Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Love letter to Australia

Scott and I just got done with a fantastic 2 week van adventure south of Sydney. We had some revelations during our fun times. We realized that for a country the physical size of the United States but the population of Ohio, it has an amazing infrastructure of roads and facilities. By facilities, I mean outdoor showers, picnic tables, and electric grills at almost every beach and park. We traveled only 120 miles south of our home and found amazing scenery and numerous state and national parks. This country does an amazing job of preserving nature and ensuring green space is available everywhere (probably the advantage of such a low population!). I can't say more about the gorgeous and diverse beaches as well (and we've only seen 1/100th of the coast!!!)

On Christmas day, we road biked to the Mxxxxxxxxa Rain Forest in Bxxxxxxo National Park. A few miles from the park, at the turnoff, there was a sign saying the park was closed. We continued on. How do you close a national park, much less, a rain forest? About a mile later, we passed a group of people who had parked their cars along the road, and were having a picnic in the ditch. They called out to us that the park was closed. We continued on. Sure enough, we got to the entrance, and the gate was locked…open every day but Christmas. There was a sign saying the area was under 24-hour surveillance, but we climbed over the gate and passed over the bicycles. We had the whole park to ourselves. Even better, the whole trail system was built on platforms, so we actually got to road bike through the rain forest…probably the only people in the world who've done that. Had we been caught, I'm sure the fine would have been thousands of dollars, but we escaped unscathed…except for a leach that attached himself to the back of Scott's leg. The leach let go after I coated him in the remnants of our mixed salted nuts.

We managed to explore some amazing beaches and find some lovely camping spots to park the van (fo' free!). One of our favorite ones (pictured here) was at the boat ramp in Gerringong where we were able to sleep right next to the breaking surf and wake up to an amazing view from the van. One morning we decided to hike up the ridge above the van. The view was fantastic but in order to get to the view we had to pass under an electric fence that, much to my surprise was ACTIVE! Scott, the Indiana farm boy, didn't seem phased by me getting electrocuted , but I was very freaked. It took my breath away -- I wonder if that's what it's like to get tazered?

Another highlight was snorkeling at Jervis Bay, about 3 hours south of Sydney. We saw all sorts of fish, and swam along side a manta ray with a 5-foot wing span. That was the coolest. You think of rays as being flat, but it was thick. It's head was easily the size of a human's. I had a close encounter with a big lung fish—sort of a hybrid between a catfish and an eel.

We were excited to finally see some wild wombats while we were driving at night. These things are MASSIVE guinea pigs. They remind me of the black guinea pig I had growing up that I named Remus. During our biking adventures during the day we saw lots of wombat burrows (pictured on the left).

I can't write a love letter to Australia without mentioning the fantastic (albeit expensive and polluting) Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks display that we enjoyed from our balcony. It was extremely novel to see such an amazing display, that growing up we always saw on TV (since Australia celebrates NYE waaaay before the United States).

This trip got us very excited and optimistic for the adventures we will be having in the very near future around Australia.


Danno said...

I'm so jealous. That sounds like an awesome Christmas.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your narrative and pics very much!!! What amazing and special adventures you two continue to have.