Going Cara-vanning Down Under

Trip Start Jul 01, 2009
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Trip End Jul 01, 2010


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In our own Mystery Machine

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, April 17, 2010

Our niece, Cara, came to visit us in Australia for a week during her April vacation (she's currently in the 10th grade in New Hampshire). It was a pretty long way for her to travel for a week, but she made the most of it.  We picked her up at the airport with a larger campervan (which Aussies like to call Caravans, thus our title), big enough for the three of us.  We had exchanged our previous one for this bigger one the previous day and we were ready to head out directly from the airport to the mountains.

We started out driving up to the Blue Mountains.  We stopped in the village of Katoomba, which was quaint and a lot of fun.  Jenny and Cara had a great time dressing up in antique shops and window shopping along the streets.  We then went out to Echo Point to see what the fuss is all about in this region.  The Blue Mountains are magnificent there, and nearby are the Three Sisters (Australia’s version).  Actually, they are three peaks of seven sisters (unlike Central Oregon, where there are just 3).  We drove through a number of towns and national parks that day, all in search of Australian wildlife and great views.  While we saw some amazing views, birds and a quick glance of a wallaby, we didn’t get any good kangaroo sightings that first day.  After playing a few rounds of BananaGrams, we slept our first night in our van ready for a new day of hunting. 

It didn’t take long the next day for Cara to see her first roos.  We were driving north to Byron Bay, playing Boticelli, when we saw a mob of them to the left.  We got out, and got scores of pictures.  Once the spell was broken, of course, we started to see them everywhere.   Instead of a scream and a "OMG, was that a kangaroo?", we started to hear, “Hey, I think I just saw 20-30 roos in that field back there.”.  You know how it goes.

We were able to spy a little local culture as well.  While driving on Saturday, we saw two teams of boys (probably about 8 years old) playing “Footie”.  That’s what the Aussies call Australian Rules Football.   It was a misty, cold, autumn morning and the coaches were on the field with the boys teaching them as the game was played.  While we didn’t fully understand the game, it was a lot of fun to watch.  They (and their parents) were really into it.

We drove up to Byron Bay, which is one of the most beautiful beach areas in Australia.  We were there with tons of sun worshippers, surfer dudes and chicks (excuse me, “Blokes and Shielas”), and amazing beaches all around.  We took turns diving into the waves.  It started to rain soon after we were there, but it was such an amazing place, that we didn’t really notice it.  We also went up to the lighthouse to look at the views (and the hang-gliders up there), and got lost in the little village as well.  We saw a number of aboriginal young men playing didgeridoos on the sidewalks there.  It was a great place to hang out.  We parked the camper along the street and returned from our beachcombing to make some sandwiches and have a quick bite to eat before we walked through the quaint town of Byron Bay.

Cara got to see the Southern Cross for the first time (cue: Crosby, Stills and Nash) our first night there.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see all of the wildlife we had hoped to while camping.  While we saw roos and birds (parrots, cockatoos, etc), and huge, amazing spiders, she did not see any emus, and the three of us looked far and wide for Koalas.  We stopped at an information booth near a national park on our last day driving and were given some suggestions for seeing wild Koalas (the guy was nice to us because we didn’t call them Koala Bears – just Koalas – he was kind of persnickety about that).  We also learned that Koalas sleep 20 hours a day and are pretty well hidden in the trees during that time (very few Aussies have seen Koalas in the wild).  So, we looked and looked (“Wait!  Was that a…?”), but they simply weren’t revealing themselves. 

We learned a lot of Aussie words while we were there as well.  Cara got some good pictures of products that have different names in Australia than in the US.  Take a look at some of the words and phrases we encountered and see if you know them.  We’ll print the translations (into American) in our next blog about Sydney.

Capsicum
Rice Bubbles
Sultana Bran
Chilly Bin
Eski
Maccas (if you read our last entry, you already know this)
Pie
Torch
Overtake
Give way
Good on ya.
How ya going?
G’Day mate

OK, enough for this installment.  We could have written an entire blog about the amazing city that is Grafton, but Cara will have to tell that one if she ever chooses.  Keep those cards and letters coming, we love hearing from you, and remember:

Keep living the dream; this ain’t no dress rehearsal.

- Jenny and Paul
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