Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

Del and I, together with Don and the kids headed to the Aquarium. We took a multiple pass which covered four tourist spots: Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife Sydney Zoo, Madame Tussauds Sydney and Sydney Tower.

The Anzac Bridge

We travelled by the family car which wasn’t the wisest of things to do because we spent nearly forty five minutes looking for an empty parking slot! On reaching the aquarium, it was a long queue to get the hard copy of the tickets to the four points (bookings of which we did online). Another hour was spent waiting for the tickets! The kids and I spent that time on gorging on some fries from their café. Finally, after receiving our tickets and a well presented pamphlet on the Aquarium, we were allowed entry into the Aquarium.

Being a Sunday, the place was crowded with lots of kids yelling, accompanied by a lot of WOAH’s and AAH’s! In competition with these kids were the Asian tourists, being as loud as one could get! But these were not the only sounds! Added on to this was the background music that was playing within the Aquarium, the kind of music depended on the section of Sea Life that one was observing then! For example, the sharks, the coral reef, the glass tunnel aquarium; all of these had their own set of music. Having poor tolerance to loud noises, this indeed did pose a problem for me. It was total cacophony and madness! So my first impression of the place was not just distasteful, but it was bad enough to make want to leave! But I wanted to see my sea buddies, I came for them and I persisted!

Having said that, as hard as it was for me, the real joy was in losing myself in those living exhibits! Fishes are said to have a calming effect on the mind and these wonderful creatures too had the same on mine despite the surrounding crowds and noise!

The Aquarium housed many varieties of fish; big, small, tiny, colourful, plain; sea horses, sharks, platypus, fairy penguins and the list goes on. A lot of information was contained on the touch screen displays kept next to these exhibits. Besides, various interactive boards with questions were put up all through the Aquarium.
Jelly fish, with psychedelic colours

The highlight of our visit to this place was the glass tunnel. We truly enjoyed standing there as the sharks swam over our heads at such close quarters! It made me realise how big these fish were! 

Aari was totally taken into another world at the underwater glass tunnels

There was the Dugong (a mammal which lives in water) whom I fell in love with and who seemed to enjoy human company. It swam in areas which had the most number of people. 

The much loved Dugong

The most hilarious sight was the two big sized sucker fish that were involved in a tiff, where each was trying to bite onto the other’s tail until one of the bigger fish intervened! 

How I wish I could remain with the Dugong a tad bit longer, but it would be very unfair to the other tourists, as well as, the locals, all of whom were here for the very experience!

Our visit did end on a thrilling note considering it was my first experience in a glass tunneled Aquarium! We exited through the souvenir store where we picked up an item or two for ourselves as part of the memories that we hope to create.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Day 5- birds birds and birds at the Hunter Wetland centre

We began our day on a skeptical note; I wanted to head to the museum while Del wanted to spend the day at the Hunter Wetlands Centre! With the constant rain, although I felt the museum was a safer bet, we still headed for the Wetlands, hope against hope to have some good bird sightings!

The day started with heavy showers.

However, as soon as we reached the Centre, the rain suddenly abated, as if the rain Gods took pity on Del and fulfilled his ardent desire to be with the birds! It must be said, that this indeed is a feature of the weather at NSW, unpredictability at its best! At the Centre, with a map in our hands and mosquito repellent cream applied over our exposed body parts, we made our way to the birds.

It was sheer joy seeing different species of birds, especially, the swans who kept crossing over the path  from the BHP pond to the Brambles pond to and fro! The little chicks of the ducks were the cutest of all! They were tiny and yet so elegant in their moves in the water!

We first embarked on the Discovery Walk to see the various birds among the different swamps. It was inspiring to note that from being a dump ground, this forty five hectare site was converted into a Conservation Centre by the dedicated effort of many people.

It was amazing to see ducks 'freckled ducks', a species of endangered ducks, which are also called the dinosaur ducks. These were the earliest ducks to evolve in the chain of evolution, all present days ducks and geese came after these ducks.

The endangered Freckled Duck

We also took the Rainforest walk, much of which seemed to be in the hot sun than rainforest foliage! Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves!
Various aboriginal sculptures that adorn the  centre

(Noon Session)

The Centre has a café, as well as, barbeque facilities. Visitors are encouraged to bring in their own food and to spend the entire day away from the city’s hustle and bustle and in the company of nature and its sounds. Feeling the leaves and breathing in the scents emanating from the crushed leaves of the aromatic plants, the grass, the soil and being one with nature is highly recommended.

After our well-deserved break for lunch, we worked on completing the remainder of our Discovery Walk. We spent some time at the Egret Tower observing the different species of birds living in harmony together. At the tower, there was an interesting note with words to the effect, “The Egrets make enough noise, and we don’t need to add to it!” The tower also exhibited drawings and paintings by children artists.
At the 'Egret Tower'

Soon it was time to head to the Visitor Centre as the place closes by 4pm. By the end of it all, our muscles were stiff and our legs refused to move. We were very grateful that the rains took a long break right until we reached our Motel, and before we knew it, the skies once again began celebrating with tears of joy!

We were delighted that through our five day trip, the weather Gods were very kind to us. The days that went by were indeed a kind of a journey that helped us connect to ourselves!
A few of the more than 35 bird species that we managed to spot. 

Day 6 : Return back home.

This was the day when we returned home, content over our travel and joyous over the opportunity of being able to explore another continent miles away from where we usually reside!
Our drive to Sydney from Kurri Kurri was about two and a half hours long via the Pacific Motorway and the Great Western Highway.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Day 4 at Blue Mountains- Cathedral of Ferns to a Drive in Theater.

Much of our day was spent driving transporting ourselves from Lithgow to Kurri Kurri ( Pronounced Curry Curry).

Nevertheless, we still managed to sneak in a short visit to a little village before we drove to our next destination.
Mount Wilson is a charming village with English styled cottages and gardens. Being at a higher elevation, it is not only cooler than Sydney, but also receives high rainfall making it a region comprising of rainforest vegetation. The roads on Mount Wilson are lined with trees that makes the drive very enchanting! Walnut and Chestnut farming are the main activities on this little mountainous village.

Our purpose of the visit was not only to enjoy the drive through the countryside, but also, to visit the Cathedral of Ferns, which is a short rainforest walk. Although, this was our easiest walk, it was indeed the most beautiful of all!
Fern Fern everywhere, at the Cathedral of Ferns

Walking through a path covered with ferns, the earthy smell of the humus, the freshness of the air, the different shades of green, the tall trees, all of which kind of made us inebriated with freshness and joy!  We felt more and more rejuvenated with every step that we took into the forest. It was thrilling to stand among giant trees and look up through their canopy into the sky where the rays of the sun were struggling and battling their way through! We saw a giant tree that lay dead because of the lightning that struck it in the recent past.
Dwarfed by the Giant trees

We spent about an hour and a half or so at the place and rather unwillingly began our journey towards Kurri Kurri.

Since we decided to take the Putty Road, a rural sealed road which made for a beautiful drive as it took us through the Wollemi National Park on the left and the Yengo National Park on the right, it took us longer as compared to the route via the Great Western Highway and the Pacific Motorway. Interestingly, we also drove through some unsealed roads which were part of the Kurrajong Discovery Trail.
The Putty road

We had our lunch at one of the designated rest areas on the Putty Road. This road had only a couple of food joints. So either one would need to carry sufficient food and water or necessarily stop at the first café or restaurant cause the next one would be a long way away (distances between food joints range from 50 to 100 kms or even more).

The Putty Road finally led us to the Hunter Valley Region; an area famous for its wines the world over! The drive through this part of the countryside was one of our most beautiful drives. Driving through acres of grape vine plantations with intermittent cottages dotting the landscape made for a pretty sight. The fatigue of our long drive on Putty Road nearly vanished as we drove through the plantations, imagining the enhanced beauty of the place when the grapes are ready for harvest!
The drive was indeed refreshing and seemed relaxing even as we drove through the little town of Kurri Kurri where we booked our stay at the Kurri Motor Inn for two nights.

Driving through the picturesque Hunter Valley- Known for its wines.

The motel was conveniently located next to the town centre. We felt very welcomed by the locals here. It’s a small town comprising of about 6000 residents and yet, has all the amenities of the city; even supermarkets like Coles and Aldi had their outlets there! The board of a little store which had books as well as, gift items had a message to the effect, “If you are tired and it’s too hot outside, please do not hesitate to walk in and relax.” We spotted yet another store selling rodents along with the other usual meats!
The Kurri motor Inn

The town of Kurri Kurri indeed struck a beautiful balance between the modern and the ancient!
Inspite of our journey and a lovely walk through the town, our day was far from over. We were excited about our first drive-in theatre experience at the Heddon Greta Drive-in with a tag line, “If you don’t like the movie… Slash the seats!” They have two to three shows that run on every Friday and Saturday evening except for, on school holidays where they run the show through the week.
We went for the first movie of the evening, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. We carried Don’s portable FM radio to listen to the audio of the movie on the particular FM channel on which the movie was aired.  The movie wasn’t great but it certainly was an unique experience to be sitting inside the car (the constant rain wouldn’t have it otherwise) munching on hot chips from their decently stocked café and watching the movie on a huge screen unlike the regular claustrophobic seating in the theatres with volumes that reverberate through my brain cells! Yes, blame it all on the electro sensitivity of my body!
Waiting for the movie to commence- while grey clouds amass in the skies.

It was a coincidence of sorts to watch a movie that was set in India, to be staying in a motel that was run by Indians and Del and I are Indian too, all of this, while we were in the little town of Kurri Kurri! As we left the drive-in theatre content with the day that was, our thoughts wandered about our plan for the next day since the rain finally begun playing spoil sport.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Day 3- Noon- Jenolan Caves

Back at the motel, we had our lunch and after some well-deserved rest, we embarked on another trip to the scenic Blue Lake. The drive was part of the Jenolan Discovery Trail. The Jenolan Caves road is very curvaceous and steep which only increased the thrill of our drive! Our desire was to spot a Platypus in the Blue Lake!

The Blue Lake is a man-made lake which was created for the generation of electricity.
At the lake, we spotted a couple of fish, but couldn’t spot a single Platypus! The loop walk around the lake is indeed a romantic and soothing one; it was one of our more pleasant walks.

Although, the place is famous for the Jenolan Caves, which rank among the oldest caves of the world, about 340 million years old; I was low on the fitness levels needed to negotiate the network of caves given the number of stairs that had to be ascended and descended over and over again. The caves are known for their stalactite and stalagmite formations. We did see some of the stalactites in the first cave which is next to the Grand Arch (a fascinating rock formation under which one drives through to reach the car park).

The Jenolan Caves area is indeed a very pristine spot! There is something mysterious and magical to the place, especially, when one realizes how ancient the caves are! As much as we were left awestruck by the little that we saw, we were soon brought back to reality with the sounds of thunder accompanied by a light drizzle. We wished to stay on but were left with little daylight time to negotiate the curvaceous Jenolan Caves Road.


P.S. : Just besides the Jenolan caves is the blue lake. After 5PM, when the caves close for visitors, the place becomes quite deserted and makes for a lovely evening romantic walk. The water of the lake is blue because light is refracted by the dissolved particles of limestone in the water. 

We were also, delighted to spot the colourful Fairy Blue wren 

The Blue Lake

Superb fairywren

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Day 3- Morning. Glow worm Tunnel Trek.

The most awaited part of the trip was our visit to the Glow Worm Tunnel which forms part of the Newnes Plateau Discovery Trail.

We drove on the State Mine Gully Road passing many beautiful quaint little cottages, supposedly of the miners. It was wonderful seeing a fruit laden tree covered with transparent plastic, we suppose the plastic was to protect the fruits from the unpredictable rains. Beautiful gardens with roses in full bloom were a common sight.

The drive on the State Mine Gully Road, almost all of which was on unsealed roads, took us through bush lands and joined the Glow Worm Tunnel Road. Here we observed vast tracks of pine plantation cultivated for the purpose of logging. Also, we felt pain to see large tracts of land with her trees felled appearing barren and desolate without her green cover!

The drive mostly being on unsealed roads seemed long and tiring, and the sight of tree felling wasn’t helping our cause. Having said that, we felt instantaneously refreshed when the road took us through the Wollemi National Park and the Gardens of Stone. Here, we spotted two kangaroos, one that hurried across the road just ahead of our car and the other that darted away into the Native Eucalyptus
Forest clearly expressing displeasure on our arrival. Also, we spotted the Black Parrot! With the animals and the trees as our only companions, our drive seemed exciting again! Not to forget the exquisite rock formations!

Once we passed through the Old Coach Junction, we drove through Tunnel No.1; a small dark tunnel. At one point, we did fear the presence of an oncoming vehicle, especially, the one in a hurry! Post the tunnel, there was a steep dip in the road, one which I wondered if Del was willing to negotiate considering it was an unsealed road. However, Del barely battered an eyelid; he asked me to hold on tight to his camera and in a moment we were passed the bend!

The first tunnel through which we had to drive through
The first tunnel, without the headlights it would have been pitch dark inside

The road turned narrow and was filled with ferns and trees. Our back and neck seemed to be crying for some rest, although our mind was engaged in enjoying the scenic beauty! Finally, at the lonely car park, we stretched ourselves and began with our trek to the Glow Worm Tunnel.

It was a great feeling to be walking on sandy soil as we walked through beautiful ferns and shrubs on either side of the walkway. The roots of the trees popping out of the ground at certain sections made the walk a tad bit uncomfortable. We were very fortunate to have an overcast sky as we negotiated the narrow path. Midway, the walk took us down through a narrow winding section of stairs which led to a cute little bridge which connected to the other cliff. A narrow uphill climb on the well carved stairs and onto a path that had trees fallen across at two sections of the walk was the only discomfort that I had to endure. Finally, we reached an area with a gentle flow of water which led us into the tunnel.
The long walk to the glow-worm tunnel

At the entrance to the tunnel. 
Entrance to the tunnel, hidden by overhanging ferns. 

The floor of the tunnel was slippery and tricky to negotiate. We had our torches and head lamps on, and yet, the tunnel seemed dark and eerie with just the sound of our breath, the feeling of dampness and the sound of trickling water! Although, the tunnel was just 400 metres long, I wasn’t willing to walk beyond 100 metres; I was already at my wits end!

Geared up to enter the tunnel

The dark and desolate tunnel.

The tunnel being curvaceous, the light from the entrance is completely blocked out. Within the tunnel, we found a comfortable spot where we turned out our lights so that our eyes could adjust to the glow of the larvae. These larvae of the fungus gnat possess bioluminescence by which it attracts its prey which gets trapped onto the beaded mucous that is created by the larvae.

As our eyes began to adjust to the dark, we saw dozens of green dots all over. We were overjoyed forgetting all about the eeriness that surrounded us! Del spent forty five minutes trying to click a good photograph of the beaded mucous! Had I not to prod him about getting out of the tunnel, the photography session would have probably lasted until hunger kicked in!

Once out of tunnel, the weather was completely different with the sun shining bright making our walk to the car park ever so exhausting! It was one of those times where we were longing to spot our car beyond the wilderness!
Sunny return trip.

Although the car provided much respite from the direct sunlight, it was baking hot inside! We turned on the air conditioner on full blast and wearily munched on the grapes that we carried along with us.
The drive to the hotel was quicker as compared to our morning drive as there were no bird sightings along the way.
Two thumbs up for and amazing trek.

Del was hoping to spot the Lyre bird while on the trek to the tunnel, but had to return disappointed!

P.S. : Yes, not sighing the Lyre bird, was probably the only sore part of an otherwise wonderful morning. -Delson