Today we officially took our first steps in good ole’ Boston in over 16 months. We almost had to follow the freedom trail in order to find our way around.
If you’ve spent most of the past year and a half wondering where we were, you’re not alone. This collage should help a bit; it’s all the places we’ve slept on our journey. Or at least all the places we remembered to take a photo.
We can’t say thank you enough to all the people who have opened up their homes (and pantries) to us in every country – our current hosts included!. We love our tent Gusty, but it is good to get a shower occasionally. (If your house isn’t in the collage, it means we were too bleary eyed when we left to get a photo and you need to send us one!)
We did a rough count of how many times we stayed in different locations:
Our tent (Gusty): 74 different sites (100+ nights)
Houses of friends and family: 28
Train: 1 (overnight from Sydney to Adelaide)
Boat: 1 (on Doubtful Sound)
Car: 1 (Under a bridge, down by a river. I’m not kidding, it was late, we were tired, and we didn’t want to camp next to train tracks for another night.)
Not to fear though, being back in Boston does not mean we will stop having adventures. Stay tuned for more, maybe we’ll even fill in some of the gaps while we’re at it, you never know.
Well, 3841 Australia pictures have now been reduced down to the much more easily consumed (and uploaded) number of 290. Mekayla still thinks that is too many. (As if you have something better to do than live vicariously through us. HA!) So we have also created a Top 40 list showing the best of the best.
Of course you have probably seen many of the top 40 on the blog, but now you can also download full resolution versions of them and use them as you see fit. Who doesn’t want a desktop background of me sitting in a tent, or me looking at a termite mound. The possibilities for plastering my picture on every facet of your computer experience are endless. So dive on in:
If you are unsure of where places are, take a look at our journey map of Australia.
Within each of the albums you can also start a slideshow of the photos by clicking on this icon on the top left of the page:
The slideshow does a good job of loading the other pictures in the background while you are looking at one. Unfortunately our site is not quite as user friendly as it should be, so most people probably never realize that the slideshow feature is there.
Speaking of updating the site, I updated the main page: www.saltypoint.com. Not that this actually makes any real difference in anyone’s lives, but I’ve been having fun with web programming recently, and thought I would share.
Anyway, enjoy Australia. We need a bit of a break before trying to tackle New Zealand photos, but hopefully they will get up in early February. Of course the number of NZ photos keeps increasing too. I took 400 photos of seals over the weekend! Cheers!
I said before that we were going to stop taking pictures of the squirrels. But then a clan of kangaroos showed up and our resolution broke down entirely.
Lastly, for all of the golf fans, we have the golf course in Anglesea, Victoria where a mob of kangaroos lounge on the golf course relatively oblivious to the golfers.
The Great Ocean Road was built to be similar to the Pacific Highway in California, but I would have to say it is a fair bit more spectacular.
And at sunset the red colors of the rocks really starts to stand out.
We were also blessed with stormy weather. I decided not to bore you with twenty pictures of rainbows. Why are there so many pictures of rainbows? Possibly it is because we saw eight in one day. It alternated between rain and sunshine every half hour or so.
Well, this one has a rainbow in it, but that is really incidental. There is also a dog!
It is rare that we end up with any pictures of the two of us these days and since there are parents reading this blog I will throw some red meat to the wolves in this post.
Our whirlwind tour of South Australia took us from Adelaide up to the Flinders Ranges and back down through the vineyards of the Barossa Valley. The drives in between entertained us with open country of yellow fields of canola starting to flower, sheep as red as the dust in which they were grazing, and lonely, broken homes left behind by failed settlers.
We were lucky enough to have timed our arrival in South Australia with the beginning of spring. The wildflowers had just started flowering when we reached the Flinders Ranges for a few nights of camping. We also hiked over twenty-two kilometers of spectacular, rugged terrain.
The day before we got to watch some Aussies try and conquer a hill with their 4WD. They got a pretty good running start, but when they were halfway up the 60-degree slope the wheels spun in the dirt until the engine stalled out from the dust. They then meekly turned around and drove away. It is quite entertaining what you get to see just while sitting at your campsite.
We spent only one day tasting wine in the Barossa Valley.
Our train ride from Sydney to Adelaide was a beautiful experience. Traveling by train allowed us the luxury of reading while the 1400 kilometers sped effortlessly past the windows. We left Sydney in the afternoon and watched the sun set upon the Blue Mountains. When the sun rose again we were greeted by kangaroos racing along beside the train and vast stretches of flat, scrubby outback.
Near the outback town of Broken Hill a recorded announcement described the largest freshwater lake in Australia and that we were about to pass it. Immediately after the recording, the conductor came on and explained that the large expanse of scrubby trees to our left was what used to be the lake. The drought (or climate change) in Australia has completely dried the lake up. Where before we would have been looking out on boats fishing, there were now trees and bushes.
As we crossed over into the state of South Australia the emptiness of the outback began to be replaced with farmlands and sheep and cattle pastures. The brown, scruffy country turned to green, manicured farms. Both are beautiful in their own ways.
I guess the only problem with the train is the rather poor sleeping accommodations in the cheap seats. (Have I mentioned yet that I got bored of shaving)
Our last day in Australia. We have a date with some penguins tonight, and then tomorrow morning we get on our flight to New Zealand. I’m hoping to use the flight to catch up on writing a few more blog posts to finish telling some stories about Australia, so there will probably be one more splattering of Australia posts to come.
We’re definitely looking forward to being in one place for longer than a few days, but are going to miss all the camping and driving around we’ve been able to do.
The past few days have been great though because we’ve been staying just outside of Melbourne with some new friends we met while camping up in Queensland. They showed us footy (Australian Rules Football), fed us kangaroo, and made a last valiant attempt to get us to eat Vegemite.
In Cairns and the Whitsundays we did a bit of snorkeling which was absolutely beautiful. I’m still not very proficient at underwater photography, but with some editing of the pictures some came out ok.
Anyway, here are our two intrepid snorkelers. Mekayla’s picture came out with a bit of a modernist twist that I rather like.
This picture of the coral does mostly capture the colors correctly, but it is impossible to capture the experience when it is just a few feet from your face.
The schools of fish that seem as interested in us as we are in them are in my opinion one of the coolest parts of snorkeling. And it is amazing how many fish you see in just two or three feet of water.
While I’m on the subject of sea life I might as well sneak in a few pictures from the whale watch. Not much different from New England whale watching in my opinion except that the sea is an incredible blue.
Given the amount of time we spent trying to photo a platypus and because Mekayla went and shaped her birthday cake as one, I cannot skip out on writing a blog post about trying to observe them.
They are as cute as you think they are, but much smaller and rarer than you can imagine. The first time we went looking for them we sat quietly by the side of a pool where it was said they came out and expected it would be rather obvious when one showed up. After over an hour we gave up. We saw our first one from 60 yards away when we noticed other people pointing off into the water.
It was a barely visible hump that was really only distinguishable because when it was on the surface for 10 seconds at a time it swam around. Then the platypus would arch its back and disappear into the black river. They would then stay under water for a couple of minutes before briefly resurfacing.
We probably spent 3 hours trying to find and take pictures of them that day, and then we got up at daybreak to pursue them again the next day as well. We certainly did see many and with patience got to watch them for quite some time. But taking good pictures of them was very difficult because they were so shy. The few times that they did surface near me I was rarely able to focus on them and take the picture before they submerged again. This is what I got most of the time:
But there were a few decent shots in the end as well. This one does a pretty good job of showing their size.
The roads in Australia certainly deserve their own post. They are a very different experience from the interstate highway system in the United States. Occasionally we have actually come across divided highways with overpasses and separate passing lanes. But far more often we have seen one long stretch of two lanes, one in each direction.
Passing (called overtaking here) is always an adventure, and of course there are the previously mentioned road trains. More exciting still was the many miles of the Kennedy Highway and Gregory Developmental Road (there is probably a bad joke in that which only my Mother would find funny) where the two lanes in either direction converged to a single lane, in both directions. The speed limit is 100 km/h.
When cars come in the other direction you each slow down and drive with half your wheels in the dirt and the other half on the pavement. When a road train comes you pull over off of the pavement. They don’t get out of your way. Fortunately a helpful gas station owner gave me a lengthy rundown of what to expect on these roads. There were signs, but having someone hit you over the head before the insanity starts is quite helpful.
Along the Kennedy highway we also saw someone who was putting our adventure to shame: a lone biker heading out into the outback. When we passed him, he probably had over a hundred kilometers before the next town. His bike was weighed down by what was mostly water and food.
Along one of the back roads before we left the Atherton Tablelands we also met the largest snake we have ever seen. Its body was only halfway onto the road and yet it was taking up the entire lane and had its head 2 feet up in the air looking at us as we drove past. Since seeing it I have lamented not stopping to take a picture, but at the time all I could think was “big snake, must go faster.”
We figured out afterwards that it was actually a python, completely nonpoisonous and not dangerous at all. Since seeing it though there have been numerous other sightings: snake shaped branch, snake shaped bark, snake shaped leaf, etc. Maybe one of these days we will again see an actual snake. In the meantime our travels will occasionally be delayed by detritus in the road.
Oh, and this is me fording my first creek in Eungella National Park.
And here is me testing the depth before going across another one. We were actually kind of frightened by this one, but it all worked out.