Tuesday, October 28, 2014




Cairns’ tropical climate definitely put me in vacation mode!  We stayed at The Cairns Plaza Hotel just across from the esplanade.  Nice hotel with a friendly helpful staff and a good breakfast.  We took walks along the water watching the many birds in an out of the water. 

Masked Lapwing strolls along the beach

Superb Fruit Dove and baby
A large public swimming pool parallel to the seashore with people practicing snorkeling, swimming and generally enjoying the water was a major draw to the area.  Several large sculptures marked inviting resting spaces all along the esplanade. 





We walked around the town, checking out the local grocery store, cafes, and parks.  Wi-fi was free in the town and we caught up on emails, news, etc while sitting on the park bench.  That was a real plus!  Generally internet cost from $10 (a day in Cairns hotel room) to $22(a half hour in Sydney).  So free wi-fi was appreciated!  We were interested in the cost of food – oranges were the same as ours, milk was about $5 half gal and ours is approx $1.50.  Island prices!  We also enjoyed the night markets.


Since we had limited time (2 days) we decided not to go to the Barrier Reef as neither of us snorkel or swim and it was a pretty pricey trip. Instead we took a boat to The Green Island and enjoyed exploring all of it!

Exploring The Green Island
We met a lovely Japanese couple who were birding and together we watched a Silvereye go in and out of a nest that looked like dried flowers.  The couple (about our age) did not speak English, we did not speak Japanese and yet we were able to identify another bird with our bird books and sign language as we enjoyed each other’s company. 

Coral through the Glass Bottom Boat!


Next stop Darwin!































Friday, October 24, 2014

Australia's Highest Botanic Garden




After picnicking at Mt.Wilson in the Tree Fern Cathedral and watching the Magpie and the Currawong fight over crumbs from our sandwiches, we went to Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens.  There are birds where there are gardens!   These gardens are stunning with mountains as backdrops, interesting art work and sculpture integrated with plants and paths with water features to follow.  They showcase cool climate plants from around the world and cover about 623 acres.



The Waratah /Annual Celebration was in full swing.  The Waratah grow in patches of sandy loam on ridges and plateaus in the Sydney basin, NSW Central and South Coast districts and in the Blue Mountains.  They are shrubs or trees that grow between 9 and 16 ft. tall!  Spectacular!  They are more often seen in parks and reserves than in nature now.  The Waratah is the floral emblem of New South Wales and there is an Aboriginal story.  I love this!  
Waratah



Visit a rock garden, a bog garden, rrhododendrons conifers, Gondwana Walk, woodlands, jungle rain-forest and more.  The views are breathtaking, the walks winding and peaceful, the flowers colorful and the birds beautiful.  My favorite bird is the Superb Fairy -wren with such a blue color and a tail that sticks straight up!  The female has the same form but is a brown.

Rhododendron
Rhododendron 







Male Superb Fairy-wren
Female Superb Fairy-wren

Laughing Kookaburra

Back to Sydney to catch a plane to Cairns!

Note:  Google Gondwana  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/238402/Gondwana

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Blue Mountains of Australia



Our friend the Pied Kurrawong
Katoomba is the largest and seemingly main town in the Blue Mountains. We checked into the charming 1920’s “Blue Hotel”.  Our room faced a park-like area with big trees where Pied Kurrawongs kept us entertained and woke us in the mornings. 




Breakfast in the 1920's dining room

Bar/lounge area of Hotel Blue
 The Cliff Drive had us stopping several places for birding, walking and exploring.  Along the way we met a couple from North England who were also birding and a typical birding conversation ensued.  “Have you been to….?  Have you seen….?  Where is the best place to ….? “ always about birds and nature.   Such fun to meet fellow travelers! The views in these mountains are spectacular with the vast expanses of forests. 

The Blue Mountains
 Katoomba (an Aboriginal word meaning “shining falling water” offers a variety of architecture and lots of art deco shops.  We discovered a place to get fish and chips after 7 pm.  Most shops close around 5 or 6pm and roll up the sidewalks!  Any places that were open were very busy.  We took our dinner back to the hotel and enjoyed a quiet evening.

Things I found interesting in the room – no stopper in the hotel sink, electric blankets under the sheets, great antique armoire to be used as a closet and windows that opened out from the bottom. 

We learned to go for an early morning walk and return for breakfast.  That way we avoided parking fees and inconvenient places to park with crowds of people at the lookouts.  Discovering birds, plants and trees along the paths in the early mornings was wonderful as the sun came up.  Looking out at the overlooks with the vast acres of forest was breathtaking.

Picnic at Leural Falls (someone had to take the picture!)

After a breakfast of sausages, toast, pancakes, eggs and coffee we were off to Woolworth’s for picnic food.  I’m used to Woolworth’s being a sundry store but here they are modern grocery stores.  We picnicked on a ham sandwich and fruit at Leural Falls under very tall Eucalyptus trees.  The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and a Laughing Kookaburra joined us. 

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - with his crest up!
Laughing Kookaburra
Often there were signs telling about the area including the legends. I loved reading those!  The Three Sisters legend tells about three sisters who were in love with three brother warriors from the neighboring nation.  Marriage was forbidden by tribal law.  The brothers decided to take the sisters by force. Tribal war forced the leader of the sisters’ tribe to turn the sisters into stone until the danger passed and the war ended.  Unfortunately the leader was killed in the war and to this day no one has figured out how to turn the stone back into the three sisters.
The Three Sisters
The tree fern forests fascinated me –seeing the patterns the sunlight made through fronds and then looking at the frond patterns from above.  We spent the day exploring the Blue Mountains and of course checking out the towns, walking paths and lookouts.  So many parrots and other birds!


Back to Woolworths for roast chicken, coleslaw, red pepper and avocado (dinner cost $22 plus a bottle of wine!).  We were trying to keep the cost of meals down as well as finding out what things actually cost (not tourist prices).  Fun to watch the local news too - no ads and the female reporters wore interesting big jewelry!  The events were well presented with lots of background given.  The big story was about the attempted beheading and increased security.   


Next morning we after breakfast, we checked out and drove to Mt. Wilson for a picnic lunch with a Kurrawong and a Magpie! Then on the Mt. Tomah Botanical Gardens.  What a treat! 
  
Love the Australian Magpie!








Tuesday, October 28, 2014




Cairns’ tropical climate definitely put me in vacation mode!  We stayed at The Cairns Plaza Hotel just across from the esplanade.  Nice hotel with a friendly helpful staff and a good breakfast.  We took walks along the water watching the many birds in an out of the water. 

Masked Lapwing strolls along the beach

Superb Fruit Dove and baby
A large public swimming pool parallel to the seashore with people practicing snorkeling, swimming and generally enjoying the water was a major draw to the area.  Several large sculptures marked inviting resting spaces all along the esplanade. 





We walked around the town, checking out the local grocery store, cafes, and parks.  Wi-fi was free in the town and we caught up on emails, news, etc while sitting on the park bench.  That was a real plus!  Generally internet cost from $10 (a day in Cairns hotel room) to $22(a half hour in Sydney).  So free wi-fi was appreciated!  We were interested in the cost of food – oranges were the same as ours, milk was about $5 half gal and ours is approx $1.50.  Island prices!  We also enjoyed the night markets.


Since we had limited time (2 days) we decided not to go to the Barrier Reef as neither of us snorkel or swim and it was a pretty pricey trip. Instead we took a boat to The Green Island and enjoyed exploring all of it!

Exploring The Green Island
We met a lovely Japanese couple who were birding and together we watched a Silvereye go in and out of a nest that looked like dried flowers.  The couple (about our age) did not speak English, we did not speak Japanese and yet we were able to identify another bird with our bird books and sign language as we enjoyed each other’s company. 

Coral through the Glass Bottom Boat!


Next stop Darwin!































Friday, October 24, 2014

Australia's Highest Botanic Garden




After picnicking at Mt.Wilson in the Tree Fern Cathedral and watching the Magpie and the Currawong fight over crumbs from our sandwiches, we went to Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens.  There are birds where there are gardens!   These gardens are stunning with mountains as backdrops, interesting art work and sculpture integrated with plants and paths with water features to follow.  They showcase cool climate plants from around the world and cover about 623 acres.



The Waratah /Annual Celebration was in full swing.  The Waratah grow in patches of sandy loam on ridges and plateaus in the Sydney basin, NSW Central and South Coast districts and in the Blue Mountains.  They are shrubs or trees that grow between 9 and 16 ft. tall!  Spectacular!  They are more often seen in parks and reserves than in nature now.  The Waratah is the floral emblem of New South Wales and there is an Aboriginal story.  I love this!  
Waratah



Visit a rock garden, a bog garden, rrhododendrons conifers, Gondwana Walk, woodlands, jungle rain-forest and more.  The views are breathtaking, the walks winding and peaceful, the flowers colorful and the birds beautiful.  My favorite bird is the Superb Fairy -wren with such a blue color and a tail that sticks straight up!  The female has the same form but is a brown.

Rhododendron
Rhododendron 







Male Superb Fairy-wren
Female Superb Fairy-wren

Laughing Kookaburra

Back to Sydney to catch a plane to Cairns!

Note:  Google Gondwana  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/238402/Gondwana

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Blue Mountains of Australia



Our friend the Pied Kurrawong
Katoomba is the largest and seemingly main town in the Blue Mountains. We checked into the charming 1920’s “Blue Hotel”.  Our room faced a park-like area with big trees where Pied Kurrawongs kept us entertained and woke us in the mornings. 




Breakfast in the 1920's dining room

Bar/lounge area of Hotel Blue
 The Cliff Drive had us stopping several places for birding, walking and exploring.  Along the way we met a couple from North England who were also birding and a typical birding conversation ensued.  “Have you been to….?  Have you seen….?  Where is the best place to ….? “ always about birds and nature.   Such fun to meet fellow travelers! The views in these mountains are spectacular with the vast expanses of forests. 

The Blue Mountains
 Katoomba (an Aboriginal word meaning “shining falling water” offers a variety of architecture and lots of art deco shops.  We discovered a place to get fish and chips after 7 pm.  Most shops close around 5 or 6pm and roll up the sidewalks!  Any places that were open were very busy.  We took our dinner back to the hotel and enjoyed a quiet evening.

Things I found interesting in the room – no stopper in the hotel sink, electric blankets under the sheets, great antique armoire to be used as a closet and windows that opened out from the bottom. 

We learned to go for an early morning walk and return for breakfast.  That way we avoided parking fees and inconvenient places to park with crowds of people at the lookouts.  Discovering birds, plants and trees along the paths in the early mornings was wonderful as the sun came up.  Looking out at the overlooks with the vast acres of forest was breathtaking.

Picnic at Leural Falls (someone had to take the picture!)

After a breakfast of sausages, toast, pancakes, eggs and coffee we were off to Woolworth’s for picnic food.  I’m used to Woolworth’s being a sundry store but here they are modern grocery stores.  We picnicked on a ham sandwich and fruit at Leural Falls under very tall Eucalyptus trees.  The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and a Laughing Kookaburra joined us. 

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - with his crest up!
Laughing Kookaburra
Often there were signs telling about the area including the legends. I loved reading those!  The Three Sisters legend tells about three sisters who were in love with three brother warriors from the neighboring nation.  Marriage was forbidden by tribal law.  The brothers decided to take the sisters by force. Tribal war forced the leader of the sisters’ tribe to turn the sisters into stone until the danger passed and the war ended.  Unfortunately the leader was killed in the war and to this day no one has figured out how to turn the stone back into the three sisters.
The Three Sisters
The tree fern forests fascinated me –seeing the patterns the sunlight made through fronds and then looking at the frond patterns from above.  We spent the day exploring the Blue Mountains and of course checking out the towns, walking paths and lookouts.  So many parrots and other birds!


Back to Woolworths for roast chicken, coleslaw, red pepper and avocado (dinner cost $22 plus a bottle of wine!).  We were trying to keep the cost of meals down as well as finding out what things actually cost (not tourist prices).  Fun to watch the local news too - no ads and the female reporters wore interesting big jewelry!  The events were well presented with lots of background given.  The big story was about the attempted beheading and increased security.   


Next morning we after breakfast, we checked out and drove to Mt. Wilson for a picnic lunch with a Kurrawong and a Magpie! Then on the Mt. Tomah Botanical Gardens.  What a treat! 
  
Love the Australian Magpie!