The Insanity Continues

I thought I would be updating every day or two, posting pics and talking about my adventures on this trip, but it just hasn’t been possible. Internet access isn’t great everywhere, and in Australia it’s expensive to use internet from my phone so I’ve been keeping that to a minimum, but the real reason there haven’t been any updates is because I have been simply too tired to do anything but go to sleep when I get home each day. This is a good thing, and it feels good to sleep well and get up each day ready for more new experiences.

There are definitely a ton of pictures, thousands of them, but they haven’t been downloaded from media cards yet, and I’m not sure if we will actually do that before the end of the trip. I’ll occasional pics from my phone, but the really great ones may not be available until after we get home.

The experiences since I last wrote have been incredible.

Whale watching in Maui with humpbacks right next to our boat and even swimming right under us, and yes we got pics and video, was amazing. I understand why people go whale watching now. Seeing those huge animals up close is a unique experience and we were very lucky to have excellent guides. An expert from the Pacific Whale Foundation came along on our journey in a big zodiac and answered all of our questions for hours. We spent the night in the town of Lahaina, and then flew off to the big island in the morning.

The big island is most well known for it’s volcanic activity, and that’s what we were there to see. Driving through massive lava fields, walking through a lava tube, capturing the glow of the molten rock at night in a massive crater, and an incredible scenic drive on the way to the volcanoes, were all highlights. Watching a huge pod of 50 or more porpoises was fun, and we nearly jumped in the ocean with them. We also took the inland rode back across to Kona for our flight back to Honolulu, and were able to see multiple mongoose, some amazing sea life in tidal pools, and have some of the best coffee in the world.

My coffee tour of the world is basically complete now that I have had Wallenford in Wallenford, Blue Mountain in the Blue Mountains, Poas and Terrazu fresh from their plantations in Costa Rica, some amazing coffees in Guatemala, and now Kona in Kona. I can’t imagine where I would go next for great coffee.

Our next flight after spending our last day in Hawaii was the long haul to Melbourne. It was long, but not awful and Australia is well worth it. We stayed in a small apartment in a hip neighborhood in Melbourne and were struck by the differences. The fact that so many things are similar with the same language, many of the same products, and what appears to be a similar value system, that the differences seemed to stand out even more than they do in countries where everything is different.

We commented on the lack of police presence in such a large city and the lack of speed traps even though we did a lot of driving. In almost every country I have visited over the years I have been struck by the fact that people aren’t afraid of the police. In a few rough third world places this was not true, but in the rest of the first world I believe we are alone in being afraid of, or worried about, our interactions with the police. The job of the police here is to keep people safe and enforce laws. They are not tasked with running speed traps, confiscating property, and levying fines to pay their own salaries, so there are fewer of them on the streets and those that are out and about are working to actually keep you safe. It is refreshing.

People are also very warm and kind here, and common sense seems to be much more common here. The incredible materialism of the United States also looks ridiculous when viewed from the perspective of another country where people have what they need and aren’t killing themselves to get more. Working 50 or 60 hours a week, taking one or two weeks of vacation each year, and striving to get that raise so you can buy that new car to drive to work every day is truly insane. You can’t enjoy a life that you are throwing away, no matter how nice your house is. Work is fine, it’s necessary, and it can be rewarding, but we do far too much of it to buy things that don’t make us happy.

Our first full day in Melbourne we took a ride on an old narrow gauge steam train called The Puffing Billy. The line was created in the early 1900s to move people and produce to and from the Dandenong mountains, and now it runs as a tourist attraction. The train was a great way to experience the scenery up in the mountains and we had an excellent bush walk before our return trip as well.

The next day in Melbourne we took off for a drive down the Great Ocean Road. It was the most amazing scenery I have ever seen, and I have done a lot of scenic drives in my life. There are literally breathtaking sights around every corner for hours. We stopped at a few beaches and saw some incredible sea life, then took a wonderful bush walk at Shelly Beach to look for wildlife. While we saw some birds and sea life, the Koalas that my wife wanted to see were nowhere to be found. We did see an Echidna, known as a spiny antereater, but no Koalas and the wife was disappointed. I told her that it would work out, like it always does. We didn’t find a sloth to take photos of until out last day in Panama, and after hunting for them for a week!

On the drive home we passed two Koalas sitting by the side of the highway, I laid on the brakes, and my wife was out of the car before we were completely stopped. It’s rare enough to see them on the ground at all, but one of them sat and looked at my wife while she talked to him and took pictures from less than 20 feet away for a few minutes. The pictures are amazing! Once people driving by saw what was happening a crowd started to form, with at least ten other cars behind ours and before long some fool tourists ran right up to the Koala, scaring him back into the woods, but we had our time alone with him and a ton of great pictures.

It’s time to get up and head out to a market here in Tasmania before we drive across a huge national park and spend the night in Strahan. More to report on soon including our up close experiences with more koalas, penguins, devils, and more adventuring than I have time to write about this morning.

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