1)The Great Barrier Reef. Not much more needs to be said. We saw countless sea turtles, lagoon rays, funny furry looking pineapple sea cucumbers, fish of every color and size including lots of Nemos (but the most impressive was a HUGE bright green and turquoise Mary Rass, which of course we didn't get a picture of), beautiful coral forests of every imaginable color and texture, and even a few barracuda and sharks. The scuba diving experience we had was something we'll never forget. We're just hoping we didn't blow our wad by starting with the best first!
2)Beautiful beaches all along the east coast. Soft, white sand and crystal clear water. Unfortunately we weren't able to swim in the ocean until much further south, due to the box jellyfish that migrate through that time of year (their sting can be fatal). But the saltwater lagoons found in many towns' squares serve as a terrific replacement.
3)The wildlife was so different and impressive.....kangaroos, wallabies, penguins, emus, koalas, kookaburras, large monitor lizards, and the constant background music of every kind and color of bird imaginable.
1)The people. I debated commenting on this for fear of sounding too judgemental (I realize it's unfair to categorize an entire country based on a handful of idiots) but too many f'ed up things happened to leave it out. Our blog is meant to document the good AND the bad, right? With the exception of a wonderful older couple from Brisbane who sent us off with countless great tips for Thailand, the Aussie locals were such a contrast from the Kiwis! It ranged from small things like rude holiday park owners who treated us as a nuisance rather than an income opportunity, to people shoving their hands in our faces and yelling to scare us when we rode by on our bikes in Byron Bay (we had a few very near crashes due to this lovely behavior), to getting pebbles thrown at us from a third story window as we innocently walked down a city street in Brisbane in the middle of the day. New sport – tag the tourist? Not that we look any different from an Aussie local. Other travelers we met described them as aggressive and combative and we agreed that in general they seem to be an angry lot. We'd witness at least 2 or 3 fights a night while in Melbourne but the highlights were definitely these two instances: the night we met up with our friends from scuba school at a popular bar/restaurant in Cairns for our 'certification celebration.' We ordered dinner, Jer and I getting a large pizza so we'd have lunch leftovers for the 12 hour train trip south the next day. They were happy to wrap up our leftovers in foil as we continued to order drinks, dance, and hang out with our buddies for the last time. All of a sudden I see Jer being physically and forcibly escorted from the bar, surrounded by 3 large bouncers! Panicked and completely oblivious as to what could have happened to spur this (he was definitely tipsy, but you all know Jer is a happy and harmless drunk), I catch up with the stampede near the top of the stairs and plead with one bouncer to tell me what's going on, what did he do, why is he getting thrown out??? Instead of giving me any sort of explanation, the bouncer grabs my arm and shoves me down the long flight of stairs, through a huge crowd of people, and literally THROWS me out, down a few more steps and into another crowd of people. I had two huge black welts on my leg for over a month. I've never seen Jer so ready to tear someone apart as when he saw the guy shove me with so much force! All the while, the bouncers won't say one word as to why we're being treated like criminals. We finally got an explanation from the head of security - it turns out that once the restaurant switches to a bar license for the night, food is no longer served (or, apparently, allowed). So we were physically thrown out for having leftover pizza, that we bought THERE, that they were HAPPY to wrap up for us, and no one could even take one moment to explain this to us so we could have simply thrown the leftovers out! Wow. Can you say OVERREACTION????? The second and craziest instance of all happened as we strolled Brisbane's Botanical Gardens one evening. We saw some unidentified possum/rodent/ferret looking creature moseying along between the trees and stopped to take a picture of it. We hadn't taken 3 more steps before this crazy and obviously intoxicated white trash lady comes tearing out of the bushes, gets right IN OUR FACES and starts SCREAMING and cussing at us that we are so rude and disrespectful, we need to “step off,” who do we think we are, etc etc. Thoroughly and utterly confused as to what crime we committed to send this woman into a such a rage, I think that maybe she was doing something scandalous in the background and thought we were trying to capture her on film?? We desperately try to explain ourselves, that we were just taking a picture of the possum thing, didn't mean to offend, etc, when her WT man comes racing up and continues the same behavior. They are now both in our faces, reeking of alcohol and screaming and gesturing wildly, threatening us to get the hell out of there and “how dare we”, yada yada, though still not making much sense at all....I half expected the dude to pull a gun on us. Seriously. We hightailed it down the path, apologizing and hoping we'd just make it out of there in one piece.. We were both silent for a bit, trying to process the whole thing, and later it was hard not to laugh at the sheer craziness of what had just happened. Even putting all the pieces together, we are still utterly clueless as to what we did to offend them so greatly. There were a handful of other annoying experiences with rude and offensive locals that I won't even mention, as well as stories from other travelers about Aussies being the most racist people on the planet, spitting in the face of one traveler's Jamaican friend who was just walking down the street minding her own business. In the end we felt that we'd given Australia a little too much time, and would've liked it if our plane ticket had been booked for a few weeks earlier. Ah well. Though in Bali we still couldn't escape and kept running into more Aussies, since it's a close paradise location for them to travel to. Each one we came across were equally obnoxious but it seemed even worse since they were treating the sweet Balinese people with such disrespect. Jer openly admits that he now cringes when we hear an Aussie accent and he's come to despise Claire on Lost (thanks Nate, for buying all those seasons through our Itunes! We had benders while we were down and out with Bali Belly and bad colds). I think it's partly because she's so whiny, but mainly because he can't stand the sound of her! Sooo, not to discourage any of you from traveling to Australia, but consider yourself forewarned!
2)Blah food. Fried everything, (mainly fish and chips) and boring toasted ham and cheese sandwiches are about all you'll find on most menus. To be fair, NZ wasn't any better. Though Indian has proven to be good wherever we've gone. We ate mostly ethnic food all through OZ!
3)Lots of trash and rubbish on the streets, beaches, etc. No ones seems to have a problem littering and they definitely don't take care of the beautiful landscape like the Kiwis. We were also disappointed to find that for such a Westernized nation, they don't promote recycling or sustainable tendencies at all. Shame, shame!
Though we only experienced a small portion of Australia, and would like to check out the outback and west coast, it will probably be a long time before we head back here. There are so many other places to tackle before giving OZ another shot!