Monday, September 04, 2006


We are deeply saddened by the death of Steve Irwin today. Having visited his zoo on our Australia trip, and seeing the wonderful work he has done, we are truly shocked. Our heart goes out to his family, and the rest of the amazing staff at the Australia Zoo.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Brisbane - Day 7

Today we left for the airport at 6am. Our dream trip was finally at an end. We have had an amazing time. We couldn't have had a better vacation. All of our planning actually paid off. After a 12 hour flight, we arrived in LA, then caught our connecting flight to San Francisco. We arrived back at our house 1:30pm, and promptly fell asleep until 5pm.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Brisbane Day 6 - Tiger Walk, Lone Pine Sanctuary

Today was our last day in Australia. I guess we were trying to save the best until last. We had booked a 1 hour walk with a tiger at Dreamworld, Coomera. I was a little nervous about being so close to an animal that could rip me apart in seconds, but I figured I didn't have much meat on my bones, so I'd probably be OK.
We arrived at 7:30 in the morning, and were greeted by the photographer, who walked us over to the tiger exhibit. We were promptly meeted by our guide, and then the handlers who brought out Mohan, a white Bengal tiger. Mohan, was 12 years old, and we had previously seen him on an Animal Planet documentary about his 4 cubs, Rama, Sita, Sultan and Taj.
We began our walk, and were immediately led behind, and allowed to pet his back. The only rule was not to go anywhere near the front end, which we were glad to follow.


During the walk, Mohan would climb and lick the moss off the various trees.


He would also, scratch his claws as high up in the tree as possible. This was used as a sign to other tigers in the area of how big he was. Occasionally tigers would jump and then leave there marks, to try and trick other tigers.

He would also give the tree a little hug before leaving.

Apparently, the moss on the trees was a little like catnip, and made the tigers go a little loopy.

According to the handler, sometimes they would lick a tree that had been scent marked by another tiger, and this would be their reaction.

I guess tiger pee doesn't taste good.

As the walk progressed we got to pose with the tiger for some pictures.

When the walk came to an end, we walked by a place where the staff usually treat Mohan to some milk. Unfortunately, they were out of milk that morning, and Mohan wasn't very happy. He started to whine like a little kitty. He didn't want to go anywhere else without his milk.

On our way back to Brisbane, we stopped off at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a beautiful little place right on the Brisbane river.

We had the opportunity once again, to cuddle a koala.

And I managed to get some more great Koala shots.

Following our last sanctuary visit of our vacation, we continued on the the south bank once again, for lunch, and a little more shopping.

As we were walking around, we stumbled upon a beach that had been build up on the bank along the river. The weather was glorious, and many people were out there sunbathing and enjoying the water.

All along the park here at South Bank, was a walkway lined by curvy posts covered with flowers.

There was also a path which runs all along the bank of the river, overlooking the city.

Anna's Aussie Tidbits:

The banana saga continues. I guess bananas are hot commodities here. They go for about $10 (Australian) a kilo, which is about $3.50 a pound! We had dinner at the Belgium Beer Cafe and guess what was on the menu. Yep, banana beer! You know me, something this unique (at least to me), I got to try it. And you know what, it really tasted like banana.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Brisbane Day 5 - Australian Zoo

CRIKEY! Today we went to the Australian Zoo. Home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. When we told people we were going to Australia, the first they most people asked us was "Are you going to see the crocodile hunter?". Well, unfortunately, he wasn't at the zoo that day, he was up north doing some research. Bummer! But we still had a great time at the Zoo. By paying a little extra money, we were able to get some real hands on animal encounters, and had most of the day booked up.
Before our first encounter, we went to visit the otters, who were going about to have their daily feeding.

Looking for the keeper

Praying to the fish god.

Next we moved on to the barn yard for the animal feeding session.

Anna bottle feeding Bubba the piglet.

Then Suzi got her bottle.

Next up was our Tortoise encounter. We were planning on meeting with Harriet, their Galapagos tortoise, who born around 1830. She was collected from the Galapagos Islands by Sir Charles Darwin. (Yes, the evolution theory guy). Unfortunately, we did not realize that Harriet had passed away just a month earlier. We were extremely sad. However, we learned that she had enjoyed her retirement at the Australia Zoo, having been moved from the Brisbane Zoological Gardens, where she had been subject to graffiti artists, carving things into her shell :(
Instead, we got to meet two of their other tortoise, Igloo and Goliath, who were in their mid 20's.

We followed this with a visit to the Echidna, a small spiky marsupial. We sat down in her enclosure, and fed her a mush of meat, worm, and a few other bugs. She had a 17cm long sticky tongue, which was used to lap up the food. It also tickled when she licked between our fingers.

Next up, the Possum. We had already seen a million of them on our trip, but never got this close to one before. Her name was Hope, and she was a real sweetheart. She was missing a finger on one of her paws. They tried releasing her back into the wild, but she came right back. She was too used to being around humans.

Anna's favorite, the wombat, was our next encounter. One of the wombats actually had a baby in her pouch. Most of the time it had its foot sticking out of the pouch, but at one point it turned around and stuck its snout out. It also stuck its butt out at one point to do a pee.

Our last encounter was with the Dingos. They were very calm and friendly, and loved kisses.

On our way back from the Dingos we saw how the wombats get transported around the park.

As we were heading towards the exit, we passed by the koala exhibit one more time. The sun was setting, and they were becoming more and more active. We actually saw a joey, on its moms back, and then it hopped off on its own for a little adventure.

After the zoo, we headed back to Brisbane. We had a dinner reservation at Urbane Restaurant. This was to be our first 'expensive' meal of the trip. The meal was phenomenal. The owner/chef of the restaurant worked before at the French Laundry, in Napa, and Per Se, in NY both owned by renowned chef Thomas Keller. The entire meal was based on a tasting menu, where the dishes were small but satisfying. It was designed as a 6 course meal (1 starter, 1 pasta course, 1 fish course, 1 meat/poultry course, 1 cheese course and 1 dessert). Before we even ordered, our canape came to the table. I had carrot foam and Anna got mandarin jelly with olive crumbs and chives. I started with Wagyu Beef cheeks, slowly braised, which melted in the mouth. Anna had the Queensland Scallops. For our pasta course Anna had Gnocchi, which was as light as clouds and vanished when placed in the mouth. I had Mac & Cheese, with tasted divine.

Instead of having 2 meat dished we opted for 1 meat dish and 3 fish dished. The 3 fish dishes were New Zealand Cod, Himalayan Rock Salted Hervey Bay Tiger Prawns and Squire Butter Pot Roasted Bouillabaisse. As someone who normally doesn't enjoy fish, I ate every single bit. For our meat course we had Free range Poularde with black truffle jam. In between the courses here, we also got a palate cleanser. Frozen Greek yogurt with cucumber for me and green apple granita with balsamic glaze for Anna.

We decided to skip the cheese course, and instead opted for 3 different desserts.The first was cookies and cream, a white milk chocolate mousse, with short crust coco cookie, and local strawberry juice. Next was A New Orleans Beignet, with a thick caramel shake. Our meal ended with a candy plate, featuring a sour strawberry rollup, vahlrona chocolate coated macadamia nuts, chambord gelee, chewy french cherries, toasted marshmallow and apricot, and cotton candy.

This was the best meal of our trip. One of our best meals ever.

Anna's Aussie Tidbits:

Rest in Peace Harriet.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Brisbane Day 4 - Markets

We decided once again that we needed a day of rest from the animal sanctuaries, and had to do some shopping for tourist crap...erm, nice lovely gifts for our friends. The local markets sounded like a sure thing. There were 2 large ones, one on the South Bank, and the other at Eagle Street Pier. We picked up our rental car for the rest of the week, then drove across the river to the south bank market. Knowing that we were going to be doing a lot of walking today, we grabbed some breakfast at The Point restaurant. The food was great, I had cocotte, a baked egg dish, and Anna had a risotto cake. However, the service was lousy. This was mostly due to under-staffing. Lauren, our main server, was very good. She was running around all over the place, mostly due to the fact that Belinda, the other waitress, was slower than a koala high on eucalyptus.

Having filled our tummies, we hit the market. We found a great wine stall where they made fruit wines. Instead of adding fruit juice to wine, the wine is actually fermented from different fruits. Anna picked up a bottle of garlic wine. It was a little too weird for my liking, but Anna thought it was good. One of the stalls was run by an aborigine, Murruppi (Daniel Murphy), who was from the Djirribal language area. Both his parents were removed from their homeland at a young age, and put on reserves in the early 1900's. His stall was selling original aboriginal art work, including canvas, boomerangs, and didgeridoos. We picked up a couple of items, and then headed off to the Eagle St Pier market.

This market was a little larger than the first one, running along the Brisbane river banks, but we didn't find many gifts. We purchased some hand made art for a couple of friends.

Our day ended back at the apartment and cooked dinner. Honey soy chicken, with boiled potatos and Asian noodle. We then settled down in front of the TV to watch Australian Idol, again.

Anna's Aussie Tidbits:

I saw the biggest toilet flush button at a shopping center today. It's so big I thought it was the opening of the sanitary bin. (It's about a foot by half a foot) I only realized it was the flush button when I couldn't find one.

Chocolate filled bananas? Yep, someone here has a device to hollow out the middle of bananas and filled them with various items such as chocolate, whipped cream and hazelnut spread.

Kangaroo scrotums?? Yep, they sell them. They make them into all kinds of things, from Beer Bottle opener to golf ball carrier to coin purses.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Brisbane Day 3 - Tangalooma

Our second day on at Tangalooma began with a Pelican feeding at 8:30 in the morning. Everyday, people congregate at the beach to feed the pelicans. Usually 3 or 4 of them will come in each morning for their treat. A staff member, with microphone, provided us with detailed information about the pelicans.

Immediately after this, we boarded a boat for a 3 hour eco-cruise.

The main attraction on this cruise was the potential for viewing the elusive Dugong.

Photograph by OSF/D. Fleetham/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes

Allegedly, there were a herd of around 600 of them in the Moreton Bay area, so our hopes we high. Although, the tour guide warned they were lucky to see 1 or 2 on a normal outing. The cruise itself was a very smooth ride, and the weather was beautiful. The clear waters made it easier for spotting creatures of the deep. Our first encounter was with a pod of dolphins, which swam along side the boat.

The bay is also full of sea turtles, however we were told not to expect any sightings, as they can stay under the waters for hours at a time. Well, it must have been our lucky day. We experienced about 15 minutes where turtles would surface every minute or two, to bask in the sunshine. Our guide said it was the most she had ever seen at once, and was very surprised.

There was also an abundance of bird life over the waters.

Unfortunately, after hours of searching we were unable to find any Dugongs. They even have one, named Fatty, that normally hangs around close to the resort, but even he was in hiding today. The captain offered to take us out on a tour again for free the following day, however we were checking out this evening, so didn't get another chance to search for the Dugong.

After grabbing a quick lunch back on shore, we headed over the the quad bikes for a 1 hour spin around the island.

This turned out to be a total disaster. About half way through the tour, they seperated the group, sending me in one direction and Anna in a another. My group went on a slightly more advanced trail. I spent the whole time looking behind me, wondering where Anna was. When we joined back up with the group, it appeared that Anna was stuck with the 'novice' group. Basically she sat on the hill for 20 minutes, while the family in her group took photographs. As you can imagine, Anna was a little upset. We went back to the tour desk after the ride, where they promptly refunded our money, rather than feel the wrath of Anna.

After this, we boarded the ferry back to Brisbane, for the final few days of our trip.

Macarthur Chambers - Downtown Brisbane

For the last few days we are staying at the Macarthur Chambers, which is in the heart of downtown Brisbane, next to Queen St Mall, the main shopping district. Anna definately made a great choice with this apartment. The rooms were beautiful. Ours was a 1 bedroom apartment, which had 2 bathrooms and a study. The first picture shows the living room and kitchen (loaded with modern appliances).

There was also a large balcony outside, which was accesible from the dining room and bedroom.

Connecting the bedroom was the main bathroom with spa tub :)

All of the apartments here are privately owned, and rented out to tourist whenever not occupied. There was a 2 bedroom apartment up for auction while we were there, expected to sell for between 450 and 600,000 US dollars.

Anna's Aussie Tidbits:

I discovered mudbugs at dinner today. What's a mudbug? Well, it looks like a lobster without its head. Just a lobster tail like body with a small, flat head attached. It taste a bite like crayfish but the texture is very tender and flaky, like fish.