A Travellerspoint blog

January 2017

Bye, bye bush - hello town

Geraldton, Sandy Bay, Pinnacles NP, Cervantes, Wedge Island

sunny 28 °C
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As we reached Geraldton, we ended up in afternoon rush-hour. This had not been an issue in our travels so far. Latest by then, we realized that we had left the bush and reached the more populated areas of Western Australia. After all, Geraldton with its 25.000 inhabitants is the largest town between the 4000 km that separate Perth and Darwin. Still, a couple of traffic lights later, we reached our campground close to the harbour and the lighthouse.

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It had been on purpose that we stopped in Geraldton and did not simply pass through. After all, it was only ten days until Christmas and we wanted to get our shopping done. Geraldton was a perfect place for doing so. We were successful in all respects. While Sam and Max did the grocery shopping at Coles, I had enough time at Target’s next door to choose potential presents. And as Max then headed directly to a TV, Sam and I were able to go through together and to choose what we wanted to actually buy. Perfect! Christmas shopping had never been so easy!
After our successful session of power shopping, it was time to get Max some exercise. We went to the foreshore and were astounded by the multitude of playgrounds for all ages. Once Max had explored the first playground, we walked five minutes for him to tackle an even bigger play structure. And in its back we even discovered an animated feature that allowed us to play against each other trying to touch as many light up points as possible - very cool and lots of fun also for adults. I had never seen such sound and light speed games before, but it was definitively a lot of fun. And the location at the foreshore with its calm beaches was excellent as well.

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Back at our campground, it was time to deal with some planning topics. After all, a month later we’d be leaving Western Australia and before leaving it helps to have the next leg of our adventure prepared: i.e. I booked a flight, a place to stay in Sydney and we discussed how to approach transport in NZ. And despite the fact, that Jetstar had given us a 300 AUD voucher for answering late on my complaint and for our troubles on the journey from the Cook Islands to Sydney, we preferred to book Virgin Australia for our flight back to Sydney.
After a good night’s sleep and a nice chat with Scotsman Alan, who’s been traveling around Australia in their bus already for more than two years, it was time to leave Geraldton to discover the last stretch of coast before getting to Perth.
There were lots of turn offs to the beach along the turquoise coast. Eventually Sam picked the one leading to Sandy Bay for our location for lunch. The beach was great and also the campground looked pleasant. The only downside to the campground was, that it seemed very full. It was time to realize that getting closer to Perth and getting closer to the Christmas holidays which were to begin in the next days, this will clash with our current style of traveling. After all, up to now it had never been an issue anywhere to get a campground last minute. Since we had come to Western Australia, we had not reserved a single camp site in advance. And we were not quite ready to change our approach to traveling radically: prearranging campsites for the remainder of our trip would have meant to give up the luxuries of staying longer where we like it and passing through if we did not feel like stopping.
Sandy Bay surprised us with its fine white sand. We had not stood on such fine sand since Cable Beach back in Broome. The beach was very sheltered from the wind and the water was extremely calm, reminding us of Bahia Conception in Mexico. A nice combination!

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Up at the look out over the peninsula, it was very windy again, but the view was certainly worth it. And Max enjoyed running up the dunes and jumping down. With Jim from Canberra, he had his perfect partner in crime and both were having lots of fun. After all, Jim and Debbie were just waiting for their grandson to arrive a couple of days later and Jim was keen to get some practice already in advance.

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Even though it was tempting to stay in Sandy Bay, we had still some more plans in the pocket for that afternoon. We wanted to see the Pinnacles in Naumburg NP in the afternoon. And it was a good decision to go there so late in the day, as the light was just perfect and made the yellow sand and rocks glow.

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For the night, we stayed at Cervantes close to the beautiful and deserted beach. But as soon as the sun had set, we got chilly and were ready to head to our camp for the night.

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On our drive south the next morning, we were pleased to see the vegetation changing once more. We were passing through endless fields of grass trees, sometimes with blindingly white dunes in the middle of the landscape.

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Eventually, we turned towards Wedge Island. Not knowing what exactly to expect, we were very pleased when the road suddenly ended on a great beach. There was hardly anyone around except a couple of fishermen. And the beach was glorious. Well, in fact there was a beach to both sides of the long stretch leading to Wedge Island. What a great spot and without a single other tourist around.

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It’s the discoveries like this which make traveling so exciting – very often we do not know what exactly to expect. It might be just an ‘interesting’ spot or a real gem. And as tastes are different, guidebooks might be helpful in pointing out nice places, but they will never replace the fun of just having a go and checking things out ourselves.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:37 Archived in Australia Tagged shopping island sand rock dune lighthouse playground Comments (1)

Around Perth

Yanchep NP, Joondalup, Freemantle, Rockingham

sunny 30 °C
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As we reached the Northern suburbs of Perth, we were keen to have lunch. It was not really on purpose that we ended up at Yanchep NP. It was probably just good fortune, as we realized soon after getting there. First and foremost, we did find the BBQ station we had been looking for in order to grill our burgers for lunch. There were a couple of cheeky cockatoos around, keen to get a bit from our lunch. They were not lucky – we ate everything ourselves.

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Well fed, we headed towards the grove of gums that is home for ten koalas. We managed to spot seven of them up in the trees. After all, sleeping up in the trees, they are camouflaged very well.

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Even though Max was keen on finding all ten koalas, we convinced him successfully to rather check out which other animals we can find. And soon enough, we came across lots of kangaroos and observed cuter birds playing in the water of the lake. The hike around the lake was beautiful and we were happy that we had stayed to explore the park.

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Anyhow, we liked the national park very much and also wanted to stay for the night. And soon after we had set up camp, we were in for a big surprise: Guido, Lucia and Emia, who we had met already back in Coral Bay were there as well. While Max was excited to play with Emia, Sam and I were happy to talk with our nice friends again. And we had great conversations about traveling in Asia – after all we were just in the process of making up our mind where to go after New Zealand and having traveled Asia extensively, we got some excellent input from Guido and Lucia. While we talked, we were treated to a colorful sunset and could listen to the sound of some laughing Kookaburras in the trees above us.

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The next morning, were in for another surprise. Getting into Perth, I wanted to do some shopping at Aldi. With Christmas coming closer, we were all keen to get some typical German sweets like Lebkuchen. The Joondalup Aldi seemed to be along our route, so we went there. We had not realized in advance that it is located in Western Australia’s largest mall. And a week before Christmas, the place was packed with people. We were quite overwhelmed and fought our way through the crowds until we eventually found the Aldi store.
The mall also featured a huge food court. It was very noisy, but at least we got excellent and quick food. And once again, we met our Swiss friends, who were just as surprised about the size of the shopping center.
Coming from the North of Western Australian, we were not really used to so many people anymore. So we decided to keep the discovery of Perth until the very end our stay in Western Australia and headed directly to Fremantle.
Fremantle is not only a bit smaller and cozier than Perth, but it also features a busy port. Just to find out a bit more about the size of the container ships in the harbor, I googled the MSC Flaminia and found myself engulfed in a thriller like story of a big fire in 2012 with dangerous goods on board, many European harbors not wanting to accept a disaster ship like that and eventually being unloaded in a German port before having the middle section of the ship repaired in Romania. What a story – and what a coincidence that I had not googled the name of any other ship laying in the harbor.
Our destination was the Esplanade Youth Skatepark. It had been Max’ idea and Sam and I were perfectly fine with that idea. After all, we did not feel like doing lots of sightseeing anyhow. Just sitting as the side of the track with hot tea and cake and having a chat was just the right thing to do.
We soon got talking with some of the locals, such as Tony who emigrated from Italy and has was pretty vocal about ‘hating’ his mother country. In comparison to the collusion and corruption there, Australia is the perfect place for him to be. Luckily for us, he knew exactly what kids (and as a result of that also their parents) like and made me write down a list of the best playgrounds in and around Perth. Perfect!

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This being the first weekend of school holidays, we were lucky to have called our campground in advance (a first), as otherwise we would have not gotten a site anymore when we arrived.
The next day was dedicated to exploring Fremantle. Starting from the skate park, we explored the fishing boat harbor. Sam pointed out the statue of AC/DC founding member Bon Scott to me, who was long dead by the time we went to the Bucharest AC/DC concert six years ago.

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We got to the Round House with perfect timing to experience the firing of the 1pm cannon ball. This is still performed daily, in memory of the times when ships required to have the precise time in order to being able to navigate.

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We had lunch in town at the excellent SpudBar that had been recommended to us – potatoes with lots of different fillings. For anyone like me who loves boiled potatoes, this is just a great idea!

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A tour of Fremantle would not have been without a stop at the historic prison – a World Heritage Site - and the Fremantle market. And Max’s highlight came at the very end: we had promised to him that he’d be able to spend some more time biking in the skate park again.

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Back at camp, every one of us had plans: Max biked around the park with other kids, Sam went for an extensive run to Woodman Point and I did a bit of typing and researching - a good base for a nice evening in which everyone was happy.

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The next morning, we headed south along the coast to see what is there to be explored. Our first stop was at Peron Point in Rockingham, a nice peninsula with great views. But as it was very windy, this is not where we wanted to stay for lunch.

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We rather went to an adventure playground that was located along our way south. What a great playground. Max was happy and very busy. We enjoyed watching him play. After all, very often he is happily putting up with our ideas of what we’d like to see and do, so it’s just fair when he gets to go to places he loves.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 10:23 Archived in Australia Tagged koala harbour fort market town shopping prison hike mall kangaroo playground skate Comments (0)

In possum habitat

Yalgorup NP, Busselton

sunny 34 °C
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After two nights at a commercial big caravan park, we longed for a quiet place to stay for the night. We found exactly what we were looking for at Yalgorup National Park. The Martin’s Tank campground was fairly big and almost empty, so we got to pick a great shady spot close to the camp kitchen.
We had known that the national park is protecting a couple of lakes that are important wetlands for migrating birds. But we were surprised to learn that it is also the home for a couple of endangered marsupials.
We were in fact lucky and got to see some of them. A quenda passed through our campsite on our first evening. And later that night when Sam and I were still sitting outside working at the laptop and reading, a small possum family visited our camp. The furry animals were not afraid of us at all, exploring everything and even passing underneath the chairs we were sitting on. Very cute!

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The next morning, we decided to stay for one more night. After all, we had not had a really calm day for almost two weeks and we were happy to take it easy and just do nothing special. Max enjoyed playing with his cars in the sand, while we read, typed and edited pictures.
That evening, the possums stopped by again – this time even early enough such that Max was able to see them.

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It’s really nice to have wildlife so close and that’s probably one of the reasons we like staying in national parks. Still, as long as we’re talking about cute marsupials, this is certainly true. The statement is not true at all though, in regards to the creepy small animals around. The monster ants were leaving me alone, so that was no issue. But I just hate ticks and as soon as I discovered, that there are some gigantic ones around, I simply tried to keep my feet away from the ground when seated. Only once Sam started excitedly to take pictures of the spider that was just crawling up the back of my camping chair, it was enough and I headed up into the roof top tent. Luckily enough, the tent is far enough away from the ground and equipped with window screens, such that I was able to feel safe there.

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The next morning, Sam was keen to get some exercise and went for a run with Max biking next to him. A couple of km further along the road I picked them up again and we headed to the beach in Bunburry.
We had lunch right next to the beach and took a dip in the water before heading on. Getting into South Western Australia, it was time to start tasting some of its renown wines. The Capel Vale winery was a nice place with excellent wines. We were the only guests and Anja from Heilbronn served us around ten different wines to taste. The first two wines were the best and after a fun hour of tasting and having great chats about lots of things, we ended up buying a bottle of each.

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At the Busselton RAC campground, we were welcomed by Lucia. Back in Yanchep NP we had agreed to stay at the same campground with our Swiss friends for three nights. And even though the office staff had not known about us knowing each other, they had placed us directly next to each other. Great!
Once we explored the campground, we realized that it had perfect facilities. Behind the playground which also featured a big bouncing pillow, there was also a big bike park. In addition to that, there was a nice camp kitchen, just a couple of steps from our camp, a game room and a daily movie night with kids’ movies.
While Emia and Max were sitting in the hammock playing TipToi, the adults had a great time talking about traveling, building methods for houses, kids… We could have talked the whole night, but eventually it was time to take the kids to bed and to get some sleep ourselves.
The next day it was burning hot, a consequence of the first tropical storm of this season in Broome. That was a good reason for us to take it easy and stay at the campground and in its pleasant pool.
Also the evening was very quiet with reading, blog writing, picture editing, movies.
After a lazy day, we were keen to explore Busselton. We started at the biggest attraction: the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. The jetty looked long, but only once we had walked all the way out to the end, we realized that it was almost 1800m long. On the way back we noticed some dolphins in the water below the jetty. And Sam got a nice snapshot of an eagle with his lucky catch.

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After our lunch break at the playground, it was time to cool off. The water bounce park was just too tempting and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

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Back at the campground we had an invitation to dinner waiting for us on our table which Emia had nicely written for us. What a pleasant surprise – especially as we were anyhow very hungry already.
The next morning, it was our time to cook Kaiserschmarrn for them as a good-bye breakfast. It had been very nice to meet them again and we’ll see if and where we’ll meet again – Australia, NZ Germany, Switzerland or elsewhere.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 22:41 Archived in Australia Tagged park beach walk spider possum jetty bounce Comments (1)

Aussie Christmas

Cape Naturaliste, Margaret River

sunny 28 °C
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After two relaxed days in Busselton, we were keen to explore the coast on the way to Margaret River. Our first stop was at the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse for taking a walk to the whale lookout. As whale watching season is over already, we were it was not too surprising that we did not see any. Instead we got to see a seal playing in the waters below us.

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A short ride in the car brought us to Bunker Bay, where we found a nice and secluded spot for lunch. Our only companion was a big lizard that seemed not to take notice of our presence.

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At Sugarloaf Rock, we had hoped to see a couple of phaetons that are supposed to nest there. Even though we did not see any, the detour was certainly worth it: the coastline was spectacular with the waves hitting the rocky coast. And it was not only us enjoying the waves: a pod of dolphins surfed the waves seemingly having lots of fun in the process.

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But not only the dolphins were keen to surf the waves. At Yallingup Beach there were lots of kite surfers enjoying the powerful wind and the breaks coming in.

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Finally, it was time to drive the last couple of kilometers to Margaret River, where we planned to be over Christmas. Along the way, we passed at least 20 wineries, some distilleries and a couple of specialty food places, like a very tempting chocolate factory. We resisted the temptation to make a stop at any of the nicely landscaped places and headed on.
After all, our campground featured not only a pool, but also a bouncing pillow. That is a guarantee that Max will have fun and consequently we’d be happy as well – an important prerequisite for Christmas.
Also the weather treated us to a special pre-Christmas present. As we soon realized, it was not windy anymore. Since back in Exmouth and Coral Bay, we’d been getting used to (and sometimes upset about) the constant heavy winds that made even the hottest days feel chilly and uncomfortable. And suddenly, just in time for Christmas, the wind was gone!
Life is good. And even more so when it’s Christmas Eve and the day starts already with a traditional and relaxed breakfast: rolls with salmon and horseradish with sparkling wine from Capel Vale. Max was happy with his choice of jam instead of salmon and apple juice instead of sparkling wine.
Another tradition of the Dorner family is to take a hike up a mountain in the afternoon. Due to the acute lack of mountains around Margaret River, we skipped the mountain part of the tradition and went for a simple walk into the town of Margaret River instead. We made it all the way to the River and the Rotary Park before going back to our campground.

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After all, we were ready for having our Christmas Eve dinner. And contrary to what we usually have, this time we went for the classical Aussie Christmas meal. In other words: we headed to the ‘barbie’ and had steak and sausages with mashed potatoes and a glass of white wine to go with it.
It is not necessarily straight forward to create a traditional Christmas celebration, when outside it’s sunny and warm and there’s not even a living room to set up a Christmas tree in. Despite the challenges, it still seemed like an almost ‘normal’ Christmas, starting with the ringing of a bell up in the rooftop tent. And when Max got to check what’s up there, there was a (painting of a) tree, there were presents, cookies and mulled apple juice.
Once all carols were sung, wishes exchanged, presents opened, we had a very pleasant evening. Calling home, playing with Max’ new presents and simply enjoying the moment.

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Christmas Day is the big day for the Australians and we were surrounded by Christmas carols and greetings. As we had celebrated already the day before, we took it easy. Sam edited probably two weeks’ worth of pictures while I swam, jumped and played with Max.

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It had been a very peaceful Christmas indeed. Different than usual, but very close to the ‘normal’ version we’re used to.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:53 Archived in Australia Tagged river walk breakfast kite christmas aussie lighthouse dolphin surfer present barbie Comments (2)

Empty beaches – access with 4WD only

D’Entrecasteaux NP - Black Point, Beedelup NP, Warren NP, Northcliffe, Moore’s Hut, Valley of the Giants Ecopark

rain 23 °C
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After our relaxing Christmas Holidays in Margaret River, we headed off on Boxing Day. Our first stop was Surfers Point, one of the most famous breaks along the Margaret River coast. The waves coming in were really big and there were lots of surfers tackling them. At first we were surprised how many senior surfers were in the water (or rather going in and out), but we soon realized that such kind of waves are not suitable for beginners.

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As we were sitting in the sunshine next to our Swiss friends, we did not realize that this would be the last sunshine for a while. And considering that we had sunshine almost all along, checking the weather forecast for the coming days has never become a habit.
We took the nice drive through the old jarrah forest along Boranup Drive. At the lookout, we had a nice view towards Cape Leeuwin the South-Western most point of Australia. And we realized that it did not make a lot of sense to go all the way down to the cape, as rain clouds were looming in that direction. In a sense, the bad weather was at least very helpful in our decision making, as we had not been able to make up our mind so far in regards to going to the cape or not.

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So we filled our tank and headed off to D’Entrecasteaux National Park. After all, Sam had been wanting to do some more offroad driving anyhow and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the 4WD tracks to the campground at Black Point.
After a bit of rather normal graving road, we were in for a surprise: the road was blocked by a car that was just being loaded onto a trailer after having managed to lose a wheel in the deep sand ahead of us. We used the waiting time to let our tire pressure down and then headed on along a very beautiful, narrow one way path that eventually led us to the campground close to the beach.

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Once arrived, we were happy to get everything set up in time before the rain set in. It was really unpleasant cold rain, enhanced by mighty gusts of wind. As we were mentally prepared to just head up into the roof top tent for the remainder of the day, the rain stopped and we had a hike to the beautiful beach.

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We soon realized why it’s called ‘stepping stones’: similar to the basalt columns we had seen at Devil’s Postpile in California, also here the cooling of a lava flow had created that phenomenon. But not only the columns were nice. We also enjoyed the scenery, the lonely beach and the nice sunset over Australia’s southern coast.

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In the night, a loud thunderstorm raged around us and it was raining heavily. While Max was sound asleep, Sam and I lay awake in the tent and where wondering if we’d be able to leave the national park again after so much rain. Eventually, Sam set the alarm clock for 6am to have a chat with the neighbors at camp to get their opinion on the conditions for driving out and which of the three tracks to choose. After consulting with them, we decided to take another track out vs. the one we had come in on the day before. And in fact, Black Point Road was only deep sand in a few bits, but was less of an issue in wet conditions than yesterday’s track would have been. Still, we were relieved that we had made it out onto the gravel road without any bigger troubles. Under the watchful eyes of a monitor lizard, it was a matter of minutes to activate the compressor and adjust the tire pressure back up.

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After our early start into the day, we explored Beedelup NP with the Beedelup Falls and a nice suspension bridge.

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Later we headed on to Warren NP to climb up the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree with its fire watch lookout at 65m height. Admittedly, both of us turned around halfway when realizing how high already those 30m felt on a tree that is moving with the wind.

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In Pemberton, we stopped at the local information center to inquire about the road conditions to reach Moore’s Hut, another 4WD track in D’Entrecasteaux NP that we wanted to attempt tomorrow.
As it was already rather late in the day and I was keen on having a phone connection to upload a new blog entry, we opted not to head into the National Park right away, but to spend the night in Northcliffe which featured a nice skatepark for Max.

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The rain forced us to spend most of our time in the camp kitchen in the company of a large huntsman spider and of a nice young couple from the UK. They are doing a year of work and travel in Australia, but interestingly they did come via China where they got with the Trans-Siberian Railway. It was great having a chat with them on their experiences on the train and in Mongolia and as usual, we were inspired ourselves after hearing first-hand what they had seen and done.

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The other attraction of the evening was a nice campfire. Surprisingly, all Aussies were really excited about the fire. We had not realized to which extent there are complete fire bans over months for whole regions. For Northcliffe, the absolute fire ban will only be starting a couple of days later. Thanks to the heavy rains of the last two days, a fire permit had been granted to the campground under the condition that the owner (a fire fighter) has a cubic meter of water with a pump located directly next to the fire.
The next morning, Sam got to do some more offroad driving. After a long stretch of gravel road, we eventually got to the deep sand bits to Moore’s Hut. And we were happy that we did not camp there ourselves, as the place was quite crowded. We continued the last two kilometers to the beach which we had for ourselves. The beach was beautiful and pretty wild. Due to the heavy winds, the looming rain clouds and the cold, it had a very special atmosphere. Who knows if we would have liked it as much on calm sunny day.

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The drive out of the national park was even nicer than the drive in. But still, it had been a lot of driving by the time we reached our place for the night in the ‘Valley of the Giants’.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 17:12 Archived in Australia Tagged beach tree sand camp fire offroad climb granite 4wd Comments (1)

Closing out a great year 2016

Valley of the Giants, Walpole – Nornalup NP, William Bay NP, Albany

overcast 22 °C
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The Southern Forests are dotted with national parks. Their most well-known attraction is the tree top walk in Walpole-Nornalup National Park through one of the rare red tingle forests. As we reached the carpark, it was apparent that this is the time when all Aussies seem to be traveling. It was like a zoo with people. Luckily we somehow found a parking spot and got our tickets.
The tree top walk itself was simply spectacular. Via a ramp we walked up to 40m from where bridges connected various platforms at that height. It was a completely different perspective of the forest, but also the structure itself was fascinating.

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The walk along the bottom of the tingle forest was very nice as well. And luckily, the masses dispersed a bit as we hiked on. Still, it was really crowded and we only realized when leaving how lucky we had been to arrive early in the morning. By the time we left, the line to buy tickets ended all the way out in the carpark while in the morning there was hardly anyone in front of us. It had been nice seeing the tree top walk, but we were not sad to leave the crowds.

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We headed to the coves of William Bay NP. Elephants Cove was really nice and we enjoyed seeing the big rocks in the turquoise waters. Green’s Pool on the other hand was extremely crowded and after having had a glimpse, we decided to rather head on.

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After all, we did not have a reservation for a campground yet and it was already 4pm in the afternoon. While Sam and Max went shopping in Denmark, I called one campground after the other to find out that most of them have been booked out already for weeks. Eventually I was lucky after all: Carol at the Albany Holiday Park promised to keep a site for me if we arrived by 5pm. Even though Albany was still a 50km drive away, we managed and were happy to have a site secured in this busy holiday period.
With New Year’s Eve approaching, we did some research and found out that the only firework displays in that region will be taking place in Albany and in Esperance. Rather than rushing those 500km east to Esperance, we decided to stay in Albany until New Year’s Day.
Albany is a nice town to explore with lots of historical buildings from the early settlement of Western Australia remaining. It is also known for its role in world war I having been the last port of call for the troops heading to Europe and ultimately Gallipoli. That might also be the reason that it is the location of the national Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Center, that had been built for the centennial celebration of the forces leaving in October 2014.
We opted to rather explore the nearby Princess Royal Fortress vs. the Anzac Center in Heritage Park. The reinforcements in the hills with its cannons protecting the harbor reminded us a bit of what we had seen at Fort Casey or Fore Ebey in Washington State. Except that in the Us we would probably not have come across a bandicoot.

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Then it was time to go into town. We had deserved a break in a local café. When strolling by the old town hall building a little later, we were invited in. Just then an art exhibition of local artists was opening and we were among the first people getting to have a look.

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Back at the campsite, we had a great BBQ and worked on our blog in an attempt to catch up. Considering how far we’re behind, this effort continued also on New Year’s Eve. Anyhow, after a couple of days in a row of exploring, it helped to have a rather quiet day again.
In the late afternoon, we headed off to a rather special skate park called snake run, winding its way down a hill. There was quite a crowd of people at the skate park. The adults sitting together having relaxed chats while their kids hit the track.
Seeing some probably five-year olds hit the snake run on their tricycles at top speed, it was obvious that they did not do that for the first time. Otherwise their parents might not have watched them with such an ease of mind amidst the excitement and fun of all the other onlookers. But an older guy taking on the track sitting on a skateboard had the full attention of the crowd and caused a big roar of laughter when he eventually fell off.
Amidst that fun, Max hit the track with his bike. And a couple of minutes later Sam joined him on a bike he borrowed from one of the people watching who lived next door. Its hard to tell who of the two had more fun.

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Eventually, Sam had exhausted enough energy and sat down for having a chat again, while Max continued with his seemingly endless energy. Unfortunately, his concentration is not endless and eventually Max jumped and fell hard. Luckily, he had been wearing his helmet and other than a bloody lip, a bruise on the forehead and a scratched elbow.
While we would have preferred for Max not ending up in a fall like that, the incident got us invited at the New Year’s Eve party of the people living next to the skate park. The party also celebrated their good bye before heading off on a yearlong travel through New Zealand and Australia. We found enough topics to talk about.
Eventually, we joined them in hiking up the hill behind their house to watch the fireworks from Mount Clarence. Conveniently enough, most Australian cities offer two fireworks: the family fireworks at 9pm and the midnight firework. It was a great firework and we all enjoyed the displays. with its smiling faces and the outline of Australia lighting up in the harbor below us.

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An hour later, we were home again and Max was sound asleep in the roof top tent. With private fireworks being absolutely forbidden and not even available for sale and the official firework displays taking place a couple of kilometers away in the harbor, this marks probably the quietest year change we’ve experienced so far (and potentially ever will?!?). Also at the campground no one seemed to be celebrating, so Sam and I were on our own dancing the traditional Viennese Waltz at midnight and toasting with sparkling wine. And thanks to Irmi and Lotte’s well timed call at one minute after midnight, we even got to exchange new year’s greetings with family – just as usual. And yes, we could not refrain from sending out some messages to friends and family to tell them that for us the new year has already started seven hours earlier than if we would have been back home.
Despite the fact that 2016 was seven hours shorter than a normal year, it definitively was filled with many more impressions and learnings than probably every single other year in our lives so far. And the outlook is very positive for 2017: almost certainly, it will be an equally exciting year as well!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:13 Archived in Australia Tagged fort rock forest quiet firework anzac newyear cove skate treetop Comments (1)

Start into 2017 - more exciting than expected

Porongurup NP, Tozer’s Bush Camp, Fitzgerald River NP, Wagin

32 °C
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New Year’s Day greeted us with the first sunshine for almost a week. That was great news, as we had not gone to Porongurup National Park so far hoping for nice weather. In the national park, we headed to Castle Rock and hiked our way up to the Granite Skywalk. The last bit was a fun scramble through and up the rocks and the reward for it was a spectacular view down into the plains far below us.

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We were not the only ones greeting the new year with a hike. But after our hike we were lucky to get a nice picnic spot and were able to use one of the free barbecue stations to make our lunch. The drive to Tozer’s Bush Camp close to Bremer Bay led us through some nice nature reserves.

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It had been a long day and we were happy once we arrived and could spend the rest of the evening in the big but cosy camp kitchen. Once the rugby fans were gone, it got more quiet and only few people remained. By coincidence someone switched TV channels and ended up at the New Year‘s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. We watched the full concert - just like every year. Except that this time we were in the middle of the Australian bush and had the luxury of being able to watch the concert in the evening vs. having to get up early in the morning to see it - after partying until the early hours of New Year's Day.
The next morning, we headed to the information center in Bremer Bay to inquire about the status of the roads in nearby Fitzgerald River National Park. Unfortunately, the people there were not really knowledgeable and seemed to talk about roads that they had never seen themselves.
We headed off into the national park and soon realized that the road we took was probably unpassable a couple of days earlier when it had rained. By now the road was passable again, but the bumps and holes in the road were a proof of other cars having gotten stuck. We passed without any issues – except being shaken to the bone and soon enough got into the sandier parts that made for more comfortable driving. Eventually we headed to House Beach and parked on the white fine sand – finer even than Cable Beach. When running over the sand, it even squeaked – a funny sound that I’d usually associate with gyms, but not with sandy beaches.

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After an extensive break during which several cars drove past us and went further along the beach, we decided to do the same in order to find a camp further up at Gordon Inlet or Point Anne. Gordon Inlet seemed not too tempting and so we continued along the beach further north.
At first, the drive was fun. On the hard sand, it was easy driving with the sea to our right and the dunes on the left. And romantically enough, we had the beach for ourselves. A bit later, we realized that all of that was not really too positive: at the point, when we eventually got bogged in the by then very soft sand, there was no one around to help us. And the sea would return eventually above the point where we were stuck with our heavy vehicle.
So I did what I do best in such situations: I panicked. And while Sam tried to stay calm, I eventually managed to make him nervous as well. Luckily enough, we had already some practice in getting other cars out of the sand. We reduced further our tire pressure, got the sand boards into position and edged our way slowly upwards further away from the waves.
Unfortunately, the edging away was only a couple of centimeters up at a time until we got stuck a couple of meters further on. Eventually we used our UHF radio system several times to see if there are other people around who might be able to help, but without response.
After like ten trials or so, we had gained maybe a meter upwards (not in height, but in distance from the waves) and I had calmed down to the point that I agreed to Sam’s proposal that he runs back along the beach. After all, we had passed someone camping in the dunes an estimated two kilometers back from where we were stuck.
In the meantime, while Sam was running back, I kept trying to gain more centimeters upwards. All gains were earned very hard and required digging the wheels and sand boards out every couple of minutes again and again.
As Sam ran back, he soon realized that it must have been further away than just two kilometers where we had passed that tent. Only once he had run for seven kilometers in the soft sand, he finally reached it. In there he met ‘Digger’, a friendly chap living there on the beach for several weeks in summer, who was happy enough to get some change and pleased to be able to help.
When they came along in Digger’s car, Max and I were really excited and happy to see them. Along with the thanks that I had made it quite a way up on the beach, they got to work right away. They decided to reduce the tire pressure even more to below 15psi. Already that helped enormously and with a single try Sam made probably 15m before getting stuck resulting in a full meter further away from the water. That was far enough to get the recovery kit to use and Digger helping with pulling us out.

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Latest by then, my panic had subsided and my mind was willing to allow other things than just digging and driving. So I got the camera and made a couple of shots to document the ordeal and the lucky ending with Digger pulling us out. Once also our car had made it up into the drive-able tracks along the upper end of the beach, both cars turned around and we headed back to Digger’s camp.

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The drive back in the tracks was fairly easy and we were happy not having to dig ourselves out anymore. Even though I was keen to just get off that beach as soon as somehow possible, we had to stop at Digger’s place to have a beer together. After all, who knows if we would have been able to even get out of where we were stuck by then.
Digger shared a couple of stories with us, told us about his life at the beach and the great salmon fishing. By the time we had finished our beers, we were ready to go. To avoid any further complications, we decided to simply go back to the place where we had gotten onto the beach and camped directly there, behind the dunes. After all, it was dark already and we were simply exhausted.
The next morning, Sam joked about driving onto the beach once more, but only to see my stern reaction that I’d veto any movements on the beach for the future, at least not whenever driving a rental car without any other cars around that are prepared to help.
We just walked down to the beach and had an enjoyable morning there. Down there, we realized that the tide had come all the way up to the dunes during the night. Lucky us, that we had managed to leave the beach for the night.
Even though the beach was stunningly beautiful, it was time to say good-bye to the Southern coast. Having gone through our options, we had decided not to continue onward to Esperance, but to rather start our journey back towards Perth, where a couple of days later we were supposed to return our car.

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So we headed out of the national park and back inland, where the temperatures were suddenly about 10 °C higher than what they had been at the coast. In Katanning, we had to stop at the All Ages Playground which features giant slides, swings and oversized rocking horses.

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We decided to stay in Wagin for the night, a nice town in the heart of the Southern wheat belt that is known for its sheep farming. We liked the place with the old buildings and the laid-back country atmosphere. At almost 40 °C in the late afternoon, it was a pity that the campground did not feature a swimming pool. But at least there was a shady park nearby with the ‘Giant Ram’. Quite a contrast vs. the empty beach we came from this morning!

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:44 Archived in Australia Tagged beach sand concert playground wheat ram recovery inland bogged Comments (1)

Time to relax for a couple of days

York, Perth

sunny 34 °C
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From the quaint town of Wagin we got to drive through some more nice undulating fields and hills before reaching York at the banks of Swan River. York had been settled just a few years after Perth and features historical buildings bundled with a small-town ambiance. We had lunch in the park by the river before continuing the last stretch to reach Perth.

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We had booked a campground for five nights in a row. That is rather unusual compared to our normal style of traveling, but after eight weeks of traveling all along the coast of Western Australia, we wanted to have a couple of days to relax. For that reason, we had also booked a very well rated place at Karrinyup Waters Resort and that proved to be an excellent choice. We got a really nice spot right next to the lake and in line of sight to the nearby playground. With all the different birds around – ibis, ducks, black swans, grebes – it felt more like staying in the middle of a big zoo vs. in the Northern suburbs of Perth.

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Over the five days we were there, we enjoyed all features the campground offered. First and foremost, the pool which could have been located in a five-star hotel just as well. But also, the bouncing pillow and the playground were getting all the attention they deserved.
One day we ventured out to take a tour of the Swan Valley. From the small town of Guildford we drove through the vineyards to one of the wineries, the Mandoon Estate which is co-located with the Homestead Craft Brewery. While Max was keen on a serve of French fries, Sam ordered the beer tasting with four different beers and a cider. While I stuck to water being the designated driver for today. I did try a zip of each of Sam’s beers and of the cider and I agreed with Sam that of the four beers we did not like a single one whereas the cider was really nice.

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We did also try the wines at winery. While two of the reds from a vineyard in Margaret River were quite nice, the whites did not meet our taste at all. After all, the Swan River Valley is more known for its scenic location close to Perth than necessarily for the quality of its wines.

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After the more adult oriented activities of the morning, the afternoon was dedicated to giving Max another chance to ride his Star Wars bike before we’d leave it in Western Australia. He enjoyed it a lot and was even lucky to have some older bikers to watch and copy some moves from. And in fact, it was his last real ride. Two days later we sold it to Marie from La Reunion who amused us from there on riding continuous rounds on the bike all over the campground. And knowing that we had already secured a bike for him in New Zealand, Max did not mind.
We were back at the campground just in time for Max to join the kid’s program. After all, he had been looking forward to the water slide all day and was in fact the only kid that had the energy to go on until it closed. The day after, there was bull riding organized for the kids and Max was probably the kid on the campground that went for most rounds.
And we also celebrated my birthday one of these days. I had specifically wanted just to hang out at the campground. It was a great day in fact: good food and lots of talks on the phone with friends and family. Most amusing was the fact that I was told that the new owner of my previous mobile phone number seems to have been swamped with greeting messages. But I hope most people who wanted to get in touch knew how to reach me via email or WhatsApp.
The best birthday present of all - well along with Max' painting of a bald eagle - was getting to do some more travel planning. Having agreed with Sam on a rough cut plan for the last bit of our trip in Asia, I got to research flights and tour options for our time there. And I really enjoy doing that!
Last but not least, we used the days at the campground to get our stuff sorted and the car back into a somewhat clean state. After eight weeks of spreading our things all over, it proved to be a rather tedious task to get everything packed again.
Even though we could have also opted to return our car and then take a flight out of Perth the same day, we rather went for a more relaxed option and spent two more nights in a motel downtown. And once more we were very happy with the service that Drive Beyond offered. We dropped off the car and one of their employees took us for a last ride in our car all the way to our motel in East Perth. After eight weeks of staying exclusively in our roof top tent, we were looking forward to staying in a room with a real bed again for a change.
It was a really hot day in Perth and we opted to rather take a plunge into the pool before hitting the streets and getting a first impression of the city. In the late afternoon, the temperatures were much more bearable and we had a pleasant walk along the Swan River in the last light of the day before returning via the Cathedral.

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Thanks to the little kitchen in our room, we were able to use up some more of our remaining food supplies and then were just looking forward to the soft bed. No wonder that we all slept really long the next morning!
Being very close to the center of town, we were able to take advantage of the free buses in Central Perth. At the square opposite of the railway station the ladies of the local netball pro team ‚West Coast Fever’ were just passing out autographs and we got the chance to talk to a couple of them while Max tried to score some baskets. Not having any clue about netball and its rules, it did help to get the quick summary of the rules. We concluded that it is sort of basketball with less body contact and rather complex rules on which areas each player is allowed to play.

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After another bus ride to the Museum of Western Australia, we were a bit disappointed to see that it is closed for renovation until 2020. At least the public library next door offered a small display to substitute for the children’s discovery center. Max found the exhibits very interesting and also we did find the presentation of the various subjects very entertaining.

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Back in the center of town we had a nice break on the main town square - very quiet and relaxing, as Max headed off into the crowd of other kids to cool off in the water features. Back at the hotel we all got a break from the heat by jumping into the pool.

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That last night, we had finally used up all of our food supplies and after his evening run Sam treated us to excellent Fish and Chips.

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As our flight only left in the late afternoon, we could take our time the next morning to get our bags packed and to check out. We had two more hours in the park next door before our taxi brought us to the airport where we checked in and soon boarded our plane to Sydney.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 16:04 Archived in Australia Tagged birds park bus museum room bed bike winery downtown brewery netball Comments (1)

A light filled apartment with city views

Sydney

sunny 30 °C
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It was late by the time we arrived in Sydney and the airport seemed deserted. With the three hours of time change, we did not feel quite as tired, but sure were exhausted from the travel. At least there was no traffic close to midnight, so the taxi got us to our place in Darlinghurst in just about 20 minutes. Laura, the owner of the Airbnb apartment expected us already and showed us around.
For the six nights in Sydney we wanted to have our own place and Laura’s apartment met all of our requirements. It was very centrally located just off Oxford Street and only five minutes’ walk from the Museum train station. It offered beds for three people, a small kitchen and bathroom, so all we need. The extra bonus was the excellent view from the living room to the city including part of the harbor bridge and St. Mary’s Cathedral. And from two floors up on the roof top terrace, the view was even nicer.

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While Sam and I just enjoyed having our own place, Max was thrilled to finally being able to spread out all of his Lego parts again and spend hours at a time playing.
But obviously, we did not just stay in our apartment. After stocking up our supplies just across the road, a first excursion led us through Hyde Park and St. Mary’s Cathedral through the Domain to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, a great view point to the harbor, the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. From there we walked to Circular Quay via the Botanical Gardens. Circular Quay looked great in the last light of the day and the gigantic cruise ship ‘Celebrity Solstice’ in the harbor dwarfed the surrounding buildings.

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We took a train to Newtown where we wanted to meet Hamish’s parents for dinner. It had been half a year ago, that we had met Hamish in Los Altos and we had planned all along to also meet his parents when we’d be in Australia. And the timing worked out perfectly: Hamish’s parents were anyhow in Sydney that night as the would be leaving the day after to fly over to the US to stay with him and his family for the next three months.
The streets of Newtown were bustling during the evening rush hour and the atmosphere was quite different and diverse vs. what we knew from the more central parts of Sydney. Also the Italian Bowl Café catered to the local vibe – a fun loud place with great Italian food. And it was so great to see Peter and Dianne again as it must have been a couple of years since we last met them and it’s been 10 years since we had been at their place in Newcastle. And there was so much to catch up – most importantly the devastating cyclone that had caused them having to leave their house for over half a year until it was habitable again.
Eventually, we had to head back home and we all took a bus back into town where we said our good byes. Let’s see when and where we’ll meet next time around…
The next day we had beautiful weather and headed to the zoo. At Circular Quay, this time a Royal Caribbean cruise ship had anchored and we felt tiny in comparison in our ferry boat. The ferry ride itself was already great. From the water we got to see all the classic Sydney sights.

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The Taronga Zoo was great. With its nice location on the hill overlooking the harbor, we got to see most typical Australian animals. Some of them, like the kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, possums, lizards, emus and many birds we had seen already during the last couple of weeks. But we enjoyed now also seeing wombats, quokkas, echidnas, the wide variety of venomous snakes, spiders, lots of other reptiles, cassowaries, ‘salties’ (saltwater crocodiles) and their freshwater relatives, seals, penguins, platypus and even the Tasmanian devils.

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While we were most interested in seeing the Australian fauna, there were obviously also many other animals around, elephants, giraffes, hippos, gorillas, lemurs, komodo dragons), tortoises and many more. All of this in nicely designed landscapes with seemingly lots of space for the animals, we really enjoyed our stay. And on top, we got to ride the ‘Skyway’ up and down the hill to see everything from above.

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After so much activity and so many animals we had discovered, it was time to catch our ferry back home. Even though we were tired, we could not resist stopping at Circular Quay to watch a couple of aborigines play the digeridoo and dance like a kangaroo or an emu – what a great and fun experience! Eventually, we took the train, stopped at Aldi to do some more shopping and headed up to the roof top terrace of our apartment for a dinner with a spectacular view.

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For Saturday, I had tickets for the Sydney Opera House – a birthday present. While Max and Sam enjoyed a full day of playing Lego, I watched La Bohème by Puccini. And as I had never been inside the Opera House before, I made sure to be there early enough to check out the building and the nice view. It seemed like the building was almost sold out with only few seats with only partial view to the stage remaining. I had opted for the cheapest category with full view of the stage, but still payed less than a quarter of the price of what those people in the first rows had spent for their seats. I truly enjoyed the experience even though I had seen La Bohème already once before when I was still able to benefit of the extremely cheap student tickets in the Munich opera house.

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As it had been a performance at midday, I was back home in the afternoon to relax and cool down again. After all, I had walked the 40 minutes home from the opera house and it had been really hot. A bit later, we headed out again – this time all three of us – to the Domain to see ‘Symphony in the Park’, one of the SydneyFestival events. As we were there early enough, we got an excellent stop in the first third of the gigantic lawn in front of the stage. The Sydney Symphonic Orchestra then treated us to four pieces: ‘Short Ride in a Fast Machine’ by Adams ‘Sinfonia concertante’ by Mozart, ‘Enigma Variations’ by Elgar and the ‘1812 Overture’ by Tchaikovsky. And best of all: during the last part of the overture, the music was not only enhanced by two big cannons on the stage, but also a firework in the sky above us. Simply magic!

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We walked home and were happy, but also tired and a bit exhausted. That might also be the reason why we had a very relaxed next day with a bit of TV watching. Interestingly enough, we came upon a show by Top Gear’s Richard Hammond (Top Gear) explaining how to build a planet. And in the process of explaining some basic principles, he went to the Meteor Crater in Arizona and showed the stromatolites of Western Australia while we marveled at how much we have learned and seen already on our journey so far.
While Max and I stayed home to relax, Sam headed off to Chinatown trying to find some of the places he often went to while doing his diploma thesis in Canberra ten years earlier. After a big walk around some quarters of the inner city, he headed to a cocktail bar and played a round of pool with some other guests before heading back to our apartment.

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On our last day in Sydney, I made an effort to check in for our flights. Lucky me, that I did so, as I discovered in the process that in order to receive my boarding passes, a member of Air New Zealand has to see our return flights. While I had read about that requirement a couple of months earlier, it was excellent to get a reminder of that rule 23 hours before the flight.
So, I spent some time that morning buying tickets to a destination we are allowed to travel to. This required a bit of more research to find out about the visa requirements of a couple of South-East Asian countries. By the time I knew which flight I wanted to book, at first the Air Asia site gave me some trouble and then I got kicked out. I postponed the purchase of the tickets to later in the day.
As it was a beautiful and hot day, we went to Bondi beach. It was crowded and lots of fun, just to do some people watching. Between the life guards driving around with their buggies, the surfers getting into each others' way, the sun seekers dozing off in the sun and the bathers jumping in the waves, there was always something to observe. And considering the masses of people at the beach, we were happy that we had been traveling in Western Australia with hardly anyone being even at the nicest beaches.

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Back home, I successfully booked our flights – luckily, as otherwise we might have had a big issue with trying to go to New Zealand the next day. We started the evening with the pleasant part, going dinner to a Chinese place next door. And then we had to pack our bags again. After all, our taxi picked us up already at 5:15 to go to the airport.
We go there in merely 20 minutes. We had no issues at all to check in upon presenting the details for our flight out of New Zealand. And we could then comfortable sit in the departure area to watch the sunrise before heading to our gate.

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As we enjoyed the last views of the Sydney Harbor from the sky, it was finally time to wave good bye to Australia. It had been a great time there, but while feeling a bit sorry to leave, we were also excited to discover the beauties of New Zealand.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 12:45 Archived in Australia Tagged park beach chinatown train zoo city cruise garden dinner opera harbor botanic symphony Comments (1)

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