Snorkelling The Great Barrier Reef Low Isles

Whether you are in Cairns or Port Douglas one of the must things to do is to take a boat out to the Great Barrier Reef. There are a few options which are very popular with day trippers that sail either out to Fitzroy or Green Island which are closer to Cairns or a trip out to the Low Isles which is closer to Port Douglas.

As we were staying in Port Douglas we decided to take the Quicksilver catamaran out to Low Isles as the islands are only 13 kilometres from Port Douglas. This helped with our decision as well as the fact that the tours are catered for roughly fifty people where if you were going out to one of the other islands the boats are much larger and cater for around 100 people. Quicksilver is one of four companies that are licensed to moor at Low Isles.

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Continue reading “Snorkelling The Great Barrier Reef Low Isles”

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A day in the Daintree Rainforest

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Port Douglas is a small town of 3000 people located about an hour from Cairns in  North Queensland. The town is fortunate to be close to two World Heritage sites the world famous Great Barrier Reef as well as having the Daintree Rain forest as its back yard. With many tour companies running day tours out to the forest then this is the easiest and best way to explore the area if you have limited time. Continue reading “A day in the Daintree Rainforest”

Escape The Gold Coast, hike the trails in Lammington National Park

You have just spent the past few days soaking up the sun during the day and partying through the night and in between checked out the Theme parks that make the itinerary on any trip to the Gold Coast but it is now time to escape, you’re not in any mood to be amongst the crowds anymore, you have had enough of the morning hangovers. You just want peace and quiet but where can that place be. I’ll tell you just here.

Lammington National Park is just over an hours drive from Surfers Paradise, the heart of the Gold Coast. Once arriving the contrasts will hit you instead of the thumping of the DJ’s music you will hear the chirping of the birds. Instead of being surrounded by built up skyscrapers you will be surrounded by the sub tropical rain forests that has been listed as a  world  heritage site since 1994.

On the plateau of Lammington National park lies O’Reilly’s Guest house which is the only accommodation in the park. O’Reilly’s have been offering guests a place to stay for nearly 100 hundred years. It now features 66 rainforest retreat rooms free of television and telephones and 48 self contained Eco lodges.

O’Reilly’s may have been isolated from the rest of Australia with the National park surrounding it however Bernard O’Reilly became an Australian hero in February 1937 when he found the crash site of a Stinson airplane. He helped rescue two survivors John Proud and Joe Binstead, four other men died in the crash.

Lammington National Park may not be the oldest park in Queensland but it is one of the most significant often being referred to as Queensland’s National Park. If you’re a fan of hiking and waterfalls then you have come to the right place with the park consisting of 160 kilometers in trails and over 500 waterfalls.

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Moran Falls

We stayed two nights at O’Reilly’s and while the rooms were clean and well maintained you are definitely paying for the convenience of being able to sleep in the National Park, close to the trails.From the room we looked out over the open fields where early in the morning and at dusk you could look out and see the pademelon, a rabbit sized marsupial which has similar features to a kangaroo grazing on the lawn.

At the time our son, Rei was quite young so we couldn’t venture out on the long tracks we however filled the days on shorter trails but still very rewarding. One morning,we ventured out to  Moran Falls where the water gushed, plummeting eighty metres to the bottom. The sunlight bounced off the water forming rainbows, we stood and watched as we lost our thought to the rhythmic flow of the water. Another we made our way to The Wishing Tree, which is the tallest tree in the park, we crossed a suspension bridge that crossed over a fern gully, we scrambled up Mick’s Tower a lookout that the rangers use to check for signs of bush fires that Australia is well-known for.

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The view from Mick’s lookout

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The wishing tree

The most popular in terms of people due to its convenience is the Tree-Top walk  which are made up of nine suspension bridges hovering fifteen metres above the ground. We have done a few of these walks in Northern Queensland and Malaysia but never seem to see anything extra even though you are supposed to be closer to the wildlife so we were left a little disappointed.

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Tree top walk

During the down time we relaxed in our rooms, soaked in the jacuzzi and spent enjoyable time feeding the rosellas that fly in everyday looking for food.At night with no TV and being in the middle of the forest you may wonder what we were left to do. However O’Reilly’s show documentaries filmed in the park and have tours to the glow worms that really do look like stars twinkling in the sky.

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How to get to O’Reilly’s

 

Unfortunately if you don’t have a car then getting there takes a little organization and becomes a little expensive if you are more than one.  There is no public transportation to the park so one must organize with a company that makes day tours to the park to drive you and pick you up when you would like to return to civilization.

 

 

 

 

 

The Melbourne Cup, the race that stops a nation

On the first Tuesday in November at 3pm everyone is tuned into the television to watch one of the biggest horse races in the world, the Melbourne Cup. The race is so popular that it is a state holiday in Victoria.  What other race or sports event has a holiday belonging to it, not one that’s how big it is.

The race was first held in 1861 with the winner being Archer. The remarkable story of Archer is that the horse walked over 800 kilometres to compete in the race. Not only did Archer win the first year, the horse also won the following.

Archer won $710 and a gold watch, the prize money has come a long way since then with the purse now being $6,175,000 making it one of the richest horse races in the world. The race is ran over 3200 metres by horses that are three years and older.

Melbourne Cup Parade

Join 100,000 people in a carnival like parade on the Monday when jockeys, trainers, owners and former cup winners as well as the impressive gold cup that the horses are racing for move through downtown along Swanston Street.

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 Race Day Fashion

What to wear on race day, this is a big question. Race day fashion is not to be taken lightly. Men wear suits while women wear brand name dresses and don’t forget the most important apparel of all, the hat.

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 The Parade Ring

The parade ring gives you the chance to get up close to these exquisite horses as they are walked around a ring before being led out to race. There is nothing better though than to have a decent vantage point to watch the horses race by along the 320 metre straight towards the finishing line.

 2013 Winner

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This years winner was…………….Fiorente. It paid $7, the win and $2.60 for the place.

 How to get there?

Don’t even think about driving to the races or taking a taxi. It would feel like a nightmare, the simple way take the train to Flemington station. It is opposite the course.

Tickets

You won’t be able to buy tickets on the day at the track unless you buy over the price tickets from a scalper which is also illegal. To get tickets you need to buy them through ticketek.

Have you been to the Melbourne Cup? We would love to hear about it.

Observations of my home country, Australia

I have only been home a handful of times over the last 14 years because i have been living in Japan.  So much has changed over those years that I feel I actually felt some kind of culture shock the last few times I  visited.  I had heard people getting culture shock after returning to their country but I actually believed that couldn’t be true until now. So here are  the observations I made while in Australia.

1    We really do say mate virtually after every sentence.

 My friends always told me this in Japan but I never used to think we said it this much.  Everybody just says it I’m sure they don’t realise how much they say it, ask for something in the shops and their reply would be that will be 10$ mate.   “Have a nice day mate”,  “enjoy your stay mate,” even at immigration or customs the officers were using the word mate “please open your bag mate”,  “could you empty your pockets mate”

 After a few days I started singing a song IN Australia there was a mate, here a mate, there a mate everywhere a mate,mate. This was sung to the tune of Old MacDonald. Sorry I work as a kindergarten teacher so I might be around kids just a little too much.

2      We have all truly gained weight.

Women I’m sorry are big from any age, of course there are still  a few slim women ,but the bigger girl far out weighs the slimmer one mate. Men on the other hand seem to play a lot of sport and you don’t notice them as large until the age of 35. When they aren’t as active on the sports scene, their drinking their beers and yes that famous beer gut of ours does appear  then mate.

As I type this I look down at myself I’m  not as active either, and yes I do love a drink there does appear to be a bulge in my stomach. OOh no soon I’m going to have a beer gut just like Homer Simpson and I have the receding hair too, life does not look good for me,  DOH.

3       Supersize Me

Morgan Spurlock brought us the brilliant Supersize Me documentary, which I believe everybody in marketing a consumer product must have watched they took the idea of taking an ordinary  size product, well it was 14 years ago to  making it twice as big.

Come on mate every thing is just huge in Australia from a meal to a drink to even toothpaste everything is just gigantic. Morgan Spurlock probably tripled in size after eating all those MacDonald burgers so twice as big is probably not too bad.

4       Everybodies in a hurry

Having lived in Asia the past 14 years and having really enjoyed some great meals and some great company. I was looking forward to eating at some good restaurants in Australia. Some meals in Asia, I have spent  2 or 3 hours chatting over the meal but not here as I watched couples and groups of friends devour their food in about 15 minutes, not talking, just shovelling the fork into their mouths, not knowing if they are really enjoying their meal or not and when finished they simply get up and leave.

Is this how we enjoy our meals now or have they simply had enough of the waiters asking every 2 minutes if we need anything else or are we finished yet mate , even though there is still food on the table and the place is half empty. I’m now thinking to myself ………..and all i can come up with is Gee MATE

5        Driving

I thought I would hire a car, when I was in Australia. I don’t have one in Japan so I hadn’t driven in 14 years and i didn’t really want my mum to be driving me around everywhere i wanted to go.

I asked mum how much a litre of petrol was now in Australia and I think she recalled it was over $1.50 a litre. My mouth just opened wide  and no the word mate didn’t come out of my mouth, it was more like  #$#&$&$% .I guess you mates will get the meaning of that. It was only about 85 cents when I lived here.

 Every time I got in the car, went a couple of kilometres down the road I started thinking  about what was coming out of the exhaust pipe and no it wasn’t about the gasses coming out and polluting the air. All I could think of was there goes another $1.50 out of the exhaust.

6          You can be a tourist in your own country

I quickly found out that you can be a tourist in your own country. I visited a wildlife sanctuary while in Australia.  The main reason we went was so my Japanese wife and son could see Australian wildlife but here I was with my camera clicking away  taking a hundred shots of kangaroos, yes bloody kangaroos mate.

 It’s not that I haven’t seen a kangaroo before. I can’t count on two hands how many kangaroos I’ve seen oh wait a minute I can’t even count on my fingers and toes how many kangaroos I’ve seen ,then why did I take so many photos, that I still can not answer.

 It didn’t stop there ,when it came to koalas I  was doing the same thing admittedly I had not seen as many in the wild as I had seen kangaroos but still I have seen my fair share. It even got worst I was asking all these stupid questions to the zoo keeper about koalas. Well DUUUH it wasn’t as if I hadn’t learnt anything about these animals in primary school . What the hell was i doing.

7           Yes we truly do exaggerate

Here I was going to Port Douglas. A town in Northern Australia, home to the great crocodile. I was visiting my parents in southern Australia before going up north and all I heard from my parents, her friends, even people I didn’t know, that you better be careful of those crocs don’t go near any water, don’t even go swimming at the beach. Well why would I go to Port douglas if I didn’t want to go for a swim.

Well let me make it clear to you mates, we do have crocs in Northern Australia and I did go searching for them on a river cruise, where we happened to see two dozing on the river bank but I can assure you all that the chances of you being eaten by a crocodile is virtually 0% but now I’ve told you that if you do go there you will probably be eaten mate. I always seem to give people bad luck.

8            A day that may really be bigger than Christmas

You may think that there is no bigger day in the world than Christmas, in some countries maybe New Years day would go close, but let me tell you there is no bigger day in Australia than Boxing Day ( December 26th)

On this day it  just happens to be the opening day of a cricket test match. My family and I sit all day on the sofa watching it while drinking a few beers, (there goes that beer gut), the next door neighbour is watching the game,even that looser at the end of the street is doing the same thing, but their not the only ones there is around 100,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket ground doing the same thing watching Australia play a team in a game that lasts 5 days and may still not have a result at the end.

9            Australia is really not that hot in the summer anymore

I was coming out of winter in Japan to the dreadful Australian Summer where it is known to have temperatures of 40 or more.  I get off the plane in the small Merimbula airport and walk across the tarmac in my shorts and beach sandals and what do you think is the very first thing I say to my parents after 4 years of not seeing them, it’s not hello, it’s not I love you or I miss you. The first words I say is that it’s bloody cold mate.

What is wrong with this summer. My parents tell me its the usual thing in Merimbula never hot, never cold just perfect. It’s a little coastal town that gets this strong cool breeze in the afternoon where the temperature never seems to get over 25 degrees. I’m thinking what in the hell is this town doing on the coast I have come to this town to swim mate. By the way most of Australia really is around 40 degrees this tIme of year.

Have you had any culture shock or noticed any differences in your country after returning  back to your country? We would love to hear all about it.

This post is not to be taken too seriously, just a bit of fun.

 

Melbourne’s Street Art

Art comes in all different forms, shapes and sizes.  What one person thinks is beautiful or great another person thinks is awful, that is the beauty of art in itself. Over the years there have been different forms of art, some have been easily accepted by the public but other forms have been quite controversal.

Street art has been  one of those controversial forms and it has come along way since it was first being tagged on the walls of New York in the late 1970’s early 80’s.  Street art swept across the globe appealing to the youth’s  street subcultures. Melbourne’s inner suburbs, trains and tram lines were covered with, back then what was known as graffiti.

Melbourne though was the first to embrace street art, with an enclave of alleys and lanes, the city council set aside for street artists to spray. Hosier Lane is the cities most famous laneway for street art. The lane is wall to wall covered in art. Each day tourists and locals of the city come to see the artists at work spraying their visual creations.

girl by Veronique Robin
Photo taken by Robin Veronique

Dream photo by Brad Smith

squid photo by Michelle

Girl photo by Rob Masefield

Stencil artists needs the skills of a screen painter and the artistic flare of design. There is nobody better in the field of stencil art  than Banksy, an artist from the UK.

The lanes in Melbourne were lucky to have two pieces of his work, unfortunately one was destroyed due to vandals even though it was covered by a perspex screen to prevent it from being destroyed. Vandals poured silver paint over it, then tagged it with words “Banksy wos ere”. The other one was  when city cleaners accidentally destroyed it when they were removing tagging graffiti.

Street art though is still only tolerated in places which the council allocated and if caught in other alleys or with spray cans, the offenders will be issued a fine of over $20,000 or up to two years in prison.

Melbourne goes by a few names

The sports capital of Australia

The cafe capital of Australia

The most livable city in the world

The city can now add another title to its impressive list as the street art capital of the world.

Lanes found in Melbourne where street art can be seen.

Hosier Lane

Union Lane

Caledonian Lane

Rutledge Lane

The corner of Flinders Lane and Colter Alley

Centre place, between Collins Street and Flinders Lane

Have you seen the street art in Melbourne. We would love to hear what you thought of it.