Wildlife Safari on Kangaroo Island

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Bachelor kangaroo on KI

Such fun! Another friend suggested a I check out Kangaroo Island (KI) if I was going to be in Adelaide. I debated whether or not to spend a day away from the bike race for a wildlife safari. I am glad I did. It was terrific to spend the day relaxing and viewing the strange and wonderful animals of Australia.

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If you look really closely you may be able to see dolphins playing in the waves.

Signing up for a day trip to KI makes for a long day! I had a 6:15 pick up at my hotel, then a 2.5 hour bus ride to Cape Jervis. Then we boarded the SeaLink ferry for a short ride to Penneshaw. A guide from Kangaroo Island Odysseys picked me up with a family from Italy. Paolo was guiding me until we caught up with my group. All of the vehicles are top rate. We met up with my guide Nikki and I transferred to a smaller group–just one other American couple in a jeep-like vehicle.

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We had a full morning of viewing kangaroos, dolphins, pelicans, and wedgetail eagles before we stopped at Odysseys special camp for a gourmet lunch. We relaxed for a short while before we went on a bush walk on their private reserve and viewed koalas and found an echidna.

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The echidna is like a punked-out hedgehog. Charming!

Our guide, Nikki, was excellent at taking care of every detail and sharing her enthusiasm for KI. We saw so many species on found in Australia and it was delightful. We also learned the history of the island. As we stood watching the sea lions up close on the beach I realized I could drive 3 hours to the Monterey coast and watch California sea lions. Why wait till a big trip? Why not both?

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Nikki Redman is an amazing authority on the flora and fauna of KI. Pointing to a pile of wallaby bones, “Do you know what that is?” No one does. “Wassaby.” 🙂

The tours begin at $415 US and increase depending on size of group. There is also an option to spend the night and includes accommodation. My day was really long because I had the bus ride and ferry (round trip) included in my fee. The couple in my group flew on a small plane from Adelaide so they spent less time in transit (and more money). There may be more affordable ways to see KI, but I am not sure if you drove over (ferry accommodates autos) how much wildlife you would see without a guide.

You can see more photos and learn more about the experiences available on the Kangaroo Island Odysseys Facebook page.

Oh Sweet Adelaide

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Adelaide is much like my hometown of Sacramento–similar size and equally flat and easy to navigate by foot or bike. The main thoroughfare is King William Street and the main street for shopping is Rundle Street or Rundle Mall. On arrival I was keen to find a bookstore so I trundled off to Rundle Mall.

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Dymock’s Bookstore was delightful. I found the books on the shelf of “What Australians are reading…” to be strangely familiar, so I asked Pam for help finding authors with an Australian voice. Plus my seatmate on the flight from Melbourne had given me two names: Tim Winton and Robert Drewe. Pam gave me MANY options and I chose Salt Creek by a local Adelaide author Lucy Treloar. It was an excellent story following the misfortunes of a family on the Coorang. I also thought it would be a great gift for Adelaide-native Kate Bridgman.

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The Botanic Garden is wonderful. It is used by families, friends and lovers as a city park. At the same time it has a wonderful collection of plants and beautifully designed gardens. It is an easy walk from Rundle Mall.

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The East End is a particularly fun section of the City. One night I walked there to have dinner at Africola, a restaurant I read about in my pre-trip research. I loved my experience and if I had not eaten so much amazing cauliflower I would have gone to the corner chocolateria and enjoyed more dessert.

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I was staying at Hilton Adelaide Hotel on Victoria Square. It was the headquarters of the Tour Down Under and race village. Just across the square (or diamond) is the St Francis Xavier Cathedral and the hotel is adjacent to the Central Market.

I realize that most people focus on Sydney or Melbourne when they visit Australia. Brisbane is the current “it” city. Many people visit Adelaide with a focus on the wine country because the nearby Barossa Valley is on par with Napa Valley as one of the world’s great wine growing regions. South Australia is also an ideal place to take a cycling vacation. Adelaide is worth the time and effort.

 

 

 

3 Reasons to Take to the Great Ocean Road

IMG_8729Several friends, when they heard I was visiting Melbourne, urged me to check out the Great Ocean Road. My usual approach is to rent a car and go it alone. Then I noticed on Trip Advisor that there are a number of tour providers. It appealed to me because to really enjoy a coastal road it is helpful if you do not have to keep your eyes on the road.

The awesome part of being a tour group member in a country where they drive on the left: if you grab the shotgun seat you have a beautiful view of the coastline! This road was developed by boosters of tourism after the Great War and employed mainly returning soldiers, fondly called Diggers for their role in digging the trenches. Even today Australian soldiers are sometimes called diggers.

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1. I chose Melbourne Coastal Tours. For a reasonable $130 AUS the company picks you up at your hotel and gives you a full day and then delivers you at a location you request in the central business district (most of our group wanted to be dropped at a restaurant not their hotel). Our tour guide Daryl was excellent and I learned a lot more about Australia’s history and geology than I would have on my own. It is also more fun to explore with other people.

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2. We made frequent stops throughout the day. The first stop for bathrooms and morning tea at a small town on a protected ocean inlet was about 1.5 hours in. After that we stopped about every 30 minutes until we were on our way back to Melbourne. It allowed us to see wildlife, rainforest, and coastal beauty and enjoy shopping, a delicious lunch at La Bimba and hiking. It was a full day!

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3.  The breathtaking beauty is worth the investment of time. Although if you have difficulty climbing steps, your access to the beaches and some of the other stops will be limited.

IMG_8810Melbourne Coastal Tours also does penguin viewing tours of Phillip Island.

Getting to Australia Without Jet Lag

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Famous surf beach on Phillip Island is one of many reasons to make the trek to Australia.

Melbourne in Victoria Australia is a terrific destination for a vacation. A lot of people avoid travelling to New Zealand and Australia because they think it is too far to fly.  From San Francisco or Los Angeles it is about 12 hours (depending on the wind) to Auckland. For people on the West coast it is equivalent to flying to Europe. I have made the trip over a dozen times now in one direction or another. This time I mentally prepared to continue on to Melbourne–another 4.5 hour flight. (There are direct 14 hour flights from LAX to Melbourne on other airlines.)

On both legs the Air New Zealand plane was their new style with seats in Economy that have these foot rests that if you have control of the entire row you can create a bed. It does not do you much good if you are flying with a bickering married couple from Oak Park, Illinois like I did. I smiled as I imagined the three of us stretching out on “bench.” However, great if traveling with children.

I had done some reading about avoiding jet lag and I tried a few new ideas. First I ate dinner at 7 in the airport (a few slices of wood-fire pizza). I avoided alcohol both pre-flight and en route. I declined the dinner and took a couple of Advil PM. I slept really well–at least 8 hours. Then I ate lightly until I arrived in Melbourne.

I was tired when we landed in Auckland and would have loved a shower. Instead I drank a flat white. I stayed awake all day both to speed getting on the right time zone and because there were penguins to see and friends to enjoy. I slept soundly and I woke up around 3 a.m. The key is to not panic or stress when you awake off schedule. Just as we can go without eating for longer periods than we often think possible–we can function for a few days with less sleep as we adjust.

On the way home I ate a light lunch and then declined a big dinner. I drank some hot tea and ate the cheese and crackers offered. I lucked out and had the row to myself, so I got to try the new “couch” in economy. It works quite well and would have been even more restful if the cabin lighting had not malfunctioned. They could not be dimmed. I still managed to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep. I watched quite a few films–watch The Dressmaker if you can.

I arrived in Sacramento by noon. I stayed up until 8 p.m. It was easy to go to sleep because it was already dark. I slept straight through until my alarm went off. I felt great today.

What do you do to avoid jet lag?