Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Februrary 2008 ...Down Under update

In Feb, we had the Chinese New Year holidays for Appa, and he had planned on a trip down under to Australia. Appa had this great idea of staying at a hotel in Parramatta, near Sydney. So after what seemed like forever, we managed to reach the hotel at Parramatta via Melbourne & Sydney. One of the first things on the agenda was visiting Featherdale Wildlife Park, where I saw wallabies, koala & kookaburra for the first time in my life. I can now put a face to a name, Kookaburra (The rhyme "Kookaburra sits on a tall gum tree... Merry merry king of the bush is he..." is something i have heard from birth and i always wondered what this dude was all about). And while we were still in the park it started pouring like there's no tomorrow. And i have to tell you this... there is a weird rule down under wherein even kids & babies like myself are supposed to be strapped into a car seat.

We then went to Ka-toom-ba (aboriginal for shining falling water). Brrr.. this place was cold... and not a soul in sight after 6 PM (although you may ask what was i doing up after 6 PM... but thats not the point). The place itself was very nice.. the coach driver was fun.. and took us to Echo point where we saw the "Three Sisters", a series of 3 rocks in formation. We also took the Scenic rides where we were suspended above the valley with a clear view of the Sisters and I had great fun walking back and forth over the glass floor that gave us a great view. At night, Appa gave me my first 'pool' lesson while Amma fixed up a quick dinner at the place we stayed.

We also went to the Jenolan caves... my first visit to a prehistoric cave (filled with limestone formations). Appa and Amma were saying that they remembered these formations from high-school geography class (stalactites & stalagmites). I got afraid at times since it was dark and Appa had to conjure up cars & lions & elephants in the cave shadows to keep me from disturbing everyone else on the tour with my screams. Anyways, @15 months, I will be one of the youngest to visit the Lucas cave. Our guide, Sam was a great guy and he kept all of us entertained throughout the ride. He even let me drive his tour bus and then also gave us a bonus (a visit to a farm where there were kangaroos all through). I got a chance to also feed some grass to the kangaroos. I made a few friends along the way and they invariably ended up calling me a charmer with Amma needing to ever so often take drishti (to ward off the evil eye).

Back in Sydney, we also did the mandatory opera house visit, Sydney harbor bridge (or the coat-hanger as it apparently is referred to by the locals) and the harbor ferry. We also visited the waterfront zoo at Sydney. Then there was the day-train to Melbourne from Sydney. I dint think that this long 12-hour ride was a good idea and made sure both Appa and Amma got to know it.

The Harbor-Marriott... a great place to stay

Coat-Hanger with the Opera House in the background

At the waterfront zoo

Kumar uncle had come over to pick us up at the station. The Oz have a rule that children should wear belts while traveling in a car. And i cried all the time that i was bound by the car's seatbelt. I have been watching Adeep for a long time due to Amma constantly showing her friends' family albums on Orkut. Finally, I met Adeep in person. He is a silent charmer and such a contrast to me. He sits in his seat while being fed. And Kumar uncle, he is my friend too.. coz he's got a real CAR!!! Kumar uncle drove us to Philip island where there was the Penguins parade.. We sat in the cold howling wind for over an hour with nary a penguin in sight and the winds really rained on the parade!!!

Doing justice to Philip Island

With Kumar uncle before facing the howling wind!!

All warm and cozy in the penguins paradise!!

The next day we had lunch at a desi restaurant and Appa noticed the familiar face of Irfan Pathan who was 'loitering' around on the street. Irfan allowed us to take a couple of pictures. The next day, in the big match with the host Australia, Irfan did exceeedingly well. Appa also managed to catch this historic match at the MCG.

Pathan, the 2 Priya's, me & Adeep... giving him loads of luck for the big game at the MCG

After a great time in Melbourne, and saying goodbye to our wonderful hosts, our next stop was Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. According to Amma, there was nothing great about it and to me.. this is just another example of people trying to ascribe greatness by affixing great onto the name.. (Great Barrier Reef, Great Ocean Road, Great Australian Bight etc.. ). That said we had a great time with seagulls and in our caravan cottage just across the sea. Also picked up a few models of sea animals. Coming back to civilization i.e. Melbourne. Appa took this opportunity to fulfil one of his long-term goals in life.. On Feb 14 at a place called Nagambie, Appa jumped out of a plane with an instructor in tow. Watching the video of this always gets me excited...

my appa is a hero!!!

After almost 2 weeks down under we headed back to Singapore.
I am now able to mention my destination, To-guan-no (Toh Guan Road) to taxi-drivers when I take a taxi.

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