Australia: 1/14/17 – 1/20/17

(Australia) Sydney >>> Jerrawangala >>> Rosedale >>> Melbourne

1/14 – Sightseeing in Sydney! Hiking to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House!
1/15 – Walking Bondi Beach to Coogee and a Ferry Trip through the Sydney Harbour
1/16 – See-Ya Sydney! Started our Campervan Trip and Visited National Parks
1/17 – Driving the Pacific Highway and Enjoying the Stunning Coastal Views!
1/18 – End of Campervan Trip, Wandering around Saint Kilda
1/19 – Recovery and Planning Day in the Hostel
1/20 – River Boat Cruise and Bike Riding around Melbourne

1/14 –
Sightseeing in Sydney! Hiking to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House!
+ This dorm was air conditioned and we were enjoying it so much that we actually slept in a little too long and missed the chance to go down to breakfast. While relaxing in bed the housekeeper knocked on the door and then came in! We told her we didn’t need the room cleaned but she said nope sorry, she had to clean and she had to clean our room now. Our door didn’t have a lock so there wasn’t much we could do. She proceeded to vacuum. Then about 15 minutes later a second person came right on in and cleaned the trash. Then 30 minutes later another lady came and mopped our tiny floor space. It was nice they kept things clean but just weird to know we had no privacy in our private room.
+ Feeling a bit annoyed, we both got back in bed and took a nap! When we awoke a little while later we both felt better and ready to start the day.
+ With our hiking shoes on, we set out to explore Sydney by foot! We first walked north towards Potts Point and found a little burger bar to pop into and escape the pulsating sun. We split the meal and set out again heading northwest.
+ Our first visit was to an area called The Domain that had a nice garden park extending out into the Harbour and great views of the famous arched bridge and even more famous Sydney Opera House! Then we walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens until we reached the Opera House itself!
+ We took a whole boatload of pictures from different angles outside of the building and then went inside to inquire about the different shows and events they had going on. We ended up finding a nice bench to sit on in the back area behind the Opera House where we could watch all the boats and ferries zoom by.
+ Back on our feet, we walked through the Circular Quay area and underneath the bridge. Then we meandered through an area called “The Rocks” which was supposed to be a cool area with some bars and restaurants but we found it pretty dead and deserted.
+ Our visit to Sydney happened to coincide with the Sydney Festival which was a 3 week long celebration leading up to Australia Day on the 26th. They had all sorts of fun events and activities throughout the city everyday and we had a couple of them we wanted to get to.
+ From The Rocks area, we walked southeast to Hyde Park where most of the events were taking place. We watched a funny show on stage where people were getting crazy hairstyles done and then we went up to a big field near the Art Gallery. It was here that they were having a big classical concert put on by the Sydney Orchestra and apparently everyone in Sydney was here, or so it seemed.
+ The entire place was packed with people sitting on their picnic blankets and chairs and most places didn’t even have a square foot of green space showing for hundreds of yards across! After basically circling the whole place we managed to find a spot to sit that was right on the far outer edge. We could only see a fraction of the orchestra but we could still hear them fine.
+ After listening to the beautiful music for a while, we chose to split when they had their intermission. We were both hungry and hurried back towards our place to eat at a Mexican restaurant we’d seen the night before. We thought they had a deal going on tonight but when we got there we realized the deal was on Monday. We were way off! Our stomachs had already talked our brains into Mexican though so we chose to stay anyway and had some yummy burritos.
+ With the groups of dressed up people starting to make their way around the streets and into all the bars and clubs, we headed back to the hostel and showered off all the sweat from our long day of walking.
+ We went downstairs with the plan to hang out and work on our devices there but the staff said they were closing the area in 5 minutes so we just came right back up to the room and worked there instead. After about 3 hours we finally called it a night around 3 am and crawled into our tiny bunk bed to rest up for another full day tomorrow!

Walking Bondi Beach to Coogee and a Ferry Trip through the Sydney Harbour
+ We did make it to the free breakfast offered by our Jackaroo hostel today. After a couple helpings of cereal and toast, we went back to our room and got ready for another full day out in Sydney.
+ From our hostel we walked south until we caught a bus the rest of the way to Bondi Beach, one of Sydney’s most famous attractions. It was just like everything we had heard it would be, packed to the gills with sunbathers, surfers and people strolling the boardwalk. We chose to do the latter first and admire all of the big graffiti street art murals.
+ After that we started the popular Bondi to Coogee Cliff Walk that covered about 7 km and took a few hours. Along the way, we passed by a few other beaches, many scenic viewing spots, some “sea pools” (man-made swimming areas filled with salt water right next to the ocean. Australians seem to love that!), snorkeling areas, and lots of rocky outcroppings filled with people hanging out and enjoying the beautiful area.
+ Although it was hot, we really enjoyed the walk and people/pet watching. Especially all the pups playing around in the waves. Around 3-4 hours after we started, we finished in Coogee and rewarded ourselves with some ice cream!
+ The other popular thing to reward yourself with for completing the hike was to have a drink at one of the beach side bars/cafes. So we obliged to that rule as well and Corey tried a local beer while Liz got her fix of iced coffee for the day.
+ With a few hours of daylight left, we caught another bus all the way north to the harbour area and then got a ferry that went right past the Opera House and gave us fantastic views of that from every angle!
+ The best part about all this travel today was that Sydney caps the amount charged to an Opal card (transport card) to only $2.50 for the whole day on Sunday! So we got some free Opal cards from a convenience store and were taking advantage of the special to zip all around town! We were happy we had planned this for today! Saved a ton of $$$!
+ The ferry dropped us off at a popular hiking point in the far northeast of Sydney that included part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. We strolled along that loop and stopped for pictures at the lighthouse. We would’ve been able to view the bridge at sunset but there wasn’t really a sunset at all with the dim gray clouds.
+ Exhausted from walking countless miles in the heat, we decided to call it a day and got a bus back to the Kings Cross/Potts Point area where our hostel was, along with many restaurants. We had 2 more places we wanted to try before we left: Pie Face (Aussie Meat Pies actually cooked with a little emoji-like face lol) and Grill’d (burgers). We decided to hit them both up and just split an item at each place so we stayed on budget. Both were quite tasty! We headed back to our hostel with full bellies and walked up all 6 flights of stairs to the top floor to walk into our room exhausted.
+ Before we could lay down, we had to prepare for our departure the next day which meant packing everything up, showering, and reviewing the research we’d done to plan for our upcoming campervan route. Unfortunately the internet was so bad that everything was taking forever and/or not working so we eventually just gave up.
+ Around 1:30 we finally laid down and watched an episode of Community before passing out.

See-Ya Sydney! Started our Campervan Trip and Visited Australian National Parks
+ Woke up, checked out and had breakfast in our hostel. Tried to use the internet to get some of the stuff done we needed to, but were only semi-successful once again due to such a crappy and inconsistent connection.
+ We did not want to pay for an Uber down to the Apollo branch this time since it was so expensive last time. Since we still had our Opal cards, we looked up how to take the train and then a bus all the way down near the Apollo branch that was so far out of the city. Then with all of our heavy bags we walked the rest of the way. We hadn’t had to do this much since our Central/South American days since we’d actually been physically backpacking a lot less these past few months. But it was good practice for all the hiking we’d be doing in New Zealand!
+ Had to wait forever to pick up the campervan since there was a huge group of asian tourists renting 8 big RV’s (the same kind we’d just returned 3 days earlier). 8! Complete with walk talkies and everything!
+ Finally got our campervan and with a quick stop at Macca’s to fuel up, we started heading south.
+ Drove through Royal National Park, the second oldest National Park in the world (behind Yellowstone)! While it was pretty, it wasn’t that exciting and we figured it was made a National Park to prevent building and living on the land moreso than because of it’s beauty since there were many National Parks in Australia we felt were more impressive sights.
+ Our first real stop was in Kiama right next to a picturesque white lighthouse that was on a peninsula jutting out into the ocean. We tried to see the popular Blowhole there but either the tide was too low or the waves weren’t strong enough because it was very puny!
+ Booderee National Park and Hyams Beach were the next stops on our tour and both were very pretty. Hyams Beach supposedly had the whitest sand in the world, although it didn’t seem like it. Both of these spots were situated on Jervis Bay which is a popular whale watching spot in winter but in summer it serves as a beautiful backdrop and allows swimming and kayaking.
+ At Hyams Beach we saw a lot of new Australian birds including some red ones we’d never seen before called Crimson rosella. Liz especially loves that all these colorful parrots are just part of normal life here in Australia!
+ In Booderee we drove to Cave Rock Beach and saw a few wild wallabies and kangaroos! The kangaroos weren’t scared of people at all and even let Corey get close enough to pet one of them! Awesome!
+ On the way back to the highway we stopped at a little shopping center and used wifi for a bit and got some groceries for our trip.
+ Taking advantage of the parking lot lights and open space, we cooked pasta and meat sauce in our campervan for dinner. We loved having so much space that we could stand up and cook inside! Although this campervan was not nearly as large as the RV we had just had coming into Sydney, this van had a high top with screened windows for ventilation and a kitchen with sink built inside. We both decided this was our favorite size and set up out of all of our rentals so far.
+ After some more wifi usage, we only had to drive another 30 minutes or so from there before we got to the Jerrawangala camping/rest area we were staying at and called it a night.

Driving the Pacific Highway and Enjoying the Stunning Coastal Views!
+ The weather was beautiful once again today and we were excited for another drive down the gorgeous coast of Australia.
+ The Pacific Highway that we’d been driving since we were up in Cairns was seemingly made for these campervan trips and had so many gorgeous views and pullover opportunities along the way.
+ Stopped for Breakfast in Batemans Bay at a nice park with shaded picnic tables next to the water. While enjoying our bowls of cereal, we looked over all the different yachts and sailboats in the water and daydreamed about which ones we’d most like to own one day.
+ Narooma was the next town we stopped in. It wasn’t on our original itinerary but while driving by we decided it was too beautiful not to stop. We lucked out because once we turned off the main road and circled around towards the water, we found the perfect place to pull over that gave us a great view of the small harbour and cove. Almost immediately we realized those shadows we saw in the water were actually huge stingrays swimming around with giant white pelicans floating above them. Then we noticed there was a Fur seal swimming around in the cove too! It was with a fish that it probably stole from one of the fishermen in the area. So much wildlife in one spot!
+ Today was probably the longest driving day we would do since before we even got to Brisbane. Because of that, we had to spend the next 5 hours or so putting the pedal to the metal. The only downfall to these relocation deals was that you had limited time and kilometers between the 2 cities and as such, we had to skip some of the smaller stops we’d otherwise have visited if we’d had more time.
+ While driving, we saw wild wombat and 2 Australian bunnies. Plus a lace monitor lizard!
+ The next town we paused at was called Lakes Entrance and we only pulled over at a park because we spotted some Huge black swans in the lake. We mean big! Probably 2-3 times larger than swans in the U.S. They would certainly make for some great AFV videos!
+ Drove to a stunning lookout on a big cliff where we could see out over Lakes Entrance and 90 mile beach.
+ A little over 500 kilometers later and just a little bit before sunset we’d pretty much reached our destination. So we pulled over into a Mcdonalds for a long time in a town called Sale to use their wifi.
+ Corey walked next door and picked up some Dominos for dinner. We didn’t always want to eat the same things but for one, it was pizza- which is always delicious and two for only $3.75 U.S. per pizza, it was by far the cheapest meal we could buy in Australia!
+ Slept at a free campground near Rosedale that we happened to stumble upon. It got pretty cold at night and we actually had to use the comforter that came with the van! So different than a month earlier further north where we were sweating all night long.

End of Campervan Trip, Wandering around Saint Kilda
+ In the morning we had some cereal at the campground while talking to a nice older Australian couple traveling with their blind dog. Then we packed up and drove 3.5 hours west to Melbourne to return our camper to Apollo. This had been our favorite camper that we’d rented (out of the 6 or so we’ve tried now) and knew we wanted to buy one like this in NZ, if it was cheap enough.
+ Without a local Melbourne transport card to travel around with, we had little options but to get an expensive Uber down to our hostel in Saint Kilda. At least it was much easier with the extra bags of stuff we were carrying with us.
+ After checking in to Habitat HQ, we organized our stuff and took showers. Then we used our leftover pasta and pesto to make dinner in the kitchen area. Not the fanciest meal but it filled us up!
+ Walked around Acland Street looking at all the shops and restaurants. We popped into a liquor store and bought some of the local (and cheaper) Melbourne beers. The beer vendors were appalled we would buy and drink such garbage instead of purchasing the much more expensive craft beers! lol.
+ Sat along the Acland walkway relaxing and people watching until we’d finished our drinks and then made our way back to the hostel. Then we hung out in the TV room for a bit watching the movie “The Chronicles of Riddick” before going to bed.

Recovery and Planning Day in the Hostel
+ Today was going to be a recovery and planning day so we hung out downstairs in the common area of the hostel doing internet stuff pretty much all day. We also planned out what we would do during our time in Melbourne and how we’d tour the Great Ocean Road.
+ In the early evening there was a free BBQ at the hostel provided by a local travel company. We thought it would just be a burger but there were a bunch of tasty sausages and different pasta salads too. We both filled up for free, which is a backpacker’s dream!
+ At night we went back to Acland street and went to the Saint Kilda night market festival. There were different tents set up which had lots of hippy stuff but our favorites were the hot sauce table (Corey’s) and the knitted stuffed animal table (Liz and the owner chatted about Etsy and crafting in general). Then we walked around Luna Park which was right next door and made fun of all the cheesy rides and games. We never knew how good we had it growing up in Orlando next to some of the world’s best theme parks until we started traveling and seeing how excited people got for much crummier versions!
+ Back to the hostel and ate some popcorn while watching some OitNB in the tv room.

River Boat Cruise and Bike Riding around Melbourne
+ Today was going to be our only full day devoted to exploring Melbourne so we wanted to make the most of it.
+ Having slept too late to eat a proper brekky, we grabbed some granola bars and got an Uber up into the Southbank area near downtown.
+ Luckily we made it just in time to catch a 2 hour guided river cruise (actually 2 different 1 hour sessions) that involved the boat going both up and down river for half an hour and then turning around. The tour did not have exciting commentary or scenery and was probably one of (if not the most) boring tours we’ve ever taken. At least we got to see a lot of the city from the river though!
+ From there we walked around the Australian Open Tennis Tournament area. We considered paying for tickets since they weren’t too outrageous but after looking at the schedule of who was playing and not recognizing a single name, we decided against it since neither of us love tennis all that much.
+ Instead, we got free massages in a welcome tent they had set up and Liz got a free (but very sloppy) manicure by one of the cosmetic students in training. Maybe they should consider another career…
+ Now that it was around 2:30 and all we’d had to eat was a granola bar, we were pretty hungry and decided to have some Australian fast food delicacy at Hungry Jack’s (their almost exact version of Burger King with only a different name).
+ Tried to walk to the Queen Victoria Market but discovered a whole bunch of streets and areas were being blocked off by police. Had to walk almost 15 blocks west before we found a road open to head north! We didn’t know why at the time, but later learned on the news that a deranged teenager had driven his car down a populated shopping street sidewalk and injured and killed people! Very sad!
+ Visited the Queen Victoria Market but it was mostly shut down. Even though there was an hour left until it officially closed. We did find a little shop we liked and bought a souvenir magnet. Before this trip, we would always buy magnets from the places we went on vacation, but knew that would be impossible on this trip due to the sheer room they’d take up and extra weight they’d add. But we’d been in Australia longer than almost every other country and it was really special to us so we decided to make an exception this time.
+ Rented bikes from the Melbourne Bike Share station and rode 6 km’s east to the Stomping Ground Brewery. Since it was a Friday there unfortunately wasn’t a happy hour going on and it was all just very expensive beers! Wanting to make our bike ride worth it, we each got a small glass and relaxed for a couple minutes.
+ Back on the bike, we rode down south through the city and went on Chapel Street. It was a very popular area with lots of shops and restaurants, many of which had funny names!
+ Peddled further south to Saint Kilda and after coming across 2 different stations that were already full (no place to return the bike), we finally found a station with open spots to return them.
+ We wanted to walk the beach but it was extremely windy and the sand was pelting us so we opted for the boardwalk path higher up instead.
+ Walked to a restaurant we had heard about called Ziggy’s Eatery. They had Delicious burgers! Probably the best we’d had since the UK where Liz could regularly get her fix of Five Guys.
+ Stopped at a Coles grocery store on the way home and picked up some wings and ice cream!
+ Back to the hostel where we enjoyed the ice cream with some free chocolate shell topping that had been left on the free food shelf. Yum! We definitely knew how to eat healthy!
+ Before passing out, we laid in bed and watched some episodes of Community. That show always put us in a good mood before bed!

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