Roundup of the Trip

All in all, we enjoyed the tour. Our guide was excellent, Globus was helpful whenever needed, and we were not too rushed, nor felt that we wanted more. A smaller group would have been preferable and we will make sure of that in the future.

Going to Oceania is well-worth the time and effort. It is different from other destinations most people visit, with unique animals and coral reefs. Some of the foods we experienced are unknown in other parts of the world. They love their beer and coffee, with many coffee shops in the same block. There is no graffiti or many unhoused people. The cities are like the United Nations, with visitors and residents from all over the world, especially from many Asian nations. This results in restaurants with a huge variety of cuisines.

I have many photos that have not been posted but am happy to post them as a separate entry. I know there must be a better way to upload my pictures but so far, I haven’t figured out how to do it easily. Thus, I was behind in creating the next edition of the blog. I hope you enjoy reading about our travels. The next big trip is to Europe in May, 2024.

By the way, after a call from the Fiji Airways staff in LA that they found our bag without a baggage tag, they were kind enough to convince Volaris to take our bag on the next flight, despite we were not on that flight. Everything was in place in the bag (including Jim’s CPAP machine), giving us a sigh of relief!

Day 20 – Nadi to Los Angeles to Guadalajara

We hung around the resort all day until our flight left in the evening for our ten hour flight to LAX. The plan was to meet up with my cousin who lives in Santa Monica but even though we had a six hour layover, we wanted to go to a nearby pharmacy to get a COVID booster and a RSV injection. We decided to eat at the Nadi Airport, knowing that the food on the long flight wouldn’t be worth eating. And we were right!

Once we arrived at LAX, we awaited the arrival of our luggage, which we had to take to the counter for our Mexican flight. We wanted to go to a nearby pharmacy, and return within the three-hour window to check in for the Volaris flight. Getting together for lunch would have been very rushed so, no cousin visit. Hopefully, another time.

Fortunately, we were already at the same terminal to get our next flight. In the past, we had to walk a very long way to get to the Tom Bradley Terminal to board our connecting flight. That was no fun! Volaris offered to check in our carryon bags, as well as our one checked bag which was good. The overhead bins can sometimes get filled up, so getting rid of them was much easier. We watched our bags go away to the plane, including our bright yellow large bag.

We arrived in Guadalajara at 11:15 PM, only to find out that our yellow bag didn’t make the flight, although our carryon bags did. After filling out paperwork about our lost bag, we finally got home at 1:00 AM. Our housesitters were wonderful, even baking a loaf of bread to welcome us.

We fell into bed, our bed, happy to be home from the travel from Nadi. We hope that the bag will show up soon but you never know.

Day 17 – Sydney to Nadi, Fiji

Fiji is the playground for folks in Australia and New Zealand. They go often and all menus are in Fiji and Australia prices. The Outrigger Resort is on the Coral Coast, about 1.5 hours away by van from the airport. The island is very mountainous and the towns (villages, really) are small and very third world, while Nadi is well-developed and ready for tourists.

The plane was half-filled with “schoolies,” recent high school graduates who go to Fiji for their senior trip. They all were fit and very attractive, wearing as little as possible to begin the fun. They were shuttled to Plantation Island, one of more than 300 islands that comprise this country. I can’t imagine what they will be up to there! Okay, yes, I can!

The resort is one of a group that has locations in Hawaii and other resort destinations. This one looked a little tired but they are in the process of renovating and upgrading the public areas, such as reception, main dining room, and the wedding chapel . The rooms have already been remodeled and they did a good job.

It is a quite large facility, with many buildings and thatched roof villas. All rooms face the ocean, providing a lovely view. The foliage, flowers, and streams are quite beautiful. The frangipani trees are incredibly fragrant and the staff always has one of the flowers (sometimes real and sometimes not) tucked behind their ear. I tried to bring a flower or two back but they wouldn’t have survived. They even have galeana trees, like those in Mexico, with beautiful red blossoms.

The guests were predominately families with young children. We guessed that the majority of the kids were under 10 years old, with many infants, as well. Fortunately, they had an adults-only pool which was quiet and enjoyable. The swim-up bar didn’t hurt either. The buffet dining room for breakfast and dinner was well-populated with families, as were the other restaurants with ala carte menus. The food was okay. The drinks, however, were very good and unique. Not being much of a drinker, it was a special treat to try some different drinks that I would never have tried before.

The weather was warmer than Sydney’s and offered some time to just relax, especially after the days of seeing lots of sights. Since we were with five others from our previous part of the tour, we got a good opportunity to really get to know them. One couple from Detroit was a big college football fan (Uiversity of Michigan, of course). The Denver couple was a big University of Colorado fan and the single man with us was a Minnesota Vikings fan. We were not big fans of any of those teams, although Jim does like to see what the Denver Broncos are doing.. Other than that, we enjoyed our time with them.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a day of fun but we will decide how the ocean looks before we commit to going out. It was a lovely day.

Days 18-19 – Fiji

Today is a free day to relax and enjoy what the resort has to offer. This tour was to take us to a traditional Fijian village to see their crafts on a speed boat. We decided no, thank you! Instead, we planned a snorkeling trip for tomorrow, our last day in Fiji but again, we will determine if the water might too choppy to go on a sail boat to the snorkel area. It looks like we may be enjoying the pool and another drink or two! I may even have a manicure instead!

By the way, all the men and women wear skirts. It was difficult to tell who was who but we figured out that the shorter skirts were the men and the longer ones were the women. They all sing and cater to your every need. When one server asked if there was a special occasion bringing us to Fiji, we mentioned that it was my birthday. Shortly after, all the servers came to our table to sing and brought a beautiful and delicious chocolate dessert.

Now that our time in Fiji is drawing near, we are assessing the entire trip. It was fun, mainly because we had a cohesive group who enjoyed each other’s company. That makes a big difference. It would have been good to pass on Fiji and spend a little more time in Sydney, especially out of the rain, to see areas that we missed. One couple who returned to Sydney were able to see the Blue Mountains and Bondi Beach without fog, rain, and chill. Oh well…

After two and a half days of relaxing, we were looking forward to our flight back to LA and on to Mexico. Spending three weeks on this trip seemed like a good idea, especially considering the distance from home. We will evaluate how long to be away on our next trip, next May!

Day 16 – Sydney and Blue Mountains

We booked a tour this morning to see the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. The formations were supposed to be incredible. However, the weather wasn’t very cooperative. We joined a group of eight in a van to see what we could see. Adam, our guide, really worked hard to find areas that would be visible. He was semi-successful but the walk in the rainforest was quite beautiful. We couldn’t see the “Three Sisters,” which is a must-see in the Blue Mountains. So, I took a picture of it to let you know what it was supposed to look like.

There were numerous stops along the way, some with glimpses of beauty when the clouds melted away, if only fleetingly. Adam apologized profusely with hopes that some of the splendid views would reveal themselves. Unfortunately, his cloud melting powers were on vacation! We even got a quick peak of a lyrebird before it hid in the bushes. That was only the second time that Adam had ever seen one in the wild.

He does have a YouTube channel where he talks about the wonders of this area, called Adsventures. I plan to check it out when we are home. We did take the gondola down to almost the bottom, providing a beautiful view of the area. We took the train (more like an incline) back up and the seats reclined a lot so you weren’t falling forward when it lurched up the mountain. That was fun, actually.

Afterward, we stopped at a local zoo, the Featherdale Sydney Wildlife Park, where many of the animals were allowed to roam freely. The kangaroos, wallabys, and many birds, like the Ibis, seemed to enjoy the attention, allowing us to pet them (not the birds). They had an incredible, pre-historic-looking bird (cassowary), huge pelicans (or were they storks?), goats, koalas, owls, unusual ducks, emus, penguins, wombats, echidnas, dog-like dingos, ostriches, cockatoos, and quokkas. Although echidnas look like porcupines, they are quite different. They aren’t in the rodent family like porcupines, but are egg-laying mammals. They were very cute but can be dangerous to touch. The quokka has an adorable face that always seems to be smiling.

We returned to Sydney to get freshened up before our farewell dinner at a nearby hotel. We had one very long table, which wasn’t our favorite way to dine, but it gave us an opportunity to visit with some of our fellow travelers. This is the final day of the original tour. Seven of us are going on to Fiji, one couple is going to Hawaii to celebrate their anniversary on their way home, and one couple is returning to Sydney for five days to really get up-close and personal time to visit places we didn’t get to on the tour. The rest are heading home to snow and cold.

We leave tomorrow morning for our flight to Nadi, about 3.5 hours away. It will be nice to enjoy warm weather and some down time. We said our goodbyes and may keep in touch via our WhatsApp group, sharing pictures and updates once everyone is home. Despite the larger size of the group, we enjoyed each other’s company and got along well.

Day 15 – Sydney

Today, we experienced our first overcast and rainy day on this trip. No worries, as the Aussies say! We had umbrellas and jackets, some with hoods, so we were nonplussed about heading out – especially because our first stop was the iconic Sydney Opera House. Even with sprinkles, it is quite a sight to see. We were given a special “behind the scenes” tour of the facility, which most tours do not provide. We were there only days after they celebrated its 50th anniversary to great fanfare.

Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon in a design competition, he created something very special, where millions flock to see each year. When it was started, there was a lot of political will and enthusiasm, built for over $100 million dollars (about $3 billion in today’s money). Eventually, when administrations changed, the enthusiasm changed and Utzon was pretty much ostracized, and quit. Three Sydney architects took over the completion of the building and in 1999, Utzon returned as the architect for a huge improvement project, including the Reception Hall.

We were allowed to go into the main concert hall, which seats just over 2,900 people. The acoustics are amazing, with innovative designs in the wood to move the sound in the auditorium from the hard wood on the walls to the soft wood of the seats so everyone can hear perfectly. Fifty years ago, this was unimaginable, but accomplished. Of course, the hall is not just used for opera but also for concerts of all kinds.

The smaller concert hall, named for opera legend Joan Sutherland, is mainly used for chamber orchestras and dance performances. It is beautiful but not as impressive as the larger hall. The roof, with its flying sail design, is made of reinforced concrete and custom-made tiles that repel water, shuttling it off to spaces between the concrete walkways and ultimately to the harbor.

Its proximity to the Sydney Harbor Bridge makes for a spectacular view. Many people pay a lot of money to climb the bridge, which is quite taxing although, no doubt, very rewarding. Supposedly, just walking across the bridge is amazing, although we did not have time to try this. Docked near the bridge was an immense cruise ship, housing over 6,000 passengers, plus crew. It was an overwhelming site. I can’t imagine what happens when they disembark and overrun the city.

From here, we went to check out Manly Beach. It is known for surfing but the surfers were scarce that day. It was raining, although I doubt that surfers care about that. We ate Chinese dumplings at a small restaurant overlooking the beach and had a giggle when we saw a gaggle of Chinese tourists leaving, all decked out in matching orange jackets and pink caps. I kidded our tour guide how we would all balk at having to wear identical jackets and caps – big time!

By the time we returned to the hotel, we decided to go to the Queen Victoria Mall to get something quick and easy to eat for dinner. It seems that most of the food places closed at 8:00, so we did a quick check and got some Asian food for takeaway (to go in our parlance). We took the food to our hotel and ate in the lobby with a beer from the bar. Another busy day…

Day 14 – Cairns to Sydney

Our morning flight on Jetstar Airlines, a low-cost subsidiary of Quantas, was uneventful, except that their baggage allowances are tighter than all the other airlines. We found out afterward that the tour company paid for us to have more weight at no cost to us. ​Oh well… We didn’t shop much anyway and we were within the reduced limits without a problem.

The four-hour flight took us over Sydney before landing. It was an amazing sight. We checked into our lovely hotel, right in the city’s center, near every high-end brand you can imagine. A short walk away was the Queen Victoria Mall, which was a spectacular example of Victorian architecture and now a bevy of beautiful stores and food purveyors. Everything is decorated for Christmas, especially on the streets and department store windows.

Outside, the city was decorated and very festive. We walked all around the center of Sydney before we could check into our hotel. It has a wonderful energy, kind of like New York, except with an accent. Oh wait, New Yorkers also have an accent! There was theater, shopping of every kind, too many restaurants to count, and coffee shop upon coffee shop. Aussies LOVE their coffee, aparently.

At 5:30, Jim, Bob (a fellow traveler), and I went on a Sydney Pub Crawl. It included dinner but only Bob was adventurous enough to have a crocodile and emu pizza. After eating Adam, our guide, met us and six others to start our “crawl.” We got a fabulous history lesson about The Rocks, the original settlement of Sydney, where the prisoners were sent from England. They worked to cut and shape the sandstone that was used to build the original buildings in Sydney, many of which are still in use.

While excavating a foundation for new construction, remnants of 45 structures were found from the 1600’s. Fortunately, they have been preserved and the new construction was built on stilts so the digging sites could still be visible.​ We visited The Hero of Waterloo pub, the oldest pub in Sydney, dating from 1843 and still functioning well. It is one of the busiest pubs, as well. The Lord Nelson pub has the oldest hotel in Sydney, dating from around the same time. The interior is original, except for Wi-Fi, security cameras, and other modern conveniences.

Another anachronism is the public phone booths all over Australia. Not only are they free, but they also have Wi-Fi. The reason they exist is for the unhoused and runaways so they can keep in touch with loved ones and have internet access. What a good idea!

After four pubs and too many beers (all excellent), we toddled back to the hotel and slept well.

Day 13 – Cairns Great Barrier Reef, Day 2

While about 15 in our group decided to visit the rainforest, we scheduled a second day of snorkeling, this time on a very luxurious boat. With at least 100 fewer people than yesterday, we got the royal treatment. By the way, the area is pronounced “Cans” with a flat A, not Carns or anything like that. We learned that pretty quickly.

This boat was definitely a step up from yesterday’s boat. It was parked almost next to a yacht built by Steve Jobs for his wife. However, he never lived to be on it and his wife has never used it. It has been in Cairns for maintenance and his daughter uses it occasionally. As you will see, it looks like a prison ship, with few windows, very unadorned, except for the shiny metal covering the bow. No hot tub, no deck chairs, nothing much to see, and all white! Next to this yacht was parked a smaller, but more typical yacht owned by Clive Palmer, an Aussie billionaire who is now a politician. (Either they go into politics as a billionaire, or retire from politics as a billionaire!) We never heard of him but the Aussies certainly did!

The location of our first reef today was north of Cairns, rather than south like yesterday. The snorkeling yesterday showed us amazing coral. Today’s adventure revealed different kinds of coral, some only a foot below the surface of the water. There were some colorful specimens but mainly in shades of green and yellow, with an occasional pop of color. Today, the colors were muted but the coral was much larger. It made the various fish we saw look even brighter. We didn’t have an underwater camera, but our guide did and he took some of these pictures.

The coral was very close to the surface, maybe 12″ below, and you had to be careful not to kick them with your fins. There was an area where the reef dropped off into an abyss that the divers must have loved visiting. The wind was kicking up but in the water, you felt serene and at one with nature.

After our dive, we enjoyed a lunch of BBQ lamb, salads, and huge prawns (with heads, shells, and tails… not my favorite way to eat shrimp). A bit of a rest and Jim returned to the water to continue snorkeling. He saw more fish and a huge humpback wrasse, a carnivorous fish that he said was over a meter long and maybe a foot tall. I had never heard of such a fish. And, I am glad I never saw one.

On our way back to port, it started to rain and the water was pretty choppy. Rather than being inside the boat, we moved outside to the back where there was less wind. It was a long day and we were ready to have a bite of dinner and crash.

Day 12 – Cairns Great Barrier Reef

You can’t visit Australia without going to the Great Barrier Reef. It is a bucket list trip of a lifetime. After a hearty breakfast, we walked to the wharf where we boarded a large boat to head out to Fitzroy Island and then to the reef for our snorkeling adventure.

There are a number of boats taking folks out for a day of scuba diving, snorkeling, or enjoying short trips in a glass-bottom or semi-submersible boat to see the coral. Our boat docked at their own very large pontoon platform, housing changing rooms, equipment for diving or snorkeling, Lycra full-body stinger suits, flippers and more. We brought our own snorkeling masks, which we debated about but were happy to have with us.

I am relatively new to snorkeling but the anticipation of seeing amazing coral, fish, and maybe turtles was the draw. We got our gear on and jumped into the warm water. The coral had many colors and shapes. Jim knows all the names of the different corals but I just enjoyed seeing how these animals live under the water, with fish swimming in and out of them. We did spy Nemo in the anemones, along with his buddies. No turtles, unfortunately., although some in our group did see some.

We didn’t get a picture of us in our stinger suits but we do have one of our friends, Carol and Mark from Denver. That is pretty much how we also looked. We didn’t have an underwater camera but Jeremy, our guide, had one and took some amazing pictures, which I am happy to post with his permission.

After snorkeling, we went on the semi-submersible boat and got another look at the coral and more fish from a different perspective. Just as we were leaving the pontoon, the weather changed and it started to rain very lightly. We still were able to sit outside at the back of the boat and enjoy the trip back.Sitting outside on the back of the boat,

Once back at the hotel, we looked forward to a lovely hot shower to get the salt off of our bodies. Tomorrow, we scheduled a second day of snorkeling in a different area, while a number of people in our group are going to the rainforest and gondola trip. We opted for another opportunity to see the ocean wildlife and reef coral. We also have two snorkeling days in Fiji at the end of our trip. Poor us!

That evening, we went to an Aussie restaurant that offered upscale VERY Australian food. Jim is fairly conservative eating strange food but he loved every bite. We had an appetizer of kangaroo pate, a main dish of kangaroo and steak, and a dessert of vanilla ice cream bathed in Bailey’s Irish Cream. Okay, the dessert probably wasn’t a typical Aussie dish but it was divine! The other couple had a scallop salad appetizer, lamb and duck. Their dessert was a lemon tart with a lemon sorbet. All were excellent.

Being on the Reef was an amazing experience. We are looking forward for day two snorkeling again tomorrow. Another great day…

Day 11 – Melbourne to Cairns

It was an early morning when we departed to the Melbourne Airport for our three-hour flight to Cairns in the northeast corner of Australia. We arrived before noon and were picked up by our bus to go to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure, about 45 minutes north of the airport.

This park is a sanctuary, breeding facility, and showplace for kangaroos, wallabys, parrots, koalas, and crocs. We started out in a small boat to navigate the canal in the park where they have nine crocodiles. The females lay about 100 eggs but not all make it to birth. They have to remove most of the eggs from the nest because they couldn’t handle several females hatching hundreds of baby crocs.

We witnessed these prehistoric animals living the good life, without predators and lots of chicken to enjoy. Afterward, we got an opportunity to hold either a baby croc or a beautifully-colored python. I held the python, whose skin was very smooth and soft. We fed and petted adorable kangaroos, saw some amazing birds, and had another photo op with koalas.

We got to our hotel around 5:00 PM to get settled before going to a nearby restaurant for an incredible meal. No buffet this time, thankfully. I meant to take pictures of Jim’s calamari, my awesome salad, his perfectly-cooked steak, and my barramundi fish (Asian sea bass) but we ate it all too quickly. We only had a picture of our dessert.

We definitely were ready for a good night’s sleep.