Adventures living as expats.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Seeing the Orangutans in Kalimantan

Jeff and I headed off for a quick trip to Kalimantan last weekend for a chance to see the endangered Orangutans.   In Indonesian orang means "person" and hutan means "forest", so orangutan means person of the forest.  We'd been warned by friends to be ready to rough it and thank goodness we came prepared with wet wipes and snacks!  It was sad to see that a mining operation has polluted the river water so extensively that it closely resembles chocolate milk.  The wildlife viewing was unforgettable though and it felt like we could have starred in a nature documentary.

Most of the orangutans we saw were living near Camp Leakey, a research and rehabilitation facility.  They're fed a supplemental meal of bananas and milk once a day and have become very comfortable around humans.  We saw 2 wild orangutans along the river which was so exciting.
One of the wild rangas munching on some fruit
This gal seemed pretty used to posing for tourists
This mom kept stealing food from the crews backpacks and ended up spilling milk all over herself and her baby. 
This male had huge shoulders and arms and our guide said he still wasn't fully grown  
We saw so many little babies clinging to their moms while they climbed from tree to tree.  This pair came so close to us that we were nervous she was going to grab the camera as Jeff filmed.

This gibbon was getting ready to steal some bananas during feeding
Long-nosed monkey, a very common sight during the weekend

Beautiful sunset on the boat
Sun bear breaking into a beehive
It sounds crazy, but we both found the hole in the ground more inviting than the wet toilet seat.  I wasn't nearly as excited when I noticed our dishes were washed in the same river water all the toilets open into.  Our stomachs survived the weekend and I have a new respect for the "clean" tap water we're so fortunate to have in Jakarta.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Last Stops - Sydney and Newport

Sydney was bittersweet for Jeff and I because it marked the end of our unforgettable trip, but the city and it's skyline views are absolutely gorgeous.  The Harbor Bridge and the Opera House were stunning and we were lucky enough to get a room with a view of both.

Amazing view from our room
The weather was perfect for our bridge climb at dusk and I made it to the top with a manageable amount of anxiety.  Coming down in the dark was a challenge, but it was absolutely worth the amazing sights.
Bridge climb
View from the Manly Ferry
The famous Bondi Beach
Symphony at the Opera House - Choppin
After living it up in Sydney we headed north for a visit with Brendon and Sue, our close friend's parents. Brendon showed us the best restaurants and viewpoints, guided us on a bushwalk to explore aboriginal art, and even grilled up some amazing lamb for dinner .  He outshined an offical tour guide we met along the way and shared all the details about what the art meant and the ceremonies that took place, which made the sights so much more interesting.
Viewpoint in Newport
Aboriginal carving - several thousand years old
Our tour leader - Brendon
Our trip completely revived us for another year in Asia.  I'll leave you with a few of our favorite Oz sayings we heard along the way:

  • bonnet - hood of the car
  • rumble strip - bumps on side of road
  • pokies - poker slot machines
  • boot - trunk of the car
  • strawbs- strawberries
  • schooner - glass of beer smaller than a pint
  • bush - not city or road, countryside (can be used as bushfire, bushwalking, out in the bush, bush whacking, bush folk)
  • bunyip - a mythical creature that a guy in a laundromat told us to look out for claiming one had eaten his dog
  • drop bear - another mythical creature we were warned about that drops from trees onto victims
  • old bloke - old guy
  • good on ya - well done
  • slap on some lippy - put on lipstick (hear this one on the news!)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Great Barrier Reef and Whitsundays

The Great Barrier Reef has always been at the top of my bucket list, so I insisted that we had to see it.  I had no idea what a huge variety we would see.  The pictures paint a much better picture of this part of the trip so I'll (try to) keep the commentary short.  We spent a few days on Heron Island which used to be a turtle canning facility and has now turned into a turtle conservation sight.

We saw a lot of green sea turtles and a huge loggerhead turtle.   Loggerheads are endangered and this guy had 2 tracking tags on his fins.   He looks small in the pictures, but he was massive and our guide guessed he was about 80 or 90 years old!  He was swimming around, eating clams, and generally not too concerned with the snorkelers stalking him.

Munching on clams
Spotted eagle rays 
Keep the ocean clean
This lemon shark sure got our adrenaline pumping!
As if the sharks swimming around weren't enough, the ocean floor was packed full of stingrays, cowtail rays, and shovelnose rays.  There was a few times when we were snorkeling along and realized we were completely surrounded by huge, scary fish.

Next we headed up to Airlie Beach for a sailing trip in the Whitsundays.  We stayed on a beautiful boat and had a blast sailing, snorkeling, drinking wine, and relaxing with 3 other couples on board.
Hoist the sails
Captain and first mate, Jeff loved steering the boat and learning how to sail  
Sunrise on the water 
Whitehaven beach
Whitehaven Beach
Sand on Whitehaven Beach
Swimming with the turtles

Giant trevally
Champagne on the beach with a great group of friends!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Brizzy, Rugby, and Humpback Whales

We had less than 24 hours in Brisbane, but we made the most of it with plenty of sightseeing, a rugby game, and a little shopping for my first pair of Lululemon pants. 
We couldn't resist a ride on the Wheel of Brisbane, amazing views
Brizzy lights on our way to the game
We arrived at Suncorp Stadium with just enough time to pick up our Wallabies souvenirs - a stubby holder (beer coozy) and scarf.   Unfortunately the Wallabies got creamed so a rowdy argument over seats turned out to be the most exciting part of the night.  Even though they didn't score a single try (rugby touchdown) we had a blast cheering them on. 
Singing the National Anthem - Advance Australia Fair!
5th row seats!
Continuing our journey north from Brizzy, we had to stop at the Australia Zoo on the tip that we might be able to pet a koala.
Crikey that's a big croc
Sleepy koalas
Baby croc
Feeding the wallabies
The finale - petting a koala

The next day we headed out on a whale watching trip in Hervey Bay and lucked out with a spectacular show.  There were so many calves and moms breaching, tail slapping, fin waving, rolling, backstroking, and even singing.  
Mom and calf were putting on quite the show
We were able to get so close!
Curious little guy
One set came right up to us to have a peak

Seeing the whales up close was such a breathtaking experience, definitely at the top of the trip highlights.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hunter Valley to Brizzy road trip

The next 5 days of our trip can be summed up in just two words - incredible beaches.  I recall one Aussie friend being unimpressed by a beautiful beach on Java, and now I can see why!  The entire coast between Sydney and Brisbane is packed full of crystal clear water, fine sand, blue sky, rolling waves, and very few people.

Our first stop was Seal Rocks for a picnic lunch on the beach.
We had the beach all to ourselves!
We continued on to Port Macquarie, where we got a lesson on operating the campervan fridge after flipping every switch we could find unsuccessfully.  We enjoyed the sunset and had drinks / dinner with our new friends Pete and Clare, who shared some great recommendations for a local fishmonger.  The next morning I captured the unbelievable sunrise along the breakwall, while Jeff caught a few extra zzzzzz's.  On our way out of town, we bought and immediately devoured a dozen fresh oysters before hitting the road.
Port Mac sunrise 
We arrived at Hat Head National Park, and found a rustic camp spot where we could relax to the sounds of the ocean.  That night Jeff and I couldn't get over how bright the stars were; the sky was literally glowing.  We later learned that the Southern Hemisphere sky is brighter because it points toward the Milky Way.  We even had a few adventurous wallabies wander right through our campsite.
Hat Head National Park
Best buds
The next morning we walked up to the Smokey Cape Lighthouse where we were stunned by the breathtaking beach views.  One our way to Wooloomba, we took a detour through Dorrigo National Park and Waterfall Way where we found ourselves on a bumpy, windy dirt road for an hour to avoid backtracking.  Jeff grinned the whole way, pretending he was 4-wheeling in our old Jeep and insisting that I take multiple photos of the road.  
Smokey Cape
Lunch along waterfall way - fresh oysters, fish, salad, and wine 
Danger falls
Jeff's favorite part of the drive
Our next stop was the surfing town of Byron Bay which has the coolest little downtown area and a super relaxing vibe.  We window shopped and found a butcher with dry aged steak which of course we had to try.  Jeff and I were amazed by the high quality meats all over Australia.  Each town has a butcher with an enormous selection of every type of meat you could ever want - dry aged, cured, smoked, marinated, homemade sausages.  This is one of those luxuries that you just can't find in Jakarta and in our 3 week trip, browsing at the butchers never got old.
These dry aged steaks were so tasty, we had to pick up a few more on our way out of town
Morning swim in Byron Bay
5 star brekky from the campervan
Burleigh Heads, in the Gold Coast was our final night in the campervan.  We met up with our friends Simon and Michelle for drinks along the beach.  The next morning we realized how attached we'd become to our campervan and reminisced about the past 5 days before returning it in Brisbane.

Love these signs!
Final night in Burleigh Heads