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Trip Report Round The World-Part1-New Zealand & Australia

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This is the first installment of my trip report for a round the world trip that my husband and I took in June/July of this year. Our itinerary was: Miami-Los Angeles-Auckland-Sydney-Shanghai-Hong Kong (plane change only)-Singapore-Hong Kong (plane change only)-London-Paris/Loire Valley-Budapest-Madrid (plane change only)-Miami. The trip spanned 5 ½ weeks. DH found out in April that he would have 6 weeks off in the middle of the summer from his consulting job and I was desperate to quit my job, so we began planning the trip in mid-April. We were determined to use frequent flyer/Amex points for the tickets, so DH spent many hours on the phone with British Airways working out the itinerary. They worked it out and it cost 140,000 miles each, plus tax. We were surprised it was so few miles! We researched and booked our hotels over the course of the next week and booked rental cars in New Zealand, Australia and France. Then I began the process of planning what to do/where to eat in each city. The time seemed to fly and before we knew it, it was time to leave.

California to New Zealand
Our flight left Los Angeles for New Zealand on Sunday June 20 at 11:45 pm, so we flew out to Los Angeles from Miami on Saturday afternoon and spent the night on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. It seemed like a fitting start to a round the world voyage! We had dinner at the Promenade restaurant on the Queen Mary that night, then the following morning, drove to Huntington Beach to look around, since we had the entire day to fill before our flight left. We had lunch at Wahoos, which was very tasty, and walked around the streets and out on the pier. There was a surfing competition going on, so we watched that from the pier for a while. After that, we drove up to Beverly Hills and went on a little driving tour and drove out to see the gate at Paramount Pictures. It was late afternoon at this point, and we decided to head back to the airport to drop off the rental car and check in for our Quantas flight to New Zealand. Check in went smoothly-the agent who checked us in took a second look at our ticket pack-they were printed tickets for our 11 flights-she said she didn’t see these much anymore! We had two seats together near the back of the plane, but the plane wasn’t very full, so when they turned off the seatbelt sign, we jumped to the two back rows and stretched out-so we had full beds and were able to sleep for about 6-7 hours!

Auckland
We arrived at the Auckland airport around 8:00 am and the line for immigration took about 1 hour to get through! We finally made it, and went to Avis to get our rental car. DH was doing the driving and he took the car around the lot a few times to get used to driving on the left. (He did all the driving on the trip and did an excellent job driving on the left!) We had rented a GPS (which was invaluable) and we set it for the bed and breakfast we were staying at that night in Devonport, The Captain’s Landing. It is on the road that faces the harbor and we found it easily. We were greeted by Margaret, the owner. She was very friendly and showed us the rooms. We had the entire suite of rooms in the downstairs part of the house and it was very comfortable. The weather was partly sunny and not very cold, so we took showers and changed clothes, then headed out to walk around Devonport, a 5 or 10 minute walk away. We had a lunch of fish and chips (I got the kumara chips) at a takeaway called Catch 22. We took the food to the park across the road and ate. We fed some of our chips to the seagulls that were hanging around and it got to be like a scene from The Birds! I even fed a little sparrow some chips and he ate out of my hand. Very cute! After we ate, we took the ferry to downtown Auckland and walked to the Maritime Museum. It was a large museum and was very interesting. I think the highlights of the museum was a movie at the beginning that showed how New Zealand was discovered by Polynesians and a recreated cabin on an ship from the late 1800s or early 1900s that moved like the ship was rolling! After an hour or two, we began to get very sleepy, so we took the ferry back to Devonport and walked back to the Captain’s Tavern. We took a video of me with the skyline of Auckland on DH’s i-Phone, which we sent to our family. (We did this about once a day all through the trip!) The skyline was very pretty, as by this time, it was nearly dark! It got dark in New Zealand around 4 or 5 pm. We weren’t very hungry, and were very tired, so we just had the complimentary port and gingersnaps at our B&B and fell asleep early and slept until about 7 am the next morning.

We went upstairs for breakfast, which Margaret had prepared for us. The upstairs room looks out over Auckland harbor, and we could see the clouds moving across the hills, and all the ferry and shipping traffic moving through the harbor. She had wonderful fire going in the fireplace. We had a large breakfast of fresh fruit, toast, croissants, tea, and cereal. We were going to Rotorua for two nights, then back for a night at the Captain’s Landing before leaving for Australia, so Margaret kindly let us leave our large suitcases there, and we just packed our carry-ons for the two night excursion. That made things much easier! Before starting our drive to Rotorua, we drove up Mount Victoria there in Devonport. There was a large gun emplacement at the top and great views over the harbor and Auckland.

Auckland to Rotorua
We began the drive to Rotorua, stopping for a brief lunch at a McDonald’s in a town called Huntley. They had some chicken wraps that I haven’t seen at McD’s in the US—but it’s been a long time since I was in one, so maybe they do have them here! We kept driving and got to Rotorua around 2:30 pm. We stopped in and got some brochures and maps at the Visitor’s Center and then walked to Government Gardens. We walked all around, seeing the hot pools and steam vents and walked around by the lake, with its black swans and geese. We drove to St. Faith’s Anglican church, removed our shoes as requested, and went inside to see the Maori carvings, which were very impressive. DH bought a CD that had hymns sung in the Maori language. As we looked up the hills and around the lake, we could see the steam from the many steam vents rising up between all the houses. It was getting darker, so we set out to find our B&B in Rotorua, Te Ngae Country Lodge.

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    Rotorua, Continued
    Earlier in the day, we had spoken to the owners of Te Ngae Country Lodge, Anne & Sandy, who had given us directions to their B&B, just outside of town. We found the turn and drove up their driveway, up a hill, to Te Ngae. They were very friendly and offered us the separate cottage since no one else was staying there at that time. I guess this is an advantage to going during the winter! We took our bags in and then joined them in their living room for wine, cheese and crackers. We visited with them for a good while and their sweet little black cat joined us for a time as well.

    We headed back into town for dinner at the Fat Dog Café. Before we left, Sandy asked where we were eating and when we told him, he said, “ooh, you’ll need some Alka Seltzer after that!” We laughed and headed out. We sat at a table near a fire stove, which was very warm and cozy. We both had the steak sandwich and potato wedges with sour cream. Very yummy! I bought a t-shirt here. We headed back to Te Ngae. We missed the turn, coming back in the dark and had to make a tricky turn around/back out onto the road (tricky b/c of driving on the left)! And yes, we actually did take Alka Seltzer that night!

    We woke up pretty early the next morning. Anne and Sandy had an enormous breakfast waiting for us. Cereal, eggs, ham, sausage, fruit, bread-certainly more than we could ever eat and it was very good! (No wonder my pants got tight on this trip!) When we finished eating, Sandy took the leftovers and threw them out in the grass and a whole flock of birds came down to feast! He said it took some time for them to get to like eggs, but they love them now! We ate in their dining room, looking out the large picture window, from which we could see the lake. It was not raining at this point, but was cloudy.

    We headed out to Wai-O-Tapu and bought our tickets. They gave us directions to the Lady Knox geyser. We only waited a few minutes before they gave their talk and made the geyser erupt by pouring soap into it. We took an iPhone video of me with the geyser erupting behind me to send to our family. At this point, it had begun to sprinkle rain.

    We drove back to the main parking lot of Wai-O-Tapu and began walking the trails. It was a very interesting landscape and the colors of the hot pools and mud pools were very pretty. It continued to heavily drizzle rain and was pretty cold, but we were determined to see everything we wanted to see. When we were near the end of our walk, right by the Champagne pool, the sun came out briefly—that made the colors even more brilliant. I wish it had been sunny the entire time! It was lunchtime, so we ate egg salad sandwiches at the café there and bought postcards and stamps.

    We drove back into Rotorua to visit the museum, which was a good choice, as opposed to another outdoor activity, as it really started to pour rain now! We got there just in time to catch a guided tour. The building was originally built as a bathhouse/spa in the early 1900s. They showed us some of the rooms where the “spa treatments” were given. More like torture treatments from the look of some of them! There was also a large exhibit on the earthquake and eruption of Mount Tarawera in the late 1800s and the pink and white terraces, which were destroyed in the eruption. After the tour, we went into a theater to see a movie on the history of the area. When it came to the part about the eruption, all of a sudden all the seats started shaking and shimmying back and forth, simulating the earthquake! We had no idea this would happen, so it was pretty funny! We really enjoyed this museum and I would recommend it if you are visiting the area. I’d also recommend the guided tour at the museum.

    We left the museum and headed to the visitor center to check out the gift shop. DH bought me a jade necklace with a Maori symbol that I had seen and wanted. We also bought a necklace for his daughter. I bought some Rotorua mud soaps for myself and my mom.

    Since the weather was so nasty and rain was coming down in buckets, we decided to get take-out somewhere and go back to our cottage and eat in. We found a Thai restaurant and got two orders of Pad Thai and spring rolls at The Thai Restaurant on Tutanekai Street. We also found a liquor store and bought some wine. When we got back to Te Ngae, we had wine and another nice visit with Anne & Sandy. We then went back to the cottage and ate our dinner. It continued to pour rain during the night.

    The next morning, after another enormous and delicious breakfast, we headed out. We stopped and took the Hobbiton tour on our way back to Auckland. We both really enjoyed this. We also saw a sheep being sheared here—poor thing! They had some baby lambs and I got a bottle and fed them—so cute!

    We stopped in Cambridge for lunch at the Cambridge Country Store. I had a Mediterranean panini (can’t remember what DH had-forgot to write it down). I bought some dip mixes here and a pretty bookmark. We saw a grocery store nearby called Countdown and went in there too. We both enjoy looking around grocery stores in other countries. We bought some candy-just what we needed-more calories-ha! We continued driving back to Auckland. Closer to Auckland, it started to really pour rain again and the traffic became terrible! We finally made it back to the Captain’s Landing in Devonport around 6 or 6:30 pm and Margaret, our host, was happy to see us! The rain finally stopped and we walked down the street to the main part of Devonport. We took another iPhone video of the Auckland skyline and went to the New World grocery store, where we bought some salads and crackers, which we took back to the Captain’s Landing and ate dinner and watched some TV in the room.

    The next morning, Margaret fed us another wonderful breakfast. Particularly good were some berries (raspberries, blackberries) and peaches that she had baked in orange juice! After repacking (something that became an all-too-familiar activity in the coming weeks) we loaded up the car and headed out. We drove up North Head there in Devonport before we left and saw a brief movie on its history, walked around in some of the tunnels and all around on the hill. It was a foggy day, but we still had some great views. We drove through downtown Auckland and back to the airport to turn in our rental car. We had lunch at a build-your-own wraps place at the airport. Our plane to Sydney was a little late, but only by about 30 minutes. We flew Jet Star on this leg of the journey. Flight uneventful, except for two young boys (4 & 6, maybe) who yelled nearly the entire flight. We just put in our earphones and watched the movie Australia the entire way.
    We both fell in love with New Zealand and really want to go back and spend more time there. The countryside is just beautiful – everything was so green. We couldn’t believe how rural it was! We knew it wasn’t a heavily populated place, but I guess we didn’t imagine it quite so rural. Everyone we met was so friendly and helpful. I think I would like to return in the summer, however. It was quite chilly, coming from Miami in the summer!

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    Finally getting around to working on this trip report! It is very long, so apologies in advance to anyone wishing for a quick read. I have started adding the dates in, as I was getting confused trying to keep track of what I have written and where I left off...

    Arrival in Sydney – June 26 – Saturday
    After we made it though customs (they searched our bags thoroughly!) we took a taxi to our hotel. DH belongs to a club with reciprocal privileges at a number of clubs around the world, and we took advantage of that in Sydney. We stayed at the Royal Automobile Club on Macquarie Street, very close to Circular Quay. The public rooms were very grand, with high ceilings. There were great photos of old cars all over the building, which were fun to look at. Our room was enormous, with plenty of room to spread out. We were to stay here for three nights and would return for another two at the end of our time in Australia. We decided to stay in for supper, and ordered drinks and club sandwiches in the bar. From our table, we could see the Harbor Bridge – it was dark by now, and the bridge was spectacularly lighted! I was so excited to see it - we were actually in Australia! I thought, I’m climbing that bridge tomorrow! After dinner, we went back to our room and watched Australian rugby on tv.

    June 27 - Sunday
    We had breakfast at the Club, which was included in our room rate. The breakfast had vast arrays of cereals, pastries, yogurt, fruit, etc. (Gee, it’s no wonder I gained weight on this trip!) Again, we had views of the Harbor Bridge from the table! We left and started walking over to the Rocks. We were walking along an elevated highway above Circular Quay, when we looked to our right and saw the Opera House! It took my breath away-such an amazing building sitting right on the edge of the water. We continued to the Rocks, stopping at the visitor’s center to pick up maps and brochures. We then went to the Bridge Climb Experience to book my climb. I didn’t want to do this in advance, as I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t be climbing in the rain and cold. We had several days in Sydney, so I figured I’d be ok. I wanted to do the “Express Climb” and they had availability on a tour about an hour later, so I booked that.

    We explored the Rocks for a little while and walked out onto the bridge, then I returned for the climb. DH didn’t want to do the climb, so he left me there. (He walked up the pylon on the bridge and then went down to Circular Quay and took some video of groups on the climb with his zoom lens-we have yet to inspect these closely to see if we can identify me). Our group was me and three men! Our leader was a woman named Linda. We signed the requisite forms and got breathalyzed. Getting ready for the climb was like getting ready for extended deep-sea diving! We put on our climb suits, radios, headsets, hats, etc. which were all clipped onto our suits with cords. The only item we were allowed to take with us were sunglasses, which they attached cords to, which were then attached to our suits. Off we went! The express climb goes under the bridge and up the lower arch, then there are stairs to the very top. As we walked, Linda gave us lots of interesting history of the bridge and what we were looking at in the harbor. We didn’t need the headsets at all, as our group was so small. Once at the top, (we were actually slightly higher than the place the “regular climb” summits!) we could see east to the ocean and in the west, we could see the Blue Mountains (where we were headed in a few days). Linda took our pictures while we were up there. We had a nice long time to enjoy the view, even stayed on the summit as a large tanker ship passed under the bridge. We headed back down, got “de-suited” and I picked up the complimentary picture you get of the whole group. The leader also takes individual pictures, but I didn’t purchase any. The photo is now on my refrigerator—it’s kind of funny—my short self (5 feet tall) and 3 6-feet tall men! All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I would definitely recommend it. Years ago, I had seen something about the bridge climb on tv and had ever since wanted to do it. I would actually like to go again, perhaps do a night climb. It was expensive, but I felt it was well worth the money! DH met me at the gift shop after the climb and bought me a stuffed koala bear wearing a bridge climb suit…so cute! He sits on our bed now. His suit is a little saggy in the bottom, just like my real one fit! Ha!

    We left and walked down Nurse’s Walk to Circular Quay and took a ferry to Darling Harbor. The ferry made several stops around the harbor first, then went under the bridge, which was fun. We ate lunch outside at Nick’s at Cockle Bay Wharf. I had a pasta dish with clams and crabmeat in a tomato sauce and DH had fried King Prawns. We walked around Darling Harbor to the National Maritime Museum, which was free. They had exhibits on the Navy, cruise ships, swimming and sailing. The swimming exhibit was particularly fun to look at. DH enjoyed the displays on cruise ships the most. We walked back across Pyrmont Bridge to the ferry and took it back to Circular Quay. We weren’t very hungry after such a huge lunch, so we had a light “appetizer supper” at Vintage Café on the Rocks. We shared Mediterranean meatballs and roasted mushrooms with cheese and two glasses of wine. We then headed back to the hotel.

    June 28 - Monday
    Breakfast again at the Automobile Club, ate too much again. I was growing particularly fond of a muesli mix they had. We walked to the Royal Botanical Gardens, passing Government House. We (mainly I) wanted to take the free walking tour at 10:30 am, but we had a few minutes to kill, so we browsed the gift shop. We bought a cute linen koala tea towel and a book titled “Come to Australia and Die” that talks about such creatures as funnel web spiders, irukandji jellyfish & cone shells. I get into stuff like that, so DH made me buy the book. Then he proceeded to laugh at and make fun of me when every morning I thoroughly checked my shoes and socks for funnel web spiders. I don’t like any spiders much on a good day, let alone ones that can kill you!! I knew about them beforehand, but this book reinforced the fear! It is an interesting book, though. Anyway, it was time to take the tour, which was led by a very knowledgeable woman. We saw lots of large bats hanging from trees, the rare Wollemi pine and other native plants. The Aboriginal plants section was particularly interesting, with information on how they use the plants for medicinal purposes. After the tour we walked out on a point along the water, coming across a lot of white cockatoos making a racket! We had great views of the bridge and opera house.

    We walked along the water back to the opera house and bought tickets for the 5:00 pm tour. We would have taken an earlier tour, but they said that the main concert hall wouldn’t be on those tours, but they believed it would be on the 5:00 one. We saw they had a lunch special at the Studio Café on the side, so we each had ham and cheese paninis and enjoyed the view and some people watching.

    After lunch we went down to see St. James church, the oldest church in Sydney, and then to St. Andrews Cathedral. We took the subway back to Circular Quay, sitting on the top of the 2-level train. I have noted in my journal that it was a very smooth ride-different from a lot of other city subways!

    We dropped off our backpack at the hotel then went to the Opera House for our tour. It was surprisingly interesting – I wanted to see it, but wasn’t sure how interesting it would actually be—I was pleasantly surprised. We saw the Studio Theater, Concert Hall and Opera House. The views of the harbor looking out of the glass walls were amazing. We went back over to the Darling Harbor area to a restaurant called Malaya. I had the Malaya curry and DH had beef rending. We sat by the windows overlooking the harbor. Food was very good. On the way home, we passed a wine shop and bought a bottle of wine. Can’t remember when we drank it, but must have that night or the next night in the Blue Mountains. Back to the hotel.

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    June 29 - Tuesday
    We had rented a car from Avis and picked this up at a hotel near Circular Quay. Originally, we had planned to pick up at a different location, but we found out this one was closer, so called them and changed it. We got a GPS too. Off we headed for the Blue Mountains.

    We stopped at the Glenbrook Information Center, where a very friendly and helpful fellow gave us some maps and advice on what the highlights were in the area. We drove on to Wentworth Falls to Prince’s Rock lookout. We walked a short trail and the view of the falls was magnificent. The Blue Mountains were so beautiful! We stopped for lunch at the Conservation Hut, which had a roaring fire going and was nice and warm. We had club sandwiches and Diet Coke. We drove on to Katoomba, taking Cliff Drive to Leura, then into Katoomba. We checked in at Lurline House. We had a nice room with a four poster bed and a large whirlpool tub in the bathroom!

    We drove back to Glenbrook to the Euroka Clearing. We kept wondering if we were on the right path, because the pavement ended and it was a bumpy road! We got there, though! We saw a lone kangaroo eating, and got photos and video. There was a small group of people there when we first arrived, but they soon left. The kangaroo hopped off into the brush. Boy, did it feel isolated. The sun was setting and it was really pretty coming through the trees. We also saw lots of cockatoos and some ducks in the clearing. We heard a very loud bird (?) and I am guessing it was a kookaburra. It’s on our video, so I’ll have to find a sound file online to see if that is what it was.

    We drove back out of the clearing and on the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Super IGA for a light supper to have at the hotel. We didn’t go out to eat this night for several reasons: not too hungry, wanted to save a little money and it was getting super cold! We got some salads and rolls to have in our room. It wasn’t terribly warm, so after supper we ran a hot bath and got in that hot tub! Slept well.

    June 30 - Wednesday
    When we woke up, it was -2 C. BRRR!!! We had some warm-ish clothing, but nothing heavy. We were headed to Shanghai and Singapore in a week! We had a wonderful breakfast again and headed out pretty early. We drove over to Echo Point to see the Three Sisters. We went to the gift shop and promptly bought some little knit gloves. Then headed down to the lookout down a trail, then back to the main lookout area at the visitor’s center. We walked down to the Queen Elizabeth lookout then back to our car. We began our drive to the Hunter Valley, following our trusty GPS and the maps I had printed out ahead of time at home. I continued to tell DH, who did all the driving, “turn right, stay left!” We went through Morpeth, stopping to mail some postcards and walk around. It is a cute little town. We went through Hawkesbury up the Putty Road. Along the road, in a field, we saw some kangaroos. We pulled over and walked across the road to take video and pictures. DH got a great shot of two hopping a full speed back into the bush. We also passed the towns of Richmond, Windsor, Wilburforce and the Wollemi National Park. As we were coming into the Hunter Valley the road was a windy as any we’d been on! It was fun to ride (DH was working hard as the driver!) and the scenery was so pretty-deep woods, winding rivers. It was fun to see the Kangaroo Crossing signs—yes, I got some pictures of them! We also saw a sign along the road saying “Pony Poo $2 a bag, big bags!” We cracked up, turned around and took a picture. Also saw a sign for “chook poo.” No idea what that was. (After we got back to the hotel in Sydney I looked it up—I think it was chicken poo—anyone know for sure?)

    We had skipped lunch, as our breakfast at Lurline House was so big, with bacon, eggs, cereal, etc. Now we were getting hungry. We found and checked in at our hotel, Thistle Hill. The owner, Peter, showed us our room, which was very nicely decorated and large. We had a complimentary bottle of Semillon wine and a cheese and olive plate waiting for us. We then drove down to the Pokolbin Village General Store and bought some cheese, pate, crackers for snacks. We ate dinner at the nearby Irish Pub restaurant, had hamburgers and fries. The hamburgers had beets on them, as a topping, which I had never seen before, but was good! We each had a glass of Chardonnay with dinner. They had a nice fire going. We had a hairy drive back to the hotel that night-animals were running all over the road in front of our car: a kangaroo, a beautiful fox and something that I think was a wombat. We made it without hitting any, thankfully.

    July 1 - Thursday
    We had an absolutely amazing breakfast at Thistle Hill. Breakfast is served in a separate building, near the swimming pool, that has views all down the fields down to some vineyards. Three sides of the room have floor to ceiling windows and one wall has a fireplace. When we came in, there was a roaring fire and music playing. Again, there was a huge selection of cereals, fruit, pastries, bread, etc. Peter, the owner, brought a hot fruit dish-a cherry or raspberry crumble-didn’t write that down. Delicious! He visited with us and told us about their pet kangaroo, Chloe, who is very old, and was rescued from her mother’s pouch when her mother was hit by a car and killed. She hops around the property grazing on the grass. Very cute! She sleeps by their quarters at night on an electric blanket. While we were talking to him, there was also a pack of wild kangaroos on the edge of the property. He said that Chloe is afraid of the wild kangaroos.

    Off to our wine tours!! We stopped first at David Hook wines and did some tasting. Yes, it was 9:00 am. We were the only ones there and a very nice woman gave us several wines. We bought a $40 bottle of Shiraz. Next, we drove to Mount Pleasant and went on a tour of the vineyards, processing areas and barrels. We also did some tasting there—they kept giving us more and more wines to taste. We finally quit, as we had to drive!

    We drove to lunch at a restaurant called Muse, which had a lovely view over some hills. We watched small planes taking off over the trees. Our meal here was very, very good! I had lamb shoulder with mashed potatoes and salad. DH had a steak w/ mushroom sauce. We got an order of French fries and we each had a glass of Hungerford Hill Semillon. Lunch was $106 and worth every penny! We took a break from wine tasting and headed to the Hunter Valley Chocolate shop and bought a chocolate bar and a vanilla hot cocoa mix (which some ants have subsequently gotten into, and DH threw away before looking to see what brand it was so I could try to get some more ). They also had some very cute animal shaped chocolates.

    Next, we drove down Mt. View Road, with great views over the Brokenback Range and the Hunter Valley. The sunlight on the hills was just magnificent and golden. We next drove to the Audrey Wilkinson vineyards and did yet some more tasting. We bought a bottle of Rose there for $14. We had a look around their museum and took some photos of the views from outside. Next, on to the Smelly Cheese shop. We really enjoyed looking at all the foods in the store. We bought a Kingsford Blue (looks like Cheddar, with Bleu cheese streaks), pate, bread and DH got a lime gelato, which was very good. The last stop of the day was on Hermitage Road, just a short distance on the same road from Thistle Hill – at Mistletoe Wines. Peter at Thistle Hill had told us about their award winning Chardonnays and we couldn’t resist a taste. We bought one. Back at the hotel, we gathered up our cheeses, pates, breads, crackers and the David Hook shiraz and went to the breakfast room at Thistle Hill, turned on the fire (Peter, the owner had told us how to do this) and ate and drank the shiraz, which was amazingly good and watched some episodes of Lost on the computer. We slept well that night!

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    Great report Florida! Yes, chooks are chickens, so that was chicken poop. We used to apply some incredibly pungent chicken 'poo-poo' as yard fertilizer in Indonesia, but that practice stopped with the advent of bird flu.

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    Great report Florida! Malaya is one of my favourite restaurants for Malaysian food and has a great view of Darling Harbour.

    Euroka Clearing seems to have a lot less roos these days; they are not actually native to that area, they were introduced. Glad to hear you saw one at least.

    I bet the loud bird sound is a kookaburra, they often used to use the sound as a generic "jungle" bird sound in early Hollywood movies. Try this Youtube clip to see if it's the right sound: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0ZbykXlg6Q

    I often use chook poo on my garden, I think it's often euphemistically called "dynamic lifter." I hate to think what's being lifted!

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    Glad you are enjoying the report! Thanks for confirming my research on chook poo Melnq8!!

    Thanks for the kookaburra clip, Susan! I am sure that is what we heard and have on our video. We'll have to pull it up and compare. LOL about the "dynamic lifter!"

    We really enjoyed Australia and hope to get back sooner rather than later! I'll try to post the next installment more quickly than I got to this last one!

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    Finally, finally, my next installment. This installment will complete the Australia portion of our trip.

    July 2, Friday

    We woke up and had another fabulous breakfast at Thistle Hill. Candied pears with macadamia nuts, fresh guava juice, croissants, scones, apricot jam. Chloe the kangaroo was just outside the breakfast room and the poor thing had to keep running from the truck that was driving around the property spraying for weeds!

    We left to drive to our next stop, Nelson Bay. We drove through Morpeth, stopping for a look around this town on the Hunter River. Thank you, Bokhara, for suggesting this stop! We looked in some of the shops, then stopped in the post office to stamp and mail our postcards. We drove the rest of the way to Nelson Bay and checked in at Bobbi’s B&B. We found her place on TripAdvisor, as all the hotels wanted a minimum of 2 or 3 night’s stay and we only wanted one. Her home is in a neighborhood close to town. She greeted us and we put our bags away. She suggested Bub’s Seafood for lunch and going up the Gan Gan Lookout for views. We did as she suggested. It was gray and cloudy and pretty chilly. We went to Bub’s, which is at a marina, and ordered a seafood platter. It was the hugest pile of fried seafood we’d ever seen! Fried shrimp, fish, scallops, calamari rings and loads of French fries. We were laughing at how much food it was (I took photos, DH took videos) and a woman at the next table was laughing as well! The scallops were particularly good-much more flavorful than most in the US that we have had. We did our best to eat it all. We had a Bert’s Lime and Lemon Squash drink with it, which was also very tasty! We ate outside, despite the chill and watched fishermen unloading boats with fish and the big white pelicans hanging around for a handout.

    We walked around the marina, checking out the shops. We then got in the car and headed to the Gan Gan Lookout. Great views over Nelson Bay—we could see all the islands and beaches. We then drove to Little Beach, Fingal Bay and back by a golf course, where a herd of kangaroos was grazing. We were still so full from our enormous lunch, that we just returned to Bobbi’s and had wine, cheese and bread for a snack.

    July 3, Saturday

    We had a nice breakfast at Bobbi’s. We drove back down to the marina and got on a whale watching boat, the Noon Shadow. As we were boarding, the captain was warning everyone that the seas were pretty rough (1-3 meters, 25 knot wind). DH and I both took Bonine just to be sure. We don’t get seasick easily, but I didn’t want to take a chance on ruining my fun! We went out of the harbor and quickly found whales. We saw them spouting many times, saw a few tails out of the water, then all of a sudden two whales breached at the same time, then another breached immediately after that!! I got a great photo of one of the whales, DH got the whole thing on video. There was a photographer on board who got a fantastic shot and for $12 we ordered one of his, and gave him our address in Miami. (The photo was waiting for us when we returned from our trip). The seas were so rough, I really had to hang on. It was almost scary, but fun. On the way back in to the marina, we saw dolphins and seals as well. We returned to land and needed to get back on the road to Sydney, so we grabbed a Subway sandwich before heading out.

    Back in Sydney, we dropped off the rental car at Avis in King’s Cross, then walked and took the train back to Circular Quay from St. James station. We settled in at the Royal Automobile Club and had dinner there – rosemary chili fries and sautéed shrimp with lemon, garlic and parsley over penne pasta, with 2 glasses of chardonnay Semillon wine.

    July 4, Sunday

    Breakfast at the Royal Automobile Club. We bought day passes for public transport and took the train to Bondi Junction station, then a bus to Bondi Beach. We then walked the Bondi to Bronte coastal cliff walk. We enjoyed this very much-it was a sunny, warmish day. We watched the surfers, bought ice cream at the Bronte Beach kiosk. I liked the looks of the Bronte Baths pool, with the ocean waves crashing over the rocks into the pool. I want to come back in the summer and swim there—too cold for me this time! I got pooped on by a bird there—it went all over the back of my windbreaker—which fortunately wiped right off! Yuck! We took a bus back from Bronte Beach to Bondi Junction and then took a bus all the way out to Watson’s Bay. Had lunch at Doyle’s restaurant – shared mussels with white wine sauce and garlic chili prawns and French fries. Lunch was around $50. The restaurant had a nice view of the harbor and all the sailboats anchored offshore. After lunch, we walked up South Head for great views down the sandstone cliffs to the ocean and the opening of Sydney Harbor. We took the fast ferry back to Circular Quay (DH got great video off the front the ferry—it looks like we’re flying!). We sat outside on the front of the boat for the entire ride-fun! We went back to our hotel room to pack for Shanghai.

    For dinner, we walked over to the Rocks, down Nurse’s Walk and ate at Amoroma, a pizza/Italian place on Nurse’s Walk. We shared a thin-crust pizza with Italian meatballs, peppers with a glass of house white wine each. It was quite good and not very expensive.

    July 5, Monday

    Took a shuttle from the Club to the airport. We barely made it, b/c the driver went to pick up someone else (we’d been told we were the last pickup). We boarded our Quantas flight to Shanghai.

    Thoughts: We loved Australia and realize that we only saw a tiny, tiny part. We really want to come back—I want to go to the GBR and Alice Springs and Ayers Rock. From reading our guidebook, I realize we could keep busy in Australia for many, many trips to come.

    **I will continue this trip report in the Asia forum—please come over there to read more of our adventure!

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