Brody-Heath Visit, the Highlights

My parents and my aunt and uncle were the first brave visitors to tackle the 32 hour ’round the world travel from New Jersey to Melbourne. We spent a week overcoming jet lag and touring Melbourne. And what do you do in the sporting capital of Australia, except enjoy the footy? Simon acted as liaison for much of the Melbourne trip.

We had great seats. How do we know? Because Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in our section! 
She was very good about the attention from the crowd and posed especially for my picture.

It’s fair to say we had a good time, even though the team we were routing for, the Richmond Tigers, lost. It was a good win for Julia’s Bulldogs though – she might not have had such a big smile if they weren’t playing so well.

Next up was a trip down Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles. This is us stopping for a photo op in Torquay:

We took a bit too long dallying at the various sights along the way and had to make a mad 3-hour dash to get to the 12 Apostles before dark. We didn’t make it. 

See those white caps in the back ground? They are washing up against the Apostles. 
Wait… let’s try some photo magic: 

Nope, still can’t see them. But, as mom said: Who gets to see the 12 Apostles by moonlight? Thankfully it was full moon that night.

The next day we drove over to Sovereign Hill to experience mining in 1860 country Victoria.

 Uncle Gary and Dad mining for flakes. 
I was across the river teaching 6th graders the finer points of gold panning. 
It was the best part of the day.

Uncle Gary loved every minute of it.

We also had an impromptu lesson in Woosley’s – an English manufactured, but Australian founded car company. Building the car kept the Australian manager in charge of perfecting Mr. Woosley’s London manufactured sheep sheering equipment busy in his spare time.

I’m afraid I missed the rest of the Melbourne trip since I still had to work that week. I popped in and out often enough to hear stories of the Old Melbourne Goal, the Koorie Heritage Trust, being driven around the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, and eating cakes in St. Kilda.

After all that hard tourist work, we arrived in Cairns. This is the only picture I have from Cairns. I was too busy enjoying everything to worry about taking pictures.

The best day was the day on the Great Barrier Reef. We all wanted to go again the next day, but the rain forest beckoned. I don’t have pictures from that either.

I can tell you about my “pretty good” birthday swim. The last really good swim I had was a year ago in Grand Turk for my birthday. I swam with a flock of squid that day. This time around I saw 4 sharks. One as big as me. It was crazy awesome. I swam down to check it out and it swam up to check me out. I got back in the boat – shark wins. Turns out it was just a grey reef shark – they can get up to a pretty good size, but I wasn’t able to identify it as a harmless reef shark right off the bat. As far as I knew it was an aggressive and territorial bull shark and I was out of there. Even if the fish weren’t panicking, I certainly was about to. I needed a rest. Then I hopped back in and showed off it to my mom as if I wasn’t worried at all.

It was also a really hard swim that day. The currents were up and the swells were high and you spent almost as much time worrying about drowning as enjoying the wildlife. The fish were HUGE and the coral colorful. There was a lot to enjoy. I pitied the less experienced snorkelers because it wasn’t an easy day on the water – I loved every minute of it and took it as a personal birthday present from the ocean. Death-defying swims are the best! The wildlife count clocked in at:

  • 4 sharks – one of which a gray reef shark bigger than me, one Wobbegong (that I spotted!), and two were white tipped reef sharks 
  • a nautilus shell
  • a 6 foot cowtail sting ray 
  • a 4 foot parrot fish 
  • a school of unicorn fish
  • a 3 foot wrasse
  • numerous giant clams 
  • a school of 3 foot tuna (dinner!) 
  • a fleet of barracuda resting at the bottom of the sea
  • and I swam with a huge school of needle fish (one of my personal favorites)

Spotted Wobbegong,    

Next on the itinerary was Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. I was ridiculously excited to be in the Northern Territories. Most people who make this trip stay in Alice Springs and do the park as a day trip, but I really enjoyed sleeping in the shadow of the mountain, as it were. It was really the middle of no place, extremely isolated and strangely home-y. The staff who work here have to make a 7 hour round trip run to the chemist. Sounds like fun to me!

I learned two things from this part of the trip.
1) If you are going to do the sun-rise viewing do Uluru for first light then go watch the show over at Kata Tjuta.
2) No one has a good reason for climbing the rock. I asked them. After being toured around by Elder Ezekiel, who spent the whole time touring us around like it was his backyard, I realized that you don’t trounce your neighbor’s petunia’s and it’s the same sort of thing here. Though – I’m sure a better analogy is “you don’t walk on my alter, so I won’t walk on yours”. The path for the walk goes right up the path the first Mala people took so the tribes don’t walk there. And neither should you.

Me holding Kata Tjuta at sunrise – means “Many Heads”.
Valley of the Winds Walk, Kata Tjuta – at the beginning.
Valley of the Winds – doesn’t look real does it?
Valley of the Winds Walk – only half way there. We thought we were nearly done. 
 Imagine doing this is summer!! In winter it was hot and uncomfortably long…
Mom’s LL Bean shoe fell apart. The sole came off.
The rock formations were awesome.

I stopped taking pictures at Uluru when we left the guided tour. While we were on the tour we were allowed to enter a cave (with TONS of cave paintings!) that almost no one except the rangers see, but after you leave the hospitality of the elders saying “yeah yeah, it’s fine” there are signs everywhere pointing out sacred spots that you aren’t supposed to photo. Here’s a couple from the safe bits:

Lots of flies on the Base Walk around Uluru.

Uncle Gary pretending to be a kangaroo on the Mala walk. Near where the giant mole made all those holes.

Uncle Gary in the cave that no one gets to see. I’m so glad he got to experience this :-/
Me and my well traveled Aunt and Uncle at Uluru at sunrise.

 After the ocean and the desert, Sydney was a walk in the park. We were so tourist-ed-out we spent a lot of time chasing our tails. But we did manage to see the big ticket items while we enjoyed the last bit of our Australia tour:

On the steps of the Opera House, bridge in the background – got them both in one picture!

Afternoon tea by the Opera House, in view of the Bridge, called “The Giant Coat Hanger”.

Light festival all along the Harbour during the month of May/June.

View of Harbour from the Bridge – we walked up the Pylon.

Platypus (bottom right) at Sydney Aquarium.

Sydney Aquarium, if he was a small child, they could put it on a poster.

I swam with a shark that size in Cairns.

Last night in Sydney, at the Opera House Cafe.

Argyle Club, right where I left it, with the really cool urinals.

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