Fiji  -  Tasmania  -  Australia  -  Hawaii

January 29  -  April 2, 2008

 

 

Richard and Anita Dyck left Vernon with snow falling and  -17 C [1.4 F]  the morning of January 29 to meet Marjorie Buckham at the Kelowna International Airport.  The three of us were traveling together on this extended vacation, Marjorie being a friend of the Dycks for some 28 years.  Planning for this trip had been ongoing for a year with Marjorie and Richard working together, in consultation with Anita, to research and book quality and affordable experiences that would provide long-lasting memories for all of us.

 

Throughout this journal the metric system will be a constant to record temperature, distance and the like.  For those not using our metric system, below is an abbreviated conversion table to the US system of measurement:

 

 

Temperature                                                   Distance

 

15 C  =  59 F                                                   100 km  =  62.14 miles

20 C  =  68 F                                                  

25 C  =  77 F

30 C  =  86 F

35 C  =  95 F

40 C  =  104 F

45 C  =  113 F

 

 

The Web Sites I have provided are to enhance the attractions we enjoyed and provide more background for you … enjoy!

 

Our journey was not without incident, some serious others comical.  Each will be described in the order of occurrence.  Remember as you read, this could happen to each of you just as easily!

 

Tuesday, February 12

 

Sunshine greeted us as we departed Hobart via Virgin Blue Airlines at 7:00 a.m. bound for Sydney.  Arriving in Sydney we took the airport shuttle to our Hotel, The Altamont.  First thing on our agenda after check-in was laundry which we sent out to a Chinese laundry less than 1 block from our hotel.  After an early lunch we embarked on our first look at Sydney with the purchase of a day pass on the Sydney Explorer, a hop on hop off bus that visited 27 of Sydney’s most famous attractions.  Once at The Rocks, home of Sydney’s first European settlement, we took time to explore this area before joining the bus again to finish the tour.  The last leg of our tour saw us encounter very heavy rain showers that we had to wait out after leaving the bus before walking back to our hotel.  Further scrutiny of our hotel revealed that the entrance doors of The Altamont apparently came from a former prison.  The doors were of heavy wood complete with a square open viewing areas at head height!  As we had an early morning for our flight an early bedtime was in order.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Circular Quay             http://www.sydney.com.au/quay.htm

 

The Rocks                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rocks

 

Wednesday, February 13

 

Knowing that we had no early morning duties we all had a restful sleep and a leisurely breakfast.  Marjorie set off on her own for the day as Richard and Anita were scheduled to attend a luncheon and reunite with 6 members of their 2004 European Tour – residents of greater Sydney.  They enjoyed a delicious buffet while catching up after 4 years apart and renewing friendships.  Afterwards, Maria and Remy came with us to Bondi Beach and spent the remainder of the afternoon with us.  Following our dinner that evening we used a nearby internet café to send our first email to family and friends since leaving Canada.  We encountered no rain today, 23 C was the high and the sky was cloudy with sunny periods.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Bondi Beach                http://www.bondivillage.com/

 

Thursday, February 14

 

Rain greeted us upon rising then after breakfast sunshine returned for the remainder of the day.  Spent the day first visiting the Sydney Aquarium then Sydney Wildlife World.  First we saw turtles, sharks, manta rays, seals and countless Australian aquatic animals.  We walked in a tunnel with water on 3 sides providing us fantastic views.  Over at Wildlife World we encountered snakes, ants, reptiles, birds, butterflies and the like.  Animals included the koala, wombat, and wallaby to name a few.  Back at the hotel, this being Valentines Day, Richard purchased a bottle of wine to celebrate and the 3 of us had drinks [beer for Richard] on our patio.  Also, following dinner that evening, Richard bought chocolate treats for the ladies.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Sydney Aquarium                   http://www.sydneyaquarium.com.au/

 

Sydney Wildlife World             http://www.sydneywildlifeworld.com.au/

 

Friday, February 15

 

Skies were cloudy this morning as we were driven to our meeting point to begin our 29 Day BusTour,  Outback, Kakadu & Barrier Reef  with Scenic Tours.  First impressions of our Coach were “great”, “fantastic” … Mercedes Benz, 48 passenger, air conditioned, good sound system, seat belts and 6 small TVs located throughout so passengers can see the road ahead from any location within the coach.  We were 45 in total as we left, with others to join us en route.  Our group was comprised of Americans, Canadians, Danish, Dutch, Irish and English.  Our Tour Guide, Rita, was in her early 40s and Wally, our Coach Captain [Driver] in his mid 50s while Dave, our driver-in-training, would be around 50 years young.  We departed Sydney driving through rain showers that gave way to pure sunshine by 11 a.m. as we headed inland.  First impressions of Wally were nothing but the best as he provided informative and at times, humorous, commentary as we rolled along the divided 4 lane highway leaving Sydney.  Rita appeared to be a novice – not addressing all issues on this first day, i.e. introducing herself and Wally to all of us and having us identify ourselves to our fellow travelers.  Upon arriving in Canberra we had a scenic tour of the foreign embassies following a visit to the National Museum.  Theo and Gretha joined us in Canberra.  Our first hotel stay was great.  With the warm sunshine we needed to remember the sun screen in the morning.  We also had been advised to purchase fly nets at an early date.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Canberra                     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canberra

 

Saturday, February 16

 

Sunshine and our first true warm day with 36 C for the high.  Rita continued as she had begun, not answering questions directly or positively, putting the onus on us, the tourist, for answers to our queries.  Our journey was through rolling hills giving way at times to large flat ranches of cattle and sheep when at 11 a.m. we arrived in Wagga Wagga.  Departing Wagga Wagga the rolling hills disappeared leaving us with flat expanse of large sections of farmland, growing a mixture of corn, hay and grain crops.  Wally advised us that in earlier days rice paddies were prominent when more moisture was available than at present … hard to believe!  At times our highway had a curtain of trees on each side comprised of cyprus pine and the eucalyptus tree.  At Hay we very much enjoyed a demonstration of sheep shearing at Shear Outback.  Heading west in the afternoon we spotted emus off and on in the fields.  Wherever rivers flowed vineyards were aplenty, this more so as we approached Mildura, our overnight stop on the Murray River, the longest in Australia.  Our day was long but most enjoyable!

Seat rotation on the Coach is by assigned seat numbers [1, 2, 3 etc]even numbers on the left and odd numbers on the right.

 

Coach Seating Plan

 

24

12

6

18

2

D

O

O

R

8

14

20

10

16

22

4

 G

 U

  I

 D

 E

 D

 O

 O

 R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STAIRS

 

 T

 O

  I

 L

 E

 T

21

3

15

9

5

11

23

17

19

1

7

13

 D

 R

 I

V

E

R

 

 

Today home cities of our fellow Canadians have been identified –

British Columbia:  Vancouver 2; Surrey 2; Kelowna 1; Vernon 2;

Alberta:  Edmonton 1;

Ontario:  London 2; near London [previously from Newfoundland] 2;

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Shear Outback                       http://shearoutback.com.au/

 

Sunday, February 17

 

Another day of brilliant sunshine with 36C the estimated high.  We certainly have noticed the difference in the sun’s heat here compared to that in Canada.  Shortly after leaving Mildura we entered the state of South Australia and encountered our fist time change, half an hour, since coming to Australia.  Since departing Sydney, except for entering and leaving major cities, the highway has been just 2 lanes [not divided] and traffic not heavy at all.  Today we played “tag” with the Murray River crossing it a number of times as we made our way to Adelaide.  As such the roadside offerings of wheat and vineyards on vast tracts of land reflected the proximity to water.  Additionally, stands of orange trees greeted us from time to time.  In the Barossa Valley we tasted the local wines at Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre and enjoyed a light lunch.  This, by chance, was the same brand of wine Richard had purchased for the ladies on Valentine Day!  Dinner that evening in Adelaide was at our own expense so we took the tram to the beach and enjoyed our meal outside on the patio overlooking the marina there.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Jacob’s Creek                                    http://www.jacobscreek.com/our_place/around.phtml

 

Monday, February 18

 

Just a few clouds today, 35 C the high, and just another gorgeous sunny day.  Scenery today was of more large fields of hay and grains with vineyards appearing as we approached Claire.  For the first time homes were visible on these large farms.  The mountains of Flinders Range were in site the closer we got to Wilpena Pound and thesoil colour changed to reddish brown.  Just before our destination kangaroos were sited on both sides of the road.  Before ‘Happy Hour’ and dinner we enjoyed a relaxing swim in the pool.  After dinner more kangaroos were feeding on the grass next to our resort and made for good photos.

 

Tuesday, February 19

 

Today we encountered the real outback as we left the main route [and paved roads] to travel along the Oodnadatta Track bound for Coober Pedy.  We were glad to be sitting at the front of the coach today.  Starting out we enjoyed seeing numerous kangaroos, a number of emus and 2 wedge-tailed eagles.  Around 9 a.m. we stopped for a photo shot and Wally informed us we had a flat tire.  Repairs were made and 45 minutes later we again resumed our trek on the dirt roads.  We began to experience the real outback … total desolation!!  One just has to experience it to know it – vast amounts of dry, barren land as far as the eye can see.  Passed by numerous road signs of “Flooding” and creeks with no water flowing as we crossed the outback.  We’re told that when the rains come the moisture does not seep into the ground but runs off on top, hence the numerous warning signs.  Also visible were signs of previous bush fires on the trees scattered through the outback.  As we approached Lake Eyre, the largest salt lake in Australia, we had a second flat tire, this time worse than the first as the rubber over the rim just broke off in shreds.  Was truly hot by now, 44 C during this second tire change that took one hour to complete.  All this time we had to remain outside the bus, no shade and the ever present flies!  Sure made use of our fly nets here.

Fly nets are worn either over or under a hat, have a drawstring that will stop the bugs from sneaking in and are a ‘must’ when traveling the outback.

When asked, Wally informed us that the coach had only 2 spare tires meaning should another flat happen we would be “riding the rims”.  Due to these delays when we reached Coober Pedy at 6:45 p.m., temperature of 43C, we had been on the road some 11.5 hours.  Total distance traveled today was 636 km of which some 536 km was on dirt road.  Needless to say, all planned functions for us were cancelled and a dinner barbeque was enjoyed by all.  Our accommodation here offered 9 underground rooms – Anita and Richard were fortunate to have been booked into one of the nine.  An unusual but enjoyable experience!

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Lake Eyre                   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Eyre

 

Wednesday, February 20

 

Up early today for a 7 a.m. start to first tour the Umoona Opal Mine to see and hear of the history and development of opal mining in Coober Pedy.  Next, opal shopping where both Anita and Marjorie purchased opals from their local store.  We then toured an underground house comprised of 4 bedrooms and that was followed up with a driving tour of the town.  The previous evening, Wally and Dave had purchased 2 new spare tires at $A720. each and then flushed out the radiator of our coach using compressed air as the dust of the previous day had adversely affected the cooling system.  Leaving for Ayers Rock our drive saw us pass through more desolate and harsh landscape all the while the soil turned more reddish the closer we came to Ayers Rock.  What little vegetation there was consisted of small trees and shrubs.  As we left South Australia and entered Northern Territory some harsh rock formations dotted the landscape for a period of time.  Entering Northern Territory we adjusted our clock back 1 hour.  Lunch stop today was at a Roadhouse Café, temperature 43 C, where we had a chance to take photos of emus for the first time.  For the first time we saw a Road Train, consisting of only 3, not 4 trains, parked nearby.

A road train is a trucking concept used in remote areas of Australia, the US and western Canada to move bulky loads efficiently.  Road trains are used for transporting all materials, with livestock, fuel, mineral ores and general freight most common.  Australia has the largest and heaviest road-legal vehicles in the world, with some configurations topping out at close to 200 tons.  The majority are between 80 and 120 tons.  Three trailer road trains operate in western New South Wales, western Queensland and South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.  Darwin, NT, is the only capital city in the world that will allow triples and quads to within 1 km of the central business district.

We stopped at numerous Roadhouse Cafes in the outback.  These establishments, for the most part, are not clean [especially the rest rooms!], offer a limited menu selection, and somewhat expensive.  Yet we had to frequent these establishments as they offered what was needed dependent upon time and distance in the outback.

 

 

 

Thursday, February 21

 

Another 7 a.m. start to the day, again with sunshine and 31C the temperature at 7:15 a.m. rising  to 39C by 11 a.m.  We set off to tour Ayers Rock with walks around part of the Rock’s base.  Up close and personal Uluru has numerous holes and outcroppings not seen on tourist photos we previously had seen.  Numerous photos were taken on the walks and to describe Ayers Rock is difficult, again, one has to see it in person to truly appreciate its beauty!  We next visited the Cultural Centre nearby.  Back at the hotel Richard had a refreshing swim while Marjorie experienced a camel ride through the desert.  Later that afternoon we traveled to the 36 rounded domes of the Olgas located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.  There it was far too hot for the 3 of us, 44C at 4 p.m., to walk to the scenic view sites.  Come evening we experienced unique dining at the award-winning Sounds of Silence dinner, feasting on flavours of the outback, including barramundi, kangaroo, emu, crocodile, bush salads and classic Australian deserts.  We listened to the haunting sounds of a lone didgeridoo as we watched the spectacular colours of sunset over Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Ayers Rock                 http://www.crystalinks.com/ayersrock.html

 

Uluru Cultural Centre             

            http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru/visitor-activities/cultural-centre.html

 

The Olgas [Kata Tjuta]                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kata_Tjuta

 

Sounds of Silence       http://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/sounds-of-silence/

 

Friday, February 22

 

The sunshine prevails, 39C by 11 a.m. and by 2 p.m. the temperature reached 44C as we traveled towards Kings Canyon.  On the morning drive we continued through more desolate outback with slight changes in the trees and shrubs.  Had an impromptu photo session of some wild camels we came across taking our photos from inside the coach.  Upon arriving at Kings Canyon some chose to walk along the canyon floor but again it was too hot for us 3 to participate.  Instead, relaxing under a covered enclosure we took photos of the surrounding outcroppings and rock formations.

 

Saturday, February 23

 

This morning we awoke to cloudy skies and cooler as we departed at 7 a.m. with 18C being the temperature.  Showers began shortly and were with us off and on for the next 3 ½ hours when the sun appeared once more.  Rain puddles roadside attracted kangaroos and cockatoos, many of which perched on the low foliage.  Landscape still remained desolate but forever changing – first small trees and shrubs, then small outcroppings of rock and low hills.  First order of business upon arrival in Alice Springs was taking a group photo.  We participated in 2 tours prior to our hotel check-in.  We first visited the Alice Springs Telegraph Station to learn the history of how the town was created and listened to an orphaned aborigine descendant discuss the hardships of growing up in the area.  Next we stopped at the Royal Flying Doctor Service for insight into providing medical service to people living in remote and isolated areas of Australia.  At our hotel laundry was high on the agenda followed by the sending of email to family and friends.  The Red Centre Dreaming dinner show was our Scenic FreeChoice for that evening, featuring traditional and contemporary Aboriginal dancing, weaponry, group interaction, and didgeridoo playing.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Alice Springs Telegraph Station          http://www.wilmap.com.au/atts/138.html

 

Royal Flying Doctor Service               http://www.flyingdoctor.net/

 

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Flying_Doctor_Service_of_Australia

           

Red Centre Dreaming            

http://www.about-australia.com/travel-guides/northern-territory/alice-springs/attractions/food-wine/red-centre-dreaming-dinner-and-show/

 

Sunday, February 24

 

Our Scenic FreeChoice selection for today was a visit to Palm Valley, the oasis in the desert.  Departing Alice Springs we drove west through the West MacDonnell Ranges then through more barren landscape before arriving in historic Hermannsburg, the first Aboriginal Mission in the Northern Territory, established by the Lutheran Church in 1877.  Here we had a walk through the Hermannsburg Precinct venturing into some of the buildings, taking many photos and ending with tea and scones served in the Bakery and Dining Room.  Next, our 22 passenger Toyota Van took us onto a dirt road for the next 25 km journey to Palm Valley.  This was not just any dirt road, this one was extremely rough and at times there was no actual road.  We drove along the Fink River, now dry and on rocks in the river bed itself where no road was marked out.  We took advantage of many photo opportunities – surrounding hills of rock formations shaped by water and wind many many years earlier; trees growing out of rocks where there appeared to be no moisture, and wild horses and kangaroos.  Palm Valley and the surrounding area is the only place in the world where Red Cabbage Palms survive.  Walking the ancient valley floor beneath the Palms one could glimpse central Australia’s tropical past.  Permanent water allows this unique area and its flora to survive today despite the surrounding desert.  Our return drive was just as rough and we enjoyed a delightful picnic lunch before stopping at Hermannsburg once more en route to our Alice Springs hotel.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Palm Valley                 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Valley_(Northern_Territory)

 

Monday, February 25

 

A cloudy morning as we left the hotel for a tour of the Alice Springs School of the Air.  We then began the drive to Tennant Creek and by this time it was 18C and we had rain showers.  By 10 a.m. sunny skies were again with us; 30C at lunch; and 38C by 3 p.m.  Passed over the Tropic of Capricorn this morning.  More of the desolate landscape today but with more small trees amid stretches of bare land.  We noticed as we traveled the outback that the telephone and power poles were all made of metal or concrete.  This because the abundance of termites destroy any ones normally made of wood.  More evidence also of previous bush fires having taken place.  From noon onward termite mounds were plentiful along the highway  Stopped at Devil’s Marbles for photos where we all were impressed with the numerous rock formations available to us.  Arriving in Tennant Creek we drove out to view the Mary Ann Dam before checking into our motel.  For the first time on tour we had no porters for our luggage.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Alice Springs School of the Air                        http://www.assoa.nt.edu.au/

 

Tropic of Capricorn     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropic_of_Capricorn

 

Devil’s Marbles           http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devils_Marbles_Conservation_Reserve

 

Tuesday, February 26

 

Sunshine soon gave way to cloudy skies as we once again headed north out of Tennant Creek bound for Katherine.  Visited a working Cattle Station where we enjoyed a video presentation of life on a cattle station.  Continuing on we entered the area of monsoon rains, the surrounding landscape became greener and the trees taller, all due to the rains.  We had a pre-arranged lunch at the Daly Waters Pub hosted by Scenic Tours however our coach did not make it all the way to the Pub as recent rains had caused the road to flood – some 1.5 meters of water.  A convoy of private cars drove us to the Pub and back.  Temperature now was about 34C and becoming very humid.  At about 5 p.m. and some 100 km from Katherine, our overnight stay, the heavens opened up and monsoon-like rains came down.  Most everyone got wet taking luggage to their rooms as for the second time we had no porters to assist.  Our evening concluded with a great buffet dinner.

 

Wednesday, February 27

 

Overnight the rains continued most of the night and it was drizzling as we drove out for a guided cruise through Katherine Gorge.  We returned to Katherine for lunch and gas for the coach that allowed us some time for banking and shopping.  By now it was sunny with cloudy periods and humid!  Continued this way as we made our way to Kakadu National Park with dark rain clouds ever present in the huge Australian sky.  Numerous road trains passed us during our drive.  At 2:45 p.m. we entered Kakadu National Park.  We noticed that the termite mounds had got progressively larger as the day went on – some as tall as a man and with large bases at ground level.  More evidence also of previous bush fires / controlled burning having taken place.  For the first time on tour the creeks and rivers were full of water with some parts of the road flooded.  In places the banks have overflowed flooding both sides of the highway.  Stopped for a walk to photograph native art printed on nearby rock faces.  Soon after heavy rains poured down once more and continued until we arrived at our hotel in Kakadu. 

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Katherine Gorge         http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/parks/find/nitmiluk.html

 

Kakadu National Park             http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/kakadu/

 

Thursday, February 28

 

Sunshine returned after we encountered rain showers overnight and it was sunny as we boarded the coach at 7:15 a.m. bound for our cruise of the Yellow Waters billabong.  Our cruise was for 1 ½ hours with water levels exceedingly high as photos, hopefully will portray.  Encountered numerous birds including some eagles however all were too distant for good photos.  This, because of the high water and flooding.  We saw no crocodiles.  Our scheduled afternoon outing was cancelled due to flooding and we had time to ourselves – a rarity while on tour!  Marjorie had previously arranged a scenic flight over Kakadu; Richard took advantage of the internet café then spent time swimming in the hotel pool; Anita read and had a nap. 

 

Friday, February 29

 

Overnight there was a severe thunderstorm and heavy rains lasting no less than 1 hour.  Good news as we departed for Darwin – roads were passable and no flooding, thus no back tracking on roads previously traveled!  Heavy rains when we first left gave way to showers off and on.  Landscape today was of vast areas of wetland marsh, at times dotted with fields of mangos and bananas.  We encountered flooding on roadsides and at times on the road itself as we traveled into Litchfield National Park with photo stops at Wangi and Florence Falls.  At 1 p.m. it was 30C and very humid.  Termite mounds in the Park were sometimes as tall as our coach!  Upon arrival in Darwin and after hotel check-in, both Marjorie and Richard got hair cuts.  The Darwin Crowne Plaza Hotel was the best hotel to date on our tour …for 2 nights we enjoyed a large room, king size bed, and flat screen TV.  This was the end of the tour for some 26 of us and we had a farewell dinner this evening at a restaurant overlooking the Timor Sea.  We were told new members would be joining us in Cairns however it still was hard to say good bye to our new made friends we’d traveled with these past 2 weeks.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Litchfield National Park           http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/parks/find/litchfield.html

 

Florence Falls            

http://www.about-australia.com/travel-guides/northern-territory/darwin/attractions/natural/florence-falls/

 

Wangi Falls     http://www.monsooncafe.com.au/litchfield_National_Park/wangi.html

 

Saturday, March 1

 

This morning Richard and Anita set out for a cruise on the Adelaide River to see the Jumping Crocodiles while Marjorie chose to explore Darwin City sights on the Tour Tub hoping to do some shopping afterwards.  Our coach driver, Lloyd, was Canadian, having married an Aussie and moving to Darwin 20 years ago.  He originally came from Kimberly, BC and with the other Canadians aboard we had most interesting discussions.  Prior to the cruise we first visited the Fogg Dam Nature Reserve in the wetlands / flood plain, some 60 km out of Darwin.  On the Jumping Crocodile Cruise both Anita and Richard, on separate sides of the tour boat captured photos of 2 jumping crocodiles.  The food offered to the crocodiles was frozen pork chops.  Prior to returning to Darwin we stopped at Window on the Wetlands to view displays of wetland areas and to take photos of panoramic views of the wetlands.  Skies were cloudy and overcast today but there was no rain.  The first segment of our Tour ended with the morning Scenic FreeChoice offering leaving us with a ‘free’ afternoon and evening to repack, wash clothes, etc. prior to our flight to Cairns early Sunday morning.  We 3 had dinner and drinks with Martin prior to him leaving on his homebound flight back to England.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Fogg Dam Nature Reserve

            http://www.enjoy-darwin.com/fogg-dam-birdwatching.html

 

Jumping Crocodile Cruise      http://www.jumpingcrocodile.com.au/

 

            http://www.adelaiderivercruises.com.au/jumping_crocodile.htm

 

Window on the Wetlands

http://www.travelnt.com/en/search/product-detail.aspx?product_id=9000189&index=true