A Few Impressions of Australia

After we recovered from jet lag we began to enjoy Sydney.  Sydney is NYC with LA’s weather where they drive on the opposite side of the road have funny electric outlets but is the USA in disguise. The famous Opera House and Bridge plus miles of beaches and a very modern downtown make this a place to visit, but the high point was a tour of the Ku-ring-ga Chase National Park north of Sydney, a wilderness area with thousands of Aboriginal sites. Our tour was both a bus ride through a Eucalyptus Gum Tree forest and 2 hours on a boat. After a trek through brush and tangled trees, we reach a flat sandstone outcrop with etched images of ancient animals transitioning to humans estimated to be between 5000 and 7000 years old.

rock

The images reflected the Aboriginal first inhabitants belief that they evolved from animals; there is evidence that their ancestors first arrived in what is now Australia 50,000 years ago. It is fitting that this most ancient civilization in on one of the oldest least changed remnant of Gondwanaland. Australia separated from Antarctica about 80 million years ago.

On the boat through Ky-ring-ga, we ate kangaroo meat and saw painted into the rock walls fishmettalic rock and hands painted with ochre and charcoal paint.  Although there a few houses in the park there are marinas for private boats; we also saw sea planes taking people from Sydney to an upscale restaurant on seaside in the forested hills.

On the evening of our third day in Sydney, we began of 14-day cruises of the west coasts of Australia and New Zealand.  Cruising is very much like an RV road trip on water but in addition to bringing your sleeping room, you bring resort hotel accommodations with you; so you unpack once, put the luggage under the bed and head to the gym, pool, library, bar, etc. The Cabin we picked was the best, close to the elevators and stairways in the middle of the ship; we always get inside cabins because they are cheaper, quieter without outside light to wake you up too early in the morning.

Because of all the excellent food I eat, I tried to walk a lot and climb a lot of stairs instead of taking the elevator.  My Fitbit was working well except it was out of sync with the time zone.

Almost every day I walked over 10000 steps and climbed a lot of steps; one day I had 84 flights, most days it was over 20.

One minor problem was I could only access my Gmail; Microsoft’s Hot mail wanted me to sign in with a code sense I was using a strange computer and they sent to code to my home phone in Columbus.

Melbourne is a city to see!  After a marginal tour of a Eucalyptus forest and a 20 minute ride on restored 1850s narrow gauge railroad we had a disappointing “Morning Tea” of instant coffeebird and biscuits with jam in an absolutely beautiful forest with huge gum  trees, a large flock of white crested cockatoos and a few bright red and blue Crimson Rosellas.  After we got back to the dock we took an electric streetcar/tram downtown, along the pedestrian friendly banks of the Yarra River there was a great combination of ultra modern architecture and historic buildings. The 1830’s train station is a jewel. Melbourne has a very UK London air with very friendly folks.

Hobart Tasmania was next on our itinerary, the  gateway to my idea of Australia. We visited the Mount Fields National Park and Russell Falls, enormous, original growth gum trees and giant tree ferns along a path to the 200-foot waterfall cascading.

Then it was on to a winery/sheep farm where we watched dogs work the sheep for the owner then a demonstration of sheep shearing.

sheep

Followed by lunch of steak and the excellent salad. Then we had a wine tasting of locally grown Pinot noir, Chardonnay, and Champagne made from the two wines using the same process as in France.

We finished our visit to Tasmania Australia at the Bonorong wildlife rescue park with hundreds of hand fed Kangaroos wandering around with Rhea in an open area plus enclosures with Wombats, Koalas, and one sleeping Tasmanian Devil.

On our way back to the ship, we crossed a waterway that was the original breeding site for Black Swans on a causeway and bridge built by the some of the convicts who helped settle Australia in the nineteenth century. That evening we began our two-days passage over the Tasman Sea to the highlight of the cruise Milford Sound in New Zealand’s Fiordland.

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-Jack Riordan

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