Sunday, May 27, 2012

Australia May 2012


This was an amazing trip and pictures are the most interesting way to share it with you.  I hope you enjoy browsing through them, I know there are a lot.

Each city has its own post but if you start here and select "previous posts" you should be able to get through them sequentially.

1. Melbourne, Australia
2. Brisbane & Gladstone
3. Heron Island
4. Road trip to Sydney, Australia
5. Sydney, Australia
6. Taronga Zoo in Sydney
7. Home
8.  Dallas in Melbourne for MRI Conference

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Melbourne, Australia (Day 1-3)

Day 1-3
(Days will be numbered from when Natalie arrived in Melbourne Friday, May 11
Things that happened before Natalie arrived will be labeled Conference)

Flinders Train Station
 

From the airport we took a shuttle to a train station.  I met Dallas at the Train Station and then we rode a Tramcar to our hotel.  It was quite the fiasco.
Picture us: Each with 2 large suitcases getting on and off tramcars several times.  We ended up walking almost a mile pulling our suitcases behind us before we made it to our hotel.
(Pro Tip: Next time, get a taxi)
Riding Tramcar...without the Suitcases
Melbourne is covered in these gorgeous green city parks. They're everywhere, and it makes me sad (but not all that surprised) that Arizona doesn't have anything like this.

On our way to Melbourne Temple.
This is Dallas' first time driving on the right side of the car and left side of the road. Very scary, and required both of us to pay really close attention to keep the car on in the correct lane:-)



The Melbourne Temple


 It still hurts my brain to look at these pictures and think about driving on the left side of the road.

Serendip Sanctuary

This was a really cool zoo/park/sanctuary on the outskirts of Melbourne (unfortunately on the exact opposite side of the city as the temple. We did a lot of driving). It's one of those places where you're actually in the pen with the animals. Which was weird when you're the only people in the park because you didn't get there until 45 minutes before the park is supposed to close and it's about to rain. 



Our first glimpse of kangaroos. You can't get into their pen, probably for our protection as much as theirs.

I think Natalie is rather excited about seeing real life kangaroos in the kind-of wild.


In the background, you can see a dirt path that goes along the fence. We walked past these guys and said "Oh cool! Wallabies!" and took a bunch of pictures. Then we continued on our walk, through a very impressive bird display... and into the pen with the wallabies we just got excited about. We weren't sure we were supposed to be there, but they didn't seem to mind, so we took a bunch more pictures, from the other side of the fence.





No, I have not been photoshopped into this picture. It was dusk and our camera doesn't like dusk.

We road a Tramcar around Melbourne while we ate a fancy dinner.  It was a lot of fun!



Here it comes...



Our head chef was supposedly a recent winner of the Iron Chef competition... which made us wonder how you go from winning Iron Chef to making dinner on a tramcar. The food was really good, but it seemed like an unusual career choice.


Sunday Morning we headed off to the Airport for our flight north to Brisbane.
Goodbye Melbourne.

Friday, May 18, 2012

GLADSTONE (Day 3-4)

Gladstone

We flew into Brisbane and then drove up to Gladstone Sunday night where we met our boat to Heron Island on The Great Barrier Reef. It's about an 8 hour drive (for all those of you thinking of making the trip!)


Nighttime view of Gladstone Bay. Supposedly this is one of the biggest and busiest shipping ports in Australia. 

Morning walk around the Gladstone Bay

So beautiful in the morning



From far away, these trees seemed similar to trees we have here but when you got up close they were very different.



This is Australia's version of a pine tree. Again, from far away, it looks like a normal pine tree, but when you get close, you can tell this this is obviously not your regular ponderosa. 


The Hostel where we stayed for our one night in Gladstone. Kinda weird to stay in a hotel with a communal bathroom, but it was cheap and we weren't there very long. 

Next...HERON ISLAND!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

HERON ISLAND (Day 4-6)

HERON ISLAND
Heron Island is about 2 hours from the mainland at the south end of the Great Barrier Reef. It's part of a string of islands that just barely poke out of the water. 


It's only about half a mile long by less than a quarter mile wide, and very isolated. The only things on the island are the resort and a small research station.


On the boat heading to Heron Island. Note to self: Don't forget to take Dramamine. It's a long 2 hour trip. We got a little nauseous but we made it without any real problems. 

Here we go!!

Goodbye Gladstone


The Great Barrier Reef.


First Glimpses of Heron Island.
Old Shipwreck marks the entrance through the Reef. The story goes that this ship sank off the coast of Gladstone in the 1920s, and the guy who owned the island back then bought the wrecked hull for $10 and had it floated it out to his island so that when his friends came to visit they had a place to tie up their boats. 


This same gentleman had a few too many and disappeared between the shipwreck and the beach after a night of (heavy) drinking. It's literally less than 500 feet from the shipwreck to the beach, it's hard to imagine someone getting lost in that distance, but so the story goes. 


Dallas thought it was really cool so there are lots of pictures
:-)




Heron island is a national park, so they give you lots of stern warnings not to take anything from the island (i.e. coral), but what they don't tell you is that this nice channel through the coral was dug using dynamite so they can get their boat closer to the beach. Not very conservation-y if you ask me. 


THE REEF


First glimpse of the island

Island Walk
Heron island is very isolated, so pretty much the biggest animals on the island are birds, who have no natural predators (except for the trees, but we'll get to that later).



Walking through the center of the island had a very tropical feel to it. Everything is very lush and green, and we had a tour guide telling us all about the different trees and how the island "matures." One species of tree can actually trap and kill birds with its sticky leaves, making it the only thing (besides people and other birds) that kill birds on the island. 

Moral of the story: pretty much everything in Australia is dangerous. Even the trees have figured out a way to be deadly. 


Bird's nest. 




One of the most amazing things we saw while we were there was newly hatched turtles walking down the beach.  According to the hotel staff (who all have 4 year degrees in marine biology), turtle season is officially over, so there was a pretty small chance that we'd see any hatchlings. 


Well we were walking along the beach at sundown and almost stepped on them! When we looked down we saw dozens of little turtles trying to get to the ocean without being eaten by Seagulls, Sharks, Etc... The average nest size is 120 eggs, and on average, less than 1 turtle per nest makes it to adulthood. 











Go dude go!



Here is a picture of the shark waiting for them just beyond the rocks.



Hanging out on the beach. (Not sure how to rotate the picture)


The beach and island is made up of little tiny pieces of coral that have broken off of the Reef surrounding the island by the tide.


A huge section of the beach gets exposed at low tide, you can walk for almost half a mile and still be in less than 2 feet of water at low tide. 



I apologize in the number of photos but it was absolutely amazing and I want to share it with you.
Sunset on the first night. Jealous yet?

The wooden structure is called a gantry. We think it looked more  like a gallows, especially like the one in Pirates of the Caribbean, so that's what we called it the entire time we were there.  


The view from our room.



Getting to the Beach from our Room.



Looking for more turtles... All we found was a bald guy with a dirty shirt. 












And... the Sunrise.






Dallas going Snorkeling in the water..brrr. Natalie went snorkeling too, but someone had to take pictures! We bought an underwater camera, but we haven't developed the pictures yet. 





We saw tons of really big fish! At high tide, the reef is only about 3-4 feet below the surface, but there were tons of fish that come right up to the beach. Natalie was swimming in a school of foot-long bright silver fish. 



We really wanted to go snorkeling along the edge of the the reef on a boat but they cancelled due to the windy seas or "angry seas."  We thought it was pretty funny.




Another photo opportunity with the shipwreck!






This is the bird Heron Island is named after, which as it turns out, isn't a Heron at all. It's actually an Egret, and herons don't typically come to Heron Island (though to be fair, we did see one or two while we were there). 
 Beach pics


Dallas eating Kangaroo. 





Seafood Curry...Yum!



The 'Cheeky' birds who found their way into the restaurant every night.  They were very good at trying to steal your food. If you got up for more than a minute they were up on the table drinking out of your glass and stealing your crackers. 



 Picnic before leaving the Island.


If you ask for a lemonade in Australia, this is what they give you. Not what we were expecting. 




The turtle-eating reef shark came to say goodbye.


Last views of the island, and the boat to take us away. 


Bye island :(


Goodbye Heron Island




Getting a little seasick. 
video