coral reefs, various fish and wobbegongs (I saw one!). Roy and I went snorkeling around the wreckage while Sylvia stayed on shore to take photos. The currents were pretty strong and though Roy and I were straying a bit, we were aware of it. Sylvia, a master diver, began flailing her arms in concern and we eventually made it back onto shore where she began to lecture us on ocean currents. I’ll admit, all the things she was saying…I had no idea about. Perhaps I should just stick to sunbathing on laid out towels.

Later that night, we signed up to feed some wild dolphins who swim close to the shore every night. Yes, a real wild dolphin grabbed a fish from my very hands. ::glee::

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Before leaving the island, we signed up for a sand tobogganing adventure in the nearby sand dunes. They literally gave out pieces of pliable wood which I’m pretty sure were discarded demolition scraps from a house that used to have 70s wood paneling and was rightfully going through modernization. After putting on a cheap pair of goggles, I positioned myself facedown on the piece of wood, bent the front part upwards so that I wouldn’t veer off the path, bent my calves upwards, kept my mouth closed and just went for it. So much fun. The climb up the hill, not so much.

One morning, “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” played on the radio which then kept replaying in our heads that every time we would say “Damn!” we would inadvertently complete it with “I wish I was your lover” and annoy ourselves. In an attempt to oust the song from his mind, Roy refrained from saying the word “damn.”

Me: “So, Roy, there was this one time I traveled to The Netherlands, to the city of Amster…”
Roy: “…dam….NOOOOOO!”

Melbs

Melbourne, Australia

So, this was my haphazardly put together agenda for my first day in this city, patched together from people’s suggestions and Google searches. A part of me just wanted to sit in a cafe all day or, go cafe hopping, and catch up on travel blogging. But, my body can only take so many flat whites, albeit crazy amazing ones, and I only had about 3 days to explore.

1 Queen Victoria Market – Typical market selling anything and everything
2 Brother Baba Budan – Amazeballs cafe
3 Block Arcade – Eh.
4 People-watch at Brunetti near Swanston & Flinders Lane, then Federation Square – It was closed that day.
5 Walk along Southbank and South Yarra; Shrine of Remembrance – See below.
5 Degraves Street – Ate lunch here; really cool street.
6 St. Kilda – Also see below.

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I put in my earphones, turned on my playlist and walked along the Yarra River past the Southbank and towards South Yarra. Temper Trap, Florence + The Machine, Peking Duk, M83, CHVRCHES, Tove Lo, Fat Freddy’s Drop. All of them now trigger memories of this time. And, what is over there in the distance? The Shrine of Remembrance. It all comes together in my sort of literary genius, meaning my easy sentence placement.

In seriousness, though, the Shrine of Remembrance was built in honor of those Australians who served in WWI or, war in general. There’s a really great exhibit downstairs which can easily take 2+ hours of your day. Reading about war back in those days made me realize how great we have it today. Well, relatively. Now we have climate change, childish presidential debates, and wars not worth fighting.

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In my Google search earlier in the day, a photo of a long row of colorful beach huts along the shore popped up with the description “St. Kilda.” Total tourist attraction, and I was determined to see it. So, I took the tram from the city center out into the suburb area, walked towards the shore and saw…just a long, normal stretch of beach. I went back to my Google searching only to realize that people have been mis-labeling their photos. It was really in Brighton Beach. Great googly moogly.

So, instead, I walked along the pier and decided to take my time strolling. At the end of the pier was a sign saying that this was the home to the Little Fairy Penguin colony. Score! But, they weren’t due back onto the shore until after sunset. That was maybe 3 hours later. No score. After tallying my second disappointment, someone obnoxiously shouted “There’s a baby penguin in the rocks!” I rolled my eyes…then, hypocritically walked over and said “COOL.” I quickly took a photo and left it alone, especially after it projectile shat on the surrounding rock.

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Next day: Great Ocean Road tour. First stop: Torquay, surf capital of Australia.

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The road was built by WWI soldiers who returned from the war, and was basically a way to create jobs for the veterans. It was entirely constructed by hand, using explosives, shovels and wheelbarrows. A true memorial to those who fought in the war. Crazy respect.

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The driver kept playing soundtrack music throughout the drive. Forrest Gump, Jurassic Park, etc. He would laugh with glee when I would guess the movie correctly. It wasn’t exactly difficult, unless you’ve been living in a hole your entire life or were born in the late 90s – 2000s. (The beach above is by the Memorial Arch.)

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We made 2 stops, 1 by the Kennett River to spot some wild koalas in the trees and 1 at the Great Otway National Park for a short bush walk. I walked behind a lady maybe in her early 50s who was struggling and out of breath on a virtually flat path. After checking to see if she was okay, I silently vowed to never become her. Health is no joke. We are only given one body. So, take care of it.

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Wild koala, the only one who was awake and chewing on eucalyptus. All the others were fast asleep. What a life.

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There was this really cool tree with part of its roots aboveground, creating an archway that you could walk through, and while everyone else was posing boringly with it, I decided to be all Hulk in it and pretend I was holding it up. Judging eyes abound. Fine, continue to be #basic. The photo taker didn’t do a great job anyway, so you get a Christine-less one.

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Twelve Apostles at the Port Campbell National Park, limestone stacks created by erosion. Only eight are left. There were really only nine to begin with anyway. We also couldn’t make it to the Gibson Steps due to high tide. I feel gypped. I want my money back. That was sarcasm, by the way.

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Another view of the Apostlage.

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Loch Ard Gorge, named after the nearby shipwrecked Loch Ard, which left only 2 survivors – Tom Pearce, a young ship apprentice, and Eva Carmichael, a young Irishwoman emigrating to Melbourne and who was saved by Pearce from the water. She returned to England soon after.

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Back to Melbourne…

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I made it to Brighton Beach. Yeaaa.

Earlier that morning, I met up with Caroline, who, after our New Zealand trip, continued on with another G tour in Australia. I, of course, dragged her out to Brighton Beach with me after which we strolled along the shore in the hot sun towards St. Kilda. Gorgeous day.

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Caroline and I then headed to the airport to meet up with Gen, who was coming back home from a work trip in Sydney an hour or so before I was departing for Brisbane. A mini NZ reunion over ciders and cheeky Nando’s in the airport dining area. So glad we got to meet up. Love you ladies.

Travel tip: You need a myki card to tap in/out of trams and trains. They are sold in multiple locations, one being 7-Eleven. I tried adding money to my card at the machines found at the tram stops but, you will need a pin number credit card to do so. Luckily, there was a nearby 7-Eleven where I could also top off my card.

Also, I recommend making reservations at Tempura Hajime. It is pretty much a sushi/tempura bar that seats only 12 people. The tempura is fried to perfection right in front of your very eyes.

&@#^&$ !!

Back on the ship in the Arctic, Sylvia and I (and her husband Roy) would spend many nights at the Polar Bar with the staff, one in particular being Scobie. We would make plans to visit each other, Scobie in Tasmania, Sylvia and Roy in Brisbane, and me in New York. We would even make plans to visit Guy in Seychelles and Garnet in the Philippines. But, these kinds of plans are usually things you make when you’re a few beers in and actually believe that you will all keep in touch. But, sober, I still wished it would happen and thought to myself that if I could change my flight back to NY for a minimal cost, then it would be meant to be. Well, it was.

Me: “So, I’m going to Tasmania to visit a friend.”
Friend: “Wait, are you going on a safari?”
Me: “I would…if I were going to Tanzania…”

Hobart, Tasmania

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I met up with Sylvia on a Melbourne layover before we both flew to Hobart to see Scobie. It had been about 3 months since we all last saw each other but, those 3 months felt like years and seeing them again was very heartfelt. Time sure is a funny thang.

Scobie then picked us up at the airport and we wondered what people thought about this older white man leaving with two younger Asian girls. And, then I wondered if we were the only ones being self-conscious about it. It’s quite possible.

When we arrived at his house, a giant Costco 24-pack of Guinness was waiting for me. Probably the best welcome package I’ve ever received. What would make it better? Well, I wouldn’t mind a million dollars just waiting in a leather briefcase for me. It doesn’t even have to be a leather briefcase. A duffel will do. Or plastic bags. Yea, I’ll accept that, too. Actually, I can just carry it in my arms. I’ll even take Canadian dollars. Thanks. I like to keep it low maintenance.

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Scobie and Sylvia on the Tahune Airwalk, a swinging footbridge through a forest of some damn tall trees.

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Very cool suspension bridge

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We spent a good few minutes trying to get our respective currencies onto the top of this Wishing Tree. It’s definitely an excellent ploy to get competitive people to donate more money than they expect to, like one of those claw toy-grabbing machines…except for an actual good cause. I’d hate to be the guy hired to collect the change, particularly the ones that didn’t make it onto the tree.

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Along this walk, we passed a “manfern,” described as:

Dicksonia antarctica. This is one of a variety of tree ferns. They prefer to live by creeks and gullies and are common in wet forests.”

I imagine some bored botanist giggled to himself as he wrote this description, wondering if anyone would ever get the sexual innuendo. Well, Mr. Botanist. I sure did.

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Many of these logs had large round fungi growing along its trunk and I was so tempted to go Bruce Lee on them all and kick them off, but Sylvia and Scobie did not seem amused by the idea. Yea, I should leave nature alone. But, it was like wanting to pick a scab off, you know?

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Picton Forest landscape.

In the distance, underneath the mountain peaks, is where the Picton and Huon Rivers meet. Now that I’m typing this out, it sounds pretty romantic. Aw, nature.

Port Huon

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This is…Port Huon. If I could write a more obvious statement, I actually would.

At night, the 3 of us fell into a routine of huddling by the furnace in Scobie’s house, drinking beer and talking about life. It was fun hearing about Scobie’s research days on Antarctica and also his love life back in the day. You see, on the ship, he was quite the lady magnet. One old lady (one of my 3 roommates) ended up ripping her waterproof pants which Scobie mended with a piece of duck tape. After that incident, I didn’t hear the end of it about how sweet of a man he is, and I definitely saw an extra spring in her step. She even gave him a bottle of wine as gratitude. For just duck taping her pants. Scobie’s still got it.

Richmond

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The Richmond Bridge is the oldest bridge in Australia. We also visited the nearby historic Richmond Gaol, which we normal people would spell as “jail.” And, after looking at and reading about the cells in which the prisoners were held and then finding out what they were convicted for, I felt really glad to be born in modern times. Then again, after watching Making a Murderer on Netflix, I’m scared to shits again.

We then stumbled into a liquor store that was having a whisky tasting and, I got to try the Tasmania-exclusive Sullivans Cove American Oak, Single Cask whisky. Delicious, and a nice remedy to being scared shitless.

Back to Hobart…

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Waterworks Reserve – constructed in the 1860s, “the Waterworks reservoirs captured the flow of creeks and rivers rising on the higher slopes of Mt. Wellington. Flowing via a network of stone and timber troughs and channels, the gathered waters arrived at the Receiving House, where today it serves as an interpretation centre explaining the curious history of his important and historic site.”

I wonder what they mean by “curious history?” Did something weird happen here? Perhaps better not to know.

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An old man came walking past at a hurried pace and all the birds by the water went cuckoo (PUN).

Old man: “It’s because I’m running late,” as he reached into his bag, grabbed handfuls of bread pieces and threw them onto the ground.

“I have to rush off to the wallaby now. He was expecting me 10 minutes ago.”

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Can you spot the itty bitty little bird on the branch there? With a little red on its chest? After spending a few days with 2 bird experts, I found myself taking more and more shots of birds and just paying more attention to their existence in general. I guess after learning to ignore the everyday urban pigeon, I’ve forgotten to pay attention to birds in general.

In a nearby gift shop, Scobie picked out a book on birds from the shelf, found a particular page and showed us photos and/or excerpts that were sourced to him. So cool. He then told us a story (which I hope I’m remembering correctly) about a professor he had back in university, one of those extremely smart, but tough professors. You know, the assholey, scary ones who either really grind your gears and make you want to cry or, light the fire under your ass to really work hard and make you want to prove your worth? He had one of those who taunted him about writing his thesis. It turned out that Scobie had written his thesis on time and so well and surprised the guy that they maintained their mentor/mentee friendship long after school ended. Badassery right there.

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Kingston Beach, whose shore was littered with sea kelp that had washed ashore. And, within these massive piles of sea kelp are these really cool air pocket pods which help keep the kelp close to the surface when in the water. If you step violently or jump up and down on these air pockets, you get the same glorious sensation as popping bubble wrap in massive quantities. For some reason, I’m the only one who seems to get excited about this.

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When we first arrived to the top of Mt. Wellington, literally nothing was visible. The entire surrounding area was just covered in gray clouds so thick that the only indicator of being on top of the mountain was the high winds. Eventually though, that cloud layer lifted for a short while, and you could see the separation of the ground and sky. I froze my hands standing out there to take this photo.

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The views from Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), a museum with both an eclectic and eccentric mix of artwork. It was definitely an interesting experience walking through the exhibits with Scobie given that some of them were just outright weird and let’s just say…too modern. Marina Abramović’s Private Archaeology was also quite strange. I just left the museum feeling strange. Period. To make matters weirder, two ducks went into a serious fighting match on the nearby lawn, just all up in each other’s business.

We ended with a stop at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens before heading to the airport.

P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

Sydney, Australia

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It was Sunday and the start of the first week without rain. By the time we reached the park (I’d like to say Centennial Park?), everyone and their moms were already there manning their BBQ grills. We managed to find parking by a field filled with these white birds which, after much Google searching, I realized were little corellas. Not too much further away, we spotted a free grill and picnic table that Olivia and I ended up guarding (aka drinking the beer and wine we brought) while her boyfriend John cooked our grocery purchases from earlier in the day. Various meats. Various drinky drinkies. Lazy Sunday BBQ. (Photo taken by John on my camera.)

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While Olivia and John went to work, I embarked on my Coogee to Bondi coastal walk. To anyone out there – this is SO worth doing. You will find different public pools along the way where you can swim laps, the one by Bondi being $6.50/day at the time (Aug/Sept 2015). Ironically, for a person who’s done the Arctic plunge, this day was a bit too chilly for me to take a dip in the Tasman Sea. On the walk back to Coogee, I stopped at an outdoor restaurant along the coast and had a glass of white, then walked some more and ended up having a few ciders at the Coogee Pavilion. My liver is fine. I think.

A few days later, I went for a run along this same path and with all the uphill and flights of stairs in some parts, I thought I was going to die. Only being slightly dramatic.

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I took a bus into the city center and started at the Sydney Opera House and walked around Circular Quay into The Rocks for some eye shopping, lunching and good ol’ meandering. Not a bad way to start off September.

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Okay, you can call me ignorant but, I honestly thought that the Sydney Opera House was one giant building, not a complex of theaters.

Mind = seriously blown.

Architecture = obviously impressive.

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The view of the Opera House from the Harbour Bridge.

John picked me up afterwards and we headed to the Sydney Fish Market to buy goodies for our sashimi and sake dinner that night. We were scoping out the freshest catches and as we walked back and forth between different parts of the market, we bumped into the largest pelican I’ve ever seen, actually, maybe the first pelican I’ve ever seen in real life. I had no idea how huge they were in reality and their eyes looked somewhat unreal. I’m not sure if they ended up getting any fish from some sympathetic fishmonger. But, we, on the other hand, definitely ended up with 2 different kinds of oysters, salmon, tuna, scallops, kingfish, swordfish and shrimp. Oh my, am I salivating at the thought of it right now.

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John and I posing patiently for Olivia to take a photo before the 3 of us chowed down gluttonously and ravenously and all equally gorgefesty adverbs. The sake came out shortly after this photo. And, see that liquor shelf in the back? We ended every night with a nice nightcap. Nightcaps are always a great idea until you drink a bit too much and end up either making instant ramen at midnight or ordering a McDonald’s delivery of Chicken McNuggets. I didn’t even know they delivered until now, unless it’s only a thing in Sydney.

Then, you really know you should get to bed when you start making dad jokes like, “You don’t wanna start galbi wit me.” It’s not even worth explaining.

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Next up: Taronga Zoo! It was a short, easy ferry ride from Circular Quay in the city center. The giraffes get this spectacular view of the city, Opera House and Harbour Bridge. But, they clearly didn’t give a shit and were preoccupied with food. I stood on line to feed the giraffes some carrots, not realizing that you needed to pay to do it. The price also came with a professional photo which I asked if I could opt out of. Nope, the photo is part of the package and printed out whether you like it or not. I am now the proud owner of said photo which is just sitting wastefully on a shelf somewhere.

Lucky for me, though, I was able to pay on the line (you’re usually supposed to buy it in some ticket office somewhere else on the premises) and there were tickets still available. Tickets usually sell out quickly, apparently. I guess it helps to go on a Wednesday morning when people have real jobs and all that.

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How is a red panda so damn cute? No, seriously, I can’t comprehend it. Are they real, natural animals or were they genetically engineered to be THIS cute? They’re real? Can I hug one? No? Oh, okay.

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I’ve never heard of a binturong until this moment. It actually looked up from its slumber and stared at me as I was taking this photo. It is also known as a bearcat. Just stop with the cuteness already. I can’t stand it anymore.

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Barbary sheep just hanging out, chillin’ like high school kids at the corner deli by school.

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Gorgeous zebras chowing down on food. There’s something so calming about watching them eat. I feel like I said this already. Probably when I wrote about the Auckland Zoo. Animals are so cool, and I can’t wait to see some of them in their natural habitats later this year.

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My second pelican sighting, except these weren’t as large as the fish market one. Don’t their eyes look like the googly ones that you buy in an art supplies store?

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And, the Tasmanian devil is a proper way to end this entry as my next one will be about…? I hope you said Tasmania.