Thursday, 25 March 2010

A preview of Kangaroo Island

{Australia Feb/March 2009 - Day 6 - Kangaroo Island, South Australia}

After spending a day in Adelaide, we woke up early the next day and dragged our luggage from our backpacker to the Adelaide Central Bus Station. We definitely needed to learn how to pack light! From the bus station, we took a bus that would take us to Cape Jervis. Cape Jervis was about 2 hours away on the bus and was on the south of Fleurieu (pronounced floo-ree-oh) Peninsula. From there, we took the Kangaroo Island SeaLink - a ferry going from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island. 

As Kangaroo Island is a huge island with no public transport, we decided to rent a car for the three days that we would be there. The map of the island was relatively simple. There were not that many roads around the island - only a few (maybe, three?) main roads that are sealed, and most were gravel roads or unsealed roads. Once we got our car, we decided to start off our trip with a visit to a lighthouse situated at the southeast end of the island. And even with the simple map, we ended up driving on an unsealed road, before finding our way back to the relatively better gravel road.


We reached Cape Willoughby Lightstation just in time for the morning tour. We bought the Kangaroo Island Pass that provided us with entry and tours to the major attractions around the island. The tour guide, who I believed was the national park ranger, brought us around the lightstation. We learnt that Cape Willoughby Lightstation first operated in 1852, and was the first lighthouse in South Australia. Today, it is used as a weather station.


We also had a quick lesson on how a lighthouse, or a lightstation in this case, works. Oil was used during those days, but the technology was on the lenses. As shown in the diagram drawn on the wall, the lens would spread out the lights. I shall not explain much further, as you would definitely be better off reading it elsewhere! But, this I learnt - all lighthouses had special light pattern or characteristics that would allow sailors to know which lighthouse they were near to, and so the position they were in. Of course, these days, all they need is a GPS. During those days, the lighthouse keepers would also use flags to signal and communicate with the ships and sailors.


After all the history and lessons on the lighthouse, it was time to climb up the stairs to see the light on top. However, we were more interested in the view and scenery from the top!


After the educational tour, and without realising that this would just be one of the many lighthouses we would be seeing in Kangaroo Island, we continued to explore the island.


We drove off Penneshaw, searching for the Clifford's Honey Farm. It was, unfortunately, pretty small and there weren't any tours to look at bees making honey. The bees, we learnt, were Ligurian bees. They were the only pure strain of Ligurian bees in the world. This basically meant that someone brought some Ligurian bees into the island and the bees had remained isolated in the island as they couldn't fly to the Australia's "mainland", and so they were not mixed with any other bees. We bought some honey, honey body lotion and had some honey ice-cream.


Right next to the honey farm (or so it felt because everything else were so far away from one another), was the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery. The shop sold lots of eucalyptus oil product, which we ended buying only some eucalyptus sweets. Truthfully, I wasn't a big fan of the smell.


The owner of the distillery was also a carer for orphaned animals. There was a young joey with a broken jaw in the shop as well as emus out in the garden. It was really great seeing how these animals were being taken care off.


We made our way back to Penneshaw after that as we planned to take a penguin tour at night. As we still had some time to spare, we stopped at one of the beaches along the way (couldn't remember the name!) and spent some time admiring the sparkling sea.


On our way, we saw a house being moved - literally! The person who thought of this ingenious way of moving house must have simply hated packing and unpacking!


We had lunch at a cafe on North Terrace, called simply as the Fish Cafe. They serve fish and chips, with different choices of fish and method of cooking. It was quite good, although the price for such a simple dish was quite high.


Finally it was time for the tour at the Penneshaw Penguin Centre. I was pretty excited just thinking about seeing the little "fairy" penguins walking around... however, I was extremely disappointed as we only managed to see a handful of the penguins hiding around the bushes in the dark! It was definitely not what I have imagined it to be, but it was quite interesting seeing little penguins around the Australian bushes. It kind of destroy the image I had about penguins (think March of the Penguins)!


It was quite late at night after the tour and we drove carefully and slowly to Emu Bay where we will spend the night. We saw many kangaroos and wallabies along the way. They were leaping onto the roads without a care! It was quite a stressful drive (even for me who were just sitting in the car)! Finally, we found the Emu Bay Holiday Homes in the dark without much street lights and road signs. It has various good value budget cabins with views over the Emu Bay... will show you some photos in my next post!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Back from Phuket!

Back from a weekend of doing absolutely nothing in Phuket, Thailand! Well, not absolutely nothing but it definitely has a couple of firsts for me - going on a trip with no activities planned, and taking it slow and easy.

Usually for my holidays, I would have done all the appropriate research and planned my day-to-day activities from morning till night. However, for our last weekend trip to Phuket, all we did was book the flight, choose the beach we want to be in and book a hotel room. We did not plan our activities - no timetable saying where we will go in the morning, no list of possible lunch places or whether we will take a short day trip to somewhere else, nothing whatsoever. I have to say that it was quite refreshing for a change.

We spent the days walking around the town and the beach, lazing around in the hotel room and by the pool, and of course, went for a massage (we're in Thailand!). This was quite different from my normal holidays. I would usually try to make full use of my time and cramp in as many activities as possible. Well, not for this trip. We spent one full afternoon lazing around the hotel pool, bake under the sun and soak in the pool! And being in Thailand, we ate quite a bit of Thai food too!

I will write more about my trip and post the photos we took (if I can find the cable to my camera) as soon as I can (but it would probably be after my Japan holiday. Now, that's another holiday to look forward to!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

My next holidays!

Feeling quite excited about our two upcoming holidays - a short weekend trip to Phuket, Thailand and a long trip to Japan! Busy planning and preparing for both holidays (well, not so much for Phuket). And, in between it all, I have been trying to write about my holiday in Kangaroo Island, Australia about a year ago!

Lots of images of different places are running through my head.  But, for now, it would be this image which I hope I would be able to see when I'm in Tokyo, Japan!

 {Image from Wikipedia}

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Earth Hour 2010

Earth Hour 2010, 8.30PM Saturday 27 March.
Turn off your lights. Make a statement.

Movie: The Blind Side

The poster of the movie showed a blond Sandra Bullock leading a huge black guy in football gear down a football field. The tagline above said "Based on the extraordinary true story". With such a poster, you knew that you would be in for an emotional movie.

We caught a special Oscars 2010 showcase in the cinema this weekend for The Blind Side. The role in this movie earned Sandra Bullock her first Academy Awards nomination and win for the Best Actress award.

The movie was based on the book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis. There were two parts in the book - one on the evolution of the offensive football strategy, and the second on the true story of Michael Oher and Leigh Anne Touhy. The movie was based on the second part. I found an adaptation from the book on the NY Times website.

It was definitely an inspirational story. It was about Michael Oher, a black kid who was accepted to a mostly white private Christian school, and was living in the couch of foster families during that time. When Leigh Anne Touchy, who has a son and a daughter in the school, saw him and realised that he was homeless, took him in for the night. That was the beginning of a bond between the mother and a son. She took him under her wings and helped him become a football star. The movie ended when Michael Oher was accepted on a football scholarship and played for the University of Mississippi. During the credits, the movie showed clips of the real Michael Oher being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft.

I was moved by the heartwarming story, and I wish the real Michael Oher all the luck in the world. 

Monday, 8 March 2010

Places I've Been in clouds!

Here's the Places I've Been generated in clouds! Just for fun!

 
 [Image generated from http://www.wordle.net/ ]

Monday, 1 March 2010

Adelaide, our base in South Australia

{Australia Feb/March 2009 - Day 5 - Adelaide, South Australia}
 
The first thing I noted about Adelaide was how deserted the roads are! It reminded me so much of Canberra where I spent around 4 years in university. The second would be the heat and the cloudless sky. We arrived in Adelaide on 25 Feb 2009, after spending four days in Sydney for business. Adelaide would be our base in between our travels to Kangaroo Island and Barossa Valley.

We took an early morning flight from Sydney to Adelaide. From the Adelaide domestic terminal, we took the airport bus. The bus departs hourly, cost a flat fee of A$5.00 and stops at various hotels in the Adelaide city. The bus stopped us right in front of the backpackers that we have booked online - Annie's Place. We booked an ensuite double room. The room was small but functional, there was a shared kitchen that can be used at specific times and the building would be locked by 11pm (or thereabout), after which you would need to enter a code to get in. After staying there for a few nights, we realised that we were not the backpacker kind of traveler!


Central Adelaide was cleanly laid out in an orderly grid which made navigating and walking around town easy. We first walked to Chinatown and Central Market, which was next to one another, in search of food. Chinatown was a collection of cafes and restaurants with Chinese and Asian cuisine. Central Market was Adelaide's main market with both fresh food and cooked food.


After a simple lunch in Chinatown, we walked towards Victoria Square - which, guess what, had a statue of Queen Victoria.

 

We saw the imposing St. Francis Xavier Cathedral while walking, and could not help but snapped a few photos against the cloudless blue sky.

  
 

We continued walking north towards Adelaide's "cultural boulevard", North Terrace, and saw many other buildings including the main post office. On the way there, we stopped by the shopping strip Rundle Mall to shelter from the sun and the heat for some air-condition and cold drinks.


We spent some time in The Art Gallery of South Australia housed in a grand looking building. The art gallery has a large collection of paintings by Australian artists. We walked around enjoying the art pieces but nothing really caught our eyes.


Just next door to the art gallery was the South Australian Museum, which like the art gallery has free admission. The museum has a collection of aboriginal artefacts and Australia's natural history, which was relatively more interesting compared to the other collections in the museum.


Walking further down North Terrace, there were many public artworks, statues and buildings that would make the stroll along the road enjoyable (if not for the weather!).

 
 

Due to the scorching weather, we decided to take a bus back to our air-conditioned room. Adelaide was not too exciting for us. Maybe it was because Adelaide was a relatively new city, founded in 1836, and a wholly planned city. For me, it lacked culture and identity, but maybe it was because I did not spend enough time exploring the other parts of town.

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