Oh this will be good… I just need a moment of free time to type. We are in the land of mosquitos, ticks (Lyme Disease ticks), flies, maggots, no see ums and more fun… Don’t get too jealous now!
Time for some sweet as Kiwi travel from the 19th of December to the 3rd of January, 2013!!
On the 19th of December, we left you in Sydney after returning our rental car/tent and heading to the airport. We arrived at the airport checked in and were glad to be on our way to Queenstown, NZ…or so we thought. We landed at midnight in Christchurch for our layover and had 8 hours to relax since Queenstown is a daylight only airport due to the huge mountains that surround it. We slept for a bit waiting for the check-in desks to open at 5 am and noticed that our flight was not listed on the departure board, but we figured to had just been moved to a later time that morning…no worries right? Well come 5 and Sam went and talked to the jet star agent and was told that jet star no longer flys to Queenstown anymore and that Casey at STA had been notified in September, well no one told us anything…thanks Casey….we were given the option of taking a twenty one dollar refund and trying our best luck to pay three hundred on Air New Zealand or hopping that their standby might get us there by the next day or being rerouted through Auckland or Wellington. After getting in touch with STA and being told they could do nothing we opted for the Auckland choice since it got us to Queenstown before any of the others, though that we still had to fight for since they wanted to put us on a much later fight. The new issue after dealing with all that at five in the morning was how to get word to Sam’s parents who were expecting us at the airport at nine though now it would be more like eleven. We called the hotel upon landing in Auckland to no avail, but left a message hoped for the best and ran for the gate. After arriving in Queenstown,exhausted and hoping to get a nap we saw no sign of the Garsons, we wandered around and started looking for a place to get change to call the hotel again, just as Sam was about to get change Dan and Deborah found us! All had worked out in the end. They had come to the airport and waited then come back to the hotel and gotten our message. We happily piled into the rental car and headed back to the hotel where Sam and Kailey took a much needed nap and got ready to explore the South Island with their new traveling companions. All in all it had taken over 24 hours to fly from Sydney to Queenstown….longer than it took us to fly from Seattle to Iceland or St. Petersburg to Bali.
Queenstown is a nice town on the end of a long glacier fed lake surrounded by high mountains on all sides. Some of the mountains still have snow on the tops and it was beautiful to see such a contrast in land compared to what we had been seeing in Australia. We spent the days walking around with Sam’s parents (Dan and Deborah) and enjoying the sights. On our first night there after our much needed nap we all went to dinner and then to see the Hobbit. It was a good movie, but none of us realized that it was a trilogy until 3hrs had passed and they still had not made it to “the door”. Maybe we will see the others in New Zealand too… We went to a few local wineries and ate at a beautiful one for lunch that served all local and when possible organic foods. After lunch we stopped by a few other local wineries and tasted some of the wine. The next day we went out to Mt. Aspiring and Lake Wanaka which are as equally as beautiful as Queenstown (Kailey could live there). In the early evening as the sun was not setting until after 10pm Sam and I went to the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown and got our wildlife experience on, seeing Kiwis, Keas and many other New Zealand birds. Kailey had a goal to see a Kakapo, but they are so endangered that it was most likely not going to happen (We recommend YouTubing that one, there are some good videos out there with at least one that is not kid appropriate involving the famous Siscero giving a photographer some “special attention,” but it is rather funny too :-) ). The next morning we woke up, packed our stuff and hit the road to Franz Joseph. We stopped again in Wanaka for a delicious breakfast and stopped at a great local craft fair. Then it was on the road again to the glacier!
We spent 2(?) nights here one of which included Christmas Eve. Experiencing the major holidays where the sun doesn’t set until 10:30 and it is in the 90′s temperature-wise was new for us all. It was nice to be able to spend the holidays in the sun and even Christmas Day on the beach (Kailey loved standing on the beach under a waterfall that hit the sand and rolled down into the surf). Since we were in Franz Joseph we also visited the glaciers. We could see Franz Joseph from where we were staying, but decided to hike as close as we could to Fox Glacier after taking a relaxing stroll around a reflection lake. Fox Glacier was awesome to see and we were probably within 75 meters from the face of it behind the safety fencing. We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at the local resturant called Alice Mays where Sam enjoyed his new found favorite dessert (he discovered this in the UK) Sticky Toffee Pudding. If you really want to cook him something… let it be this and you will be a good friend for a long time. We hit the road on Christmas Day, saying goodbye to our lodging host Jo (She’s pretty awesome) who was making sure to wish everyone a HAPPY CHRISTMAS :-).
We drove up the coast to Punakaiki known for it’s Pancake Rock Stacks. On our way we went through the sleepy town of Hotikpi (A side note of our trip was that we hit many of the holidays where things were closed the day of and often the day after) where the Jade shop was open and we went in to see all the beautiful things carved out of jade and other stones from the area. Kailey replaced her standard jade necklace she wears with a back up since she occasionally breaks them on tile floors. We stopped at the pancake rocks for lunch and had a picnic in the sun. Kailey met her new dream ducks (Wekas) that she plans on having on her own farm and we learned that Ice Coffee is not quite Iced Coffee as it was in Australia (this contraption involves an espresso shot poured over an ice cream sunday). The rocks were fun to walk around as they had a boardwalk set up and we even saw the elusive Hectors Dolphins swimming around them, thanks to some fellow Americans from Indiana who pointed them out. At Punakaiki we stayed at some pretty hippie cabins in the rainforest, but they were cool in their own way. After spending the end of Christmas Day on the beach (insert Kailey’s waterfall story from above here) we had dinner at the Punakaiki pub, only place open in town, before retiring for the night with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.
Good Morning Boxing Day… yes another holiday while traveling and yet again most things were closed. We were off to spend a couple days in Nelson, a stop Sam had experienced before when he was in New Zealand a few years prior with his brother. We stayed a little bit outside of town at the edge of wine country. We planned on spending one of the days touring wine country and the other half day kayaking Abel Tasman national park. The winery tours (we think we visited four) were a good introductory to what New Zealand has to offer. Our favorite location-wise was the one with the tasting room/cellar on top of a hill, but it was also in the hill to fit the landscape. Kayaking was fun too as Abel Tasman is this huge national park. We got to hear and see birds, New Zealand fur seals, a few fairy penguins and our guide was awesome. He was an environmental scientist with ornithology training and going back to school for his teaching degree. Sam and I may have nerded out with him a bit. We also won all the hit the buoy challenges with our excellent navigation skills. We had several good meals in Nelson, one at Hop Goods and the others at Cafe Affair. Hop Goods was recommended by Sam and his brother from their previous trip and it was delicious. Sam’S mom acquired her own “precious” after the original jeweler’s shop spoke to Sam and Kailey about picking one up. Those hobbits know what’s good! On our way out of town we also spent the morning at the farmers market where we all got some awesome New Zealand souvenirs.
Blenheim is the center of Marlborough wine country and we took full advantage. The first day there, we did some research and checked out the town. After some grocery shopping, we bought dinner and cooked a grilled meal that was highlighted by some excellent local lamb sausages (Sam had recovered from the farm and was willing to eat lamb again…Kailey not so much). Sam had been to this area for a wine tour with Matt (brother) last time they were here and remembered one particular winery that was amazing. We planned out our route for the next day and got to bed early. The next day the weather was partly cloudly but cleared up as the day went on. The area is grape vines for as far as the eye can see and we drove through all of it. All told we eneded up visiting 7 winieries in the course of the day with a delicious stop for lunch at one that was highly recommended. Dan (Sam’s dad) bought his fair share of wine (translated: as much as he could legally bring back to the US) and Sam bought a few bottles for Matt as he had really wanted some bottles last time we were here, but ended up not getting any due to luggage space. After a very long day we returned home and relaxed, had leftovers from the night before mixed into some pasta and then happily fell asleep. The next day we woke up had a leisurly breakfast and made our way out to Kaikoura.
We only spent one night here, but we enjoyed the time we did spend here. Since it was New Years Eve we had a lovely family dinner at the White Morph after spending the afternoon walking a nearby hillside/seagull colony and seal haul out area. The town of Kaikoura is rather small and was full of holiday tourist as to be expected. We did not stay up to watch fireworks as there were no festivities to ring in the New Year and Sam and I were on a 7am whale watch trip to see some sperm whales.
Whale watching on Kaikoura whale watch was fun and interesting coming from a whale watching mecca. There is only one tour company and they have probably 5 boats. Their boats are the kind that you ride inside while they are driving to the location of possible whales, then you get to go out on deck and look around etc. We were super fortunate on our trip that we got to see 5 sperm whales, they are all males in this area as they are just passing through and feeding in the deep canyon that is right offshore. According to the boat crew, we were forunate to see 5 sperm whales as most people only get to see one or two and we were also lucky as we only were out about 1 mile from shore. Some days they have to go 12 miles offshore in order to see anything. We also saw the fur seals again, a few fairy penguins, and a whole school of dusky dolphins. Don’t worry we got it all on video and in piture :-) Check out our photo album!
Getting to Akaroa is half the fun of the town, it is nestled at the base of some very large mountains that require some very long windy roads in order to reach. On the way there it was a roller coaster ride to arrive. Once in town we found our awesome bungalow perched up on the hillside over looking the town and settled in. We popped into town for some dinner and to check out this famed French town on the eastern coast of New Zealand. The town is very small but overlooks a beautiful bay. We had an easy dinner at a local pub that was extremely surprising with how delicious it was. The next day came into town to try and find some french pastries, which since the town is famed for being French we knew we would find easily….sadly we were mistaken as the town is really only French in name, the pastry and coffee selections were less than ideal (a letter is currently being written to the French government as they take affronts to their culture very seriously and we expect this issue to be rectified within the month :-) ). After a quick breakfast and seeing the arrival of 1000′s of tourists from a Princess Cruise ship we went the other direction and out of town. That night we had reservations at The Petite Bistro which was supposedly the best meal in town. After a great day of driving up and down the lake district and towns along the water we came back to our bunglaow, rested a bit and then headed into town for dinner. Dinner it turns out is where this place shines, the Petite Bistro was amazing. The food was superb and dessert was great, it was a perfect meal to end our trip on. That night we got ready for a good rest and quiet evening of packing up our lives to head back to America.
Nature however had other plans as a massive thunder and wind storm smashed through the countryside. We heard trees snapping, wind rattling everything and half expected the house to lift off the ground. The next morning on the drive out we saw the aftermath as livestock was walking the road due to fences being smashed by trees, limbs were down everywhere, and it looked like a hurricane had struck. On our windy way back up the hills out of town, Kailey made sure to alert someone about the cows and sheep that were loose on the roads so that they could find their way back home before being hit by a car :-).
Arriving at the Christchurch airport was extremely surreal as we got our bags checked and prepared to board our flights back to the US. It took a bit of arguing to get our bags checked through since Air New Zealand had no idea how to handle an extra bag that was being then handled by Air Tahiti and wanted to charge a ridiculous amount, but that got resolved and we were on our way. Tahiti was weird as we got off the plane went through security (who made us dump our water that we had gotten on the plane so we wouldn’t bring it back on the plane?) and duty free, then hung out for an hour before getting back on the same plane into the same seats. There were even dancers and musicians welcoming us all to paradise as we were herded into lines. You were welcomed to come up and take pictures with it all as you wished. It was just odd for 11pm at night and the act was obviously paid by the airport.
Landing in L.A. was a good surreal feeling especially when we had to tell customs where we had been and for how long we had been gone. We spent four days acclimating to American life, cooler temperatures and visiting with Chris (Sam’s friend from college) and Brittany (his sig fig) who gave us the grand tour. We also spent some quality time with Greg (Sam’s other college friend) and even had an awesome dinner at the italian restaurant he works at. Lastly, we took one day for ourselves (for Kailey) and went to Disneyland and California Adventures. It was a long fun day, but worth it! Kailey even met up with her ballet teacher and his family who were on vacation there.
On January 8th we flew home to Seattle and were glad to be home and to see our family, friends and pets, It was cold and quite the adjustment to move back into our house joining society and jobs once again.
The journey has ended, but it was an awesome experience and we hope to continue to travel in the future. Thanks to everyone for reading our blog and keeping tabs with us as we traveled the world. We have finally updated our google map under MAP to include all the places we went. Enjoy the New Year. We look forward to seeing most of you in person throughout the days to come!
~K. and Sam
Let’s see, we last left you in Eden where we spent one day wandering around town and the other on a super awesome guided tour on the town with Kailey’s friend and thesis contact Barry Smith and his dog Bonnie. Kailey had studied the special relationship of the whalers and killer whales in this town as part of her masters work. Since Kailey did not have any funding, this was finally her opportunity to see Eden and all it’s whale-ness in person. Kailey and Barry had not met in person until this day as they did most of their correspondence over the internet during her studies, so it was an exciting day for everyone and one that we will always remember.
Our tour of Eden began at the residence of the Davidson Whalers (the true story is very complex and we recommend that you google Killers of Eden and check out all of the information for yourself!) where we actually got to see it all in person, the try-works, their house, Kiah Inlet, etc. It was amazing. From the residence we then went to Boyd Tower and Leather Jacket Bay which are more historic places of importance from the whaling era. After wandering around outside all morning we then went to the Eden Killer Whale Museum, which is a museum devoted to the whole story as well as a few other local exhibits of the area. It was so cool to see he whaling artifacts and OLD TOM up close and in person. For Kailey it was like reliving parts of the story in person. Barry was an awesome guide and sooooooo knowledgable, there was not a question that Kailey could think of that he could not answer. We both enjoyed his company (and Bonnie’s) very much that we hope to remain life long friends. After living Kaley’s dream we all went to an awesome fish and chip lunch in town at the wharf which to this day was the best fish and chips that we have had to this point (New Zealand included). It was an awesome day and Kailey felt like someone should pinch her to make it even more real, meanwhile Kailey is even more inspired to keep up with her knowledge and studies.
Lastly while in Eden, Kailey rescued a baby bird at nightfall that thought her leg was an awesome tree to climb up. Poor little guy had fallen out of his nest in the high winds and ended up on the ground. After several failed attempts to get him to stay in the tree for the night we called the local wildlife hotline AT 10pm it was decided that “peter” would sleep in a pot in Angus with us for the night and be picked up by the wildlife caregivers in the morning. So in he went with a towel to keep him/her warm and a towel to cover the top. When morning came bright and early Peter woke up chirping away… so Kailey did what all good mothers would do, put him back in the tree that he came from. Luckily, Peter decided to stay this time and was soon rejoined by adult birds of his kind who gave him breakfest. After a while Peter hopped back up the branches (no feathers for flying yet on him) and hopefully made it back into his nest. The wildlife people called to check and were thrilled at the happy ending, Kailey was too!
We were then on the road for a 7hr drive to Sydney where we spent 3 days getting organized and ready to return Angus to Wicked, find Kailey’s parents who had just arrived from the states and head out to “the Farm” outside of Tarago, NSW for Kailey’s brother’s wedding. The days were busy but we did get some time to enjoy Sydney and farm life a bit.
In Sydney (Monday, Dec. 10th) the first night we met up with Sam’s Nautilus colleague Daniel and his wife and had a great dinner while playing trivia at a tap house called The Local. This is a place in Sydney where there are 20 beers on tap. Sam enjoyed a sampler flight of 5 different micro-beers and during trivia Kailey won us another two free pints (Yea for the one who does not like beer to win us more! :-)). It was an awesome evening of catching up, having fun and experiencing a local side of Sydney. The second night after a day of errand running and laundry we had dinner with Kailey’s parents and also checked out their hotel room which was pretty awesome in our opinion after camping for a month. They had a nice shower that Kailey took advantage of and carpet that we stretched out on. We sat on their couch and watched a little TV. It was nice and good, yet surreal to see her parents on the other side of the world after 4 months of traveling. That next day we all met up with Kailey’s grandma’s cousin Howard and his sailing crew (Lee and Janice) and we went sailing on the Sydney Harbor. Both of us have been to Sydney before so this was an awesome day to do something that the locals would do. Our Sailing day started out a bit grey and raining, but soon broke into blue skies and sun which quickly gave us a “red sparkle” enhanced by the water and we hoped that is would go away by Saturday for the wedding. On thursday we returned Angus, it was a bitter sweet departure and picked up Merrida, our Toyota Carolla 4 door hatchback with a pop up tent on top (not sure we got a picture of our new ride), but we rode in Luxury to the farm with power windows, AC that didn’t warm the engine, cup holders and more. Kailey’s parents followed us out to the farm and we had a good drive seeing the sights on the way. This was Kailey’s dad’s first time driving on the left side, so it was “interesting” to watch them in the rearview mirror.
The farm, known as Pine bank is a 2500 acres ranch basically with cows, sheep, peacocks, farm stuff and is out probably 18km from the small town of Tarago. This is where the wedding was to take place in the garden and festivities to follow. Kailey’s parents, us and our friends/photographers for the wedding Rae (Same person who traveled Italy with us) and her husband Andy were staying at the neighbor’s house, Nick and Joy who live in a house completely off the grid with it’s own solar power and filtered water. Considering where we were, it was no surprise that they were living like this, but cool to see how it all worked. Nick and Joy are awesome people and super hospitable and helpful.
Thursday and Friday were spent working hard preparing everything for the wedding. The dining hall was the work garage all emptied out, cleaned up and made to look all fancy for guests while the ceremony and cocktail hour were out in the back of the farm house in the gardens. One issue that had to be sorted out was that the bridesmaid dresses did not fit and were all too small upon arrival 3 days before the wedding. One of the 4 bridesmaids decided to squeeze into hers, one made her own and the two others (Kailey, who had no chance of fitting into her super child size (think size 8-10 child American) and the Jr. bridesmaid Juliet) had to go find new dresses the day before the wedding in the closest town of Canberra. Luckily, they found something and they were even almost the right color to match. They also didn’t cost an arm and a leg like they were expecting they were going to. The dresses ended up being an awesome deal at only $35 AUD! SUPER LUCKY!
Saturday, December 15th, GENTHER/CLARKE WEDDING DAY had finally arrived. It was a bit of a surreal moment for us as this was one of the main reasons that we planned our trip around in the first place. The wedding was an amazing ceremony and it was amazing to see how everything came together. The amount of work that everyone from Pen’s parents, brother and sister-in-law, Nick and Joy, and everyone else put in paid off and the wedding was beautiful (Go check out Fancy Fin Photography in a few weeks to see what we are talking about). The ceremony was excellent and really showed a lot of who Pen and Chris are, I mean, Pen-Alope and Chris-towfer. After the ceremony we had some family photos and then it was on to the cocktail hour where we all mingled and chatted the early evening away. This was shortly followed by the dinner which was an amazing feast of lamb, kangaroo, roasted veggies and salad. The delicious meal was followed up by speeches, music and dancing. We each gave a speech and we are pretty sure most of the crowd was moved to tears, though mostly from laughing at Sam who spectacularly spilled his wine glass right at the end of the toast. Lots of us stayed late into the night to celebrate what was an amazing day for two amazing people. We will not mention the fact that Sam may or may not have checked out a bit early to take a “nap” in the grass (dehydration mixed with wine is a dangerous combination :) ).
Post wedding we spent a few days at the farm still hanging out and cleaning up. We also toured the whole property and spent a day in Canberra touring the national parliament and having lunch at the yacht club. While in Canberra Andy, Rae, Kailey and I also went on free camel rides in the town square. For Kailey it was not her wild camels, but she still got a bit of her camel fix.
We ALL (Kailey’s parents, Pen’s parents, Pen, Kailey’s Bro, Pen’s brother and his family, Rae, Andy and us) left the farm on Tuesday for a few days at Bateman’s Bay. We only had one day there, but we had a good time with family and friends. As of Wednesday (Dec. 19th) we (just the two of us) are off again to return Merrida and fly to New Zealand where we will be meeting up with Sam’s parents for a two week trip around the South Island all together
~K. and Sam
Hello All and Happy Channukah!
We have had a good week in Angus and have seen and done a lot. This past week was definitely a week of scenery and animal spotting as we slowed it down a bit and spent time along the Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Phillip Island and Wilson’s Promontory National Park.
Our first discussion shall be on the weather in Australia this time of year. Overall the weather has been alright. When Sam and I were planning this trip we initially were like summer in OZ, it will be sunny most of the time and hot. Boy were we wrong! For the post part medium to high winds have followed us everywhere we have gone (it is SOO fun eating dirt and sand with your meals), but there have been those exception days where the wind has paused and we have been able to sit and not worry about being blown away. We were also wrong about the SUN part of the trip. This past week alone we have experienced the coldest temperatures yet in this country to the point where we had to dig out our remaining winter clothes, hats, gloves etc. to stay warm and get some sleep at night. Gratefully we purchased an electric kettle for $7 back in Adelaide which has been our savior for making hot drinks, hot instant oatmeal, and hot water bottles (we use our nalgenes) to keep us warm at night. One of us has more of an issue with this than the other since Sam is part polar bear and has only been cold one or two nights thus far, never resorting to the hot water bottle. Luckily, as we write the sun and warmth are trying to return and our bodies are trying to recover from a bit of a sun burn from hiking a mountain yesterday.
Second discussion our animal count: No, this is not the number of animals that we have hit with our vehicle (not covered by our insurance here for Angus if we do hit one), nor is it the number that have tried to kill us (still stand at two with Sam, his Emu friend and the spider, but we have yet to hit the farm for the wedding). Our animal count is just a list of what we have seen in the wild as we drive and explore. We have seen: Kangaroos, Wallabys, Koalas, sheep, cows, horses, an echidna, cockatoos, crimson rosellas, galahs (still Kailey’s favorite), rainbow lorikeets, emus, kookaburra, lizards, a skink, bats, penguins, wombats, dolphins, crabs, and many other water and terrestrial birds and insects. Still on Kailey’s list is to see camels. We searched hard in Western Australia, but never saw any, even when we crossed the desert and there were signs for them being a road hazard. Sam’s list includes seeing a shark…hmmm not sure what kind or how big, but a request for a shark there is. We both would like to see some whales off the coast, but it may be the wrong time of year for that.
The Great Ocean Road:
Is just as magnificent as Kailey remembered it and Sam was in awe by it. We will let the pictures do most of the talking, but we highly recommend this drive! We started it at the beginning in Warrnambool and broke it up in chunks staying the night in Apollo Bay and Angelesa. We did most of the tourist lookouts from The Grotto, the 12 Apostles to Gibson’s Steps and several others in between. We walked the beach at Apollo Bay and were entertained by Kangaroos around Angus and us in the evening as we ate dinner in Angelesa.
We spent one day in Melbourne and were mainly there to see our Aussie friend we met in Florence, Italy, Danielle. Danielle was traveling Europe when we were and we ended up following each other throughout Italy most of the time we were there. We also found Starbucks in Melbourne and preceded our awesome river side dinner with lattes :-). Dinner was a lot of fun since we went over to Federation Square to meet up and found it full of Christmas trees and a giant jumbotron that showed the view from a camera angled down at the square. Quite a bit of playing around and taking pictures of the jumbotron followed. Danielle then met up with us after we told her to find us amongst the trees and we walked down to a restaurant by the river to have a bite to eat and catch up. After dinner we all walked along and got a brief tour of Melbourne and the Remembrance Memorial before heading back into town to catch our respective buses. On the way back we walked past city hall and saw that it was all lit up to look like a holiday present! We stared a bit more and noticed that in fact a laser light show was being projected onto city hall that included musical accompaniment and laser animation. It was a holiday show and it was awesome! We stayed and watched it two times through blown away by the cool, fun, and impressive show that was just being put on for free and for fun. Good on ya Melbourne!
We arrived in Phillip Island hoping to escape some of the crazy weather that we had been witnessing the last few days. Our hopes were not rewarded, the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in during our arrival. We drove around the Island to start our adventure and headed out to the very end of the Island which is a national reserve known as the Nobbies. It is a spit of land where you can see Australian fur seals a lot of the year, but today all you saw was wind and driving rain! We returned back to our caravan park and settled in for the night not knowing what was about to unload. Now it’s not like we had not been in wind and thunder storms before, but this one was ridiculous. I swear we survived a mini hurricane in the van somehow and thankfully we were alright, but sleep deprived come morning. Fortunately we did not have to drive anywhere and could sleep in and decide what we wanted to do for the day before our date with the little/fairy penguins that evening. We ended up spending the day taking little hikes around the island and we went back out to The Nobbies without the driving rain and walked around in the wind there. By the time evening came and it was our time to see the penguins (you’ll have to google them as no photography or video is allowed due flashes of any sort damaging their eyes) we were all bundled up for winter again and excited. We did the Penguins plus package that got us a better viewing spot, a free warm beverage, free guide books and half price on our green screen photo. It was Kailey’s second time seeing the penguins and to her it is one of the best things in the world. Sam also thought that the whole experience was super cool and seeing them in the wild definitely beat seeing them in any zoo or wildlife park until this point. At the Penguin Parade we also picked up Squeaky (a little stuffed penguin) as he had a sweater on that was knitted for the oiled penguins that they rehabilitate ever year (yes all you knitters we also picked up the pattern of how to knit them. Now I need to learn to knit and we can all make penguin sweaters… maybe in all sizes for all 17 of the penguin species… I am imagining a whole factory here :-) ).
Wilson’s Promontory National Park:
After two days on Philip Island we then spent two days in another favorite spot of Kailey’s Wilson’s Promontory National Park. It is a whole peninsula that is an amazing wild experience. In 2011 they unfortunately experiences massive flooding and landslides (this seems to be a theme around the world lately) so part of the park is still closed as they rebuild and recover more. The closures didn’t affect us at all though. You could still get out and hike mountains, walk the beaches, go swimming and go wildlife spotting. We did all of the above and it was just awesome and relaxing. In this park alone we saw: crimson rosellas, wallabys, kookaburras (they sound like monkeys at night), a skink, lizards, galahs, cockatoos, and WOMBATS :-). We had a short but good time there and Sam is already talking about “When we go back… :-)”
Angus got a boo boo:
Yep, it finally happened today as we were driving the Alpine highway from Willson’s Promontory to Eden (7hr drive). There was significant roadwork going on and cars were not paying attention to the speed reduction signs. We were going the required 40km in the work zone and zoom past us goes a car in the opposite direction throwing gravel everywhere that was loose from the workers fixing the road. Angus got one right in the lower center windshield (called windscreens here) and it made a divot and has a nice star cracking that we suspect will only increase in the days to come. Fortunately, we are covered by the fancy insurance plan that covers windscreens so all is well and Angus will get a new one when we return him in 5 days for his mini counterpart.
Currently we are in Eden, New South Whales (our 4th State) and we have driven 7150 kilometers. We have stopped in Eden because this is one of the places that Kailey researched in her masters work and being that she had no funding during school we just had to go see the place and all it has to offer since we are in OZ. She’s been planning on going here ever since we started planning the trip. To make Eden even more awesome, she has kept in contact with the Eden Killer Whale Museum and we are being showed around town tomorrow to see all the whale stuff with an awesome museum staff member. Kailey is super excited, so look for a possible blog on this adventure alone!
~Kailey and Sam
We woke up this morning and somehow it was December 1st and we have been living in a van for two weeks. It was a very stark reminder of how long we have been gone and how close we are to the end of our journey when we both realized yesterday that November was ending and December was around the corner. We have had some hints since arriving in Australia as to the season since the first store we went to in Perth did have Christmas decorations all over already. Regardless, it does come as a bit of a shock as to the distance we have travelled and the time we have spent away…
Back to catching you up on our road trip with Angus, the Worms themed van and Herbie the Van Mascot Super Hero. We have done quite a bit of driving in the last week as well as learning about Angus’s quirks. Alright Blokes and Sheilas, get out your Aussie maps and follow along on our driving adventure… (Hint Fremantle is on the west coast a tiny bit south of Perth and we went east, then south again).
We last left you on Thanksgiving in Fremantle, after that we drove out to Kalgoorlie which is an old gold mining town out in the arid plains of Western Australia. We arrived in the afternoon set up our camp and made some dinner before collapsing exhausted from a long day of driving in the sun.
After Kalgoorlie we made the drive out to Balladonia which was the first town on the crossing of the southern end of Western Australia. This crossing is covered in large part by the Nullarbor Plain (bonus points if you can decipher the meaning of Nullarbor). Balladonia was a another very small town mostly there to service the road-trains that are constantly hauling across the country. One note on road-trains, if you are unfamiliar with this Australian invention, it is two to four semi-trailers hitched together and pulled by a giant semi-truck. These often come by you pushing a wind gust that rattles the windows of the van and your bladder. Even more fun than these however are the “Oversized” loads that trucks carry. Given the sheer number of these I am thinking that they should just widen all the roads. We have even come across a few that took up the entire highway in both directions and your only recourse is to pull off onto the dirt next to the highway while some massive piece of mining equipment or a whole house go flying down the road. That night in Balladonia we were treated to a spectacular sound and lights show in the form of massive thunderstorms that threw some pretty amazing lightning across the plain. We were both pretty excited about the chance to sit in the safety and comfort of our van as the storms raged.
Balladonia to Eucla:
The next morning we woke up and got the van all set to go and proceeded to head out on the road just as the sky decided to open up and the thunder storms continued. Now watching storms from the comfort of your van is one thing, driving for six hours through a near constant downpour is another. The lightning was still cool to see since it was so close, however after about three hours we were both ready to switch back to the blistering heat and sun of the previous days. We even got to drive on the “Straightest Road In Australia” for 145.6 km (96 miles) all the while under a storm. Eventually the storm did let up and we able to drive in peace, though the horizon was a mix of dark clouds puncuated by flashes of light. We then were able to drive the rest of the way and arrive in Eucla. One note when we mention that we arrive in places, it’s not like we pull into a town. These “towns” are really just trucker rest stops along the highway so everything from Balladonia to Ceduna are really just rest stops that you pull into for the night.
Eucla to Ceduna:
This stretch was another long haul, and come morning we were greeted by rain again that fortunately burned off into sun. Eucla was also very windy which has been another theme of driving around Australia. We had breakfast at the truck stop cafe in the morning (we both got eggs benedict which was good and a nice treat for us). The drive was long, windy boring at times, but near the end it went along the bottom edge of a ridge and Ceduna was a nice town to come into. Ceduna is small, but it is important to stop here as you can get your Nullarbor crossing certificate from the Tourist office (Guess what we did). In the future, options for crossing the Nullarbor on this certificate include, roller skates, bike, walking etc… which we both think would be insane. Apparently walking is popular with the Asian population that come to visit. We celebrated making it across the Nullarbor that night with some wine in the van after walking the long pier.
Ceduna to Port Augusta:
We were on the road again. We’ve been driving bits each day but we are hoping to be rewarded from our driving dedication when we get to spend a few days on Phillip Island, Willsons Promontory and in Sydney. This drive was our first back into civilization since Fremantle which is a bit shocking, but we were able to get some things done in town, groceries, internet check etc. Internet is still sparse in Australia and for us the only reliable and somewhat decent connections that have been free have been at McDonalds. So we share a McCafe beverage and use their internet. Those golden arches have a new meaning in our life now :-). Port Augusta is definitely a working class town and there is also a good side and bad side of the tracks from our perspective. We stayed on the wrong side of the tracks, FYI.
Port Augusta to Adelaide:
On this drive it got HOT at least 38 C and only to get hotter in the days to come. Between the thunderstorms and rain it has been warm, but not this hot and we definitely were happy to jump in the pool at our caravan park. Adelaide is another big city but the people were nice. Our caravan park was also really nice (We’ve been trying to stay in a chain of Big 4 Holiday Parks throughout our trip. They also tend to give us discounts which is awesome!) and we were greeted with several flocks of parrots, ducks, and other birds chattering in the trees, bushes around us. Kailey played National Geographic photographer a bit and took photos of all the wildlife. Kailey also got stung by a bee at the pool as they were trying to get drinks too, but she is not allergic so all is well in the end.
Adelaide to Robe:
Sianora HEAT!! We intentionally got up early and it was already hot and hit the rode to get to Robe. Robe is a tiny town on the coast, but it seems like a nice retirement place and the people we talked to were friendly. We found free wifi at the library and took a long stroll on the beach that was across from our caravan park. We made ourselves fancy taco salads for dinner and then hid out in the van for the evening as another set of thunder storms passed us. There definitely seems to be a pattern in the weather, afternoon/evening thunderstorms after warm days.
Robe to Warrnambool:
Try saying Warrnambool fast five times in a row… We decided to go to Warrnambool because it is the largest town on the southern coast and is the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. We are planning to drive the Great Ocean Road tomorrow (Dec 1st). The town is nice and seems to be really outdoor activity friendly. Our caravan park is right next to a giant park filled with kids play areas (We need to bring jumping pillows to America, they are pretty cool and fun!), bridges, ponds, fields, courts, mini golf, a maze etc. It seems pretty awesome. Currently in this area of the state of Victoria no one has power to their land lines as the big phone company caught fire and there was no back up plan… whooops. It has made things interesting with making reservations, but luckily we see to be traveling before the high tourist season hits and have not had a single problem getting a place anywhere. A stress reliever for us is that we have all of our accommodations booked for the rest of our journey around the world. PHEW!!! In Warrnambool we spend the late afternoon at the Flying Horse Microbrewery where Sam sampled a few of their beers on tap and we relaxed with some bar food and in comfy chairs. We also hijacked MCDonalds wifi again to check up on things when the sky decided that it was time for the thunder and lightening storm of the day. We were glad to be inside, but we still needed to get to the caravan park, make dinner and get set up for sleep… again in the rain. I am grateful that the showers were hot and we made it to bed at a decent hour. In the morning on our way out of town we went through the local state park/wildlife reserve which is free to the public (Tower Hill). What is cool about this is that it is an old volcano crater turned wildlife reserve. We saw some Emus, other ducks and birds and our first KOALAH :-). We still have not seen any kangaroos, wombats, echidnas etc, but hopefully that will come in the days ahead. We have been obeying the rules and not driving at dusk, night, or dawn when most of these guys are out and on the move.
Throughout this past weeks trek we have definitely seen Australia’s farm and range lands…LOTS OF IT!!! We know where cows and sheep are raised, where the wheat, barley, hay and other crops grow and even where some of the pine plantations exist. We’ve seen lots of farming equipment and still wonder what some of it does. Perhaps at the upcoming Genther/Clarke wedding we will learn more about farm life in person :-).
Angus is a 2007 (believe that…) Mitsubishi Express Starwagon Satellite (oooohhh, ahhhhhh)….van thing that has been converted into a campervan. We are grateful for Angus as he’s gotten us many a places and spent quality time with us on the road (we’ve almost traveled 6000km). In our time together we have learned that his battery is not that reliant as issues have come up and we have had to have him jumped twice by nice Australian people (once a set of grandpas, the other a group of college aged surfers). These battery jumps may have been induced by us, we know that at least the second one was as the driver left the lights on :-). We have also had to reset the radio a few times after disconnecting the battery which requires a code to get it to turn it back on. Where does that code exist? Logically the glove box with the owners manual right? Nope we had to call the Wicked hotline and learn that it was written in sharpie on the inside of the passenger side sun visor. The other morning while driving to Warrnambool Angus’s windshield wipers went out. Luckily it was not raining at the time, but we feared that the rain would come by that evening and pulled into a gas station to figure out what was now going on. We had somehow blown a fuse. We bought a 5 back of new ones, replaced it and we were up and going again. Angus’s most quirky issue is that he does not like the heat especially if his fuel is 1/4 tank or less. Maybe it is car acid reflux, but we rolled into the Adelaide Wicked Depot fearing something horrible was going on with our van (it was shaking jerky anytime we tried to accelerate and change gears), but of course Angus behaved for the mechanic and we learned that sometimes in the heat, vans like ours get hot air locks in the fuel system. This may be Angus’s problem, so the solution is to turn him off, let him rest then try again… Hmmmm not quite the solution we were looking for. We have also decided that Angus is not going to get a lot of air in his fuel belly so we now always refuel at half a tank.
~Sam and K.
After close to three months of blogging and traveling we are curious about how many people are actually reading, following or stalking us through this blog, so in the comment box below sign your name or initials and let us know.
~Sam and Kailey
Number of animals we have tried to kill: 0
Number of animals that have tried to kill us: 2 (a spider and an emu both went after Sam)
Happy Thanksgiving from Australia, we just finished the first leg of our Australia (covering some of the state of Western Australia) road trip by driving from Perth up to Shark’s Bay to go to Monkey Mia then back down to Fremantle. We stopped in Kalbarri on the way up and Geraldton on the way down. We are currently in Kalgoorlie where we are preparing to cross the Nullarbor (A huge wide expanse of nothing along the southern coast) After we cross the Nullarbor we will then be in Pt. Augusta and the state of South Australia.
Since we have become mobile campers we have learned and adjusted to camping life pretty easily. Our camper van is equipped with a sink with a water can that you use via a pump to get water, basic pot/pan dishes and utensils. We have a single burner on top of a small propane tank, stowage in the main van area behind the front seats, and sleeping mats. Our camper also came with two stool chairs and a small cooler to store cool items in. It is bare bones, but we are getting by with some enhancements. One of the other things that our campervan comes with is 250,000 Km worth of graffiti and writing all over the inside of the van. A lot of the previous residents have left their mark (literally in sharpie) on the inside of the van, the dents on the outside are also evidence of previous adventurers. We do have our own sharpie and are planning out the message we shall leave the next people who take over our van, which we have named Angus. We have decided that it is also nice to have the following for your Wicked Campervan Experience:
- An outdoor extension cord, splitter and adapter (You still need to charge stuff when traveling)
- Food storage bins (to keep the ants and other bugs out of your stuff)
- Ample easy cooking and non-cooking food (when it is windy our single burner doesn’t really work).
- Water (lots of that, there is not always drinking water where we are going)
- Basic cleaning supplies (we don’t need to make ourselves sick from our situation)
- Get crafty and make screens for the passenger and driver side windows so you can have fresh air when you want it. (we veltcrow those to the outside of the van when we are stopped for the night)
- A Fan (YES, we got a fan and when you are in 100+ degree weather you will want some sort of fan too so you can sleep a bit at night instead of sweating/baking to death in our tin can)
- A little battery opperated lantern (it was a last minute buy, but we use it every night as apparently our interioir lights drain our battery although they are not supposed too)
- Mosquito net, seriously no one wants to catch a deadly disease from a mosquito, and there are quite a few nasty diseases that the little blood suckers carry around this area.
- EXTRA FUEL (We are carrying 40L, two big cans as sometimes it gets a little scary as to where the next fuel station is. We hope to not have to use our fuel until the end and just because we have it to use). Along with this we have extra coolant, oil, and our van came with jumper cables, breaking down in the middle nowhere does not sound even remotely like an adventure that we want to experience.
- Van Mascot, this is essential to any road trip as without one you are simply a couple of people driving a ridiculous distance. However, with a mascot you are now an awesome team of adventurers! Our mascot is Herbie the stuffed toy hamster we found in a clearance bin at the grocery n store for 1 Australian dollar.
-Pillows, for the demanding sleeper in us all, a good pillow is essential for a good nights rest inside the van. Even better is if the pillow then converts to a quilt to help with those cold desert nights.
- A mini flexible cooler is nice to have along as well for some cold drinks while you roast in the sun.
- Sunscreen and bug-spray are a must as well. Sunscreen since there is no where to hide when you are in either car seat and the sun is cooking you on a 6 hour drive, and bug-spray is needed unless you plan to only eat raw foods at night while hiding in the van.
-Sleeping bags/sacks are good too since really the mattresses are there so you don’t realize you are sleeping on particle board.
-Stereo to Stereo adapter cable to plug in an ipod to the stereo, since the CD player does not work! This is a huge problem to discover after you find the coveted John Williamson CD of Australian folk songs that you are dying to rock out to.
- GPS, buy one for way cheaper then renting one and you will hopefully never get too lost driving on the left side of the road.
Other than our supply list all is well in OZ. Perth is a nice city that has a very Seattle feel to it especially the waterside suburb of Fremantle. There are a lot of open spaces, walking paths and parks for all to enjoy. Kalibarri was a very pretty beach town and where we saw our first wild pink gallahs (a parrot type bird found all over in Australia, Kailey secretly would like one as a pet). Sharks bay and Monkey Mia Resort are amazing and the laid back low-scale resort pops up out of nowhere. Sharks Bay is a World heritage site and was on Kailey’s bucket list. We did see the dolphins while there which are famous and we also saw the stromatolites (google that one peeps). Kailey also got to meet and chat with Dolphin researcher Richard Connor who has been studying the dolphins there for 30 years. Good times had by all marine biology dorks on this trip = us :-)! On our way back down we stopped over in Geraldton for the night after sweating to death in 100+ degree weather on our drive back down. We were greeted in Geraldton by a nice thunder and lightening storm that thankfully cooled off the place.
We spent Thanksgiving in Fremantle where we treated ourselves to a lovely fish and chip’s dinner at an establishment that has been around for over 100+ years. It was good and we were super full afterwards, but it was worth it. Our camping meals have been good and well balanced, but it was nice to not have to cook for ourselves for the night.
Currently we are getting ready to leave Kalgoorlie to head to Balladonia and begin our trek crossing the Nullarbor Plain (code for an aussie desert). In a few days we should be arriving in Port Augusta and making our way towards Sydney.
We are still working on the photo albums and finally have things organized and almost fully edited and ready to post more albums. Internet in OZ is not as readily available as it is in America so you just have to be patient to see what we have seen.
Have a good weekend and following week.
~ K. and Sam