Friday, March 16, 2018

Australia with Family: Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road

We flew from Christchurch to Melbourne. We had been looking forward to seeing our friend Paul, whom we had met in Vietnam during a 2013 cycling trip. He is a very colorful dresser!

Paul and his wife Clare suggested we meet at Cumulous Up for dinner, and together we enjoyed good conversation and lots of small plates. Clare is wearing a blouse with colorful native Australian birds.

Group consensus for our favorite dish was the duck foie gras on waffles, so we ordered it again as our dessert.

Melbourne has been named the most livable city by The Economist for the past seven years. We were eager to explore it, so we walked around photographing the street art.

As we’ve written in our blog before, we have a penchant for birds in street art, including this azure kingfisher.

The National Gallery of Victoria had its Triennial exhibition on, so we checked it out.

This is a close up of Pae White’s Spearmint to Peppermint tapestry.

We were amazed that cotton and polyester threads could look shiny like giant metallic foil wrappers.

We lined up to see Yayoi Kusama’s Flower Obsession and they gave us flowers to add to the piece.

It’s always fun to take photos of people taking selfies.

Pete added his flower to the bicycle in the exhibit.

And Kristina added hers to the flower covered desk. Here’s what Kusama wrote about her inspiration for her piece,
“One day, after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up to see that the ceiling, the windows and the columns seemed to be plastered with the same red floral pattern. I saw the entire room, my entire body and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant my soul was obliterated and I was restored, returned to infinity, to eternal time and absolute space. This was not illusion but reality itself.”

We liked this view of Melbourne’s downtown with the Fitzroy Gardens in front, and for a minute we thought we could have been in NYC’s Central Park.

We noticed that Melbourne’s high rises tend to be more colorful than other cities’.

We were excited when Kristina’s folks Patty and Bill arrived in Melbourne, and we took them to lunch to start our three week trip together.

The next day we met up with Kristina’s cousin Steve and his wife Lindy, who live in a suburb of Melbourne.

Together we had an awesome visit. It had been over 20 years since we had seen Steve so we had a lot to catch up on. Steve had emigrated to Australia and married Lindy more than 17 years ago. 

Pete had set up his tripod and got us posing in different ways like this profile shot.

This is a cute close up of Steve peeking at the camera as we took another posed photo.

While the four of us were traveling in Australia, Kristina’s cousin Cynthia and her Mom Marge were traveling in Costa Rica. We shared photos most days. This one is from their zip line adventure!

Marge is celebrating a big birthday this year so we’re sending her our love and best wishes. 

Selfie time in Melbourne! We were on the Zigzag Bridge, on our way to the Eureka Skydeck, the tall building behind us.

We went up the Eureka Skydeck to look at views of Melbourne from 300 meters up.

This sunset photo shows the buildings around the Yarra River that runs through the city.

The glass windows of the top stories in the Skydeck were coated in 24 karat gold, and Pete liked photographing the reflections on the building with the views.

The Eureka Skydeck is the highest viewing platform in the southern hemisphere. As the sun went down and the lights came on, we walked around the Skydeck to look at the interesting bridges and buildings.

The next day we took a walk along the Yarra River.

Pete, are you photo-bombing this selfie with your in-laws?!

That’s better, now we can see everyone. Behind us is the Seafarers Bridge that we had noticed from the Skydeck.

Formed of compression arches, the bridge is modeled on the sails of a Chinese junk, which is a reference to Melbourne's maritime heritage.

The Seafarers Bridge is for pedestrians and cyclists.

These bikes weren’t going anywhere, but Kristina couldn’t resist the photo opportunity.

We walked across the remodeled Webb Bridge, which re-used the remaining sections of the Webb Dock Rail Bridge and expanded its south side to form a filigree cocoon-like ramp.

We ended up in Docklands Park.

Patty checked out the swings.

We went out for lunch a number of times in Melbourne. This photo shows Kisumé's kakiage, a vegetable fritter and behind it is vegetable tempura. Kristina’s favorite lunch was at Kisumé, as she loves good Japanese food.

Atlas Dining only offered dinner, so one night we went there.

In front of the four of us is a “Peruvian passport” and Atlas Dining's potato, ocopa (a smooth chili sauce), aji (an ancient Peruvian pepper) dish. The chef’s choice menu was entirely from Peru and we enjoyed it.

Melbourne has lots of gardens, so one day we visited the ones close to each other. This included the Queen Victoria Gardens.

Pete is by a sculpture in the Kings Domain garden.

Patty and Kristina are near the WWII Memorial in the Kings Domain garden.

Pete is in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

A highlight was our walk in the Fern Gully in the Botanic Gardens.

It was nice and cool, and we saw lots of beautiful ferns.

Is it a headdress or a bird's nest fern?

We worked up an appetite with all that walking, so we went for lunch at Rice Paper Scissors. Each of us chose a dish to share, and Patty chose crispy barramundi fish with a green apple and roast cashew salad. 

We had their delicious Thai flavored ceviche served on puffed rice chips. 

At Rice Paper Scissors we enjoyed Patty’s favorite meal in Melbourne, including their new dish of tomato salad with confit of Tasmanian salmon topped with fresh coconut.

Then we rented a car and set off west on a road trip. We stopped for lunch at Meigas, a Spanish restaurant that had excellent tapas, including jamón iberico and olives.

We also had a tortilla, Spanish omelette made of potatoes like this one on the bar.

Patatas bravas, salad and mushroom croquettes rounded out our lunch, leaving just enough space for dessert.

In front of Patty is a flourless almond and orange cake with ice cream.

And this is the flan caramel that we all shared.

We drove up to Grampians National Park, and saw a sign warning us to watch for kangaroos.

We stayed in Halls Gap. In the field behind the motel there were lots of eastern grey kangaroos grazing.

This cute 'roo was showing how huge its hind feet and tail are compared to its fore feet.

A few hopped closer to us and it was so cool to see them move.

This male kangaroo was one of the largest we saw at perhaps two meters tall. He looked pretty badass as he stood upright scratching himself or possibly flashing a gang sign. 

We drove up to Reeds Lookout in Grampians NP and hiked to the Balconies to see the views. 

It can feel odd being on the left side of the road if you have driven on the right all your life. As Pete drove us through the Grampians National Park Patty said, “I have complete confidence in Pete.” Bill said , “I have my eyes closed!” 

Originally called the Gariwerd mountains by the local Aborigines, they got their European name in 1836 because a Scottish surveyor thought they looked like the Grampians in Scotland.

The rocks and mountains are made of sandstone. The formation behind Pete used to be known as the Jaws of Death because the upper section extended over the lower section and formed what appeared to be a large, open mouth.

But these days tourists are warned about hiking out there and other things.

Back at our motel, we hung out on our patio with some sulfur-crested cockatoos. This male cockatoo wouldn’t let any other birds sit on the table and seemed very fond of Kristina and her almonds. We started calling him her new boyfriend.

This female was eating some kind of seed pod from a tree. 

When the cockatoos display their crests they are quite beautiful.

Our motel was named Kookaburra Motor Lodge, so we asked our hosts about seeing some wild kookaburras. They told us they had been feeding a group of them for years. We spotted these two by the hosts' patio and asked if we could watch them eat.

Patty volunteered to have a kookaburra sit on her arm while the host tossed small bits of hamburger to it.

Kookaburras are in the kingfisher family. But instead of living near water and catching fish, they eat mice, snakes, insects, small reptiles and the young of other birds.

These carnivorous compatriots perched nearby were also able to catch the hamburger bits. It was delightful to watch.

Patty thought Halls Gap was pretty amazing, with all the birds and kangaroos. These are Australian wood ducks.

Our road trip continued on the Great Ocean Road (GOR), and over the next three days we would drive the whole road, 243 km. We stopped for lunch in Port Fairy at a pretty good Mexican restaurant.

This was Kristina’s lunch, a burrito bowl.

We visited the Tower Hill Reserve at the site of an extinct volcano with a lake in the caldera.

We saw an emu sign as we entered the preserve.

And we walked to the visitors' center with emu escorts.

This pair was headed to this water source so we watched them drink.

On the Lava Tongue Boardwalk we spotted this little cutie which promptly became Pete’s new favorite bird. Pete’s sister Csilla later solved the mystery, he's a superb fairy wren.

Pete also spotted a group of fantails flitting about. They seemed to be constantly moving and it took a while to get a shot that wasn't blurry.

Kristina got her wish to see koala bears in the wild. This one is asleep high up in a tree. We learned that koalas have a cartilaginous pad at the end of their spine to make sitting in trees more comfortable. 

This one looks like he has his arm over his eyes to block out the sunlight while he sleeps. Because koalas eat primarily eucalyptus leaves, they spend about four hours a day foraging and 20 hours sleeping and digesting.

This koala looks so relaxed and unafraid of falling as it sleeps.

We reached the coast so we stopped to look at the scenery at Childers Cove. The sandstone cliffs have eroded with interesting arches and holes.

If we had brought our bathing suits we would have jumped in the water.

The next day we stopped to look at the Bay of Islands.

We went for a walk on the beach at the Bay of Martyrs.

Hey Patty and Pete, that wave looks kinda big…

Whoops, now you're wet. 

Next stop was the Grotto. To the left of the steps and down you can see the Grotto arch. We climbed down for a closer look.

Perhaps the coolest part of the view was the reflection of the sky in the water under the arch.

Behind Pete is London Arch. It was called London Bridge up until 1990, before the inner span had collapsed.

We stopped for a seafood lunch at the Craypot Bistro. Pete had delicious mussels.

We checked out Loch Ard Gorge, which is named for a clipper ship that wrecked on the rocks in 1878.

Probably the most popular spot on GOR is the Twelve Apostles.

We could see four remaining "apostles". But it was too crowded and we didn’t stay long.

We’d had a lot of sun, so we headed inland to the Otways and took a walk at Mait’s Rest.

It was shady and cool in the rainforest, and we all felt better there. This tree was still alive and healthy, but the hollow trunk continue about 10 meters above us.

Bill was amazed by the size of the trees.

Pete is next to a Mountain Ash tree, which can grow over 100 meters tall. It starts from a seed that is smaller than a grain of sand.

We noticed lots of tree ferns as we walked down into the valley at Mait’s Rest.

The fronds were so beautiful.

After our full day of sightseeing we cleaned up at our B&B before heading out to dinner. Kristina enjoyed the roses in the garden.

Sometimes the selfies don’t come out so great, but it’s clear we were having fun as we ate dinner at Casalinga.

There is an over-population of kangaroos in Australia these days, so the wild population is controlled in part by hunting the kangaroos for hides and meat. Pete ordered kangaroo for dinner, and we liked it more than we thought we would. It’s a lean meat, but it was served quite rare so it was tender like a beef filet.

The next day we drove some more on the GOR and we saw more beautiful coastal views. We learned it took 3,000 people thirteen years to build the road. WWI vets were given preference for these jobs and the finished road is a memorial to the soldiers who died in the war.

By driving the road we could appreciate what a formidable task it would have been to build in the dense bushland, mountains and 100 meter sheer cliffs. The first section opened in 1922. Tolls were charged only until the construction costs were paid off.

This is a Crimson Rosella, a type of parrot native to Australia.

We stopped in Aireys Inlet to check out the Split Point Lighthouse.

Once the lighthouse was built in the late 19th century, the rate of ship wrecks decreased dramatically.

We were all glad we had been able to travel on the Great Ocean Road! It many ways, it reminded us of the time we all traveled together to Japan

Next we will visit Tasmania and Sydney.