My Life Abroad: The Adventures of Two Birds
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Mon
30
May '16

Adam’s trip to Melbourne

It1 seems like it’s been years but finally my brother decided to come out and visit.  We aligned his visit with the big Beer Festival in Melbourne the GABS Fest (Great Australian Beer Spectapular). We calculated it has been about 5 or 6 years since his last visit… much, much too long.  I tried to take off from work so that we could go out and see the sights, but he is also a runner and even though we live over a kilometer from the train station, and the main part of town, he found it therapeutic to run a lot while he was here.

This is my main list for visitors to Melbourne (and Melbourne is by far the best Australian city to visit), of these, they are the mainstay of my “tour of Melbourne” that I offer to our guests.  Check them off your bucket list?

 

List of Top “Things to do in Melbourne”

-Melbourne Aquarium
-Phillip Island Little Penguin Parade
-Hot Air Balloon over Melbourne (or) the Yarra Valley [wine country]
-Queen Victoria Market
-Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) – Cricket or Australian Rules Football
-Healesville Sanctuary
-Puffing Billy Railway
-The Yarra Valley wine region
-Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
-The Great Ocean Road (The 12 Apostles)
-City Circle Tram
-National Gallery of Victoria
-Melbourne CBD Laneways Tour
-Old Melbourne Gaol (Jail)
-Federation Square
-Yarra River Tour
-St Kilda Beach Boxes
-Flinders Street Station
-Flemington Racecourse
-Haigh’s Chocolates Rialto
-Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
-Arts Centre Melbourne
-Crown Casino
-Hardware Lane

You can Google any of these sites for more information or to plan your next trip to Melbourne!!

 

Sun
29
May '16

9th Annual Camping Trip – 2016

25Let’s just say we had a lot of people join us this year and it was fantastic.  One shredded tire, a heated shower, 3 rambling dogs and lots of BBQ later… we enjoyed a visit from the Easter Bunny again and had a massive egg hunt.

This tends to be my favourite holiday week of the year, we get to take off a few days from work and combined with days for the Easter Holiday (Good Friday and Easter Monday included – yes, I said Easter Monday), we really make the most of our “glamping” experience.

Over the years we have perfected our camp and it makes for a nice week away amongst the trees and Australian bush.  This year was no different, we had new guests and some that have revisited us from past camps – and next year we have even more planned. Everyone’s welcome to join in if you are free over Easter break, come join us for a camping experience in the Aussie bush.

Thu
31
Dec '15

U.S. Trip 2015

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This year we decided to take a trip back home to visit, and since Rae hasn’t been back since she was 4 months old, everyone could get a chance to bond with her, now at age 2-1/2. We started off our trip at Disneyland for 3 days and then continued on to Las Vegas for the duration.  Now that my family has relocated to Las Vegas, it gave us a chance to explore the suburbs of Vegas and get an idea of how the other half lives (ha-ha).

We took a week off to go up to the snow at South Lake Tahoe, visit with friends and play in the snow – Rae really loved getting into the snow! Even I have missed it!  Birdie and I took one weekend to fly up to Portland and stay for a weekend, dine, shop and visit with friends.  I hadn’t been to Portland before and I really enjoyed going to ‘food truck row’ to try all the wonderful food!  It rained every second we were in Oregon but I really enjoyed the experience. It’s somewhere I will love to continue visiting, but with the rain, I don’t think I could ever live there!  Who am I kidding, I’m never leaving Melbourne!

We finished off the trip, with a trip up and down California visiting from Sacramento to Petaluma, Escondido and then San Diego before we headed back. I don’t think we will be back again until 2018 – when we will be visiting to attend my 30-year high school reunion… 30-years, I can’t believe it!  See you then.

Wed
16
Jul '14

Baby’s first Asian Holiday

Seriously, no time to blog while on holiday anymore, the baby just keeps me so busy.  We had a good time, it was so hot in Thailand, and no so much hot but the humidity would just knock you flat out.  We spent every day in the pool, and about every other day getting massage – heavenly!  We’ve all come home with a tan, including baby and we got to see so much while we were there!  The beach near our hotel was divine, some great sunsets while we were there.

sunset surin 2

Surin Sunset Day 3

sunset surin

Surin Sunset Day 13

 

I’ve been promoting different animals in our lead up to Thailand, saying “Elephant” and “We will see an Elephant in Thailand” – so when we get to see the Elephant it is exciting for her.  Raegan fed bananas to the baby elephant, and we took a 1-hour trek on the big momma, which was about 30 minutes too long for Rae – it was so hot she was not handling it well.  But still fun and there were some good views.   Here are some snaps from our day – click the link to see our Asian Holiday photoalbum:

The full photo album can be found here, enjoy:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152257354106309.1073741848.656851308&type=1&l=ef19c6e3d4

The hotel was very nice, usually we move around when we travel through Thailand but this time we stayed at Surin Beach for the entire 17 days.  The hotel was eclectic and beautiful, and two nice pools.  The beach was just a stones through away, and so was our massage joint, just outside the resort on the main road.  The restaurant was superb and the staff was excellent!  There are limited things to do in Surin, you are about 25 minutes from Patong where the major shopping is but if you just want to lounge at the beach this is a perfect beach to do it at.

We did daily swimming, to the beach a few times, most dinners at beach side restaurants, many many cocktails and some beautiful scenery.  I definitely wont miss the hot

Our little swimmer did well, she loved getting into the ocean with Daddy and swimming every day with Granny and Grampa or Mum and Dad.  I think our first Asian Holiday with Baby was a success!

Mon
7
Jan '13

A Summer Christmas Visit

Even after all these years I still can’t get used to the Summer Christmas.  I don’t know if it’s just the 100F (41C) degree heat, or that people still sing Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas, and Let it Snow.  All in all we survived what they call Down Under, the “silly season”.  Mom was out again for another holiday, 3-weeks this time and it was nice to actually spend some quality time with her this time around.

IMG_1165We started off by heading out to the moonlight cinema at the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, were we watched an less than average film and it sprinkled on us the entire time…  it was no B-52’s at a muddy winery – but it was fun!

This year was the first that we were assigned Christmas Dinner at our house, so we decided to keep the plastic tree in the attic and go cut a real one this year.  The 9 footer fit in our living room quite well (I might go a foot shorter next year – they are really hard to decorate when they are that tall).

We spent about three days making Christmas cookies – they were soooo yummy – I’m not sure why I’m saying “were” because we have heaps left over in the freezer!  Did you know you can freeze your Christmas cookies – they last forever and they taste yummy even when frozen.    We made everything from Gingerbread reindeer, to oatmeal cranberry, pumpkin with a kiss, rice krispie treats (rice bubbles for you Aussies), all beautifully delicious.

On Christmas Day we usually do a morning brunch of seafood.  Pretty much all of the significant cities in Australia are on the coast so seafood is a big deal here – and of course it is very good!  We did some cold king prawns with dipping sauce, and Oysters Kilpatrick.  It was a nice break from our Dinner prep.  I should rephrase that – they call it Christmas Lunch here, and we served around 2pm.

Birdie’s family came for Christmas Lunch, his parents, and my brother- and sister-in-law with the niece and nephew.  We tooled around for a while, had a drink and watched as Birdie finished up with his new smoker – smoking a Turkey and a Ham.  A bit of Rotisserie Pork on the BBQ and we were overloaded with meat!  I try to make a more traditional Thanksgiving dinner for our annual get together, and usually we have Christmas at the parents.  Birdie tried to do a more traditional spread with long bean and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, roasted tomato’s and vegies, Rod made my favourite Italian Sausage Stuffing (my Mom’s recipe), and I made a pumpkin pie and a cheesecake. Believe me when I say it was more food than we 9 could eat!!

The full photo album is here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152199437031309&type=1&l=5f790b3bec 

The kids opened their gifts and there was a horrible wrapping paper disaster in our living room but alls well that ends well.  Everyone was tired and happy at the end of the day.

I did plan a bit of activity around Mom’s trip this year.  She got to go to our 12-week scan and see the baby move around on the ultrasound, we spent more quality time just hanging out than really going off to do too many things – that’s the way I like it.  We went to see our first Opera together at Opera Victoria – Madame Butterfly – which was spectacular!  And I took her to see her first Play – War Horse – which was even more spectacular!  And on Boxing Day (that’s the day after Christmas – traditionally when gifts would be given to the servants), we went to the Gold Class Cinema, had lunch and watched Les Misérables (fabbbulooous)!  On our last day we had high tea and devonshire scones in Sassafras and then had dinner with Mum and Dad in the mountains.

We wrapped up our visit with a bit of baby shopping and we are excited to be coming back to the US in October next year with the baby to see everyone!

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and that you enjoyed our pictures!

Sat
3
Nov '12

Recipe: Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake

.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Chilling time: 3-4 hours

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Ingredients – BASE
3/4 cup Digestive biscuit crumbs (or Graham Cracker crumbs)
1/2 cups brown sugar
60g butter

Ingredients – CAKE
3 x 250g blocks Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin (or Libby’s canned pumpkin – unspiced)
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp thickened cream
1 tbsp corn flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs (size 60, or medium)

Ingredients -TOPPING
2 cups Sour Cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Maple syrup to drizzle

Directions
1. Combine biscuit crumbs, brown sugar and butter. Press into a greased 24cm (9″) springform pan. (Any variety of biscuit/cookie crumbs can be used – plain sweet, coconut, chocolate.)
2. To soften Philly, allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature or remove foil from Philly, place in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds.
3. Beat the Philly, sugars and vanilla using an electric mixer, until smooth. Beat in the eggs and cream until well combined. Add the pumpkin, sifted corn flour, spices and salt and mix on a low speed until well mixed (do not over beat). Pour filling into crust and bake at 160 C (do not use fan-forced setting) in the lower rack of the oven; for 50 minutes until just set. Allow to cool 5 minutes.
4. Whisk together the sour cream and sugar then pour over the top. Bake for a further 10 minutes then allow to cool completely in the oven with the door ajar.
5. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.
6. Garnish with maple syrup drizzle over the top, and of course whipped cream.

Wed
28
Dec '11

NYE Holiday: The Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef I’m dedicating this blog to my Gramma, who has recently taken an interest in my whereabouts and blogs and shit (huh Grams?).

It’s been almost six years since we’ve been here, to upper Northern Queensland, to Port Douglas where we spent our honeymoon – this is a very small town, a place that many “Stars” come to get away/visit in Australia. We’re on the Great Barrier Reef and have access to beaches and boats galore. The marina is in walking distance from our resort, and we are just on the main road – there is only one main road in Port Douglas, with little shops, great restaurants, resort hotels and bars. The best way to go is to find a rental apartment with a kitchenette, and the amenities you prefer like a good pool, and restaurant – in the location that best suits your activities. We like scuba and snorkelling so our favourite location is the beach with marina access.

I got my scuba license, after doing about 8 introductory dives in Thailand and Australia over a period of several years (an introductory dive is 1-hour of training and 1:3 diver to trainer ratio for one :30 minute dive), I thought it best after 8 of these to get my certification (which I did in 2009) – Birdie has procrastinated and only just agreed this year to get his certification. So this trip back to our favourite place, Port Douglas, was partially in an effort to get him certified so that we could continue to dive together (as scuba requires a diving buddy). I’m very proud of Rod during his course (I did mine on my own), I’ve been there going through the course with him – watching, participating, and taking pictures along the way – being involved and making him feel as comfortable as possible with this process.

The scuba Open Water Diving Certification Course is as follows:  Day 1 & 2) Online Course, takes aproxiomately 9-14 hours of study and tests.  The water course starts with; Day 3) In pool training with equipment and testing; Day 4 & 5) Open water testing and dives which includes 4 dives over two days and skills testing.  Day 5 is tomorrow for Birdie, he has one more dive and 3 more skills test to complete his certification.

Click pictures to enlarge.

Pool Training: Day 3 

   

Skill Dives and Training – Open Water: Day 4

   

See all the pictures here:  Scuba Photo Album

My own illness over the past couple years has been daunting, and I have had to take some risks in order to dive on this trip, but I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity to be one with the ocean, sea life, and this experience that I love so much. My first dive after being sick and finally going into remission again, well… it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I did great on my dives today and I’m so glad that I was able to be with Birdie during his course. It was a great diving refresher for me. This is something that I really love and something that I feel is an experience that not many people attempt. I get to share this with my partner and together we can be one with nature, and IT IS incredible.

After tomorrow (Day 3), the last certification dives for Birdie, we have a lot more planned for our trip in Northern Queensland and Port Douglas. We are already planning to do a couple new things on this trip:

1. Sailing to the Low Isles for Snorkelling with Turtles www.aquarias.com.au

2. Skyrail and Kuranda www.reefandrainforest.com.au

3. Breakfast with the Birds www.wildlifehabitat.com.au/breakfast.html

4. Cape Tribulation Tours http://www.jungletours.com.au

5. Daintree Rainforest Tours www.reefandrainforest.com.au

6. A minimum of one more day of 3-dives on the Agincort Reef (Opal Reef)

I’m looking forward the other adventures we are about to have on this trip, I hope you enjoy following our progress and sharing our experiences with us.

Thu
1
Dec '11

Our Summer Getaway, back to Port Douglas, Queensland

Its so funny saying “summer” at Christmas time.  In the land of Oz its summer, it’s hot and humid, with frequent days of rain.  Our summer break is celebrated with Christmas Tree and barbecues. It’s a season for flip flops, prawns, and sunshine… it’s taken a long time to get used to a summer Christmas and we even tried to get away last year for Christmas and New Years to the cold weather (and big snow storms of New York City).  But this summer we are heading off to the best holiday destination amidst the sun and the ocean. We’ve been on this great “travel” kick over Christmas/New Years, last year we celebrated in New York City, and the year before in Koh Samui, Thailand.  This year is going to be better than ever!!

Going back to Queensland is a long time coming, it is the place that we went for our honeymoon and experienced the beauties of the most beautiful Ocean, the Great Barrier Reef.  It’s the place I did my first dives, and now we are going to dive together for the first time on a two week scuba trip.  I’m hoping to see some new parts of the reef this trip, we will dive in some deep ocean waters and some of the most amazing reef areas in Cairnes and Port Douglas.
Birdie has been working his way into being more comfortable with scuba diving, it is a completely different feeling, one of claustrophobia, being surrounded by water – it’s something I struggled with on my first dive.  We’ve been snorkeling a lot in the last couple years and explored the waters of Thailand, and Vietnam on many occasions.  Birdie is taking his certification course this time and we can finally dive together.  I’m very passionate about diving, it’s something I really love.  Being under the water, swimming with schools of barracuda, eel, clown fish, seeing the beauties of coral reef’s untouched, and the sea life that embodies it. It is truly…  amazing.

Our wonderful housesitter is coming to stay with the pups and we are heading out on Christmas afternoon, and staying through the New Year.  Check back here for our pictures and our adventures underwater on our summer getaway, back to Queensland.

  

Sun
27
Nov '11

Thanksgiving in Australia 2011

Thanksgiving, an American holiday in a land far far away…

To me Thanksgiving is something different than it used to be.  It used to be a time to share and give thanks with my own family.  My Gramma would come visit, my cousins in toe, my Mother would work all day cooking the biggest feast for us to share together.  Much of this time when I was at University, my brother and I would come home to be together.  And my Dad (I miss you Dad), cooked the big giant turkey.  He would carve, and laugh and share the day with us.  After dinner he would watch the football game, beer in hand, and fall asleep.  Thanksgiving is a time for family to be together.

My Thanksgiving in Australia celebrations are a time for me to share these feelings of family and love with my new family and friends.  I am thankful for everything I have here and for the new life that I have been given.

Without my friends I would be no one, no where.  They lift me up to believe in myself, that I can be whatever I want to be, do whatever I want to do.

I am happy to share my feast of love and friendship with those that add value to my life.  Thank you my dear friends.

I hope you enjoy our pictures this year, we did two turkeys my mom’s famous stuffing recipes and backed mac and cheese, my father-in-law did a beautiful ham as always, and all our guests brought all the fixings. Desserts consisted of one pumpkin pie, a pecan pie, peach cobbler, and my first pumpkin cheesecake ever (yum!).

I want to especially thank my bestie Norelle, and all the girls that did the dishes clean up… you are my savours!

It was a success, and we had the biggest table ever this year, thanks to all that came to celebrate my special day with me.  These are my family, my American and Australian friends:

Tue
6
Sep '11

Hike and Helicopter Tour of Uluru and Kata Tjuta

We’ve arrived at Ayres Rock Campground and we’ve settled into our spot in the designated area.  Other campers are in the distance.  You can see that some are like us – amature campers – and others are completely professional campers and travellers.  Some with gear out the ass, and some in their cozy Winnebago’s (here called Caravan).  We’re contemplating if we should get a pop up caravan… we like to travel, maybe when we retire (haha).

The dogs have been great, and Lulu’s continued potty training while on the trip has been successful.  She waits until she is out of the car – so what I was hoping for, thank you God for small favours.  We stop at rest stops for the dogs to run around and have a bit of a play before we venture on down the long road.

First night, disaster.  I go in to go to bed and the bed is flat.  We have a double cell blow up matress, so it’s kinda like a Queen bed and it’s pretty tall off the floor so you don’t have to get down on the floor to get into bed. And you just hook up to a power point to give and take air from the bed. It’s nice and we’ve had it for about 5 years, we’ve used it on all of our camping trips and we love it.  It’s almost like sleeping in a real bed at home.  It makes all of our trips comfortable and you don’t have to dread going to bed.  But low and behold, it has a hole or a leak.  Something has gone terribly wrong.  It has enough air to sustain our going to bed on it (as if we had a choice), and about every 30 minutes I had to flip the switch to dispatch more air to the bed.  This went on through the night.  A sleepless night indeed.  The bed is now in the bin. (We got a new one in Alice Springs just in time for our last camp on the ride home.)

Rod went off to Reception at the campground in the morning to see if a cabin was available for rent for our second night, and luckily there was one.  I don’t think I could have slept on the ground so I am so happy that we were able to get a cabin for our second night.  The cabin has one Full size bed (this must be the master bedroom), and the second bedtoom has 2 bunk beds.  There is a kitchenette with hotplate, small fridge, all the dishes and things you will need, and a small table and chairs.  We spent most of our second day out and about at the National Park anyway but we had a place to crash.  Hallalujah!

I really can’t do too much walking so we went out to The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) to one of the shortest hikes and ventured up to see the rock formation up close and personal.  It’s amazing there are so many of these rounded rocks and together they run for miles, we went down a common track to see some of the native flora and the rocks themselves. Then off to Ayres Rock (Uluru) to look at it up close.  Rod took me to the area where people climb the rock, there werea lot of people climbing.  It’s pretty damn steep and there is just this rope that you hang on to, to get up there.  It’s climb at your own risk kind of thing and climbing is not encouraged or preferred by the park.  They let you do it anyway.

Going out to the National Park to see the two rock formations is common, but the sunset view is most popular.  Last night we watched the sunset at Ayres Rock, today however, Rod went off and bought us a helicopter sunset tour of both Ayres Rock and The Olgas.  He’s never been on a helicopter before so this is going to be a new adventure.  I’m excited to see both of these enormous rock formations from above!

    

We’re back on the road heading to Alice Springs today for 2-days before starting our journey back home.  I’m looking forward to seeing Alice, which is the second biggest town in the Northern Territory. If you are unfamiliar with the states and territories of Australia you can refer t omy map: Map of Australia.

Here you can see all the pictures from our hike and our helicopter ride:  Hike and Helicopter Album

Wed
17
Aug '11

Road Trip to Ayers Rock (Uluru), in Central Australia

A quick update: We finally have our itinerary

Check back here for pictures and video during our adventure through the Outback. I’m really looking forward to this trip and seeing the sights of the red dessert.  I’ve never been to the Outback so this is very exciting.  And we can have our fur babies with us to enjoy being out on the land.  I’m hoping to do some combination camping and staying in hotels that can accommodate the dogs. 

Central Australia Trip

Day 1
Depart CBD 5pm
Drive to Horsham (298km)

Day 2
Depart Horsham at 7am
Drive to Clare SA (543km)
Visit local wineries

Day 3
Depart Clare at 9am
Drive to Coober Pedy SA (734km)

Day 4
Day in Coober Pedy

Day 5
Depart Coober Pedy at 8am
Drive to Yulara NT (735km)

Day 6
Day at Yulara, Ayers Rock, The Olgas, Mt Conner

Day 7
Depart Yulara at 7am
Drive to Alice Springs via King Canyon (631km)
Visit Kings Canyon

Day 8
Day at Alice Springs
Drive to Devils Marbles (100km)
Drive to Tennant Creek (80km)
Drive back to Alice Springs (180km)

Day 9
Depart Alice Springs 8am
Drive to Coober Pedy SA (688km)

Day 10
Depart Coober Pedy at 8am
Drive to Gawler SA (846km)

Day 11
Depart Gawler 9am
Visit Barossa Valley wineries
Drive Home (805km)

Well, we’ve been talking about this for a while and now we’ve decided to pack up the dogs, get a house sitter and head out on the road for our first ever “road trip”.  We’re going to spend 10-days on the road and see some of Central Australia’s beautiful country side in a trip to see the wine country of South Australia, then up to the underground town, and opal mines of Coober Pedy, and last but not least up to Uluru also world with the majority of gem quality opal.

South Australia Wine Country (Wine Tasting) – Barrossa Valley

The Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions. Located in South Australia, the Barossa Valley is about 56km (35 miles) northeast of the city of Adelaide. Unlike most of Australia whose wine industry was heavily influenced by the British, the wine industry of the Barossa Valley was founded by German settlers fleeing persecution from the Prussian province of Silesia (in what is now modern day Poland).

The hot continental climate of the region promoted the production of very ripe grapes that was the linchpin of the early Australian fortified wine industry. As the modern Australian wine industry shifted towards red table wines (particularly those made by the prestigious Cabernet Sauvignon) in the mid-20th century, the Barossa Valley fell out of favor due to its reputation for being largely a Shiraz producers whose grapes were destined for blending. During this period the name “Barossa Valley” rarely appeared on wine labels. In the 1980s, the emergence of several boutique family specializing in old vine Shiraz wines began to capture international attention for the distinctive style of Barossa Shiraz, a full bodied red wine with rich chocolate and spice notes. This led to a renaissance in the Barossa which catapulted the region to the forefront of the Australian wine industry.

Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy today relies as much on tourism as the opal mining industry to provide the community with employment and sustainability. Coober Pedy has evolved in to one of the most unique places in Australia and perhaps the world. It is a cosmopolitan town with a population of 3,500 and over 45 different nationalities.

The relaxed and friendly lifestyle of the town has made it a breeding ground for cultural tolerance, diversity and acceptance. Coober Pedy is probably best known for its unique style of underground living.

There is a range of underground accommodation (as well as above ground if you prefer). There are authentic underground homes to explore as well as underground museums, opal shops, art galleries, underground churches and, of course, opal mines.

Ayres Rock (Uluru)

Uluru ( /u:lu:’ru:/), also known as Ayers Rock, is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia. It lies 335 km (208 mi) south west of the nearest large town, Alice Springs; 450 km (280 mi) by road. Kata Tjuta and Uluru are the two major features of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Uluru is sacred to the Ajangu, the Aboriginal people of the area. The area around the formation is home to a plethora of springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Uluru is listed as a World Heritage Site.

Uluru is one of Australia’s most recognisable natural landmarks. The sandstone formation stands 348 m (1,142 ft) high (rising 863 m/2,831 ft above sea level), with most of its bulk lying underground, and has a total circumference of 9.4 km (5.8 mi). Both Uluru and the nearby Kata Tjuta formation have great cultural significance for the Aṉangu people, the traditional inhabitants of the area, who lead walking tours to inform visitors about the local flora and fauna, bush foods and the Aboriginal dreamtime stories of the area.

Kata Tjuta National Park (Olgas)

Kata Tjuta, sometimes written Tjuta (Kata Joota), and also known as Mount Olga (or colloquially as The Olgas), are a group of large domed rock formations or bornhardts located about 365 km (227 mi) southwest of Alice Springs, in the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia. Uluru, 25 km (16 mi) to the east, and Kata Tjuta form the two major landmarks within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The 36 domes, covering an area of 21.68 km2 (8.37 sq mi), are composed of conglomerate, a sedimentary rock consisting of cobbles and boulders of varying rock types including granite and basalt, cemented by a matrix of sandstone. The highest point, Mount Olga, is 1,066 m (3,497 ft) above sea level, or approximately 546 m (1,791 ft) above the surrounding plain (198 m (650 ft) higher than Uluru). Kata Tjuta is located at the eastern end of the Docker River Road.

Alice Springs

Alice Springs is the second largest town (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a city) in the Northern Territory of Australia. Popularly known as “the Alice” or simply “Alice”, Alice Springs is situated in the geographic centre of Australia near the southern border of the Northern Territory.

The site is known as Mparntwe to its original inhabitants, the Arrernte, who have lived in the Central Australian desert in and around what is now Alice Springs for thousands of years. Alice Springs has a population of 27,481 people, which makes up 12 percent of the territory’s population Alice averages 576 meters (1,890 ft) above sea level; the town is nearly equidistant from Adelaide and Darwin.

The town of Alice Springs straddles the usually dry Todd River on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. The region where Alice Springs is located is known as Central Australia, or the Red Centre, and is an arid environment consisting of several different deserts. In Alice Springs, temperatures can vary dramatically with an average maximum temperature in summer of 35.6 °C (96.1 °F), and an average minimum temperature in winter of 5.1 °C (41.2 °F).

Kings Canyon, Northern Territory

The walls of Kings Canyon are over 300 metres high, with Kings Creek at the bottom. Part of the gorge is a sacred Aboriginal site and visitors are discouraged from walking off the walking tracks.

Two walks exists at Kings Canyon. The 2 km (return) and approximately 1 hour Kings Creek Walk traces the bottom of the gorge. At the end of the walk is a platform, with views of the canyon walls above. The 6 km (loop) and 3-4 hour Kings Canyon Rim Walk traces the top of the canyon. A steep climb at the beginning of the walk, which locals call “Heartbreak Hill” (or “Heart Attack Hill”, due to its steepness), takes visitors up to the top, with spectacular views of the gorge below and of the surrounding landscape. About half way during the walk, a detour descends to Garden of Eden, a permanent waterhole surrounded by lush plant life. The last half of the walk passes through a large maze of weathered sandstone domes, reminiscent of the Bungle Bungle. A slow descent brings the visitor back to the starting point. The loop can also be done in reverse (anti-clockwise), but the National Park Rangers encourage visitors to walk in one direction.

So, I’m already ready to go!  Stay tuned and follow along on our trip as we make our way across Central Australia.

Fri
22
Apr '11

Stopover at Cape Panwa

We finished up our 7 days in Phuket town, Patong Beach and now we’ve arrived at Cape Panwa about :45 min north up the coast.  Cape Panwa has a very beautiful and secluded beach, we’re staying in serviced apartments so we have little one bedroom apartments with kitchettes and washing machines, it’s a nice change from a hotel room.  Place to have a meal, lounge room, deck, we room to hang out and play cards, or just hang out.  There’s not much in the way of shops here but there are some good restaurants and everything is near the beach.

Were here at Cape Panwa for just a quick 4-day stopover to relax a bit before we head back toward Phuket town to the Kathu Beach area.  The serviced apartments are very nice, they have character and function which is what we needed mid-trip.

   

Our last five days will be in Kathu Beach where we plan to do a Cooking Class.  Many of you that know Birdie is a lover of his chef-ery duties and learning how to make authentic Thai dishes is something he reallly loves.  On our last trip to Thailand we visited Koh Samui and the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts and learned to make a beautiful red curry with Chicken.  Anyone that is thinking to heading off to the Island of Samui can get a list of great things to see and do there, we’ve been there twice and I love it.  Unfortunately just a week or so before this trip Samui was hit with flash flood so we were unable to go.  This time around I am looking to learn how to make spring rolls (egg rolls for you Americans), the rolling part is always a problem for me.  And possibly a green curry with prawns.

Tomorrow we’re booked in for snorkeling at Raya & Coral Island, we will get there by speedboat and spend the day travelling to a couple different islands for snorkeling with a stop over for lunch at Patek Bay.  Check back for more pictures of our snorkeling excursion.

Check out the photo album here: Thailand 2011 – Photo Album

Wed
20
Apr '11

Elephant Trek at Big Buddha

It’s been so hot out here, we spend a bit of the day in the pool relaxing and cooling off.  We have been doing a bit of shopping around and we frequented my favourite china shop today, with handpainted works… dishes, cups, tea pots, vases, etc.  This time I bought a beautiful urn to add to the house and decorate with a number of my other Thai goodies – hopefully it will be a great addition to our home renovations. 

 

I’ve been taking some shots with the new camera, Birdie got me an Digital SLR for my 41st and I’m trying to learn how to use it. 

I’m still learning, I love my new camera!!

The Elephant Trek day started out with breakfast at the hotel, there’s an array of american breakfast as well as asian options.  Each day has something a little different, but always good.  We usually meet for brekky at 9am so we get a good sleep, then start out on the day.  For the Elephant Trek we got a pick up via bus at the hotel and headed off up the hill around past Kata Beach, into the mountains in southern Phuket.  We started with a 30 minutes ride on the elephants, I’m a bit afraid of heights especially when your going down a steep slope on the back of a big arse elephant.  I got  pics of our partners in crime, Lawrence and Norelle, but there are non of us until I can get the small camera downloaded… here’s some of my best pics… see more by clicking the photo album at the bottom of this blog post.

  

Following the Elephant Trek we were taken up to the Big Buddha statue at the top of the hill.  There are quite a few of these big monuments to Buddha in Thailand, they are sometimes accompanied by a temple, and some are monumental prayer spots.  The Thai Buddha is my very favourite and I am a big fan of Buddhism.  Here’s to obtaining enlighteningment…

    

And smaller gold Buddha monument at the site…

 

Check out the photo album here: Thailand 2011 – Photo Album

Sat
16
Apr '11

Patong Beach, Thailand

Its been a worldwind, as always, getting over here but now that we’re here we’re trying to relax and enjoy our holiday time.  Today we’ve been off to ‘You & Me’ for lunch, then to the spa for some pampering.  ‘You and Me’ is a little street restaurant outside of the Holiday Inn in Phuket, we went there with the family when we came here on our trip with the Birds in 2008.  Its the place that has Birdie’s favourite Tom Yum Soup.  After our late arrival last night we skipped brekky and met up for lunch there.  I had the calamari with garlic and pepper and it was yummy!

     

Following breakfast we headed off to the spa and while the boys got an hour foot and leg massage, Norelle and I got a thai pedicure and then a massage.  I’ve been waiting for this since we booked this trip.  I love the spa we go to here and they didnt’ dissappoint.  I’ll be going back daily.  1-hour thai oil massage is 500 Bhat (or $15 Australian dollars/$14 USD), its incredibly cheap but the best quality I’ve ever had.  Ahhh, how I love it here.

Our first hotel, we’re staying here for about 7-days is in Patong Beach, Phuket.  Were just off of Bangla Road (the main hub for bars and clubs), and about 2 blocks from the beach.   We’ve opted to get a pool access room at the 6-month old Kee Resort.  So our room opens up to a small balcony that has steps into the pool, its great that you dont have to walk out the pool and you can just roll out of bed right into the pool each morning. 

    

It’s only day two so we still have shopping to do, things to see, snorkelling and lots more eating too.  We’re hoping to also book a cooking class, and a elephant trek.  Check back for more soon.

Wed
13
Apr '11

Thai Adventures

It’s always my favourite holiday destination, we have been every year since we’ve been married and this year is no exceptions. We’re taking our bestest couple friends with us this time and are going to enjoy the relaxing tropical holiday together. We’ll be visiting Patong and Kata Beach in Phuket, Thailand, as well as a quick stop over in Bangkok on the way home. Personally I’m looking forward to the food, the massage, and the water! We’ve got our favourite housesitter so Mr. Spot is looked after and we are on our way out tomorrow afternoon!

Our itinerary:

14 Apr – Melbourne to Phuket
15 Apr – The Kee Resort and Spa, Kathu Beach
21 Apr – Kantary Bay Hotel, Cape Panwa
25 Apr – The Old Phuket Hotel, Karon Beach
30 Apr – TBC – Bangkok
1 May – Bangkok to Melbourne

I have marked the map in red showing the beaches that we will be staying at on this trip.  We will also venture out to some islands while we are there on day trips, the islands are called Koh or Ko (meaning “island” in Thai).  We’re trying some new hotels this time and we aren’t venturing too far from Phuket on this trip.  We want our friends to be able to experience the night life of Phuket and the shopping!! 

Our regular destination is Koh Samui but just a couple weeks ago they had flash floods and we have heard that the entire town was under water for some time.  I am hoping to do some snorkelling as I am still not allowed to scuba with my Wegner’s looming in my lungs – maybe next time I will be strong enough to go back for some scuba as it is something I love very much.

Stay tuned to the blog for pictures from our trip –  I will be blogging at least once a week while we are away.