When Kate and I decided to officially add Thailand to the second half of our adventure, I already knew I wanted to visit Elephant Nature Park. I’d read about it on Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site, the same blog where I found AuPair.com. In researching various tours, I also came across this article, a heartbreaking piece on elephant abuse by trekking companies, which led us to decide against any tours that involved trekking, or elephant riding. Elephant Nature Park offered us the opportunity to get up close and personal with elephants but acts as a sanctuary for the animals.
Back in Western Australia, I met Anja, a former-au pair from Germany who worked at a dive shop for part of her time in Australia. We were meant to go snorkeling with whale sharks in Exmouth before our boat was cancelled due to high winds. But out of that unlucky day came a very lucky friendship and just the amount of peer pressure I needed to sign up for a PADI dive course. With a slightly limited schedule for the rest of my travels in Australia, my course schedule was not conventional – but when there’s a will there’s a way. I took the knowledge portion of the course through an e-Learning platform while I was still an au pair on the Sunshine Coast. Then I found the final three days I needed through Deep Sea Divers Den: 1 day of pool training and 2 days of open water dives on a live-aboard dive boat.
“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” – JK Rowling
This is the second photo set from my Northern Territory tour, including images from Alice Springs, stops along the Stuart Highway, and the Top End. For more from the Northern Territory, check out the first photo set and posts from the Red Centre, Alice Springs & the Stuart Highway, and the Top End (coming soon).
Day 4 began with a much-needed sleep in (or whatever you consider waking up at 8 am). After breakfast, I went out for a quick grocery run before a few of us from the tour walked to the nearby Alice Springs Reptile Center. Like the reptile center in Canberra, this one also had a plentiful supply of native Australian reptiles, including a previously injured monitor lizard that was free to roam the indoor areas. I’m convinced that if I ever came across a brown snake or taipan in the wild, I’d probably pass out or have a heart attack, but I did take a liking to the bearded dragons outside. The highlight, though, was the thorny devil in another outdoor enclosure. One of my friends said it looked like a Pokemon in the photos, and that’s probably the best description of it.
Fun Fact: There were never actually 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road; the name just sounded better than Sow and Piglets, the name of the site until 1922. Today, the 8 limestone rockstacks remaining are still known as the Twelve Apostles.
Itinerary at a Glance:
Day 1: Launceston, Tasmania (travel day) and Melbourne, Victoria (quick city tour)
Day 2: Melbourne (Queen Victoria Markets), Great Ocean Road (Torquay, Aireys Inlet, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell)
Day 3: Great Ocean Road (Gibson Steps, Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, The Arch, London Bridge, The Grotto, Bay of Martyrs, Warnambool) and Grampians National Park (Halls Gap, Reeds Lookout)
Day 4: Grampians National Park (Balconies, MacKenzie Falls, Boroka Lookout)
Day 5: Grampians to Melbourne to Canberra
Where I went: Gold Coast, Australia (Surfer’s Paradise, Southport, Broadbeach, Currumbin)
How I went: bus from Canberra to Sydney, plane from Sydney to Gold Coast
When I went: August 23-26, 2014
Why I went: Pan Pacific Swimming Championships and a quick escape from chilly Canberra
Where I stayed: Budd’s in Surfer’s, just blocks from the beach ($27AUD/night – 4 bed female dorm with free wifi and breakfast)
Where I ate: Peter’s Fish Market, Southport
Where I cuddled a koala: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Wow, it’s been a busy week! Since I wrote last, I spent a four-day weekend in Sydney while Host Mum took Z and M to Byron Bay and Gold Coast to see family. On Saturday and Sunday, I took the AUST SWIM Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety course so that I am certified to teach swim lessons at the local YMCA while I’m still here in Canberra. Fortunately, I had a bit of background knowledge on swimming already. 😉 After two days of being cooped up inside the Seven Hills Royal Life Saving Training Center, I was finally free to do some exploring early this week.