Uluru, aka Ayres Rock

We spent three days in the red desert, exploring the ancient and sacred aboriginal sites of Uluru (which European settlers named Ayres Rock) and Kata Tjuta  – pronounced Ka-ta Chuta (called Mount Olga by settlers). 

Uluru view

There are so many things that hit you when you arrive in the dessert, but one of the things that struck us both was the sense of peace.  The aborigines talk of the special silence of the place and yes, it does have its own brand of silence.  You can also see from the picture above, that it is surprisingly green.  There is a lot of bushes and grass growing in the area.  It had also had some rain a couple of weeks before our visit and that made everything green up.

The land was taken away from the Aborigines (Also known in their own tongue and Anangu) in the mid 1950’s, as the area held fascination for Australian settlers. But we did not appreciate quite how sacred this place is to the Aborigine people and how sacrilegious this unplanned development and the climbing of these ancient rocks was to them.

It was handed back to the aborigines about 30 years ago and is now held in trust, where both aborigines and modern Australians work together for conservation and planned development. The land holds special significance in aboriginal culture, linked as it is to their stories of creation and their strong beliefs about women, men and the nature all around them.

We had so many magical moments here.  We spent three days capturing sunsets and sunrises that brought tears to our eyes. On one of the mornings, our guide Mike played the Didgeridoo whilst the sun came up.  It was mesmerising.

The lesser well-known Kata Tjuta is in the same national park.  In the Aborigine tongue it means many heads, and you can see from the shape of it, why it is called that.

Kata Tjuta

We took the relatively short walk into Walpa Gorge in the early morning light.  It was a deep ravine and surprisingly for the desert area did have some water and a shallow stream inside.

Kata Tjuta Gorge 2

 

We also visited the field of light.  This is an art installation by Bruce Munro which has over 50,000 light stems that light up the land in front of Uluru, during dusk and dawn.   We were up and out by 5am to catch the glow of the lights before the sunrise.  It’s hard to capture that on camera, so you’ll have to use a big of imagination when you look at the images below.

Field of light group

 

We went for a short bush walk in the 35c heat.  The full circuit of Uluru is 10km, so unless you are a little bit mad, or super charged, you are not likely to try that one in a hurry.   We did enjoy visiting the cultural centre and doing a shorter circuit around the base of Uluru.

Little man in uluruUluru shadows

 

Little man had to be careful as he did not pack his sunscreen, but he did pop up a couple of times.  Can you spot him?

 

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A weekend in Melbourne

We had a weekend in Melbourne and it is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city.  We arrived by car in the rush hour and it was the usual challenge picking your way through the streets of an unknown city to get to your destination.

We were lucky that we were at least able to park outside the hotel, drop off our bags and then return the car to the car hire depot. We were staying near the university, so lots of young people in the area.  Melbourne is a big city with over 4.7 million people ( so not far off the size of Sydney at 5 milliion) and has over 100 different ethnic groups.  Apparently it has the largest Greek population in a city outside of Greece and the largest Italian.  There are large Asian influences from across the Asia Pacific region also well represented here.

The city makes bold statements with its architecture.  It has well preserved older buildings, such as these below.

Old Group 1

 But the architects really shine through with the modern buildings.  There are interesting colours, shapes, sizes and finishes all over the city, with the harbour area being the newest of the developments.

Modern Group 1Modern Group 2Modern group 3

 It is a very easy city to get around with free trams in the city centre and an extensive network to get you out to the suburbs.  We did not go far, but did explore St Kilda’s beach area near by.

 We found some interesting and unique sights such as the All Vegan vending machine.  A definite first in our experience.

Vegan vending

 In Melbourne Central Mall, we also saw this KitKat store, which has elevated the humble snack to cult status, with different flavour options, chocolate coatings and even toppings. 

 

One of the other novelties that we saw as we walked around was a furry bottom sticking out of a tree hollow.  When we looked closer the tree had about five furry balls dotted around different hollows and the crook of the tree. They were fast asleep and took no notice of the noise we made as we clicked away and took pictures.  We found out that they are brushed tailed Possums. 

 Furry bum

 

 

Possum

Brushed Tailed Possum by ewasp.com.au

 

The second picture is a stock image to show you what they look like, but we have not seen any more than the sticky out bottom so far.  They are a common occurrence in Australian parks and also in houses, where sometimes the possums take residence in the loft and cause all sorts of havoc at night.  I don’t suppose they would be so cute in that case.

So now we’ve tasted Australian’s second city, we’re looking forward to visiting its first – Sydney in a couple of weeks time.

 

The Great Ocean Road

They say that the Great Ocean Road is one of the sights not to be missed when you visit Australia, so we decided not to miss it.

Panaoramic

This was the last couple of days of our road trip from Adelaide, to reach Melbourne and they were right, this was an experience not to be missed.  There are many ocean roads around the world that are stunning, and we’ve been on quite a few, but this has to be right up there with the best.

Not because of the white knuckle ride around hair pin bends with steep cliff edges dangerously falling off into the wild ocean waves below.  There was a bit of that, but it was more for the breath-taking rock formations that are visible from designated stops. 

We were lucky that on our days the sky was cloudless, the sun was hot and the sea was a vibrant aquamarine colour.  This then is made even more dramatic as a backdrop when you set it against the sandstone formations jutting up from the sea bed, or stretching out from the shore.

There are so many little coves and hidden beaches that it’s hard to remember them all.  Each stop is even more stunning than the last.

BeachCove

 

The most iconic amongst them is the Twelve apostles and it is the one featured in many of the brochures for the Great Ocean Road. If you try to count them, you will find them coming up short.  Some have already crumbled and broken off and returned to the sea bed.  But for some reason the eight apostles does not have the same ring to it.

Twelve Apostles

 Twelve apostles other side

Talking of things falling down, one of the formations is called London Bridge.  True to the song, London Bridge has fallen down.  What used to be a double arch bridge, is now a little island with a single arch, separate from the mainland. The bridge fell down into the sea in the early 1990’s, but luckily no one was hurt. And although it is still called London Bridge, it is a bridge no longer.

London Bridge.jpg

Our final stop before reaching Melbourne was the lovely city of Geelong.  This is only an hour from Melbourne but still has a distinctive feel of its own.  It was here that we managed to have a fantastic lunch at an all vegan café called Dolly’s sister.  We also went to the waterfront to see the pier.

Geelong pier

 We could go on and on about this country and we have hardly seen any of it yet.  The wildlife and the birdlife is extraordinary and deserves its own blog post, but for now we wanted to share these cheeky chappies, that are wild, numerous and very bold.  Think of them like the seagulls that pinch your icecream at Brighton beach.  They are both a type of cockatoo.  The white one is known as a sulphur crested Cockatoo and the pink one’s are called Galahs.

 

We also saw these birds, always flying in pairs at a great height and we have not seen them in any towns or urban areas.  We think they are Carnabys Black Cockatoos, which are a large bird preferring agriculture or coastal regions.  

Pair of dark b irds

 

 Little man did not come out for the Great Ocean Road.  He said it was too hot. Next stop Melbourne.

 

 

On the road to Port Fairy

We left Adelaide for a five day self-drive to Melbourne.  The first half of the trip took us up to the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley.  This is the renowned wine region of Australia and it has some big producers, such as Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Jacobs Creek.  We popped in to the visitors centre of the latter, and the sign was about the most exciting bit of the experience. It still felt nice to be at such an iconic brand and know where the wine is produced.

Jacobs creek.jpg

Whilst in the area we visited the Whispering Wall.  This is actually the wall of a dam, which forms an acoustic bowl.  The effect is that you can talk to someone the other side of the dam in a whisper and they will hear you. In the picture below, Joy is at the other end  of the damn.  We tested it out and without raising our voices could be clearly heard.  Very cool.

Whispering Wall

We stayed at Tanunda for our first night which is a pleasant town at the heart of the valley, which is more than can be said for our motel.  Suffice to say we won’t be rushing back there.

We stopped in Robe a pretty fishing village on our second night, which has two light houses.  This is the more modern one, which is quite a striking design.

Robe lighthouse

The next day we headed to Port Fairy.  On the way we stop at the stunning blue lake, at Mount Gambier.  The lake is formed from a Volcanic crater over 6,000 years ago and the rich minerals bring out this stunning blue colour each summer.  In the winter, the lake is fairly standard grey, so the change in colour is quite striking.  Believe me, there is no filter on the photo below.

Blue lake

As well as the amazing lake, Mount Gambier has two large sink holes, both of which have been transformed into beautiful sunken gardens.  Here’s a picture of the larger of the two, Umpherston.

Sunken gardens mt gambier

Our final stop was the very picturesque town of Port Fairy.  Here we stayed at a pleasant hotel right in the middle of town, which has many historical buildings.

Port Fairy .jpg

At sunset we went to Fraser Island the wildlife reserve at the end of the town.  Here we were promised sightings of Wallaby’s and we were not disappointed.  These smaller cousins of the Kangaroo are more active at night when they graze on the grassland and plants in the area.  They were not too bothered by us humans being around, but did not come too close either.

Like much of the coastline in this area, it has proved a very treacherous terrain for mariners to navigate, so there are plenty of lighthouses.  Here is the one on Fraser island, light up by the beautiful sunset last night.

Port fairy lighthouse

Little man has been feeling a bit shy lately, so don’t worry about him lurking around anywhere, as he is not.

The next bit of our journey brings us on the Great Ocean Road, so you’ll hear more of that very soon.

Awesome Adelaide

We have now flown from New Zealand to Australia and our first stop is Adelaide. We have had three action packed days in this vibrant and exciting city.  This weekend there are three major events;  te Adelaide V8 Motor racing, the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Adelaide Writers week, so there was certainly plenty for us to see and do. The city has a very welcoming feel to it.  We immediately felt at home and found it very easy to get around, both on foot and on the tram.

We are already finding our culinary choices have opened up enormously.  Happy days.  We had lunch at the two bit villians café in Adelaide Arcade and it was delicious.  It even included a Vegan Chocolate Sundae.  A very rare but enjoyable treat. The arcade itself is a very fine Victorian building which has been very well preserved.

 Adelaide Mall Group

 We headed to the Botanical gardens, which is a delight for the eyes with many trees that were completely new to us, as were the birds that we also encountered.  We have no idea what some of them are called, but perhaps some of you might.

Adelaide Bird GroupAdelaide Botanical Group 2Adeliade Botnaical Group 1

 This morning we headed to the beach, which is a flat, accessible, white sand haven.  Volley ball is obviously popular here as there were plenty of courts.  It was not too crowded, which might be usual, but we rather suspect had something to do with the cool breeze blowing.  It was not as warm as these pictures might suggest.

 

This evening we went to see the Parade of Light, a nightly show during the Fringe Festival, projected onto the city museum.  It was a cross between a light show and a film and was very mesmerizing to watch.  Here are a few of the pictures we captured.

 Adelaide lights 2Adelaide Lights 3Adeliade lights 1

We found another sign that made us chuckle.  I think the meaning may have got lost when they wrote this one out, but just to be clear, we didn’t try drinking the water!!

Sign Adelaide airport

 

 

We have really enjoyed a few days in one place, but tomorrow we go on the ocean road to Melbourne.  We look forward to sharing it with you.

 

 

Holy cow

From Rotorua, we traveled North towards Bay of Islands. On the way we stopped at Morrinstown. Up until a few years ago, there really wasn’t much reason to visit this farming town.

But then they hit on the idea of having artists paint some cows and installing them around the town. There are 42 in total dotted around. And then there’s one very cheeky cow who hangs around on the corner.

It’s a bit similar to the Cotswolds Hare Festival, which always has some fabulous designs. Here’s a couple from last year.

After Morrinstown, we headed up to Pakira, just north of Auckland. We stayed in a holiday chalet right on the beach. A storm came in that night, so we had high winds and lots of rain. And believe me, you hear every drop in a tin hut.

The next day we drove 3 hours to Paihia( prounounced pie here!). This is at the heart of Bay of Islands. Here is just a few of the 144 that exist. It’s also the place where the controversial treaty was signed between Maori and the British in 1840. Controversial because the Maori chiefs didn’t not fully appreciate they were signing over to British sovereignty. Another bleak moment in empire building.

We also visited a fantastic glow worm cave. You’ll have to take our word for it, as no photos were allowed, but you can imagine that photographing the little critters would be very difficult. They were like watching the night sky. But here’s some of the wonderful rock formations on the land.

On the way back to Auckland, we stopped at Whangarai (prounounced fang a rye), which is a lovely little harbor town. They have a great clock museum and we liked this quirky little art installation.

Next stop Adelaide.

Little man has popped up once for the eagle eyed among you.

It’s Hot (&smelly) around here!

We moved on to the Geo Thermal region of New Zealand.  To be fair most of New Zealand has Geo thermal activity, but no where is that more evident than Taupo and Rotorura, so this is where we hung out for a few days.

Taupo has a lakeside charm, nestled as it is on the edge of Lake Taupo. 

We visited the Craters of the Moon park, so named, because the thermal pot holes, created when the dam was built many years ago, which made the landscape look like the face of the moon.  This is less evident now that the vegetation has grown around it, but the thermal hot spots are quite something to see.

The other thing we had to try was the thermal pools, so we went to the Wairakei terraces, which is a man made thermal pool complex.  You cannot get an idea of how hot it is from the pictures, but the top pool was 42c, which on a hot day feels like a very hot bath indeed.

 

On the way to Rotorura we visited the Lava Glass Studio which has a beautiful glass sculpture garden.  There was also a classic car gathering, which certainly got Joy excited.

Kiwi’s are creative with their signs and this extends to their road signs.  This one in Taupo made us smile, instructing drivers to merge in an orderly fashion.

 

Rotorura is about 50  miles north of Taupo, based around a much smaller lake, but with a deeper concentration of geo thermal activity.  This is obvious as soon as you arrive, since the whole town smells like rotten eggs. Everywhere you see vents releasing steam and Rotorura not only has a weather monitor, but also a migrane monitor, based on how concentrated the Sulphur dioxide is in the environment.  This changes according to air pressure, rain fall and heat. Thankfully the Migranes are not compulsory.

 We visited Te Puia Springs,  where we learned about Maori culture and witness the famous Póhutu geyser.  This is apparently the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere, which erupts about twice an hour.  We got quite a display whilst were there.

The highlight of our time in Rotorura was not the thermal parks, although impressive, but a walk among the majestic redwoods.  A specially designed series of walkways allowed you to view them and experience them from a good height. It was a great experience, really testing our balancing skills as well as enjoying a unique perspective amongst such wonderful trees.

 

 

 Little Man also made a friend whilst we were travelling around. Her name is Issy and she travelled from California.  S

 

o just to be clear (Kay) no prizes for guessing where little man is this time.