Sunday, May 8, 2011

Australia By Land

Since I am no longer on my death bed, I am thrilled to finally share the stories and pictures from the rest of our trip to Australia. After three days there, we had only seen what the place had to offer under water (pretty amazing stuff). But we were also excited to get to see things on land. I kept thinking of Australia as another island trip, but Nick reminded me we crossed off a whole new continent with our visit here. After getting off the boat, we checked into our hotel, which was right on this lovely ocean walk, and strolled around until we caught the sunset.

Right away, Cairns reminded me of being back in California. The people seemed very active, with large groups of people jogging down the Esplinade around us. The temperature was quite mild with a lovely breeze (definitely not in Guam anymore), and there were outdoor workout stations and public square swimming pools for anyone to use. One of the things that immediately caught our attention were the large numbers of brightly colored birds chirping everywhere. There were thousands of these things. Actually, throughout my time in Australia I found the birds so interesting, partly because there were so many I had never seen before, and partly because we just are not used to hearing them chirp on Guam. 

One of the primary rules of diving is that you can't fly for 24 hours after a dive. So before flying out, we had time to fit in one land endeavor in Cairns. Nick definitely called the shots on this one because we ended up going off-roading. After an hour's drive up the mountain, we arrived at Blazing Saddles ranch where they had horseback riding and ATV's. After watching a few Japanese tourists tip over their four-wheelers at shockingly low speeds, we were thrilled when a guide pulled Nick and I to the side for our own ride. I may give the Japanese tourists a hard time, but some of these girls showed up wearing platform sandals and shorts. Seriously?

 The trails were a lot of fun. I didn't exactly knew what I was doing, but I faked it and eventually figured it out. We rode over some pretty bumpy trails, through muddy streams and around some tight turns (trees!). And at the end of it all we were absolutely caked with dust. I had a great time and was extra thankful for that little magic called late check-out, so we could get a shower before our flight. We grabbed a last meal in Cairns and headed to our next destination, Sydney!
We got in late and my friend Joann picked us up, so we didn't get to really see anything until the next morning. My friend Joann, who I met working at my cousin's catering company in Washington, D.C., nine summers ago, lives in an amazing part of town called Manly. It's north of Sydney Harbor and is its own little peninsula, with a bay on one side and an impressive beach on the other. There was a huge surfing atmosphere and we couldn't help but feel like we were back in La Jolla or Coronado again. We took the Manly Ferry across Sydney Harbor and enjoyed the breathtaking scenery along the way
Reminds me so much of Pt. Loma!

We turned the corner into the Harbor and it was apparent we were definitely in Sydney!

In front of Sydney Bridge
And the oh so famous opera house

We then took a stroll through the Botanical Gardens, again marveling at the interesting birds that kept crossing our path. Nick identified every bird we saw as a kookaburra. I'm still not sure we ever actually saw one, but they were all very pretty.

Sculpture at the Botanic Gardens
Chai Tea lattes after lunch when it started to rain
(seasoned travelers that we are, we brought no umbrella... or rain coats. whoops.)
We'll have to stay here next time we come!

And no visit to a major international metropolitan area would be complete without a stop into, you guessed it, Zara! The one in Sydney actually opened a week before we were there and we'd heard rumors that the first few days there was a LINE to get into it. I was hoping the mob had died down a bit so I could do some shopping. Nick smartly waited outside as I walked in the store, did a two-minute loop, and was awestruck at the line to check out. You'd of thought it was the Saturday before Christmas at the Apple store! That combined with the fact that the clothing seasons are off (Australia is approaching winter), plus the unfavorable exchange rate, and I decided three strikes, I'm out. That is hands down my fastest Zara visit, but I'm still glad to have added a new city---continent!---on my lifetime World Tour of Zaras. Moving on...
We took a stroll through the Chinese Gardens

We found the gardens to be, um, very boring peaceful. We were both dragging at this point, both a little under the weather (glad I didn't know what was to come). There was nowhere to lay down, but we figured out if Nick leaned forward and I leaned back, we could comfortably rest and hold each other up. It was a perfect ying and yang nap for our very zen surroundings. Nick had no idea I was taking this picture. He looks so peaceful :) After this low point, we called it a day and took the ferry back to Manly to meet up with our friends for the start of their weekend!

 When I last saw Joann about four years ago, she was living in Washington DC still working at the catering company. Since then she packed up and moved back to Sydney, her hometown, and she also has a few good men in her life I was excited to meet. One is her husband Tim and the other is their adorable baby Noah. He has the cutest smile and is super cuddly and fun. And he looks just like his momma. We had a blast getting to know this little guy. Joann and Tim spent their weekend hanging out with us. It was SO awesome to have locals showing us around. Our first meal out together was a first for me... Vietnamese food. Quite delish!

Noodle soup is just good everywhere

 Next they drove us over to Bondi Beach, one of the most famous surfing and touristing beaches in the area. It was a beautiful afternoon and the five of us went for a stroll. Very picturesque! And lots of surfers.

The walking path went up and around this cliff to more breathtaking views

 Introducing Joann! I can't believe I finally got to visit you in Australia!
 Joann, Tim & Noah. Tim grew up in the UK and longed to live near the sea :)
Ocean water lap pool filled by surf

Love these guys!
Love this guy :)

 On our way back through town we made what must have seemed like the most random stop to our friends and even to Nick. One of the reasons I have wanted to go to Australia my entire life is that way back when I lived in Houston in Kindergarten, our family became very close with an Aussie family in the neighborhood, the Hawkshaws. My sister Courtney and their daughter Kate went to school together, but we spent lots of time together as a family and I even remember staying with them when my parents left for the week to go house hunting in Ohio. They were also so good at staying in touch. Every year we would get Christmas presents from them, always something Australia-related, books about emus or kangaroo stickers. So when I found out I was coming to Sydney, I got in touch with Kate to see about meeting up. Turns out the weekend we were there was the weekend of her engagement party, which her whole family was flying in for. So I stopped in for hugs, a little bit of catch up, and some pictures. I felt like seeing the Hawkshaws in Australia made my trip complete :)

 Nick's trip to Australia would not be complete without a little surfing, and luckily Tim was a surfer too. So our last morning there, Nick borrowed a board and a wetsuit and the guys headed out to Freshwater Beach. I did the proper surfer wife thing and laid on a towel in the sun while the boys paddled out through the big waves to catch a few. Nick was thrilled to not have to worry about getting crushed on a reef break.
Australia is really good at beaches

After a bit I spotted Nick and Tim heading my way

Big smiles from Nick

Glad we were able to fit in one last adventure before the trip home! Thanks so much to our awesome hosts for making our visit to Sydney so enjoyable. Hope to see you in Guam some time soon!


  1. Wow! Sounds like you guys rocked that trip. I'm jealous about those four wheelers!


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