Photos of Australia
full country name Commonwealth of Australia
capital Canberra
population 19.3 million (as of 2001)
surface area 7741200 sq km
currency Australian dollar (A$)
exchange rate US$ 1 = A$ 1.40 (as of Jun 2004)
language English
main religion 26% Anglican, 26% Roman Catholic, 24% other Christian
Internet users 35% (as of 2000)
Our route through Australia
Our route...
Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge
Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge / © gM
Harbour Bridge
Harbour Bridge / © gM
In Sydney
Near Sydney
In Sydney and near Sydney / © gM
The Three Sisters in Blue Mountains National Park
The Three Sisters in Blue Mountains National Park / © gM
Uluru / © gM
Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta / © gM
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef / © gM
Whitsunday Islands
Whitsunday Islands / © gM
Fraser Island
Fraser Island / © gM
Koala and Wallaby / © gM
On May 13th, 2004, we flew from Auckland, New Zealand, to Sydney, Australia. We stayed a much too short six weeks in Australia, before leaving for Peru via Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil on June 23rd, 2004.

We spent the first two weeks in and around Sydney which surely is one of the most scenic cities of the world. Colorful sunsets over its beautiful harbor with the unique opera house, many nearby surfing beaches (e.g. Manly Beach, Bondi Beach), pleasant inner-city parks, walks with eye-catching views, excellent museums (e.g. the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art), and generally a strong cosmopolitan feel ensure a very livable environment. If it were not for those bush fires which burn so closely to the city ....

Short train rides away from Sydney are the Blue Mountains and the Royal National Park. Both are perfect hiking destinations with gorgeous vistas: the former because of steep canyons, waterfalls, and a rock formation called Three Sisters, the latter due to sandy beaches and steep cliffs which drop down to the Tasman Sea.

In the third week, we visited Australia's Red Center: Alice Springs, a three day camping tour of Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), and Kings Canyon, and a three day, 2500km bus trip from Alice Springs to Cairns on the northeastern coast of Australia. We were surprised by flooded streets in Alice Springs. Even its river was running which has not happened in years. We thoroughly enjoyed the spiritual Uluru, testimony to 20000 years of human culture, and hiking through semi-arid landscape at picturesque Kata Tjuta and stunning Kings Canyon. At the end of the week, we had seen camels, eagles, emus, kangaroos, wallabies, and huge termite mounds. We also got to know what a swag is: a sleeping bag cum mattress which zips up completely from top to bottom. Not to be forgotten - the 50m long road trains. These trucks ply the routes of inner Australia and have as many as four trailers, which means it takes an awfully long time to bring the vehicle to a halt. Consequently, they are enemy #1 for cattle trying to cross the roads.

During our last three weeks, we explored the east coast from Cairns to Brisbane, doing all the touristy things one is supposed to do: scuba diving from Cairns, sailing the Whitsunday Islands, and getting sandy on Fraser Island. While we were taking these tours as well as the ones in the Red Center, we have come to expect some commonalities among them:
  • at the beginning of the tour, there is an obligatory stop at a liquor store to pick up "essential supplies";
  • at some point during the tour, the guide will proudly tell you that most of the world's deadliest snakes can be found in Australia;
  • there will be sandwiches for lunch with at least tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, tuna, cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard;
  • at some point during the tour, the guide will joke about non-existent pygmy koalas or fictitious drop bears, i.e. koalas which mutated into carnivores and drop down on their prey from tree tops;
  • comment sheets will have to be filled out and returned before something goes wrong;
  • there will be a group photo;
  • at the end of the tour, a reservation for the whole group will have been made at a not-too-expensive but good restaurant to celebrate the survival of the tour.
  • Staying away from the over-trafficked reefs close to Cairns, gM went on a 4-day/4-night liveaboard diving trip from Cairns to the Osprey Reef (about 150km offshore) and the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef. While kN remained in Cairns, gM was catapulted from the backpacker world straight into a world in which former NHL players choose to vacation. Pristine reefs, colorful corals and even more colorful reef fish, an octopus squirting its ink, potato cod, Napoleon fish, barracuda, lionfish, stonefish, lobster, garden and moray eels, sharks, seastars, nudibranchs, and cuttlefish guaranteed a solid scuba diving experience. A group of five manta rays with a wingspan of up to 4m each, a shiver of 20 sharks, mainly grey whalers and white tip reef sharks, and a truly awesome 30min of snorkelling with two 8m minke whales all elevated the diving trip to world class. The professionalism of the diving trip operation, the top-notch crew, the more than comfortable cabin accommodation, and the exquisite and varied meals prepared by an onboard chef were the icing on the cake. Back in Cairns, delicious kangaroo steak for dinner was the perfect ending to an excellent diving trip.

    For three days and two nights, we sailed the Whitsunday Islands on an 80ft Maxi ocean-racing yacht. Experiencing the magnificent view of Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet alone is worth the trip. Dolphins, turtles, lagoon rays, finest sand and clear water at Whitehaven Beach, beach volleyball, and beach soccer are just a bonus.

    We spent three days and two nights on Fraser Island, an island made up only of sand plus vegetation. It supposedly contains more sand than the Sahara. The sand can be treacherous and often cars get stuck in unpredictably deep, soft spots. Some drivers get surprised by an incoming wave which immobilizes the car. If a driver cannot move the car before the tide is in, a photo of the submerged vehicle ends up on the "Wall of Shame" at a nearby gas station. There is a lot to see and do, from rusty shipwrecks washed ashore many years ago to ultimate Frisbee to boogey boarding down sand dunes into fresh water lakes. The patterns in the sand, in the lakes, and in the creeks are mesmerizing. The backdrop to all of this are colored sands, sunset and sunrise over the Tasman Sea, sand dunes, and fresh water lakes (either crystal clear or colored brown by the leaves of melaleuca trees). Furthermore, eagle rays and tiger sharks swim in the shallow water while in the right season, humpback whales breach just offshore.

    We finished our trip to Australia with a few days in Brisbane, where we visited the lookout on Mt. Coot-tha, the botanical gardens, Parliament House, the Museum of Brisbane, the Queensland Museum, the QUT Art Museum, the Brisbane City Gallery, and the Queensland Art Gallery. At the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary near Brisbane, we had our last OZ-nature-highlight: watching cute koalas, really cute koalas, wombats, cassowaries, and the Tasmanian devil as well as hand-feeding kangaroos and wallabies.