Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Adventures from the Van: Gettin' High down under

(No parents, not that kind of high)

Back to where we left off, Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Langkawi was a really chill island reminding us of Maui. After eating the same menu for the last 4 weeks in Thailand, we were ecstatic to see all sorts of food to quench our cravings. We rented a car to drive around and see some sights. This also doubled as practice for driving on the left side of the road. They have an amazing tram ride up to the top to get a spectacular 360 degree view of the island and neighboring country Thailand. After 2 days, we went to Kuala Lumpur to see the only attraction, the Petronas Towers. We really didn't do too much more since we enjoyed our plush hotel with the first true hot shower we had had in too many weeks. Plus, the complimentary happy hour was too good to pass up!

Let the Southern Hemisphere adventures begin!

Sydney is a beautiful coastal metropolis, reminding us of Seattle, Boston, NY, and SF. While in Sydney, we had 3 items on our to-do list: eat a salad, pick up our van, and scale the Harbor Bridge. We had heard about the bridge walk from a couple we had met in China, and it lived up to the expectations. We spent about 3 hours climbing the bridge at sunset and had amazing views of the Sydney Opera House and all of the water front development around the city. The best part was the cheesy pictures that they took for your purchase on various parts of the bridge. We definitely took some doozies!

The next day, we met our home for the next two weeks, VAN. VAN is a single, swinging, extra long white male who enjoys long rides near the beach. He is also our new best friend (can you all tell at this point that we have been LIVING in a van for the past week and are a little crazy?)

After exciting navigation through Sydney at rush hour, we headed to the Blue Mountains west of the city. It is famous for the blue haze that settles over the mountains from the eucalyptus trees. This was the spot for our first night in van where we also experienced the first true frost of the fall. We almost froze to death in VAN and threw on all the layers we owned by the end of the night. After that frozen first night, we decided that if we were going to freeze every night, we might as well be drinking good wine while doing it. So we headed off to the Hunter Valley, birthplace of Australian Shiraz. Our favorite factoid that we learned on our wine tours was from the Wyndham Estate winery. We found out that they employ backpackers to hand-pick their grapes for the premium wines. Needless to say, we were majorly disappointed that the harvest was over.

From the Hunter Valley, we headed towards the famous Gold Coast and epic surfing beaches. Along the way, Kate spied a sign for a Koala rehab/breeding center and almost had a heart attack, so we stopped, fed kangaroos, and encountered a very active koala. The highlight was feeding a mother kangaroo with a joey stuffed in her pouch.

During our drive, the clouds started to build and plagued our next two days on the Gold Coast. Torrential rain kept us off the beaches at Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise, but in Byron, an hour of evening sun let everyone enjoy a killer rainbow and some good waves. Waking up to more torrential rain, we headed north to escape the weather.

After a ridiculously long drive in VAN to Airlie Beach, our efforts have paid off; the sun is shining and we are preparing for a snorkel trip to the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow morning. More adventures from the van will come soon!


Ann said...

Hi Kate & Phil,
Glad to know you're now Down Under. It must feel "home-like" after the places you've been your Asian adventures. And a semblance to English is spoken!!
Look forward to more photos and news.
Love from Aunt Ann
P.S. I've decided to go to S.Africa this fall- 26days!

Blute York City said...

Hey guys! Your pictures look AMAAZING! WOW! I think I drooled on my keyboard at bit looking at the beach pics from Ko Lipe.
I'm all moved into my place in Manhattan and can't wait for you guys to get back here. NY is the only place in the states that I feel like I'm almost traveling abroad due to it's craziness, authenticity, diversity, etc.. We'll have to plan some authentic ethnic restaurant dinners for sure (Malaysian, Thai, etc..)