Australia: Paronella Park

Just because we are back from Australia doesn’t mean I don’t have more adventures to share! :)
So, you may recall, but after one goes diving, they have to wait 24 hours before flying.
We needed something to do while waiting over the weekend, so we drove up to a place called Paronella Park.
Paronella Park was built by one man. His name was Jose. He bought this land, and had a vision of pleasure gardens and buildings for public enjoyment. In 1929, he purchased the land, and worked nonstop everyday until 1935. Jose’ had made his fortune in sugar cane, so he was able to build off of what he had made in the past.

Every building was hand-made by Jose’. He mixed his own cement, and used train rails to provide the structure. The walls he smoothed with his hands. They have his finger trails and prints all in them.

While there are many smaller buildings around the park, the largest and grandest by far, is the Central Hall. Here guests were entertained with movies every friday evening, dances, social receptions, and more.

The upper room of the Central Hall

Here is the back view of the Hall. You can see there is a main floor, and then the smaller upper level

The Ballroom
The Ballroom of the Central Hall was where all the cool stuff happened.  There used to be a ceiling, where a large disco ball, also made by Jose, was lowered. People danced, watched movies, or listend to music in this area. In the 1960s, it was converted into a place where ceremonies were held, the majority of them being weddings.
At the foot of the Grand Staircase
Jose made much more than just one building. He also made a “Grand Staircase” That led people down to the stream and the tennis courts.
The Observation building of the Tennis grounds.
Another main attraction of the park, were the tennis grounds and the surrounding buildings. It provided the perfect place for casual conversation and socializing, but also enough room to do as you please.
Changing rooms for Tennis and the pool on both sides of the observation building.
Gravity Fed Fountain
For Jose not to have a shred of architectural training, he made some pretty cool stuff. Take this fountain for instance. Unlike most fountains, it is powered by the waterfall nearby. Since it is lower than the falls, the pressure from the water forces the water through small pipes, and into the air. In other words… gravity fed.
Another building where people can stand, talk, and enjoy the garden.
A side observation deck for the Tennis court.

While the buildings Jose constructed were amazing, even moreso, are the gardens he created. The majority of the plants in these pictures were planted by the man. He had hundreds of plants brought in, most not even native species. A walk in this park is something truly memorable.

A spring fed creek, providing clean drinkable water.

Jose was a bit of a romantic, so, he built all paths just wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. For his wife, he made “Lover’s Lane”. It was a path that led to the tunnel of love.

The Cave- erm. Tunnel of love.
In addition to being a farmer, builder, and businessman. Jose was an entrepreneur. He had to dig out tons of dirt for paths, cement, etc. There was a hill that was made of red clay, so he dug all the way through it getting dirt.
   Later, he decided to make some money off of this… hole in the hill, and call it “The Tunnel of Love” It is dark, damp, and full of spiders. And bats. I fail to see the appeal.
The main residents of the tunnel of love. Tiny little bats.
Even the picnic tables he made by hand.

Something else to note, is Jose powered the entire park by a homemade Hydro-Electric system. It was the first in Queensland. It still powers the park today.

The Falls that power the plant.

It was truly a peaceful, and beautiful place. The ruins were impressive, so I can’t even imagine what they must have looked like in their non-ruinous condition.

“But Austin!” You say, “These buildings are only a couple decades old!!”
Very true, let me complete the story for you. :)
In 1946, the rain seasons came. Water built up against a railway bridge upstream. Being clogged with trees and brush, it piled up more and more until the entire bridge broke. All the debris and water rushed downstream and destroyed the majority of the central hall main room.
Jose, and his children now, worked to rebuild, but he died of cancer in 1948. His children continued to rebuild and maintain, until more floods hit in 67′, 72′, and 74′. They kept working to keep it going until 1977, when they sold it.
What really destroyed the buildings however, was a fire that tore through the park in 1979. It destroyed much of the great hall, and other things. Still today, more cyclones and floods hit the park, further battering the already crumbling structures. It is now marked as a national trust, and there is a full time staff dedicated to preserving the buildings as art.

Sunset on the sugar cane valley.

Driving home that evening, after hearing about how a man’s life work was mostly destroyed in a matter years… brought this verse to mind.

Mathew 6:19-21
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Australia: Diving on The Great Barrier Reef!

Ok Folks,

Here is the one you have all been waiting for. ;)


On the great Barrier Reef.

When I put this one on my bucket list a few years back, I never would have thought it would be possible to do this so soon!
It all started when dad said there was a chance we might get to go to Australia, of course, I immediately said “Can we Scuba if we go?” Now, I didn’t know a thing about Scuba, how much it cost, what training you needed…
Not Anything.
After it was decided however, mom and I found a Dive Center. Initially, just myself and my bro were going to dive, but after experiencing what it was like in a “Demo” class, dad and my other bro joined in.
Two weeks and a lot of training later.
We became Certified Open Water Divers. :)

Once in Australia, we spent a lot of time discussing where exactly we were going to dive. Turns out, The best Great Barrier Reef Locations are north. About 20 hours drive time from where we were. We finally decided as a family though, that since a plane ride was much cheaper from Surfer’s Paradise to Cairns… Than from USA to Cairns…. We would go there. ;)
Honestly, I would have been happy diving anywhere, but the fact we actually flew up to the reef… takes the cake.

The day of the dive had excellent weather. A little breeze, 75 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky. We rode out for about an hour on a dive charter we selected. It was TUSAdive. The staff were Excellent, boat very nice, and the equipment very nice. I had rented a camera the day before, and was allowed to use that instead of their more expensive ones on board.

We dove in two places, for a total of three dives. “Hasting’s Reef”, and then “The Fish Bowl”. Each dive lasted about 20-30 minutes, depending on how much air we had left in our tank. I always had the most air left, and dad was always the first to run out. ;)

If you think God’s Creation is cool on the surface… it is even moreso underwater. It amazed me to see the depth of design and intricacies in every piece of coral, fish, and shells. The colors, the textures, the size… all so vast and unique….
We truly have an awesome Creator.

I am guessing now you’d like to see some pics… I did take all of these, and it was fun to do so. :)
One of the first things we saw… Nemo! :)
Branch Coral
Lettuce Coral
Toadstool Coral
Brain Coral
A mix of corals.
Tree Coral
Great Star Coral (The Tan one) And Toadstool Coral on top of that.
A Giant Clam, and a mix of Various corals.
Some Yellow Damselfish in Stag coral.
A Butterfly Fish
A fleeing Parrotfish
A photogenic Parrotfish. ;)
Another Butterfly fish.
Parrotfish and some Table Coral.
A Giant Clam. It was over 2 feet long.
A “Reefscape”
More Clownfish…
And another… Clownfish! ;)
A Triggerfish.
My favorite Butterfly fish
A Miniature Grouper fish. Excellent Camo.
Coral and a Butterfly fish.
Another Reefscape.
A Sea Turtle. :)
Aaaaand, if the pictures weren’t enough, here is a video I also made while diving:
Diving is an amazing experience. If you ever have a chance, definitely get certified and take a dive.
You won’t regret it. :)

Australia: The Sydney Opera House

To start off here, I have to say this was one of my #2 favorite thing we did in Australia. The absolute intricacy of this structure’s design wows me still. To hear the story of its origin, and hear all the labor and work poured into this building is still amazing.
Plus, it is a cool building. And you know I am always all for cool buildings. ;)
The Sydney Opera house, Taken on a boat in Sydney Harbor.

I suppose I should start at the beginning. The Sydney Opera House was created as a result of a worldwide competition. The Australian Government wanted an iconic Opera house build on a small outcropping of land.
After some time, this sketch was chosen, though almost missed, as it was turned in past the deadline.

Photo courtesy Public Files from the Australian Archives.

This was all the engineers got to make the building. No blueprints, no other angles… nothing. They had to call in the original designer to help them with the creation of the building. The story is a long, and sometimes sad one, which you can read many other places, so I won’t go into it here. ;)

Regardless of the Story though, it was built, and we took a tour of it. :)

Standing on one of the viewing platforms outside the Opera House, you could see awesome and incredible views of the city, the Harbor, and more.

The Upper Level Entrance’s doors were made of reflective glass, so as to keep the heat out of the room. :)

Now, this is really cool. Between each of these brown struts, there are panels of glass. Theses panels of glass and struts are built to allow expansion when they heat up, and then contraction when they cool down! The entire thing can move based on the rubber joints placed in certain areas of the struts.
Ingenious IMO.

This Purple room, is like a routing place to go to all the different theaters in the Opera house.

The Opera house itself is really more like a shell. The dome structures form something like a Giant… Pavilion. Once they were built, the actual enclosed theaters where built inside the domes.
To use a smaller example, like building a park pavilion, then a bunch of little club houses under the pavilion.
Anyway, these domes have millions of tiles on them. These tiles were installed onto preformed pieces of concrete, then the concrete portions lowered into place. The tiles are self cleaning too, so whenever it rains, the roof is totally cleaned.

Kinda bad picture I know, but here you can see the structure for one of the domes. Those are concrete pillars fanned out in a way that gives structure to the round shape of the roof.

And here is one of the opera theaters. All the theaters were build with cedar wood on the inside and out. Cedar wood reflects the human voice with the least amount of distortion, which is why they choose that type.

After the tour, we stopped and had lunch at their restaurant. We did some drawing while waiting for lunch…

And here is what I got, a Mushroom Pasta Linguini. It was excellent.

And that finishes our trip to the opera house. We learned tons of stuff that day, and if you are interested, do some googling on the building. It is a quite fascinating piece of Architecture.

Now a Certified Barista

Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy coffee more than any other drink out there.
I’ll drink it black, but prefer Lattes. I’ll drink anything though, and enjoy it. Unless it is cheap drip coffee.
Anyways, I also plan to open up a small coffeeshop business, selling gourmet Teas, Coffees, etc. So, For my Birthday in Australia, mom and dad bought me a one day class where I became certified in the creation and serving of coffee beverages!

There is the machine I used. It was a simple one, but did all the things you need from an espresso machine. On the right, is the grinder. This machine brewed coffee through a pod into which you tamped the coffee. For this reason, the grinder was very important, as it had to be just right so your espresso would brew correctly.

The day went by very quickly. First we learned about the different types of coffee, and how to distinguish them as a bean, and in a drink. We then learned terminology and proper measurement ratios of espresso to milk. We practiced brewing certain amounts of espresso, and controlling the flow of the espresso as well.

After we mastered the control of espresso and got a consistent good tasting shot, we moved onto the milk portion. Steaming milk is the hardest part of a good Latte. To much froth and you get a foamy and airy top, to little froth and you get a milky warm coffee. We spent the majority of time on this step. I was able to get to a point where every other frothed cup was perfect.

After the creation of coffee was done. We had some spare time left over. So, we went about trying to make little pictures in the coffee Crema. I wasn’t successful in the least.

When closing time came around, we had a small little ceremony where our papers of certification where distributed. We all had to pass a written test in order to obtain the certificates.

So now, I am certified to make and serve espresso and gourmet coffee drinks.

Not bad for a day’s work.  :)

Australia: The Three Sisters

Once upon a time, there were three sisters.
   These sisters were part of the tribe called Katoomba, which lived in the Jamison Valley. They had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe. However, both tribes were of the same element, so therefore, it was against tribal law for them to marry.
   The brothers, in their frustration of this law, and great love for the sisters, started a war between the two tribes. Doing so would allow them to steal the sisters, who desired to go with them, and live together in marriage.
   While the war was taking place, the sister’s father told the witchdoctor to take and hide them in the caves on the side of the hill until the bloodshed was over. Hiding them there, they would be protected. The witchdoctor however, took it upon himself to protect them further. He turned the three sisters into great and beautiful rock formations, so they could not be moved or destroyed.
   Sadly, the witchdoctor, who intended to release the sisters of the spell after the war, was killed the very next day while fighting one of the brothers who intended to steal the one of the sisters away. In doing so, he sealed forever the three sisters in their shapes of stone.
And here they stand to this day.
Believable story right? ;) Well, according many many legends and *ahem* websites… This tale is the most common as to how the rock formation below was made.

That formation is indeed called “The Three Sisters”.  We visited it while we were staying around sydney over the weekend. God again blessed us with a perfect day, even though it was supposed to rain.

While this beautiful formation was the main attraction in the Park, there was also a trail with 1000+ steps descending into the valley below…

The path started easily enough.

And then came the steps. We walked down steps…

And more steps…

Saw a nice little spring. :)

Climbed more steps…

We climbed down and up a total of 1500 something steps. That’s a lot, just sayin. It was a beautiful walk though. Awesome trees, birds, and rocks were everywhere. It was well worth the effort and exertion.

This was the last thing we saw before taking a train back up to the main building.

So that was the three sisters. Cool rocks and thousands of steps, what more could you ask for? ;)

Australia: Manly Beach

Here is another really fun thing we did while staying in Sydney.

We went to Manly Beach. This beach is known for it’s beautiful beaches, and for its scenic hikes. We saw the beaches, and attempted a hike… you’ll find out how that went in a minute. ;)

We came into Manly Beach on a ferry, and landed at this Warf. God gave us a beautiful day to enjoy. The sky was as blue as Romulan Ale, /startreckjoke/ the air crisp and fresh, and the weather a very nice 65 degrees.

Since we as a family are NOT morning people, we arrived around lunchtime. Food is quite important to us, so I had this restaurant already picked out from local recommendations. The name was “Fishmonger’s Fish and Chips on the Beach” or “Fishmonger’s” for short. ;)

We wound up getting the family package of fish and chips. This included some fish (duh), some prawns, calamari, chips (fries), potato cakes, and some raw oysters.
We passed on the oysters.
The food was amazing. I wish America had fish and chips like they do here…

After the awesome lunch on the coast, we strolled down to the beach. Here we played frisbee, looked for some shells… and all around had a great time.

An hour or so later, we dusted the sand off of our feet, and began walking.

Above is one of the lookout points you could go to and just watch the ocean. Those people are sitting on an unprotected cliff face, easily 100 feet straight down.
We stayed on the protected paths thank you very much. :P

Now, about the hiking…
Supposedly, there is a path that will take you in a nice big circle so you can see all the cool stuff in about 3 hours. The paths however… were not very well laid out. We spent the rest of the time walking in circles, through subdivisions, and work areas… just to try to find our way back to where we came. :D While it was frustrating… it was rather funny too.

When we finally made it back and headed to the warf, I saw this flower and snapped a pic… as usual… I don’t know what it is.

On the ferry ride back, the sun was going down, so it made excellent lighting for these things we saw…

A Patrol Boat
A sailboat
A Ferry just like the one on which we rode
A Mini-Lighthouse.
And the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

We got back after dark happy and tired.

I will leave you with this…

The Beautifully Ugly Cockatoo

Here in Australia, there is a very pretty looking bird.

That bird, is called the Cockatoo.
Public Image
While we regard these birds to be exotic pets in America, here in Australia, they are a native species. I have seen dozens of these birds together in flocks, eating berries off trees and nesting as a group.
One might think this is a marvelous thing.
However, unknown to many people, the Cockatoo has one of the wort bird sounds I personally ever have heard.

Pretty awful right? Now, that is just one. Think of a dozen of them together.

In hearing such a beautiful bird make this awful sound, I was reminded of some scripture a few days ago, and wanted to share it with you.

The Cockatoo is a perfect example, in my opinion, of God calling us to be beautiful in spirit, and not focused on outward appearance.

I know this verse is usually applied to wives, as Paul was writing to them. However, I know I sometimes struggle with vanity, and am sure other guys care about how they look. We just care in different ways.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel, rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

The Cockatoo may be one of the prettiest birds in Australia, but makes one of the worst sounds.

There are many songbirds in creation that do indeed have beautiful looks and songs. I believe a person can look nice and still have a great “Song”. What is important, is we make sure we don’t let our preening get in the way, or cause people to focus on something else.

We could be the sharpest looking guy, or prettiest looking gal in America, but all for naught if our heart is not beautifully turned to God. If it is, instead of prideful, irritating, and selfish “Sounds” coming out of our lives…
We will see a sweet lilting song that will bring God glory. People will want to listen, even if we aren’t the best looking person around.