It’s been almost two full months since we came back from Australia, but emotions are still not settled down. We made more than 4000 photos on the way, and it is pretty hard to select substantial amount for blog. I’ve reduced the number to around 350 now, but I guess it’s still too much. πŸ™‚

But, I’ll try to tell you exactly how things were happening during those two – three weeks. OK? Let’s start then!

To understand what a trip to Australia meant to me, I have to give you a short intro. Somewhere back in 199x there was a remote chance that we could visit Australia, since my uncle lives there with his family. As soon as I’ve heard “Australia”, that was it, I was there. Unfortunately, that never happened. Later when I got a bit older and was on studies and Internet appeared in our lives, I went to check if I can finish my university in Australia. I’ve noticed that there are good universities in Geelong and I was trying to see if there is a chance to get there, but it all looked impossible and expensive. I gave up reading about it and kinda postponed my plans to visit Australia. Then, some 5-6 years later I started working in Dubrovnik, and had a phenomenal starting month. One weekend I was in Dubrovnik, the other back home in Umag, third one in Boston (USA), and forth one in Basel (Switzerland). I told my friend back then – out of fun, I’ll go to Melbourne, just for two days, just for a weekend to have a coffee and will come back.

I even started planing my weekend in Australia, but than some smart people told me that Australia is so gorgeous that going there for a weekend is a sin and an insult to Australia. I did listen to them, and I’ve postponed my trip. So it’s not that Australia was just one of destinations for me, it was “The Destination”.

So time flew away, years passed by, flood ruined my budget and world crisis came straight after it. Fast forward in 2013, we are on farewell barbecue with my uncle and my aunt in Ivoli (small village in Istra where my mum and uncle are from). It’s a special farewell as they are finishing their vacations in Croatia and just a day or two later we are moving to Dublin. My uncle invites us and I said something like – well I’m not moving out from home not to travel again, I’m doing it as I need to travel so don’t be surprised if we come.

Seven months later my cousin and I talked on Skype and she told me that her brother is getting married. I was not postponing my dream any more. Dina told me as soon as we finished the Skype chat “I can see it in your eyes, you know we just started saving money, we just bought all necessities and it will be hard and expensive but you already made a decision and what ever I tell you will be useless. Go ahead see if we can finance it.” Five days later tickets were purchased, and everything was planned, visas, accommodation outside of Melbourne and a strict budget to be followed for the next months.

Fast forward, four months later the week when our trip is happening has arrived. I guess my adrenaline level was somewhere on about 200% as I was not able to sleep, think or focus for the last four days before the trip. The official anthem became the “Man At Work – Down Under”. It was in the loop at work at home and in my mind. I did not need a radio. πŸ™‚ Then finally, the moment has arrived, bags were checked in and we boarded the Etihad EY0048 to Abu Dhabi! I was so excited when we sat in the airplane that I pushed really hard to suppress tears. Finally! Australia! πŸ™‚

Well, in about 30 hours… πŸ™‚

Flight

01_Etihad_Tickets

And there’s no better way to start our 30 hours long trip than to drink Fosters and enjoy some football.

02_Fosters_And_Football

With a bit of sleep, some food and walking around the airplane we finally arrived to Abu Dhabi. It was pretty dusty that day, and we did not see much of the city from the airplane. I did however notice the Ferrari world as we flew just above it, and I was impressed with this building that I called “Burj Al Arab”. Well, I am well aware that Burj is in Dubai but this looked like it. I guess it’s just a control tower or something like that.

03_Abu_Dhabi

Airport is among smallest I’ve ever seen and I was quite surprised with it. All waiting rooms and all hallways are pretty narrow so wherever you try to move it’s crowded and packed. Luckily we were tired enough and had short 3 hours overlay so it passed quickly.

04_Abu_Dhabi_Airport

I bought expensive camel’s milk made chocolate as I needed to try it. I guess camel’s milk is salty, as there is no other explanation why this chocolate would taste as it tastes. It was not bad, but for that price you can get nice set of pralines in Belgium or in Switzerland. πŸ™‚

(€9.99 / 100 grams)

06_Abu_Dhabi_Camel_Chocolate

When we continued toward Singapore I was surprised with the organization and planning that is visible in Abu Dhabi. Whole sections of future city are already there, roads are made it just waits for buildings to be built. Incredible. In the desert, in such harsh climate.

05_Abu_Dhabi

Excitement, night, sleeping and “Lucy” were enough to make the first flight end faster, but I could not sleep during the second one. That one took again 7 hours 30 minutes, so I had to do something. I watched football, played football games and watched “Maleficent”.

Around lunch time we were entering Indian airspace and pilot announced that there is a chance of slight turbulence. Well, turbulence was so “light” that I caught a glass of wine when it flew off my table. πŸ™‚ Luckily, not a single drop was spilled. πŸ™‚

We finally landed to Singapore airport, but as we were late and everything was delayed we had less than hour to get out of the plane, pass the security again, and board the plane. We managed to check in on the Foursquare and take photo there.

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And we were in the air again, third time on our third flight. Again it was around eight hours. πŸ™‚ On the third flight I finally managed to focus on a black and white movie, just because my wife teased me and said that I’m probably the only one who never watched “Psycho”. Well, I did now! πŸ™‚

(I love B&W photos, I don’t like B&W movies!)

07_Psycho

And finally, after another eight hours we landed to Brisbane! I was worried because we had only three hours to pass the security screening, and as I already experienced four hours on US screening, four hours on Israeli screening and some hours on UK screening that could be short.

When we picked up our luggage it was marked with “Hot transfer”, so we were treated a bit faster than the others and as soon as Bobi (black young labrador) said that we are not caring any drugs and food we were free to run. We got free transport from international to national Brisbane airport.

09_Brisbane

It was around 35 degrees Celsius outside and as soon as we were outside of the first airport nature looked different, especially due to gorgeous purple trees that were all around the airport.

10_Brisbane_Purple_Trees

We managed to pass another security screening and even have a coffee on the Brisbane national airport. I’ve seen “Vienna” coffee on the price list so I decided to try it. When I got it I figured out that it’s exactly the same what we call “Coffee with whipped cream”. πŸ™‚ Was good though!

Fourth and final flight for that day was from Brisbane to Melbourne. My family was there, waiting for us, and as soon as we landed we celebrated our arrival with local Crown beer, and then we went to an hour ride to their home to Melton.

When we landed in Melbourne it was around 16 degrees (20 less than in Brisbane), and that evening in Melton it was around 6 degrees. We kinda did not expect that as we started our trip from warm late autumn in Dublin and we expected hot late spring or early summer in Australia, but obviously climate can be even weirder than Irish weather. πŸ™‚

11_Melton

Tired and exhausted we went to bed around 10PM and we expected that with such tiredness we will be able to sleep, but Jet-Lag kicked in somewhere around 2 AM.

Both of us awake… We managed to fall asleep again around 6AM than we had to get up around 8AM.

Melton and Daylesford

We experienced our first “cultural shock” early in the morning when we got a pack of sunscreen to apply. Sun is very strong in Australia, we all know that, but not that sunscreen packages are big like this. πŸ™‚

16_Sunscreen_Family_Pack

Well fed with Vegimite and with sunscreen applied we were ready for exploration of this gorgeous continent!

15_Feeling_Like_Home

Our first destination was Istrian Smallgoods, local Istrian shop not far away from Daylesford. Well, since my cousin was getting married, we needed to organize some local food for guests.

It was a nice spring day, around 25 degrees, and on the way to Daylesford I’ve noticed an interesting sign. A fire prediction sign that warns people driving around if there is a chance of fire. Since day before our arrival it was raining heavily and soil was still damp there was no danger for fire.

12_Fire_Alarm_Australia

On the way we’ve noticed many caravans and trailers as this is the best way to explore this large continent. This green one was exceptional because it was Volkswagen, I love it and it has a cool plate “YIMHOT” – “Why I’m Hot”. πŸ™‚ Besides, It’s the same as I have as a key chain.

13_Why_Im_Hot

And when we arrived in front of the Istrian shop an older lady arrived with this small Lotus. The weird feeling that everyone in Australia is filthy rich comparing to us Europeans started here. Lot of expensive cars can be seen on the road and all the houses seem huge comparing to European ones.

17_Dalesfort_Lotus

Inside Istrian Smallgoods, like you were just teleported back to anΒ Istrian shop 50 years back. Only ex Yugoslavian products with some Italian prosciutto. πŸ˜‰

Old lady from Labin moved 60 years back from Istra to Australia. 60 years! She was happy to see locals and asked a bit about home, but since her whole family is there, and they all speak English, I guess she was the only one who did not show any kind of “home sick”. However we got free Australian-Istrian prosciutto for brunch as a welcome gift. Thank you once again Lady from Labin. (I forgot herΒ name, sorry for that).

18_Istra_SmallGoods_Inside

We than moved to nearby Daylesford in the park where Hepburn Springs are. It’s a touristy place where locals are coming in the summer time for picnics to enjoy the nature and drink sulphur water.

20_1_Picnic_In_Dalesford

We did all of that and we really enjoyed the weather and the nature. First thing that you notice in Australia is that trees and nature are of different green shade than our forests here in Europe. Lot of eucalyptus trees with crust pealed off the tree and small weird green leaves are dominant everywhere. I was fascinated with them and I guess 30% of all photos we have are photos of lovely forests, but I will not bother you with it. πŸ™‚

20_Hepburn_Springs_Dalesford

After a shopping and a walk we came back home for late lunch, barbie off course. In the meantime my uncle took me around Melton to see some construction sites since he is building houses around there. It was quite interesting since it seems that a house can be built within two months in Australia, all you need is money and good will. Walls and construction are all made of wood or artificial materials, and there are special techniques how to build strong houses in the windy areas.

20_2_Construciton_Site_in_Melton

We had a dinner and then went to sleep, since next day our big adventure continues on Tasmania.

Jet lag kicked in again. We were awake from 3-7. Not only jet lag kept me awake that night but one little fact that was bugging me since we landed to Brisbane. Back then Dina asked me “Did you pack your international driving license?”. Since our entire plan for Tasmania was based on a rented car and us driving around and all information available on-line says that you need it to get a car I could not stop worrying and feeling bad. What if we have to catch a bus, what if we miss Bonorong and our accommodations organized via AirBnB? To make it worse our second place to stay is on the farm 20km outside of the city and I’m quite sure we will not catch a bus to get there.

Tasmania (finally)

Even more than Australia itself I wanted to set foot on Tasmania.

Why Tasmania? It was because of the movie “Young Einstein”. In the begging of the plot in one of Tasmanian orchards where young Einstein sits under the apple tree and apple falls, hits him in the head and he figures out how to deal with fusion or something like that. That crazy childish comedy and lovely Tasmanian scenery in it generated a curiosity and I wanted to know more about Tasmania and I decided to go there one day. Since we are in Australia, it seemed as a perfect moment to finally visit Tasmania. πŸ™‚

We woke up early as we were catching first morning flight with Jet Star towards Hobart. Gorgeous morning and lovely colours on the way to the airport.

21_Magic_Morning_On_The_Way_For_Tasmania

As we approached Tasmania it already looked different from the air. It was much greener and much more “European” like. I said at that point that it looks like “Ireland of the south”. I hope both Tasmanian and Irish readers won’t get offended but as you’ll see there are great similarities between the two.

22_Tasmania_From_The_Air_1

As we were approaching Hobart we figured out that the mountain peaks are covered with snow. Weird, as we expected summer, right?

22_Tasmania_From_The_Air_2

Well, It was nice and sunny but very windy when we landed in Hobart.

When we arrived into the car rental I was shaking but I played it cool.

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Luckily car was bookedΒ and issued without any problems on a Croatian driving license and our Tasman adventure was about to start and I was finally worry free! πŸ™‚ (And you can see that. πŸ™‚ )

24_1_Car_Rental_successfull

On our way to Swansea we wereΒ both tired, jet lagged and excited, everything that we can see around us is “OMG look at this” and “OMG look at that”. Every bridge across the estuary, every naked gum tree, turquoise ocean on the side. After twenty minutes we stopped on our first Tasmanian beach to take a few photos. Wind was strong almost like whole last winter (December 2013 and January 2014) in Ireland, except that it was not freezing one but still unpleasant. Beach is however gorgeous and nothing could make it look bad. Golden sand extending to never end and lonely warm local hunter is walking his dogs. One is older working dog well trained and avoids strangers but a few months old son is playful and refuses to leave. He wanted to stay with Dina, of course. πŸ™‚

24_2_Dog_On_The_Beach

As we drive a lot of gorgeous scenery exchanges with lot of roadwork and after two hours we are in Swansea. As I’m parking on the road I am worried where to pay the parking and with a corner of my eye I notice that there’s a tourist info point. As lady working here explains us that there’s not much to see if we don’t plan to ride a bit more we plan to eat here and then continue. Oh yes, she is telling us that parking is paid only in the cities, meaning in Hobart and Launceston and that we are good to park anywhere. There’s a free Wi-Fi in the whole town and apparently best oysters on the whole island.

After oysters and great local wine we had a quick an cold photo shooting as wind was even stronger here. Well vented we continued our way to Launceston. On the way one of us overpowered by jet lag fell asleep while other droveΒ us through the gorgeous eucalyptus forest and fields of sheep. Driving around the island it looks like there are even more sheep on Tasmania than in Ireland. I’ve never seen so many sheep on one place.

An hour later here we are in the centre of Launceston searching for a way to Cataract Gorge.

Launceston looks like a film set, at least to us Europeans. One to two stories high houses mostly made of wood and every now and then a few small red brick made houses. Like someone did a temporary camp but then decided to stay. We found our way towards Cataract Gorge and after a few curves and some uphill and some downhill ride we parked on a small parking that can accommodate 10 cars max. From here we hear weird noise andΒ theΒ river. In front of us stairs taking us down like we are descending to Pazinska cave. Two minutes later when we turned left and than right between two huge gum trees and a huge colourful bush we can see it all. Tamar river and it’s small but powerful waterfalls making pleasant noise overpowered by the screaming noise of a few peacocks wondering around. As we descend the stairs there’s just nature around us.

24_Selfies_In_Cataract_Gorge

Lake, river, birds, wallabies, black swans, peacocks and cockatoos. And tourists taking weird selfies! πŸ™‚

We walked around for about two hours enjoying the view from the bottom and the top as well. Yep, there’s a longest chairlift above the Gorge where we could see all the beauty, first passing through the natural colourful tunnel and then hanging far above where your feet can’t touch the ground. πŸ™‚ (Yeah I got hooked to mr.Probz and his song Waves, where first verse says “my head is above the water, my feat can’t touch the ground, touch the ground” which came naturally in this particular moment. πŸ™‚ )

After the day walk around this beautiful nature park, we walked back to our car and went to meat our tonight’s host – Katie. She hosted us in her gorgeous home, and gave us excellent tips what to see and where to dine in the city centre.

25_Alexandra_Bridge_Cataract_Gorge

We slept a bit longer, so we had no chance to say goodbye to Katie, but we left each other notes. πŸ™‚

26_Katie_s_E_Mail

Katie was really a great host, so if you plan to visit Launceston, drop me an e-mail, I’ll give you the AirBnB link. πŸ™‚

That morning we had around three hours to explore the city centre and find a breakfast. Quick as usual, we’ve seen the centre of Launceston, we walked through the city park, and we finally decided to make some selfies. Even though for this one I could just get out of the apartment in Dublin, I like this photo a lot. Trust me, it was made in the Launceston City Park. Beautiful park in the heart of Launceston which development started back in 1807!

27_Selfie_In_Launceston_City_Park

After our exploration of Launceston, it was time to move on. Wild and endangered animals were waiting for us, and we had to feed them all! Next destination was Bonorong which is located a bit less than two hours drive south of Launceston.

On the way we had to take some photos. πŸ™‚

28_Selfie_In_The_Car

And since we are on Tasmania, we had to buy some apples. I’ve mentioned the apples, right? πŸ™‚ Keep on reading! πŸ™‚

29_Tasmanian_Apples

So, we arrived 10 minutes earlier than planned in Bonorong (a wildlife sanctuary), and since weather was terrible we were hiding under the reception shack, waiting for our tour to start. Luckily, during these 10 minutes strong winds blew the rainy clouds away, and we had almost three amazing hours, with a private guide learning about endangered Australian animals. We’ve learned about wombats, Tasmanian devils, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, different types of quails, several different kinds of birds and one of four most poisonous snakes in the world. Unfortunately it was too cold for the snake to come out, so we were not able to see it.

You can see the photos from Bonorong on my photo post from Tasmania.

Later that afternoon we went to Hobart where we wondered through the city centre and had a dinner in lovely Salamanca area of the city.

31_Hobart_Salamanca

On the way there and back we crossed this stunning bridge, and just later when we got back I’ve learned that back in 1975 bridge was rebuilt after the terrible disaster when a ship travelling up the River hit several pylons and caused parts of the old bridge to collapse. The ship sank killing 12 people in total.

30_Hobart_Bridge

We stayed in a lovely cabin outside of Hobart in the nature (more or less) but unfortunately we were not able to meat all our hosts. We’ve meet Paul’s wife and kids just shortly when we were on ourΒ way to dinner.

Anyway, it was a perfect place to stay, surrounded by nature and silence and on our way back after dinner the area around the road and neighbouring houses was full of rabbits and wallabies. :))

Next morning we left our lovely cabin and headed toward south to visit the most well known place on Tasmania – Port Arthur. Port Arthur was a jail for a long time far away from Australia and Europe, for many of prisoners it was the end of their journey on this world. Back in 1833 and till the 1853 it was the jail for hardest convicted British criminals. Since it was at the end of the world it was considered as inescapable prison at that time. It was closed and for sale back in 1872.

It became Tasmanian most visited tourist site and it is listed as UNESCO world heritage. Unfortunately in 1996 it was a place of mass murder where a local guy killed 35 people.

33_Port_Arthur

Site contains buildings and layout as it was back in 18xx. Prison was organized as a small town with local church, hospital, asylum, many manufacturing facilities and such.

Even though it is a place of many sad stories it is a modern open museum today, with beautiful parks and meadows where you can walk or run. πŸ™‚

32_Dina_Running_Free

And since some buildings are renovated completely I had to take a photo of one of the governors rooms, as I would bet that at least one of the governors was Croatian. :))

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After a few hours spent on the Port Arthur site, we drove back to Hobart and on the top of Mt. Wellington. On the way we had a little accident. πŸ™‚ Since I still did not sharpen all my skills left (correct) lane driving when I had to change the lane in Hobart centre instead of turning on indicators, I’ve turned on my wind shield wipers. I did stop and let one car go, but then the guy behind us got so frustrated and nervous that I could see his big fat middle finger in my rear view mirror. πŸ™‚

He was then on our tail for next 10 minutes, and our gas reserve was quite low. However, I really did not feel like stopping since we had exactly one hour to drive to the peak of Mt. Wellington and than back to the airport, so I kept driving. In the end, when we arrived to the place that navigation stated as a peak, we needed 20 more kilometres to reach the real peak. At that point I was not sure that we can make it, but I counted that on the way back I don’t need the gas. :))

34_Mt_Wellington_Hobart_Tasmania

So, we reached the top and luckily I was right, so on the way back we managed to catch first possible gas station, refill and drive back to the airport. Our Tasmanian adventure stopped there, and so will this first part of the story.

However, before I conclude this post….

35_Apple_On_Tasmania

This is why I wanted to go to Tasmania! πŸ™‚ To have an apple at the end of the world! πŸ™‚

Now when I had it, I’ve figured out that I want longer vacations on Tasmania.

I knew before we went there that I’ll like it, but I can say that it’s one of the best places I’ve ever been so far.

With hope that at least one of you will read all this I’ll put “to be continued” here.

Till the next post

Love

Balky

By adminko

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