Auckland Day 11 – The Waitakere Ranges

Lake Wainamu

Today was the day to explore the Waitakere (way-tucker-ee) Ranges with Tristan of Habitat Tours. We had a relaxing breakfast and watched the news for the weather (still not good) and went down to wait at 8:50 am. He was on time to pick us up and there was one other passenger, Victoria from Germany, who had spent 5 weeks in New Zealand.

We drove out of the city to our first stop- Lake Wainamu which has black sand dunes from volcanic ash. We walked a narrow trail next to a little stream until we reached an area that was all dunes. We climbed the dunes until we saw the lake and a beach. Tristan said in the summer hundreds of people flock here. Today it was all ours due to the overcast/rainy weather. We spent about an hour here.

2016 - Lake Wainamu, Auckland

Bethells Beach

We walked back to the van and drove to our next stop at Bethells Beach which was only about 2 minutes away. It reminded us of the Californian Coast with the rocky shore and big surf. There was lots of foam made by the waves and a calm area near the entrance. We walked to the lifeguard stand and took lots of pictures. We spent about 20 min here then back to the van.

2016 - Bethells Beach Auckland

On we drove to Cascade Kauri Park where Tristan gave us a choice of lunch first and walk second or vice versa. We agreed to lunch first then walking otherwise we might take naps. So we ate meat pies, a coleslaw, and couscous he made himself. Afterwards we had ANZAC cookies and tea. It was all very good. It started to drizzle again so we packed up and got started on our walk. It was a single track through the rainforest where the Kauri trees and silver fern live. We had to wash our shoes when entering and leaving so we didn’t bring/take any bugs or bacteria in/out with us.

We walked along and Tristan would show us birds/plants/trees that were living in the rainforest. We also saw a slot canyon with a small waterfall. We crossed a few boardwalks and bridges in our path. Then we left and continued on to Muriwai.

2016 - Cascade Kauri Park Auckland

Muriwai Beach

Muriwai has a beautiful coast line. The gannets (birds) have a colony here. We were able to see some of them. Tristan said they come over from Australia to mate and give birth and raise young then leave for AUS again. One side of the beach was rocky and rugged with big boulders on the beach with water caves and high surf. When you walked up the trail to see the birds you saw the other half of the beach which was smooth and had no rocks and there was a windsurfer enjoying it. We spent about 40 minutes here. It was really windy and starting to rain again.

2016 - Muriwai Beach Auckland

We started back to downtown Auckland. Our whole day was 9 am-5 pm. Tristan showed us a beautiful area of Auckland but he was quite dry in his personality/presentation. I wished he’d showed his passion for what he does. We got back to the apartment and rested a while then went out in search of dinner. We ended up at Countdown grocery each getting something different.

Total step count for the day – 16,798

Auckland Day 10 – A Zipping and a Wineing

View from first zip line departure platform

NOTE: Lady CurbCrusher wrote these entries, Mr. CrubCruhser is posting because I’m the one that knows how to insert the pictures. I’ll add some comments in []’s.

Today we are going to Waiheke Island on Fuller’s Ferry for an EcoZip and wine tasting tour. We got up and ate breakfast leaving the apt at 7:50 am since we hadn’t been able to check out the wharf the night before. We ended up on wharf 2 and asked someone when the office would open and she pointed us to another wharf. We went there and picked up our tickets for our zip tour and tasting along with the ferry rides.

Auckland Skyline from Ferry to Waiheki Bean Rock Lighthouse

At 9 am we boarded and left on the ferry which was very nice. They had lots of comfy seats and tables with 2 decks. We made a short stop at Devonport and then passed Bean Rock lighthouse a screw pile looking lighthouse from 1871. I got some good shots of it and of Auckland and the Sky Tower with a rainbow on the right side. It really hasn’t stopped raining since we got here and it is 14C/58F so it’s cold to us.

We all dressed as warm as possible to be outdoors today but we expect to get wet. A guy named Jake was waiting for us when the ferry arrived. He picked up 3 more people and we were off to EcoZip. He told us some info about the island and within 15 min we were there. One more person joined us for a total of 7 plus 2 guides. We got harnessed up and put on helmets and walked over to the first platform.

Nadine and Kelsea Geared up for Zip Line View from first zip line departure platform

They went over all the safety rules and took our picture with the group. We then paired up and started to zip. On this line we were going 2 at a time and racing. CurbCrusher and Eaglet went together and I went last with the guide, Sara. We went over a vineyard that the owners have planted and hopefully soon will be able to harvest and sell the wine.

Waiheke is supposed to have a very good climate for growing vines as there are about 36 vineyards on the island. After everyone went we got ready for the 2nd zip. We had to walk a path down to the platform. When we have zipped before we always stayed up on top of a pole and went platform to platform without descending but there are enough hills here that you can actually zip down with a natural grade. So this zip was quiet scenic with umbrella ferns underneath and beautiful views of the harbor. Luckily for us it stopped raining as soon as we started to do our zips.

View from first zip line departure platform Kelsea and Steve At Second Zip Departure Platform

After everyone had gone again we walked down to the next one that they had named “Big Dog”. It was longer and faster than the other 2. I didn’t video this one -I just enjoyed the view as I zipped down. After everyone was finished we were able to loosen our harnesses and take off our helmets for the eco walk back to their HQ.

The guide Alex led us and stopped at a few spots. We saw the tree that was used in Avatar, and tree that brings you good luck if you can wrap your arms around it (only CurbCrusher in our group was able to do this) and a wood pigeon who eats so much of a certain berry that it gets drunk and can’t fly. We walked through a rainforest and guess what? It rained! Surprise! The walk took about 30 mins and wasn’t too strenuous. The guides had a good sense of humor with us. When we got back we looked at our pictures and left our gear.

Nadine Completing Third Zip Line Steve the Tree Hugger (Its Good Luck)

Jake came back to get us and deliver us to Stoneyridge Winery just up the road. We got there before the bus so took a quick look around. At Stonyridge we walked in the olive grove and tasted a white wine and were told about the cork trees that they are growing. We went inside as it started to rain again. This time we tried a red and sat down for lunch.

Panoramic of Stoneyridge Vineyard

They served quiche, a tossed salad, bread and a cheese cracker tray at the end. Then we gathered up to go to the next vineyard Rangihoua Estate. The bus driver took us to see the beach area before dropping us off. They are well known for pressing olives for oil here. We were shown how they gather the olives and then the machines that press the olives. Then we tasted 4 different olive oils and a herb spread. We bought the Italian style one to try at home. I also tried the hand lotions they had.

Rangihoua Estate Olives waiting to be pressed

Then we were off to our 3rd stop at Wild on Waiheke where we tried 2 wines- a red and a white and 3 different beers. They only one we liked was the ginger beer which actually was 0% alcohol. Since it was raining we spent our time in their tasting cellar.

Wild On Waiheke Winery Archery Targets at Wild On Waiheke Winery

For our next stop we went to Mudbrick Vineyards which was very picturesque and beautiful. It had the best views and they said they do over 2 weddings a week here with a 2 year waiting list. The terraces were lovely and we had 2 wines to taste here and then we went into the original cellar and had another one. We bought some soap made with chardonnay but no wines today.

View from Mudbrick Winery
Nadine and Kelsea Tasting Wine at Mudbrick Gardens at Mudbrick Winery

Our bus driver brought us back to the wharf to catch the 4 pm ferry. Once again it is raining. It has been on and off all day. So glad it wasn’t when we were zipping. After getting back to Auckland we looked for places to eat and decided on Shakespeare’s Tavern, which was a few bocks away. We all ordered hamburgers and when they arrived they were almost as big as our plates. We enjoyed our dinner and went back to the apartment.

Step count for the day – 11,095

2016 Waiheke Eco Zip Line 2016 - Waiheke Wine Tour
Eco Zip Pictures Wine Tour Pictures

Australia – New Zealand Day 9 – Cairns to Auckland

[ Ok, I got tired of putting “College Bound CurbCrusher” in all the places for our daughter. So, since the Eagle is the mascott of the university she is headed to, I’m going to start using Eaglet as her nickname in the blog.]

Today was an easy day. CurbCrusher got up and went for a run along the quay. He said he didn’t go far only a mile or so. [I ran a total of 3.2 miles, it was all in the rain, and I was very wet when done, but my Garmin Connect account now has a run in Cairns on it.] Eaglet and I just relaxed and got ready to leave. After he came back and showered we got all packed up and left for Cairns airport. We did well checking in until Passport/Customs when CurbCrusher got stopped. They weren’t able to read his passport on the computer. They said after they tried for 15 min that his passport picture page was printed off center and the numbers don’t align the way they need to for the scanner to work. Our flight was good [and about 4 hours long] and on time. There was a good stir fry meal on board. Lots of movies, music, etc on Air New Zealand.

When we landed we went through the self-op customs kiosk again. These are nice as you scan your passport and they take a picture of you and if you have no declarations you can go. Unfortunately Eaglet was carrying crystallized honey and they won’t let you in with it in New Zealand. So she had to give it up and we got x-rayed then we could go. CurbCrusher changed some more US$ to NZ $ and we caught a cab to our next AirBNB on Federal St. near the harbor.

Interior of our Auckland Airbnb View from St Patricks Airbnb Windows

This one is a 1 bedroom with loft and has a combo washer/dryer but no microwave (as Eaglet discovered when she tried to netipot). We’re on the 6th floor with a great view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Auckland’s Sky Tower. We dropped our stuff off when Kate met us and showed us around the apartment. After learning the ends and outs of the apartment we left to find dinner after Kate sent us some suggestions. We ate at The Mexican Cafe on Victoria Street nearby and then came back to get showers and go to bed. It was the first time we had made it to our normal bedtime of 10:30.

Step count for the day – 9,383 (note this includes CurbCrusher’s morning run)

Cairns Day 8 – Karunda, Koalas and the Rain Forest

Panoramic of Kuranda Scenic Railway in Horseshoe Bend

Today is the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail day. We got up, fixed breakfast and walked to the train station by 8:10 am. Our train was departing at 8:30 am. We also saw 2 other couples from our snorkel trip yesterday -a couple from Brisbane and a honeymoon couple. We were in car 5 seats 53, 57, and 58. This was an old railway car from the early 1900’s. The ceilings on the cars were antique tiles and the seats were red leather. No A/C or fans. Just windows to open. It was raining pretty steadily since we got up so we didn’t open the windows next to us just the ones across from us. We started off with just a few people and made 1 stop at Freshwater to get the rest of passengers. Our car was filled about halfway. There was a narration of the history of the railway and Karunda. The rail line was originally made for a gold rush but then continued for tourism.

NOTE: Lady CurbCrusher wrote these entries, Mr. Crubcruhser is posting because I’m the one that knows how to insert the pictures. I’ll add some comments in []’s.

[I’ve always used Little CurbCrusher, but as those that have read this blog over the years know, Lady CurbCrusher has used “Pre-teen CurbCrusher”, “Teen CurbCrusher” and so forth. So now, we have the mouth full “College Bound CurbCrusher.” ]

Nadine and Kelsea at Cairns Train Station
Kurnanda Scenic Railway Passenger Car
Kurnanda Scenic Railway Passenger Car

We went through several switchbacks where we could see the front and back of the cars [see panoramic at top of post] and stopped at an observation deck to see Barron Falls. We got 10 minutes to view here.

Panoramic from Barron Falls Station

Then back on the train to get to Kuranda. When we arrived it started to really pour down rain. But we were in the rainforest so should expect it to be wet. We followed the crowd to the main street called Coondoo St. and looked around for the Koala gardens area.

Kurnada Station Kuranda Koala Gardens Map Sign

The directions funneled us through a flea market style place until we came to the right place. This is what College Bound CurbCrusher really wanted to do was hug a koala. First, when we entered we saw Freshwater Crocodiles. They are a tan color with black stripes and have a pointed narrow snout. Most were swimming but one was out trying to sun to no avail. Then there were several kinds of turtles and lizards to see.

Freshwater Crocodile Koala
Koala Koala

Then the star attraction! There were 3 koalas sleeping in a habitat right before you entered to get your pictures. Our koala was named “Yoshi” and was a male 2 years old. He was about 4 kg and will only get to about 8kg total. Steve went first, then me and then CB CurbCrusher because then she would get to hold it the longest for her individual picture as well as our family picture. Their fur was soft but bristly and Yoshi was actually awake and somewhat lively. CB CurbCrusher was so happy. We then collected our photos and finished the animal area.

Steve with Koala Nadine Cuddling a Koala
Kelsea Cuddling a Koala Steve Nadine and Kelsea with Koala

The wombats were sleeping in a log out of the rain and the wallabies and kangaroos were hiding under the walkways to stay dry, CurbCrusher and CB CurbCrusher walked over and fed them. We didn’t look at the snakes but stopped to see the squirrel gliders who were all sleeping on top of one another.

Wombat Kelsea Feeding a Kangaroo

We then talked about if we wanted to do a hike but it was so wet that we were afraid it would be slippery and muddy But we decided not to hike in this weather. It was about a 3 km walk with an add on to Barron’s Falls but just too wet today. So we went to find something to eat. CurbCrusher ordered Fish n Chips, CB CurbCrusher a hamburger and I had a baked potato with cheese, sour cream, and bacon. Mine was weird though because they put the cheese on the plate, potato on top of it then Canadian bacon and then the sour cream. I gave the ‘bacon’ to CurbCrusher and ate the rest.

Downtown Kuranda Kuranda Street Signs
Downtown Kuranda Kuranda Skyrail Station

Then we went window/souvenir shopping. CurbCrusher found himself a cool Aussie roll up hat for when we hike. It looks much cooler than the one he has been wearing for years. We also found a gallery that had water color prints I liked and we bought 4- one of Sydney, one of Cairns, one of fish, and one of the Skyrail cable car. Then we looked at opals but didn’t buy any here. We then walked back towards the rail station and Skyrail to catch the cable car through through the rainforest. We had booked Diamond Cars which have glass floors in them. They come every 10th cable car so we had to wait for one.

Skyrail Views Kuranda to Barron Falls Steve Nadine and Kelsea at Skyrail Barron Falls Overlook
Skyrail Views Barron Falls to Red Peak Rainforest Boardwalk at Red Peak Station

With it raining so hard it was a hard to see past the rain on the window but what we could see was very green. We rode it to the next station at Barron Falls and got off to view the overlooks. We had good views of the right side of the falls since we saw the left from the train. There were 3 platforms to go enjoy the view from. We walked the boardwalk back to the station and re-boarded another car to the Red Peak station. Here they would have made us get out anyway because they use 2 loops for the cables. This station had an interpretive display that showed how workers came and went to the top of the falls. It looked really scary to me. Red Peak had a viewing platform also but we could only see mist, it was so clouded over. There was a ranger giving a talk on the boardwalk but we didn’t stay to listen. We finished walking the boardwalk and went back to the cable car and boarded again for Smithfield.

The views when we could see them were gorgeous and looking through the floor was fun. It would be great on a clear day to look across the valley to the ocean. When we got to Smithfield we called a cab to take us back to Royal Harbor and within 20 min we were home again having afternoon tea and naps.

Total steps for the day – 10,242

2016 - Cairns and Kuranda

Cairns Day 7 – The Great Barrier Reef

Panoramic of Michaelmas Key

Today we go to the Great Barrier Reef [with the Seastar Cruises who were highly recommended by our AirBnB host Kay, and she steered us well they were great.] and the weather doesn’t look so good. It is very overcast and some raindrops are falling. We left at 7:10 am to walk to the E pier and we were the first ones there. The boat only takes 36 people so it should be a good group. We got checked in and the boat was off by 8:10 am. Good mix of people, some college girls, grandmas, and lots of couples. No little kids.

Nadine and Kelsea Before Boarding Seastar Cairns in our wake

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Michaelmas Cay and on the way they gave us muffins, tea and coffee. We had a safety talk and they numbered us. We were 1-3 so we must have booked first. The ride was fun with lots of bumps on the waves. When we got there we got our “stinger suits” which made us look like blue gumbys. They had hoods and covered our hands and hooked around our feet. Our fins and masks went on after. Then they loaded us on a glass bottomed boat to take us to the spit of land that is a bird sanctuary. We off loaded and looked at the birds, the hatchlings were really cute!

Steve Nadine and Kelsea on Michaelmas Key Birds on Michaelmas Key

Then they paired us w/ Dillon who took us around snorkeling for about 30 min and showed us different corals and fishes. My snorkel didn’t work well since it filled up with water after 2 breaths each time. College Bound CurbCrusher was really cold since the sun didn’t come out. After the 30 min I went back to the boat and she came in to get a wet suit. If I would have had a better snorkel I think I would have seen more and enjoyed it. Mr. CurbCrusher and College Bound CurbCrusher stayed out the whole time we were there. I asked Sergio if we could go on the glass bottom boat and since he had to go get the girl on the beach he let us go with him. There was a couple who didn’t snorkel and a grandma who didn’t either who went with us. He was able to show us more of the fish and coral that I couldn’t see when my snorkel wasn’t working. We picked up the girl and went back to the boat and they got us ready to go then served us a buffet lunch. Lots of good food for lunch.

Nadine and Kelse Snorkeling off Michaelmas Key Underwater Shots off Michaelmas Key

Then we were underway to Hastings Reef. I asked for a new snorkel and asked for a wet suit here since it was still overcast. The snorkeling was much better. Bigger coral with lots of colors and more fishes. We saw a shark, barracudas, and clownfish (nemo) here as well. No sea turtles for us though. This time I snorkeled for about 45 min before going back. CurbCrusher and College Bound CurbCrusher stayed out again. Sergio was giving glass bottom boat rides so I went. We saw several large clams and corals. We went back in and CurbCrusher and College Bound CurbCrusher were able to go out next. I changed to dry clothes and they were serving tea with desserts. Sergio had told us the way back would be a lot more bumpy because of the tides. We had about 1.5 hr ride back to the dock. The sun finally came out on the ride back.

Underwater Shot at Hastings Reef Underwater Shot at Hastings Reef
Underwater Shot at Hastings Reef A Nemo

CurbCrusher jumped in the community pool to col off and rinse the saltwater off. College Bound CurbCrusher and I got showers and now we’re looking to find a restaurant to eat at tonight. College Bound CurbCrusher decided on calzones so we walked 1.5 blocks down to Villa Romana. We ate at a table on the sidewalk. Not bad but it started to mist rain and some of it blew in towards us. Dinner was still good though. Afterwards we walked up the street to another UGG store (remember one on each corner!) for College Bound CurbCrusher to compare styles. She’s going to do more research and decide by tomorrow if she wants any. Then we came back and took the elevator to the 2nd floor where the pool is to look around. Then back to the apartment to sort pictures and write in the journal. Tomorrow we go to Karunda and our 2nd Koala encounter.

Total step count for today – 6,957

2016 - Cairns Reef Cruise

Australia Day 6 – Transfer to Cairns

We got up before 5 am to have breakfast and finish packing for our Virgin Australia Flight at 8:45am. After getting ready Mr. CrubCrusher called an Uber driver to take us to the airport. The ride was about 20 min long but the traffic was intense as we got closer to the airport [and Uber cost half what the taxi ride from the airport cost]. We were dropped off and were considered checked in so we just had to go through security. They don’t care about shoes or liquids here, just laptops and “puffers” (inhalers) and aerosols. I got stopped for explosive checking and failed so they had to retest me twice positive before I could go.

We walked down the longest corridor to gate 40 (why are we always at the end?). And settled in for a wait. Little CurbCrusher and I walked down the corridor and came to a pharmacy. She was looking for Tylenol PM to help her sleep. They have real pharmacists in the shops and while they didn’t have any Tylenol PM, she was able to help her find something to help her.

CurbCrusher then went exploring and found the Krispy Kreme kiosk and brought back donuts for us. They started boarding about 8:20 am and we are in the front of the plane right behind 1st class. This is a no frills flight, unlike Air New Zealand. On this one you get coffee, juice or water. Everything else you pay for. Our flight should be about 3 hours before we get to Cairns.

Panoramic of Cairns

The weather is supposed to be 83 degrees F today. So much hotter than Sydney when we left at 56 degrees F. We landed in Cairns and were met by Kay whose AirBnB we are staying in. She drove us to Royal Harbour right on the Esplanade. She showed us around the unit and gave us keys and left.

Reef Fleet Marina Downtown Cairns

We then unpacked and went downstairs to the tour desk and asked about our snorkel trip tomorrow. After answering our questions we left and walked up the Esplanade to find something to eat. After looking around we settled for some gyros. After lunch we walked to find pier E where our boat will leave from. There’s a limit of 36 people and right now 26 are booked. After locating the pier we walked into town to find the train station for our trip to Kurunda Rainforest.

It is hot here in Cairns compared to Sydney and there are no tall buildings to block the sun. After getting our tickets situated for Kurunda we walked back to find the Woolworth grocery store. We got supplied and went back to the condo.

Panoramic of Cairns
Fish Sculpture In Esplanade Lagoon Pool Nadine and Kelsea Playing in Mud Flats

I’m now getting ready for tomorrow and what we will need. Then I’m going out to the large public pool across the street to watch the sunset. We can see the harbor fine from the condo but the pool is really cool to see. We ended up walking on the boardwalk along the harbor front and bought some gelato to eat. (Little CurbCrusher ordered a milkshake only to learn that here a milkshake is essentially flavored milk- it was very liquidy). Then we walked to the end and Little CurbCrusher and I walked in the mud that is left during low tide. We washed our feet off and continued walking along the Esplanade to look for a dinner place. The weather was so nice about 80 degrees F today. Lots of people were out running, walking, and playing in the community pool. We found a restaurant called Rattle and Hum that made pizza. I ordered a huge glass of ice with water because they barely put 2 cubes in it. After dinner we walked around some more and stopped in one of the UGG stores to see what they had. Then came home and got ready for tomorrow.

[I’m going to add that at this point we had not been in Cairns 24 hours, and I wanted to move there. I think this might be my new retirement destination. ]

Total step count for today – 11,318
NOTE: While CurbCrusher is posting, that’s just because I’m inserting pictures into the stream. The actual log entries from this point forward in our trip are from Lady CurbCrusher. I’ll add some comments in []’s.

2016 - Cairns

Sydney Australia Day 5 – Bondi and a Lighthouse

Panoramic of Bondi Beach

We each started this trip with one carry-on and a back pack. That means that at some point clothes are going need to be washed, and this morning started with doing some laundry. While Lady CurbCrusher and I packed mostly light weight materials that could be washed and dried easily by hand if necessary, it seemed Little CurbCrusher packed mostly items made of heavy material. So after about 45 minutes, thinking the washer was close to finishing we checked on it and found it had jumped to the next cycle without stopping or buzzing. So now we had to spin everything again. When that finally finished we discovered the dryer was only ½ the size of the washer so the wash load had to be split into 2 drying loads. The dryer was weird too -where it would run for 20 min then stop, then seemed to rest for a few minutes and then start back up. We finally were able to get everything washed and left stuff laying on furniture and chairs all over the apartment to dry.

Bondi Beach Public Art on Bondi Beach

We crossed the street to catch the 886 bus to Bondi Beach. The ride took about 15 minutes. The beach is actually a cove with sand surrounded by high rocks. The sand was golden yellow and there were quite a few surfers out, but the waves did not appear that good today. There were also a couple of surfing classes occurring as well. When we had talked about things to do in Sydney, Michael, our Airbnb host, had suggested the surfing lessons at Bondi. The weather was in the low 70s though, and we don’t think of that as beach weather, so we didn’t even go near the water. There was a boardwalk that ran the length of the beach with painted murals on it. At one end there was a wading pool built into the rocks for little ones to swim in. We climbed on the rocks and took pictures then went to find a place to eat.

We found the slowest restaurant ever at the top of the hill on the north side of Bondi. It was open air and the birds would come in and sit on the tables looking for food. CurbCrusher ordered a burger and the ladies wanted to split the fried chicken for two. The server instead brought us a fried chicken sandwich, we sent it back and waited for our order again. Finally it arrived and we ate then went to find the bus back to the MacQuarie lighthouse. It came, we got on and then off again for the lighthouse. It had a cool shape with a light tower and 2 domed roofs on each side. It only opens a few times a year and today was not one of them. We took pictures and then started down to the coastal walk to Watson’s Bay.

Nadine at Macquaries Lightstation Sydney Macquaries Lightstation Sydney

It had beautiful scenery with the cliffs and water. We came upon a signal station from WWII that looked a lot like a lighthouse and some bunkers nearby. We continued our walk taking in the scenery. Eventually we could see Sydney harbor in the distance. We walked nearer to Watson’s Bay and when we arrived in was spectacular. There is a small town where the ferry stops. We didn’t have enough left on our Opal cards to get back so had to walk back up the hill to top them up. Then back down again to get on a the ferry that went to Garden Island (where the military boats are ) then to Circular Quay. All in all about a 20 min ferry ride.

South Head Signal Station Cliffs Along Old South Head Road

When we got off we went to the Westfield tower to look at the shops but didn’t stay long. Lady CurbCrusher has been harassing Little CurbCrusher telling her she needs UGG boots because it seems there is an UGG store on every block here. So far she has said no. We then went back to the apartment after walking by and seeing another bride photo shoot. There must be an Asian wedding magazine because we have seen numerous women in wedding dresses, some times more than one at a time getting their photos taken. Entering the apartment we had to finish drying all the clothes so they could be packed. That took a while with the really small Fiskel Dryer (don’t buy one). Then we chilled for a while until hungry for dinner. We went back to the same Italian place we ate at on Saturday night -Travetto. The food was again delicious! We were all tired and well fed so upon getting back and having showers we all went to bed. We have to get up early with our flight tomorrow.

Total step count for the day – 19,499

2016 - Bondi and Watsons Bay

Sydney Australia Day 4 – Lady CurbCrusher’s Birthday

Panoramic of Sydney Harbor From Ferry

Today started with Australian birthday cards for Lady CurbCrusher. The Plan for today is to catch a ferry and go to Sydney Zoo and hang out with a Koala for a while. Then back for a nap, and off to a sunset cruise and dinner in Sydney harbor for the birthday dinner.

Once again, we walk through the Botanical Garden to the Circular Quay, to catch the 9:20 am ferry to Taronga where the zoo is. They sell zoo ticket at the wharf at Circular Quay, but they do not take the coupons that we’d picked up in one of the tourist papers, so we decided to wait until we get to the zoo.

The Taronga Sydney Zoo is situated on a hill (Actually being from Florida, I’d call it a small mountain). When you get off the ferry you are at the bottom of the hill and there are three ways to the top. One is to walk, the second is to take the cable car to the top and the third is to ride a bus. Options one and two require that you have a zoo ticket. We really wanted option 2, the cable car, and thought it would not be a problem as we could just buy a ticket at he zoo ticket office and ride it up the hill. However, this was the middle of the week and the bottom of the hill zoo ticket office was closed. That left the bus.

So we took the bus to the top of the hill. Got in line to buy tickets and get a map. Since the ticket office does not sell the Koala experience, we headed over to the souvenir shop purchased a time slot for the Koala Encounter at 11:15 am for AU$25. The Koala Encounter ticket is good for up to four people, and you get a photo taken by the zoo photographer, get to talk to their keepers about the koalas and spend five – seven minutes in the Koala enclosure taking your own photos and basking in the presence of the Koalas.

So with that taken care of we started up the trail to the Australian Native Species area. First we came to Australian Nightlife animals. We weren’t able to get any pictures in here because it was so dark and no flash was allowed. Then we came to the platypus area but it was sleeping upstairs. We saw a wombat next.

Kangaroo Emu

Then we continued on to see the Echidna and then into a fenced enclosure where the wallabies, emus, and kangaroos were roaming around. You had to stay on the path but there were no fences between you and animals so if they wanted to come near you they could. I thought that was kind of cool.

We had spent enough time looking that it was time for our koala encounter so we headed to the by then and we were led to an area away from the public. Left our bags but could take our phones and cameras. There were 2 female koalas Sydney who we had our pictures next to was resting and Ruby who was actually very active. She was scratching and jumping around. Unusual because they sleep 20 out of 24 hrs a day. After asking lots of questions and taking many pictures we left the area to get our official photo.

Koala Koala
Steve Nadine and Kelsea with Koala Koala

We then we moved on to see a tree Kangaroo and a quokka and a red kangaroo. Next was the Tasmanian Devil which looked like a big black rodent. It was really quick and didn’t stand still too long. We walked through the kids area which had farm animals to pet as well as more kangaroos, emus, quokkas, and a wombat burrow.


We stopped to eat a snack and then moved on to see the Male elephant (kept separate from females) and the very hard to find cassowary (I didn’t see it until the pictures were loaded onto the computer) and then the lemurs. We were too late to see the lemurs up close with a keeper since they went on a 2 hr lunch break but got a few photos from above. We then went to the Food Market and shared a sandwich and rested. There are a lot of hills in the zoo and it overlooks Sydney Harbor giving it great views.

Sun Bear Nadine with Bird Wingspan Sign

After lunch we walked over to see the rest of the elephants. Lots of school kids were here today to do a field trip. All of them wear uniforms. They are loud but tolerable. After looking at the elephants we walked on to see the sun bear. It looked kind of lonely all by itself. Then the tortoise who could live up to 150 years. Then the condors. They have a huge wing spread. Then off to see the otters. We first only saw one but it must have told the other it needed to perform because soon there were 2 chasing, wrestling, and swimming together. Lady CurbCrusher could have watch them all day. Such energy they have. There was a pygmy hippo next. It was so cute. Then a fishing cat which looks like a larger lynx, then last we saw the red pandas. There were many more animals we could have seen but it was almost 2 and we wanted to get the ferry back to Sydney.

It was a fun relaxing day but we actually put more steps in at the zoo than descending and walking the Three Sisters trail the day before. We caught the ferry just before it pulled out and had a quick trip back to Sydney. We got off the ferry and went to Starbucks to collect Lady CC’s birthday drink but they wouldn’t honor it here (Little CC later emailed them and they will give her a birthday drink when she returns to the US). We walked home and rested for about an hour and a half before walking back down to Darling Harbor to catch the Captain Cook sunset cruise for the birthday dinner.

2016 - Sydney Zoo

Sydney 2000 Dinner Cruise Boat Opera House from Dinner Cruise

We boarded at 4:50 pm and left around 5:10 pm. Didn’t see too much of a sunset because it was mostly done by 5:00pm that night. The boat was large but not full, it had 2 floors for dining. We booked a window so had some great views as we sailed. Got a few good photos of the last of sunset before it got too dark. We had an enjoyable meal of salad, spinach stuffed chicken breast and cheesecake. Sparkling wine and white wine with dinner. Since she just turned 18, it was Little CC’s first legal serving of alcohol since the drinking age is 18 here. Mr. CurbCrusher and Little CC had a salmon and caviar salad. Little CC had the ravioli for dinner and CurbCrusher had chocolate and orange flourless cake for dessert. After eating we headed outside to get night pictures of the opera house, bridge, and city. We got back to the dock about 6:30 pm and started walking home. Before going home we stopped at St Mary’s Catholic Church to see the inside. It was so beautiful lots of stained glass windows. Beautiful ceilings and the organist was playing at the time. There was a tour of the vaults but we didn’t have enough time to go through them. When we came out there was what appeared to be a bride having photos done. We think it was a professional photo shoot since there were 2 brides. Beautiful backdrop.

Step count for the day – 20,440

Sydney Australia – Day 3 – The Blue Mountains

Street Sweeper Guys Cleaning Light Poles in Early Morning

The day started at 3am for Lady CurbCrusher. She is a light sleeper anyway and with all the street noise, like the walk signals beeping all the time never shutting off, she was up early. Also the bar across the street stays open until 4am and right before they closed they kicked a man out who was loudly shouting obscenities as he walked (tottered) up the sidewalk. One of the things about Sydney that you notice walking around is that the streets are clean, and that is because the sidewalk cleaners show up early pressure cleaning the sidewalks and cleaning the light poles. Mr. CurbCrusher and Little CurbCrusher got up around 5:30 and 6:30 to start their days. We made bagels (have to smoosh them flat to go into toaster) and toast (WonderBread is also too big to fit) and had OJ and coffee.

Today we are headed out to see the Blue Mountains, about a 2 hour train ride outside of Sydney. Our goal was to be on the 8:18 am train to Katoomba. We got ready and walked the 6 blocks with all the Sydney commuters to the train station. We made it with 3 minutes to spare. An opportunity to use our Opal cards for the first time, tapping them to open the gates and then again when we got off the train.

The train had 4 cars with an upstairs seating area and downstairs area. The 1st + 4th cars were quiet cars- no cell phones and only very low noise permitted. They were very clean and ran smooth on the tracks. The trip took about 2 hours and we made about a number of stops on the way. When we arrived we tapped our Opal cards and exited the station. Then went to find the 686 bus that goes to Echo Point and Scenic World.

We found the bus stop about a block and a half from the train station and saw people wearing an ultra marathon shirt, I struck up a conversation with them. They had just done a 100k (the Ultra Trail Australia) over the weekend here in the Blue Mountain National Park. The three of them had finished in 18, 21, and 24 hours. The bus came and we got on and rode to Echo Point. We got off there and took pictures of the Three Sisters rock formations and the mountains. They call them the Blue Mountains because of the eucalyptus trees growing there and the shade of blue they give off. The area did smell of eucalyptus from the leaves.

Panoramic from Echo Point

We then went inside the visitors center and talked with a volunteer named Helen who suggested that we should do the walk down to Three Sisters, and then continue down the Giant Stairway, then follow the trail to Scenic World. At Scenic World we would have a choice of riding the inclined railway or the cable car to the top again. CurbCrusher and Little CC bought souvenirs then we were off.

Trail from Echo Point to Three Sisters Start of the Giant Stairway

The path from Echo Point to the Three Sisters was nice, wide and paved until you get to the last lookout and then it became very narrow and steep with lots of metal ladders and rock steps that were worn away. After about 5 switchbacks we came to the Three Sisters area and took our pictures on a bench there. This path was also marked from the race that weekend. We then started to descend the Giant Stairway which consists of over 900 steps. All of them very steep, very narrow, and tight. There is 2 way traffic on all of the path, but we only passed about three people climbing the stairs. There were great views of the valley and the mountains.

The Giant Stairway Blue Mountian National Park from Giant Stairway

The going was hard on the knees and feet, and the steps seemed never ending. In some areas the dirt had worn away so it was difficult to navigate the steps. The walk/trek was gorgeous though and the weather was great for it. Not too hot, but slightly chilly under the forest canopy. After about an hour we came to Federal Pass and then Great Round Walk which was a path worn into the forest on the mountain. No more metal steps, just rocks and dirt. Eventually we came to Katoomba Falls crossing and saw part of the waterfall. We stopped and took pictures here and finally saw other people. Up until then we had only encountered about 5 people going towards Three Sisters all morning. We were very close to Scenic World, and started running into other tourist, and folks that had just ridden the cable car or tram to the bottom of the valley. In total, the walk took about 1.5 hours at a leisurely pace. As we entered the Scenic World boardwalks, we arrived at the incline Railway station where lots of tourists were. We continued around the boardwalk to the cable car, and read the various interpretive signs about how the area was mined for coal. When we arrived at the cable car, we jumped on and were whisked up the mountain in less than 2 minutes it seemed. Then we had to pay for the ride before they would let us exit. I think it was AU$ 16 per person, as opposed to the full access ticket for Scenic World which is AU$35 per person. It certainly beat walking up the steps at Scenic World.

We decided to eat something here and try to catch the 2:18 pm train back. Lady and Little CurbCrusher split a hamburger (Angus), while I had fish n chips and we ate watching the trams come and go. We finished and went outside to wait for the bus to the train. There was a really cool steam clock at the entrance of Scenic World that released steam every 10 minutes and inside the mechanism coal cars went up and down. The bus soon came and we got a short tour of the town on the ride back. We had missed the 2:18 pm train so we had to wait for the 3:18 pm one.

While waiting for the train, we went on a hunt for watercolors for our gallery wall. Most shops said try the conservatory so we walked there. They didn’t have any either but I found a postcard to purchase for his office. On the walk back we admired the Fall colors in the trees on the grounds of a local hotel. Then we tapped into the station and waited for the train. The train came and we got on for the 2 hr ride home. This time we got on the quiet train car as our morning experience on the normal car had a young couple behind us being overly loud and affectionate for about half the trip. It was a smooth ride home to Sydney central.

Little CurbCrusher wanted to try a foreign McDonald’s so we walked over to Park St to find one. Compared to the McDonalds at home, it was large, a 2 story space with automated ordering kiosk and lots of tables. After eating, we all agreed that there was a reason that it had been 3 years since we’d been to a McDonalds, and we didn’t need to return.

Total step count for day 3 – 15,506

2016 - Blue Mountains

Sydney Australia – Day 2

Early to rise this morning, as we adjust to the 14 hour time difference. Start making breakfast, and discover some of the differences in appliances in Sydney. The bagel was too fat for the toaster so Lady CC burned it and had to pry it out. So, from now on we will be squishing the bagel before putting it into the toaster. Also the standard bread size is a big square, but the toaster is more typical of what we have at home, so toasting bread is a two step process since part of it sticks out the top of the toaster. Finally, there is no drip coffee maker here, we have to Google the instructions on how to use a a French press coffeepot and Lady CC found her coffee way to strong, so that’s a skill she’ll have to work on. So we all had some breakfast and watched some TV morning news.

While sitting around we hear what sounds like a loud speaker, and there is a lot of people walking around on the street before the sun rises. Since this is Sunday morning, this seems odd. After going out on the balcony and listening to the goings on in Hyde Park, it becomes apparent that this is the morning of the Sydney Half Marathon. Mr. CurbCrusher is crushed. This would have been easily doable, and a great story, running a half marathon in Sydney. But we listen and watch all the commotion in the park as everyone starts.

Time to head out for the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb. Instead of cutting through the Botanical Garden, this time we headed down the city streets to get there. As we do we pass a number of the runners that have their half marathon medals and are enjoying the post race festivities. As we head up George Street toward the Circular Quay, we encounter a very disturbed person. It is a man that is just walking up to people (mostly women) and yelling and cursing about how awful they are treating him. It seems very random, as we see him approach about dozen different people during our walk down the street. He finally takes a turn to the west after a block or two.

Bridge Climb Group Picture

We arrived at the Sydney Bridge Climb and checked in and waited. There are a number of tour options, and we had selected the “Sampler” tour that only climbs halfway up the bridge and last for 2 hours as opposed to the 4 hour trip to the top. So we sat and watched a video of how to dress and harness up until our group was called.

There were 11 people in our group. All Americans except 1 Japanese family of 3. Ages from 60ish-7yo. Our guide’s name was Alex and he has climbed about 250 times. We had to sign waivers, surrender all our phones, cameras and anything else that we might could drop off the bridge and put on the fashionable blue/gray jumpsuits, hats, croakies for sunglasses, and a handkerchief. Once dressed we moved to the harnessing station, where we got into a safety harness that would then tie into the safety lines while we climbed the bridge. We lined up, hooked into the bridge safety lines and started the walk.

Sydney Harbor from Bontanical Garden

We started by going past the bridge pylons, one of which we would visit later as it has a viewing platform and a museum in it. The pylons do not offer any support, but are purely ornamental and are faced with granite. We then climbed a section nearest to Opera House. We could see cannons and wharf and water under us. As we climbed the bridge, you could see that there are 7 lanes of traffic 1 pedestrian crossing each side, bus lanes and two train tacks. About half way through the tour, we had some trouble with a gate and a maintenance person had to help Alex out. The weather was great- not too hot or cold or windy. Sun was out but it was cloudy. We stopped at a midway point and Alex took our group and individual shots. As we climbed down the other side of the bridge, we stopped near the train tracks and 2 trains going opposite directions passed while we were on the stairs between the tracks. The view from the bridge was was awesome. We could see the MacQuarrie Lighthouse in the distance. Lots of boats and ferries going by.

As we climbed, Alex filled us in on some of the history associated with the bridge:

  • Construction on the Bridge was started in 1927 and finished in 1932.
  • All the beams and supports for the bridge are straight, just put together in a way that makes them appear as a large curve across the harbor.
  • Interestingly enough, only 2 men died during construction.
  • The granite on the bridge pylons was a significant part of the total cost of building the bridge.
  • There were not enough stone masons to work on the pylons, so they brought men from Scotland and Italy and most of the Italian men were single so boarding houses were built for them. This is apparently why there is an Italian district with so many restaurants in Sydney today.
  • When it was built there were only 5 motor cars in Sydney so they really thought ahead. (This one I’m not sure about, the picture of opening day in the Bridge Pylon museum clearly shows more than 5 motor cars.)
  • Apparently one of the things that makes the view of Sydney Harbor so appealing is that by design, the Opera house is half height of bridge.
  • We finished our Bridge climb tour and disrobed and collected our climb pictures. We then had drinks and ate our snack we brought. We watched the 2 movies about the bridge construction and the bridge’s role in Sydney’s success and walked around exhibit.

    Panorama from Harbor Bridge Pylon

    We then walked up street to get to the overpass that leads to the pedestrian bridge for access to the Bridge Pylon. As you climb the stairs in the Pylon, there are a number of exhibits, and a floor that operates as a small museum. At the top of the Pylon there is a viewing deck where we were able to go outside and take pictures.

    2016 - Sydney Harbor Bridge Pylon

    By now it was well after lunchtime, so we went looking for a late lunch. We went to a small cafe that served Australian meat pies. We took a table in back but it was hot and the servers were slow and we had to still get to the Opera House by 3:30pm. So we got up went back out to the front display cases and ordered to go. Turned out that take out was about 1/3rd the cost of sitting in the back and being served. We made a picnic of it by the Modern Museum of Art on the Quay.

    Since Lady CurbCrusher was going to celebrate a birthday the next day, we went in search of a sunset dinner cruise. The reason for searching in this area is that where there are a ton of booking offices all around the Circular Quay. We were able to book one for Captain Cooks out of Darlington Harbor. We then stopped by a convenience store and got our Opal cards. These are the tap on/off cards that you can use with the public transit in Sydney and then wandered over to Opera House and took some pictures.

    Sydney Opera House

    Backpacks are not allowed on the Opera House tour, so we checked our backpack and used the toilets and waited for the tour. Our tour started with Opera House tour staff taking a photo of us in front of a green screen. This was then used to make the souvenir photo book that they try and sell you at the end of the tour. We were issued headsets, as everyone wears them so that the guides don’t have to yell, and met Kenny our guide.

    We started by going into the Drama Theatre (no pictures allowed) where they were staging the Noel Coward play Hay Fever. The theater had great sight lines, very deep stage and comfortable but weird looking chairs. We then watched a movie of how the Opera House was built out in the lobby. We then went into a very intimate feeling’in the round’ theater called the Studio. It used to be the elevators for scenery but was flooded in late 80’s and remodeled into a small theater. Then we went into a large theater where they do opera+ballet. Very large, with awesome acoustics. You could see the baffling of the ceiling that matched the sails outside. Then we walked outside to large doors where they used bring in equipment/sets and props. They have since built a new tunnel to get there. We walked into a lobby area that had red carpet and great views of bridge+harbor. Watched another movie then moved into a theater. After the tour we walked into a hall and were released into the main lobby to get our pictures, see the gift shop or purchase tickets to a performance. Little CurbCrusher bought some key chains for friends.

    We then walked back to the apartment, regrouped and headed out for dinner. We walked (and walked) to find dinner. We ended up on Oxford street at a Mexican fast food place. Had tacos and then walked some very dark iffy looking streets home. Took showers and watched TV and slept again.

    Total step count for day 2 in Sydney – 16,293

    2016 - Sydney Opera House Tour