Category Archives: Australia

October 19-20, 2009 – Invercargill to Syndey and Rest

Well things are winding down. It is hard to believe we have been gone from home for over 4 weeks. But it really doesn’t seem like it has been so long. The time has been flying by.
We had a lovely flight from Invercargill to Christchurch and then onto Sydney. Customs wasn’t so bad and we really are becoming pros at handling the massive amounts of luggage.
We are staying at the Hilton Sydney in an executive suite. The rooms and service are excellent, though the suites aren’t really meant for family accomodations.
We are right across from Queen Victoria Building and in the basement there is a food court. It is nice because the kids can get things from McDonald’s and Daniel and I can have food like sushi and Indian…
Unfortunately, I had a headache all day yesterday and didn’t do much except lay around and nap. Finally, I made myself go outside with Katrina. We went in search first of the swimming pool, but it is part of a health club and while we can use it, when we went down, all the lanes were filled with lap swimmers. So we walked to Darling Harbor and found a little playground, but it was really more for toddlers. The walk out did us good though, as my headache finally began to drift away.
We played some cards and turned in early.

October 7, 2009 – Auckland to Rotorua, New Zealand

We arrived in New Zealand today. It was so nice that we didn’t have to get up until 5:30…way better than 2 a.m. We arrived at the airport at 7:30 and then the going to another country ordeal – customs out of Australia, we were in lines for over an hour, then we had a hike to the gate, then we had about 30 minutes to find a place to eat. By the time we found a place, stood in line and got our food, we had 10 minutes to eat before going to the gate. Then the plane ended up boarding 20 minutes late! That will teach us to rush!
The plane was very plush! We had complimentary headsets, comfortable eats, had our own monitor and we could choose from movies, music, games, tv and learning about NZ. I watched 3 episodes of Boston Legal. The legal part is a bit of a stretch from what little I know, but I enjoyed watching William Shatner.
We were served lunch (with chocolate ice cream). there were pillows and a candy was handed out when we landed. Cupholders were on the seat in front of us next to the monitor, which made it way easier to hold onto your drink and not spill it. The only down side was the older gent sitting next to me who kept his elbow in my side pretty much the whole trip.
So we landed at the Auckland aiport at about 2:30:





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October 5-6, 2009, Cairns and Sydney

Just wanted to chime in and say that we are doing well and are currently touching base in Sydney. Yesterday, we spent the day packing up (trying to rearrange luggage so it will be easier to sort as we are traveling through NZ. Most places we will only stay one night). We also had to get to bed early as we had to get up at 2 a.m. because we had a taxi coming at 3:30 a.m. to take us to the airport for a flight that left Cairns at 5:45 a.m. and arrived in Sydney at 9:45 a.m.
We are checked in here at Sydney and it is just another low key day. Some more rearranging of the luggage and we were able to leave two bags with the Hilton where we will be staying in two weeks when we return from NZ. That much less to lug around for the next couple of weeks:) YEAH!
Tomorrow, we have a 9:30 flight to NZ and will be there for 12 days. Not sure how much we will be online during that time. We will touch base when we can.
And I leave you with these pictures to show what happens when people start buying hats to protect themselves from the sun….



Jack models Daniel’s two hats, my hat, Jack’s two hats, and Katrina’s hat.

Katrina models her hat, my hat, and Daniel’s two hats.

October 4, 2009 – Diving at The Great Barrier Reef

Today was absolutely spectacular! We were up at 5 (today, Katrina was the one who was the hardest to get out of bed). In spite of the fact that we were ready to leave at 6:35 a.m., it was still 6:50 by the time we got downstairs to the vehicle and out of the building. It was like old home week when we got to the Tusa 5. There were several crew members there today who had been there on Friday and they were all pleased to see us back again. Considering the number of people that take their tours, it was nice to be remembered.
I just want to take a moment here and say that Australians are excellent at customer service and people back in the States should take some lessons. They make a real effort to learn the names of the people on the tours. We had a snack at a cafe after we got off of the boat and one of the ladies came and talked to us and asked us how our vacation was going, where we were from, what we had been up to and before we left she gave us a coupon for a complimentary drink with lunch should we come back. This is pretty indicative of the courtesy we have been extended everywhere in this country. It makes such a big difference to walk into a store, onto a tour, and have people treat you like you are more than just a customer. The funny thing is that here in Australia the minimum wage is twice what it is at home, and people here don’t expect tips. But their service is so supreme, we have found ourselves giving tips on several occasions. I just can’t stress enough what a wonderful experience it has been to be here and how wonderfully we have been treated.
Now, back to today. We knew our way around the ship today and it was nice to be able to help others when we saw them stuck or looking for something. We settled in and the ride today was calmer than Friday’s. I didn’t see anyone get sick.
We arrived at today’s first spot on the reef and were given 2 hours to snorkel. It was absolutely amazing! We saw so many cool fish and other ocean life! I didn’t want to get out at the end of two hours (but I was a little cold). Then we had lunch, a reef lesson, and we were off to another site where we got to snorkel and dive for an hour. If possible, it was more spectacular than the first site. There were these amazing canyons among the coral. I could have spent hours there, but we had to leave.

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October 3, 2009 – Kuranda Train, Kuranda, SkyRail, and Tjupaki!

On this trip, we have experienced pretty much every mode of transportation: cars, 4WD SUV, 4WD tourist coach, buses, subways/monorails, trains, planes, ships, sky cable cars, and trolleys. We could be in a remake of the movie classic Trains, Planes and Automobilles!
So today, we were off on a great tour! We were picked up at 7:45 and driven to the Fairweather Station. Once there, we were checked in and given our tickets for the train. We were in carriage 9, seats 45-48. The Kuranda Scenic Train was something that Australians we met in Alice Springs were telling us we really must do. And that was lucky for us as we had booked this trip months ago. The train ride took about 1 1/2 hours to take us from Freshwater Station to the village of Kuranda. We drove through rain forest (which was fun to drive though, but probably even prettier during the rainy season). Here are some photos from our train journey.



Melissa looking out of the train.



At one point, we were on Horse Shoe Bend. We could see the front of the train and the back of it! Note all of the people with their cameras out of the window taking pictures of other parts of the train!


This is one of the photos of Barren Falls. These falls are spectacular during the rainy season. But locals here say that this is the driest Dry they remember and there wasn’t much water flowing today. But still it was spectacular.

The train track we followed had 15 tunnels that had been carved by hand 100 years ago. It was and is quite an achievement considering that it not only went through the mountains, but the jungles as well.

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October 2, 2009 – Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef

What an amazing adventure! We were up at 5 am this morning because we needed to leave by 6:30 to drive to Cairns (we are staying a little way up the coast at Trinity Beach). Well, it was hard getting going. I won’t mention any names, but one of us pretty much had to be pulled out of bed because she just couldn’t wake up…must have been the motion sickness pills! Anyway, after a few false starts that included being slow moving, me being unable to find the room keys that had the remote for the garage and Daniel being unable to locate the dive papers, we actually left at 6:50. We got to Cairns and parked where we thought we were supposed to….only to find we were literally a mile from the boat…Fortunately, we had planned an extra hour into our travel this morning, so we were still on the boat in plenty of time.
This is a nice boat…here’s a photo:




I just want to say that this experience was so, so, so very different than our experience in Myrtle Beach! And if you come to Cairns to dive, I highly recommend Tusa
First we got checked in and found a seat. We ended up at a table with two girls from San Francisco who were here in Cairns for a few days. Turns out one of them, Karen, actually lived in the same building Daniel lived in the last time he worked in San Francisco! Isn’t that Incredible!
After we were checked in, we were encouraged to have a cookie and coffee or tea or water. This was morning tea. We were also warned that the trip out to the reef was going to be a bit bumpy and we should take some medicine if we had a history of being sea sick or if we had never been out on the ocean before. They offered either ginger tablets for free or two motion sickness pills for 1.00. I had taken another motion sickness pill before leaving the apartment, but decided that adding ginger to the mix would be a good idea. Especially since we were moving and I was already feeling a little queasy and we hadn’t gotten out to the bumpy part yet.

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October 1, 2009 – Cairns

Today was kind of a do nothing day. We slept in a bit and piddled around (translated, caught up on emails and blogged), then we went to lunch at Hungry Jack’s. That was probably the most interesting part of the day. I ordered an Aussie hamburger. It came with a few unique extras: pickled beets, fried egg, and bacon. It tasted pretty good!
Then we went to a 24 hour medical center. Daniel and I needed to get Dive Medicals here in Australia in order to dive, even though we had gotten clearance back in the states. Daniel passed fine. I didn’t because of a medication I am on. Apparently, it falls in a gray area of possibly causing problems when diving and the doctor was unwilling to sign off on me diving. But snorkeling was okayed.
We stopped by Woolworth’s to get groceries, then got back to our apartment around 4:30. Daniel and Katrina went to the beach for a little while. Daniel said the water was a bit colder than he expected, the sand was coarser than we are used to and the shore drops off pretty quickly (meaning you don’t have to walk 50 feet out to get wet above your waist. Then they came up to the pool and I went down to meet them. Daniel came up to the room and I stayed with Katrina for a bit.
Before going to bed, I took 2 motion sickness pills in an attempt to keep from getting sick during the boat ride out to the Great Barrier Reef. When at Myrtle Beach, one of the instructors tole me that I might want to try taking it the night before I go diving since taking it an hour before didn’t help me. I went to sleep pretty quickly after that!

October 1, 2009 – Cairns

Today was kind of a do nothing day. We slept in a bit and piddled around (translated, caught up on emails and blogged), then we went to lunch at Hungry Jack’s. That was probably the most interesting part of the day. I ordered an Aussie hamburger. It came with a few unique extras: pickled beets, fried egg, and bacon. It tasted pretty good!
Then we went to a 24 hour medical center. Daniel and I needed to get Dive Medicals here in Australia in order to dive, even though we had gotten clearance back in the states. Daniel passed fine. I didn’t because of a medication I am on. Apparently, it falls in a gray area of possibly causing problems when diving and the doctor was unwilling to sign off on me diving. But snorkeling was okayed.
We stopped by Woolworth’s to get groceries, then got back to our apartment around 4:30. Daniel and Katrina went to the beach for a little while. Daniel said the water was a bit colder than he expected, the sand was coarser than we are used to and the shore drops off pretty quickly (meaning you don’t have to walk 50 feet out to get wet above your waist. Then they came up to the pool and I went down to meet them. Daniel came up to the room and I stayed with Katrina for a bit.
Before going to bed, I took 2 motion sickness pills in an attempt to keep from getting sick during the boat ride out to the Great Barrier Reef. When at Myrtle Beach, one of the instructors tole me that I might want to try taking it the night before I go diving since taking it an hour before didn’t help me. I went to sleep pretty carefully after that!

September 30, 2009 – Cairns Night Zoo

Let me preface this by saying that if you like animals and you are in Cairns, you really, really, really should make this event part of your trip here! We had so much fun!!!!!
So we arrived at the Cairns Night Zoo and were checked in. One of the first to greet us was Sam – the Sulpher-Crested Cockatoo (he liked being scratched behind his ears and told us so by saying ‘scratch’ and tilting his head to the side.




After we were checked in, we were allowed to grab a drink while we waited for our food to be served. We had water (we have been drinking tons of water here), but beer, wine, and sodas were all available as part of the evening’s events. Next came a Swaggie with a Didgeridoo and gave everyone a lesson and a chance to play. Video will come at some point. Then the buffet was ready.
Freshly grilled steak, grilled chicken, Spanish mackerel, sausages, baked potatoes, the world’s best cole slaw, pasta salad, green salad and crusty bread. Then the desserts came out. Pavlova with fresh fruit salad and lashings of whipped cream. I was too stuffed to try it, but Daniel said it was very good. Jack tried grilled chicken, a baked potato and the pavlova. He didn’t like any of it, but at least he tried it!
While we ate, Dave sang us some songs. Our particular favorite was Country Roads! I feel sure he sang it for us (as he sang it when near our table), but later he seemed surprised to learn we were from Virginia. We bought his CD as we enjoyed his songs so much. Not so sure that Sam liked the music though, he got a bit agitated a couple of times, screeched and flared his crest!



Next we were given torches and a bit of a talk on what to expect and what we could and couldn’t do and off we went.

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September 30, 2009 – Cairns Botanical Garden

I got to talk to Dad and Dianne today and to Ashley and Therese. I tried calling mom, but I missed her and Jim.
Wow, what a day! Who knew how much we could see on a 10 hour tour! We got picked up at noon by David. I have to say up front that he was absolutely the best tour guide we have ever had. David was in charge of taking us on a tour of the highlights of Cairns. He was knowledgeable, personable, and had hands on manipulatives for the passengers to look at. He had photos of local wildlife taped about the bus. He had copies of major news stories – big fish to crocs to floods. He had a cane toad in a jar and some bugs in jars. And he was funny, warm, and friendly. He made it a point to get to know all of our names and where we were from. He was truly a wonderful guide!
First David dropped us off at St. Monica’s Cathedral in Cairns to look at the Creation Story in Stained Glass and the Peace Windows. Please, take the time to click on the link and learn about both the Peace Windows and Creation Story Windows. I took some photos but they are no where as good what you will see on this website (though I did load them up to Flickr). I would have a hard time going to this church…I would be spending all of my time staring at the windows.
Next, David drove us about Cairns pointing out good hotels, shops, and restaurants. He told us about sugar cane and sugar production, about tourism, and he showed us a naval base and shipbuilding. During this part of the tour, he showed us a sign that I had to get a photo of:




What you can’t quite see in my photo is that this sign is beside a roadway. However, in times past, when there has been flooding, boats have traversed the road and the warning has been so they will note the overhead wires…. We learned that growing sugar cane is a big source of income here in this part of Australia. We saw the fields and the buildings where it was processed. Bet they have a really high Orkin bill!
Next we drove to the local headquarters of the Flying Doctor Service. When we were in Alice Springs, we learned about Reverend Flynn when we visited his grave site. He was the force behind the beginning of the Flying Doctor Service which over the years has saved tens of thousands of people. Because of the Flying Doctor Service, medical help is available to those living in the rural areas of Australia. But, they don’t just provide emergency medical service, they also provide medicine chests for these areas (so when people are sick or hurt, a designated person can call in, consult, and dispense the medications). They are providing wellness and immunization services as well. We watched a brief film, toured the museum, saw the inside of a retired medical plane and perused the gift shop.

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