Invasion of the giant killer spiders!

Yep, we’ve been in Australia – home to the most dangerous and deadly of all the creatures in the world! We met quite a few of them, thankfully behind glass, at Sydney Aquarium and Wildlife World, including sharks, stingrays, spiders, snakes, crocodiles and jellyfish. However, we weren’t prepared to meet one face to face…

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We were staying the night in a little cabin on the Great Ocean Road near Torquay, which had no electricity (just gas) and was very cute in a Little House on the Prairie way. We were playing cards on the bed when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye – I looked over and saw a spider as big as Ise’s hand (seriously) crawl in under the door and start walking towards us. Now I don’t usually mind spiders – at any rate, I don’t mind the little ones that don’t have any venom, but this one was a huntsman and an enormous one at that. I shrieked and Ise went for it with the can of Raid, but when he started to spray at it, the thing leapt up and charged at him with its front feet waving menacingly. He had to whack it with his shoe several times before it finally curled up and died. We spent the next 30 minutes stuffing cushions under the door to block the gap and checking the entire room for any relatives…

Luckily it wasn’t all creepy crawlies – we saw extremely cute koalas and wallabys at Wildlife World and some gorgeous penguins, turtles and dugongs (manatees) at the aquarium. Here’s a video of the highlights:

Our Australian leg of the trip started on New Year’s Eve with a cruise round Sydney harbour. We had a fantastic view of the amazing fireworks across the city skyline (see ITN footage below, which is better quality than ours!), including the Bridge and the Opera House and we had a good group of people at our table. Ise had rather too much of a good time celebrating and started 2010 feeling pretty rough. Luckily we were well looked after by Holly and Martin (thank you both!) and spent the day watching Peep Show, eating Heinz beans on toast and Thai take-away while admiring their amazing rooftop views of the Sydney Harbour bridge.

We spent an evening at the Observatory too, which was fascinating. We got to see Jupiter and 4 of its moons through this giant telescope.

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Then we watched a film which gave me brain ache about how big the universe and the things in it are. I really can’t get my head around it and I’ve never understood how if the universe is infinite, how can it also be expanding..? The last bit was my favourite part – lying on bean bags under a planetarium projector and looking at different constellations, including Scorpio, Orion and the Southern Cross. I was interested to hear that the aboriginal people have a different story about Orion the hunter. They think that the 3 stars we think of as Orion’s belt are three men in a canoe out fishing and that the stars that we think of as his bow represent the fish that they have caught. The views from Observatory Hill are pretty great too.

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On our last day in Sydney we visited the Powerhouse Museum, which is a design and innovation museum, sort of like a cross between London’s V&A and Science Museums. There was an 80s retrospective, which included a disco playing classic 80s hits (Lou, you would have LOVED it) and 80s computer games that visitors could play, which was really fun, but made me feel old. How often do you find toys and other objects from your childhood in a museum? My Little Ponies, Sylvanian Families, Rubik’s cubes and mix tapes all made us feel nostalgic.

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Then it was on to Melbourne, where we rode the free tram around town and visited the Old Gaol, where Ned Kelly (infamous bush ranger) was hanged in 1880 after an unfair trial, which was re-enacted for us, using members of the public to play certain parts, including key witnesses, the judge and Kelly himself. We were part of the public gallery and were able to join in with plenty of jeering and cheering…

The Old Gaol also had some rather sad stories of children being locked up with their mothers, a lady who was arrested for vagrancy rather unfairly, since her husband had left her with nothing after gambling it all away and Colin Ross, who was accused of raping and murdering a child, but continued to protest his innocence in prison and wrote a note on the back of a used envelope to this effect. He was hanged in 1922 and posthumously pardoned in 2008 after modern forensic techniques supported his claims.

Finally, we were given the “Crime and Justice experience”, where we were arrested, charged and locked up for a short time at the City Watch House, opposite the police station. We even got to have our mug shots taken!

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Whilst in Melbourne we were treated to a proper Aussie BBQ by Mark and his lovely girlfriend Victoria. After that, we hit the Great Ocean Road, stopping along the way for Ise to have some fresh mussels, visit Surfworld at Torquay, which had some beautiful surfing photos, artwork and a film about a couple of crazy Australian lads trying to surf in every state of the USA.

We stopped at bird rock to watch people throwing themselves into the sea and messed about on this fabulous beach.

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On our way we got to see some wild koalas in eucalyptus trees at the side of the road. Then it was on to the 12 apostles (there’s actually only 8 left now!), and some other beautiful rock formations.

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We ended up back in Melbourne for a stroll along the beach and around Luna Park in the sunshine.

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11 Comments so far

  1. Mum C on January 20th, 2010

    Great post. I feel like we’re catching up with you a bit. I love a good aquarium but the spider sounds terrifying. Isaac looks frightening credible in the mug shot; it must be the stubble! My kids are learnng about planets atm. I’ll tell them the aboriginal Orion story. Love, mum xxxxxx

  2. Dad C on January 20th, 2010

    Good aquarium shots. I’ve renamed the fish who always swam into camera shot while you were trying to flm penguins and rays, “hello mum” fish. All they needed was a sign stuck to their sides.
    I think you were given duff gen by the planetarium. It’s a well known fact that O’Ryan was an Irish hunter who drove all the snakes out of Ireland….. or was that Saint Patrick…..?

  3. Lisa P on January 20th, 2010

    Was the spider wearing Converse All-Stars on it’s feet?  :*

  4. Ivana on January 20th, 2010

    Hi, I am NEVER EVER going to want to go to Australia after that description of the
    S—-R experience, and whats more my laptop had a freaky pause moment and stuck on the pic of the model S—–R so I had to cover it with some paper till normal service was resumed!!! Thank goodness for the great fireworks after that, how lovely to be there. I am still recovering from the bungee jump though, just mopping my brow.Keep having fun! love Ivana

  5. Gude on January 22nd, 2010

    Yep, got terribly behind in NZ/OZ, so now getting caught up a bit!  HK blog to follow soon…
    I love the stories about the constellations.  Apparently the story of Orion includes Scorpio/Scorpius and that’s why they are at opposite sides of the sky.  Must read more about it! x

  6. Gude on January 22nd, 2010

    Yeah – they were cheeky those ones!  I liked the dugongs best, they looked so happy floating about eating their lettuce…
    *groan* re: O’Ryan x

  7. Gude on January 22nd, 2010

    Eh?  Am I missing something?! *DONT_KNOW*  x

  8. Gude on January 22nd, 2010

    Honestly, it was only because we were staying in a cabin – the hotels and motels were absolutely fine and spider-free!  We had loads of spiders in Guatemala too, but we didn’t know they were huntsmen at that point and Ise was just picking them up in a glass and throwing them outside.  They weren’t quite as big as the freaky Aussie one though!!

    No spiders in Thailand so far, just mozzies, but they sell 95% deet here, so we’re bite free thus far  😉

  9. Mum C on January 22nd, 2010

    O’Ryan came from one of my kids writing about space; he says he can find O’Ryan’s belt!

  10. David on January 23rd, 2010

    When spiders attack… yikes… I am so glad you both survived the experience! Such a hero that hubby of yours.

    What a fab way to see in the new year. J’adore Sydney and seeing your pics and reading the blog has got me needing a return visit pronto. The fireworks looked great and the views of the harbour really are hard to beat. Again, you managed to squeeze so much in to your time there… so many stories… so many memories. I remember sleeping under the stars when I travelled through the Red Centre and I have never seen the night sky so clear. Love your aborginal story. Always educating as well as entertaining us. Hmmmm. Where do you get it from?!? 

    An 80’s museum??? Now I do feel very old. Of course I never had a My Little Pony… I simply played with those owned by the girls in my street 😉 Didn’t know about the Powerhouse Museum and will take it in the next time I go down under.

    Lovely to read your adventures as always.

    Love to you both!!!

    xxx

  11. Gude on January 23rd, 2010

    Bless!