Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, Australia

My last stops in Australia were two beautiful national parks in the Northern Territory, Kakadu and Litchfield.  I hired a car to tour around the national parks, which turned into a bit of an epic road trip – I covered over 1000km over the three days, soundtracked by my new favourite Ozzie radio station, Triple J.  I didn’t hit any kangaroos, although I did spot one by the side of the road which scuttled off fairly sharpish when it saw me approaching at top speed . . .

As well as doing some lovely walking in Kakadu, I saw lots of paintings created by the Aboriginal inhabitants of the region, many thousands of years ago.

Bushwalking

View from Nabab lookout, Kakadu

Aboriginal rock art

Litchfield was also gorgeous but completely different: another stunning Australian rainforest landscape with streams and waterfalls trickling through the park.  I think the rainforests are my favourite places in Australia – there’s just so much to explore and see in them, and of course so many lovely (croc-free!) places to swim in.

Litchfield National Park

 

Alice Springs, Australia

Feeling very far from home at the moment . . .

Only 15,030km to London!

I’m about to leave Alice Springs for Darwin, having been on a tour exploring Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta and Uluru for the last few days.

All three places were absolutely spectacular – gorgeous colours, skies and textures.  We had the opportunity to do some lovely walks around each area of the National Park, and to see the landscape change with the sunrise and the sunset.  Unforgettable.

Kings Canyon

Me at Kings Canyon

Kata Tjuta

Uluru

Me at Mutitjulu waterhole, Uluru

We camped both nights in rather dusty “swags”.  It was brilliant falling asleep by the campfire looking up at the stars, but a bit chilly in the mornings once the campfire had gone out!

Nicole, Natalie and me in swags

Brisbane, Australia

. . . has also been the location for my best-ever sunset photos:

Sunset on Mount Coot-tha

Ship passing by Tangalooma at sunset

Sunset on the beach, Tangalooma

Brisbane, Australia

I’m about to leave Brisbane after a lovely week staying with Helen.

We spent a wonderful couple of days on Tangalooma, a resort and former whaling station on Moreton Island.  I went snorkelling around the artificial reef created on the Tangalooma Wrecks, fifteen vessels that have been deliberately sunk off the island to provide a habitat for marine wildlife.

Beach at Tangalooma

 

Tangalooma Wrecks

We also fed the gorgeous wild dolphins that swim around the island every night, and had a go at quad biking up and down the sand dunes.  That was pretty fun but a bit hair-raising, particularly at the point where I had to get pulled out of a wattle tree by the very patient quad bike instructor!

Bella the dolphin

 

Quad bike on the beach

 

Helen & I on the quad bike

I’ve met some more Australian wildlife in Brisbane:

Wombat

 

Wallaby

And one of the highlights of my visit was definitely our trip to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where I got up close and personal with the cutest animal I have ever met:

Me with Vinnie the koala

 

Sleepy koala

Cairns, Australia

I’m to the end of a lovely stay with Frances in Far North Queensland, land of crocodiles, beaches, rainforest and the best wild swimming ever!

We’ve hung out for a few days in Cairns and for a day in Port Douglas, loving the beaches and the sun (although not loving the strong winds blowing sand all over us).

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas

Yesterday we had a very fun day snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.  We saw whales and dolphins from the boat and then checked out some gorgeous coral and colourful fish on the reef itself.  The water was incredibly clear and there was so much to see – just magical.

Earlier this week, we journeyed around the Atherton Tablelands – half rolling dairy farmlands (that everyone kept assuring us are “just like England”!) and half rainforest.  We saw crazy, otherworldly hanging fig trees and breathtaking waterfalls (including Millaa Millaa Falls, where, rumour has it, the video for Peter Andre’s ’90s classic “Mysterious Girl” was shot, pop pickers).

Cathedral fig tree

We also spent an energetic day cycling and canoeing through the rainforest, which I loved.  It’s like no landscape I’ve ever been in before – dense, enchanting, lit with a weird golden-green light breaking through gaps in the canopy, with climbing vines everywhere making wonderful knots, loops and spirals around all the other trees.

Rainforest

Before that, we took a trip north from Cairns, croc-spotting on the Daintree River before hanging out in very very beautiful Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest spills down to meet the sea.

Croc!

Cape Tribulation

We stayed for one night in a hostel in the rainforest itself and felt like extremely adventurous backpackers, contending with cold showers, cold dormitories and ominous noises coming from the trees at night . . .

My favourite bit of these trips was swimming in some really lovely places – in the sea at Cape Tribulation, in swimming holes at Mossman Gorge and Millaa Millaa Falls and finally at Lake Eacham, which involved a hair-raising leap into the freezing cold water off a branch hanging over the lake – so fun!

 

Sydney, Australia

So we were going to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, then realised that it’s only a little bit more expensive to take a helicopter flight over the city.  Bit of a no-brainer, really . . .

Waiting for take-off

In the air

View over the pilot’s shoulder

Sydney from the skies

Circular Quay and Opera House

Manly beach

Bondi

Sydney, Australia

Frances & I have had a lovely long weekend with lots more sightseeing in and around Sydney.

On Friday we went to Taronga Zoo and had a marvellous day meeting lions, tigers, elephants and giraffes as well as some Australian wildlife – kangaroos, echidnas and koalas.  The koalas were definitely the cutest animals (I want to take one home in my backpack!), but the giraffe enclosure had the best views over Sydney Harbour:

Giraffe at Taronga Zoo

Then on Saturday we travelled to Cockatoo Island, an island in Sydney Harbour which has at various points been used as a prison, a school and a shipbuilding centre.  Currently it’s hosting the Biennale of Sydney, a festival of contemporary art where the artworks are installed in and around the old prison and factory buildings.  It’s a pretty amazing event and it was hard to know what to look at first – the artworks or the grand, faded industrial buildings and equipment.

Biennale of Sydney artwork

 

“Cockatoos” on Cockatoo Island

On Sunday we travelled out of Sydney to the (extremely chilly!) Blue Mountains.  We checked out the beautiful scenery around the Three Sisters and took a very steep funicular railway, before exploring the towns of Katoomba and Leura.

Three Sisters

Frances & I wrapped up warm at the Blue Mountains

Sydney, Australia

My namesake and partner in crime has now arrived in Sydney and apparently does not know the meaning of the words “jet lag”!

On Tuesday we took the ferry to Manly for a wander around the harbour and the beach, before hiring bikes and cycling up a very big hill to get to North Head, a lovely viewpoint looking back over Sydney Harbour.

Northampton girls on Manly beach

Cycling round Manly

Yesterday we took advantage of the sunshine and headed for Bondi Beach.  We had lunch overlooking the beach at Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club, possibly the most gloriously situated swimming pool in the world . . .

Bondi Icebergs swimming pool

Bondi Icebergs swimming pool

Lunch overlooking Bondi Beach

After a bit of beach time, we walked along the clifftop walk admiring the surfers from afar and the joggers from up close.  We are starting to feel slightly guilty about our lack of exercise and daily double-scoop ice-creams whilst in Sydney . . .

On Bondi Beach

Clifftops at Bondi

Frances looking beautiful at Bondi

Sydney, Australia

I’ve arrived in Sydney and spent a lovely day walking round the harbour yesterday, dodging the raindrops in the morning and eating an ice-cream in the sunshine in the afternoon.

Sydney Harbour is really spectacular, full of smart boats, bars and people, plus a couple of reasonably famous landmarks . . .

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Me & the Opera House

I’ve now got sore feet but am very excited about exploring the city over the next ten days.