Jane & Dale's Trek Down Under - 1999

2 hour van ride to Phoenix Sky Harbor airport

1 hour flight to Los Angeles Airport

5 hour wait for our flight to Sydney, Australia

14 1/2 hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney 3 movies
3 meals plus snacks

3 MORE hours on a plane to Cairns, Australia

1 hour motor coach ride to Port Douglas in Far North Queensland, Australia, Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef

G'day and bula, friends! Welcome to our "Down Under" web site. Whew! We made it, and at times didn't want to think what was keeping us in the air all those 14 1/2 hours! After adding it all up, we flew just short of 20,000 miles, spent about 41 hours in the air, rode hundreds of miles in a touring motor coach, lost a day, gained it back, and had a wonderful time. To our new friends from the Jasper, Georgia area and other parts of the United States, let's do it again sometime now that we know we all like ice cream and "retail therapy" stops. Aren't we glad that someone saw fit to pass the law of gravity? Otherwise we might have fallen off the other side of the earth!

We're glad we went with a tour company, as it enabled us to have experiences we could not have had if we'd been traveling on our own, such as the Botanical Ark, an evening talk by an Aborigine with a Ph.D who taught us of their history and culture, a home stay in New Zealand, a talk by a local Christchurch, New Zealand historian and storyteller, tour of a Fijian village and elementary school, where the children sang their hearts out for us. We hope all of you enjoy this site, and learn a bit about the other side of the planet on which we live.

Last but certainly not least, lots of HUGS and KISSES to my brother, Joel, for his expertise and help in putting this site together and getting it published on the internet. Without his offer of help, I probably wouldn't have done it - or at least not as well. I sincerely appreciate and thank you, Joel!

Now, without further ado, here is the account of our trip to Australia.

Dale and Jane's trip "Down Under"
Or... How to live with 42 people for 23 days and still be friends when it is over
March 5 - 27, 1999
The boffo photo album.

After a two-hour van ride to the Phoenix airport, a one-hour flight to Los Angeles, a fourteen-and-a-half hour non-stop flight (ALL over water!),crossing the Equator and the International Date line (that must have been the bump I felt!) to Sydney, Australia, we met Tony, our program director for the next three weeks. We immediately (literally - they were holding the plane for us!) got on a three-hour flight north to Cairns (pronounced Cans), and then a 44-kilometer coach ride to Port Douglas in Far North Queensland, Australia - and we were at our first Australia hotel for a four-day stay, along with two couples from our neighborhood and 36 new friends from all over the U.S. Here we began our "down under" experience, learning about that part of the world and getting to know a wonderful group of touring friends, most who love to shop and eat ice cream. Hey, Tony! This is when you should have invested in gift shops and ice cream stores.

Our days in Port Douglas were packed full of activities. We toured the Daintree National Park, which is the largest tract of virgin rainforest in Australia. And, yes, it did live up to its name! We got caught in a rainstorm while on a walking tour through the rainforest. The little village of Daintree was a welcome stop before our boat ride. We saw a saltwater croc and flying, screeching fruit bats while on a boat tour of the Mossman River Gorge, and got caught in - you guessed it - another rainstorm. They don't call them rainforests for nothing! Good thing we brought our rain ponchos and umbrellas; the boat had a roof - but open sides.

That evening we had dinner on the veranda of the Botanical Ark, home of Alan and Sue Carle. This is a privately-owned botanical garden that has been maintained by this family over a span of more than 20 years. After dinner we tasted a few of the more than 300 exotic fruits they grow, some from seeds imported from all over the world in their attempt to preserve unusual and threatened species of nuts, flowers, botanical medicines, fibers, dyes, and oils.

The next day we rode a catamaran across the Coral Sea to a stationary platform moored at the Great Barrier Reef's Agincourt reef lagoon at the edge of Australia's Continental Shelf. There was an opportunity to snorkel, SCUBA dive, ride amidst the coral and fish in a glass-sided mini-submarine, and view the coral and magnificently-colored fish from the glass-walled lower level of the platform. The Great Barrier Reef is the only living structure on the earth that is visible from the moon. Jane feels fortunate that prescription goggles were provided for snorkeling. In the evening we had a talk by an Aborigine on the history of their culture and people in preparation for our tour the following day.

Wednesday, March 10th was spent at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and the village of Kuranda on the edge of the Atherton Tablelands. At the Cultural Park we saw presentations on Aboriginal history, mythology, and culture through dance, plays and a firestarting ceremony, as well as trying our skill (or lack of!) throwing a boomerang (Jane's didn't come back...actually, it didn't go very far at all!) and a spear. An Aborigine taught us about their bush foods and medicines, and demonstrated a didgeridoo. The Aboriginal didgeridoo is a musical instrument created by termites who eat the inner cores of the red gum eucalyptus tree, leaving behind the hollowed-out trunk. By tapping on the fallen trees, the Aborigines carefully determine their suitability and hollowness, cut off both ends of their stick and clean it out, producing a didgeridoo. After adding beeswax for a mouthpiece, they have the oldest wind instrument in the world.

From the Cultural Park we rode the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway over the canopy of the World Heritage tropical rainforest at the edge of the Atherton Tablelands. The cableway was built by helicopter so the rainforest environment would not be disturbed by building roads into it; Cairns and the Coral Sea beyond could be seen from the gondola. The concrete bases for the towers were put where there was no foliage. We shopped and had lunch (kangaroo burgers and pizza), in the quaint rainforest village of Kuranda, home to Bird World and the Butterfly Sanctuary, before riding an 1800s vintage train back to Cairns. Yes, it rained on us again, but these are warm and refreshing rains. But still WET! Actually, we really didn't mind, as it added to the atmosphere of our trip - and gave us an opportunity to stop and get an ice cream cone.

In Port Douglas we had a champagne "Breakfast with the Birds" at the Rainforest Habitat. It was literally WITH the birds, as the photo shows. Birds were walking and flying around, no doubt looking for crumbs and leftovers, and fruit bats were hanging from the canvas ceiling. Through the canvas covering we could see little bird feet walking around on the top. There are three different habitats in the Sanctuary: a rainforest aviary with boardwalks from which to view birds, tropical lagoons and fish; an open-air grassland area where crocodiles and natural billabongs (small lakes) could be seen and kangaroos can be petted and fed; and a wetland aviary for egrets, herons and other wetland birds. The koala is not a bear, but a marsupial. They sleep 16-20 hours a day, due to their diet of eucalyptus leaves which are high in carbohydrates and calming nutrients. I thought they would be soft and cuddly, but they are very solid little bodies with soft fur. Jane fed a 'roo and petted a koala. The 'roo had a soft nibble feeling as he ate from my hand.

After our Breakfast with the Birds we rode to Cairns and toured the Royal Flying Doctors' Service Museum. This service was started in 1928 by Rev. John Flynn as a medical service to the Outback regions of Australia. It has evolved into 16 bases throughout Australia, including a base in Tasmania, Australia's island state. It provides medical assistance to an area of more than 7,000,000 square kilometers, performing an average of 46 emergency retrievals daily, seven days a week, and flying eleven-and-a-half million kilometers annually. There are 27 doctors and 72 flight nurses, nine Beechcraft King Air aircraft including five Super King Airs (King Air B200C) and the remainder being King Air C90s. No one in the Outback is more than two hours from medical help, thanks to these dedicated medical people. The staff also provides routine health care to the areas.

WHEW!! And that's just the first four days! I hope I'm not boring you... if so, just read the pictures. And have some ice cream. And maybe try a bit of Retail Therapy.

Next was Sydney, a bustling cosmopolitan city where we spent 3 � days. Our hotel was within walking distance of the harbor, The Rocks, and shopping. We had a city tour that included Darling Harbor, The Rocks (the harborside village where European settlement began in 1788), the Opera House, Royal Botanical Gardens on the site of Australia's first farm, suburb of Waverly, and Bondi Beach. We had a tour of the inside of the Sydney Opera House, which has four performance venues, all acoustical. About 3,000 events and performances are staged each year in four venues, attracting audiences of approximately two million.

Another day included a guided tour of the Olympic Park 2000, where the summer Olympics will be held in September 2000. We went on a harbor cruise that gave us another perspective of the city and its waterfront homes. We spent part of a day at the Sydney's Taronga Zoo, one of the top ten in the world. We ate dinner at the harbor every night - great food, great restaurants, great view! Some of us did the Opal Tour, as we ladies from Prescott called it, roaming from one opal jewelry store to the next in a long journey to find the opal we wanted. Of course, we all found one we liked. You know, more Retail Therapy! Our research taught us a great deal about the various types of opal.

From Sydney we flew to Christchurch on New Zealand's south island. We had an orientation tour of the city and visited the Antarctic Center Museum. Antarctic Expedition Headquarters is in Christchurch, which is known as the Gateway to the Antarctic and is home to the International Antarctic Center, a campus of five organizations whose business is centered on Antarctica, including the United States Antarctica Program run by the National Science Foundation with logistical support provided by the US Naval Antarctic Support Unit.

Recently the Antarctic Expedition Headquarters in Christchurch was involved with the air drop of medical diagnostic equipment and supplies to the Antarctic station for the female doctor who found a lump in her breast and can not leave until October. There were news articles and interviews on TV that originated at Christchurch Expedition Headquarters.

Christchurch is known as "the most English city outside England," and this is seen in its colonial Victorian architecture. There is a magnificent neo-Gothic cathedral on the city's main square, which was just across from our hotel. And there are ice cream vendors on the square - and lots of stores in Christchurch for Retail Therapy. We walked from our hotel to the city's botanical gardens and had a guided tour. After lunch our Prescott group went "punting" on the Avon River in a gondola handled by a gondolier who dressed the part. In the evening we had a talk by a local historian on the European settlement of New Zealand's rugged South Island.

The next day was spent on our coach, riding south to Queenstown, through the rolling hills and sheep country of the Canterbury plains to Mount Cook National Park in the Southern Alps. Sir Edmund Hillary trained on Mount Cook for his climb of Mount Everest in 1953. Mount Cook is the highest peak in New Zealand at 3754 meters (12,316 feet). We had lunch at the Hermitage Lodge at Mount Cook before continuing on to Queenstown, riding through the Lindis Pass and Kawarau Gorge. Another stop was at the Church of the Good Shepherd, a small chapel on Lake Tekapo, a glacier-fed lake with clear, glacier-blue water. The next day was a trip across Lake Wakatipu on a vintage steamboat to Walter Peak Sheep Station to learn about high country sheep ranching and watch the sheepdogs at work. The steamship, named The Earnslaw, was built in 1912 in Dunedin, NZ and shipped by train to Lake Wakatipu where it was assembled. Our hotel was across the street from Lake Wakatipu in a beautiful setting, and an easy walk from downtown. In the evening a local gold panner gave a talk on the New Zealand Gold Rush.

The following day we rode to Milford Sound, which Rudyard Kipling called "The Eighth Wonder of the World." The Sound was formed by glaciers about 14,000 years ago. We toured on Lake Te Anau among the fjords, waterfalls and cliffs and watched seals play on the rocks. The waterfalls were amazing, cascading from the top of the mountains and intertwining, then separating again before falling into the water. On our trip back to Queenstown we saw a rainbow, a kea bird, and a New Zealand traffic jam. See photo for the traffic jam: sheep being herded by sheepdogs while our bus and the red truck wait for them to cross the highway.

The rainbow was beautiful, over a meadow and set against a mountain range. The kea bird is very destructive - loves rubber and will tear apart and destroy it. One story we heard was of a kea that chewed all the rubber from around the windows of a car! They aren't a real large bird, but definitely a force to be reckoned with.

We went on a Queenstown city tour, which included the gold rush town of Arrowtown a few miles away, a gondola ride up Bob's Peak where we could see the town below along with Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain Range, a very rugged range near the town. We also visited the first suspension bungee bridge over a river, and the Gibbiston Winery (wine tasting included). Our group had no one willing to give bungee jumping a try, but we did see two people jump. We told Tony we should have done the wine tasting first, then maybe someone would have done a jump! They used to offer a free bungee jump to anyone willing to do it in their birthday suit, but no longer make that offer. Dinner and overnight tonight was in a home to learn more about New Zealand from the local people. There were two couples assigned to each home. After breakfast our host couple took us to the airport for our flight to Rotorua, on New Zealand's north island.

Rotorua is the heart of the ancient Maori culture. We were greeted by a Maori villager who taught us the greeting, "Kia oro," and to touch noses two times with the person while saying it. Rotorua is a thermal area of bubbling mud, geysers, silica terraces, and natural steam vents. The whole town smelled of sulphur! We went to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve and Rainbow Springs, one of the only places to see the nocturnal kiwi bird in captivity. We had a guided tour of Rainbow Springs, which showed us New Zealand's wildlife in their natural habitat. The park is surrounded by one of the largest collections of native trees and ferns in New Zealand. One interesting fern is called the Silver Tree Fern, due to the underside of its frons being silver-like. If lost, a person can pick the frons, place them upside down on the ground and the sun will reflect on the silver and be spotted by an air search. That evening we went to a traditional "hangi" dinner and Maori cultural presentation. The meal was cooked in the thermal area - meat, vegetables, potatoes, everything was cooked there. It was delicious. It was in this Maori village that we learned about the longest word still in use:


It is the name of a hill in New Zealand! Good thing it's not the name of a city - think how long the envelope would have to be for an address . . .

On the way from Rotorua to Auckland we stopped at Cross Hills for a "kiwi-style" home-hosted barbecue lunch. Well, more than a lunch - it was a buffet feast to satisfy the most starving person...and this group of tourists was ANYthing but starved! Seems we were eating every time we turned around. At Rainbow Springs the guide said that some of the animals are fed every two hours - I told him it seemed we were fed that often also. Cross Hills is the country home and 500-acre dairy farm of the Robertsons, set in the area of Kio Kio. Their home was built in the early 1980s using imported old wood and in the French Provincial style. Theirs has been called one of New Zealand's best private gardens.

Auckland is called the City of Sails, and boasts a beautiful harbor. The city is on an isthmus that separates the Tasman Sea from the Pacific Ocean. It is estimated that one of every three or four residents owns a boat. We had a city tour that included great views of the harbor, magnificent rose gardens, Auckland's National War Museum (which also houses Maori artifacts), the Maritime Museum, and the America's Cup Village. This harbor is the site of the America's Cup defense in the year 2000. Again, our hotel was within walking distance of the harbor, which gave us the exercise we desperately needed, and a chance for Retail Therapy - and ice cream. We stopped at Mount Eden Park where we had a 360 degree view of the city and harbor. The park is also the site of an old volcanic crater, now covered over with grass.

Next it was off to Fiji for R & R. We stayed at the Warwick Resort on the Coral Coast. There was a coral reef a few hundred feet out from the beach, and the fish would swim in with the tide and eat bread out of our hand. We thoroughly enjoyed our days lying on the beach and soaking up some sun (some of us got a bit TOO much sun!) We did spend one morning touring a Fijian village and visited an elementary school. The class of first and second graders entertained us with a program of very enthusiastically performed songs. The Fijians are a very poor people, but happy nonetheless. One afternoon we had a local storyteller tell some of the history of the islands and people. We all had an opportunity to taste kava, a drink made from the kava plant. It is a very ceremonial, ritualistic custom and it added to an interesting afternoon.

Saturday was spent packing and getting ready for our ten-hour flight from Nadi, Fiji to Los Angeles, and then catching a flight to Phoenix. We left Fiji around midnight on Saturday, March 27, arrived in Los Angeles at 1:15 in the afternoon on Saturday, March 27 - and walked in the front door of our house at 10:15 p.m. Saturday, March 27...two hours BEFORE we left Fiji! Crossing the International Date Line can be confusing...

All in all, we flew more than 19,800 miles, spent 41 hours in the air, rode hundreds of miles in our motor coach, walked around every town and city we were in, and met many new friends from all over the country.

As the saying goes "...and a good time was had by all!"

Don't forget to check out the boffo photo album.

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