Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wednesday, Oct 28th, Sydney


The Sydney Opera House is more than an opera house.  It’s a studio that seats 300, and in which we saw a musical titled “Velvet” last night. Think Studio 54 disco party meets Cirque du Soleil, with some Las Vegas showgirls and the world hula-hoop champ in lights.  It’s a theater circle stage that seats 400, and 4500 rooms underneath it all to support all of them.  

To top it off, the large shells with a million panels that you associate with it aren’t even attached to the venues below, nor are the shells connected to each other.   And all the main electrical wiring, water, sewage, and ventilation systems are above the venue and below the shells. And you thought it was just a weird design.

Since we parked our car in the hotel garage yesterday, we’ve taken two trains, two ferries, and nine buses.  We always figure out the transit system by just about the time we leave, and Sydney will take every minute.  They integrate each part well, and the payment process works easily, they just need to improve the mapping and signage. 

Desperately needing my surf-watching fix, we took the ferry to Manley today.  Manley beaches are world famous to surfers, and currently host some of the best surf schools.  We watched teams of instructors take about a hundred students through running, swimming, and paddling drills before any could get their surfing feet wet.  Just off and on the Boardwalk were also rollerblade and skateboard schools, and volleyball trainings.

There’s a film/benefit on aboriginal stockmen at the university we’re going to tomorrow night, but we’re not sure what is happening during the day.  It’s our last full day before we leave, and that’s usually a good time to just relax.  I doubt if there will be any more photos, so I hope you’ve all enjoyed the trip as much as we have.  We’re glad the stock market seems to have rebounded from when we left.  Looks like we get to keep traveling.

Here is a link to the photos from yesterday and today.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Monday, Oct 26th, Sydney


Our circle route today into the Blue Mountains, east of Sydney, was more than we expected.  Thirty-five million years ago, the sea floor off the coast of a smaller Australia rose up about four miles.  It was among the last events in the 60-million year breakoff of the continent from its home in the supercontinent, Gondwana. 

Since then, lots have happened, including volcanos covering the whole place with lava several times.  But the soft sea floor residue, now hardened sandstone and siltstone, has eroded under and around it.  The resulting wide valleys, formed over millions of years when rivers of water melted from periods of ice age climate, reveal absolutely stunning vistas.  None of them are going to displace Arizona’s Grand Canyon, but the infrastructure, promotion, and allied support from nearby communities makes them great places to visit.

Later, we visited the Blue Mountains Mt Tomah Botanical Garden.  "Tomah" is the aboriginal word for Fern Tree, and they had several varieties (hard and soft-sided trunks).  The also had Dawn Redwoods and a really beautiful set of displays for cave-exploring and geology history.  All for free.

We're off to Sydney for our last place to stay.  Home on Friday.

Here is a link to the photos we took yesterday.
Sunday, Oct 25th, Penrith

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday, Oct 24th, Ulladulla


A town with a mangrove marine reserve, geology walk, fossil cliffs, several surf schools, and a golf course along the beach - must have been a lot of fun.  It was, except that it rained more than anytime on our trip.  We did love the Mangrove reserve, complete with oysters on the tree trunks.  We caught up on some television, went to a movie (Burnt - we recommend it),  and took a nice ride up the coast and back.

We did get to see the fossils and the rocks, both on the beach last night, and this morning on geology walk.  My suggestion is that the town redo its brochures to include a map, and make sure the Information Center staff all know where it is. We also stumbled upon an additional walk around a nearby point containing hand-carved wooden tributes to aboriginal and environmentally-sensitive living.

Finally, we stopped by Fitzroy Falls on the way to the Blue Mountains.   What a gorgeous waterfall.  One of the top 15 we have ever seen, especially if you include the valley it falls into.  Wow!

Here are two links to yesterday and today's photos.
Friday, Oct 23rd, Ulladulla
Saturday, Oct 24th, Penrith

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wednesday, Oct 21st, Canberra


Today, we spent the morning at the Australian National Film and Sound Archive, and the afternoon at the Australian National Botanical Garden and the Heritage Nursery.  We learned about the country's colonization of its northern neighbor (Papua New Guinea) from 1948 to 1975, and then about the colonization of Australia by the plant community.  The short of it was that the plants were a heck of a lot more successful.

And at dinner tonight, we talked about under what conditions two cultures could interact successfully when values, governance, and technology were so far apart.  Is it inevitable that colonization and conflict result?  Is it made more inevitable when valuable resources are coveted?  Can international bodies like the UN really dissuade bad outcomes?  Are prime directives (think early Star Trek episodes) implementable?

I'm going to work to see that the NFSA's library of films and radio programs are fully-digitized, and made available online.  Their historical and cultural value is unparalleled, incorporating much of the materials produced by the British during and after World War II.  It was a pleasure to spend a few hours in their luxurious theaters and sound studios watching unique perspectives on the history of Australia.

And thanks very much to The Heritage Nursery staff for assembling and operating such an excellent nursery.  It was an wonderful ending point for our day, and we only wish we could have brought a bundle of plants home with us.

Here is a link to the photos we took today.
Wednesday, Oct 21st, Canberra


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tuesday, Oct 20th, Canberra


The Australian National University was the right place to stay in Canberra.  The University House rents out vacant apartments which are in the middle of student activities, cafes, seminars, and a bus ride from public facilities like botanic gardens, arboretums, galleries, and museums.  The bus system is puzzling, but it stops within reasonable walking distance of most we wanted to see.

But it would be hard to miss the National Museum and Gallery.  These two structures have architectural signatures which demand plenty of attention.

Inside both were outstanding collections of aboriginal and colonial art which complemented the stories and insights we've collected in our travels this trip.  In addition, it provided us with significant planning background on the 70% of the country we aren't seeing this time, and which we hope to get to in the future.

The Parliament building, housing 4,500 rooms, should not be missed.  But what is outside pales with the dynamic contrasts playing out in the inner chambers.  The barely-civil, verbal jousting which occurs during the daily "question time", between the Prime Minister and the Opposition Party membership, is a refreshing dose of partisan politics - served with humor and wit.  As we've recently become devoted "footies", we're beginning to find Australian legislative games a whole lot more enjoyable than ours.

Here is a link to the photos taken over the past two days.  Monday and Tuesday, Oct 19-20th, Canberra, Australia.   

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday, Oct 18th, Eden


We're staying in a lot of one-night places along this road trip, and we hate leaving something behind in the hotel room.  We have a variety of electronic devices, with their attendant power and connector cables, batteries, and carrying cases.  We also have books, keys, wallets, glasses, and water bottles. So we're finding that it pays to be a little obsessive compulsive in our approach to packing.  Every item goes in the same case, and in the same part of our luggage.  Each of our carry-ons has many pockets, and the same things go in each pocket every day.  Our bathroom ditty bags contain the same items, each in the exact place as when we began the trip.  It seems to be working, as we've only lost one little adapter so far.

The southern coast of Australia continues to charm and amaze us.  Today, we turned down onto a road to see a small wharf.  As we pulled into the tight little parking lot at the bottom of the hill, Pat spied whales a few hundred feet from the dock.  For thirty minutes, three humpback whales checked us out before heading back out of the harbor.  Yesterday, we came across a right whale playing in the shallows just off a rocky point we were hiking.

The Surf Rescue Clubs at several of the coastal towns invited their residents to come out to the beaches to refresh their beach and surf skills, and to see some demonstrations of the team in rescue operations.   I felt like I was six years old again, and was beginning to be taken under the wings of my hometown lifeguards.

We'll be driving inland to Australia's capital city, Canbarra, tomorrow to stay in the dorms at the Australia National University for two days.

Here is a link to the photos we took today.
Sunday, Oct 18th, Eden


Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday, Oct 16th, Metung


We are eating more breakfasts than usual. Getting up each morning at 7am, with an ambition to take to the road for a couple hundred miles, our stomachs demand some attention.  A typical includes a long tall coffee, eggs, bacon, and toast for Pat; orange juice, hot chocolate, and ham and cheese crossaint for me.  Exploring all day until 4-5pm, we're also not having dinners as large as usual, either.

The town of Mahun anchors the eastern end of Gippsland Lakes, just behind ninety-mile beach.  To explore it well, we needed a boat.  Seals and dolphin greeted us at the start, and our journey throughout its inlets, waterways, and lakeside communities revealed terns, gulls, cormorants, pelicans, egrets, and eagles.

And a hot, muggy morning turned into a very comfortable afternoon.

Here is a link to the few photo we took.
Friday, Oct 16th, Metun