Sydney


During the International Congress of Speleology last summer I managed to fit in some site-seeing in Sydney. The congress was held in Penrith which was about an hour away from Sydney. Fortunately there were several different options for getting there that all proved to be quite practical, especially since the opal card I purchased originally to get to my hotel was accepted on the trains, buses and ferries that I took whilst traveling back and forth.

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I particularly enjoyed the route I took from Parramatta since it involved taking a ferry downriver. This not only got me directly to the waterfront pretty quickly, it also allowed me to see another town.

In Sydney itself my two favorite destinations were the waterfront and the tower which afforded a fantastic view of the city.

I was a little worried when we first reached the top of the tower as the view was obscured by smoke from nearby fires but it wasn’t too long before the breeze blew it away to reveal the magnificent view. We also got to see the highest mailbox in the southern hemisphere:)

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The waterfront is of course home to Sydneys world famous opera house. and so the opportunity for some great pictures exist there. The views are especially great from one of the harbor ferries. We also had a good view of the people participating in the trek across the bridge.

There’s so much to see and do in Sydney I wish I had more time there. For now though here’s a shot of a koala and a kangaroo I took, since you know, Australia ūüôā

 

 

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Dinosaurs in Pismo


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When looking for a way to escape the weather in the central valley we have two choices the mountains or the coast since the mountains have a tendency to be covered in white stuff in winter my parents and I opted for a drive to the coast. The two main routes towards the coast from Bakersfield are the I5 (referred to as the grapevine) which goes South to L.A or hwy58 which goes west towards Morro bay. Since we weren’t in a hurry though we chose another rout and took the 166 through Cuyama. This is a slow route but is scenic and¬† avoids some of the more extreme elevation changes the other routes go through. We’d picked a beautiful day and the sun was out while plenty of people enjoyed the ocean. There were plenty of flowers in bloom and the birds were singing.

We passed by the Monarch Butterfly grove¬† but since it was crowded and we’d been their previously we didn’t stop though we did admire the clouds of butterflies as we went by. We stopped at Dinosaur park so I could capture a few Ingress portals while we enjoyed the scenery.

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The park has an interesting history of being the location of one of the largest sea caves in California, as well as the site where someone attempted to build a life size brontosaurus. Unfortunately the cave collapsed and the brontosaur was never completed. There is a very nice park there now and we enjoyed walking through it.

Eventually we moved on had some lunch then found access to a nice cove to do a little tide pooling.

It was a pleasant day and while the drive home was long it was worth it.

 

 

Jenolan Caves


img_7942-x3Part of the International Congress of Speleology is the Wednesday field trips, these could be geology field trips, general site seeing, recreation or I was happy to see for this year a trip to a wonderful cave system not to far from where the congress was being held. Part of signing up was choosing which cave outings we wanted to participate in. My first choice was easy enough since they list a photography trip, but what to put for my second? Options include bush walk, history walk, fossil tour, and whats this music tour?

Hmm OK, lets see what a cave music tour is. So I put myself down for that. I’m so glad I did. It turned out to be a cello performance in one of the cave chambers that had fantastic acoustics. A really unique experience.

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The trip to the cave though was a fascinating one. We stopped at a lookout spot and witnessed a beautiful rainbow among some wonderful mountains.

Then as we drove down into the area where the cave is located we came across a kangaroo in the road. We were in a fairly wide road and there were cliffs on both sides of the road so the poor critter took off down the road to get away from us. As it came around a corner it spotted a way off the road but got a little excited perhaps and combined with the road being wet from recent rain, whoops down it went. Never thought of kangaroos being clumsy but the bus stopped and we waited while it got up and headed off the side of the road finally.

The cave has an unusual entrance in that you actually pass through the entrance on the road(the larger buses barely fit the narrower part) in order to get to the parking area.

We had some great tours through the caves. I got to take some pictures, really enjoyed the cello concert. He played a piece he wrote where he made the cello sound like a didgeridoo as well as the more usual classical pieces. Lunch was great and it really was a fun outing.

Hanging around Cairns


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As I previously wrote I chose to fly to Cairns primarily because It allowed me to visit the Barrier Reef and join the caving trip to Chillagoe, but as it turned out, Cairns was a pretty neat destination on its own.

I had chosen to save a few bucks by staying at a backpackers hostel and consider myself fortunate to have chosen one that was not on one of the blocks crammed with nightclubs etc. so I was able to get some sleep though like with all hostels there was a fair bit of noise at night. I picked Caravella on Esplanade, the pictures on the website were a little misleading though. The bay is not really visible from the hotel and consists of a tidal flat so most of the time  your looking at mud not picturesque water. It was a great opportunity for bird watching though and the boardwalk the ran along the shore makes a great place for a stroll.

 

 

The unplanned shopping trip I had to make due to my bag being delayed gave me a chance to walk around town and see what was there. I spotted a large colony of flying foxes roosting in the trees near the city library.

 

 

These are amazing to watch not only because of their huge size but their social behavior and the way they interact is very interesting. Just watch where you step.

Perhaps to make up for the fact you can’t swim in the bay they have one of the largest public pools I’ve ever seen over looking the waterfront.

 

 

I went for a walk out towards the edge of town and founf the botanical gardens which was a great spot to spend some time and photograph Australian bush turkeys, flowers, interesting plants and butterflies.

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Then it was back to walking along the Esplanade to find a restaurant for dinner. I really enjoyed Cairns and of course its proximity to the Barrier Reef!

 

 

Before the I.C.S – The Great Barrier Reef!


img_3989-x3When I began planning to attend this years International Congress of Speleology in Australia (Nearly four years ago) , one of the thoughts for-most on my mind was here was my chance to visit the Barrier reef. I did some quick research and found out that most visitors to the Barrier reef set out from Cairns. Once the field trips for the I.C.S were posted I noted that there was a pre-congress trip to the caves near Chillagoe which would depart from Cairns. This seemed like a perfect opportunity.  With some suggestions from the organizer of the caving trips, Paul, I began choosing a dive outfit for the trip. I ended up choosing Pro-dive and this in turn was an excellent fit. I booked a 3 day trip aboard one of their live aboard dive boats which included 11 dives. Then I anxiously awaited my departure day.

My adventure began with the airline cancelling¬† my flight out of LAX. I nearly panicked when they informed me they wanted people to wait in motels or go home and they would notify them when they would be re-scheduled. I explained that I had a scheduled trip on a boat that couldn’t be rescheduled and they said they would see what they could do. Eight hours later I was scheduled on a flight to New Zealand and thanks to a much shorter layover in Auckland then the one I was originally scheduled for in Manila I arrived in Cairns just a couple hours later than originally scheduled. Sadly my luggage didn’t do so well and I was informed it was still in L.A. The folks at the pro-dive shop were very helpful in setting me up with some extra gear and I did a little shopping for clothes so I was all set to head out on the boat the next morning.

 

 

 

 

(while shopping I spotted Dead-Pool hanging out by the local mall?)

After dragging myself out of bed at what seemed a crazily early time I was met by a van that drove us first to the dive shop and then out to the boat. On board I was pleased to find two other cavers from the U.S.A were aboard, Kim from Maryland and George from West Virginia. We had a few hours ride out to the reef so we were able to grab coffee and a little breakfast as we sailed. It was a little rough heading out so the crew offered sea sickness meds which they encouraged people to take as a precaution. I declined and did just fine, though I noted a few passengers who were looking a little green by the time we reached our first dive site. Once the boat was secured to the permanent anchor points set up to protect the reef things calmed down considerably and soon everyone was readying to get in the water.

 

 

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After a dive briefing about what to expect in the area, what depths and when we were expected back on the boat we began diving the reef. We started at Petaj Bommie, part of Milln reef. I did the first dive without a camera since I wanted to focus on the dive and not a rental camera I wasn’t familiar with, but there was so much to see, I knew I needed to bring the camera along on my subsequent dives. I did find a lost snorkel someone had dropped near the anchor point- looked like it had been there awhile.

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The boat crew kept us on a busy schedule- dive, eat, dive, eat etc. and the food was exceptional. Of course nothing works up an appetite like spending time in the water but really the food was great. The crew was also great- high energy and very positive as well as very knowledgeable about the sites we were diving which was very helpful.

 

After the first two dives we dove on to Flynn reef where we dove Tracy, ski slope, tennis court Gordon’s Mooring, little Tracy’s reef and Coral Garden. Over the next three days we did 11 dives including 2 night dives. It was a busy and tiring schedule but very rewarding getting up early for the sunrise dive on the last day was especially tough but seeing the reef come alive as the sun rose made it very worthwhile.

A highlight of the trip was after one of the dives when someone spotted a Minke whale. Many of us were able to jump back in and watch underwater as the whale circled the boat a few times to see what we were up to.

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A big thanks to the crew for making it such a memorable trip and proving us with some wonderful memories.

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You can see all the pictures I took at https://captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Australia/Barrier-Reef/ (including the bump headed parrot fishes grouped together for the night pretending to be a coral bommie)