Australia and New Zealand
Mike and Judy Henderson
March 21 to April 9, 2019
We've both been interested in seeing New Zealand. Judy had visited Australia but I had not. This tour seemed to be the best of the tours of Australia-New Zealand, so we signed up for it. One thing that I liked about this tour was that we would fly to New Zealand from Sydney. If we were to board the ship in Sydney we'd have two days "at sea" to get to New Zealand. Later, I found out that the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand is often very rough, making the voyage uncomfortable, especially for a small ship.
3/18/2019 (Monday) We depart late today - about 10pm. That's past my bedtime:-)
Before we left, we took our usual "departure" picture.
The limo driver arrived early, so we left home shortly after 5pm. It was rush hour but most people were heading the other direction, so the trip was fairly easy. We got to the airport a bit after 6pm. Here are Judy and the limo driver. He was an excellent driver.
We checked in with Air New Zealand and bid our bags goodbye. Hopefuly we'll see them again someday.
Security was not crowded and we got through easily. They were using the full body scan devices so all went smoothly. We had several hours to wait so we went to the Star Alliance lounge - Air New Zealand is a member of Star Alliance.
It was a comfortable place to hang out for a couple of hours.
Just after 9pm we were called for boarding. The plane was a Boeing 777-300W and it appeared to be a full flight. Air New Zealand uses herringbone seats, which is not my favorite, but since we were going to be sleeping most of the trip, it worked well.
And then, we were off, leaving Los Angeles below us.
They fed us dinner and then we went to sleep. It's a thirteen hour trip and we were both able to sleep for most of it. For some reason, there was a lot of turbulance during the flight so we bounced around a good bit.
We crossed the International Date Line during the flight and we arrived after an overnight flight, so it was March 20th, Wednesday, when we arrived in Auckland. It was dark when we landed, about 6:30am, so I wasn't able to get any pictures of the New Zealand countryside on our approach. Our flight to Melbourne didn't leave until about 10am so we had a couple of hours to wait. Luckily, Air New Zealand has a lounge in this wing of the airport, and that's where we spent our time.
A nice feature of the lounge was an expresso machine, much appreciated after the long flight from LAX. You enter your order on the iPad-like device in the center of the picture. The coffee was very popular - and good.
From the lounge window I could see the Air NewZealand planes. I think this one is a 777 similar to the one we came in on. Interesting livery.
A bit after 9am, we boarded the flight to Melbourne - another 777-300W. It had a number of empty seats. The layout was the same as the flight we came in on. Could have even been the same plane - I had no way of telling.
As we took off I was now able to get a view of the countryside around Auckland - lush and green.
It's about 2,600km from Auckland to Melbourne and the flight took about four hours.
Here's a picture of the area around the Melbourne airport, taken as we were going in for a landing. It's dry - but they're just moving into fall and the summer was exceptionally hot and dry this year.
Clearing customs was easy - certain countries are offer an express "clearing" using a kiosk, and the US fell into that category. Once we gathered our lugguge we met the Tauck agent just outside baggage claim.
There were about fourteen Tauck guests on that flight so they had a large bus for the trip to the hotel.
Tauck split the guests between the Park Hyatt and the Sofitel. We wound up in the Park Hyatt. It's a lovely hotel and our room is large and modern - but their Internet access was miserable. It's was very, very slow and it would drop me every now and then, forcing me to go through the log-on process all over.
The good news, however, is that I reported the problem to the hotel and by the next day they were able to fix it and give me about 20Mbps up and down. A special thanks to Matthew Llewellyn-Jones, Jonathan Lim and Carl Billings, the IT Manager.
We organized ourselves in the room and then went out to get a bite to eat. We found the Federici Bistro next door to the Princess Theatre, which was doing a live performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, parts One and Two. Some of the theatre goers came in to the restaurant during the intermission, in Hogwarts costumes.
Then we took a free tram that made a circuit around the downtown area. This allowed us to get our bearings for the center of the city. Here's one ofthe City Circle Trams. I think these are trams that were retired from the regular routes and re-purposed to this task - mostly transporting tourists around the city central.
Here's a map of the "City Circle Tram". The Park Hyatt is at the end of the black arrow. The Melbourne Star Ferris Wheel is at the red arrow, the Queen Victoria Market is at the yellow arrow, the Eureka Skydeck (with an 88th floor observation platform), is at the blue arrow, and the Prince's Bridge is at the green arrow.
We went back to the hotel and tried to stay awake until 9pm so that we'd get a full night's sleep but we gave up about 7pm and slept until 5am.
3/21/2019 (Thursday) After breakfast we met with Miles Tumai, who will be our Tauck representative for the trip. The group of 79 Tauck guests has been divided into three sections, designated by colors - blue, pink, and green. We are in the green group - which consists of 28 people. Here's Miles.
We walked down to the Prince's Bridge, where Judy took this picture of me. That's the Yarra River in the background.
We're heading toward the Eureka Building, which has an observation deck on the 88th floor. The arrow in the next picture points to an opening in the building that's part of the observation deck. The rest of the observation deck is enclosed.
Here's a closer look at that open air observation deck. They also have a feature they call the "Edge" which is a glass bottomed platform on the side of the observation deck. It costs extra to go out on the Edge and we didn't do it.
As we approached the Eureka Building we noticed these two golden bees on the exterior. They are part of the Eureka bee story, with thirteen bees representing the sense of community and prosperity. The queen is on top and the hive of worker bees is below. The second picture was taken from the web. I didn't see that view as we were approaching the tower.
You have to purchase a ticket to go to the observation deck - I think it was about $20US for each of us. Here's Judy on the observation deck. Most of the glass used around the observation deck has a blue tint to it.
Here's a view looking down from the deck. I color corrected this picture.
Here's a shot of the "open" part of the observation deck. They use a double door system to keep the wind from blowing into the observation deck. One door has to be closed before you can open the other door.
I did a panoramic shot from the observation deck, looking toward the ocean.
In the panoramic shot, out in the distance, you can see some ships. Here's another shot taken with a telephoto lens.
The ship with the red hull is the "Spirit of Tasmania" and is a passenger and auto ferry between Devonport (Tasmania) and Melbourne. You can make out the ramp at the front of the ship.
A view of the city, looking north, across the river. I have a lot more views of the city but it would bore you to death if I put more here.
When we left the tower we crossed the river on this footbridge. I'll show another picture of it from ground level.
We left the observation deck and walked down to the bridge - the Evan Walker Bridge, named after an Australian politician.
From here we returned to the hotel. Mr. Walker, the hotel dog, was working his shift when we arrived. You can see that he's a hard working dog. He must be "quite the dog" because the hotel gift shop sells a book about his adventures. He was trained as a guide dog, but he was too friendly to be paired with a person. The hotel took him to be an ambassador, and he lives on the grounds. Proceeds from book sales go toward the guide dog organization.
I bought the book about him and it was a good read - recommended!
Then we hopped aboard the #35 tram and headed to the Queen Victoria Market. It's a giant flea market, with individual stalls selling everything you can possibly imagine. Kangaroo-skin bikinis, anyone?
Here's a view down one of the aisles.
We had lunch at the food court and bought a couple of small items. Then we headed to the Docklands and the Melbourne Star.
Judy and I had done the London Eye last time we were in London, and I wanted to ride this one to compare them.
Just like the London Eye, the wheel does not stop to load people. You step inside as the car is slowly moving forward.
Soon we were "lifting off".
Here we are in the car, which we had to ourselves.
A view toward the ocean as we were going up.
After about 15 minutes we were at the top of the wheel.
Here's what we could see of the city from the top.
Eventually, we rotated to the bottom and exited the car.
That evening was our welcome dinner. Miles is greeting some of the guests.
Some of our fellow passengers.
There was a duo playing while we were talking - a double bass and a guitar. Judy was impressed with their playing.
This is a view of the dinner setup. I got involved in the dinner and forgot to get a picture of everyone at the tables.
Then it was to bed for an early morning. We are scheduled to meet in the lobby at 8:15am for a tour of Melbourne.
Our adventure continues here