September 2014October 2014 November 2014

10/14 - Welcome Home

We landed bright and early in Vancouver, cleared immigration, cleared customs and took a taxi to Avitat which was full of Canadian soldiers heading off to survival training somewhere in the wilds of the north. They all looked pretty hale and hearty, so most of them were probably going to make it.

Our plane arrived to pick us up, and all through the journey our pilot kept calling into the Fairchild airport weather channel. The clouds blanketed the lower Olympics towards the sea, but we were still clear for VFR and landing. That photo is of our landing as we raced for the runway even as the fog raced from the sea to cover it.

We made it, but only by minutes. We cleared US customs and were waiting for our taxi home when our pilot announced that the airport had closed. Wow, that was exciting. We were relieved. The customs guy was probably relieved too. Our alternate was Sequim, and that meant a half hour drive to handle our paperwork. Hey, we're home.

We can still see the runway, but that runway blocking fog is moving fast.

Keywords: australia

10/13 - Back to Sydney

If you look at the picture of that bridge on the right and are so glad we're back in New York City because that's the Hell's Gate railroad bridge, you an incurable New Yorker. There is nothing we can do for you.

We're back in Sydney for a day, back in the arms of the ever nurturing Sydney Park Hyatt. Their concierge pulled off a miracle and got us into dinner at Quay, one of the great restaurants in Sydney. This is where we first had fresh pork belly, the dish that, along with various technological changes, totally eliminated pork belly futures. Once we discovered that one could cook pork belly the way they did at Quay, there was no future. Pork bellies were eaten now. We also had green lip abalone, mud crab congee, hog jowls, seafood in XO sauce, lamb, smoked oysters and slow cooked duck. Then came the piece de resistance, the snow egg. This was one of those molecular gastronomy things with a sugar crusted meringue egg formed around house made strawberry ice cream served on a bed of mulberries. Well, they may have fooled some, but we knew what we were eating. We were eating pavlova.

Pavlova was once the national dish of Australia, but it became a cliche. For a while it was hard to find a dessert menu without pavlova, but now it is hard to find one with it. Well, Quay came through, even if they had to give it another name. Thank you, Quay.

Our next day we spent exploring the botanical gardens. Australia was full of plants unfamiliar to the colonizing Europeans, so there is a botanical garden in every major city, a collection established as Europeans tried to figure out which plant was what. In Sydney it was even more fun, because the place was full of school kids learning a bit about history, so this meant old fashioned mob caps for the girls and old fashioned straw hats or tricorns for the boys. Australia has some pretty nasty history, so we hope they were being told some of the good stuff too.

Then we had our final dinner at Rockpool, another one of our favorites. We booked the regular Rockpool restaurant, but it had been turned into a temple of fine food and dining. We couldn't face it. We had an early flight home. Instead we went to their bar and grill where we had a crudo of mullet, tuna and ocean trout followed by the Kaleberg version of surf and turf. That's a huge grilled rock lobster with a side order of wagyu skirt steak and some killer wagyu beef fat fried potatoes. We're hoping our flight to Vancouver can handle the excess weight tomorrow.

It's not the Hells Gate Bridge in New York City. Hells Gate is a real place between Manhattan and Queens. This bridge is in Sydney.

Sydney from its harbor walk

The iconic opera house, once a symbol of architectural over-reach, now a beloved icon.

From the botanical garden

Australian Naval Power, though there was probably more in Warrnambool on the Great Ocean Road.

We're not sure what this was, but it's like the Belvedere in Manhattan.

One of the great old trees in the botanical garden

Keywords: australia

10/12 - Return to Dove Lake

For our last hike at Cradle Mountain we decided to return to Dove Lake and redo the prettiest part of the walk, the east coast with its lush rainforest and boardwalks right by the lakeside. It was a misty day, but despite this, we had a nice goodbye peek at Cradle Mountain. We also had a beautiful, mysterious walk.

Needless to say, we were exhausted at the end. We chowed down on the excellent cheeseburgers at the lodge. Wow, does Australia have great beef as well as great lamb. (Did we mention the seafood anywhere?) Then we collapsed before dinner. We were that tired.

Mysterious mountains

Gray skies and green walkways

The lake and the mists

More mysterious forest

Mountains and clouds

We love the way all sorts of stuff grows out of the rock here.

A last look at the lake

Keywords: australia

10/11 - Around Dove Lake

In the morning, it was raining at Cradle Mountain Lodge, but we decided to get going and hike anyway. We took the shuttle bus from the park entry station down to Dove Lake where it was wet and just barely drizzling and began our walk. The lake was gray, misty and glorious. We followed the trail past the Glacier Point lookout and then along the eastern shore of the lake.

The trail turned into a boardwalk built along the lake shore. Across the lake we could see several great waterfalls, but all along we surrounded by exotic vegetation. We could watch the mist rising and reforming. The drizzle stopped and restarted, but we had made a trip to REI right before our trip, so we were prepared.

The trail moved a bit inland and continued. We passed through the impossibly lush Ballroom Forest which lies at the foot of one of the large waterfalls we had seen from across the lake. We headed up and north paralleling the western shore. Looking back to the south we had glimpses of elusive Cradle Mountain itself. It is usually hidden in the mists, but as we watched the winds blew and mists swirled and thinned enough for us to get a glimpse of this icon of the park.

Soon we were at the boathouse. We carefully avoided taking any pictures. Our trip was full of enough cliches as it was.

A view of the lake

Another view with Cradle Mountain hidden in the mist

The boardwalk along the lake and some fascinating plants

A wooden staircase covered with chicken wire for better traction and to deter snakes

More exotic plants

One of the great waterfalls

An actual glimpse of Cradle Mountain

More waterfalls

Yet another waterfall

A better glimpse of Cradle Mountain

Goodbye to the lake

Keywords: australia, waterfall

10/10 - Crater Lake and the Assault on Marion's Lookout

We took the shuttle bus to a different starting point this time. We really like the shuttle bus system here. The road is narrow and dangerous, but the shuttle drivers are careful and experienced. As a bonus, you can start your hike at one stop and grab the shuttle back at another. It's a very sensible system.

We started at the Ronny Creek trailhead and made our way across the bogs and button grass to Crater Falls, a spectacular set of falls en route to Crater Lake. The bogs were green under the gray sky and as mysterious as the moors of England. In contrast, the Crater Falls section of the trail was green and sprightly, all boardwalk and wooden stairs as one followed the lively stream.

CraterLake itself was brooding. Here too was a boathouse and a bit further on a decision point. We considered heading down to Dove Lake where we had hiked the previous day. Instead, we tried to climb to Marion's Lookout. The trail started smoothly, then turned to steps. We were quite high up, probably not all that far from the peak, when it turned into a ladder and above the ladder a sort of vertical rocky way with a few chains for guidance. We were licked, and we knew it. We turned around and head back to Crater Lake.

Crater Falls

The bogs and the mountains

Bog land and bunch grass

One of the Crater Falls

Crater Lake in the mist

Bright flowers on a gray day

The view from our turning point

What we really didn't want to climb

Some trail

Some growth

Back to the bogs

Keywords: australia

10/10 - Cradle Mountain Views

Before coming to Cradle Mountain we had spoken with a number of people who had visited and on one point they were in agreement: we were unlike to get so much as a glimpse of Cradle Mountain proper. Now we did get to see a bit of it through the mist on our first full day hiking around Dove Lake, but we got better views on our second day.

The first glimpse was from the shuttle bus. An earlier driver had teased us holding up the pretty park brochure with its picture of the mountain and telling us that this is what we might be seeing except that the weather would make it extremely unlikely. Well, on our very second day, there it was, Cradle Mountain, looming through the mists.

That evening we set out for another view, walking straight from the lodge to the Dove Lake Trail. We crossed bogs then hill and dale. As we ascended in the late afternoon light we had yet another view of Cradle Mountain. We took lots of pictures so we'd have proof. It was a beautiful hike in any event, but spotting the elusive mountain was a real treat.

A wallabee on our front steps - Can you see the joey in her pouch?

Cradle Mountain from the shuttle bus - not quite as pretty as in the brochure

Bunch grass bog lands

Another view of Cradle Mountain - hah!

A more distant view

A view from the trail

A darker view of the mountain

A rock face to the east

The trail itself

Another bit of scenery

A wombat on our walk home

Keywords: australia

10/09 - Welcome to Cradle Mountain

It was a four hour drive from Freycinet to Cradle Mountain, half spent leaving the east and half spent driving into the mountains of the west. Not only was the mountain road twisty, but it was menaced by huge maintenance vehicles shoving around small mountains of mud and road debris. On the other hand, as soon as we saw our first wombat, we knew that the drive had been worth it.

We stayed at Cradle Mountain Lodge which is surrounded by trails. Our King Billy room, named for an aborigine leader, was surrounded by wallabees. There was one living below our deck and one outside our front door. There were wombats intensely cropping the grass looking like miniature hairy hippos. There were also crow like birds, currawongs, and one came to check out the new tenants.

The lodge was surrounded by hiking trails, so we took an evening walk down to see a few of the wonderful waterfalls. The air was cool and moist. The trail was easy to follow with good steps and lots of boardwalks through the marshy areas. The waterfalls were in full spate and spectacular. We didn't go very far, but we did manage to see Pencil Pine Falls, Knyvet Falls and a lot of rapid white water.

A more peaceful part of the drive as we approached the mountains

A wombat doing what wombats do

Our deck wallabee

Our porch wallabee - Every room has at least two.

A currawong

The trail along the river

A view from the trail

Knyvet Falls - The brownish water is full of leaves, dirt and tannins

Another view from the trail

One of the waterfalls

Another waterfall - There were so many of them.

Keywords: australia, waterfall

10/09 - King Billy and Enchanted Walks

King Billy was an aboriginal elder in this area back in the 19th century. The large pine trees they discovered here were named for him. The King Billy trail starts right at the lodge and passes through some amazing forest with trees that would be at home in the Hoh Rain Forest or the redwood forests of California. If nothing else, this part of Tasmania has lots of water, and that's something big trees need.

There's also a shorter trail along one of the streams here. It's perfect for an after dinner walk. It runs up the stream a ways to a bridge, then back along the other side. It features a waterfall, some rapids and some marvelous scenery.


The falls

More greenscape - It reminded us of home.

A wombat, not eating if you can believe that

This is a rufous wallabee, so it's extra large.

More greenscape

Note the meter wide trail to get a sense of the size of these trees.

A fallen giant

A field of button grass

Keywords: australia, waterfall

10/08 - Return to Wineglass Beach

One of the downsides of the Freycinet Peninsula is that there are only so many great day hikes near Coles Bay, so we decided to do the Wineglass Beach hike again, only this time returning directly rather than taking the longer, but easier, hike around the mountain.

The climb was familiar, as was the descent, but covering the same ground a second time gives a chance to see things again, but with different eyes. We also explored the beach a bit, and, being less focused on 'getting there', we could spend more time studying the plant life and enjoying the various rocks and boulders.

Rocks and boulders

The wonderfully done path to the lookout

Rocks and boulders above

Rocks and boulders at WIneglass Beach

Wineglass Beach

Rocks, boulders and twisted trees

A stand of rocks


More rocks and boulders

An eroded rock of some size

A wallabee, a joey and more rocks (Are you sensing a theme here?)

Keywords: australia

10/07 - A Not So Friendly Beach

The next day we headed up to the Friendly Beaches, a long strip of white sand beach a bit north of us. It was sunny when we made our way down to the beach, passing through the boulders and eroded rock that near the access. We headed south as the clouds darkened. We could see the mountains, including the one we had circumnavigated, to the south, through the thickening mist.

The beach was easy walking. There were plovers and oyster catchers and seagulls of various sorts. We stopped to explore a black rock intrusion. In Hawaii it would have been lava, but here we were unsure. We checked out the tide pools and continued south.

By now the rain had picked up along with the wind. We explored one of the coastal lagoons where it was more sheltered. Then we continued south again, but now the winds and rain were too much for us. We had good rain jackets, but now our pants and shoes were soaked.

We turned around and headed north, back to the car. As if acknowledging the wisdom of our choice, the sky lightened, and by the time we returned to the parking lot there was a sliver of blue in the sky above. It was a real adventure, but we can't say it was the most friendly beach we have ever explored.

Boulders and the beach

The view south with mountains barely visible

A rocky intrusion

Complete with tide pools

A fairly typical tide pool

An oyster catcher in the wind

One of the flowers - It was spring.

A lagoon

or perhaps a river

The wind and rain swept beach

Back to the boulders near the parking lot

Keywords: australia

10/06 - Exploring the Freycinet Peninsula

The Freycinet Peninsula is famous for its relatively isolated Wineglass Bay sand beach. It's only accessible by foot and requires a 150 meter climb over a ridge. The trail is steep enough, but well built and well maintained. There's a beautiful overlook where countless pictures of the bay have been taken. An awful lot of people turn around here. We continued down to WIneglass Bay, but we didn't stop to explore. Instead we cut inland and headed towards the more isolated Hazard Beach. We crossed wetlands on a boardwalk and passed marshy sink holes.

Hazard Beach was wild and lovely. We trudged across the sand and continued our hike. We were working our way around Mount Mayson, taking the long route back to the parking lot. Even as we climbed, the ground stayed sandy, but we had better views of the blue water and eroded stone formations above and below us. We passed through forests full of soil forming trees that reminded us of Hawaii's pioneer kiawe. The trail turned and turned again, slowly rising. We were sure the parking lot was not far for quite some time, but then, we heard the first SUV gunning its engine. We emerged from the wilderness part way up the extremely civilized trail to the lookout. We were on our way home.

The start of the trail

Wineglass Bay as photographed by thousands of others

WIneglass Bay as photographed by those intrepid enough to climb down to it

Grass trees with a seed spike

The boardwalks across the marshland

Hazard Beach

One of the marshy ponds

The local version of a kiawe forest

A view down from the trail

Rock formations above

Rocks below

Keywords: australia

10/05 - On to Freycinet

We headed northeast to the Freycinet Peninsula and checked in to the Saffire resort. Like Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island this was quite a work of architecture with its picture windows, oversized common spaces and multiple levels to explore. We spent nearly an hour just figuring out how all the lights and automatic window blind controls worked in our room.

Across Coles Bay we can see the mountains of the Freycinet Peninsula, but after our long drive we only have time to explore the beach below the hotel. We didn't go very far, but we did explore the lagoon and the rocks before dinner. Tomorrow, we'll set out to explore in earnest.

The view from our room - The camera was tilted due to the unlimited drinks package.

The little stream near the hotel

It was spring down there.

A healthy sea star - nice to see

The rocks by the beach

The beach from the hotel down to Coles Bay, the nearby town

The mountains without architectural interpretation

Keywords: australia

10/04 - Hobart, Tasmania

We made it to Hobart in Tasmania, and we've been exploring the city. We made our way to the Salamanca Market, an old section of town along the waterfront, then we climbed up to Battery Point and wandered the 19th century bungalows on the heights.

We stayed a ways from the city center at the Islington which is a wonderful boutique hotel full of the owner's art collection. Each of the common rooms is full of wonderful things ranging from historical ceramics to modern art prints.

Hobart harbor


One of our favorites

Our hotel, the Islington

The view from our room, a private garden

Keywords: australia

10/04 - Hobart Harbor and the Waters Around Bruny Island

We spent our day in Hobart on the water out on a Seafood Seduction tour. Our guide was Robert Pennicott who took us out on one of his faster boats to raid the wild waters south of town and eat what we could find and then some. It was quite a cruise with choppy water and high sea cliffs along the way. We passed by his old house, where he began his nautical career after convincing his parents to buy him his first boat and setting up a seafood business to pay for it. We also passed by his old elementary school which had an excellent view of the water which was probably more useful for his future career than whatever was on the blackboard.

We stopped by an oyster farm and grabbed a bag of local oysters, then stopped to check out a salmon farm surrounded by a cloud of seagulls and one curious looking seal. Then we anchored off a private island where Robert and his daughter Mia set out to catch us the rest of our dinner. She grabbed a bunch of spiny sea urchins and he came back with some wonderful abalone. The sea urchins we ate raw, the abalone with garlic, ginger and spicy chile peppers. A few lobsters who had "just come along for the ride" joined our feast and were quite delicious.

The cliffs

More cliffs and choppy water

One of the sea caves

A salmon farm

Watching for escapees

Where we anchored for lunch

Our host and hostess preparing to catch dinner

A sea urchin

A sea eagle


Our lobster friends

Keywords: australia, eagle

10/03 - Melbourne

After a night in the charming seaside town of Apollo Bay, we made it into Melbourne. The drive was beautiful, but challenging, with twists and turns and spectacular ocean views. Melbourne was a more serious driving challenge with bizarre driving rules, special lanes for making right turns from the left lane, tram traffic, pedestrian traffic and heavy machinery chewing up critical roads between us and our Thrifty car rental return garage.

Melbourne reminded us of New York with its hustle and bustle and urban sensibility. In contrast, Sydney was Los Angeles with its less formal manner. We wandered the city center with its streets and alleys and arcades, but we had dinner out in Saint Kilda, down by the waterfront. We spent the next day exploring more of Saint Kilda, checking out sea birds, the parks and esplanade, and watching the downtown skyline from the distance.

In town we found a cake supply shop, several book stores, fashionable clothing stores and a partially hidden Chinatown where we had fabulous freshly made dumplings. The main streets are wide with bus lanes and car lanes and acres of pedestrians. The alleys are bustling and lined with restaurants and fascinating shops.

We only had two nights and one full day in Melbourne. Next time, we'll stay longer.

The skyline as seen from St. Kilda


More downtown

Fashionable clothing, at least for Martians

Ooh, cake decorations!

There's a bit of Venice (California) in Melbourne.

Wild beaches not far from downtown

More downtown, between traffic lights

Not quite New York, but a promising skyline

The view from across the river

Bicycle lanes and one of the bizarre, get left and wait for the light, then right turn lanes - either that or street corner suduko

Keywords: australia, los angeles

10/02 - More of the Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road has a number of fantastic eroded limestone features. We stopped at most, but not all of them. There were just too many. We had to stop at the Twelve Apostles, and so did everyone else. There was a huge car park here, full of cars, and a visitor center full of souvenirs and junk food. It was hard not to get into the spirit of things. We took the underpass to the ocean and joined the throng.

The scenery did not disappoint, but after the Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands, we knew what to expect. We wandered the walkways and checked out the various viewpoints. The stone formations were beautiful as were the sea and sky.

It was impossible to get down to the water from here, but just a few kilometers down the road were the Gibson Steps. The descent looked daunting, but the steps were well designed. The beach was broad and the rock formations fascinating. We took pictures of a young couple posed on a rock. They spoke Mandarin, which has replaced Japanese as the second language of tourism in Australia, but we used the universal sign language of tourists everywhere and hope we added a bit to their vacation.

The road turned inland. There were a number of turn offs which lead to the Great Ocean Walk, a hiking trail along the coast, but we really didn't have time for the side trails. We did check out the Otway lighthouse, but there were only limited options for exploring here. We did see a koala in a tree by the roadside and we spotted an echidna in the parking lot, so we weren't disappointed.

Keywords: australia

10/02 - Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs

The Great Ocean Road is one of the great drives of Australia, comparable to the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Almost everyone stops at The Twelve Apostles, but fewer know about the Bay of Martyrs which has an even more amazing collection of rockstacks, coastal columns of eroded limestone decorated with carve outs, wild vegetation and sea tunnels. Right next door is the Bay of Islands, a set of wild beaches and headlands.

We spent some time admiring the "martyrs", then even more time wandering along the coast, following the trails and staircases down to small beaches or out onto shrub covered rocky redoubts. We probably would have explored even more, but we had kilometers to travel and there was more to see.

The Bay of Martyrs

More martyrs

More of the bay

Islands or martyrs? Your guess is as good as ours.

One of the sea caves

One of the islands

Another bird enjoying the view

Eroded rock formations

More of the coast

Keywords: australia

10/01 - Port Fairy

Port Fairy is a tourist town, but it has a lot to offer. We stayed at Oscar's and dined at the Merrijig Inn. The town is at the mouth of a river and is still full of boats. We could walk from our hotel out to the dock which ran along the river, and we followed the track out to Griffiths Island. The dock led to a park and the park had causeways out past the marshes and tidal inlets to a surprisingly wild place. We didn't explore much, as dinner beckoned and it was getting dark, but Griffiths Island was green and grassy and wild as it faced the sea.

The docks run along the Moyne River.

Causeways lead out to Griffiths Island.

The island is wild and grassy.

Did we mention wild?

Merrijig's Inn had surprisingly good food.

Keywords: australia

September 2014October 2014 November 2014