Adventures in Australia: Part 1 (with Hawaii bonus)

It’s been some time since we’ve had a true adventure to write about. Since leaving Greece last October, we’ve spent time reconnecting with family before heading off to Maui for the months of December and January. The house that we are having built has fallen very far behind schedule which has left us scrambling to find alternate living accommodations so as not to be too big of a burden living with very generous family members and friends. I chose not to blog about our time in Maui, since we basically lived like residents….cooking meals at home, going to the gym, going for walks, and sitting by the water reading. We did have a great time there doing lots of hiking and enjoying daily visits from the Humpback whales and sea turtles. Here are a few pictures of some of our favorite moments.

Hiking the martian landscape of Haleakala volcano
Aptly named Sliding Sands trail.
Makawao Rainforest Reserve
Primordial views
Humpback whale breaching off Maui.
Dan took a free diving class and learned how to dive down past 30 feet in depth

That brings us to now, the last week of March, and Dan’s clever crafting of another wild adventure.  After many, many hours of research, Dan devised a plan in which we pick up 3 different one-way camper vans throughout Australia and drive/explore a circumnavigation of the Southern and Eastern part of Australia over a 5 week period of time.  When it is all said and done, we will have driven 3600 miles not including the side diversions to explore the surrounding areas.

Long day to get from Phoenix to Los Angeles to Sydney….luckily we got upgraded (as standbys) to Premium Economy

So, let’s get started!  It took us 16 1/2 hours on airplanes (and the complete loss of one day due to the international date line) to arrive in Sydney.  Since we ended up leaving 4 days earlier than our original plan, we did not have anything booked.  As soon as we were on the ground, Dan began making phone calls to secure us a camper van.  By late morning, we were tucked into our tiny home and on our way to our first stop in the Blue Mountains.  It was pouring rain and very foggy.  We spent two hours driving with me regularly chanting, “look to the right, drive to the left.” You may be asking yourself why I was doing such a strange thing?  Well, not only was Dan having to drive from the opposite side of the car, but you also drive on the opposite side of road here, something with which we have very little experience.  Kudos to me for not saying “the wrong side of the road.”  Before long, we were at our camp spot surrounded by lush, green forests, low hanging clouds, and a very odd cacophony of wild bird sounds (very Jurassic Park sounding).

Our little campervan for the next eight days

We headed out on foot to explore a variety of lookout points at a place called Katoomba Falls.  The views were amazing and quite eerie.  The cliff walls plummeted deep beyond the ability to see bottom, and the clouds whooshed up from below on the wind.  The waterfalls were spectacular to say the least, and unfortunately the pictures just don’t even come close to demonstrating the beauty we observed.

The beautiful Blue Mountains outside Sydney
Waterfalls everywhere
Making the most of the rain and fog!
The views were stupendous once the clouds cleared

The next morning, we were awake at 4:45 a.m. (thanks jet lag), so we decided to head to the Three Sisters rock formation for sunrise.  According to Aboriginal legend, 3 sisters were turned to stone because the 3 girls fell in love with 3 brothers from a rival tribe.  When the 2 tribes went to war, a witch doctor turned them to stone in order to protect them, but the witch doctor was killed in battle thereby leaving the 3 sisters forever in stone and creating this very unique rock formation.  The view is suppose to be spectacular.  Why did I say “suppose to be?”  Did I forget to mention that since we have arrived, we have had non-stop, pouring rain?  Needless to say, the entire area was so clouded in that we could barely see our hand in front of our face.  We were quite disappointed.

From the Blue Mountains, we headed south to the coastal town of Shell Harbour where we managed to score a camp spot right on the ocean.  Again, we had lots and lots of pouring rain but were treated to about 8 waterspouts of varying size out on the ocean.  It was fascinating and a little terrifying watching them grow bigger and more powerful (very glad we weren’t out on a boat!)

Some serious waterspouts!
There are four active waterspouts in this picture!
The birds are gorgeous down under
Oceanside dinner for two!
Rain, rain go away come back some other day!

After 2 days in Shell Harbour, we drove 4 1/2 hours to the town of Merimbula and our cliff side camp spot.  This was another quaint little beachside town.  Unfortunately, this was a quick one night stop before another 4 1/2 hour drive further south.  We made a quick stop at a town called Lakes Entrance where we bought fresh prawns right off the boat.  We literally walked up to the fishing vessel and purchased a kilo of prawns.  We had the choice of raw or freshly cooked, so we chose the cooked ones.  They were delicious.  After walking the boardwalk, we headed to our next camp spot in the town of Paynesville.  We planned for a two night stay here (thankfully….I’m getting a little tired of all the driving….or more accurately, passengering).

Friendly fellow who sold us a kilo of fresh caught prawns
Yum!

This was a 2 day stop so that we had time to go across the river to Raymond Island.  There is a free ferry ride that takes you across the river (a whooping 2 minute ride) where there is an abundance of amazing wildlife.  Raymond Island draws a lot of nature lovers because it is one of the best places to spot koalas in the wild.  So, a koala spotting we did go.  We walked 6 1/2 miles all over the island looking for koalas.  They are a lot tougher to find than you might think!  In the end, we did end up spotting 8.  Most were sleeping since they are nocturnal, but we did encounter 3 that were alert and 1 was busy eating eucalyptus leaves.  Our necks were definitely tired by the time we were done.  We also spotted a kookaburra, pelicans, and an endless array of wild parrots.  Sadly, we did not see any kangaroos this time.  After that adventure, we treated ourselves to a local fish and chips place for a late lunch.  Unfamiliar with the local fish by name, the cook suggested we get one whiting and one gummy shark.  They were both pretty good, but I much preferred the whiting.  The shark was much thicker and denser than the delicate flake of the whiting.

Ferry to Raymond Island
Start of the Koala walk. They are wild but plentiful enough that if you look around hard enough you will find some
Hello there! Hope we didn’t wake you up from your nap!
They are surprisingly hard to find high up in the gum trees.
Kookaburra bird
Snug as a bug
So. Many. Parrots!
Can you spot the Koala?

Our next stop was this awesome beach town of Phillips Island.  Unfortunately this was only going to be an overnight stop, so our day was cram packed with activities after a very long drive.  After pulling into our beach front camping spot, we walked the beach to town and explored for a few hours.  Not long after, we headed up to a place called Nobbies.  This is a spectacular cliff top view of the Bass Strait.  The wind was absolutely wicked, and I have never seen seas as violent and churned up as I saw here.  As the sailors once said (back during the age of the clipper ships), below 40 degrees latitude there are no rules and below 50 degree, there is no god.  We stood at 39 degrees south, so you get the picture.

The beautiful Nobbies
Nobbies blowhole
The winds were a bit rough on the point!

After enduring the high winds on the cliff side boardwalk, we took a back dirt road to our next adventure, the penguin parade.  Along the way, we were treated to tons of wallabys and one very shy echidna (also known as a spiny anteater).  We then made our way to the penguin parade.  This is a nightly event in which thousands of Little Blue Penguins (the world’s smallest penguin) come ashore after feeding from before sunrise to just after sunset.  These adorable little guys come into shore in droves (for self protection) and waddle their way up and across the beach where they head to their “bungalows.”  They are the cutest things you will ever see as they waddle their way past your viewing spot, stopping to check you out.  Unfortunately, taking photos was strictly forbidden so as not to disrupt their natural behavior, so you will have to settle for a photo of them from inside the visitor center.

An echidna (a spiny anteater – one of the few mammals that lats eggs). Poor guy saw us coming with the camera and tried to hide
Cute wallaby by the side of the road
Found this little guy on the way to the Penguin Parade
The above ground viewing area overlooking the beach. People have started to arrive to be ready for the penguin parade at sunset
We went with the underground viewing experience to make the most of our time there. Given the really high winds we were happy with the decision!
That’s a lot of Penguins!
Stock picture showing the viewing area (as photos were strictly prohibited lest some one let a flash go) (Credit: https://bunyiptours.com/blog/phillip-island-penguin-parade/)
Penguin Parade stock photo (credit: https://www.birdspot.co.uk/bird-watching-destinations/phillip-island-penguin-parade)

So, this brings us to the end of the first part of our journey.  We picked up our tiny home on Friday, March 25th in Sydney and drove 1023 miles to Melbourne to drop our tiny home on Friday, April 1.  We then picked up our much bigger tiny home to start the second leg of our journey.  Stay tuned to see what kind of mischief we get into next!

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Nora Espenshade
Nora Espenshade
5 months ago

Thank you for allowing me to travel along with you in my retirement. I look forward to your next installment.

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