Australia is the smallest continent in the world, but it is extremely vast, and many other countries can fit inside. You can drive for hours upon hours in vast nothingness before you arrive in a city or town.
When we spent three and a half weeks traipsing through Australia. Of the seven different states/territories (Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania) we were only able to visit four (New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia). More specifically, we visited Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, back to Sydney for Vivid Sydney, and then finally Perth. We plan on returning for round two with a camper van to explore the natural beauty we were unable to see during this trip. Flying around via Tigerair Australia, Australia’s budget airline, which we found out later, was reputed to be the worst airline to fly with since they received the most logged complaints, 1000 in 12 month span. Tigerair got us from point A to point B and one time charged us $80 AUD for extra baggage fee for being over the weight limit and of the four flights we had, two flights were delayed. But we have to admit if it wasn’t for the two-day sale we came across, we wouldn’t have been able to fly all over Australia
Our first stay here was in Neutral Bay, North Sydney, at the Neutral Bay Motor Lodge where we caught a ferry across the harbor fromCircular Quay. The 15-minute scenic ferry ride gave us splendid views of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Sydney is a walkable city and most of Australia is known for their cafe culture and shopping (which we weren’t too interested in). On our second day in Sydney, we met Steven, from South Africa, while we were having lunch in one of the many Chinatown food courts. We ended up spending the rest of the day walking around with each other through the CBD, Sydney Opera House, and the Royal Botanic Gardens where we came across wild yellow-crested cockatoos squawking extremely loudly while feasting on grass. The next day we flew to Cairns, pronounced Cannes.
Sydney Opera House made up of ceramic tiles.
Sydney Opera House from the ferry boat.
Yellow Crested Cockatoo at the Sydney Royal Botanical Garden.
Yellow Crested Cockatoo enjoying dinner of grass.
While Sydney was cold, the weather was similar to San Francisco, Cairns was hot and humid. We stayed at the Travellers Oasis, enjoyed a BBQ party with emu, kangaroo, crocodile, Australia sausage and other treats, also visited Kuranda to see later decided to rent a campervan with Spaceships to head north to Daintree Rainforest and later explore the tablelands down south. Our first day we saw Mossman’s Gorge and arrived at night and saw a bat fluttering around the camp kitchen. In the morning, we woke up to the sounds of the jungle, including bats, cockatoos, insects. We decided to take the trail at where we were staying and in the lush green rainforest filled with palm trees, vines, and many other plants the aboriginals may have used as natural herbs for healing, we also saw a wild rat?. We drove through Daintree and stopped at the boardwalks to walk through the different habitats. One boardwalk, we were so lucky to see a wild cassowary which we didn’t get a clear picture of because he moved too fast!
Great Barrier Reef.
After having a lot of fun exploring the Queensland, we flew down to Melbourne to experience Australia’s most diverse city. Melbourne is known for its culture, whether that is laneways lined with cafes or it’s streets filled with art. Not knowing what to expect of Melbourne, we spent our days wondering around the streets of the city taking in all the street art. With so many alleys and laneways to explore, we didn’t have time to visit the museums we had planned on going to. Getting around the city is easy, there is a free tram that makes a loop around the city centre where the main sights and street art are located. Like we do in every city we visit, we made our first stop at the visitors center. The staff was very friendly and helped us plan our route for touring the laneways and street art alleys. Besides art, the city has many good places to eat due to large Greek and Chinese populations, there is a variety of dishes to choose from. We ate pirozhkis while touring street art and kebabs while visiting the Queen Victoria market. Every meal we had was from a different ethnic dish.
For a side trip, we decided to go down to see the Brighton Beach Boxes. Since it was winter they weren’t in use. It was very nice to wander down the beach and look at the colorful boxes. The boxes are all painted different colors and have different themes. If you like outdoor art, Melbourne is the place to go.
Sydney – Vivid Sydney
We returned to Sydney for the start of the Vivid Sydney Festival. Experiencing the Vivid Sydney festival was an exciting experience. Not only did we get to see all of the 3D projection mapping on the buildings around the harbour, we also climbed the harbour bridge at night to get a different view of the festival. As we climbed the bridge, we wore vests that lit up so we could also be a part of the festivities. If you are planning to come to Sydney in April, you should try and see this festival.
While most visitors to Australia tend to stay on the more populated East Coast, we decided to venture out West and spend some time in the isolated West Australia capital of Perth. While spending a few days there, we were able to see the world’s largest gold coin, weighing in at 1 tonne, at the Perth Mint and tour the tunnels underneath Fremantle Prison. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Perth, but enough time to make us excited about exploring the West coast of Australia on a future trip. Though Perth is remote, it has lots to offer and makes a great starting point for exploring Australias vast West coast.
Surf, Sun, and Temple Fun
Sunset at Uluwatu Temple
Having spent some time exploring Ubud we decided to head down to Kerobokan and then Seminyak to get a taste of the side of Bali while we waited for our visa extension. We would need to go to the immigration office near the airport to get our photo taken and fingerprints scanned. With May needing some rest to recover from her strep throat, we booked a room at Pandawa All Suites Hotel in Kerobokan. It was little more secluded than we imagined, but it gave us some peace and quiet. Maybe it was little too much peace and quiet; we couldn’t wait to get to the beach after a week of isolation in Kerobokan. Having gotten all of the relaxing we needed, and with her throat feeling better we decided it was time to head for the beach and have some fun. So we got a hotel room down the street from Double-Six beach in Seminyak. Time to enjoy some sun and fun, playing in the surf, and check out a couple of temples.
Seminyak and Double-Six Beach
This ended up being our favorite place in Bali, not as crowded and without as many touts as Kuta Beach, so we could just relax and play in the surf. It was so much fun to jump in the ocean, dive into the waves and feel like a kid again, not having a care in the world. After playing in the ocean, we lounged in the cabana area provided by our hotel, Hotel Horison, eating some delicious food and soaking the sun. At night, the restaurants at the beach set out beanbag chairs and set up stages for live music, which we really enjoyed. Sitting down, enjoying a cold beer while listening to music, we reflected on how lucky we were to be there, enjoying life. We were just beginning our second month on the road and it still didn’t seem real. Looking at the stars, absorbing the vibrations of the music, and feeling the energy of the ocean truly made Double-Six beach a special place for us. Watching people light lanterns and letting them drift up to the sky was an enjoyable experience. As they floated farther away, becoming a little light moving across the night sky, and finally resembling star as the last flicker of light faded away was a great sight to take in. Making the beach all the more fun. Having taken in the beach, we decided it was time to go temple visiting.
Stars start to shine after sunset at Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot temple, built on a rock just offshore, is an important directional temple on Bali and one of seven sea temples on Bali. In Balinese, the name Tanah Lot means “Land (in the) Sea.” The temple is built to honor Dewa Baruna, a sea god in the Hindu religion. The ocean tide continuously shapes the rock and is only accessible during low tide. Due to erosion, the temple underwent a restoration in the 1990’s with one-third on the “rock” being very cleverly disguised artificial rock. Sunset is when it is at it’s most beautiful. We hopped in a cab, negotiating with him to take us there and back; we headed to Tanah Lot to see the sunset. Once you enter the temple grounds you have to walk through a maze of souvenir stalls before you actually get to the temple. It was a little more touristy than I prefer, the stalls selling the standard tourist items found in the markets around Bali. After walking through the stalls, we made our way down towards the temple.
It was low tide so we were able to wander down to the beach and over to the rock that the temple sat on. Unable to enter the temple grounds since it wasn’t open yet, so we walked around and scouted for a good location to view the sunset. At first we headed back up to the cliff that overlooked the temple but thought that the beach would give us a better vantage point, so we made our way back down to the beach. Finally finding a spot, setting up my tripod, we waited for the sunset to begin setting when we noticed people going up to the temple. A rush of disappointment set in, we had missed our chance to explore the temple, but we had found a good place to view what we hoped would be a beautiful sunset. We were not disappointed.
Getting ready for sunset pictures
Standing in the surf for the sunset was very fun. The tide slowly began to rise, the waves hitting my legs at a steadily rising rate as the sun steadily descended towards the horizon, the sky ablaze with an orange glow. As the ocean got higher I had to keep moving closer to shore until I found safe ground, darkness was beginning to set in, the sky became brilliant blue and purple, bringing joy to our eyes. At the end of the shoot, walking along the shore with our headlamps guiding us, we both felt happy to have seen such a pretty sunset.
Tanah Lot Temple Sunset
Tanah Lot is located about a 40-minute drive from Seminyak. There is not much transportation there so most visitors are part of a tour or hire a taxi or motorbike. Make sure you have some return transportation arranged or may get stuck there or pay a high price to get back to your lodging.
Uluwatu Temple Sitting on the Cliff Edge
After going North for sunset at Tanah Lot, we decided to head South to other main Hindu temple on Bali, Uluwatu. Uluwatu, located 70 meters above the sea on a cliff is another great place to sit and enjoy the sunset. It, along with Tanah Lot, is one of the six temples believed to be spiritual pillars of Bali and an important directional temple. These temples are believed to protect against evil. Not only can you get spectacular views of the ocean from the cliff it sits on, it also hosts a nightly Kecak dance. Not being satisfied with just seeing the sunset, we decided to take in the Kecak fire dance. Since its location is on the Bukit peninsula, the most Southern part of Bali, we hired a driver to take us there and back.
Beautiful Sunset at Uluwatu Temple
Sitting on the edge of a cliff, it gives way to beautiful views of the ocean and the waves crashing below. Pura Luhur Uluwatu in Balinese means “something of divine origin (at the) lands end rock.” We walked along the cliff edge trail to different vantage points, taking the beauty of the area and stopping to look at a Chinese couple getting their wedding pictures taken. Our driver accompanied us, making sure we didn’t have any trouble with monkeys that live at the temple. They are known for taking things such as sunglasses from tourists. As the sun began to descend towards the horizon, we made our way towards the stands that surround the stage where we would watch the Kecak fire dance. We picked our seats and had enough time before the dance started to enjoy the beautiful sunset.
Uluwatu Temple Sitting on the Cliff Edge
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