Tuesday, September 23, 2014

His: Living in America: Field Trips/Excursions Part 1

A map of our route around Australia.
When I was in school in Australia we went on some great excursions (field trips). When I tell my friends in America that many of them were overnight trips they are shocked that that happens as overnight trips are not common in America. 

One of my favourite excursions was the Central Australia trip. This trip was a 2 week journey through the outback and down the east coast of Australia and was almost a rite of passage for many of us. At our school it was taken in 10th grade and most of the students took part. It cost $450 to go but that included all travel, food and entry fees. The only expense we had after that was spending money. 

Day 1-2: 
    Our bus left at 6pm and drove throughout the night to Broken Hill. After breakfast we went to nearby village called Silverton and saw an old silver mine and a few other attractions. We then hopped back on the bus and drove for several more hours to Port Augusta in South Australia. After a day and a half of traveling on a motor-coach it was nice to be able to pitch a tent at the local campground, crawl into your sleeping bag and get a few hours of sleep.

The ruins of the old silver mine at Silverton

Crossing over the border into South Australia.

Day 3: It was another day of spending many hours on the bus, as we headed north into the desert to Coober Pedy. This small town is well known within Australia as one of the main opal mining centers in Australia. Much of the town is underground as it much cooler during the day and is naturally heated to about 21C/72F no matter how hot or cold it is outside. After visiting some of the local attractions and learning about the opal mining industry we headed to our accommodations which in true Coober Pedy style was underground.

Our accommodations for the evening in a underground hotel.

The Desert Cave Hotel which is also underground but is a 5 Star Hotel.

Day 4: Even though we were in the middle of the outback we were a long way from our next stop, Uluru. Also known as Ayers Rock, it is one of Australia's most recognizable natural landmarks. Along the way we stopped at a salt lake and to view Mt Conner at a distance. After several hundred kilometres on the bus we pulled into the campground at Uluru for our first 2 night stop.
The edge of the salt lake. We were able to go out onto the lake but couldn't venture too far as you would start to sink.

Mt Conner. To the untrained eye it looks like Uluru but is a totally different mountain.

Day 5: Uluru was the destination for the day. We hopped back on the bus but it was only for a 30 minute trip to the rock. Uluru is one of the world's largest monoliths and towers over 1100ft over the desert floor. We had the option of climbing the rock or walking around it. I climbed the rock first and when I got back to the ground I had enough time to walk around some of the rock. I preferred the walk around the rock as there were several sign posts telling stories from the aboriginal people. We also got to visit the Olgas which was nearby before returning to the campground

Uluru at sunrise. I went up to the lookout an hour too early to get this photo and got really cold as the desert is really cold at night.

The start to the climb to the summit of Uluru. From the base to the summit is an elevation change of 1148ft/348m.

A view of the desert from the summit of Uluru.

The end of the walk at the summit of Uluru. There is a guestbook here that you can sign. 

 The Olgas. They are made out of the same type of stone that Uluru and is only a short drive from Uluru.

We are only half way through our trip but it's too big for one blog post. Come back next Tuesday to see the rest of the trip, including Kings Canyon, Alice Springs, Walkabout Creek and more! Happy Travels!

Monday, September 22, 2014

His and Her Travel Review: World's Steepest Railway

Located a couple of hours west of Sydney is the town of Katoomba. It looks like an ordinary little town but it is home to the world's steepest incline railway. The Scenic Railway at Scenic World takes passengers on a short but exciting journey straight down into the valley below. I had been on the railway a few times as a child but I wanted Amanda to experience it when I took her to Australia in 2006.

     Most train journeys wind slowly down hills so the incline is fairly small. The togography of the mountains near Katoomba did not allow for this as they were mostly sheer cliffs. Since the mountains were so steep the  railway was built at an extremely steep angle (some parts are 52 degrees). The track from top to bottom is just 1350ft but you descend almost 800ft into the valley. It was originally built as a way for miners to send coal out of the valley but was turned into a tourist attraction when the mines closed. The ride is a little bit like going down the first hill of a rollercoaster but a lot steeper and slower. It is a unique experience and is a fun way to get down into the valley where you can choose from a few different walking trails. It is a fun way to try something new and is an easy day trip from Sydney by car or train.

A short video of the Scenic Railway

I am afraid of heights so when Sean started telling me about this railway I was instantly nervous. I made sure that he and his sister sat in the front seat so that his dad and I could sit in the back seat. I braced my legs on the seat in front of me and held on for dear life. I loved the history of the railway and I loved the ride itself. It was scary but not terrifying. You travel almost straight down and it was intense, but I would do it again if we were near Katoomba. It was a unique and fun experience, for sure!

Sign of some of the stats of the railway.

I figured if Sean and Shellie were in front they would catch me if I fell out of the seat.

It's a lot steeper than this photo shows. Parts of it feel like you are going straight down.

You have the option of riding back up in the train, but we took a glass bottom gondola instead.

Would you be brave enough to ride the Scenic Railway or have you ever been on a railway that has gone straight up a hill or mountain like this?

Happy Traveling,

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Snapshot: Random Photos I

Have you liked our "His and Her Hobbies" Facebook page? If not, click here!

Today we are linking up with Melinda at West Metro Mommy for Super Saturday Snapshots.

I tend to take a lot of photos on my travels and once in a while come across some signs that I feel are photo worthy. Here are a few of my favourites.

This weather rock is in a McDonalds carpark in my dad's hometown.

This sign is at the top of the Katoomba cable railway (which is one of the steepest railways in the world. Come back to the blog on Monday for our travel review for this attraction)

If it is open, how do i get in? Taken in Boston, MA

Have you ever come across any interesting signs in your travels? Which sign is your favourite?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

His: Saturday Snapshots: Bar Beach in Newcastle

Have you liked our "His and Her Hobbies" Facebook page? If not, click here!

Today we are linking up with Melinda at West Metro Mommy for Super Saturday Snapshots.

The beaches near our home in Virginia don't get a lot of surf normally. Unless there is a hurricane nearby the waves are usually fairly small. Australian beaches usually have good surf so I took a ton of photos last years of the various beaches we visited. Below is my favourite photos of Bar Beach in Newcastle.

Having cliffs by the ocean is much different to the coastline in Virginia where there is not a hill in sight for miles.

The surf was a little cranky this day. You may notice the red flag on the beach indicating that the beach is closed for swimmers.

It was nice being able to see some of the beaches in the Newcastle area as each one has its unique appeal. Where is your favourite beach?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

His and Her TBT: A Footy Game

Angela at The Teacher's Desk 6 is hosting a Throwback Thursday linky party. The rules are simple - choose a previous blog post and re-post it. 


Football season has started - but that doesn't mean much in our house. Neither Sean nor I are fans of American football. Australian football - aka rugby - is another story. We got to go to a game last year and Sean blogged about it last November. Enjoy!


A Rugby Scrum
While we were in Australia we had the opportunity to attend a National Rugby League game in Newcastle. The National Rugby League (NRL) is the NFL for Rugby in Australia. Neither of us had been to a game before but was something we both wanted to do while we were in Australia this summer. 

     We went to the box office a couple of days before the game to buy tickets as you save on the additional fees that online ticket sites charge you. We also were able to pick our exact seats which you aren't able to do for a lot of events online. The prices for the tickets were quite reasonable and ranged from $25 (for general admission) to $45 for the best seats. Tickets for a regular season NFL game in America are at least $100 and can be well over $300 depending on the team and opponent. It was satisfying that we were able to get some great seats and they only cost us $45 each.

Scored a try/touchdown
We got to the game early so we can park somewhere close to the field and not feel rushed and gave us time to find something to eat before the game. I almost didn't make it in because the lens on my camera exceeded the limit and was considered a professional lens but after I promised to use the smaller lens I was allowed in. We then went to check out our seats and they were pretty good and gave us a great view of the field. 

Since we were hungry we decided to see what culinary delights were on offer at the stadium. Amanda and I are used to having several different choices when going to professional sporting events. At most events in America you can get hot dogs, burgers, fries, nachos, icecream, funnel cakes, Dippin Dots, pizza, chicken tenders, and other options depending on location. At many locations they have restuarant quality food in addition to the standard fare. At Hunter Stadium the choices seemed more limited. All I found was hot dogs, meat pies, sausage rolls, fries and burgers. I was content with a meat pie and a sausage roll and Amanda decided to get a hot dog. Once we got back to our seats we realized that an Aussie hot dog is nothing like an American one. They look different with a red skin, have a totally different taste and was not at all tasty. I'm certain that many people in Australia love their hot dogs but after having both I would much prefer a Ball Park frank or a Nathan's hot dog any day.
**Note from Amanda --- No kidding about the hot dog! That Australian dog was GROSS!!!! I get shivers just thinking about it now. Ewwww!!**

The Knights player trying to get through the Broncos defense.
Before long it was time for the game and it proved to be one of the best games I had ever seen. Rugby is a fast paced game and nothing like American football. For example in Rugby you are not allowed to pass forward and you only get 6 tackles/downs then the ball is handed over to the other team. The other thing that is different is that the action is pretty much non stop. Once the tackle is complete the player who is tackled gets up and immediately passes the ball to a teammate and the game continues. In American football you can often go to the kitchen and prepare a snack between plays and not miss any of the action. 

      The game had a great flow and both teams were evenly matched. Both the Knights and the Broncos were more determined than ever to win as they were both chasing a playoff berth. After 90 minutes of play the score was tied at 18 all. Even after two overtimes the scores were still tied so the game was declared a draw. At no point did I lose interest in the game which was pretty impressive as I have about a 15 second attention span. Even with the two overtimes the game was over in a little over two hours from start to finish which is impressive considering an American football game would still be somewhere in the third quarter at the same point in time.

Crowd getting into the game.
       We had an awesome time at the game and would definitely attend another game when we are in Australia next. Americans may love their football but they don't know what they are missing out on as Rugby is a much more active and exciting game. I am a rugby fan and I don't think I will ever convert to American football, no matter how long I live here.
**Note from Amanda: Me too! Me too! Rugby is awesome! American football is borrrrrring!**


Which sport is your favorite - rugby or football?

Happy Thursday,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

His: A New Challenge for 2015

I have been interested in running a full marathon for over a year now but have never committed to training or signing up for a race. I had considered running in the Rock and Roll Marathon in Washington DC next year but it would end up costing a lot once you factor in race fees, travel and hotel. I was hoping I would find a course closer to home that I would enjoy.

Last week I received an email advertising a new marathon in a nearby city that sounded really interesting called the One City Marathon. After taking a look at the course map I decided this was the race that I was looking for. It has reasonable entry fees and is almost 7 months out so it gives me plenty of time to train. I also really like that the course is not a circuit but starts and finishes at the other end of the city. 

My next step was to choose a training plan that would help me get me to the finish line. I chose the Hal Higdon Novice Supreme program as it has everything I wanted in a training plan. I liked that it had a solid plan for each day but didn't get too detailed like some others did. Some plans wanted me to run some parts of my miles at different speeds among other things. That seemed too much for me and I prefer the simplicity of sticking to set distances I need to run each day. If my goal for the marathon was looking to beat a certain time I feel that the more detailed plans would be better but for this event I am simply looking to cross the finish line and posting a time to beat for next time so this plan seems best for me.

I am looking forward to this new challenge and documenting my journey as I train to run 26.2 miles in one go. I am sure there will some challenges but it will all be worth it when I cross the finish line. 

Have you ever run a long distance race or have plans to do so some day? What tips and tricks could you recommend for a newbie, just getting started.

Monday, September 1, 2014

His and Her Travel Review: Fort McHenry, Baltimore, MD

We went to Baltimore a couple of years ago to see the Orioles play the White Sox. The game wasn't until 7pm so we decided to spend the day seeing some of the sites around Baltimore. We used to Water Taxi service to get to different sites around the harbour including Fort McHenry. 

I didn't know anything about the Fort before arriving but it is well known to many Americans. This is the location where the words to America's National Anthem "The Star Spangled Banner" were inspired. We spent about an hour walking around the fort and going inside the visitor's centre. We watched a short film that explained the significance of the battle that occurred near the fort and how it inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. It was very interesting to see the history behind the song in person and would recommend it to anyone who is spending a day or two in Baltimore.

I'll be honest, as a history major and lover of the colonial American time period, I hadn't been to Baltimore or seen Fort McHenry prior to 2010. When I saw the HUGE American flag flying over the Fort as the taxi approached, I got a little choked up. It was an impressive sight and the lyrics to our national anthem played in my head. "...the flag was still there..." I was a proud American to see this historic sight. The fort is beautiful and it is far enough from the city that you feel like you have left the hustle and bustle behind. If you are near Baltimore, I highly recommend a visit to Fort McHenry.

 View of the fort from the Harbor

 The reenactors were taking a break while we were there because it was so hot. I don't blame them one bit! 
This cannon looks menacing even when I know it is not loaded. 

It was amazing to stand and know that on that site all those years ago men fought and died to save our new country.

 A model of the Fort and the surrounding harbor.

There was a small parade while we were there. They played period instruments and it was pretty cool.

Have you ever been to Fort McHenry or any other fort? 

Happy trails!
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