Since I was a boy of perhaps seven or eight years old, I had hoped to travel to Australia one day. As the years passed and I entered adulthood my ambitious to travel to Australia remained as strong as ever. It seems a coincidence to me therefore that I watched the film Boyhood (which is filmed over eleven years of the lead character's life as this is half the length of time that I wanted to go to Australia) on the flight from Singapore to Melbourne. My own childhood dreams were becoming a reality.
In Melbourne, I explored the main sites by taking both a free walking tour of the the city and a separate tram tour of the city centre. Sights included the jail where Ned Kelly was Incarcerated and executed, the Victoria State Library and the numerous coffee shops where Melbournians and tourists alike frequently visit. A day trip along the Great Ocean Road was a great experience. The highlight of this excursion was viewing the iconic Twelve Apostles which are colossal pieces of vertical rock which rise above the sea. The following morning, I was invited to attend lunch at my second cousin's, Dr Pauline Lee Harris, suburban home. Pauline is an Organisational Psychologist who had already paid for my hostel in Melbourne and laid on a lavish luxurious lunch for me. It was a delightful afternoon that we shared with her husband, James, and daughters, Eirinn and Ashling, neither of whom I had met previously.
Another family reunion led me to Tasmania. My first cousin, Sheila Oakley, generously paid for my flights to and from Launceston as well as accommodating and feeding me for three nights. I stayed at the house she shares with her husband Cameron and daughter Michaela. Together we explored Tasmania Zoo where I saw, fed and importantly got a selfie with a kangaroo! Cataract Gorge provided a refreshing swim in Artic like waters but celebrating St Patrick's Day in the local Irish bar raised my temperature considerably.
Sydney created a wonderful impression on me during my four night stay. Circular Quay with the Sydney Harbour Bridge spanning the beautiful harbour, and the awe inspiring Sydney Opera House is one of my favourite places in the world. To explore the iconic Opera House, I opted to take a guided tour of its interior. I learned countless pieces of trivia including the fact that the building of the Danish Architect Jaron Utzon's design took fourteen years to complete. Numerous world renowned actors have performed there, including Cate Blanchett and her fellow country woman Nicole Kidman who sold programmes to theatre goers whilst in high school and a tennis player who had his wedding reception here.
Sydney to Cairns (the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef) takes a whopping 3,150 kilometres and many travelers today prefer to purchase a Greyhound Bus Pass at €260 and stop wherever takes their fancy enroute. I joined the scores of backpackers on this rite of passage for many Australian bound backpackers.
Amongst the most memorable places I visited was Brisbane on the Gold Coast where I met up with my friend Kai. We first met when I was completing my Erasmus Year (a period of studying abroad in a European University) at Haskoli Islands University in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2008. As a boy, I was fascinated by the Koala Bear and at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary I managed to hold these surprisingly heavy creatures whilst posing for photographs!
Fraser Island is best explored via a 4 X 4 jeep over a three day and two night camping adventure. Once there, one finds countless picturesque landscapes including enormous stretches of white sand (where you might see a dingo) and beautiful freshwater lakes were the water is crystal clear.
After all the relaxation, I needed a fix because you see I am secretly a junkie......an adrenalin junkie! In Mission Beach, Cairns, I completed a skydive which involved me jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet and falling through the sky for one minute before the parachute opens! This is known as freefalling and in the four minutes that followed I experienced panoramic views of the countryside, coastline and rainforest. I subsequently went from the heights of the sky to the depths of the ocean as I scuba dived and snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef. Home to clown fish, stingrays and numerous varieties of plankton, I was blown away by the beauty of the seascape.
My memorable month in Australia had come to an end. In little over four weeks, I explored twelve places throughout the country and I have shared with you some of my favourites. As I boarded the plane from Australia to New Zealand, I knew a baker's dozen of adventures would have easily filled another month in the country fondly known as Oz. I also knew that many new experiences awaited me in New Zealand. I look forward to telling you about those escapades in chapter ten of Travelling with Lee.
by Lee Maguire
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