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Australia



Officially COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA, the smallest continent and one of the largest countries on Earth, lying between the Pacific and Indian oceans in the Southern Hemisphere. The capital is Canberra. Australia is separated from Indonesia in the northwest by the Timor and the Arafura seas; from Papua New Guinea in the northeast by the Torres Strait; from the Coral Sea Islands Territory (in the Coral Sea), also in the northeast, by the Great Barrier Reef; from New Zealand in the southeast by the Tasman Sea; and from Antarctica to the south by the Indian Ocean.



Maps courtesy of www.theodora.com/maps used with permission.


We ended up renting a car (thanks to Sarah's CAA membership) and it turned out to be roughly equivalent to a bus pass, but much more comfortable and fun. The cheapest options for us to stay at (and the most comfortable we found) was the Budget Motels chain. Occasionaly we would have a full kitchen but otherwise they were mainly motel rooms and a shared BBQ. It is an excellent choice for a couple or a family travelling together. There are also many locations, which comes in very handily.


Kingsford-Smith Airport (Sydney)

    Sydney's main airport is located 8 km south of the city. Tourism New South Wales operates two information counters in the international terminal's arrivals hall. One provides free maps and brochures and handles general enquiries, while the other deals with accommodations bookings. Both counters are open daily from approximately 6 AM to 11 PM.

    The green-and-yellow Airport Express bus provides a fast, comfortable link between the airport terminals (for a price) and the city and Kings Cross, and for those traveling with fewer than four people, the cost compares favorably with the cost of a taxi. This will most likely be our link in because the hotel we are staying at (below) is on this route and the bus stops in front.

    Bus 300 takes two routes--one to Central Station only, and the other to Circular Quay via George Street and the Rocks. Bus 350 stops at Central Station, Elizabeth Street, Liverpool Street, Oxford Street, and Darlinghurst Road, ending its route with a circuit through Kings Cross, Potts Point, and Elizabeth Bay. All three services depart regularly (from every 10 minutes on weekdays to every 30 minutes on weekends) from the airport, generally from around 5 AM to 11 PM. Refer to timetables outside the airport terminals for full details, or call the State Transit Infoline (tel. 13-1500). The one-way fare is $5, round-trip $8.

Central Train Station (Sydney)

The main terminal for long-distance and intercity trains is Central Station (Eddy Ave.), about 2 km (1.2 mi) south of the city center. Two daily services (morning and evening) between Sydney and Melbourne are available on the XPT train; the trip takes about 10 hours. Tickets for long-distance train travel can be purchased from Countrylink Travel Centres at Central Station, Circular Quay (1 Alfred St.), Wynyard Station (11-31 York St.), and Town Hall Station (lower level of Queen Victoria Bldg., George and Park Sts.).

Rail Australia has a number of train passes (similar to the Eurail stuff) and is only available outside of Australia. This is what we will be using since for $500 we get 15 days of rail travel in a six month period. This doesn't mean we won't be hitching or getting a bus here and there but for comfort and convenience it's hard to beat the train.



Australia Information Links

There is an absolute ton of info available - from state tourism boards to locals, to backpacker hostels. This is a brief list of the more useful ones that I have found. You can pick up tourist information just about anywhere so don't be nervous about not knowing everything before you go. Your plans will change no matter what. If you have a CAA or AAA membership card you are entitled to free maps at the Australian version (AAA). These maps turned out to be an excellent pickup although they do not provide you with tourist info. How else would you get to Banana?
Sydney City Search - Info about Sydney, what's going on, etc. I believe it's updated regularly by the Sydney Morning Herald. The SMH is fairly useful because it has online classifieds that you can search. It can also search other Australian newspapers.
Youth Hostels Australia - The usual Hostelling International information. Also has the local discounts available with the HI membership.
Nomads Backpackers - Same type of backpaper establishment as the YHA. Best thing about both of them is that they have a lot of hostel information (like price, location, etc.) and not only Australia but New Zealand as well.
Department of Immigration Australia - The information site for Working Holiday visas.
Sydney Maps - Want to know the layout of Sydney and the surrounding area? Also includes train, bus and ferry routes. Much more useful than I thought.
Bed and Breakfasts Australia - I used this site to finally track down a place to stay for New Year's eve. After all the hostels I contacted said they were full (yes 10 months in advance) I finally found a place for a fairly good price.


TRANSPORTATION

For route, timetable and ticket price information on Sydney's buses, ferries, and trains, call the State Transit Infoline (tel. 13-1500) daily 6 AM-10 PM. Travelers who plan to make extensive use of the city's public transport systems should buy the "Sydney Bus, Rail & Ferry Guide," available for $2.50 at most newsstands and the New South Wales Travel Centre (19 Castlereagh St., tel. 02/9231-4444).

Like most places there are discount passes available that include unlimited travel for certain days - the Rail Australia pass called "Syndey Explorer" for example. The decision will be made in Sydney, Melbourne, etc.


Tourist Offices

The Backpacker's Travel Centre specializes in tours, accommodations, and information for the budget traveler. Shop 33, Imperial Arcade, off Pitt St. near Market St., tel. 02/9232-5166. Weekdays 9-5:30, Sat. 10-2.

The New South Wales Travel Centre is the major source of information, brochures, and maps for travelers. Center staff will assist with inquiries and make all hotel, travel, and tour bookings. 19 Castlereagh St., 10-min walk from Circular Quay, tel. 02/9231-4444. Weekdays 9-5.

The Sydney Information Line has useful recorded service and entertainment information. tel. 02/9911-7700. Daily 24 hrs.

The Tourist Information Service is a free phone-in facility that provides information on accommodations, tours, and shopping. It also provides other tips on what to see and do in Sydney. tel. 02/9669-5111. Daily 8-6.


Photos


All the photos have been moved to the Photo Album.

The Travel Diary continued

February 4-8, 2000. SYDNEY AND BLUE MOUNTAINS, AUSTRALIA.

Once again Australia has amazed us where there is just such wonderful sights. First off we flew back to Sydney and spent a few days walking around and really getting a chance to enjoy the city. We walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens which are just fabulous. They are right near the middle of the city but are so huge and once you enter them you forget you're in a big city! There is a pond with lots of neat looking ducks, big birds and flying foxes in the trees, lots of cool trees and flowers etc. etc. We then went down to the harbour area and walked some more and went to Paddington market which is really neat - full of small local designers selling their handicraft. Lots of cool stuff there! We also went to the Sydney Aquarium which we both really enjoyed - it was fabulous! They have huge exhibits of all the tropical fish, two really large aquariums with giant rays and sharks and other weird stuff and an excellent exhibit of the coral reef where you can see all the neat things that live and swim around there. It made me a little sad though that I didn't get to go snorkelling and see some of it in the real ocean! We also went to Mrs. Macquaries point (and I've probably spelled that really wrong) where you get some of the best views of the Sydney harbour and the bridge and opera house. We both agreed that Toronto could learn a lot from Sydney in making it's parks and harbours much nicer!

On the Sunday night we took off for the Blue Mountains which are only just over an hours drive from Sydney and absolutely stunning. Not quite the Rockies but they are filled with huge valleys and canyons with lots of great lookout points. We stayed in a little cabin in Katoomba which was really cute (and cheap) and did lots of exploring. Supposedly they are called the Blue Mountains because of all the Eucalyptus trees (they emit an oil that creates a blue mist over the mountains). We did quite a few walking trails to see the three sisters (three big rocks) and some waterfalls - I was pretty sore at the end of the day but Rocky was ready to keep going! It was a great way to finish off our trip in Australia.

February 3, 2000. BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA.

The last few days have been really great for seeing some Aussie wildlife. Our last few days in Bundaberg were pretty good except things didn't work out for the boat trip we were supposed to take so that was disappointing as that was our only chance to see the great barrier reef before we left - means I definetely have to come back. In Bundaberg though they have a turtle rookery where the turtles go to nest and then the baby turtles hatch on the beach and we were there for the start of the hatching season so we went and saw little baby turtles come out. It was so cute, they claw their way out of the sand (the eggs are buried pretty deep) and then go straight to the water, although because they are so tiny (about half the size of your hand) it's quite a trek through the sand! It was really neat to see and both Rocky and I were happy to see it.

We are back in Brisbane now and today went to a Koala sanctuary which was really fabulous! There were tons of Koals and we even got to have a little cuddle with one. They are so soft and cute it was really a neat experience. They also had tons of birds there and a kangaroo reserve where we got to hand feed and pet lots of roos, emus, wallabys and of course lots of pigeons were hanging around trying to get some feed to. It was so much fun to get so close up to all these weird animals! We fly back to Sydney tomorrow afternoon and will spend the weekend there (the Rugby season also opens tomorrow so we're going to try really hard to try and get tickets) and then head out to the Blue Mountains before we fly to New Zealand on Wednesday! The trip is very quickly coming to a close for me - I only have 24 days before I fly back although Rocky gets to hang out in Australia for awhile! We've got lots of great plans for stuff we want to do in NZ and as long as we don't run out of money I think we'll have some great stories to tell.

January 31, 2000. BUNDABERG, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA.

Lots to write since the last update and I'll try to make it fairly short and not get too carried away! We went for our overnight tour on Fraser Island and it was really neat. The whole island is formed from sand and there is a huge rainforest growing on it. You drive down the beaches and really bumpy roads to get anywhere and the history of it all is pretty cool. The place we stayed at was also great, the price included all meals which was very yummy. The first day we spent driving around to see parts of the island, we had a nice walk around pine valley (and were told to watch out for snakes which was sort of freaky!). After lunch we drove down the beach to see an old shipwreck and what they call the coloured sands (which are exactly what they sound like). After the ride it was dinner time and then a bit of a social evening although most people disappeared so who knows what happened! The second day we went to a Lake called Lake Wabby which is really neat because it was surrounded by huge sand dunes. The actual lake will disappear as the dunes are moving towards it at 3 metres a year and will soon fill the lake in. There were catfish and cute little turtles in the water and after the trek to get there (ever tried walking uphill in thick soft sand - it's not easy!) many people jumped in for some much needed refreshment! We walked back over the sand dunes and it was like being in the Sahara. It was really incredible how an island can have such varied landscapes, from thick, dense rainforest to barren desertlike sections. If you want to swim on the island you have to use the lakes as the ocean around it has really bad riptides, jellyfish (we saw lots of them washed ashore because it was really windy, even a few of the bad stingers) and supposedly tons of sharks! We decided that those were all really good reasons not to give it a go. In the afternoon we went to another lake that was really beautiful with crisp clear waters called Lake Mackenzie. This was on our way back to the ferry home and the chance for one last swim. It was also very nice there. The tour was fun but I think if we were to ever come back we'd rent our own 4WD and camp on the island and maybe spend three days - it would be great for relaxing. We saw our first dingoes on the island which was neat, they are supposed to be among the purest in the world due to their isolation, they aren't very vicious because they are pretty used to the tourist but we kept our distance anyways.

Next we headed West of Rockhampton near a small town called Baralaba for our 4 days on a farmstay. We had a really great time and took the opportunity to do some relaxing and learning about life on a farm. We didn't quite get into all the daily chores but I did try and milk a cow (until she started glaring at me - I decided that was a message that I really sucked) and I got to chase a baby calf into it's pen (Rocky was upset he missed seeing that). We went horseback riding and I actually rode a dirtbike for the first time in my life and didn't kill myself - it was really fun and Rocky and I ended up doing that alot. I also got to learn how to drive a tractor which was pretty fun too! The meals were fabulous and it was really nice because there were only five of us there at the time (they take upto 17) so it was very personal! And.....we finally saw wild kangaroos and emus! They are such neat animals and we're happy we didn't have to see them only in the zoo! Anyways, we had a great time there - really a great Aussie experience!

That takes us to where we are now in a town off the coast called Bargara beach (which is really Bundaberg - just outside the main city). Yesterday we toured a rum distillery which was lots of fun (even though I don't like rum - but the liqour was nice, I left with a bottle) and made some steaks on the BBQ! Today we went to a tropical winery and are going to see the turtle hatchlings. At Bargara Beach the turtles come in around November or December to lay their eggs and right now is when they hatch so you go with a ranger and can see them try and make it out to the ocean - it should be cute! Tomorrow, weather permitting we're heading off to Lady Musgrave Island for some snorkelling on the reef and fishing - hopefully it won't be too windy or we'll be pretty disappointed as we've been looking forward to this for awhile! Wish us luck.

January 23, 2000. HERVEY BAY, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! LOVE ROCKY

There is so much to put for the last ten days and I think I've forgotten half of it so this might be a pretty lousy update but I'm going to give it a shot. There isn't much to say about our stay in Melbourne as we pretty well hung out with a Canadian and consumed some beers, did laundry etc. Boring stuff! Our drive back to Sydney was great though. Our first stop was a small town called Bright near Mt. Buffalo National Park. We spent a full day there so we could explore the park and it was fabulous. There were tons of walking trails etc. We did one historic trail through a gorge that is supposedly really popular for gliding and abseiling (although we didn't see anyone doing it) and it was really beautiful. Then we walked to the highest point in the park (1723 metres) for an absolutely fabulous 360 degree all around. It was stunning and the walk wasn't so bad (you drive most of the way up and then just have to walk the last 100m which is over about 1.4 km). It was really beautiful in Bright, it is the big ski area in Australia through their winter so it was pretty quiet when we were there and full of really friendly people!

Our next stop along the route was Gundagai which is a VERY small town but we finally saw our first Kangaroo (unfortunately it was lying dead by the side of the road). From Gundagai we took a day trip out to the Snowy Mountain area and went to see the power plant that is part of the big Snowy River scheme here (yes, always engineers at heart - ha! ha!). We drove through another national park and once again lapped up the beautiful scenery. There were hills everywhere, all different shades of green and because of the plant in the area there are lots of dams so there are beautiful pools of water in the valleys that were so blue - very inviting but not sure how clean they really would be although there were lots of campsites in the area. The drive was really nice. We also went to go see this huge tourist thing in Gundagai called the Dog on the Tucker Box (from a famous Australian poem). We thought it would be neat but we were wrong - it was a small monument of a normal looking dog on a box with the word Tucker on it - mildly dissapointing (although today we saw a giant pineapple and that was really cool!).

We ended up staying with our friend who lives just outside Sydney again and got tickets to a boat cruise around Botany Bay in sydney. It was nice to get all dressed up and sail around on such a beautiful night but they played really loud dance/techno music all night which gave us both headaches - we must be getting older. Yesterday we flew to Brisbane and spent the night there and today drove out to Hervey Bay. Tomorrow we go on a tour of Fraser Island which is the largest sand island in the world and spend the night there - it should be great. It's supposed to have beautiful beaches, a really neat shipwreck, great rainforests and lots of wild dingos to pester you for food. But, you'll have to read the next update to find out if it was as much fun as it sounds. Oh, and now up in Queensland it's god knows what temperature and very humid - almost like back in Asia!

January 13, 2000. GREAT OCEAN ROAD, AUSTRALIA.

I'm actually writing this update from Melbourne but it'll be all about our travels along one of the most beautiful scenic drives ever! On Sunday we took the car and drove halfway along the Great Ocean Road and just enjoyed the beautiful sites and the treacherous driving. It is generally a very narrow road that winds all along the coast, so there's surf on one side and the Otway mountain ranges on the other. The first night we stayed near the Otway National park which is in a very tropical rainforest type region and really beautiful. We even had cows in our backyard (although I would have been a little more excited if they were Kangaroos or something!). Then we went farther along the coast and saw the famous Twelve Apostles which is a rock formation in the surf and some other famous ones - I can't remember all of the names we saw so many. I almost killed Rocky because he wanted to go to a place called Wreck beach where a number of huge ships got shipwrecked along the coast (most of that coastline is famous for that) and there were some old anchors you could go and see. We thought this might be fun (and it was but....) not realizing that to get there we had to walk down an eternity of steps (although it wasn't the down that I was worried about) and then another 20 minutes or so along the beach to see the anchors. The way up was pretty gruelling in the heat but we made and the beach was really beautiful with only the two of us on it as far as we could see and there were lots of little crabs and stuff along the waters edges living in the rocks. That night we stayed in what they call the heart of the Otway ranges, in a small town called Colac that was really nice and then headed back to Melbourne.

We ended up getting ahold of a Canadian guy that we met in Turkey and are not crashed out in his place for a few days and having a really great time - Canadians are always fun of course. There have been just a few beers passed around, some good Canadian music and of course hockey talk! He works at a Cybercafe so guess where we're emailing from? We've done quite a bit of wandering around Melbourne and are really surprised at how much like Toronto it is. We wandered down a trendy street called Brunswick street the other night and I could have sworn I was on Queen St. It was almost identical. The weather here has also been pretty perfect which is great - about 30 degrees with no humidity, although the sun is pretty brutal here - even Rocky has decided to buy a hat!

Our plans are to stay here a few more days and then we'll be picking up another car and heading back to Sydney through the inland route to catch a flight to Brisbane (they have lots of good deals on domestic flights right now). Then - well who knows where our whims will lead us! The sad news is I booked my ticket back home and I'll have 36 hours in the air and about another 28 hours or so waiting around in airports! I'm looking forward to seeing Canada again soon but not the travelling back! Happy winter everyone!

January 8, 2000!!! MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA.

Well, this is probably going to be a long update seeing as it's been so long but I'll try to keep it as short as possible as we really haven't done all that much! The Sydney New Years was absolutely fabulous. We met up with a friend of my brothers, his brother and the girl they were staying with in Australia (look for pictures coming soon when we get a chance). We wandered around throughout the night and then went to the big happening area for the midnight show. If anyone watched it on t.v. we were about 30 metres from the bridge between the bridge and the sydney opera house - definetely not a bad score for location. The folks we met up with brought a couple of bottles of Dom Perignon (God bless them) and so we drank really good champagne and cheered in the new year. The funny part was that no one brought glasses so we had to cut water bottles in half to drink it (hey - it was either that or straight from the bottle and that would have just been unclassy)! All in all it was a really great night and we were very impressed at the behaviour of the spectators. People were happy and having fun and there were no problems - it was quite incredible with that many people together drinking!

After the New Years we moved up to the Royal National Park area and stayed with the folks we hung out with at new years. It is really beautiful up there and we got to see a wallaby, possum, a kookaburra and lots of cockatoos (which although really pretty birds, their loud screech at 5 am is not much appreciated). We stayed there for a few days and relaxed, played Euchre and Trivial Pursuit - it was sort of like being at the cottage. Then we hired our car and off we went the 1007 km. to Melbourne (with a few stops of course!).

Our first stop is a small town called Narooma just south of Bateman's Bay and is really nice. We took a swim in the Ocean (yes saltwater does taste really horrible) and were just overly blown away by the huge waves. It is so neat - nothing like anything I've ever seen in Canada, beautiful sand beaches with deep blue water - just stunning. We've also got a pretty nice streak of weather, it's been in the high 20's with very little humidity - just perfect. We spent two days there and had a really nice time, staying in a fabulous place and enjoying the small town hospitality. Then we headed off to Lakes Entrance farther down the coast but not surprisingly when we got there it was absolutely packed so we ended up staying in a small place called Bairnsdale. Not much there but the people are really nice and we met a few of the local youngsters (two of which had been to Canada and loved it!). Generally had a really good time. Now we have arrived in St. Kilda just east of Melbourne city centre and are staying with a friend of Rockys. We'll be doing a few days drive around Great Ocean Road which is supposed to be beautiful, leaving tomorrow and then will come back and enjoy Melbourne for a few days.

We're really liking Australia, the best way to describe it is just like Canada, but the opposite. They drive on the left side (which we now know why if anyones curious), walk on the left side, escalators are backwards, doorhandles are backwards, gas is cheaper in the city and more expensive out in the country, their $2 coin is smaller than the $1 coin, there are lots of them and I just can't think of it all right now. It's also really clean, not a lot of garbage around, it's really great to see a place that really appreciates cleanliness! Anyways, I've written enough now so we'll have another update when we get back from our big drive! Happy New Year Everyone!

December 28, 1999. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.

I hadn't realized it had been so long since the last update so I'll try to remember everything that happened in our last week in Malaysia. We made it to Penang which is an interesting place and actually stayed at a pretty nice place (kind of like the Holiday Inn but much cheaper!) It had a really good breakfast which sold us on it. We did like always and did lots of walking around and actually a little bit of last minute shopping because it's a pretty cheap place to by stuff. There was lots more that we wanted but we decided to show a little bit of restraint. We took a funicular train to the top of Penang hill and though we were going to die! It takes about half and hour and it is so old you think it's doing to fall off the track and come crashing down at any moment. We were both a little worried but it was still fun. It was pretty cold at the top and now being adjusted to the hot weather we werern't to fond of that (just wait for the shock my system will get when I arrive back in Canada in February!). There wasn't that much to do up there because it was a fairly cloudy day and so the view wasn't that fantastic but it was still nice and we walked around and enjoyed the nature! We only spent three days in Penang and did lots of relax, getting ready for the rest of the trip. People were really quite friendly there and we liked it!

We went back to KL on Christmas Eve and didn't get in until 11 at night so once again it was straight to bed. On Christmas day most of the tourist stuff (museums etc.) are closed so we wandered around Chinatown (it is always quite fascinating) and did some more shopping (god help our Credit cards!). We decided to go out for a nice meal so got all dressed up, splurged on a bottle of wine and had a yummy steak dinner. As we were finishing up we met a guy from Malaysia who owned a hotel nearby and ended up chatting forever, getting another bottle of wine, somehow ended up at another bar with him and the rest of the night is sort of blurry! I think between the few of us that were there we went through at least 6 or so bottles of wine. All I can say is that the next day we were not well and barely left the hotel room except to get water and food! It was all fun though and it turns out he was a Malaysian Senator! How we manage to meet people like this I don't know!

We are now in Sydney and just got here so we've only been able to find the hotel, sleep and then get on the internet to update and let everyone know we made it here alive! It's raining and not nearly as humid as Malaysia so we're actually feeling chilly - believe it or not, I think it's only in the early twenties or something! Well, we should get going, we need to find some way to get money changed before everything closes or we're eating ritz crackers, fruitellas and some crumbly pringles for dinner (mind you we've done it before!). Take care everyone, hope you had a great Christmas and are planning some good New Years Eve bashes!

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