Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rottnest Island

We spent the following day at Rottnest Island, which is a small island just off the coast of Perth. It's a big daytrip spot. It has beautiful beaches and has been largely untouched by human development. There's a hotel, a restuarant, some apartment accomodations, two lighthouses, and the dock. And that's it. Cars are even illegal. The only way to get around is by bicycle. Bob in particular was looking forward to that part. The island has a circumference of about 15 kilometers. Greg biked it late in the day. It was a really scenic ride. Here was our chariot over.
The main draw are the beaches. This is called "The Basin" for the way the rock suddenly drops off from knee to shoulder deep water. You can see it in this picture, it's the lighter blue section in the middle.

While Bob, Olivia, and Greg went for a bike ride (Olivia cursing the other two for much of the time), Tina and Laurel took Immy for a walk over to the Basin. Immy woke up super excited. We think she might have recognized the sound of the ocean from her white noise machine at home. Or it might have been her super adorable flower bathing suit. Thanks Roberto and Rachel for the great hand-me-down!

This little guy is a quokka, the indigenous animal of Rottnest Island. Like everything in Australia, they are a marsupial. It's like a big rat, but way cuter. Also, they are completely used to having people around and without any cars, nothing really poses a threat to them, so they are pretty chill. This guy let Laurel get really close for the picture.

This is Immy's first trip to the ocean, and this picture captures the exact moment she first made contact with the Indian Ocean. She did not care for it. The water was really cold, and it surprised her. She started screaming immediately, and didn't stop until we took her up to the towels and dried her off.

She liked the sand better, but she was still a little nervous about being so close to that mean old ocean.

Immy loves hanging out with her Grammy!

Towards the end of the day, Bob and Olivia rode off to another part of the island for a swim. Little did they know that while this picture was being taken, someone was stealing their bikes. Not cool, guys, not cool. So they had a much longer walk back to the ferry. Fortunately, our tour company was cool about it since they never gave us the bike locks they were supposed to.

We had a great time, it was a beautiful day in the sun. Not many better ways to spend the end of the year then on the beach. Good job Southern Hemisphere and your backwards seasons.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lancelin, Cervantes, and Pinnacles Desert

Our second day of the trip was the one Greg was looking forward to the most- driving North to the Pinnacles Desert with a few stops along the way. First up- Lancelin. It's an incredibly small town about an hour's drive north of Perth. Why stop there? Because right outside of town stretches some enormous white sand dunes that are just spectacular. So much so in fact that they invented a new recreational pastime to take advantage of them- sandboarding! The sand is just impossibly white.

What is sandboarding you ask? It's like surfing, just on sand and downhill. You pretty much just stop by any gas station in town, rent a couple of boards, and head out to the dunes. There really isn't any guidance so when we arrived there were about a dozen people kind of standing on top of the dunes trying to figure out how it works. It works like this- find the steepest hill possible, otherwise you kind of just sink down, and stay on for as long as you can. Here's Greg, shredding it up.


The dunes are everywhere in this part of Australia, and they just pop up in random places. Here's one on the side of the road, rising out of a sea of green shrubbery.

Our second stop was in the town of Cervantes, on the coast, specifically the Lobster Shack. It's a major lobster fishing company in Western Australia, fishing and shipping to the world the famed Western Australia Rock Lobster. We took a tour of the facility, and they explained how they process the lobsters. They have long tanks that they move them through and break them into categories A-H depending on size, with H being the largest. Different countries and cultures prefer different size lobsters. Japan likes the smaller A lobsters, while Dubai wants H lobsters- the bigger the better. They ship the lobsters alive in boxes filled with pine chips, apparently something about the wood chip helps keep the lobsters cool and damp. Before anyone gets too upset about the live shipping, just know that all their processing and shipping methods are certified as humane, which is a huge source of pride for the company.

The main draw of the Lobster Shack though is their lunch truck. Lobster for lunch? Don't mind if we do! Greg went for the lobster sandwich. This is slightly more difficult with a baby strapped to you. Amazingly, nothing too messy was dropped on her head. This time.

Laurel opted for the half grilled lobster. Solid play.

That is an insanely huge lobster, probably measuring about 1.7 Imogens. I would not want to run into that thing out in the ocean. It's like a giant water spider, and that is not cool.

Awwwwww! Baby lobster!

Such a great lunch, and a great way to spend a couple hours. We totally recommend making a stop here if you are ever in the area.

Finally it was time for the main event- the Pinnacles Desert! The Pinnacles is about a four square kilometer desert covered with limestone rocks poking out of the sand. They range in size but the biggest ones can be over four meters. It's a really odd, but incredible sight.

Maybe the weirdest thing is just how abrupt the whole landscape is. It's not as apparent in this picture, but looking out, just past the desert is another large, white sand dune, and just after that is the ocean. It doesn't seem like all of these things should be right next to each other.

Imogen LOVED the Pinnacles. She actually stopped eating to look out the window and check them out. In the Otey/Jackson household, this is the ultimate expression of interest. She couldn't get enough of them. We now call her Pinnacle Peanut.

They aren't entirely sure how these pinnacles formed the way they did, and there are several theories. Our favorite one is that thousands of years ago, a wildfire tore through the area, before being covered over by earth and sand. So what we are seeing are actually ancient, fossilized trees.

It's a landscape unlike any other. Greg was not disappointed.

Friday, March 1, 2013


This was a momentous day. We were flying to Perth for a week and a half long vacation to Western Australia with the Jacksons. Vacations are always fun, but we were a little nervous, because this was our first time traveling with Immy. Many people had told us the best time to travel with a baby is in the first six months before they are mobile, so that's what we're doing but you never know how she is going to handle everything. We can now report that Immy is a champion traveler. She took everything in stride, which was amazing. This is a picture we snapped of her first plan ride. She was pretty interested in her special baby seat belt.

This is why we love Qantas. Our flight from Melbourne to Perth wasn't full, so they arranged, without us asking, for there to be an empty seat next to us. Immy had her own seat to stretch out and sleep on. That made the flight so much easier! Since we were flying in the late evening it was pretty much her bedtime anyway, so she slept the whole time. Best baby ever.

First stop- Cottlesloe Beach! Here's Bob and Greg getting in the Indian Ocean. Pretty cool. Greg's now swam in three out of four oceans. Watch out Arctic- we are coming for you. But probably in a wetsuit. You probably aren't as sunny and beautiful as this.

Clearly, Bob is enjoying the water. We probably could have left him there for a week and he would have been perfectly happy.

Olivia, enjoying things not so much. In her defense, this was like the eighth picture in a row.


The Perth skyline. It's a city of around 1.5 million people, making it the fourth largest city in Australia. About 60% of the population of Western Australia lives in Perth. It's a pretty wide open, desolate country. Perth's climate is very similar to San Diego, it never rains, and while it can get quite hot the strong wind coming off the ocean keeps it feeling comfortable. Bob remarked that it felt a lot like Southern California (in the '80's) as well- it's growing fast, but clearly there is still a ton more to do. Investment alert!

Fun US trivia- Perth is the furthest major city in the world from the continental United States. We've gone as far as we can to get away from you America, everything from here is just working our way back.

This is the Swan Bell Tower which sits right on the water. It opened December 16th, 2000 as Western Australia's Millennium Project. The bell tower is designed so that tourists can go up and view the bells, even while they are ringing. These are the only bells in the world with such a distinction. The bells include those from St. Martin-in-the-Field, the parish church of Buckingham Palace. They've been in existence for over five hundred years and have rung out to announce such historic events as the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the homecoming of Captain Cook. They've also been rung to celebrate the coronation of every British monarch since King George II in 1727. Not bad.

In the early 1980's, an Australian ship won the America's Cup sailing competition. It was a come out of nowhere, major upset, and Australians consider it a major point of pride. Some still feel it is the nation's greatest sporting achievement ever. When the sailing ship returned home from its victory to Perth it became a de-facto holiday, with people everywhere skipping work to celebrate and watch the winning ship come to port. The Prime Minister, famously, had this to say -

While we were walking around we came across some kangaroo statues, and like every tourist ever stopped to get our picture taken with them. Immy is going for a ride.

You may not be able to tell, but this is Olivia's kangaroo pose.

Taking a stroll through the national gardens.

Just a super interesting sculpture in front of a church. I think it's supposed to be the Holy Ghost.

While we were spending a week and a half in Western Australia this was really the only day we had set aside for its biggest city. Really glad we got to see it, and it was a day well spent, but the real star of Western Australia is the ocean and all of the natural geography. More on that tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Christmas 2012

It's Immy's first Christmas! So, of course, we took her to see Santa. It started off a little rough when Santa announced his arrival by loudly ringing a bell, starling Immy from her nap. She's a trooper though and quickly rallied.

Immy is super adorable in her special Christmas dress. It was naptime, so she wasn't super into photos.

We went to the children's service at a local church. The service featured a youtube video of the Bethlehemian Rhapsody, which is a musical telling of the Christmas story performed by puppets and set to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Pretty epic. Seriously, check it out-

We forgot to take a picture of our Christmas eve feast (roast spatchcocks), but we did snap a picture of our fancy dessert. These are roasted apples stuffed with pecans, figs, cheese, and maple syrup. Amazingly good, and Olivia showed her knife skills when we realized we didn't own an apple corer.

Look at that present explosion underneath the tree. We're going to kind of miss our ridiculous fake, silver tree.

Now we know that Immy is way too young to understand Christmas, but she woke up that morning super excited. Like too excited to eat. She was probably just recognizing everyone else's excitement and reflecting that, but it was super cute. She was ready for some Jackson present madness.

Hey, hey, what do you have there? Is that for me!?

Hey look! A cup with your name on it, we won't find that in the States very often! It was getting close to nap time so Immy was rapidly losing steam.

After the presents came the feast! This year's table featured roast leg of lamb, mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, prawn and avocado salad, roast pumpkin and walnut salad, and a mango and blueberry fruit salad. Mmmmmmmmmmmm, delicious.

To be clear, Immy did not get an iPad. That would be ridiculous, she is a baby. Olivia did, and took a picture of a very excited baby next to the box. Think we can get Apple to make this the center of their next ad campaign?

Merry Christmas everyone! See you back in the States this time next year.