Anne Marie's Australian Adventure

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Archive for March, 2009

Victoria Fires Update

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on March 22, 2009

I finally talked to Sue last night. It was such a relief to hear her voice and find out how they are doing now. Rather than retelling her story I am going to have you link to a site that has pictures of their property before  and after the fires. If you keep reading you will finally get to Sue’s own words about what they went through and what they are doing now to help injured wild animals. It is an interesting story and the pictures are great. Click here to read about it.

We are going to Melbourne on Saturday and will spend two days with them and then a few days in the city. I hope to have the chance to help her feed the kangaroos. We also hear the Melbourne is a very exciting city. Stay tuned for the highlights of this upcoming trip.

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Where Am I?

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on March 22, 2009

Sorry I haven’t written for so long. After Leslie and Manu went home I have been a little distracted. We had so much fun with them that I was a little in the dumps from missing them. After we came back to Canberra, they spent about a week visiting some great places down the coast. They came to Canberra for a couple of days. We went to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve so that Leslie could finally see a wild kangaroo. We also saw emus and finally a platypus. I took a zillion pictures but it’s difficult to tell what they are because they only skim the surface and then dive down. Fortunately Leslie’s pictures came out a bit better than mine. We stayed by the pond and watched them for what seemed like hours.



The next day the four of us drove to the Blue Mountains and stayed at Bryan and Denise’s B&B in Leura. The funny part was that it was so foggy we couldn’t see anything. Fortunately we hung around at the shopping area and just before sunset the fog lifted. Fergus had to work the following day so Les, Mau and I stayed another day in Leura. They did the Wentworth Falls hike that Fergus and I did when we first visited months ago. I stayed back at the B&B and went for a walk with Bryan and his four Airedales.

The next day Leslie, Manu and I took the train into Sydney and spent the day doing more sightseeing. I took the train back to Canberra that evening. It was so sad leaving Leslie and Manu. They just bought a house in Brussels and it will be years before they will be able to get away again to visit us. Our next trip will have to be to Belgium. I can’t wait.

So we are back to our routine. I am still filling in tutoring for the Youth Theatre. Fergus is going to work. We are acutely aware that will be time for us to decide when to come back to the USA. I will update you all with the latest news about going back home in a future blog entry.

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Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on March 6, 2009

After two days in Townsville we headed south to Airlie Beach our jumping-off spot for the Great Barrier Reef. Airlie Beach is a cute beach town catering to the young beach bums and bunnies. Shop after shop sells beach clothes and souvenirs. The restaurants have sidewalk or balcony outdoor seating since the weather is so good.

Leslie and Manu stayed in a backpackers inn right on the main road through the town, Fergus and I picked a cute B&B with ocean views in a quiet neighborhood. We spent most of the afternoon deciding which reef/island cruises we wanted to take. We finally settled on a FantaSea Reef Sleep cruise.

So early Thursday morning a bus picked us up at our B&B and took us to the harbour where the boat launched. It was a bit of a bumpy ride  out to the reef which was about two hours out to sea. It was a windy and rainy day but since we were going to be snorkeling and scuba diving it didn’t really matter. Just as a precaution I took some seas sickness pills but they didn’t work for me. By the time we got to the reef I was feeling very green.

The boat took us out to an anchored pontoon barge equipped with sleeping cabins, all the snorkel and diving suits and equipment needed for lots of people, a kitchen, dressing rooms, picnic tables, and a sun deck with deck chairs. Unfortunately it was raining most people where trying to stay under the awning or on the boat. I was still not feeling great so I tried to stay dry while Leslie, Manu and Fergus went snorkeling.

In the afternoon we got our scuba equipment and had a lesson for what is called a resort dive. I did this twenty years ago and remembered it being one of the most amazing activities I had ever done. I was going to pass on it this trip but decided to try it again and I’m glad.

At first I felt a little claustrophobic. The instructor reminded us that it is important to keep breathing. It seems like a stupid thing to be reminded but it is easy to hold your breath especially when you see awesome giant clams or the colorful fish among the coral. The time passed too quickly. This has to be high on the list of 100 things to do before you die.

Around 2 pm the “day trippers” had to get back on the boat back to the mainland. That was about the time the weather improved. We got to stay on the pontoon with another couple from Germany. Marcus and Julia are about Leslie and Manu’s age and the six of us had a great sunset dinner cooked and served by the crew. It was wonderful being surrounded by the sea, no TV, no COMPUTER, just good food, nice wine and great company. I slept the best I have in months. The gentle rocking of the barge put me out of the entire night.

The next morning it was rise and shine by 8am for breakfast before the “day trippers” of the new day arrived. Leslie, Manu and Fergus did another dive but I hung out on the sundeck and read my book because the weather was so good and I wanted to get a deck chair before the boat arrived. All in all it was a great trip.

We spent Friday night back at the B&B and Leslie and Manu at the backpacker inn. We had a flight back to Canberra the next morning while Leslie and Manu will continue to explore the Queensland Coast before coming to Canberra before going back to Belgium. We had a wonderful time with them. Here are some picture of our reef trip.

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Tropical Queensland

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on March 5, 2009

You really start to realize how big Australia is when you fly from one state to another. As I’ve mentioned before, Sydney is much like San Francisco in feel and climate. We flew to Townsville on Monday morning and even though it isn’t the northermost city in Queensland – it felt like we landed in Hawaii. It was warm and humid, there were palm trees and fanigipangi trees everywhere. And it was very green. They have been having extreme rain and flooding for weeks and we were concerned that this might not be a good time to visit but the only visable signs to us was extensive street erosion which they were working on repairing and areas of standing woater along sides of the roads.

Our first day in Townsvill we took the ferry over to Magnetic Island. There wasn’t much to do but hike the nature trails but once we got there it started raining. Fergus and I sat in a pub to weather the storm while Leslie and Manu attempted to brave the storm. They were soon back because they found out it took 1/2 hour to get to the trailhead from where we were and then the trail walk takes two hours. We had to catch the ferry back to Townsville  in less than an hour so they decided to postpone the hike.

Seeking shelter from the storm.

Seeking shelter from the storm.

Good thing they did because we decided to come back the next day and I’m glad we did. It turned out to be a beautiful clear day, not too hot and no rain. We had the best time. The nature walk on Magnetic Island goes up to the ruins of an old WWII ammunitions lookout. The trees were a combinations of tropical and eucalyptus trees. The best part was that we finally saw koalas in the wild for the first time. Now they don’t look much different but there is just something so great seeing them resting on a tree branch within arms reach. We saw many three or four just along the path. You have to keep you eye out for them because they don’t move much and their grey coloring really makes them blend into the tree trunks.









It is a myth that koalas are drunk on eucalyptus leaves – the truth is that there are very little nutrients in the leaves of the eucalyptus and so the koalas have to sleep to reserve their energy. They are nocturnal so you rarely see them moving around during the day the best time to see them moving about is early morning or late evening. This little fellow moved his head a bit and his arms just a little the entire time we were watching him. He wasn’t frightened by our voices nor when we got close to take pictures.

The three bears

The three bears

The great koala scouts have another sighting.

The great koala scouts have another sighting.

It was a trulyexciting adventure being this close to these unusual animals. We didn’t see an wild kangaroos for Leslie even though the bus driver said there were plenty on the island. Well Leslie and Manu have three weeks to see one. Next stop The Great Barrier Reef – not many ‘roos there but lots of other amazing things to see and do once we get there.

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Meeting Leslie & Manu in Sydney

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on March 5, 2009

Leslie and Manu flew into Sydney on a Thursday night so we gave them Friday to rest before we flew up there to meet them on Saturday. The last time we saw them was when we met in New York on Spring Break several years ago. They look great and it was so much fun getting a chance to catch up while visiting several Sydney sights  – some we have been to and others we hadn’t.

Our first dinner together in Sydney.

Our first dinner together in Sydney.

Our first venture was to take a bus to Circular Quay and then walk to The Rocks and visit the street market. It started to rain after a while so we stopped for a light lunch. We caught a ferry to Darling Harbor so that we could go to the Aquarium. It is a nice aquarium but expensive. The best part is that they have these plexiglass tunnels that go under the big tanks so you can see the fish swim over you. These aren’t just pretty fish – they have sharks and stingrays and sea turtles. Very cool. It was a lot of walking so afterwards Fergus and I headed back to the hotel while Leslie and Manu stayed to see more.

Sydney has great resturants and we found two Spanish Tapas Resturants, they happen to be two doors down from each other on the same street. There aren’t many places in Kansas that you can get Spanish food – good Mexican but not Spanish. Our first trip to Sydney we went to one these tapas resturants and this time we tried the other. Both are really good.

Leslie and Manu

Leslie and Manu

The next day we went to the Toronga Zoo. You take the ferry from Circular Quay to the Zoo Dock. The zoo is on the side of a hill across the harbor over looking downtown Sydney, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The giraffes have the best view of Sydney. This visit took most of the day and we didn’t see all of it. We consentrated on seeing Australian and African animals, too many reptiles for my tastes but lots of birds which I really enjoy.

Fergus and I

Fergus and I




We had dinner at a Chinese resturant that didn’t have red wallpaper and dragon designs everywhere. We had an early flight because the next morning we had a 7 am flight to Queensland. I still haven’t seen everything I would like to see in Sydney so I’m hoping we get at least one more visit before we fly back to the states.

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