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! 

 

This segment will cover our journey from Cairns to Sydney, the beginning and end of our Scenic Tour of Australia.

 

On February 29 we had arrived in Darwin for a two night stay.  The following morning, Dave, our driver in training, left to drive our coach to Cairns.  This was a 3 day journey and Rita and Wally remained to fly with us to Cairns and Dave delivered our coach intact, no bumps or scrapes, the morning of March 4.

 

Sunday, March 2

 

Up much earlier this morning leaving our hotel at 5:30 a.m. bound for the airport and our Qantas flight Darwin>Cairns, departing at 7 a.m.  Skies were cloudy but without rain as we drove to the airport.  Our Qantas flight was good, seats offered plenty of leg room, were wider than those on Virgin Blue Airlines, and we were served a hot breakfast on a two hour domestic flight!  There was a time change of half an hour as we left Northern Territory and entered the state of Queensland.  Arrived in Cairns to cloudy skies, warm and high humidity.  Coach driver gave us a brief tour of Cairns before we were let off at our hotel.  Being just mid-morning our rooms were not ready so our luggage was stored and we 3 set off to walk about the immediate area.  Early afternoon found Anita and Marjorie opal shopping and both ended up with purchases … ear rings for Anita; a pendant for Marjorie.  By this time the rain had become substantial so a cab took us back to our hotel where we could now check in.  This hotel was another of the better ones offering views of a marina with plenty of palm trees and greenery surrounding the hotel and we had a 2 night stay.  The rain continued for our drive to and from dinner that evening.  Dinner that evening was at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Centre where we met some of our new fellow travelers.  While here we thoroughly enjoyed presentations that showcased the culture of the rainforest people of Tropical North Queensland. 

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Tjapukai Cultural Centre         http://www.tjapukai.com.au/

 

Monday, March 3

 

After his morning shower, Richard noticed a small cruise ship passing by and got late photos of same from the balcony.  Then, while at breakfast, a second larger cruise ship came in to dock and Richard took photos from the breakfast area.  Today our schedule called for us to visit The Great Barrier Reef!  However, sad news awaited us … our Quicksilver Outer Reef Cruise to Agincourt Reef was cancelled due to high winds on the water.  Many fellow travelers took this very hard, especially those who just joined us in Cairns.  As an alternative, and at our own expense, we 3 booked an afternoon Cairns Habitat Cruise of Trinity Inlet, a tropical tidal estuary that services freight, leisure and fishing vessels, including a tour of the Cairns Crocodile Farm.  Weather continued warm and humid with rain showers that became constant pounding rain and chose to accompany us during our afternoon outing.  Our coach journey to the crocodile farm traveled through sugar cane fields just to the south of Cairns.  At the farm we viewed hundreds of estuarine crocodiles, large and small in their natural habitant and in contained pens at Australia’s largest commercial farm.  Here international orders for are filled from countries such as France for hand bags, shoes and luggage made from crocodile skins.  Took only a few photos from inside the coach as the rain continued to pour down outside.  Returning on the mangrove-lined waterway our MV Habitat Explorer we saw a rich and diverse array of wildlife and native birds.  The Inlet is fed by the Coral Sea and subject to high tides and with this being the wet season the water was all the more higher.  Closer to port we enjoyed seeing boats all of various sizes moored in the harbour.  Passed close by the 2 cruise ships earlier seen at breakfast and took more photos.  The largest of the two, Crystal Serenity, departed at 5 p.m.  We ate at the hotel as outside the monsoonal rains continued, sometimes sideways in the wind.  Richard and Anita ordered the Fish Platter for 2 which was good but there was enough food for 4 to enjoy!

For our upcoming visit to Cape Tribulation and stays on various islands we had been informed we could only take 1 piece of luggage each weighing no more than 20 kg or 44 lb.  This, we were told, because we would be using smaller buses and ferries and they could not accommodate all our luggage.  Our coach would keep the others safe and sound.  So, we all had to repack before bedtime tonight.

 

 

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Cairns Habitat Cruises           http://www.cairnshabitatcruises.com.au/

 

Tuesday, March 4

 

Experienced heavy rains overnight, most noticeable around 2 a.m.  At breakfast our Tour Director advised our morning departure had been delayed 1 hour as our previously scheduled Kuranda Train ride had been cancelled due to fallen trees on the track and the weak rail beds from the recent heavy rains.  The Train had not operated the previous day also.  Mass confusion with our luggage this morning as no direction had been provided us for “marking” which luggage we were taking with us to Cape Tribulation and that which was to remain onboard our coach.  Another example of our Tour Director not offering sound direction.  We left the hotel at 9:15 a.m. for the Skyrail gondola, the longest gondola cableway in the world.  The gondola ride took us above the rainforest canopy to the village of Kuranda.  The rains did not allow for good photos although a good number were taken depicting the flooding that presently existed.  We toured the village walking in the rain, had lunch at an Irish Pub, and took the return gondola trip down.  Here we found out that due to flooded roads and high water levels at the ferry crossings our journey north to Cape Tribulation had been cancelled.  Scenic Tours head office had been contacted to secure accommodation for 48 people in Cairns.  Word came that we would return to the Cairns Hilton for another 2 nights.  All agreed it was better to be stranded in Cairns than in Cape Tribulation where we could have remained for as long as one week!  Dinner that night was courtesy of Scenic Tours, trying to “make good” for our changed itinerary.  The monsoonal rains continued.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Kuranda Railway         http://www.cairnsattractions.com/a_kuranda-railway.html

 

Skyrail Cableway        http://www.skyrail.com.au/

 

Kuranda                      http://www.kuranda.org/

 

Wednesday, March 5

 

Today all roads in and out of Cairns remained flooded and the constant rains continued.  The only offering Scenic made to us was free admission to the Cairns Wildlife Dome, an all weather show park located on the rooftop of the Reef Casino across the street from our hotel.  Must compliment Tour Director Rita here as she found some “inner strength” and worked extremely hard towards making us comfortable during this extended layover in Cairns!  Weather forecast for Cairns called for steady rain for the next 3 days.  To kill time that afternoon Anita and Richard spent time in the lobby “people watching” and updating family and friends at home of our present situation via email.  Scenic Tours also provided lunch and dinner today.

We now had learned the composition of the second group that joined us in Cairns –

Canadians:  we lost 4, 2 from near London [previously from Newfoundland] and 2 from Surrey and gained 5 –

British Columbia:  Vancouver 1;

Ontario:  Guelph 2; Toronto 2;

Dutch:  we lost 4 and gained 4;

Other newcomers:  Scotland 1; Wales 1; Australia 1; plus a large contingent from England.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Cairns Wildlife Dome               http://www.reefcasino.com.au/attractions.php

 

Thursday, March 6

 

Having received direction the previous evening we had our bags out for the porter at 9 a.m. and by 10 we left the hotel bound for Mission Beach!  The morning was overcast with the occasional shower.  Landscape was that of sugar cane fields and bananas for the first hour when we turned inland towards Atherton.  Mile upon mile of farm lands reminded us of the Fraser Valley near Chilliwack before we began the climb over a mountain pass to Atherton.  We passed through a lush and green rainforest and one saw plenty of water, evidence of the heavy rains these past few days.  Leaving the rainforest we then entered The Tablelands.  Flat country now abundant with dairy farms and large corn fields.  Following lunch in Atherton we visited and photographed The Curtain Fig Tree.  Our next photo stop was Millaa Millaa Falls.  Arriving in Mission Beach we had 28C and mainly sunny skies.  Mission Beach is surrounded by a lush backdrop of World Heritage listed wet tropical rainforest, sunkissed white sandy beaches and the silvery shimmering blues of the Coral Sea.  At dinner that night we experienced yet another violent cloudburst of monsoonal rains.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Atherton Tablelands                http://www.tablelands.org/

 

The Curtain Fig Tree              http://rainforest-australia.com/Curtain_Fig_Tree.htm

 

Millaa Millaa Falls        http://www.walkabout.com.au/locations/QLDMillaaMillaa.shtml

 

Friday, March 7

 

Overnight, more heavy rains and still raining at 7 a.m. as we departed Mission Beach.  The morning started off with a jolt – Marjorie’s seat partner sat down on a cushion on a wicker chair in the lobby and out slithered a python!  She was shocked finding out she had made “his” spot a bit uncomfortable!  We stopped in Tully at the police station to inquire about road conditions and possible flooding ahead.  There was no one in the office at this early hour and using the outside emergency phone Wally only got this message “You have the wrong number”.  So much for emergency services in Tully!  Continuing on, the Tully River had flooded the highway.  After “raising” the coach, Wally said he still drove though one foot of water that covered the highway – water level was just below our luggage compartment.  He continues to amaze us with his knowledge of Australia, his professional manner and his humour that he often shares with us.  Some of our “new” travelers at times did not acknowledge him properly by continuing to talk while he spoke but they soon learned different when told so by some of us “originals”!  By 9:30 a.m. we again were into sunshine as we passed numerous sugar cane fields.  At times there were clusters of mango trees, more bare land and gum trees.  At Townsville we had lunch and chose to visit Reef HQ, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium as our FreeChoice inclusion.  Arriving at the ferry terminal, Anita, Marjorie and Richard took the launch to Hayman Island for our 2 night stay while the others departed for Daydream Island.  Hayman Island was an upgrade that we 3 chose.  What hospitality the staff offered us on arrival!  Our rooms were large and luxurious.  Dinner that evening was in the Italian Restaurant.

 

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Reef HQ Aquarium                 http://www.reefhq.com.au/

 

Hayman Island Resort            http://www.hayman.com.au/

 

Saturday, March 8

 

A sunny morning on Hayman Island!  At 9:15 a.m. we departed for a full day Great Barrier Reef adventure.  Our launch was underway about half an hour and turned back because of high winds and rough seas.  The Captain had informed us that had we continued under present conditions our homeward journey would have encountered higher and rougher seas.  So, our second attempt to visit the Great Barrier Reef met with failure and was not to be on this vacation!  Once back at the resort plans were made to snorkel at a local beach some 10 minutes from the resort.  When time came to leave that also was cancelled due to 1.5 meter waves.  Plan C saw us swimming and relaxing at the local swimming pools that afternoon.  One just cannot say enough about staff at the resort, courteous, pleasant, and willing to please!  Happy Hour drinks were enjoyed at the poolside bar and we again ate at the Italian Restaurant.

 

Sunday, March 9

 

Our luggage had to be ready for pick up at 5:30 a.m. so it was a walk in the dark to Guest Services for check out.  The launch departed at 7 a.m. to return us to the mainland where we rejoined the others who had been on Daydream Island.  Driving to Rockhampton sugar cane fields continued to dot the landscape.  By noon there was a change to raw land, fenced and cattle appeared from time to time.  We had a stop at Mackay where some weeks earlier heavy rains had caused that area to be classed as a state of emergency.  We saw no sign of flooding but were told almost all residents were in the process of replacing furniture and appliances destroyed in the flooding.  The highway to Rockhampton, the ‘beef capital of Australia’, was the roughest to date we had traveled on with numerous pavement patches and an uneven or bumpy ride.  We arrived in Rockhampton to sunny skies and a 28C temperature.  That evening, Wally, our Coach Captain, advised us that he became a Grandpa today – a grandson; he now has 3, all boys!

 

Monday, March 10

 

Our hotel in Rockhampton left a lot to be desired, it was clean but old and run down!  Sunny skies greeted us as we departed and no more than 3 minutes out from our hotel we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, hopefully leaving all the rain behind us.  We drove through cattle country until mid-day – rolling hills with some trees when sugar cane fields again made their presence known, mixed in with some orange groves.  Visited historic Langmorn Station, a typical Aussie outback cattle station, operated by 6 family members.  We first toured the working area by coach of this 26,000 acre cattle property followed by a tour of the main house, coffee and sweets.  We sampled the traditional Australian staple “damper” which is a heavy bread cooked in a cast iron pot over an open fire.  Delicious!  By 1:30 p.m. it was 30C .  The 4 p.m. ferry sailing took us to Fraser Island for a 2 night stay.  That evening we attended a slide presentation put on by Park Rangers depicting all the Island has to offer to visitors – bird life, the rainforest, lakes, etc.

Word came to us that Scenic Tours would be issuing cheques to home addresses for those booked for the Great Barrier Reef excursion in Cairns and Daydream / Hayman Island who did not go because of adverse weather conditions.

The next day, following numerous complaints, came word that cash refunds would be made on Friday, the final day of our tour.  A Scenic Tours representative was to meet our coach with cash in hand.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Langmorn Station                   

http://www.australianfarmtourism.com.au/details.php?p_id=156&categoryid=6&menuid=&seo=Langmorn_Station

 

Fraser Island              http://www.fraserisland.net/

 

Tuesday, March 11

 

This was a rare “free” morning, a chance to sleep in.  Spent the morning poolside [the resort has 4 pools] reading and “people watching”.  That afternoon, a 4WD Tour of Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world.  We drove on a pure sand logging road first through natural forest then spectacular rainforest growing on low nutrient sands to Central Station, a former logging camp, now a Parks & Wildlife Ranger Station.  Here we walked in the forest hearing about the trees and how they have adapted to growing in this area.  Next, at Lake McKenzie some swam while others took photos.  We saw goannas [large lizards] on tree trunks and a dingo [Australian wild dog] was watching us eat lunch – fortunately our eating area was fenced off!  Anita and Marjorie cleaned their rings in the sand at lake’s edge as the beach sand is nearly pure silica.  Results were very positive!

Marjorie was greeted back at the Resort by Aussie friends from her European Tour in 1996.  All five of us enjoyed dinner and good conversation that evening.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Touring Fraser Island             http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraser_Island

 

Wednesday, March 12

 

Rain showers overnight diminished as we rejoined the mainland at Hervey Bay Ferry Terminal where we again rejoined our coach.  Sunshine and cloudy periods accompanied us for the remainder of the day and it was 28C by 11 a.m.  We drove through more cattle country, rolling hills and the odd sugar cane field through to our next stop, the Australia Zoo.  Our stay here, 2.5 hours, was not long enough to see all that was available.  We did see big red kangaroos for the first time and was disappointed in the small size of the ones we did see.  Other animals seen were of the variety we’d seen previously – crocodiles, wombats, emus, koalas, etc.  Once back on the road we soon joined a divided highway and increased traffic passing the outskirts of Brisbane via a high bridge and 6 lanes of traffic, 3 each way.  Encountered traffic congestion once off the bridge as we continued on to Surfers Paradise and the numerous high rises that city contains.  Anita and Richard were to meet Tammy in Surfers Paradise, Tammy being another member of their 2004 European Tour.  However, Tammy had encountered a family emergency and so was unable to join them.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Australia Zoo               http://www.australiazoo.com/

 

Thursday, March 13

 

It was sunny as we left this morning.  Received sad news as our drive commenced.  A couple from London, England had left our Tour today due to a family emergency.  Their son, age 38, had suffered a stroke at home and was now on life support.  His parents flew home this morning.  Spectacular views were offered us as we drove along the coastline.  We left Queensland and were back in New South Wales and clocks were advanced 1 hour.  Spent a short time in Byron Bay, where in the late 1980s Paul Hogan and Olivia Newton-John lived.  Sugar cane, bananas and cattle continue to dominate the landscape the closer we got to Coffs Harbour, our overnight stop.  Our Novotel Pacific Bay Resort facilities included a 9 hole golf course within walking distance of the beach.  Anita and Richard did laundry before dinner.  Scenic Tours hosted our farewell dinner that evening.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Byron Bay                   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byron_Bay

 

Friday, March 14

 

Our morning departure time of 7:15 was 15 minutes late as hotel staff did not bring our luggage down at the appointed time.  Wally was frustrated to put it mildly and both he and Rita had no time for breakfast before we left.  Early morning sun and cloud gave way to pure sunshine for the day.  Before our early morning wine tasting stop at 9:30 a.m. at Cassegrain Winery we drove through more cattle country.  Not too many wine tasters that early in the day!  Continuing on to Sydney before joining the divided highway on the city’s perimeter we encountered major roadwork or highway construction next to the existing highway as work continues towards a divided highway from Brisbane to Sydney.  At our lunch stop a Scenic Tours representative boarded the coach and handed out cash refunds for the cancelled Great Barrier Reef excursions.  We 3 that visited Hayman Island were not included in the cash payouts and were later told that we had been “overlooked”.  Our refunds, we were told, would be sent to our home addresses.  Upon arriving in Sydney it was time to say farewell to our new-made friends as we all went our separate ways.  The 3 of us now looked forward to a day of rest on Saturday before leaving by train for Melbourne on Sunday morning.

For the 29 Day Tour our coach traveled 9,662 km excluding the drive Darwin>Cairns.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Cassegrain Winery                 http://www.cassegrainwines.com.au/

 

Saturday, March 15

 

Awoke to another sunny morning and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with no deadlines to meet.  Looking at what to do on this our last day in Sydney, hotel staff at Sullivan’s suggested a visit to Manly Beach.  We purchased tickets for $A16. each that were good for bus and ferry all day.  Took the bus to Circular Quay where we boarded the ferry to Manly Beach.  Enjoyed many photo ops of the Opera House and Sydney Bridge on the ferry.  Manly Beach was superb, sunbathers and swimmers enjoyed the beach while surfers were riding the waves further out – a beautiful Saturday just outside Sydney.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch outdoors and making our way back to the ferry we stopped at the market where Anita purchased an opal ring.  On our return ferry ride we enjoyed watching the many sailboats in the harbour.

We all agreed that this was one of the best days we spent in Sydney.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Manly Beach              

http://www.australia.travelmall.com/travelmall/attraction/Sydney%20(NSW)/Manly%20Beach