Australia · 27 Days · 74 Moments · December 2015

Chris Bower

Chris and Jeff's Honeymoon Adventure

13 January 2016

Well...our honeymoon adventure is sadly coming to an end. We arrived in Sydney for one final evening before departing for LA and our home destination of NYC! This has been an unbelievable experience for both of us. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that we'd have the opportunity to see and do what we did over these last four weeks. This trip has shown us parts of the world that are incomparable to the places we've traveled before. This experience has also energized us and prepared us for what the future holds. Travel will absolutely be a passion for us moving forward - we're already dreaming up our next dream destinations. We hope that everyone has enjoyed following along with us on our journeys these past few weeks. We can't begin to thank those that helped with this trip! While we're sad to be heading home we're excited to begin 2016 in our home country with our families and friends!
Sadly the weather did not clear up in time for our 7am sky diving trip. The clouds were just a bit too low and the winds a bit too high for us. While we're bummed we are very fortunate to have had a wonderful time here in Queenstown and got to experience so much of this area from the road, the water and from the air. This only gives us even more reason to come back to this beautiful country again to sky dive! Instead we had a lazy morning and a great lunch which included yet another bottle of wine! to Sydney for a night before we head home!

12 January 2016

Hopefully this weather following our amazing dinner at Botswana Butchery passes before dawn so we can sky dive tomorrow!

11 January 2016

Once we reached the Walter Peak High Country Farm we were treated to a gourmet BBQ lunch. There were farm tours and such but we opted for a bottle of wine and a wander around the farm to look at the beautiful gardens and some of the animals they house there. This homestead was once working sheep farm in a remote valley on Lake Wakatipu and is now a tourist attraction. It was a nice day and another great way to see this area just from the water this time.
We then boarded the TSS Earnslaw which is a coal powered steamship for a trip to a farm on the other side of lake Wakatipu. Coal is loaded onto the ship with each trip and then a crew of stokers throw 1 ton of coal each hour into the fires to power the ship at full speed. After seeing the engine room and the work these guys were doing this was not a job for us!
The next day we awoke pretty early to prepare for our sky diving experience over Queenstown. The sunrise was beautiful over the Remarkables mountain range. Sadly, the wind was a bit too strong so our sky diving excursion was rescheduled for the next day. Fingers crossed! Instead we opted for an impromptu day of relaxation and more sightseeing. We explored the Queenstown Gardens and their beautiful rose gardens.
Following our cruise, we were fortunate enough to be able to fly back to Queenstown versus the four hour bus ride. This afforded us some unbelievable views of the Fjordland and the area's mountain ranges. Seeing this area from the air is fantastic and I honestly can't imagine a trip of this nature to a land of this type without seeing it from the air. As with the helicopter ride you realize just how big everything is around you. Normally these flights back can be a rare thing particularly with the views we had because weather just simply doesn't allow for it. It really is amazing to see.

10 January 2016

More of the beautiful sights from above the Queenstown Fjordlands...
Upon arrival in Milford Sound we boarded a cruise for a tour of the sound and lunch. Turns out Milford Aound is misnamed as it should actually be called a fjord - a fjord is created from tectonic shifts while a sound is created by river activity. As we cruised around we were in awe of just how massive the sheer cliffs were around us. Annually this area receives about 250 meters of rain a year - that's over 500 feet of rain! This rain cascades off the stone through tremendous waterfalls into the sound. We were extremely lucky with a very sunny day that allowed us to see so much more than most people get to see. Because the cliffs extends hundreds of meters below the water surface our ship was able to pull right up to the cliff walls to get wet by the waterfalls. It really is a very stunning environment. We were speechless.
More photos of the impressive Milford Sound...
The next day we took a full day trip to Milford Sound. More on that portion later because the 4 hour bus ride was too beautiful to pass over. The bus departed Queenstown and as the ride continued, the landscape dramatically transformed into stunning views. This is because we were driving into the Fjordland of New Zealand where tectonic shifts in the earth created tremendous valleys and even more dramatic vistas the deeper you got. We came across Mirror Lakes where you can see almost perfect reflections of the nearby mountain range in the water due to crystal clear water and unique tannins that exist in the water. We also saw massive glaciers that produce massive waterfalls and rivers as the snow from the previous season melts - providing fantastic and completely pure drinking water.

9 January 2016

More pictures from the helicopter tour...
More pictures from the helicopter tour...
More pictures from the helicopter tour...
Following our 4-wheel adventure Jeff and I boarded a helicopter for what was an amazing tour around Queenstown. Seeing the surrounding areas of this town from the air is simply stunning. It's shocking to think that places like this actually exist on earth and makes you realize just how tiny you are in this universe. We were able to land on multiple glaciers to explore, fly by multiple LOTR locations and see just how massive this expansive area really is. There are so many pictures and video from this tour that you're just going to have to see multiple posts from us :)
As mentioned previously Queenstown is a Mecca for action adventure sports with one sport really starting it all - bungy jumping! A New Zealander created the sport back in the 80s and clearly it has caught on since with numerous other sports being created here as well. That bridge you see is the first commercially licensed bridge to allow for this crazy sport. If you look closely you will see someone hanging from the bridge. No thank you! We have our own death defying event coming up! Also on this tour we learned of what really put Queenstown on the map - gold. The mountains and rivers in this area produced some of the largest quantities of gold in the world during the early 1900s. This brought gold diggers from around the world to Queenstown. While there is very little left to be discovered we had the opportunity to pan for gold. This is not an easy process but we did find a few flakes of the rich stuff!
Today we set out for our Safari of the Scenes tour. This 4-wheel drive vehicle and our amazing guides took us out to see many of the major filming locations of the LOTR films that are in the surrounding Queenstown area. When Peter Jackson filmed the movies here he chose this country and in particular many of the mountain ranges of this particular area because the terrain is so vastly different from various viewing locations. He could film one scene with part of the Remarkables mountain range in the background and then simply look 20 degrees in a different direction to film a scene from a completely different area of the film's desired locations. Many of the permanent residents of Queenstown also played parts as extras in many of the scenes. For those LOTR fans out there, check out the license plate of our vehicle! Clearly Jeff was very excited about this tour.
You've probably noticed a considerable lack of updates over the past few days. That is because we arrived in Queenstown - in the southern island of New Zealand - and have been busy with a number of really amazing experiences. Queenstown could very well be considered the action sports/adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere and we now see why. You'll see all of our updates shortly but our first plan of action in Queenstown was to get to know this small city. Tourism is central to this city so it is very much planned for the million or so visitors it receives each year. It very much reminded us of Park City, Utah in its design and architecture. The city is nestled along a portion of the banks of Lake Wakatipu - New Zealand's third largest lake but also its deepest at over 300 meters deep. Our first stop was to the famous Ferg Burger where lines can be up to an hour long! We were lucky to catch it as just about 30 minutes.
The mountains surrounding this small town are quite remarkable. So remarkable that early settlers of this area actually called some of them, The Remarkables. Our hotel is positioned just on a hill overlooking the lake and two mountain ranges. Beautiful! The lake is quite cold - just 52 degrees - and only fluctuates a few degrees between winter and summer. You don't see too many people on the water other than jet boats, cocktail cruises or other tour boats.

8 January 2016

Our day of wine tours ended with an epic sunset over the vineyards. The other thing that makes seeing these vineyards so special is just how beautiful this area is. Seeing this sunset on our final night here was pretty amazing.

7 January 2016

We spent the day with a great guide and had an unexpected private tour. Norm was his name and just like in Cheers - everyone knew him. He was a fantastic guide to take us around this area. We toured about 8 wineries sampling all types of wines. There's something really special about the wines from this region. To us they have been a part of many memorable meals and our wedding. To this region and the people who live here there is a passion for winemaking that is more about their unique personalities than it is about producing vast quantities of wines. Seeing these vineyards that we've shared for years and some new ones was a lot of fun for us.
We spent the next day on a vineyard/wineries tour of this region. This area was found to be great for sauv blanc production in the 1970s and then production quickly increased after that. Today there are hundreds of producers in this area producing all wine varieties but predominantly Sauv Blancs - which is great because this is our favorite wine!
We left Wellington on a tiny plane for the very quick 15 minute flight to Blenheim in the South Island of New Zealand. This is the fastest way here as the ferry would have been 3.5 hours and is sometimes subject to the fierce winds and surf of this area. We came to Blemheim for the country's wine vineyards known as the Marlborough region. We're staying at a great resort nestled within a vineyard. Those winds I mentioned also bring crazy cloud formations over the mountain ranges providing us a pretty epic show from our room.

6 January 2016

Today we took a trip to the WETA workshop to see how the LOTR and Hobbit films were created. As fans of the films this was pretty cool. Not as extensive as we had hoped but still pretty informative. It's remarkable how much detail is put into every aspect of these films from miniatures to costumes to weaponry to makeup to digital design and so much more. The WETA group of companies is also far more extensive than you imagine working on a vast number of films including District 9, Avatar, X-Men, Avengers, etc. The New Zealand film industry is pretty extensive.
Here is some more of the art located around the city. Also a look at the flag that is currently being considered to replace the current New Zealand flag.

5 January 2016

Wellington is a pretty unique city with great architecture and art scattered all throughout the city.
A short flight from Rotorua and we've arrived in Wellington. This is the nation's capitol and is also considered the cultural capitol. They claim there are more restaurants per capita in Wellington than New York City so we'll see how true that is. Upon arrival at the airport, also known as "the middle of Middle Earth" Jeff got very excited to see the Eagles, Gandalf and Golum in gigantic form at the airport. Clearly making it known that the home of the WETA workshops who created the LOTR and Hobbit movies is based here.

4 January 2016

We spent a pretty relaxing couple of days in Rotorua. It's a small town that is built predominantly around the minerals springs that were discovered here by the Maori tribe thousands of years ago. We spent some time at Te Puia which is the cultural experience of the Maori tribe where you learn about their culture, learn about their carving and weaving expertise and visit their mineral springs, mud pools and a collection of active geysers. The main geyser goes off a couple of times an hour shooting steam and water 30 meters into the air. Pretty impressive. We also spent some time at the Polynesian Spa soaking in the mineral springs and getting massages and mud wraps. It was very relaxing. With a town surrounded by mineral springs there is definitely a sulfur smell in the air. Sometimes it's pretty robust! We're off to Wellington today for our next adventures!

3 January 2016

Part 3 of Hobbiton...the film location also includes the Green Dragon pub where you can sample a brew and a meat pie (which were amazing!). Can't begin to express just how much detail was incorporated into this experience. It definitely rivaled what you would see at Disney and Universal Studios only with a real environment and foliage - except for the one tree that was located above Bag End which is made of steel and 200,000 fake leaves. If you ever have the opportunity to see this, whether you're a fan of the films or not, please do!
Part 2...there are just so many unique and beautiful ways to photograph Hobbiton. Both of us had an absolute blast. The Hobbit holes were rebuilt following the first three LOTR films utilizing permanent materials to create this unique experience. There are over 200 employees here who keep everything looking beautiful for the 1,000 guests each day.
The next day we made the journey to "Middle Earth" to visit the film location for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton movies. Peter Jackson and his team scouted what is the perfect location for the "Hobbit" films in the middle of the NZ countryside. They settled on the Alexander farm, a 1,200 acre area of rolling hills with one of the most beautiful views you can imagine. Following the films this area was turned into a tourist attraction where you can explore the 44 Hobbit holes and other buildings that were created for the films. They have done an impeccable job. As someone who has grown up with the magic of Disney, we can safely say that there is some big competition here. Part 2 of the photos to follow...
We started on our drive through New Zealand. The countryside is amazing. Really beautiful and pretty desolate. There are however tons of cows. Heaps of cows as kiwis say. There is also a wide variety of trees and flowers here. They love hydrangeas here. Some of the hydrangea colors we've never seen in the states. This was also our first opportunity to drive on the other side of the car. I did quite well...although I tend to hug the left side of the roadway sometimes. Jeff laughed hilariously when I forgot about driving on the other side and tried to get into the passenger side of the car after a pit stop. It's a lot more confusing than you think!!
On our way from Auckland to Rotorua we stopped in Waitomo to explore the well known caves that were discovered here back in the 1800s. These caves hold glow worms that hang from the ceiling of the caves catching bugs. The phosphorescence in the glow worm produces a beautiful light that attracts the bugs - and clearly humans who want to see. Our trip here was a bit more adventurous and included a cave diving/tubing experience through the caves. This of course resulted in great (read...unflattering) pictures of us in wet suits. This was a bit different than the cave diving we had done with family and friends in Mexico. The equipment was a bit lacking here and our headlamps did not work which made navigating a cave and the rushing rapids in the dark a bit challenging. The rain the days previously made the rapids even more intense. We had fun though and the glow worms are really beautiful. From there we continued our drive down to Rotorua for a few days and our very exciting trip

2 January 2016

We arrived to a very rainy and gray Auckland, New Zealand. This was our first stop in this country before exploring a number a of great places. We had a really great dinner at Culpeper and spent the rest of the evening relaxing.

1 January 2016

Our final full day in Sydney was topped off by the climb to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. This massive structure, along with the Sydney Opera House, make up the iconic skyline of Sydney. Completed in 1932, the span is the largest of its kind in the world and over 250,000 vehicles cross it every day. It reaches over 400 feet into the air and affords some of the most impressive views of Sydney - so of course we had to climb it! Sadly you are not permitted to bring your own cameras so this is the only photo we have but it's pretty amazing. As you imagine, it was quite windy up there! We did well on the climb considering a fall from the top would result in a 5 second free fall. Seeing Sydney like this on our last day was a pretty special way to end our evening. Loved this experience!
On the return trip from Manly beach we were able to see even more amazing views of the Sydney Opera House...

31 December 2015

After an epic NYE, we slept in prior to a late breakfast and a quick trip out to Manly beach. We made the mistake of trying Australian meat pies from what we thought would be a good cafe and left a lot to be desired. Not sure a second try at those will be necessary. We took the ferry out to Manly beach as it afforded a really amazing view of Sydney from the water. We can't believe just how this city becomes more and more beautiful with every turn. You'll see some small specks on the Harbor Bridge. Those are people climbing the bridge which we'll be doing later in the day!! Manly beach is similar to Bondi beach only a bit more upscale. We could definitely see ourselves coming back here and staying a few days to lounge on the beach at Manly then going into the city for the rest of the stay.
We have our champagne in hand and are ready for our spectacular New Year's Eve experience at Sydney Opera House. We have a dinner overlooking the harbor and a performance of La Boheme along with two firework displays and an after party. Going to be a long night!
The Sydney fireworks in a word - STUNNING! Simply one of the best fireworks displays we have ever seen. The fireworks surround you from every angle - multiple barges along the harbor, from the bridge, from the top of the opera house. This was a pretty magical way for us to spend the final moments of what has been an amazing year for us. While there have certainly been moments of difficulty and loss that we've had to overcome, the joy and happiness that we have been able to share with our friends and families this year has been overwhelming. Happy New Year! Cheers to what we know will be a phenomenal 2016!!
Following the first act of La Boheme we raced to the viewing area reserved for the opera guests for the 9pm family fireworks. This location overlooks the harbor bridge and is a fantastic viewpoint. The viewing area isn't huge so we opted to skip the 2nd act of the opera to stake out our spots for the midnight fireworks. While we waited we were entertained by the Lord Mayor's party happening on the terrace below us. All of the boats in the harbor line their boats with lights and parade around the waterways all night. This is a really busy harbor so it was beautiful to see all of these ships pass by. During our wait until the midnight fireworks we met a really great couple from Norway and also hung out with some New Yorkers who were also on their honeymoon. Also randomly chatted with a girl who grew up in Winter Park! The countdown to midnight is on!!!

30 December 2015

Today is the big day - New Year's Eve 2015! This city is extremely organized for an event of this magnitude. They estimate that over a million people will fill the streets and the ground surrounding the harbor as well as in hundreds of boats to catch the show. That many people have to be corralled in some way so all day you would see streams of people lining up to be let into different parks and other viewing areas. There are hundreds of ticketed events happening as well. We'll be doing the opera performance and dinner with viewing access of the fireworks from the Opera House. We had a fantastic lunch with our friend Pat at the New South Wales gallery. The gallery had a number of aboriginal pieces of art that were beautiful. Pat also drove us around to see different areas of Sydney. It was a good afternoon.
Tonight we enjoyed a really fine dining experience at Aria which is located on the same pier as the Sydney Opera House. The views were amazing as you can imagine. This city really is all about the harbor and the views it affords. If only NYC took advantage of the waterways like Sydney does! The city was prepping for the New Year's Eve celebrations so a bit of chaos is going on in the area. Streets will start being blocked off at 3am on NYE. Fortunately our hotel is within walking distance to everything. The bridge looks beautiful at night so we can't wait for our prime viewing of the fireworks during and after the opera. We had an after dinner cocktail at Bonnegal, the restaurant located in one of the Opera House's sails. The Opera House architecture is beautiful. Despite all the pictures you may have seen of it, the Opera House is not pure white. It's made up of thousands of small, off white ceramic tile. Beautiful!

29 December 2015

Today we slept in and made our way out to Bondi Beach. With this being a holiday week we knew it would be pretty busy. Our plan was to do the coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. It meanders along the coastline and its cliffs. The views are simply amazing. As most of you know we love our Fire Island and these beaches definitely rival Fire Island. The idea of being able to come here each weekend is pretty tempting. We grabbed fish and chips in Bondi which were fantastic and then trekked to Coogee where Jeff's colleague and his family were staying. It was a really lovely afternoon.
We've arrived in Sydney!! Very excited about our stay here as we'll be celebrating New Year's Eve at the Sydney Opera House, experiencing the Harbor Bridge climb and much more!
Finishing up our stay in Port Douglas with a fantastic pulled pork taco from this great little place for brekkie. The sun peeked out a bit this morning before our car to the airport. We're now off to Sydney for 5 days and the New Year's Eve celebrations.

28 December 2015

Today we ventured off the coast of Port Douglas for our snorkeling experience at the Great Barrier Reef. This was unbelievable and truly one of the most amazing things we've ever done. While we'd not recommend doing a snorkeling adventure on a boat of this size (400 people) it was a good introduction to the reef and convenient considering our limited time in Port Douglas. We opted for a private experience with a marine biologist who took us out to further parts of the reef than the masses visit. Her knowledge and guidance was exactly what we wanted and it was fantastic. We can definitely see why people spend an entire week on the reef and do this multiple times a day. We will be back to do this again! Please note the photos posted here were from the submersible and not what we experienced during our dive - definitely not the best representation. I have video of the snorkel dive that shows just how beautiful and precious this place is and why it is a 7th wonder of the world!

27 December 2015

Our rainforest tour continued with a hike through the Daintree rainforest. Here in this part of Australia they receive a lot of rain, and we've arrived during the rainy season. We were worried at first that this would present too many issues but we dealt with the occasional shower and walking through a rainforest, you expect to get wet. Plus our new hats kept us dry! The flora and fauna in this part of Australia are simply amazing. It's a stark contrast to where we were previously (in the desert) as well as where we're both from which we consider pretty humid and tropical.
After the wildlife habitat visit we wandered around Port Douglas. It's very much a beach town, very similar to Key West but more beautiful and much more tropical. It was very hot and humid today. So much so that we needed hats. We later went on a Daintree Rain Forest your. It began with a boat ride on the Daintree river. This is a tidal river that mixes fresh and salt water over the course of the day. So you might see crocodiles and sharks swimming in the river! We only saw crocs and other animals. My mom would be very proud to see the boat driver was wearing a Gators cap!
I failed to mention that while on our honeymoon, Jeff and I have decided we're adopting a baby. His name is Samson.
Rather than doing our fourth walk around the rock formations, we decided to sleep in as we would be flying to Port Douglas today. Before the flight we spent the morning and early afternoon relaxing and having one last amazing lunch at Longitude 131. This resort is simply remarkable and we highly recommend it! On our way out we came across two of the reptiles the resort has - a spiny devil lizard and another lizard type they've nicknamed Frank. Pretty cool. We headed to the airport for Port Douglas which is in the northern part of the country along the Great Barrier Reef. It's raining a lot up there right now due to a cyclone so fingers crossed that we're not totally washed out!
We arrived in Port Douglas a bit late on Boxing Day and sadly not much seemed to be open in this small beach town. Our hotel concierge (if you want to call it that) was not even at the hotel and we had to get our keys from a lock box. It was definitely a dramatic departure from the five star luxury hotel experience we had just left. We settled in and grabbed a quick bite before heading to bed.

26 December 2015

This morning we went to a wildlife habitat to check out some of the Australian animals that we haven't seen in the wild yet. This included kangaroos, wallabies, emus and tons of other birds. We were able to walk freely in a kangaroo habitat and feed them from the palm of our hands. It brought back a few nightmares from the kiddie petting zoos of our childhoods but still fun to feed animals we've never really seen that up close and personal. I previously mentioned the birds at this habitat - I really don't like birds, especially birds that are as tall as me! But we did get to see the Bower bird in action!
So it appears that due to limited wifi availability in the outback, a number of my recent Journi posts did not make it through to you. Be sure to scroll down as they have been added for your Christmas Day entertainment...

25 December 2015

Our Christmas Day experience here in the outback closed out with a great dinner at the resort complete with "Bon bons" filled with fun prizes. The meals here as you can imagine have been unbelievable. We've definitely experienced some much enjoyed pampering during our stay here. Tomorrow it's a relaxing day by the hotel and then off to Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef!
The Mala Walk continued to the Kantju Gorge which features the tallest waterfall on Ayer's Walk. When it does rain here, a great deal of water flows across the top of the Rock to this Gorge and cascades down into a watering hole that feeds the vegetation and animals in the area. This also happened to be a location for us to see how the setting sun changes the colors of the Rock's surface. The resort also brought wine, cocktails and canapés out to the gorge for us to enjoy. One thing we haven't noted yet is just how many flies there are in this area. If the wind is not blowing you become surrounded by flies which drive you crazy - especially Jeff!
Our next excursion of the day took us back to Ayer's Rock for the Mala Walk at sunset. It was a beautiful evening although still a bit warm. This walk provided a great bit of information about the sacred beliefs of the rock that the Anangu tribe of this area calls home. This tribe has been here for over 30,000 years and believe that the Rock was an area their spiritual beings, called the Mala, created Earth. Certain areas of the Rock are so sacred to the Anangu that pictures are not permitted. There is one place on the Rock where you can climb to the top but it is something the tribe is quite against. You can see the very small posts and chain leading up the side behind Jeff in one of the pictures. Definitely not something we'll be doing! Also along this walk you're able to see what millions of years of erosion have done to the Rock itself. When the Rock rose out of the ground erosion created massive caves that the Anangu lived in - one looking like a massive ocean wave.

24 December 2015

Our first full day in Uluru had us on two tours...the first was a tour to the sister rock formation called Kata Tjuta. This one features more unique dome shaped features. This is the more sacred of the formations and much of the area is off limits to visitors. If caught in the restricted areas the tribe is permitted to spear you in the leg! Our guide, Grace, kept us out of those areas and took us on a walking tour of Walpo Gorge. It is here that you can walk up into a portion of the formation and be completely surrounded in the very tall cliffs of the rocks. How these formations were created is simply remarkable and took hundreds of millions of years. We would need a masters in geology to understand all of it but Grace did her best in explaining the process. It was another hot day here with sun that forced you out of this area before 11am!
A short drive from the airport and we have arrived at Longitude 131 - our home for the next couple of days. This resort is simply stunning. We're staying in one of only 14 luxury tents that all overlook the magnificent Ayer's Rock. This is most definitely not camping! No more than 30 people stay here at any given time so as you can imagine the service is impeccable. And the views are just amazing!
After two short flights from Melbourne, we have arrived at the Ayer's Rock Resort in Uluru. From the plane you can see just how barren and dry this area of the country is. It looks like a scene from the movie The Martian with the iconic red sands everywhere. You can also feel how hot this place can get as it was 100 degrees when we landed. From the plane you can also see the sheer magnitude of the rock formations that we came to see. Much more about these formations and many pictures to come.
Time to pack our bags and leave the great city of Melbourne. We definitely want to come back. Perhaps for the Australian Open next time! Now off to the airport for our flights to Alice Springs and then Ayer's Rock. The landscape from the plane's window shows just how "outback" this area of the country will be.
We've been really very impressed by the design and architecture here in Melbourne. Great looking modern design alongside the city's older, traditional buildings. Melbourne's personality and culture are displayed well in their skyline.
After settling in to our tent we prepared for our first excursion to the Rock. This was intended to be a sunset walk and a dinner experience under the stars but a rare thunderstorm rolled in to the area. This area only gets 250 millimeters (less than 10 inches) of rain a year! So, to see rain cascade down the side of the Rock and a rainbow is a very rare experience. The rain also made the surface of the Rock look completely different as the lichen that coats the surface of the Rock turns deeper in color. The clouds did part for a bit of time to allow for some impressive photos. We couldn't dine under the stars but our dinner in the resort's Dune House was pretty special as lightning and thunder was all around us. Pretty amazing first dining experience.
After settling in to our tent we set off on our first Ayer's Rock excursion which was expected to be a sunset look at the Rock and then a dinner under the stars at a private dining area in the middle of the resort's property. As you can tell by the photos there was a bit of cloud cover in the area that then turned into a torrential downpour and high winds that kicked up dust storms around the Rock. This area only gets 250 millimeters (9 inches) of water per year so we were actually in for quite a treat. As water collects on the Rock it cascades down the crevasses that have been formed by erosion over millions of years. It also produced really deep colors in the Rock and gave a completely different appearance to the Rock than we had seen previously. The storm passed long enough for us to get a few pictures as well as a spectacular rainbow and sunset.

23 December 2015

We capped off our stay in Melbourne with a "pub crawl" of some great bars and restaurants that we discovered on our tour earlier in the day. We hit about six different places trying Tasmanian whiskey, haggis croquettes, Melbourne whiskey and New Zealand wines. It was a great way to cap off our stay in Melbourne and discover some places off the beaten path.

22 December 2015

Today we spent a few hours touring the laneways and alleys of Melbourne's central business district. Each city block features these small bypasses that house retail stores, restaurants, bars and other small businesses. Tucked in here are some of Melbourne's best restaurants and much of its cultural history. The tour was great and helped us create a restaurant/pub crawl for the evening.
The journey along the Great Ocean Road tour continued to the 12 Apostles - these are a dozen gigantic rock outcroppings that were formed over millions of years of erosion. They're beautiful and striking to see in person. Not only do you witness just how powerful the ocean is, you realize that each of us is formed and changed by the environment around us and we represent just a very tiny portion of the world. On the way to the 12 Apostles, our tour took us to an amazing rain forest nestled just off the ocean coast. It was a unique environment surrounded by eucalyptus trees and massive fern trees that are hundreds of years old. The air in this area is really crisp and pure because the jet stream delivers winds to this area directly from Antarctica - it's amazing to think that nothing was able to obstruct this air over thousands and thousands of miles.

21 December 2015

Today we spent the day on the Great Ocean Road tour, traveling over 675 kilometers for an impressive view of the Australian coast line. It was a long day (over 13 hours) on a bus (with other people) with numerous amazing photo stops (meaning bathroom breaks) to get to the 12 Apostles - an amazing outcropping of coastline. The tour included amazing sights of beaches that we definitely need to come back to and of the beautiful, but lazy, koala. Don't call them bears because according to a ridiculous children's song, they are not related to bears!
We stumbled upon our friend Nelson Aspen doing his entertainment segment on Sunrise Australia. Then took a trip to the local movie theatre for a little film that needs no explanation! Definitely worth it on these relaxing days in Melbourne.
We spent the rest of the day walking around Melbourne and enjoyed a shockingly nice dinner on the Colonial Tram Car Restaurant. It's essentially an old tram car that travels around Melbourne while serving dinner. Totally touristy but a great way to see the city!
We dined at a really great restaurant called Lucy Liu for some Asian fusion. The next day we spent some time walking around Melbourne and the Royal Botanical Gardens. Oh and took a trip to a local Apple Store to have my laptop worked on. Saw parts of Melbourne we didn't think we'd see - including the biggest mall we've ever seen.

20 December 2015

Well, after our 15 hour flight and a quick layover in Sydney, we arrived in Melbourne. We were not nearly as tired as we anticipated but fortunately planned for our first few days to be really relaxing. We explored the Federation Square area which is kind of like New York's Union Square. Art, culture and design are really big in Melbourne. You can see artistic expression everywhere and particularly in the small alleyways/laneways around the city. In fact, graffiti is permitted in various parts of the city. Here you see just a tiny fraction of the graffiti that appears on Hosier Lane.

18 December 2015

And we're off!! Next stop Melbourne with a quick stop over in Sydney. We're so excited. Crazy thing is... we'll actually be skipping over our three month wedding anniversary - 12/19. As we cross the international date line somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we'll never see the day, 12/19, and will land in Sydney on 12/20!
Had a pretty relaxing day in Santa Monica today. Walked around a bit, had a great breakfast at Huckleberry and lunch poolside at the hotel (with wine of course). The Fairmont Miramar hotel has a massive 135 year old magnolia tree gracing the front entrance. It's really impressive. We relaxed some more, watched Star Wars ep 4 and had some cocktails at the bar while we awaited our car to the airport. We are lucky enough to fly business class to Australia (thank you, hundreds of thousands of Skymiles!) and Delta has this new concierge service at LAX. You're personally greeted and able to enjoy a nice relaxing lounge while your travel documents are being processed. It's basically a fancy waiting room but so much better than dealing with the typical airport experience. The ladies in the lounge were so excited for our honeymoon...even though they thought we were brothers!

17 December 2015

Well, our honeymoon adventure has begun! It's hard to believe that the time has come. Almost three months to the day we got married we've packed our bags, finalized our itineraries and made plans for some amazing adventures. We kicked off our month-long trip by spending some time in Los Angeles before heading to Australia. Staying at the lovely Fairmont hotel in Santa Monica. We had an amazing sushi lunch at the very popular Sugar Fish before enjoying a beautiful sunset overlooking the beach in Venice. We of course did the tourist thing and walked along the Santa Monica pier and rode the roller coaster. Then, a taco dinner with our good friend Kevin Blanchette, before heading back to the hotel for a much needed good night's sleep.