Saturday, January 31, 2009

In Search of the Tasmanian Devil

After Christmas we took the ferry to Tasmania. After being told "you have to go to Tasmania" 5 different times we decided we better check it out. It is a very beautiful unique island. It has the lush green rolling hills like New Zealand. But most interesting to me were the people. They are very down to earth and will go out of their way to help ANYBODY out. They take pride in their simpler life and state, "we are 10 years behind and we like it that way". While we were there we biked around the northern half of the island. That is where we had gotten jobs in an apple orchard so we needed to stay around that area. We had some great bike rides to Canyons and some beautiful hikes. While free camping we experienced the life of the nocturnal animals. We had kangaroos, wallabies, tasmanian devils and even penguins roaming around our tent at various times. We were literally in a zoo with no bars!

We attended a bicycle race that included Olympians and World Class riders. We met 4 American cyclists. It was so fun to have people to cheer on. We also attended a local Ho Down. What a hoot. They had 2 country bands and various wood chopping competitions. We shared spirits and lies with our new local friends. From here we took the ferry back to Melbourne and flew to Thailand.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

We've been told over and over to go to Tasmania. I remember watching the Tasmanian
Devil on Bugs Bunny but never really thought I'd be going there. Because of this new change of plans we needed to get to Melbourne (1000km south of Sydney) right away. So, we took a bus to Melbourne. We arrived right before Christmas so we spent a few days prior to Christmas biking around the the bay and then spent Christmas at a beach camp ground in Barwon Bay. We were told it would be hopping with campers and beach lovers. We were guaranteed to see santa in a bikini but with temps around 70 degrees, it wasn't going to happen. It turned out to be a quiter Christmas than expected. However, we met some super people and their families camping next to us and we shared Christmas cheer together more than once. It was really nice. We found out the crowd of campers show up on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) which is also a holiday for them and everything is closed. N othing beats being with our own families but this was nice for this year.

The Golden Coast, hot and humid

Now...we only have 45 days in Australia and, being the country is almost as large as the US, we had to make some decisions so we could see as much as we could and meet as many locals as possible. So, we took a train 900km north to Brisbane to start our bicycling adventure south. We biked south along the Gold Coast of Queensland. It was gorgeous like we had heard and very touristy. We camped along the way and Ward tried his hand at fishing. We tried to take side roads as much as possible as sometimes the traffic (trucks) can make biking a little harry (Ward has seriously used 4 of his lives already). The temps were reaching highs of 108 degrees with very high humidity. Not very conducive for biking which really made the ocean water tempting. Remember, this is the Christmas season so it was a little hard to get into the spirit when you are drenched in sweat. Lawn bowling is really popular in Australia and they have special clubs for it with real members. We saw signs of kangaroo and koala crossings and had the opportunity of seeing a koala hanging on a tree on the side of the road. We returned to Sydney where we needed to pick up our Vietnam and China visas. We were fortunate to meet Susan Zbornik (from Decorah and a sister of Jacky's friend). We spent 2 nights with her and learned alot more about the Australian culture as she has lived here for 18 years. Thanks Susan.

Sydney, Australia - the home of the Opera House

We arrived in Sydney on Dec. 3rd. We took a couple of days to assemble the bikes,
make a plan and tour the city. Sydney is absolutely beautiful. We viewed the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, world famous beaches and tasted some of the quisine. We were able to meetup with Royce Fullerton (from Decorah). It was good to see a familiar face. We also took the time in Sydney to get our visas for Vietnam and China. Since we knew that we would be returning through Sydney we felt we could leave our passports for the necessary time.

Wrapping up New Zealand

We finished up our time in New Zealand by biking up around the Bay of Islands (the northern peninsula). We decided to try to save some money by working at campgrounds in lieu of our nights tariff. We were able to do this at 3 different campgrounds and we were surprised that they only required one hour of work from each of us to cover our costs. Most campgrounds were trying to spruce up their grounds in preparation for Christmas so we had extra work that we could do for pay. We really enjoyed doing this. It made us one of the staff which allowed us to spend more time with the locals and enjoy their company. Sometimes they actually gave us nice cabins to stay in vs our tent. The New Zealand campgrounds are some of the best campgrounds we have seen so far. Before we left New Zealand we had entered a 160km (100 mile bike race. It was the Taupo Lake Challenge which was sponsored by the Rotary and had 10,000 bicyclists. It was GREAT! Then off to Australia.