The Hunter Valley!

Bright & early on day 3 back in western civilization, I met G&V for a day trip they had found out to a wine region north of Sydney. Turns out that the company is just this one guy who started from the ground up, and now does tours 4 days a week up to "The Hunter" as he called it- Sam of Kangariffic tours truly was awesome! We were in for a great of a day, complete with hilarious musical cues to get us ready for each stop. See, he doesn't just do a wine-tasting tour. Nooo- this day trip would have animals, chocolate, cheese, and beer along with some wine- fabulous!

Our first stop about an hour outside the city was at an animal sanctuary, and Sam did warn us that we wouldn't want to leave. We pulled into the lot, and immediately I saw some Kangaroos and squealed. First stop though was the koala enclosure! There we met two young females who were actually awake & munching on their eucalyptus. Sooo cute, and SO FLUFFY! One was younger & more adventurous, so we even got to see her crawling around a bit. Adorbs. Once we'd all gotten some photos, we were off to the main area, where it seems the 'Roos, wallabies, and Emus (among some other animals) just have the run of the place. We were explained who was friendly, where they like to be pet, and were basically let loose. Kangaroos are adorable, but frankly a bit lazy (at least these seemed to be). There was a mama w/a Joey in her pouch, but other than one foot sticking out, we didn't get to see too much. The Emus were the most friendly, as evidenced by the cute shots Gregg took of me with one. They of course brought out a snake at one point, but I didn't do much more than touch it once- creepy! At one point we went inside the office for tea & cookies, where there were also a couple of lorikeets along with terrariums of snakes, crocs, and that sort of thing. I was leaning over, trying to peek in a cage while munching on a cookie, when all of a sudden one of the little birds jumped on my bum, scurried up my back & then down my arm, and proceeded to munch on the cookie in my other hand. Luckily, I did not start screaming, but kept my cool for a bit. A laugh for everyone else, but honestly a bit nerve wracking for me- I don't like birds! Anyway, they did bring out feed for the animals at one points so we did get to see the 'Roos hopping, which was just super cool, but all too soon, it was time to load up for out next stop!

So, one thing we have learned on this trip, in general, is that we are lucky & spoiled with where we live. SF is a fab city, and Napa/Sonoma are truly wonderful. On this day, we went to three wineries, a chocolate shop, and a cheese shop. None of them could really compare with anything you can find up in Napa or Sonoma. I mean, it was of course nice & lovely, and everything was more or less tasty, especially the third winery which was quite good, but... Well, we weren't all that impressed. The first winery gave us the teensiest tastes from I think 5 bottles, none of which were that great, and the setting was cute enough, but just not all that. Out next stop was a big commercial winery, beautiful, which also had two restaurants & a cheese shop/deli where we had lunch. This was a cool place, excellent sandwich, but our cheese tasting was a bit rushed & consisted of I think 4 different spreadable cheeses. I guess they were local, but again, eh. Wines were better here, once the crowd died down a bit & you cold get some attention. The third stop was great, and really did compare favorably to what you see back home. We had a private room with great service, giant pours, and lots of explanations & comparisons. It also had a gorgeous view, and a cute little museum. We loved stop 3 (most of the photos not of animals are from there)! The final stop before Sydney was a cool little brewery, where they make the standard pilsner and such, but also unique stuff like bananas foster beer (which of course I liked & Gregg hated). This was also mostly a chance for us to chat with some of our group, who were mostly all really cool.

It was nap time all around on the ride back into Sydney, and then some unfortunate traffic, so we didn't get back to town until quite late. We did need a little dinner though, so I met G&V in their neighborhood for a quick bite. We ended up at a sushi place which seemed cool. It was Valentines day, so unfortunately we were seated next to a couple who REALLY needed to go get a room, and double unfortunately the two incompetent waitresses for our section couldn't get two-thirds of our meal to actually appear on the table. Grr. After that slightly unfortunate experience, we rewarded ourselves with some AMAZING gelato. Seriously good stuff, and completely put us in good moods, even though it seemed all that was waiting for us the next day at the Whitsunday Islands was going to be rain, rain, and more rain.

More on that next! Pics of our super fun day in the Hunter Valley here.