Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Hello hello hello. I’m currently writing from Quarantine Island, which is quickly growing to be one of my favorite places on the planet, and one of my favorite parts of this entire trip. For the most part there isn’t internet on this island, but at the moment I’m doing a sort of babysitting role for the keeper Dries’ kids (both of whom are in bed – I’m not ignoring them!) while he leaves the island to pick up a couple new visitors. This place is incredible and I am going to absolutely write a long post about the fascinating history of this island, but for now I’m going to quickly copy/paste a bunch of entries about the end of Australia/beginning of New Zealand that I wrote while internet-free, beginning with my last day in Australia.

Australia Day 3: Melbourne

After catching my flight to Melbourne  from Newcastle I met up with Aruna, a friend I met through Mike when I visited Australia two years ago. We caught up a bit as we explored some of the highlights of Melbourne, a city I spent close to a week in last time I visited, and which I very much enjoy.

First stop: Queen Victoria Market

This is one of my favorite markets in the world. It’s big, but not so big that it’s overwhelming, and the layout makes a lot of sense. I was very happy to find some of the crunchy peanuts I enjoyed so much in Vietnam at the market, so I bought a pack. Aruna also insisted I try a food I’ve completely forgotten the name that’s an Australian specialty. It was tasty, whatever it’s called! We also found a vendor selling flowers made of soap. They were pretty cool, so I told her I’d post a photo on my blog. 


Scenes from Victoria Market.

After the market, Aruna took me to the restaurant that claims to have the best schitzel in Melbourne. I had no idea that schnitzel was a big deal in Australia, but apparently it is! So what is a schnitzel? Essentially, it’s breaded meat dressed up in dfferent ways. We split a chicken schnitzel parma, which was similar to what we’d called chicken parmesan in the US. Afterward, Aruna took me to her favorite gelato place (there is a debate as to which place has the best gelato, so she had to compete with Mike’s choice!). It was once again delicious….I ate way too much gelato in the past three days but how could I not?!


HUGE schnitzel. Good thing we only got one to split!

Next, we boarded a tram and headed to the Botanic Gardens, stopping at Resurretion Shrine on the way (another place built in memory of the WWI soldiers). We got there just as the shrine was closing, which was perfect timing to stand in silence during the lowering of the Australian flag and hear the bugle call.


Scenes from Resurrection Shrine

From there, we walked to the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, which might be my favorite botanical gardens anywhere. I was quite amused by a sign pointing toward Long Island…which I’m still not sure if we ever found or not…


Long Island? 


Scenes from the Botanic Gardens. Notice the dancers practicing in the bottom right. Cool shot.

Next, another tram ride over to a rooftop bar/cinema. Although they were setting up for the evening’s film, the staff were nice enough to let Aruna and I walk up to the top to get a view of the city. If I had more time I would’ve totally stayed for the movie!


From there, we picked up my bags from the Graduate House and headed to a cool little almost street food style outdoor restaurant that served Middle Eastern kebabs. Cheap and delicoius dinner, yum! Aruna’s (and Mike’s former) area of Melbourne has great Middle Eastern food.

Finally, we walked to Aruna’s place, had some wine, and went to bed. In the morning we witnessed a mini van crash into a tram (everyone was okay) and then we had to run a couple blocks to catch another tram so Aruna wouldn’t be late to work! I am happy to report that Aruna got to work on time and I got to my plane. Success!

There is much more to Melbourne than my one day trip allowed me to see this time, but I know from my previous trip that I really enjoy that city and the surrounding area. However, this trip is mostly about New Zealand, so from there I flew off to Christchurch to begin a month in that little island country (which I’ve been in for almost two weeks no. On the plane I was amazed to discover that I was sitting in front of two members of New Zealand’s rugby team, the All Blacks. Those guys are superstars, so definitely a good sign for the trip to come! 


Australia: Two Days in Newcastle

After Vietnam, I flew to Melbourne, Australia and caught a short flight up to visit my friend Mike in Newcastle, New South Wales (near Sydney). According to Mike, Newcastle is the nicest city with the best weather in all of Australia, and I’m inclined to agree. While I was there, the temperature stayed in the 80s during the day with a slight breeze, blue skies, and some fluffy white clouds, making it basically perfect weather. We stayed at a hostel near the beach and spent two days walking all over – on the first day we walked over ten miles! Mike is like me in the fact that he loves hot weather and walking rather than taking public transit, so we are good travel buddies!


Walking all along Nobby’s Point. We found a bunch of cool art, such as this sailor in a bottle carving.

We arrived at the hostel around 8:30 PM on Thursday night, set down our bags, and went out in search of food. Recalling my last visit to Australia two years ago, I was keenly aware of the fact that places close early in this country, so I knew finding dinner would be a challenge (last time I was here, Mike, myself, and two of our friends got stranded in a small whaling town halfway through our road trip because the gas stations closed by 7 PM. Amazing experience, but lesson learned!). Luckily for us Thursday was a beautiful evening and there was a nice path to walk along next to the water, so the hunt didn’t seem aggravating in any way.

After maybe twenty or thirty minutes of walking we came across a place called Meet Meat. They were about to shut down the kitchen, so we had the good fortune of getting to be the last people they served for the evening! Ironically this was a Brazilian meat house, and after looking over the menu Mike gave it a seal of approval, so I knew we’d be okay (Mike happens to be not only Brazilian, but also one of the best cooks I know, so if he thought it sounded good, it had to be good!) Twenty minutes later we were surprised when a HUGE platter of meats, rice, cassava, fries, and fried banana was presented to us; apparently we got to have all the leftover food that they had to get rid of before closing up. I think I was too shocked to even think of taking a photo; it was a huge meal! After eating as much as we could, I’m glad we had a long walk back to the hostel to recover from all that food!

As we walked, I realized I didn’t bring any sandals with me on this trip and mentioned this to Mike. I guess I’d have to find some in the morning….


A million footprints on the beach at night.

On Friday morning I started my day by stumbling across a “free items” bin at the hostel, and right at the very top was…a pair of flip flops exactly my size! They were in very good condition, so my sandal dilemma was solved. Thank you free items bin. 🙂

That morning we got a very late start, mainly because we both had some work to do and I had a Skype meeting before we could head out (Hey family: My program chose me to be the first-ever Senior Teaching Fellow, so next year I’ll mentor first-year graduate teaching fellows, observe their classes, and discuss teaching techniques. Hooray!). Around noon, we both wrapped up our work and headed out to explore Newcastle. MIke knows the area quite well, so he made sure we visited all the best spots. There was so much to see, so I’ll let the photos do the talking and write some captions underneath.


April: You would have loved this adventure. We spent around an hour scrambling across rocks in search of seashells. Mike says hi by the way! The bottom left photo shows the lines of coal common in the rocks; coal is one of Newcastle’s biggest industries. The top right photo shows the trails snails leave in the sand. 


Newcastle has many man-made swimming pools such as this one, Bogey’s Hole. A sea captain forced men to build this one for him.

To end the day, we walked to Goldberg’s, a restaurant Mike explained as a sort of Australia form of a diner, with great Australian food. Ironically, one of the waiters we met there was from Long Island, and his sister went to Stony Brook. Small world! At Goldberg’s I also learned about some Australian food terms. French fries are called “chippies,” “bliss balls” are all the rage, and everyone eats slices (similar to what we’d call dessert bars I guess).

After dinner we made our first visit to what Mike considers the best gelato place in Newcastle. He might be right, because there was a line and all but four flavors were all used up! We got gelato, but MIke insisted we’d have to return again to get the full experience. We took our gelato to the park near the hostel and were able to see some great stars (even the Southern Cross, dad!).


The next morning we did laundry and then began our second (and last) day of exploring. First stop: Anzac Memorial Walk. In 2015, Newcastle built this beautiful bridge to pay homage to the soldiers who’d fallen during WWI. The views were absolutely gorgeous and this was one of my favorite walks of the trip.


Afterward we headed to the gelato place our second round of gelato (it was delicious), then caught the bus to Port Stephens to experience sandboarding!


Sandboarding is much like snowboarding, but walking up the hot sandy dunes to go back down is much more tiring than taking a ski lift! 


After getting covered in sand and wearing ourselves out from climbing up the dunes so many times, Mike and I changed into swimsuits and went for a dip. We arrived at the water around 5 PM, when surfers are allowed to start using the area. So, we were able to do some body surfing while the real surfers rode their boards just a bit behind us. Super cool! The water was extremely clear, and I actually saw a sting ray while we were swimming. Awesome!


Camels on the beach…

After swimming too long and mising our bus back to town, Mike and I ate at an amazing Thai place. Then we took the bus to Finn McCool’s, one of the Irish “hotels” in Newcastle (for some reason bars are called hotels in Australia), to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a live Irish band. They played lots of classics by the Pogues, the Irish Rovers, etc. and I was surprised that most of the patrons knew the words. Throughout the day we hadn’t seen anyone wearing green because, as Mike explained, St. Patrick’s Day is not as big a holiday in Australia as in the US, but it was a whole different story at Finn McCool’s! I loved the fact that a rugby highlights reel was playing on the pub’s television, and when they showed the Newcastle team scoring a winning try, the entire bar erupted in cheers. Very cool to be there.


Rugby highlights and Irish music in Australia. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

On the walk back to the hostel Mike stopped at a very noisy and rustling tree to point out one of his favorite animals, the flying fox. I don’t think I’d ever seen a flying fox in person, so it was amazing to watch these giant bat-like creatures swooping in and out of the trees, chattering away. After learning their sounds, I kept hearing more foxes chattering the whole time we walked.


There are flying foxes in there! 

Unfortunately that’s all we had time for in Newcastle, since my flight departed at 8:30 the next morning. Thank you so much Mike for an excellent two days of adventuring; I can see why you speak so highly of Newcastle!