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One of the first days in Sydney: taking a stroll along the walkway in the central park across from the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.The ubiquitious photo of Sydney -- Opera House with the Harbour Bridge in the background.Our visit to Paddy's Market near Sydney's Chinatown (with over 1100 vendor stalls) turned up a few long-eared friends.
The Botanical Gardens (succulents section) in the central park. Where did I put that shovel and clippers of mine?Some of the local wildlife included "wild" cockatiels.The Oceanarium at Manley (a 30 minute ferry ride away from downtown Sydney) housed a "reverse" fish tank ... imagine walking thru the tunnel part of an angel food cake pan! Cool!
Manley, a resort-style Sydney suburb with lots of shopping (mostly trendy surf gear) and a wonderful beach area with really good surf.Coffs Harbour: the first stop on our bus trip up the east coast. We arrived after a 12 hour overnight bus ride (bleah!) and spent three mostly sunny, beach-filled days there. Aussitel hostel treated us well.Byron Bay: paradise of surfers and hippies alike and a tourist trap. This was the beach across the street from the Belongil Beach House (overpriced with bathrooms that took a day to walk to and deposits on everything!). Steve did a couple of dives and I tried sea kayaking; we both took surfing lessons and developed a new respect for surfin' dudes!
Byron Bay is also the easternmost point on Australia's east coast -- this is a view from the lighthouse (yes, the water was really that colour!)We then continued north to Brisbane, our first stop in the state of Queensland. The climate was getting hotter and more humid. This furry creature lived at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, well worth a visit if only to get a chance to hold one of its deceptively heavy residents. This was one of the more animated koalas we saw and even he/she seemed quite drowsy.
The Sanctuary also housed other Australian wildife, including three species of marsupials -- kangaroos, wallabies and ?? These guys were extremely friendly and ate ouf of our hands. Remember the film Alien and its sequels? We found kangaroos bear an uncanny resemblance to the aliens in terms of movement.
There's a city bus that runs to the Sanctuary (except Sunday) from downtown.
A shot of downtown Brisbane, with its roads/bridges over the river. While it seemed like a nice enough city, we found it strangely quiet and to be honest, downright boring. Three days there was more than enough. We stayed at Balmoral House and while the room was decent, it was like living with your grumpy grandparents -- rules and warnings posted everywhere.On route to our next stop, the bus stopped at a restaurant with this creature (a duck? goose?) as a neighbour. He liked fries.A pelican on a beach at Hervey Bay. These birds are huge!
Needing a break in the interminable bus journey up north required a stop for a night at Hervey Bay, the usual jumping off spot for travellers headed for Fraser Island (the largest sand island in the world). We spent a wonderful part of a day just lying on the beach.After arriving in Airlie Beach, we took a one day sailing trip on board the 16m Gretel (the first Australian boat to race in the America's Cup in the 1960's. We sailed into the Whitsunday Islands.Those of us who wanted to could try our hand at taking the wheel.
A view of Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. We stopped here for lunch, a swim and time on the beach.The sand had the texture of fine powder and the water was like bathwater, so clear. Yes, the water really was that colour.The resident birds at Bush Village where we stayed in Airlie. We had a nice cabin but found the staff a bit pushy and eager in booking activities for us. Oh, and then there was this huge cockroach that came to visit one night...
A shot of the aft deck on our 3 day-3 night dive cruise. We travelled to a variety of island in the Whitsunday group (part of the Great Barrier Reef) and did numerous dives. The variety and abundance of underwater flora and fauna was truly amazing, as was the visibility and comfort in being able to dive in warm waters! Steve did the maximum ten dives and obtained his Advanced Open Water certification while I was happy getting in seven dives. Animals sighted included sharks, manta rays, sea turtles and a huge grouper.We were 'forced' to participate in a toga party one of the night on board but it was all in good fun. One of the toga contests involved the losers swimming around the boat nude (I think Steve and his partner intentionally lost).One of the optional activities involved tossing overboard the previous evening's leftovers (chicken bones in this case), and watching the trevelli (a large species of fish) below have a feast.
The dive flag and the lobster (half way up the pole). We had fairly good weather except for the last evening which turned out to be quite rough.Our dive vessel fit 18 of us quite comfortably -- the trip was definitely one of the, if not the, highlight of the holiday downunder.The famous Bondi Beach -- we visited on the day of a community kite festival.

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