The Great Barrier Reef

The great barrier reef is one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems in the world located on the northeast coast of Australia. Made up of more than 3000 reefs and home to thousands of marine life, it provides some of the most spectacular marine scenery. It is one of the few living structures visible from space as a complex string along Australia’s coast.

The Great Barrier Reef varies in depth with vast shallow inshore areas, deeper at mid-shelf and outer reefs and deepest further out into the ocean.This variation in depth as one goes further out into the ocean adds to the diversity of the species inhabiting these reefs.Apart from this, many of the cays act as breeding grounds for colonies of sea birds and the green turtle.

It holds great scientific interest as it is home to the Dugong(sea cow) and the large green turtle which are threatened species.


A coral is an invertebrate colonial organism…meaning many individuals live and grow while connected to each other.


Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. A combination of rising water temperatures, pollution, severe cyclones and crown- of -thorns starfish outbreaks are the main dangers to the reef itself and the iconic animals that depend on it.

Temperature: Rising temperatures cause heat stress to the corals which expel the microalgae that live inside ; exposing their white skeletons. This is called Coral bleaching. This is a reversible change if temperatures reduce.

Ocean Acidification:

Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean waters leading to their acidification. Acidic pH is detrimental to coral survival.


Climate change has triggered increase in frequency and severity of cyclones which damage the reef.

Habitat Changes:

Rising water temperatures trigger migration of marine species to cooler areas. This causes competition in these areas threatening the entire ecosystem.

Crown-of Thorns Star fish:

These are spiky marine creatures that occur naturally in reefs. They feed on coral. When they appear in large numbers, they devastate the reef.

Pre and post bleaching images of a coral (these are images from the web and posted solely for demonstrating the changes in corals)

Our Trip

We visited the reef from Cairns; which is considered The Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Its tropical climate and its access to the reef makes it a popular tourist destination.

Cairns Esplanade , lined with bars and restaurants has a swimming lagoon.

The Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

Cairns is a fun city and offers tourists various options including casinos.There are plenty of establishments offering trips to the reef. We booked of Reef tour with Sunlover Cruises.

A casino at Cairns

Next morning we packed our swimwear and a change of clothes and headed to the wharf to board the cruise to the reef. The cruise ride was pretty rough and the staff distributed kits for seasickness. Lot of people on the cruise were seasick on our way up to the reef.

The Cruise to the Reef

During the ride to the reef, the instructors on board gave demonstrations on snorkeling and scuba diving. They explained the use of the gear, the flippers, the snorkel etc. Needless to say, the potential scuba divers were given more detailed and practical instructions than the snorkelers. The people who were sea sick were attended to by the cruise staff.

As we rode further away from the shore, gradually patches of reef were visible. The area where there is a reef looks more greenish compared to the surrounding ocean.

Approaching the reef…note the greenish colour

As you reach closer to the reef, few corals can be seen through the clear waters…

Few corals seen as one gets closer to the reef

After a choppy ride for about an hour and a half we arrived at Moore reef pontoon. This pontoon is a platform built at sea from where the tourists can undertake snorkeling, scuba diving and such other reef viewing activities.

The Moore Reef Pontoon

We left the cruise boat and boarded the pontoon. The pontoon has all facilities and we were told that we can leave our belongings at the pontoon.

From there, we boarded the glass bottom boat for coral viewing which was ready and waiting for us. The guide took us along some of the reefs which we could see through the glass bottom of the boat.

The interior of the glass bottom boat.

Corals seen from the glass bottom boat.

After the ride on the glass bottom boat we were taken on a semi submersible vessel for more coral viewing.

This vessel is partly submerged in water and the passengers go down via the stairway to the seats which are alongside the sides of the boat. Corals can be viewed through the windows.

The Semi sub

Inside the semi sub

Views of corals from the side windows of the semi sub

After the semi sub experience, we decided to try our hands at snorkeling.

After putting on our swimwear and collecting our snorkel, goggles and flippers, we headed to the stairs on the side of the pontoon. Guided by the staff on the pontoon and the life guards, we joined some of our co passengers who were already snorkeling .

The first time you look under the ocean, is a moment of ecstasy! The sheer expanse of the waters and the fish around you is just amazing. Suddenly you find yourself surrounded by plenty of multicolored small fishes and of course the ocean floor has lots of coral too. I must confess that I had difficulty snorkeling with water entering my snorkel tube in spite of all the precautions taken as per the guide’s advice. Of course there were people who were very adept at it and went on at it for a long time.

The views from our snorkeling expedition are not photographed as it requires special underwater cameras. I am unable to share the real life views due to this. It is difficult to take even these pictures from the snorkeling platform for obvious reasons.

The corals look more colorful in real life than seen in these pictures.These pictures are taken through glass windows which I suspect are tinted and that is why there is a uniform bluish green color overriding the color of the corals

I must mention here that there are lifeguards overlooking the snorkelers very carefully and any sign of distress is addressed immediately.

No one is allowed to touch or hinder the fish in any way. They are very strict about it and we were clearly told that any attempt at touching the fish will entail a fine.

The launching pad for the snorkeling session..

Trying my hand at snorkeling!

After spending some time among the beautiful fish, we returned to the safety of the pontoon , changed up and headed for lunch. An elaborate lunch was spread out on the pontoon and we helped ourselves to it.

Post lunch we visited the underwater observatory on the pontoon. This is similar to the semi sub. Here we can watch the fish that swim along the sides of the pontoon from inside the safety of the pontoon. There was a feeding session for the fish . This is done specifically to attract more fish to the sides of the pontoon for the benefit of the tourists.

There was an interaction with a marine biologist too after the feeding session. He explained many details about the corals and the fish that live among the reefs.

Views from the underwater observatory

The interaction with the Marine Biologist

After all these activities we left the pontoon and boarded the cruise back to Cairns.

It was indeed a wonderful experience…again a once in a lifetime experience!

If I claim to have shown you all that I experienced; I would be being unfair. The sheer challenges prevent me from getting you better pictures.

After all, there are some experiences in life which cannot be explained or shared ….one has to experience it oneself..

This is one such experience….

After a short two day stay at Trinity Beach, we headed to New Zealand….a real beauty…

Next week, I start my series on New Zealand….see you there…

Meanwhile do comment and subscribe

The Penguin Parade

One of our most memorable trips…the visit to Philip Island to see the little blue penguins.

We started the day with a visit to Moonlit Sanctuary.

Moonlit Sanctuary:

A Wildlife Conservation Park located in Mornington Peninsula , about an hour’s drive from Melbourne; it aims to display native Australian fauna . It has many animal enclosures, as well as many native Australian trees and plants. It also engages in conservation breeding of endangered species.

Here we fed the Kangaroos and wallabies, posed with the koalas and saw some exotic birds, reptiles and dingoes. There are keeper presentations throughout the day when one can learn more about these species.

I had a small encounter here with a kangaroo which got upset with me when the feed was over and started lashing out for more feed. Sure enough , one of the keepers came to my rescue….much to my relief!!!

The angry Kangaroo!!!

A parakeet

The Tasmanian Devil

The Noisy Kookaburra

A Koala

After lunch, we set out to our next destination ; Churchill Island; the site of the first European garden in Victoria state. It contains a working farm, cottages dating from the 1860s and a homestead, all fully restored and open to the public. It is connected by a bridge to Philip island.

The Boonwurrong people who were the traditional people of this area, inhabited this island much before the Europeans arrived.

There is a farm and vegetable garden here where one can explore the heritage farming activities . There are sheep shearing shows conducted which we attended. Any one interested could try their hand at milking the cows!There were plenty of geese and other poultry here…all part of the farm. Surrounding the farmland, there are historic gardens that complete the heritage feel of the place.

Some pictures..

The heritage farm cottages

Animal enclosure

The open gardens overlooking the sea

Sheep shearing

From here we proceeded to The Nobbies

This is essentially a collection of rocks known as Seal Rocks and is home to the largest colony of fur seals .These cobblestone rocks jut out into the sea and form a perfect habitat for fur seal breeding . There is a boardwalk here from where one can look out for the seals.

These seals and are distinguishable by their brown hair. There had been a decline in their numbers due to hunting but conservation activities put in place by the park authorities has seen an improvement in their numbers.

The Nobbies

The Fur Seals

The Koala conservation centre was our next point of visit.

Here one can come face to face with Koalas in their natural habitat. There are treetop boardwalks along which you can walk looking out for Koalas chewing at their favourite food…. the eucalyptus leaves or just lazing away on one of the branches. Interactive sessions on koalas are also available here. As one walks along the boardwalks, one can witness other native Australian animals too.

The little guy loves eucalyptus leaves!

And last but not the least…….the parade of the little blue penguins. …reaching there around sunset time.

The Penguin Parade..

Philip Island is home to the largest little penguin colony in the world. These cute seabirds set out to the ocean in search of food during the day time. At sunset, they return to their burrows and that’s what we call the Penguin Parade.

The Penguin Parade visitor area consists of gallery like steps built on the shore. Visitors have to maintain total silence . Mobile phones and cameras are prohibited in this area. No photography is allowed. Hence the pictures I am putting up for you are from those available online. Only in pictures can one get a visual impact of what I describe.

After we assembled and settled down quietly under the supervision of a keeper, we all waited with anticipation. Suddenly we noticed two heads in the water and they swam ashore. Predatory birds were flying overhead and that deterred the little ones and they all swam back into the sea. After a few rounds of this back and forth , one little thing gathered up the courage and came out of the water and started waddling up to its nest. Sure enough, the rest followed and soon we had hundreds of them waddling along. What an amazing sight that was!!!….its a once in a life time moment actually.

We have heard about Safety in Numbers….these little birds are very aware of it. They always try to stay together in a group supposedly to give the impression that it is big creature to the predatory birds flying above them.

After most of them were ashore, we could walk along the boardwalks again in total silence. The burrows of these penguins are below the boardwalks and the little babies were waiting anxiously for their parents return. Cackling away, those cute beauties were adorable indeed!!

I know it would have been ideal to post a video of the parading penguins. Unfortunately regulations do not allow photographing there . For those of you who would like to see it, there are videos available on you tube…..the next best thing!

The Visual treat for you….take a look…

The Viewing Gallery

An adult and baby penguins


The boardwalk to view the penguin burrows

Signage as one leaves the penguin colony

Well, this was really one of my awesome tripsI hope I have been able to communicate this awesome experience to you. But as they say….nothing can come as close as experiencing it oneself. So do make it to Philip Island …its really worth it!!!

With this we bid goodbye to Melbourne . Next destination is Cairns….so next week we are diving at The Great Barrier Reef….don’t miss it!!!

Before that, don’t miss to subscribe below…


The Great Ocean Road…an overview

The Great Ocean Road is one of the top ten drives in the world and the 12 Apostles are one of the most visited attractions in Australia. It is a listed National Historic site of Australia.There’s so much to see on this amazing coastal drive which stretches 243 kilometres along the coast from Torquay to Allansford.

This road hugs the shores of the Southern Ocean with beaches and limestone cliffs on one side and green countryside on the other. Port Campbell National Park which houses the 12 Apostles lies on this road . The coast from Torquay to Cape Otway is called the surf coast and further on it is called the shipwreck coast.The limestone cliffs here were responsible for many of the early ship wrecks.

The Great Ocean Road was built in memory of Australians who lost their lives in the first World War.

Our Trip

We had a day trip on Great Ocean Road booked from India via Viator

Picked up by Bunyip travels, our local tour operator, we were soon out of Melbourne and at the Memorial Arch on the Great Ocean Road.

Memorial Arch was built as a tribute to honour the three thousand servicemen that built and worked on the road from 1919 to 1932.

The Arch is at one of the original toll points where people paid to use the road .The toll point was taken down once the building costs were paid off and the archway was then built mostly from wood.

The Memorial Arch On Great Ocean Road

After a short photo halt, we drove down to the town of Anglesea where we were treated to some packed breakfast.

The drive on The Great Ocean Road is an experience in itself. The winding road with greenery and palatial mansions of the rich and famous keeps one glued to the window on one side. On the other side, the ocean plays hide and seek with you. A great view of the ocean suddenly blinded by cliffs for a short distance and then again another perspective of the ocean. This is perhaps how you can describe this drive. But the ocean views are awesome to say the least. Occasional rocky sentinels stand out from the ocean with the waves constantly brushing them. Some of these sentinels have obviously worn out due to the constant caresses from the ocean waves. Many of these were connected to the coast long ago and have been gradually severed away by the lashing waves.

Cape Otway lighthouse was our next photo halt. Here , a short walk off the road leads you to a light house and a small cafe.

The Cape Otway Lighthouse

The Cape Otway lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Australia.It is decommissioned now. It is a great whale watching destination from ashore as whales swim close to the shores in winter. There is a telegraph station here too.

Further down the Great Ocean road from Otway, the coast is called the Shipwreck coast. Rightly so….at least eight ships have wrecked on this coast. A sinister record indeed!!!

The Great Otway National Park

Located 162 kms from Melbourne this National Park lies in the Otway Ranges. It contains diverse range of landscapes and vegetation types.This park is designated an important bird area due to the variety of birds sighted here primarily due to its diverse vegetation . We had a small halt here and did a small forest walk. Some pictures….

The Otway Rainforest

The Bass Strait

The Bass Strait separates mainland Australia from the island of Tasmania.

There were many lookout points on the Great Ocean Road from where there are amazing views of the Bass Strait. One such picture…

The Bass Strait from one of the look outs on Great Ocean Road.

After a lunch break at one of the towns, we proceeded to Port Campbell National Park

The Port Campbell National Park features multiple limestone cliffs,rock stacks, gorges and arches.The 12 Apostles, The Loch Ard Gorge and the Gibson steps are the more popular attractions . These have all resulted from the salt laden air and harsh weather conditions peculiar to this region

The 12 Apostles

Rising out of the Southern Ocean, just off The Great Ocean Road are these magnificent limestone cliffs called The 12 Apostles. These were connected to the mainland once upon a time. Nature has played its music with these pillars. Winds and waves have battered them over the years into caves, arches and eventually into 150 ft high columns around 10 to 20 million years ago.At present there are only 8 such pillars seen.

These limestone cliffs look remarkable against the bluish ocean backdrop. They vary in colour and appearance depending on the time of the day. There are special sunset tours organised to the Apostles as the sun set views are claimed to be exquisite.There is a long wooden walkway towards the ocean and one can get views of these cliffs from different angles.

Our tour day was a cloudy one and so the pictures do not reflect the varied colours seen on sunny days.Some pictures…

The Apostles

The Loch Ard Gorge

3.5 km further west of the Apostles, is Loch Ard gorge.

The picturesque gorge is home to two yellow colored cliff faces with a bay in between. The water from the ocean enters the bay and can be reached at the beach.Though it looks like something out of a storybook, Loch Ard has a history dating back to 1878. A ship named Loch Ard was wrecked here killing all except two passengers, Pierce and Carmichael.

Stairs allow visitors to access the beach.

This gorge has provided a backdrop for many movies….and is still considered a popular destination for film shoots.

The Loch Ard Gorge

Gibson Steps

Situated close to the Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge, one can access the beach using this stairway which has 86 steps.

As a popular stop-off on the Great Ocean Road, the Gibson Steps are easy to reach. The easiest way is to park in the designated car park that leads directly onto the viewing platform and the steps below. The views here are stunning, and after a view from the top on the roadside, one can use the steps to access the beach below.

Originally, it is thought the steps were cut out by the Kirrae Whurrong people, a local tribe who called the area home.

Hugh Gibson built the Glenample Homestead nearby and regularly used the carved steps to access the beach below. During this time, it was constantly used by fishermen and other seafaring workers to get to the beach and the water. Gibson is most famous for his role in the Loch Ard shipwreck. The two survivors, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael, were nursed and regained their strength at his homestead.

Gibson Steps

After spending some time on the beach and clicking some pictures, we returned to the bus to be driven back to Melbourne.

With another exciting trip to Philip Island to see the little blue penguins scheduled next day, we rested for the night …..

See you next week among those cute blue penguins….till then good bye

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A Multicultural city, Melbourne with its European feel finds itself very often in the the list of most livable cities. Read along and you will know why….

An Overview:

Melbourne is the capital of the Australian state of Victoria. It is the second most populous city in Australia. The original inhabitants of this place were the Kulin people.

The discovery of gold in Victoria in mid-1851 resulted in the gold rush and ,Melbourne the colony’s major port; experienced rapid growth. International migrants from both Europe and China soon arrived . However the poor working conditions of the miners and lack of facilities lead to the Eureka Rebellion, a mass movement of the people .With the wealth brought in from the gold rush and the subsequent need for public buildings, a program of grand civic construction soon began. When Australia became a commonwealth, Melbourne was its capital till 1927 when Canberra was made the capital. The post world war II years also saw Melbourne grow rapidly ,boosted by post war immigration to Australia.

The city is intricately connected with the Yarra River, which flows all along the city. You will never find a dearth of things to do in this city. You can explore the wonderful galleries, stroll through its green gardens, cruise on the Yarra river or hop on to a heritage tram to discover the magic here.Another of Melbourne’s claim to fame lies in its sports activities.

Highlights of Melbourne:

Eureka Skydeck

This is an observation deck on top of the Eureka Tower, a residential skyscraper. At a height of 975 ft, and 91 storeys above the ground and a basement , it was the world’s tallest residential complex when it was built. Subsequently it has been overtaken by others around the world. Its design represents the Eureka Rebellion against the gold rush ;with the building’s gold crown representing the gold rush and a red stripe representing the bloodshed during the revolt.

The observation deck occupies the entire 88th floor of the Eureka Tower.The Skydeck features twenty viewfinders that help visitors to pinpoint numerous significant landmarks around all parts of Melbourne, along with several free binoculars. 

Eureka Tower and Skydeck

Views of Melbourne city from the Skydeck

The Sealife Aquarium

Located on the banks of the Yarra River, its main feature is an ‘oceanarium in the round’ …. a huge tank with sharks and more than 2000 species of marine life swimming around .

The exhibits are in four levels and a self guided tour takes one around this wonderland.

The exhibits that attracted us were the Penguins…gentoo and king penguins. We got to see the penguins being fed and weighed.

The King Penguins

Baby Penguins swimming around and excited children chasing them outside

City Circle Tram Tour

One great way to sight see Melbourne is to take the City Circle Tram . It is free and with a commentary, this hop on hop off service passes many historic buildings and major attractions.

The City Circle Tram


Known as Melbourne’s newest waterfront entertainment area, it is filled with cafes, restaurants and parks . Melbourne Star, the giant observation wheel is located here.

The Melbourne Star observation wheel

Yarra River and Trail

You will find the Yarra river crisscrossing your path in this city. A cruise on the river offers great views of the city. The River front near the Central Business District is beautifully done up with benches to relax by the riverside. A host of restaurants pubs and other utilities line the waterfront making it an interesting place to unwind.

Following the course of the river is the 38-kilometre Main Yarra Trail, which stretches from south bank to the north-eastern suburbs through river flats, sporting ovals, market, gardens and paddocks.

Yarra Riverfront

Federation Square:Federation Square is the city’s public square which opened in 2002. Melbourne’s central city grid was originally designed without a central public square, long seen as a missing element. The proposal to have a central square started in 1960.

The design of the building which is a mix of open and closed areas, stands in contrast to the Victorian architecture around. This area offers both outdoor and indoor entertainment options with performances held all year round. Plenty of cafes and restaurants dot the area making it a great outdoor escape for the locals.

Several museums and galleries dedicated to the original inhabitants are located here.

The Federation Square

Melbourne Cricket Ground:

Known locally as” The G”, it is the largest stadium in the Southern Hemisphere.

The MCG’s most famous moment in history was as the main stadium for the 1956 Olympic Games, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field events, and the finals in field hockey and soccer.

The MCG was the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2006 Commonwealth games and the Cricket world cup in 1992 and 2015.

With a history dating back to 1853, the MCG is the largest and oldest sports venue in Australia. Daily tours take people back in history at the National Sports Museum and the Australian Gallery of Sport and Olympic Museum located close to the MCG.


Melbourne Cricket Ground

The MCG and National Sports Museum


Brighton Beach is one of the more famous of the beaches in Melbourne, lying along the Port Philip bay. An iconic picture of Melbourne is the brightly colored huts or “bathing boxes”on Brighton beach. These date back to the Victorian era when sunbathers used them to change in private. These boxes are made of wood and are heritage protected. They are still in use. Many of them are leased out and the owners use them to store their beach requirements . They add color to the beach alright! The beaches in this area are calm and provide great opportunities for swimmers.

Brighton Beach with the colored bathing boxes


Crisscrossing the maze of lanes and window shopping is another activity that is interesting. The area around Flinders and Collins streets are particularly great shopping places. You will find everything from opulent shopping arcades for window shopping to the more affordable smaller shops here. When you are tired of walking, hop onto a tram and get dropped a couple of streets away. There is no dearth of such lanes and reaching the correct street can be quiet a challenge….

Shopping arcades

Albert Park

Staying at a hotel in Albert park, the lake and walking trails at Albert Park were walking distance from our hotel. We spent a lot of our free time lazing on the benches in Albert Park by the lake enjoying the sights of the locals running, walking, dog walking or picnicking there.

Albert Park is part of the cultural landscape in the traditional country of the Bunurong People. They were the original inhabitants of this area. Located 4 km from the Central Business District . Albert Park is home to a plethora of events, from fun runs to cycling events, pet-friendly meetups and the iconic Australian Grand Prix.

Some Pictures :

Albert Park

Fawkner Park:

Another beautiful park close to Albert park, this park is a favourite haunt of the locals. With walking tracks and benches under the shade of trees, it is a green oasis in the metropolis.

Some pictures:

I hope you have got a feel of this great city. From Melbourne,we did some great trips. One of them was to The Great Ocean Road…a beautiful road skirting the ocean…

See you at this great destination next week…

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The name Blue Mountains always fascinated me. We have the Nilgiris in India which also means blue mountains. After having stayed in the Nilgiris, I wanted to know what is the similarity or the difference between the two. What better way to know it than to go there….

A brief note on the Blue Mountains:

The Blue mountains is a rugged mountainous region in New South Wales bordering the Sydney metropolitan area. Its foothills start approximately 50 km from Sydney. It is part of an extensive mountainous region associated with The Great Dividing Range.

Known for dramatic scenery, it encompasses steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls and villages dotted with guesthouses, galleries and gardens. Katoomba, a major town in the area, borders Blue Mountains National Park . Echo Point offers views of the famous Three Sisters sandstone rock formation. 

The Blue Mountains get their name from the natural blue haze created by vast eucalyptus forests in this World Heritage area. Tiny droplets of oil released from the eucalyptus trees mix with water vapour and sunlight to produce the distinctive colour. To be noted here is the fact that our Nilgiris also have large eucalyptus forests.

Enroute to Blue Mountains,we visited The Featherdale Wildlife Park.

The park is located approximately 40 km from Sydney and contains various species native to Australia, and provides displays, events and interactive experiences. The site covers more than 3 hectares and has animal enclosures and display areas, visitor facilities, picnic spaces, shops and basic amenities. It specialises in Australian native wildlife and birds, as well as reptiles and marsupials

Focusing solely on native animals, here you can see koalas ,kangaroos ,wallabies, dingos and Tasmanian devils.

Kangaroo feeding is an important activity here. The kangaroos are so adapted to humans that they literally force you to feed them and if you don’t, they express their resentment too!

Kangaroo enclosure and feeding a baby kangaroo

A Koala

A Blue and yellow Macau and a Cassovary

Penguins and a Cockatoo

I must add here that Cockatoos are a very common sight in Australia…almost like the crows we see here in India. In Sydney you find them on windows and balconies of apartments.They are very noisy and get aggressive at times!!!

After a wonderful time at the park, we continued our drive to the Blue Mountains.

We reached Leura village for our lunch break.This is a picturesque village in the Blue mountain area and has lovely shops and cafes . Since it was autumn time, the place looked beautiful with the coloured leaves.

Some pictures from Leura…

Our next halt was at Echo Point close to Katoomba from where we had a view of the famous Three Sisters rock formation.

The Three Sisters is the most spectacular landmark of the Blue Mountains varying in height between 900 and 925 metres. They are floodlit at night offering spectacular views.

These rock formations were formed by erosion 200 million years ago when the sandstone of the blue mountains was eroded by wind, rain and rivers causing the cliffs around the Jamison valley to be slowly broken up.

As per the legend of the indigenous people; these rocks represent three sisters who were turned to rock .These sisters Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo lived here as part of the Katoomba tribe. These sisters fell in love with men from another tribe and in order that they do not marry away from their tribe, they were converted to stone with the implicit understanding that they would later be reconverted to women. But the witch doctor failed to reconvert them and so we have them as rocks today.

The Giant Stairway:

From Echo point, a bush walking trail leads to the three sisters and down to the valley floor via 800 steps called the Giant Stairway. Walking another 1.5 kms one can reach the base of the Katoomba falls. Needless to say, we did not attempt it!!!

The Three sisters and the clouds descending on the Jamison Valley

The Three Sisters with the tourists at Echo Point

The Boar’s head look out is another famous destination here with a rock formation in the shape of a boar’s head.

The Boar’s Head look out

Scenic World:

Scenic World is a private family owned tourist attraction at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Originally a coal mine; dating back to the early 1800s ; it now has four main attractions: Scenic Railway, Scenic Skyway, Scenic Cableway and Scenic Walkway.

Scenic Railway:

This was originally constructed for coal transportation after mining in the Jamison valley in 1800s . It is an inclined railway now used for tourism. It has a sharp incline of 52 degrees and covers almost 400 metres distance. It is claimed to be the steepest passenger railway.

We took a ride on this railway. I must confess that inspite of all the preparation, I could not shoot a picture from inside the train as it slid down the slope…partly due to the speed and partly due to fear….had to hold on to our seats tight!!! You are always feeling that you are slipping off your seat!!

Scenic Railway

Scenic Skyway:

A cable way that traverses the gorge 270 metres above the valley floor. It provides great views of the Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley floor. The Katoomba falls is another breathtaking sight .

The opening image of this blog is of the Katoomba falls.

Scenic Skyway

Scenic Walkway:

This walkway gives one the experience of walking under a rain forest canopy. …an easy 20 minute walk between the railway and the cable way stations on an elevated boardwalk. The flora and fauna seen here belong to the native species and some are claimed to date back to the Jurrassic ages. Also on display along the walkway are old mining equipment.

Along the walkway there are clear directions If you miss the directions, getting back to the correct location to meet your bus mates can be challenging!!!

On the Walkway under the canopy

After the wonderful experience of walking in the rain forest, we took the cable car up and reached the cultural center where the traditional performances by the indigenous people is organised.

The cultural center

You cannot talk about Australia and not mention the Boomerang. Widely used by the indigenous people,it forms an integral part of their cultural performances.

Essentially it is a throwing stick  made of wood, but boomerang-like devices have also been made from bones.  A popular memento in the gift shops; they are painted and decorated with traditional art work.

A Boomerang

After finishng the Blue mountains trip, our next programme was a cruise on the Paramatta river to Sydney. We were dropped off at the ferry terminal and we boarded the ferry. As we approached Sydney, we had great views of the harbour, the bridge and the iconic Opera House lit up in all glory….

Some pictures from the Paramatta Cruise:

The Cruise Boat

The Harbour Bridge lit up at night

After an exhausting but gratifying day at the Blue Mountains, we returned back to our hotel . Next morning we were to say goodbye to Sydney and head to another amazing destination….Melbourne.

See you folks next week at Melbourne..

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We are now Down Under….let me take you through some of our experiences in Australia…starting with Sydney.

An Overview:

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia.Located on the east coast,it had been inhabited for almost 30000 years by the indigenous people and remnants of their art work and engravings are seen throughout the region. They called themselves the “Eora people” meaning from this place.

After World War II Sydney experienced mass migration and grew to be one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

Our Trip

Well; unlike most of our trips, the arrival at Sydney entailed some uncertainties contributed to by nature!! Our Singapore airlines flight from Bangalore to Singapore was indefinitely delayed due to incessant rain and squally weather at Bangalore…leaving us waiting at the airport for a few hours. In the bargain, we missed our connecting flight from Singapore to Sydney. Finally we boarded to Singapore and landed there. I must mention here the amazing coordination by the ground staff at Singapore. We were re booked for the next available flight to Sydney and guided through our boarding process very smoothly .

We had an amazing flight from here on. The flight from Singapore to Sydney was exceptionally good. Literally pampered with food and goodies and great onboard entertainment.So after that initial hiccup, we were on course for a trip to OZ.

Landed late evening at Sydney and took a coach to our Hotel Holiday Inn at Potts Point. The view from our hotel room was amazing with the Harbour Bridge and the cruising ships.

View from hotel…The Opera House and Harbour Bridge with a cruise liner

Next morning we did a tour of Sydney city….

Our first halt was at The Opera House...the iconic landmark of Sydney which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a multi venue performing arts centre located alongside the Sydney harbour. This gracefully designed building shaped like shells or billowing sails is widely regarded as one of the most distinctive buildings in the world…..a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. Formally opened in 1973, it is one of the most visited sites in Australia.

Its exterior looks marvelous with the unique design. The interior is equally complex with theaters, studios, exhibition rooms, concert halls and a cinema. In fact there are guided tours to take one through the various sections of this unique structure.

Outside the building , all along the waterfront there are chairs laid out for people to relax and enjoy the views. Restaurants and beer parlors with canopies dot the outside.

Enough avenues for spending a day leisurely sipping your favorite drinks and watching the ships sail by…..

The Sydney Opera House…

Interior of the Opera House

From the Opera House, one can also see another iconic structure of Sydney…the Harbour Bridge across the waters.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Harbour Bridge was built in 1932 and is the world’s largest steel arch bridge. Supported by massive double piers at each end, it has been nicknamed the “Coathanger”.

Bridge Climb is an important activity here. There are guided tours that take you to the 135 meter high summit of this bridge from where there are great views of the harbour and the city. A museum helps one understand the history and details of its construction.

The Royal Botanical Garden was our next destination….it is a small walk from the Opera House. There are 30 hectares of themed gardens with towering trees, palm groves, orchids, ferns, herbs and oriental gardens. A rose garden and a glass house also form part of this garden. Particular attention has been paid to retain the native Australian trees.

This garden is also a popular wedding destination and we happened to see one such event.

The First Encounters garden is unique here. It tells the story of the Gadigal people, the land’s traditional custodians.

Some pictures….

The Glass House at the Garden

General views of the garden

A wedding decoration at the garden

At one end of the garden is the Domain , an area used for public performances and events. Located here is Mrs Macquaire’s chair…an exposed sandstone rock cut in the shape of a bench .This rock was carved by convicts for Elizabeth Macquaire, the wife of the Governor. It is now called Macquiare’s Point.

This point is a popular photo destination as you can get good pictures of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Mrs Macquiare’s Chair

The Opera House and Bridge from Macquiare’s point

The Finger wharf at Woolloomoolloo

This is a heritage site which was originally a wharf and passenger terminal and now converted into a marina.It is the longest timbered piled wharf in the world. It was used as a wharf primarily for wool export.

Now converted into a marina, there were plenty of high end yachts anchored there. The interior of the old terminal is now converted into a boutique hotel and has restaurants and other public utilities.

The Finger wharf at Woolloomoollo

Kings Cross

Purported to be the red light district of Sydney, this area is dotted by hep bars, night clubs and restaurants. The famous Coca Cola bill board is a land mark here…claimed to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere!!

Sydney Tower

The tallest building in Sydney, this tower is 309 metres high. Located in the busy Central Business district, it is a popular destination for tourists. One can zoom up to the top in express lifts to the observation deck and a glass floor sky walk here . A revolving restaurant adds to its popularity.

The Sydney Tower

The Chinese Garden of Friendship

Popularly called Chinese garden, this garden is modeled like the gardens of the Ming Dynasty and offers an insight into Chinese traditions and culture.

Bonsai at the Chinese Garden

The Beaches:

There are multiple beaches in the city, ranging in size from a few metres to several kilometres, located along the city’s Pacific Ocean coastline and its harbours, bays and rivers. The Pacific Ocean delivers non-stop surf and surfing is a famous activity in most of these beaches. Manly, Bondi and Coogee are some of the more popular beaches.

Bondi Beach

The sweeping white-sand crescent of Bondi is one of Australia’s most iconic beaches. . We visited Bondi Beach with our local friends who also took us around some of the other popular beaches. Coogee and Manly were some of the other beaches we visited.

Bondi is a famous destination for surfing

Some pictures from Bondi Beach..

Bondi Beach

Another landmark we visited was The Sydney Cricket Ground. It is a sports stadium used for cricket and other sports. Some pictures….

The Sydney Cricket Ground

After a nice roundup of the city, we had a sumptuous dinner at an Indian Restaurant in Sydney before heading back to our hotel

Nice memories of Sydney….

Next day we had a trip booked to the Blue Mountains near Sydney….

See you next week at the Blue Mountains…

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