We spent December 2008 and early January 2009 in Australia. Our trip really consisted of five distinct parts. In the interests of catching up with the blog I am going to write briefly about each one of these parts in this blog post! Part 1 was pre-family vacation in Sydney, Melbourne (with Dan) and driving the Great Ocean Road. Part 2 was family vacation with the Suters, where we took in Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Ayers Rock, the Great Barrier Reef and the Atherton Tablelands. Part 3 was in Airlie Beach and on the Ileola with the Suters, the Martin Suters and the Pelenskys over Christmas. Part 4 was family vacation with the Pelenskys in Eungella and Agnes Water/1770, and Part 5 was with Dan on Fraser Island. It was a fun filled five and a half weeks, with lots of intensity and lots of jocular frivolity!
Part 1 – Pre-family vacation
We arrived in Sydney after a debacle involving missing our flight, by one day, in Tokyo… it turns out my memory isn’t 100% accurate 100% of the time. Thankfully due to the incredible friendliness of the Japanese we arrived in Sydney only a few afters later. Sydney is a city I’d only been to in the winter and Jon hadn’t been to at all. In our three days there we took in all the important sights – the harbour bridge, the opera house, the royal botanical gardens, bondi beach to bronte beach, darling harbour, newtown and balmain. We also discovered that Sydney is the place to go for cheap backpacker eats – especially famous for its $6 meal including a glass of wine. It was actually a dollar cheaper to get a full second meal including wine than simply a glass of wine itself.
Next up, Melbourne with Dano. In Melbourne we saw different kinds of sights. We met up with Dan on his last day of exams so we did the bar tour of Melbourne, that was incredibly fun! It was also great to stay at Dan’s awesome place, and we rejuvenated ourselves for the upcoming family vacation!
We left Melbourne a few days later and travelled in our rented car along the Great Ocean Road towards Adelaide. This was something I had regretted not getting the chance to do last time I was in Australia, so I was super pumped for this part of the trip! The drive really is stunningly beautiful and we saw all sorts of famous sights, and a couple of Koalas in the wild as an added benefit! We did the Great Ocean Road portion of the drive in one day, spent the night in a motel and booked it towards Adelaide and the Suters the next morning. The only real attraction on the second day was the gigantic lobster. If you have not yet read Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburnt Country” please do, it’s so funny!
Part 2 – Family vacation with the Suters
This part of the trip could easily be labled the intense part of the trip. Since the Suters had not yet been to Australia we tried to pack as much of the country in as possible in about 2.5 weeks. First off, Kate took us surfing in Adelaide, the next day we were off to Kangaroo Island for a three day adventure. The absolute highlights of KI were the sand dunes (my favourite natural formation) and the wildlife park – where I got boxed by a Kangaroo!
Next up, the Ghan train to Alice Springs. The Ghan is a legendary train journey across the outback – it runs twice weekly between Adelaide and Darwin, though we were only signed up for half the journey. The scenery was great, despite being more green than I anticipated, but by 24 hours of flat red dirt punctuated by small green bushes I was ready to be off the train. I would also highly advise anyone doing the journey to opt for a sleeper car, the seats were terrible for sleeping. We sort of felt like Carrie & Samantha in that episode of Sex in the City.
Once in Alice Springs we rented a car to drive south towards Uluru (Ayers Rock). This is another thing I didn’t get the chance to do last time I was in Australia and was glad to have the chance to do it this time. The drive to Uluru is long… about 4.5 hours… and more of the same scenery we had along the train. The very most exciting part of the drive was coasting into the resort at Uluru with only 2 L left of petrol and certainly not enough water to support life in the Outback! Our first stop was The Olgas (another famous rock formation); the walk there was amazing, the views of the desert outstanding. After this we set off to watch the sun set on Uluru. It really was truly amazing. The colours change by the second as the sun sets – the rock changes from a dull brown to a brillant red in the span of a quarter of an hour. It really shows the majesty of nature. The next morning we were back at the rock bright and early to take in the sunrise – interestingly, this wasn’t very good – and then do a 10 KM hike around the base of thet rock. This walk was great fun – did you know there is actually a pool on one side of Uluru? Following our hike, a 4.5 hour drive to the Alice Springs airport for our flight to Cairns.
We spent just one day “in” Cairns (actually on a dive boat). In the past couple of months I have decided officially that diving is not for me, I just don’t like it that much and would rather snorkel so Jon, Kate and Katherine dove while Ron and I snorkelled. I went out a ton of times and even saw a couple of sea turtles, from up close! The divers didn’t see any turtles but they did see a stingray … but I think my turtle beats their ray!
Next up was the Atherton Tablelands. This had been recommended to us by a friend of Jon’s brother Martin (who you will meet in Part 3) and was a highlight of our time in Australia. First off, our accommodation was amazing – we were staying at a B&B without the second B and were upgraded into their brand new suites. They even had a real (rather than an Australian) BBQ! The Atherton Tablelands were beautiful – rolling pastures (and I mean rolling, there was almost no flat land), beautiful rainforest walks, amazing trees, excellent dairy and the most picturesque waterfall I have ever seen!
Following our two days in Atherton we were off to Townsville. The drive to Townsville was long but we had fun singing along to Phantom of the Opera, much to the chagrin of Ron who was trying to drive without having his eardrums burst!
Part 3 – Family vacation with everyone
I left the Suter’s in Townsville a day early to go reunite with my family in Airlie Beach. Despite some changes to mom and dad’s itinerary they made it to Airlie Beach on the night of December 21st, as planned, and we were all very very excited to finally see each other!
Airlie Beach is a great town, for anyone that is looking for a place to go spend a few days in some beautiful weather in Queensland. They, like most northern Queensland cities, have a free stinger-free lagoon near the ocean where you can swim without worrying about stingers! The more exciting part about Airlie Beach is that this is where we were doing ‘meet the families.’ It was really weird for both Jon and I that we had been in a pretty serious relationship, for almost five years, and that our parents hadn’t met – we were very excitied and a little petrified, about the upcoming meeting!
We planned that my family would host a dinner at our apartment on the day after my parents arrived in Airlie Beach. Our moms and dads and Dan and Kate had no idea why we were so nervous but it was because we were desperate for the meeting to go well… as this was the night we were telling everyone that we got engaged while in HK! We were thrilled with how well the meeting and the telling went – everyone was thrilled, and were blown away with my beautiful Tiffanys ring!
The next day the Suters hosted dinner and had it timed so that Martin (Jon’s brother) his wife Debby, and their two kids Roark & Riley, who had just flown in from the States, could join us!
Next up, the amazing Ileola. We had booked a 12 person + 2 crew boat for 3 days/3 nights sailing in the Whitsundays. It was also a great place to spend Christmas so none of us felt too weird not to be at home! This boat was incredible, the crew was great, the weather was unbeatable, and the stinger suits were pretty sexy. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone. It was beautiful and the food (oh the food)… Alex if you are out there reading this blog post… your food was so good!
Part 4 – Family vacation with the Pelenskys
Immediately upon disembarking from the boat the Pelenskys picked up our rental car, we said goodbye to the Suters and we were off to Eungella/Broken River. I had randomly picked Eungella out of the book because it was on the way south, it was inland, and there were Platypi in the wild. Eungella leaves something to be desired. We did, however, see Platypi – they are super small! We also went on some hikes and swam in a chilly waterfall and hung out in the cool weather up in the mountains. It was a very exciting time, despite the sketch town, because we got to meet Dan’s partner Kane. Sadly for Kane… he could only time a visit in Eungella rather than in 1770.
1770 was amazing. We had a huge 3-bedroom villa overlooking the ocean. It was equipped with a full size kitchen. This was the only real ‘sit around and do very little vacation’ on our family vacation. The town is actually two small towns, Agnes Water and 1770 (named for the year in which Captain Cook landed here). We were staying in Agnes Water, where we could swim without stinger suits. We decided that rather than going out for dinners we would each take a night and cook. This worked out so well (especially for Jon and I who are jonesing for home cooked meals). We hung out with my parents and bro and drank beer and white wine. It was a lovely relaxing vacation, even though we did have a jellyfish scare the last day!
Part 5 – Post-family vacation in Fraser Island
We said goodbye to mom and dad in Hervery Bay and Dan, Jon & I joined a “Self-Drive 4×4 Tour to Fraser Island.” Basically the hostel hooks you up with other people to make a 4×4 rental more economical! We really lucked out with our group, we were all in the same demographic (i.e. not the 19 year old demographic)! We spent the three days driving around the sand island seeing some beautiful lakes, rough ocean and a super sand dune that is slowly taking over a lake! It was a lot of fun but unfortunately the weather didn’t really cooperate.
After this we drove 3.5 hours to Brisbane, where I realized I had forgotten a small bag in Hervey Bay and our flight back to Melbourne was first thing the next morning. This really sucked. If you are interested in how I eventually got my bag back and why I would never recommend Koala’s backpackers see my ‘open letter to Koala’s‘ post.
Despite this annoyance at the end of the trip we really had an amazing time in this vast country. We got to do and see so much in our short time there and it was so great to spend time with both of our families. Going back to backpacking was sure a shock!