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At long last, the final pictures of our journey out to Western Australia.  There were many reasons to fly to WA for our campervan roadtrip:  the weather, the coast, the abundance of trees found no where else.  But you know us, and knowing us as you do, you had to know there was a hike in there somewhere.

For the past three years, we have tortured Kristin & Damiano with tediously long day hikes for which we are typically underprepared  had the pleasure to share our love for the outdoors with our best friends and have seen some pretty beautiful terrain — from the open plains and a wispy Fairy Falls in Yellowstone to a 2-day excursion up Mt. Chirripo through rainforest and sub-alpine ecospheres and knee-deep in mud.

We had our reputation to live up to.  So it was with that in mind that we set off to WA for a week’s worth of adventuring and a day’s worth of tramping on part of the infamous Aussie Bibblumun Track.

The Bibblumun Track is a 1,000 km long distance trek from the suburbs of Perth to the far South East coast of Western Australia.  We conquered but a piddly little 12kms (we think).  See, we didnt really bring a map and estimates of the portion from Peaceful Bay to Conspicuous Cliffs ranged from 10-15kms.  Also, we were a little short on water.  And Dami didn’t have hiking boots.  And our (new color filtering) camera ran out of battery they day before so I had to lug the big ‘un all day.

In short, a typical fantastic four hike.

But oh what a beautiful little stretch of the trek it was…  Read about the journey on the out and about page and experience the beauty of Western Australia, from shrub to sun to sea.

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After there was Margaret River, and before there was the great day hike along the Bibbulmun Track, there was some general tramping in Walpole Nornalup National Park with Kristin and Damiano.  We spent some time wandering through the Valley of the Giants, home of the towering karri gum trees, girthsome tingle trees and crazy-barked jarrah trees.  More pictures you know where

Our first days out west involved a 6am near-missed flight, loading up the campervan in Perth, driving south to the wine region of Margaret River, ample tastings before sunset, fortifying ourselves with food and wine for the days ahead, and (on day 2) a morning’s drive further south to our ultimate destination:  Walpole-Nornalup National Park, WA.

On the way to Walpole, we stopped at Cape Leeuwin, the most south-west point in Australia where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet and create a seriously wicked landscape (and seriously strong wind!).  The unplanned stop was quite apropros, since our last two annual adventures with Kristin & Damiano have involved trips to the Continental Divide of North America (in Utah and Coast Rica, respectively). So of course we had to snap a photo at this momentous spot.  We also amused ourselves with some windswept antics – the wind was so strong you could literally lean into it with considerable force and the oceanic gales would still keep you upright!

Pictures of our afternoon in Margaret River and visit to the Cape are on the photos page.

(claire & kris, watching the sunset)

what I love about Melbourne weather:  the aftermath of an afternoon deluge…

(photo by kcma)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks…. so let me explain my absence:  the usual suspects (late nights at work make Claire sleepy and no-bloggy); Queen’s Birthday weekend down at the Lakes Entrance and hiking through the Snowy River National Park; back to back shows for the grand final of the Voice Australia (that’s my girl, Karise!) were all contributing factors.  Not the mention the biggest earthquake to hit Melbourne in a century, a whopping 5.3, which rattled our house for a full 2 minutes (ok, so not really a factor affecting my lack of blogging, but a fun fact nonetheless!)

Then there’s the vortex of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, which have finally sucked me into their spiral grasp. Read the first book cover to cover in a 24 hour span, and had to force myself to put down the second book at 2am each night to keep my sanity (and combat the Claire sleepy no bloggy-ness). 

But that was then, and this is now. So welcome me back, and enjoy some pictures from coastal Victoria (check out the full pictures page for the backstory on all those broken trees!)

 

Jumping into the third book tonight, so see you in 400 pages or so…

OK, so its May and I’m STILL working on posting all the pictures from our March/early April adventures.  Rather than give you the impression that I am ambivalent or lazy, please note this is due to the sheer abundance of fun had by all (partially offset by the necessary balance of work and picture weeding).

So needless to say, we had a blast during Lisa & Matt’s trip, hot on the heels of the parents visit and our hiking adventures.  We meet the  jet lagged couple in Sydney for the Easter weekend, and showed them our favorite sights in the city.

On Saturday morning, it was off to the Blue Mountain. Just an hour’s drive as the crow flies (but certainly NOT as the traffic accumulates) east of the city, rich gum tree forests earn the Blue Mountains their name, as a blueish fog settles on the hills through a combination of mountain climate and aerial eucalypt oils.  We stayed in a cute little house in the middle of a bird paradise, managed to rope Lisa & Matt into the stairmaster of all hikes and only got a little lost along the way, and enjoyed ourselves a serene dawn-hike over (literally) the Wentworth Falls.

Check out the pictures on the photos page.

After we returned to Melbourne, we had a whirlwind week to show them the best side of our city.  And although it may not have an internationally recognized opera house, it does have a golf course that’s home to hundreds of kangaroos.  So on their sunny last Saturday down under, what else could we do but journey down the Great Ocean Round and play a round at Anglesea Golf Course?  I played photographer to what I’d like to call golf-a-roo…

Thanks Lisa & Matt for the visit!!

On the eve of Day 4, we enjoyed ourselves some of the finer things in life.  We’d just finished a four-day 55 km hike (as you will remember), so it was only natural to celebrate with glass after glass of cold delicious cider and rounds of the Settlers of Catan.  Yes, even hiking in the middle of the woods we can find fellow Settlers players…

Day 5, we woke up to a classic Milford day: absolutely raining buckets.  The Milford Sound has been dubbed the world’s eighth wonder (by Rudyard Kipling) and one of the wettest places of the world.  Interestingly enough, the Milford Sound is not a sound at all (a valley carved and filled by running water, such as river runoff or rain) but is a fjord, a deep canyon carved by glaciers and backfilled by the sea.  No idea when or why the misnomer arose, but there’s a bit of scientific edumaction for you.

From pictures we had viewed before the trip, I can assure you Milford Sound is astoundingly beautiful. Pictures of our cruise on the sound, however, may not prove this to you. It was raining so hard that it was difficult to be outside on the ship’s decks for more than a few minutes, and even harder to get a decent picture. No sooner would I wipe the lens then another splash would land… We subsequently heard from the captain that, had he realized the extent of the rain and wind earlier, he wouldn’t have taken the boat out for safety reasons.

But looking on the bright side, where there’s water, there will be waterfalls.  And where there’s wind and water, there will be…. upward flowing waterfalls???

Yep, that’s right.  The Milford Sound had in that day of rain filled with literally dozens of temporary waterfalls from the deluge of rain, including ones so fleeting that the gale-force winds disrupted their flow and caused disappearing acts and upward flowing falls.

Once we had from our cruise disembarked, our bus ride back to Queenstown took us through the surrounding valleys.  By this time, the falls had increased in frequency and strength.  It was like the Sound was crying at the thought of us leaving.  Such a beautiful send-off.

Final pictures from the epic Milford Sound Track on the photos page.

Day 4, our last day hiking.  After summitting and descending the McKinnon Pass, all that was left was the 22-kilometer (13 mile) stroll to Sandfly Point, the end of our epic hike.  This portion of the hike was long but flat, and exposed us to a myriad of additional water features as we traipsed over swinging suspension bridges and alongside more dazzling waterfalls. It was also the day of our hike on which, we were promised, it would rain.  This fact motivated us to keep a quick pace, while the knowledge that our hike would be over at the end of Day 4 caused the occasional pause for reflection and capture of “just-one-more” beautiful sight.

After spending the morning together as a pack of 4 happy hikers, Steve & I broke off in the afternoon for the last leg to the end of the trail.  Sure enough, as had been predicted, rain started to fall at mile 31.  Normally one would think this a negative development, but personally, I appreciate a good walk in the rain.  We walked the last 2 hard miles with the refreshing splashes on our face, the sweet smell of musty earth on our noses, and a supreme sense of accomplishment pervading our psyches.

Wet and happy, we had reached the end of the Milford Track.

Full pictures of our last day of the hike.  Don’t be too sad the journey is over, there’s still Day 5 — a cruise on the Milford Sound (in torrential rain) — to come!

Day 3 was the most challenging day of the 5-day journey: 15 kms (9 miles) distance, 800 meters elevation gain up and over the McKinnon Pass, then another 1,000 meters down the other side of the peak into Arthur Valley.  We (OK, maybe just me) shouted out the turns of the 11 switchbacks as we zigged and zagged up the mountain side, compelling and propelling ourselves forward for the view at the top.  And what a view it was…

The way down, always hardest on the knees, was peppered with gorgeous sights.  Mist flowed over the backside of McKinnon Pass, weka (think brown NZ chicken) hopped through brush along the trail, and a cascading waterfall dripped and pooled for hundreds of meters. At the bottom, we dropped our packs for a side excursion to Sutherland Falls, the highest waterfall in New Zealand.  And what a view it was….

We took less photos on Day 3 (might have had something to do with all the physical exertion…) but still plenty to more to view.  Check out the full pictures.

Day 2 was our first real day of hiking: 16 kms (10 miles) through the flat plains along the meandering Clinton River.  It was a gorgeous day–so warm that our packs were weighed down holding all the heavy layers we had brought in anticipation of chilly 60ºF days.  We took full advantage of the weather and relatively easy itinerary to leisurely stroll through the woods, stopping frequently to snap photos along the way.  We couldn’t be sure we’d have another day this brilliant, so we relished our day-long meander. 

With sights like these around every turn, wouldn’t you?  More pictures of Day 2 of the trek on the photos page!