Travel to Australia in 1998
During the summer of 1998 I once again traveled to Australia. I am lucky enough to have an uncle who is currently living in Melbourne. I was able to stay with him during most of my visit. We spent quite a bit of time travelling, sightseeing and hiking together. During my stay I made three major trips within the country. The first was a loop through the state of New South Wales, where my Uncle and I visited Warrambungle National Park, Mount Kaputar National Park and the mining town of Broken Hill. The second trip was by myself to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation National Park. The third excursion was with my Uncle to Western Australia. We started in Perth and visited a number of parks and sites, including Nambung National Park, Kalbarri National Park, Hamelin Pool, Karijini National Park, Avon Valley National Park, the Tom Price mining district and the Dalgaranga Meteorite Crater. The remainder of my time was spent in the Melbourne area. Two shorter trips were taken to the Buchan Caves and Wilsons Promontory National Park.
For a detailed travel log, click here - TRAVEL LOG.
The map of Australia shows my travel routes in the country.
Click on the photo icon above, or the Link below to view the image.
• Wilson's Promatory National Park
• Buchan Caves
• Warrambungle National Park
• Warrambungle National Park
• Mount Kaputar National Park
• Mount Kaputar National Park
• Michaelmas Cay - scuba diving
• Opal Reef - scuba diving
• Cape Tribulation National Park
• Nambung National Park - Pinnacles Desert
• Hamelin Pool - stromatolites
• Karijini National Park
• Karijini National Park
• Mt. Bruce
• Dalgaranga Meteorite Crater
• Avon Valley National Park
• Finders Street Station
• Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne
• Crater Bluff, Warrumbungle National Park
• Sawn Rocks, Mt. Kaputar National Park
• Crocodile, Daintree River, Queensland
• Port Douglas Beach
• Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park
• Kalbarri Coast
• Sunset on the Indian Ocean
• Coast along the Indian Ocean
• Tropical Rainforest in Cape Tribulation National Park
Australia 1998 Travel Log
Part 1 - July 3-14
I arrived on July 3rd on time and ok. It was a long trip and I was glad when it was over. The flight left Moline a little late but I had a couple of hours in Denver to kill anyway so it didn't matter. The wait in LA was boring. The flight from LA to Melbourne was full - i.e. crowded. And it had its share of screaming kids - aren't ear plugs wonderful! I sat next to a little kid from LA to Auckland so it wasn't too bad as far as room. My Uncle was at the airport waiting for me and I got thru customs OK.
July 4th we drove down to Wilsons Promontory National Park. It has the southern most point of the mainland. It's not easy to get to the farthest southern point - its about a 16 km hike - one way. We did hike to the top of Mt. Oberon, elev. 558 meters. Great view from the top. Saw my first rocks up close this trip. Also saw some emu and kangaroo in the park. While we were at the summit there was an eagle circling around.
I spent the day in Melbourne on the 6th. For as large a city as it is, I seem to have covered it pretty well. I covered most of it on my first trip and am having a hard time finding things to do in the city. I went back to St. Paul's Cathedral. Two years ago it was closed for restoration. This time it was open. I tried to go to the Royal Exhibition Center but it is being renovated to become the Melbourne Museum. The only part that is open is the new Imax theater. WOW! They have the new Imax films that require the 3-D goggles. These are not the blue and red filter glasses. These use two polarized filters. The colors stay true and the view is true 3-D. They have a preview for a film coming out called T. Rex: Back to the Cretaceous. WOW! The T.rex lunges out of the screen at you. I was sitting in the back row and I felt like I could have reached out and touched it!! The film I saw is called "Wings of Courage". Its about a French flier in the 20's that works for a company that flies the mail from Argentine to Chile over the Andes. His plan crashes and he walks out of the Andes. They say it is a true story.
I also went back to the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanical Garden. I really like the Fern Gully they have there and all of the fruit bats that hang around in the trees during the day. The rest of the day I just kind of wandered about looking at things but not going anywhere in particular.
Even though it has been two years since I've been here, it doesn't seem like it. I'm able to get around the downtown part of the city without using the map and I see a lot of familiar landmarks and stores. Not much has changed in two years.
July 7th, I went into the city again and wandered about. I went to the Queen Victoria Market and bought a few shirts. Then I wandered around the University of Melbourne grounds for awhile and bought a key chain. I checked the bookstore there and they are using the same geology textbooks that are available in the States. Other than that I didn't do a lot.
From the 9th through the 13 we took a trip to New South Wales. We had a good time and good weather. The first day was just a driving day up to the town of Coonabarabran. We got up early on Friday and drove a short distance into Warrumbungle National Park. The plan was to do a 16 kilometer loop trail hike with about 600 meters of up and down. The weather was excellent. The trail was pretty easy at the beginning and at the end of the loop - basically followed along a stream. But after that is was all up - and steep up at that. Part of the trail has been paved with bricks, which made for easy hiking. We made plenty of stops to rest or take photos. The N.P. is an old volcanic center, so there was lots of neat things to see. After the hike we drove up to Narrabri for the night.
On Saturday the 11th, we again got up early and drove into Kaputar National Park. This one is very similar to the Warrumbungles in that it is also an old volcanic center. Here we took another hike - this one only 4 kilometers and 350 meters climb. The difference was that this one was rated as hard. It was very steep going up. The trail lead to what is known as Yulludunide Crater. Its not a volcanic crater, it is actually what is known as a ring dike. So it kind of looks like a crater, but isn't. Once you get to the "crater" the trail kind of ends. From here you are allowed to make your own way to the top of the rim. The area is all exposed rocks and to get to the top you have to do quite a bit of rock hopping and climbing. The view from the top was well worth the effort. Coming back down was tricky as well just because the trail was so steep. They didn't put many switch backs in the trail - it just went straight up. Once down we continued into the park to Mt. Kaputar. Fortunately we didn't have to hike much to get to the top. They have a road that goes most of the way and only about a 100 meter hike at the end. Not as good a view from the highest point in the park due to the trees that were blocking part of the view.
Kaputar N.P. is accessible from two roads but it is not possible to drive from one end to the other. There was one place in the north part of the park that we wanted to see so we had to drive out of the park, back into Narrabri and then out to the north. The location is called Sawn Rocks. They claim it is the best example of columnar joints in the country. They were impressive - as good as any that I've ever seen. That was a one kilometer hike on a level trail from the parking lot.
After leaving the park we drove down past Coonabarabran to the town of Warren for the night. Normally, Uncle Richard doesn't like to drive at night because of the danger of hitting a kangaroo, but the town of Gilgandra didn't have any hotel vacancies. There was a dog show going on that weekend in town. So we were forced to push on. We stopped by the roadside after sunset and got a really good view of the southern constellations.
Sunday the 12th was a driving day as we headed west to the mining town of Broken Hill which is located near the western border of the state. It is an active mining town - silver and lead mostly. We drove out to the old mining settlement of Silverton - hardly worth the drive - just a few old buildings that are being used for art galleries.
The 13th we drove back to Melbourne. I leave on Wednesday the 15th for the Great Barrier Reef for five days. Then we will be off for a week in the Outback of Western Australia.
PART 2 - July 15-21
I'm back from my trip up to Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef. Overall it was a really good trip. The only major problem is that I managed to pick up a very nasty cold/flu and am really suffering right now. My head is stuffed up and my throat is sore and I've blown my nose so much that my nose is raw. I'm miserable!
Anyway, about the trip. I left on Wednesday the 15th, had to change planes in Sydney (got a great view of the downtown area and the Opera House) then arrived in Cairns about 11:00 a.m. From there I had to take a bus to Port Douglas. There was a driver waiting for me with a sign so it wasn't to difficult a transfer. It is about an hour ride north of Cairns to Port Douglas. I got there and checked in then went to find something to eat for lunch. After lunch I went down to the beach and walked around. Found a nice place to sit and just spent the afternoon watching the beach and water, and reading.
Thursday was an early start. The transport picked me up at 5:55 a.m. to take me down to Cairns. I had a cruise and dive scheduled on Ocean Spirit Cruises which left at 8:30. I got to the dock at about 7:30 and had to wait awhile. The boat was a large catamaran - very spacious. The cruise out to the reef took about an hour and a half. The destination was Michaelmas Cay, a small island in the outer reef. The boat stayed offshore and a small boat took us to the beach area. I had initially signed up for the basic cruise which included snorkeling and a ride in their semi-submersible (glass-bottomed boat). But I decided to try the introductory SCUBA diving. They run you through the basics in groups of four to an instructor. Then you practice for about fifteen minutes in the shallows off the beach, then if you are still comfortable with it you head off to view the reef. I survived just fine and had a great time! I liked it so much that I signed up to go again in the afternoon! Since I had been through the intro in the morning I didn't have to go through that again in the afternoon. One other girl from my group also went again in the afternoon as well as a certified diver plus an instructor. We didn't start from the beach this time. We headed further out in the small boat and entered the water by falling backwards off the boat (just like you see in all the documentaries and movies). The afternoon dive was much better than the morning. We were further out and the water was clearer (it was a bit murky due to some recent storms and the closer to the beach the murkier the water tended to be with everyone churning up the water). We also went a bit deeper on this dive. We were restricted to 10 meters maximum depth for introductory divers, but that was plenty for me. Most of the activity in a reef is towards the surface anyway. Getting back into the boat was interesting as there was no ladder - you basically had to pull yourself over the side.
On Friday the 17th I had an open day. I basically spent the day reading and resting in the hotel room or on the beach (in the shade - I tried to stay out of the sun as much as possible and didn't get burned at all). I also booked another cruise with two dives for Sunday. I enjoyed it so much the first time I decided that I was going to take advantage of it while I was there.
On the 18th I went on a "safari" to Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation National Park. Both are set aside for their tropical rainforests. There were only four people on the tour, plus the driver - a couple from Sydney and a woman from Holland. We started at 8:30 a.m. and had a short hike in Daintree NP. After a stop for morning tea, we boarded a boat on the Daintree River to go looking for crocodiles. We saw four all together - one large, one medium, and two very young crocs. From there it was off to lunch at one of the resorts in the Cape Tribulation area. More viewing of the rainforest and mangrove swamps, and a stroll on a beach made up the rest of the day. The guide was pretty good. I think they try to project a Crocodile Dundee image for the tourist - effective and fun to listen to. He certainly seemed to know his stuff about the rainforest and the plants and animals.
On Sunday I went on my second cruise, this time with Haba Dives out of Port Douglas. A much smaller boat than the Ocean Spirit cruise. This cruise headed out to Opal Reef right on the outer edge of the Barrier Reef. No beach at this reef so all of the snorkeling and diving was done from the boat. I scheduled two dives on this trip - one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Opal Reef proved to be a bit different than Michaelmas Cay. The coral was a bit different and so were some of the fish - although there were so many different kinds that it was hard to keep them straight. They say there are 5000 species of fish on the Great barrier Reef and that an average dive will see 100-500 different kinds - all colorful.
Once I was in the water, this second day of diving was just as good as the first day I'd done. This cruise overall wasn't as good as the first one. The crew wasn't as friendly or helpful (they weren't bad though just not as good as the first). The weather had also turned a bit nasty so the waves were pretty rough on the surface. This time I again didn't have to go through the intro dive instruction. I showed them the certificate I got from the first dive and they put me in with a group of certified divers. There were six divers altogether including the instructor. I was paired with the instructor for the dive due to my being the least experienced. This time we entered the water from a platform at the back of the boat. One big step, one hand over mask and regulator, one hand on the gauges and weight belt, and you're in the water. I had a bit of trouble with my ears on these two dives. The day before I had started to feel a cold/flu coming on and my sinuses and ears got clogged up. Equalizing the pressure in my ears became difficult at the lower depths, so I stayed fairly shallow on these dives. This actually worked out well for me. I had bought another underwater camera and they are impossible to advance the film below four meters.
Monday the 20th I checked out of the motel at 10:00 a.m. but didn't leave for the airport until 2:30 p.m. I spent the day wandering around Port Douglas buying some stuff. I also spent a couple of hours in the shade on the beach reading.
The flight back to Melbourne was hell. My ears and nose were really clogged by this time. We made one stop to change planes in Brisbane. The landing was very painful as I had a hard time getting my ears to equalize. Then I had to go through it again in Melbourne. I'm not looking forward to the flight to Perth tomorrow.
All in all a good trip despite my getting sick.
PART 3 - July 22-29
We're back from our trip to Western Australia. It turned out to be one long week. I'm still trying to recover from the cold that I caught on my trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Uncle Richard sets a very busy schedule which normally would have left me tired, but with this cold lingering on, it left me feeling pretty weak in the evening and didn't really allow me any chance to heal. So I'm still trying to get better. I have improved. My ears didn't give me any problems on the flight back here to Melbourne (the flight out there was painful - more on that later). I'm still coughing a lot as my sinuses drain, but my throat isn't sore any more. I'm just glad to be back and I'll have a chance to sleep in for a change.
We left for Perth at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday the 22nd. Its a four hour flight but we gained two hours going west. We arrived ok. A friend of Uncle Richard's came along to Perth with us. He works with Uncle Richard and is also the one that got him into rock climbing. The reason he came along was because there is a company in Perth that they were interested in getting some climbing gear custom made. He was only going to be there for less than a day before returning to Melbourne.
The landing was hell on my left ear. My right seemed to have cleared enough that it wasn't too hard to get it to equalize. My left hurt during landing and for awhile afterwards. I spent most of the week trying to equalize the pressure in my ears. Every time I would blow my nose they would be put under pressure again. My sinuses stayed clogged and stuffed up for most of the trip but did get better by the end.
After landing we picked up our four-wheel drive rental vehicle and checked into a hotel in Perth. The next day Uncle Richard and Jesse headed off to get their equipment ordered. I went off to find the office that sells geologic materials. It took me a couple of stops but I ended up at the Offices of Minerals and Energy. They had the maps. I bought a bunch for areas that we were looking at visiting. I also managed to buy a geologic map of the state of Western Australia and a volume called the Geology of Western Australia. From there I went to pick up Uncle Richard. Jesse had his own rental car and was leaving that afternoon.
We proceeded to head up the coast with the half day left on Thursday. A short ways up the coast is Nambung National Park. Its best known for the Pinnacles Desert. Its a large sandy area with limestone pinnacles scattered throughout it - really neat looking. By that point we were quickly running out of daylight. It's generally not very safe driving at night because of the kangaroos. We had hoped to get a ways up the coast before stopping for the night but we ended up in the town of Cervantes just to the north of the park.
On Friday we continued to head up the coast to Kalbarri National Park. This is another coastal park. There are some really nice gorges and coastal bluffs in this park, which we spent a couple of hours looking at. After that it was on to Shark Bay and the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve. This area is set aside for the stromalolites that are found in the bay. It's not the only area, in fact Cervantes has some but they were underwater at the time we were there and we couldn't see them. The stromatolites at Hamelin Pool are not very big, but they have a nice wooden walkway that goes out over the water. Again, they were underwater while we were there, but the walkway allowed us to see them and even to take photos. I was a bit disappointed that we weren't there at low tide when they are exposed but in a way it was ok as seeing them underwater is how they normally are. Once again it was getting towards dark so we hurried up the coast to the town of Carnarvon for the night. Carnarvon is best known for its large radio dish antenna which was part of the network of antenna dishes used to keep in contact with the Apollo Missions.
Saturday the 25th was a long day of driving (actually all of the day were long days of driving with a bit of sightseeing thrown in). We continued up the coast to the Nanutarra Roadhouse where we turned inland to the mining town of Tom Price. Most of Australia is pretty flat . But the area around Tom Price is mountainous. Its in an area known as the Pilbara. Tom Price is an iron mining town. I think its the only place I've ever been where the smell of iron oxide is really strong. Keep in mind that my sinuses were still clogged at this point and I could still smell it! The entire area around Tom Price and Karijini National Park are composed of banded iron formations. These are sedimentary deposits that are anywhere between approximately 3.4 and 1.5 billion years old and were laid down when photosynthetic organisms (mainly stromatolites) were producing enough oxygen to oxidize the iron that was dissolved in the oceans. The iron oxide settled out of the ocean water to the bottom in layers of iron. The same thing is found in Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and are major sources of iron ore. The Tom Price mining operation is huge, yet it is only a very small area of potential iron mining. Its not the only mine in the area but it is the biggest.
We got into town in the late afternoon, checked into the hotel and had time to drive to the top of Mt. Nameless. It overlooks the town and has a road that goes to the top. In fact it is the highest point in Western Australia that is accessible by vehicle (four-wheel drive only). The whole mountain is banded iron formation.
Sunday was spent driving around Karijini National Park. More banded iron formation, but some really spectacular gorges have been cut into it. One of them is called Yampire Gorge. It was the site of some asbestos mining earlier this century. Driving through the canyon is by 4-wheel drive only, and there are signs all over the place warning of the hazards of breathing asbestos dust. The signs also say to stay in your car, close your windows and set the air to recirculate. We did all that and got through the gorge without any difficulty.
The trouble came when we got to Joffre Gorge. There is a trail that goes into the gorge to a pool of water, where you can swim if you like (too cold for swimming this time of year down here). I was feeling really tired and my stomach was giving me problems as well (sinus drainage I think). So I stayed in the car to rest while Uncle Richard hiked down to the bottom. I rested awhile then got up to find an outhouse (there was a campground nearby). My mistake was locking the keys in the car! No spare, no way to pick the lock, no way to get a coat hanger in the seam of the door even if we could find one (and I did ask around with no luck). Uncle Richard wasn't too happy when he got back to the car and I wasn't too thrilled either. We decided that the only way in was to break a window. Fortunately there is a small rear door window that doesn't open and wouldn't be to hard to get replaced. I got a large rock and started banging away. They sure make it look easy in the movies! I couldn't get the glass to break. At that point some guys pulled up in a truck with a tool box in the back so I asked them for a hammer. I still couldn't get the glass to break. Part of the problem was that we didn't want to hit the glass so hard that we would damage the frame. I asked for a chisel and with one hit was finally able to get the glass to shatter. After that it was a matter of cleaning up the glass and moving on. Only now we had to plan on getting back to Perth early enough to get the glass replaced. We still had plenty of time but it was a concern.
After getting the door open we continued on with viewing the gorges in the Park, then headed south to the town of Newman for the night. Newman is also a mining town. Lots of mining towns in the Pilbara region.
Monday was a very long day of driving. We started an hour before sunrise and didn't get into Perth until about 9 at night. It wasn't all driving south though. In the town of Mt. Magnet we made a 200 kilometer, two hour, side trip to the Dalgaranga meteorite crater. Its a crater that is only 50,000 years old, but is fairly small - only about 25 meters across. Other than that side trip it was a pretty dull day of driving through some pretty flat countryside.
Tuesday morning was spent getting the window replaced. We called a couple of windshield replacement shops that come out to you, but the vehicle we had, a 98 Toyota Landcruiser, was too new for them to have stocked the windows. So we took it to a dealer. What was suppose to be 1 hour job took three. Fortunately, we didn't have to sit there at the dealer for the whole time. There was a train station next to the dealer so we headed to downtown Perth. Uncle Richard wanted to check out some of the outdoor outfitters for information on possible rock climbing spots. I was able to find a map store near by one of the outfitters and bought some maps. We then spent another hour wandering around downtown Perth before heading back out to the dealer. Downtown Perth reminded me a lot of downtown Adelaide - very similar.
Got back to the Toyota dealer and the car still wasn't ready so we sat there for another hour while it was worked on. Eventually we did get out of there. The afternoon was spent driving out of town to Avon Valley National Park. It's a small park only 80 kilometers out of town. Nice views from the top of the valley which is carved through some granite outcrops.
Wednesday, (today) we left Perth on the 9:30 a.m. flight and were back in Melbourne by 3:00 p.m. Despite the mishap and my feeling sick most of the time it was a good trip. We covered a lot of territory in a short time and got to see a lot of neat things - most of which Uncle Richard had not seen before.
PART 4 - July 30-August 5
The last week in Melbourne was a combination of short trips, wandering around Melbourne and trying to get some rest to get over my cold. Thursday the 30th was a day of rest and doing laundry - not very exciting but very necessary. Friday I wandered around Melbourne. The main activity for the day was visiting the Queen Victoria Market to buy gifts.
Saturday, Uncle Richard and I had planned on driving out to Grampian National Park but that got canceled as he had finally managed to get my cold and was suffering from a bacterial infection in his throat. I took the car and drove east to Buchan Caves. Its a four hour drive there. I arrived just at 11:00 a.m. and was lucky enough to just barely catch the 11 o'clock tour. I grabbed my camera an ran for the cave entrance and arrived just as the tour was going in. A nice enough cave, but I spent most of the tour feeling frustrated - disaster had struck again. Three pictures into the cave my camera lens fell apart into two pieces! And no way to get it back together and working (I'm still trying to get it to work now that I'm home). I had hoped to get some good pictures of the formations in the cave but those hopes were dashed when the lens broke. Again, a decent cave but I wasn't much in the mood to enjoy it. The drive back was frustrating in that I couldn't take any pictures of the scenery. In the town of Lakes Entrance I found a gift shop that was open and bought a camera. Its one of those idiot proof cameras - point and shoot. But it does have a zoom, so it is fairly versatile.
Sunday morning we went to see "X-Files, the Movie". I enjoyed it even though there is a major flaw at the very beginning of the movie (kind of ruins the rest of the movie when you know there is such a blatant flaw right at the start). The movie starts out in northern Texas, 35,000 years ago. Some "cavemen" are searching through some passages in a glacier. First off the last major glacial advance didn't get anywhere near north Texas - it got as far as southern Illinois but no further. In fact none of the glacial advances of the last Ice Age advanced to Texas. Secondly, the "cavemen" looked more like Neanderthals than North American Indians. Migration of humans into North America occurred from east Asia. Those "cavemen" should have looked either like Asians or Amerinds. Also humans haven't evolved much in 35,000 years, the "cavemen" shouldn't have looked any different than humans today.
There were other flaws in the movie as well but we can discuss them later if you like.
Monday, August 3rd, I spent wandering around Melbourne taking pictures with the new camera. I went to the top of the Rialto Tower. It is the tallest building in Melbourne - great view of the city from the top.
Tuesday was spent packing and getting ready to leave the country.
August 5th I left Melbourne on the 8:30 a.m. flight for Sydney, then caught the flight to Los Angeles. About 15 hours later I arrived in LA. I didn't get any sleep on the flight, but did get to see four movies - Major League: Back to the Minors, Good Will Hunting, Hope Rising, and Deep Impact. I was lucky on this flight, I had an open seat next to me! I was able to stretch out a bit and didn't have to worry about crowding the person next to me. The flight from LA to Chicago I was next to a boy that was traveling alone and none too happy about leaving his aunt in LA. He spent most of the time up to take off crying into a pillow. Once I got him talking he quieted down - then wouldn't shut up! We watched the movie "Tarzan and the Lost City" on the flight - not a great movie but it beat staring at the cloud tops.
The last leg of the journey home was supposed to be the easiest and quickest - Chicago to Moline. By the time we boarded on the plane it was pouring rain. We were at a gate that you had to walk out on the tarmac to get on the plane. We boarded one at a time - one person would make the dash out to the plane, while the next person waited until they had cleared the door on the plane. Slow way to load a plane. Once in the plane we had to wait and hour and forty minutes to take off - they had closed the airport due to a series of thunderstorms. So we sat in the plane waiting to take off.
All in all it was a good trip despite the mishaps and minor disasters that occurred. I'm glad I'm home, but I'm glad I went as well. I'm still fighting the tail end of the cold I picked up but I'm hoping that with a good chance to rest I will finally beat this thing.