Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Hawaii

You know that thing where you go on vacation and then you come back and not only did all the work that you didn’t do while you were away not get done, but it seems to have made some new friends while you were gone so you now have about eleventy billion emails to deal with and decisions to make and meetings to present at and assignments to grade? That is officially my excuse for why this blog posting about my trip to Hawaii is coming 25 days after we arrived back how!

Anyhoo, I’ve managed to mostly catch up so now I’m just back to my baseline level of crazy busy, plus it is a 4 day weekend, so I have found some time to sit down and tell you all about our trip to Hawaii.  Spoiler alert: it’s amazing and I didn’t want to come home.

Sunday

We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday, after an uneventful flight from YVR to Seattle and another uneventful flight from Seattle to Honolulu. We’d booked our trip through Costco1, as it was the best deal we found, and the package came with transportation to and from the airport. The person greeting us also had leis for all, so here’s a selfie of us at the airport”

Scott and I upon our arrival in Hawaii

In what would become a theme for the trip, after a day of flying, my hair looks like crap.

The rest of Sunday was basically just getting checked into the hotel (the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel) and then wandering around to get the lay of the land. Since we got in around 2pm, which meant we didn’t have much time to see stuff before the sunset because omg, the sun sets early. I knew that Hawaii was near the equator, but I hadn’t really thought about the implications of that in terms of sunrise and sunset – it’s pretty much sun from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm every day, all year long. I’m used to living quite far north of the equator and so my brain thinks summer weather = suns sets at 9 pm, so it was kind of trippy for it to be 27°C and have the sun set at dinner time! Fortunately, it stays warm even after the sunset, so it’s still nice to wander around even after the sun goes down. If you’ve never been to Honolulu, it’s basically just all beach and open air malls, with an ABC store every 12 feet.

Monday

We decided to start the holiday off with a bang by taking a surfing lesson. As long time readers may recall, I have been surfing only two times in my life and had only managed to get to a standing position for about half a second on one of those two surfing days. And that was more than a decade ago. So I figured that an actual surfing lesson, which I didn’t do the last time, was in order. We found a Groupon for lessons through Moku Hawaii Surf Shop, which was close to our hotel, so we decided to take our lessons with them. And I’m happy to report that having a surfing lesson resulted in a much more success in the amount of standing on the surfboard! We had a fantastic instructor named Jennifer, who was the only female instructor we saw in Waikiki. She went over the safety basics and the basics of how to surf, and told us that the hardest part of surfing isn’t getting up on your feet – it’s all about timing – picking the right wave and then figuring out when to start paddling and when to jump up. We headed out to the beach and then Scott and I basically took turns getting some help from Jennifer – she helped us pick a good wave, helped us with timing when to start paddling, gave us a little push to get going, and yelled “up” to let us know when to pop up. Once we got the hang of that, she helped us with timing but without the push (which made me realize how much the push helped!). She also had a GoPro camera that was on my surfboard for the first half of the lesson and on Scott’s surfboard for the second half. She also remembered part way through my time with the Go-Pro to tell me to turn the camera off when I was just walking/paddling back out to the waves, which meant that there were a million photos of me walking/paddling back out from before she told me that, but no photos of Scott like that. We got footage of a few of our runs each, but of course none of my really good runs were captured on video!

Waiting for a good wave:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Starting to paddle – you have to make sure you get up enough speed before the wave gets there so you can catch the wave:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you have to pop up:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

First up on your knees:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then pop up to your feet:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you are surfing like a pro:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Until you fall off:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

We had an absolute blast! Jennifer said that most people don’t last the full two hours, but Scott and I did. I credit all the hard workouts we did leading up to our trip2.

The water was pretty shallow and the reef was very sharp and what with all the falling off and getting knocked about by the waves, I managed to rip up my foot pretty badly:

My foot got wrecked by the reef when we surfed

It looked worse in person than that photo, if you can believe that.

Also, this picture is awesome:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

After our lesson ended, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach. It was at some point on this day that I said “Let’s send for the cats! I want to stay here forever!” Sadly, the reality of not having jobs there or a place to live there or the necessary citizenship to do that quickly quashed my dream, so I had to just make do with 6 more days.

Here’s a video of me surfing (you really only need to watch the first couple of minutes – after that it’s just me sloooooowly walking back out to sea as I didn’t know I was supposed to turn off the camera!):

And here’s Scott – this video actually includes him surfing twice:

Tuesday

We had so much fun surfing that we decided to do it again the next day. Since we’d taken lessons from Moku, we were able to get a discount on renting boards the next day. We were just going to rent for a few hours, but they gave us the whole day, so we spent the day surfing, then lounging on the beach, then surfing, and repeat.

We also tested ou snorkelling gear3 in the hotel pool.

Wednesday

We rented a car for a couple of days because we knew we wanted to check out more of the island – and because I wanted to go swimming with sharks and you have to go to the North Shore to do that. So Wednesday we drove around the island, including stopping by the beach at the Turtle Bay resort to do some snorkelling. The water was pretty murky, but we still managed to see some cool looking fish. Sadly, there were no turtles!

We also managed to find Ted’s Bakery, which my friend Heather had recommended that we check out. They make some pretty fantastic pie:

Ted's Bakery - pies

Thursday

Thursday was the day I’d been waiting for since we’d decided to go to Hawaii – swimming with sharks! When my sister went to Hawaii ages ago, she did this and it sounded so cool that I wanted to do it too! We found a Groupon4 for a trip with North Shore Shark Adventures, but then I discovered that if you book directly with them online, you get the same price as the Groupon, so I just booked directly. The concept is simple – you get on a boat, go out to a place where there are sharks, and then jump in a cage that’s floating off the side of the boat and snorkel while you watch the sharks swim all around you. Apparently the sharks are attracted by the sound of the boat because they go out to an area where people fish for crabs and the sharks have become accustomed to the crab fishers dumping their used bait out of the crab traps there, so the sharks hear a boat and think “dinner time!”5. The sharks in the area are mostly Galapagos sharks, with some sandbar sharks. I totally thought that Great White sharks were common in Hawaii, but the crew told us they are not.

We were supposed to be on a 10 am trip, but we got a call from the company a day before saying that forecast was for really choppy water so they were going to cancel the 10 am trip, but we could go on the 7 am one instead. Despite this meaning we had to get up at like 5 am to make the drive from Waikiki to the North Shore, we decided to do it ‘cuz we really wanted to swim with the sharks!

Here I am on the boat:View from the shark boat

Here’s the cage:

Shark diving cage

And here are some of the freaking sharks, as seen from the deck of the boat:

Sharks!

There were 12 people on the boat who wanted to go in the cage, along with some crew members, and a few people who were just along for the ride. So one group of six went first while the rest of us watched and then the second group of six took a turn after. Here’s the other group after the ropes had been loosened to allow the cage to float a bit away from the boat:

Shark diving cage

While the other group was in the cage, one of the women popped her head up and asked the crew “What’s the little shiny silver shark?” One of the crew members said “Is it about this big [holding his hands about a foot apart] and kind of pointy?” When she replied “Yes”, he said “That’s a barracuda. You should watch out for that. It can get inside cage and it will bite”.

After the first group’s turn was up, we got to go into the cage. I was the first one in our group to get in the cage. It was such a cool experience! The sharks were so beautiful – so graceful swimming by, all around and beneath us. Some of the Galapagos sharks were quite big – the biggest one we saw was probably 10 ft long. I really, really wished I had a Go Pro camera of my own as  it would have been amazing to capture it! I wasn’t scared of the sharks at all – there was no way they could have gotten into our cage and they really seemed pretty docile. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to stick my hand in their mouth or anything, but being in the cage felt totally safe. The barracuda showed up while we were in there and honestly, I was more afraid of him, because he could totally have swam into the cage and taken a bite! And he just sat their next to the cage, staring at us with his cold dead eye. I found this photo of a barracuda on Wikipedia and this is just what he looked like:

Great Barracuda close-up, western Puerto Rico

Scary barracuda is scary!

As I mentioned, the water was pretty choppy and eventually it got the better of me and I totally puked from sea sickness right in the cage! So gross! But I did feel better after losing my breakfast, so at least there’s that. (I also found out that several other people also got sea sick while we were in the cage – they were just puking off the side of the boat!) As much as I hate puking, it was totally worth it to see those sharks!

Also, while I didn’t have a Go Pro to capture this, some other random people who did the same dive as us on a different day did and put it up on Youtube. So check out this video and imagine that Scott and I are in that cage, because this is exactly what it was like:

After we finished with the sharks, we decided to head back to Turtle Bay for more snorkelling and lounging on the beach. Still no turtles!

Later that day, we hit the Dole plantation. We decided to go on the aptly named “Pineapple Express” train that goes around the plantation and features a narration that tells you about how the Dole Food Company is the most successful and generous company on the planet, pineapples are the greatest food ever to have existed and probably can cure cancer, and James Drummond Dole could walk on water6.

Tickets fo the Pineapple Express

 

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We did get to see some cool stuff, like how pineapples actually grow on bushes on the ground – I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’d kind of assumed they grew in trees, like coconuts!

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I also didn’t know that pineapples aren’t native to Hawaii – they were brought there from South America in the 1500s.

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In addition to pineapple, the Dole plantation had a bunch of other stuff – sugar cane, lemons, limes, avocados, cocoa, coffee, coconuts, bananas, etc.

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After we finished our Pineapple Express trip, featuring the musical stylings of a band that was willing to record a song called “Pineapple Express”, we checked out the shop to get some delicious Dole whip, which is basically like ice cream except that it’s made of pineapple instead of cream. I have to admit, it was pretty delicious. We also stayed for a pineapple cutting demonstration, during which the demonstrator took about 20 minutes using a special pineapple cutting knife while repeating “So easy!” over and over and over again. I will admit that it looked pretty cool when she was done, but I don’t think I’ll be adjusting my pineapple cutting ways.

How to cut pineapple

Scott as a pineapple

Scott is a pineapple

After we were full of Dole whip and indoctrinated into the cult of Dole, we decided to try to find a waterfall that you can hike to at the Waimano Public Hunting Area. I was a wee bit concerned to start a hike that starts with a sign that says I might be hunted with a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, a knife, a spear, and/or a bow and arrow (should I be mistaken for a pig or goat of either sex).

Waimano Public Hunting Area

Also concerning were the angry looking clouds in the sky and, not fancying the idea of driving all the way back to Waikiki in soaking wet clothing, we decided to just snap this pic of us with the scenic background and head back to the car without getting to our destination. I guess this is why they say don’t go chasing waterfalls.

As usual on this trip, my hair is a mess. But I had to fight off sharks and a barracuda earlier that day, so I guess it is to be expected.

Friday

On Friday we jumped on the city bus and headed to hike Diamond Head, which is a 300,000 year old crater.

Diamond Head hike

It’s not a super tough hike, thought these stairs at the top were not my favourite:

Diamond Head hike

but they get you to pretty cool views;

Diamond Head hike

Diamond Head hike

I don’t know what that lighthouse is called, but I’m totally adding it to my upcoming blog posting “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”7

Diamond Head hike

Since we’d already paid for a day pass for the bus8, we decided to head to the other side of town after our hike and checked out what was going on over there. Highlights included, this turtle who was hanging out in a fake pond by a restaurant:

In a fake pond by a restaurant

these beautiful birds that live at the Hilton:

and possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten:

Possibly the best ice cream I've ever eaten

It was surprisingly difficult to find ice cream in Waikiki. You’d think there would be an ice cream shop on every street corner. But you’d be wrong. We had to go all the way to the other side of Waikiki to find it.

waikiki map

Another reason we had decided to go to that side of town was that every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has a fireworks show. So after strolling around to see the various sights and eat the various ice cream that was on the side of town, we strolled over to the beach to watch the fireworks.

Yet again, my hair is craptacular! Given how much time we’d spent in the ocean on this trip, I’d pretty much given up hope that I could do anything with my hair by this point.

We followed up the fireworks display with a meal at Morton’s steakhouse, which was super freaking delicious. We were also somewhat amazed that we could walk into a restaurant on a Friday night without a reservation9.

Saturday

On the advice of my uncle Harry and my friend Sarah, neither of whom have actually been10, we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The USS Arizona is one of the ships that was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbour and it still sits where it sank, with the 1,177 who died that day still on the ship. In addition, some of the survivors of the USS Arizona have decided to have the ship as the final resting place of their remains when they subsequently died, making it both a memorial to those who died in the attack and an active military cemetery. When you visit, you first watch a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbour, complete with footage of the attack and some explanation of how and why the attack happened. Then you go on a navy boat to the memorial, which is basically a platform that sits astride the remains of the ship.

USS Arizona

The white structure in the background is the memorial, as seen from our boat as we headed towards the memorial.

 

USS Arizona

Parts of the remains of the ship.

 

Oil still leaks from the USS Arizona

Oil still leaks from the ship, more than 75 years later.

 

USS Arizona

There were some divers going into the water near the ship. I’m not sure what they were doing.

 

Divers at the USS Arizona

Divers in the water near the oil leaks.

 

USS Arizona

Names of the men who died on the USS Arizona are written instead the memorial

It was very sobering to see so many names – 1,177 men died just on this ship, let alone all the others who died in various other parts of Pearl Harbor that day – and to think about how young they all were – just boys, really, and their ship was sinking, and then exploding, before they even knew what happened. Today, there are only five remaining survivors, ranging in age from 94-96 years old.

After the navy boat brought us back, we wandered around a bit to see the other things that were around, like this nuclear torpedo:

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

And read the various signs with more information about the event:

Pearl Harbor

After that, we headed back to Waikiki to do more wandering around, eventually hitting Duke’s for dinner:

Drinks

Delicious drinks at Duke’s

and then stumbling upon a hula show that was going on at the beach:Hulu show on Waikiki Beach

Sunday

Sunday was our last full day on Oahu and we decided to spent it at Hanauma Bay, a beach on a bay that was formed by volcanic activity about 32,000 years ago, It became a very popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beach and amazing marine life, with about 400 different species of fish living there. They state has turned it into a nature preserve and when you first get there you have to watch a movie that basically just says “Don’t touch any of the living creatures, including the coral. Hey, did you know coral is alive? Well, you do now, so don’t touch it!” Then you are allowed to head down the hill to enjoy the beach.

Hanumba Bay was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, which is saying something because I loved pretty much everything about this trip. But the snorkelling here was amazing! The water was so clear and there were so many different kinds of beautiful fish! I was really regretting not having a GoPro while snorkeling here. You can see some of the types of fish that we saw on this Hanauma Bay Education Program Fish Identification Card – ones we saw included Bluespine Unicornfish, Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Sergeant, female Spotted Boxfish, male Christmas Wrasse, Moorish Idol, many types of Parrotfish and tonnes of Reef Triggerfish and Convict Tang. There was also a giant purple fish that I think was a type of Parrotfish and it was so big that you could actual hear it eating when you were underwater with it!

I found this video on Youtube from someone who had a similar experience – it’s a different colour of fish, but you can see what I mean about hearing the fish eating:

Apparently there are sometimes reef sharks in the bay, but we didn’t see any. I would kind of loved to have seen one because sharks are awesome, but even knowing that there has never been a shark attack in the bay and reef sharks don’t feed on humans, I may have freaked out if I’d actually seen one because OMG SHARK!

We basically spent the whole day there, alternating between snorkelling and lounging on the beach. On one of our later times out snorkelling that day we finally saw the second thing (other than sharks) that I wanted to see in the wild: a turtle! We were just snorkelling around on the opposite side of the bay than we’d been before and Scott called me over to where he was and pointed down into the reef. And there was a beautiful green sea turtle, just swimming around and eating from the reef! Again, I was kicking myself for not having a GoPro! I did find this photo on Flickr of a turtle that looks just like the one we saw:

Sea Turtle @ Hanauma Bay

I spent a bunch of time just swimming around following the turtle – he was just so cute11!

Here’s a video from someone who was smart enough to bring a GoPro with them while snorkelling there (this is pretty much exactly what my day was like, except for the soundtrack):

Also at the beach were a whole bunch of cats, who apparently live, feasting on garbage and having somewhat of an uneasy truce with a bunch of mongooses.

At one point, Scott was petting the kitties and a little kid who was probably three or four years old and had clearly paid attention in the “don’t touch the wildlife” video admonished him “Don’t touch them!!!!!” Of course, not touching the feral cats is probably more of a safety rule for you rather than the cats, but he didn’t end up getting bitten or scratched, so I suppose we’ll call that a win for all.

Monday

And just like that, the trip was over! We got one last morning in Honolulu, where I snapped what is probably the nicest photo I took on the whole trip, and from the restaurant in our hotel, of all places!

View from the restaurant in our hotel

On top of being a super amazing awesome fun time, my trip also allowed me to knock two items off my 101 list: #1 – Cage dive with sharks and #91 – Go to Hawaii. And as soon as I hit publish on this posting, it will put me 1/6th of the way towards achieving my 2018 goal of having “published at least six [blog postings] that are long form  (minimum of 3000 words).”

In conclusion: A++, would Hawaii again.

Image and Video Credits: The barracuda photo is from Wikipedia and the Green Sea Turtle photo posted by FHKE on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. All the other photos are mine or Scott’s. The two surfing videos are mine and Scott’s and for sources of the other videos, follow the links to YouTube.

  1. I’m reasonably sure that I’m slowly drifting towards an entirely Costco-based life. First it was just for food… then clothing… and now travel! []
  2. I told my trainer for January & February to give me a training program that would help me with surfing and/or looking good on the beach. So she gave me some crazy tough workouts and I think it really helped! []
  3. Which we bought at Costco (of course) before we left Vancouver. []
  4. Are you sensing my cheapness? []
  5. Apparently some companies will chum the water to attack sharks, but it’s controversial as it can affect shark behaviour and even lead to sharks equating humans with food, which is not a good thing. []
  6. Honestly, the whole time I kept thinking that the narration should have been done by Troy McClure. []
  7. Note to self: write that blog posting that you’ve been meaning to write since forever called “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”. []
  8. As a day pass is the same price as going somewhere on the bus and then returning, we decided just to get the pass to get to the hike and back, and then use it to travel around town some more. Because frugality. []
  9. Not something you can really do in Vancouver. []
  10. Though Sarah did plan a visit for her parents when they were in Hawaii and thus was able to give me detailed instructions of how to get there, get tickets, etc. []
  11. I’d also stalked some fish throughout the day – I’d find an interesting looking fish and then just follow it around to see where it would go. It got me wondering what the fish and turtle think about all these snorkelers – do they just think we are some weird looking fish? []

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I Went To The Land Down Under!

So I’m *finally getting around to blogging about my trip to Australia and Hong Kong, a mere *77* days after returning from said trip. I’m trying to think of a way that (a) won’t take me eleventy billion years to write it all and (b) won’t bore everyone to tears. Oh and (c) I can piece together from the few notes I took down on my trip and my photos. And to add further complication to my writer’s dilemma, I went on this trip with my then-boyfriend, but after we got home, we split up (Long story short – a big trip together is a good test of a relationship and while he is a good guy, we discovered that we just aren’t compatible enough). So my blog postings will be full of “we did this” and “we did that” and it’s now a historical “we”. Ok, with all that out of the way, I guess I’ll just start with the writing and see what happens!

The genesis of the trip was that I had an amazing opportunity to attend a conference in Perth. And I figured that if I was going to fly for 18 hours to get somewhere, I wasn’t just going to come right home after a four day conference. Especially given that I hadn’t taken a proper vacation in 3 years and had a big chunk of vacation time to use. So I decided to extend the trip to include:

  • a few days post-conference to check out the area around Perth
  • a few days in Byron Bay to go surfing (booked *before* I got my hip injury that made me barely able to walk, much less surf!)
  • a few days in Sydney
  • a couple of days in Hong Kong on the way back (since we had to stopover in HK, it seemed like a good opportunity to check it out)

Shortly after booking all the flights and accommodations, I learned that my friend Tanya was moving from Toronto to Melbourne! If only I’d know, I’d have gone there; but it worked out because Tanya and her husband Greg made the trip up to Byron Bay to hang out, which was super fun!

Travelling

This trip was by far the most flying I’ve ever done! It consisted of flights:

  • Vancouver to Hong Kong – 12.5 hours and 10,281 km
  • Hong Kong to Perth – 7.5 hours and 6,043 km
  • Perth to Sydney – 4.5 hours and 3,280 km
  • Sydney to Ballina – 1.25 hours and 612 km
  • Ballina to Sydeny – 1.25 hours and 612 km
  • Sydney to Hong Kong – 9.25 hours and 7,402 km
  • Hong Kong to Vancouver – 12.5 hours and 10,281 km

That makes a grand total of 48.5 hrs and 38,511 km of flying!

To make things even worse, I was severely debilitated by my hip injury. Like, I was limping so badly that at almost every airport we went to, when they saw me approaching the security line up they’d pull me aside with a “right this way, ma’am” and take me through the quick line up, because I was clearly too injured to be standing in any sort of line up. Fortunately, on the way there, the flights weren’t full so I was able to get up frequently to stretch.

Perth

Perth is the capital of Western Australia and with ~2 million people living in the Greater Perth area, it’s fairly similar in size to Vancouver. And though it’s a big city, it’s remote from other big cities, with the majority of the people being on the eastside of the continent. While in Perth, in addition to the conference, we did a bus tour to the Margaret River valley (a wine region), took a train out to nearby Fremantle (a port), and took a trip to Rottnest Island, which is off of Fremantle.

Cool Things in Perth

  • The Bell Tower at Elizabeth Quay:

Bell Tower in Perth

  • This bar (we didn’t actually go there, but couldn’t resist taking a photo of it due to the name):

The Lucky Shag Pub

  • The fact that transit is FREE in the Central Business District of Perth. Seriously, you just get on and off the buses as you please.

Central Area Transit in Perth

  • King’s Park – a really big park (sort of like Stanley Park) and it has cool fauna that is native to western Australia. I went for a walk (er, a limp) around there and saw lots of cool plants and fortunately was not killed by any of the deadly animals I am told live in Australia.
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All the trees in Australia are shaped like they should be in a haunted Disney forest

 

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This plant is called Kangaroo’s Paw

    • Beer and Beef Festival. It would have been better if it hadn’t been unseasonably cold and rainy – and they didn’t have any heaters or covered areas, but there were some decent beers and tasty food.
    • I caught the Pokémon that you can only catch in Australia on my first day in Perth!

I caught a Kangaskhan on my first day in Australia!

Things I Saw on the Margaret River Vally Bus Tour

  • Fiona Stanley Hospital – it just opened a couple of years ago and was named after the woman who discovered the link between insufficient amounts of folic acid during pregnancy and neural tube defects in babies (and thus is why we now fortify our grains with folate and see far fewer neural tube defects!)
  • Harvey Camp #11 – a World War II internment camp for Italians (I didn’t know that Italians were interned in Australia during WWII)
  • Tuart Forest National Park
  • Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.
  • The Busselton Jetty
  • Bootleg Brewery – we had lunch and a flight of beer here. Craft brewing in Australia just doesn’t quite compare to the craft beer scene in Vancouver – but some of the beers were quite good and the food was great!
    Bootleg Brewing

    I was representin’ New West with my Steel & Oak Brewing hoodie on at Bootleg Brewing.

    Sadly, there were no dog picnics:

Bootleg Brewing

  • Sandalford Winery – sampled some wine here.
  • Mammoth Cave – this place was awesome! Just an absolutely beautiful cave. Also, because we were on a bus tour with some older people, it could go up and down the stairs slowly (thanks injured hip!) but didn’t hold up the crowd.
    Mammoth Cave, Western Australia
  • A kangaroo. I only got a glimpse of it hopping along the side of the road as our bus whizzed by at dusk, but it was the only kangaroo I saw in all of Australia!

Things I Learned on the Margaret River Vally Bus Tour

First of all, the tour guide told us a few things that I looked up later and found out weren’t true. So I’ve looked up stuff that I wrote down on this tour to see how much of it was true:

  • There are bull sharks in the Swan River.
  • The Noongar people, who are the indigenous people of the south western part of Western Australia, have an origin story where the Swan and Canning Rivers and other features of the land were created by The Wagyl, a giant snake-like creature that slithered around, creating the  shape of the land.
  • The “coat of arms sausage“, which we ate at the Bootleg Brewery pub, is so called because it’s made of the meat of kangaroo and emu, the two animals on the Australia coat of arms.

and how much was false:

Fremantle

Fremantle is a port city at the mouth of the Swan River. We took a train there, mostly because I wanted to visit the prison! The prison is a museum now and my friend Martha had told me it was well worth checking out.

  • Fremantle Prison was originally a prison for, and built by, convicts shipped over from England. At first England just shipped over petty criminals – like bread thieves – but over time they started slipping more dangerous criminals – like rapists and murders – onto the convict ships. Once England stopped shipping its criminals to Australia, it became a regular prison (i.e., for local prisoners).
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Entrance to the prison grounds

 

Freemantle Prison

The prison yard

  • The cells were really, really tiny and convicts/prisoners stayed in them for much of the day. In later years, they knocked down walls to make the cells double this size, but they it got crowded again and so they put in bunk beds and made two prisoners share the double sized cells.

Freemantle Prison

  • In later years, they let some of the prisoners paint in their cells:Freemantle Prison
  • The only place that wasn’t tiny and dark was the chapel, which had big windows and a high ceiling so as to feel open and bright. Threatening to revoke one’s time in the chapel was a good way to keep prisoners in line.

Freemantle Prison

  • We got to try out going into a solitary confinement cells, with the tiny window closed up and all the lights off. Prisoners would be placed in there for 23 hours a day, with 1 hour of exercise which consisted of running back and forth across a small yard. The walls on each side of the yard had placards with numbers and the guards would yell out a number and you’d have to run to that number on the opposite wall. And repeat. For an hour. And then back to your cell!
Freemantle Prison

Behind that second door is a solitary confinement cell.

  • Here’s where you’d get flogged, if you were given a flogging as punishment:

Freemantle Prison

  • And if you were sentenced to death, here’s the gallows where they would hang you:

Freemantle Prison

There was a big riot in 1988 and the prison closed in 1991, and shortly thereafter became a museum. What you see in the prison is pretty much what it would have been like right before it closed – very bleak.

Other fun facts about Fremantle (the city, not the prison):

    • The Noongar name for Fremantle is Walyallup.
    • The locals call it Freo.
    • Little Creatures Brewery is there – they make pretty good beer.

Little Creatures Brewing

Little Creatures Brewing

Wearing my Steel & Oak hoodie at a brewery again. It was unseasonably cold in Western Australia and that was the only hoodie I brought!

  • Here I am breaking the law in Fremantle. #ThugLife

Freemantle, Western Australia

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is 18 km west of Fremantle and is home to the cutest animal in the world: the quokka! Quokkas are small marsupials – about the size of a small house cat. They live almost exclusively on Rottnest (there is a very small population (~400) on the mainland), where there are between 8,000-12,000 living on the 19 km2 island. Having no predators, these adorable little guys are super friendly and will come right up to you (mostly hoping you will feed them, which you shouldn’t because they can’t digest people food and it makes them sick). They are considered a vulnerable species and it’s against the law to even touch them1, unless you are Cookie Monster. I really, really wanted to bring one home as a pet but (a) it’s illegal and (b) I think the cats might try to eat a quokka if we had one.

Quokka

Quokka

Quokka

  • Getting a selfie with a quokka is a trendy thing to do. Here’s some lady doing so with a selfie stick.

Rottnest Island

  • I’m too cool for a selfie stick, but I got an amazing quokka selfie2 the old fashion way (i.e., holding the camera):

Quokka selfie!

  • This little quokka showed up in the restaurant we had lunch in and was tugging on my pant leg as if so say “spare a french fry for a hungry quokka?”

Quokka in a restaurant

Other fun facts about Rottnest Island:

  • It was named by a Dutchman who mistook the quokkas for giant rats – it means “rat nest island”.
  • The locals refer to Rottnest Island as “Rotto”.
  • The original Noongar name for Rottnest Island is Wadjemup.
  • No one is allowed to live on Rottnest unless they have a job that requires them to work on the island outside of the hours that the ferries run. For example, if you were a baker at a bakery, you could live on the island because you’d need to do your baking very early in the morning, but if you were a cashier i that bakery, you’d be required to ride the ferry to and from the island every day to get to work.
  • The island was at one point used as a prison for indigenous people. It was also used as a location for a reformatory for boys.
  • A large part of the island was de-forested as people who settled there were unable to farm, due to the poor soil, so they made their living by harvesting salt from the salt lakes, which required fire, which require cutting down trees. They are now trying to re-forest it3.

The tour guide on the Rottnest Island ferry, like the Margaret River bus tour guide, told us a few things that were just not true. Notably, she said that the government of Western Australia spent $26 billion developing Elizabeth Quay in Perth. According to Wikipedia, the government spent $440 million and then got back $134 million from selling property to developers. The tour guide on the bus told us that “quokka” is the Noongar word for “food”, but I have been unable to verify this through my extensive Googling4.

Byron Bay

As previously mentioned, the Byron Bay portion of the trip was booked with the intention of going surfing, but due to my injured hip, I was barely able to walk and so surfing, along with its required jumping up and balancing on a surfboard, was not a thing I could do. Byron Bay was beautiful though and I had a great time hanging out with Tanya and Greg.

Highlights of Byron Bay:

    • The beaches. So lovely.
      Byron BayBeach in Byron Bay
    • The ibises:

Ibis

  • I found a giant dead jellyfish on the beach. Until I found it, I had forgotten that I should be worried about getting stung by a jellyfish!

Jellyfish I found on the Beach in Byron Bay

  • Although I couldn’t go surfing, I decided to go body boarding instead. I figured since I’d be lying down on the board, my hip would not be required. What I didn’t think about was how powerful the currents would be and just trying to walk out, and then swim out, to catch a wave was really, really not pleasant on my hip. On the plus side, the water was very cold, so it helped numb the pain!
After bodyboarding

Here I am after body boarding. I look like a drowned rat.

  • Here’s a sign I saw *after* I spent a day and the following morning body boarding. It warns you that you’ll probably die from the rip current unless you follow their instructions5.

Byron Bay

  • Speaking of the dangers of the ocean, we found out after a day of playing in the ocean that a surfer was attacked by a great white shark at the next beach over from our beach right at the time we were in the ocean. The next beach over was ~20 km away, but that’s really not that far for a shark.

Newspaper article about shark attack

Newspaper article about shark attack

  • Cape Byron Lighthouse. Visiting lighthouses was starting to become a thing for me, so of course we had to check out the big one in Byron, the aptly named Cape Byron Lighthouse6.

Cape Byron Lighthouse selfie

Most easterly point of the Australian mainland

  • This tree. I seriously love this tree.

Byron Bay

  • And this tree:

Cool tree

Sydney

Highlights from Sydney:

  • The Opera House, of course. It’s really beautiful. Didn’t get a chance to see an opera, but did go check out the building.
    On the Ferry to Watson's Bay
  • Mad Spuds was a lovely place for breakfast. The owner was super friendly!
  • While out at a pub, we had a lovely chat with some locals who sat at our table, since we were just two and were at a table for four. They were a mother and son and, if I recall correctly, her other son lives in Whistler.
  • There were a few different option for touring around Sydney Harbour: you could take the public transit ferry, which is less expensive, or you could take one of the private guide tour ferries. We chose the latter because we were told that the tour guides would provide commentary, so we could learn about all the stuff we see. Big mistake. The tour guides barely said anything, so we totally wasted our money. Also, as seemed to be a trend, the tour guides (when they did bother to talk) just make stuff up. For example, they told us that Shark Island got its name because it was used as a quarantine island for animals, and any of the animals that didn’t make it, they just threw in the water and it attracted sharks. Wikipedia tells me that it got its name because the island is kind of shaped like a shark.
  • While on the harbour tour, we passed a few different locations – Fort Dennison (they had a lighthouse) and Shark Island, but we decided to check out Watson’s Bay, mostly because it shares a name with my cat. But I was really glad, because it was beautiful there. There was a cool cliff walk and I got to see Signal Hill (my second Signal Hill of 2016) and another lighthouse (I’d lost count of lighthouses by this point). There was actually a second lighthouse at Watson’s Bay that we could have gone and seen, but my limp made for slow walking and to get to the other lighthouse would have taken so long that we’d have to catch for a later ferry, so we decided to skip it to head back to the city.
Watson's Bay Cliff Walk

Cliff walk. It made me think of the Cliffs of Moher, but way smaller.

Signal Hill at Watson's Bay, Australia

Signal Hill at Watson’s Bay.

Macquarie Lighthouse

Macquarie Lighthouse

  • Luna Park has the creepiest freaking entranceway of any location ever.
    Luna Park's entrance is the creepiest clown ever
  • We walked over the Harbour Bridge – we didn’t do the walk where you actually go up top – that costs tonnes of money and also ever since the Edgewalk I’m kind of afraid of heights. Even just walking at bridge deck level freaked me out a bit.
  • The Rocks is an old area of Sydney – we did a walking tour so as to learn some history of the area. The Rocks was the original area of colonization in Sydney. It’s only been recently that Australia has come to accept its history of convictism (they didn’t even used to teach it in schools) and didn’t always persevere historical site. The Rocks is now, however, heritage protected7
  • The only spider I saw in all of Australia was in a restaurant called Il Barretto. It was large… not larger than the largest ones I’ve seen in BC, but that’s still big enough. I started to freak out a bit and a waitress asked me what was wrong. I said, “There a giant spider on the ceiling!” She glanced at it and said, “Meh. That’s not a giant spider” and then walked away. We had just finished dinner, so I just got the hell out of there.

After Sydney, we headed to Hong Kong for a couple of days, but that’s going to be another blog posting!

  1. Plus, they are wild animals so you could actually catch diseases from them! []
  2. Fun fact: My selfie, which I posted to Flickr, was included in a Buzzfeed article! Props to Cath for bringing that to my attention! I decided to take it a step further and put it the Wikipedia page for quokka []
  3. The tour guide told us a story about how a bunch of volunteers spent a weekend planting 200 tree seedlings but they didn’t realize that when they put up the fencing to protect the seedlings from hungry quokkas, they accidentally fenced in two hungry quokkas, who proceeded to eat all 200 seedlings. And now the put individual fencing around each individual seedling! []
  4. Where by “extensive” I mean I scanned the first page of Google results and didn’t see anything. []
  5. This reminds me of the time I injured my toe on rocks in the ocean in the Dominican and then saw a sign that said “beware of rocks”. []
  6. Aside: Everything in Byron Bay seemed to be named Byron. Byron Bay Brewing. Byron Surf Shop. Cape Bryon Lighthouse. They aren’t very creative with naming stuff there. []
  7. I’m pretty sure I learned a bunch more stuff, but I can’t find where I put my notes from that tour! I’ll update this post if I ever find them. []