No testing related content in this post – just a quick trip report of our family vacation to Australia that I can point people to as necessary.
Sydney (part 1)
After a long flight, we landed in Sydney, where we immediately set out to explore a bit (I’ve found that walking in the sun is a great way to beat jet lag). We ate dinner at Darling Harbor, and got to bet at a reasonable time so we could get up for our flight the next day.
Our first (extended) stop was in Ayers Rock (Uluru). Thanks to the time change, we had no trouble getting up early to watch the sun rise and light up Uluru. After taking a few pictures, we drove a bit closer (we rented a car for this portion of the trip) so we could do the hike around the base.
We got an early start, but the heat was well over 100f by the time we finished around 10am. Still, we were rewarded with some once in a lifetime views and scenes.
The next day we went on a similar exploration of the area known as Kata Tjuta. Here, we saw much more wildlife (including our first views of wild kangaroos). Again, we went out early to avoid the heat, and spent the hottest part of the day indoors. The next day (or maybe the day after), we checked out and drove (sort of) towards Alice Springs.
We took a detour on the way to Alice Springs to visit Kings Canyon. With the kids (and given that we had a long day of driving ahead of us), we just hiked to the first lookout – but if I ever, for some reason, end up at Kings Canyon again, I would love to do the rim walk – the picture at the right shows the “entrance” to the rim walk – a massive carved staircase that takes hikers up to “rim level”.
On our way out of the park, I took a little grief from my travel companions for an unavoidable murder of a large (~2 foot) lizard who happened to be basking in the middle of the road as I drove. Fortunately, I redeemed myself a few hours later when I managed to miss a kangaroo who bounced across the road in front of me.
We arrived safe and sound in Alice Springs, and spent a few days relaxing and exploring a bit. We found our way to Desert Park, a zoo of sorts, filled with animals and plants native to the central Australian desert. It was there where we were able to meet the guy on the left. We drove directly from Desert Park to the Alice Springs airport.
We landed in Cairns early evening on December 24th, and had a small in-room Christmas celebration before grabbing some food and spending most of the rest of the day in the pool.
We spent the next two days snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, and had an amazing time. The second day was only the boy and I, but we were able to track down both a ray and a shark (a two-foot long non-man-eating shark, but it was exciting anyway). After another day (or two – who remembers?), we were off to Brisbane.
Brisbane was essentially our gateway city to the beach, but we made sure we had a full day to soak up what we could. The Queensland museum had an exhibit by Cai Guo-Qiang that was quite interesting. Pictures to the right and below (and more info here). We also spent a big chunk of time at the South Bank park swimming and lounging – and enjoying some great restaurants.
Gold Coast / Sunshine Coast
Next up was five or so days each on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast (both fairly short train-rides from Brisbane). The kids and I spent three days at Dream World and White Water world amusement parks (where I somehow was talked into riding this monstrosity.
Other than that, we mostly played on the beach (or in the pool). I finished up reading a few books I’d been working through, and downloaded and read half a dozen novels as well.
I went to Melbourne last year as a quick side trip after giving a few presentations in Sydney. This time, with family in tow, I didn’t hit quite as many restaurants as last time, but we were able to tack on the incredible Melbourne zoo, and the aquarium. I especially enjoyed hanging out with the lemurs, but I was impressed with just about every animal exhibit (note the lack of basketball in any of these pictures – that’s an inside joke for PK and KK).
The aquarium was equally impressive – especially for the shark lover in our family. I’ll let the picture tell the story here.
Sydney (part 2)
We spent the final four days of our trip back in Sydney. This time we stayed at the Holiday Inn (located right between the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge – with a rooftop pool that views both!). We forced the kids to walk across the Sydney Bridge (and back), and explored the aquarium (almost déjà vu, but there were quite a few different fish and sharks in the Sydney aquarium).
We saw The Illusionists at the Opera House (in the concert hall), and the kids and I went to see a play in the downstairs playhouse the next day. We tried to see as much as we could before we left, but I’m sure we missed some must-see places (both in Sydney, and in our other adventures).
At this point, or body clocks are all back in the correct time zone, and we’re all slowly getting back into the rhythm of our west coast lives. It was a fantastic trip, and one we will remember for a long, long time.