Goin’ on a Wombat Hunt

This is Nick…

DSCN5400

Nick the Wombat Hunter (and dish washer)

Nick is a professional wombat hunter. OK, really he’s a friend of Maggie’s who grew up in the country and volunteered to lead us on our quest to see a real, live wombat. We knew we were in wombat country because we’d seen ample “evidence”.

Copious wombat poo

Copious wombat poo

We grabbed our torches (Australian for flashlight) and hit the trail in Thredbo. With Nick as our guide, we saw scads of wombat scat, bushels of wombat burrows, and tons of wombat trails. We wacked our way through the bush in the moonless dark. But, alas, this is the closest we got to seeing a wombat.

Wombat Crossing

Wombat Crossing

We spent 3 nights in Thredbo (the Australian “alps”) with a bunch of Maggie’s friends… 11 adults and 13 kids in one giant ski lodge! It was loosely controlled chaos, but tons of fun! Unfortunately, rain was forecast the entire weekend, with a huge storm expected the second day. So we took advantage the first day and headed outdoors. Robbie’s only goal for the entire trip was to ride the bike park at Thredbo, so he rented a bike, body armor, and a helmet, and hit the slopes. He planned to ride until the trails became unrideably muddy. C and I decided to summit the highest peak in Australia, Mt. Kozciosko! The first part of the arduous trek requires a gruelling ride aboard the chair lift to the trail head.

Chair lift selfie

Chair lift selfie

So far the weather was cooperating, with only a mild Seattle-style drizzle. But as the morning progressed the weather deteriorated. The 13.75k track consists of a metal grate elevated above the native vegetation. In dry weather, it’s easy to walk. In wet weather, it becomes a bit slippery. But we were determined to make it to the top. The surrounding environment was beautiful. We’re told the view was equally beautiful, but this is all we could see:

Hiking to Kozie

Hiking to Kozie

We hiked into a headwind the entire way there, and finally made it to the summit. After two icy, windy minutes at the top, we began our descent. We decided that this will be the only one of the Seven Summits that we will be attempting!

Summit!

Summit!

We were grateful to have the wind at our backs on the return trip, as we were now thoroughly saturated. We met up with Robbie at the lodge at the top of the lift. He was covered in mud and having a blast. After a quick cup of hot chocolate, we boarded the lift for the frigid trip down to the village. We attempted to hide from the wind behind our soggy backpacks, but I’m not sure it did much good.

Soggy hikers

Soggy hikers

Muddy biker

Muddy biker

Shortly after our return, the sky opened up. In the next 36 hours we got over 3” of rain!

Needless to say, the next day was spent at the Thredbo Leisure Center partaking in indoor activities.

Guess who's behind that splash...

Guess who’s behind that splash…

Before our departure, O organized an intense paper airplane contest.

Preparing for battle

Preparing for battle

Robbie took first in the distance category, and C took first in the trick category, proving once and for all the prowess of American athletics!

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Out and about in Canberra

We spent the last couple of days out and about in Canberra. Because Uluru was a little too far away for this trip, we did the next best thing…we visited the Red Centre exhibit at the Australian National Botanical Gardens.

Hope this Thorny Devil isn't life sized

Hope this Thorny Devil isn’t life sized

We were all excited to touch red sand imported from Red Center.

Red sand!

Red sand!

Sadly, we later learned that this sand was imported from Victoria, not Red Center. Cheaters!

Since we had two 10-year-olds in tow, we had to visit Questacon, the Australian National Science Museum.

Fun with IR cameras!

Fun with IR cameras!

The only thing that could drag us away from the science museum was a trip to a local climbing gym where C could get in a quick workout!

I had a bit of an adventure the next day while trying to buy groceries for our trip to Thredbo. Though we brought a chipped credit card with a pin, for some reason the Australian banking system requires us to sign instead of using the pin. This has been a little confusing for some cashiers because all Australian cards require a pin. In the two weeks we’d been charging our way around New South Wales, we hadn’t had any problems. Until we encountered the Cashier of Doom (hereafter known as CoD) at the local, decidedly-off-the-tourist-track IGA.

After bagging $250 of groceries and successfully charging my card, the usual receipt printed requiring my signature. She looked perplexed, but I explained that my card requires a signature (usually enough of an explanation). She grumpily told me that Australia didn’t allow signatures anymore and she couldn’t accept the signature. I repeated my explanation, and provided a little elaboration. I was faced with CoD’s prickly rejection of said explanation. We had a bit more tete-a-tete, and I finally offered to pay cash. But when I went out to the cash machine, it was out of order! Ack! CoD suggested that I drive to the next town over to get cash, never mind the ice melting in the cart. And remember, my card has already been charged…CoD just won’t let me sign the receipt. I ask where the next town is, and she proceeds to rattle off directions at warp speed. Did she miss the part where I told her I’m visiting from the US (and my American accent)? Obviously I didn’t know the landmarks she’d referenced. At this point, I lose my tenuous grip on sanity and burst into tears. This (and my continued babbling about the signature being accepted EVERY other time we used it), finally melted her icy demeanor and she allowed me to sign the receipt. But I she had to check my ID and take my phone number, just in case.

Next time, I’ll bring cash.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Up Close and Personal

Remember that picture of the kangaroos WAAAAY off in the distance?

Is this a little better?

Think someone has been feeding the kangaroos?

Think someone has been feeding the kangaroos?

Or this

Can I eat your camera?

Can I eat your camera?

After a week of travelling on our own we met up in Canberra (the capitol of Australia) with some Australian friends, Maggie, Peter and ‘O’.  We arrived to an amazing meal filled with delicious, fresh vegetables!  Up to this point, we’ve been dining at some truly dastardly rural restaurants.  It’s a toss up whether rural Australia or the rural US has worse food!

We spent a fun day touring Canberra by bike with Maggie and O as our guides.  The city was designed in the 20s, but largely built in the 60s, so it’s an unusual combination of amazing space planning and drab, utilitarian concrete buildings.  But Canberra has amazing bike infrastructure and a wonderful, laid-back vibe.  I’m very jealous!

The next day we departed for Depot Beach, one of our friends’ favorite places.  (Quick aside:  as I write using Maggie’s computer, it corrects my “mis-spelling” of favorite to favourite!)  We arrived in the evening and quickly headed out to take advantage of the low tide:

C and O and the tidepools

C and O and the tidepools

The next day, we spent copious time relaxing with the wildlife on the deck.  All of the critters at Depot Beach are remarkably habituated to humans!

King Parrot on Robbie's knee

King Parrot on Robbie’s knee

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet

Crimson Rosella

Crimson Rosella

Ridiculously tame Kookaburra

Ridiculously tame Kookaburra

C and O took advantage of the beautiful weather to do a little construction:

A Zen moment

A Zen moment

Our last day there, we set out to hike around the point at low tide.  But the ocean had other plans.

The trail ends here...

The trail ends here…

Though our hike was thwarted, the view of the waves crashing on the rocks was worth it!

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The El Camino is alive and well and living in Australia

One of the risks of leaving Seattle in spring to visit Australia in fall is that you land in Sydney to this view out the airplane window:

Ugh...Rain...

Ugh…Rain…

We spent most of our first day in Australia in a desperate attempt to get our cell phones working on the Australian network.  Back in the old days (2010) one could reasonably expect to navigate an unfamiliar land without a cell phone.  But when we had to visit 3 separate petrol stations to find a paper map of New South Wales, we knew we’d need functioning GPS to get around.

After visiting two malls in suburban Sydney in our quest for cell service, we finally hit the open (albeit wet) road.  We had arrived at 7am after an all-night flight, and by 3pm we were ready to be done moving.  Unfortunately, in true Intrepid Explorer fashion, we hadn’t done much research about our destination, and we had arrived in the middle of a 4 day national holiday.  All the motels in the area were booked.  We finally found a room in Lithgow at the Commercial Motel.  We climbed a set of disturbingly slippery metal stair on our wobbly, jet-lagged legs to our room that smelled of 50 years of, well…motel.  But the room was reasonably clean and we were unreasonably tired.

After a good 12 hour nap, we were ready to hit the road again.  We read about a hike to an abandoned train tunnel filled with glow worms.  No way of taking a pic of the worms, but here’s a pic of us at the entrance to the tunnel.

Entrance to the Glow Worm Tunnel

Entrance to the Glow Worm Tunnel

We spent the next day on a long slog into the outback in a quest to visit Mungo National Park,  the only part of our trip that I had booked ahead.

The long slog into the Outback

The long slog into the Outback

Much of the park can only be visited with a guide on dirt roads.  Unfortunately, the morning of our tour, it rained buckets, making the roads impassable and closing the park.  I was heartbroken.  But there was no time for self-pity.  On to Yanga National Park, instead.  Yanga is an old outback station in operation from the mid 1800s to 2005.  We got a good feel for what life was like out in the middle of nowhere!  We toured the station then took a walk down to Yanga Lake, which during times of drought is completely empty.  But today it was full and we saw lots of birds, including Willy Wagtails, various parrots, and two emus.  I didn’t get a picture of the emus, but here’s a shot of C’s hand next to an emu print in the mud:

That's a BIG bird!

That’s a BIG bird!

In the afternoon one the rangers invited us to make Johnny cakes by the Wool Shed.  “What’s a Johnny cake?” we asked the rangers. “It’s like a damper” they replied.  Hmmm.  After a little description, we figured out it’s just cowboy bread.  After helping make the cakes:

Mmm....cakes....

Mmm….cakes….

…we were introduced to Golden Syrup, a uniquely Australian sickeningly sweet sugar syrup.  There’s no way of eating this stuff neatly.  Notice the gobs of syrup on C’s hands?

Sticky!

Sticky!

That night we ventured out at sunset to hunt for kangaroos.  Though we’d been told kangaroos were plentiful in the outback, up to then we’d only seen them as roadkill on the sides of the highway!  Thankfully, our efforts were rewarded with both kangaroo and emu sightings!

Kangaroos...look carefully.

Kangaroos…look carefully

Emus...look carefully

Emus…look carefully

The next day we began our return to civilization, but not before a hike to the top of The Rock in Wagga Wagga and a visit to the thermal pool and caves in Yarangobilly!

It really wasn't warm enough for swimming, but we had to go in anyway

It really wasn’t warm enough for swimming, but we had to go in anyway

And now for what you’ve all been anxiously awaiting…  I present to you, the 2015 Australian equivalent of the El Camino:

Wha-huh?

Wha-huh?

And in case that isn’t enough for you, we happened upon the Australian Panel-Van convention which is a forum for devotees of this beauty, which can only be describes as a miniature hearse designed for shagging…

Totally 70's, totally custom

Totally 70’s, totally custom

Categories: Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Home, Sweet Home!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been home for a week!  After leaving my sister’s house, we spent a few days at Gramma and Grampa’s house.  My aunt, uncle, sister, niece and nephew were all there, so we had a great time catching up and easing back into reality.  And we stuffed ourselves silly!

On Tuesday, Robbie and I headed home with the Twinkie, while C stayed behind to get some quality Gramma and Grampa time.  As Robbie and I neared the house, we both were ready to burst with excitement!  We’re on 405!  We’re passing Bellevue!  We’re at our exit!  We’re on our street!  We’re on our block!  We’re HOME!!!

After more than a year on the road, I worried that returning home would be anti-climactic, or worse, depressing.  But we were ready to be back to our normal lives and routines.  This year of travel has been such a gift, and we all got more out of the experience than we ever could have imagined.  We made memories that will keep me smiling through many a dreary Seattle winter (and spring…and fall…).  We spent 24-7 together, and we’re closer for it.  We had no major mishaps, and we handled the minor ones with minimal drama.

There’s something wonderful about knowing where you’re going to sleep each night!  And while I lie in my cozy bed, I’m busy dreaming about our next big trip….

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.