Perhaps I should start from the beginning. Last weekend was my birthday - my 30th birthday to be precise - and as a gift to me, Pete whisked me off on a one-week trip to the great Oz! We spent a few days in a place called Port Douglas which is situated near the Great Barrier Reef and ended the week off with a couple of nights in beautiful Sydney.
We departed Wellington on the evening before my birthday and awoke in Cairns as the sun was beginning to peek out above the Tasman sea. A beautiful sunny day; perfect for jumping out of an airplane. And that’s exactly what we did! On the morning of my birthday, we boarded a tiny plane and rose to 11,000 feet above Cairns breaking through the clouds (and breaking a serious sweat in the process). I was the first to jump and the initial 5 seconds were a complete blur, but the rest…. The rest was magical! I literally felt like I was flying. And above the Great Barrier Reef, no less! If any of you have ever even toyed with the idea of sky diving, I strongly urge you to take the leap. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life and the best birthday present ever! What a way to ring in a new decade!
That afternoon we headed North to Port Douglas stopping at a wildlife centre along the way to cuddle koalas and feed kangaroos. Touristy, I know, but so much fun! Koalas are incredibly beautiful animals and they’re hilarious. Sleeping 22 hours a day and struggling to keep their eyes open during the other two – life for them is the eternal holiday. Sweet as!
|Exploring the Aussie rainforest|
|Kanga awaiting some treats from the tourists|
Working on an itch. I couldn't get enough.
|Just waking from his nap|
|Like holding a living teddy bear|
|Some of the other not-so-friendly neighbours|
Port Douglas was our final destination that day – a laid back tropical town with a 4 mile long white sand beach though not sure I could ever be convinced to venture in there... It is also the jumping off point for one of the natural Wonders of World – the Great Barrier Reef.
|Fancy a dip?|
For three days, we chillaxed to the max in this beautiful town, wandering in and out of shops, picnicking by the sea, and breakfasting with a beautiful bunch of native and exotic birds.
|Spectacled flying fox|
|Southern cassowary - a native Australian bird|
We even came across a dog shelter in town and had the chance to take two homeless pups for a walk down the beach. Buddy and Biscuit were only 7 months old and the coast was new territory for them so needless to say they were a little hesitant at first. But after an hour of sniffing and exploring, they slowly gained their confidence and were wagging their way down the coastline!
|Sunset in Port Doug|
|Four Mile beach|
|Buddy 'n' Biscuit|
|Taking a break with the pups|
|Sand balls created by small beach crabs excavating their underground home|
On our last day in town, we boarded a magnificent 52 foot long catamaran for a magnificent day at sea. Our sail took us to the Low Isles, an unspoilt coral cay along the Great Barrier Reef. This particular tour usually takes a max of 35-40 passengers. Luckily, we were only a party of 6 and as the Cat is so big, it really felt like we were on our own chartered yacht. By the time we anchored in the bay, I was chomping at the bit to get in the water and start exploring the reef. And I was not disappointed! We hopped aboard a small boat with a glass floor to take us into shore on this tiny white sand island and from there we began our exploration. As we were situated on the edge of the reef, the corals were softer, sea turtles were more plentiful and the small black tipped reef sharks were eager to say hello (which, thankfully, we enjoyed from the safety of our boat)! It was so incredible to explore one of the natural Wonders of the World. I’ve snorkeled many underwater worlds around the globe and this one certainly did not disappoint. Plus, the journey itself aboard an impressively beautiful catamaran was just as memorable.
|Great Barrier Reef from above|
|Our stunning cruise for the day|
|Spent our day at this gorgeous beach|
|Chilling on the boat|
|A plethora of soft coral|
|Full of life|
|Sea turtle (sadly not the clearest shot due to sediment build up)|
|Black tipped reef sharks|
|A giant clam. Crazy.|
|A clam opening. Double crazy. Because they are found in shallow regions of the reef, they use their multiple green spots to photosynthesize at low tide.|
Port Douglas is a beautiful, quiet, little town. It was the perfect place to while away a few days, enjoy a day at sea, and soak up a little much needed sun (Windy Welli is currently turning the seasonal corner).
A few days later, we were back on the plane and headed South to Sydney. What a city! A massive metropolis (compared to anything else we’ve visited this past year) surrounded by dozens of coastal inlets. I didn’t realize how much water surrounded this city. We spent an entire day just cruising the streets, wandering through the botanic gardens, walking across the harbour bridge and checking out the shopping scene (including Burberry, Tiffany’s, and Chanel). After one week of beach life, I didn’t quite realize how much I looked like an old hippy ‘till I wandered into these shops! Wait ‘till I’ve traveled for 8 weeks!
|Opera house and harbour bridge. And Pete!|
|Along the waterfront|
|Stunning view from the harbour bridge|
|A comfy seat in the botanic gardens|
|Visiting the Sydney Museum's exhibit on birds of paradise. This little guy is in an eternal state of shock!|
|Can you believe this guy used to exist? It was the largest marsupial in the world.|
|This crazy guy had only 6 huge teeth for tearing into its prey. But as its prey began to go extinct, so too did this creature.|
On our last evening in Oz, we splurged and treated ourselves to a show at the Opera House. The space was stunning and the production was great. Not entirely what we expected – kind of some new age ballet. Not sure Pete thoroughly enjoyed it but it was still exciting to be enjoying this magnificent building for all that it is meant to do.
|A night out on the town|
|Not a bad place to dine|
Last day in Australia and pure sunshine was in the forecast. A perfect day for a short run followed by a scrumptious brekkie to celebrate Pete’s special day! Then we headed to the park and relaxed with our books in the afternoon sun before grabbing a cab to the airport for our flight home.
|Chillaxing the afternoon away|
|A bottle tree|
|Bats in the park!|
|A sulphur crested cockatoo|
|Palm tree bark. Pretty.|
It was an incredible journey through an absolutely stunning country. Australia has a unique set of vegetation and wildlife, entirely different from New Zealand’s. It’s incredible how environmentally exceptional these few islands are down here. It truly feels like we’re on the other side of the globe. Funny that.