What we did in between
You all might be wondering what I did in between the two blogs I wrote, so I thought I should probably give you an overview. Traveling in an RV might not be everybody's choice of travel (more on this in my blog about what it’s like to travel in an RV (-: ), but one of the advantages is that you can move every morning without the hassle of packing, checking into hotels, unpacking etc. Because the trip down two thirds of the Eastern coast of Australia covers such a vast distance, we had to drive south for several hours almost every day. I can’t give you a very detailed paragraph about all the places we visited, because they were just small tastes, glimpses of Australia, it’s culture and beautiful landscape. The good thing about only getting to see a small part of Australia and all it’s splendors, is that now we are prompted to come back for another adventure soon. But, I have seen and done enough to write a decent sized blog. So let’s get started!
This is a list of the top 3 things we did (at least in my opinion), not including our time in Sydney.
1. Going to the beach, again, and again, and again.
Going to the beach was lot’s of fun. While my brothers enjoyed learning how to buggy board, my mom and I would sit on the beach and read. Occasionally I would jump in the water and try my hand at buggy boarding. But I failed terribly every time and landed face first in the sand. Which as you can imagine wasn’t very fun, but it gave everyone a good laugh.
2. The Lone-pine Koala Sanctuary
The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is one of the most famous koala sanctuary's in Australia, and it sure lived up to it’s reputation. We spent a lovely day there. We started out by going to see the koalas. We listened to a presentation about them, which taught us many things. For example, many people think that koalas sleep so much because eucalyptus leaves, which make up most of their diet, act as a sort of drug. Causing the koalas to get “high” and drowsy. In truth this is not the reason. Eucalyptus leaves are not very nutritious, most of the leaf is made up of water, so you don’t get that much energy from them. That is why they sleep so much, to conserve energy. In mating season the koalas tend to be awake more during the day and the males make a deep croaking sound as one way to attract females. Unfortunately we were just on the tail-end of mating season, so most of the koalas were sleeping. That didn’t make them any less cute though! Especially when I got to hold one and take a picture with it. Other than learning about the koalas, we got to feed and pet kangaroos and wallabies. As well as watch herding dogs, like the kelpie and border collie, round up sheep, and see how sheep are sheared by hand. At the end of the day I went into a gift shop to purchase a snack, I noticed many pictures of younger versions of well known celebrities holding koalas on the wall and asked an employee if they had visited lone pine. “Yeah, all of them visited before they were famous, when almost no one knew who they were.” They lady said as I paid for my snack. Anyway, my family and I had a great day at Lone Pine and we saw so many more interesting animals.
3. Bonsai Tree exhibition Canberra
After we visited the National Museum of Australia to learn about the aboriginals, we drove to the Arboritorium. The building was stunning, made out of wood which spiraled and curved inwards gracefully. It is perched formidably on the hills outside canberra. A Beautiful wooden play structure sits on the platform around it, and a magical bonsai garden lies within. Bonsai is the art of growing a miniature tree. Bonsai comes from Japan, and like many other Japanese things, has to be done very precisely. I was immediately entranced by the miniature tree’s and I listened in awe as some volunteers explained to me how to take care of a bonsai tree. You really have to take care of it like it was your child. Pruning it daily, nurturing it. The specific mixes of soil vary depending on what tree you are planing to grow. I was very surprised to learn that a miniature bonsai tree can theoretically be grown from any different species of tree. Though some are more popularly used than others. Imagine a huge sequoia tree being shrunk down to the size of your arm! Sadly we arrived right before closing time, so I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I would have liked.
In addition to this list, we also often stopped at savory pie restaurants, trying to find the best one. I can send you the name and location of our favorite spot if you are interested.
Now I’d like to go over the 4 different kind’s of places we stayed overnight with our RV.
1. Holiday Villages
The holiday resort parks were the most luxurious of places we stayed in. Every one we stayed in had a swimming pool and a bouncing pillow. One even had an exercise park and mini golf. The holiday resorts we stayed at were often pretty empty because family’s usually stay in them and no one was out of school yet.
2. The Permanent Residence
The permanent residence parks where always mostly made up of stationary caravans connected to homes. Most people there lived in these homes full or part time. I felt that people staying in these parks tend to stay in there caravan-homes most of the day did not ‘socialized’ with visitors. On the bright side WIFI was usually great in these parks.
3. The Nature Reserve
I enjoyed staying in the nature reserves the most, because I think I interacted with more people in these more rural places. Many of these people were retired couples with exciting stories to tell about there previous travels. These places also all had kangaroos jumping around the grounds.
And last but not least…
4. The Gas Station
We only stayed in a gas station once, and as strange as it sounds it was’t that bad. We stayed in a big parking lot behind the gas station where big trucks usually spend the night. We were right next to a gas station store, which had bathrooms and even a shower as well as several fast-food restaurants (Subway anyone ?) though we didn’t eat there. It was a bit nerve-racking to try and cross the parking lot to get to the showers in the morning without getting crushed by the huge, I mean Ginormous trucks that surrounded our, tiny (in comparison) RV.
Another thing we did, a lot, during the long drives from place to place in Australia was stop at a myriad of different savory pie shops. Often on local recommendation. We kept track of our favorite shops, and I would be happy to send anyone interested a list. (Our absolute favorite shop was a little shop in the town Ulladulla, just south of Sydney, called Hayden’s Pie Shop. The pies were absolutely scrumptious).
That is a basic overview of our time in Australia, and I am sad to say I won’t be able to go into much more detail because in the meantime we have already left Australia and are now on our 3rd week of travel in Thailand. I will be sure to post about that very soon.
Liv the Explorer
I have to say, we had a pretty calm week in Sydney. I mean, we saw two world famous landmarks, the Sydney Opera House, and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We walked the entire length of Mac-quire park, (I’m not sure how big it is, but it’s big). We ate the Australian specialty, savory pies, at one of the most famous pie places in Australia called Harry’s on Wheels. We visited the astounding Seaquarium, where we saw a colossal dugong, which has to be fed lettuce every 15 minutes. We visited the high end mall called the Queen Victoria Building, we visited the starting place of Sydney called the Rocks. And last but not least, because I had my 12th birthday earlier this week, my mom and I went to get a mani pedi as a birthday present. Not to mention a couple of hours spent laboring in the kitchen of my mom’s aunt’s house to prepare a thanksgiving dinner. All of that sounds pretty hectic, but it really wasn’t. We spread the activities over 3 or 4 days, and strolled around Sydney leisurely most of the day. Now, you are probably eager to hear about the Sydney Opera House, so here is a poem I wrote about it.
I stand, and look out past the horizon,
The wind, weaving in and out of my hair,
Tickling my face, wistfully,
The ocean spray, sprinkling me with water,
The smell of salt, surrounds me,
Out in the distance, I see,
The Sydney Opera House,
It seems to be floating, on the water,
Its mighty white wings,
About, to take flight
Or are they the sails of a ship,
Raised as they begin their journey, into the sea,
Or even, pages of a book,
Sent flying, by the wind,
Not that it matters,
It is clear to me, that this building,
This magnificent structure,
Is meant to fly!
Now, I would like to tell you about our weekend, which was probably the best weekend I have had in my life! My mom has family in Australia, so we spent the next weekend with her cousin, Benson, who also lives near Sydney. He was a splendid tour guide. On Saturday, he managed to give my parents a short tour of Sydney, while still keeping it fun for my brothers and I. Benson drove us around Sydney, and showed us his work. He restores old, government owned, buildings so that they can be rented out. I was very interested in this because I want to be an architect. Then he drove us to Bondi beach, one of Sydney’s surfers meccas. My brothers jumped and splashed in the water, while I talked to Benson about my travels and his: it turns out he has done a great deal of traveling in his life as well. Next came the really fun part. We hoped back in the car after a filling dinner of Chinese food, and drove to a luna park (that’s how people call amusement park in basically every country except the U.S.). Funny enough this luna park is actually called Luna Park. It is a historical amusement park that was first opened in 1935. It reminded me of the amusement parks you see in movies, the rides were old and rickety, a happy, yet eerie clown music was playing, and all the games were old. That didn’t make the park any less fun though! If anything, it was more fun than all the modern parks. There was a myriad of rides, these are a few examples: a rotor, a drop, a ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and a swinging boat that goes upside down. My youngest brother, dad and I did two rides. One was called the Tumble Bug: it was a big arm that had circles connected to it. On each of the circles there were about 6 two person karts. The circles would turn as well as the base of each arm. Then the arms would raise to a 90 degree angle. It was scary yet fun at the same time. Next we all went together to something called Coney Island. It was a big room with lot’s of fun activities that you could do over and over again. There were slides, one of them with a drop straight down. There was a mirror maze, and floors that moved. There was also a spinning disk, you had to sit on it and try not to fall off, last one sitting wins. It is actually a lot harder than it sounds. Both my parents, and brothers had fun in Coney Island for about and hour, and so did Benson and I. In between rides, we stopped to look at the glorious view of the Sydney Opera House, and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It was absolutely breathtaking to see these fantastic structures at night. By 10 pm, we were all tired and ready to leave Coney Island. We all trudged back to the car, sweaty and tired, but happy as can be. My brothers and I fell asleep in the car, which is a rarity, and I had one of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had.
I needed it though, because the following morning we hopped right back into Benson’s car, off to our next adventure. We drove to Benson’s friends shouse, (I’ll explain what that is in a minute), for the real kick of this spectacular weekend. Their house is about a 40 minute drive from Sydney, so after after one gas stop, one stop at the supermarket, and another stop to pick up some beer for the adults, (and gum for me), we arrived at their shouse. Now, by now you are probably wondering what a shouse is, considering I’ve already used the word twice, so I’ll explain. As we pulled up to their massive property, which I later learned is 25 acres, I looked around for their house, actually anywhere with air-conditioning. All I saw was two cars, one boat (which we would be riding on, or behind, later), and a huge shed. As I approached our hosts, Terry and Cathy, to shake their hands, I caught a glimpse of the inside of the shed. It was their house! I could see a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom, as well as a door that no doubt led to the bedrooms. Cathy must have noticed me staring at their shed, because she exclaimed, “Welcome to our shouse! It’s our shed house!” I hope that clears things up for you readers, a shouse is a shed/house! Anyway, while the adults snacked on cheese and drank some beer, my brothers and I jumped into the biggest Jacuzzi we had ever seen. We swam and the adults talked for about 40 minutes. Then Terry fitted us up with life vests and we drove down in Bensons car to the river, (it takes 5 minutes to drive to the river, but all the land until there is Terry and Cathy’s property)! Terry and his son, who I am guessing is about 23 years old, drove the boat into the water, and tied a rope to the back of the boat. On the end of the rope was a big red and black pillow. They told my brothers and I to jump onto the pillow, and all the adults, (Benson, Terry, Cathy, their son, and our parents), to board the boat. Then Terry fired up the engine and the boat set sail. I could feel my adrenaline rushing as I gripped tighter on to the hand holds. My heart was pumping fast as we swerved and bounced on the water behind the boat. I screamed as loud as I possibly could, and so did my brothers. But we could not be heard over the roar of the engine. I can’t find any other word to describe it with other than: AWESOME!!!! It was absolutely awesome!
“Faster, faster! Sharper turns!” Even thought we knew Terry couldn’t hear us, he seemed to understand what we wanted. We skid and jumped, and shouted and laughed until our voices were hoarse and our hands tired from gripping onto the hand hold. After 15 minutes, Terry cut the engine and everybody, except Benson and Cathy, jumped into the water to have a swim. The water was warm from the sun and we laughed some more as we pushed each other off of the pillow. I wanted to freeze myself in that moment. Sun, not too hot, water just right, everyone laughing. I really think that was my favorite part of the whole experience, just being together, and having fun. Laughing…
After 5 minutes of swimming the kids got into the boat, and Terry and his son water skied. I just lay in the front of the boat, not paying much attention to the skiing, and let the warm breeze tickle my face. This calm moment didn’t last long though because soon the adults were done water skiing and my brothers and I jumped back onto the pillow for a second time. This time we kept on pushing Terry to go faster, with sharper turns, (we communicated via hand motions), until we were all flung off a few times. To tell you the truth it felt like you hit a wall when you fell off, you were going that fast! That didn’t make it any less fun! After another 15 minutes of barely staying on the pillow, we returned to the shouse for a barbecue. After the barbecue, Yanai and I started to building a house completely made out of the cardboard beer holders. Milo swam in the jacuzzi and played with the dog, (he eventually stopped when the dog bit his thumb), and the adults talked. Right before we left, us kids ate a delicious bowl of ice cream, and we fell asleep in the car again. After a sleepy goodbye to Benson, we went to bed. I fell asleep dreaming about this wonderful weekend, and anticipating what adventures were to come tomorrow when we left Sydney.
Liv the Explorer
I am happy to tell you, that about a week and a half ago my gamily and I left japan to go “Down Under”. We left our nice, but cramped, apartment in Tokyo, and flew into the Southern hemisphere, for a one month trip RV in rural Australia.
Anyone who hasn’t been to Australia, including me before we arrived, probably imagined Australia a bit like this: Open plains with nothing but dust, the sun beating down relentlessly on your backs as you hike through the Australian outback. You’ve been told that the chances are very slim that you make it through the hike, and that you’ll probably be attacked by some poisonous snake along the way. Your mouth is parched, and the only sound, other than your footsteps, are the howls of hungry dingo’s somewhere in the distance. Occasionally you see a kangaroo hop by, but other than that you are alone, unless of course you are hiking with your family.
So, does that match your idea of Australia in some way? Well, that is what I thought, but I was pleasantly surprised. 70% of Australia is considered desert, making it the driest inhabited continent on earth. Only Antarctica is drier. This desert part of Australia is called the Outback, and almost no one lives there. My family decided to stick the Eastern coast of Australia, which is a lot cooler, though you can still get burned after only 5 minutes outside, and is inhabited.
Well, back to first impressions: I had that picture of the outback in my head as my family and I prepared to disembark from the big commercial plane we were in. As I stepped of the airplane and into gold coasts small airport, the first thing I noticed was the incredible heat. It hit me with a punch in the stomach. The air was heavy and humid. I immediately struggled for breath, and sweat began to trickle down my face. Whew! That part of my imagination of Australia was correct, the heat was unbearable! Now that I think back to it, that first day was actually relatively cool compared to some of the extreme heat we experienced later that week.
The first few days in Australia, we parked our RV outside of Nina’s house, our former au pairs, and spent the time with Nina her husband, Tom, and their two Australian Kelpies, Travis and Isa (short for Isabelle). Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by the landscape. They lived on the Sunshine Coast, a blossoming new county that attracts many young Aussies and families. And, the beach is never far away. The beach was even nicer than Santa Cruz beach. The sand was a beautiful white color, and incredibly fine. The water was the most mesmerizing turquoise I have ever seen, and it was warm. Since we arrived in Australia we have probably gone to the beach a dozen times, and each beach seems more picturesque than the last.
Now, remember my initial picture of Australia? So far, I have been correct about the heat, but incorrect when it comes to the landscape. But remember I mentioned the kangaroos, dingos and snakes? Yes, it is time to go over my first impression of Australia's wildlife. You might, or might not, know that Australia is home to to the ten most deadliest snakes on earth. Australia is also the home of many lethal spiders, insects, and lizards, and the Blue Box Jelly Fish, one of the most deadliest animals in the world, swims among its waters. I was nervous thinking I would encounter these animals every bend in the road, but of course I didn’t. I did see a venomous spider in Nina and Tom’s yard, but she showed me where its web was and warned me to stay clear of it. I have also seen a few dead Blue Bottle Jelly Fish washed up on the shore. Don’t worry, this isn’t the Blue Box Jelly Fish I told you about earlier. A Blue Bottle can’t kill you, it only causes skin irritation. Besides all of these venomous animals, there are pesky mosquitoes, sand flies, and March flies. March flies supposedly only come out in March, hence the name, but we encountered them in November. March flies are huge flies, that bite. There are also wild dogs, or dingos. I only saw one, but it was on a leash. People can train these animals to be pets. Sharks also ravage the sea’s, so you just have to keep your eye out. There are also plenty of wild turkeys that stalk you and try to steal your food, and birds like Magpie’s and Plover’s that will attack you if you happen to get to close to their nests.
Now, last but not least, the kangaroos and koalas. I have seen kangaroos in the wild twice already, once at Nina and Tom’s university, and another time at the campground I happen to be at as I write this blog. I also had the chance to pet and feed kangaroos in captivity at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where I also held a koala, which smelled oddly of cough drops, at the LKS. I haven’t actually seen a Koala in the wild yet.
Anyway, back to my initial imagined version of Australia, real Australia has: the heat? Check! Landscape? Nope! (not everywhere) Animals? Check and nope! So as you see Australia is a lot different from what I originally thought, and even though the heat is almost unbearable, and there are lots of dangerous and scary animals, the breathtaking coast and the hip, kind, played back people definitely make up for it. I highly recommend visiting Australia, snakes and all.
Liv the Explorer