Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cains Day 5

Today started with a breakfast at Hungry Jacks (what they call "Burger King") and on the tram to the airport to see if our flight to Cains is still intact.

We arrive, everything is a "go" so we head through the "security" they have and wait at the gate. The travel is starting to set in as I am quickly figuring out that I need a time of rest. The 3 hour flight did just the trick.

That flight I was able to put headphones on and listen to music for the first time in over week...and when I say "music" I mean truly recorded music. Those of you that have traveled (or spent much time around me) know that I love to just bust out/join in to any song being played or collectively sung in any group. Doug is the same way. We have had many tunes busted out in harmony (or our best rendition of harmony) along the urban city more soul to these already vibrant downtowns.

We didn't know what to expect today (sound familiar?) with the weather and our goals of wanting to SCUBA today...if we were going to Scuba today HAD to be the day because of the general rule that you must wait at least 18 hours before boarding a plane after Scuba diving and we will be on a plane tomorrow evening so trying tomorrow is out of the question.

We check into the hotel, after a very political one-sided conversation had by our taxi driver about his dislike for former President "W", and head to a scuba check-in...not happening. The water is waaaaay too choppy today and no boats are going out to the reef. Our only option (and one that we took) was to make reservations for the tomorrow morning to snorkel instead...I've snorkeled before and know that it is awesome, maybe it is no match for Scuba diving but still pretty cool.

After getting the "no Scuba" news we head down to the beach to quickly learn that there is no accessible beach in this "beach town". There is a very large and very nice pool with lots of trees and grass and people laying out though. We see it...and move on.

After walking the pier looking out onto the "beach" which is blocked off and looks more like an enormous drying up lake, we decide to walk into a restaurant and order a drink and take some suggestions on what to do in this town. The waitress, Margaret, delivers perfectly on cue so I interviewed her:

After we left Splash, we walked over to the visitor's bureau and booked up tomorrow's afternoon with a sea-plane flyover of the Great Barrier Reef scheduled right after we get back from snorkeling and right before we head to the airport. It SHOULD work out perfectly.

After we booked the tickets, we took the visitor bureau lady's advice and headed to some rooftop-zoo thing in the city center...great idea.

In this zoo-thing we were encapsulated with practically no barriers to all kinds of huge parrots that repeatedly dive-bombed us, there was an enclosed enormous crocodile, koala bear, iguanas and a few kangaroo-looking wallabys hopping around too...pretty cool environment.

After that we headed back to the hotel to rejuvenate, write some blog stuff, upload photos/videos then back out to that Splash restaurant for some fresh seafood to the likes of chowder and prawn spring rolls...yum!

(Note: Against my best efforts and much valuable time spent on the computer uploading, videos and photos have been the thorn in my side. I spent hours on this trip trying to get the videos I want uploaded for you to see along with the blog but it just hasn't worked out too well. Most of them will have to wait til I get back to the states...the level of frustration is high against electronics right now.)

Melbourne Day 4

This morning started off with great anticipation...we were about to see our very first foreign professional sporting event: CRICKET.

We start out by walking (because the weather is perfect) on over to the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG - which is next door to Rod Laver Arena (arena to a tennis major and to all those other tennis fans, seeing Rod Laver Arena is pretty cool.

So upon walking up over a hill, we stumble up the "bullpen" of one of the professional cricket teams warming up ( watched that for a bit considering we were stunned to actually be there. We walked over to the ticket office having no idea what the ticket prices were going to be or what the crowd was going to be like...the tickets were $5 each (general admission) and inside this 100,000-seat stadium a game of Cricket would be played in front of no more than 300 people

As exciting as it was to be has to be the most boring sport ever invented. It technically lasts all day with a few different sessions and depending on what style of can last up to 5 consecutive days without any thrilling moment...we thought we just misunderstood the game so we asked some locals in attendance and they agreed that if you didn't grow up playing it, it was quite boring to watch. My assessment = a game that should be played in no more of an organized setting than P.E. in school.

Leaving the MCG (genuinely thrilled to have seen the match despite it being devastatingly boring) we took a walk through the park and ran across some youth catholic festival with stage and singing and kids everywhere going crazy...singing along to songs i've never heard of and jumping up and down as if the Beatles circa 1964 just took the stage.

Leaving the park we decided to eat and grabbed some sushi at a sweet little spot on Elizabeth street (I know some of you are thinking, "Why have sushi in can get that in the U.S.?"). There is quite a bit of Asian influence in Australia, especially with Asia lying directly north.

We walked back to the hotel to rest up and watch the 24-hour sports channel that plays nothing but rugby, Australian-rules rugby, soccer cricket and the occasional NBA game. Yes, random NBA games. I actually got to see the third quarter of the Wolves vs Suns game via FS Wolves TV.

After we left the hotel we were excited to now be heading over to the Melbourne Aquarium where we got to see up close LOTS of penguins, sharks stingrays and numerous other cool animals. I tweeted about going there and the Melbourne Twitter account responded wishing me a good time. (

In the aquarium we were able to see lots of penguins many other very cute animals that everyone would like to just take was pretty cool. :)

After the aquarium, we set out on Melbourne DETERMINED to dominate this abroad St. Patrick's Day. We ended up hitting 4 different pubs and I even did some Irish jigging with people at Bridie O'Reilly's (

FACT: I have not seen ONE Fosters beer nor have I seen ONE advertisement for it.
FACT: Melbourne has the best modern architecture of any city I've ever been to. (,

I will have videos of the Kids festival and me Irish Jigging on my youtube page:
and photos on my Flickr page:

I have all the videos and photos already on my computer but the internet connection is slow at the spot i'm at that while writing this entire blog (finding and adding the links) Youtube only uploaded ONE video and Flickr 17 photos....I'll try later. They are great videos and definitely worth viewing so stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Melbourne Day 3

Today was started off by a restless sleep getting me out of bed at 6 a.m. and walking down the street net to Hyde park to grab a large coffee. A farther stroll around the park on this Tuesday morning led me not to not much more than lots of animals and early-to-work employees.

Catching back up with and packing our bags, we headed out to grab some quick breakfast: toast for Doug and a fruit salad for me consisting of kiwi, strawberries melon and cantelopes so perfect that a plastic fork cut right through it.

Grabbing another coffee to go and grabbing a cab, we headed to the airport. Most foreigners that I encounter in Europe have no idea where Oklahoma City is (or have never even heard of it, usually I have to tell them, "it's right above Texas.")...not true in Australia.

Everyone that we have asked knows about Oklahoma City and all of them agree that they know about it for the wrong reasons...April 19, 1995.

Everytime that it mentioned I always follow up with a short spiel about what else Oklahoma City is about and try to teach as much as I can in the short amount of time I have. The taxi driver asked a lot of questions and seemed really nice so maybe he learned something this morning...or maybe he is just a really good taxi driver and works for tips.

Arriving at the airport I noticed a big difference between our security in the US and the security of domestic flights in Australia. I was able to get to my gat without showing my ID/Passport one time...not to the ticket counter, bag check and even through the security line. Also, going through the security line I left my shoes on, my hat on, my jacket on and casually walked through the metal detector carrying my cup of coffee.

At my gate, I wandered to the free wine tasting in our terminal and heard lots of info about how big and popular Shiraz is for Australians and exports.

After getting some tips from Margaret, lady sitting next to us in the waiting area, we now had a better idea on what to do when we got to Melbourne.

We found our hotel and started our walk...and it was hot. Melbourne got up into the upper 80's today and will be the same tomorrow. We found out that an Australian sporting match that we've been looking forward to attending will actually happen, tomorrow (Cricket). We decided to save all exploring of the parks and Rod Laver Arena (Australian Open) for tomorrow since that is also where the Melbourne Cricket Grounds is today was filled with walking throughout the CBD and riding all the trams and talking to a few locals on their opinions of the city.

We went to the Melbourne Museum and the ACMI for a few hours where a "technology" exhibit made it accessible for me to play some atari games as if I was in 1983 again.

A trip to City Hall and Parliment, and a walk next to St. Patrick's Cathedral and St. Paul's Cathedral rounded off a long day of walking around...feet are killing me. Ready to find a local pub and "hang out" we got word that "The Metropolitan" was THE spot to go to...found it, stayed for a couple hours, then back to the hotel to cap what was our latest night out...10:30 p.m.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sydney Day 2

Day 2 was most definitely an adventure. With not really a plan at all we had about as much fun as humanly possible.

Waking up at 7 a.m. (went to sleep at 9 p.m.) allowed us to get a fresh start to our exciting day. We set out of the hotel walking left (because we hadn't been in that direction yet). We found a breakfast cafe serving "full English" breakfasts and sat down to chow.

After filling up the belly we rolled out in search of something to surprise us. We had heard about Bondi Beach and decided that we'd jump in a taxi and see what happens.

Arriving at Bondi Beach was like something out of a movie. Perfect sand, perfect weather and a boardwalk with shops all down the coast. We decided to walk down the shops area so that we would know what awaits us after we went down to the beach and I'm glad we did because we stumbled into a surf shop "Dripping Wet" and saw they were advertising surf board rentals. Yes, now that's what I'm talking about.

We slurged for cheap board shorts, towels and more sunscreen and headed to the waves with our huge rented surboards. I burn very easily (thank you geneitcs) so I lathered up with sunscreen. Three hours later, we were so exhausted that we could hardly move. I felt like I was already sore in the shoulders, arms, back and neck and dread the waking up for tomorrow.

While returning our surf boards I got word that legendary surfer "Kelly Slater" was staying in the hotel next door to the surf shop because of a huge surfing competion held that weekend...that is even more awesome to add to today.

We grabbed our bags and headed off the beaten path to look for some lunch. We always try to find a local spot and doing that is not always easy but is always rewarding in some way or another. Finding ourselves in a residential area we saw a lunch spot called "Greens" and sat down for a smoothie. At the table next to us was a 70 year old man that asked us where we were from (I guess we stick out quite a bit).

After chatting awhile we got his name and contact info and decided to "Google" him to see if all the stuff he talked about was was. Pretty cool life story. His name is Alan Cholodenko.

We started our walk back to the bus area and grabbed a bus to Watson's Bay where many big cliffs and photo spots are a definite, plus, from Watson's Bay we could take a ferry back around the Opera House and into Sydney proper.

Lots of beautiful scenery here in which (as expected) a photo or video won't really capture the feeling because you don't get the sun warmth, ocean breeze, salt-water smell or hear the waves hitting the rocks by simply looking at the photos...

After circling around the Opera House and taking more video (soon to hit my Youtube page) we took a taxi back to the hotel to rejuvinate and headed back out to catch the Sydeny rugby game, and I'm now a big rugby fan. We tried to see if there was a game we could go watch but never heard a "yes" from anyone so we didn't plan to go see one (we were asking the wrong people). We will try again in Melbourne.

We had another great evening at a local pub watching the match with other locals and eating/drinking local food and brew.

FACT: I have not seen ONE Fosters or even an advertisement for it.

After that we headed back to sleep. The jet-lag, sunburn and surfing is knocking us down quite a bit later in the evenings but we'll prevail in the end.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sydney day 1

I'm not really sure if this truly is day 1 or not because we arrived at the airport at 11:30 a.m. on FRIDAY and arrived to Sydney at 9:30 a.m. SUNDAY, so maybe Day 1 and Day 2 were lost on the plane somewhere but this is my first day in Australia so let's just pick it up there...

After getting off the 15 hr flight over the Pacific we found our bags and said goodbye to Claire, the person who sat next to us on the flight and thanked her for not being one of the screaming children that were spread throughout the plane cabin. We jumped into the taxi with a very disgruntled taxi driver (that halfway to our hotel literally did the sterotypical-taxi driver thing involving rolling his window down to yell at someone) and reached the hotel to drop our bags off.

We walked over to the Darling Harbor (it being Sunday morning there wasn't much open) and walked the pier at some outdoor markets and eventually landed ourselves at the Sydney Opera House. It is definitely as cool as it has appeared in all the pictures, Discovery Channel episodes, and History Channel episodes I've always seen.

We decided to take the ferry that went out to a few different harbors, mainly just to get a water-view of the Opera house. At the last harbor drop-off we exited the boat and went exploring around a little Island and found some pretty amazing cliffs and look-out points. We took some video and photos and hopped back on the ferry back to the Opera House's harbor.

Now that it was lunch time we decided to opt out of the $15 tourist-trap lunch "specials" and just grab a couple Aero bars and Coke Zero and hit the walking trail once again.

Talking to locals is one of my favorite things to do, (especially if they have an accent) and ask them for some suggestions on things to do. After searching Twitter for people talking about Sydeny I asked about some sporting events happening this weekend and got some suggestions from a few people (@Renas40 @tomatom @carmR).

Set on watching a rugby or cricket match at some point on this trip we decided to head back to the hotel to "re-fuel." We watched the first half of the Rabbits and Roosters rugby match on TV then headed to Maloney's Pub to catch the second half and grab some solid food and drinks.

After that, we headed on down to Darling Pier again as the nightlife was starting to heat up and went to the largest 3D iMax screen on the planet (so I'm told). This screen, which we were limited to only watching an hour-long surfer movie starring Kelly Slater because Alice in Wonderland was sold out, was 8-stories tall! Pretty incredible.

Now, as the sun was going down we took a very long 45-min (very long because we had been walking all day after getting very little sleep after traveling 26 hours) down to the Sydney Opera House again to get some night night footage. That was a great idea. After that we headed back to the hotel and hopping in bed at 9 p.m. sounds lame but when OKC is at 5 a.m. the day before, I felt justified in closing the eyes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Australia here I come!!

I leave tomorrow to travel down under and this trip already feels weird to me.

I think that every time I've traveled (see previous blogs) I have always had this image in my head of what to expect. I have either had this memory from a history book or a story from a friend that has already been to a place telling me about certain things...not this time.

When I think of Australia, I think of kangaroos and koala bears. I think of the Opera House in Sydney and I also think of Outback Steakhouse. That's about it...I also hear that when you flush the toilet the water spins in the opposite direction; I really can't tell you what direction it spins right now so maybe it will look different to me and maybe not.

When I think of Australia, I think of funny accents and boomerangs. I think of remembering my grandparents went there numerous times to visit an old army buddy, Wilt.

I think of the fact that I'm going to leave at 1:23 p.m on Friday and get off the plane about 4:00 p.m......on Sunday and then when I return home, I will arrive in OKC only 4 hours after the time I left (that silly International dateline).

When I would go to places like Paris, I had the Eiffel Tower in my head, I had the Louvre Museum and the Mona Lisa in my head. When I went to Rome, I had the Coliseum in mind and the Sistine Chapel. When I went to Berlin, I had the Berlin Wall in my head. When I went to Amsterdam I had the...nevermind.

My point is that when I get off the plane in Melbourne, I have no structural image of a famous building or painting. When I get off the plane in Sydney, I have no historical site that I can't wait to go see. I can look up photos on Flickr all day long and read the Wikipedia pages, but I don't think that will do it justice.

People ask me if I'm excited to go and the truth is....absolutely I am. But for once, I'm excited to go someplace that I have a "blank slate" in my head ready to chalk itself up into my own story.

My own history book, my own Flickr page and my own adventure.