Author: marina

Kangaroo Island: Nature and Wildlife

Kangaroo Island: Nature and Wildlife

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Mama! πŸ™‚

Our third destination was Kangaroo Island and we both really loved it there. While it’s not on the typical tourist circuit in Australia I think it’s really worth visiting.

The island is a 45 min ferry ride from the mainland, 150km long and 90km wide and there are only 5000 people living on it. Our focus was on nature and the wildlife so we didn’t really explore the towns.

In our 3 days we spent time at the following places:

Baudin Beach

We arrived in the evening just in time to catch the sunset at Baudin Beach. A pelican was nice enough to pose for us, Thorben’s favorite picture of the trip.

Island Pure Sheep Dairy

We bought some yummy sheep yogurt from Island Pure at Adelaide Central Market, so while in the area we decided to go there in person. The food is good, so we had lunch there twice and there is a little store where we got more yogurt and cheese – Thorben must have consumed at least 2kg of their yogurt during our trip πŸ™‚ For a little sheep dairy education you can watch a video of the inner workings and see the sheep getting milked. They even had little lambs you could pet.

Raptor Domain

Raptor Domain is a rehabilitation and education center, so you can only see their animals during the presentations they do. We caught the second half of the reptile presentation, where we got to hold 3 different snakes and touch a little crocodile. Next up was the birds of prey show including Shush, a cute owl you could pet. It was really cool and informative, a great tip by our B&B host!

Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

The sanctuary is a huge fenced in area to keep predators out but all the animals that live there are wild. We did a guided sunset/night walk and saw koalas (one with a joey!), wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas and a possum – the big 5 of the sanctuary! At the end we heard something that sounded like a wild pig – turns out that’s the mating call of male koalas πŸ˜€

Flinders Chase National Park

The national park is beautiful and we did the main highlights: We saw the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse, Admiral’s Arch and Remarkable Rock which were all fantastic and watched seals and adorable seal pups. In the parking lot of the visitor center we got lucky and saw another wild koala in a tree which even came down pretty low for optimal picture taking πŸ™‚

Stokes Bay

Stokes Bay was were we had our favorite meal on KI, great tapas at Table 88 with a fantastic view. Afterwards we also checked out the beautiful beach.

Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park

Because holding a koala is addictive, I wanted to do it again so we went to the KI wildlife park. It’s a really nice little park with lots of Australian animals and wasn’t crowded at all which made the experience even better than at Gorge. We got there really soon after it opened so the kangaroos were still pretty active and hungry. They almost climbed on Thorben because he was not feeding them fast enough πŸ™‚

At the park they have a koala talk, where you can go into the enclosure and are allowed to pet them. Holding a koala cost 30 AUD extra but that meant there were a lot less people. There was only one family ahead of us so we got a lot of time with cute Alfie, a 12 kilo boy.

After that we watched the little penguin feeding, fed some wallabies, which were again pretty insistent on being fed, and saw the rest of the animals there.

Adelaide and Koala Snuggles

Adelaide and Koala Snuggles

Our second destination was Adelaide. We took a flight in the morning and then had 2 1/2 days there.

Our first afternoon we went to the Central Market and had lots of fun picking yummy Australian treats. So that’s what happens when you let us loose in a market: Bread, cheese, dips, olives, sheep yogurt, fruit, nuts, cake … Plenty for lunch, dinner and snacks for the next few days.

Of course a free walking tour was also on the agenda and saw some pretty cool things including the place where the Beatles stood when they visited, Rundle Mall and lots of street art.

Adelaide was when I started to get a cold and cough, so I had to take it a bit easy so after the walking tour I sent Thorben to the Botanic Garden by himself.

The next day we picked up our rental car and drove to the Adelaide hills with a very important goal: Snuggling a koala. Originally I wanted to go to Cleland Wildlife Park but read online that the koalas there had a skin condition which means no cuddles. So we headed to Gorge Wildlife Park. It’s further away but it was so worth it! Holding a koala is even included in the entry fee.

Meet Kevin, a 10 kilo cuddly koala πŸ™‚

Besides this obvious highlight we also got to feed wallabies, or tried to but they weren’t hungry, and kangaroos. Thorben even braved feeding an emu or maybe it was an ostrich? They also had some cool birds, bats, dingos, otters, guinea pigs, deer … it’s a pretty small park but a really great half day trip.

After that we had a little picnic at the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden and then drove down to Port Jervis to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island.

5 days in Sydney

5 days in Sydney

Besides many great memories Australia also gave me pneumonia, hence the 2 week delay in recapping our trip. Feeling better now, so this is the start of many detailed posts (maybe 6?) with lots and lots of pictures πŸ™‚

Flying into Sydney at around 1pm was a fantastic start to our Australia adventure, just look at the view we had from the plane:

Here is what we did in our 5, or really 4 1/2 days in Sydney:

Free Walking Tour of the Rocks

As usual we started our trip with a free walking tour. I’m Free Tours has an evening walking tour of the Rocks, a cool historic area with lots of food, which was really fun and informative. We learned a lot about Sydneys origins as a convict colony and also checked out Observatory Hill.

Free Walking Tour of the City

On our second day we did the Sydney sights free walking tourΒ to get an overview of the city. Again, it was a great tour with many interesting stories and ended with a view of the Opera.

Museum of Contemporary Art

After our walking tour we decided to escape the heat and check out the exhibits at the MCA. I don’t really know anything about (modern) art, so I annoyed Thorben with my “That’s art?” and “Even I could do that!” comments πŸ™‚ They did have some cool pieces, most exhibits are free and it was right next to the ferry dock, so why not.

Manly Beach

On Sunday the maximum you can spend on public transport with your Opal card, which also works on ferries, is 2.60 AUD. We took advantage and took the ferry to Manly (usually thats over 15 AUD). Of course we were not the only ones with that idea so it was pretty crowded but that made for good people watching πŸ™‚

Day trip to the Blue Mountains

On Monday we took a small group tour to the Blue Mountains. The tour mainly took us to viewing spots and then Scenic World, where you can ride 2 different cable cars and the steepest train down to the rain forest. Sadly for Thorben we only did one little hike at the end. Overall we had great weather and beautiful views, so it’s really worth the trip.

Taronga Zoo

Even though I’m not a fan of zoos, I’d heard great things about this one so we thought we’d give it a try. Overall, I don’t think it’s a must do, I enjoyed the wildlife parks we went to later in the trip much more. My highlights were the views from the zoo, the meerkats which were fun to watch and seeing quokkas. They were asleep at first but after watching them for a while we got lucky and it was feeding time which made them much more active. After half an hour Thorben had to drag me away, but they are just so adorable πŸ™‚

A night at the Opera

Before Sydney I’d never been to the opera, so I thought that this was the perfect place to change that. We saw Carmen in French, thankfully with English subtitles πŸ™‚ I think I’m going to stick with musicals in the future but it was still a cool experience.

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

This walk was another must do on my Sydney agenda. While Thorben wasn’t too impressed (too many people and too many buildings), I thought it was a beautiful walk. There were lots of steps, so it was also quite the workout. Because of construction we had to take a detour through a really nice cemetery and we even got lucky and saw some dolphins.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

We decided against doing the Bridge climb because a) it’s super expensive and b) you can’t even take your camera. Instead we just walked over the bridge, which is free, and were so happy with the view, we didn’t even go up to the Pylon lookout.

Open Air Cinema with a view

For our last night (and also Valentine’s Day) I had booked tickets for the George Open Air Cinema, which is open every summer. The location is fantastic: overlooking the CBD, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. We saw “The Big Sick” which was really fun. They even had fireworks that night before the movie, it was pretty amazing (and romantic ;)) and one of the highlights of the trip.

Australia, here we come!

Australia, here we come!

Tonight, we’re getting on a plane to Sydney and then we’ll travel around Australia. Here is what our trip will look like:

Our 3 week Australia itinerary

  • 4 days in Sydney with a day trip to the Blue Mountains (if the weather is good)
  • 2 days in Adelaide
  • 1 day drive to Cape Jervis
  • 3 days on Kangaroo Island
  • 4 days road trip to Melbourne with a stop at Grampians National Park and a drive along the Great Ocean Road
  • 2 days in Melbourne
  • 4 days in the Red Center to see King’s Canyon, Uluru and Kata Tjuta
  • 2 more days in Melbourne

On the map you can see what distances we’ll cover:

That means this blog won’t be updated for a while but lots of pictures and more details will come when we get back πŸ™‚

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

In China, everyone is getting ready for Spring Festival or Chinese New Year. From what I understand it’s the most important holiday here, typically celebrated with family. The celebrations start on New Year’s Eve with a family dinner and fireworks at midnight. Then, every day has different meanings and traditions. My coworker told me the noisiest day is when the God of Wealth is celebrated because everyone wants to make sure they get money by lighting fireworks.

When the new year starts is determined by the lunar calendar, so it’s a bit different every year. Last year it was at the end of January and this year the new year starts February 16. Every year has a zodiac animal assigned to it, there are 12 of them: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Right now we are still in the year of the rooster. From all the decorations it’s hard to miss what will be next.

Fun fact: It’s bad luck when it’s your zodiac year. To avoid this bad luck, all dogs (people born in 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970 …) should wear something red all year, for example red underwear.

Only the first 3 days of the new year are National Holidays but according to the government working day calendar companies close for 7 days: From the day before the New Year to the 6th day of the New Year. 3 days are holiday, 2 days are from the weekend and the remaining 2 days have to be made up by working the Sunday before and the Saturday after the festival.

The traditional gift people give each other are are hóngbāos: red envelopes or red packets with money in them. Even WeChat has a red packet function.

According to my colleague, red packets are given from the older to the younger generation and it’s really only for children. Looks like I won’t get any presents then.

What we did in Harbin besides the Ice and Snow Festival

What we did in Harbin besides the Ice and Snow Festival

While we really only came to Harbin for the amazing snow and ice sculptures, our tour also took us to some other places.

Siberian Tiger Park

The Tiger Park is home to several hundred tigers, some lions, ligers and also white tigers. The animals mostly walk around the park freely and seem to have quite a bit of space (at least compared to a zoo). There are two ways to see the tigers. First, we got on a big bus and drove through the huge park, seeing tigers as we went. To keep their hunting instincts alive, live animals, like sheep and chickens are fed to the tigers. We saw lots of feathers and a couple chickens being snatched away. Also, there is a caged in walkway, where you can both see and feed the tigers. We stuck with the chunks of meat though.

Songhua River

The Songhua River is where the ice for the sculptures comes from. We were told that the ice is several meters thick. We went there for the “Winter Swimming” performance, where crazy locals actually jump into the water. It was -25 degrees outside! You can also do all sorts of winter activities on the river like dog sledding or ice skating, some people even drive their cars on the ice.

Central Street

Our hotel was at the entrance of Harbin’s Central Street and we walked along there during both day and night. It’s a pretty street with some cool buildings and of course lots of shops. Because it’s Harbin, there are also some snow and ice sculpture lining the street.

St. Sophia Cathedral

The St. Sophia Cathedral is a 100 year old Russian Orthodox church in Harbin. It is now a museum for architecture and art and a good place to warm up in between the sights.