Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Their Way

Sarah and Hannah are on their way to Australia!  We are meeting them in Sydney tomorrow afternoon.  It's going to be great to be in Sydney for New Year's Eve.  We are going to sightsee in Sydney until Monday and then fly up to Cairns to hang out on the beach until Friday.  We are flying to Launceston Friday and driving to Hobart Saturday so I can run in a half-marathon on Sunday.  We should be able to blog from Sydney, but probably not from Cairns. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I met a new friend for coffee today.  She is the wife of one of the registrars (residents) at the hospital.  Ben and I went out to dinner with them a couple of weeks ago.  I had noticed there were tons of hydrangeas out in Prince's Square, a park near where we had coffee, so we went over there afterwards to take some pictures.  Hydrangeas are probably my favorite flower.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Dinner

Ben got home a little early from work last night (around 5:15) and lit the grill.  While we waited for the coals to heat up we started with some appetizers.
We had prawns with a dip made of tomato sauce, mayo, and sweet chili sauce, fried olives stuffed with feta, and crackers with a store bought sundried tomato, cashew, and parmesan dip.  While Ben grilled the steaks I worked on the side dishes.

Don't worry mom, that is sauce on the plate, not blood from the meat.:)  She's a vegetarian.

The beef was delicious!  It was King Island beef.  King Island is an island between Victoria and Tasmania.  We were very impressed  with the quality of the meat.  The sauce I made was a pomegranate-pinot noir sauce.  Honestly, I think the beef didn't need any kind of sauce.  We also had garlic chili broccolini, parmesan potatoes, and homemade cheese bread.  We opened the last of our gifts and had dessert.
We had pavlova.  It is a popular dessert in Australia.  I wanted to make it from scratch, but we don't have a mixer and you need it for the recipe.  It is cake-like, lightly crisp on the outside, and moist on the inside.  I topped the store bought pavlova with whipped double cream, lemon butter, mixed berries, and icing sugar.  What a fun and delicious Christmas meal. 

Now it is time to get ready for Sarah and Hannah's arrival in Australia!  I will be cleaning, running errands, and packing this week while Ben works and we leave Friday to meet the girls in Sydney for New Year's Eve! 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

My mom sent our stockings from home.  I've had mine since I was born!
Hope you all are enjoying your Christmas Eve and Christmas.  Ben and I opened a few gifts last night and some more this morning before he went to work and will open more tonight after our Christmas dinner.  Our families were so good to us and sent lots of gifts!  My mom and Wayne got their gifts in the mail today.  I was so relieved.  It doesn't really feel like Christmas with the weather being so warm, Ben at work, and we're not with our families but I know we are going to have a great dinner tonight.  Stay tuned for a post with pictures of our fancy meal. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Flurry of Fairy Wrens

The weather was glorious here yesterday so Ben and I went for a walk on one of my new favorite running paths.  It is called the North Esk River trail.

We must have seen at least twenty of our favorite little bird, the Superb Fairy Wren.
We even saw some fairy wren babies.

It's Christmas Eve!  I'm going for a run soon and to pick up some last minute groceries for our big Christmas dinner tomorrow.  Ben is working today and tomorrow but only until 6 so we can celebrate in the evening.  My mom and Wayne's gifts haven't gotten to them yet and I am quite sad about that.  I'm hoping they will get there tomorrow.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Day, Another Hike

We drove about an hour yesterday to tackle the Meander Falls walk.  Luckily we had new hiking shoes because this was quite the walk.
We didn't bring our hiking shoes with us from the States because we didn't realize how much hiking we would be doing here.  We finally broke down and bought new ones a couple of days ago.  It made a big difference on the hike.  We actually didn't end up completing the whole walk.  Two and a half hours in we were exhausted and realized we better turn around before it got dark. 

Check out that elevation gain! My watch died on the way back so the hike was actually around 5 miles and took 5 hours-phew! 
We ate lunch on this bridge.

We may have to do this hike again sometime and complete the whole thing.  Ben found online what the falls look like at the end of the hike and they are gorgeous! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Laughing Kookaburra

We wandered through Carr Villa park in nearby Kings Meadows a couple of days ago.  We found a laughing kookaburra and heard him laughing in the woods.  It's a haunting laughter, listen here:

Click to go to music file

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Multiple Marsupials at Narawntapu

On Sunday afternoon, we picked up some Subway sandwiches and headed to Narawntapu National Park, about an hour from Launceston.

This park is known for its prolific wildlife and we experienced this right away.  We were barely out of the car when we spotted this wombat nearby.

Shortly after, we spotted another wombat, some pademelons, and some wallabies.  We followed a couple of the walks and wildlife continued to pop up.  We saw many wallabies and pademelons, and eventually lost count of the wombats!

We also saw a pademelon joey jump into mum's pouch and this cute wombat joey.  They noticed us and ran for cover!

We came home after dark and were rewarded with a couple of nocturnal animals!  We saw a Brushtail Possum and we think we saw an Eastern Barred Bandicoot (not convinced enough to add it to the list!).  A great day of wildlife watching!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cradle Mountain Slideshow


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wombat Pool and Marion's Lookout

Our last walk in Cradle Mountain National Park was around Lake Lilla to Wombat Pool and up to Marion's Lookout.

The hike starts gently before gradually climbing.  The descent from Marion's Lookout was a challenge, especially after the Monster Hike the day before.  At several points, there are fixed chains for aiding the descent.

Cradle Mountain

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Lists

We've added two new lists to the right sidebar.  Below the list of birds we've added "Plants" and "Waterfalls."

Hat tip to Beckie for the idea of a list of waterfalls!

Another Interesting Australian Tree

I guess Ben and I were biology majors for a reason because we have really been enjoying learning about and indentifying the flora and fauna while here in Australia.  Another new tree we saw while in Cradle Mountain was the fagus, also called the deciduous beech.
The fagus is the only winter-deciduous tree in Australia meaning it loses it's leaves seasonally and in April the leaves change color to red and gold like what we are used to in the fall in Michigan.  The fagus is found nowhere else in the world except Tasmania.  Trees live for about 250 years and the oldest known tree is 350 years old.  The fagus needs 1800 mm (71 inches) of rain each year.

Another interesting plant we saw a lot of at Cradle Mountain was buttongrass.

Buttongrass grows in some of the most nutrient poor areas in the world and is very adapted to fire.  It grows where it is very wet, with poor drainage, and on nutrient poor rock.  In Tasmania, buttongrass occupies one-seventh of the island.  The flowers on the buttongrass are round like buttons, hence the name.

On another subject, I sent all the Christmas gifts for our families today.  It was so fun picking gifts out for them, but very weird to be Christmas shopping in 70 degree weather.  We, of course, have no Christmas decorations here so I bought a few decorations for our place.  I miss our nativity set from home though.  We went to the Department of Emergency Medicine Christmas party for Ben's work on Saturday.  It was fun to meet some of Ben's colleagues and some of the nurses put on a really funny Christmas skit.  Hope you are all enjoying getting ready for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Monster Hike

We woke up last Friday to more rain on Cradle Mountain.  We had exhausted the limited indoor activities, and decided to hike in the rain.

We parked at Lake Dove and started clockwise around the lake, check out the map.  It was mostly flat on a boardwalk through highland rainforest.  Since Cradle Mountain is very popular, this walk was a little crowded.  About halfway into the circuit, we decided we needed more seclusion and a bigger challenge.  We took a smaller trail and climbed to Lake Wilks on the Face Track.

This is a secluded glacial lake with waterfalls pouring into it off of Cradle Mountain.  (With the extra rain, we counted 8 waterfalls running off the mountain)

We continued on, across the face of Little Horn, one of Cradle Mountain's peaks.  This section had some very challenging climbs and descents.

The trail down from the Face Track and then the ascent to Hansons Peak.
Eventually, we climbed a ridge to Hansons Peak.  On one side, the peak sloped down to Lake Dove, and on the other down to the Twisted Lakes.

From Hansons Peak, we gradually descended back to the carpark.  Unfortunately, Leigh's GPS watch died in the middle of the walk.  However, we know we climbed at least 1000 feet on this monster five-hour hike.

Our route around Lake Dove and the Face Track.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's that, a wombat?

Our first night at the lodge on the way to dinner after a short hike we saw our first wombat!  I had been very excited about seeing a wombat and was not disappointed.
I wanted a picture with our new furry friend and soon after Ben took the picture he scurried away over the boardwalk.

Wombats are marsupials and have a backwards pouch.  They dig extensive burrows and the backwards pouch keeps them from tossing dirt on their young while they dig.  They weigh between 44 and 77 pounds and are herbivores.  They tend to move slowly but when threatened can move up to 25 mph and keep that speed for 90 seconds.  We saw two more wombats Saturday night.  I bought a wombat keychain at the visitor center store to commemorate finally getting to see one.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rainy Day Walks

When we woke up Thursday morning it was raining-a lot, and it didn't stop until mid afternoon Friday.  We made the best of it and headed to the visitor center.  We looked at the maps of the various walks we could do around the park and drove to Dove Lake where we would be hiking Friday and Saturday.  On the way back out of the park we stopped at Waldheim.  Gustav Weindorfer, an Austrian who moved to Australia, built a guest cottage in 1912 for visitors to the Cradle Mountain area.  He was a strong supporter of the area becoming a National Park.  The original guest cottage is no longer there but there is a replica cottage.  We took a look around and went on a short hike that started at the cottage.  It was a gorgeous walk and everything was covered in moss.  It looked like a scene out of a movie.  We also stopped at the ranger station and did the Vistor Center Rainforest Walk.  We saw Pencil Pine Falls on this walk.

We were ready to get out of the rain at this point so we went to the Cradle Mountain Chateau Wilderness Gallery.  There were several galleries of photographs either by Australian photographers or of Australian places.  Afterwards we had a great lunch at the Quoll Restaurant nearby.  We went on one more short walk to Pencil Pine and Knyvet Falls.

Look at this poor wet pademelon we saw at the beginning of the walk with his spiky fur.

I also wanted to tell you about the place we stayed, Cradle Mountain Lodge.  The accommodations were cabins spread throughout the grounds.  Ours was quite large with a small kitchen area, a balcony, and a wood burning fire place with two arm chairs in front of it.  The weather was a little warm for a fire but it felt good to come back and get warm after being out in the rain and Ben built us some good fires.  The grounds were great for walking around and we would walk to the lodge out front for our meals.  A breakfast buffet was included in the room rate and we ate dinner twice at the tavern and once at the Highland Restaurant which was a little pricey but the food was delicious and it was a fine dining experience.  There were all sorts of guided hikes, a wildlife spotting night tour, and a canoe trip for an extra cost.  We didn't participate in any of them but it was nice that it was offered. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Plants

On our walks around Cradle Mountain, we learned about several different plants native to the area.

The first is the Waratah, a large flowering shrub.  It has unusual flowers, about the size of a fist.

Another fascinating tree is the King Billy Pine.  Thought to be named after a Tasmanian Aborigine, William Lanney, it grows in highland rainforest.  It can grow to over 130 feet, and can be 1200 years old.

The Pencil Pine is a close relative to the King Billy Pine even though neither tree is actually a pine.  It can also reach ages greater than 1200 years and grows in sub-alpine, highland areas.

Lastly, the Pandani is another highland rainforest tree that looks like a palm.  It can grow to more than 30 feet in height.  All of these plants require a great deal of water and are very tolerant of frost and snow.