Australia/New Zealand - Feb/Mar 2008

(Click here to go to Part II, starting March 1, 2008) (This page loads slowly because there are a lot of thumbnails.)

01 Hello fellow travel enthusiasts,
This is the beginning of a long trip to Australia and New Zealand.  There will be 12 of us later on.  TomD and TomO have arrived first. Later on we will be joined by Carl, Joel, Elaine, Rick, Levonne, Pat, Rod, Blanche, Nancy and Marv.  At this point, I don't believe my sister Barbara and mother Roberta will be able to join us as planned.

TomD and TomO left San Francisco for Sydney on Wednesday, February 6th  at 10:30 pm.  Tom D was lucky enough to the chauffeured to the airport; TomO, being green friendly, took BART.  In any event, checking in was a breeze.  Thanks to drugs (sleeping pills) we were lucky enough to get around 8 hours of sleep on the flight.  14 hours later we arrived in Sydney, Friday February 8th around 8 am. (lost a day somewhere ? hmmmm..).

Since TomO had a connecting flight to Melbourne at 9:00 am (TomD 9:30), we were rushed through customs and bussed to the domestic terminal for our flight. Took a limo into town to our hotel along new freeways, everything here looks new. Our Travelodge Hotel is centrally located on the newly refurbished Southbank, half blocks from the Yarra River surrounded by new high rises and lots of restaurants.   Feeling well rested (Australia time only 5 hours later), we crossed the foot bridge over the river to the city center.  While Melbourne truly is one of the most pedestrian friendly cities in the world, nevertheless, you must remember to look to the right when crossing the street (funny, they do drive on the wrong side of street here). 2005

This city is beautiful, the architecture stunning, new buildings integrated into this historic skyline and landscape of parks and Victorian buildings.  Bought Sim cards for our cell phones and explored the town. That evening after dinner, strolled along the Yarra River esplanade. Since this being Chinese New Year's, there were many food venders and also a Chinese Dragon performance. On Saturday we working our way to the Queen Victoria Market, a true cultural icon full of hundreds of shops selling everything from food to shoes; TomO bought an authentic kangaroo hat.

On Sunday, we walked south along the Yarra River about 5 miles through the Kings Domain and the Royal Botanical Gardens.  Had lunch at the Prahran Market and listened to jazz. On Monday, we took the free City Circle Tram (historic old Melbourne trams)to the Victoria Harbor for breakfast.  This is the newest development area full of high-rises condominiums and restaurants.  Spent the rest of the day meandering around, watching the street actors perform. Hello fellow travellers,

Have a great trip.  It was good seeing Carl when he was here.  Understand he will join you along the way ... or is my senior mind failing me again?  Sorry your mom won't make it on the trip.  I know you were looking forward to that. Hugs and aloha, Ruth K.
How great that you're driving from Melbourne to Adelaide.  We were in Melbourne in January (2007) and had a great time.  I drove the Great Ocean Road on a prior trip and it's a treat.  Have never been to Adelaide though.  Are you going to the Barrossa Valley?  Will be curious to hear your impressions when you return. 

I'm assuming your not going as far as Perth (where my sister lives)--but let me know if you are.  Also let me know if you're going to Wellington, NZ.  Our best friends live there and they are excellent tour guides and very friendly!  I'm sure they'd love to meet you for coffee!  Barry

Thank you Tom for including me with your travelogue.  Very interesting and fun to see your trip in progress!  Thank you to Rod and Pat for giving you my e-mail address!  Sure hope your mom is doing OK!  Blessings on your trip!  --Marilyn
Thanks for the update........ you lucky stiffs  Dave and Barbara
What a great setting with all the bridges and walks beside the river.  (That would be a model for Portland to emulate.)  I was hoping to see a picture ofthe kangaroo hat - kangaroo skin?  --- Muriel and Allen
Love your travelogue and beautiful pictures.  Thanks for including me.  Was out to Smyrna tonight and several had been to see Roberta.  She's a tough and delightful lady.  I hope to grow up to be like her,because she's "Younger Than Springtime"   Jean E.
Wow, thanks for the photos!  Looks so clean and beautiful (and warm) there!    ---  Dan D.
Lovely pictures!  You all do look as if you're having a wonderful time in that warm SUMMER weather!

A late 'Happy Birthday' to Elaine and Rod, and send my best wishes to Roberta!  So sorry to hear of her surgery.  I'll bet she's mad as all get-out that she couldn't go on the trip with you!  Love, Nancy D.

Dear Tom:  Thanks for emails and pictures.  We plan to be there next  year so appreciate the preview.  All is well here.  Busy fighting the election battles.  So will look for more tales of our adventures.    Love Harry and Peter
Thanks for the pictures and trip details.  I just love a trip even if it is from my computer in the freezing weather.  I am glad to hear that Roberta is out of pain.  Karen P.
Hi Tom   How lovely to hear from you - we are on a world cruise on the Amsterdam we just left Melbourne today - small small world..keep in touch will write more later...  Hugs Frank & Mike
Great pictures!  Enjoying your trip through Victoria, too.  don a.
Tom, you mentioned staying home and nursing your colddrat.  I would seriously warn you about picking up strange and stray animals during your travels. They probably have all sorts of nasty parasites and germs:-)  -- Richard D.
Thanks for the trip update and pictures. The weatherman promised  us a weekend without rain.  Should get up to 50 - 54 degrees.  --- Bob
Hi  Looks like you are having fun on your trip. Glad your mother never got to go or you all would have had to pay the price. We understand all is going well for her. Time to get back on her feet.  ---  Keith and Aunt Anna Lou

This is the beginning of a long trip to Australia and New Zealand.  There will be 12 of us later on.  TomD and TomO have arrived first. Now our group has grown to include Joel, Elaine, Rick, Levonne, Pat, Rod, Blanche.

02 Melbourne:  Australia/ New Zealand01:  Oceania 2008

Sunday, February 10, an auspicious day (Elaine and Rod?s birthdays), Rick & Levonne Gano, Joel & Elaine Daniels, Rod & Patricia Bullard and Blanche Kober, left Portland for a looong flight to Melbourne, Australia via Los Angeles.  The plan was to join up with Tom Daniels & Tom O'Reilly who had come several days earlier.  The day turned out to be more hectic than leaving usually is since Joel and Tom?s mother Roberta went in for emergency surgery.  Fortunately in this day of instant communication, all could be kept abreast of her condition.  We learned in Los Angeles that Roberta was out of the operating room and already awake without the pain.

It takes us 15 hours to get across the Pacific and it was dark most of the way?endless night.  We did the best we could to get some sleep because we were to land mid-day and had sightseeing to do.  Elaine and Rod were sorry that we didn?t leave on the 9th so that they could just skip becoming a year older.  In the blink of any eye a day disappears.  Aside from losing a day, Melbourne in the state of Victoria, is only 5 hours behind us, or rather 1day and 19 hrs ahead?I give up!  It works for me to say that when it is noon here it is 5 p.m. at home. 

We are staying at a very nice hotel on the Southbank of the Yarra River just across a footbridge from the train station and central downtown area, very convenient to everything.  There are many new buildings and the architecture is stunning, varied like we've seen in Chicago and fanciful like we were shown in Dusseldorf, lots of primary colors, geometric and fluid shapes and varied materials.  In some ways it feels like New York, but more laid back and friendly very pedestrian oriented provided you look to the right rather than the left when you start to cross the street.  The central business district has an antique circular trolley line that gives a continuous narrated tour and best of all is free. 

The temperature is a perfect 70 at the moment although February it is their August.  It feels really great to all of us who have been experiencing a cold and stormy winter.  We were glad to go out walking as soon as we were dropped off at the hotel.  We got some money exchanged and had our pick of many outdoor restaurants for lunch.  After that we rode the trolley around back toward the hotel.  This evening we went out for some dinner along the riverbank which has recently been developed with restaurants, theatres, and even a huge casino.  While we walked along the river, teams were rowing and lots of people were out enjoying the twilight of the evening. 

We are a little nervous tonight since tomorrow we begin a 5 day excursion driving to Adelaide, about 400 miles.  We know it will be a bit of a challenge since Australians drive on the wrong side of the road.  It is ameliorated by the fact that drivers sit on the wrong side of the car.  We have been provided with good maps and an itinerary with many things to see and do.  You will be hearing more about this later.    

---   Joel 

I'm enjoying your trip too!  Hi to all.  ...Jo S.
thanks for sending your travel journals!  what fun!   ---   Ginger R.
Hi Dear Tom, I hope you are feeling better, there is nothing worst when you are in a trip and you get sick. I had a cold last week also, but I am 100 % okay.  Somebody has to work around this house. The photos are just beautiful but I am still waiting for the safeguard in Speedos. Say hello to Tom O. and all my love to you, Renato F.

03 Great Ocean Road:  Melbourne to Adelaide
Last night we were all able to get a good amount of sleep so we were hot to trot early this morning.  Tom and Tom new about a reasonable place to get breakfast?either American or Aussie.  There wasn't too much difference between the two. 

Afterward, some of us were ready to take off on a hike to pick up our cars at Hertz, about 25 min. away.  They had two 8-passenger vans and we decided that would work very well.  After going  back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, we were ready to head out of town?on the left side of the street, mind turns, we would be comfortable.  I believe that was a slight exaggeration, but one the whole we got along fine.  One just has to remember that most of the car is to the left of you rather than the right.  Rick and I drove and others in the car were careful to chant ?keep to the left, whenever there was a turn. 

Our travel agency with the assistance of brother Richard, have a 5 night, 4 day driving tour from Melbourne to Adelaide on the coast to the west.  The motels, hotels are already booked and all we have to do is get a little over 100 miles each day.  We left about noon and in a few blocks were on the motorway heading for the Princess Expressway to Geelong and Tanquay, the surfing capital of Victoria.  We found a quaint little place for lunch?I believe it?s called ?Subway? or something like that.  At least it?s quick and predictable.  We were quick to point out if they made any mistakes.  We stopped at some beaches to watch the surfers and get some pictures.  From there it was on to Angelsea  and South View where the great ocean road starts.  I was built, hacked out of the cliffs with hand tools and wheelbarrows , by returning servicemen from World War I as a memorial for the war.  It is very beautiful, twisty and slow, reminding us of the old Columbia River Highway and Highway one in California.  Being from Oregon and Calif., we were not quite as impressed as some might be, but enjoyed it none-the-less.  There were many turnouts for slowpokes like us and many, many viewpoints.  We stopped at a beautiful lighthouse at Split Point. 

It was cool today, probably in the sixties and a little misty at times with some rain.  We?re planning on a little more heat later on.  We arrived in Apollo Bay in late afternoon and found our place to stay was very comfortable and laid back.  No credit card required, no passports needed and the hosts were very helpful with our itinerary for tomorrow.  They thought we ought to go to see Australia?s Redwood forest for instance.  He has been to the west coast of the US.  The rest have gone out to dinner, but I elected to stay in to nurse a cold?drat.  I hope they bring me back a little morsel.  I have been drinking tea and eating bikkies.  Thanks to Nancy, I had some lemon drops to suck on today.

We are anxious to see animals.  At one curve in the road today, I decided to pull off and let a car pass.  Low and behold a lot of cars had stopped and were looking up in a tree.  We ran over and got some good pictures of a mother Koala and a baby.  We saw others as we pulled away.  The flora is very much like California with the Eucalyptus, oleander, and hibiscus.  Victoria, the state we?re in, has had a years-long drought which causes water rationing and can cause devastating fires. 

An editorial:  We have yet to see one police car, but everyone obeys the speed limit.  We understand there are cameras everywhere and the fines are steep.  We were warned at the car rental that many a tourist adventure is impacted by speeding.  It is truly amazing to me.  I can drive I-5 from Woodburn to California and seldom see an officer.  People speed like crazy.  Let?s either abolish speed limits or get serious about enforcement!!!  (This is Joel speaking perhaps he?s a little cranky this evening.)

We continue to hear good reports about Mom.  Sorry we can't be there to help.  Maybe we can assist   by sending messages and pictures to give her something to think about.

---   Joe


04 Great Ocean Road:  Appolo Bay to Port Fairy 

Day two of our motor trip.

We left Apollo Bay and drove inland to a place where there is a treetop walk through a rain forest.  It seemed like it had rained and was decidedly on the cool side.  Although we were careful to watch our steps since the snake-warning signs were out, we weren't too concerned since it was so cool.  The information about this attraction indicated that it was an easy walk accessible to anyone, however as we began a fairly steep descent in the canyon, we realized that there was a little more to it.  The walk-way itself is a very gradual climb with guard rails that seemed very secure.  Soon we were on the top of the trees in a beautiful pristine setting.  We heard a lot of birds, but they remained elusive.  Tom O managed to get a picture of a colorful parrot. The trees are all so different from what we have at home.  Although most of them are not deciduous such as eucalyptus, few if any look like conifers.  We thought that by the time we walked back out, we had gone about 3 miles.  Someone told us we should go up this graveled road for 10 km. to see a redwood plantation, we decided not to.  There has been lots of logging through the years, but I think there is more emphasis now on conservation.  We saw reforested areas and eucalyptus plantations. We were told that all the wood chips go to China.

Soon it was back to the coast to the new visitor?s centre at the site of the Twelve Apostles (actually 11 since one of them collapsed several years ago.) At one time it was called the sow and piglets, but that was thought to be too coarse.  There is a spectacular walkway along the promontory with spectacular views.  They were formed by millennia of erosion until just the stacked columns remain.  They would look in place in the SW US.  From there it was on to Port Fairy for the night.  Our rooms were in an old building that had been renovated?very nice.  Tom and Tom had a suite that was fully equipped.  We went to the hotel next door for Valentine?s Day dinner--cuisine and good company.

 The temperature along the coast here is about the same as Oregon and much of the scenery is about the same.  We are told that it is always about 40 degrees cooler than the interior.  Melbourne, like San Francisco, can have 4 seasons in one day.

... Joel

No doubt Judas was the one that collapsed. ---    Muriel and Allen
Joel and Elaine and all, Your letters and descriptions are great. No, No do not stop.

I was so very sorry and upset about Roberta, but only thankful that it didn't happen after you were aboard.I was away over the three day holiday and not back home have not been able to connect with her. Have been told and given the number for her at Marquis and assured she is there but must just catch a time when she is out of the room. 

I'll continue trying later today.I'm so pleased your trip is going so well and do hope you get over your colds and stay well.   I did not know there was a Portland Australia.   ---  Love, Barbara C

Tom - thanks for getting me on the list. How do you make the pictures bigger so you can really see them? I click on them and nothing happens. What are the temperatures there? Will I need sweaters or a coat? Carl
Hi Tommy:
Of course not!!! I don't want to be removed from your e-mail list!
Just have one question: How do you -ever- find the time to send such detailed e-mails/pictures while on vacation and with a cold???

I will be on my way to Spain on Apr. 2nd through June 3!  Hope to be able to find a cheap flight to Amsterdam to visit my friend. She just turned 94...and don't want to miss visiting her once more.

Other than that, I will spend time with family in Seville (and will go watch and enjoy Seville's famous April Fair of which I am sure I've spoken to you about in the past.
Also hope to go to Barcelona for maybe five days. Then, on the last leg of my trip, I will land in Madrid and will also make attempts to go to Logroño to see the wife of a very good friend I had from my days in the Spanish Army way back in the early '60's. He passed away early this month of prostate cancer...same age as me!

Hope you are doing much, much better with the $$$ than I will be doing in Europe. It is really a shame what 'the powers that be' are doing to this country!

Anyway, thanks for the pictures and have fun!    ---  luv, Jose

Tom-   What is a "blowhole" in this context? Normally, the word makes me think of a whale. Is it some kind of geyser?  Keep on truckin'.  Dick
I was told that there were only 7 left. We never did see more than 7. Who knows where the rest are. Glad you are enjoying yourself.   ---  Carol S.
Thanks for all your updates Tom, I love the Pictures of the boxing Kangoroos. Wish I was there.

Take some "AirBourne" for your Cold, great stuff. Drive save, Love Trudy D.

05 Great Ocean Road:  Port Fairy to Gampians

Day three of the motor Trip

We awoke and found a place for some breakfast before driving on to Portland, the only harbor between Melbourne and Adelaide.  It has about 12,000 people and  is has a large aluminum smelter and a dry dock.  They were working on refurbishing a large oil platform which is due to be completed soon.  Restrooms can be a problem in this county, but we have found that the visitors centers are excellent resources.  The clerks are knowledgeable and there are always good facilities.  We were advised to drive a little further out to see the blowholes and petrified trees.  I have been suffering from a severe cold+ since I arrived and spent most of the stops in the car.  This is someone who never get s a cold after becoming immune after all those years in the classroom.  I?ll blame it on the air in the plane.  Finally I'm much better today. 

All of the men registered their licenses with the car agency so we can take turns driving.  We have gotten used to being on the other side.  The hazard is looking the other way when crossing the street.

After Portland, it was time to head inland to go to the Grampian Mountains national park.  We stopped in Hamilton for lunch and as I looked out the window, I realized it was just as Bill Bryson said in his book about Australia.  It was as if we had stepped into a time-warp and were back in the 50?s.  Many of the older women were wearing print house dresses and the only aberration along the street was a Subway.  Across the street was Mildred?s dress shop or the Dutch Door.  The hardware store was next door.  There were several banks and various other businesses.  We didn't see any strip malls to speak of.  (Today in another similar town we drove past  a huge croquet club full of people in the 110 degree sun and had a hard time finding something cold since most everything closed at noon.)

Our stop for the night was Halls Gap and the drive up was between two ranges of mountains.  They looked a lot like mountains in New Hampshire & Vermont, I thought, not Oregon-California ones.  They are old and worn down.  So far the only kangaroos we had seen were dead on the road and we almost thought they were a myth.  When we got to our cabins, the manager said to wait until it got cooler, and we would see plenty.  Droppings like sheep produce were all over confirming what he said.  Lo and behold, out them came and hopped and ambled around the grounds.  Two even put on a brief boxing exhibition.  We also heard lots of ruckus from birds and determined that there were small colorful parrots and big white cockatoos among others.

... Joel


What gorgeous scenery, with the blue ocean in the background of your pictures!   Loved the kangaroos, especially that boxing one!

Nancy D.

I recently saw a PBS show called "Parrots in the Land of Oz" (a name for Aust.) about the parrots of Australia. Eons ago the country was predominately rain forest and the parrots came. The different types were all beautiful and behaved in different ways. One macaw learned to gnaw a branch into a digging tool. When you return home you should look for it. ...Jo S.

06 Halls Gap / Gampians to Connawarra
We awoke to a kangaroo just outside the window, the last we would see for awhile.  Just down the road is a nearly new Aboriginal Cultural center that wasn?t to be missed.  The architecture is evocative of the elements of a traditional life which focused on tribal groups of complex familial relationships.  We have been hearing a lot about the indigenous people of this land since just after we landed, Australia observed a Day of Forgiveness.  This was for the program lasting up to the 1980?s where aboriginal children were abducted from their families by the government and placed with white families.  The justification was that they would have a much better chance in life.  The children were told that their parents had died or didn't want them anymore.  We heard about occasions where the social workers would come and have a big party for the local children then load them into vans and drive away. 

Previous governments have refused to have a day to apologize, but the new PM Rudd has come on like gangbusters and made this one of his first acts.  He also announced creation of a ?war cabinet? including the opposition leader to fly together to an Aboriginal area and work out a plan for getting the services that are needed.  Life expectancy is 20 years less than for other Australians, for example.  Apparently this caught the opposing leader by surprise, but he was hardly in a position to say he didn't want to do that.  Needless-to-say, someone dug up some dirt on the new PM a few days later.  Could it be payback?  Here when new elections are called, the campaign takes about 6 weeks and it?s over (like England & Canada.)  How would it be???

The drive on through the Grampian Range was on a slow curvy road, but very beautiful.  Soon we were out on a flat plane rivaling Kansas or the Pampas of Argentina.  We crossed into South Australia from Victoria and the speed limit is 110?kilometers, that is, about 68 MPH.  It was like driving from Burns to Winnemucca, though, as we met very few cars.  The towns are few and far between.  Another first:  We turned our clocks back one half hour.

As we drove along, we began a discussion about the interesting different things we find in Australian culture compared to American.  Ordering a cup of coffee can be a challenge.  In a caf?at home, we would just ask for coffee and maybe we would be asked if we wanted room for cream.  Here the sizes are short, long and mug; then is it black or white, frothed milk like a latte, or cream which is so thick you almost have to spoon it out of a very small pitcher?  I am learning to ask for long black.   Many places will have a full brekkie and it might be Aussie, American or Canadian.  When some of us were having museli usually with lots of rolled oats, dried fruit, with or without yoghurt and Rick was having an Aussie with ham & eggs, the waiter came by and said:  ?Here?s the real man here!  The rest of you are sissies.?  I didn't think he was joking.  I?d take him more seriously if he didn't refer to breakfast as brekkie.  ?Would Timmy like his widdle brekkie now??

Australians like their meat and potatoes.  They could relate to Brazilians & Argentines.  The old joke is that a tourist was going around Australia and once again there was the usual.  He wistfully asked the waitress if there might be some vegetables, salad or fruit.  She shouted to the cook:  ?What does he think this is?  Christmas? 

We notice differences in traffic signs:  Give Way instead of Yield, Check Station rather than Weigh Station, overtake not pass with care.  They are very serious about traffic offenses especially   drunk driving.  The limit is .05 and the fine huge.  The hotel clerk commented to us that to get to one restaurant he recommended, we would need to drive to so we would have to think about it if we were going to drink.

All along the way are warning signs:  ?Fatigue is Fatal?, ?Drive to Arrive?, ?For Safety sake, Take a Break?, ?Survive this Drive?, ?Stay Awake, Take a Break? and so on.  One billboard over the freeway with a big picture of an accident scene said, ?The last thing to go through her head was her boyfriend.  Buckle up.?

Our stay was the Chardonnay Lodge right in the middle of a large vineyard in South Australia?s wine country in an area called Coonawarra.  We had a chance to go for wine and cheese tasting with even a buffalo cheddar (water buffalo) and sheep?s milk yoghurt.  There are lots of dairies, too, in this area and we went by a processing plant that looked like Tillamook.  It was closed for the day unfortunately.  At dinner the hostess came over and talked to us about local history.  She walked back with us back to our rooms and pointed out the Southern Cross in the bright night sky.

Here are some photos:

Kangaroo steak with noodles?   ---- Muriel and Allen
 07 Connawarra to Adelaide

Our driving excursion from Melbourne ended as we arrived in Adelaide, about 245 miles from the wine country located on the coast of the state of South Australia.  After we had completed most of the drive, we stopped at the small town of Hahndorf settled by Germans in the mid 19th century.  Many old stone buildings survive and it has become a tourist haunt.  We had lunch German style before driving on.  The only true freeways in Australia are near the cities and for the last 30 miles or so, we had unimpeded driving.  We had good maps, and suddenly the freeway ended and we were on the wide boulevards of a grand old city planned in the European style.  We easily found our way to the hotel, offloaded our luggage and returned the cars.

Adelaide is the capital of South Australia and has about 1.1 million people out of a total of 1.6 for the entire state.  That helps explain the phenomena we noticed of the towns harkening back to an earlier time.  Many of them have died like in middle America, and those that thrive are not of a population that would attract big box stores and mini mall development.  Wall mart is just not going to go there.

The founder of Adelaide, came to this area in 1836 with a plan for a city and once the site was chosen, it was implemented.  His plan called for a city that was 1 mile square with wide boulevards where canons could be turned around and all this surrounded by a wide strip of parkland, also for defensive purposes.  The center is a square dedicated to Queen Victoria and the name of the city is after the wife of William IV of England whose name was Adelaide.  He was the king at the time of the founding and his niece Victoria became the Queen at his death. 

Our group did various things the full day we had here.  Some of us took a city tour and others shopped.  My cold is making the rounds and several spent some time in bed.  Our hotel was on Frome street which surprised us a little since South Australia had never been a penal colony.  It was very modern and comfortable. 

The weather has turned very hot and while we were there Adelaide had the highest temp of any of the major areas in Australia, 39 degrees Celsius or a little over 100.  It is very dry.  We understand that a cyclone is bearing down on the NW coast and that the NE has had a deluge of rain.  One city, McKay, had several feet in one day.

We love to listen to Australians talk.  Almost every vowel has a different sound.  It took a while to realizethat McKai was really McKay and that the man meant caned when he talked about being canned by the headmaster when he was in school.  One of our stops will be Cairns and it is pronounced like Cannes in France.  ?R?s? are given short shrift.  Melbourne comes out like Melbunn.  Often they will say to us ?no worries,? meaning we shouldn't have any trouble.   We hear ?would you like a bikkie with your coffee?  A biscuit or cookie. 

Then it was off to the airport to fly to our next stop, Uluru (Ayres Rock), via Alice Springs.

... Joel

Click here to see some photos:

Dear Tom, Joel, Elaine,

I have been following your trip with great enthusiasm. We did about the same thing last Feb, but didn't drive all the way to Adelaide. We flew from Melbourne to Adelaide--3 days, most in old city, winery tour and Kangaroo Island. Then flew to Darwin--spent 3 days there--then took Ghan (train) S to Alice Springs--3 days including Ayer's Rock--finally back to Melbourne. We had spent a week in Tasmania first. It was incredibly hot in Adelaide last year.

You are seeing some things we saw, but lots more I'd say. We stayed at the same place in Alice Springs I believe. It is really fun for me to follow you and enjoy your pictures. I couldn't get the last one to show on my screen.

Colleen left last night at 11:15 for Melbourne and on to Hobart. She's found a ride to Launceston, but had to go to Hobart for an interview before getting back to work on Monday morning. She has 3 huge boxes extra plus the usual luggage of two bags and a carry-on. She's looking forward to meeting you in Hobart next weekend.  --- Claire
The bronze pig is great!  ---   Muriel and Allen
Thanks for the message.... have just read your last three installments and loved every minute of it!  I am very much the vicarious traveler. 

Cairns is very different from Uluru, that's for sure.  Be sure and take the Daintree River Cruise.  Looking forward to catching up when you return.  Lets have lunch when youre home!

We did have dinner with Carl (at our friends Steve and John's in Lafayette) We were really glad to get re-acquainted and hope to have everyone over to our house as soon as we have a dining room again! --- Barry

08 Ayers Rock - Uluru

We were picked up at the Adelaide hotel and taken to the airport.  We flew on a Boieng 737 to Alice Springs where we had a 3 hour layover.  TomO and I took a taxi into the town of 30,000.  The road took us through a cut in the hills and emptied us into a modest town of 1 story, tin-roofed buildings.  We walked through the outdoor Todd Shopping Center where we found a bank, tourist shop, lunch and toilets.  Then it was time to return back to the airport

The Boeing 717 flight to Ayers Rock was about 40 minutes.  A bus took us to our hotel, the Desert Gardens, and we had about 5 minutes to assemble for our sunset tour of Urulu (the native name of the rock).  The resort here is owned by one company and there are 4 or 5 different hotels.  Joe and I stayed in one called Sails in the Desert when we were here in 1987.

This tour took us to the Aboriginal Culture Center, the Mutitjulu watering hole, cave of paintings and the sunset viewing spot.  Our native guide was Sarah who spoke in her language which another guide translated into English.  There is a huge myth explaining Uluru which involves snakes and we could see the coiled snake and the places there the snake was lashed at with the digging stick (long cracks in the rocks).

The next day, TomO and I took a helicopter ride over Uluru and neighboring rock formations called Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).  It was exhilarating to see this from a height.  The desert does look green although water is very scarce.  We saw 4 camels on the way back.  These animals were set free after they were no longer needed and now outnumber the humans who live in the New Territories.

Food here is expensive.  The first night we ate at a fixed price restaurant where you ordered 2 or 3 courses ($44 and $51). Last night we ate at a BBQ restaurant where you picked out your meat (beef, kangaroo, lamb, chicken, prawns, vegi-burger) and took it to grills and cooked it yourself.  You then had a nice vegetable and salad bar to use.  A vegi-burger dinner was about $15.  A Scotch Fillet (skirt steak? ? ?) was about $26.  A glass of beer was $3.70

Here are some pictures of Ayers Rock




They are wonderful. I appreciate the travel log.  I only was in Sydney and drove to Canberra.  Beautiful scenery.  ---  Lois Ann
Boy, you really know how to get around. --- Carol S.

09 Cairns – Day One

Yesterday was one of those “hurry up and wait days as we flew from Ayers Rock Northeast to Cairns high up on the eastern coast of Australia.  The Ayers Rock airport is very tiny with only a half dozen flights per day, but it seemed to have a full complement of security including a drug-sniffing dog.  Apparently there is some very potent stuff to smoke out in these parts, and they were after it.  It was about a two hour flight and gradually the vegetation turned from dark red brown desert to lush tropical green.  Cairns is a city of about 120,000 or so, and is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, an expanse of coral about the size of Texas.  Central Australia is very dry with low humidity.  Cairns is just the opposite.  They have had lots of rain, but it has turned off for us although there are lots of clouds.  It is their rainy season and we shouldn’t be surprised.  Sugar cane is a big crop and we could see it as we flew in.

We arose early this morning to catch a transport to take us to the dock where we boarded a catamaran for an hour’s journey to Green Island, a resort and national park on the coral.  We had about five hours there including a ride in a glass-bottom boat where we saw lots of tropical fish.  When the guide threw in a handful of fish food, there was a feeding frenzy on the surface.  We could see various types of coral and huge clams.  We were out a little further than any of us would have been comfortable swimming. 

After we had a buffet lunch, several donned swimming attire and went out to snorkel.  The equipment was available to us and the hotel had sent towels.  Some of us were just too lazy to change, and took advantage of the board walks through the tropical vegetation that formed a canopy. There were lots of Chinese and Japanese out for the day.  There is a small hotel on this tiny island which we understood was very expensive. 

Little flightless birds were everywhere and our lunch was served in a screened-off area to keep them out of our food.  

All of our encounters with Australians have been very cordial and they are very efficient.  The buses leave exactly on time and requests are usually answered with “yip.”

Here are some photos of Kens ... I mean Cairns:

Thank you for all the wonderful and informative emails.  I hope you are all feeling better by now.  Jan and Mike S.

10 Cairns – Day Two

We were up early again today to be ready for our transfer to Freshwater Station to begin our day’s activities.  First was time for coffee and a look through the gift shop at this old fashioned railroad station.  We boarded the Karunda Scenic Railway and began the one and one-half hour climb up to Karunda a small town up in the hills of the rain forest.  There were fifteen tunnels and numerous trestles carrying us from sea level up to 700m (2200 ft) above sea level.  The views were breathtaking and there was one stop so we could get out and view Barron Gorge (Din Din) where the area gets a substantial amount of water power.

We had about 2 hours to wander around Karunda, a quaint touristy town with charming shops, art galleries, and eateries.  A favourite was mango smoothies, and you could get scones (scawns) with jam and cream to go with your tea.  It was a little cooler at this elevation and the breezes were welcome.

Then it was time to go board the Skyrail rainforest gondolas to begin a descent.  It was about forty minutes above the tops of the jungle in little green four passenger cars.  It was incredibly breathtaking and there were two stops, one to view the gorge from the other side and the other for a rainforest walk+.  Soon we were down to the station at Tjapukai, an Aboriginal cultural center.  They had a big show for us complete with dancing, boomerang and didgeridoo demonstrations, and two film presentations, the latter about the horrible treatment of these proud people by European settlers.  We needed to be reminded, but it was painful knowing we did similar things to our indigenous peoples.  There was a lot of pride evident in this center and we were glad it was part of the day’s tour. 

Cairns is a most interesting city, so different from other parts of the country.  It is very tropical lying on the 16th parallel south, closer to the equator than Hawaii.  It is very green with wonderful flowers and plants.  Most of the older houses are up on blocks at least three feet above ground.  We don’t know if that is because of insects, high water, ventilation or all three.   It certainly whets one’s appetite for other northern places like Port Douglas and Darwin.


Tom --- I avidly read and look forward to your trip reports and pictures - they are bringing back so many pleasant memories - mainly of my big trip around the entire continent. Too bad you didn't also hit Darwin - the big yawn of the continent. I especially remembered all the places you went in the Middle. Australia is a fascinating place, isn't it? No time for boredom. I am sort of vicariously living your trip along with you.  ---  David S.
Looks great!  Carol S.
Hi there, Tom!  Looks like you guys are having lots of fun!

Thanks for the pictures, I am really enjoying them (oh, and seething with jealousy--LOL)!

Hugs from Tokyo,  Aurelio  (^_^)

11 Sydney, Australia

Hi ... This is Carl. I have joined a group of travel friends who are half way through a tour of Australia and New Zealand. They have been "publishing" a travel diary of the places they've been to. They will continue the journal for the rest of the trip which will consist of the stay in Sydney, a 12 day cruise of Australia and New Zealand and the end in Auckland. The travellers consist of me, Tom Daniels, Tom O'Reilly, Joel and Elaine Daniels, Rick and Levonne Gano, Rod and Pat Bullard, Blanche Kober, Marv and Nancy Abbe.

I'd like to have my friends included in this travelogue.

This afternoon I spent about 4 hours doing a bridge climb of the Sydney Harbor Bridge - this involves an elaborate group climb on catwalks and ladders to the top of the bridge with great views of the city. It is considered the top tourist thing to do in Sydney - quite an adventure. They could never to this on the Golden Gate or Bay Bridges.

.... Carl

11 Sydney, Australia

Probably no city in Australia is as well-known to Americans as Sydney.  We were up early for a 5:30 a.m. flight from Cairns to Australias largest metropolis of over 4.5 million.  Our three hour flight took us right over the Blue Mountains and the harbor as we landed.  Carl Spiegleberg had flown in the day before and was waiting for us at the baggage pickup for our transfer to the hotel.  The man with the red hat who was supposed to pick us up said that our party of 12 had been cancelled, but since we had a voucher he would take us anyway.

It was Sunday and the traffic wasnt too heavy so we could take city streets rather than the expressway which meant we could see more of the city on the way.  The hotel is in a grand old building built about the same year as the gothic looking home of the Chicago Tribune.  It was originally built as an office complex then was commandeered during WWII and used by the Americans as their headquarters in Australia.  It is thought that Gen. MacArthur had his headquarters in the basement while he was exiled from the Philippines awaiting his return.  

We were soon off exploring.  Some of us walked down to the Circular Quay between the iron bridge and the Opera House where the Queen Victoria on its maiden voyage around the world was berthed.  The QE II was berthed nearby and she is on her last voyage 30 years to the day after her first visit to Sydney.  Thousands of people were out to see the two ships cross in the harbor and exchange berths.  We were surprised it caused such a stir but it warranted a commemorative spread in the newspaper this morning. 

Nearby was a Saturday Market under the bridge and Elaine and I spent some time there looking at all the special items for sale.  It was a beautiful cloudless day with a perfect temperature and we decided to take a 2 hour harbor tour recommended to us earlier.  Sydney has a huge harbor that features hundreds of kilometers of coastline.  All the homes are colorful and many are very expensive.  Russell Crowes condo literally on the water which he purchased for Au$14 million was pointed out.

As we docked, we noticed that the Four Seasons where Marv & Nancy Abbe were staying was nearby and we decided to go and see if they had arrived.  They had and we visited a bit before making our way back to our hotel and meeting for dinner.  We walked a few blocks to Darling Harbor where there was a open air pub that wasnt too expensive and we could eat open air. 

We have been suffering from sticker shock during most of our Australia stay.  Even though the Australian and American dollars are close in exchange, that doesnt tell the whole story.  We learned today that a 15 year old working at McDonalds earns $8/hr AU, by the time he is 18 he will earn $18/hr Au.  No wonder the prices here are high to us. 

Rick and Levonne Gano were able to link up with and old friend of Ricks mother who has spent much of her life here.  They had dinner and became reacquainted fifty years after Rick had last seen her. 

Today we found many different things to do.  Some of us went to the Aquarium, a Wildlife exhibit and up the Sydney Tower, the highest manmade structure on the continent.  Carl did the bridge climb, a 3 hour experience of going up over the bridge with tether and all.  There is so much concern that something might fall on the roadway that even your glasses are tied on and you are not allowed to take a camera. 

There are many malls in the office buildings with exclusive shops and it is fun to go through them and look.  The food courts may have a McDonalds or Hungry Jack, as Burger King is called here, but for each of those there are many others that are much different to us.  There is lots of fried food and always chips, but it is easy to get a good salad.  For breakfast this morning we found a great place that had trays of yoghurt with different toppings like muesli and various fruits including huge mangoes and passion fruit.  You bought it by size of container and they crammed in whatever varieties you would like.  For all this good food, the Aussies must do something right since most of them are not overweight like so many of us Americans.   

...   Joel

Here are some photos of Sydney





Elaine and Joel, Thank you for all the letters and pictures, such a wonderful trip and to share it with us is so thoughtful. Beautiful country and area of great interest. Beth P
Hi Tom,  Please keep me on the list! Looks like a great group and your commentary and photos are terrific. I'm a friend of Carl's and this will help me keep an eye on him. He looks pretty good up there on the bridge!

Enjoy and have a wonderful time!  Fred B.
Hey Tom! So nice of you to include me on your correspondents list. Interesting account of the traveling bunch. Keep in touch and when are you going to be back at the Fromm, where you and Tom and Carl are all missed. Say hello to all of them for me. Saw Peggy, Harry, Robyn, Sam, John (who is a lot better), David and Midge at school this week. Great bunch of Frommies.  Sylvia S.

12 Sydney - Our Last Day, Australia

Sydney-The Last Day

Our last day in Sydney involved a transfer from the hotel to the cruise ship, the Sapphire Princess, docked where the Queen Victoria had been on Sunday.  It turned out that we were among the first to arrive at the ship and we were aboard before noon.  After a quick bit, we disembarked to spend the day around the Circular Quay and tour the Opera House. 

We had an energetic young guide to whip us around and in the Opera House for an hour.  It is truly impossible to understand the performance space without going inside.  The symphony hall is one of the large shells with a wooden structure completely surrounding the hall.  All surfaces are an Australian white birch, even the seats and the floors are another hard wood.  The sound is reflected from the surfaces enabling the concertgoers to sit on all sides of the orchestra.  Rings are hanging from the ceiling over the orchestra so that the sounds of the instruments are reflected back to the performers so that they can hear themselves without a long lag time.  When we went in the orchestra was ending a rehearsal session and going to break and we were able to hear a little of them.

The opera hall is all black to focus everyones attention to the stage.  They were switching the set from an opera they were rehearsing earlier in the day to the Masked Ball that would be performed that evening.  There is an ambitious schedule of operas and the sets are changed daily.  It is expensive, $50-60 AU for standing room.  The space is too narrow and 60% of the orchestra is under the stage so the plans are to begin a gigantic renovation in the next several years.

We learned that the original architect of the hall ended up resigning from the project midway through and went back to Denmark never to return.  He left no drawings for how it was to be completed.  He is now ninety and has been rehired to work on renovations.  His son, also an architect, visits the site.  To do the tour we had to walk up several hundred steps and some of the impending changes involve handicap access. 

The roof of the structure is covered with white and ecru tiles, over a million, made in Italy.  Some are polished and others dull to create an interesting effect emulating a design the architect had seen on a womans bathing suit.

There is also a theatre and altogether 5000 can be attending performances at one time.  The intermissions are staggered so that the concessions wont be swamped. 

After a little more walking around the area, we were ready to board for sailing at 6 p.m.  The Bullards and Abbes were on tours during the day, but most of us were able to gather for dinner together.  We have found a large table that can accommodate us all, and it is a time when we can all check in and report about the day.  Some of us were anxious to get to the laundry since we had been travelling for two weeks and needed some clean clothes. 

We were concerned initially that this might not be the right time to come to Australia, the middle of their summer, and it would be too hot.  Aside from Uluru (Ayers Rock), it has been cool with occasional rain that we have managed to avoid for the most part.  They say that this is unusual, but welcome.  Sydneys reservoirs were down to 30+% and there hasn't been much rain for 7 years.  Now they are back up to nearly 70%.  A man in Melbourne told me that there has definitely been a climate change.  It used to be shorts from October to May with many days in the 90s and 100s.  Now thats no longer true with just a few days over 90.  I didn't know if he thought that was good or not.  There is a big concern here that the effects of global warming on Australia will be profound.  The Prime Minister was urged this week by a new study to go faster with the plans to cut emissions.  So far, he is resisting. 

We were so glad to hear half the world away that the mayor of Arlington, Oregon has been recalled.  It seemed to dominate CNN for her brief moment of fame.  Now we need only say, Were from Oregon, you know that place where the..

Joel and all

Here are more photos:

Hi Carl and 2Toms-  So glad to hear from you. I have been wondering how the trip was going. I can't believe the bridge climb is allowed. It wouldn't be in this country. We are finally well after last week at Kath and Steve's. All of them were under the weather. Somehow I didn't get it. It's Friday and time for a beer. Cheers!  Love, Aileen W.
I'd never heard of the bridge climb before - how high is it?  Our 2-year old grandson was very enthusiastic about watching "Finding Nemo" last weekend. The pictures of the aquarium fish and Sydney harbor brought it right back!

Gorgeous sunrise!!  ... Muriel and Allen
Tom. Australia looks fantastic seems you are having a great time, beautiful photos but I am still looking for Speedos....where are they ? Love, Renato F.
I loved the Opera House when I was there. I appreciate all the photos and updates. It is like being there again. I did not realize Carl was joining you. Say Hi to him for me. Where are you cruising to? Carol S.
Joel, I really liked the pictures of Carl on the bridge climb. Thanks for sharing. Ron K.
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This site was last updated 03/25/08