Category Archives: Australia

Perth (period).

Our Perth visit should stop right here because we really didn’t see anything except the neighborhood of Victoria Park, where our Airbnb was located. Other than that, it was a week of studies and exams for the kids to wrap up their school term before Christmas break.

Our Airbnb was an interesting place – the cleanest accommodation thus far and a large 5 BR home that belongs to a Filipino/Scottish couple. We felt like we were living a “Big Brother” TV show. Michelle, the hostess, had a Holiday Party one night and it was quite fun to meet some locals as well as other guests from her different houses in Perth. There was a mixture of single, married, gay, and even cross gender to match with a variety of professions including movie producer, miners, Iranian immigrants, and us (a family)! After our week, we felt right at home with everyone and made some good friendships.

Victoria Park (like ours in Fort Lauderdale) has a nice local library, several local farmers markets and diverse restaurants that we enjoyed in the neighborhood. We also stocked up on some books at a cute little bookstore called Crow’s. Our farewell dinner celebration of 2 months in Australia included a nice bottle of red champagne from Barossa with pizza and chicken parm at the appropriately named Sebastian’s. We happily put together our top 10 list (to be shared soon) over dinner and recounted what a truly wonderful time we had in Australia. We bid farewell to Australia on December 16th flying to Bali but we will be back!

Perth2

Farewell Dinner at Sebastian’s

Perth1

Our last bottle of Australian wine

Flinders: Kanga, Emu, & the 1/2 Liter Elephant

Setting:

  • Flinders Ranges, South Australia – edge of the Outback and home to 6 aboriginal groups

    The elephant sits at sunset

    The elephant sits

Cast of Characters:

  • Chris – dork dad
  • Leti – 4WD specialist
  • Louisa – modern day carioca
  • Sebastian – biologist boy
  • Elephant – 6-meter campervan ->
  • Kanga – General local pop.
  • Emu – Minority local pop.
  • Aussie – Local people / tourists (friendly folk)Reptilian

Special Guest Appearance by: Slithering Snake, Black Widow & a host of local feral friends

Prologue:

After 6 weeks traveling OZ via plane, train, and auto, we packed our bags and threw them into the Elephant – a campervan of beastly large size. A spectacular specimen that generates cheers from our children because of its clear superiority when compared to our Kiwi campervan.

Act 1: Flinders National Park Entrance

As if on cue, Kangas come out in full force to greet our entrance to the Flinders Ranges. We spot them everywhere – in the bush, under trees, on the side of the road. Dead or Alive!

The first comments come from everyone with echo calls in the camper, “Look! A Kangaroo! Wow! Look another Kangaroo. There another one!” The repetition of Kanga calls goes on until we realize they really are every-friggin-where!

EmuTheKanga carioca  girl screams, “Snake! OHHH My God, I see a SNAKE!” Two minutes later, Chris shouts, “Lizard!” as he spots a friendly bearded dragon out for a walk on the highway. Luckily…no splat!

Now all eyes search for predators. Leti spots an Emu family – 2 chicks following daddy. These guys are fast and smart at avoiding our elephant unlike kanga.

Intermission: Totally Stoked Sunset

As we reach the midway portion of our trip in Flinders, we drive our elephant up to Stokes Lookout for sunset. We are not the only ones as there are several guided tours that arrive too – great news because we get a free guide to explain the beauty and size of Flinders.

Flinders sun

Caught completely by surprise on a sporadic cloudy evening, the sunset illuminates the sky in 4 – “I’m not kidding” ways. First, it lights up the Pound in front, then the side clouds get to show off with colored lights (on each side) and nothing like the full moon rising behind you to cap it off.

This sunset replaces my previous #1 off the west coast of Nicaragua which had a double rainbow behind us as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Stokes humbles the Big Blue Mountains in eastern Australia.

Flinders cloud 2 Flinders sky Flinders moon

Act 2: Feral Foodies Unite

We are crossing over the Ranges and our fearless 4WD specialist takes us on a marathon length off-road tour. Thanks to her perseverance, we break through to the other side for lunch at the famous Prairie Hotel.

Biologist Boy: “Dad, order me a burger and fries.”

Chris: “Sure thing son. Louisa what would you like?”

Carioca girl: “Hmm, let me see – I don’t know.”

Chris: “Well, they got good burger choices like Kangaroo or Camel.”

Carioca girl: “Um, I don’t know – um, I think I’ll just have the steak burger dad.”

Chris: “Really? You don’t want to try a Camel or Kanga?”

Biologist Boy: “I don’t care, just order me a burger!” Exits to men’s room.

Carioca girl:  “No, I think I’ll just have the steak burger dad.”

Chris: “Ah, c’mon! Ok, then but we’ll share!”  Waitress arrives to take the order.  “We’ll have a Camel burger for the boy, a steak burger for the girl, and I’ll have a…well, that leaves me with the kangaroo burger. Oh, and a large beer please!”

4WD Leticia walks in after touring restaurant’s aborigine art collection.

4WD Leti: “I’ll have a beer too and” she looks briefly at the feral menu “the tasting platter please.”

Biologist boy: “Dad – there’s a huge black widow in the bathroom! Check it out.”

Chris: Tone of please don’t be fooling with me “Seriously? Where is it?”

Biologist boy: “Yeah, it’s really big; must be ready to lay eggs or something. You can’t miss it on the urinal.”

Chris: Tone of regret for asking “Great, I can’t wait.”  Slowly walks off as one would to their death.kanga burger

Food arrives and the burgers are huge! The platter has kanga meat pieces, emu paté, camel salami, and veggies.

Biologist boy: “This is a little hammy if you ask me.” Chomping on camel burger.

4WD Leti: “The emu paté is great and I like the camel salami. Louisa, do you want some?”

Carioca girl: “No thanks. I’m good!”feral platter

Chris: “Here, try the kangaroo Louisa – it’s really good.”

Carioca girl: “No thanks, I’m good!”

Repeat for all Louisa offers to share but regretfully she tries the feral foods.

Act 3: ½ Liter Elephant

Chris relieves 4WD Leti since her arms are vibrating from the off-road driving and it takes some time for dork driver Chris to realize the fuel tank is empty.

Chris: “Whoa! Leti, there are only 2 bars left for gas!”

4WD Leti: “Then stop at the next station.”

Brilliant idea and dork Chris stops at the next station, which is CLOSED.

Chris: “We can try for the next station with 2 bars left, we should make it.”

He starts to do internal calculations in his head, which repeat until the end of the story, and then continues in Chris’ dreams for the next few nights.

Biologist boy: “Dad, I’ll guide you and we’ll make it!”

Chris: “Ok, look up in the driver’s manual to see how much fuel is in reserve.”

Biologist boy: “It says either 4 liters or 7 liters depending on our tank.”

Chris: “Great, we should barely make it; if not, it will be a nice run to get gas. I remember running out with Eustace in Mexico – we were one hill away from a station too. What an experience.”

Biologist boy:  “We’ll make it dad.”

The elephant, a sweating dork Chris, and family pull into the station with red light fuel flashing for many minutes now…and it’s CLOSED!

Everyone: “NOOOOO!”

Chris walks into a bar across the street either to get help or a nice stiff drink – how about both! All heads turn to look at this out of place stranger as the cowboy doors swing behind him. Chris notices the time warp too and thinks ‘I’m not in Kansas anymore, am I Toto?!’ 

Gap-toothed beer drinker: “Well, look here.” pointing to the dork.

Chris: “Any chance you know when the gas station will open?”

Bartender: “Where you from?”

Chris: “States – in Florida. We just near ran out of gas.”

Bartender: “Ah, ya, I could tell your accent is different and we don’t call it gas.” Entire bar of 6 people laugh heartily at my expense.                                               “Call Pete. I’m sure he’d come by to open it up and get you some petrol.”

Conclusion: Pete stops by, grunts, charges a $10 bonus to come save us and fill the tank. Go back to calculate the fuel put in with the size of the tank and our elephant had only a ½ liter of petrol left! Farewell to the Flinders! We loved it!

pound

wilpena flinders mtn sunset yoha peace

Wines of the Great OZ & Cool Kiwi

One-third into our journey and farewells to Oz & Kiwi – but wait! We can’t leave without a tribute to wine. Last summer, I gathered a short list of recommended wines from a sommelier at Jean Georges in NYC which was a nice start to a great experience. Here are the results with links to explore further:

  • Marlborough, New Zealand
    • Nautilus EstateHighly recommended
      • Champagnes (esp. rose) are impressive
      • Solid portfolio across the board as I’d be happy with any of their wines
    • Hans Herzog Estate – Highly recommended
      • Montepulciano is my kind of wine – a big Italian varietal
      • Hans has 20+ grape varieties on his estate and experiments quite successfully.
    • Spy Valley Wines – Easy Peasy!
      • All drinkable but nothing spectacular
    • Brancott Estate Great views, not wine
  • Central Otago, New Zealand
    • Felton RoadExcellent
      • Best Pinot in New Zealand
      • Low key but real good wines
    • Quartz ReefNice champagne
    • RipponHighly Recommended
      • All around quality winery in beautiful setting
    • Maud & Akitu – Recommended
      • Consumed these with our Wanaka host friends Steve & Shannon Turner
    • Craggy Range Nice wine
  • Barossa Valley, South Australia
    • A fantastic day thanks to our Air BnB Host, Mel, who took us on a special tour of wineries VIP style
    • Two Hands – Nice winery recommended
    • Hentley FarmWorld class restaurant
      • Nice wines too but the chef rocks
    • SeppelsfieldPartner with Fino for lunch
      • Historically significant
    • Murray Street VineyardsHighly Recommended
      • Big reds that I like! Shirazzzzz!
    • RockfordHighly Recommended
      • Awesome red pinot champagne
      • Buys grapes from small batch vineyards
    • Artisans group – Cool grouping of 7 wineries
    • LangmeilStrong recommendation
      • Missed the winery but shared a bottle of this delicious stuff!  Also missed Pewsey Vale
  • Clare Valley, South Australia
    • Following 3 fantastic days in Flinders Ranges, we spent 2 in Clare Valley. A mellow and fruitful time!
    • Jim Barry – Everyday nice
      • Just like 2 Hands, a solid start and everyone is related to the Barry Family in Clare!
    • Knappstein – Wine & Beer Winner!
      • Ok, we prefer the beer
    • KilikanoonHighly recommended
    • Sevenhills – Good wines
      • Beautiful grounds on church land
    • O’Leary-Walker Wines – Recommended
      • Wonderful views of Clare Valley too
    • Claymore – Rocker wines
    • Hop & Vine for beer and wine
      • Clare Valley Brewing Co: Monkey’s Uncle Red Ale! Cool and tasty
      • Good Catholic Girl wine – ok, next
  • Additional tastings and thoughts:
    • Planned to visit the Margaret River in Western Australia but school exams stopped that trip cold
    • Cleanskins – bottles sell for $5-12 and are same as cover label in USA. Box wine – perfect for campers and cheap! 

Conclusion: Both countries have great tastings and are worth a visit. While the wines may not match up to Napa’s finest, you do get a great diverse tasting ranging from Shiraz to Grenache to Malbec and Mataro. A second benefit is the old school open cellar doors that Napa used to have (but now you have to pay a fee to get a glass). Oh and the mountains that surround these wineries are a great escape as well. Cheers from Down Under and we are on the wagon in Indonesia!