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This is a collection of my blog entries related to short or long trips I, or Jennifer and I went on.
I have some master pages for some specific locations/trips:

Paris over many years | Australia over many years | Canada over many years | Japan over multiple trips | Italy in 2011 | France in 2013 | Indonesia in 2013 | Japan in 2013 | Japan in 2014 | Taiwan in 2014 | Indonesia in 2014 | New Zealand in 2015 | Japan in 2015 | Costa Rica in 2015 | Singapore in 2016 | South Korea in 2016 | Japan in 2016 | Japan in winter 2017 | Great Britain in 2017 |

Table of Content for trips:

More pages: November 2017 October 2017 September 2017 August 2017 July 2017 June 2017 February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 October 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 September 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 October 2012 September 2012 June 2012 April 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 June 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 September 2010 August 2010 May 2010 January 2010 September 2009 August 2009 June 2009 January 2009 December 2008 August 2008 February 2008 January 2008 October 2007 July 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 October 2006 August 2006 July 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 April 2005 December 2004 October 2004 July 2004 June 2004 January 2004 January 2003 January 2001 August 1997



2017/10/31 2 Days around The Gold Coast
π 2017-10-31 00:00 in Australia, Trips

After spending 2 days north of brisbane on sunshine coast, we drove down to the gold coast. The gold coast is more commercialized and has a lot to do.


nice view from our hotel room
nice view from our hotel room

partial sea view from our room
partial sea view from our room

The first day was busy with all the things I had lined up:

  • Currumbin Sanctuary
  • Surf World Museum (across the street), as a bonus
  • Superbee Honey Factory
  • David Fleay Wildlife Park
  • Holoverse, an interesting Star Trek like Holodeck simulation
  • Paradise Jet Boating
  • Aquaduck
  • 3 7D movies
  • Salute to the Light Horse Dinner Show
  • We left early-ish and went to Currumbin Sanctuary which nicely opens at 08:00 (30mn drive):


    Jennifer worked on her snake strangling skills since last time we went there :)
    Jennifer worked on her snake strangling skills since last time we went there :)


    that poor quoka was going to come see us but it got bullied by big lizard
    that poor quoka was going to come see us but it got bullied by big lizard




    the kid play area was fun for Jennifer :)
    the kid play area was fun for Jennifer :)

    they had an animal hospital where you could watch surgeries
    they had an animal hospital where you could watch surgeries

    tree kangaroos are cool
    tree kangaroos are cool

    the big red kangaroos are some of the biggest, but they're also very soft and nice
    the big red kangaroos are some of the biggest, but they're also very soft and nice

    feed the mother, pet the kid :)
    feed the mother, pet the kid :)

    they had nice emus :)
    they had nice emus :)

    Next door was Surf World Museum. Not exactly a planned stop, but we got free tickets from Currumbin Sanctuary:



    motor surf board, cool :)
    motor surf board, cool :)


    Next door, still, was a bee honey shop/museum:


    Next, I drove to David Fleay Wildlife Park, a smaller park that wouldn't be as good in theory, but they had 2 nice finds: a Bilby that Jennifer was able to pet, and a baby koala:

    they also have platypus, but we got there at the wrong time and they were not visible
    they also have platypus, but we got there at the wrong time and they were not visible

    best bilby shot I even got
    best bilby shot I even got

    such long ears
    such long ears

    baby koala
    baby koala

    it was learning to climb way for its mom
    it was learning to climb way for its mom

    sugar glider
    sugar glider

    Next, I drove to Holoverse, an interesting Star Trek like Holodeck simulation I found somewhat away from the main town center. It was a bit of a pain to get to, and the opening hours were non optimal (they close at 16:30, WTF?), but it was a super cool experience that cannot be had anywhere else as of yet (that I know of):

    the balls are for the cameras to see where you are, where you are looking, and where you are pointing your hand
    the balls are for the cameras to see where you are, where you are looking, and where you are pointing your hand

    with 3D glasses you get a custom 3D view that is dependent on where you are and where you are looking
    with 3D glasses you get a custom 3D view that is dependent on where you are and where you are looking


    I ducked and then had my head under water
    I ducked and then had my head under water

    the next session was a 3D game based on your body location
    the next session was a 3D game based on your body location

    Holoverse was super cool and definitely a very special experience.

    From there, it was a short drive to paradise jetboat. Honestly the booking staff was cocky and borderline bullish in my opinion (the boat driver was ok thankfully), and the boat could not go full speed due to speed limits, but it was still fun and a nice ride, although they don't allow you to take anything or take pictures (I took my gopro for a few shots, though):


    multi million dollar houses in gated water communitiies
    multi million dollar houses in gated water communitiies



    Because the day wasn't over yet :) we then barely made it to aquaduck as they cancelled their last ride of the day, but we so barely made the previous one"




    sea world amusement park
    sea world amusement park






    Since we were back by 17:15, we had a bit of time to walk around town. I figured we'd skip the Ripley's since I've seen a few and there were other things to do, and instead we tried 3 movies at a 7D theatre, and then a walk on the beach:




    It was then time for another 30mn drive to see our dinner show, Salute to the Light Horse. The food was close to appalling (at least my steak was uneatable), but the show was good:





    The 2nd day was a bit easier, I booked a gold coast 4WD tour:

  • 4WD along Hillside Tracks through Eucalyptus & Rainforests
  • Mt. Tamborine's Gallery Walk, the Hinterland's Arts & Crafts centre
  • Rainforest Walk to a Tropical Waterfall
  • BBQ Lunch
  • Tree Top Walk through Lamington National Park
  • Bird Feeding at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat



  • we got to practise boomerang throwing
    we got to practise boomerang throwing


    we found this barely alive baby in a tree, not entirely sure what species it was
    we found this barely alive baby in a tree, not entirely sure what species it was


    wine tasting for Jennifer
    wine tasting for Jennifer

    nice walk through the shops at Mt Tamborineâs Gallery Walk
    nice walk through the shops at Mt Tamborineâs Gallery Walk









    very eager small parrots
    very eager small parrots




    After getting back, we still had a bit of time for:

  • Infinity attraction
  • Sunset at Skypoint observation deck
  • Hurricane's Grill for Wagyu Beef, which sadly wasn't that good
  • then an early night since we had to get up at 05:30 the next morning for an early flight
  • We had been to Infinity attraction last time in 2011, but we went back as it was fun:






    We just had enough time to get to Skypoint observation deck and made it there 15mn before sunset, which gave us nice day and night pictures:










    On the way back, we hit a market by the boardwalk:




    This eventually got us to Hurricane's Grill which I had booked in the hopes that we'd get melt in your mouth wagyu beef there, but sadly it was just ordinary and no better than a normal good steak:


    still, it was a good piece of meat
    still, it was a good piece of meat

    See more images for 2 Days around The Gold Coast
    2017/10/29 Australia Safari Trip Wrapup
    π 2017-10-29 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips
    Clare McEwan from airsafarisint definitely did a great job setting all this up for us. After 22 days, here are some numbers:
  • 21 days of travelling across Australia
  • 11 days of flying
  • 37 hours of flight over those 11 days
  • 20 landings, some at airports with nothing but fuel, or no fuel and a narrow dirt runway (or grass).
  • we covered 5200 nautical miles (9640km) in our loop (I'd say more than 4500NM was actually flying, the rest on the ground)
  • total of 1378l of fuel (365 gallons)
  • fuel bills amounted to $AUD 3170 (= $USD 2525)
  • Here is the whole trip:

    Flying Red Tape

    Flying in another country was interesting. I only got a cliff's notes about airspace rules and differences, but here are my impressions. The amount of red tape necessary for flying in Australia is much worse than in the US. The US feels so nice in comparison:
  • First, you have to get an ARN (pilot number), which requires the first layer of paperwork
  • Then, you need to get an ASIC, a special badge that allows you to enter the secure area of many airports. This cars is only valid 2 years, you get fined heavily if you don't return it when it's expired (despite the big expiration date written on it), and because it was a bit too simple, as is, they've now added extra requirements to be able to get the card: ID is not enough, you need proof that you're born or married or somesuch, and some utility bill too, just for good measure.
  • Pilots get in trouble if they allow a passenger to walk from the plane to the gate without being with them (so you choose between securing the plane down carefully, or taking your passenger for a pressing trip to the toilets)
  • Many airports have gates with codes like the US, that part is expected, but you cannot drive your car or van or anything to your plane for unloading (you can in most US airports, including many dual use commercial ones)
  • Strangely this applies even to some (many?) bush airports where they used anti terrorism funds to put fences around the airport, which they really wanted to block wildlife (i.e. kangaroos on the runway), but now have fences with codes and no way to drive your car to the plane. That was true for a town with 12 people, although a few more remote places did have runways that were "unprotected"
  • Yeah, it was entirely too simple before that
    Yeah, it was entirely too simple before that

    Flying Differences

  • ATC costs money, so most private pilots do not talk to ATC at all, unless they have to (controlled airspace), and it's free in those cases.
  • This however means: not the same help to navigate around weather (of course no XM nexrad either). Sadly this means lots of airplanes flying around, often not talking on the same frequency, if at all, and at chance of midairs. I personally had 3 aircraft cross at my same altitude, opposite direction (along the coast and one canyon), with one being much closer than I've ever had anyone cross me. This did not fill me with joy.
  • There is flight following, but only in the limited controlled airspace area, most of the Australian land mass does not have radar coverage.
  • On the flipside, most aircrafts are getting ADSB now or by next year, and hopefully that will help somewhat
  • Also, I surprisingly got cell phone signal in flight maybe 90% of the time, including over completely desolate terrain. This allowed me ot get weather in flight and a poor man's plane locator with ozrunways' self reporting feature over the cell network.
  • Not all radio calls are the same, "rolling" instead of "taking off" or "orbit" which threw me off and meant "left or right 360".
  • There is no such thing as "altimeter" (setting), they say/use "Qnh"
  • When you fly into an airport, you're supposed to announce your arrival time in UTC, which kind of sucks when you're going through states with half hour timezones, and crossing between places that do DST and those who don't.
  • Airspace Differences

    On airspace, it's again different.
  • No Bravo
  • Alpha, Charlie and Delta are somewhat Bravo like. I'm not entirely sure what the difference between them, is, but they all require a clearance before you enter and positive ATC routing
  • Echo seems Charlie-like: you need a transponder and talking to ATC but no clearance.
  • You need to fly 1500ft over populated areas, not 1000ft
  • The Australia I hadn't seen in my prior 12 visits

    I knew about Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, but never really had gone so far given that it was out of the way. The real outback, even more so, unless you fly like we did.
  • I found out that the flies in some of those places are pretty unbearable, while others have way too many mosquitoes. I'm so happy California is so much nicer in that respect :)
  • Seeing small towns in the middle of the outback like Charleville, or Birdville and Big Red, puts things in perspective. Very nice to see without having to drive days on 4WD tracks :)
  • Flying to a few Australian Islands we hadn't been to, didn't suck either.
  • In Hamilton Island, however, if I had done my homework better, I'd have accepted that it's not really the great reef like they claim (it's 2H boat away from the nearest ok enough reef). We should have spent more time on the island.
  • We got to see plenty of wildlife we hadn't seen before, including more macropods that I know how to name (and not just potaroos, bandicoots, and wallaroos)
  • The trip definitely offered a lot of variety, and I now feel like we can say "we've seen Australia" :) (and by that, even more than most Australian :)

    Aboriginals

    The situation with Aboriginals is complicated to say the least and I feel like I only learned just a bit more about them, especially by going inland. I might have gotten some of this wrong, but here is what I think I learned:
  • first, I knew there were over 100 tribes, but they're not just tribes, they do stress that they are different people with different customs. As a result you can't say "the aboriginals are X, or do Y". They do speak around 100 different languages, and have different customs
  • what the Australian settlers did to the Aboriginals sucks beyond words, that's all I can say in a few words. Now, they're trying to make things good, but it's hard, and apparently there are plenty of places where they're still not treating them as normal citizens with the same rights.
  • from what I've seen at least in Coober Pedy and Alice Springs, there is a clear problem where some Aboriginals tribes are not interested in integrating (which can be understandable), but as a result don't fit at all and look kind of homeless. They literally hang out in parks all day under trees or whatever, some beg for money, and they don't look interested in working or earning money. Obviously what used to be their home was taken from them and it's now awkward for them to live in places where they used to live for thousands of years.
  • they could of course live without money but at the same time they want to enjoy some of the things from the western world, be it a bike, or a phone, and I'm not too sure how it works out. I'm told some do turn to stealing, hopefully only a small percentage.
  • western hygiene is not in their culture (again understandable), some of the ones I saw from close, really smelled bad. Again, ok within their tribe, but of course a bit difficult when you mix 2 peoples and cultures.
  • there is otherwise generally an issue of some Aboriginal tribes not wanting to integrate with the culture they of course don't identify with, but is somewhat inevitable if they're going to live in what are now cities (even if not by choice)
  • some I saw didn't give a good image, probably because some tribes have a drinking problem (not sure if it was willfully introduced, but there are laws now designed to prevent them from drinking). I saw men yell out loudly and constantly at their woman, and the same thing the other way, some dropping their pants in the middle of the street (not too sure what happened there), it was kind of weird. Wikipedia mentions In the Northern Territory (which has the greatest proportion of Aboriginal Australians), per capita alcohol consumption for adults is 1.5 times the national average. Nearly half of Aboriginal adults in the Northern Territory reported alcohol usage. In addition to the inherent risks associated with alcohol use, its consumption also tends to increase domestic violence. Aboriginal people account for 60% of the facial fracture victims in the Northern Territory, though they only constitute approximately 30% of its population. Due to the complex nature of the alcohol and domestic violence issue in the Northern Territory, proposed solutions are contentious
  • and on the other side, you have plenty of Aboriginals who are perfectly integrated, so it goes the entire spectrum. Sadly I'm guessing many are part of the stolen generation (children taking away from their parents and brought up the western way as orphans :( )

  • For more, you can read wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aboriginal_Australians
  • So that was that, very interesting trip, but depressing to have learned more about the situation with aboriginals

    See more images for Australia Safari Trip Wrapup
    2017/10/29 2 Days around Sunshine Coast
    π 2017-10-29 00:00 in Australia, Trips

    Last time we were in Brisbane, we didn't get the chance to visit the Sunshine Coast at all, so we fixed that this time :) There is indeed plenty to see, and we didn't see it all. However, we saw:

  • Australia/Steve Irwin Zoo
  • Glass House Mountains
  • Buderim Forest Park
  • Sea Life
  • Queensland Air Museum
  • Parrots in Paradise
  • Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World
  • The Big Barrel Beer Tasting
  • Big Kart Track
  • While this might not seem like a lot for 2 days, it actually was due to everything being so spread out, and many hours spent driving back and forth to get to those places during their sometimes limited opening times, and Australia Zoo being big.

    Let's start with the zoo:


    Jennifer causing trouble :)
    Jennifer causing trouble :)

    and again :)
    and again :)

    let me steal those eggs for an omlet :)
    let me steal those eggs for an omlet :)

    other eggs, yum :)
    other eggs, yum :)

    Misc animals:






    red panda, not liking the heat :)
    red panda, not liking the heat :)





    red kangaroos are cool looking and soft
    red kangaroos are cool looking and soft

    they're also very gentle despite their size
    they're also very gentle despite their size

    We then went for our first booked animal encounter. I got Jennifer a nice possum :)



    the opposum in our backyard is much more scary looking :)
    the opposum in our backyard is much more scary looking :)


    Birds:



    looked like a dead bush turkey :)
    looked like a dead bush turkey :)





    Reptiles:

    Jennifer was asking why one croc was trying to drown the other. I replied that they were just getting friendly :)
    Jennifer was asking why one croc was trying to drown the other. I replied that they were just getting friendly :)






    Our 2nd animal encounter was spiky echidna ;)



    it was very hungry :)
    it was very hungry :)

    very long tongue
    very long tongue

    From there, we drove back down to Glasshouse Mountains, first to a viewpoint:





    We then went to Mount Tibrogargan and did the 3.2km hike around it. Climbing the top looked like it was going to be a bit harder than what we were ready for. The hike around was sadly a bit boring:


    We then drove to the Mt Ngungun trailhead for views and sunset. We got to the top in 20mn :)







    great sunset
    great sunset

    We then drove to Casa Della Pace, a great B&B we spent the night at, with a great breakfast the next morning:



    The next morning, we first drove to Buderim Forest Park, a nice little 45mn walk:








    We then drove to Sea Life Aquarium for a quick visit and around the coast there:





    Next, we drove to Queensland Air Museum where we spent a bit over 1h30.


    This allowed to get to Parrots in Paradise just in time for the only allowed time for a visit (12:30). It was a pain to get things around so that we could make that time, especially as we drove by it 4 times during those 2 days, but we made it. We had a volunteer give us a private guided tour and show us many of the birds they are boarding or keeping until they can find homes for them:


    our guide Mark was great, he was one eye patch short of being a pirate :)
    our guide Mark was great, he was one eye patch short of being a pirate :)

    we both liked the smaller parrots, they are more gentle and still very nice
    we both liked the smaller parrots, they are more gentle and still very nice



    lots of different colorful parrots :)
    lots of different colorful parrots :)

    cockatoos too
    cockatoos too



    another very pretty parrot
    another very pretty parrot

    mandarin ducks, also colorful
    mandarin ducks, also colorful


    We got out on the visit just in time (to the minute) to drive to Maleny Botanic Gardens and make their 14:00 tour when originally we'd be doing their last 14:30 or 15:00 tour. More birds, big and small:




    we're not as found of Macaws, they are more destructive and bite hard
    we're not as found of Macaws, they are more destructive and bite hard

    Jennifer's had got attacked, the bird stole the metal ring in it
    Jennifer's had got attacked, the bird stole the metal ring in it

    after terrorising the other lady, the 2nd macaw came to help to steal the ring, which they did
    after terrorising the other lady, the 2nd macaw came to help to steal the ring, which they did

    the handler knows them better, but even she had issues with them :)
    the handler knows them better, but even she had issues with them :)


    the smaller ones are so cute :)
    the smaller ones are so cute :)

    being friendly :)
    being friendly :)

    After seeing the birds, or maybe we paid to be entertainment for the birds and not the other way around :) we had a walk around the botanical gardens, which were quite nice:







    On the way there, jennifer shouted "vin!" when she saw that big barrel, so we stopped on the way back:


    turns out they stopped making wine and only make beer now
    turns out they stopped making wine and only make beer now


    While I originally thought we'd never be able to do all of this due to limited opening hours and lots of back and forth driving (30mn each time more or less), we actually ended early and had just enough time to try the Big Kart Track I had noticed on the way.
    While it was fun, the karts were not that fast (I mostly ran flat out without braking) and had no timing on them, so it wasn't as exciting as I was hoping for. I was a bit annoyed during my 2nd session when I kept outdriving one person in front of me and then it he would pull away at the first straight because his kart was just faster than mine :-/
    Jennifer also got a bit of chest pain from the seatbelt, while my back was hurting for 2 days after due to lack of padding.




    Jennifer was number 1 (in her head :) ). I however did pass her several times :)
    Jennifer was number 1 (in her head :) ). I however did pass her several times :)

    And that was it for our time in Sunshine Coast, we then had a 2h15 drive to the Gold Coast, where we had a room for the night and the next 2 days of activities.

    See more images for 2 Days around Sunshine Coast
    2017/10/28 Oz Day 22: Fraser Island back to Toowoomba via Sunshine Coast
    π 2017-10-28 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips

    After 21 days going around Australia, it was time to fly back to where we started: Toowoomba. We took a ferry back to mainland and Hervey Bay, got back to our planes, and went for a very scenic flight around Fraser Island, spotting wildlife from the air (Manta Rays, Turtles, and Whales).


    Kingfisher Resort, where we stayed
    Kingfisher Resort, where we stayed

    the car ferry we had taken earlier
    the car ferry we had taken earlier




    the lake we visited the previous day
    the lake we visited the previous day




    very cool custom water plane
    very cool custom water plane

    fly to the beach, walk away
    fly to the beach, walk away


    lots of mantas
    lots of mantas



    Thanks to reports from other pilots, we found a few whales:




    awesome pretty
    awesome pretty







    nice little runway on the other side of the island
    nice little runway on the other side of the island

    We then flew back to the main coast:




    big ass beach party
    big ass beach party


    Eventually we got to sunshine coast








    Ozzie world
    Ozzie world

    kart racetrack
    kart racetrack

    glasshouse mountain
    glasshouse mountain



    And then back towards Toowoomba:



    and the last landing of the trip.
    and the last landing of the trip.

    After 37H of flying and 20 landings later, we got back "home" in Towoomba.
    It was a great flying trip, kudos to Clare McEwan from airsafarisint for organizing it.

    2017/10/28 A Few Hours in Brisbane before and after the Flying Safari
    π 2017-10-28 00:00 in Australia, Trips

    We arrived in Brisbane around 06:00 to meet Clare from Air Safaris Int and the start of our tour. Since I had a bit of time, I did a quick walk around the south bank of Brisbane before going on the Air Flying Safari.




    this guy was doing a photo shoot :)
    this guy was doing a photo shoot :)



    We then left for the 22 day Air Flying Safari, read those pages for details.

    When we came back, we had a few more hours in Brisbane, so we went to the Clock Tower/City Hall and walked around town a bit:







    city hall
    city hall






    chinatown was kind of sad, not worth the walk
    chinatown was kind of sad, not worth the walk






    I guess all the bridges are cashing in on bridgeclimbs :)
    I guess all the bridges are cashing in on bridgeclimbs :)




    There is more to see in Brisbane, but the opening hours kind of suck, so weren't able to see anything else there. We would have needed another day, but honestly I think the time was better spent in Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.

    We finished the evening with a farewell dinner with our group, and Jennifer made a poor innocent crab, pay :)



    If we go back to Brisbane, we'll have a few more museums to see, but I think our time was better spent at Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.

    2017/10/25 Oz Day 19-21: Fraser Island
    π 2017-10-25 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips
    After Hamilton Island, our next Island was Fraser Island. Sadly there is no airport there, so we had to fly to Harvey Bay (very scenic flight), and then take a bus and a slow ferry, we got there eventually though.



















    After the nice flights, we took the slow ferry to Fraser Island:







    After dinner, we went for a night walk ranger led tour:







    Around our eco hotel rooms, there was quite a bit of wildlife: water monitor, snakes, loads of spiders, and birds:








    The next morning, we went for a 4WD tour of the island in a big bus:


    huge 4WD bus
    huge 4WD bus


    fresh water lake
    fresh water lake


    the roads are interesting, soft sand makes it more difficult to drive
    the roads are interesting, soft sand makes it more difficult to drive









    sometimes it felt like we were on a boat :)
    sometimes it felt like we were on a boat :)



    We finished with a nice fresh water stream emptying in the ocean:





    We tried to go on a whale watching tour, but after 5H of rough sea, we didn't see a single one, which is super rare, so we got our money back although we sadly wasted a lot of time:



    So, we went ona 4H walk in the afternoon. Sadly we spent most of our time dodging mosquitoes and didn't have much to show for it:

    Jennifer got her dingo stick, but we saw no dingos
    Jennifer got her dingo stick, but we saw no dingos










    lots of snails as tide was getting lower
    lots of snails as tide was getting lower



    interesting green worms
    interesting green worms

    Before long, on our walk back, we got our private sunset:


    ah oui! :)
    ah oui! :)



    The next morning, we went to see the little soldeier crabs before heading out:


    plenty of them
    plenty of them

    they make a pile of sand and hide under it, they're quite skilled
    they make a pile of sand and hide under it, they're quite skilled

    a army of them
    a army of them



    I'm assming they get eaten by birds
    I'm assming they get eaten by birds

    Solider Crabs are really fun to watch, here's a video to show you:

    And that was it for our last location, Fraser Island.

    See more images for Oz Day 19-21: Fraser Island
    2017/10/22 Oz Day 16-18: Hamilton Island
    π 2017-10-22 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips

    From Undara, we flew to another island, this time Hamilton Island, a big resort island with multiple airline flights, some international. The first part of the flight was totally VMC, I promise :) (but let's just say that it's a good thing all pilots were IFR rated). After takeoff the clouds went to the ground, and there was no clear path outside of climbing through a hole in the clouds:



    where we stayed in Undara
    where we stayed in Undara

    VFR on top
    VFR on top

    glad to have others on scope, because I couldn't really see them
    glad to have others on scope, because I couldn't really see them














    Hamilton Island's runway
    Hamilton Island's runway


    Once on the ground, we waited for our transport in the hangar:






    After arriving, we booked a 4WD buggy tour which didn't have extreme driving, but it was fun enough and mostly to climb to a few peaks with a few:





    Top views:




    our hotel
    our hotel





    our planes
    our planes

    we drove down to a beach
    we drove down to a beach





    some fish would surface to get food
    some fish would surface to get food

    We then went to our room, and I saw some sulfur crested cockatoos by our room, so I went to look for my seeds, and made an offering to the single bird:


    then another one came and they fought a bit
    then another one came and they fought a bit

    this one won
    this one won

    then a few more showed up
    then a few more showed up

    Some became very friendly and eager quickly, but they have sharp claws, it hurt a bit :)



    happy bird
    happy bird


    We then went to hide back in our room, and the birds stayed, hopeful :)


    jennifer felt bullied :)
    jennifer felt bullied :)

    Some pictures from our room:



    Meals:

    you could have breakfast by the koalas
    you could have breakfast by the koalas



    Jennifer found a nice restaurant for us the 2nd night
    Jennifer found a nice restaurant for us the 2nd night

    wedding party outside
    wedding party outside



    Most of our time was spent during 2 days going to the great barrier reef for diving

    The last morning, we walked on the beach during low tide:

    snails that make the shells that hermit crabs steal later :)
    snails that make the shells that hermit crabs steal later :)


    We then had a nice scenic flight on the way out:




    our hotel and beach
    our hotel and beach

    one of our planes, taking off
    one of our planes, taking off



    See more images for Oz Day 16-18: Hamilton Island
    2017/10/21 Oz Day 15: Undara
    π 2017-10-21 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips
    From Sweers Island, we had an "interesting" flight from Sweers island to Undara, a little Oasis in the middle of the north eastern Australian hills (2500ft or so). It was low overcast most of the time with lots of wind at Sweers, but we got there ok. Landing was actually uneventful.





    fuel stop at normanton
    fuel stop at normanton



    I did loose formation flying
    I did loose formation flying


    Undara dirt runway
    Undara dirt runway


    Undara had interesting accommodations in railway carriages




    Lots of birds causing mayhem




    Undara had lots of walks. Sadly we didn't have much time for them, nor did I know about those walks until I had wasted time screwing around a bit, so I only had 55mn in the end to do a walk before our 15:30 lava tube tour. I ended up doing the Atkinson's lookout (3.8km/1.5h) and Bluff return (1.5km/25mn), or about 5km/1h55 in 55mn. It was a bit rush, but I made it :)





    Atkinson's lookout
    Atkinson's lookout

    Bluff lookout with view of Undara lodging
    Bluff lookout with view of Undara lodging


    Jack, grabbing some internet :)
    Jack, grabbing some internet :)

    We then went on our lava tube tour. Turns out that area has the biggest lava tube in the world, although it collapsed in a few places, so it's not the full original 120km length (or so):







    After the lava tube tour, we went on an evening sightseeing tour:


    little baby joey
    little baby joey







    At the end of the day, we went to see a cave from which thousands of bats were flying out. They were so fast that I was not able to get pictures of them, but a video shows a bit:

    The next morning, I was up early, so I went for the 5.8km/1.5h bush walk which I was able to do in 1h or so, just before breakfast:





    ants make those big holes so that insects and small animals fall in it, and then they eat them
    ants make those big holes so that insects and small animals fall in it, and then they eat them


    those hills are built by termites
    those hills are built by termites

    that's what they look inside (I didn't break this one)
    that's what they look inside (I didn't break this one)


    happy kangaaroo :)
    happy kangaaroo :)


    back for breakfast
    back for breakfast

    brown your own toast in the fire
    brown your own toast in the fire


    And that was it for Undara, nice location with both lava tubes, and lots of macropods you can see on one of the many walks.

    See more images for Oz Day 15: Undara
    2017/10/19 Oz Day 13-14: Sweers Island
    π 2017-10-19 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips

    We did a nice flight to Sweers Island, we flew by some rivers to look for crocks, but didn't get lucky:




    finally made it to the ocean
    finally made it to the ocean




    sweers island's dirt runway
    sweers island's dirt runway



    bring your own tie downs
    bring your own tie downs

    We then spent 1.5 days on the island:

    nice colorful bird
    nice colorful bird










    The next morning we went for a quick fishing trip, the conditions were not ideal due to the wind:


    I caught 2 fish, but they were too small to eat
    I caught 2 fish, but they were too small to eat


    Jennifer caught a seaweed :)
    Jennifer caught a seaweed :)

    After the sun wasn't as hot, we did a walking loop around the island:




    lots of mangroves
    lots of mangroves


    the aborigenes built this wall to catch fish
    the aborigenes built this wall to catch fish


    ack through the airport
    ack through the airport

    Sunset:









    While the island was not overly exciting, I guess it was a nice place to rest...

    See more images for Oz Day 13-14: Sweers Island
    2017/10/18 Oz Day 12-13: Adels Grove
    π 2017-10-18 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips

    From Alice Springs, we went for Adels Grove, a little Oasis in the middle of northern Australia, we however got detained by the worst kind of mall cop ever, a ground truck who thought he had to make himself feel important by preventing us from leaving and giving us a ridiculous useless lecture that tried to explain how he was important (he was not) and how foolish we were to have walked to our airplanes without his "help" (yeah right). What a freaking idiot, I filed a report against him with the airport management, I hope they "take care of him"


    Alice Springs is the main base of the flying doctors service
    Alice Springs is the main base of the flying doctors service



    Jennifer learned how to make airplane tie down knots
    Jennifer learned how to make airplane tie down knots

    a single crop circle in the middle of nowhere
    a single crop circle in the middle of nowhere

    devil's marble round rock formations
    devil's marble round rock formations


    if glaciers didn't do this, I don't know what did
    if glaciers didn't do this, I don't know what did

    We landed at Barkly's Roadhouse for lunch:









    We eventually got to Adels Grove, and went for a nice swim in their river:




    got stung by those lovely yellow jackets
    got stung by those lovely yellow jackets





    a bird makes those nests
    a bird makes those nests




    We then drove to Boodjamulla NP for a river cruise:


    we got on a nice electric boat
    we got on a nice electric boat









    and then we left for our next destination
    and then we left for our next destination

    See more images for Oz Day 12-13: Adels Grove
    2017/10/15 Oz Day 09-11: Alice Springs
    π 2017-10-15 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips

    After Ayers Rock, we flew to Alice Springs, where we had 3 nights (2.3 days). The flight there was also scenic, across lake Amadeus and then Kings Canyon








    Later, we got to Gosses Bluff and impressive meteor impact crater, and eventually overflew Standley Chasm and Simpsons Gap before landing at Alice Springs.

    Gosses Bluff
    Gosses Bluff




    Simpson Gap
    Simpson Gap

    this looks like fun :)
    this looks like fun :)

    Alice Springs had the first controlled airport we landed at, which really was no big deal when you're used to flying around san francisco and on flight following all the time :) Interestingly, there is no radar coverage over most of Australia, so the controllers vector us entirely based on position reports. Oh boy, that feels like 1980's and prior :) Thankfully now that planes are adding ADSB, the controllers are starting to get some airplane positions based on ADSB aircraft self position reports (my aircraft had both ADSB in and out, so I could also see other equipped aircrafts around me).
    The controller nicely agreed to give us a tower tour, which was awesome:



    ADSB planes
    ADSB planes




    In Alice Springs, we were at the doubletree hote, which was nice, even if kind of out of the way from downtown:


    it almost came to me
    it almost came to me

    no luck with jennifer either
    no luck with jennifer either

    After arriving, we went to check out the reptile centre, and we got lucky, it was the day they fed snakes:







    the thorny devil is very cool (albeit small)
    the thorny devil is very cool (albeit small)







    Snake feeding:




    I think the mice lose out in that display...
    I think the mice lose out in that display...

    The next morning, we went to the original telegraph repeater station that caused Alice Springs to be founded (first telegraph route from Darwin to Adelaide):





    Next, we went to check out the Royal Flying Doctor Museum. While they could do without the "royal" part, they are an impressive organization that brings medical care to people who need it in the outback. People live sometimes in small towns with a few as 10 or 20 people, so when they need medical care, the flying doctors can come to them (all those towns have small airports or roads that can be used as landing strips), which is very cool. They use modified pilatus PC12 planes with a hospital like treatment center right inside the plane:


    an idea of scale, Australia is bigger than Europe
    an idea of scale, Australia is bigger than Europe

    patients can be treated in the plane
    patients can be treated in the plane



    Next, we went to the nearby (small) aviation museum:



    and the (better even if not super big) natural history museum of central australia:













    this one looks like a cartoon character from ice age :)
    this one looks like a cartoon character from ice age :)





    Next door was an aborigines art museum:






    We then went back to downtown to check out its shopping street:




    Dinner:




    The next morning, we went to Alice Springs Desert Park:




    termite mound
    termite mound

    thorny devils
    thorny devils












    Piou!
    Piou!


    We went to a talk on aborigines. While I knew there were over 100 tribes, it was still hard to visualize and comprehend how so many people could have diverged so much in culture and customs, and speak totally different languages. Europe did the same, but with 15 or so languages, not 100+



    those are eaten as a delicacy
    those are eaten as a delicacy

    Clare then drove us to Standley Chasm, a nice formation:



    we were not allowed to proceed further, the local aborigines say it's sacred land
    we were not allowed to proceed further, the local aborigines say it's sacred land



    I found a friendly chicken walking around :)
    I found a friendly chicken walking around :)

    Next, Clare drove us to Simpsons Gap:







    Last, we went to Anzac Hill for nice views:





    Most people then went back to the hotel, but I went back to downtown for a walk:






    From there I went to the nearby botanical garden:





    I then had to wait until 19:15 for the night tour at Alice Springs Desert Park where we got to see endangered species that lived happily in an protected enclosure and came to see us because the guides feed them. Sadly, we were forced to only use red light:


    rat wallaby with a joey, very cute.
    rat wallaby with a joey, very cute.

    echidnas enjoying dinner
    echidnas enjoying dinner


    some kind of mouse rat
    some kind of mouse rat

    the echidnas were curious and came to our feet. One came to sniff my hand with its little wet nose
    the echidnas were curious and came to our feet. One came to sniff my hand with its little wet nose

    and starry sky to be had of course
    and starry sky to be had of course

    And that was it for Alice Springs, a fair amount to see, but I think we saw it all :) (not counting the small museum of transportation that closed so early that we couldn't get there in time).

    See more images for Oz Day 09-11: Alice Springs
    2017/10/14 Oz Day 08: Pre Dawn Field of Lights at Uluru
    π 2017-10-14 00:00 in Australia, Bm, Ozsafari2017, Trips
    We got up earlier than reasonable (04:10) and stumbled to the bus that took us to a field filled with tens of thousands of lights, which looked quite burning man like, except much much bigger and without the playa dust:







    nice to see it at dawn
    nice to see it at dawn





    Way too damn early, we paid by being tired after that, but very nice :)

    2017/10/13 Oz Day 07-08: Uluru/Ayers Rock
    π 2017-10-13 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips
    Next on our trip was Aluru aka Ayer's Rock, a very nice geological formation in the middle of Australia, a bit south of Alice Springs. It's actually 2 formations since it has the Olgas just a short distance from it too, and they are similarly impressive.

    But we first started with the flight from Coober Pedy, up the famous Stewart's Highway that goes from Adelaide to Darwin, and we were lucky enough to see the world solar race solar cars that were driving down, and also road trains:




    this guy drove off the road and just abandonned the car there
    this guy drove off the road and just abandonned the car there


    cattle ranch on the way
    cattle ranch on the way

    Eventually we got to Mt Connor, a nice formation in the middle of nowhere:





    And from there it was a short enough flight to Ayers Rock and its commercial airport:


    that jetstar plane nicely waited for me to land before it went
    that jetstar plane nicely waited for me to land before it went



    After landing and dropping out stuff at the airport, we drove directly to Ayers Rock. Sadly when we got there, the walk to the top was open, and we didn't know how rare it was and how much the rangers are trying to find reasons to keep it closed until they can meet their quota of less than 20% of people climb it, so we can close it entirely (so as to respect the native's wishes, which is all nice and good, unless you equate that to not being able to climb El Capitain, Glacier Point, or other famous landmarks, because the native americans would rather that you don't):



    I only had 10mn to climb maybe a 3rd of it
    I only had 10mn to climb maybe a 3rd of it

    got as high as this before I had to go back down to get back to the group, something I much regret now
    got as high as this before I had to go back down to get back to the group, something I much regret now

    sigh, we could have been there...
    sigh, we could have been there...

    the way down was actually harder unless you went backwards while holding the chain
    the way down was actually harder unless you went backwards while holding the chain

    instead we drove around the rock, which was nice too, but could have been done at some later time
    instead we drove around the rock, which was nice too, but could have been done at some later time

    little birds liked to live in there
    little birds liked to live in there






    That evening, we went for a dinner with view of the rock:


    the olgas
    the olgas


    dinner outdoors
    dinner outdoors

    the stars were nice
    the stars were nice

    they even had a telescope so that we could see saturn
    they even had a telescope so that we could see saturn

    After not enough sleep, we got up at 04:15, to go to field of lights. This was followed by sunrise over the rock:








    We then came back to our rooms, exhausted, and took a 1h nap before breakfast, and a tour with the group to the Olgas where we did a 7.4km hike:










    We then got back to "town" a bit late but made it to our camel tour:





    Sadly, by then when we went back to the Rock, not only had it been closed all day for winds that weren't there anymore when we arrived, but the rangers not only couldn't be bothered to staff their booth or answer the phone for the last 4 hours, nor did they of course reopen the climb when it was safe enough to climb. As a result, we never got up, and I'm quite pissed at them:


    We checked out the nearby aboriginal center and visitor center where the park staff paid by our entrance ticket, couldn't be bothered to show up for work either, and then headed back:




    We then had a "cook your own dinner":



    The next morning, we headed out and got some nice pictures of the rock and the olgas on the way out:










    last fly by the airport before heading out
    last fly by the airport before heading out

    So, the place was nice, but we were very unhappy with the rangers and basically how they're artificially trying to meet their "no one wants to climb the rock anymore" by keeping it closed most of the time. Sigh...

    See more images for Oz Day 07-08: Uluru/Ayers Rock
    2017/10/12 Oz Day 06: Coober Pedy, Australia's Opal Capital
    π 2017-10-12 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips

    Coober Pedy was literally founded after early settlers randomly found opals, and the rest is history: many people moved it like a gold rush, although opals are not that easy to find (mostly random) and in the end aren't worth that much compared to the time and energy people put into finding them. Sadly many people lost their life's time and savings looking for them, and very few ended up ahead.

    On the flight to and from Coober Pedy, we got to see the very many holes that were dug out to look for opals. From the gound it almost looks like the ground got shot by many big bullets and then finished off by bombs :)




    It's only looking closer in the places that you see more:





    Going for landing, and found a nice little dragon on the taxiway:





    After going to our hotel with rooms dug in the hill, which is how people live to stay cool in the otherwise hot sun:

    gets 100% dark with no windows
    gets 100% dark with no windows

    the clay gets a varnish on top so that it doesn't fall on you
    the clay gets a varnish on top so that it doesn't fall on you

    We went to see the hotel museum and nearby mining museum:



    Australia had a big island sea with prehistoric sea creatures
    Australia had a big island sea with prehistoric sea creatures

    wicked
    wicked


    Lots of displays on how mining is done:




    Opals:




    The museums also showed multiple rooms cut into the hills how people lived/live. As a bonus, when you dig to add one room to your house, you might just find opals at the same time:




    You could also tour some caves:




    you can see the tunnel boring machine
    you can see the tunnel boring machine





    Many stores selling opals in all different ways:



    Visiting the town had a few left over props from multiple movies that were shot there:

    From Pitch Black with Vin Diesel (a good SciFi movie actually)
    From Pitch Black with Vin Diesel (a good SciFi movie actually)







    not a movie prop, but super cool to see a DS so far from home
    not a movie prop, but super cool to see a DS so far from home

    They also have landscape that looks close enough to Mars for Mars movies to have been shot there:



    They also have a kangaroo sanctuary where they raise little joeys adpoted from killed moms:







    We had a morning tour that took us to a mining area:


    most holes are left unattended and are easy to fall into
    most holes are left unattended and are easy to fall into





    Nearby was breakaways, a former inland sea:













    A few shots of breakaways from the sky:





    Nearby was the dingo fence, it kept Jennifer safe from being eaten :)





    Last part of our tour was a church built into the side of a hill, very interesting:






    We then went on our own to see another mine, and house built into a hill:






    More housing quarters:










    A fair amount of aborigines live there:


    nice art
    nice art


    Misc:






    Coober Pedy is definitely a cool place to visit, and learning about a different kind of mining that isn't really practiced anywhere else.

    2017/10/11 Oz Day 05: Birdsville to William Creek via Lake Eyre and onto Coober Pedy via Painted Hills
    π 2017-10-11 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips

    We left Birdsville early in the morning in pretty hellish winds and headed for Lake Eyre which was half dry but still interesting to fly over. One plane in our group flew low enough that they were able to spot wild camels in the sand dunes. Sadly we were a bit too high to see them, and probably didn't look carefully enough:


    I first flew over big red, where we had gone for sunset the previous evening
    I first flew over big red, where we had gone for sunset the previous evening






    by then I had a nice tailwind and was doing 159kts on a 125kt plane
    by then I had a nice tailwind and was doing 159kts on a 125kt plane




    when flying down lake eyre, I clocked a peak 169kt in level flight at 2500ft. Not bad for a 172 :)
    when flying down lake eyre, I clocked a peak 169kt in level flight at 2500ft. Not bad for a 172 :)





    finally arrived at William Creek
    finally arrived at William Creek


    William Creek, population 12, doubled in size when we arrived for lunch :)


    special planes with magnetic detection probes to do land surveying for minerals
    special planes with magnetic detection probes to do land surveying for minerals

    most people arrive to William Creek the hard way, through harduous 4WD tracks
    most people arrive to William Creek the hard way, through harduous 4WD tracks






    After lunch and a refuelling, we went to Coober Pedy via the very pretty Painted Hills:








    one of our pilots did some low level flying
    one of our pilots did some low level flying



    pretty
    pretty




    We then landed at Coober Pedy, which we visited in details the next day.

    2017/10/10 Oz Day 04: Charleville, to Windorah, to Birdsville
    π 2017-10-10 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips
    Day 4 started to get more remote. and turning into the true outback by the time we arrived to Birdville.

    The first flight, we did some makeshift formation flying. That was definitely challenging and kept me on my toes, and I flew nowhere close to others compared to what the 2 best pilots, did:

    morning pre-flight briefing
    morning pre-flight briefing

    cute pink plane
    cute pink plane

    formation takeoff
    formation takeoff

    I was so happy to have a G1000 to show me where other planes, were.
    I was so happy to have a G1000 to show me where other planes, were.

    'traffic alert, traffic alert!' :)
    'traffic alert, traffic alert!' :)


    well done, guys
    well done, guys

    We then resumed our regular flight to Windorah, our lunch stop:

    there were watering holes for cattle
    there were watering holes for cattle





    Windorah had a small airliner from Regional Express (REX) that links the small australian towns that are a bit too far to reasonably drive in between:


    we had to hold our planes when it left to make sure we didn't get blown over
    we had to hold our planes when it left to make sure we didn't get blown over

    We then resumed our flight to Birdsville, the gateway to the outback:




    arriving at Birdsville
    arriving at Birdsville


    the hotel was walking distance from the airport gate
    the hotel was walking distance from the airport gate

    We then got a tour of town and to the Big Red, a nice sand dune. Birdsville has a big horse race once a year, which draws crowds from all over Australia, and requires days of driving for many, on outback tracks, kind of a rite of passage, apparently a bit burning man like in some ways:






    I think I found some bilby holes
    I think I found some bilby holes


    And that was it for Birdsville, we had dinner in their restaurant, and slept on location too, dodging the super annoying and plentiful flies that seemed to be everywhere.

    2017/10/09 Oz Day 03: Toowoomba to Charleville via Surat
    π 2017-10-09 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips
    Our 3rd day in Australia/Toowoomba, was the day we'd head out. I was understandably a bit nervous about navigating on my own in a totally different ATC system that quite frankly didn't have much in common at all with the US system I learned in, but in the end it wasn't so bad, thanks to the training we had gotten the previous days.

    Two legs of just under 2H, the first one took us to Surat, a small deserted airport with no facilities:




    natural gas pipelines
    natural gas pipelines

    seems that our planes were all equipped with ADS-B, so I was able to see other planes from our group
    seems that our planes were all equipped with ADS-B, so I was able to see other planes from our group


    Surat
    Surat

    Our 2nd leg had a bit of convective weather, including this big rain cloud that shook the hell out of us when we had almost cleared the side of it
    Our 2nd leg had a bit of convective weather, including this big rain cloud that shook the hell out of us when we had almost cleared the side of it

    Charleville
    Charleville

    Once in town, we got a short guided tour:





    and then dinner
    and then dinner

    2017/10/07 Oz Day 00-02: Flying Air Safari over Western Australia, Brisbane and Prep in Toowoomba
    π 2017-10-07 00:00 in Australia, Flying, Ozsafari2017, Trips
    Jennifer and I first flew to Brisbane via Seoul, though 2 nice business flights we got from Korean Air via miles. It was not the quickest way there (12h + 9h), but it avoided the hellhole that is Sydney airport and its joke connection (or lack thereof from International to Domestic, and we got much nicer seats and amenities from Korean Air. The seats were got were actually first class like, only the food was ok not fantastic, however it didn't matter.

    We started by checking out the Amex lounge in SFO that Jennifer got access to (sadly on the wrong side of security for us, so we had to go through security twice):


    she liked the wine sampler/dispenser
    she liked the wine sampler/dispenser

    made it to Incheon/Seoul, and connected to Brisbane
    made it to Incheon/Seoul, and connected to Brisbane

    very nice seats
    very nice seats

    We then arrived in Brisbane around 06:00 to meet Clare from Air Safaris Int and the start of our tour. I have a few pictures on the Brisbane page.

    We then took a bus to Toowoomba, about 2h inland from Brisbane, and got some briefings on how to fly in Australia, as well as check rides from the club that was going to rent us planes for the next 21 days. I'll sheepishly admit that I kind of sucked during that check ride given how little sleep I had gotten, but I guess whatever I had left was enough to pass:



    On day #2, I was up before sunrise, fog to the ground, and then we got some very loud birds that all went off at the same time exactly at sunrise, despite the heavy fog:


    more planning with Oz charts
    more planning with Oz charts



    this was the C172 I was going to use for the next 3 weeks, with a slightly faster engine and a G1000
    this was the C172 I was going to use for the next 3 weeks, with a slightly faster engine and a G1000


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