Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sunshine Coast, Australia: The Great Australian (Mini) Road Trip!

From Brisbane, we started our great Australian road trip! Ok, it wasn't that crazy - more like a mini road trip.  Jess and I rented a car for a week and cruised up North through what is referred to as the Sunshine Coast, in QLD (that stands for Queensland!).  It's a pretty popular drive with tourists, just because there are tons of little towns and scenic sights and nature and ocean that you pass by on the way.

Our mini-road trip involved Caloundra, Noosa, the Glass House Mountains - then we diverted off the coastal drive on the way back and headed more inland to the tiny town of Tenterfield, to pay a visit to Jesse's dad.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Drove the ~2 hour (with lots of stops!) route from Brisbane, up to the coastal city of Caloundra.

We may have overloaded on strawberries for the road trip, as there were tons of farm stands selling boxes of them.  Also, peppers = capsicums!

We are in Caloundra! On the boardwalk

And here is part of the shore! If only it wasn't winter....this fleece has seen more action these past two weeks than it has on the entire trip combined.

Then we found a perfectly-located picnic bench to watch the sunset from

What better way to watch the sunset than with trays of fish & chips?

After the sun set, there was pink sky for a bit <3

  • The next morning, we made the hour-long drive from Caloundra to the popular beachside town of Noosa. Noosa reminded me a bit of Miami - lots of old people, lots of fancy buildings, gorgeous buildings, pretty boutiques, beautiful calm beach, outdoor cafes, and white furniture. White furniture everywhere.  It's apparently a pretty big vacation spot, especially since all the hotels were exorbitant prices (we ended up staying in Caloundra).

Tell me our delicious brunch doesn't look like it could be set in Miami

Beach in Noosa Heads. It was actually semi-warm enough for us to lay out in swimsuits under the sun. But not get in the water. No. 

Noosa not only has beaches and boutiques, but also some nearby nature walks and national parks you can wander. We went to one of them to watch the sunset (I LOVE SUNSETS)

This sunset over the water was beyond pretty

Do you know how hard it is for me to cull sunset pictures?! Each photo is just slightly, yet so importantly, different

Great sunset lighting. So I turned Beauty Mode up to a 10 on my camera, and this is the product. I call this the bug-eyed/anime combo.

Sigghhhhh one last shot

And then we headed to dinner, but on the way, stopped by the beach to admire the last dregs of the sunset

Taylor approved.

Beers we had with dinner. They seem to like theming their beer with animals?

Next morning, we had a delicious open-air, ocean-view brunch in Caloundra at the most delicious coffee/breakfast joint in town; the Coffee Cat on Kings Beach.

In addition to sunsets, I'm obsessed with photographing brunch food.  Dear brunch - you have no idea how much I have missed you!

Taking a little stroll on Kings Beach post-brunch

  • From Caloundra, we wound our way back South to the famous Glass House Mountains! The Glass House Mountains are a group of 11 mountains that seem to randomly pop out of the flat coastline along the Sunshine Coast. And the mountains have weird shapes. And you can hike them - any of them, take your pick.

Two of the Glass House Mountains (with a tiny third one in the background!), don't ask me which ones, I don't have a clue

Pano from the entrance of a bunch of the mountains. See how they just seem to pop out out of nowhere??

Some of them have weird shapes

We chose Mt. Ngungun to hike (not reallllly by choice, we got a little lost), which only took about an hour.

We made it to the top! Which had STUNNING 360 degree views of the landscape, and a beautiful view of all the other mountains that we didn't climb

There are two of the Glass House Mountains in the back (I  like the weirdo smokestack-shaped one!)

Two of the tiny mound-like Glass House Mountains (they do all have proper names, I swear - I just can't recall them)

Another one. All such different shapes!

The mountain in the back is the tallest one of them all, called Mt. Beerwah.

  • From the Glass House Mountains, we drove on back to Brisbane and stayed one last night with Jess' sister and her family.

Overlook of the city of Brisbane from Mt. Coot-tha

Gorgeous clouds from the liquor store parking lot

Looking the other way; gorgeous sunset

  • Road trip, Day 4 - we set out from Brisbane to head more inland: about 3-4 hours away to Jesse's dad's place in the town of Tenterfield.  3 things about Tenterfield: 1.) It was FREEZING (seriously, like a legit winter feel rather than the 62 degree/I-need-a-light-windbreaker weather I had been complaining about on the coast), 2.) WILD KANGAROOS. EVERYWHERE, and 3.) it's tiny, with a population of around 3,000 people.

On the open road! Australia's landscapes seriously look just like South Africa's. It was total déjà vu sometimes.

This road may look ordinary, but it was littered with dead kangaroo roadkill. 

The skies in Australia! So magical EVERY NIGHT

  • We arrived in Tenterfield in time for dinner with Jess' dad and his girlfriend, Sue. And winter. Winter was at dinner. 
  • The area around Tenterfield is chock full of wineries and vineyards - not a hugely popular thing to do in winter, but we went on a mini-tour to do some wine tastings and winery-visiting the next day with Jesse's dad.

But first, an adorable morning coffee/scone/cake at a local tea house. Internet, this is Jesse's dad, Bob.
(Please note the scarf got pulled out. Things are serious.)
On the way out to the wineries, I had my first wild kangaroo spotting of the day! Here's a bunch of them in a field, staring at the car (since we may have pulled to a stop and let me out of the car to snap them)

This is about as close as you can get to them

And they started to hop away the closer I got.

But onto the wine! We hit up three wineries (Kurrajong Downs, Balladean, and Jester Hill).

  • Road Trip, Day 5: we got breakfast in town and then walked around Tenterfield's main street. Which is tiny and picturesque and sweet.

Like stepping back into the early 1900's!

I love how old buildings have the year they were established on the top of the buildings. And of course in this tiny town, there is a place for Chinese meals.

  • We then said good-bye to Jesse's dad and winter, and drove back to his mom's house in Goonengerry - I was leaving the next day for a flight to Sydney, so that was the best place to leave from. 

One last time feeding the neighbor's horses!

I was headed to Sydney....and Jesse's headed to Vietnam, apparently (I can't keep track of all the rando countries he decides to move to on a whim either) - so his mom threw him an early b-day celebration. His birthday is in December, btw - but he won't be home for it, so she wanted to celebrate while there was someone else around. It was so cute!

One last brunch at a trendy Japanese cafe in Mullumbimby with Jess and his mom.  

  • Thanks, Jess, for truly being the greatest Australian tour guide ever - and to your wonderful, wonderful fam for being the greatest hosts ever! All the delicious home-cooked meals were epic, and it was one of my favorite things ever to get to actually feel like part of the fam, vs. staying in hostels and eating out all the time and lining up my days with sightseeing plans.  It was beyond appreciated, I had the best time (despite complaining about how the temperature was almost hypothermic) and you're truly the greatest!

Meal of the Day:

Three words: free unlimited sprinkles.

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • McDonald's in Oz is shortened to "Macca's."  Which ok, fine, I get the lingo. 
But "Macca's Free Wi-Fry" is pretty much the most GENIUS WiFi name every invented!
  • I was explaining to Jess the premise of Outback Steakhouse - you know, the Australian steak chain! Just kidding. I know it's an American company that has bastardized a restaurant to be Australian.  Jess was like "yeah I've heard of it but it's definitely not Australian."  
So imagine my delight when OH MY GOD is that Outback?!?! In Australia!?!?  It IS a legit Australian chain, I knew it! :)

  • Last of all your fun Aussie fast food fun facts, Burger King here is called Hungry Jack's.  I've heard reasons for this ranging from the name Burger King not testing well with Australian audiences (uhh why not, it involves royalty), to the fact that the name Burger King was already licensed to someone else first.  
This is a great photo, I know. Feel free to save.

  • A proper Aussie response to "thank you" is "that's ok" or "it's ok."  I found this very strange at first. Of course it's ok.  Why wouldn't it be.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Brisbane, Australia: Koal-ity Time With Kangaroos

I'm losing my English skills. More and more frequently, I can't remember certain words or phrases, and I sit there mentally struggling to remember something and leaving weird long pauses mid-sentence as I try to do so.  And they're not hard words. It's just because I've not been surrounded by native English speakers.  Sometimes I have to google phrases because I can't remember if the middle word is "to" or "of" or "in" and they all sound correct to me.  Issues.

You would think this could be remedied now that I'm in Oz.  This would be true, if only they spoke real English. KIDDING. Seriously though, what's with the overuse of weird shortened words like "mozzie" or "footie"  (mosquito and football, FYI).

From rural Goonengerry, my Australian tour continued, as we headed to Brisbane next.

What It's All About:
Brisbane is the capital of Queensland. Which is one of the Australian states. Is my Australian knowledge overwhelming you yet.

Brisbane is also the third-largest city with ~2.3 million people (thanks, Google!) (is that number shockingly small for being the third-largest city to anyone else??), and is in the middle of the Eastern coast. It's also one of the older settlements in the country. Other than that, I'm not sure I have any other remarkable facts, except that I liked Brisbane. Seems like a very happy, livable place.

I'm dead in front of the Brisbane sign. Because it was that delightful

Jesse's sister Vivian, her partner Sharna, and their 2-year old son live in Brisbane, which is who we stayed with while we were in town.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Headed into Brisbane by train - it's only about 2-3 hours from Goonengerry.

The school uniforms here look like Hogwarts uniforms (I'm sure it originated in the UK)! I especially like the jaunty hat.

This is Jesse's adorable nephew Teddy.  And his stuffed beaver. And me looking manic.

  • We spent our first morning in Brisbane walking around downtown. Apparently, Jesse used to be a tour guide for international students (he went to university in Brisbane), so he knows all the main sights and their history and interesting facts. Just kidding. He didn't. (But he was still a great guide!) 

I don't know what's going on with my face. But we stumbled across a food festival in downtown, with all these food carts and stalls and delicious trendy eats from all around the world.

Food stalls food stalls food stalls

And with a pretty church backdrop!

Then we walked along the river (harbor? I don't know what it is) - there's Brisbane's own version of the London Eye

Jess and I in front of the Brisbane sign. The girl taking this opted for "6-inches of dead grass" vs. "the Brisbane skyline" when taking this photo. 

Brisbane has a fake beach. With imported sand and a fake pool. For your summer enjoyment.

This is an ibis.

The CAT (the ferry that chugs down the harbor/river) and Brisbane downtown.

Is this a hibiscus?? Love

IMPORTANT NEWS ALERT: Target in Australia is NOT like Target at home, AT ALL.  
I was beside myself with excitement upon discovering that Australia is full of Targets. Jesse was surprised that I was so excited about Target. And I dragged him there, and I now understand why.  Target here is like a very very sad, very depressing version of Sears. Or Mervyn's. Set in the 80's.  Cry.

  • The next day, we headed off to the Lone Pine Animal Sanctuary with Jess' sister Vivian and Teddy.  There's a ton of koalas and kangaroos and other legit Aussie animals, and you can pet some and feed others - and I'm pretty sure Teddy and I had equal levels of excitement while there. Which is to say, very high.

Jesse loves Lone Pine, because the sign says so

A pink cockatoo thing that isn't a cockatoo but it was so cute and kept staring right up against the cage wall

I forgot what this is. Is it a Tasmanian devil? I DON'T REMEMBER BUT IT'S SOMETHING AUSTRALIAN

Koalas were everywhere! Here is one with a baby on its back

Oh my god you are so cute

Snuggling with baby

Apparently all koalas do is sleep, but we got to see a ton of koala action because the keepers kept coming around to clean the cages and therefore, move the koalas to different branches.


Official photo. The koala looks nonplussed. And like it wants to get down.

TAY AND ED HAVE BEEN HERE TOO!? (circa 2000, by the looks of it)

Lone Pine has all these animal shows and events, and one of Jess' favorites (inexplicably) is the sheepdog show. Which was actually really cool, because you watched this dog herd sheep. He kept them all together and was able to herd them through various obstacles and would snap at any stray ones and make them get back in line.  Amazing.

Then the dog herded all the sheep into this pen. And then was commanded to jump on top of them. He's seriously just chilling on top of the sheep's backs

Then there was a sheep-shearing demonstration. This sheep does not look happy


The sheep fur (fuzz? hide? pelt?) comes off all in one giant piece. And they let us feel how fluffy it was!
Teddy & me: entertained by similar things.

  • And then there's a huge kangaroo field, where you can buy a bag of kangaroo munchies and feed/pet/snap selfies with the (very docile, very non-wild) kangaroos!  There's also a ton of wallabies milling around, which are just smallish-looking kangaroos with different faces. Same difference.

They even have a child-sized door to enter the kangaroo field!
Sadly enough, for some reason, 90% of the kangaroos were hanging out in the one corner where people are not allowed to enter. It's where they "rest" from being petted, aka groped by small children 24/7. We apparently came on a day where they had had it (normally, Jess swears they're all out around the people, not hiding in the corner)

But we managed to find some in another pen!  #KANGAROOSELFIE

Teddy and a kangaroo!
Jess says the kangas in the wild are pretty aggressive and dangerous, but the ones here are all so, so chill. How did they make so many kangaroos so docile, is my question...

Me: Please love me.
Kangaroo: Sure.


The fence and children in the back manhandling the kangaroos really adds to the effect

Is there a full-time job where you feed animals by hand, do we think...?

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • Apparently, 90% of koalas have chlamydia. They can't help it.
  • Koala babies have to eat their mom's poo frequently when they're babies in order to get the nutrient that helps them digest eucalyptus leaves (apparently they're poisonous usually). Ewwww.  Also, eucalyptus is their main diet but it's also super not-nutritious, which is what makes the koalas so low-energy and sleepy all the time. Maybe they should try munching on some other types of leaves....? Just a suggestion.
  • Kangaroo sausages are called "kanga bangas" here, and apparently they're game-y and Jesse loves them.