In October 2016, we visited Melbourne for the first time using Sophia's school break. Melbourne is a very diverse city with immigrants from all over the world, specifically it is called the third largest greek city outside Greece by number of citizens of Greek decent—47% of all Greek Australians live in Melbourne—and the third largest city outside Italy—according to Wikipedia “over two-thirds of people in Melbourne speak only English at home (68.8%). Italian is the second most common home language (4.0%).”. We took advantage of this diversity and had each night different ethnic food, such as Greek and Japanese.
After flying two hours from Sydney to Melbourne, we spent the first day in the Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium. Highlight was a Glass Bottom Boat Tour above the 2.2 million litre Oceanarium to get closer look at a giant Queensland grouper (800kg) and a huge Grey Nurse Shark. The guide, called “Skipper” on this 20 metres “sea” journey, revealed many details of how the aquarium works behind the scenes.
We explored the tunnels that allow you to venture under the water tanks.
The penguins were fascinating to watch.
We were impressed how much you can see through the thick plexiglass walls.
On Thursday, we used the free tram to explore the second largest city in Australia with its Queen Victoria Market and Victorian architecture, often referred to as "cultural capital” of Australia. Melbourne is located on the large natural bay of Port Phillip which means that it has a huge inland body of water next to the city, but as many people from Sydney point out, no ocean beaches. According to Wikipedia "Melbourne rates highly in education, entertainment, health care, research and development, tourism and sport, making it the world's most liveable city—for the sixth year in a row in 2016, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. It is a leading financial centre in the Asia-Pacific region, and ranks among the top 30 cities in the world in the Global Financial Centres Index.
On Friday, we ventured out of Melbourne visiting the town of Gembrook via a historical train ride, a narrow gauge heritage railway operated by steam engines, from Belgrave to Gembrook, called the Puffing Billy. We were allowed to ride by sitting on the ledge of the open-sided carriages.
Here a time lapse video of our ride:
On Saturday, we visited Captain Cook's Cottage located in the Fitzroy Gardens. The cottage was constructed in 1755 in the English village of Great Ayton in England by the parents of Captain James Cook. Then, in the 1930ies it was moved to Melbourne and is now a historical site and museum—deconstructed brick by brick and packed into 253 cases and 40 barrels for shipping. In addition to the actual building, one can walk a vegetable yard that mimics what English countrymen were growing in their yard in England at the time.
On Sunday, we visited the Old Melbourne Gaol and the old City Police Watch House next to it. the gaol was first constructed in 1839 operating as a prison between 1842 and 1929. It held and executed some of Australia's most notorious criminals, including bushranger Ned Kelly. Wikipedia states that "Prisoners convicted of serious crime, such as murder, arson, burglary, rape and shooting, would begin their time on the ground floor with a time of solitary confinement. They were also forbidden from communicating with other prisoners, which was strictly enforced by the usage of a silence mask, or calico hood, when outside their cells. They would only be given a single hour of solitary exercise a day, with the remaining 23 hours spent in their cells. Inside the cells, prisoners would be able to lie on a thin mattress over the slate floors. They could only bathe and change clothes once a week, and attend the chapel on Sundays (with a Bible provided to promote good behaviour). Prisoners might only have been allowed to finally socialise with other prisoners towards the end of their sentences."
On Sunday night, we returned to Sydney in windy weather on a very bumpy flight.
More pictures here.
Gisela and I walked from East Lindfield to Echo Point Park via the 7.5 km Two Creeks Track that is managed by Ku-ring-gai Council and Garigal National Park. "Much of the western shoreline of Middle Harbour was declared a park in April 1892 and called 'Roseville Park' under the control of a board of trustees. Formal stone walking tracks, stone seats, stone bridges and sandstone steps were constructed in areas used by Aboriginal people for centuries. In 1917 during WW1, an Engineer Officers Training School was established and temporary bridges, walls and trenches were constructed. An inscription “C Coy Engineers” chiselled into rock near Moores Creek provides evidence of this. The gatehouse at the track entrance to Seven Little Australians Park was constructed in the 1920s by Council workmen. Additional track work was done in the late 1920s when the sewer was built and during the Great Depression by Government Unemployment Relief Scheme work gangs from 1932, when Eastern Arterial Road construction began." (Ku-ring-gai Walking Tracks)
The track passes under Eastern Arterial Road via the stormwater tunnel, which "may not be passable after rain” -- it was pretty dark while we walked there, but almost no water.
The track then is descending beside Gordon Creek to Middle Harbour and continuing along Middle Harbour to Roseville Bridge. Along the way, we saw post-war cobbled tracks and stonework and Coachwood forests. The Roseville Park was often likened to the Blue Mountains.
Some of the gumtree roots wrap around rock formations in an amazing way.
I used my GoPro capturing us walking on the tracks and let my drone fly obtaining impressive aerial views.
More pictures here.
In April 2018, we embarked on a short vacation to Wamberal, NSW Central Coast. We made walks at the nearby Wamberal Lagoon Nature Reserve and enjoyed the porch overlooking the ocean. The Wamberal Lagoon is an intermittently closed intermediate saline coastal lagoon. We took some relaxing walks on the near-empty beach.
We also visited the nearby Terrigal with its prominent landmark, The Skillion, a steep cliff facing the ocean rising to a convenient lookout area that is easily accessed by a flat grassy area leading up from the reserve.
On several occasions, I flew my drone for an aerial view of the region.
One highlight of the stay was the arrival of the Lyrids—a comet shower that peaked on April 22 and could be observed from Australia. "The Lyrids hold the record for the shower with the longest recorded history, having been observed since at least 687BC. That longevity is linked to the orbit of the Lyrid’s parent comet, discovered in 1861 by A. E. Thatcher. Comet Thatcher moves on a highly inclined, eccentric orbit, swinging through the inner Solar system every 415 years or so. Its most recent approach to Earth was in 1861.
Compared with many other comets, Thatcher’s orbit is relatively stable, as the only planet with which it can experience close encounters is Earth. This means the meteors it sheds continue to follow roughly the same orbit. Over the millennia, that shed debris has spread all around the comet’s vast orbit, meaning that for thousands of years, every time Earth intersects Comet Thatcher’s orbit, the Lyrids have been seen, as regular as clockwork. One study of the orbits of Lyrid meteors even suggests the shower may have been active for at least a million years."
As the comets can be best seen an hour before sunrise, I got up early as usual and spent time on the common-space roof of the apartment building in which we stayed trying to capture the comets—I was only once lucky.
While waiting for the comet shower, I took some pictures of the stunning landscape in the early morning hours.
I also had a chance to fly my drone (DJI MavicPro) for the first time at night with two Lume Cubes attached. Here a short video from this flight taken from the drone and from a GoPro Hero 6.
More photos here.