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Trip Report Down Under ... New Zealand & Australia

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Sunday afternoon, my journey “Down Under” begins in Miami on a full American Airlines flight to Los Angeles. Today the weather in South Florida is a big news items as temperatures are in the 50's and this maybe an omen for what lies ahead in my journey.

My flight is late leaving Miami. En route to Los Angeles we have a medical emergency and make an unscheduled stop in Phoenix, Arizona. Under overcast skies we touchdown in LA about 8 hours after leaving Miami.

I stroll around LAX and have dinner at The International Terminal (5) as I have about a two and a half hour wait before my flight to Sydney. Tonight apparently there are hundreds maybe even thousands of people with same plans as I have to go “Down Under” because the flights to Sydney are all overbooked! Unfortunately, I miss my first opportunity to board a flight to Sydney. My next chance will be on Monday Night … 24 hours from now.

As one door closes another one opens. With 24 hours to lose some money.... the glamor and glitter of Las Vegas is calling.

After helping the recession in Las Vegas, I am back in Los Angeles and soon find myself in a middle coach seat for a 14 hour flight to Sydney. A movie, dinner, a nap, a snack, The Simpsons, Family Guy, in flight hiking, a nap, Black Jack, breakfast then Two and a Half Men … wow how time flies!

With the rising sun we begin our descent for Sydney. Soon the east coast of Australia appears under sparkling sunlight. We firmly touchdown at 6:55am....It's Wednesday.

I easily follow signs to “The International Transfer Desk” where with a ticket exchange I get a boarding pass for “The Land Of The Kiwis”.

A sampling of “Aussie” cuisine has me eating Cinnamon Rice With Chicken along with Banana Bread. Interesting and delicious but I must say I have had Banana Bread that would be stiff competition.

Doing some research while waiting for my flight to Auckland, I discover a great opportunity for rental cars in New Zealand. There are seasonal relocation specials from Christchurch (CHC) to Auckland (AKL) or other cities for as little NZ$15 per day with 6 days minimum. This is an awesome deal …Unfortunately, I missed the boat on that one.

9:35am … I board Qantas-55 to Auckland. This time a window seat provides a few photo ops as we head north to New Zealand. I don't know if I am hallucinating from my lengthy travel or if its their accents but I am taken back by the politeness and courtesy of “The Cabin Crew”. “Please Stow Your Cabin Luggage”... “Please Be Careful Eating Your Ice Cream As It Has Been Stored On Dry Ice”. A pleasant surprise for airline service.

New Zealand is two hours ahead of Sydney and this time its an even firmer touchdown at 2:25pm but still Wednesday.

NEW ZEALAND – DAY ONE

Clearing customs and immigration is easy and after purchasing a NZ$14 backpacker ticket I am on the way to Auckland City Center. A 45 minute ride in which I exchange political and cultural views with
a local while getting some great sightseeing tips.

Like South Florida which I left 4 days ago, the weather here is also a news item. A bit “brisk” for this time of the year …. 13C in the 50's as I disembark on Queens Street.

Exhausted but excited to be in “The Land Of The Kiwis”, I take a quick survey of the city and begin a walkabout in search of quiet accommodations for the night. There are many backpacking hostels available from NZ$19-50 (dorm-single) but I end up at City Lodge (150 Vincent St) NZ$68 with private bath.

An afternoon bus ride NZ$.50 and I do some more exploring and planning for tomorrow. A visit to Food Town a 24hr grocery store and I get a sampling of everyday Kiwi life. NZ$1.25 seems a bit high for a Kit-Kat on sale... I pass and settle for Golden Kiwis and a mix bag of fresh baked goods.

A stroll from Food Town and I am along the waterfront where tomorrow I will catch a ferry for a harbor tour and visit to Devonport.. NZ$33.

Another hour of walking and I watch the city change for it's nightlife. Some businesses close while others open as local street performers and vendors sparsely appear. I am still exhausted and don't get to enjoy too much of it. The weather is back to being “brisk” as I make my way back to City Lodge. Day Two awaits full of promise.

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    Wow, thanks for the heads up on how expensive chocolate candy can be - I'll make sure to bring a large supply for my 3-week trip in Jan. Looking forward to more of your trip report. Pat

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    That would be a tragedy as you should try Whittaker's Peanut Slab and other varieties.

    FoodTown has a reputation for jacking up their prices to serve the downtown tourist market at that location.

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    AUCKLAND – DAY TWO

    The weather is still “brisky” as I take a walk towards Victoria Park and Market. The city is alive but there is no madness as people and cars maneuver streets and crosswalks in a civil manner. No honking horns just an unusual beep and clicking sound when the pedestrian crossing signal is activated. Some intersections offer diagonal as well as normal street crossings.

    There are a few hills to maneuver as I criss cross the city but I eventually end up on Queens Street and have my first sample of New Zealand lamb. Kebab On Queen has a NZ$5 Special on Kebab that is huge with your choice of meats, salad and sauce. The Lamb Kebab with Sweet Chili Sauce is delightfully pleasing to my palette.

    Bypassing an earlier planned Harbor Cruise NZ$33, I hop a local ferry service for a short ride across the bay to Devonport NZ$10. I miss out on a tour-guide but save NZ$23 and am rewarded with the same views of the harbor and Auckland City.

    With map in hand I begin a self guided walking tour of Devonport heading east along King Edward PDE towards North Head. Auckland City remains in view on my right as I pass a few of Devonport's still deserted beaches. On sampling the water it is still a bit frigid and I guess too “brisky” for swimming.

    At the end of King Edward PDE, I turn north through a neighborhood of quaint houses where the air is filled with the sweet aroma of spring flowers in bloom. Yards are beautifully landscaped and are as unique as the houses they surround. The end of this neighborhood brings me to the entrance of North Head Historic Reserve.

    Once used to defend Auckland's Harbor, North Head's history can now be peacefully experienced by three different hiking paths … Coastal, Tunnels or Land. Each path takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. I chose the Coastal Path as a gentle sea breeze blows across North Head. I begin my hike on a carpet soft grass path with a view of distant islands and Cheltenham Beach a hundred feet below. Around a few curves and a rugged coastline with black rocks can be seen from above.

    I am entertained by the crashing waves as birds chirp in the canopy of trees along my path. Nature's noises are relaxing as I enjoy the scenery complimented with occasional wildflowers. Soon I reach a narrow stairway passage that I descend to about 10 above sea level and continue my trek.

    Near the end of the Coastal Path I discover a tunnel entrance but I am a bit nervous to explore it without a flashlight. A cautious short walk in and there is archway of light to my right. I make a dash for it. I am rewarded with a bit of history left behind in the form of railroad tracks that were used to move artillery and machinery into various positions around the fort. Retracing my steps I find another tunnel darker than the first but I can see no light at the end of it. I am nervous but my curiosity is peeked.

    I set my camera flash to manual-on and with my heart racing I run in a sprint into total darkness. Just as I am thinking “What the hell am I doing”... It hits me! Light is shining down a set of staircase that takes me out of the abyss.

    Descending from North Head, I leave a set of size twelve footprints as I walk along a tranquil and lonely Cheltenham Beach. Beautiful homes line the waterfront giving their occupants spectacular ocean views with sailboats riding the west winds.

    Along Vauxhall Rd a short stop to quench my thirst with a “Creamin Soda” and I make way through another cute neighborhood to summit Mt. Victoria Reserve. The views are rewarding along with the brief friendship I share with a few four legged “kiwis”.

    School lets out as head back towards the ferry and the air is filled with “cute” little accents. “Come on Charlie, let's take the crossing”. The walk back offers numerous shops, restaurants and bakeries. An alluring scent and I can't resist the temptation to enjoy a date filled scone... Dr Atkins be dammed.

    In a Forrest Gump kind of way it is amazing how you can be 10,000 miles from where you live and strangers find a way to make you feel right at home. At 5:30pm, I am sitting with 30-40 strangers drinking Tui (the local beer) and playing Texas Hold'em Poker! Xbase a great backpacking hostel sponsors this daily event.

    We are playing for a NZ$100 bar tab and just like home I don't win but there is a lot of fun and camaraderie. As the afternoon wears on all the poker players are Sharpie marked with a black “X”, most on the hand but a few on the forehead. I guess we ain't strangers no more.

    “X” marks the spot for FREE PIZZA!!!! Domino's shows up around 8pm with an assortment of pizzas that we all enjoy in a civil manner. Free Poker, Free Pizza. Where's My Miller High Life? Does it get any better than this?

    Around 9:00pm I leave my poker pals to check into Mercure Windsor (58 Queen St) for another night in Auckland City. I would highly recommend this hotel and City Lodge. Soon I will explore what “The Kiwis” do once the sun goes down.

    AUCKLAND CITY – AFTER DARK

    A light rain is falling as I walk north along Queen Street. The sounds of future Kiwi Rock Stars can be heard criss crossing an almost deserted Queen Street which has it's share of Karaoke Bars. A brief visit to one of them but I restrain my urge to share Frank Sinatra or Neil Diamond with them.

    Soon enough I am having another pint of Tui at a British Tavern before it's Dr. Dre “California” and again I feel right at home.

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    AUCKLAND – DAY 3

    The weather is improving as the day begins with sunshine and blue skies. Today, I am in search of a rental car to explore beyond Auckland City. Numerous rental car agencies can be found along Beach Rd, a short walk from Queen Street. All advertise low rates but it is Labor Day Weekend with cars and bargains hard to come by. I settle for a two day rental from Alternative Rental Cars at NZ$55 per day including insurance.

    A few provisions for the road and I return to pick my car, a right-hand drive 5 speed Hyundai. Since they drive upside down and on the wrong side here I believe all the cars are right-hand drive. This gives me an Austin Powers - 007 moment as I climb in the driver's seat. Yeah, baby... yeah!

    Smoothly shifting gears I join not as “groovy looking drivers” headed for M-1 North. The City Of Sails is soon in my rear view mirror as I cross The Auckland Bridge at 90kmh. Just beyond the bridge a couple of unfortunate drivers are pulled over by “New Zealand Smokies” in plain wrappers. A gentle reminder to not get carried away being Austin Powers.

    Not far along M-1 an exit is offered to avoid paying a toll while taking a more scenic route. A win-win situation for me. Interestingly, the toll road has no toll-booths and drivers have the option to electronically pay in advance or up to 5 days after usage.

    Along my detour, I stop at another of New Zealand's beautiful but practically deserted beaches. I imagine it won't be long before this changes. I sample "LP" New Zealand's equivalent of Coca Cola. You'll need an appreciation of ginger to understand why according to the locals “L.P is World Famous”.

    My drive continues with a hillside climb which gives excellent views of the area. A rich mixture of greens and blues dominate the scenery. More beaches are encountered with Langs Beach too inviting to not at least get my feet wet. The sand is warm beneath my souls but the sea explains to my feet why the beaches remain free of swimmers.

    Taking “The Scenic Tourist Route”, I am presented with hair pin turns and switchbacks that challenge my 007 driving skills. The landscape soon changes to endless pastures scattered with sheep or cattle then small towns appear and are gone in a few minutes. Occasionally, I stop for photo opportunities or turn down a side road to further explore the countryside. Sometimes, I drive for “kilometers” on gravel roads climbing hills and descending valleys. The Hyundai is performing flawlessly. Thanks Q.

    Rounding a curve on one of my explorations, I come almost face to face with a stray female. At about 2000 lbs she makes the right moves and I avoid having fresh ground beef for dinner.

    After about four hours of driving excellence and exploration I end up at Whangarei Falls. Part of Maori history, this waterfall can be viewed from various angles on a 30 minute hiking loop. The loop crosses the top of the falls then descends to the tidal pool and river stream below. The river once provided a rich food source of eels, trout and other fish for the Maori people before becoming polluted. However, there still remains a peacefulness here that I take the opportunity to enjoy.


    WE NOW INTERRUPT THIS TRIP REPORT FOR A BREAKING NEWS STORY

    While making a petrol stop in Whangarei City huge quantities of NEW SUPER PEANUT SLAB BY WHITTAKER’S has been discovered. A ridiculous offering is made to buy two and get one free. It remains top secret how many were purchased but it is safe to say KIT-KAT has met its match.

    If life is like a box of choc-o-lits then I hope there’s room in my box for A PEANUT SLAB.

    Thanks mlgb you have found the Anti-Kit Kat! Rick and Pat leave your chocolates behind a new addition awaits you.

    NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED REPORT

    Having my new discovery safely secured, I take a brief walk around Whangarei City. The downtown is the way downtowns should be. Quaint stores and restaurants line the streets without the mega mall syndrome.

    After a “Thai Chicken Pot-Pie”, I start south back to The City Of Sails. I am entertained on my drive by a local talk radio program. From the silliness of costumes at work (a.k.a uniforms), to the origination of the 8 hour work day (24hrs in a day 8 to work, 8 to sleep and 8 to do whatever you please), to a man caught making tea naked in his home somewhere in Colorado, I get a good sampling of what’s on Zealanders mind. What’s a Jay Bird anyway?

    Back in Auckland City, I reflect on the genuine politeness and courtesy that I have experienced from Zealanders today. From a gentlemen handing me an open bag in the bakery section of a grocery store to the courtesy of drivers that use turn signals as they pass you on the highway it’s a nice feeling to end the day with.

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    AUCKLAND - DAY FOUR

    Having left my rental car on the street overnight for FREE PARKING, I am up early to start my day and avoid a parking ticket. The morning is filled with sunshine but there's still a chill in the air from the wind blowing between the high rise buildings.

    There is a weekly Saturday morning Farmer's Market getting started in The Britomart parking lot as I walk towards my car. Huge cauliflowers, beets, vine ripe tomatoes along with fresh bread and pastries are just some of the selections offered.

    A short stop at an Asian Market on Beach Rd next to Alternative Rent A Car and I pick up two bags of kiwi fruit for NZ$1. A bargain compared to Foodtown where they sell for NZ$3.39 per kg. At the checkout stand I also grab a 120VAC plug adapter for NZ$3. Most hotels have ones that are loaned out to guests (good luck) or you can purchase them at the airport for NZ$11-20.

    East on Beach Rd, I make my way to M-1 South towards Hamilton headed for Waitomo and then Rotorua. It's about a two and a half hour drive to Waitomo. The initial part of M1 South passes commercial and residential areas but soon leaves it all behind for wide open pastures and magnificent distant hills.

    Like it's counterpart to the north, M1 snakes it way through many small towns most of which offer good reasons to stop. I take up one offer to visit with a gigantic colorful kiwi that is more fortunate than its nocturnal family which lives under the threat of extinction.

    Approaching Hamilton I wish I could spend time there as the radio announces an important rugby match will be played later today. Out of Hamilton I follow M3 to exit on RTE37 for Waitomo. Along the road there are businesses offering various adventure packages including cave tubing, rappelling and horse back riding. All of these events can also be arranged at The Visitor's Center as half or full day trips.

    For NZ$39 I sign up for the next Waitomo Glowworm Cave guided tour at 12 noon. Most of the workers here are descendants of the Maori tribes that originally discovered the caves. It was not until 1889 that the Maori shared their discovery with the rest of the world.

    We are greeted by stalactites, stalagmites and the sound of dripping water as we enter the upper entrance of the caves. By artificial light, the effects and beauty of combining water and limestone over millions of years can be seen. Descending stairs puts us in “The Cathedral” of the caves and after a bit of questioning about our nationalities and coaxing from our guide we are entertained with a folk song by a group of “Aussies”. I miss another karaoke opportunity to represent my birthplace with Harry Belafonte “Day O”.

    Lights out and we get a brief experience of what to expect later on in our tour. We are then shown a close up of the glowworms food capturing system that involves self-made fishing lines. Another set of descending stairs and we wait our turn to board a powerless boat that will continue our tour. As I search my surroundings, I sense that I am outside and night is beginning to fall. I know otherwise because I am encompassed by cave walls, I am just beginning to observe the glowworms in action.

    About twenty eight passengers board an oversize aluminum type row boat. Our guide who stands on the bow requests our silence then maneuvers the boat using an overhead rope system into the full darkness of the cave. As if by magic, we have been transported outside and are under a star filled sky on a moonless night. Eyes slowly adjust and every breath is held as we silently taken in this awesome and spectacular scenery. The glowworms are at work above us and twinkle like stars. It is by far the best I have ever witnessed of nature in action.

    After ten minutes we are encouraged to breathe as the cave exit approaches. Our exit is the original entrance used by a Maori chief in 1889 to allow the first Non-Maori a British Explorer into the caves.

    I doubt I will find a comparable experience to Waitomo Glowworm Caves. I continue my exploration heading to Rotorua, New Zealand highest and most visited city. I have driven many places but the roads from Waitomo to Rotorua provide the most beautiful driving scenery that I have ever seen.

    Picture the most vivid greens and blues you have ever seen then accent them with an occasional royal purple, sunset orange or canary yellow and you'll have a glimpse of the beauty that I am allowed to take in. There are so many “Kodak” moments that it requires a determined discipline to press on to my destination. I do so with an occasional stop just to breathe the fresh air or to listen to sheep bleating by the roadside.

    Eventually the roads traveled leads me to Te Puia – New Zealand Maori Arts And Crafts Institute. A NZ$40 entrance fee and I wait with others for a guided tour. Our tour begins with a quick Maori language lesson and soon it sounds like a group of forty people are repeatedly saying “The F-Word”.
    Wh = F pronunciation and it seems the Maori tribes used “Wh” on a frequent basis.

    Minutes later I am touching nose to nose and forehead to forehead twice with a stranger. Kia ora, now we not strangers anymore. We have learned a typical Maori greeting. Try it sometime. If you are in Texas be sure to take your hat off first!

    Next we experience ancient Maori practices still being carried on by their descendants as we tour a wood carving and weaving school. Into a darken exhibit and we get a glimpse of a real live Kiwi. In my short time here it should be proud of the people it represents.

    The grounds of Te Puia is populated with numerous hot mud pools and a few active geysers. Today an active Maori community lives just outside the boundary of Te Puia and still use these mud pools and geysers on a daily basis. For vegetables five minutes is sufficient in the geyser steam while meat take about an hour to cook in its natural juices. All this is done with no sulfur after taste.

    Leaving Te Puia, I fill up on petrol about US$6 per gallon and drive to the shores of Lake Rotoura. Black swans glide by as a seaplane ties up for the night. A youth rugby practice is finishing up as I stroll towards the downtown area in search of dinner. Up one side and down another of Tutanekai Street I am confronted with a smörgåsbord of dining options as a band entertains on the blocked off street.

    Solace Cafe and Restaurant is offering a NZ$25 fish basket special that sounds delicious. My dinner arrives, grilled sea scallops with an orange tail that's full of flavor, grilled shrimp, mussels, calamari, salad and John Dory (a local fish). I am not disappointed.

    Darkness falls and I am on the road again not sure where my night will end. When it is available the radio provides entertainment otherwise it's my thoughts and reflections from the day. Sleep finds me in Pokeno, a town I believe that is somehow famous for bacon.

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    AUCKLAND – DAY FIVE

    With my rental car due back about 10am there is no scent of bacon in the air as I begin my day toward Auckland. The sun is blinding and fog fills the valleys as I drive east on Highway 2 on a circle route back to The City Of Sails.

    Initially missing my planned turn of, I make a 180 and stop at a local convenience store to seek directions. A customer is more than obliged to help me. He's headed in the same general direction and instructs me to follow him until … “In about 15 kilometers, I'll wave you on”. If you think the world's lost it's niceness a lot of it can still be found here on a cold morning even if it comes in the form of shorts and water boots.

    Another scenic countryside drive and I am steering at New Zealand's Seabird Coast. It's a low tide and boats seem like they are on dry dock waiting to be floated as the sea has disappeared beneath them. Along the coast, cars with boats on trailer continually pass me by. No doubt this is a community that appreciates a good day of fishing.

    Pressed for time, I make fewer stops than I would like to although one stop gives me a trip down memory lane. At a local mom and pop store I have a single scoop (actually two huge half scoops) of rum raisin ice cream cone the old fashion way. No machines involved this is the real deal.

    Eventually Highway 2 returns to M1 and I am soon approaching city limits. Leaving my rental car behind 1148km later I walked towards Queen Street where I will board the Airport Bus to catch a Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch.

    At 2:20pm I am airborne and with a window I can see New Zealand from 30,000 feet as the pilots point out various landmarks. I blink and have to turn myself upside down as I see mountain tops covered with snow as we fly southbound. The south is suppose to have sunshine not snow. Imagine if you went from New York to Florida for snow skiing. I guess I'll have to become a Kiwi to understand what's wrong with this picture.

    A NZ$7 bus fare and I am at X Base Christchurch a primarily backpacker hostel for the evening. It is cool almost cold here but for some reason I feel the need to stroll around in shorts and flip flops. Although my toes object, it's refreshing and makes me walk faster.

    Woolshed Bar & Bistro promises Huge Meals and A Fun Atmosphere so I decide to take them up on it. A good walk down Manchester Street from X base but along the way a Maori group is performing outside Cathedral Center. Soon I am having a steak that I drizzle with mint sauce and a couple of pints for NZ$19. It is a fun atmosphere as I watch bartenders artistically make various drinks and shots. A Brain Stem being a classic. Sambuca, Baily's & Cherry Apricot for the stem.

    Tomorrow another rental car search and hopefully more interesting scenery and discoveries.

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    Glad to have started a new addiction.

    It sounds like you are doing this trip now?

    If still in Christchurch you might like to visit the Dux over near the Botanic Garden. It's a brewpub/buffet style restaurant with entertainment some nights. I like their Ginger Tom but it might not be to your taste given the ginger comment above.

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    CHRISTCHURCH

    The radio DJ announces it's a “glorious day” as I head north towards Kaikoura, I don't disagree. M1 north traverses mostly flat lands as it leaves Christchurch but is soon lined with wineries on both sides. In the distance lies green hills with snow capped mountains in the background.

    After a few kilometers M1 changes character with hills to climb, valleys to descend and curves to negotiate. Along the way yellow flowers cover hills and mountains like a work of art. I don't miss the opportunity to capture more of the stunning landscape.

    Peaking a mountain pass the east coast line comes into view as I begin a curving descent. The beaches present a different beauty here than the earlier ones that I visited. The sand is charcoal gray with a crashing surf and isolated rock formations just of shore. Along some areas of the coast line divers adorn wet suits for spearfishing while further up shore locals participate in “White Net Fishing”.

    Reaching Kaikoura I make my way to Sea Colony to view sea lions a few yards from shore. There is a small population today with a few pups sliding around on distance rocks. Coincidently I run into a tour bus driver that I met while having dinner last night in Christchurch and she passes on another site further north thats worth a trip.

    Leaving Sea Colony a roadside seafood stand presents an opportunity for lunch. With the sounds of crashing waves and chirping birds I enjoy a NZ$7 grilled fish and rice platter. In town I finish lunch with another NZ$1 per scoop of “Hokey Pokey” ice cream cone.

    About 20 minutes north of Kaikoura is Ohau Scenic Outlook where another colony New Zealand sea lions are basking in sun less than one hundred feet from the highway. There is a posted caution for sea lions on the highway during high tides.

    My tour driver tip lies around a curve a few minutes from here at Ohau Waterfall. Following her suggestion I take a few kiwis with me and walk about 10 minutes to the falls located across the street from the beach. To my surprise there are kids swimming and playing in the tidal pool below the huge waterfall without parental supervision. Their parents are about a quarter mile away basking in the sun!

    I toss them a kiwi and it becomes a toy for these sea lion pups. Having broken the ice we curiously investigate each other and I am fortunate to get up close to a sea lion in it's natural habitat. I think I even get a smile as I snap a few pictures.

    Heading back south just past Kaikoura I take M70 a slight detour to Christchurch. This route takes me towards Hanmer Springs while providing gorgeous close up views of snow capped mountains, deep valleys and numerous one way bridges.

    The weather has turned colder and rain is falling as I approach Christchurch with the forecast for snow in the mountains. For no particular reason I am not done driving for the day and make a brief exploration of The Banks Peninsula. In between rain showers I am afforded a few great views and photo opportunities. The extra driving was worth it.

    Tonight I am back at X base Christchurch and will have tomorrow morning to do a local walkabout before an afternoon flight to Sydney.

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    Love your descriptions of the places you are visiting. The white net fishing is commonly known here as whitebaiting, and hokey pokey ice-cream is the best flavour there is.

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    There is a limited season for catching white bait, starts about September and goes until end of November. It sell for about $ 90.00 a kilogram so people fish for the season and sell the whitebait to restaurants, fish shops etc. I love white bait patties.

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    CHRISTCHURCH - X BASE

    Checking into my dorm for the evening, greetings are exchanged with my five roommates representing Ireland, England and Holland. Around 12am the fire alarm sounds and the building is evacuated. Most of the occupants wait outside in the rain as the cause of the alarm is investigated by the local fire department. Those of us that are slow to react to the alarm only make it to the lobby before an all clear is made and we are allowed to return to our rooms.

    Some of my roommates that were in the bar “Saint and Sinners” think the alarm was just a rouse to get them out. Small talk is made about our various plans for the next day and then an amusing but fun discussion takes place about the grammatical issues of the English language. What is correct, they are or the're, there or their? When do you use of or off? The examples for that one produces laughter crosses international lines. Clocks, laptops and cellphone alarms are soon set as most of us will be early risers. I's reckon we is all hav a busy day a head (Bubba English 101).

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    CHRISTCHURCH – WALKABOUT

    The promised and I am told much needed rain along with a cold dampness fills the air as I begin my morning walkabout. A short stop at The Cathedral Square Visitor Center and I pick up a free City Walk brochure.

    Accompanied by a stiff breeze, rain is still lightly falling but not enough to discourage me. Along Worcester Boulevard I head for Cambridge Terrace and Avon River. I follow Cambridge Terrace towards Antigua Street Boatsheds an important part of the river and city's history. Ducks send warning signals to each other and scatter as I approach them loafing near the river banks.

    At Antigua Boatsheds the weather does not allow for morning “punting”. Not the same as in American Football but an authentic Edwardian punt ride along the Avon River (NZ$20). I am starting to feel a chill as my “waterproof” clothing does not seem to be working as advertised. I enter Botanic Gardens and seek refuge at the Canterbury Museum.

    The museum entrance is free but well worth the suggested NZ$5 donation. From the Moa (an extinct relative of the kiwi) display, Maori and Daily Canterbury Life exhibits, I learn a lot more about New Zealand.

    1145 shells each one different, New Zealand Flip-Flops and Buzzing Bees are all part of unique display of Fred and Myrtle's Paua Shell House which is almost as much a part of New Zealand as the kiwi. “A bit over the top, but marvelous” comes a review from a local museum visitor. An Egyptian, Asian and numerous other displays are also part of the museum but my favorite is a display on Antarctica. It inspires me to fulfill my dream to someday visit there.

    I leave the museum with sunshine and rain engaged in a battle to rule the rest of the day. I am placing my bet on sunshine to win as I navigate my way to Dux de Lux for lunch. I order a vegetable samosa with three distinct salads, garbanzo, rice and carrot(NZ$9) along with a draft Ginger Tom (NZ$6.50). I enjoy my salads while the samosa is prepared and later presented with a small lettuce salad and warm apples in a tasty sauce for dipping. What would lunch be without a slice of Dutch Apple pie topped with a slice of kiwi? This is gracefully served on a plate decorated with whip cream and raspberry sauce. NZ$8 is not enough! To say the food was delicious would be a gross understatement.

    Mlgb … You have significantly enhanced my kiwi culinary experience. I am in your debt.

    A 1pm X Base Airport Shuttle awaits me a I return to collect my belongings. Soon I will be on my way to Sydney and possibly Cairns. As we are dropped off at the airport we are given friendly parting advice from our driver … “No worries about going through early for international security. It is quick here because they don't know what a terrorist looks like”. I hope they never do!

    At 3:20pm I leave Christchurch and New Zealand but I will return someday hopefully on my way to Antarctica. I have purchased a souvenir hat but I hope that is not all that I am taking with me. I hope I am taking some “please”, some “thank you's” along with some politeness and courtesy … all of which have been a part of my daily kiwi experience.

    Thanks to all who have made this a great part of my travel experience. I wish you safe travels and look forward to reading your New Zealand or wherever your dream takes you trip reports. As they say here … “If you keep doing what you have always done, you will get what you have always got”. Don't just dream it …. Do it!

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    Are you the person who is doing the two weeks in NZ and Australia? If so, you're managing to pack a lot in.

    Great trip report - I just finished dinner and now I want some hokey pokey and a L & P! :-D

    Lee Ann

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    I'm glad I added to your brief visit in return I enoyed your storytelling style.

    I love that little Canterbury Museum and the upstairs part. If you want to go to Antartica by way of NZ, though, I think you need to be part of a scientific expedition.

    Otherwise it's done from South America.

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    Great report, DMB. Sorry about the crappy weather here in Christchurch. It has been a miserable Spring so far and we locals are sick of it. Looks like it will get a bit better next week (hopefully!).
    Rob.

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    AUSTRALIA – DAY ONE

    In search of Nicole Kidman, I am airborne from Christchurch, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia. As we make our approach to Sydney, I am offered a cabin crew window seat and jump at the opportunity. Click, click, click and Australia's coast line along with a few beaches are captured by Sony. Nicole is not waiting for me in the airport, so after a three and a half hour sit I dine on some “Hungry Jack” aka “Burger King” and I am on my way to Cairns.

    This time I am given an emergency exit window seat with lots of leg room. I am charmed and pay full attention when all the passengers sitting in the emergency exit row are given a full personal “Aussie” briefing.

    Arriving on schedule, the hunt for accommodation begins. After speaking with Gloria on the phone and her offering to pay for airport transportation, Carvella Backpackers is where I will call home for the night. Gloria who is from New Zealand makes checking in quite entertaining. She maintains several conversations with guests while registering some of them, explaining brochures to others then reloading an Internet Card for another. I am exhausted just watching.

    Carvella is located on the quiet side of town but not too far from Cairns nightlife. It is Tuesday Night and Woolshed on Sheilds Street has a 5 for 10 beer special before 11pm. Thanks to Gloria its free admission but I miss the special. Nevertheless, I think I am thirsty and order a pint of the local beer. Surprisingly it is not Fosters!

    A short stay at Woolshed and it is onto Gilligans, famous for it's “party” atmosphere. With a half decent set of ears or a good hearing aide, Gilligans is not that difficult to find. A sticky dance floor limits my dance moves but tells me that Gilligans lives up to its reputation. I “stick” around, no pun intended, just to make sure.

    Back at Carvella it will be a short night as plans call for a decent priced brochure advertised trip to The Great Barrier Reef. 8:30am …. All Aboard!

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    CAIRNS – DAY ONE

    With Great Barrier Reef excitement, I wake up about twenty minutes later than planned. Fortunately, love her but Gloria is not working this morning so a speedy exit is made from Carvella. The “Compass Boat” leaves in less than half an hour as I make my way to the booking office where I am confronted with disappointment. Apparently, “The Skipper” has ran off with Ginger, Mary Ann and maybe the professor too ….. as he is no where to be found. My 9 hour tour for today has been canceled.

    “No worries, mate” within the hour I am headed south on Highway 1 to Yungaburra. Exiting at Highway 52, I spot my favorite fruit dangling from huge trees along the roadside. My mind starts racing with the possibilities. The calm road soon turns into a tempest of hair pin curves and switchbacks as it ascends a mountainous terrain. The landscape shows signs of new life as evidence remains from a recent forest fire.

    Yungaburra approaches and at the local grocery store I purchase a “Coke & Pie” special (AU$5). A short drive and I am enjoying lunch as I watch a family tubing on nearby Lake Tinaroo. Returning to Yungaburra there is a ”Platypus” viewing platform but it is the wrong time of the day for a possible sighting. However, not far from there guaranteed sightings of Curtain Fig tree are assured. Standing about one hundred feet tall with a huge trunk and root structure this tree began it's life as a seedling on another that it has since conquered and destroyed. This is my minor introduction to the rain forest.

    Leaving Curtain Fig Tree, I start a waterfall tour with my first stop at Malanda Falls. This time of the year the waterfall flow is low but it is still worth a stop. There is a brief walking trail nearby that offers another opportunity to explore the local rain forest.

    Most bouncers I know are huge, mean, tough and far less talkative than the bloke I meet at Malanda Dairy Museum. Telling me that cows have four... “that's right four stomachs” and all the wonderful things that are made from milk, “Bouncer” a cute kangaroo is spokesman for the Australian Dairy Board. An informative video narrated by none other than … gives a good and sometimes comical presentation of Australia's dairy life. I am dairy enlighten!

    Continuing my waterfall tour, next it is Millaa Millaa then Dinner Falls where I take a refreshing plunge. The water is a bit cold but the air is warm and I am not shaking as I exit.

    If Jimmy Hoffa was Australian, I would have a good idea of where to start looking for him. If you have a bad dinner recipe or other questionable evidence that you want to conceal, “The Crater” might be a good place to start. From a platform above “The Crater”, it takes a tree branch about ten seconds to crack the green duck weed surface of the water below. Beneath the surface the water follows a curved passage of uncertain length and depth from this volcano created chasm. What mysteries it holds may be only known by Jimmy and a few of his mates.

    On the road again, I have escaped the fate of one Mr. Hoffa. Through Wongabel State Forest I am headed towards Atherton. Warning signs alert me to the presence of Tree Kangaroos which I did not know existed. They are in need of a better advertising agency.

    At 80kmh, a glimpse of white headstones catches my eyes and I do a quick u-turn. I am at Atherton War Memorial Cemetery where I pay honor and respect to some of Australia's finest who served their homeland in World War II. A visitor's log is available in which I record my thoughts as others have before me.

    In Atherton, I get a sense of small town mid-west America complimented by a Super IGA. For me, grocery stores are a must stop because there I get the flavor and a sense of the local community. Community post boards are common with one posting offering a free rooster to a good home.

    Today, I am in for two surprises with one of them being potentially dangerous. The deli offers an apple crusted (I think) enchilada for only AU$3. A tooth-pick tasting is delicious and I am not in East LA. Although these are meant to be taken home and cooked, I am given one from the sampling table hot and ready. A little “Aussie” hospitality.

    Turning down an aisle my second surprise, a dangerous encounter. OMG, … Whittaker also makes an ALMOND and COCONUT SLAB! This requires a secret emergency maneuver but I am having a sinking feeling that being “Down Under” much longer, I might become an illegal immigrant or have to leave as freight.

    Filled and refreshed, I continue my road tour for a peek of “The Outback” hoping to spot a kangaroo or some other Australian wildlife. Along the road there are unfortunate sightings of wildlife that have not met a kind fate. As dusk approaches somewhere along Highway 27, a few wallabies are spotted in an open field. Sensing the dangers of a digital camera they frantically hop away. Taking a side road a small group is found in a mango grove less aware of an intruder. Rounding a curve, I finally capture a wallaby up close but only in my headlights.

    With night falling, I am again along the edges of the rain forest and take the sounds of it to my dreams. Nicole where are you?

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    Haha! Whittakers is stalking you. Yes they make a variety of slabs and blocks(the large size).

    On their website I count 24 varieties made into the large blocks. I hate to admit how many types I have sampled but I favor rum & raisin and dark chocolate ginger.

    Happy continued travels.

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    Sounds like I need to find myself some Whittakers...I'm not a fan of Cadbury although I just lugged about 20 pounds of it to the US for friends and family.

    Don't forget the Maltesers! And maybe a Tim Tam or two...

    Still enjoying your report DMB, do carry on please.

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    CAIRNS – DAY TWO

    I am awaken not by a free rooster but by the surround sound of birds in the trees of the rain forest. Nature's alarm clock rewards me with an Australian sunrise. The sun making its gradual ascent over distant hills while lifting the fog from the valleys below. The day has began.

    It is early enough for me to make a stop at Barron Falls before continuing to Cairns for another attempt at visiting The Great Barrier Reef. The path to Barron Falls again takes you under the canopy of the rain forest where the rising sun provides only a glimmer of light. There are hundreds if not thousands of vines and trees extending to the heavens in search of this light leaving a comfortable shade behind.

    An important part of Aboriginal history, Barron Falls is awesomely beautiful and peaceful. It makes a steep and graceful descent along a landscape littered with rocks and huge boulders. It occasionally pools in certain areas before continuing its settling journey down stream.

    Again, no luck today as “Compass” will not be sailing this week. At the Reef Fleet Terminal other options are available but out of the price range I am willing to pay. These are mostly 8:30 – 5pm trips to mid reef or the outer banks ranging from AU$168 – 200's on fancy boats that seem more catered to divers than snorkelers. I am looking for the SS Minow. Brochures in town offer prearranged booking for about AU$100 for snorkelers without all the whistles and bells. There's even a half-day trip from Cape Tribulation that sounds interesting.

    56km north of Cairns along Captain Cook Hwy is Port Douglas. Considered Australia's most “scenic coastline drive” there is not much to argue except I am again taunted by dangling fruit. 56Km is a short in distance but not in time when there is so much beautiful scenery to enjoy. Cliffs and The Great Dividing Range on my left, beaches and scenic vistas on my right with a few curves to mix it up. A stop at a “Bottle Shop” aka “Liquor Store” and couple of local beers are purchased for an open eye unscientific taste test.

    At Port Douglas Lookout I find out I am about 15184km away from home give or take a few kilometers. This seems as good a place as any for a test taste. The weather is a beer thirsty 25C give or take a few C's as a coastal breeze gently sweeps the condensation on the competitors. A deafening silence as caps are twisted and the competition begins …. VB Bitters claims a solid victory over XXXX Gold. Like “The Skipper”, Ginger and Mary Ann, Fosters is no where to be found.

    My Great Barrier Experience has been narrowed down as I continue to Cape Tribulation. 11Km south of Daintree a turn is made and shortly I am waiting to cross Daintree River (AU$20 Return). A five minute or less ride/pull on a double cable car ferry and I am about 45 minutes away from Cape Tribulation where I will spend the night. Good portions of the road produces a scenic coastline then I am under the canopy of the rain forest using single lane bridges to cross creeks and rivers. A lone on the road I occasionally stop on a bridge or two and watch the water pass beneath me.

    In Cape Tribulation my ultimate introduction to the rain forest begins. On trail walks, leaves fall as the wind picks up in advance of frequent but short lived rain storms. Under some areas of the forest the rain becomes a drizzle buffered by the towering trees above. I am truly experiencing the rain forest!

    With a rising tide, water fills the areas below my path and I watch as a fish rejoices at being freed from its mud hole prison. The mangrove trees are huge here and are an important life blood of the forest.

    At Cape Tribulation Beach the wind has stirred up the surf but I take a swim in the warm waters. Making my way back to my car, I am caught in another rain storm but without the protection of the rain forest. I take a refreshing drenching.

    A Safari Hut, a simple four post structure, single lamp, single fan and bed will provide accommodations for the night at Jungle Lodge(AU$60). It is from here that I will do my Great Barrier Reef half-day excursion tomorrow morning with Ocean Safari (AU$108).

    It is late afternoon but another mesmerizing rain forest walk is in order and not disappointing. A stop at Masons Swimming Hole and it is Geronimo!!!! as I join others in making swinging plunges from a rope. Not a croc in sight.

    PK Hostel across the street Jungle Lodge promises local entertainment for the night but being on “Big Island” time it takes forever to get started and my energy expires.

    I awake in the middle of the night to the rain massaging the roof of my Safari Hut. However, it soon lures me back to sleep. In the morning, my Great Barrier Reef experience will be fufilled.

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    CAPE TRIBULATION – SNORKELING GREAT BARRIER REEF


    08:15AM ... And I am waiting with eleven others at Ocean Safari for a half-day snorkeling trip. A short briefing and about nine of us are loaded in a mini-bus for a short drive to Cape Tribulation Beach. We are driven there by the wife and part owner of Ocean Safari who advises us to buckle up. Her husband who will be one of our guides strongly agrees as he warns us..... “I have seen her drive”.

    At Cape Tribulation Beach the wind is blowing about 20-25 miles per hour as we make an assisted beach boarding on the boat that will take us snorkeling. A safety briefing takes place as we are swayed by the waves and told to expect a bumpy ride. With a slight grin we are informed that the back of the boat will be the most comfortable ride. I observe a silent count of passengers by both crew members and we are on our way.

    Powered by two Yamaha V8's... Smiles are wide and hair is wild except mine as we begin an exhilarating ride east bound. An occasional ocean spray brings laughter and bodies bounce as we crest and descend 6-8 foot waves at about 40 mph. I wish Nicole was here, she would enjoy this. Cape Tribulation coastline expands and then disappears under a gray vista as our distance grows from it. The weather is beautiful on the water but rain is falling again in the mountains and rain forest behind us.

    After 35 minutes we are at our first snorkel sight. We suit up in cool Star Trek Federation dive suits and then we are given another safety briefing involving hand signals. Don't wave both hands over your head unless a giant squid has you by the legs and you need serious help. Use only one hand to call your friends over to check out what you just spotted below.

    Splash and I am in another world. The water is warm with good visibility and I am greeted by a visual delight. Bright blue “Star Fish” cling to beautiful corals as an array of large and small colorful fish maneuver about the reef. A dive and I approach a giant clam that closes as it senses my presence. Resurfacing, ten feet below me I witness a group of fish in a feeding frenzy. This almost all seems unreal except I can hear myself breathing.

    About an hour later, we pull anchor and move to another nearby reef. Here, turtles and stingrays are spotted. Again, this is an amazingly beautiful and colorful world. As our return time approaches, I abandon my snorkel gear and take a relaxing swim. I have lived one of my dreams.

    Back on board a role call is made of all passengers and with everyone accounted for the Yamaha V8's are fired up. From Halloween in Australia, Kangaroos, Sydney, American Football, Hippies and Sarsaparilla, I share a nice conversation with an Australian couple as we make our way back to Cape Tribulation.

    Did you know that Australia's oldest “Hippie” community was located just north of here until the 1990's? “Like wow man, I guess I am just a little late to join”. Besides this local interesting information, an offer is made to show me on landing where I can purchase “The Best Sarsaparilla”. How can I refuse?

    We disembark on a different beach than our launch but a short walk and we are back at Ocean Safari. I am escorted by “The Ambassador Of Sarsaparilla” to PK Market where I lay out AU$3 for a cold bottle of Bundaberg Sarsaparilla.

    Damn, The Ambassador Is Right!

    This has been an awesome experience and Ocean Safari did an excellent job. This is a well run family business that deserves your consideration if you do not want to be on a boat all day for the same amount of actual snorkeling time. I understand all boats give you about 2 hours in the water except most take about an hour and a half to get to snorkel sites compared to 35 minutes with Ocean Safari.

    A dip in the pool, a shower and it will be time to head back south.

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    DMB, this might be too late for you, but damn, you picked some lousy Australian beers! VB? Yuk. It's a pity you didn't try Cooper's, any of the James Squire range or Matilda Bay Fat Yak.

    (Old joke:
    - Why do Queenslanders call their beer XXXX?
    - They can't spell "beer".)

    Pity you didn't try a Bundy-and-sarse (Bundaberg rum with sarsaparilla).

    And yes, Foster's, like Nicole Kidman, is made for overseas consumption....

    Jokes aside, thanks for a well-written trip report.

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    BACK TO CAIRNS

    Funny how you observe different things when you drive in a different direction on the same road. Captivated by the scenery driving to Cape Tribulation a few days earlier, I missed two worthwhile detours.

    First, if you are inclined for “Afternoon Tea And Crumpets”... What better way to do so than at a tea plantation? Daintree Tea Company just outside of Cape Tribulation is a worthy stop.

    Second, an even more worthy stop and “Bouncer” would whole heartedly agree is at Daintree Ice Cream Company. AU$5 and I am enjoying the sampler cup of the day with four different tropical fruit flavors including Jack Fruit, Black Sapote and Sour Sop. As my taste buds are being delighted, I stroll the grounds and get a close up inspection of some of the fruit trees and beautiful flowers that are in bloom. I find the Jack Fruit tree most interesting.

    Back on the road and I am faced with a situation that I can no longer tolerate. I make an abrupt pull over as I pass a second set of trees teasing me with dangling fruit above and a carpet of fruit on the ground below. Just out of my reach and proving that “White Men” aren't the only ones that can't jump, I find an Australian solution to my problem. With a stick as a boomerang, I am soon recovering a handful of fresh tree ripen “Mangoes” …my favorite fruit! These are sweet and dripping with flavor. It would be ecstasy if they were chilled.

    A Mango Victor, I press on to Mossman Gorge. In the foothills of an Aboriginal community, Mossman Gorge with gigantic smooth boulders shaped by an aggressive water flow is an impressive site. There is a suspension bridge nearby but unfortunately it is closed for repairs. However, from any view point it is still a gorgeous scenery with the sound of rushing water and various exotic birds in the background. A visitor center near the entrance does offer Aboriginal guided bush walks until about 3pm.

    A good portion of the highway to Mossman Gorge is lined with mango trees and this time there is no hesitation on my return to town to have a feast. Tour buses pass by and I think they don't know what they are missing.

    A mandatory stop at the grocery store in town and I make an inquiry from a customer in the produce section where I might enjoy a kangaroo steak in town. He's not sure but he sets of in search of an answer for me. “Ah, mate over there wants to know where he can get a kangaroo steak”, I hear him say as he waves me over from the meat department. I am shown some fresh kangaroo steaks (AU$7) that are bright red with no visible fat, unfortunately I don't have a grill. “Try in Port Douglas”.

    Just outside of town I am taking pictures of a poinciana tree full of bright flowers when I notice a huge tamarind tree across the street. Like mangoes, this is another fruit tree from my youth. I don't resist the journey back in time but find all the fruits to be green. “If you want ripe tamarinds, you have to go back to Davis Park. A big tree there” I am told by a local aboriginal young man walking by.

    A u-turn and I am shaking the tamarind tree at Davis Park. If you are unfamiliar with tamarinds be prepared for serious facial contortion unless you find a sweet one. Most of them are nature's “sour pucker” although a refreshing drink can be made with cold water and lots of sugar.

    A stop in Port Douglas but no luck finding a kangaroo steak. Darkness comes along Captain Cook Highway and I enjoy the ocean sounds one more time. I leave Cairns tomorrow before darkness will have a chance to expire. At 5:45am I will be on my way to Sydney.

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    Hi DMB,
    Try the Orient Hotel in the Rocks http://www.orienthotel.com.au for a kangaroo steak. It's not too unusual to find 'roo on the menu in pubs, bistros & restaurants around Sydney. Best eaten on the rare side, it can be a bit tough if it's too well done. If you like venison, you'll enjoy it, I think.
    Less easily found, but worth a try in a cassoulet, is emu.

    I think I'm enjoying your trip almost as much as you are. I know those mango trees near Mossman Gorge - we helped ourselves to a few and cooled them off in the gorge. Sitting on a rock, legs in the water, with mango juice dripping off our chins. Heaven! Thank you so much for a most entertaining and well written trip report. Pity I'll be away in the Blue Mountains this weekend - would have been nice to meet you.

    While you're in the Rocks, there's a great spot to taste (and smell) a huge range of Australian wines. Food's very good, too.... Wine Odyssey http://wineodyssey.com.au

    Cheers & good travelling - when are you leaving our shores?
    Bokhara

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    You should be able to get a kangaroo steak in Sydney if you cannot find one up there in NQ. Also look for Wallaby saucages. I am surprised that you didn't want to have crocodile steaks or croc stir fry - its pretty good!!!!! If you had been going to the Northern Territory you could have had their greatest delight of Buff and Barra ( combination of buffalo and Barramundi ) no other Barramundi is anywhere near as good as the ones in the NT and that goes for Queensland when I say that too. I know the mangoes along the road to PD and Mossman but they are what the locals call turpentine mangoe and because they are stringy they are considered as rubbish. A Bowen Mango is what you should have been looking for, either that or an R2E2 but even so they do not come close to the Bowen Mango

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    Bokhara ... Unfortunately, I am back home but thanks for the info. I did go past The Orient Hotel but did not bother to check there as I was discouraged from numerous previous inquiries around town. I know better for next time. Enjoy your weekend.

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    ivenotbeeneverywhere ... I wish I had your info earlier. I have had alligator.. croc's probably same but wallaby sausage and Buff Barramundi sounds great. I hope someone else will get the benefit of my misfortune.

    I agree there are better mangoes but ... is three such a thing as bad candy or ice cream? Would a mango of another name not be the same? Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

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    SYDNEY – 10,000 STEPS

    En route to Sydney, I get another experience on Qantas of what airline service can and should be. Is it that people here pay more for airline tickets or is the service just better than in other countries? A nice breakfast along with in flight entertainment where on “Plane Talk” I learn about the four types of turbulence and what causes bumpy rides. Just prior to descent we are given a granola bar and small bottle of water. Unfortunately, I have not experienced this level of service enough in my travels. Good job Qantas.

    About fifteen minutes after leaving the airport, I am getting nice views of downtown Sydney from the upper deck of “The Airport Train”(AU$15). Exiting at Town Hall Station, I head south on Pitt Street in and out of the shadow of tall buildings. The sky is sea blue and practically empty of clouds, a spectacular day to be in Sydney.

    509 Pitt Street and I check into “Wake Up!” … A top notch hostel with great facilities and a friendly staff. AU$38 per night and I share a newly renovated quad room with individual lockers. With some suggestions from the front desk staff, I set off to explore some of Sydney by foot.

    An hour later at Circular Quay, I am sipping a miniature “Grand Cosmopolitan” and watching an Australian fashion show all compliments of Smirnoff Vodka. Circular Quay is a live and hopping with activities as we all take in the atmosphere and great weather. With The Harbour Bridge, Sydney's Famous Opera House and perfect skies as back drops, brief friendships are made as cameras are exchanged to capture “Kodak Moments”.

    To take in an aquatic view of Sydney without paying the price of a tour, I purchase a round trip local ferry ticket to Woolwich (AU$11). A 2:25PM departure and we are soon passing under The Harbour Bridge which seems covered in some spots with ants wearing windbreakers and helmets. For AU$168 you can be one of these “dare devil ants” on a 3 hour climb of the 134m (300ft) bridge.

    Criss crossing the harbour while sail boats of all types ride the winds, the views of Sydney are like a 3D postcard, breath taking. A few stops and I disembark at Woolwich. A walk through town finds historic quaint homes and streets with various flowers in bloom. The purple jacaranda is majestic.

    At nearby Clarkes Point, I take a relaxing break as my view is filled by boats most of which skillfully master the brisk winds. Failure for one results in a capsized boat that takes another set of skills and about twenty minutes to remedy. With no obvious panic this seemed to be a routine maneuver.

    A suggested walk back and I pass a historic boat dock with a couple of sleek race class boats now at anchor there. Not long after, I am in a park area and ten feet away from me is an exotic bird (blue head with green, yellow and red body feathers) camouflaged in a tree snacking on its flowers. Click, click, Sony captures the moment before it flies way.

    Back at Circular Quay, I take a walk through “The Rocks” where the evenings activities are beginning to take shape. Pubs are filling up with laughter and diners are seriously looking over menus at fine restaurants. Even a couple of wedding receptions are in progress.

    As a scary chill fills the air I make my way towards Kings Cross for one of “Sydney's Cheap Eats For Under $9”. People pass by me with strange clothing, specks of blood and injuries visible. At Park and College a shriek is heard as a black pointed hat blows my way. I retrieve the hat and return it.... I assume to it's rightful owner dressed in black. Grateful she smiles, grabs her mother's hand and joins others like her headed to The Australian Museum. It's Halloween in Sydney!

    Even with darkness fallen, slices of lamb leg covered in gravy with peas, green beans and a baked potato is anything but scary at AU$6.50. It's a delicious meal served at New York Restaurant, 18 Kellet St, Kings Cross.

    Making my way back to “Wake..Up!” more creatures of the night are invading the city and I must be a part of this experience that is starting to grip the city with fear. With a set of $2 dusk mask, a borrowed Sharpie marker and a $1.50 set of M.J White Gloves alert “The Ministry”...... ?????????? Fear, Fun And The Music Begins At 10PM ….. “WAKE UP!”

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    SYDNEY – HALLOWEEN

    “I've Got A Feeling ….. That Tonight's Gonna Be A Good, Good Night ...” With a pulsing beat, goons and goblins, 200 pound full yellow feathered canaries, men in skirts, a biomedical team, H1N1 Virus (yours truly) and a host of other disturbing specimens are stirred into frightening action.

    German Diesels (Coke & Beer) along with other adult beverages are liberally consumed as the air is filled with more energy and electricity than the laboratory of Dr. Frankenstein. It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark ….. but the carnage continues. T..h..r ..i ..ll..e...r!

    H1N1 consumes a slice of pizza, a slurpee then disappears into the night before the sun destroys the cover of darkness …....

    A few days earlier, in consultation with “The Ambassador Of Sarsaparilla” concern was expressed about the importation of what is considered an American Product … Halloween to Australia. After tonight, I can honestly say that his concerns can be put to rest as I believe our International And Cultural Relations have been greatly improved. Yeah, Baby … Yeah!

    MANY, MANY HEARTFUL THANKS

    To all that have contributed in some way to making my journey “Down Under” a wonderful experience. Safe travels and I look forward to reading your trip reports. I will post a link shortly to view my pictures and I am open to suggestions of an easy way to do so.

    DELTA 16, Take Me Home But Only If You Promise To Bring Me Back Real Soon “Down Under”.

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    Sob! sniff! sob! I have enjoyed your tales very much and hope that you will be brought back very, very soon if only to eat some of our really "best of all" mangoes, then there are all those other lovely tropical fruits as well you know which may, or may not, go with Wallaby sausages. Methinks that Mr Bryson should start to watch is back with you around.

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    Ksucat ... Suspire ... Suelynne ... Oneday ... I am glad you enjoyed my report, thanks for your comments. Sharing my experiences is another aspect of why I find travel so enjoyable.

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