In the interest of catching up on the blog, here´s our trip to Australia in a nutshell. It was a long month in a campervan with 4 for the first 10 days and 5 for the next two weeks. If we had it to do over again, we would have probably flown more and driven less. It was a time of some disappointment, but it was also a time of extraordinary highlights, but mostly it was a time of sitting in a campervan covering large distances.
As mentioned in the previous blog, we started in Sydney with four of us (Lynette, myself, Janelle our friend from CA, and Neal our friend from Pole), then made our way up the East Coast. The highlight between Sydney and Cairns was the beaches near Brisbane (The Gold Coast and The Sunshine Coast). The water temperature was just about perfect, the beaches were nice, the sun was out, the boogie boarding was pretty good… it was just a couple of near-perfect beach days. We also passed through a couple of National Parks, which were decent, but not superb (one of our experiences was dragged down by leeches, yes leeches, along the trail that we hiked - each of us pulled about a dozen leeches off our feet and ankles throughout the 2-hour hike).
We finally made it to Cairns after about 8 days, where we met up with Marianna, our friend form Georgia Tech. The increase from 4 to 5 made a noticible difference in the van, which is unfortunate because we had the bulk of the driving ahead of us. As expected, Cairns (or more specifically, the Great Barrier Reef) was one of the major highlights of the trip. The coral is amazing, the fish are varied, colorful, and plentiful, and we even saw a turtle and plenty of jellyfish (the big downside of the GBR is that two of the deadliest jellyfish live in the area… luckily all the jellies we saw were harmless).
From Cairns, we set out on a marathon, 36-hour drive to Alice Springs, smack in the middle of Oz. Uluru (Ayres Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), and Kings Canyon are all relatively close, so we spent about 36 hours in the area. This was also (as expected) a major highlight. We all wished that we had more time to spend in the area, but we were treated to a nice sunset and sunrise at Uluru, a definite must!
From there, we headed south to Adelaide, then across to the Great Ocean Road (home to some spectacular rocky, spired beaches, including the famed 12 Apostles) to Melbourne (althought we didn´t stop there). Then it was up to Canberra where we spent the morning at the obligatory (and very impressive) new and old parlament buildings. The new building was a great site, sitting perched on the top of a hill and actually built into the hill. It was shiny, modern, and georgous. We then headed towards Sydney, stopping in the Blue Mountians, en route. The “mountians” themselves are not particularily impressive, but the sheer cliffs and the impressive cave networks (we only stopped at Jolian Caves) make it a great excursion from Sydney if you ever find yourself there with a couple of days to spare. It was definitely one of my favorite National Parks, after having been disappointed with several others (GBR and Uluru being other exceptions).
We ended the journey in Sydney where we had a few days that went entirely too fast. In addition to preparing for our trip to South America (downsizing), we toured the harbor area and caught up with some great locals who we had met in Egypt. The grand finale of the trip was spending New Year´s Eve on the harbor in Luna Park (an amusement park on the harbor). It was most spectacular.
From there, we took a monumental series of flights that ended in Peru and consisted of the longest day of our lives (literally).