March 28, 2017

Mt Tamborine National Park

Gold Coast is considered to be the best beach vacation destination in Australia, with a abundance of theme parks, night life, beach culture and warm weather.But on this particular trip we concentrated on the rain-forest hinterland of the Gold Coast known as Mt Tamborine, which is part of scenic rim rainforests also comprising Lamington and Springbrook National park. The weather was great with an overcast sky and cool weather. Infact the weather in the hinterland regions would be atleast 3-4 degrees cooler than the coast, and would definitely would be good place to hang out especially on a hot summer day.

The first place of interest we visited in Mt Tamborine National park was the forest walk. There is a certain elevated route bridge on suspension taking one along the canopy of the rainforest, giving a different perspective. Apart from the sheer height of the platform which is around 100ft from the forest floor, the novelty of this attraction soon wears off and you question whether it was worth $19.50 entry fee. And the entire thing is over within half an hour at max.

The next stop was the Glow worm caves. The Glow worm caves of New Zealand are known across the world , but before coming to this place never knew that Glow worm caves exist in Australia too. Well to be fair, the Glow Worm Caves of Mt Tamborine is man made and the conditions are controlled to make the environment favorable for these tiny creatures. The entry fee of $12 is quite reasonable and based on the availability one is assigned batches which depart at regular intervals. The entire park is in a picture-some setting. Once we reached our designated starting point , we were taken into a cave, wherein we were given an initial information session detailing the life of the glow worms. Once that is done, which also helps the eyes get used to the dark, since the video is shown in a near dark room , we are let into the man made cave teaming with glow worms. And it was just beautiful inside with thousands of glow worms , like millions of stars lighting the night sky. These glow worms require their atmosphere to be quite moist and humid.The reason these glow worms do what they are famous for is to quite simply attract their food, which is primarily flies and bugs which have a tendency to get attracted towards light. These worms have a single string with multiple saliva bubbles suspended which refracts light from their body to give that twinkling effect. Quite magical indeed. Would be really interesting to see them in their natural environment.

The final stop within this national forest was the Cover Creak falls. Unfortunately there was not much water flow in this falls, and it was more like a trickle. It is generally advised to visit the falls in the hinterland a day or two after heavy rains to see them in full flow. Having covered the major places of this national park we decided to end our trip by enjoying the beautiful Surfer Paradise beach, which is the commercial heart of Gold Coast.

March 7, 2017

Brisbane : The heart of the Sunshine State

After our initial pitstop in Melbourne , it was time to move towards a more permanent home i.e. Brisbane. Australia as a whole is known all over as a laid back country and when we moved to a place which was even more laid back than Melbourne, it definitely took some time to get used to. In an Indian context, if Sydney is comparable to Mumbai, Melbourne to Bangalore , then Brisbane is often compared to Mysore, a city having its own charm and not exactly in a rat race , taking life as it comes. The tag of laid back doesn't infer in any negative sense. Brisbane has some of best infrastructure in the world, great outdoor places to visit in its surrounding including the Great Barrier reef and the UNESCO world heritage rain-forests and last but not the least the party capital of Australia , the Gold Coast just an hour drive from here. Even though there are very few tourist attractions within the city that would be considered great, I would still try to list a few worthy of mentioning in this blog.

The best way to enjoy the city would be to head towards South Bank and then take a free for tourists ferry known as Cityhopper (with bright red highlights unlike the blue ones for the CityCats) that snakes along the mighty Brisbane river giving some great views of the skyscrapers and the iconic Story bridge. South bank is another place to hang out on a weekend. It has got a pool and the a artificial beach accessible for free to the public !!! Why an artificial beach you ask, well it is because the nearest beach is a good 30 kms from the city, so they build a artificial one for those who cant go there regularly. Also a great place to catch some jaw-dropping pyrotechnics on new year's eve and Australia day.

The other interesting places to visit in the city centre include the heritage structures in the King George square and the shopping precincts in the surrounding areas. There is queen street which is the shoppers paradise. You can expect some sort of weekend markets in these areas wherein hundreds of people would be selling their used products at dirt cheap price. Kinda like a giant garage sale.

The nearest park or zoo within the city to experience local wildlife of Queensland is the Lone Pine Koala Santuary. Its not like extensive place, but has a pretty open concept for interaction with the local wildlife like koala bears, kangaroos and so on. They even have a barn where the sheep dogs have their own show, which was the best part. Overall an ok place especially for small kids who would have never have any interaction with any wildlife elsewhere.

And finally the best place to view the entire city from a completely different perspective would be from the lookout from Mount Cootha. Its best to visit this place just before sunset and enjoy both the day and night views. We went to this place on the occasion of Australia day and were to witness the wonderful fireworks show from a totally different perspective. Overall a good place to visit and chill.

January 15, 2017

Melbourne: The Most Liveable City in The World Part 2

1. Melbourne Cricket Ground

The MCG or simply known as THE G is sits exactly at the heart of a sport loving Australian. Simply the biggest and the one with great history , it is a place not to be missed. Home to Crickets matches in Summer and Australian rules football in the winter season, it has that wow factor associated with it. We went for a guided tour which charges 23 dollars per head and lasts upto 45 minutes. All the guides are generally well into their seventies , with our guide being eighty years of age and very knowledgeable about the grounds its history and so forth. The Ground doest meet the expectation and is a grandiose piece of art. There was a ongoing domestic match between Victoria state and Queensland, which the former won very easily during our guided tour itself. The guide took as to various viewing galleries, commentator stations, museums and so on. On days with some international matches scheduled the guided tour would be canceled.

2. Melbourne Museum + IMAX

One of the best museums that I have visited. Its quire vast and requires majority of the day to explore it at a leisure phase. There are various themes within this huge museum and ranges from rainforest, human body, arts, history, fossils and so on. The exhibits at many places are not just display pieces , but an experience wherein visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves to understand and get a feel of things. Separate entry fee is $14. Within the museum building is the huge IMAX theatre of Melbourne, which showcases documentary movies during normal works hours on weekdays and Hollywood blockbusters on the other time slots. When we were visiting we were shown the movie exploring space, stars and planets and it was very interesting to watch with the added effect of IMAX 3D. We bought combined entry fee to the museum and IMAX at $27.

3. Eureka Tower

To get the best birds eye view for general public would be to go to the viewing gallery 300 meters above the ground. This viewing gallery provides a 360 degree view of the entire city and it is recommended to go at the time of sunset to enjoy the daytime and night views along with the sunset. But rest assured many tourists also think on the same lines and it would be generally crowded during this time. We didnt get the perfect sunset thanks to the clouds, but got some great views of this sprawling city.  Entry fee is $20, with the additional $12 for the glass box entry which in my opinion is only worthy for those having fear of heights. There is also a room, not having any windows and lets you feel like flying 300 m above the ground.

4. Phillip Island

Though not technically within Melbourne, this island is in the eastern side of the city and close to a couple of hours drive from the city. The best thing about Phillip Island is not to be missed "March Of the Penguins". It does definitely sound like a show wherein the little penguins and trained to give some sort of performance, but believe be it is nothing like that. The human contact is kept at the minimum possible level. Everyday at sundown thousands of little penguins make their way back into the island in big and small groups and it is just awe-inpiring to see all those tiny beautiful creatures. Photography is strictly banned including non flash photography in order not to stun them. So literally it is see with your own eyes to believe it, with hundreds of penguins you can watch up close and personal.

5. Victoria Market

One of the best markets in Melbourne to buy local souveniers, food, vegetables, cloths etc. This market is as good as it gets to a street market that everyone is so used in Asian countries. The prices are not dirt cheap and sometimes are more expensive than budget supermarkets like Kmart etc, but nevertheless a good place to visit.

6. Yarra River Walk in CBD

The best walk in Melbourne would be the walk along the Yarra river in the CBD area. This area is packed with eateries, people and with lots of street shows especially on weekends. The views are great with the beautiful Yarra river flanked on both sides by super tall buildings.

7. Yarra River Trail
The more rugged version of the Yarra River walk mentioned above. If you think that the Yarra River walk is too "developed" for your liking , then this would the perfect answer for you. This trail takes you to more remote places upstream of the Yarra river and is perfect place to go for a run or mountain biking. There are lots of trails following the various rivulets of Yarra river mainly concentrated on the North Eastern side of Melbourne such as Ivanhoe, Viewbank, Hiedelberg etc. This was my favourite place to go for a long run with horse ranches , kangaroos, cookatoos for company.

8. Melbourne Central

The shopping hub of Melbourne especially for the shopaholics. Situated in the CBD area of the city. Can spend a lot of time exploring this mall. The place not to be missed is the central atrium with jawdropping views of the glass dome structure.

December 28, 2016

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean road is considered to be among the best natural attractions of Australia , along with the heavy weights such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Uluru. So we got an opportunity to visit this place on a day with pretty good weather. I have mentioned pretty good weather because even though it was summer with clear sky, it was still windy and cold. This is one of the road trips in Australia where the journey to the destination is much more interesting than the destination itself.

We started early in the day. The initial journey is quite monotonous till Geelong, the second largest city in the state of Victoria. After Geelong does the fun start with the great ocean road starting from Torquay and hugging along the coastline for the remainder of the distance to the Twelve apostles/Port Campbell. If one directly gives as the destination as Port Campbell/Twelve Apostles in navigation maps, then they would be directed to a route totally different and faster than the Great Ocean road. We infact returned on this route, which is majorly 4 lane, unlike the Great Ocean Road , which is primarily 2 lane. This route was built by the returning soldiers of Victoria after the First World War or the Great War as it was known back then.

The total distance between Geelong and Port Campbell is 213 kms, but one should also consider the innumerable stops along the route. The route is very picture-some and one cannot resist pulling over and enjoying the view every now and then.

The first stop was the "Twelve" Apostles. There are infact only 8 of these limestone rocks standing after relentless pounding by the sea. We had views of these beautiful nature's pieces of art from various different angles. It was just plain breathtaking setting with vertical steep coastline and these limestone pillars rising dramatically from the sea. This kinda reminded us of the similar limestone formations in Krabi, Thailand. There is also a main visitor centre and a walking circuit which takes the tourists right into the middle of the sea on top of a steep cliff to provide some great views of the rocks formation.

After twelve apostles we visited some more sites further down the road towards Port Campbell stopping at spots having views of equally innovative names like Razorback, Loch and Gorge, Island Arch, London Bridge etc. After spending considerable time at these spots it was time to return back to Melbourne. We took the shorter and faster route via Colac. We decided to take a long circuitous route back home with a ferry ride from Queenscliff to Sorrento giving some great views of the Port Phillip bay. Overall this circuit is without dispute the best place to visit in the state of Victoria.

November 8, 2016

Mt Dandenong : Melbourne's Private Hiking Backyard

Mt. Dandenong is definitely Melbourne's favourite hiking and picnic spot. We got to know about this during our trip on a weekend. There are close to 4 hiking trails in here and on a normal weekend you can expect them to be jampacked with couples, families with small kids, friends climbing up the mountain. This is quite in contrast to the hiking trails in India, which are generally deserted. Hence gives a idea of how much of importance a general Australian gives towards fitness.

Lyrebird Trail
1000 step trail

Mt Dandenong is around 50 Kms from the CBD and considering the never ending expansion of the city of Melbourne, this area has been gobbled up by the city and now forms a suburb of greater Melbourne. The ride to start of the hiking trails is great with winding roads and dense forest. We parked the vehicle at the visitor centre and started the climb. We decided to climb via the Lyrebird trail and return back via the 1000 steps trail, also known as Kakoda Memorial trail. The most famous of all the trails is the 1000 steps trail, which was developed in honour to the Australian soldiers who fought in the Pacific islands during the 2nd world war. 

The climb up via the Lyrebird trail is steep. Even though one way distance is 1.5kms, it is mentioned that it takes close to 45 min to climb up the hill. The good thing about Lyrebird trail is that it is wide and hence can accomodate a lot of simultaneous hikers unlike the 1000 step trail which is narrow. The trail is through dense forest chirping with birds, a must visit for any nature lovers. Near the top the 1000 step trail joins the Lyrebird trail. Unfortunately there is no spectacular view from the top.  We returned back via the 1000 step trail, which has a lot of spots dedicated to the fallen men. 

Trails In Mt Dandenong Range
From there we went towards the Skyhigh, a spot from where one gets great views of the CBD. There is an entry fee of $5 and they are quite a few spots to visit apart from the viewing platform. There are parks, mazes, a restaurant and other attractions. One can spend close to 2 hrs in this place. After this we returned back to our home. 

View from the Skyhigh With Melbourne CBD looking like a distant fairyland !!!!!
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