A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Category — Australia

Our Time in Australia


Our six weeks in Australia were fun, relaxing and just what the doctor ordered as we approached the halfway point of our trip.  Our country report, including what we did and what we recommend, is here.

January 30, 2009   1 Comment

Down Under

If you were old enough to listen to the radio in the 1980s, you’ll remember the distinctive reggae-influenced opening of Men at Work’s only U.S. #1 hit “Down Under.”

Australia may be the only country where the song remains in regular rotation on top-rated radio stations.  (Believe it or not, Men at Work played the song to close the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.)

Now, if I can just find my Little River Band album…

January 28, 2009   5 Comments

If It Doesn’t Kill You


A friend tells this story.

On her honeymoon, she was snorkeling with her new husband along the Great Barrier Reef.  Something in the water stung her, but she didn’t see what it was.

She swam back to the boat and told the captain what had happened.  He said: “Not much we can do about it.  Why don’t you climb in the boat and have a beer.  In about half an hour we’ll know whether or not you were stung by something deadly.”

So understated.  So Australian.

Here is an unavoidable fact: There are more things on the Australian continent that can kill you than anywhere else on earth.

There are the big obvious things, like crocodiles.  Seems every year at least one unfortunate tourist does something stupid and gets himself (or herself) eaten.

Not going to crocodile territory?  Don’t get complacent. There are dozens of other things that can kill you, things that you never see coming.

Consider the female red-backed funnel web spider.  If a bite is not quickly treated with anti-venom, the likely result is a very painful death — or worse.

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January 26, 2009   2 Comments

Halfway Home


About the time we left home last July, the Family Trippers (Ian, Anne, Rory and Roonagh) set out from the east coast of Scotland to travel the world.

I discovered their blog shortly before we left home, and have followed them closely ever since.

Our route took us south, then west. Theirs took them south, then east. Six months later our paths crossed in Sydney, Australia.

Ian noted: “It’s quite amazing really, to think that in July both families set off to travel round the world, and six months later here we are, halfway home.”

It’s a little odd meeting someone whose blog you’ve read for a while. I recognized them immediately, and instantly felt like I was spending the day with friends we hadn’t seen in a while.

During our afternoon together Ian and Anne prepped us for Asia, sharing tips and recommendations. We feel a lot more comfortable heading into the unknown with the map they provided us.

One of the unexpected pleasures of planning then taking a trip around the world has been the wonderful families we have met and the new friends we have made (in person and online).

Before we parted, I shared with Ian an idea that’s been in the back of my mind for a while: To organize a gathering of families who’ve taken (or are planning) round the world trips.

Definitely something to think about.

January 23, 2009   6 Comments

ADIP: Bondi Beach, Sydney

A Day in Pictures
Bondi Beach, Sydney


Bondi Beach is a favorite destination for Sydneysiders of all ages. It’s located about four miles east of the city’s central business district. Though beautiful, Bondi can be dangerous for the inexperienced.

The northern end of the beach is considered gentle, but the the southern side is home to a famous rip current known as the “Backpackers’ Express” because of its proximity to the bus stop, and the unwillingness of many tourists to walk the length of the beach to safer swimming.


On 6 February 1938, 5 people drowned and over 250 were rescued after a series of large waves struck the beach and pulled people back into the sea. The day is still referred to as “Black Sunday”.


Bondi Bathers Surf Lifesaving Club is the world’s first surf lifesaving club, founded in 1907. The club holds most Australian Surf Lifesaving medals in Rescue and Resuscitation.

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January 21, 2009   Comments Off on ADIP: Bondi Beach, Sydney

Phantom of the Opera House


The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Almost immediately after its completion in 1973, the ground-breaking building became an icon for a city, a country, a continent.

On the day we arrived in Australia, Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect who conceived the Opera House, died in his sleep without ever having seen his completed masterpiece.

Forty years earlier Utzon had been humiliated by a discredited government Minister and run out of Australia, never to return.

Briefly, here’s what happened.

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January 19, 2009   2 Comments

The Coast Road


If you are going to take the coast road in Australia, most people do one of two things: Drive west from Melbourne along the The Great Ocean Road (considered one of the world’s great road trips), or drive north from Sydney to the Gold Coast (and some of the world’s best surf beaches).

Unfortunately we did neither.

We were in Melbourne and needed to be back in Sydney in a week, so we took the “road less traveled,” heading east on Route 1, following the Victoria / New South Wales coast.

The week got off to a strong start but as we approached Sydney, we spent the night in a series of increasingly disappointing towns. Chalk it up to poor planning on my part.

Our first stop was Phillip Island, about 135 kilometers east of Melbourne. Many people visit to experience the island’s grand prix track. We stopped for koalas and penguins.

During the day, the Koala Conservation Center provides visitors the opportunity to see koalas in the wild. Then at sunset, stadium seating is available to watch about 2000 “Little Penguins” parade ashore and return to their nests.


Little Penguin

The next day we traveled on to the town of Lakes Entrance, at the eastern boundary of 90 Mile Beach.  The sunsets and natural sand art were spectacular.



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January 16, 2009   2 Comments

ADIP: Melbourne, Australia

A Day in Pictures
Melbourne, Australia


In 1825 John Batman was sailing a skiff up the Yarra River when he hit a sandbar. Rather than admit his mistake, he announced to his crew that he had found the “ideal place for a village.”

And so Melbourne (say: Mel-bun) was born. Actually, Batman first named it Batmania (thankfully cooler heads prevailed and the name was later changed).


Today Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city – and many consider it the country’s best kept secret.

It is an impressive, cosmopolitan city with an active arts community, a fierce love of sports, and according to one recent report, 30% more restaurants than the city’s population can support.


Shopping is plentiful in the city’s central business district. Buskers provide entertainment along the Bourke Street Mall, a pedestrian shopping street. You haven’t really lived until you’ve heard techno-pop played on the didgeridoo.

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January 14, 2009   3 Comments

Time Travel


Getting off the plane in Alice Springs was like stepping back in time.  There was no jetway. We descended a set of stairs pulled close to the rear door of the plane, as in the early days of air travel.

We walked across a hot windy tarmac towards the terminal building.  Inside, I tried not to look too obvious as I searched faces for my childhood friend, Kara. She spotted me first and in a moment we were embracing.

Years and years, almost forty of them, melted away.  My first friend, my neighbor, my walking-to-school mate was here in the middle of Australia and at the airport to meet us.

At her home in town Kara and I took turns dusting off memories for comparison.  It’s strange how, for both of us, different moments have stuck and others have faded away.


She remembered that on the French Club bus ride to Montreal she accidentally gave me a black eye.  I remembered the trip and the bus – but not the injury.

We both remembered her sno-cone machine and the maple syrup that we’d pour over the top of the crushed ice, the first cold delicious bites giving way quickly to too much sweetness.

When we were teenagers, we’d used different maps to make our way through the emotional maze of high school. Now, as adults, we found ourselves in places that literally could not be further apart.

But the years and miles between us collapsed easily as we sat in the same room again piecing the memories together.

In hours of conversation, I was reminded how elusive memories can be.  The life we remember living can look very different from another’s perspective.

Sometimes, if you are lucky, a good friend who knew you well can bring clarity, perspective – and even forgiveness – to your life.

In the center of a far-off continent with Kara, laughing over shared times from the 1960s and 70s: It was a trip I’ll never forget.

Kara, Dani & Families

January 12, 2009   3 Comments



We caught our first fleeting glimpse of Uluru through sand dunes from a distance of about 30 kilometers.  Even at this distance, the world’s largest monolith is an arresting site.

But here’s the thing about Uluru:  The closer you get, the more amazing it becomes.

People familiar with the geologic formation once known as Ayers Rock have seen iconic photos of an enormous, smooth, half-dome red rock rising from the desert.

But come closer and you soon see that Uluru is not smooth at all.  It is weathered, worn, pock-marked – a series of boulders with grooves, cracks and crevices that alternately catch and deflect the light.




Most amazing of all are the two water features found at the base of the rock, features that figure prominently in the Dreamtime Stories about Uluru.

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January 9, 2009   4 Comments

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