Melbourne Days 150 – 153

I’m not sure why … but it seems like the last stop in a country is always a bit less exciting than the first stops. This was true of Bogota in Colombia, Vancouver in BC, and we felt the same about Melbourne in Australia. I have been to Melbourne twice before (albeit 20 years ago) and loved the city, but this time it was not our favourite spot. Maybe it was because we had loved Tasmania and Sydney so much or maybe it was because we did not have a great Airbnb (understatement). Or maybe we were just excited to be going to Bali in three days and our minds were elsewhere.

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Spirit of Tasmania – Day 149

Spirit Tasmania Boat Docked with Cars

The journey between the two major tourist centres of Devonport and Geelong merits an entire post! Instead of flying back to mainland Australia, the family opted for a passenger ferry called the Spirit of Tasmania (we love the name). The children had been looking forward to this leg for over six months. This would be their first overnight ferry and they could not wrap their heads around sleeping on a boat. Paige made us reserve an outside cabin, meaning bunk beds AND a window. We were tired of answering the kids’ questions, so we showed them some YouTube clips about the journey.

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St. Helens – Days 147& 148

Landscape on sunny day at Bay of Fires

Our next destination in Tasmania was St. Helens which would be our base for exploring the surrounding Bay of Fires. We checked out of our Airbnb, took an uber to the local library and did some schoolwork until our rental car was available next door. We got some stares from the librarian as we dumped all our gear in the kids’ section. At noon we picked up the vehicle and drove across the bridge exiting Hobart but got mixed up with a roundabout on the other side and ended up back in Hobart! Apparently, we didn’t want to leave. We sorted out our directions, crossed the bridge again and were actually on our way.

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Birthday adventures in Hobart – Days 139-146

Children chasing each other on secluded beach

At Cradle Mountain, the weather cleared the morning of our departure! Paigey and I wanted to return and hike the trails we avoided because of the rain. Isabella and Julie begged to go see some more wombats. Katie just wanted to take more blurry pictures. Instead, we opted to start early on our long drive to the Tasmanian capital. Hobart would be our home base for the next 8 days, allowing us: to get schooling back on track, do some laundry and bake a dinosaur cake! The adults were ecstatic at having an actual HOUSE for a week while the kids were thrilled with their own room. The house also had a mammoth BBQ and a full kitchen which was needed for baking.

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Cradle Mountain – Rain, Joeys & Wombats – Day 138 : Guest Post by Katie Policicchio

Wombat eating grass at picnic site

This is a guest post from my sister Katie who is joining us in Tasmania!

G’day from the Land Down Under! 

Not wanting to eat leftover taco meat for breakfast, Paige and I headed out early Sunday morning to the Penguin Country Bakehouse. To our delight, the small town bakery had a large selection of goodies and coffees, and was a nice break from the cold rain. To our dismay, when we returned to our apartment, we realized that we had locked ourselves out. We attempted to adopt the Aussie “no worries” attitude but after 40 minutes (that turned our hot coffees into iced versions) we became frazzled. While Mike was homeschooling, Paige and I would take turns running to the front of the apartment, jumping on the street, waving our arms and yelling. I’m pretty sure everyone except Mike and the kids saw us.  

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No Penguins in Penguin – Day 137

Man looking for penguins on beach with signpost

Next on the agenda was a ten-day stint on the island of Tasmania. The team was now five as my sister joined us for a few days on the island (she had flown in from Canada to visit us). I had no preconceptions about Tasmania as Paigey had planned this entire leg on her own. I knew there would be some driving (which I didn’t miss in the least) but I also anticipated good food, scenery and wildlife. And boy, were there some wildlife memories to be had.

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Sydney – Time to check some bucket list boxes – Days 130-136

First time in Australia for Mike and the kids….check…..New continent….check…..Opera house…..check…..Bondi beach….check.

Australia was for the kids. There’s a Netflix show called “Izzy Koala” and our daughter, Isabella, dreams of being a koala rescuer too. When we started talking about the trip, her little brain came up with the idea that we could visit Izzy’s koala sanctuary. Unfortunately, Izzy Koala does not take visitors but the idea of a stop in Oz was stuck in my head. Since I’d been to Australia already, Michael was going to be hard-pressed to convince me to come on a separate trip just to Australia so adding it to this world trip itinerary seemed like a good idea. We were off to the land of koalas, kangaroo and shrimp on the barbie; the first stop was Sydney.

It was my turn to get the family virus (the one Izzie caught in Colombia) and, for me, it manifested as an infected eye. We had to go to an optometrist for a proper diagnosis and medicine. It took several days to go away and I had to wear my glasses the whole time we were in Sydney – no contact lenses and very few photos of me from this leg. It drove me crazy! So day 1 in Sydney involved an optometrist, school at the library, a walk through the Botanical Gardens and the obligatory visit to the Opera House. It’s one of those world landmarks that does not disappoint (FYI, in person, it isn’t really white).

On day 2, we decided to head to the beach. Mike was feeling better and he felt sad that he’d missed so much Hawaii beach time. We chose Manly beach which seemed to have all the magical ingredients: harbour ferry ride, expansive surf beach, walk to a more secluded snorkel beach and an ocean pool to explore. And we did it all! As we rode the ferry to Manly, we wondered why we don’t live in Sydney. Public transit in the form of a ferry boat always seems so civilized and relaxing. We arrived in the beach suburb of Manly and did school in the library where Isabella did a writing assignment about sea turtles. We opted not to swim with the surfers at Manly (they have big signs warning about rips) and instead walked to nearby Shelly Beach which is part of Cabbage Tree Bay, a protected marine reserve. It took a while to convince the kids to snorkel (in the colder than Hawaii water) but it was fun to putter around and see neat creatures right from the beach.

Sydney has a pretty wild coastline so they’ve built these “ocean pools” at most of the beaches which are publically accessible and often free. They are ocean-fed unheated pools that allow Sydneysiders to swim without the full force of the surf, the sharks or the jellyfish. They are also very photogenic. Mike and the kids tried a few of them and I snapped the pictures.

Michael’s little sister Katie has come to Australia while we’re here. Our itinerary might have initially inspired her visit but she went ahead and convinced two friends to meet her here for an Australian adventure. She was in Sydney at the same time as us and, we met up to go to the Taronga Zoo (we’ll get to spend more time with her when we head to Tasmania together). The animals of the Taronga Zoo have an amazing view of the Sydney Harbour and the setting is probably the most memorable part of the place for me. I also loved seeing the chimpanzees who had a huge enclosure and were very animated when we visited.

Isabella will tell you that the Koala Encounter was the best part. It is illegal to pay to hold and cuddle Koalas in the state of NSW but the zoo does offer what they call “close encounters” with them. You are allowed to go in the cage and see them up close. Isabella learned of this optional zoo add-on and there was no convincing her not to spend her allowance on it. The ticket was for up to 4 people and she asked Aunt Katie, friend Yukari and luckily her sister to join her (this time not asking Julie to pay). Do others find their older child constantly trying to save her money by convincing her younger sister to spend her money? Isabella told me that this was the best day of her life so I guess she has no regrets about cleaning out her wallet. We were also amused by the news in Sydney from a few days before our visit, the lions had actually escaped. Don’t worry, they were recaptured without incident.

The Potts Point neighbourhood where we stayed in Sydney was also interesting. I chose it because it was close to the CBD and I read that foodies gravitate there for new, interesting dining. And the dining was great with lots of yummy restaurants that didn’t break the bank. Apparently, this was a “sketchier” area of Sydney but the pandemic wiped out a bunch of the dodgy bars. It still seemed a bit rough around the edge but the proximity to the city and great food worked well for us.

We chose to save Bondi Beach for our last full day in Sydney. We took a bus to Bronte Beach and did a 2 km walk to Bondi which made for an impressive arrival at the iconic place. We watched the surfers and Mike took the kids for a swim. The kids tried out their new bathing suits and got new sunburn lines.

Now we’re off to Tasmania.

Where we stayed (5 words or less):

  • Holiday Inn Sydney Potts Point: Great transit access and breakfast

By the numbers:

  • Types of eye drops currently in our first aid kit: 3 – don’t ask, so tired of eye-related infections
  • Cost for the koala encounter at the zoo: $30 – Isabella used her own money
  • Ice Creams: 9 – in addition to our normal gelatos, the hotel had free all-you-could-eat-ice cream for the kids 24/7
  • Cost of taxi from the airport: $70 – we must have got ripped off
  • Cost of Paige’s hack bus route to the airport: <$10 – I still have no idea how she pulled it off

Illness part 2 and a lost wedding ring – Hawaii – Days 126-129

Hawaii holds a special place for us as we honeymooned there 9 years ago. Our first trip was mostly spent on the Big Island and Kauai Island, but we did have a layover in Honolulu where we drove and visited Pearl Harbour.

This trip to Honolulu was not always on our itinerary. We knew that we wanted to spend the month of November in Australia but we find ourselves in Bogota, Colombia (those locations are not close to each other). The flight path also wasn’t logical with all trips sending us north and involving at least one stop in the continental USA. The cheaper flight options involved two stops which would mean a 36+ hour journey.

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Halloween in Bogota – Days 121-125

Children sitting in the Bogota sign

We arrived in Bogota recognizing that the Colombian leg of our trip was ending.  Our last 5 days consisted of doing some slow living (i.e. laundry), watching the Raptors and getting schoolwork done.  We did no research on Bogota ahead of time and felt like we had no real objectives to cross off. When it was all said and done, we watched some Raptors, we had our first doctor’s visit and the kids got to experience Halloween, “Bogota-style“.

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Zona Cafetera – Here we come Juan Valdez! – Days 119-120

It did not seem right to visit Colombia without visiting the Zona Cafetera (the Coffee Axis), so we added a quick 2-day trip to the itinerary. Although the distance did not seem far, I knew that this might be a long drive so we splurged for a private driver from Medellin to the Hacienda Venecia near Manizales. We were picked up in Medellin at 9:30 and we were glad that we’d had a good breakfast because, once we cleared the outskirts of the city, there were not a lot of places to stop. The drive was very scenic as we drove through green mountains and fields of Avocado trees (a crop that is an expanding Colombian export). I kept waiting to see coffee and kept asking the driver “cafe?” as I pointed in distance. But he kept responding “aguacate”. It was not until we were very close to our destination that he smiled and pointed to a hill saying “cafe!”.

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