Australia and New Zealand
Mike and Judy Henderson
March 21 to April 9, 2019
I'm going to leave the map on each page of this blog so you can see where we are.
3/22/2019 (Friday) Today is the real start of the tour. Yesterday was just the Welcome Dinner in the evening.
We met in the lobby at 8:15 to begin a walking tour of downtown.
Phillip was our guide. He is a native of Melbourne and worked as a school principle prior to retirement. Now, he shares his knowledge of the city with visitors.
We walked through the downtown and Phillip took us to some of the "laneways" which are the smaller streets in the area. We'd probably call them "alleyways". The laneways have developed, especially for small restaurants. Along the way, we stopped for coffee. Apparently, Melbourne is coffee-crazy.
Many of the laneways are decorated with art. Much of it is not much more than tagging (see next)
But some of it, such as shown in this next picture, is pretty amazing. I don't know how high this picture reaches but it's several stories. I'm always amazed that artist can do these kind of pictures, where they can't see the whole picture while they're painting it.
The band, AC/DC, was from Melbourne and they are memoralized in one of the laneways.
We also went to a laneway that had a number of small restaurants, including a Vietnamese restaurant. We decided we'd try the Vietnamese restaurant this evening.
Then the walking tour was over and we moved to a bus for the next part of our city tour.
The first place we went was to the Queen Victoria Market. Of course, Judy and I had been there yesterday but we roamed the aisles - but didn't buy anything.
Then we drove to the Shrine of Remembrance, which honors the men and women from Victoria who have served since the First World War.
Here's a view of the shrine from the front. It was dedicated in 1934 to the men and women who served in WWI, ironically just prior to the start of WWII.
There's an eternal flame on the forecourt honoring the men and women who served in WWII.
This is a view of the city from the top of the steps of the shrine.
After the visit, we went back to the hotel and had the afternoon free. When we returned to the hotel, Judy and I went to visit St. Patrick's Cathederal across the street from the hotel.
Looking toward the altar from the back of the cathederal.
A closer view of the altar area.
The organ pipes.
A view from that altar area to the entry of the cathederal.
We had lunch in the hotel lobby restaurant and then went back to the room, where I worked on this blog.
In the evening we walked to the Vietnamese restaurant, Hochi Mama. The food was good but nothing like the Vietnamese food I had in Vietnam back in 1970-71.
The interior of the restaurant.
This popular place was very crowded so Judy and I sat at the bar for dinner.
Then it was to bed for an early departure. We catch a plane to Cairns tomorrow morning.
3/23/2019 (Saturday) We were up at 4am this morning in order to have our bags available at 5:30. We had to eat an early breakfast and then meet the group at 7am in the lobby. Here's some of the group at breakfast.
Mr. Walker came out to say "Goodbye".
As we began to board the bus the rain came down.
It was almost an hour's drive to the airport, and we were able to observe a magnificant sunrise. The big light in the center of the picture is a reflection on the bus window.
We were taken directly to the charter flight section of the airport for the plane reserved for our group.
About 9am they called us to board.
After a three hour flight we arrived in Cairns. The first thing I noticed was that it was quite a bit warmer than Melbourne.
The Cairns airport is modern but smaller. We just paused there to use the restrooms.
Then we quickly boarded buses for the trip to the nature show.
Cairns had a lot of rain recently and as we drove along the coast road we saw lots of signs of water.
After about an hour drive, we arrived at Hartley's Crocodile Adventure.
We had lunch on a deck over a crocodile pond, actually right above a waiting crocodile.
They brought a couple of Koalas for us to see.
A closer look at the Koala.
After lunch we went to an enclosure where they kept koalas and kangaroos. We had the opportunity to feed the kangaroos - they like corn kernals.
Here's a koala eating eucalyptus leaves - their only diet.
From here we went to see the cassowary, a large flightless bird that looks somewhat like a colorful emu. Unfortunately, by now the heat and humidity were becoming really uncomfortable.
Here's a closer look at the cassowary.
Next, we went to a demonstration of feeding the crocs.
I did not have a good view where I was sitting, so I didn't get any good shots of the crocs. But here's one of a croc just after he grabbed a chicken neck that was fed to him.
As we left the croc demonstration area, I saw this smaller croc sunning himself on a log. The thing that caught my eye is the turtles sunning themselves on the log, also. Note that one of them is almost sitting on the croc's snout.
We left Hartley's and drove to the Skyrail facility. It was good to sit in the air conditioning of the bus for a while.
Skyrail is a cable car ride over an old-growth rain forest in a nature reserve in Cairns. We had a ranger, Cameron, assigned to our group to provide commentary. This picture of him was taken later in the visit.
The cable car system consists of three cable systems. Here's some of our group entering a car for the first leg of our journey.
A view of the cable car system.
At each transition point we had to exit and board a car for the next segment. The ranger used each stop for a short lecture and viewing.
Off in the distance, you can see mist rising in the next photo. That's mist from a large waterfall. With the recent rains, the waterfall should really be flowing.
We went back to the station to continue on the cable car system. We'll be using the blue cars on this leg. You can see the green car in the background, which is the leg we arrived on.
As we were approaching the next station we could see the waterfalls from our cable car.
There's an overlook of the falls a short distance from the station, and we walked to it. The falls are called "Barron Falls", on the river Barron.
Here's a video of the falls:
As we left this station I was able to get a good picture of the cable car system over the forest.
We passed over the river feeding Barron falls. It's really carrying a lot of silt.
Then we boarded the bus for the hotel, the Shangri-La. Cairns, I'm told, is a popular resort destination for Asians, and there were a lot of Asians in the hotel. The hotel appears to cater to tour groups.
Tauck had scheduled a dinner and an indigenious show at a nearby Aboriginal Culture Center, but Judy and I were very tired and decided to skip it and go to bed early.
3/24/2019 (Sunday) We woke up this morning to a pretty amazing sunrise.
We're heading out to the Great Barrier Reef today, so after breakfast we met in the lobby at 8:15.
It was a short walk to the dock where a catamaran was waiting for us.
The trip out was about an hour and the crew used the time to brief us on the activities available once we reached the reef. One activity was "SNUBA" which is like scuba diving, except the air tank is located on a small float and the divers are connected to it by hoses. Judy and I signed up for that, but I was restricted to surface activities only because of certain health issues.
Here's the platform on the reef. It's a floating platform, anchored to the sea floor, and not a platform on stilts. I thought of the movie "Waterworld". All the people on the platform appear to be experienced divers and very much at home in the water.
The air temperature was fairly warm, but not unpleasently hot. The water temperature was "cool bathwater" - you did not get a cold shock when you entered the water.
I purchased some pictures from the tour people. Here's an aerial view of the platform, showing it's relationship to the reef. It appears to be right on the edge of the reef.
Here's a closer aerial view, with a catamaran alongside. The tiny white dots extending in an oval shape off the rear of the platform show the area that is reserved for divers. The reef is a protected area.
After we were docked to the platform we received a briefing on how to signal the dive master and other divers,
and how to put on the lycra suits. The water is warm so you don't need a wetsuit, but the lycra suits protect you against any (stinging) jellyfish that might be in the water.
Here's where we picked up our lycra suits.
Judy and I were one of the first groups to do the SNUBA, at 11am. It was just the two of us and an instructor. Here we are dressed out. Note that I have a flotation vest which will keep me on the surface while Judy has a weight belt to allow her to go below the surface.
I left the water early, but Judy stayed for the full time. Leaving the water gave me the opportunity to take some pictures. Here's Judy with the instructor.
They have a professional underwater photographer who comes by and takes pictures that you can purchase.
There's a large Wrasse, called "Wally", that lives under the platform and visits the divers. He's not dangerous - he just seems to be interested in what these humans are doing in his world. He came by Judy just as the photographer was taking pictures. Judy reached out to pet Wally.
Just for interest, this is what Wally looks like under full spectrum light (water filters out the red light). He's not only handsome but he's friendly, too.
A bit after noon the crew provided lunch.
Joe and Joyce, two guests on the tour, at lunch.
Here's a view toward the back of the platform during lunch time. The area in the far back is the dive equipment area.
A view of the equipment area.
This is Phoebe, who does the underwater photography. For people who love to dive, working on this platform would be an ideal job.
While I was taking the above pictures, a group of four was leaving for SNUBA with an instructor. We were very fortunate to have a session with only the two of us, and after I left the water, Judy had individual attention.
At 2pm Judy and I took the semi-submersible, which has glass windows in it's side. Since the water was murky from the recent hurricane we were not able to see much of the reef, but we did see some fish.
One of the tour crew explained that the red light is rapidly absorbed by the water, making everything look blue. He commented that professionals use flash photography on their dives so that they can capture images with true colors. I'll post some of the purchased underwater pictures here.
A reef shot with a fish in the foreground.
A sea turtle.
Spaghetti coral with several fish using it for protection.
I'm not sure what this coral is called.
A fan coral.
You can find many more images on the web. I really enjoyed the visit to the reef because it involved activities that we participated in - instead of just observed. I wish there were more participatory events on this tour.
About 3pm the catamaran left the platform and headed back to the marina. After a shower we joined Charlene and John at Tha Fish restaurant for dinner.
That was the end of a very full day. Tomorrow starts early, with baggage pickup at 5:30am. We fly to Sydney tomorrow.
Our adventure continues here