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Stauchy Blog » Blog Archive » We’re Off to See the Wizard - Dec 4-7, 2007 (JRS)

We’re Off to See the Wizard - Dec 4-7, 2007 (JRS)

…The wonderful wizard of Oz (or is it Aus?). After a glorious month in New Zealand, we’re here in the land down under. Our 4-person (Neal, a fellow polie, Janelle, our friend from Pasadena who spent the month with us in NZ, Lynette and I) month-long fast-paced itinerary that we have planned out in Australia began after a mad rush to catch our flight out of Auckland (which is now a tradition for us after our last trip to NZ ended similarly). We had a nice flight over the Southwestern Pacific into Sydney, and after a fairly easy experience finding Janelle and a shuttle we found ourselves in happenin’ downtown Sydney.

We checked into our room and ditched our bags then found a hole-in-the-wall burger joint near the hostel for lunch (not bad for a $5 value meal). After a brief walk around the city that was fairly uneventful and a bit lame, we headed back to the room to get changed for the evening. It was a pretty decent walk to the harbor, but definitely doable. We got there a bit early, so we had a chance to walk around and take in the iconic Sydney Harbor Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Neither disappointed and they both make spectacular views over the wharf.

We boarded the dinner cruise after running in to Richard and Kari (fellow Polies who we had made plans with over the winter) just before the cruise was supposed to be leaving (apparently they thought it departed ½ hour later). The boat took advantage of the various nooks and crannies of the harbor to get first-class views of the Opera House, Bridge and downtown buildings. It certainly made me glad that we had decided to splurge. We had a great time catching up with Richard and Kari and enjoying the free, bottomless wine (particularly myself).

We had about an hour to kill before the ballet, which we spent meandering along the wharf and hanging out on the steps in front of the Opera House. It was definitely a great experience to see a show in the Opera House, and even despite one of the more mediocre versions of The Nutcracker, it was very enjoyable. Thanks to the wine, the walk back to the hostel seemed significantly shorter.

The next morning, we got up, got backed and took a bus to the airport (which seemed to stop at every hotel in downtown Sydney) to check out the campervan. We then trained back into downtown to meet up with Richard and Kari, in addition to Noah, Leah (more Polies) and her mom for lunch. After that, we went back to pick up the campervan and head out of town. The freeway system in Sydney seemed a bit lacking and must be utter hell during rushhour, so we were glad to be heading through before it got started. After picking up some groceries and making dinner, we spent the first night in the campervan at Munmoran State Conservation Area, which was a decent enough patch of land along the coast, about two hours north of Sydney. As we stood outside the van, waiting for dinner to be ready, Neal and I talked about what kind of creepy-crawlies might be lurking about. Ironically enough (well not really ironic since they’re all over the place here) Lynette, Janelle and I found a ginormous spider in the bathroom. The body was about as big as my thumb, and as Lynette pointed out, it was big enough to see the expression on its face, which more-or-less said, “please stop shining that flashlight in my eyes.” We took turns keeping post in order to make sure that no spiders attached the person using the toilet. I’d have to say it wasn’t the most dignified moment of my life.

The next morning we headed north again toward Newcastle. Our first stop was as the Blackbutt Reserve, which housed a bunch of cool-looking birds, as well as about a half dozen Koalas that sat lazily in trees within a meter or two of the viewing platform. It was definitely a cool thing to see, although we’re hoping for an even closer encounter with them at the Brisbane animal sanctuary, which we’ve heard about from several sources.

We were then headed north again to the Myall Lakes National Park. We ended up more-or-less just driving through except for a short, uneventful walk through the trees near one of the lakes and a stop along the coast to see an old lighthouse with a nice overlook. We stopped for dinner and showers in Booti Booti National Park, if for no other reason than it sounded like a cool place to stop. The beach was decent, too. At $8 per person to camp, we decided to drive a bit further after dinner and ended up pulling into a rest stop for the night (considering that we splurged on the campervan so that we’d have a free place to spend the night).

The next morning we drove for a few hours, you guessed it, north. We ended up in Dorrigo National Park, which was along “Waterfall Way,” a highlight from our Lonely Planet guidebook. We pulled in and checked out the visitor center and a really cool “skywalk,” which was a short boardwalk that extended over a steep hill, ending up over the canopy of the rainforest that stretched out below us. We then decided to drive further in to the park for a lunch break and a hike to one of the many waterfalls in the park. When we pulled up, a couple getting in their car waved us down and said that if we were planning on picnicking there that we needed to watch out for the leeches. Being nowhere near a lake or swamp we were confused by this and finally decided that they must be talking about ticks or something similar. In any case, we decided to eat in the van before heading out on our hike.

After lunch, it took us a bit to find the trail head, but then we were off, on our way through the rainforest. It was a very pleasant walk with a creek off to our right (with the exception of a spiderweb here and there which would send one of us into a fit of flailing around, trying to make sure there wasn’t a spider in the web that was now clinging to our face. The pleasantness of the walk ended in a 10-second period in which Neal not-so-calmly requested someone get the spider off of him (it was hanging from his head by a web, about an inch away from his face), and during which we all looked down to find several leeches clinging to each of our shoes. This is when we realized that those folks were, indeed, talking about leeches, but apparently they were land-dwelling leeches, which none of us had ever heard of. They were significantly smaller, but just as long as the leeches that I think of. From what we could see, they sit on the forest floor, stretch out their tail as far as they can, and cling to whatever happens to walk by. It was freaky as hell to watch them cling to my Keen (which is really just a beefy sandal) and search around for my flesh with its tail. After removing them with a stick, we moved on as quickly as possible (we noticed quite a few of them on the ground around us). The idea of a leech sucking on me slowly got more comfortable, especially after finding several on my foot after we reached the falls and realizing that they really didn’t hurt, they were just disgusting. But, I can’t really say that I got entirely comfortable with them, and what should have been a nice walk to a pretty enough waterfall ended up being “that leech-infested walk that we took in Australia.”

After the hike, we checked out Dangar Falls (no leech-infested hike required for this one) before heading back down towards the coast on the half-way impressive “mountain pass” that we had come in on. As I type, after three and a half days in Australia, I can’t help to feel slightly let down. I’m certainly enjoying myself, and so far, Sydney seems like a very cool city, but so far Australia is just not all it’s cracked up to be. But, on the up side, we haven’t really gotten to the part that Australia is famous for: The Outback. Also, a bit more up the coast and we’ll be getting in to what the East Coast is famous for: the beach and The Great Barrier Reef. So, I’m still very much looking forward to our time here.


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