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Australia

Australia

Australia, Sept. 20 -Oct. 20 2015

Story 1

Nice 15 hour flight “Down Under” on QUANTAS AIR (A huge airbus), nonstop from LAX to Sidney. We liked Quantas as it was comfortable, good service, and good food. The only “down” about it was the temperature, as we were freezing the whole time! I asked for two blankets, which I did get. Our flight stated at 10pm. We had a very nice dinner at Midnight, then I took my sleep pill, and actually slept 4-5 hours (unheard of for me aboard a plane). It was easy to sleep as plane was dark and quiet, and there was an empty seat between us. There were good, healthy snacks being passed around and left at the stations through the night. I tried to go back to sleep, but just dozed. Too dark to read, so I watched a movie called “Strangerland”. A strange movie about Australia, that I felt was a “downer”. A lovely breakfast was served around 4am and we landed in Beautiful Sydney around 6 am. So this was a good time to take this long flight, as it really flew by fast.

This 4-week trip (2 weeks in Australia and 2 weeks in New Zealand) would include 12 flights between Australia and New Zealand. It was through our favorite Tour Group, “O.A.T.”, which takes very small groups (usually around 15-16 people)

The Sydney airport was an Absolute Zoo! They were on their 3rd day of Strike, so there were long lines of frustrated people everywhere, with very few employees to help out. We could find no one to help direct us. We finally learned we had to Scan our own passports, then have an automated photo taken. The problem is that it would not work! Then we were stuck in another line. Meanwhile, we missed our connecting flight to Melbourne (Where our “O.A.T.” tour began) We still had to get our luggage and check them through again, then get our tickets changed to the later connecting flight. Finally we boarded the Bus/Tram to another terminal. Talk about Stress! Don texted our guide “Roxy” from the airport, letting her know of our delay. She told him that OAT would make arrangements for someone to pick us up at Melbourne airport. We met up with our delightful driver, “Peter”, who was delightful and told us many interesting facts on the way to our hotel, The “Sommerset on Elizabeth”. We met up with our OAT Group and leader in front of the hotel. They were all just about to take an “Orientation Walk” in lovely Melbourne. Such an interesting, cosmopolitan city with many Asians, Indians, and Europeans.

2 Walking Orientation Tour of Melbourne

Our guide “Roxy” was a friendly red head with a great sense of humor and adventure! She was fun and we liked her from the beginning! She had many cute sayings and we loved her accent! She has dual citizenship, so we will have her for both Australia and New Zealand, and we are delighted! We had read online that Roxy had won awards as top guide in both countries! We had a group of 16 plus our guide. The weather was chilly and nippy and I loved it! This is their Spring, as the seasons are opposite from us. We walked 12 blocks down to the Harbor, where Roxy treated us all to a coffee drink in a really cute shop. What a Gorgeous city and skyline! Some very interesting buildings and architecture. Melbourne is a beautiful, cultural former gold rush city with fancy buildings and many lovely mansions. There was a huge gold rush here in the 1800’s, and the city has been wealthy ever since. It is known for being an “Uppity” city and the home of fabulous restaurants!

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We all walked back to the hotel, and by then, the rooms were all ready so we could all check in. Thirty minutes later, we all met in the lobby before walking across the street to “The Market Place” for lunch. It was an amazing place, and very large. We had fun wandering through this maze, looking at all the various foods and produce and goods. We ended up trying a local favorite called a “Borek” (baked hot bread pocket filled with Cheese and Spinach) Yum! Don and I shared one plus a delicious bowl of golden lentil soup. It hit the spot with this chilly weather. After walking around this interesting, huge Marketplace, we walked back to the hotel for two hours of free time.

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We unpacked, got organized, and changed for dinner. Then everyone met in the hotel lobby by 5pm for our first “Briefing”, as OAT always does, before walking to a nearby restaurant called “The Grilled Steak and Seafood Restaurant”. I tried the “Baramundi” fish with veggies, very tasty! Don tried the local favorite “Kangaroo” (they call it Roo) Kangaroo is a tasty, lean meat on all the menus. It was quite tasty as well. We shared a delicious dessert, “Sticky Date Pudding”. The Entrée is an Appetizer in Australia, and the main course is “Dinner”.

We walked back to our lovely hotel, anxious for some “Shut eye” after a very long day! Slept so soundly until midnight when Don’s cell phone rang (It was our son from the U.S.)

3 Bus City Tour of Melbourne

After a very nice breakfast in the hotel, we were off by 8:30 for our tour of this fascinating city. April 25 is “ANZAC” Day in Australia and New Zealand with the army core remembering “Gallipoli” in 1915

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Memorial for Gallipoli

8,709 Aussies were killed and 2, 701 New Zealanders were killed. November 11 is Armistice Day. Fifteen years ago, Don and I stood at Gallipoli in Turkey, hearing their side of the massacre with Attaturk, and seeing all those grave markers. It was a very sobering sight. Gallipoli cost the allies 141, 000 casualties, with more than 44, 000 dead.

Melbourne is city with many large, lovely churches and beautiful trees and parks. We all really enjoyed “The Block”, a beautiful tree lined street with high end shops and galleries, plus a wonderful shopping arcade. C:\Users\Sharon\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\_DSC3746.jpg C:\Users\Sharon\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\_DSC3719.jpg

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Australia was the first place in the world with 8 hour work days. Their motto was “8 hours work, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours of sleep”. Labor Unions have negotiated huge wages.

Between 1788 and 1866, 162, 000 British Convicts were transported to western Australia from England and placed in various penal colonies. We toured a prison in Melbourne where 133 convicts were executed. It was an awful place, as most prisons are. In 1975, they stopped the death penalty.

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The University of Melbourne is ranked 33rd in the world (above University of Sydney) Like the U.K., Aussies and kiwis (New Zealanders) drive on the right side of the road. The “A.F.L.” is huge there (Aussie futball league) We saw Rod Laver’s beautiful 100, 000 seat Stadium where they hold the Tennis Open.

Melbourne has the most Gorgeous Botanical Gardens on 65 acres. With their Spring just beginning, the blooms were so lovely! Many huge trees with lots wild birds in them. (Photos) C:\Users\Sharon\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\_DSC3772.jpg C:\Users\Sharon\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\_DSC3725.jpg

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“Saint Patrick’s Cathedral” was awesome. Then we all walked through the very impressive WW1 War Museum, and saw their Memorial. The park had a very nice restaurant with yummy food, though a bit pricey. I had delicious Pumpkin Risotto. We really did fall in love with the beautiful, restored shopping arcades, some dating back to the early 1900’s, and “The Lanes”, cute little alleys lined with Boutiques and Eateries. “Broad Street” really had some high end stores, and fancy chocolate shops, like “Haigh’s”, the best Chocolate in Australia! We made several purchases at various Haigh’s throughout Australia! I think their “Rocky Road” candy is the Best we have ever had! We were impressed with the gorgeous Mosaic patterns on the floor of the arcades, and all the beautiful amenities.

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One of our favorite stores was “Made in Australia”, where we made some nice purchases. Then we passed one of the fanciest dessert/tea shops anywhere! we HAD to buy a slice of the most delicious and beautiful Lemon Meringue Pie we had ever seen (10 U.S. dollars) It was “Take Away” for later in our room, YUM!

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Our whole group met in a private suite around 6pm for wine, cheese, and crackers, before braving the very Cold evening, looking for a big salad or salad bar! We ended up finding a really good Thai café in China Town (quite close to our hotel), where we had some delectable veggie dishes, and other tasty items which we all shared. It really hit the spot after all the rich food we had been consuming! Bed felt good that night!

4 Melbourne Cultural Museum

Another very cold, blustery day as we walked the short distance to this Fabulous Cultural Museum. We had 2 hours to explore, which was not enough, but we gave it a good go! We started with the earliest years of the native Aboriginal people (here for 6,000 years) So much injustice done to them, even worse than our American Indians, as they were nearly wiped out!

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We later visited the most beautiful library with 7 open tiers or layers, looking like an Opera House. (photos) We bought a C.D. from a street singer out front of the library who had a beautiful, melodious voice.

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We had some free time, so Do and I went back to the big “Victorian Market” close to our hotel. Great food booths, produce, anything from soup to nuts. Then there were all the clothing booths! Don was looking for an Aussie Kangaroo hat like “Crocodile Dundy’s hat. After much looking, he finally found a really nice looking medium brown kangaroo hyde hat. It looked like leather, but was much softer. The price was only $65.00.

Australia has 6 time zones, 2 territories, and 6 states. For instance, Melbourne is located in the state of “Victoria”.
We all took the “Circle ride” on the trolley, as we saw more of this vibrant city, ending down at the docks. Then we took the trolley to “St. Kilda Pier” to see the Penguins at dusk. This was a beautiful marina with lovely hotels.

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We took a walk down to the rocks and waited at the end of the pier for the Penguins to arrive. Around 6:30 the Penguins swam ashore to feed their babies who were stored in their burroughs in the rocks.

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They were really cute and did not seem to mind all the visitors waiting for a glimpse. They almost seemed to be posing for all our photos. We were all dressed very warmly, thank God, as it was really cold with the bitter wind! We had a lovely dinner right there at the marina with great fish and chips and Caprice salad. A Hot Café Mocha really hit the spot before our chilly ride back to the hotel on the trolley.

5 On the Plane for Adelaide

One Aussie dollar=0.75 U.S. Dollars. There are Kangaroos and Emus on the Aussie dollar bill. “Neither can walk backwards, so we are going forward”.

Socialized medicine in Australia. Everyone pays a “levy” of 1.9 % which includes hospital care. Everyone is also on Medicare from birth until death. It’s all inclusive, except for dentistry(too pricey) Very long lines for many surgeries, especially Replacement surgery. There are private systems as well, but more taxes.

Religion: Majority Catholic, some United Anglican. Less than 10% people attend church.

The Royal Flying Doctors (RFD) were so impressive! We visited their facility, learning about how they fly all over Australia, even to the most remote areas. A very impressive sight that we visited on our tour.

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The flight to Adelaide was a very pleasant 50 minute flight. The weather was warmer there ( in the 70’s), which really felt good! It is a coastal city of 1.3 Million (5th largest city in Southern Australia) Known as a “Free State”, because there was no convict start there. Quite an industrial state, big defense industry, solar industry, health care industry, and Lockheed Australia is located there. Education is big here with 3,000 International students. Many private schools which are expensive. Three main Universities.

Randall Hall (“The Beehive”) is great for shopping there! Many Jam factory locals were displaying their wares. Lots of beautiful Victorian homes here as well as very unusual architecture. The “Black Spots” designate many accidents and fatalities along the road. “Chuck a rightie” means turn right. We find the language very colorful and different from our U.S. slang.

On our way to “Cleland” in the mountains. We are to look for the following critters: Potawos, Koalas, Wombats, Kangaroos, Echidnas, Platypus, Tasmanian Devils, and Walabies

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Tasmanian Devil

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We have several hours to see all this wonderful wildlife! Australia and New Zealand have so many critters that we do not in the U.S. Koalas are so cuddly and soft. They are nocturnal, so it’s difficult to handle them much during the day. We had a wonderful experience of seeing many Koala bears here and we paid to actually handle and hold a large 45 pound Koala named “Isaiah”, who was 5 years old. He seemed so tame and I actually held him for about 10 minutes. He just leaned on my shoulder while eating his Eucalyptus leaves. We both had a photo with him. He really got heavy after holding him for 10 minutes or so.

It was fun watching the Kangaroos with their babies (Joeys) in their pouches. When the mom would stop to graze, you could see the baby Joey’s head coming out to also graze. We got to feed a baby wallaby, who was quite tame. When I scratched his bib, he loved it!

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Wallaby

Also saw some Tasmanian Devils, very vicious animals! We did not spot all of the animals that we had hoped to, but it was still lots of fun!

That evening, we had an interesting talk about the Aborigine people at our hotel. The speaker had such a heavy accent however, it was difficult to understand him. Then we were all off to “The Apothecary”, a nice restaurant with really good food!

6 Home Hosted Dinner at “Jilley’s”.

Our group of 16 split up for 2 separate homes for our “Home Hosted Dinner”, one of our “OAT” favorites! Our group had the Wonderful experience of going to Jilley’s home. She was a lovely, charming, and witty lady who was a great hostess and cook! Probably in her 70’s, very attractive, and she had a beautiful home!

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She first took us all on a tour of her art filled, eclectic home. There were 10 of us, including Jilley and her friend seated at a large table for dinner. She had some nice appetizers and a lovely warm lemon drink before dinner. Dinner was a wonderful Aussie dish called “Pie Floaters”. Small beef filled pies floating on top of green pea soup with a touch of mashed yams. It was tasty as well as attractive and colorful. Dessert was a wonderful slice of creamy pie with cream poured over it, called “Treakle Pie”. We all gobbled it up! Jilly was a real character and she had a huge dog, the size of a small horse (inside the house) She had many lovely touches in her home, and was obviously another world traveler. We said our “thanks and goodbyes” after giving her our own personal hostess gifts. The bus picked us up by 8:30 and delivered us back to our lovely hotel by 9pm “The Grand Chancelor Adelaide”

By the way, “OAT’s” website is www.oattravel.com In case anyone is interested in travelling with our favorite small tour group! If you are interested, please contact me, as I can help you with a nice discount.

7 Barossa Valley Tour

Adelaide is another “free heritage City” meaning it was never started up by convicts as other cities were in Australia. We took an Optional half day tour to lovely Barossa Valley, to see 4 various wineries. We signed up for this tour mainly because we had heard it would also include seeing charming “Hahndorf”, a German city in the mountains.

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Though we were disappointed to not see this German city, the drive on the bus was beautiful as were the wineries. We really liked the cute town of “Tanuda” with trees blossoming everywhere in the lovely Springtime. We only had a half hour to browse, but I wish we could have stayed longer. “Wohlere Homewares” was a favorite store of ours, right on the main street. It was so full of wonderful furniture, homewares, jewelry, and you name it! I needed another hour just to go through that store! I did buy a beautiful silk scarf, an original Aboriginal design. We also enjoyed “The Lolly shop” next door (candy) It’s fun to see foreign candies and see their displays and decorations.

We enjoyed a lovely luncheon in one of the wineries, where we had some delic cheeses, fruit, olives, and some wonderful Muscata. We ended up buying 2 bottles of their Muscata. We loved their Beetroot dip, and were glad the Aussies also loved Beets.

Adelaide is an interesting town, like something you’d see in Durango, Colorado or Deadwood, South Dakota. Very picturesque with it’s boardwalks. There were some nice shops and arcades as well, but nearly all were closed by the time we finished our tour. We did find another “Haigh” chocolate shop that was still open. Yum!

We met with the rest of our group back at our hotel in Adelaide by 6pm. Then we all walked across the street to the Pub called “Shaw Connaty’s Kitchen”, which had really great food! There were big sport’s screens everywhere, and every one was excited to be watching the “Aussie Futball playoffs”! They are really big sports fans.

After dinner, we walked to the nearby “Oz-Asian” Festival with all the colored lanterns, Chinese dragons, and fireworks. The lights were so pretty reflected in the lake, and all over the gorgeous church.

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9 Flight to Alice Springs (Gate way to the Outback)

We actually awoke early (before the alarm went off), and did some sit ups, push ups, squats, and lunges in our room, before showering. Had a lovely breakfast in the hotel, then packed up and on bus by 8:30 am for our drive to the airport, just a short bus ride away. We had to carry on our wonderful Haigh chocolates, so they would not melt in our luggage. It will be in the 80’s in Alice Springs, quite a change from here. Nice 2 hour flight, and cute little airport. Much warmer and more desolate, barren looking scenery, especially after all the lovely green cities, trees, and parks. So far, my least favorite terrain here in Australia. One % of the Aussie people live on 20 % of the land here in the “Northern Territory”. Only 28-30,000 population in the Outback. Aboriginal people here for over 40,000 years! In 1870, A European settlement was built with a telegraph station. In the 1880’s , gold was discovered. Railroad was built by 1929. There were very interesting and sad stories there in the little town of Darwin, where we saw pictures of the Aboriginal people being shot and on the run. “It was the Lost Generation”, which you can Google to learn more about. It was evacuated during WW2 because of 8,000 Japanese Troops being stationed there. Alice Springs is just a few little streets with little cafes and art shops and a local market. We actually saw a few nice galleries, some quite pricey. We were all instructed to buy some netting to go over our heads for protection from the very pesky little flies who would fly into your face and eyes. This was to be used on our walk around Ayers Rock later that day, or as the locals call it, “Uluru”. It is a massive sandstone Monolith in the heart of the Northern territory’s arid red center. It is sacred to the local indigenous Australians, and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago.

We had lunch at a little sidewalk café where we shared a delicious stuffed veggie quesadilla and a soda. I later purchased another lovely, hand painted silk scarf by the local indigenous people with the original Aboriginal design of circles in lovely colors. This was an “Investment of “Wearable Art” I call it, as it cost about $125. 00 U.S. dollars. I felt I was supporting a good cause for the local people. Most the shops closed by 2pm for their Siesta. We took a walk through town past the local park where we noticed some of the “locals” across the street who were yelling and fighting. They are very primitive looking. Our guide advised us to just look ahead and ignore them. She said this was pretty typical behavior . Like our American Indians, they do not hold liquor well, and have a very high incidence of alcoholism and diabetes. Many are on dialysis, as I will mention in further detail later on. The Australian government is working hard for Restitution for the Aboriginal people, to help with all the injustices of the past. We will visit a local Aboriginal Center tomorrow.

We checked into our lovely “Double Tree Hilton” hotel. A large, modern hotel with nice amenities. Once settled, our group all had an included dinner at a nearby restaurant called “The Red Ochre”. I had Excellent Baramundi fish and Don enjoyed his Kangaroo once again. We loved the “Broccoli/Sweet potato fritter” that stood up on our plate like “Ayers Rock”! The presentation was really unique and lovely, as well as tasty! Dessert topped it off well!

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Then we returned to our lovely hotel where we walked the beautiful grounds, enjoying the ducks and peacocks everywhere. Such a lovely and restful oasis amidst this arid terrain.

10 The Purple House Clinic

Then we saw “The Purple House Clinic” in Alice Springs. The government built a nice “Well-Being” clinic with 40 Dialysis machines, as the Aboriginal people have 3-4 times the normal rate of diabetes and kidney failure. Many are overweight, on drugs and alcohol, and there is also a high suicide rate among the youth. There were 6 social workers, several nurses, doctors and dentists, and 20 staff (mostly Aboriginal people) There were 12 Directors to help co-ordinate all the care. Quite an inspiring and up to date clinic.

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11. The Community Center

Kangaroo or “Roo” tails are a real delicacy here, and the local people were barbequing some of it outside while we visited. I found the smell quite offensive, so stayed away from the barbeque, while Don did try some of it later. He said it was very fatty and greasy. He could hardly wash the fat off his hands. Yuk!

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Even the local MacDonald’s (which they call the “American Embassy”), serves Kangaroo meat. There is no “rainy season” here, so rain is rare. We later saw another Aboriginal community called “Hidden Valley” where we were told “Not to make eye contact” as the people were very shy. “OAT”, our favorite small group tours, sponsors something called “A Day In The Life Of”, so it could be most any place where we are learning about a culture. So that was our mission here, to see how the Aussie government is caring for the local indigenous people. We enjoyed watching the students doing some nice artwork and painting, and we purchased a cute little decorative box that was hand painted, for a very nominal fee. It was nice to be given the chance to support these people.

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We really enjoyed the gorgeous red flowers known as “desert peas”, one of Australia’s favorite wild flowers. (

Next stop was “The School of the Air”. We were very impressed with this learning system, There are 16 of these throughout Australia. It is Video DVD/T.V. Computer access. The classroom is as large as Central Europe! The main ones are in Darwin and Kathryn (remote areas). Students each come for 2-4 weeks of the year. 134 students are enrolled at same time. The student’s work is sent out in Postal Bags to each student. “In School work” is experienced several times per year where kids come together and interact with computers, satellite dishes, and printers. The government pays $15, 000 a year to equip each student. 4 year olds are in Preschool, 5 year olds are Prime school ,and 6-9 years is Middle School The students spend 3 hours per day online. Every family has a home “tutor”. Normal school hours are 8 am to 3 pm. Five. -Ten year olds learn their first foreign language!( This puts our U.S. kids to shame!) There are many boarding schools for older kids. Math, Science, Art kits are all mailed out to the kids. This way, all the kids are reached, even those in the most remote areas, as Australia is so large! 1948 is when The “School of the Air” was begun in Alice Springs to reach the kids of the “Outback”, and has seen much growth in past 60 years!

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We had a wonderful “Barby” at our hotel pool that night, put on by our Wonderful Guide Roxy! Everything was DELIC, from Salads, Chicken and Lamb Skewers, and Fruit Salad, that we helped Roxy to cut up. We love the “Beetroot” salad the Aussies also enjoy, and for dessert Roxy had us all try her local favorite cookies, “Lemmingtons”. Yummy cookies with chocolate and coconut (which I do love). Then Roxy had a Special Treat and “Discovery”, also on her. It was a Fabulous “Digeridoo” Show! “Andrew” played them all so well for us and we had met him earlier that day when we wandered into his lovely shop, wishing we could hear someone play it! Andrew put on a great hour long show! We all tried to play it, but it’s a very difficult instrument to learn, and so unique! Years ago, we purchased one in our home town of Laguna Beach, Ca. when there was an Australian shop there. It’s only for decoration, as we never did learn to play our Digeridoo What a Wonderful Surprise that was enjoyed by all! Thanks again dear Roxy, We Love You!

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12 Ayers Rock (Uluru)

Leaving the “Ayer’s Rock Resort” in Alice Springs. Alarm went off at 5am; we must be on bus with our luggage for the early departure of 7am. We have a bigger, roomier bus for all our luggage, As we will be on the bus for 4.5-5 hours today, making various stops along the way. There are many camels in Australia, being first introduced in 1840 by India to help build telegraph lines and railroads. One of our stops was called “Camel Safari”, where some on the tour took their first Camel ride. I had ridden a Camel briefly in Israel in 2000, and both Don and I rode them in Egypt.

They are not a pleasant or comfortable ride, just so bumpy and jerky, and it’s NOT fun to dismount one, as it feels you will be swept off and forward when the camel bows those long legs down to the ground.

We watched an interesting DVD aboard the bus while riding between stops. It was about a family of Kangaroos, and was sad when a young “joey” died. 80% of the young “Roos” do not survive, with many ending of as roadkill on the highways.

“Curtain Springs” was our lunch stop. An authentic Cattle Station in the outback. We listened to “Peter”, an 80 year old sharp man ramble on about his life here. His wife was very brave to live and to stay there with him until her death 25 years ago. There is absolutely No way that I would have survived life in the outback like this, totally isolated, and so desolate.

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Around 3pm we arrived at “Outback Pioneer Lodge” close to Uluru. We recently saw our first glimpse of the big red Monolith in the distance. It’s 1148 feet high, 9.6 kilometers in circumference. 2.2 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. Total circumference is 5.8 miles. Most of its bulk lies underground, and around 35 people have died trying to climb it. We loved our walk around this magnificent rock, EXCEPT for those pesky black flies what would dive bomb into your face! Thankfully, we all had donned our netting bonnets to help ease the fly problem.

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Many different colors depending on time of day

There was some beautiful vegetation and green trees in some areas of the hike, which surprised me. We also saw interesting, ancient hieroglyphics on several areas of the rock.

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We arrived at our destination at 5:30, and there out in the middle of nowhere, was a lovely table complete with white tablecloth, glasses of mimosas, champagne, fruit juices, fruit, veggies and dip, chips, and lovely little desserts. All ready for our “Toasts” to this beautiful area of changing colors of Uluru. As the sun kept setting, the ochre and red colors just turned even deeper, it was Magical! This was another Surprise and Discovery from our wonderful guide, “Roxy”! Thanks Roxy, we love you! We stayed about an hour with everyone snapping more photos.

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We have our “Snowbirds” here in the states, but Australia has their “Gray Nomads” who are “Skidrows” (Spending their kid’s inheritance)

Arrived back to hotel by 7pm and “Bee-lined” it over to a local food kiosk, where we ordered a veggie pizza. We were tired and did not want to even think about re-packing, but we did. It had been a long day, but very eventful. Lights were out by 10:30, yawn!

13 Ayer’s Rock to beautiful Cairns

The alarm woke us at 4:45 am. It was still dark as the 10 of us “Brave Souls” opted to take the early “Daybreak” hike of Uluru. We rode on the Bus to “Katajuta Rocks”. From there, we took our early am walk in the cool air and it felt good! No bugs or flies out at this early hour either, Yipee! We saw a Gorgeous Sunrise on Uluru, much prettier and redder at daybreak. There was more shade, so we noticed the green more. I liked it better than the previous evening’s hike. “Katajuta” means a conglomerate of Rocks (Sedimentary, Granite, and Sandstone)

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We were back at our hotel by 8am where we showered and finished packing before breakfast. Bags were out in the hall by 8:30 for pickup. We departed on the bus by 9:30 for our second walk around Uluru. It was nice, but much buggier with the flies (photos) It was going to be in the 90’s, so we were glad it was still quite cool. It was great to be getting more exercise with these hikes, as we really needed it with all the food we were consuming!

We later stopped in “Desert Center” for lunch and a free hour. We only wanted a big salad. After lunch, we were on our way to the “Ayer’s Rock” small airport for a 3:15 flight to Cairns. There will be snacks, as always on all our Aussie and New Zealand flights. We had a hassle in this tiny airport, as we checked in our 4 bags . The authorities said they were too heavy, and they wanted to charge us $60.00 more American Dollars. Once again, Roxy came to the rescue, as she helped us re-pack our carry-ons, and she carried one on for us. She said This airport was always the strictest one to get through! Once that was over, it was a nice 2.5 hour flight to Cairns (pronounced Caans) We have 12 flights on this month long OAT trip between Australia and New Zealand.

We could feel the “Tropical Climate” as soon as we deplaned. We fell in love with this lovely, small resort town right on the beach! Lots of cute Boutique shops and hotels, and restaurants. I even saw a Gelato shop! (Yum) There were green mountains surrounding our Beautiful 5 star Hotel, The “Palm Cove Resort”. This huge, open, and Luxurious Resort reminded us of the Tropical Hotels in Hawaii, and it was our favorite one so far! I loved the grounds and the pools and could not wait for my Power Walk of the grounds! Later that night, once we were settled, we joined another couple on their lovely veranda. We shared goodies, snacks, cheese, crackers, nuts, drinks etc and had a great 2 hour visit! We slept like babies that night!

14. The Great Barrier Reef day outing

We enjoyed a nice Breakfast in our hotel (Roxy calls it “Breaky”), then we boarded the bus by 7am for our 2 hour drive on the bus through lovely sugar cane fields to The Great Barrier Reef. Our driver really had a thick accent!

Got onboard our large, beautiful Catamaran, “The Ocean Spirit”, holding about 150 people. They were serving coffee, tea, and pastries onboard, but we were still too full from breakfast. This was to be an all day “Adventure”, so we found a nice spot to “Settle in” before Don went for his wet suit and snorkel fitting. He chose to do this, while I chose to take the “Semi- Sub” to view the wildlife underwater.

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Don stayed out about 2 hours, until he was getting chilled. He was disappointed, as the water was not near as clear as in Cozumel and other places we have been, so he could not view much underwater wildlife and could not get good photos. I felt the same way after taking the Semi Sub, as the water was not clear. There was a storm several days earlier. One poor lady fell as she was getting off the Semi Sub and broke her arm and banged up both knees. She and her husband were on their honeymoon and were from Palos Verdes, Ca. (not far from us in Laguna Beach, Ca.) At least they were at the end of their trip!

We had a Beautiful Buffet lunch on board, but some poor people could not enjoy it as they were seasick. The seas did get rougher in the afternoon, so the boat was rocking more. Don and I are so lucky to not get seasick. I wonder if some wished they had taken precautions prior to boarding the boat. Around 2:30, afternoon tea was served (as if we needed more food) Sparkly wines, cheese and crackers, goodies. No one could have been hungry! We departed the boat around 3:30, getting back to the hotel by 5:30. We are so lucky to have had such gorgeous weather!

We showered and changed for dinner at 7:30 there in the lovely foyer of our hotel. It was a Beautiful dinner, enjoyed by all. Lots of veggies, salads, several choices of delicious fish, and a lovely array of tiny, tasty desserts. My favorite was the Banana dessert with the yummy sauce.

We walked the lovely grounds after dinner, enjoying the tropical birds and parrots. We hear them from our veranda also. I love the short, sweet bananas here, like the ones in Hawaii.

Nearby “Port Douglas” has some beautiful high end homes, as well as restaurants and shops.

15 “ Daintree Rain Forest”

We’re on the bus enroute to Daintree Forest. We are following the Tasmanian Sea (which separates Australia and New Zealand) Pretty ride along the ocean, then along sugar cane fields. “Liptosperosis” happens when rats get into the sugar cane and urinate.

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We were watching for “Cassowaries”, very colorful and large birds in the Emu family, and endangered. We kept looking for “Big Bertha”, a 45 year old Casswarie, but we did not see her. There were many Beautiful Brazilian rain trees. Tree Kangaroos live in the trees and have very long tails. December through March is the “rainy season”, and this is the wettest place in Australia. We are crossing a river on an auto/bus ferry, and there are signs everywhere about Crocs in the river! Northeast Queensland is the largest continuous rainforest in Australia.

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No electricity here, so the people who live here are very basic and hearty! There are feral pigs that are very destructive and cause much damage. Also lots of big snakes, medicinal plants, poisonous plants, gorgeous birds, and bats. We even saw a “Boyd’s Forest Dragon lizard There are 18 feet long Pythons, which are too numerous now since the Aboriginal people left, as they used to eat them. Our Daintree walk was wonderful as were our knowledgeable guides.

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Later we took a “Crocodile Cruise” on Cooper Creek. There were many croc babies, grown crocs, and some really huge ones! They loved hiding in the Mangrove trees along the river banks, or sunning themselves on the banks. One in 200 crocs make it to adults. Some of these crocs are so ancient, 100 years or older.

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Lots of people here who are “Out on the Turps”, or who are ” Grogs”, or drinkers.

“Heritage Lodge” was a lovely restaurant out under a pretty tree canopy. They served wonderful sandwiches on baguette bread, and fruit for dessert.

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Later “Roxy” had another “Discovery Surprise“ for us, Daintree Ice Cream! It was a beautiful stop amongst colorful tropical plants (photo) They served each of us in a little bowl with 4 small scoops of various ice creams. It was really good! Banana (my favorite), Passionfruit, Sapote, and Wattleseed. Then we all boarded the bus for the ride back to the hotel. Once we arrived back in Cairns, Don and I walked down to the cute little town and did some sightseeing and browsing of the shops. My hair was a mess, so I looked for a beauty shop for a shampoo and blow dry. We found a nice salon that was about to close, so I was lucky to get an appointment! The winds had really picked up, so I wondered how smart this was, but they did a nice job, and my hairstyle stayed in pretty well on the way back to hotel. Hair stylist was from the U.K. My “DO” cost $37.50 (U.S. Dollars) I gave her $45.00. We walked back to our room to ready for dinner, but beforehand, we enjoyed our lovely veranda, where we kicked back, enjoying the tropical plants and hearing the wild birds. The “wild Ginger” plants were so pretty! We had some peanuts and a drink

All 17 of us enjoyed a wonderful dinner at one large table in the hotel dining room. Don enjoyed the Baramundi fish, always a winner. It was served with the most delicious “Pea Risotto”. I had the Moroccan Chicken with Pumpkin. Good, but a bit spicy for me. We had a nice chat with Roxy (who Calls me “The Glam Girl”) We hate to leave this beautiful hotel in the A.M!

16 Cairns to Sydney flight

We awoke at 5:30, had our coffee, and out of room for a power walk by 6am, but it was raining, so we used the lovely gym facility for an hour before showering and then to “Breaky”. We sat under the thatched roof and listened to the rain really coming down! Then we finished packing up for our next flight to Sydney. So glad the downpour stopped before we rode the bus to the airport! Flight was booked for 12:15; a nice 3-hour flight that included lunch. We had to set our clocks an hour ahead, arriving in Sydney by 4:30 pm.

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We all took the customary “Orientation Walk” after checking into our beautiful hotel, “The Vibe”. I thought it a fitting name for this very VIBRANT CITY! Many people out walking, lots of traffic, and the Pubs were Full! So many people were out walking and drinking with open containers. We saw quite a few inebriated drinkers everywhere, as the Aussies were celebrating their Rugby (Futball) finals going on! We even saved one guy who was walking out straight into the traffic! Needless to say, he was pretty Looped! We enjoyed a nice dinner at the local Pub across street from the hotel. It was nice to join our group, as we will miss the next two evenings with our group, as we are meeting our dear Aussie friends who flew here from Brisbane to join us for our last 2 days in Sydney. Our last 2 days in Sydney are “free time” to explore on our own. There is so much to do and see here in this Beautiful city! Sydney is truly one of the prettiest harbors in the world (and deepest)!

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We walked down to wonderful “Darling Harbor”, which we all loved! We noticed a beautiful “IMAX Theatre” there, and made a note of the movie that was showing, “Everest 3-D”.

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We had our hotel concierge call to see what times it was showing. We had 30 minutes until the last showing at 9pm. So, we did a fast power walk down to the harbor. Cost was $30.00 apiece (for Seniors) Everything here in Australia (and New Zealand) is really pricey! The movie was Fabulous with beautiful photography, but as we knew, a sad story and ending. It was a 2-hour movie, so by time we walked back to the hotel, it was 11:30. We’d only had 6 hours sleep the night before last, as we lost that hour with the time change. We were really ready for bed that night and had a hard time getting up early the next am for our city tour.

17 City Tour of Sydney by bus and walking (Oct. 4, 2015

On the bus by 8am for our city tour of Fascinating Sydney. The street gangs here used to be called “Push”. Argyle street used to be in the midst of the gangs. It was the way people would walk down to the famed Sydney Bridge. “Suez Canal is the narrowest street here in Sydney. (it used to be a sewer) We walked to “Circular quay” , of which there are 8.

 

George street is the longest in Australia. We loved the “The Strand” and the lovely” Queen Victoria Arcade”.

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Then we toured “The Rocks” started by criminals sent over between 1788-1868 by England. We saw “MacQuarie’s Rock ”carved by Criminals in the 1700’s

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“Altmann & Cherney” was a beautiful gem shop where we stopped to see the largest Opal in the world! It was called the “Olympic Australis” and was worth about 1.9 Million dollars. Google it to see it’s absolute beauty! We also had a lecture about Opals and how to choose them. Their jewelry was so pretty, and I have always loved the “Fire Opals”, with that beautiful blue color (my favorite.) Don bought a lovely small oval shape pair of earrings for me with rhinestones surrounding the opal. They will go with my Fire Opal Pendants at home.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge is a masterpiece that opened in 1932.

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We will do the famed “Bridge Walk” tomorrow night with our Aussie friends. We booked it as soon as we got to Sydney, because it’s so popular. We wanted to do “The Sunset Walk”, even though it was even pricier, so we could see it in the daylight as well as evening with all the beautiful lights! The price was $330.00 apiece, Ouch! Will write more about it tomorrow. We enjoyed our “Captain Cook” narrated cruise of Sydney Harbor , complete with refreshments, it was Fabulous!

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Then we took a very interesting tour of the famed Opera House, which was Amazing! The idea of building it started in 1950, and it was finally finished 16 years later by Danish Architect “Yurn Oodsen” in 1973. Final price tag was 102 Million dollars. The conductor “David Ruskin” is from the U.S. In 2007 it became a UNESCO Master Piece. The theatres hold 2,780 people, and there are three theatres. Ninety different Symphonies perform here with 1700 performances and events per year. There are 1000 dressing rooms, and 10,500 pipes in the outstanding Pipe Organ! It was an Amazing tour, and we so wished we could attend a performance there, but we chose the Bridge Walk instead.

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Arrived back at the hotel around 6pm and saw that we had a message from our Aussie friends, Dave and Di Murphy, telling us they were available any time to join us for dinner. We took 20 minutes to freshen up, then met them in our hotel lobby. They had just flown in from Brisbane, Australia so we could spend our last 2 days in Sydney together. We had a great visit with them for an hour before we headed out to Darling Harbor to choose a restaurant. There were so many to choose from! We walked around the harbor, looking at all the various dinner houses, finally choosing on “Black Bird”. It was in a beautifully lighted, open area up a circular staircase. The food was marvelous, but it was a noisy restaurant, as we knew they would all be during the Rugby Finals going on, and on every big screen around! The Aussies were all SO engaged, it was infectious! Our friends’ team won and they were So excited, as were we!

Later, we walked by a delightful Gelato shop and decided to try it out. So glad we did, because it was really good! Then we walked back to the hotel and chatted awhile longer before we said our “Good nights”. It was about 11:30, and we had all had a very full day. (Yawn)

18 Last Day in Sydney

We enjoyed a nice breakfast in our Hotel Vibe, and after a quick trip to the local Laundromat to have some clothes cleaned, we called our friends who were staying in a hotel just a block away. Dave and Di joined us in our hotel lobby where we chatted an hour or so and shared I Pad photos, before walking to nearby shopping mall called “The City”. It was a really huge mall, and we could not believe how many lovely Galleries, Arcades, and huge shopping malls there were in Sydney! It has such a beautiful skyline with all the skyscrapers, and such a great, Cool Vibe! No wonder it’s on my “TOP TEN List of Cities and Harbors” in the world!

We looked in the huge mall for a camera cover for Don’s camera and found it right away in the camera section. Then we found a curling iron for me on the 6th floor of “David Jones” huge department store. I needed a 220/240, only good in Australia and New Zealand.

The gorgeous Queen Victoria Arcade was worth the trip just for the beautiful Clock in the center, let alone all the lovely shops and tearooms! Don took several photos of this special 360 degree clock. The “Strand” was another lovely shopping Arcade.

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We walked towards “The Rocks” (rock quay), looking for a luncheon stop. It was a holiday there, so many people were out in the restaurants and shopping the tiny little booths everywhere. We found a cute German Restaurant that was quite crowded, but could take us. There was a German band playing on the stage, and our friends had never had German food, so we opted to try it! It was 2pm and we were starved. I wanted “Sauerbraten”, but it was not on the menu, so we all chose the Chicken Schnitzel, good but heavy as it was breaded and fried. It came with fried potatoes, and we ordered sides of sauerkraut and red pickled cabbage. It was waaaay too much food (we should have shared meals), but we had fun and we were full!

After lunch, we walked briefly through the interesting “Rocks Museum”. Interesting, but we did not have time to do it justice, because we needed to find our way to the Sydney Bridge for our Bridge walk Adventure! It was 4:30 pm and we needed to be at the bridge by 5pm for our prepaid excursion. We finally found the base of the bridge, where we had a 30 minute wait (until they were finished with the last group), before we could go through our Extensive Briefing! We filled out forms, took a Breathalyzer test, and had more briefing. Then we all changed into the gray jumpsuits, which we kept adding clips and other items onto. We were fitted with a big, wide belt, where our “Pulley cord” snapped onto (like a TAC line). We were all attached to the metal line, where our clip would slide though during the whole walk. It took at least 30 minutes to get all hooked up with the gadgets and headphones, so we could hear our funny guide “Pete”. It was still bright and warm when we started the walk at 6pm, and we didn’t finish until 8:30-9pm, WHAT A WALK! Ours was the last walk of the day. Talk about Gorgeous views of this grand city! We were not a bit scared (how could you be with all these safety mechanisms?) Our highest point was 500 feet up in the air, and we witnessed a beautiful Sunset before before seeing the gorgeous lights of Sydney Harbor! Sea gulls were swirling up high above us looking iridescent in the bright bridge lights as they dove for the large moths illuminated in the lights. What a show we had! Every little while, our guide would take group photos and individual photos of each couple.

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By the time we got back down, changed into our street clothes, and looked at our photos, it was going on 10pm. We bought the flash drive of our Bridge walk, so we could see and chose from all. No one can carry anything with them on the walk, including phones, cameras, whatever! Just in case it would fall during the walk and endanger someone down below.

We were tired, and decided to say our “Good byes” as it was late, and we were all getting up early the next am for our flights. Dave and Di were flying back to Brisbane, and we with our OAT Group would be flying to Auckland, New Zealand. It was a Magical Evening for each of us! We finished re-packing back at the hotel, and went to bed around 11:30. ZZZ

19 9am Flight to Auckland, New Zealand

 

Australia,

Sept. 20 -Oct. 20 2015

Story 1

Nice 15 hour flight “Down Under” on QUANTAS AIR  (A huge airbus), nonstop from LAX to Sidney. We liked Quantas as it was comfortable, good service, and good food. The only “down” about it was the temperature, as we were freezing the whole time! I asked for two blankets, which I did get. Our flight stated at 10pm. We had a very nice dinner at Midnight, then I took my sleep pill, and actually slept 4-5 hours (unheard of for me aboard a plane).  It was easy to sleep as plane was dark and quiet, and there was an empty seat between us. There were good, healthy snacks being passed around and left at the stations through the night. I tried to go back to sleep, but just dozed. Too dark to read, so I watched a movie called “Strangerland”. A strange movie about Australia, that I felt was a “downer”.  A lovely breakfast was served around 4am and we landed in Beautiful Sydney around 6 am. So this was a good time to take this long flight, as it really flew by fast.

This 4-week trip (2 weeks in Australia and 2 weeks in New Zealand) would include 12 flights between Australia and New Zealand.  It was through our favorite Tour Group, “O.A.T.”, which takes very small groups (usually around 15-16 people)

The Sydney airport was an Absolute Zoo! They were on their 3rd day of Strike, so there were long lines of frustrated people everywhere, with very few employees to help out. We could find no one to help direct us. We finally learned we had to Scan our own passports, then have an automated photo taken. The problem is that it would not work! Then we were stuck in another line. Meanwhile, we missed our connecting flight to Melbourne (Where our “O.A.T.” tour began) We still had to get our luggage and check them through again, then get our tickets changed to the later connecting flight. Finally we boarded the Bus/Tram to another terminal. Talk about Stress! Don texted our guide “Roxy” from the airport, letting her know of our delay. She told him that OAT would make arrangements for someone to pick us up at Melbourne airport.  We met up with our delightful driver, “Peter”, who was delightful and told us many interesting facts on the way to our hotel, The “Sommerset on Elizabeth”. We met up with our OAT Group and leader in front of the hotel. They were all just about to take an “Orientation Walk” in lovely Melbourne.  Such an interesting, cosmopolitan city with many Asians, Indians, and Europeans.

2  Walking Orientation Tour of Melbourne

Our guide “Roxy” was a friendly red head with a great sense of humor and adventure! She was fun and we liked her from the beginning! She had many cute sayings and we loved her accent! She has dual citizenship, so we will have her for both Australia and New Zealand, and we are delighted! We had read online that Roxy had won awards as top guide in both countries! We had a group of 16 plus our guide.  The weather was chilly and nippy and I loved it! This is their Spring, as the seasons are opposite from us.  We walked 12 blocks down to the Harbor, where Roxy treated us all to a coffee drink in a really cute shop.  What a Gorgeous city and skyline! Some very interesting buildings and architecture. Melbourne is a beautiful, cultural former gold rush city with fancy buildings and many lovely mansions. There was a huge gold rush here in the 1800’s, and the city has been wealthy ever since.  It is known for being an “Uppity” city and the home of fabulous restaurants!

We all walked back to the hotel, and by then, the rooms were all ready so we could all check in.  Thirty minutes later, we all met in the lobby before walking across the street to “The Market Place” for lunch. It was an amazing place, and very large. We had fun wandering through this maze, looking at all the various foods and produce and goods. We ended up trying a local favorite called a “Borek” (baked hot bread pocket filled with Cheese and Spinach) Yum! Don and I shared one plus a delicious bowl of golden lentil soup. It hit the spot with this chilly weather. After walking around this interesting, huge Marketplace, we walked back to the hotel for two hours of free time.

We unpacked, got organized, and changed for dinner. Then everyone met in the hotel lobby by 5pm for our first “Briefing”, as OAT always does, before walking to a nearby restaurant called “The Grilled Steak and Seafood Restaurant”. I tried the “Baramundi” fish with veggies, very tasty! Don tried the local favorite “Kangaroo” (they call it Roo) Kangaroo is a tasty, lean meat on all the menus. It was quite tasty as well. We shared a delicious dessert, “Sticky Date Pudding”. The Entrée is an Appetizer in Australia, and the main course is “Dinner”.

We walked back to our lovely hotel, anxious for some “Shut eye” after a very long day! Slept so soundly until midnight when Don’s cell phone rang (It was our son from the U.S.)

3   Bus City Tour of Melbourne

After a very nice breakfast in the hotel, we were off by 8:30 for our tour of this fascinating city.  April 25 is “ANZAC” Day in Australia and New Zealand with the army core remembering “Gallipoli” in 1915

Memorial for Gallipoli

8,709 Aussies were killed and 2, 701 New Zealanders were killed. November 11 is Armistice Day. Fifteen years ago, Don and I stood at Gallipoli in Turkey, hearing their side of the massacre with Attaturk, and seeing all those grave markers.  It was a very sobering sight. Gallipoli cost the allies 141, 000 casualties, with more than 44, 000 dead.

Melbourne is city with many large, lovely churches and beautiful trees and parks. We all really enjoyed “The Block”, a beautiful tree lined street with high end shops and galleries, plus a wonderful shopping arcade.

Australia was the first place in the world with 8 hour work days. Their motto was “8 hours work, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours of sleep”. Labor Unions have negotiated huge wages.

Between 1788 and 1866, 162, 000 British Convicts were transported to western Australia from England and placed in various penal colonies.  We toured a prison in Melbourne where 133 convicts were executed. It was an awful place, as most prisons are.  In 1975, they stopped the death penalty.

The University of Melbourne is ranked 33rd in the world (above University of Sydney) Like the U.K., Aussies and kiwis (New Zealanders) drive on the right side of the road.  The “A.F.L.” is huge there (Aussie futball league) We saw Rod Laver’s beautiful 100, 000 seat Stadium where they hold the Tennis Open.

Melbourne has the most Gorgeous Botanical Gardens on 65 acres.  With their Spring just beginning, the blooms were so lovely! Many huge trees with lots wild birds in them. (Photos)

 “Saint Patrick’s Cathedral” was awesome. Then we all walked through the very impressive WW1 War Museum, and saw their Memorial.    The park had a very nice restaurant with yummy food, though a bit pricey. I had delicious Pumpkin Risotto. We really did fall in love with the beautiful, restored shopping arcades, some dating back to the early 1900’s, and “The Lanes”, cute little alleys lined with Boutiques and Eateries. “Broad Street” really had some high end stores, and fancy chocolate shops, like “Haigh’s”, the best Chocolate in Australia! We made several purchases at various Haigh’s throughout Australia! I think their “Rocky Road” candy is the Best we have ever had! We were impressed with the gorgeous Mosaic patterns on the floor of the arcades, and all the beautiful amenities.

 One of our favorite stores was “Made in Australia”, where we made some nice purchases. Then we passed one of the fanciest dessert/tea shops anywhere! we HAD to buy a slice of the most delicious and beautiful Lemon Meringue Pie we had ever seen (10 U.S. dollars) It was “Take Away” for later in our room, YUM!

Our whole group met in a private suite around 6pm for wine, cheese, and crackers, before braving the very Cold evening, looking for a big salad or salad bar! We ended up finding a really good Thai café in China Town (quite close to our hotel), where we had some delectable veggie dishes, and other tasty items which we all shared. It really hit the spot after all the rich food we had been consuming! Bed felt good that night!

4  Melbourne Cultural Museum

Another very cold, blustery day as we walked the short distance to this Fabulous Cultural Museum. We had 2 hours to explore, which was not enough, but we gave it a good go! We started with the earliest years of the native Aboriginal people (here for 6,000 years) So much injustice done to them, even worse than our American Indians, as they were nearly wiped out!

We later visited the most beautiful library with 7 open tiers or layers, looking like an Opera House. (photos) We bought a C.D. from a street singer out front of the library who had a beautiful, melodious voice.

We had some free time, so Do and I went back to the big “Victorian Market” close to our hotel. Great food booths, produce, anything from soup to nuts. Then there were all the clothing booths! Don was looking for an Aussie Kangaroo hat like “Crocodile Dundy’s hat. After much looking, he finally found a really nice looking medium brown kangaroo hyde hat. It looked like leather, but was much softer. The price was only $65.00.

Australia has 6 time zones, 2 territories, and 6 states. For instance, Melbourne is located in the state of “Victoria”.
We all took the “Circle ride” on the trolley, as we saw more of this vibrant city, ending down at the docks. Then we took the trolley to “St. Kilda Pier” to see the Penguins at dusk. This was a beautiful marina with lovely hotels.

We took a walk down to the rocks and waited at the end of the pier for the Penguins to arrive. Around 6:30 the Penguins swam ashore to feed their babies who were stored in their burroughs in the rocks.

They were really cute and did not seem to mind all the visitors waiting for a glimpse. They almost seemed to be posing for all our photos. We were all dressed very warmly, thank God, as it was really cold with the bitter wind! We had a lovely dinner right there at the marina with great fish and chips and Caprice salad. A Hot Café Mocha really hit the spot before our chilly ride back to the hotel on the trolley.

5  On the Plane for Adelaide

One Aussie dollar=0.75 U.S. Dollars.  There are Kangaroos and Emus on the Aussie dollar bill. “Neither can walk backwards, so we are going forward”.

Socialized medicine in Australia. Everyone pays a “levy” of 1.9 % which includes hospital care. Everyone is also on Medicare from birth until death. It’s all inclusive, except for dentistry(too pricey) Very long lines for many surgeries, especially Replacement surgery. There are private systems as well, but more taxes.

Religion: Majority Catholic, some United Anglican. Less than 10% people attend church.

The Royal Flying Doctors (RFD) were so impressive! We visited their facility, learning about how they fly all over Australia, even to the most remote areas.  A very impressive sight that we visited on our tour.

The flight to Adelaide was a very pleasant 50 minute flight. The weather was warmer there ( in the 70’s), which really felt good! It is a coastal city of 1.3 Million (5th largest city in Southern Australia) Known as a “Free State”, because there was no convict start there. Quite an industrial state, big defense industry, solar industry, health care industry, and Lockheed Australia is located there. Education is big here with 3,000 International students. Many private schools which are expensive. Three main Universities.

Randall Hall (“The Beehive”) is great for shopping there! Many Jam factory locals were displaying their wares. Lots of beautiful  Victorian homes here as well as very unusual architecture. The “Black Spots” designate many accidents and fatalities along the road. “Chuck a rightie” means turn right. We find the language very colorful and different from our U.S. slang.

On our way to “Cleland” in the mountains. We are to look for the following critters: Potawos, Koalas, Wombats, Kangaroos, Echidnas, Platypus, Tasmanian Devils, and Walabies

Tasmanian Devil

We have several hours to see all this wonderful wildlife! Australia and New Zealand have so many critters that we do not in the U.S. Koalas are so cuddly and soft. They are nocturnal, so it’s difficult to handle them much during the day. We had a wonderful experience of seeing many Koala bears here and we paid to actually handle and hold a large 45 pound Koala named “Isaiah”, who was 5 years old.  He seemed so tame and I actually held him for about 10 minutes. He just leaned on my shoulder while eating his Eucalyptus leaves. We both had a photo with him. He really got heavy after holding him for 10 minutes or so.

It was fun watching the Kangaroos with their babies (Joeys) in their pouches. When the mom would stop to graze, you could see the baby Joey’s head coming out to also graze.  We got to feed a baby wallaby, who was quite tame. When I scratched his bib, he loved it!

Wallaby

Also saw some Tasmanian Devils, very vicious animals! We did not spot all of the animals that we had hoped to, but it was still lots of fun!

That evening, we had an interesting talk about the Aborigine people at our hotel. The speaker had such a heavy accent however, it was difficult to understand him. Then we were all off to “The Apothecary”, a nice restaurant with  really good food!

6  Home Hosted Dinner at “Jilley’s”.

Our group of 16 split up for 2 separate homes for our “Home Hosted Dinner”, one of our “OAT” favorites!  Our group had the Wonderful experience of going to Jilley’s home. She was a lovely, charming, and witty lady who was a great hostess and cook! Probably in her 70’s, very attractive, and she had a beautiful home!

 She first took us all on a tour of her art filled, eclectic home. There were 10 of us, including Jilley and her friend seated at a large table for dinner. She had some nice appetizers and a lovely warm lemon drink before dinner. Dinner was a wonderful Aussie dish called “Pie Floaters”. Small beef filled pies floating on top of green pea soup with a touch of mashed yams. It was tasty as well as attractive and colorful. Dessert was a wonderful slice of creamy pie with cream poured over it, called “Treakle Pie”. We all gobbled it up! Jilly was a real character and she had a huge dog, the size of a small horse (inside the house) She had many lovely touches in her home, and was obviously another world traveler.  We said our “thanks and goodbyes” after giving her our own personal hostess gifts.  The bus picked us up by 8:30 and delivered us back to our lovely hotel by 9pm “The Grand Chancelor Adelaide”

By the way, “OAT’s” website is www.oattravel.com  In case anyone is interested in travelling with our favorite small tour group! If you are interested, please contact me, as I can help you with a nice discount.

7   Barossa Valley Tour

Adelaide is another “free heritage City” meaning it was never started up by convicts as other cities were in Australia. We took an Optional half day tour to lovely  Barossa Valley, to see 4 various wineries. We signed up for this tour mainly because we had heard it would also include seeing charming “Hahndorf”, a German city in the mountains.

Though we were disappointed to not see this German city, the drive on the bus was beautiful as were the wineries. We really liked the cute town of “Tanuda” with trees blossoming everywhere in the lovely Springtime. We only had a half hour to browse, but I wish we could have stayed longer. “Wohlere Homewares” was a favorite store of ours, right on the main street. It was so full of wonderful furniture, homewares, jewelry, and you name it! I needed another hour just to go through that store! I did buy a beautiful silk scarf, an original Aboriginal design. We also enjoyed “The Lolly shop” next door (candy) It’s fun to see foreign candies and see their displays and decorations.

We enjoyed a lovely luncheon in one of the wineries, where we had some delic cheeses, fruit, olives,  and some wonderful Muscata.  We ended up buying 2 bottles of their Muscata. We loved their Beetroot dip, and were glad the Aussies also loved Beets.

Adelaide is an interesting town, like something you’d see in Durango, Colorado or Deadwood, South Dakota. Very picturesque with it’s boardwalks. There were some nice shops and arcades as well, but nearly all were closed by the time we finished our tour. We did find another “Haigh” chocolate shop that was still open. Yum!

We met with the rest of our group back at our hotel in Adelaide by 6pm. Then we all walked across the street to the Pub called “Shaw Connaty’s Kitchen”, which had really great food! There were big sport’s screens everywhere, and every one was excited to be watching the “Aussie Futball playoffs”! They are really big sports fans.

After dinner, we walked to the nearby “Oz-Asian” Festival with all the colored lanterns, Chinese dragons, and fireworks. The lights were so pretty reflected in the lake, and all over the gorgeous church.

9   Flight to Alice Springs (Gate way to the Outback)

We actually awoke early (before the alarm went off), and did some sit ups, push ups, squats, and lunges in our room, before showering.  Had a lovely breakfast in the hotel, then packed up and on bus by 8:30 am for our drive to the airport, just a short bus ride away. We had to carry on our wonderful Haigh chocolates, so they would not melt in our luggage.  It will be in the 80’s in Alice Springs, quite a change from here. Nice 2 hour flight, and cute little airport. Much warmer and more desolate, barren looking scenery, especially after all the lovely green cities, trees, and parks.  So far, my least favorite terrain here in Australia. One % of the Aussie people live  on 20 % of the land here in the “Northern Territory”.  Only 28-30,000 population in the Outback. Aboriginal people here for over 40,000 years! In 1870, A European settlement was built with a telegraph station. In the 1880’s , gold was discovered. Railroad was built by 1929. There were very interesting and sad stories there in the little town of Darwin, where we saw pictures of the Aboriginal people being shot and on the run. “It was the Lost Generation”, which you can Google to learn more about. It was evacuated during WW2 because of 8,000 Japanese  Troops being stationed there. Alice Springs is just a few little streets with little cafes and art shops and a local market. We actually saw a few nice galleries, some quite pricey.  We were all instructed to buy some netting to go over our heads for protection from the very pesky little flies who would fly into your face and eyes. This was to be used on our walk around Ayers Rock later that day, or as the locals call it, “Uluru”. It is a massive sandstone Monolith in the heart of the Northern territory’s arid red center. It is sacred to the local indigenous Australians, and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago.

We had lunch at a little sidewalk café where we shared a delicious stuffed veggie quesadilla and a soda.  I later purchased another lovely, hand painted silk scarf by the local indigenous people with the original Aboriginal design of circles in lovely colors.  This was an “Investment of “Wearable Art” I call it, as it cost about $125. 00 U.S. dollars. I felt I was supporting a good cause for the local people. Most the shops closed by 2pm for their Siesta. We took a walk through town past the local park where we noticed some of the “locals” across the street who were yelling and fighting. They are very primitive looking.  Our guide advised us to just look ahead and ignore them.   She said   this was pretty typical behavior . Like our American Indians, they do not hold liquor well, and have a very high incidence of alcoholism and diabetes. Many are on dialysis, as I will mention in further detail later on. The Australian government is working hard for Restitution for the Aboriginal people, to help with all the injustices of the past. We will visit a local Aboriginal Center tomorrow.

We checked into our lovely “Double Tree Hilton” hotel. A large, modern hotel with nice amenities.  Once settled, our group all had an included dinner at a nearby restaurant called “The Red Ochre”. I had Excellent Baramundi fish and Don enjoyed his Kangaroo once again. We loved the “Broccoli/Sweet potato fritter” that stood up on our plate like “Ayers Rock”! The presentation was really unique and lovely, as well as tasty! Dessert topped it off well!

Then we returned to our lovely hotel where we walked the beautiful grounds, enjoying the ducks and peacocks everywhere. Such a lovely and restful oasis amidst this arid terrain.

10  The Purple House Clinic

Then we saw “The Purple House Clinic” in Alice Springs. The government built a nice “Well-Being” clinic with 40 Dialysis machines, as the Aboriginal people have 3-4 times the normal rate of diabetes and kidney failure. Many are overweight, on drugs and alcohol, and there is also a high suicide rate among the youth. There were 6 social workers, several nurses, doctors and dentists, and 20 staff (mostly Aboriginal  people) There were 12 Directors to help co-ordinate all the care. Quite an inspiring and up to date clinic.

  1. The Community Center

Kangaroo or “Roo” tails are a real delicacy here, and the local people were barbequing some of it outside while we visited. I found the smell quite offensive, so stayed away from the barbeque, while Don did try some of it later. He said it was very fatty and greasy. He could hardly wash the fat off his hands. Yuk!

Even the local MacDonald’s (which they call the “American Embassy”), serves Kangaroo meat. There is no “rainy season” here, so rain is rare.  We later saw another Aboriginal community called “Hidden Valley” where we were told “Not to make eye contact” as the people were very shy.  “OAT”, our favorite small group tours, sponsors something called “A Day In The Life Of”, so it could be most any place where we are learning about a culture. So that was our mission here, to see how the Aussie government is caring for the local indigenous people. We enjoyed watching the students doing some nice artwork and painting, and we purchased a cute little decorative  box that was hand painted, for a very nominal fee. It was nice to be given the chance to support these people.

We really enjoyed the gorgeous red flowers known as “desert peas”, one of Australia’s favorite wild flowers. (

Next stop was “The School of the Air”. We were very impressed with this learning system, There are 16 of these throughout Australia. It is Video DVD/T.V. Computer access. The classroom is as large as Central Europe!  The main ones are in Darwin and Kathryn (remote areas). Students each come for 2-4 weeks of the year. 134 students are enrolled at same time. The student’s work is sent out in Postal Bags to each student. “In School work” is experienced several times per year where kids come together and interact with computers, satellite dishes, and printers. The government pays $15, 000 a year to equip each student. 4 year olds are in Preschool, 5 year olds are Prime school ,and  6-9 years is Middle School The students spend 3 hours per day online. Every family has a home “tutor”. Normal school hours are 8 am to 3 pm. Five. -Ten year olds learn their first foreign language!( This puts our U.S. kids to shame!) There are many boarding schools for older kids. Math, Science, Art kits are all mailed out to the kids. This way, all the kids are reached, even those in the most remote areas, as Australia is so large! 1948 is when The “School of the Air” was begun in Alice Springs to reach the kids of the “Outback”, and has seen much growth in past 60 years!

We had a wonderful “Barby” at our hotel pool that night, put on by our Wonderful Guide Roxy! Everything was DELIC, from Salads, Chicken and Lamb Skewers, and Fruit Salad, that we helped Roxy to cut up. We love the “Beetroot” salad the Aussies also enjoy, and for dessert Roxy had us all try her local favorite cookies, “Lemmingtons”. Yummy cookies with chocolate and coconut (which I do love). Then Roxy had a Special Treat and “Discovery”, also on her. It was a Fabulous “Digeridoo” Show! “Andrew” played them all so well for us and we had met him earlier that day when we wandered into his lovely shop, wishing we could hear someone play it! Andrew put on a great hour long show! We all tried to play it, but it’s a very difficult instrument to learn, and so unique!   Years ago, we purchased one in our home town of Laguna Beach, Ca. when there was an Australian shop there. It’s only for decoration, as we never did learn to play our Digeridoo What a Wonderful Surprise that was enjoyed by all! Thanks again dear Roxy, We Love You!

12  Ayers Rock (Uluru)

Leaving the “Ayer’s Rock Resort” in Alice Springs. Alarm went off at 5am; we must be on bus with our luggage for the early departure of 7am. We have a bigger, roomier bus for all our luggage, As we will be on the bus for 4.5-5 hours today, making various stops along the way. There are many camels in Australia, being first introduced in 1840 by India to help build telegraph lines and railroads. One of our stops was called “Camel Safari”, where some on the tour took their first Camel ride. I had ridden a Camel briefly in Israel in 2000, and both Don and I rode them in Egypt.

They are not a pleasant or comfortable ride, just so bumpy and jerky, and it’s NOT fun to dismount one, as it feels you will be swept off and forward when the camel bows those long legs down to the ground.

We watched an interesting DVD aboard the bus while riding between stops. It was about a family of Kangaroos, and was sad when a young “joey” died. 80% of the young “Roos” do not survive, with many ending of as roadkill on the highways.

“Curtain Springs” was our lunch stop. An authentic Cattle Station in the outback. We listened to “Peter”, an 80 year old sharp man ramble on about his life here. His wife was very brave to live and to stay there with him until her death 25 years ago. There is absolutely No way that I would have survived life in the outback like this, totally isolated, and so desolate.

Around 3pm we arrived at “Outback Pioneer Lodge” close to Uluru. We recently saw our first glimpse of the big red Monolith in the distance. It’s 1148 feet high, 9.6 kilometers in circumference. 2.2 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. Total circumference is 5.8 miles. Most of its bulk lies underground, and around 35 people have died trying to climb it. We loved our walk around this magnificent rock, EXCEPT for those pesky black flies what would dive bomb into your face! Thankfully, we all had donned our netting bonnets to help ease the fly problem.

Many different colors depending on time of day

There was some beautiful vegetation and green trees in some areas of the hike, which surprised me. We also saw interesting, ancient hieroglyphics on several areas of the rock.

We arrived at our destination at 5:30, and there out in the middle of nowhere, was a lovely table complete with white tablecloth, glasses of mimosas, champagne, fruit juices, fruit, veggies and dip, chips, and lovely little desserts. All ready for our “Toasts” to this beautiful area of changing colors of Uluru. As the sun kept setting, the ochre and red colors just turned  even deeper,  it was Magical!   This was another Surprise and Discovery from our wonderful guide, “Roxy”!   Thanks Roxy, we love you! We stayed about an hour with everyone snapping more photos.

We have our “Snowbirds” here in the states, but Australia has their “Gray Nomads” who are “Skidrows” (Spending their kid’s inheritance)

Arrived back to hotel by 7pm and “Bee-lined” it over to a local food kiosk, where we ordered a veggie pizza. We were tired and did not want to even think about re-packing, but we did. It had been a long day, but very eventful.  Lights were out by 10:30, yawn!

13  Ayer’s Rock to beautiful Cairns

The alarm woke us at 4:45 am. It was still dark as the 10 of us “Brave Souls” opted to take the early “Daybreak” hike of Uluru. We rode on the Bus to “Katajuta Rocks”. From there, we took our early am walk in the cool air and it felt good! No bugs or flies out at this early hour either, Yipee! We saw a Gorgeous Sunrise on Uluru, much prettier and redder at daybreak. There was more shade, so we noticed the green more. I liked it better than the previous evening’s hike. “Katajuta” means a conglomerate of Rocks (Sedimentary, Granite, and Sandstone)

We were back at our hotel by 8am where we showered and finished packing before breakfast. Bags were out in the hall by 8:30 for pickup. We departed on the bus by 9:30 for our second walk around Uluru. It was nice, but much buggier with the flies (photos) It was going to be in the 90’s, so we were glad it was still quite cool. It was great to be getting more exercise with these hikes, as we really needed it with all the food we were consuming!

We later stopped in “Desert Center” for lunch and a free hour. We only wanted a big salad. After lunch, we were on our way to the “Ayer’s Rock” small  airport for a 3:15 flight to Cairns. There will be snacks, as always on all our Aussie and New Zealand flights. We had a hassle in this tiny airport, as we checked in our 4 bags . The authorities said they were too heavy, and they wanted to charge us $60.00 more American Dollars. Once again, Roxy came to the rescue, as she helped us re-pack our carry-ons, and she carried one on for us. She said This airport was always the strictest one to get through! Once that was over, it was a nice 2.5 hour flight to Cairns (pronounced Caans) We have 12 flights on this month long OAT trip between Australia and New Zealand.

We could feel the “Tropical Climate” as soon as we deplaned. We fell in love with this lovely, small resort town right on the beach! Lots of cute Boutique shops and hotels, and restaurants. I even saw a Gelato shop! (Yum) There were green mountains surrounding our Beautiful 5 star Hotel, The “Palm Cove Resort”. This huge, open, and Luxurious Resort reminded us of the Tropical Hotels in Hawaii, and it was our favorite one so far! I loved the grounds and the pools and could not wait for my Power Walk of the grounds! Later that night, once we were settled, we joined another couple on their lovely veranda. We shared goodies, snacks, cheese, crackers, nuts, drinks etc and had a great 2 hour visit! We slept like babies that night!

  1. The Great Barrier Reef day outing

We enjoyed a nice Breakfast in our hotel (Roxy calls it “Breaky”), then we boarded the bus by 7am for our 2 hour drive on the bus through lovely sugar cane fields to The Great Barrier Reef. Our driver really had a thick accent!

Got onboard our large, beautiful Catamaran, “The Ocean Spirit”, holding about 150 people. They were serving coffee, tea, and pastries onboard, but we were still too full from breakfast. This was to be an all day “Adventure”, so we found a nice spot to “Settle in” before Don went for his wet suit and snorkel fitting. He chose to do this, while I chose to take the “Semi- Sub” to view the wildlife underwater.

Don stayed out about 2 hours, until he was getting chilled. He was disappointed, as the water was not near as clear as in Cozumel and other places we have been, so he could not view much underwater wildlife and could not get good photos. I felt the same way after taking the Semi Sub, as the water was not clear.  There was a storm several days earlier.  One poor lady fell as she was getting off the Semi Sub and broke her arm and banged up both knees. She and her husband were on their honeymoon and were from Palos Verdes, Ca. (not far from us in Laguna Beach, Ca.) At least they were at the end of their trip!

We had a Beautiful Buffet lunch on board, but some poor people could not enjoy it as they were seasick. The seas did get rougher in the afternoon, so the boat was rocking more. Don and I are so lucky to not get seasick. I wonder if some wished they had taken precautions prior to boarding the boat.  Around 2:30, afternoon tea was served (as if we needed more food) Sparkly wines, cheese and crackers, goodies. No one could have been hungry! We departed the boat around 3:30, getting back to the hotel by 5:30.  We are so lucky to have had such gorgeous weather!

We showered and changed for dinner at 7:30 there in the lovely foyer of our hotel. It was a Beautiful dinner, enjoyed by all. Lots of veggies, salads, several choices of delicious fish, and a lovely array of tiny, tasty desserts. My favorite was the Banana dessert with the yummy sauce.

We walked the lovely grounds after dinner, enjoying the tropical birds and parrots. We hear them from our veranda also.  I love the short, sweet bananas here, like the ones in Hawaii.

Nearby “Port Douglas” has some beautiful high end homes, as well as restaurants and shops.

15 “ Daintree Rain Forest”

We’re on the bus enroute to Daintree Forest. We are following the Tasmanian Sea (which separates Australia and New Zealand) Pretty ride along the ocean, then along sugar cane fields. “Liptosperosis” happens when rats get into the sugar cane and urinate.

We were watching for “Cassowaries”, very colorful and large birds in the Emu family, and endangered.  We kept looking for “Big Bertha”, a 45 year old Casswarie, but we did not see her. There were many Beautiful Brazilian rain trees. Tree Kangaroos live in the trees and have very long tails. December through March is the “rainy season”, and this is the wettest place in Australia. We are crossing a river on an auto/bus ferry, and there are signs everywhere  about Crocs in the river!  Northeast Queensland is the largest continuous rainforest in Australia.

No electricity here, so the people who live here are very basic and hearty! There are feral pigs that are very destructive and cause much damage.  Also lots of big snakes, medicinal plants, poisonous plants, gorgeous birds, and bats. We even saw a “Boyd’s Forest Dragon lizard  There are 18 feet long Pythons, which are too numerous now since the Aboriginal people left, as they used to eat them.  Our Daintree walk was wonderful as were our knowledgeable guides.

Later we took a “Crocodile Cruise” on Cooper Creek. There were many croc babies, grown crocs, and some really huge ones!  They loved hiding in the Mangrove trees along the river banks, or sunning themselves on the banks. One in 200 crocs make it to adults. Some of these crocs are so ancient, 100 years or older.

Lots of people here who are “Out on the Turps”, or  who are ” Grogs”, or drinkers.

“Heritage Lodge” was a lovely restaurant out under a pretty tree canopy. They served wonderful sandwiches on baguette bread, and fruit for dessert.

Later “Roxy” had another “Discovery Surprise“ for us,  Daintree Ice Cream!  It was a beautiful stop amongst colorful tropical plants (photo) They served each of us in a little bowl with 4 small scoops of various ice creams. It was really good! Banana (my favorite), Passionfruit, Sapote, and Wattleseed.  Then we all boarded the bus for the ride back to the hotel.  Once we arrived back in Cairns, Don and I walked down to the cute little town and did some sightseeing and browsing of the shops. My hair was a mess, so I looked for a beauty shop for a shampoo and blow dry.  We found a nice salon that was about to close, so I was lucky to get an appointment! The winds had really picked up, so I wondered how smart this was, but they did a nice job, and my hairstyle stayed in pretty well on the way back to hotel. Hair stylist was from the U.K. My “DO” cost $37.50 (U.S. Dollars) I gave her $45.00. We walked back to our room to ready for dinner, but beforehand, we enjoyed our lovely veranda, where we kicked back, enjoying the tropical plants and hearing the wild birds. The “wild Ginger” plants were so pretty! We had some peanuts and a drink

All 17 of us enjoyed a wonderful dinner at one large table in the hotel dining room.  Don enjoyed the Baramundi fish, always a winner. It was served with the most delicious “Pea Risotto”. I had the Moroccan Chicken with Pumpkin. Good, but a bit spicy for me. We had a nice chat with Roxy (who Calls me “The Glam Girl”) We hate to leave this beautiful hotel in the A.M!

16  Cairns to Sydney flight

We awoke at 5:30, had our coffee, and out of room for a power walk by 6am, but it was raining, so we used the lovely gym facility for an hour before showering and then to “Breaky”. We sat under the thatched roof and listened to the rain really coming down! Then we finished packing up for our next flight to Sydney. So glad the downpour stopped before we rode the bus to the airport! Flight was booked for 12:15; a nice 3-hour flight that included lunch. We had to set our clocks an hour ahead, arriving in Sydney by 4:30 pm.

We all took the customary “Orientation Walk” after checking into our beautiful hotel, “The Vibe”. I thought it a fitting name for this very VIBRANT CITY! Many people out walking, lots of traffic, and the Pubs were Full! So many people were out walking and drinking with open containers. We saw quite a few inebriated drinkers everywhere, as the Aussies were celebrating their Rugby (Futball) finals going on! We even saved one guy who was walking out straight into the traffic! Needless to say, he was pretty Looped! We enjoyed a nice dinner at the local Pub across street from the hotel. It was nice to join our group, as we will miss the next two evenings with our group, as we are meeting our dear Aussie friends who flew here from Brisbane to join us for our last 2 days in Sydney. Our last 2 days in Sydney are “free time” to explore on our own. There is so much to do and see here in this Beautiful city! Sydney is truly one of the prettiest harbors in the world (and deepest)!

We walked down to wonderful “Darling Harbor”, which we all loved! We noticed a beautiful “IMAX Theatre” there, and made a note of the movie that was showing, “Everest 3-D”.

We had our hotel concierge call to see what times it was showing. We had 30 minutes until the last showing at 9pm. So, we did a fast power walk down to the harbor. Cost was $30.00 apiece (for Seniors) Everything here in Australia (and New Zealand) is really pricey! The movie was Fabulous with beautiful photography, but as we knew, a sad story and ending. It was a 2-hour movie, so by time we walked back to the hotel, it was 11:30. We’d only had 6 hours sleep the night before last, as we lost that hour with the time change. We were really ready for bed that night and had a hard time getting up early the next am for our city tour.

17   City Tour of Sydney by bus and walking (Oct. 4, 2015

On the bus by 8am for our city tour of Fascinating Sydney. The street gangs here used to be called “Push”. Argyle street used to be in the midst of the gangs. It was the way people would walk down to the famed Sydney Bridge. “Suez Canal is the narrowest street here in Sydney. (it used to be a sewer) We walked to “Circular quay” , of which there are 8.

George street is the longest in Australia. We loved the “The Strand” and the lovely” Queen Victoria Arcade”.

Then we toured “The Rocks” started by criminals sent over between 1788-1868 by England. We saw “MacQuarie’s Rock ”carved by Criminals in the 1700’s

“Altmann & Cherney” was a beautiful gem shop where we stopped to see the largest Opal in the world! It was called the “Olympic Australis” and was worth about 1.9 Million dollars.  Google it to see it’s absolute beauty! We also had a lecture about Opals and how to choose them. Their jewelry was so pretty, and I have always loved the “Fire Opals”, with that beautiful blue color (my favorite.) Don bought a lovely small oval shape pair of earrings for me with rhinestones surrounding the opal. They will go with my Fire Opal Pendants at home.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge is a masterpiece that opened in 1932.

We will do the famed “Bridge Walk” tomorrow night with our Aussie friends. We booked it as soon as we got to Sydney, because it’s so popular. We wanted to do “The Sunset Walk”, even though it was even pricier,  so we could see it in the daylight as well as evening with all the beautiful lights! The price was $330.00 apiece, Ouch! Will write more about it tomorrow. We enjoyed our “Captain Cook” narrated cruise of Sydney Harbor , complete  with refreshments, it was Fabulous!

Then we took a very interesting tour of the famed Opera House, which was Amazing! The idea of building it started in 1950, and it was finally finished 16 years later by Danish Architect “Yurn Oodsen” in 1973. Final price tag was 102 Million dollars. The conductor “David Ruskin” is from the U.S. In 2007 it became a UNESCO Master Piece. The theatres hold 2,780 people, and there are three theatres. Ninety different  Symphonies perform here with 1700 performances and events per year. There are 1000 dressing rooms, and 10,500 pipes in the outstanding Pipe Organ! It was an Amazing tour, and we so wished we could attend a performance there, but we chose the Bridge Walk instead.

Arrived back at the hotel around 6pm and saw that we had a message from our Aussie friends, Dave   and Di Murphy, telling us they were available any time to join us for dinner. We took 20 minutes to freshen up, then met them in our hotel lobby. They had just flown in from Brisbane, Australia so we could spend our last 2 days in Sydney together. We had a great visit with them for an hour before we headed out to Darling Harbor to choose a restaurant. There were so many to choose from! We walked around the harbor, looking at all the various dinner houses, finally choosing on “Black Bird”. It was in a beautifully lighted, open area up a circular staircase. The food was marvelous, but it was a noisy restaurant, as we knew they would all be during the Rugby Finals going on, and on every big screen around! The Aussies were all SO engaged, it was infectious! Our friends’ team won and they were So excited, as were we!

Later, we walked by a delightful Gelato shop and decided to try it out. So glad we did, because it was really good! Then we walked back to the hotel and chatted awhile longer before we said our “Good nights”. It was about 11:30, and we had all had a very full day. (Yawn)

18  Last Day in Sydney

We enjoyed a nice breakfast in our Hotel Vibe, and after a quick trip to the local Laundromat to have some clothes cleaned, we called our friends who were staying in a hotel just a block away. Dave and Di joined us in our hotel lobby where we chatted an hour or so and shared I Pad photos, before walking to nearby shopping mall called “The City”. It was a really huge mall, and we could not believe how many lovely Galleries, Arcades, and huge shopping malls there were in Sydney! It has such a beautiful skyline with all the skyscrapers, and such a great, Cool Vibe! No  wonder it’s on my “TOP TEN List of Cities and Harbors” in the world!

We looked in the huge mall for a camera cover for Don’s camera and found it right away in the camera section. Then we found a curling iron for me on the 6th floor of “David Jones” huge department store. I needed a 220/240, only good in Australia and New Zealand.

The gorgeous Queen Victoria Arcade was worth the trip just for the beautiful Clock in the center, let alone all the lovely shops and tearooms! Don took several photos of this special 360 degree clock.  The “Strand” was another lovely shopping Arcade.

We walked towards “The Rocks” (rock quay), looking for a  luncheon stop. It was a holiday there, so many people were out in the restaurants and shopping the tiny little booths everywhere. We found a cute German Restaurant that was quite crowded, but could take us. There was a German band playing on the stage, and our friends had never had German food, so we opted to try it! It was 2pm and we were starved. I wanted “Sauerbraten”, but it was not on the menu, so we all chose the Chicken Schnitzel, good but heavy as it was breaded and fried. It came with   fried potatoes, and we ordered sides of sauerkraut and red pickled cabbage. It was waaaay too much food (we should have shared meals), but we had fun and we were full!

After lunch, we walked briefly through the interesting “Rocks Museum”. Interesting, but we did not have time to do it justice, because we needed to find our way to the Sydney Bridge for our Bridge walk Adventure! It was 4:30 pm and we needed to be at the bridge by 5pm for our prepaid excursion. We finally found the base of the bridge, where we had a 30 minute wait (until they were finished with the last group), before we could go through our Extensive Briefing! We filled out forms, took a Breathalyzer test, and had more briefing. Then we all changed into the gray jumpsuits, which we kept adding clips and other items onto. We were fitted with a big, wide belt, where our “Pulley cord” snapped onto (like a TAC line). We were all attached to the metal line, where our clip would slide though during the whole walk. It took at least 30 minutes to get all hooked up with the gadgets and headphones, so we could hear our funny guide “Pete”. It was still bright and warm when we started the walk at 6pm, and we didn’t finish until 8:30-9pm, WHAT A WALK! Ours was the last walk of the day. Talk about Gorgeous views of this grand city! We were not a bit scared (how could you be with all these safety mechanisms?) Our highest point was 500 feet up in the air, and we witnessed a beautiful Sunset before   before seeing the gorgeous lights of Sydney Harbor! Sea gulls were swirling up high above us looking iridescent in the bright bridge lights as they dove for the large moths illuminated in the lights. What a show we had! Every little while, our guide would take group photos and individual photos of each couple.

By the time we got back down, changed into our street clothes, and looked at our photos, it was going on 10pm. We bought the flash drive of our Bridge walk, so we could see and chose from all. No one can carry anything with them on the walk, including phones, cameras, whatever! Just in case it would fall during the walk and endanger someone down below.

We were tired, and decided to say our “Good byes” as it was late, and we were all getting up early the next am for our flights. Dave and Di were flying back to Brisbane, and we with our OAT Group would be flying to Auckland, New Zealand.  It was a Magical Evening for each of us! We finished re-packing back at the hotel, and went to bed around 11:30. ZZZ

19   9am Flight to Auckland, New Zealand

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