Chasing Rocks: Australia Part 1

Chasing Rocks: Australia Part 1

It was only a short time ago, when I hauled my backpack into the garage, after traveling a month around Southeast Asia. After finally ridding the smell of sweat and adventures, it’s come back out out for another go around. I’ll be heading down to Australia with my friend Chris, who will be visiting his last continent. You read that right, his last continent, after visiting Antartica and Africa on his most recent travels. I’m pretty privileged to be traveling with someone with a wealth of travel experience. And props for planning for most of the trip. We’ll be stopping along Sydney, Ayers Rock, Tasmania, Melbourne, and Whitsunday. On this trip I brought along my trusty Sony A7, Go Pro, Zeiss 55mm, my newest addition 24-70mm F4, Peak Design Capture Camera Clip and my Joby Gorillapod.

* Leaving for  Sydney to Ayers Rock*

I have two hours before my flight from Sydney to our next destination to Ayers Rock, so Chris and I are frantically sitting at the airport trying to both update our blogs. What can I say about Sydney? It was nothing of short of amazing, and has only been less then a week since we left Vancouver.

After 14 hours from Vancouver to Guangzhou China, we had separate connecting flights to our final destination, in Sydney. Arriving shortly after 7am, I grabbed my SIM cards and Opal card ( their version of the Compass card). The original plan was to wait for Chris, who was due to arrive a two hours later, only to have his flight delayed up to 4 hours. I made my way to my cousins house in Bondi Junction, where I freshened up. In order to keep myself awake and make use of the day, they took me to their local church Hillsong. Now if you don’t know what Hillsong is all about, their a musically talented Christian group, based out of Australia. It was a great way to get my day started and it was definitely up lifting. I had lunch with the family before making my way back to their house for a quick nap. It was definitely a dangerous idea to nap, after not having slept for almost 24 hours, but it gave me the boost to get through the rest of the day.

My first stop was the Sydney Harbour, with the iconic bride and Sydney Opera House. Along the way there, I met up with Nicole, who so happened to be finishing her shift. From my last travels in Southeast Asia when I met with Nicole in El Nido, who seems to be at every destination I visit. She was one of my friends when I did the Disney program in 2012, and although you’re probably sick of me hearing me rave about the program, it really is an awesome program to meet people from all over the world. We walked around the harbour, before also meeting up with Josh, and Kevin who are some friends from Vancouver who are here for school. It was an unexpected first day of seeing familiar faces. With Chris finally joining us after his long flights, we explored the city a bit further, and walked over to Darling Harbour. Throughout my Sydney trip, I founds lots of similarities between both cities. For myself, I found Darling Harbour to be very reminiscent of Vancouver’s Coal Harbour area, with restaurants along the waterside.

Darling Harbour  Darling Harbour

For dinner, we headed to Mamak a well known Malaysian restaurant with the locals, famous for their roti. With a line out the door, the line moved fairly quickly. After eating plane food for the last few meals, it was finally nice to sit down and have a tasty home-style cooked meal. The rain had started to fall, as we left the restaurant. Not having proper footwear, we slowly made our way back to the train station. However, as we found out quickly the rain pours for short durations. Still running on adrenaline, myself and Chris decided to head back to the Sydney Harbour for some night shots. After what we thought was a short time, we made our way back home, only to run into Claire another friend from my Disney program at a train station. The first day was all about seeing familiar faces and hitting up the iconic spots!

The second day, had us waking up early and taking a stroll through the botanical gardens with my younger cousins. After a short time with them, myself and Chris met up with one of Josh’s friend, Shireen who just arrived to Sydney for school two days before us. We then made our way to the ferry terminal, and headed to Manly Beach, one of the top tourist places in Sydney. The ferry ride to the beach, offered a great view of the harbour, from a different perspective. It was a reoccurring theme on this whole trip as Chris and I really liked the harbour. Josh met us shortly after, taking us to Palm Beach, a lesser known tourist spot.

Although Manly beach was nice, I wasn’t overly impressed after seeing my fair share of beaches. I guess after coming from Boracay and Hawaii, finding amazing beaches is hard to come by.  With that said, Palm Beach made up for Manly Beach. When we arrived to Palm Beach, we took an easy 30 minute trail to the lookout. Way better views up here! If your ever coming to Sydney, I would recommend checking it out, but the only downside is that it’s not easily accessible by public transportation.

Queen Victoria Building! Our morning stop for coffee before exploring the Botanical Gardens Queen Victoria Building! Our morning stop for coffee before exploring the Botanical Gardens

For dinner our group headed to Ippudo Ramen, which I’ve previously had in the Philippines and Japan. I can always go for a good bowl of ramen. After a quick dinner, Chris and I headed to Luna Park, which overlooks the Sydney Harbour to catch the sunset. Did I mention we really liked the harbour? I love traveling with Chris as both of us are photo geeks. We had originally planned for an early night, planning to spend an hour there. Before we knew it, an hour turned into 2. We finally headed back by walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The walk takes about 20 minutes, unless you stop for photos, in which case it may end up being a 45 minute to an hour walk. I guess night photography worked up in appetite as we decided to Google some late night eats, which took us to an awesome Thai restaurant, Chat Thai! We both shared the pad Thai and crab spring rolls, which we both throughly enjoyed after a long photo walk.

Only two days into our trip, I already started feeling the fatigue to kick in with our late night photo walks. With too much to see, our third day had us going to Blue Mountain. With Josh again picking us up, we had grabbed some  Vietnamese sandwiches, before making the 2 hour drive out. Along our travels, we met Tiffany, one of Josh’s housemates girlfriends who was along for the hike as well as Shireen, who we met the day before. Three sisters, was the top thing on our list, as well as Tripadvisors “must see things” while at Blue Mountain. Although the views were beautiful, and due to the hype from a lot of online material, I was again slightly disappointed with the Three Sisters. Talking to my travel counterpart, I think living in Vancouver has spoiled us with the amazing scenery we get.

Here’s a quick excerpt from Wikipedia about the Three Sisters:

” The commonly told legend of the Three Sisters is that three sisters, Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from the neighbouring Nepean tribe, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters. A major tribal battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back. This legend is claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime legend.” 

Making up for the Three Sisters, was our beautiful hike to Empress Falls. With some steep stairwells, and trails, it took us about half an hour to get down and 45 minutes on the way back. Although, we only managed one hike, Blue Mountain has several hikes and trails that offer equally breathtaking views and luscious green scenery. With our time restriction in Sydney, we didn’t manage to fully explore Blue Mountain. Hearing other reviews, it seems very similar to Whistler, where they offer plenty of outdoor activities, with locals doing weekend trips there. From my short time there, I really wish we could’ve done more hikes, but Chris and I were sore just walking from the parking lot to the start of the trail. So doing another hike would’ve probably made us bedridden for the next few days. Arriving at the bottom of Empress Falls, it was filled with greenery and a waterfall to make the steep hike worth it! We spent some time there, before making the steep uphill climb back.

The Three Sisters ( on the left) The Three Sisters ( on the left)

As we were coming up from our hike, we saw a guy ab sailing down the falls!  As we were coming up from our hike, we saw a guy ab sailing down the falls!

Myself and Chris, got dropped off at Featherdale Zoo following the hike, as we were both eager to see some local Aussie animals, mainly koalas and kangaroos. Needless, to say we got our money’s worth as we spent a majority of the time, at the koala and kangaroo sanctuary. Other notable, animals were the wombats and the tasmania devils who were surprisingly quite cute. Of course I could’t go to the zoo without checking out the penguins as well, as their one of my favourite animals.

On our way back to the city, we managed to use our trusty Tripadvisor to find Nomad, a local restaurant. After scrolling through endless options, this was one of the restaurants that caught our eyes. Although severely underdressed, we sat down and shared some dishes. At first glance we thought we under ordered, but after our third course, which was the succulent pork dish we were both quite full, from our grilled calamari and kingfish ceviche. The flavours were excellent in each dish with beautiful plating. Along with Chat Thai, this may have been my favourite restaurant. During our first two courses, when we didn’t think we were gonna be full, we had entertained the idea of trying Aussie Pies, as we wanted something truly authentic from Australia and mark something off our bucket list. Yea, I know I mentioned we were both full from the Nomad dishes, but we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads after looking up ” best Aussie Pies”.

We made our way to the Henry’s on Wheels a food truck along the water, where I tried the chicken pot pie. The pie was slightly dry, with not much substance. It wasn’t anything mind blowing, but wanted to check it off my bucket list of things to do.

The next morning,  wasthe anticipated Bondi to Coogee walk was on our next of things to do. After Manly Beaches disappointment, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Bondi to Coogee walk is a 6km walk along the coast line overlooking the ocean. It only took about 2 minutes, before I fell in love with the scenic walk. Every step of the way, the beaches and views seemed to get more amazing! The total walk took us about 2 hours, but again we stopped a lot for photos, and a pit stop for some fruit smoothies.

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk  Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

Following the walk, we met up with Claire who I had bumped into on the first day, and met her at the Sydney Fish Market. Much like Steveston in Vancouver, the fish market  had a lot of stalls, selling mainly local seafood. We settled for Doyles, and ordered some delicious fish and chips and BBQ Mackerel. The Sydney Fish Market, was quite busy with a lot of tourist when we arrived around 2. In addition, if your planning to go late for lunch, they do start to close early around 3:30.

Our stomachs were full, and we needed to digest. We revisited Darling Harbour, and soaked in the sunshine. On the first night walking with Josh, we saw that Aladdin the Broadway Musical was showing, and thought it would be cool to watch since they offered cheap tickets for day of performance showings. After meandering through Darling Harbour, Claire brought us to the Aladdin box office, where we were gonna test our luck to see if we could grab some last minute ticket deals. Sure enough, after waiting for about 30 minutes, we managed to snag some front row tickets for the three of us for $45 each!

With some time to kill before the performance, we ended up at a trendy Asian inspired food court! It was very reminiscent to the streets os Osaka, where it looked like an alleyway with lots of food stands and options. We took a stroll and enjoyed the building before I settled on Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake, a chain in Japan known for their cheesecake. My verdict still goes to Pablo’s for their mini tarts. I tried Uncle Tetsu’s green tea tart which had great matcha flavour, however the crust wasn’t as good as Pablo’s.

After killing time and a bit of break from the heat we took to our seats for the Aladdin show. I’ve always been a fan of Broadway musicals, and Aladdin was no different. If you ever have a chance to watch it, I highly recommend it. The show had a few extra songs, not from the movies, and some local jokes. The Genie in particular was an amazing actor! Following the show, we headed to the stage exit, and to our surprise we met the cast. They were all friendly and willing to take a few photos with us. Myself and Chris finished our evening with a Hong Kong soup noodle dinner, as we both were craving some Asian food.

Photo with the Genie!  Photo with the Genie!

With full packed days, our next day was no different. We met up with Josh and Claire, before making our 1 hour drive to Wedding Cake rock. For whatever reason, it seems like myself and Chris, really like rocks, but it just happened that a lot of the tourist spots are rock sculptures. It was probably one of the hottest days of our trip so far. It took about an hour to reach Wedding Cake, but enjoyed our sandwiches along the way, with a scenic view! We arrived at Wedding Cake, shortly after our lunch break, and grabbed the iconic Wedding Cake photo on the edge!

On the way back from Wedding Cake, we spotted another rock we thought was cool for a photo op. Of course, we couldn't resist.  On the way back from Wedding Cake, we spotted another rock we thought was cool for a photo op. Of course, we couldn’t resist.

Wedding Cake Rock is located in Royal National Park, which is a 29km trail, which features many different trails, beaches and hikes ( or as the Aussies call it bush walks). Instead of hiking to our next stop, we decided to drive to Wattamolla Beach. The sights were exactly what we needed after a hot hike. I loved how the beach, was in a remote area with two pools of water. One was connected to the ocean, with the other pool of water a small lagoon where you could also cliff dive. I wasn’t brave enough for the cold ocean waters, so relaxed in the lagoon. We rested for an hour, before we headed back for dinner, where I got to meet up with Kevin for a quick dinner.

With our last day in Sydney, we opted for a chill day! For brunch, I met Nicole again, with our first day being too short. We caught up on her travels, and her newest jobs and future adventures. After brunch, myself and Chris took a mid afternoon nap, to catch up on some rest, before meeting up with my cousins for one last dinner. They took us to to their favourite bento box restaurant known for their Japanese fried cutlets. The cutlet was superb! Well, I mean not Japan superb, but still perfectly panko crusted, and tender meat! It was a great last meal to end our night in Sydney. The kids had an early night, so that mean’t Chris and I were on our way back to our favourite spot, the Sydney Harbour. On our first day we found a spot that we liked, so we headed back to the botanical gardens where we found a good look out. However, by the time we got there the park was closing which only mean’t a few shots before getting kicked out. Knowing us, it was probably the best we got kicked out, otherwise we may have spent another 2-3 hours there.

We finished our night in Sydney, meeting up with Kimmers, a local Sydney friend who happened to know our friend from back in Vancouver. We had a quick drink, and caught up with life and our adventures in Sydney. After a week of talking about early nights, we finally had an early night as our next day was a long travel day to Ayers Rock.

Now, as I previously mentioned, our first week seemed liked all our attractions were rocks. Well, the next part of our adventure was an even bigger rock. It’s been seen in magazines, catalogs, and every printing material. Our next 3 days, would be a camping adventure in the Australian Outback, to catch a glimpse of  Ayers Rock or as the aboriginals know it as Uluru Rock. Camping, is a bit out of my comfort zone, but camping out in the Australian outback, with spiders, the size of my palms isn’t the most ideal situation either. Despite all those circumstances, I was up for an adventure.

We woke up at 6:30am, to catch our 10:30am flight, leaving Sydney to Ayers Rock. When we arrived at Ayers Rock, the temperature had reached 37 degrees. Our tour guide Keith, from Outback Tour Services, picked us up from the airport and took us to camp, where lunch was served by our host Matt, who prepared some delicious chicken wings. Our group was about 14 in size, who we met over lunch. After lunch, it was time for our first hike, in the 37 degree temperature.

Our first stop, was to explore another known rock in the region named Kata Tijuta. Along with Uluru Rock ( Ayers Rock), and Kata Tijuta, these rock formations form a major part of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. As soon as we stepped out of the bus, the amount of flies, in the area were noticeable. I’m super glad my cousins, informed us to get fly nets, otherwise, I would’ve been distracted the whole time to pay attention to the tour. As we walked down the red rocky trails, Keith explained to us a lot of the history, and by this time it had reached 45 degrees. Talk about opposite weather in Vancouver. With so much history, in these iconic landmarks, I wouldn’t do it justice by explaining it, so as always I’ve placed a little link to the Wikipedia pages, if you want to learn more.


Second stop, was another view point of Kata Tijuta, before making our way to the famous Uluru Rock! It was perfect timing as sunset was fast approaching as we arrived at the sunset viewing area. Keith, setup some snacks and champagne, for us to enjoy while enjoying the sunset. There was no better way to finish the first day of our Ayers Rock tour.

Famous Ayers Rock! Famous Ayers Rock!

We drove back to camp, where Matt had prepared us an Australian BBQ dinner, which featured kangaroo meat, steak, and sausages. My favourite kind of dinner. By the time dinner had finished, it was only about 8pm. However, with a 4:30am start the next day, we gathered all our swags ( basically a waterproof mattress), and sleeping bags and setup camp. Before bed, myself, Chris and our newest tour group member Mei, went out to take some night shots and caught the milky way. Although Ayers Rock, was super cool, I think the highlight of my my 3 day trip was sleeping in our swags and falling asleep looking at the milky way.

Keith showing us how to set up our swags!  Keith showing us how to set up our swags!

At 4:30am, we got a wake up call from Keith, where the group gathered for breakfast and packed everything up. We were given two options: a early 10km hike around Uluru Rock, or a sunrise view point and a 6km hike around Uluru Rock. Myself and Chris opted for the second option.

By the time we had arrived at the viewing point for the sunrise, a lot of tour groups had arrived with limited spots to take photos. Instead of taking photos, I took the time to enjoy the view. As the sun slowly peaked from the horizon, it was neat to see Uluru Rock, change different shades of red.

Different look of Ayers Rock, before the sunrise!  Different look of Ayers Rock, before the sunrise!

After the sunrise, we headed to our drop off point, where we would begin our 6km hike around Uluru Rock. Before the hike, we were informed that some parts of the rock were are still sacred to the natives,  and that photographs were not allowed to be taken in certain areas. As we began the hike, the view up close, was completely different. The formations, really show the history of the rock. Along our hike, we saw some aboriginal art from their ceremonies and traditions drawn on some rocks. After our 6km hike, we met up with the rest of our group who had opted for the 10km hike. Next stop, was the Uluru Cultural Centre.

Unfortunately, my 3 day trip camping experience was about to come to an abrupt end. For whatever reason, during our 15 minutes to the cultural centre, my body took a complete 180 turn, and as soon as I got off the bus my world was spinning. Long story short, I was decommissioned for the rest of the hikes for the next day and a half. I would be in bed  for the next 48 hours after seeing the doctor who informed me I had caught a viral infection. Needless, to say I was pretty sad, but the rest was much needed after hustling through out first week.

When Chris had originally first mentioned a three day camping experience, the initial idea of camping for three days to see a rock, seemed absurd. However, as I reflect back, I think it was totally worth it in the end even after getting sick. Meeting an awesome group of people, daily hikes, and to my surprise, camping outdoors and watching the milky way was priceless!

So that brings us half way to our trip! We’re currently in Tasmania, but I’ll keep the second part for the next part. My initial thoughts of Australia are that it’s a beautiful country, especially with it’s diverse culture and architecture. I wasn’t aware of this, but Australia is quite known for their Thai Food and coffee scene! I was also surprised to see a lot of other retail stores, that I wouldn’t think I would see here, like Daiso. Sydney in particular, had a lot of similarities of Vancouver, with a lot of small suburbs.

So that brings us half way to our trip! We’re currently in Tasmania, but I’ll keep the second part for the next part. As always thanks for taking the time to view my photos and adventures! Let me know what your favourite image is or your favourite part thus far! Talk soon!

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