Saturday, February 27, 2016

Australia Video

My sister Ali made a really cute (and short!) video of her recent trip to Melbourne, the Whitsundays, and Sydney...check it out!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ballarat Wildlife Park

I've spent a fair amount of time at various zoos and animal parks in the last year and a half, but just recently visited Ballarat Wildlife Park for the first time while Ali and Jess were in town. Aside from the usual array of kangaroos and koalas, this park offers the opportunity to hold a wombat. My sister Ali has been obsessed with wombats for some time, and actually discovered this park even before Peter and I moved to Australia. It's one of the few places in the world where you are able to hold (instead of just pet) a wombat, and it happens to be a short train ride from Melbourne. Obviously, it was on Ali's list of places to visit while in Australia. Jess and I weren't entirely convinced about the whole wombat thing, but Jess wanted to feed kangaroos so we decided to humor Ali and give it a go.
The wombat-holding started at three and you couldn't reserve tickets in advance, so we showed up at 1:30 just to be on the safe side, only to be told an entire tour bus had just purchased tickets and it was completely sold out. I wish I could have captured Ali's face the moment the ticket lady broke the news. It was kind of like when I told her Santa wasn't real, but way worse. Normal people probably would have just accepted the bad luck and moved along, but if you know us, you know that we aren't all that normal. We begged and may have even tried to bribe the ticket lady to add just one more person to the group to no avail. We clearly weren't going to get anywhere with this lady, so we decided to purchase the basic ticket and at least feed a few kangaroos while we devised a new plan.

Ali doing a decent job of faking a smile five minutes after the most devastating moment of her life.
So, because we are extremely persistent and somewhat crazy, we stood outside the "staff only" gate a few minutes before the wombat experience was scheduled to begin, borderline stalked the first employee to emerge, and in the end Ali got to fulfill her lifelong dream of holding a wombat. The lady was super nice and probably didn't want to deal with a scorned wombat fan, so she immediately agreed to try to get Ali to the front of the line, and she delivered!

I can say with 100% certainty that no one has ever been more thrilled to hold what I can only describe as a mouse on steroids.
After a few seconds and a bunch of pictures, the zookeeper guy instructed Ali to set the wombat carefully on the ground, which is apparently easier said than done. Ali said she could barely lift it out of her lap!
After wombating (now officially a verb), we moved along to befriending kangaroos, which happens to be a talent of mine.
I was somewhat afraid that this guy was going to try to box me...he would have definitely won. His muscles are approximately 845 times bigger than mine.
This little guy was just chillin, totally uninterested in us.
Mandatory kangaroo selfie!
In conclusion, Ballarat Wildlife Park was a success! Ali was able to check an item off her bucket list and we were all able to hang out with kangaroos for the day.
Friday, February 5, 2016

Great Ocean Road (Again!)

I know I've posted pictures of the Great Ocean Road before, but this is going to be different for one major reason: LEGIT PICTURES. My sister Ali and her friend Jess were visiting for a week in January and Ali brought her "real" camera, which is much fancier than my iPhone. She was able to get some great photos, some of which I've hijacked and posted below, with some commentary.

Each time we do the Great Ocean Road, we start by cutting across the inland straight to the Twelve Apostles and then driving back toward Melbourne along the water. This works well because most of the large coach buses go the opposite direction, so we don't have to worry as much about getting stuck behind a painfully-slow-moving bus.
Fun fact: I think there are actually only seven Apostles still standing; the remaining five have eroded over the years.
For some reason, Jess, Ali, and I all wore denim jackets on this day. We may have looked like a bit ridiculous, but at least we were warm. There was a pretty chilly breeze coming off of the ocean before the sun finally made an appearance in the afternoon. Plus, we shockingly weren't winning the competition for most ridiculous-looking tourists, even after Jess's selfie stick made an appearance. Win!
So this is the part where I praise my friend Katie for being the best human on the planet. Since Peter was out of the country for the whole month of January, we had planned to just take one of the large, generic tour buses down the Great Ocean Road. I haven't ever driven on the left side, and wasn't super-confident in my ability to wing it. Ali has many talents, but driving in general is not one of them, so she was out (sorry, Ali!). Jess is, by all accounts, a competent driver, but it's really not ideal to have to pay attention to the road while simultaneously trying to sightsee.

Enter Katie, who has extensive experience driving in Australia and just so happened to be free the day we wanted to make the trip. It was so nice to be able to dictate where and when we stopped, and to have Katie along for the adventure! I'm sure the tour bus would have been fine, but it was more expensive than renting a car and we would have been at the mercy of the tour schedule. So, THANK YOU KATIE!
 A few more apostles.
 The Loch Ard Gorge, which is truly one of the coolest land formations anywhere ever.
 Ali and Jess!
It took approximately 783247893 attempts before they were able to successfully achieve synchronization.
We walked down Gibson Steps, which are extremely rocky and narrow, for anyone thinking of making the stop, and were treated to this awesome beach view.
We waded into the water a bit, which was extremely cold. The waves were huge and overwhelming, so I'm not sure we would have gotten in past our ankles even if it had been 100 degrees! Nothing makes you feel quite so powerless and small like watching the waves roll in.
 All of us on the beach, before making the somewhat brutal hike back up Gibson Steps.
My favorite stop on the Great Ocean Road is a little-known turn off in Kennett River where you can spot koalas and parrots. We saw a few koalas early on in our drive, but they generally like to hang out quite high up in the trees and look like little furry blobs from the ground. At the Kennett River turn off, there are plenty of koalas just chilling in the lower branches of the trees, and I'm not sure there's a better place to view them up close anywhere in Australia save for maybe a zoo.
There are also quite a few parrots that frequent this area and will land on you if you have something to feed them. I took a couple pictures with my phone...Katie obviously loves birds.
After the Kennet River turn off there are some absolutely stunning scenic lookouts. If not for a bit of a time constraint, we would have probably stopped at each one.
Katie and I (mainly I) kind of failed at the whole jumping picture thing.
And I'll leave you with one more shot of paradise!

Peter's parents are currently in Melbourne, so we will be heading down the Great Ocean Road with them in a couple of weeks. Get ready for another round of photos!


Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!



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