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.

3/25/2019 (Monday)  We fly to Sydney today.  We were up early again, about 4am, to prepare our bags for a 5:30 pickup.  After breakfast we met in the lobby at 7:15 for the trip to the airport.

It was a fairly short ride.

The airport was not very busy at this hour.

We boarded on time and were on our way.  The flight was a bit over three hours, and we moved into a different time zone, one hour ahead.

Here we are coming into Sydney, giving us a view of the harbor.  It's noted for being the second natural deep harbor in the world, after Rio. The black arrow points to the Opera House, and the red arrow points to the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

We landed in the charter airline portion of the airport, so the buses were parked on the tarmac, very close to where the plane was positioned.  Here's the group leaving the plane.

The bus was waiting for us.

We visited Bondi Beach.

A view down the beach.  Summer is over and there wasn't a topless bather in sight.

We drove through various areas of Sydney and stopped at a viewpoint where we could see the Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

A closer look at the Sydney Opera House.

Then  we drove to the Intercontinental Hotel and checked in.  Miles knows a laundry nearby which will do a bag of laundry for a decent price, so I grabbed our bag of dirty clothes and we walked over.  They charged me $20 (Australian) for the laundry and it will be ready by 4pm tomorrow. 

Back in the hotel, I checked out the view.  We can see the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House from our room.

Here's what we can see of the bridge.

There's a group of people on the arch, making their way down.  You have to look closely, but on the other side of the arch, almost directly opposite the first group, there's a group of people in blue shirts starting up the arch.  It's a perilous and expensive walk, and you wear a safety harness.

We were on our own for dinner, so Judy and I went to "Fortune of War" Pub that a friend from home recommended to us.

A view of the bar area.

We had simple pub food in the back room.  Judy had her favorite Guinness.

Then it was back to the hotel and to bed.  We were tired from the early start.

3/26/2019 (Tuesday)  A 9am start meant we could sleep a bit later this morning.  We had a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then met the group to walk down to the Sydney Opera House for a tour.

It's an easy walk to the opera house, probably less than 3/4 km.  I marked the route in red on the following map.

About a block from the hotel, just past the Cahill Expressway that leads to the bridge, is the Circular Quay where the ferries dock.  The ferries are a great way to get around the harbor area.

A ferry was leaving the quay as we were walking to the opera house.  Note that this ferry is double ended, that is, it has a bow and pilot house on each end.  I assume that's so it can pull in forward to the dock, and then depart without ever turning around.

Here's a closer view of the Opera House.  I actually took this at the end of our tour, because the side we entered in the morning was in shadow.  The panels that make up the "sails" are the shape of a "slice" of a sphere.  This allowed for easier construction.

The "sails" are stressed concrete and are just coverings.  The concert halls are build under the sails and are separate from the sails.  The space between the concert hall structures and the sails is used for mechanical items, such as air conditioning equipment.

Here's our guide for the tour, Ben.  He did a good job of describing the halls in the opera house to us.

It's very difficult to get any pictures which show the structure, but this image may help you visualize how the sails were constructed.

The concrete sail structures are covered with ceramic tiles.  They're not all white, in order to keep down the reflection from the sails.  Additionally, the tiles have a matt surface, rathern than a smooth, shiny surface, for the same reason.  The overall effect from a distance is that the sails appear to be white.

Here's a medium-close shot of the tiles on one of the sails.

Mostly, we were not allowed to take pictures in any of the concert halls.  I found a few pictures on the web and have them below. 

The first hall we visited was the Playhouse, which is used, as its name implies, for plays.  They also use it for movies.

Before going to the main concert hall, we viewed a video of the building of the Opera House.  When we went into the Concert Hall, there was an orchestra rehersal in progress and we were not allowed to take any pictures.  Big orchestra, with ten cellos and eight double basses.  I didn't count the other instruments.

This first picture shows the hall as we viewed it, a bit to the side.

This view shows a closer look at the stage area.  There's a very big pipe organ at the back of the stage area.

Then we went to the Joan Sutherland Hall.  She was a world famous Australian soprano and the hall was named in her honor.

The hall was not set up for a performance so pictures were allowed.  Here's the stage area.

Some of the box seats.

And the orchestra pit. Note that it extends under the stage and that there's a net over the musicians to protect them in case anyone (or thing) falls off the stage.  It's happened!

One more look into the orchestra pit, to show the orchestra area under the stage.  Prior to a recent renovation, this area was not air-conditioned.  They also added some sound panels on the ceiling to lower the sound level for the musicians.

When we walked out of the Opera House, I looked over to the Harbor Bridge.  There were several groups walking the arch.  This group was at the top, where the flags of Australia (right) and New South Wales (left) are.

We decided to walk the bridge - the regular pedestrian path, not over the arch:-)

Here's Judy on the center span.

And me.

We had a nice view of the Sydney Opera House from the bridge.

We were able to get a close-up view of two groups coming down from their "arch walk".  You can see that there are guard rails and steps, and I think each person is attached with a safety line, so the walk seems to be fairly safe.  But I'll pass.  Maybe I would have done that when I was in my twenties.

It's fairly expensive to do the walk, over $200 Australian per person.

From the center of the bridge we could see most of Sydney Harbor.  It was fairly active with a number of boats - many are the ferry boats.

An alternate view of the Opera House, essentially from across the river, and almost head on.

We found a nice neighborhood on the north side of the bridge.  After some shopping at a chemist's, we had lunch at a small restaurant called Morgans.

After lunch we walked down to the water, found a ferry station, and navigated the ticket purchase machine.

After a short wait, the ferry showed up. It's a catamaran.

As we were crossing, another ferry of the same design was coming towards us.  I took a picture just to show you what they look like.

It only took about four minutes to cross to the Circular Quay.

From there it was a short walk to the hotel.

That evening, we met in the lobby for the for the dinner harbor cruise.

We walked down to the harbor and waited at the dock.  Eventually our boat arrived.  It was dwarfed by the Sky Princess on the other side of the quay.

The evening began with drinks on the rear deck.

A view of the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, and the Australian flag as we sailed out into the harbor.

Judy and I on the back deck.

As it turned dark, we went down one deck for dinner.

I returned to the back deck during dinner and took this shot of the bridge and opera house at night.

That was the end of a long day.  We have an early departure tomorrow.

3/27/2019 (Wednesday)  We were up at 4am this morning for a 5:30 bag pickup and a 7:15 departure to the Sydney airport.  We fly to Queenstown, New Zealand today.

It was just getting light as we left the hotel. 

We took the expressway - which included a long tunnel ride - to the airport and arrived fairly quickly.  Here's the group getting ready to go check in.

I was impressed that Tauck had their own baggage handlers at the airport.  Check out the writing on this guy's shirt.

Without too much delay we cleared customs and security, and were waiting for our Qantas flight.

But for some crazy reason, people were spread all over the plane - meaning that married couples were not seated together.  I went and pleaded with this nice Qantas gate agent and he actually moved some people around so that Judy and I could sit together.

And even better, when we got on the plane, we had an empty seat between us.  So Judy had a window and I had an aisle with no one in the middle seat.  The aircraft was a Boeing 737-800 (not the 737-MAX).

When we arrived in New Zealand we had to clear customs and biosecurity (two lines).  Customs went quickly, but after picking up our baggage, going through biosecurity took a long time.  It was mostly because we were last in the line and a lot of people were clearing at the same time.  Clearing the stations wasn't difficult, but it was a long wait.

Once we cleared everything we took our bags out to this red truck and gave our bags to the baggage handlers.  They took our bags to the hotel while we went to a jet boat ride.

The bus took us to this lake in Queenstown, directly to the jet boat dock. This is what a jet boat looks like on the water.

We went donned flotation gear.  Here's Judy modeling the latest in float wear.


It's very hard to take pictures of an event when you're in the middle of it.  And I was in the middle of the boat, which meant that I could only see the faces of those behind me.  I should have sat in the front seat and I would have been able to get pictures of more of the people, and more scenery as well.

After the jet boat ride we wandered through the town and then went to the Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa and checked in.  It was fairly late by then, perhaps 6pm, so we had dinner in one of the hotel restaurants with two other couples and then hit the hay.

Tomorrow we have another early day.




Our adventure continues here