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SnRSeattle's OZ TWO trip report, part 1 (LONG!)

Old Nov 7th, 2007, 01:05 PM
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SnRSeattle's OZ TWO trip report, part 1 (LONG!)

Background: We had a great, lucky (in many, many upgrades) trip to Australia in July of 2004, visiting the Blue Mountains ( and Jenolan Caves), Uluru, Kakadu NP, Cairns/Port Douglas, and Sydney. From the minute we got back, we started planning our next trip, which was to be October, 2006. When we accumulated sufficient quantities of FF points on our two Visa cards, we called up and found that no seats were to be had. Not knowing that you had to keep calling every day until you got them, we gave up and started planning more for October, 2007. I hung out here at Fodor’s daily and had great advice from lots of wonderful people. We originally planned to go to Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Carnarvon Gorge, and Cairns. Realizing, thanks to advice here, that this itinerary was just too much and also having serious discussions about what we really, really liked to do on vacation and wanted to do specifically in Australia, we came up with another itinerary that included lots of snorkeling and wildlife sighting opportunities, and several unique Aboriginal rock art sites. Up until a week before we left the beginning and the end of the trip was unscheduled because we were trying to get our flights changed to shorten the trip. We were unable to do so, so there was a flurry of last-minute reservations. I will post the nitty gritty information about the day at the beginning in case you don’t want to read the whole missive. Some helpful information—we got the unlocking code for our Cingular phone before we left the US. Randy got a SIM card that cost $25 and included $25 of calling time with Telstra. This was great for calling within Australia and for calling home with our pre-paid card we had bought at Costco. It was even instrumental in getting together with some Fodorites, as you can read below! We also brought an extra folded up duffel bag which came in very handy once we had bought souvenirs, etc. which filled up our suitcases.

Day 1— October 1-3, 2007
Sydney Airport to Huskisson, NSW
Accommodation: Huskisson Bayside Motel $A90/night ph. 61-2-4441 5500

We flew first class from Seattle to San Francisco and then on to Sydney. We got the FF seats with many many calls to the Alaska Airlines Partner desk starting 330 days prior to our projected departure days, which were flexible around the first of October. Arriving in Sydney having slept 8 hours is a great boon to having a chance to quickly throw off jet lag for us. We rented a car from Avis with our Wizard number ($A334 for midsize car for 6 days.) I didn’t want to rent from Priceline because they used Europcar and I didn’t know anything about them. In the future I might since we saw the Europcar booth right next to the Avis/Hertz/etc booths in all the airports we were in. It would have saved us probably $100. I also saw Red Dot booths in Sydney and in Cairns, so that could be an option.

We drove south past suburban Sydney and entered the Royal National Park. One of our fondest memories of the whole trip is stopping in a creek area soon after we entered. It was just 8 am and the birds were calling all around, but they weren’t any birds we were familiar with! We saw white sulphur-crested cockatoos flying and squawking! It was a beautiful natural place and was definitely not Seattle! We drove on to a few sites in the park, but didn’t do any hiking since the Rangers told us that the likelihood of fire was high and to stay near our vehicle. Although advised to take the coast road, we opted for the Princes Highway since the windy road in the NP was making our jet-lagged tummies wish for a freeway. The PH isn’t exactly a four-lane interstate, but was pleasant. We stopped at Kiama for lunch after a visit to its famous Blow Hole. Even though the wind was blowing enough to blow my hat off, it wasn’t doing it in the correct method to make the water at the Blow Hole really jump out of the rocks, but it did make a satisfactory noise, and the sun and surf were very scenic. After one of the best meals of our whole trip at a fish and chips shop on the main drag, we headed off the Huskisson. The motel was situated on the south side of the town by the municipal park, and our room was right on the main road (but with ear plugs, I didn’t notice any noise at night!) It was a large room with a small, but adequate bathroom, comfortable bed and lovely hosts. We popped over to Boderee NP near sunset and a “commuting” kangaroo hopped by us, but we didn’t see any on the beach as advertised. We did see several dolphins swimming about 50 yards/metres from shore. We ate dinner at the RSL club and met lovely people while we ate a huge (but advertised as half) portion of barramundi.

Day 2—October 4
Huskisson to Narooma
Accommodation: Bay Street B&B $A140/night ph. 61-2 4476 3336

We stopped off at Boderee NP again before leaving Huskisson and hiked to and around Murrays Beach and the Botanic Gardens, also Hyams Beach (claims, as do many places, to be the whitest beach in Australia). It seemed to be a long drive down to Narooma after the NP. We are sincerely grateful to Neil_Oz for urging us to break up our first day at Husky, because we would have been very tired after that drive (plus missed the lovely Boderee NP). We arrived at the tourism center about 4:30 and got information about the area and how to get to the B&B. It is a lovely home with two rooms to rent out. Ours was the Garden View which was huge with a kitchenette and a nice bathroom. Very comfortable. We ate at La Frommage, a small pizza place, mostly for take out, but with a few overstuffed chairs and other tables and chairs. Pizzas in Oz are everywhere, and a cheaper alternative for dinners if you’re tired of fish and chips.

Day 3—October 5
In Narooma
Whale-watch boat booked through [email protected] ph. 61-2 4476 2881 or free call 1 800 241 003 (in Australia)

We realized that we were sorely undersupplied with warm clothing for the upcoming whale watching trip since it got back later than 7:30 pm and the weather had turned quite cool. Margaret, the charming host at the B&B suggested that we go to St. Vincent De Paul’s for clothes and then give them back when we didn’t need them anymore. So off we went and found a bonanza—two jackets, two tops and a pair of jeans for $18 total. We turned the jackets back, but kept the rest. And we really needed them all on the whale boat. After the shopping trip, we bought some lunch and headed off for a hike in ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬Marunga Lake Park. It was nice with sightings of two lovely black swans. Off to the marina to catch the boat and we chugged out of the protected man-made harbor with about 30 other people, some Americans stationed in Canberra with the Air Force. We saw lots of whales, heard them on the microphone underwater, and then went over to Montague Island. We climbed the hill with squawking gulls on either side warning us to stay away from their nests. There were little wooden boxes that the guide said were for the penguins because when they nested in the non-native grasses, the babies would get strangled. We climbed the lighthouse and also looked in the little museum that showed how the families of the lighthouse-keepers lived. Then it was time for the evening show—the penguins. There is a little sitting area down by the dock and soon one came in on a wave. He loitered there until there were more and then they walked a bit until more joined them. All in all there were about 40 individuals. It was very fun to see them. We ate dinner at Taylor’s seafood restaurant. It, like many of the mid-range restaurants we saw in Australia, had you order at a counter, pay, and then they would bring you the food when it was ready.


Day 4—October 6
In Narooma
Driving trip to Tilba Tilba, Central Tilba and Tilba Valley Winery


We started out in cool, overcast weather south towards the Umbarra Cultural Center, a local Aborigine center, and unfortunately found it deserted, even though it was a half-hour after it was supposed to open. We drove on to the tiny (population 30) town of Tilba Tilba and got little information from Pam at Pam’s Store, but found the Foxglove Spires garden next door which we decided not to pay the entry fee for, but did a bit of shopping in the little stores right nearby. On to the “larger” (pop. 60) town of Central Tilba, which was set up for tourists with old houses set up as shops up and down the sides of the main street. After poking around there, we drove to the Tilba Valley Winery for a wine tasting. It was presided over by a tiny woman from Bali. The lunch offerings weren’t to our taste, so we drove back to C. Tilba. I wasn’t feeling too well that day so I napped while R did the laundry and got the cell phone all fixed up with a SIM card. Dinner was at Sorriso Italian Restaurant in the shopping center. It was really tasty and served with a smile by the owner Louisa, from Italy.

Day 5—October 7
Canberra
Trapper’s Motor Inn, Goulburn $117/night with “hire car” discount

We had been in contact with Neil_Oz by email and phone, so started off for Canberra about 9. The road is really windy with lots of switchbacks for a while, but scenic with gum forests and the Ausssie version of mountains. Closer to Canberra the land became flatter and obviously drier. Neil asked us to meet him at his house and then graciously drove us around Canberra, even going into the Parliament building with us and explaining the Australian government to us. He dropped us of at Floriade, a big floral display that attracts a lot of people. They grow tons of tulips and other flowers in different shapes with different themes: my favorite was a huge display of orange and yellow tulips called “In a Sunburnt Country”. We then caught a cab over to the Australian Nation Museum with great displays of “what is an Australian”, the animals of Australia including the introduced species and their effect on the countryside, and a nice section on Aboriginal and Torres Strait aritfacts and lifestyle. There was a nice wall display of significant events in the emerging nation’s history. Neil picked us up and his lovely wife Robin and we went to dinner in the Maluka district which was very lively and full of cafes and shops. We wanted to get closer to Sydney since we had a 1:00 flight out of the airport, so we said our goodbyes to Neil and Robin and drove off on the Hume Highway. The effects of wine and a very dark highway soon made themselves felt on our driver, so we stopped about an hour before we had planned on (Robin having researched some places to stay for us) in Goulburn, home of the Big Marino (see at http://www.outimage.net/pa-work/events/06marino.htm ) where we stayed the night.
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Old Nov 7th, 2007, 02:54 PM
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Great report Sally. Thank you so much for doing this as people do find it so very helpful to have up-to-date information.

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Old Nov 7th, 2007, 04:11 PM
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Enjoying your report Sally!
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Old Nov 7th, 2007, 06:54 PM
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I'm enjoying your report too, Sally.It's so interesting to hear it from your point of view. My parents retired to Narooma, in the late seventies, and there were no tourist trips to Montague Island etc then, but I had a very bumpy ride in a small launch with friends one day, out to see the seals.

Now I can't wait to have a trip down the south coast again.
So glad you enjoyed it all.
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Old Nov 8th, 2007, 07:49 AM
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Great report Sally!!!!! But hurry up as I want to hear about the SoF - hope you liked it!!
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Old Nov 8th, 2007, 08:19 AM
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Elizabeth, quick note before the SoF report--it was F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C!!! If you are going, you will have a great time with a great crew. Just a note--bring some seasick meds even if you don't ordinarily get seasick. I always get seasick so took the patch and was fine, DH doesn't so didn't and wasn't--until I gave him one of my patches and then he was fine. Half the boat missed the first night's dinner and "fed the fishes", but all were fine the next day. Something about steaming 12 hours to the first dive site gets to people's stomachs.
SinS
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Old Nov 8th, 2007, 10:05 AM
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Sally - so happy you enjoyed it - I was on it earlier this year and we exchanged posts about it - always nervous about recommending something like that! Was Shep still the Head Divemaster?

As I recall you didn't dive, did you? How was the snorkeling? Don't worry - I'll wait for your trip report!
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Old Nov 8th, 2007, 06:39 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
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hi Sally, Thanks for the excellent report. Glad you were able to hook up w/ Neil and Robyn. We had a nice visit with them here in Victoria last summer and look forward to seeing them on their home turf ( they'll probably be better behaved) on the next trip down under.

cheers
AndrewDavid


ps i've been living up here for 2 years and love it . if u are up this way give me a shout
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Old Nov 8th, 2007, 09:19 PM
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Thanks, AD, we love Victoria. We might take you up on it this summer. I hope it isn't as dark and gloomy there as it is here. At least your dollar is strong as opposed to ours which is sinking like a stone. Ouch, it makes Australia very expensive (but worth every penny.) Speaking of which, it was interesting to see Australian clerks so surprised that we still had the penny and didn't have one and two dollar coins. They thought it was very quaint that we hung on to the penny and the paper bills. It did make the change you received seem even smaller than it was when most of it was in change and not much in paper money! When are you planning on going down under? Don't go when the place is flooded again. BTW, I was cruising through the TiVo for shows on Australia and saw one (on a channel we don't get) that featured Dinky the singing dog!
Sally in Seattle
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Old Nov 8th, 2007, 09:25 PM
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Elizabeth, sorry I forgot about the SoF correspondence. Don't be afraid to recommend it to anyone, I can't imagine anyone not having the time of their lives on it (unless the seas are bad.) Everyone is so caring and friendly and the food is so good, well, recommend on! Shep was not the divemaster, I don't know who was unless it was the same person who was the main person in charge of us all (and calling out "dive time" every morning!) who was Tanya.
Sally in Seattle
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