CRT+RPK=RTW – Japan 6

So here we are at the end of Australia, leaving tomorrow for new zealand and we are so behind on writing the blog. We’ve taken our last afternoon in Sydney to sit down and recall the past two weeks and plan some of our New Zealand adventure too. Someone in this Internet shop just tried to go out the Emergency Exit door and I am typing with the blaring of sirens in my ears. Hopefully someone will come and turn it off soon. There it goes, ah, peace at last. We’ve done so much over the last weeks that I’m just going to jump in and get this down. The day after our exciting whale watch we got up early to join a group guided tour of Fraser Island. The largest all sand island in the world. Some of the travellers we’ve run into along the way had proclaimed Fraser Island to be “the most beautiful place in the wrold!” and that always piques my interest. On the bus from the Hostel to the Harbour welooked around and realized that we were the youngest people on the bus by about 50 years and wondered why the travel agent hadn’t told us that we’d picked the geriatric tour of Fraser Island. Once at the harbour though we saw that there were lots of other buses too and more youngsters. Our tour was a small group, only 11 people and a driver. For Two days we drove around in a 4 wheel drive bus. It looked almost like a huge blue Hummer with Monster truck wheels. I do love my monster trucks and although we didn’t meet up with Gravedigger or the one that looks like a dog, we did drive over some seriously rocky terrain, spin out on sand dunes and truck through mud pits. Fraser Island is huge. On the east coast of the Island there is a 90 mile beach that is a graded road too. It’s a sand free way really and one of the most alien looking landscapes (second only to Egypt). The whole Island is made up of sand. There are only two rocks on the island, the rest is beach. Some of the beach has a rain forest jungle growing on top of it with million year old trees, pure streams and oh yeah, 6 of the 13 species of deadly snakes found in australia. Fortunately for me they are very shy and we haven’t seen a snake outside of the zoo. So there’s a rainforest to trek through, desert sanddunes that hide anemerald green fresh water lake complete with catfish, the oceanjust off 90 mile beach is “chock full of sharks” and uinswimmable due to a ferocious rip-tide but the island gives you anicy natural spring stream where an eel swam right past my leg (I nearly died), the rusted skeleton of the shipwrecked Maheno, a cruiseship that washed ashore in the 20’s and has called 90 mile beach her home ever since, the bubbling Champagne pools, like hardened lava bubble holes filled by the crashing of waves up over their edges and amazing Lake Makenzie which lived up to the title “most beautiful” at least as far as lakes go. Lake Makenzie is a fresh water lake in the middle of Fraser Island with the cleanest, clear blue water, soft white sand, surrounded on all sides by thick forest. I don’t think I’ll ever swim in a Minnesota lake again without feeling like we’ve got all quantity and seriously lack the quality. You can see how deep the lake is by how blue the water is. From crystal clear to a deep cobalt blue. It’s so vivid in color, contrasted with bright white sand,the dark green jungle and clear blue sky. It’s as if you stepped into a painting. We spent the afternoon there and even though it was chilly, we braved a swim in the water which oddly enough makes your hair super fluffy. Something about the pH according to our awesome guide, ex-fisherman, Steve. The other people on the tour were alright too except for one guy from Chicago who was irritating in an almost but not quite loveable way and reminded me of Gilligan. He even wore a white buckethat and red long sleeved shirt. Our 48 hours on Fraser Island were just perfect and lived up to the hype. I’d love to go back when the weather was a bit warmer. Lake Makenzie is the stuff my dreams are made of.

We got back to the mainland around 6 pm and decided to spend the night at the same place our tour group was headed. We hung out with themfor a bit that night, Ryan played poker for the first time in 2 months (if only for matchsticks) and it was decided that we’d venture south the next day and try to find Steve Irwin’s crocodile haven, The Australia Zoo. Here’s Ryan to tell you more about his favorite Zoo in the world.

rpk here-

First of all, we were told in advance and then it was realized to be true by us that one gets really tired of seeing Steve Irwin’s face around every corner.’Little Steve’, which is just the zoo mascot, but is a guy dressed up like steve Irwinwearing a giant head that’s supposed to look like him.By the time we left the zoo, we wanted to feedSteve Irwinto the crocs.But his fame and fortune from becoming world famous has come in very handy as this zoo is very modern, the facilities are state of the art, and it looks like they take very good careof their animals there.Unlike some other (como) zoos to which (como) we’ve been (como).Only a couple weeks before we visited, the Australia Zoo’s most famous resident, Harriet the tortoise died of old age.Actually,I read in Thailand that she died of a heart attack at age 175.This is one of the tortoises that Charles Darwin himself removed from the Galapagos Islands to bring back to England for study back in the 1840s or something and stayed in England for a long time, but was given to Australia as it was assumed that it would eb a good home for her or something like that.Details are not my strong suit.Her pen remains empty and there are flowers, memorials, poems, pictures scattered all over the place paying tribute to this friendly beast, and it made me a little sad to discover how nearly we missed her.But my favorite part of the zoo is this little section called Kangaroo Heaven.Now, as CR already mentioned, the only roos we had seen up to that point were flat by the side of the road.This is not the place where these roos’ souls went to rest,but instead is this fenced-off sectionacre or twowhere a couple dozenroos and wallabies (not much difference by the way.i still can’t tell them apart) have free reign to hop around on2 legs, stroll casually on 5 legs (they use their tail as a leg sometimes, it’s freakin’ crazy), or lounge in the sun and wait for people to come over with pre-purchased Roo Food and eat out of human hands.The roos aren’t really personable unless you have a palm full of protein niblets or whatever they were, but are so chill.Much like most of the Australian people we have come across, they are so laid back, they bearly even blink when you come up to pet them.I haven’t tried to pet any Australian people in the 3 weeks we’ve been here, but i’m sure they’d react much the same way.I found one roo in particular sitting in the sun by himself, so i lied down on the grass to see what Roo Heaven life was like.it was very relaxing.CR has this thing for elephants.and chimps.And lizards, monkeys, rhinoceri, hippos….you get the point.But i have found a soft spot in my heart for the kangaroo.as long as you’re not threatening them or trying to steal their babies, the roo is very approachable.we wanderewd around a bunch more and saw baby koalas which are so bloody cute it’s impossible to put into words, and enormous crocs and dingoes, but when we walked into the kid zoo where you can pet farm animals, a certain young pink and black squealer named Bubba was sticking his nose through the fence.After seeing Bubba the 3 week old pig, CR did one of those gasps as though she just saw a car crash or a banan milk shake or something and started to cry out of the sheer cuteness factor.she’s tearing up now just thinking about Bubba.she hasn’t had bacon since.i have to admit, Bubba was a heart stealer.when you put your hand down into the pen, he would press his little nose against your palm and just push and push and push.the pics we have are mostly blurry, but Bubba the pig was a cutie patootie.CR’s face are in her hands right now as i type this and she just keeps repeating ‘i love that pig. i love him’.CR enetered the snake hut with me.Very brave.considering these were some of the world’s deadliest and biggest snakes on display.She lasted thru about 8 of the 15 or so snakes and started to get woozie and waited outside for me.there were reticulated pythons and cobras and death adders and rattlesnakes…….so cool.After the Zoo we continued down the coast through Brisbane.We had planned all along to stop there, but according to Lonely Planet, there wasn’t much there besides Museums and bars……….. besides.we had Amusement parks to attend.:-)

We found this cheap little family owned hotel that suggested a local Italian joint.So we caught up on our Australian Reality TV and had the best pizzas we have ever eaten.now, we eat lots of Za, both frozen, homemade, delivery, authentic pizza in Italy (CR doesn’t agree with me in that last degree of awesomeness, but i stand firm in my belief).This little out of the way place in some random Aussie suburb of Brisbane has the RPK-proclaimed world’s best.too bad we can’t remember the name of the place in case any of you are ever in a random Bribane suburb, or else i’d recommend it to you.blah blah blah, the next day we went to DREAMWORLD which is kinda like Valley Fair, except it has half as many roller coasters, has Nickelodeon characters running around everywhere, and has a tiger show a couple times a day, and is the home of AUS’s biggest reality show, Big Brother which is exactly like American Big Brother, except the contestants aren’t aspiring actor wannabes.DreamWorld does have it’s own Power Tower, but their ‘Tower of Terror’ was actually two rides in one.One that slowly hoisted you about 30 stories i the air before dropping you and then stopping you about 10 meteres off the ground.we skipped that one.But another ride that shot you like a bullet out of a tunnel and sned you most of the way up this tower and then pulls you straight back down and back into the tunnel, all in about 12 seconds.it was nuts.i don’t thinkknow how my brother is with roller coasters, but i don’t thinkhe would have lasted.it took some stupid kiddy ride for me to get sick.i hate the ones that spin you around and turn you upside down while going around ina circle.those bastards get me every time.anyway, the last ride of the day (i was queasy so CR went by herself) called Wipeout got stuck in mid air, so CR was dangling, not upside down thankfully, for about 20 minutes while the technicians constantly apologized and assured everyone that they’d be down shortly.she was having fun i think, and we got free ice cream out of the deal so it was forgiven.it didn’t really satisfy the theme park bug because the very next day we went to MovieWorld.Holy cow, theme park lovers would dig this place.it only had two big roller coasters but they were both wicked.the Park is run by Warner Brothers so the rides are all named after movies.the Police Academy Stunt Show which was very cool, Lethal Weapon roller coaster, Superman ESCAPE roller coaster, the Batman interactive ride which was really lame, but particularly entertaining for laugh value.the animatronic Batman Dummy needed a little oiling i think.But Digital Catwoman sure can do a cartwheel.

some kid just threw up right behind me on the carpet in the internet shop and then walked right out.that is f**kin’ gross.the attendant is just smirking over there behind his little desk calling maintenance.that’s something i didn’t really expect.

where was i?the Scooby Doo ride was neat, too.my concentration is now expired, so i might hand the reins back to CR.i do wanna say something about Sydney, but I’ll wait until she gets that far.Bye from our last day in Auistralia.rpk out——–

CRT back. Wow. like, directly behind us is this pool of puke. I’ll type fast before it starts to stink. I mean, dude, are you going to come clean this up or what? This place is the most exciting internet cafe ever. Emergency sirens, barfing kids. What’s going to happen next?! We’ll keep you posted. Anyway, After 2 days on the Gold coast riding rides and soaking in all the glitz (the gold coast is like L.A. down under without the plastic surgery.) we were disappointed to find out that Surfer’s Paradise is more like Rich Yuppie, ex-srufer’s paradise. On our budget, which is more generous than we can probably afford anyway, Surfer’s Paradise was definately out. It looks a lot like Miami Beach. We didn’t stick around long, headed south to spend the night in a place called Mermaid Beach (no mermaids…sad.) Woke up the next morning and played 2 rounds of mini-golf because we had a coupon (I love coupons) Ryan was the winner of both matches and was a gracious victor, not getting even slighty annoyed with my new style of miniture golfing which is basically hacking away at the ball until it goes in. It might be an example of my OCD but I cannot leave the hole until I have put the ball in. It can sometimes take 20 strokes. I was way over Par! On our way out I spotted my most favorite arcade game in the world a shooting game called Point Blank. I indulged and played against Ryan who won again darn it! It was the big loser for the third time and it wasn’t even noon. Ryan later told me it had been one of his favorite days. Well, no kidding, you won everything! Too continue our budget day we drove up to a lookout point and played a game of scrabble while watching surfers on the waves below. Even though I lost that game too, it was a really great day. While we were playing scrabbled a familiar smell wafted by and i looked at Ryan and said, “I smell Kentucky Fried Chicken.” We looked around and sure enough the people in the car next to us were chowing down on some KFC. Their windows were rolled up and we couldSTILL smell it. That Colonel knows howto advertise I guess because the next thing I knew we were on the road looking for lunch. Specifically looking for the white haired man with his little black bow-tie.Later thatday we made it to Byron Bay. It was raining and pretty chilly. We thought we’d look for a place to stay but everything was either booked or WAY too expensive. The town itself looked so great. Much more like a “surfer’s paradise” with little shops and cafe’s, kind of a hippy vibe. It woud have been really neat to stay there but it was just too spendy. Instead we drove up to the town’s main attraction, The Lighthouse and walked in the icy mist out to the cape, the Eastern Most point of continetal Australia where Ryan, being an expert at marine wildlife sighting, pointed out with a shocked shout, “Sharks!” Sure enough there were 4-5 dark grey fins swiimming around just off shore. We watched closely and then decided that they must be dolphins because they arched their backs out of the water too much to be sharks. We watched until my feet were so frozen that we had to get some socks on them and headed back to the car. We drove south and found cheaper accomodation and really yummy chinese food. In the morning we headed for the mountain town of Nimbin. Nimbin is a place where time stands still. And the stoned resdients do too. It’s called the Amsterdam of Australia only it’s tiny and the town is inhabited mostly by people who came to the Aquarius festival in the 60’s and then just never left. There’s an illegally legal policy there. We were offered homemade chocolate cookies (with asecret ingredient I’m sure)on the sidewalk and there were lots of people just chillin’, some offering “smoke” to you. We were tourists for sure and felt a little uncomfortable for it. We wandered into The Nimbin Museum which is like a mini House on the Rock (in wisconsin) only filled with psychadelic art and painted rantings instead of junk. Well, there was junk too, but I think the artists meant to put it there. In one room of the “museum” there were about 30 egg beaters hanging from the ceiling. That was my favorite part. The best part of our trip to Nimbin was the ride there and back. Winding roads, lots of trees, gentle mountain slopes and sweeping views of valleys. I liked it more than Ryan did because I was driving.

And now for my favorite part! Hunter Valley! I’ve been waiting for this since the trip began. Hunter Valley is known the world over as one of the premiere wine regions in Australia, specializing in bold reds like the peppery shiraz and fruity cabernet sauvignon. We knew that it would be a bit spendier there than in other parts of Australia so we were happy to find a motel for 80$ AU in Cessnock which is central to all the vineyards in Huinter Valley. SInce neither of us wanted to be the designated driver we chose to take a “Wine Tour” which is a mini bus that drives you all around to different vineyards and then drives you home at the end of the day. Since it’s winter, the vines were all bare and the beauty of the valley wasn’t even close to what it must look like in spring and summer but it was still lovely. lots of rolling hills, country estates and even some of Ryan’s beloved Kangaroo’s sunning themselves in the fields. There weren’t many other tourists around, there was just one couple from the UK also on our bus so the four of us went around to 5 vineyards( Ivanhoe, Terrace Vale, Tinklers, McLeish and Tintilla) all smaller, a chocolate shop, a cheese shop and a boutiquey restraunt for lunch. At each vineyard there’s a person there to tell you about the wine, why it’s the greatest, what makes their vineyard and ultimately their wine the best. You taste about 6-10 wines at each place. Even though the samples are small (20 mL or so) after 5 vineyards you definitely need a ride home. The wines were great, we found a couple that we loved. Semillon isn’t a wine that you find in the states very often and it was great crisp and citrusy, and verdhallo which is a white wine that you can cellar apparently. I digress. It was a fun way to spend a day, swirling, fluffing, smelling, picking out subtle hints of this or that in each wine. There were also unexpected bonuses like at McLeish, they served us homemade tomato relish and crackers. Tomato relish sounds kind of gross but it was so fresh, slightly sweet and totally delicious. Ryan ate most of the bowl that they laid out. I wish we could have bought some. It would be gone by now but still. Yum. The most beautiful vineyard was Tintilla. It looked like it was straight out of Tuscany with a gently slope to the land, a forest, a hunting dog roaming around and a gorgeous Italian style villa housing the tasting. I wanted to move in. They also had an olive grove there and so I sampled flavored olive oils and olives after my wine. Throughout the day I was tempted to buy a mixed case (12 bottles) and ship them home as most of the vineyards we visited don’t export commerically to the US but with shipping costs well over 200$ I decided I would resist. Tiffany and Sallyand Meg, I missed youthree through out the day, and Ryan and I fondly imagined Joel there with us. We expect he would have excelled at swirling and fluffing and would have offered priceless comentary. Needless to say it was an early night. We grabbed some 5 dollar pizza deal, ate enough to saok up most of the booze and went to sleep around 9pm.

That brings us to Sydney. The best city so far. Ryan and I are in agreement that Sydney wins hands down. Imagine the best parts of all your favorite american cities: the charm of Chicago, the harbor of San Fran or Seattle, beaches of Sand Diego andHonolulu, anddiversity of even New York and Boston, then mix them all together, reduce the noise, remove the hustle-bustle, capitalist driven, humourlessamericans and replace them with the laid back, No Worries!, friendly Aussies, add the famous Opera House and the postcard perfect harbour and you’ve got Sydney. If we do ever need to flee the country and disappear suddenly look for us here. We arrived in town and headed for an area called the Rocks which is directly under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and has a great old-world feel and look and amazing views of the opera house. At the visitors center we were told of a great website called wotif.com and found downtown accomodation at stand-by/low-occupancy rates. Unfortunately we didn’t factor in parking and ended up spendinganother 50 bucks for 2 days of parking. Boo. We explored the city walked all around the harbour and the Circle Quay, found Darling Harbour, went to the Maritime museum which includes 4 ships that you go on board and check out. The first ship was a battleship called the Vampire. It was used throughout the cold war and as a transport boat in vietnam as well. They allow you to climb all through the ship, and most of it is perfectly preserved from when they retired it in 1986. There is also a submarine that we went aboard too. Way too confining for my tastes. But it was still really cool. Next up was an exact replica of Captain COok’s Endeavor which is the ship that “discovered” Australia. And Hawaii. And New Zealand. And a bunch of other places too. Since Cook and Co. kept detailed journals the recreationists were able to include things like fabrics used and decorations that Cook kept in his study. There were old men who worked on the boats as volunteer guides and they would totter up to us, ask us where we were from and then follow us around the ship giving lots of information and some fascinating lessons in maritime history. The last ship was the James Craig, a ship that had been a part of her majesty’s navy, sunk and then restored, now offering cruises for tourists. It sets sail the day we leave so now sea voyage for us. We hadn’t expected to go to the museum but it turned out to be a really worthwhile experience. SInce we’ve been to the Reef itself we decided to skip the Aquarium which we hear is excellent and went to a 3-d Imax movie instead (rpk here-not to mentionon the world’s largest I-Max screen. 8 stories tall!). It was great fun! SInce it was about dusk we hoofed it over to the Opera house to see it lit up. That thing is just as cool as it looks in pictures. Debby Reynolds was tapping her little heart out the night we were there. We didn’t see the show, I think she wanted 150 dollars or something ridiculous so we wandered romantically back over to the Rocks area and had ourselves a lovely Italian dinner on the patio. Ha! Winter. In the morning we drove over the Harbour bridge to the Taronga zoo where I had heard they were keeping the baby chimps. I liked this zoo even more than Crocodile Hunter’s place. There were giraffes, chimps, every other kind of monkey, big and small lizards, (snakes!), pygmy hippo, koalas, kangaroos, wombats a Rhinosaur, a bird show, poisonous spider, tigers all set on a cliff over looking the Harbour and the opera house. The most scenic zoo in the world, i’d reckon. We also saw a platypus and therefore rounded out our list of all of the freakish australian animals we’ve seen. I captured a chimp eating his own turd on camera, so you can all look forward to that one! It is impossible to watch the chimps, a four generation family, with grandparents and babies, without thinking of humans. I know there are lots of differing beliefs on the subject but after watching this family interact and noting the physical similarities between chimps and humans i think we must be related. It was fascinating and I could have watched them all day. After the zoo we headed out of town, got lost and lost and all turned around and drove around for three hours looking for a hotel that was in close proximity to the airport. Only to find out this morning that we were only ten minutes from where we stayed the night before. Oh well. This way, we got to come back into Sydney to day and spend our last day in the city that we are so fond of.

The puke is finally being picked up. They swept over it awhile ago but now they’ve brought the mop.

So there we end our trip to Terra Australis. Tomorrow we fly to New Zealand, ready or not. only 3.5 weeks and we’ll be home. I can’t even believe it. I have major mixed feelings about the trip being almost over. I can hear smushy calling me though and it will be nice to be still and surrounded again by friends and family that I miss so much rather than strangers day in and day out. Hope the fringe was a wild success for all of you thespians and tech-ians. Love all of you. CR

rpk here-

I’m in complete agreement about Sydney. Today having lunch by the Harbor, the sun was beating down on my neck with an ever-so-slight breeze wisping by. Probably a temperate 72 degrees F. Ferries and Sight-seeing boats docking and setting sail every couple of minutes. And this is the dead of winter! I’m starting a little bit to hope the 2008 election goes the way the last two have….. then we’d have a perfect excuse to come back to Sydney for a longer period. of course i’m not entirely serious. not entirely. back to extreme world travelling tomorrow. after the headlines these last few days,flying isgoing to be a little more nerve-racking than it has previously, i think. of course, i have my theories about the events of the last few days, but that’s another play for another day. see you all in less than a month and hopefully you’re all still reading an enjoying our blog. (no comments last time!) don’t forget about us! Happy Fringe Closing and ummmmmmmm………yeah. Love n stuff – RPK
Posted from Japan:

posted Saturday August 2006

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