Beyond Beaches, Bugs and Bad Internet

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

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Uluru was amazing.  Tom and I didn’t go to Uluru last time we were in Australia and there was no way I was going to Australia twice and not go to Ayers Rock.  Tom was not thrilled about going.  He didn’t want to travel that far just to see a big rock.

Our Motorhome

I didn’t regret going to Uluru at all.  It was fabulous.  We flew into Alice Springs and rented a motorhome to drive to Ayers Rock from Alice Springs.   We spent three nights there.  Watched the sunrise over Uluru, watched the sunset over Uluru and watched the sunrise over Kata Tjuta.   I know some people say it’s just a rock.  But it’s an amazing big rock in the middle of Australia. 

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The tour around Uluru was interesting.  Our guide told us the stories of how the aboriginals believe the rock was created.  And of course told us the geological reason the rock is there.  Needless to say, in my opinion, the geological story wins.  Nevertheless the stories were fascinating and it was interesting to hear about how the aboriginals lived off the land.   The aboriginals consider Uluru to be a very sacred site.   Climbing the rock is permitted however the aboriginals ask people not to climb it.


Fraser Island

Fraser Island was just as great and just as much fun as it was when Tom and I visited 25 years ago.  The boys wrote some great stories about this trip.  Check the stories out here.  Check out our photos here.

Great Ocean Road

We drove the Great Ocean Road and there a lot to see.  We took three days to drive and could have easily used a few more.  Our highlights were seeing the 12 Apostles, the Bay of Islands and sleeping in a hostel that was a gaol as late as 1992.  

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The 12 Apostles are nothing like they were when Tom and I visited them 25 years ago.  At that time there was just a small parking lot and a little dirt and gravel path way to the ocean to see them.  There is now a huge parking lot on the other side of the road.  Large buses stop here and there is a huge gift shop.  There is a large wooden pathway.  There were also hundreds of people there and it was difficult to get a photo.  Fortunately, we also stopped at the Bay of Islands which was far superior to the 12 Apostles.  We found it simply stunning and it wasn’t very far from the 12 Apostles.  

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Further along the Great Ocean Road we stayed at The Mount Gambier Old Gaol.  It is a hostel that was previously a gaol.  It wasn’t anything fancy but it was pretty cool to sleep there for one night.  The operators have converted the gaol into a hostel.  We stayed in a six-bed dorm that was one of the offices.  The rooms that used to be cells where the prisoners stayed had one set of bunks a a small sink.  It was definitely a novelty to sleep there.

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Beaches, Bugs and Bad Internet

The theme for Australia was beaches, bugs and bad internet.  Those three things were pretty much a constant for our time spent in Australia.

We spent about 12 weeks in Australia.  Overall, we had a great visit.  This was our Aussie itinerary:

  • Flew into Melbourne
  • Drove to Adelaide (visited family here)
  • Flew to Alice Springs
  • Drove to and from Uluru
  • Flew to Cairns
  • Drove to Bargara
  • Went 4x4 on Fraser Island
  • Drove to Gold Coast
  • Drove to Sydney


The Beaches (and the Sea)

First Beach Visit - Rosebud

The beaches and the sea in Australia are great and the boys enjoyed everything from snorkeling to swimming to boogie boarding to surfing. The beaches in Australia are beautiful.  The sand is great and the water is crystal blue.

One of things I was looking most forward on this trip was snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.  Tom and I were in Australia 25 years ago and the snorkeling was unbelievable.  The colours of the coral were bright and beautiful.  It was like looking into a bowlful of jellybeans.  Now large portions of the reef are dead and it is mostly brown and dull looking.   Very disappointing.  They attribute a large part of this to global warming.

Prior to heading out for our snorkeling trip, I had read reviews and fortunately was prepared to be disappointed.  Sure enough when we got out to reefs they were not great at all.  I tried to be excited for the kids but I couldn’t seem to gather up my enthusiasm.  Despite me unsuccessfully hiding my disappointment, the kids still thought it was really great.

Looking at the positives …  the fish were great.  Lots of them and lots of different types.  We even got to see a reef shark while snorkeling, which wasn’t our only encounter with a shark.

These waters aren't as  great as they look - Hammerhead Shark here

Quinn wrote an awesome story (click here for that story) about how we mistakenly got within several feet of a hammerhead shark on Fraser Island.  We chalk that one up to being dumb tourists.

The temperature of the sea up around Cairns was great but we were there during jellyfish season.  The jellies in Northern Queensland don’t just sting you but can kill you.  This meant that we had to swim within the booms and nets.


As we moved south down the east coast the water cooled at bit.  The sea around Bargara was still warm and the best part … no jellies to worry about.  Yay!!  This was where the boys tried surfing.  We were so proud of them.  They were amazing.

The beaches (Bondi and Manly) around Sydney are another story.   The waves are great for boogie boarding but holy smokes the water is cold.   The boys didn’t seem to mind but I didn’t go in past my knees.


Bugs …  bugs …  and more … you guessed it … bugs.   So many bugs. 

Can you see all the flies?

First it was Uluru.  The flies were everywhere. The flies would go up your nose, in your mouth and in your ears.   Thankfully we brought net hats with us which made it tolerable.  We had to put them on the minute we walked outside.  It surprised me that our tour guide at Uluru (Ayers Rock) didn’t seem to mind the flies.  I guess she was used to them.  When we wanted to take a photo we would quickly take off the nets, Tom would take the photo and then put them right back on.  Nathan was the only one who didn’t seem to mind them all that much.


Following the flies was the huge spiders.  When I say huge I mean the size of a hockey puck.  They are mostly found in the trees and forests but the boys found one in the play area at Maccas (McDonalds). 

Australia would be complete without the cockroaches.  The first place we stayed at was pretty good but as soon as we hit Cairns it went down hill.  We had cockroaches in most of the places we stayed.  Granted we aren’t staying at 5 star locations but two places were quite bad.  The place we rented in Cairns and the place we rented in Sydney.

Okay – So they aren’t bugs and don’t fall under this topic but I need to mention the large fruit bats in Cairns.  The huge bats!!!  The thousands of bats!!!  The bats that pooped on me!!  ….  Yep pooped on me.  It was amazing to see all the bats taking off from the trees when the sunset.


Bad Internet

The Internet in Australia sucks.  Really Really Sucks!!!  I just don’t have a more eloquent word.  Updating our website has been difficult.  It took about 5 times longer to do anything on the internet which makes trip planning difficult.  We could get decent wifi in the Serengeti and the Sahara Desert but not in Australia. 

We thought we had gone back in time by a decade when we first arrived and saw a Blockbuster video store.  We now understand why PPV is not that common and the Blockbuster still exists.  The Internet is horrible.  Streaming video not happening.


© VanKosh Family 2015