Perth: World’s Largest Gold Coin and Our Weight in Gold

Heading Towards the Left Coast 

Having spent three weeks flying around the Eastern part of Australia, we headed west to visit Perth, the capital of Western Australia and the only major city on the left coast. When we met people in Eastern Australia and mentioned we were going to visit Perth they would ask us why and proceed to tell us there is nothing there and it’s really expensive. Well, we thought, why not! It may be one of the most isolated major cities in the world, but it also right on the edge of the outback and home to the world’s largest gold coin.

So with some left coast exploration ahead of us, we caught an overnight flight from Sydney and landed in the middle of the night. Because we were catching a redeye flight, we booked a place near the airport via Airbnb so we could get a few hours sleep before heading to our hotel near the city center. The major industry in Perth is mining, so most of the miners fly-in for the week and fly-out for the weekend or FIFO, fly-in fly-out. This makes hotels cheaper on the weekend than during the weekdays, so to save money we planned our stay around a weekend.

Having gotten just enough sleep, well enough that we could function properly, we walked over to the bus stop down from the house we had rented a room from for the night on Airbnb. Hopping on the bus and heading towards the city we could see that Perth was different than other places we had visited. As we drove through the suburbs, we knew we were in the outback or bush. In the course of a month, we had gone from the tropical rainforest to the cool harbor side cities and now the edge of the desert outback. After what seemed like a short bus ride to the main bus terminal, we got in a taxi and made our way to the hotel we would call home for the next couple of days.

Since we didn’t get much sleep during the night, we took it easy and just rested and planned for the next couple of days at Sullivans Hotel. Besides, spending five hours in a cramped budget airline seat with little to no leg room, didn’t do us any good and left us feeling a little drained. The only way we could afford flying around Australia was because we bought cheap tickets during a two-day sale from Tigerair Australia. For short flights, it wasn’t that bad, but flying for five hours with my knees digging into the back of the seat in front of me didn’t provide for any comfort to take a nap during the flight. Perth is not known for its tourist attractions since most people just spend a couple of days there and then either drive through the vast expanses up the West Coast or go South towards the wine-producing valleys. We decided we would just visit Fremantle Prison and take a tour of the Perth Mint.

Australia’s Only Active Mint

Front of the Perth Mint

Founded in 1889, the Perth Mint is the only active mint in Australia with both Sydney and Melbourne closed. It is where all the medals for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney were produced. They are on display in the Perth Mint museum. We decided to go the gold pour tour, but since it is still an active mint, we couldn’t take any pictures inside.

Holding the World’s Largest Gold Nugget, a Replica

We met on the front lawn for our tour to begin where our guide gave us a brief history of some of the largest gold nuggets found in Australia. We were able to see and hold some of the replicas discovered and admire at its sheer size after the tour. We even discussed if we should try our luck on becoming amateur gold miners in Western Australia because the Hand of Faith nugget which weighed in at 876 troy ounces (27.2 kg or 61 pounds and 11 ounces) was found less than 12 inches below the surface while an amateur gold miner casually swept his metal detector around his trailer in Victoria, Australia. This same nugget was sold to a casino called to the aptly named, Gold Nugget Casino in Las Vegas where it is prominently displayed. Source: “Worlds Biggest Gold Nuggets” The “Welcome Stranger” nugget is the world’s largest alluvial nugget and was discovered only 1.2 inches below the surface.

Gold Nuggets
We Found Gold, Replica Gold That Is
Left: May with both the “Welcome Stranger” (top) and “Golden Eagle” (bottom)
Right: Josh trying to eat the “Welcome Stranger,” largest alluvial gold nugget

They found gold
They Found Gold, Just Like Josh
Left: Statue of Prospectors in Front of the Perth Mint
Right: Josh with the “Golden Eagle”

World’s Largest Gold Coin

Next on the tour was viewing the largest gold coin in the world; the one-tonne gold kangaroo coin. It is made of 99.99% pure gold with a diameter measuring 80cm and a thickness of 35cm; it is massive. The coolest part is that it is Australian legal tender. You can use this coin when you purchase something. Can you imagine pulling out this coin to make a purchase? There were no security guards or other security measures for this gold coin, worth over a million dollars. It is so large you would have to be superman to pick it up and run with it and if you are that strong, there is no way they could stop you anyway. The video below explains the great feat on the effort it took for the Perth Mint to create this coin.

Largest Gold Coin in the World
Largest Gold Coin in the World, the Australian Kangaroo 1 Tonne Gold Coin minted in 2012. Photo credit: The Perth Mint.

Gold Pour

Gold Pour
Gold Pour. Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia

Watching the gold pour was really nice. They have been pouring the same gold bar for years now. Heating the gold to its molten form and then pouring it in the mold. It is amazing how quickly it cools down, not mention how heavy it is. We all got to hold the bar briefly before exiting to the museum and looking at the nuggets they had on display.

Weighing Ourselves, What Was Our Gold Value?

After the gold pour, you exit into the museum. On display the second largest gold nugget in the world still in existence which the discoverer attempted to sell at auction. The government of Australia had something else in mind and wouldn’t let it leave the country. It is owned by a mining company and loaned to the Perth Mint for display. Also in the museum, there is a scale that you can use to figure out what your weight in gold is. It will then take your weight and give you a value based on the day’s price in gold. What was our worth?

Gold Weight

Over 4 million, we are some valuable people, or we just have some extra weight. Now that we were done finding our value, we decided to strike a souvenir Perth Mint coin. Not being satisfied with a generic Perth Mint coin to commemorate our trip, we needed a custom made coin. Our very own version of the kangaroo coin, it may not be worth a million dollars or be legal tender, but it is priceless to us.

Perth Mint Coin
Our custom coin to remember our Australia trip from the Perth Mint

Perth Mint Coin
Our custom coin to remember our Australia trip from the Perth Mint

Perth Mint Coin
Souvenir coin from the Perth Mint

Eating a Gold Bar

With our coins in hand and feeling a little hungry, we made our way over to the cafe and consumed a gold covered snack before going outside and taking silly pictures of ourselves with the replica gold nuggets. It is always good to not take oneself so seriously. Go out and have fun and let your inner goofball loose. The Perth Mint was one our favorite tours we went on in Australia and a great way to end our magical trip.

Perth Mint Snack
Our edible gold bar filled with chocolate at the Perth Mint

Saying Goodbye to Australia

After visiting the different parts of Australia, we could understand why East Coast residents wouldn’t want to visit Perth. It was just easier to visit other countries. As we would learn, it was quicker to fly from Sydney to Bali than from Sydney to Perth. Australia is huge but a great place to explore.

Fremantle Prison – Breaking in and Going Under – A Journey Through The Tunnels

UNESCO Site #11
Australian Convict Sites (Fremantle Prison)

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison is a UNESCO Heritage Site, part of Australia’s convict prison sites and the only building listed in Western Australia. Being the most intact convict-built prison in Australia, it was in continuous use for almost 140 years until 1991. Opting for a more adventurous tour, we decided on the tunnel tour. Slipping into our coveralls and putting on our hard-hats, we had to descend down a 22-meter ladder where we would eventually go under the walls of the prison and underneath the city Fremantle itself.

Fremantle Prison
May and Josh giving their thumbs up at the end of the tour.

A Brief History

The tunnel system began in 1888 with prisoners completing the system in 1894. Used as a catchment area for water draining through the limestone formation to provide water for the commercial and domestic needs of the city of Fremantle in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1910, the prison and Fremantle were connected to the metropolitan water scheme and the tunnels were no longer needed to supply water for the prison or city of Fremantle. They were still used to provide water for the lawn and gardens of the prison though.

The Tunnel Tour

Fremantle Prison
Descending down the ladder. Photo credit: Fremantle Prison.

This has to be one of the funniest tours we have been on. There was no photography allowed, due to safety precautions, so we can only share the photos Fremantle Prison has. Descending down the ladder was a bit scary at first but we both made it down with ease. It was reassuring that we were connected to the ladder with a safety harness. When we reached the bottom of the ladder, the first thing we were shown were the fossils of shellfish, indicated that we were standing on the bottom of the ocean. Well, what used to be the bottom of the ocean. As we were led down dry sections of tunnel, we noticed what looked like roots hanging down from the top of the tunnel. Indeed, they were from the trees growing outside the walls of the prison. We were now outside the prison, we had escaped, or so we thought. The tunnel system only had entrances and exits inside the prison, but it stretched out from the prison and under the city, there was no escaping the prison from the tunnels. After reaching the end of one of the tunnels we made our way to the few tunnels that had water in them, boarding our replica convict punts. This was the best part of the tour.

Fremantle Prison
Paddling down the tunnels. Photo credit: Fremantle Prison.

Paddling down the knee-deep water of the narrow tunnel was a fun and exciting challenge. Keeping the punt from hitting the walls the hardest part, we both had to continuously put our hands out to brace ourselves and keep the punt from hitting and damaging the walls. The commentary from the other members of the tour had us laughing the whole time, especially when we floated under a beam with cockroaches on it and one lady started to freak out. Our guide told us that there were no officially reported deaths while the convicts constructed the tunnel, but it is hard to believe no one died in the construction of the tunnels. As we paddled our way down the tunnels we were aided by modern lights helping us to guide our way, but when he had the lights turned down to the level of what the convicts would have been working under, we could see very little. We think the reason no one was reported to have died was that officials did not want the general public to know that there were dead people contaminating their source of drinking water. At one point, we stopped the punts and could hear noise coming from above. It was hard to tell what the source was and we all guessed wrong as to the source. We happened to be under the main road in the city and heard cars driving by. Once again we had left the prison but could not escape. After paddling our way through the tunnel system, we had to go up the way we came down. This time, it was much easier going up than going down, concluding our being convicts for a day. A video of the tour by Destination WA.

Prison Art Gallery

Afterward, we toured the prisoner gallery which included art from the various prisons around Western Australia.

Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison
Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison

Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison
Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison

Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison
Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison

Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison
Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison

The Street Art Scene in Melbourne

Melbourne: A Street Art Capital

Melbourne calls itself as one the street art capitals of the world. Anywhere you go, you will find some form of unique expression of street art. This allows the city’s culture to be fully expressed in the streets of Melbourne. You will find it peeking out everywhere. It is hard to walk down an alleyway, laneway, or peer in a window without seeing some form of art. From being perched high up on the side of a building to laying on the ground, you will discover art that will grab your attention. No nook and cranny seems too small to be used.

The famous street art of Melbourne draws numerous visitors from around the world. Though mainly consisting of murals and stencil art, it also includes any other forms of art. As you walk along the alleyways you will find poster art, sticker art, wheat pasting, street installations and reverse graffiti. Each adding their own unique message to the street art culture. Many prominent international street artists have contributed to the bustling street art at the turn of the 21st century. Artists such as Banksy (UK), ABOVE (USA), Fafi (France), D*FACE (UK), Blek le Rat (France), Shepard Fairey (USA) and Invader (France) have all added to the street art culture in Melbourne. New artists pop up all the time to gain notoriety and showcase their work internationally. Not only is Melbourne a “street art capital” but it is also dubbed the “stencil capital of the world.” Embracing the style at an early stage.

Our Self-Guided Street Art Tour

Being lovers of artistic expression, we spent our days in Melbourne deliberately walking around to discover it. To get a better sense of where to go, we made our first stop the Tourist Information Center at Federation Square. Here we picked up some amazing and free walking maps along with transportation information. At the center, a clerk went over the  self-guided map for “Arcades and Lanes.”  Providing her choice of popular street art spots. Recommending places to see like Hosier Lane, Rutledge Lane, and Blender Lane and informing us which ones we should avoid. When we got hungry, she recommended a bar and restaurant that she particularly enjoyed, Ferdydurke. Here we would find a variety of wall to wall, floor to ceiling posters and stencil art. Besides art, Ferdydurke also offered up some tasty Pirozhkis and beer while we enjoyed a view of a beautiful mural from their balcony. With so much art to see, we couldn’t help but stray from the map. Deliberately getting lost in the city, we found the majority of our favorite art sprawled in random locations. Walking through alleyways near the Queen Victoria Market and in Chinatown gave us many pleasant surprises. An art student we came across mentioned the up and coming district of Fitzroy, where the street artists flock to since there are more unclaimed walls. So we headed over there to see what we could find. When we got tired, we just rode the tourist train or caught a tram in the CBD or Free zone.

Hosier Lane

Melbourne Street Art
Left: Hosier Lane signage
Right: Akid One (Malaysia)

Melbourne Street Art
Students visit Hosier Lane and admire Ganesh by Deb as part of their art studies.

Melbourne Street ArtMelbourne Street Art

Melbourne Street Art
Right: Monday Sucks!! by #MaizeOne

Melbourne Street Art
Left: Reflections of graffiti art.
Right: Chinese visitors are so hipster cool and color coordinated.

Melbourne Street Art
May and Mike from Monsters, Inc.

Blender Lane

One of the more prestigious street art laneways was started by The Blender Studios. What started out as a street art collective has since evolved into an art complex and ideas factory. On Wednesday evenings from 5-10pm, the Blender Lane Artists Market comes alive with live with music and performance artists, food, stalls of crafts, fashion, and art for sale, and even the chance to preview open studios.

Melbourne Street Art
Blender Lane

Melbourne Street Art

Melbourne Street Art

In and Around Melbourne

Melbourne Street Art

Melbourne Street ArtMelbourne Street Art
Left: ArtEquities’ Con Artist’s Profitable Con Art near the Queen Victoria Market
Right: Near the Queen Victoria Market

Melbourne Street Art
Monster trash cans near Ferdydurke

Melbourne Street ArtMelbourne Street Art
Left: Keep Your Coins, I Want Change near Queen Victoria Market
Right: Jacob Coopedge, student of Latrobe College Art and Design, painting his grayscale work to size on the gallery wall

Melbourne Street Art
Found near Chinatown

Melbourne Street Art
Found near Chinatown

Melbourne Street ArtDragon spotted in Fitzeroy area.

View More Photos Here

If you are interested in street art, Rash (2005) a documentary directed by Nicholas Hansen explores urban street artists in Australia through public dialogue.

Daintree Rainforest

For the final few days of our visit to Cairns we decided to rent a campervan and visit the Daintree Rainforest which is located North of Cairns. From Cairns you can sign up for a day trip to the forest as part of a tour but since we are not really tour people as we wanted to rent a campervan and do our own tour, at our own pace. Daintree Rainforest is part of Australia’s Wet Tropics of Queensland, one of the oldest tropical rainforests in existence (it is thought to be over 135 million years old) and at 120,000 hectares it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We rented a campervan from Spaceships Campervan for $60 AUD (or $42 USD) a day including insurance. If you are very confident in your driving ability, you can choose to not get insurance, but we chose to get it just to be safe even if it doesn’t cover collisions with wildlife such as kangaroos who are most active at dusk and dawn. Our itinerary was to spend two days and one night in Daintree Rainforest and then head south towards the Atherton Tablelands to see waterfalls and hopefully get a glimpse of a platypus for three days and two nights, but ended up cutting it short due to bad weather to two days and one night instead.

After making a wrong turn and ending at Kuranda (with a GPS we rented) we got back on the highway towards Daintree with plans to stop at the various view points along the coast which our hosts at the Travellers Oasis Backpackers highlighted on a map for us. The major stopping points included Mossman Gorge, then crossing the river via cable ferry, and entering Daintree to find lodging. The view points along the way were nice and scenic, reminding us of the California coast, which made for a nice drive.

Our Spaceships Campervan rental was an Alpha 2 Berth model named “Ham the Chimp.” This was pretty much an automatic mini van that was modified to contain a platform bed where we stored our baggage, food in the fridge locker, and cookware underneath. It was May’s first time driving on the opposite side of the road and Josh’s second (his first being in Japan). We had to constantly remind ourselves to keep left as there were a few times we drove on the right (or wrong) side of the road. Bottom photo set courtesy Spaceships.

Mossman Gorge

Our first stop in the Daintree Rainforest was Mossman Gorge where we hopped on the shuttle bus ($8.90 AUD) at the Visitor Center to the trailhead so we could hike the trail through the rainforest. The visitor center offers guided tours by aboriginal guides who explain how the local aboriginals use the forest for medicine and other aspects of their lives, but being short on time, we did a self guided tour. The loop trail has many informational signs and we were able to enjoy the experience without a guide, but we would have gotten more out of the experience with a guide during one of their Indigenous Tours or Dreamtime Walks.

The trail starts off as an elevated boardwalk which gave us a different vantage point of the forest. As we continued to walk through the rainforest, we came across a popular swimming hole that looked very tempting to take a dip in, but because we didn’t have our swimming suits and were warned that there could be strong currents, we decided to walk through the rainforest path instead. We first crossed the Rex Creek Suspension Bridge, which shook with every step that we took and ascended to the Manjal Dimbi (Mount Demi) Lookout point. Roughly translated, Manjal Dimbi means “mountain holding back.” According to Aboriginal dreamtime stories, the large humanoid rock represents Kubirri, who came to the aid of the Kuku Yalanji when they were persecuted by the evil spirit, Wurrumbu. Kubirri holds back the evil spirit, who is now confined to The Bluff above Mossman River, Manjal Dimbi has been anglicised to “Mt Demi” and Kubirri is known as the “Good Shepherd.” After descending from the lookout point we arrived at the junction for the Rainforest circuit track and decided to complete it in a clockwise fashion. This trek was clearly marked through the forest which contained many informational signage to explain the flora and fauna and history of the rainforest. After the rainforest circuit, we proceeded to the various scenic lookout points of Mossman Gorge to admire the large boulders there. After Mossman Gorge, we continued our journey North towards to the main part of the rainforest, but had to cross a river by driving our car onto a cable ferry.

A cassowary and totem poles displayed at the Mossman Gorge Visitor’s Center created by a local aboriginal

Large boulders at the Mossman Gorge

Left: Josh crossing the Rex Creek Suspedned Bridge which shook with every step he took.
Right: Wild medicinal mushrooms growing on a log at Mossman Gorge loop trail 2.4 km long.

Manjal Dimbi, a view from Mossman Gorge

Left: Beautiful tree bark naturally tinged pink at Mossman Gorge.
Right: A giant spider we saw hanging along the Mossman Gorge.

Daintree Rainforest

As we continued our journey up north for our 2D 1N (2 day, 1 night) self-guided tour through the rainforest, we stayed overnight at Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat for the night to cook our spaghetti and marinara sauce dinner. We met another couple who have been traveling in a rental campervan for 4 weeks now. We shared our portable gas stove and propane with them so we could all dine together under the group camp shelter along with some unexpected guests, bats, while it rained. The first night we spent sleeping in the campervan was an uncomfortable experience as we are slightly above average in build and the campervan is not so above average in space. May was glad she did not have to use the toilet in the middle of the night because that would require some interesting maneuvers to get out from the side door on Josh’s side, the only exit at the time. If it weren’t for the heavy rain paired with lightning and thunder, we would have an alternate exit from the back, which would have popped open to provide extra space and ventilation as well. But, we managed to sleep decently and awoke to the roaring sounds of the rainforest where sounds from the bats flying overhead competed with the insects, birds, and other wildlife we may not have seen. That was a great morning and to top it off, we decided to hike the trails at the campervan park. The trails were a little hard to follow due to the overgrowth of the flora but it was a great experience seeing everything so up close and personal. We even spotted a musky rat-kangaroo running about in the forest. Afterwards, we took our campervan and stopped at boardwalks taking in the beautiful flora and fauna and managed to see and an endangered bird, the Southern Cassowary. We actually heard the movements before we saw the bird itself, and tried to take a photo of it, but it moved so quickly which made for an unbelievably magical experience.

We woke up from sleeping overnight in our campervan at the Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat to numerous bats flying overhead.

Left: An overgrown trail we took at the Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat, where we stayed overnight.
Right: One of the many boardwalks at Daintree Rainforest.

Left: Vine climbing on a tree. The Daintree Rainforest hosts a lot of symbiotic relationships.
Right: Strangler Fig tree taking over its host tree.

Left: A part of the rainforest we hiked
Right: A wavy branch

Left: The roots of trees poking out of the marshlands of Daintree Rainforest.
Right: A curly tree branch spotted at Daintree Rainforest.

Funny speed bump sign we spotted at Daintree Rainforest to warn us of what happens since cassowaries often cross the road and are hit

Trees at Thornton Beach in Daintree Rainforest

Left: Giant fig tree Josh is standing by. Right: A “Columnar” fig tree is result of the host tree dying and leaving the Strangler Fig Tree with a hollow core.

A view of the “Columnar” fig tree from the center, inside where the host tree once stood

Buttress roots of a tree in Daintree Rainforest. The buttress is used to support the shallow roots of the trees.

Orange-footed scrubfowl we spotted along the coast

Orange plant we saw with the Daintree Rainforest where parts were neatly separated

Curtain Fig Tree

The Curtain Fig Tree is one of the largest trees in the Atherton Tablelands region. The Curtain Fig Tree is a Strangler Fig Tree whose seeds germinated at the top of the host tree while its roots grew towards the ground. These ariel roots drop 15 meters (49 feet) to the ground. After visiting the Curtain Fig Tree we stopped by the platypus viewing platform to try and get a glimpse of the elusive animal but to no avail. We stayed overnight at a local camervan park and were planning on seeing some of the many waterfalls located in the region but the weather did not cooperate, raining to entire day.

The Curtain Fig Tree and its ariel roots

Creation of the curtain fig tree

The Curtain Fig Tree and its ariel roots


View More Photos of Daintree Rainforest and Atherton Tablelands Here

Kuranda – Koalas, Kangaroos & Birds


We took a half-day trip up to Kuranda from Cairns to visit the Koala Gardens and Birdworld via the public bus that only runs several times a day. Kuranda is a small village located 25km from Cairns and surrounded by Heritage Rainforest. There is a scenic train that leaves from Cairns and travels through the forest. It makes a stop at Barron Gorge for a view of the large waterfall. There is also Skyrail Rainforest Cableway where you can ride in a gondola that runs above the forest. We thought about taking the train up and the Skyrail down but ultimately decided to take the bus as it was the cheapest. That allowed us to save some money in an otherwise very expensive country to visit. Kuranda Village opens and closes according to the tourist schedule. So the entire village shuts down by 4:00 pm. We had to make sure we departed Kuranda by 3:30 pm or else we would miss the last bus back and would have to sleep on the park bench.

Kuranda Koala Gardens

Visiting the Koala Gardens, we were able to hold a baby koala. He was so soft and light it felt like a stuffed animal. Rocco was his name, and he wasn’t really cooperative when it came time for May to get her picture taken with him. Like many other animals, he thought she was edible and decided to nibble on her arm. But overall it was well worth it. Quite the unforgettable experience. We were also able to see many other furry and not so furry creatures.  These included a wombat during feeding time, many kangaroos and wallabies to interact with, crocodiles, reptiles and more. But since it was the middle of the day most of the animals mainly just laid around in the heat since they are most active during dusk and dawn.

Josh and May holding Rocco, a baby male koala who was a bit feisty because he wanted to sleep after being handled 26 times before us. Koala’s are only handled at most 28 times per day.


Koala getting ready to nap after repositioning

We really enjoyed the Koalas that were there and are excited to show you many photos of them

Crocodiles napping

Kangaroo needs a little help scratching his back while the wallaby in the back sniffs on some grass

Kangaroo hanging out on the lawn and after several hours, during our second visit, he finally stood up.


Giant lizard

Probably the same giant lizard who escaped his enclosure to hang out with the kangaroos

Birdworld Kuranda

Having held the koala and interacted with kangaroos and wallabies, our furry marsupial friends, we decided to tour the Birdworld. If you tour both, you get a discount. We were warned that the birds like shiny objects. They will go after zippers on backpacks, earrings, and buttons on clothing, buttons on hats, or really just buttons. There was a display case of items they had found. Josh didn’t listen to the advice from the staff. As soon as he walked in, a bird landed on his hat and tore the button on top of it off. They weren’t kidding about the warnings! The same bird wasn’t finished with his task and later landed on May, attacking the zipper pulls on her backpack and hair clip. We decided to call it the psycho bird. It was a fun and interesting day trip, one we won’t forget.

We called this bird the psycho bird because he kept on attacking Josh’s hat to collect his button.

The same bird that landed on May’s shoulder to grab her hair clip and zipper from her backpack

Eclectus Parrot

Two Chattering Lorikeets mating at Birdworld Kuranda

Blue and Gold Macaw from Central & South America

Indian Ringneck

Scaley Breasted Lorikeet

View More Photos of Kuranda Koala Gardens and Birdworld Here

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and is also Queensland’s state icon. We went on a snorkel and discovery scuba diving trip with Passions of Paradise, a catamaran that took us to two sites, Paradise Reef and then Michaelmas Cay. We rented an underwater camera from Passions because our GoPro Hero4 Black decided to not work when we tried to power it on for the second time ever.

Passions of Paradise catamaran cruise company. Photos above courtesy of Passions of Paradise.

May snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef
May snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

Josh in the middle, on his first discovery scuba dive session at the Great Barrier Reef

Fish and coral in the Great Barrier Reef
A blue and white striped angelfish and a striped surgeonfish and coral in the Great Barrier Reef

School of fish swimming around to find coral to eat
School of black fish swimming around to find coral to feast on

Hard coral at the Great Barrier Reef
Hard coral at the Great Barrier Reef

Giant clam

Giant fish Josh saw at Michaelmas Cay when he jumped off the boat

Photo Gallery: Sydney


We visited Sydney, not once, but twice in the month of May! The first time, we spent a few days as a layover from Fiji to catch our next flight to Cairns and the second time was to head back from Melbourne for Vivid Sydney, an annual festival of light, music and ideas that ran this year from May 22-June 8, 2015. In Sydney, we walked around the Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour, Central Business District (CBD), had lunch at Chinatown and made a new friend Steve from South Africa over lunch, went to the Sydney Opera House (many times), checked out the Royal Botanic Gardens, climbed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during Vivid Sydney, and did a whole lot more. Check out our photos below.

Syndey Opera House from the ferry boat

Detail of the ceramic tiles on the Sydney Opera House

Yellow crested cockatoo dining on dinner of fresh grass at the Royal Botanic Garden

Yellow crested cockatoo intently modeling for us

Sydney Harbor Bridge during sunset

Sydney Opera House at night next to the restaurants

Sydney Bridge Climb

There is no other way to experience Sydney, than to climb to the very top one of Sydney’s iconic landmarks, the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Josh has previously climbed the bridge, but it was my first time and we decided to do the night climb during Vivid Sydney. It was also the world’s widest long-span bridge, at 48.8 m (160 ft) wide, until construction of the new Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver was completed in 2012.

Sydney BridgeClimb, courtesy of BridgeClimb

Sydney BridgeClimb during Vivid Sydney with the Sydney Opera House in the background

Sydney BridgeClimb during Vivid Sydney with the Sydney Opera House in the background

Sydney BridgeClimb during Vivid Sydney with the Circular Quay skyline in the background

Group Photo of the Sydney BridgeClimb Experience. Sorry about the lo-res, they didn’t provide us with a digital copy.

Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney Sail Boat

MCA Australia, The Rocks during Vivid Sydney

Sydney Opera House during Vivid Sydney

Sydney Opera House during Vivid Sydney

Sydney Opera House during Vivid Sydney

Circular Quay during Vivid Sydney

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Vivid Sydney Exhibit

Customs House lit up with an animated sequence at Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney Opera House and Sail Boat

The Circular Quay during Vivid Sydney

Sydney Opera House during Vivid Sydney

Norbert the Nautilus at Chatswood

View Entire Sydney Photo Gallery Here

Photo Gallery: Fiji


Sigatoka is the main market town and “capital” of Viti Levu’s Coral Coast. It is situated on the main Queen’s Highway, almost exactly half way between Nadi and Suva, and at the mouth of the Sigatoka River. Sigatoka itself is a bustling little town with a thriving market. Whilst there are shops catering to day trippers from the Coral Coast’s resorts and hotels, there is no real tourist accommodation in the town itself, so it remains a very local town. Two or three ‘super’markets around the market square, a busy bus station, small shops, hardware and farm supplies, vehicle parts and repairs, pharmacies and shoe shops, tailors and hairdressers and second hand clothes all dot this area.

Harinam Sankirtan, a weekly event where devoted disciples chant the holy names of Krishna or God or chant the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare” to reach self-realization and to bring blessings around the Sigatoka town from the Krishna Temple.

Krishna dancers in Sigatoka

Krishna dancers in Sigatoka

International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Krishna Temple perched high up on the hill in Sigatoka which cost FJ $6 million to build

Delicious vegetarian lunch at the Radha Krishna Temple Restaurant in Sigatoka

Shrine for His Divine Grace Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Gurudev aka “Srila Gurudeva” by his many disciples and “Goswami” by his godbrothers and members at the Krishna Temple

Artwork depicting a story of Krishna’s teachings

Sigatoka Market vendors selling an array of fruits and vegetables

Sugar cane sellers at the Sigatoka Street Market

For sale at the Sigatoka Market, super small, but super spicy peppers and paw paw (or papaya)

Women holding up her orange-stained hand at the Sigatoka Market probably from mashing turmeric

Sigatoka Market vendor selling a variety of root vegetables, staple food of Fiji

Master woodcarver carving boats of different sizes to sell as souvenirs

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Namatakula Village

Namatakula literally means “the place of the snake.” The village, Namatakula, is incorrectly spelled on all records. On their arrival Nagwatakula, the correct traditional spelling, pronounced Namwatakula, the Rogoua Clan saw a bright orange snake, thus the name “Nagwatakula.” Snakes on Viti Levu have since been wiped out by the mongoose. Namatakula Village is located on the Coral Coast, halfway between the main towns of Nadi and Suva. It is known to be one of the more prosperous villages on Fiji with a population of over 600 people, over 100 houses, two churches, a primary school, and a gym to be built for producing several rugby legends.

The Methodist Church built in honor of Reverend Thomas Baker, who was the first and only missionary in Fiji to be killed an eaten by cannibals of another tribe.

Sisters hanging out at the Namatakula Village while watching over some of the kids of the village

Children playing in the Namatakula Village

One ball, many kids, easily entertained

Joshua lifting this kid up like he’s superman

Child giving two thumbs up for the fun experience of being a super hero

Having fun pointing at each other

Schoolwork displayed outside a classroom of the only school, a primary school called Ratu Filise in the village

One of the one hundred houses in the village. In the front on the right is a tombstone for the deceased and chickens roam rampant here.

View of a house from a cement wall which houses glass beer bottles for recycling.

Another house with mother and son chatting

Kids hanging out on the porch at the village

Namatakula Village contains many dogs which run rampant. Here are two dogs that just finished copulating and haven’t detached yet.

A child hanging outside of their house

View of the church through the front porch

Enjoying a kava ceremony with Oni, at the village chiefs house

Joshua, one of the chiefs of the day, trying out Kava for the first time.

The kava plant. The root is the prized possession which grows near the surface

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Garden of the Sleeping Giant

The Garden of the Sleeping Giant contains a beautiful orchid garden of more than 2,000 varieties that was started by late actor Raymond Burr who is most famous for his role as Perry Mason on American TV.

Walkway through the orchid gardens

Hanging orchid


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Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool

We arrived here after visiting the orchid gardens. We hired a private taxi driver to take us here so we can get dirty and then get clean. First we slather mud from a bucket all over ourselves, then we let the breeze dry the mud on our skin, while helping with cooling off in the heat. Then we proceed into the mud pool where we walked through a knee-deep mish mash of mud, underwater flora, and warm water coming up from the spring. After we rinse ourselves from the mud, we move onto the hot springs, where it was much warmer on one side.

Slathering mud and letting it air dry to cool us down at the Sabeto Mud Pools and Hot Springs

Soaking in the Sabeto Hot Springs


Resort Activities

We stayed in the Beachside Bure at the Mango Bay Resort on Fiji’s Coral Coast which featured many free activities.

Mango Bay Resort, Beachside Bure

Polynesian Dance

Polynesian Dancers

Making coconut shell jewellery

Hello and New Friends in Fiji

Walking along the beach, enjoying the setting sun on our last night in Fiji, a man named Dunedin, sitting on a log with his friend says “hello” and calls us over for a chat. A new friend was made and on a wonderful night I’ll never forget, began.

One simple word can open many doors and bring people into your life like no other I know of. Along this journey we have met many people and had some great conversations that would have never happened without first saying hello. When we first began the trip, we were both nervous when it came to meeting new people, our busy lives before felt like we had little time to venture out of our comfort zones as it took all our energy to cope with the grind of the 9 to 5 routine, so approaching strangers and overcoming our fear of the unknown was something we would have to get used to and get used to fast. Part of it was from fear instilled from news media, but most of it was from the isolated lifestyle we lead while enduring the rat race and catering to unending to-do lists.


The First Hellos

Staying at the Mango Bay Resort in the Coral Coast for the first part of the trip was an easy way to begin opening up and talking to new people since we had to introduce ourselves during group activities, but this was done in a safe and fun environment. It was during our trip to the town of Sigatoka that we would have to put our fear of meeting strangers behind us. After eating lunch at the local Krishna temple we began to make our way back to the main part of town and to the pick up point for our ride back to the resort. As we walked down the road from the temple and began to pass by some houses, we hear “hello” come from the other side of a fence. A little hesitant, we took a couple more steps before we heard “hello” again as a man stepped out of the opening of a yard and then asked if we would like to join him and his buddies for a drink and some snacks. Even though we were both a little nervous and apprehensive, we decided to accept the offer and followed him into the yard and sat down next to a small open fire where him and his coworkers were cooking some food after a days work. It turned out that we were at his bosses house and he would soon came out to join us. After a having a glass of Fiji Gold, the beer of the island, and some snacks, we began to talk about where we were from and they explained that they had just finished work and this was there Saturday routine after finishing their 6 day work shift. It is interesting how small of a world it can be as the boss told he had a daughter who lived in Milpitas, California, a city near where we used to live, and we talked about the places he had visited during his trips to California. Though we couldn’t stay long as we had to be at the pick up point soon or we would miss our ride back to the resort, it was a good experience that helped us begin to overcome some of our fears. This was something I was grateful for a few days later when I would meet Dunedin.


Dunedin’s Welcome

Dunedin, our new friend, and third generation Indo-Fijian slave.

When Dunedin called us over to talk as we spent our last night in Fiji walking along the beach, I had no idea we were in for one of the more interesting conversations we have had so far on this journey. Dunedin immediately got my interest when he said he was a third generation descendent from slaves. Fiji is comprised of two main ethnic groups, native Fijians and Indo-Fijians who were brought to the islands as indentured servants by the British to work in extremely bad conditions on the sugar cane plantations. I had been curious to learn the Indo-Fijian perspective of life knowing that they been a persecuted minority. He invited us to join him for some Kava and dinner. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity so we walked over to the house where he was staying with his uncle, Mr. Ahmad and his family. Their house was one of the few houses located away from the other residents without light pollution, near the beach.

Upon arriving at the house, he showed us the boat that his uncle was building. As we looked at the partially completed hull he explained that when it was finished, they would use it to take tourists out for fishing trips or ferry them to resort islands. It was impressive to see a boat being built by hand. The family was in the business of repairing boats and motors all over the island.

Sitting outside in the yard, we chatted and enjoyed a bowl of Kava, Dunedin told us of his life. Dunedin didn’t have much to his name and didn’t need nor desire much, other than to fulfil his one goal in life. He slept in a shed consisting of nothing other than the four sheet metals propping another sheet metal roof over his head and a piece of plywood as the door to prevent the wild dogs from devouring him while he slept, he said had everything he needed. Shelter, food fresh from the ocean, clothing, and income he received while he worked on maintaining his uncle’s boats to achieve his dreams was enough to satisfy him. His possessions were meagre and only consisted of a backpack which held his prized binocular, a National Geographic magazine featuring China’s people, and a few other books he had acquired from people he befriended in a similar manner he did with us. Dunedin explained his main goal is to save up enough money to get to China and to meet a wife while there and if he didn’t find one there, he would go to Mongolia.


Captivating Conversations

When the Kava was finished we hopped in his cousins car and proceeded to head to the store to get more Kava powder and the ingredients for that nights dinner, which we decided would be chicken curry with rice. As his cousin drove us to the store we were amazed that he seemed to know so many people, and would shout hello to people walking and even some driving while operating a vehicle. When we returned from the store, his uncle was outside sitting down waiting for us so he could talk.

May was directed into the house by Dunedin to help with the cooking (she thought that was kind of sexist) but from what she said, she shared an equally delightful conversation with the women who lived on the property. While the men stayed outside, started a fire to keep warm under the trees, smoked, drank Coke and snacked on cheese, they enjoyed another bowl of Kava all while conversing about many topics.


Mr. Ahmad

Mr. Ahmad and his wife (left) and daughter (right).

Dunedin’s uncle, Mr. Ahmad is an interesting man who had many things to talk about. My conversation with him quickly turned to politics, discussing current events such as Iraq and he asked if I thought the country was better off now or under Saddam Hussein’s rule. This question I have often asked myself since I was involved in the invasion of the country in 2003 during my time in the Navy. I explained that I don’t think it is better off and the war should have never been started. He said that Saddam was bad but what has now replaced him is much worse. He felt that there needed to be sensible people in government and when there wasn’t people, bad decisions are made. After politics we turned to discussing life and spirituality. We both seemed to agree that God is nature, Earth. To me it is our mother and that all living creatures are manifestations of her. There is an energy that flows through us all and binds us together. At this point May came out to join us and the conversation turned towards Indo-Fijian history.


Indo-Fijian Slavery

USS Leonidas is the first ship that arrived in Fiji on 14 May, 1879 with 497 indentured labourers (Girmitiyas). Source: Fiji Pundit

During the period of 1879-1919, 60,965 Indian indentured laborers were brought in from all parts of India to Fiji to not only work on the sugar cane plantations but also the rice paddies, with many dying on the ship during the journey from India. The slave system was brutal, forcing men and women to work the fields even if the women were pregnant and to live in squalid and degrading conditions in the camps. The workers were generally illiterate and the system came to be known as ‘Girmit’ (derived from the word ‘agreement’), and later were known to be called ‘Girmitiyas.’ The system required them to work for five years with little or no pay at which point they had the option to return to India or stay. Many stayed since they couldn’t afford to return to India. The ratio of men to women at this time was 5:1 which made things difficult on the plantations. This is why so many people knew each other, they had to share the same women, he explained. Due to these conditions, many different castes lived together and made the caste system obsolete with people changing religions. After independence, life for Indo-Fijians was not easy and the tensions between the native Fijians and Indo-Fijians has resulted in three military coups that either sought to reduce or increase the rights of Indo-Fijians which still continues today. The situation, he said, seems to be getting ever so slightly better as the government tries make all citizens equal. The Indo-Fijian experience comes from a complicated history and I tell from our conversation there are still many tensions underneath the surface of Fijian society.


World’s Largest Diamond Stolen from India

Left to right: Queen Victoria wearing the Koh-i-Noor as her brooch; Queen Alexandra wearing the Koh-i-Noor set front and center on the Royal Crown; The Royal Crown on display along with the other British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

Tavernier’s illustration of the Koh-i-Noor under different angles.

One of the more interesting parts of the night’s conversation was his explaining British history in regards to India. When the British came to India they took as much gold as they could and shipped it back to England just like they did with every colony. Because of this, England has the most reserves of gold in the world and the reason the British Pound is the most valuable currency in the world. Not only did they take gold from India but they also took what was once known as the largest diamond in the world from India called the Koh-i-Noor or ‘The Mountain of Light.” Legend says that the emperor Shāh Jahān positioned the Koh-i-Noor near a window on the Tāj Mahal, so he could see it by looking at its reflection in the stone. This diamond had been stolen many times, but ultimately was stolen and cut down from 793 carats uncut, to 186 1/16 carats (37.21 g) and then again to its current 105.602 carats (21.61 g) and placed in Queen Victoria’s brooch, and later the Royal Crown. Dunedin mentioned that the diamonds were divided into nine pieces. From an uncut 793 carats to 105 carats, we’re not sure where the rest of the diamond went. We hope to visit the Tāj Mahal to see where the Koh-i-Noor was once placed.


Three Things in Life

At the end of the night Mr. Ahmad asked us three important questions, which I found to be pretty clever with the answers below.

1. What is the tastiest thing on Earth?
2. What is the worst thing anyone must endure?
3. What is the most comfortable?

After eating a delicious meal, we headed back to our hostel and got ready for our early morning flight to Australia. I’m glad we stopped and walked over to Dunedin when he said hello otherwise we would not have met his Uncle and family or had gotten to learn what is like to live in Fiji if only for one night. Meeting local people is one of the best ways to experience a culture where you can learn what the daily issues they face and that even though we come from different places we all seem to have similar dreams, to love and be loved while also having a sense of belonging.

1. Salt
2. Stomach, because it drives us to do everything, good or bad, because we need to eat
3. A bed because nothing beats laying down after a hard days work or when you are sick

Bula and Welcome to Fiji!

Bula! That means hello in Fijian and you will hear this word, along with the word vinaka which means thank you and also you’re welcome everywhere you go in Fiji. Everyone here is so friendly and they all say it is because they run on what the locals call “Fijian time” or “island time,” where everything operates at a slow pace, without official schedules, completely opposite from the city. We have a hunch that the nightly kava ceremonies where kava, a beverage mixed with water, created from a powder from a dried root of a plant may have something to do with it as well. Locals can typically consume 20 bowls and more a night to achieve a full-body numbing effect. Even the first drink will begin to take effect and start numbing your tongue and lips.

Welcome to Fiji and Bula!
Upon landing at Nadi International Airport we didn’t know exactly how to get to our accommodation at Mango Bay Resort but people were more than helpful here. We mentioned we wanted to take the local bus to Mango Bay Junction and a man helped us locate not one but three buses and helped us board the first one that came. We took the bus for $9.35FJD or $4.50USD for 2.5 hours and were entertained with music and beautiful views including seeing random cows, horses, dogs, cats, goats, and chicken on the side of the road enjoying their luxurious buffet.

Namatakula Village

We arrived at Mango Bay Resort and called the front desk to pick us up. We were shown to our beachfront bure, it wasn’t exactly on the beach as we were set back by a row, but it was good enough for us to spend a few days resting and relaxing. The resort took us on a tour of the village down the road, Namatakula Village. Namatakula village is one of the wealthier and larger villages on the main island of Viti Levu with a population of around 300-400 residents with its own church and school. When the British colonized Fiji they introduced Christianity which is what the majority population practices today and something they seemed grateful for. Prior to that, cannibalism dominated the society during what they referred to as “the dark time.”

Namatakula Village Fiji
Children playing in Namatakula Village

Namatakula Village Fiji
Two sisters who live in the Namatakula Village

Josh playing Fiji
Playing Superman

Near the end of the tour or guide introduced us to the Kava Ceremony, a traditional drink on Fiji. There is a saying, “You haven’t been to Fiji if you haven’t tried kava.” Kava is a powder ground from the root of the kava plant. One bag costs $1FJD and it takes 5 bags to make a bowl. The kava powder is poured into cloth and water is then strained through the cloth. We were given a weaker mix to try for our first ceremony. The effects of the drink are to first numb the tongue and lips, then as more is consumed it will numb your head and move towards the rest of your body. Kava is consumed nightly as a ritual in just about every household. We were told that Kava makes for a better ‘lava’ (lover) unless you have had too many in which you will be walking sideways due to your body being numb.

Oni mixing Kava Fiji
Oni, mixing our kava drink.


The next day we went for a visit to the town of Sigatoka and walked through the market to see the variety of local fruits and vegetables. When we got off the bus we were greeted by a group from the local Krishna Temple who were dancing. After walking through the market, our curiosity of the Krishna’s got to us and we decided to go to the Krishna Temple for a nice vegetarian lunch and to tour the temple.

Krishna dancers Fiji
Krishna Dancers

After our visit to town, it began to rain but that didn’t stop us from having fun with Polynesian dancers who came to perform and we even got to participate with them. May had fun shaking her butt with the dancers, and so did I. It rained for the next couple of days so we decided to move to the town Nadi (pronounced nan-di) where the airport is and where the weather was better. This time we stayed in a hostel on the beach called Bamboo Backpackers that was filled with backpackers and had a different vibe to it, a little more of a party atmosphere, and was my first time staying at a hostel.

Fiji’s Valley of the Sleeping Giant

Finally getting over my jet lag we set out the last day we had in Fiji to visit the Valley of the Sleeping Giant to stop the orchid garden that was started by Raymond Burr who is most famous for his role as Perry Mason on American TV. Strolling around the garden was relaxing and fun. I had never been to an orchid garden and found the garden to be very peaceful with all the interesting flowers and their beautiful colors.

Garden of giant Fiji
Garden of the Sleeping Giant

Garden of the Sleeping Giant

Fijian Mud Bath and Hot Spring

Having worked up a sweat walking through the garden, we headed down the road for a refreshing dip in the mud bath and mineral pool at Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pools. After changing into our swimsuits, we covered each other with mud, letting it dry which felt tight on our bodies while it cooled us off a bit before entering the mud pool. It is hard to cover yourself in mud without thinking that you look silly but as we began to do that a van pulled up and a couple from the UK and two ladies from Australia joined us for the experience making it a bit more fun. Walking down the steps and stepping into the mud at the bottom of the pool felt like wading through grass, not sure if that is what it was or just the unfamiliar sensation of walking through mud, we slowly made our way over to one edge of the pool where some rocks that we could sit on were located. As we felt for the rocks the warmth of hot water rushing into the pool could be felt and we proceeded to rinse the mud off of ourselves by splashing and dunking our bodies with the muddy water. Having cleaned as much mud as possible off of ourselves, the mineral pool called for us as some light rain began to fall. Taking in the scenery and letting our bodies relax in the hot water was wonderful. The area is called Valley of the Sleeping Giant because the mountain range surrounding it looks like a giant laying on its back which was fun to look at while we floating and relaxed in the hot water of the pool not wanting our time on Fiji to end.

mud bath Fiji
Covered in mud at the Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pools