After our successful Sydney in a day last year, we tried Sydney in a half day this time :)
This was not really a plan to spend so little time in Sydney, but with our flights it worked out that way, we got a hellish red eye from Perth, and I figured it'd be more fun to spend 6 hours in Sydney than sit in the airport.
We went to the botanical gardens after stopping by Google to drop our luggage:
I had brought seeds to feed the cockatoos we saw last year. I love those birds:
I finally found some customers
an interested customer :)
it brought a twig to exchange for seeds :)
The video shows how one wasn't shy at all, but the two other ones really wanted the seeds, but were too shy to take them from our hands. Per Jennifer didn't get them to eat from her hand this year.
These are Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and many have been tagged so that people can report sightings on this Cockatoo Wingtag facebook page. They're fun and intelligent birds from what people have been reporting.
From there it was just a short walk to circular quay where we went to get a jet boat ride:
The jet boat ride was fun and wet (I know, what were the odds? :). That boat had enough power to do 360 turns in the water. Cool way to see the Sydney harbour :)
Last, but not least, we went to Google for lunch, and I got a few pictures from there, and then from the Sydney airport before flying home:
We went to our room first, and right away we had a hungry quokka came to our room. Thankfully I had some bird seeds that are ok for them to eat, whereas other foods can make them sick. They are the cutest marsupials:
After that, we went for a bike ride for what we had left of the day:
Quokkas are actually nocturnal, so we saw many more at night:
The next morning, our little friend came back for more (we left some water for it):
Again, thanks to the Dirk and Linus travel agency, we elected to fly to Xmas Island after LCA 2013 since it was a better time of the season to go compared to Ningaloo Reef which is awesome, but very low season in January. The main reason was to go diving in warm easy waters with great visibility.
As seen from the plane, Xmas Island is reasonably large, you definitely need a car to get around
Thankfully they have a real runway that allows full size jets to land (along with proper luggage)
Our hotel was called "the sunset", I wonder why :)
Some dinners, we at in our hotel room with basic cooking facilities, others we ate in restaurants:
The island had a lot of industry linked to phosphate mining:
Unfortunately, people from other countries have figured out that they can just take boats to show up as refugees and flee to Australia:
Anyway, back to visiting the island, we covered a lot of the island thanks to the rental car:
This is the lovely 4x4 we got. It was full of dings and scratches, and that turned out to be a feature since we sure got a lot more scratches while driving between trees and plants and trying to avoid running over crabs that were everywhere.
We used our beaten up 4x4 rental to drive around the island to some hikes, remote beaches, and interesting viewing points, and it was definitely worth it. While they call themselves "the other galapagos" this is over-reaching, but they do have lots of cool birds, many many kinds of crabs, boobie birds, and more.
look at the webbed feet around the branches
We also got to see flying foxes (bats):
We also had many lizards and geckos:
This of course does not count the diving which was quite good in warm easy waters with great visibility.
After the dives in the morning, we used our rental car to go visit the Island, and it was a lot of fun to see so many crabs. From what we were told, the ubiquitous red crabs that are all over, including crossing the road everywhere, making driving interesting, aren't good to eat, but the robber/coconut crabs are, however they are protected. To be honest, I grew attached to those little red crabs, they are not afraid of humans, I've been able to give them food to their claw which they grabbed and ate slowly, and they do a great job recycling organic matter (animal or vegetal).
I have so many crab pictures, it was hard to select a few:
we missed the big crab migration, but some roads were still closed due to too many crabs
those little guys were fearless and all over, including the road
we found this coconut crab white driving back at night
this little guy went hiding in the urinal during a rainfall, maybe not the best move
these guys were more shy
coconut crabs come in different colors
a beautiful blue one
the path was littered with crabs
this coconut crab found in the rocks had eggs
the ubiquitous red crabs eat all debris, vegetal or animal
we were able to feed the crabs some leaves, which they were happy to take from us
all shapes and sizes
unfortunately, many get run over
Many other pictures from driving around and hiking to beaches:
we actually got to use the 4x4
Jennifer had to chase the coconut crabs I couldn't safely drive around
remote beach we drove and hiked to
the tracks are from turtles that came to nest
Jennifer tried to channel her inner monkey to go get a coconut
these crabs can't swim, but they lay eggs in the ocean
they were underwhelming when we arrived, bad timing
A couple of late afternons, we went to Margaret Knol to finish the day. We got to see some birds and flying bats:
Thanks to Linux.conf.au 2014 in Perth, Jennifer and I got to go to Perth this year (second time for me after a first trip to Perth in 2003).
Due to merely asking, and some super nice pilots in the B747 we were taking from SFO to Sydney, the captain not only let me sit in his chair, but even took the picture for me :)
After a dinner and night in Perth, we took an early private flight to Monkey Mia and Shark Bay. Putting the price aside (flying in Australia is not cheap), the owner unfortunately used the flight to check out one of his pilots, so we had an extra person in the plane which does not have much room, and we did a long 3H-ish flight in the cramped back seats of a Mooney. It was pretty miserable, but we got to Monkey Mia eventually. Unfortunately we got there too late for the last dolphin beach sighting of the day, so having arrived there after missing the main attraction was a bit disappointing.
I've flown the slightly faster version of this plane, I don't consider it a 4 seater
but we had 4 of us inside, it probably stretched the allowed payload
this board told us that we'd likely be out of luck for seeing dolphins that day
the dolphins swimming close to shore, but not interested in coming to see us
actually we got lucky and saw some wild emus
Next, we flew to Hamelin Pool to see Stromatolites by Shark Bay. Those cool organisms are now believed to have created part or most of the oxygen on earth, some 2 billion years ago. Unfortunately they helped create most of the animal life that exists on earth today, and in turn the fishes apparently though they tasted good and ate most of them. The few surviving ones are there because they are in very salty water that most sea animals don't like, and that's the case in Shark Bay:
this looks a bit dry, and it sure was hot and dry
this wild kangaroo didn't seem to mind.
After long flight back, I snapped a few pictures from Perth:
Naval museum and Fremantle in the back
Some pictures of Perth University:
the women are not impressed, tough crowd
but they could be bought with food easily :)
During the conference, one early morning, I went for a walk in the big park between Perth University and downtown Perth: