Australia: Looking Back on Down Under

When we organized our trip, we thought it would be good to start with Australia.  We figured it would be an easy transition from the U.S., our kids would start off on a good note, and August/September would be a good time of year for visiting the country.  What we didn’t anticipate was just how much all of us would love Australia.  And we really loved it!

IMG_0181 We started with Sydney, a world class city on Australia’s east coast.  I’ve always thought Sydney would be a fabulous place to live, and actually being there only reinforced that view.  It’s got great culture, some beautiful architecture, an outstanding climate, really great people, and lots to do. 

Tasmania Eclipse 003 Following Sydney, we went south to the island of Tasmania, a really wonderful, unspoiled, and beautiful place.  Its air is crystal clear, as are its skies.  And its wildlife is incredibly interesting.  We met the wombat (a favorite with our family), the Tasmanian Devil, wallabies, and platypus there, as we toured most of the northern half of the island.  The highlight was a great viewing of a full lunar eclipse, during which Gibson somehow produced the above photo, which pretty well summarized our feelings for Australia.

Kangaroo Island 009 We had never heard of Kangaroo Island prior to our trip, but we’re really glad we stayed there.  Sure, there were some kangaroos there (not as many as other places), but we saw koalas in the wild, as well as fur seals and sea lions.  And we loved the place we stayed, perched over the Pacific Ocean.  In exploring the rocks on the beach below us, we encountered nesting Little Penguins, a real find.  We also got a real feel of the power of the Pacific Ocean, as we watched waves crashing ashore on a day when the sea swells were 25 feet high.

Adelaide Baseball 028 A real highlight of our visit to Australia was our stop in Adelaide, where we met many wonderful families from the Woodville Senators, an amazing baseball program there.  Gibson practiced with the team and the hosted us for a fabulous dinner afterwards.  We’ve gotten some follow-on e-mails from these great families, and look forward to more!!

Uluru 282 A landmark for Australia is Uluru, formerly known as Ayer’s Rock.  We spent a couple of days there, and really got a better understanding of the Aborigine culture.  Our daybreak hike around Uluru was spectacular, after we pulled the ripcord and left the very crowded parking areas.  Over 1,500 people were there (with accompanying buses) at 5:30 a.m. to watch the sun rise on Uluru.  Our hike on the west side, away from the crowds, was magical.

Bullo River 235 After a challenging day of travel, we then went to Bullo River Station, a 500,000 acre cattle ranch in the Northern Territory of Australia.  This visit was a real highlight of the trip, giving us a sense of what Australia’s Outback is all about.  While at Bullo River, we took a helicopter trip to a very secluded and stunningly-beautiful area, where we camped overnight and swam in cascading stream pools.   We learned a lot about the cattle business, saw some amazing birds, and felt very welcomed by the Ranacher family and the Station’s staff.

Daintree and Great Barrier Reef 097 We concluded our stay in Australia in Cairns, located close to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park.  Both were fabulous, but we had a very special day at Daintree.  It’s a 120 million year old rain forest, and the flora and fauna were interesting beyond words.  And seeing the coral reefs, and knowing how fast they are disappearing, made our visit to the Great Barrier Reef unforgettable. 

Our biggest issue with Australia is that it may set too high a standard for the rest of this journey.  As our daughter Sterling said, “Why don’t we just spend ten months in Australia?”  Well, during a twenty-three hour travel day from Cairns to Beijing, her words came to mind from time to time, but stay tuned to hear about our transition to China!!

If you are interested in more detail on our time in Australia, you can check out our blogs on each destination, or our photo galleries.  If you go to http://www.dintersmith.org/pmwiki.php?n=Main.Itinerary, it will point you directly to these. 

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