Australia Wrap-Up

tower of central station
Central Sydney in the morning.

This will be my last Australia post. I think I have finally covered nearly all the things I wanted to say. There are just a few loose ends that I will sum up here.

The main takeaway is that you should definitely go to Australia. I felt like I stepped into a parallel universe where everything was the same; and yet just a bit off. It’s not like England were even the recent immigrants and decidedly English.

It’s actually shockingly like the US (in that they lack an established culture), while somehow simultaneously being nothing at all like anywhere else on Earth. I know that sounds crazy, but when you get there, you will see.

The big highlights to note from the trip are:

The bills are plastic and feature the Queen of England, and the coins are heavy and weigh you down. Still, very neat. I love foreign money.

1. Stay at YHA hostels if you are by yourself and on a budget. They are mostly wonderful, and extremely affordable. Make sure to buy through their website, and look into package deals (sometimes they run a special on a set amount of days like: 10 days for $200.)

I stayed at the YHA in Bondi Beach, Railway Station Sydney, and the one in Cairns. All were good, with the usual hostel bothers (sharing a room with a stranger) and the usual perks (kitchen to cook in and knowledgeable staff.)

Coastal Walk
Bronte Beach on the coastal walk trail.

2. Snorkeling and diving on the reef will be warm, but if you go around Manly Beach or other popular locations around Sydney (or anywhere south of Sydney); get a wet-suit. It was freezing in the middle of summer (January.)

On a side note, it was totally worth it. I hadn’t been in a cold-water environment since middle school, and the kelp dancing in the waves was magical. So were the groupers.

Blue Mountains
Kangaroos hopping away from us in a National Park.

3. Go to the Blue Mountains, but maybe not with a tour (so you can hike around at your own pace.) I am sorry to say that I can’t recommend the company I took a tour with, though maybe you’d have better luck?

However, I do recommend the Blue Mountains. The land is wide and open like Northern Arizona, and it has the same stark and empty beauty.

Sweating up a storm in the rain forest.

4. If you’re going to Cairns for a reef tour, it’s worth it to go to the tourist town rain forest for a day. I got great pictures in Kuranda.

If you like shopping, they have oodles of that. I am not a shopping person, so we went to the butterfly garden and the wildlife park, and ate at a restaurant. The whole thing was really very nice.

We took the Skyrail up, and the train back. I definitely recommend that. Someone here in Guam told me to take a bus up to Kuranda, but if I had, I would have missed some of the best things I saw on the trip! Don’t settle for a bus. Take the Skyrail and the train. Getting there really is half the fun.

Angel Fish with dead coral behind it on the Great Barrier Reef.

5. I did the live-aboard through Cairns Dive Center and stayed on a boat called The Kangaroo Explorer. It was the most affordable option, but the staff was amazing and the chef was top-notch. Seriously, he blew me away with the food. I had a great time! I cannot recommend these guys enough for kindness, fun, and really creating the best experience they could for all the passengers.

However, the impression I got was that tourists only ever get to see the parts of the reef that are the most damaged, and this is both good (for the reef) and bad (for you.) So… take from that what you will. But I see better turtles and coral in Guam on a Tuesday.

Bondi Beach stop
Big Bus Tour, Sydney.

6. The Big Bus Tour was good. I mean, it’s better to see stuff by just taking the regular trains, because it is cheaper and you don’t feel rushed. However, I didn’t do it to see the sights. I did it to listen to the commentary and enjoy a day of sitting down (after all the walking as a tourist, and then all the running at full speed in the Blue Mountains.) For what I wanted it for, The Big Bus Tour was perfect.

If you, too, need a day of rest; give it a shot. You can do the central Sydney area and the Bondi Beach area all for $50 for the day. Sit on top (wearing a hat and sunscreen) for good pictures, or sit below in the AC and just watch the stuff go by.

As an aside, I have also done this tour in Paris and London. Both were good. Honestly, the Big Bus Tour was the only place I picked up those fun tourist facts (like how the guy who built Oxford Street was paid in rum because that was Australia’s first currency.) The locals don’t like to repeat that stuff over and over so they just stop telling people, but the recorded voice on the Big Bus Tour will say it over and over.

me on hill
In the Chinese Garden in Sydney.

Final Thoughts:

Most of the places I spent money on tourist stuff were great and I have almost no regrets on that score. As for the people, they were fabulous. I found Australians to be kind, well-intentioned, and welcoming. People gave me directions and helped me book trips and purchase things with ease as long as I stuck to the tourist spots.

Now, a few of the pubs I went to refused to try my (US) card and asked for cash. They were off the beaten track, and I imagine they don’t see many Americans (only 30% of us even have passports.) So, I don’t think that was too unreasonable.

Actually, I was surprised how few Americans I ran into. With the exception of the reef tour, I didn’t actually meet any at all. Unfortunately, that did not save me from having to think about Trump. Every Australian I met had a go at me for Trump. Seriously, all of them teased me about living in a country run by a madman.

Trump actually personally screwed me while I was in Australia as well. He shut down the government so that the value of the US dollar plummeted. The exchange rate (which is usually very favorable) dipped surprisingly close to 1:1. So, I guess I can’t escape US politics anywhere in the world, even down under.

edge of the world
From the Blue Mountain Tour.

Anyway, I would recommend the crap out of Australia if you were choosing a place to visit. I know the Maldives look attractive and Europe calls to everyone. I know Japan is top on all the anime-geeks lists. But, Australia has something about it that is magical, and I am really glad I took the time to go. You should, too.

And if you are worried about those stories you heard about Australia being dangerous, let me put that fear to bed right now. I saw nothing dangerous. Not one thing. Seriously, they say it’s dangerous, but it’s super tame in the cities, in the Blue Mountains, and even out on the reef.

I suppose you should take into account the fact that I grew up in Arizona (think: scorpions in your shoes, rattlesnakes with skin-rotting venom, Gila Monsters, and Tarantulas.) And, I guess, the fact that I live in Guam and am frequently harassed by Giant Beach Roaches and Huntsman Spiders here. But even so; I expected to see more dangerous stuff, and I really didn’t. I came back with a few black aunt bites, but that is all.

shirt in store
This map is full of lies. It’s actually quite safe in Australia.

Chinese Gardens

Chinese Garden
The Chinese Garden, with the city of Sydney in the background.

One of the best things in Sydney was sitting and resting by the pond at the Chinese Gardens.

Chinese Garden
A window looking out at the garden.

Granted, it’s a little odd to look at a serene garden and see skyscrapers in the background.

red window
A window in the tea house within the garden.

However, as long as you keep your eyes down and in the garden, it is really relaxing.

very pretty spot
Look out from the tea house at the pond and the viewing area across the water.

I particularly liked all the animals. None of them are in cages or technically considered part of the garden. They just visit and/or live there by choice.

Chinese Garden
An iguana in the Chinese Garden.

I saw iguanas, birds (including the much hated White Ibis,) turtles, and ducks.

Chinese Garden
A duck and a turtle in the pond.

Of course they do keep koi there, which is awesome.

Chinese Garden
Koi in the pond.

Anyway, it’s a peaceful place and there are lots of benches. I brought a book and some water, and i just hung out for awhile.

picnic spot
A viewing pavilion by the waterfall.

If you need a break, and you are tired of the hustle and bustle of being a tourist; this is the spot to visit.

me with waterfall
Me downstream from the waterfall.


Butterfly Garden

guide one
Sign at the entrance to the butterfly garden.

Of all the things I saw and did in Australia, the two best things were the Great Barrier Reef and the Butterfly Garden.

Cairns Birdwing butterfly on a

My YouTube Channel has the best of the Great Barrier Reef stuff, because video comes out better than pictures in water full of sediment.

three butterflies feeding
Butterflies feeding at a sugar-water feeder.

However, the pictures from the butterfly garden are better than the video, so I wanted to do an entire post just to show off the butterfly pictures.

Overview of the garden.

The butterfly garden in Kuranda has a building full of caterpillars, so you can see what the juvenile butterflies look like.

Two Chocolate Argus butterflies getting friendly.

The main building is the garden, which is full of all kinds of amazing flowers and water features.

Common Eggfly on a leaf.

Now, I know butterflies are not everyone’s thing. I am sure most people would have been more excited by the markets and the shopping opportunities.

Cruiser butterfly on a leaf.

However, I like watching butterflies. You can just sit down and watch them flutter around. If you hold very still, one might even land on you.

blue shape
Blue Banded Eggfly on a leaf.

When I traveled with the Renaissance Festival (way back in my early twenties) there was a butterfly garden at one of the fairs in Texas. I used to love to sit in there and watch the butterflies.

blue butterfly
Case of butterflies in the gift shop.

If I ever have a back yard again, I hope to fill it with flowers so I can attract butterflies to my yard. Of course, I won’t catch them and pin them under glass like the gift shop, because that is horrifying.


monarch wall
Monarch butterfly display between the garden and the gift shop.

Blue Mountains

overview of mountains
The view from the parking lot.

I took a tour of the blue mountains through a company called Barefoot Down under. I chose them specifically because the flier claimed that only a “moderate” level of fitness was required (while other tours said the hiking was “hard” or “difficult.”)

As a cancer survivor with a heart condition, I struggle. I mean, I am not unfit. I run three times a week at the gym and I swim nearly every day. I can and have hiked all day. In fact, just last year I did the 888 stairs to the top of Ulsan-Bawi in Seoraksan.

pathway in forest
Stairs that the tour operator thought we should run up. Not walk, mind you. Run like a mountain lion was chasing us.

That said, I can’t go at break-neck speeds. I can’t run up and down trails. I do need to hike slowly. And that is why I chose the tour group that said the difficulty was only moderate.

Unfortunately, the tour group leader decided that running was the only way to hike.

Honestly, it would have been fine if we got to Wenworth Falls recreation area, and then he pointed out the easy trail to me to get to the falls. It was short, and I saw children and old people on it. After all, I had disclosed that I had a heart condition, and if he was planning on running wildly down the trails, then he should have let me do my own thing and given me a time to meet back up with the group.

However, he didn’t.

me in woods
Just sat by myself in the woods. All alone. Waiting for over an hour.

He took me into the jungle and then told me the path he was taking to the falls would be “too hard for me” and to “just sit at the trail fork.” I sat. And sat. And sat. He never came back for me and the group did not return. I ended up deciding to hike back out on my own, and I sure am lucky I did! The tour guide had decided to take everyone out going a different way, and I would have missed them all and got left in the forest by myself.

To add insult to injury, he had his wife e-mail me to say “You have wondered off. Please return to the tour or you will be left behind.” When I got back to the city and had wifi, I checked it and when I saw that i was livid. He told me to stay behind, and then planned to say I wandered off and it was my own fault.

Luckily, I decided to hike out on my own.

Upper pathway, which is nicer than the lower trails.

However, I couldn’t very well yell at him in front of everyone when I re-joined the group (and boy did he look surprised to see me.) After all, one of the other girls on the tour told me that he had pretended to try to come and find me (which I know he didn’t, because I did not move.) Ergo, he played it up for them so that he could make sure it looked like my fault.

I took the high road and tried to act cheerful for the rest of the day. We went to a restaurant with overpriced kangaroo burgers, a street full of graffiti, and an overlook to take pictures. However, the whole time I was thinking about how the guide had tried to leave me in the woods because I confessed to having a heart condition and he wanted to run all day.


kangaroo burger
Kangaroo Burger. Not really very good, but I had to try.

The thing that gets me is this: He could have just said “This hike is rated difficult” on the flier. If he had done so, I never would have gone on the tour. I wouldn’t have paid a bunch of money to see Wentworth Falls (which I never got to see.) I would have looked for another tour, or taken a bus up to the park and hiked at my own pace like my friends did when they went to the Blue Mountains.

So basically, the tour flier is misleading. It is not “moderate” in difficulty. It is “hard.” That is something they should change immediately. I have no idea how Wenworth Falls looks, and I spent about an hour in the woods reading my book instead of finding out because the tour guide told me that I was “breathing too hard” as he was literally running up a hill and I tried to follow, and so he told me that I should “wait here until the group returns.” I was pretty disappointed.

On the upside, we did come across Chris Darwin (the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin) completely by chance. So, I got to meet him. At least that was something.

edge of the world
One of the only good pictures I got, from an overlook we drove to.

Great Barrier Reef

Baby Fish in Stag Coral

I should probably do my Australia posts in the order that they happened. And yet, I am too excited about my underwater pictures from the trip to even start looking through the above-water stuff.

Amazing Corals

So, it would seem that I am starting with The Great Barrier Reef.

Bleached Coral

The Reef actually has more bleaching than Guam. If I had to guess, I would say that the shallower water must be the reason (shallow water heats up faster.) Guam is next to the Marianas Trench, so I imagine the overall water temperature in our region might be colder, even though we are on the equator.

Giant Clam

You might think it is the types of coral, but it’s definitely not. Nearly all the corals I saw on the Great Barrier Reef were the same as the corals in Guam. There were only a few differences.


Some of the fish I saw on the reef were bigger, which I would guess is because I was snorkeling in deeper water there than what I usually would (since I get better pictures in shallow water.)


There were some huge parrot fish, as well as some large cod and sea bass. I saw a few sharks as well. In Guam I usually see black-tipped reef sharks, but on the reef I saw white-tipped reef sharks. So, that was new.

Rainbow Parrot Fish

It was jellyfish season, and I definitely didn’t know that when I booked the trip! We had to wear stinger suits the whole time.

Angel Fish and Giant Clam

I have actually never seen so many jellyfish in one place. However, the stinger suits protected us, and no one got stung except the guy who took his hood off.

Christmas Tree Worms in Coral.

My YouTube Channel has lots of footage of the Reef and all the cool things we saw. I definitely recommend taking a look, if you like the under water world.


The tour guides told me that the best time to see the reef is in August. That is the middle of winter in the southern hemisphere, so I would have thought it would be stormy then.

Love the blue stag coral

However, they say the summer is far more stormy, and the good visibility is definitely in August.

Reef Squid

So if you go to The Great Barrier Reef, I can recommend Carins Dive Center (who I went through) and their boat The Kangaroo Explorer (which I did the live abroad package on for three days and two nights.) But I can’t recommend going in January, because it was stormy and it was also jellyfish season.

Note: Click the links in this post to see the videos on my YouTube Channel.

Angel Fish Couple



First, I am back home in Guam. We will be here until around August or September. Then we move to Oahu.

Now then:

I recently went on an Australian adventure. I will do a few detailed posts about the things I saw and did, but here is an overview of where I went.

First, I went to Bondi Beach and stayed in a hostel there. I did the coastal walk and snorkeled in Clovelly Bay with a woman from my Snorkel Travel Friends group. I explored the shops and sat and talked with people, and I had a great time.

Later, I moved to a hostel near central station in Sydney. I took the Big Bus Tour and got off to see all the major attractions like the Opera House and some of the old Cathedrals. Then I went on a Blue Mountains tour and met up with my friend Shari from Melbourne.

Finally, I met my friend Melissa and took a flight to Cairns. We went out to the Great Barrier Reef and snorkeled at several spots while living abroad a ship called The Kangaroo Explorer. After that, we went up to the town of Kurunda to see the rain forest.

My very last day was spent in Sydney watching the fireworks for Australia Day. Finally, I flew to Hawaii and then home to Guam.

Right now I am catching up on my sleep and sorting through photos, but soon I will share some of the better shots of the reef, and of my other adventures.

My YouTube Channel

I started a YouTube channel so I had somewhere to put all the videos that I take.

Above, you can see the view from my patio. I know I am going to miss this view so much when we leave in September! It’s so beautiful.

Most of my videos are from my underwater adventures. However, I try to just put everything I see up.

This is the sunrise as seen from my balcony one morning. They are not usually this good, but it’s never a bad day when you watch the sun rise over the ocean.

Like I said, most of the videos are from being underwater.

For example, this is a video of swimming with a sea turtle. It’s the most relaxing five minutes on the internet.

None of the videos are very long because most interactions with sea creatures happen in the span of a minute or two.

For example, this silly animal is called a Parrot Fish, and it’s hilarious to watch them swim, but they are fast so they usually swim away pretty quickly.

Anyway, you should check out my YouTube Channel and maybe subscribe. It would mean a lot to me to have some subscribers, and besides, you could see some of the amazing things I see!

Thanks for reading, and watching, and just being one of the people that follows my life.