The plan in 2018 was to visit Japan for a couple reasons:
Everyone we knew who had ever been there had only great things to say about it.
We already had the Japanese encephalitis shot, so why not go before we had to get it again? Especially since I got sick from it the last time.
We love sushi.
We love temples.
Then Sal found out about a conference he could speak at in Sydney, and he had a work meeting a few weeks later also in Sydney, so we switched our plans and went to Australia instead because:
Work would pay for the Sydney portion and Sal’s flight.
See #1. That was the only reason. It’s really expensive flying Business Class that far and there was no way I was going in Coach!
That took care of the big trip of 2018, but since Japan was still #1 on our list of places we wanted to go we made it top priority for 2019. Someone suggested combining Hong Kong with Japan, so that’s what we did because we could get a direct flight there, too, and we’d arrive at night, which is better than having to stay awake all day.
So we decided to give my foot a break and not do any sort of climbing/heavy walking. I had read on Trip Advisor about Top Didj Aboriginal Cultural Experience — a place that also rescues wallabies. Sold! We were finally going to see wallabies!! I was so excited!
The experience was run by Manuel. Manuel is an aboriginal man who told us stories about growing up in the outback, sang a song for us, played the didgeridoo, taught us how to paint the way his people do (it’s hard!), taught us how to make a fire and how to hunt by throwing a spear. It was all really interesting, and sometimes a little goofy. In other words, it was right up my alley; I could have listened to him all day.
Our last activity was Manuel taking us outside to ‘hunt’ kangaroo. Guess who is the only one that actually hit the kangaroo?
While we were learning how to throw a spear, two of the kids in the group got to hold wallabies. Was I jealous? Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Eventually, the young European woman who was working there and is an ‘influencer’ on Instagram (already forgot her name – oops) got one of the wallabies away from the kid that was neglecting it. And by neglecting I mean not petting it constantly or talking to it, like I was prepared to do. And then the best part of the day happened and I got to hold Randall.
I’m not going to lie and say that for a hot second I wasn’t trying to figure out how I could get him back to Jersey. Look how cute he is here in this video! I was totally in love with him. He’d lick my fingers and even licked and nibbled on my nose. He was rescued when he was only two months old. The sad thing about the wallabies is that they come out at night and a lot are hit by cars. The car will kill the mom and sometimes the babies are left to die. Other times when the babies are found they would be brought to the rescue. Manuel told us about how he liked to eat wallaby and when one was dead by the side of the road he considered it a free meal. I just blinked at that and clarified with him at one point that he didn’t eat any of the rescues. He confirmed he didn’t eat any that had names. “We don’t eat our friends.” Shew.
That night we went to Marksie’s Stockman’s Camp Tucker Night, which was dinner and stories. The dinner was made on the campfire and it was delicious. The stories were long and funny. Australians like to tell stories, whether they are true or not. We had a fun table – there was a man from South Africa there with his niece – and he was hilarious. One of the best parts of travel is the people you meet from all over the globe.
The food was a lot better than I expected and actually one of the best meals we had in the Northern Territory. Marksie definitely knows what he’s doing. He uses all local spices and everything was very tasty and it was neat to try new flavors.
All in all it was a really fun, interesting day that didn’t involve hiking or additional injuries. Huzzah. Sometimes you need the slower days…
I thought I’d already posted this, but it was in my drafts. Oops. Enjoy!
It was about a four hour drive to get from Kakadu National Park to our hotel in Katherine. Sal is the driver on our team (he got stuck with a really crappy driving partner as I don’t drive.). The people at the hotel in Katherine had recommended stopping by Edith Falls on the way, so that’s what we decided to do.
Edith Falls is a series of cascading waterfalls and pools on the Edith River in the Nitmiluk National Park, located approximately 60 kilometres north of Katherine, in the Northern Territory of Australia.
After we’d parked, we tried to decide which pool to swim in. Of course, my preference was the lower one because that meant no hiking. Then I saw this sign:
We woke up early, grabbed breakfast, and headed off for our first adventure of the day: a free guided Burrungkuy Art Walk Talk (basically one of the trails you could do any time, but with guide(s) explanation. The nice thing about these tours is you get to learn more about the art and the indigenous people. The bad part is there were tons of people there and it made hearing difficult sometimes. The rangers did their best, though. The indigenous ranger was the first indigenous person we’d had any real interaction with. He explained some of their laws and traditions. It was very interesting. A lot of this rock art had been restored not all that long ago.
We got up early, and checked out without any issues. I tasked Sal with finding a breakfast place, and boy did he hit the jackpot. This place was delicious. We got there about 5 or 10 minutes after it opened, and it was almost full already! Laneway Specialty Coffee was everything you needed in a breakfast place: good selection, yummy food, and fast service. If we ever go back that way again, I’m sure we’ll check it out again.
After a filling breakfast, we got on the road. We stopped at a grocery store to get a cooler and some foods for hiking/lunch breaks. We also picked up a couple of dorky hats. We stopped at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve on the way, as there was supposed to be some good walks there. We saw this sign:
I made Sal take that pic from inside the car. We actually saw one of the croc-catching cages there, too. It was empty. Needless to say, we immediately turned around and drove on. While I appreciate these signs, they made me nervous. We had one more stop at some wetlands. Of course there was a warning sign about staying on the path because of crocs. As you can probably guess, I wasn’t so interested in walking around after I saw that sign. There were some nice views in the lookout, though.
We checked in at something like 1:30 a.m or 2:00 a.m. Sal had driven us from the airport to our hotel. It was very dark there, obviously, was no traffic. It was a good way to get used to driving on the wrong side, especially with the gazillion roundabouts that AU has. We stayed at the Palm City Resort and our room was OK. It didn’t look like the picture, but it was clean and we were tired and it would do. When we checked in, the woman warned us about Territory Day noise, which was happening on that Sunday night. It’s the one day that people in the Northern Territory can set off fireworks legally, and the local workers absolutely hate it. Every single person that lived there and mentioned it sighed or groaned. Luckily we were leaving the Sunday morning for Kakadu National Park, so we figured it wouldn’t be a problem there. We said it shouldn’t be a problem because we were leaving Sunday morning. We slept in because we went to bed extremely late and we were both tired. It had been a long day between all that bike riding/walking and travel. Also: old.
I had read about the Parap Village Markets on Trip Advisor. They are only on Saturdays and that was when we were there, so we decided to check them out for lunch. We drove around a little bit and finally found parking. As we were walking to the location, we enjoyed the sun. It was a dry heat and was nice after cool/cold Sydney. Well, it was nice until it hit 11 or so and someone flipped a switch and it was hot, hot, hot. Like a torch. Like you need to be in the shade because you will noticeably wilt. It was a doozy.
It was impressive how many food stalls there were! I don’t think I’d ever seen that many options in the relatively small area that made up the market. It was impressive as there was food from several different countries.
This is the only picture we got from the market, and thanks to Sal for at least getting this. I think we were jet-lagged; there’s a 30 minute time difference between New South Wales and The Northern Territory, after all! Excuses, excuses…
I got a savory crepe and Sal got Pho for lunch. Told you that had a big assortment of food! And yes, we don’t have pics of it. We spent our time trying to hide in the slivers of shade and eat quickly before the sun moved. After our quick meal we wandered around a little bit and did a tiny bit of shopping, then drove around aimlessly. Amazing what a 30 minute time difference can do to a body. Ahem.
We were going to go to a couple of places, but one was closed and the other one we drove by and decided against. We both had headaches and needed caffeine. We found a place where I could get a Diet Coke. It’s called a ‘grocery store’. Anyway, this little store was in a complex that happened to be right by the water. It was very pretty, with a little restaurant there, too. We ordered drinks from the restaurant, too, so we wouldn’t get in trouble. Nobody cared.
What you can’t see from the pics is that each of these homes were gated in. I was sure it was to keep the crocs out. We were in croc territory now, after all!
Didn’t see any crocs.
We spent some time there relaxing and enjoying a) the light breeze, b) the shade, c) the views. We decided to go back to the hotel and take a little siesta. At first we went to the pool, but all of a sudden this very loud music started. And it was bad. We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, but think it was from some festival that was happening that weekend. Needless to say, we didn’t stay there that long. We ended up Sal napped. I know there was more to see in Darwin, but frankly we were pooped and we knew we had a lot of driving and walks/hiking/hot weather coming up so we wanted to be rested. They don’t have Uber in Darwin, so we had to have reception call a taxi for us. How quaint! We didn’t want to drive because we wanted to enjoy cocktails.
I had read that the sunsets at the beaches, and in particular at the Darwin Sailing Club, were awesome, so that was our destination. We got there and the place was much bigger than expected. There was a wedding reception going on in one section, and a party in another, and tons of people everywhere else. We had to have our license’s scanned (it’s the law for clubs there), then try to find a seat. We ended up sharing a table with two cousins from Melbourne and had a nice chat with them. I am turning into my mother, as my ability to chat with total strangers improves. That sunset was pretty awesome, though…
We grabbed a taxi outside the club and went back to the hotel. It was an early night, but that was good because we had an early start the next day. Thank goodness the music had stopped eventually. We slept like rocks, again.
Sorry this is so late. I finally have a connection that is good enough to upload photos without timing out. Huzzah!
I’m combining the next two days because almost nothing happened on day seven except doing laundry and working out on a rowing machine for the first time. That’s literally it. I was definitely fighting something off, and never even left the hotel. It’s OK. My body needed rest. I had a sore throat and upset stomach and sleep was my self-prescribed remedy as I needed to be healthy, because day eight was the day I had purchased an e-bike tour. Manly Beach is a beach situated among the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia in Manly, New South Wales and is a place that Sydneysiders recommended seeing.
We got up early on day eight and finished packing and checked out. We had the hotel hold our bags, and they kindly gave us a key to use the gym area later on if we needed to (showers, etc.) as our flight was later at night. I would definitely recommend staying at The Grace Hotel in Sydney; our room was huge and the people were very friendly and helpful. We again went to the French cafe for breakfast, because my theory is when you find something good, you stick with it (see: marriage). They again only had one chocolate croissant, though. How is this even possible? We were there even earlier than the last time when they only had one left! Come to find out the chocolate croissants are not in high demand in Sydney. I was dumbfounded, and the waitress agreed with me that it was crazy they weren’t in higher demand. Those croissants are the bomb. I told Sal he could the lone pastry, since I needed a healthy breakfast before my adventure. He did end up sharing, because he’s a good hubby. And because he was full and still had half left Throwing any portion of that out should be a crime!
The trip to Manly required a ferry ride, which had great views, but it was cold in the morning so I sat indoors and decided on the way back I’d take some photos. I was supposed to meet at the information hut at the wharf, but I was early so I looked around a bit. When it eventually was closer to the meeting time, I asked the young woman at the information desk if she knew about the tour company Blue Bananas. She didn’t. I fleetingly wondered if I had been scammed, as it seemed like a name you’d remember. Ha. I needn’t have worried as I saw a man with a bike standing outside the terminal area, scanning the crowd. Sure enough, it was my guide Richard. I quickly discovered I was the only person on the tour. Sweet! We walked a bit to get to the other (my) bike and ran into a bunch of wild cockatoos.
It looked like we were going to have rain for the next day or two, which was actually OK with me. Even though the river cruise didn’t involve any walking, I’d more than made up for it all the days previously, and I felt like I was fighting something off and had a bit of a sore throat. I decided to rest and have an easy morning, then do the Hermitage Foreshore Walk, which was labelled as ‘easy’, during the forecasted break between rain showers in the afternoon. Relaxing felt so good! My body most certainly needed it. I eventually downloaded my route to my phone, just in case I lost my signal, and ventured out to find the bus I would need. Remember how before I said I actually had a good sense of direction in Australia? Well, my jet lag seemed to be gone, and thus I was back to don’t-know-where-she’s-going Neeners. Ah well, it was good while it lasted. I wandered around for a bit and eventually found the bus stop. Again, the buses do not have the stops listed anywhere on them. Thank goodness for smart phones.
The bus ride was uneventful, except for the stop where the driver turned off the bus and left. For a hot second I didn’t know what was going on. Strike? Why is everyone still on the bus? Last stop? Bus-napping? Yes, my mind can come up with a lot of different bad scenarios in a hot second. Turns out it was simply two drivers switching buses. Not sure why they switched, but the new driver was easier on the brakes so it was all good to me. The ride continued without issue.
I got off at my stop and saw this sign:
No problem, but I remember thinking, “OK, this obviously is going to involve some stairs.” I was right.
I had read about The Riverboat Postman Cruise about an hour north of Sydney via train on tripadvisor. I wanted to do a tour that was a little off the beaten path, as I’d have 10 whole work days alone to see the sites of Sydney. This definitely fit the bill. They describe the tour as such:
Come cruising with us on the Hawkesbury Mail Boat, the famous Riverboat Postman, and enjoy the magnificent scenery of the lower Hawkesbury River as we deliver the mail and other essentials (the odd bottle of whiskey or rum…) to the river-access-only settlements upriver from Brooklyn.
When I called to see if there was availability the woman asked me if I was OK with stairs and she explained there were 100 (up and down) to cross over from the train stop to where the boat took off in Brooklyn. I laughed at the piddly 100 step number and told her it was a drop in the bucket compared to the Coogee to Bondi walk. She asked if there were pensioners going. I told her it depended on what you considered a pensioner, and I shared my age with her. She said I was, “still young”. I thanked her for the compliment! It wasn’t until I got to the actual boat for the trip that I understood that comment. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself, as usual.
The top tourist attraction is the bridge climb in Sydney. It’s where they strap you in a safety harness and connect you to cables so you don’t die if you fall. It’s where you walk up a narrow walkway and go up about a gazillion stairs to get to the top. It’s where it’s super windy because you are very, very high and on a bridge, dinkus. It’s where you can’t even take your own camera, because if you drop it you’ll probably kill the people below you. Or something. A few of our friends told us it was a “must do!”. These friends obviously don’t understand how afraid of heights I am. The fact that it costs $200 USD to do it is just the icing on top of a horrible cake. I’m afraid of heights, and I like my life, so no bueno. I don’t need to pee my pants in front of total strangers. Or have a heart attack. You can, however, walk the bridge at the pedestrian/car level and still have great views. And it’s free! So we decided to do that instead.
We woke up to a sunny day after our 9.5 hours of sleep. We still woke up when it was dark, because we went to bed at 7:30 p.m. like centenarians. We found a little French cafe near the hotel for breakfast and it was the first time I’d ever had a chocolate croissants right out of the oven. Game changer. Apparently the chef had started baking later than normal, so I was the benefactor. Very lucky because it was oh so good. We finished eating and went to pay and the woman asked us what our plans were for the day. Like I said before: these people are genuinely friendly. She said if we return to the restaurant she wanted to hear what our favorite things were that we did. So she was friendly AND smart, luring us back into her establishment for a chat about Sydney’s best attractions. Madam, you already had a guaranteed repeat customer at ‘warm chocolate croissant’. We headed out and made it maybe four blocks before stopping for more caffeine (for the walk) and a snack. Hey, we still weren’t working at 100%, so…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
We stopped at a little park on the way, as I kept spilling my tea trying to walk and drink at the same time. No comments on that one, please. Anyway, at the park look who showed up:
I tried to shoo him away, but he noticed I was eating. Then I made the brilliant decision to give him a tiny bit of my treat. Real smart. And by ‘real smart’ I mean ‘real dumb’. He started following me. Did I mention these guys aren’t exactly tiny, and they are aesthetically challenged? I started high-tailing it out of there (pun intended). Sal helpfully laughed and took a pic.
As you can probably guess, we left after this incident. We made our way to the stairs to get to the pedestrian walkway for the bridge.