Best and Worst

Tours 2-4

Best Journey by Bus

Mountains:  Sapporo to Furano, Japan
Coast:  Great Ocean Road, Australia
Tour:  Western Australia

Mountains:  Sapporo to Furano, Japan

This bus ride was during the ski trip Kumiko and I made to Furano.  We flew into Sapporo, then boarded a bus for a magnificent two-hour drive through the snow-covered mountains of Hokkaido.

Coast:  Great Ocean Road, Australia

This was a two-day trip from Melbourne, west along the coast as far as the Twelve Apostles and London Bridge, and returning by an inland route.  There were many interesting stops along the way, to see Koalas, Kangeroos, and spectacular cliffs with sheer drops to the sea below.  Here are but a few of the many photos I took along the way...

Twelve Apostles

London Bridge

There's an interesting story about London Bridge...  Originally, it was a contiguous land-bridge with two arches, hence it's name due to it's resemblance to the famous bridge in London.  Back then visitors were allowed to walk out to the end of the peninsula.  Then one day in January of 1991, an Australian couple had done just that and, while standing there enjoying the magnificent view of the ocean, the archway behind them collapsed, leaving them stranded.

The authorities were summoned and a rescue operation was initiated.  It took nearly three hours for the proper equipment to be brought to the site – specifically, a helicopter to air-lift them to safety – during which a rather large crowd had gathered, complete with news reporters and cameras.  When the couple had been brought safely back to the mainland, they turned out to be somewhat camera-shy.  Later, the reason they didn't want to appear on TV or in papers became all too apparent: it seems that the two were married... but not to each other.

Tour:  Western Australia

This was a jump-on / jump-off tour – which means that you could jump off the bus at any stop and stay as long as you wished, then jump on another bus coming along on a later day.  Doing so, I stretched a three-day tour into six days.  Along the way, I met a lot of friendly, fun-loving backpackers.  And, as luck would have it, two rather attractive girls (sisters, actually) from Switzerland jumped off and on at the same places I did (just coincidence, you understand) – so I got to travel with them for the entire trip. :-)

Our first stop after leaving Perth – well the first stop after our breakfast stop at a bakery – was the Dolphin Discovery Center in Bunbury.  If the visit is timed properly, it is possible to swim with the dolphins as they come in close to shore to be fed by employees of the Center.  On this day, however, our timing was off – the dolphins had visited earlier that morning.  Oh well, maybe another time.

For lunch we stopped at another bakery for meat pies, sandwiches, and some yummy pastries for dessert.  Then it was off to explore Ngilgi Cave...

Then we stopped for the night in the township of Margaret River, where four of us decided to do the Bush Tucker Tour the following day.  Now, for those of you who don't speak "Austrayin", "tucker" is another word for "food" – so, as you might expect, "bush tucker" is food found in the bush (in the wild).

The tour began with a canoe trip up the Margaret River.  We stopped off to sample the tucker our guide had brought along (no we didn't have to actually search for our food in the bush).  As you can see in the photo below, in addition to several nuts, berries, and assorted greens (and browns!), we also had smoked emu (so-so), smoked kangaroo (quite good), and grubworm pat´┐Ż (very tasty – I went back for seconds) all perched on a thick slice of homemade bread.

Then we hiked up into the hills away from the river to explore a cave.  Once inside, our guide got us all seated in one of the smaller chambers near the back of the cave and proceeded to tell us a rather scary true story about four French teenage boys who were stranded in the cave a few years earlier.

It was a long story, but the short version is that they found the cave before it had been opened to the public and decided to explore it, which they did armed only with a case of beer and one torch (flashlight).  It was when they reached the same small chamber where we were sitting quietly, listening intently to the story, that the batteries in their torch gave out, and they suddenly found themselves plunged into total darkness.

When our guide reached that point in the story, he switched off his torch so we could all get a sense of what the four teenagers had experienced.  I must say it was quite an eerie feeling to be sitting there in pitch blackness listening to the voice of our guide as he continued the story.

The boys tried in vain to find their way out, and, after an unknown period of time, finally gave up and simply huddled together against the chill of the cave, probably just waiting for death to come, slowly but inevitably.  They hadn't told anyone where they were going, so they had not yet been missed.  It was only when the manager of the hostel where they were staying started inquiring about them because they needed to pay for more days in their dorm, that it became apparent something was indeed wrong.

They had entered the cave on Sunday – they were finally found on Friday – all were very near death.  As the story ended and we all flipped the switches on our torches, we breated a collective sigh of relief as the cave was filled once again with light.

Back in the canoes, our guide instigated a race back to our starting point – the winning boat would receive a bottle of wine from one of the local vineyards.  My three companions and I proved to be a force to be reckoned with – taking the lead from the start and never relinquishing it for the duration of the race – as evidenced by this happy photo...

The following day was a busy one.  We started with a breakfast stop at, you guessed it... a bakery.  Then at the southwest "corner" of the continent, we saw where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.

I was underwhelmed – but it was a good excuse to take a photo of the two Swiss girls.  Anyway, then it was on to climb Bicentennial Tree – a 72-meter (236 ft.) monster.  My guidebook said that only one out of four visitors actually make it all the way to the top.  More than half of our group did – and I stood on the protective rails in the tree-house at the top and stuck my head up through the roof for an even better view of the surrounding forest – so I got higher than anyone.

Because of the diminishing perspective of the photo at right, it's difficult to get a good idea of just how tall it is – but, if you look closely, you can see a few members of our group at the base of the tree.  And the tree house at the top, seen as a dark spot in the leaves and branches, is about two meters square.

Next stop: a beautiful river – the name of which I can't recall now – for lunch and a refreshing swim...

Then it was off for more fun in the treetops – this one appropriately named Treetop Walk...

This photo shows the entire group – minus our guide who is, like, you know... taking the photo.  Our final stop of the day was to see another of the many interesting rock formations carved out by the sea.  This natural bridge may not seem so impressive until you notice that there's a member of our group standing on it (under the red arrow).

We ended the day in Albany, though by then, the weather had turned decidedly chilly, so we all stayed inside where it was cozy and warm.  Finally, we all posed for another group photo – taken close enough that you can actually see us this time...

The trip back to Perth was uneventful, with few stops along the way (other than the obligatory stops at every bakery we saw).  All-in-all, it was a fine trip.