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:
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 final write-up will cover our stays in Melbourne and Honolulu and our return home to British Columbia.
Richard and Anita had toured Europe in 2004 with Trafalgar Tours. A good half of those on this Tour were Australians with four of them residing in Melbourne. With the internet and email a friendship was soon formed and when these four, Ted and Helen, Phil and Sue came to Seattle in 2006 the Dycks drove to Seattle for an extended visit with them. Helen and Sue are sisters. It was Helen and Ted who convinced Richard and Anita to visit Australia and offered to accommodate them in their home when they came. When it became known that Marjorie would be traveling with the Dycks, she too was included to stay.
Sunday, March 16
We were up early one last time to board the train [CountryLink] for Melbourne. Our last night in Sydney was mainly a sleepless one due to the Saturday night festivities that seemed to carry on in the streets directly below our rooms! Train travel was chosen over flying because we wanted to relax and see more country. For Richard and Marjorie it was their first train ride in some 40 years – 57 years for Anita. Our car was equipped with comfortable seats, ample leg room and was situated right next to the buffet [food] car. Our route took us along the coast via Wollongong providing us with great picture-taking opportunities. One had to be somewhat fast taking photos through the train windows! We passed through/over the Blue Mountains before turning inland where rolling hills and flat lands told us we were again in cattle country. The train stops had some interesting names and Wagga Wagga was one we had previously passed through on our Scenic Tour. At Albury we left New South Wales and entered the state of Victoria. Meals onboard the train were nothing to write home about. Marjorie captured some great sunset shots as we neared Melbourne. Ted and Helen met us at the station in Melbourne and soon had us at their home where bedtime came early.
Monday, March 17
We 3 had a most restful sleep, no air conditioning and fresh air from open windows! Made friends with their 2 small dogs, named Gin and Tonic and both appeared to be Helen’s dogs with Ted not factoring into their needs. Nothing planned for us today so we got our laundry done and enjoyed Helen’s garden – still nice despite the heat and lack of rain. Daily showers were no longer than a few minutes long because of their 10 year drought. Pails were on the shower floor to catch runoff waters and then used to water the flowers and garden. Early afternoon temperature on the porch was 41C . Ted and Helen have a great house, roomy and functional. Some differences we noticed from Canadian standards – light switches were on the actual door frames, not adjacent to them; electrical outlets all have an on and off switch –very effective and economical; and the door knobs are installed much higher up than at home. Phil and Sue arrived late afternoon for drinks then Helen served a great home-made meal, potato salad, corn on the cob, salad and pork followed by desert. It was so nice being in a home environment again!
Tuesday, March 18
A later start this morning as at 10:15 we left in 2 cars to visit more friends from our 2004 European Tour. Richard and Anita rode with Phil and Sue and Marjorie was with Ted and Helen heading for San Remo, southeast of Melbourne on the coast. Leaving Melbourne on the freeway we then traveled on secondary roads giving way to rural country roads. Each car ended up going different routes, we via Drouin, a major service town for the surrounding pastoral, agricultural and dairying district; Poowong, a dairying town; to Inverloch, a popular holiday resort in summer where we again met Phil, Sue and Marjorie for lunch in the park -- Aussie meat pies from a local bakery. Prior to and near our lunch stop we enjoyed good photo stops of Bass Strait separating Tasmania from Australia. On the road after lunch both cars were stopped at a police roadblock and both our drivers, Phil and Ted, were given breathalyzer tests. Good thing Phil had no beer with lunch! We’re told this is standard procedure in Australia. The remainder of our drive to Beth and Alan’s in San Remo passed without incident and we enjoyed many more photo stops en route. We could not overlook the drought conditions in this area. Beth’s house overlooks Phillip Island separated from the mainland by The Narrows Bridge, the only access to the Island. Richard and Anita renewed friendships with Beth and Mary having not seen them since 2004 and met their husbands for the first time. Marjorie met all 4 for the first time. Mary and husband Reg live near French Island at Corinalla. A prolonged Happy Hour was followed by a true Aussie barbeque – beef, lamb and sausages cooked by chef Alan! Alan raises birds, homing [racing] pigeons and gouldian finches – what brilliant colors the finches are! He also raises, breeds and races greyhound dogs. What magnificent animals! They all made for good photos as did the spectacular views from Beth’s sundeck overlooking Phillip Island. Sunset was breath taking that evening!
Web Sites of Interest …
Gouldian Finches http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww32eii.htm
Wednesday, March 19
We did not have our morning shower at Beth’s due to the extreme water shortage in the area. That morning we explored Phillip Island spending quality time at The Nobbies where, from the boardwalk, all of us took numerous photos of both water and shoreline. Lunch was fish and chips eaten outdoors on the beach. Next we drove to Churchill Island and enjoyed a visit to the Heritage Farm there. We then picked up our luggage at Beth’s, said our farewells then drove to Ted’s sisters’ home at Warnett, part of the Mornington Peninsula. John and Una live on a 3 acre property where they care for orphaned animals like wallabies and wombats, volunteer work, no government subsidy. When old enough the animals are released into the wild. Both Anita and Marjorie got to feed a baby wallaby after we watched the daily feeding of the other animals. As we enjoyed drinks and a gourmet barbeque dinner one small kangaroo kept watch on us from a safe distance. Or drive back to Melbourne was well after sunset.
Web Sites of Interest …
Phillip Island http://www.penguins.org.au/
Thursday, March 20
Today we toured the city of Melbourne, a cosmopolitan city with numerous skyscrapers, the second largest Australian city with a metropolitan area population of approximately 3.8 million [2007 estimate]. Six of us [Phil stayed home with his computer] rode the tram to near the city centre where we boarded the free City Circle Tram to travel to major attractions, shops, and activities around central Melbourne. We first got off at Docklands Park for a stroll and photo op of this newly renovated area. The Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle, a free bus service, took us around the core area of tourist attractions. By this time it was lunch and we ate in a Food Court. While Richard is not a fan of Food Courts, he found this one to be huge and one that offered so much and the display of choices outstanding! Visited the Queen Victoria Market next, a historic landmark over 125 years old. Toured St. Paul’s Cathedral, an Anglican Church, before returned to Phil and Sue’s home on the tram. We did Italian for dinner – a joint celebration – Richard and Anita’s 37 th Wedding Anniversary and Sue’s 59 th birthday. Today’s high was 24C with cooler temperatures in the late afternoon lasting towards evening.
Web Sites of Interest …
City Circle Tram
Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle
Melbourne’s Docklands http://www.melbourne.com.au/docklands.htm
Queen Victoria Market http://www.melbourne.com.au/qvm.htm
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Friday, March 21
A mixture of sun and cloud today but noticeably cooler with only 20C for the high! This was Good Friday,Marjorie took the train to Warragul, a dairying centre, some 103 km east of Melbourne to spend the Easter weekend visit with her friends, Geoff and Helen Hewson.. Richard and Anita drove with Ted and Helen to visit the Healesville Sanctuary, a zoo showcasing more than 200 species of Australian wildlife. Getting there took us through the Yarra Valley, renowned wine country. Walking around the Sanctuary we saw Aussie animals up close and personal getting the best pictures to date. We took in the feeding show at Birds of Prey and scored 2 firsts today – our first boomerang demonstration since coming to Australia and we saw the platypus for the first and only time! Visited the Wildlife Hospital on site as well as seeing dingos, the echidna, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, Tasmanian Devils and numerous species of bird life during our leisurely walk about. Returned to Melbourne for dinner at Phil and Sue’s, delicious lamb stew followed by desert. Home cooked meals are such a treat from restaurant food! Richard and Anita stayed with Phil and Sue for 2 nights, giving Ted and Helen a welcome break seeing as Marjorie had also left for the weekend.
Web Sites of Interest …
Healesville Sanctuary http://www.zoo.org.au/HealesvilleSanctuary
Saturday, March 22
Sunshine had returned and remained with us all day. Today with Phil and Sue as hosts we drove into the suburbs of Melbourne passing through numerous residential areas. This was a nostalgic drive for our hosts as Phil drove past 3 of their former homes here. Our first stop was at Sky High Mount Dandenong that offered us stunning views of Mornington Peninsula and Port Phillip Bay. Here we enjoyed a forest walk under the canopy of Australian eucalypts before having late morning coffee at the Bistro followed by photos of The Wishing Tree,The Australiana Tree and Skyhigh Maze. Continuing on, William Ricketts Sanctuary was our next stop. Here we enjoyed walking the trails viewing his many sculptures and video presentation. A leisurely lunch followed at a nearby Pub. Back at Phil and Sue’s we enjoyed an evening barbeque.
Web Sites of Interest …
Sky High Mount Dandenong http://www.skyhighmtdandenong.com.au/
William Ricketts Sanctuary http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Ricketts
Sunday, March 23
Under sunny skies this Easter Sunday, our first stop was close to Phil and Sue’s – a walk over the Yarra River on the Kane Bridge, a small suspension bridge. We then drove through Toorak, a subdivision equivalent to our British Properties in BC, admiring the large and expensive home of the rich. Driving into the city proper no parking was available, this being Easter Sunday so we had to settle for driving by The Shrine of Remembrance [War Memorial]. Paid a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens strolling leisurely, photographing and admiring all the displays. The water shortage was again evident as we walked by Ornamental Lake. One needed a good week or more here to cover all that the Gardens had to offer. Next we drove briefly past Melbourne’s waterfront before walking through South Melbourne Market where we ate lunch. A walkthrough of the Crown Casino was followed by a second visit to the waterfront and a walk on one of the many piers. We then drove over the Westgate Bridge and returned via the Burney Tunnel, where tolls are collected. Back at Phil and Sue’s we rested briefly before heading to Ted and Helen’s for dinner – roast lamb and all the trimmings.
Web Sites of Interest …
Shrine of Remembrance
Royal Botanic Gardens
Monday, March 24
A day to sleep in and relax with a mixture of sun and cloud and 28C for the high that day. Marjorie returned later that morning from her stay in Warragul and we swapped stories of what each had done over the weekend. That afternoon Richard and Anita visited with Roger Brown, fellow polio survivor, Melbourne resident, at St. George’s Church. Roger, an accomplished musician, played the pipe organ, as did Anita. After visiting briefly they returned home for more R & R watching “footy”, Australian football. Dinner that evening was another Aussie barbeque – chicken chops, lamb chops, and kangaroo sausage plus desert and drinks – again eaten outdoors. The kangaroo sausage was very lean and delicious! Late that evening around 9 p.m., rain, the first they’d seen since last December!
Tuesday, March 25
Laundry was on tap that morning, the last chance for same before leaving Melbourne. Morning was cloudy, remained warm and sunshine returned later in the day. We toured the suburbs of Macleod, Ivanhoe and Heidleberg looking at the various house styles. Toured La Trove University in the car. Helen works there on a casual basis. Purchased wine for dinner that evening paying under $A7 per bottle at a Bottle Shop, the equivalent to Liquor Stores here in BC. We 3 took our 4 Aussie hosts our for a farewell dinner as that was the last night we 3 would see Phil and Sue. We ate at a Greek Restaurant and enjoyed a fine meal.
Wednesday, March 26
We 3 and Ted and Helen left in one car for an overnight trip to The Great Ocean Road. Traveled first via freeway to the outskirts of Geelong and nearby we stopped at Eastern Beach for a walk that stretched to be 2 hours in duration. Here one found The Bollards, developed by Jan Mitchell. There are some over 100 in total, refined timber pier pylons that depict characters that played a part in Geelong’s history. Leaving here we began to encounter rain that remained with us off and on for the remainder of the day. Upon arriving in Torquay we visited a number of lookouts that provided great views of Torquay Surf Beach, the surfers and waves crashing in. That night we spent with Liz and Gordon, friends of Ted and Helen’s just outside Torquay. They have a fabulous home! A tour of their property revealed the effects of the prolonged drought that Melbourne and this area have and are experiencing. We saw huge cracks in the ground [clay] and shattered cement that fence posts once had resided in at the swimming pool. We noticed cracks in their house itself as well. Again we had no morning shower due to the extreme water shortage. Dinner that evening was at a local Pub where Ted’s son-in-law was the chef.
Web Sites of Interest …
Jan Mitchell’s Waterfront Bollards
Thursday, March 27
Today we drove The Great Ocean Road! This is a 273 km stretch of road along the South Eastern coast of Australia. The road was constructed as a Memorial to those killed in the First World War. It was the best Australian scenic coastline drive of our visit! Marjorie thought this coast drive was more spectacular than those on the Oregon and California coastlines. Unlike Wednesday our morning was full of rain showers that came and went. We were most fortunate that the rain ceased almost every time Ted made photo stops at the numerous lookouts. Ted was most patient with us, stopping so many times when asked to, some with very short notice! By early afternoon we had arrived at The Twelve Apostles, giant rock stacks that rise majestically from the Southern Ocean and are the remnants from constant erosion of the limestone cliffs of the mainland that began 10 – 20 million years ago. Oh, what spectacular views!! Again photo stops were numerous and by now the showers had been replaced with partly sunny skies that made the colours of the sea all the more gorgeous. Lunch was at a Pub in Port Campbell. What a small world we live in! Previously, at one of the lookouts for the Twelve Apostles, Anita had assisted a lady by taking a photo of she and her daughter. While ordering our meal at the Pub this same lady was ahead of us in the lineup and talking with her revealed she also was Canadian, from Prince George, BC and having lived in Vernon during her early years. She and her husband currently were in Melbourne visiting their daughter. Continuing our drive we made stops to admire and view other landmarks such as Loch Ard Gorge, The Blowhole, London Bridge, The Grotto and The Arch. By now we had been on the road some 8 plus hours. Heading back to Melbourne we encountered numerous large dairy farms. Back on the freeway, passing through Geelong, we enjoyed our last Aussie sunset as we neared Melbourne. Once back at Ted and Helen’s, Ted checked and was elated when he advised that 32 mm [1.25 inches] of rain had fallen during our 2 day absence! Our 2 day trek saw us travel some 775 km overall. We 3 believed that our Great Ocean Road drive provided us the best photos of our visit to Australia!
We were most thankful to the 2 couples in Melbourne for opening their homes to us and the “generous” hospitality offered by Ted and Helen. Ted took vacation time during our visit and he and Helen “sold” their city and country to us during our many outings as his commentary was so interesting as did Phil and Sue during our time spent with them. We certainly were exposed to stops of interest that the average tourist would never find on their own!
Web Sites of Interest …
Great Ocean Road http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Ocean_Road
Loch Ard Gorge http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loch_Ard_Gorge
London Bridge http://www.synaptic.bc.ca/gallery/ocnrd010.htm
Friday, March 28
Today we left for Honolulu, sad that our time in Australia had ended. Ted drove us to the airport in ample time for our 11:30 a.m. departure. At the terminal we saw that our flight via Sydney had been delayed and that 1:45 p.m. was the revised departure time. At the check-in with JetStar the Melbourne staff did not provide us with the correct information sending us to the Domestic Gate when we should have been sent to International Departures. This we found out very close to our scheduled time to leave when Marjorie spoke with some travelers in the waiting area. We made a speedy dash to Customs only to find JetStar had not given us the proper sticker needed to depart Australia. Back we went to the JetStar counter where no one was on duty but a kind security person assisted us with obtaining the required stickers. Passed through Customs only 4 minutes before our scheduled departure. We had just been seated when a JetStar official approached and inquired if our luggage should be offloaded. An astounded Richard replied “No!” and that all our bags had been checked through to Honolulu. It appeared that the computers had not recognized the three of us as next a female customs agent came on board to personally record our departure from Australia! All this took time and our plane departed some 45 minutes later than scheduled. We ate a late lunch in the Sydney airport terminal and sent email to our Aussie hosts outlining our adventures with JetStar. Our plane to Honolulu was only one-third full [only 95 passengers] so all of us had ample opportunity to move about. This flight saw us regain the day we lost when coming to Australia in January. Arrived in Honolulu without incident and one-half hour after touch-down we had cleared Customs and were in the taxi bound for our hotel. Our rooms were ready at our 8 a.m. check-in and we had a late breakfast at Denny’s nearby. We spent the remainder of our first day in Hawaii relaxing. A gourmet dinner outside on the patio overlooking Waikiki Beach that evening was an early beginning of birthday celebrations for Marjorie whose birthday was early April. We once more had to ‘adjust’ as tipping and the adding of taxes to purchases were once again with us.
Saturday, March 29
None of us had slept well on the plane Friday night so we all slept in. Following breakfast it was off to the beach for the better part of the day. Marjorie went off on a circle tour of the island of Oahu. The beach was spectacular of course, the water warm and plenty of sunshine for Richard to work on his tan. The high today ranged between 28 – 30C with little or no wind. Around 3 p.m. we returned to the hotel to read and relax poolside in the shade. The Italian restaurant we had dinner in attempted to add a 15 % gratuity to our bill and because of this no tip was given that evening.
Sunday, March 30
This was another day of rest and relaxation at the beach and it was nice not having any deadlines to adhere to. Temperature rose to 29C for the high amidst a mixture of sun and cloud. Anita and Marjorie made reservations for Monday evening to attend the Hawaiian show at the Polynesian Cultural Centre and Richard chose not to accompany them. Dinner that evening was Chinese – a welcome change. Walking back to our hotel located just half a block from Waikiki Beach [Donald Trump is building his 42 (?) story building just steps away] afterwards we enjoyed the Sunday evening crowds of shoppers.
Monday, March 31
This was our last full day in Honolulu and Richard worked on his early tan by the pool while the ladies read. Mid afternoon saw the ladies leave for the Cultural Centre and Richard scouted for a new dinner location and did some window shopping. He spent more time in the sun at poolside before dinner.
Web Sites of Interest …
Polynesian Cultural Centre http://www.polynesia.com/
Tuesday, April 1
Marjorie left early for the tour of The Arizona that she had booked previously. Richard and Anita had done the same tour on a prior visit so chose not to go again. For Richard and Anita their last chance to enjoy the sun and warmth in Honolulu as our flight home was scheduled to depart at 9:15 that evening meaning a 7 p.m. arrival at the airport. Our transportation to the airport, arranged for by the hotel, was a black stretch limousine! This was a first for both Richard and Anita but not Marjorie. A most fitting end to our short stay in Hawaii!
Web Sites of Interest …
USS Arizona http://www.nps.gov/usar/
Wednesday, April 2
On the Honolulu>Vancouver flight neither Richard or Anita got any sleep. We enjoyed clear skies from Vancouver>Kelowna and one could see the vast amounts of snow on the mountains below. We said our good byes to Marjorie and found no one from Vernon was on hand to give us our ride home as we had previously arranged. Our flight had been changed and Ulf did not check this out. Ulf, Freidl and Alice, neighbours in our complex, arrived just as we were about to take the Airport shuttle. With them they had a large “Welcome Home” banner. Back at our apartment the 3 of them had stocked it with fresh fruit and had champagne cooling in the fridge – this we all enjoyed. That evening, Alice hosted a dinner for us, a joint effort by all 3 of them.
Thursday morning we had delivered to us a huge floral arrangement to welcome us home – from our BCAA Travel Agent.
geography we covered was quite incredible: Fiji, the natural beauty and
history of Tasmania, the stark reality of the Outback where has to be
resourceful and independent to survive the extreme isolation and temperatures,
the transportation system of the road trains in the Northern Territory and the
east coast where one's back in civilization
again. But travel inland and one's on the huge ranches on the edge of the Outback. Northern Australia has the monsoonal rains while the south is in a long drought. And, Hawaii to end it all off. The only disappointment was not being able to travel out to the Great Barrier Reef but we visited in the wet season where this is not uncommon. The
native animals were amazing especially the kangaroos bounding in the wild. Wild camels once imported from the Middle East in the mid 1800's are now sold back to them. The Australians have a great sense of humour which political correctness hasn't discovered. Their philosophy often seems to include the expression "no worries". We met many Australians who were wonderfully cheerful, generous and caring people.
If you're interested in background material on Australia, other than the travel guides, the following were most enlightening:
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson includes humorous yet fascinating anecdotes of his travels;
When the Curlew Cries by B.J. Petit tells of his first year teaching in the Outback of NSW; he ended his teaching career in Nanaimo;