Australasian Adventures, Part 12 (Changes)

I thought it would be fun to wrap up this series by comparing impressions from my original visit to Australia in 1997 to my return there in 2018. A lot remained the same although I also noticed some discernible differences too. Of course I couldn’t ignore the two decades of changes within myself, nor that our children didn’t even exist the previous time. Those certainly influenced the course of our latest adventures.

Sydney Skyline


Sydney Australia Skyline
Sydney Skyline in 1997

The skyline of Sydney, Australia changed a bit. A quick comparison of the view showed a few new highrises sprouting along the waterfront. My camera also changed. Digital cameras existed in 1997 although I didn’t own one. That didn’t happen for another few years when we purchased one after the birth of my older son. The image I posted on my website back then — the one displayed above — had to be transferred from an actual print photograph using a scanner.


Taronga Zoo
Sydney Skyline in 2018

Some things remained the same too, like the camera angle I used to capture the image. I took both of these photos from the same approximate spot, an overlook at the Taronga Zoo. It was one of those designates spaces designed to offer a nice photo op. I’m sure someone would describe this as "Instagrammable," however as the evidence clearly showed it existed long before Instagram.

Upon my return to the U.S., I pulled the old photo album from a dusty bookshelf. It displayed all of the images from that earlier Australian trip. I’d done a good job of reproducing many of the same photos from identical angles on my recent trip without even realizing it. Apparently my brain worked in very predictable patterns.


Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel


Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
Lord Nelson in 1997

One of the key landmarks we visited in Sydney sat in one of its oldest neighborhoods, The Rocks. Here, the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel offered respite and sustenance as it had since 1841. I hadn’t been to many brewpubs when we stopped there a couple of decades ago so the concept still felt a little fresh to us. We found it memorable enough to take a photograph.


Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
Lord Nelson in 2018

Fast forward to the present and I’ve now been to nearly 500 different breweries. Of course we needed to return to Lord Nelson. Little had changed. Actually it did contain one major difference that I only noticed after I compared the photos upon returning home. The hotel seemed to have sprouted a whole new floor! Look how the top of the building grew. Inside, however, the bar looked exactly the same as I’d remembered it from many years before.


Other Differences


Sydney Harbour Ferry

Technology

A lot happened technologically between the trips. The Internet certainly existed back in 1997 although we didn’t bring any gadgets to attach to it. It wasn’t like I could bring our clunky desktop computer and oversized monitor with us. We simply survived without connectivity for a couple of weeks and didn’t worry about it. Email collected in an unread inbox and we dealt with it when we got back home. This time we had so many laptops, tablets, smartphones and such that we practically overloaded the WiFi at every place we stayed. We kept complete connectivity nearly the entire time. Electrical differences posed no barriers either. Adapters worked effortlessly because nearly every device could regulate the voltage now. We needed a true electrical converter only once, for our younger son’s night light.

We didn’t own a mobile phone during our original trip either. Literally, we dropped out of existence to everyone and everything we knew. This time we switched temporarily to a special pricing plan offered by our service provider so we could use our phones internationally. It cost only a few bucks a day and only on days when we actually used it. On the couple of occasions we needed to call back to the United States we connected our phones to the WiFi and called for free.

Money

Cash? Who needed cash? In 1997 we certainly did. Back then we even brought a bunch of traveler’s cheque (do those even exist anymore?) which we had to cash at a bank and convert into local currency. Now credit cards served as a universal currency. We did bring a small amount of local currency "just in case." We needed cash only a single time though, at a convenience store in Rotorua, New Zealand when we bought some soda and chips for the kids. Mostly we used cash just to get rid of our little stash.

Disruptors

We’ve all seen certain companies disrupt entire industries. Those trends extended here too. We arranged all of our accommodations through Airbnb. All of our reservations worked out fine and provided better living situations than any hotels. Generally we got around by rental car. However, we did have a couple of urban situations where driving would have been a pain. For that, I’m happy to report that Uber worked just fine using the exact same app we used back home. Neither of those options existed twenty years ago.


That’s All Folks

We’ve finally reached the end of this series after a dozen installments. Now it’s time for Twelve Mile Circle to go into hibernation again for awhile. New articles will be back in a few weeks.


Articles in the Australasian Adventures Series:

  1. Preparations and Arrival
  2. On the Waterfront
  3. Vistas
  4. Geothermal
  5. Heading Inland
  6. The Hunter Region
  7. Wild Animal Encounters
  8. Captive Animal Encounters
  9. Epic Runs
  10. Breweries
  11. Lists
  12. Changes

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Australasian Adventures, Part 11 (Lists)

We’re getting close to the end with this penultimate article in the Australasian series. Thank you for bearing with me. I thought I would shift my focus and provide an update on various lists that I maintain. I’m known to be a bit obsessive-compulsive and I tally visits to places or objects that I consider important for whatever subconscious reason.

Lighthouses


Port Stephens Inner Lighthouse
Port Stephens Inner Lighthouse; NSW, Australia

My lighthouse total increased by two, one I saw close-up and one I spotted from a distance. Both encounters happened in Port Stephens, about a three hour drive north of Sydney, Australia. The first lighthouse adorned rocky Fingal Island just beyond the mouth of Port Stephens (photo). We spotted it twice, initially while on a whale watching cruise and later after we climbed to the top of Tomaree Head. We never got any closer. That would have required a boat.

On the other hand, geography couldn’t block our stop at the Port Stephens Inner Lighthouse on the edge of Nelson Bay. A road led right up to it (map). This lighthouse served as an active aid to navigation all the way through the 20th Century, shutting down just within the past few years. Nonetheless, the site continued to preserve an important mission as the headquarters for a unit of Marine Rescue NSW. The onsite cottage where keepers once lived now housed a tearoom and a small museum. I had a very nice chat with one of the volunteers about the history of the light and the surrounding area.


Ferries


Devonport Ferry Terminal
Auckland/Devonport Ferry, New Zealand

Hugging the coasts like we did offered plenty of opportunities for ferry travel. Our chosen route in New Zealand crossed Auckland Harbour from the city’s main ferry dock to Devonport. It took only a few minutes. I could probably drive to Devonport faster than walking down to the dock, waiting for the ferry, and riding across. Why though? I loved being on the water as Auckland’s jagged skyline receding in the background. Later in the trip we wanted to take the ferry to Rangitoto Island. Unfortunately the weather had other plans and we couldn’t go.

We rode two ferries in Australia, both within Sydney Harbour. The first ferry took us to the Taronga Zoo (photo). We enjoyed that ride so much that we used the ferry again when we went to Manly Beach (photo). I enjoyed watching ferries enter and depart Sydney’s Circular Quay. The harbour hummed like a beehive; a constant flurry of motion over water.


Waterfalls


Wai-O-Tapu

We didn’t see a lot of waterfalls although we hadn’t really planned to seek them out either. The waterfall at Lake Ngakoro impressed me the most and it just sort of appeared. I didn’t know about it ahead of time. It’s uniqueness related to its temperature. Most waterfalls I’ve visited flowed down from mountains, often composed of bone-chillingly cold snowmelt. The opposite condition existed at Lake Ngakoro (map), a part of Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park near Rotorua, New Zealand.

Spring-fed streams flowed gently across chromatic terraces and bubbling mudflats, kept hot by volcanic activity just below the surface. I’m not sure if temperatures actually hit the boiling point as the creek dumped into Lake Ngakoro although it certainly let off a lot of steam. The lake sat a couple of metres below the nearest terrace and created quite the unusual scorching waterfall. I could feel heat radiating from the falls on a cool winter day.


Breweries


Murray's Brewing Co.
Murray’s Brewing Co.; Bobs Farm, NSW, Australia

I talked about breweries in the previous episode so I won’t go into much detail. We visited 11 breweries in total although Lord Nelson was a repeat from our trip a couple of decades ago so my lifetime total increased by 10.

Australia:

  • 4 Pines Brewing Co., Manly
  • All Hands Brewing House, Sydney
  • Endeavour Tap Rooms, Sydney
  • Hope Brewhouse, Nelson Bay
  • Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, Sydney (repeat)
  • Murray’s Brewing Co., Bobs Farm
  • Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe, Sydney

New Zealand

  • Croucher Brewing / BREW Craft, Rotorua
  • Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co., Auckland
  • Shakespeare Hotel & Brewery, Auckland
  • Sweat Shop Brew Kitchen, Auckland

My personal brewery count stood at 475 as the trip concluded.


Fortifications


Sydney Harbour Ferry
Fort Denison; Sydney, NSW, Australia

I kind-of visited some forts, fortresses and fortifications. I guess they counted. I’ll count them. Why not?

We managed to tour through the North Head Batteries in Devonport, New Zealand until fierce wintertime rains drove us indoors. Later we experienced the abandoned bunkers of the World War 2 Fort Tomaree (photo) near Shoal Bay in New South Wales, Australia.

The best one, however, we observed only from a distance. Fort Denison sat within Sydney Harbour in Australia. We got a great view both times we took the ferry. Fort Denison covered every piece of tiny Pinchgut Island. It served as a defensive fortification for Sydney and sometimes as a prison during its primary years of activity in the early to mid Nineteenth Century.


But No Counties

I didn’t add anything to my most significant compulsion, my relentless need to count counties in the United States. However I have something else in the works that will help with that. Stay tuned and hopefully you’ll see something in the next few months.


Articles in the Australasian Adventures Series:

  1. Preparations and Arrival
  2. On the Waterfront
  3. Vistas
  4. Geothermal
  5. Heading Inland
  6. The Hunter Region
  7. Wild Animal Encounters
  8. Captive Animal Encounters
  9. Epic Runs
  10. Breweries
  11. Lists
  12. Changes

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Australasian Adventures, Part 10 (Breweries)

Longtime readers probably guessed that eventually I’d talk about beer and breweries that I found during the trip. I’m so predictable.

Naturally I focused some research on this topic ahead of time so I’d be prepared. I did find one surprise, though. It turned out that beer trends in the United States seemed to cross borders almost instantaneously. Just about every brewery in New Zealand and Australia made a reasonably accurate version of a New England IPA, as one example. A brewery visit in the southern hemisphere felt completely familiar too. The atmosphere, styles, quality — even the brewers’ beards and clothing choices — rang distinctly familiar. Only spoken accents differed.

Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular


GABS Festival

The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, or the GABS Festival for short, is a premier beer festivals Down Under. Each year the festival lands in Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland. I’ve been accused of timing our trip to coincide with GABS. Actually we had little choice over travel dates. Our kids’ school schedule and summer plans backed us into the final week of June and the first week of July. Would I really select wintertime on purpose? GABS Auckland, by happy coincidence, just happened to fall on Saturday, June 30. We were already planning to be in Auckland on that date anyway. However, I do admit I made sure we rented a house within walking distance of the event.

Attendees stepped up to centrally located serving stations called "containers" where small samples could be purchased either individually or by the group. These included beers from about 90 different New Zealand (primarily) and Australian (to a lesser extent) breweries, plus a handful of ciders. A number of breweries also had their own stalls with a wider range of their lineups. Food trucks ringed the back wall. The setup would seem familiar to anyone attending other festivals pretty much anywhere. The main difference here was that nearly every single beer was completely new to me!

Maybe I’ll get a chance to try it again someday.


New Zealand


Sweat Shop Brew Kitchen
Sweat Shop Brew Kitchen, Auckland

I’d never been to New Zealand so I’d never been to a brewery or brewpub there either. Most of our brewery visits took place in Auckland as one would imagine given the percentage of the population that lived within its vicinity. We also managed to find a brewpub in Rotorua. The general level of quality across these visits impressed us.

I think the most memorable brewpub might have been been Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Company in Auckland. One of the flight attendants on our Air New Zealand flight recommended it and the location fit nicely with our itinerary. The rooftop in its name provided an expansive view of Auckland Harbour which I’m sure we would have been lovely had it not been raining and the middle of winter. Instead we stuck indoors where the restaurant included a small two-lane bowling alley. Our boys got to entertain themselves while the wife and I shared samples and ate lunch.

That also got me thinking about the "proper" terminology for a series of small tasting glasses that allows one to try several different beers at a single sitting. In the United States the term sampler seemed to be a standard although flight has become increasingly common, maybe even eclipsing it. In New Zealand and Australia the favorite term might be paddle. It felt logical. The four or five-ish beers generally arrived on a paddle with each small glass in a separate hole (example).


Australia


Redoak Brewery
Redoak Brewery, Sydney

The Australian beer scene didn’t disappoint either. We found plenty of options both in urban and rural settings. Sydney offered a tremendous amount of choice. We stayed in Millers Point just a short walk away from the harbour. From there we could walk easily to four separate brewpubs, and we did. That barely scratched the surface. We ran out of time and never got to visit the huge cluster in Sydney’s Inner West.

We also found some options in Port Stephens, a three hour drive towards the north. I particularly liked the setting of Murray’s in Bobs Farm. It fit the typical model of a farm-brewery. In addition, it offered a vineyard and a distillery. Name an alcohol and Murray’s probably could probably age it, brew it or distill it. Plus they had an on-site restaurant.

I also enjoyed our visit to 4 Pines Brewing Company in Manly. Yes, I realized AB InBev purchased them last year so that unfortunate fact counted as something of a strike against them to beer purists. I picked up on its status even before I arrived when I noticed cans of 4 Pines on our flight from Auckland to Sydney. An ordinary independent craft brewery probably wouldn’t be able to land a contract like that. Nonetheless they brewed solid beer and offered a nice place to relax next to the ferry landing after we visited Manly beach. My son got to see the sand; I got to see a paddle.


‘Murica!


'Murica

I’ve always been fascinated by how the rest of the world views the United States. One reminder came in the form of a bottle I spotted in a grocery store in Auckland and I simply had to buy it. New Zealand’s Behemoth Brewing Company featured an array of stereotypes including a flag, a banjo, and an interesting hayseed ensemble for its mascot on this American Pale Ale. Naturally they called the beer ‘Murica! (with an exclamation point). As the brewery described it:

This here beer is for all y’all with a henkerin’ fir freedom, freedom to enjoy all them there hops. We done used good ol’ malts and gussied it up wit loads of granny-slappin’ good ’murican hops. Pick up ya britches, get ya clob hoppers on and enjoy this here ’murica pale ale. YEEHAW! It tastes like freedom and loose gun laws!

I grew up in a part of the country that some might call ‘Murica. I shared a laugh with representatives of Behemoth when I met them at the GABS festival a few days later. The beer tasted pretty good too.

Free Beer?


Free Beer -- Just Kidding

This may have been the best sign I saw all trip. For the record, there’s no such thing as a Free Beer.


Articles in the Australasian Adventures Series:

  1. Preparations and Arrival
  2. On the Waterfront
  3. Vistas
  4. Geothermal
  5. Heading Inland
  6. The Hunter Region
  7. Wild Animal Encounters
  8. Captive Animal Encounters
  9. Epic Runs
  10. Breweries
  11. Lists
  12. Changes

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr