Saturday, June 16, 2012

Road Trip, Australia

Along the south-eastern coast of Australia, the Great Ocean Road runs along the seaside from small town to small town, lighthouse to lighthouse. We took several days to drive it, taking our time and staying at little beach and lighthouse cottages along the way.

We thought this sign was really silly the first time we saw it,
but then we almost hit a truck because we were driving on the wrong side of the road.

To describe the drive as picturesque would be an understatement. Every few miles we would stop to enjoy a view like this:

Or this:

Or to play on a beach like this:

Or to see a koala family sleeping in a tree by the side of the road:

One particular koala was so low in the tree that we could have rubbed noses (don't worry, we didn't). We pulled over and eagerly got Jonathan out of the car to see it. They stared at each other for a while, but Jonathan decided the eucalyptus tree was much more interesting than the koala. He grabbed a fist full of leaves and promptly put them in his mouth. The koala watched J eat his dinner, glared at him, and started to growl! We had no idea koalas were so possessive about dinner... We put J back in his car seat, Fabio took a few more pictures, and we continued the journey.

Sometimes we just slept in and watched crazy birds we've never heard of before run around through the cottages' windows. Jonathan probably could have sat and watched them the entire trip.

We eventually turned off the Great Ocean Road and headed north, to the mountainous Grampians National Park. We thought we might hike a little but it was freezing, so we were content with the "scenic lookouts" accessible by car. They were breathtaking, and we were satisfied. We even saw some aboriginal art in a cave on our way out of the park, which I thought was cool, Fabio thought was boring, and Jonathan tried to eat more eucalyptus leaves.

Fabio having a dramatic moment at a Grampians look-out

My favorite view of the trip

Bunjil's Cave, with a drawing of Bunjil.
That's about all we got out of the park ranger.

After that we stopped at a wildlife park in Ballarat. The kangaroos roam free in the park and they know you get food for them with your admission, so they wait for you at the park entrance and follow you around like spoiled dogs through the park until you feed them. We watched one steal a banana peel out of one lady's backpack while she was looking at the wombats! One mama kangaroo even let me feed her little joey while he sat in her pouch. It was definitely a pinch-myself-because-this-can't-really-be-happening moment.

Jonathan got a little jealous.
He thinks he has exclusive rights to being hand-fed by me.

The park was great. It was obvious the employees loved the animals and they were taking excellent care of them, but they weren't so protective that it took away from the experience. They brought out a koala for people to pet if they wanted, and they even let Jonathan pet her. He is really into textures right now, and so he grabbed on with gusto. He came away with a fist full of koala hair that we brushed out of his hand as fast as we could before the keeper could notice. Poor koalas! We imagine they're still talking about that baby that came to Australia and wreaked havoc on their entire race for two weeks...

Fabio was completely enamored with the wombats, so they let him pet one too!

We finished the trip in Finley. What? You've never heard of Finley? That's because it is a tiny farming community four hours "outbush," as they say, in the middle of Australia.

Okay... so why did you go there?

I'm so glad you asked! While serving my mission to Rochester, New York (many moons ago) I was paired with a sister from Australia, Jessica, for several months. I was her first companion in the mission-field and she rocked my socks off. She was committed, hard working, and hilarious. We had a great time working together. We thought we'd never see each other again, since I was from a small town in Utah and she was from a small town in Australia... but we kept in touch and: Voila! My very loving husband drove four hours out of his way to spend a couple days with her and her husband.

We had a great time with her and her family. She and her husband were such gracious hosts, they didn't even mention to us that we were staying with them during their FIRST ANNIVERSARY until we asked how long they'd been married! We went to church with them, had family dinner with her dad, siblings, nieces, and nephews, and she let me come with her to the early morning seminary class she taught. It was the perfect ending to our road trip, to be completely enveloped into an Australian family for two days. Oh, how we'll miss them!

 Their adorable church building

The best part of the trip was having both my boys all to myself to play and laugh together without distractions. I just love those two!

This is proof... we were really there!
Because you know, you can't fake a kangaroo crossing sign.

After all the driving fun, we went back to Melbourne to catch our flight to Sydney to top off the trip of a lifetime.