Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Steve's Birthday Down Under

I like to think of Australia as Texas on stereoids.. Of course, I have never been to Texas, so just think stereotyope here. HUGE country, long distances, the biggest, meanest crocodiles - not to be mistaken for our friendly/tame alligators (really?) - millions of birds, lots of Wallabies (where are the kangaroos?), water buffalos that can kill you if you get in their way - so NO running on your own Steve, I will be happy to follow you in a 4X4, no worries mate!..., the biggest termites mounts you have ever seen, the greatest number of things that can kill you from poisonous toads, to snakes, to the most inviting little orange berries: 4 hours, they tell us, you taste one of those growing along the road, and you are done for!

Thank goodness we had read Alan's "Australia for Dummies"!

This was the vacation of a lifetime, just as we hoped for. We first flew to Sidney where the temperatures were cool, requiring jeans, sweaters and a light wind breaker.. Heaven for the sweaty HongKongers that we have become. 2 days of touristing in Sidney was very enjoyable. We stayed at Circular Quay which was walking distance to The Rocks, the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens, and not far from Darling Harbour which were all very nice.

Thanks Diane for the recommendation! We had a great time.

We then flew to Cairns - pronounced Kains - then took a bus to Port Douglas, a charming tourist town, our base for snorkeling trips to the Great Barrier Reef.

The weather was perfect. But this being winter in Australia, the pool and ocean were a little on the chilly side, not helped by the north winds blowing. So a little cold for my taste but the Reef - in wetsuits - was fantastic. We also had dinner at a restaurant in Port Douglas called The Nautilus: if you ever find yourself there, you cannot miss that place. It was, very possibly, the most beautiful restaurant I have ever been to, and the food - French - was very good. The decor is worth the stop, you will just not believe it.

Finally after 4 days in Port Douglas, snorkeling, bicycling and fishing,we flew to Darwin where we were picked up the next morning by Sab Lord, our guide and host for the next 8 days.

There is no way that I will be able to convey how amazing this trip was, nor do the pictures do justice to the beauty and wilderness of the places we went. But here goes. Sab Lord - Lords Safaris - Kakadu National Park & ArnHemland - picked us up in his Toyota Land Trooper with custom made trailer carrying all the gear, food/drink, tents, camping stuff, towels (which we managed to loose one of, among other things (!..)) and everything you could possibly need for a week out in nowhere with no convenience store around.
We first drove to a nature interpretation center that described a little of the flora, fauna and habitats we would encounter while in Kakadu National Park. That's when we found out about the nice little orange killer berries growing in the parking lot!. We then took an Adelaide River cruise to see the famous jumping crocodiles.
The kids were very impressed - didn't need to be told twice to keep arms in the boat. These were 4-5 meters crocodiles! Neat.

We then drove - lots of driving in Australia! - south - I think - toward Sweet Water Creek Station for a 2 nights stay at Bamurru Lodge, a just amazing place. Very luxurious bush experience with permanent structures all solar powered, fantastic accommodations a nice infinity pool, wonderful staff and great food. This Lodge is located on a privately owed "station" the equivalent of a Texas ranch I would say, but 200,000 acres big! This is a water buffalo and cattle station on a wonderful flooded plain where airboat rides took us to fields of lotus flowers, water lilies and other flora that was incredible. Mangroves type of under woods and birds in so many species and numbers, it felt really incredible to be there. Picture yourself on an airboat (Skippy the Kangaroo TV show anyone?) with thousands of spooked egrets, ducks of several varieties and other birds just taking off right in front and sides of the boat. Something I won't forget. That was the best of Bamurru.

We then left with Sab for the less pampered portion of the trip - so I thought - but as it turns out, camping with Sab was a 5 star experience. Great campsites and tents, super beds and swags, and excellent food, all in the bush, all cooked over an open flame and all 3 course meals, including warm pies and ice cream. In the bush! Several nights of camping, several days of hiking in some of the most remote and beautiful places you would ever want to be in, with noone - not one tourist, other than us that is, but as Sab says: "There are tourists and then there are the Huyghes!"- around!

First camping night at Gunlum where an incredible pond with a high cliff and waterfall were the site of a scene in Crocodile Dundee. Next morning took us to Barramundi Gorge on an incredible hike..

We jumped off cliffs into pristine natural billabongs and swam from pool to pool, under waterfalls in waters we actually filled our water bottles from. THAT clean! Koolpin Gorge, for anyone interested, is worth the effort and the hike. Sab carried picnic lunches of meats and veggies, rolls and fruits in his backpack and set us up overlooking Grand Canyon-like places, like we were Royalty.

We continued on toward ArnHemLand and the Aboriginal community of Maningrida where we visited some fantastic caves covered in Aboriginal art dating as far back as 10,000 years. Our guide Nelson, an Aboriginal young man talked to us for several hours about his people, his culture, the life of today and the ceremonies boys still to this day must follow to become men. It was fascinating. We later spent the night at an Aboriginal lodge where we met Lea and Stuart, who showed us how to fish, cook, find materials to make spears for fishing, how to find the right roots to use for staining fibers, which fibers to use for baskets making, how to prepare and stain the fibers and so much more. A whole day with them, on their land, living like one of them. It was memorable, especially when Crocodile Dundee Sab decided to join Stuart and sample the local grub, a nice plump 3inch worm...

Not appetizing that was...

Overall a really nice trip, a memorable adventure. We were very lucky to happen upon Sab and Ann-Maree to prepare our Outback experience, and recommend their service to anyone in search of true experience in Australia's Northen Territories (

Next up, back in Hong Kong, more exploring, sailing camp and return to school! Keep in touch.


  1. Thank you Nathalie for sharing such an experience with us. Now I just wish I'll be able to do this trip. Your picture are amazing ! Have a great beginning of school year ! Mylene

  2. Thanks Mylene! Take care and if you ever want to go to Australia, let me know! I'll introduce you to Sab.

  3. My turn! I get to say something! Mom, you didn't put the picture with the sea eagle i took!

    Go to

  4. Natalie this is so great! I am so happy that you, Steve and the kids are having such a fabulous adventure. We miss seeing you around the ATL, but I will be happy to live vicariously through you for a couple of years! Please say "hi" and a belated "Happy Birthday" to Steve for me and take care of yourself. XOXO, Danielle

  5. Hi Danielle,

    How is everyone, how does Britton like her new school? Hoping you are well, work is good and the kids are happy. Here all well. School starts on September 6th, still some summer days left. Pretty hot but I hear its just the same in Atl. Thanks for following the blog, makes me feel like I am not just writing to myself! Take care, N