Australia: A two week journey through the Land Down Under

I can’t believe it’s already March! I think the first part of the year went by so fast because of the winter break and then 6 short weeks later, we had our Chinese New Year break. Last year we only had a week, but this year we got two weeks!

We resisted the temptation to go back to Munich, and planned an epic journey through Western and Southern Australia. It took lots of planning and organizing and I was excited to take our journey. We started out in Perth, then a lightening trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock), then Melbourne, and finally Adelaide and the surrounding area. It was a LOT of travel, but in the end I think it was worth it.

stamp

Perth was a good place to start. The flight there is short from here, 3 hours to Singapore, then 5 to Perth. We arrived the evening before a big event, it was the last day of a festival that included the Giants that travel around the world. (For more info…check it out: https://2015.perthfestival.com.au/Whats-on-by-Genre/The-Giants) So when we woke up to explore the city, we found it was packed with people. We enjoyed a big Western breakfast and headed out to see some sights. We had heard great things about a nearby town called Fremantle, so we made our way down to the ferry desk and bought tickets to go. The ferry didn’t leave for an hour so we enjoyed the warm, sunny weather chasing pigeons and lounging in the park. The ferry ride was about an hour down the river to Fremantle. When we arrived, we wandered through the old town streets until we found another park. We took Paul on the ferris wheel there, and while we were up in the air, noticed the brewery we were trying to find. Little Creatures is the name of the brewery, and we went there as soon as we were done towering in the air. It was a perfect brewery for families. The breeze kept us cool as we sat on the patio and watched Paul play in the enormous sand box. The beer was delicious, and in short, it was perfect. We were sad to go, but we wanted to get back before it got too chilly. We took the train back and got a little lost on the way back to the hotel, but it was fun to see more of Perth. We slept in the next day and enjoyed a late breakfast before packing up and heading to the airport for our next leg of the journey-Uluru.

family
Playing in the park.
park
Running through the park!
ferry ride
Ferry to Fremantle
giants
The Giants headed out of town.
fremantle ferris
Fremantle Ferris Wheel!
fremantle
Walking the streets of Fremantle
little c
All smiles at Little Creatures
sand box
Playing in the sand at Little Creatures.

We had a long journey to get to Uluru, we left Perth in the afternoon, and arrived in Melbourne in the middle of the night. Slept a few hours, then went back to the airport to catch a plane to the outback. You can see Uluru from the airplane as you arrive. It’s in the middle of a vast red desert, with brush and sand as far as the eye can see. It’s an impressive monumental rock sticking out of the sand. It’s a sandstone, and geologists say that most of it actually lies underground. We exited the airplane into the tiny airport (smaller than Puerto Escondido!) and you can see it looming afar. There is nothing out there except one resort, they have the monopoly on all the lodging, food and transport to the rock (if you don’t have your own). The resort is divided into sections, and we were staying at the Outback Pioneer Lodge, which was a cross between a summer camp and a hostel. Our room was private, with our own bathroom, but it resembled a cabin that you would stay in at a YMCA camp.

Our room! Paul loved the bunks.
Our room! Paul loved the bunks.
The walk to our room at the Lodge
The walk to our room at the Lodge

The grounds themselves were pretty cool, you could picnic in the common area, swim in the pool, and wander around the property to see different views of Uluru. It’s pretty cool, except for the crazy aggressive flies that follow you everywhere buzzing around your face and biting you…lol. We checked in, got settled, went for a quick swim and ate before heading out for a sunset viewing of the monolith. It is supposed to change to a deep red-orange at sunset, but it was cloudy that evening, and the color change wasn’t so impressive. We took a drive around the massive rock and I was impressed. We tried to do some family pics with the rock up close, but the flies were too miserable. After a few hours of viewing, we headed back and settled into our bunk beds for the night. The next day, we were chauffeured back to the airport where we made the journey back to Melbourne. It was a very quick, very expensive trip to see Uluru, but I’m glad we did. It’s really an amazing natural wonder.

How many pics can you take of a giant rock in the desert? A MILLION! Here’s a few:

Too cool for school.
Too cool for school.
Up close it's not as red looking.
Up close it’s not as red looking.
More Uluru
More Uluru
Sunset viewing of Uluru
Sunset viewing of Uluru
Hanging out in the Cantina.
Hanging out in the Cantina.
I have the rock on my hand!
I have the rock on my hand!

We arrived in Melbourne in the afternoon, rented a car and then set out to find our hotel without an address and a very limited map. It was tricky without GPS and driving on the left side of the road, but eventually we found parking and checked into the gorgeous Intercontinental Melbourne Rialto. We were pretty hungry and thirsty, so we set about navigating to a brew pub (James Squire in the Portland Hotel) on foot. It wasn’t too far away, but it was crowded and I didn’t really see any other kids in sight. We decided after a couple of very expensive beers, we were better off picking up some food from a grocery store and eating back at the room. Unfortunately, the area of town we were in had limited options for groceries and Paul was quickly wearing out. A convenience store had enough of what we needed so we headed back to the hotel feeling slightly defeated. The next day we stayed in. Donnie had school work, and I wasn’t feeling up to navigating the left hand streets in traffic. We did make a grocery store run to stock up for our next location. It was like walking into an enormous, clean, empty HEB. We made it last as long as possible. 🙂 The next day we moved to an apartment in the St. Kilda area and it was a good change. We had a patio that overlooked the main drag, it was a five minute walk from the beach, and had a grill. We don’t eat much meat here in China, and I rarely eat red meat anywhere, but a couple of steaks, cheap bottles Sav Blancs, asparagus, a Greek salad and homemade mashed potatoes made for some good eating and happy Hales. We had it two nights in a row and again later on in the trip. It felt good to have control of cooking again. 😉 Our time in St. Kilda was short, Paul and I made the best of it, going to the windy beach twice in our day and a half stay.

I have to say, Melbourne is a beautiful, bustling city, but was very overwhelming. I might go back with someone who knew where to go and how to use the public transit and stay in a more kid-friendly place. It’s definitely worth a visit, but I had more fun on the last leg of our journey.

The street we stayed on in St. Kilda
The street we stayed on in St. Kilda
Our favorite summer salad!
Our favorite summer salad!
Love this kid.
Love this kid.
Hmmm. Home cooked and so good.
Hmmm. Home cooked and so good.
Donnie misses his grill.
Donnie misses his grill.
St. Kilda Beach
St. Kilda Beach
Pretty summer day in the sun.
Pretty summer day in the sun.

After an sunrise flight from Melbourne to Adelaide, we took a cab to our next hotel, the Intercontinental Adelaide. It was in a great location right next to the buses, trams and main train station, so we opted not to rent a car. We arrived at the hotel early enough to catch breakfast and I made my boys resist the urge to veg out in our nice suite for the whole day and we hopped on a train to Port Adelaide.

It wasn’t far, but it was very hot when we got off the train, but after a bit of walking we perked up when we saw the Railway Museum sign. This was right up his alley and he was super excited. They had a big shed with all kinds of old locomotives. We were able to climb in them, walk through the cars and read about the history of the trains. Paul was most excited about getting to ride on a real miniature “steamie” train that looked like Thomas the Tank Engine. It was a blast, but the museum wasn’t air conditioned so we couldn’t stay too long. We made a stop at the grocery store on the way back to our train for refreshments then relaxed in the room for the rest of the day. Our second day in Adelaide was a relaxation day. Donnie did homework, I watched the Oscars and Paul played the day away with trains and in the bathtub. We didn’t leave the hotel, but it was still a good day.

Jumping for joy!
Jumping for joy!
This one reminds me of Chuggington
This one reminds me of Chuggington
Paul traveled back in time for this pic.
Paul traveled back in time for this pic.
Happy with his trains.
Happy with his trains.
Bub, a real steamie, just like Thomas!
Bub, a real steamie, just like Thomas!

The next day, refreshed from our day inside, we planned a trip out to Cleland Wildlife Park. It’s just outside the city, but you can take a bus the whole way there. So we fueled up with breakfast and caught the bus. Unfortunately we didn’t read the schedule that well, so we arrived at the next bus stop with an hour to wait for the next bus. Luckily, there were some short nature trails near by, so we took a wander through the hills and made it back in time to catch our bus packed with Japanese tourists. When we finally arrived at the Wildlife park, we were happy to see how spread out it was, and how much access you had to all the animals. We got to pet a koala, feed kangaroos, run around with emus, and seek out the wallabies. It was great fun! After a long day in the sun, we headed back to pack up for our last part of the trip.

Nature hike before we made it to the park.
Nature hike before we made it to the park.
We loved Brownie the Koala, but I'm not sure she loved us...
We loved Brownie the Koala, but I’m not sure she loved us…
Paul loved it.
Paul loved it.
The kangaroos were generally friendly.
The kangaroos were generally friendly.
Beware of these animals.
Beware of these animals.

The next day, we rented a truck and drove about an hour outside the city to the Barossa Wine Valley. Our first stop was a small town to rent some bicycles to ride the next day. It took a while to get that taken care of, but soon enough we were driving up a dirt road to a miner’s cottage we had rented for the next two nights. The property was beautiful. The cottage was super cute, with an attached bathroom and an attached living area with kitchen. Paul loved running around the property, watching the dog chase the cat and get into trouble. 🙂 We did some cooking, and fell asleep happy under a sky full of stars. We woke up early and loaded up the bikes to drive back down the road for a good place to start our bike tour of the valley. They have really nice bike paths connecting all the major wineries through the beautiful countryside. We hooked up Paul’s trailer to my bike and off we went. We rode for a while before stopping at Jacob’s Creek winery. It was so laid back, with a corner of toys for Paul and a big open field to play, while Donnie and I tasted the wares. Barossa is known for it’s Shiraz, but it was such a hot day, we were more into the cold whites. We tasted a few then bought a bottle to enjoy on the lawn. The hills got pretty steep after that stop, so after about 30 minutes of further riding, we turned back and stopped at Lou Miranda for some food, wine and Paul took a short nap. With sore legs, we traveled back to our starting point, and returned our bikes. Actually, Donnie enjoyed his so much, we packed it up and brought it home with us for his daily 20 miles of riding. Our last night was short, cooking, packing and sleeping, up early to catch our long flight home.

A view of the cottage.
A view of the cottage.
This was the road to our cottage, and yes, we did see kangas crossing.
This was the road to our cottage, and yes, we did see kangas crossing.
One part of the yard at the miner's cottage.
One part of the yard at the miner’s cottage.
The Barossa Wine Valley is known for it's Shiraz, so  it was an easy choice for what to try.
The Barossa Wine Valley is known for it’s Shiraz, so it was an easy choice for what to try.
Taking a break from riding.
Taking a break from riding.
Jacob's Creek was my favorite.
Jacob’s Creek was my favorite.
Beautiful view, rough hills.
Beautiful view, rough hills.
Paul had fun in his trailer, regardless of his face in this pic. :)
Paul had fun in his trailer, regardless of his face in this pic. 🙂

I really liked Australia. It was vast, and friendly, but also expensive and tricky at times. It was so similar to places I’ve been in the States, that it made me a little homesick. It was an adventure to remember and I’m glad we went, but there were definitely times Munich popped into our heads. 😉 I would definitely recommend traveling there, especially if you live on this side of the world. There’s good food, good people and beautiful land. It’s hard to readjust to our crowded Chinese city, but we are, slowly.

Much love to all. J

SIDENOTE: My phone was lost on our way back to China from HK. It disappeared while we were loading into a taxi, I fear it was left in a cab we got into, but were forced out of. 😦 I lost all of Adelaide’s pics except what I posted on FB, so that’s why this collection is limited. I’m bummed because that was my favorite and the most beautiful part of the trip. Oh well, Cest la vie, at least I have some.

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