Kuranda Rainforest and Aboriginal Park

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I can honestly say that today was one of the days we were really looking forward to.  It was an added excursion, but one we did not want to miss. Today was the day we would get to actually hold a koala.

At 8:00 A.M. we left the hotel to head to the Kuranda Village and Rainforest.  We would take a train up to the village and then ride the Skyrail back down – not something I was looking forward to which I will explain later.

Here we are waiting for the train, seeing it coming into the station, and the car that was designated for our group.

We got settled in for the hour ride up the mountain. There were some spectacular views.  At one point the train stopped so that we could get out and take some pictures.

When we reached our destination, Kuranda Village, it was off to the Koala Gardens.

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This is where we got to hold the koala.  There are only two or three places in the world where you can do this so there was no way we were not going to sign up for this opportunity.  It was worth it.

They are as cuddly as they appear although their claws are extremely sharp.  Here are some doing what koalas do.

Koalas were not the only animals in the gardens.  There were wallabies.  They didn’t mind eating from your hand.

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They were not fenced in.

In another section we saw this critters.  Not my favorite.

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Just in cast you would like a different angle.

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As we left the garden to get some lunch I spied this hanging on the wall. It has nothing to do with Australia, koalas, or anything else.  I just happen to play one so I had to take a picture.

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After lunch it was time to head back down the mountain via the Skyrail.   This was a 45 minute ride that took us above the rainforest.  If you have been reading my posts for any length of time you know that it is no secret that I am cot a fan of heights and cable cars in particular.  So here I was getting into a car that would take us over the rain forest.  Imagine how tall a rainforest can be and then imagine being that much higher over it.  Enough to give me the willies.  But I went.  Luckily Kathy and I had the car to ourselves.

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Before we could start down the mountain, we had to go up…and up…and up.

The view really were spectacular.

We finally got to the top and then started our trip down.

More beautiful views.

This was kind of interesting.  We weren’t sure what was happening.  We saw water skiers, but couldn’t see boats.  It seems that the skiers hold on to a bar that is attached to a cable which is attached to a mechanism that pulls them around the water.  Who needs a boat.

When we got off of the Skyrail it was a 3 minute walk to an Aboriginal village, our next stop.  Here anyone who wanted to could have their face painted.  I chose not to.

We had a short presentation on Aboriginal culture.

Everyone was invited to join them for a dance.  I took pictures instead.  I admit I am not adventurous.

From there our group was shown how to throw a spear.  No one impaled themselves.

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Then it was on to boomerang throwing.  No one hit themselves with a returning boomerang.

Next we had a lesson on herbs, foods, and medicines.

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Our day ended with a stop at the mandatory gift shop and then it was back to the hotel for dinner and a well deserved rest.  After all, tomorrow it would be off to Sydney.

 

 

 

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Cairns – Day 1

It is time once again to hop an plane, leave Uluru, and head to Cairns.

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As you can see from the map, we left the Outback and headed to the coast.  I must admit that I have always mispronounced the name.  I thoughts it was pronounced similar to Karens.  I was wrong. The correct pronunciation is “Cans”.  i never knew that.

Anyway, we spent two days here.  This post will just concentrate on Day 1 because I believe it is worth its own post.

We left out hotel at 8:00 A.M. and headed to the dock.  We boarded a boat similar to this one

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and headed out to spend the entire day at the Great Barrier Reef.  All I can say is, “Oh my!”

It took an hour plus to reach the docking platform.  You can see from these pictures that it was a beautiful day with beautiful views.

Of course, we were not the only boat traveling out to the reef.  However, each boat had its own docking platform so we were not overcrowded .

Because we were spending the entire day at the reef, there were sever activities we could do and lunch was provided.  Our choices included: Semi Sub, Glass Bottom Boat, Snorkel, Heli Flight, and Helmet Dive.

Not being swimmers Kathy and I just did the Semi Sub and Glass Bottom Boat.  We did each one twice.  The first time I was busy snapping pictures so I missed a lot.  The second time I didn’t have my camera or phone out so that I was able to enjoy the beauty of the reef.

Here are some pictures form the Semi Sub.

Because of the tinted windows and the water itself the pictures aren’t the best.  The coral was beautiful, though.

After the sub ride we went on the Glass Bottom Boat.  This gave a different perspective of the reef because we were looking down at it instead of riding through it.

Lunch was served next.  There was a great variety of things to eat.  I decided to start with some prawns.  IO admit that I don’t usually want my food looking at me as I am eating it.

 

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I will say that they weren’t as tasty as I thought they would be.

Do one on our tour opted for the Heli Ride.  I didn’t think I wanted to be in a helicopter over the water.

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Many of our group did go snorkeling.

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Through a window in the platform we could watch the Helmet divers.

One diver was spelling out the wordy “Hi Mom” and snapping a picture of it to send home.  Couldn’t get a picture of this, though.

Around 4:00 we boarded the boat and headed back to port.  A storm was headed our way but we got back to port before it hit.

You can imagine that after being out on the water all day we all had a good night’s sleep.

Nest week, Cairns, Day 2.

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Kata Tjuta and Uluru

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We left the resort at Alice Springs, hopped on a bus, and drove to Uluru.

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Here is the map again just so that you can see where Uluru is in relationship to Alice Springs. Along the way we stopped at a reservoir.  Remember that we are in the desert region.  Here is a picture of the water.

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What amazed me about the area and the sand in particular was the color.

I have never seen red sand before.

Anyway, we headed to Uluru.  Our guide told us that she had something special planned for us that evening.  Around 4:00 we headed out to the Uluru part.  Our first stop was to see Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas.

Kata Tjuta (many heads) is made up of 36 domes.  This is a sacred place to the aboriginal people so we were not allowed to get close to it.  If my understanding is correct, this place is for women only.  The aboriginal men are not allowed here and they are not even aware of the rites and ceremonies the women perform here.  The largest dome in this grouping in Mount Olga, named by Ernest Giles, in honor of Queen Olga of Wurttemberg (born Grand Duchess Olga of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I).

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Here is an aerial shot, not taken by me.

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You can see the different domes that make up this formation.

After leaving here we headed over to Uluru (Ayers Rock) which is in the same area.  This is where our tour guide’s surprise awaited us.  We were going to spend some time here so that we can see sunset on the rock.  Our surprise was that our guided arranged to have a table set up for us, manned by staff, and serving, champagne, mimosas, and OJ plus several appetizers so that we could snack as we watched the sun set on the Rock.  It truly was amazing to see hos as the sun set the shadows on the rock changed with is.  This next set of pictures really needs no explanation.

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Truthfully, the pictures don’t do it justice.

The next morning we headed back to the park for a walking tour around Uluru.  First, a bit of history.  Just as KataTjuta is sacred and for women only, Uluru was the place men would go to for sacred rites and to also dole out punishment to any breaking the laws of the people.

When Australia gave these two landmarks back to the aboriginal people, who were the original owners in the first place, the people insisted that the names revert back to the original names, Kata Tjuta and Uluru instead of the Olgas and Ayers Rock.  The government agreed with the stipulation that both places can still be used as tourists sites since it would help the economy.  It was agreed

As I said, we  had a walking tour around Uluru.  Uluru is just one huge rock.  It has a circumference of 5.8 miles.   It is known as an island mountain.

On entering one of the caves, early cave drawings can still be seen.

There is one section where people are allowed to climb the rock.  No one in our group did.

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Well, I think I rambled on enough for today.  Next week – The Great Barrier Reef.

 

 

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Finishing Melbourneand Onto Alice Springs

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On Friday, we had a wine tasting tour scheduled.  However, first we had a stop a Grant’s Reserve Bird Feeding and a ride on the Puffing Billy Train.  The reserve was located in the middle of a wooded area.  As you can see, the trees grow big here.

Notice how white the trees are.  At night, they reflect the moonlight and act as light.  Also, because they are so tall and straight, they are ideal for ship building.  Because we were at a bird reserve, there were birds perched in the trees.

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While we were there we had a chance to feed the birds.  We were warned that they were heavier than they looked.  They also had sharp claws so we were told to be careful.

Yes, we had to have a good grip on the food dish because these guys were heavy and hungry.

After we left the reserve we headed for a ride on Puffing Billy.  Billy is a stream train.

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The neat thing about the ride was that if we wanted to we could sit on the window ledge with our legs dangling over the side of the train.  Of course, this is where I sat.  The only problem was that there is more of me than there is ledge.  and yes, soot kept flying back to land on my khaki slacks.  Minor inconvenience.

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After we had lunch at the Fergusson Winery.  The food was delicious and they had a really good moscato.  We then went to De Bortoli’s for more wine tasting.  I admit that this was a bit too much wine in too short a time for me.

After this it was back to the hotel.  Because we weren’t too hungry after the lunch and wine we had we thought we would just hit the market across the street and get some soup to take back to our room.

The next morning we left the hotel at 7:00 to head to the airport for our flight to Alice Springs, a 3 hour flight.

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As you can see from the map, Alice Springs is in the center of the country, the Outback region.  It is also a desert region, so although we needed heavy coats in Melbourne short sleeve shirts were fine for this region.

We arrived around noon, so before heading to our hotel we made two stops.  Our first stop was the School of the Air.  I admit that I didn’t exactly what this would be.  I thought it was a flight instruction academy.  I was wrong.  Because the Outback is so vast and people living there are so spread out there is no way children can attend a brick and mortar school so each student is given a laptop and log on to school.  The School of the Air has several studio classrooms where teachers broadcast lessons.

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Students usually come together twice a year for a fun day where they get to met their classmates and the teachers.

Here are some projects students put together.

This next picture has nothing to do with the school but I couldn’t resist taking it.  As we left the building we looked up into a tree and saw a golden spider.  All I can say is that I am glad I don’t have these in my house.

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To finish this post quickly, tow other places we visited were Telegraph Station which is one of the first means of communication in the Outback.  In PA we have signs warning about deer along the highways.  There they had different kinds of signs.

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And yes, we did see a wallaby roaming around.

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Our bus driver was also a didgeridoo player so he entertained us while we had a bit of lunch.

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The last place we visited was the Royal Flying Doctors.  Again, because people are so spread our if medical assistance is needed the doctors flew to the patients on a fully equipped plane.

Next week the highlight of our trip to Alice Springs – Kata Tjuṯa and Uluru.

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A Day in NY

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On Wednesday Kathy and I took a trip to NYC.  We had tickets for two shows, dinner reservations, and a room at the Marriott Marquis.  It was a great trip.

As we usually do, we took the 9:10 train from Middletown that got us to PEnn Station at 12:15.  this give us enough time to walk up to 46 St, where the Marquis is located, with a lunch stop at the Euorpan which is between 42nd and 43rd Streets.

After a spinach quiche and salad we headed to the Marquis to check in.  I have some Marriott points accumulated so I was planning to use them to upgrade rooms.  Our room wasn’t quite ready so we checked our bags and went to the theatre for our first show.  More about the room later.

Anyway, here is the matinee show we saw:

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The major reason we picked this show is because Kathy is a huge fan of Josh Groban, and since he is leaving the show soon, we wanted to see him.  I don’t know if you are familiar with this show or not, but it is based on a 20 page section of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

It is billed as immersive theater so I had no idea what to expect.  Turns out it means the entire theatre is the stage.  Actors are everywhere, in front of us, beside us.  People had seats on the stage.  We were given rice filled plastic eggs to help accompany the one number.  It was really an experience and yes, I did enjoy the show.  Kathy was happy because she saw Josh.

After the show we stood outside the stage door, something I have never done, and Kathy collected autographs.  Here are some of the actors signing:

At one point a manager came out and told us that Josh was not feeling well so he would not be out to sign.  He also wouldn’t be playing the evening performance.  At this point I was glad we had matinee tickets and not evening tickets.  Kathy was happy, too.

By this time it was 5:25 and since we had dinner reservations for 5:30 we thought it best to head to the restaurant. Luckily, we only hat to walk from 46th Street to 47th Street.  We ate at an Italian restaurant: Trattoria TreColori.  The meal was delicious.  However, the best part of dinner was having our nephew, Jason, and his fiancee, Marissa, join us.  Always great to meet up with family.

After dinner it was time to head to our second show.  This is a little show you may have heard of:

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This show was unbelievable!  Whatever you may have heard about it is true.  If you can get tickets for it anywhere it is playing I highly recommend it.

Since the theatre is next door to the Marquis we didn’t have far to go to walk back to the hotel. I figured that at 11;00 our room should be ready.  It was.  As I said, I was using points to get an upgrade.  I didn’t expect what we got.  We were on the 45th floor, the highest in the building. We didn’t have just a room but a suite overlooking Broadway.  Here is our sitting room.

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Through a door to the left was the bedroom.

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To the back of the bedroom was  the dressing area and bathroom.

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And here is our view of Broadway from the 45th floor.

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All in all, it was a great trip.  Next week back to Australia.

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Melbourne

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Because there was lots to see and do, we had a three day stay in Melbourne.

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As you can see from the map, we started our tour in the southern part of Australia.  Packing for this trip was a challenge because we needed heavy clothes, Fall was beginning, as well as warm weather clothes, Fiji was tropical.

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Anyway, after breakfast we got on a bus for a city tour.  The first place we stopped was Queen Victoria Markets.  IMG_2196

This is a open air market where you could buy anything from food to souvenirs.

We only had about 20 minutes there, so we couldn’t see much of the place.  If I had one complaint about the trip it would be that we did a lot of riding around to get to places and then had less than half an hour to see things and take them in.

The ANZAC Shrine

After leaving the market we loaded the bus and were off.  We were on our way to the ANZAC Shrine.  Several other places of interest were pointed out to us, but because there was no parking available we couldn’t get out for close up looks.

I must say that the shrine was a moving experience.  ANZAC Day was just celebrated a few days  before we got there so there was still high emotion throughout the country.  I would compare ANZAC Day to our Memorial Day.  In case you are not familiar with ANZAC, it stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

Here is a view from the top of the stairs.

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When the shrine was built, it was constructed in such a way that at right before noon a sunbeam would enter and travel across the plaque.  At a precisely 12:00 the ray of light would stop on the word “love” before moving on.  Today, with the use of lights and mirrors that moving light is recreated every half hour.  Here is the plaque, and then the moving beam of light resting on the word “love”.

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To ask for silence during this was not really needed because there wasn’t a sound in the room, and it was crowded.  Later on in the tour we got to taste ANZAC biscuits which were made and given to soldiers in food rations.  I even got a recipe and have already made them at home.  Delicious!

From here we returned to the hotel.  We had a few hours to kill on our own until we headed out to Phillip Island that evening for the penguin parade.

The Penguins

 

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Every night on Phillip Island hundreds of penguins come out of the water and make their way to their homes.  I did not want to miss seeing this, so even though it was an added excursion, not included in the basic trip, I signed us up for it.  I am so glad I did.

The penguins come out at dusk so we left the hotel around 2:30 for the drive out and a dinner stop along the way.  When we got there a guide met us and gave us a history of what happens.  Here Kathy and I are holding a stuffed penguin.

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When the penguins began their march, there were audible “oohs” and “ahhs”.  Here are some pictures.  These are stock photos taken from the web site.  We were not allowed to take photos of the penguins as this might frighten and disrupt them.  Would you believe that there were still some people sneaking pictures!  This did not make the guides happy.

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I was hoping to fit all of Melbourne into this post, but there was just too much.  Next week I’ll finish here and move on to the Outback.

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Let’s Start in Melbourne

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After flights from Harrisburg to Philly and Philly to LA we boarded a Qantas jet and headed to Melbourne.  After meeting out tour guide and collecting our luggage it was off to out first hotel, the Vibe Savoy.IMG_2175

Since we arrived early and our rooms weren’t quite ready, our tour guide, Erika, took us on a walking tour of the city.  As we our way down the street, we noticed that across the street was the Southern Cross Station and market.

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This was great because there was a grocery store there that had really delicious soup for those days when we had big lunches and didn’t want much to eat in the evening.

We rode the trolley up the street.  It was raining so we looked a bit limp.

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This is our tour coordinator, Mary Ann and her husband Dennis.

Exiting the trolley and walking up the street we saw this.

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The name might be different, but there is no mistaking those golden arches.

The first stop on our tour was Federation Square.

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There are many shops and restaurants located here.  During special events, such as  national rugby matches, this square is completely filled with spectators watching the game on huge tvs.

We then took a walk to the NGV, the National Gallery of Victoria.

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Just our luck that this exhibit would open the day after we left Melbourne.

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Would love to have been able to see this.

Well, the museum did have a water wall.

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Inside there was one of the largest stained glass ceilings.

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By now it was time to head back to our hotel because our rooms were ready.  After our flight and walking tout the only other thing scheduled for today was an welcome dinner buffet at the hotel.

By the time dinner was over we were all pretty tired so we headed to our rooms for a good night’s sleep.  Next week we will tour Melbourne.

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