Category Archives: Australia

Kangaroo Island

I flew to Adelaide from Sydney. The time difference is a bizarre half an hour behind Sydney, although I am sure that some wags might say the time difference is more like a few years! They do like to point out to Sydney residents that the original residents were settlers, not convicts, round here. When I arrived it was raining heavily on and off, and although Adelaide looks like a charming city, I decided to sit out the rain in my rather nice hotel room, writing the Sydney blog and doing boring but essential laundry, emerging only briefly to stock up on essentials. Early on Tuesday morning I flew to Kangaroo Island, just south of Adelaide. It was a 20 minute hop on a 30-seater twin prop plane. I was met by Tim, a local beekeeper and part-time tour guide who was to drive me and a couple from Sydney around the island for the next couple of days. Ron and Vivian have been married for more than 60 years, have lived all over the world and were really great company.

Galah

Galah

Crimson rosella

Crimson rosella

Tim immediately found us a koala, clinging to a tree and looking rather cold. It was high in the tree, so Tim promised to find one lower down later.  As well as the koala, I was delighted to see a galah and some crimson rosellas. These beautiful brightly coloured birds are common in Australia, so I think the Australians were somewhat bemused by my delight. We then stopped for a cup of tea at a billabong. Some black swans drifted past and disappeared rather quickly, but despite the lack of birdlife, it was a beautiful spot.

Billabong

Billabong

Koala

Koala

As promised, Tim then found another koala in a smaller tree. He gazed down at us while I took his picture.  They are not the most intelligent looking animals, but they certainly are sweet.

Wallaby

Wallaby

We then set off looking for wallabies warming themselves in the sun at the edge of the bush.  They cannot wander into the open as wedge tailed eagles patrol the skies looking for them, but can be seen at the edge of the road enjoying the winter sunshine. The first one we saw bounced off, but suddenly there were loads of these small creatures, gazing at us with big eyes.  I will find it hard to be intimidated by the Australian rugby team having seen the creature for which they are named, which could not be cuter.

Crimson rosella

Crimson rosella

We then visited an area of protected endemic plant life where the endangered glossy black cockatoo can often be found. Although we saw none of those, we saw lots of other birds, including another crimson rosella, and wallabies and kangaroos which were remarkably relaxed about our presence as we went for a short hike. Occasionally one would decide he did not like the look of us and bound away, but for the most part they continued dozing or grazing.

Scarlet robin

Scarlet robin

Australian sea lion

Australian sea lion

Would you like to play with me?

Would you like to play with me?

I guess I'll just amuse myself then

I guess I’ll just amuse myself then

After a delicious picnic lunch in the bush featuring local produce and affording the opportunity to snap a tiny scarlet robin perched on a fence, we went to see the Australian sea lion colony at Seal Bay. Most of the sea lions lie snoozing in sheltered spots in the sun, but one young pup was playing in the waves at the beach, and came racing over when he saw us, eager to show off. It was hard not to react to his antics, but since he will grow to 350 kilos it is important he does not grow up to think of people as playmates. He raced up and down the beach, coming to within a few feet of us, rolled over and threw a piece of seaweed around.  He was obviously looking for someone to play with whilst the rest of his kind dozed. As we left, we saw one small pup suckling from his mother right next to the boardwalk.

Australian sea lion suckling

Australian sea lion suckling

I stayed at a B&B on the island called Molly’s Run where I was the only guest.  It is a lovely Tuscan style villa with coastal views which has been beautifully decorated.  The owner Paul made enough food for about twelve, so I had to sit and eat as much as I could so as not to hurt his feelings. He was feeling a bit low as the eponymous Molly, a boxer dog, had very recently died. Eventually I retired to my room to collapse into a food induced coma for the night.

Australasian pelican swimming

Australasian pelican swimming

Australasian pelican flying

Australasian pelican flying

Australasian pelican walking

Australasian pelican walking

The following day we headed up to Flinders Chase National Park after looking at the Australasian pelicans near Kingscote. As well as many of these large pelicans, there was a host of cormorants warming themselves in the morning sun.

Pelicans and cormorants sitting on the dock of the bay

Pelicans and cormorants sitting on the dock of the bay

Pied cormorant

Pied cormorant

Australian goose on the nest

Cape Barren goose on the nest

After a beautiful coastal drive, punctuated by frequent showers, we arrived at the park. Cape Barren geese, with their high visibility beaks, nest by the roadside at the entrance. We went to look at the colony of New Zealand fur seals that haul out of the Southern Ocean here where an arch has been carved from the cliffs by the sea. It was very windy and blustery, but the section where the seals lie is sheltered and once again we could see many seals snoozing contentedly in the sun, including lots of tiny pups waiting for their mothers to return. Other more energetic seals played in the strong surf nearby.

Sleeping adult New Zealand fur seal

Sleeping adult New Zealand fur seal

Sleeping baby New Zealand fur seal

Sleeping baby New Zealand fur seal

Nothing feels better than a snooze in the sun

Nothing feels better than a snooze in the sun

The only one awake

The only one awake

Surfing fur seals

Surfing fur seals

Remarkable Rocks

Remarkable Rocks

Still remarkable

Still remarkable

We beat a rain shower back to the car and continued to the rock formation known as the Remarkable Rocks, which are granite boulders left behind as the cliff erodes around them.  As it was raining when we left the car, I left my camera behind and decided to use my phone. It is a bit of a shame as the shower passed and it was wonderfully sunny, and they are really quite remarkable close up, and my phone snaps do not do them justice.

Superb fairywren

Superb fairywren

As the winds were so strong, we headed back to the visitor’s centre for our picnic lunch, closely watched by some magpies. In the bushes nearby, some tiny superb fairywrens were foraging. The males are stunning in their breeding plumage whilst the femI have read that they are socially monogamous but sexually promiscuous. Sounds like an open marriage.

After our late lunch we continued our coastal drive, keeping an eye out for whales, but none appeared. We went by the local golf course where the green fees are just $2. This might be because the lawns are cut for free by the residents for whom the island is named. We saw one with her joey peeking out of her pouch. Tim told us this was the first he had seen this year, so were lucky to see it.

Kangaroo with joey

Kangaroo with joey

As we headed back to the airport, we saw an echidna train. An echidna is an amazing creature which looks like a porcupine, but which lays an egg which it keeps in a pouch and then feeds milk to the resulting baby, which is rather wonderfully called a puggle.  Occasionally two or more males will follow a female they wish to mate with – we saw three animals in such a train. Unfortunately, as we watched hoping they would emerge from the roadside bushes, several cars went by very fast, and only one came out into the open.  Sadly it was almost dark, and he crossed the road rather quickly, so the pictures I got of him were all rather fuzzy.

Kangaroo Island was wonderful, with such a proliferation of wildlife that sadly rather a lot of it ends up dead at the side of the road. Tim was a very knowledgeable guide, and he also pointed out many of the island’s idiosyncrasies as we passed them.  One is a smart bus stop, with a tarred area for the bus to stop on and a shiny blue shelter.  What is wrong with that, you might ask. Well, there are no buses on Kangaroo Island! There seemed to be rather a few such things on Kangaroo Island.  Perhaps they need a new council!

After boarding the tiny plane back to Adelaide, I just had time to catch up with my old friend George from university days. From Adelaide I will be driving to Melbourne via the Grampians and the Great Ocean Road.

Sublime Sydney

I am in love! The object of my affections is the beautiful city of Sydney. On first landing in Sydney I experienced a bit of culture shock. After three weeks of sleepy small town life in Montana and Hawaii, interrupted only by two days in San Francisco, it seemed impossibly big and busy. I arrived in the evening after a ten and a half hour flight which lasted more than 24 hours! I lost a day, crossing the international date line. I was all set to go and explore the city but the effects of the time difference and a horrible flight with a very unhappy baby sitting two rows behind me caught up with me when I was buying some water and I retreated to the hotel to bed, thinking I could use the jet lag to get up early.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

This was the first time on this trip I struggled badly with jet lag. I woke at 3.00, went back to sleep at about 6.00 and did not wake again until 9.00! So much for my early start. I set off eagerly towards Circular Quay, feeling much better for the sleep, in the wrong direction as is my wont. I stopped to ask for directions, and suddenly could see the Harbour Bridge peeking between buildings. I headed towards it and found myself facing the harbour, with the bridge on one side and the infamous opera house on the other. In glorious midwinter sunshine I gazed at these sights. Being here is a bit like being in New York for the first time, oddly familiar as one has seen it so often before on TV. I wandered around just soaking it up, scarcely able to believe that it was 22 degrees in the middle of winter! I was amused by the antics of two gulls, who stood in front of me squawking in turn, and tried to tune out the dance didgeridoo going on in the background (I took this to be a form of Aborigine revenge on the tourists). I could see people walking over the top of the bridge (you can just about make them out if you click on the picture to enlarge it). If I had realised quite how lovely the weather would be I would have signed up for it.

After grabbing a quick lunch I decided to try the open topped bus tour of Sydney. This was long and rather boring, although it did give me the chance to orientate myself well. Amazingly I did not get lost again! The city is a mix of rather neglected Victorian homes, stylish modern skyscrapers and handsome 19th century buildings all centred round that stunning harbour. By the time the tour was over it was nearly dark and in hindsight I do wish I had taken a trip out on the water instead. The only sign of winter was the early evening on what was the shortest day of the year. Otherwise it was a day which would have been considered delightful in London in August!

The Coathanger by night

The Coathanger by night

I grabbed my tripod and headed back to Circular Quay to take some pictures of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge at night. They are even more beautiful at night, all lit up. I had a nice meal overlooking the bridge sitting outside, in winter! While eating I decided I would head to Bondi the next day.

Red hot pokers

Red hot pokers

Australian magpie

Australian magpie

Noisy miner

Noisy miner

Ficus macrophylla columnaris

Ficus macrophylla columnaris

Sacred ibis

Sacred ibis

Red flowered tree

Red flowered tree

After again waking terribly early, I was feeling rather dazed as I set off the next morning. It was overcast and quite chilly, so I decided to wander around the Botanical Gardens before heading to Bondi, to see if the clouds would burn off. The Botanical Gardens are stunning, with lots of weird and wonderful plants and birds, and amazing views of the harbour.

Sydney does not seem to have many pigeons. Instead of these rats of the sky, Sydney has sacred ibises, which skulk around in the bushes and hang around rubbish bins foraging for scraps. They are filthy and often mangy looking with missing toes, but I manage to find some more salubrious specimens to photograph. The gardens are also full of dusky moorhens, which scrap vociferously like drunks at closing time. There are also bold noisy miners everywhere, chunky and comical, gazing at me with beady eyes. Even the magpies are different here, looking like pied crows.

Dusky moorhen

Dusky moorhen

There was, amongst many fascinating plants, a tree which has many trunks. It is called a ficus macrophylla columnaris. Apparently the largest one found occupies more than a hectare. That is a big tree! I was really tempted to join the tour of the gardens, especially as I was sure there were loads more birds to see, particularly cockatoos, but with so little time to explore Sydney and winter daylight in short supply, I decided to press on to Bondi.

Bondi beach

Bondi beach just before the sun came out

To get there I joined another open topped bus.  Upon arrival I had that odd sensation of it not being quite real, being so familiar to me from my favourite guilty pleasure, Bondi Rescue. If you have never watched the show, do catch up with the antics of Bondi’s loveable lifeguards. To ensure it was indeed real, I walked the length of the beach and back again to the south end where the bigger waves and more able surfers were located to take a few action surfing shots. While I was walking, the sun burnt through the remaining clouds and it was another gorgeous winter’s day that could pass for the height of the English summer. The beach itself is truly gorgeous, a curve of golden sand licked by bright blue seas and flanked by cliffs, all overlooked by expensive real estate. There were a few die hard swimmers and many surfers, with the skilled riders at the south end and those developing their skills towards the middle of the beach where the waves were more benign. People jogged up and down, did yoga on the sand or posed for photos in front of the famous waves.

Bondi surfer

Bondi surfer

Surfer still going

Surfer still going

As I was snapping the surfers, I saw the Rhino used by the lifeguards approach. I was delighted to recognise Harries, the most outgoing of the lifeguards from the show, and snapped a paparazzi-style shot of him.

It's Harries off the telly!

It’s Harries off the telly!

Beautiful Bondi

Beautiful Bondi

I ate a delicious and disgustingly healthy salad sitting on the grass overlooking the beach, still amazed to actually be there, before setting off on the cliff top walk to Coogee. This is a five kilometre walk, so I though I could do it easily. Alas, it was not to be. A blister on the side of my heel, which was a mild annoyance I had been ignoring for a couple of days, suddenly became a throbbing pit of pain, causing me to limp along the path like an arthritic 90 year old. I made it to Tamarama, about one kilometre away, before conceding defeat and returning. Despite this, it was a hugely enjoyable walk, with gorgeous views. It is immensely popular, crowded with tourists, dog walkers and joggers. It must be a frustrating run, despite the lovely views, with all the meandering tourists in the way, but it is a delightful place for a sunny Sunday stroll.

Bondi Icebergs swimming pool

Bondi Icebergs swimming pool

Bondi in the sunshine

Bondi in the sunshine

Tamarama

Tamarama

As I sat and waited for the bus back to central Sydney, resting my poor foot, I narrowly avoided being defecated on by a myna. A young lady sitting next to me was not so fortunate, and had to wipe bird droppings from her hair, which might have slightly soured her Bondi experience! I assured her it was good luck (whilst being glad I had not been the one to be so blessed), but she moved away, muttering about not being in need of further good fortune. From the bus I saw parrots flying overhead; sudden flashes of jewel colours against the darkening evening sky. I hope I will get a chance to see some closer up.

Sydney Hospital's lucky boar, il porcellino

Sydney Hospital’s lucky boar, il porcellino

Hobbling back to the hotel, I just had time to admire the boar outside Sydney’s hospital. You can donate a coin and then rub his nose for good luck. It is worth a go, as the money donated goes to the hospital. Judging by the shine, his nose is not the only thing people have been rubbing for luck! I just hope his snout works on blisters!

That evening I went to Longrain, a Thai restaurant, to catch up with Josie, the first of my Aussie mates that I will see on this trip. The portions there are huge, and we managed less than half of our food before conceding defeat. It was delicious though. We were joined by a friend of hers but unfortunately he had already eaten and was unable to help us with our food mountain, although he did give some of it away to the young couple sitting next to us!

So far I am loving Australia as I head towards my second stop, Adelaide. If it is half as nice as Sydney, it is going to be great!