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This is a discussion on Australian Travelogue... within the Eye Candy forums, part of the Land Plants category; Australia Study Abroad Tour As many of you know, I teach at a small liberal ...
Australia Study Abroad Tour
As many of you know, I teach at a small liberal arts university here in Arkansas. This semester I am teaching a course on Australian Culture and as part of the class, LJA and I took my students to Australia for 12 days. Well, we just returned and I thought many of you might like to see what we did. It was a huge learning experience and we had some great times. I have hundreds of photos, but have scaled down to these here to share with my OrchidTalk friends.
We left on March 14 and arrived in New South Wales, Sydney, Australia on March 16, skipping the ‘Ides of March’ as we flew across the International Date Line. We touched down around 8:30 in the morning and had a full day of activities planned. First we met our local tour guide and transferred to our hotel. We stayed on Oxford and Riley Street in a very hip and trendy hotel called the Cambridge Inn. This was very near Taylor Square and Surry Hills and full of vibrant people and nightlife. Many of the students along on the trip had not traveled to a really large city before, so they had lots of ‘eye opening’ experiences as you will see in the of the photo below.
After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, we took a walk down Oxford street to find a bus stop. Here we caught a bus to Circular Quay (pounced key) and found nice little places in the ‘Rocks District’ to have lunch. As we were walking to the ‘Rocks District,’ we passed through the Sydney Harbor Area and caught our first glimpses of the Harbor Bridge and the world famous Sydney Opera House. We soon learned that the Harbor Bridge was celebrating its 75th birthday and a huge celebration was planned for Saturday night where 100’s of people will (did) walk across the bridge.
The reason for catching the bus to the ‘Rocks District’ was to participate in a private guided tour of this area of Sydney. This is the area where many of Australia’s folks found their ancestors as this is the area where prisoners were placed and left to manage the land. During our walking tour we saw a huge number of wonderful sites and, along the way, I snapped a photo of a unique flower. As I stopped to take the shot, the tour guide (not knowing anything about me) said, ‘you know that is one of Australia’s native orchids’… I smiled and said – ‘Oh, thanks’ and my students all had a quiet laugh. I do not know the name of the plant or if it is actually an orchid, but that is what the guide said. (looks a bit like a lily to me.)
After our 1.5 hour tour of the ‘Rocks District’ it was time to find a bus back to Darlinghurst where our hotel was waiting. We arrived so early, we were unable to check in that morning. Once back at the hotel, everyone took a quick nap and showered and got ready for dinner. We walked from the hotel over to ‘China Town’ to have dinner that evening. Before dinner was over, many of the kids were falling asleep because of the great time difference. We made our way back to the hotel and crashed for the rest of the night. Before going to sleep, I logged onto OrchidTalk and sent Tim (bench72) a message to let him know that we arrived. We had made plans to have dinner with him on our free day and we wanted him to know we made it to Sydney.
This morning everyone was fresh and excited about our ‘All Day City Sites Tour.’ First thing we had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel. The breakfast was full of fresh fruit and yogurts, as well as the typical fare of pancakes, Aussi sausages and breads. Our guide, Claire, met us after breakfast and we loaded onto our private coach and headed out on the town. She told us about all the areas we drove through and we learned quite a bit. Today’s main agenda was our private tour of the Sydney Opera House, our luncheon cruise of Sydney Harbor, and our cliff walk along Bondi Beach. (Those were the highlights anyway.)
In my class, I had a range of majors, but three of my students were actually students from my primary teaching area, Theatre. So our tour of the Opera House was really exciting. Most days, folks are not allowed to take photos within the actual theatre facilities, but today, the large theatre was ‘dark’ during the time we were there and we were able to snap photos. The theatre was a masterpiece. Completely wood lined and perfectly designed to transmit sound to every corner of the space. We were told that the sound transfer was within .2 seconds to every seat. It was interesting to note that the designer of the structure of the opera house did not design the interiors. He is around 89 or 90 years old today and has never once visited his masterpiece. He is responsible for the unique ‘sails’ (the white tile shapes that everyone around the world recognizes). The government of Australia changed during the construction of the building and they started pressuring the designer to make cuts and changes that would force completion of the structure without regard to design. He refused and quit. They hired other or another designer(s) to design the interior spaces based on the original concepts. Later, the original designer did design one interior room of the opera house, but he still has not visited Australia or the Opera House till this day. (Ok, enough of the history lesson…)
The second theatre (the actual theatre used for Opera) was in use for a ‘load in’. That afternoon they were doing an opera (I forget the name) but the set was being constructed/ assembled on the stage, so I have no photos of this space. The space was amazing though. I was surprised to see how small the actual stage was. I assumed that it would be huge, but it wasn’t and it did not have any wing space. The way they changed scenes was with an elevator in the back of the stage. One set would be on stage, the next below ground level. During a scene change the on-stage set would roll upstage (away from the audience) and onto the elevator. It would be lowered down and the second set loaded onto the elevator and taken up to the stage level. (A really amazing thing to see.) This theatre was painted black, unlike the first theatre which was done in all natural wood tones. The reason was simple. In opera, one is directed to look at the performers, while in the large theatre where they have orchestras and other music events, the audience doesn’t necessarily have to look only at the musicians. They actually never fully take out (turn off) the house lights in the large theatre. In the opera theatre, they do, however, take them all the way out during the performance.
After the Opera House tour, we were taken to the catamaran for our luncheon cruise on the harbor. It was a feast of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats (seafood and other) as well as lots of pastries and cakes to round off the meal. The sites of Sydney from the boat were amazing. It was cloudy that day, but as you can see from the photos, we had breathtaking views. I highly recommend the luncheon cruise if you visit this amazing city.
After lunch we traveled to another point of interest in the history of Sydney, ‘Mrs. Marquaries Chair’, where a wife of a famous governor from Australia’s history would go and sit and enjoy the views of the harbor area. This was right at the edge of Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens. (And beautiful in all respects.) The fig trees here were HUGE.
We finished off day two with a walking tour along the cliffs of Bondi Beach.
We got soaked with rain, but it was warm, so no one really minded. Not many people stayed out on the beach when it began to rain, but there were a few and one amazing sand sculpture. When we loaded back up onto the coach, I expected to hear complaints, but everyone was happy.
This night, we all had dinner on our own and Louis and I ate at a little bistro on Oxford Street. I had fish and chips and they were scrumptious. We drank Australian beer with dinner, Victoria Bitter. A nice and great way to wind down after our second day.
Today, we traveled to Blue Mountains and the rain forest. The Blue Mountains are aptly named because of the eucalyptus trees. The oil they produce absorbs all colors of light except for the blue waves and it reflects the blue waves so when people look at the tree covered hills, they see a blue forest or Blue Mountains. (Sorry for the physics lesson…)
We drove out to ‘Australia’s Grand Canyon’ to see the Three Sisters Rock Formations, but because of the weather, there was a fog covering the canyon. We did enjoy our walk through the rain forest at the base of the canyon though. We rode down into the canyon on the steepest rail car on the planet.
It was SCARY and really fun. Being the RAIN forest, it was of course RAINING, but it did not stop us from having a great time. We all put on big plastic rain coats (that look like trash bags!) and made our way through the rain forest seeing all kinds of wonderful trees and birds. All of the animals one might expect to see in the rain forest were of course sleeping since most are nocturnal creatures. We saw lots of ferns and some pencil orchids (not in bloom – but huge) up in the trees. I think I was most impressed with the size of the tree ferns.
After the walk through the rainforest, we loaded back into our coach and headed to the Featherdale Wildlife Reserve where we met some of Australia’s native animals up close and personal. LJA and my favorite was the Cassewary Bird. It was a huge bird with a large ‘hat’ like horn on the top of its head. It is also the most deadly bird in Australia. It stood about three feet tall, had a blue face and each of its legs ended with feet with three toes. (The center toe being half again as long as the outer toes.) This bird is known to jump up into the air and stick its inner toe into a person like a knife with a kick. It looked like an emu, only bigger and colorful and had the horn-hat. (We later found out that the Cassewary is very beneficial to the rainforest in that it spreads seeds all around. It is also in danger of disappearing off of the planet. Very few remain in the wild. It is estimated that only about 110 are left. So being able to see two was really a nice experience.)
One of the funniest things that happened on the trip happened today. While a few of my students were exploring the reserve on their own, they were looking at the big red kangaroos. These are the ‘boxing’ ‘roos. Anyway, the male roo was feeling a bit frisky and the female really was not that interested, but eventually gave in to the male’s persuasion. As they began their ‘humping’, one Australian man turns to a student in my group and exclaims in a very Australian accent “Looky there, he’s banging her, mate!” This sent my students into a roar of laughter. And all the cameras came out including video. (Later that evening, I was shown my very first Australian porn recorded by one of my students. LOL! My thought was- I wonder what his parents will think of this!)
So, after Featherdale and lots of shopping at the souvenir shop, we again loaded back onto our coach and headed back to Sydney. We were about an hours drive outside of the city. While talking to Collin, our driver for the day, he mentioned the Olympics from the year 2000 that were held in Sydney and wondered if my group might be interested in seeing the Olympic park. YES! I quickly answered, and we took an un-planned tour of the Olympic park.
The park and the history was all amazing. I had not done any research on it and it was all completely new to me. I did recognize parts of the area from television, but I had no idea how large it actually was. As we passed by the ‘memorials’ area, we saw the flag for the Olympics that were held in the states and Colin said, “There is your area” and explained what he meant. He also explained how they did not build lots of hotels or parking near the Olympic Park because they wanted visitors to the Olympics to use their public transport to go to and from the city. It was all very fascinating. One more note about the Olympic Park – It is against copyright to display the Olympic rings in the original colors, so the rings that were there had all been returned to natural colors. I thought that was interesting.
On our way out of the park we noticed a blue line that ran along the left side of the road. (In Australia, they drive on the left side of the street so opposite from here in the states.) Anyway, the line was the runners’ line and it went from the Olympic park to the heart of Sydney in as much of a straight line as possible. As it crossed bridges and intersections, it sometimes ran at a diagonal to the actual road and had to be dashed to keep traffic from following it at night and running off of the road.
Anyway, after the Olympic park, we headed back to the hotel for dinner on our own and plenty of time to relax and unwind from a full day of activities. Being in an area known for partying, LJA and I along with a few of my students decided to see what the night life was like. We walked around and met some very interesting folks and after a full day of activities we were fairly tired, but decided to catch a taxi to the casino. Some of the students wanted to try their luck and I wanted to see the design of the space. We passed by it several times on our tour and it looked huge.
It took us two cabs to get to the casino. Once we were there, three of the students had to return to the hotel to get proper clothes/shoes to enter the place and another had to get his passport. LOL! Finally after several taxi rides later, we walked into the casino and took a look around. I had a pocket full of Australian coin and wanted to try the slot machines. I kept putting money into the machines, but it would just fall straight through. Finally I went to the cashier and asked what was going on and found out that even though the machines were marked 5 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, etc… they only took the dollar coin. I changed a few of my coins for some dollar coins and played a few slots. I lost one dollar.
Meanwhile, my students not finding a black jack table with under a 25 dollar limit decided they wanted to learn to play roulette. We walked over and told them that maybe they should just play red or black and see what happens. Well… they started winning and it was funny because they believed LJA and I could call the color before the wheel stopped spinning. They kept looking to us to say red or black. LOL. Once two of them were really up – like seventy dollars, I said time to stop. They did not want to stop, so we left them there at the tables. By the time we were out the door to get a taxi back to the hotel, they came up behind us and had lost all their money. LOL. Their good luck charms had left and so did their luck. I reminded them that the casino always wins. We all had a good laugh and headed back for the night.
Breakfast this morning was the best yet as today was our ‘Free Day’ in Sydney. So we did not have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch a coach to somewhere. After a leisurely breakfast, LJA and I decided that we wanted to go to the Darling Harbor area today. I had researched on the net to see what we could do today and found that many travelers recommended the Sydney Aquarium. So, Louis, two of my theatre students and I headed off on our way to the Darling Harbor area. It was a short ten minute walk from our hotel and, talk about a beautiful city.
Seeing Hyde Park (named after the park in the UK) was wonderful. It was so green and lush. It was also nice to be away from the group and mixing with everyone on the streets in the daylight. (Very different crowd by day… ) When we got to the harbor, it was so clean.
That surprised us as most big cities I have visited have lots of trash, but not here. Everywhere was perfectly manicured and there were people picking up any trash or cigarette butts, etc that were on the ground. We made our way long the harbor to the Aquarium and when we arrived we were given the option to buy three tickets. (One to the Aquarium, one to Center Point Tower (the really tall tower in the earlier photos) and one to a wildlife zoo of sorts.) Well, since we did not really have any set plans for the morning, we decided to get all three tickets.
The aquarium was unbelievable! It just got better and better as we moved deeper into it. At one of the final exhibits in the aquarium, we walked under water in a glass tube along a huge piece of the Great Barrier Reef that was in this tank. The fish and other underwater creatures were huge and so friendly. I was so in awe that I did not take many photos here, but as you can see, there were lots of great underwater animals.
The zoo area (not the actual Sydney Zoo) was next door to the aquarium and we opted to go there next. It was really nice, but after Featherdale, it was not that exciting. All the animals were behind glass unlike at Featherdale where they were just behind a short fence or a wire enclosure. If planning a visit, you can skip this place if you go to Featherdale.
Next, we trekked over to the Center Point Tower for some excellent views of the city. Here one had the option to do a sky walk outside the top of the tower, but after all the other walking, we opted to just ride the four minute elevator up to the top and stay inside. The view was 360 degrees of the city.
It was really lovely, until a group of kids around 8 years old arrived on three elevators. LOL! They all got off of the lifts and started screaming and running around everywhere.
We met one of the guides who takes folks out on the ‘Sky Walk’ and discussed politics in the US and in Sydney. There is currently an election going on there and it was interesting to see how similar everything is to us here in the states. One thing that was confusing was the titles of the different political groups. In Australia, they have the Liberals and the Labor parties. Here in the states we have the Conservative and the Liberal parties. They over-lap like this: Liberal = Conservative Party in the USA and Labor = Liberal Party in the USA. After we both got on track, our conversation was much more interesting. I usually avoid discussions of politics or religion, but found it very informative with this Australian man. He also recommended Channel 2 on Aussi Television. He said at 9:15 each week night there is a program that ‘Tells it like it is’ on their ABC television. We were leaving the next day for Cairns, so we never were able to watch the program he mentioned, but it did sound like it would be a riot of fun.
After Sydney Center Point Tower, we headed back down to Darling Harbor for lunch.
It was already about 2:00 in the afternoon and LJA and I had plans to meet our forum buddy, Tim for dinner tonight. We had a quick lunch on the pier with two of my students and enjoyed the birds who were trying their hardest to steal our food. As we got up from the table, LJA snapped this photo of the birds taking over the remaining chips from our fish and chips. LOL.
After a walk (mostly up-hill) back to the hotel, we took showers and relaxed until five pm when Tim would arrive to pick us up in our hotel lobby.
I cannot tell you how anxious we felt waiting in the hotel lobby for Tim. I am sure you realize that we have only spoken to him on the internet and have never seen him or heard his voice. We had an idea of what he looked like from his profile photo here on OrchidTalk and the photo he sent to me for the orchid book, Orchids Through Our Eyes, but still it was a bit scary. Anyway, 5 o’clock rolled around and in walked Tim. I was sitting at a computer terminal in the lobby area and we both recognized each other right off.
He had planned to arrive a bit early but had gotten a bit lost (much to his dismay…lol). We introduced ourselves and were off to his car which was just a short walk away. He was so much fun and I could tell right off that the evening was going to be a blast. We arranged with him via OrchidTalk to have dinner at his club, The Royal Automobile Club of Australia. I wasn’t sure of exactly what to wear, but LJA and I put on slacks and a collared shirt and hoped that it would be enough. We were relieved to see Tim dressed the same way. (Later that night, I got the message from Tim about what to wear. LOL! Louis and I had a good laugh at that.)
Our first stop with Tim was at his and Steve’s home. We got to see all of his orchids – and talk about addiction, he had orchids everywhere. It was wonderful!! They all looked so healthy and were literally in every corner of his back yard. We met his pups who were so well behaved and had tea and chocolate on his patio among his orchids and next to his splashing pond of gold fish. (Could it get any better!) After we finished our tea and had a good talk, we decided to go for a walk with him and his ‘kids’ in the dog park just across the way from his beautiful home. I brought my camera along in my pocket, but never once thought to snap any photos. I was so sad when we got home because we had such a good time there.
Anyway the dog park was this huge, well maintained park with ponds and paved pathways in the middle of his suburb. There were all kinds of dogs and their owners all over the park, many recognizing our host and saying hello as their pups ran around meeting each other and looking for the stray cat to chase. We walked up to the top of a hill before turning to head back. Once at the top, we had an amazing view of Sydney. Tim mentioned that they sometimes come there to see the fireworks. I could see why. It was truly breathtaking.
After returning back to Tim’s home and getting the pups settled back in, we again loaded into Tim’s car and he drove us to meet Steve at the club. I can tell you I was so excited. When we arrived at the parking level, Steve was there waiting and we all were introduced. And again, I felt like I was just meeting a friend I had known forever. Talk about a classy guy, Steve was great. He took us into the club and gave us a bit of its history. After signing in, we were invited to go to a bar area and have a drink. After we got drinks, all courtesey of our host, we sat in a room that can only be described like something out of a movie. Dark leather sofas and chairs arranged in small intimate groupings throughout a beautiful old room – full of history. On each table was found a spray of dendrobiums in small, perfect little vases.
We first talked a bit about the forum and then theatre and then a bit about law and the differences and similarities in our law processes. Wonderful conversations all around. After finishing our drinks, we headed to the lifts and up to the dining level on the seventh floor. The dining room was beautiful and had windows all around. My view from the table included a window that looked out on the Sydney Harbor Bridge all lit beautifully. We decided on white wine and ordered out our entrées and mains. Then the food started arriving. WOW! It was incredible. These guys showed us the best time. Everything was just as beautiful as it was tasty. And of course, we all ordered deserts – even though we were stuffed! The deserts were wonderful and we each shared a bit round the table. After dinner, Tim and Steve picked up the tab and we all headed back to the lifts to make our way back to the car. I was a little sad that the evening was wrapping up, but we had taken up about 5 hours of Tim’s time by this point, so I am sure they were ready for some piece and quiet away from the touristy Americans. LOL.
They dropped us off at the hotel and when we said good bye, there were hugs all around. We really felt like we have made friends for a lifetime. Folks don’t come any more gracious than Tim and Steve. (Thanks guys for such a wonderful time. It truly was the highlight of our time in Sydney!)
After they drove off, Louis and I walked into the hotel both stuffed and with huge smiles on our faces. We rode up the lift to our room in silence. When we got inside, we went out onto the balcony and talked about how lucky we were to have met such wonderful people and to have had such an amazing visit to Sydney. Tomorrow morning would be a trek to the airport for our flight to Cairns in Queensland, Australia. We would have to say goodbye to Sydney and that made us both a little sad.
A new day and finally we all seem to be adjusted to the time change. LOL – or so I thought. I told my group to meet at our coach to the airport at 8:30 am for a 8:45 am departure. Easy, right? Well for all but two it was. My instructions were, bring your packed luggage, your carry-on luggage and your passport and tickets to the bus. Show me the passport and the tickets and then get on for our transfer. Two young ladies on the trip did not show up on time and put us dangerously close to missing our group check-in time at the Sydney Airport. As the first of the two girls entered the coach, she presented her tickets and passport. All good. The second did not have her tickets or passport. She said that she put them in her suitcase and that she checked them the night before to be sure. I asked again, because my gut was that she was not so sure, but she again assured me that the tickets and passport were in here suitcase. I allowed her to board and we were off to the airport. During our short 30 min. ride to the airport, this same young lady presented her passport to me. It was actually in her backpack and this she said proved that she packed her tickets as well. (I was a little worried, but thought she must have them since she had her passport.)
We arrive at the airport and instead of going to the departure area, we go to the arrivals area because I have arranged a group check-in with the airline. I thought it would be faster and it was recommended by a tour guide a few days earlier. All I had to do was line up the members of my group, take their paper ticket to Cairns, give them a group luggage tag for their checked baggage and we would get our boarding passes. EASY! Well, as you have probably guessed, the young lady could not find her ticket. And worse, could not find any of her tickets for the return flights back to the US and Arkansas. We took everything out of her bag and spread it out on the floor. She had so many clothes and so much other stuff. I could not believe it all came out of a suitcase that weighed under 70 kgs – but it did! No ticket to be found anywhere.
The lady at the group check-in could not be bothered with our little problem, but did finally allow the rest of the group to have their boarding passes since our flight was to board in about 25 minutes. LJA took the rest of the group to the gate and I went with the student without a ticket to the ticket re-issue booth so she could buy a replacement. Problem was, we did not have her ticket number. It was the middle of the night in the States and could not get it through any computer system. It looked as if she was going to have to purchase a new ticket all together and fly up to Cairns on her own.
We took a chance and called the hotel and asked if they would PLEASE look in the room for the ticket. We gave them a few minutes and then called back. No ticket. The room was ‘a mess, but empty.’ So it was at this point that we discovered that she didn’t have a credit card with her. so it looks as if I am going to be buying her new tickets with my card.
Then our luck started turning around. We heard an announcement that our flight to Cairns was delayed. It would not board until just over an hour and thirty minutes. AND another student who was the roommate of this student had been calling the hotel again while we were trying to get tickets reissued. She suggested that the housekeeping staff look inside the bed sheets for the ticket. And guess what – all of the flight coupons were there. The hotel staff hailed a cab, gave the tickets to the driver, and asked him to bring them to the airport and look for an American girl in a white t-shirt and blue jeans at Quantas departures area. LOL. I thought that that ticket would never make it. 40 minutes later a cab swerves over to where we are standing with a piece of notebook paper with the girl’s last name and the words ‘ticket’ on it. The cost of the cab fare was 30 dollars, but we got the tickets. Once we made it through security, it was just about boarding time for our flight.
Another silly event happened that I was unaware of while helping the student at the ticket counter. LJA took the other students to the gate and one other young lady got stopped at security because of an illegal item in her bag. SHE had a butter knife in the expansion zipper of her carry-on bag. It must have fallen off the breakfast table and into the zipper slot which was still opened about an inch and one-half. LOL! Needless to say, it was lucky that we made it through the airport that morning.
We had a fairly uneventful flight to Cairns. Upon arrival, the hot humid air was a welcomed replacement to the cold stale air of the coach passage on the flight. Our driver and private bus was waiting with a sign at baggage claim and we all loaded into the coach with a renewed excitement about the beach town where we will be visiting one of the ‘seven natural wonders of the world.’
After transfer to the hotel, we had a few drinks and relaxed around the pool. This evening we would be attending an Aboriginal Culture Park presentation: Tjapukai at Night.
Around 7:30 pm, a huge bus arrived to take us the Tjapukai Culture Park for a dinner buffet featuring the best of the region’s fare and great Australian wine as well as the theatre performance that would follow.
When we arrived, we were taken into a black-box theatre where we were introduced to the Tjapukai performers and participated in a fire-starting ritual which was really fun and loved by all who participated. Then we transferred to the dinner theatre and had one of the best buffet meals of the trip so far. After dinner the performers put on a show and taught us a tiny bit about Aboriginal Culture and entertained us with song and dance.
We returned to the hotel full and tired from a long day of activities.
This morning we had a continental breakfast at the hotel and were picked up by our private coach to head to the Kuranda Village. This was a bit of a disappointment since we were supposed to go to the Freshwater station and board the Kurands Scenic Train. The train was out due to mudslides in February, so we drove up into the hills and deep into the rainforest. It was a beautiful drive, but I would have liked to have taken the train as it ‘passes through 15 hand cut tunnels and spectacular waterfalls.’ LOL!
Anyway, we arrive in the Kuranda Village at around 9:00 am. The little town is just opening up. It is really a tourist town full of shops offering everything from locally made mango wine (yummy) to musical instruments and everything in between.
We took a short detour through Bird World, where LJA made a new friend or two.
Then, around 11:30 we boarded the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This is the longest skyrail in the world and glides over the canopy of the rainforest. We had two stops along the way to venture down into the rainforest and get a close up look at a huge waterfall. The final ride took us down the mountain with breathtaking views of the Coral Sea and Green Island. Once back on land, we headed over to the Tjapukai Cultural Park again. This time to visit the History and Creation Theatres and the Bush Camp. It was so much fun. We all learned so much about the Aboriginal people of North Queensland. Before leaving to return to the hotel, we participated in a boomerang throwing demonstration. We each were given the opportunity to throw the boomerang. Lots of fun!
We transferred back to the hotel and LJA and I went shopping at the local supermarket. We had a small refrigerator in the room, so we got some lunch meat and some feta cheese and crackers to snack on until dinner time. We also hit the ‘bottle shop’ so LJA could enjoy some more of the Victoria Bitter Beer we tried in Sydney.
Around 7:00 pm, LJA and I made our way to a Greek restaurant where we enjoyed live music and some of the best Souvlaki ever! We met the owner of the restaurant and then he introduced us to his brother, the singer/ musician performing. It was a wonderful time. We even enjoyed a little ouzo (opah!) heheheh…
After a walk around the downtown area, we retired for the evening full and ready for sleep.
Today we head out to Green Island. Green Island is the only rainforest growing on the Great Barrier Reef and sometimes referred to as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is a 6000 year old coral quay. We took a coach to the pier and boarded a huge catamaran that would take us out to the island. It was a 45 minute ride and was spectacular. As we made our way out the Great Barrier Reef, we all prepared for a day of fun in the sun.
Included today in our tour was a buffet lunch, glass bottom boat, snorkeling equipment, and guided rainforest walks on the island. We were reminded yesterday that the UV ray index in Northern Queensland is around 15 because of a hole in the ozone layer. Everyone was encouraged to put on plenty of sunscreen. Also this was the time of the year for jellyfish to be in the water. Everyone was also encouraged to get ‘stinger suits’. These were blue spandex suits that covered every part of one’s body except for your toes and the front part of your head (face). I cannot tell you how much everyone in my group hated the idea of getting into the tiny blue spandex suits. LOL! I made sure LJA’s camera was locked into a locker that I had the key for before putting on my suit. LOL
Since LJA did not have contacts, he did not go snorkeling but instead decided to lay out on the beach. I joined a few of my students and headed out to the open sea to find coral and fish. AND WOW! We did. It was some amazing seeing. I saw mostly colorful fish. The coral was for the most part damaged. (500 visitors a day for 25 years does that to a place). Next trip, I will pay to go out to the outer reef where fewer people actually visit.
One of my students decided that the stinger suit made her look terrible so she took it off and joined others on the beach. Well, after about an hour she had third degree burns on her arms. She just looked red, but after a couple of days, huge blisters appeared and when we returned to the states, she was put on major antibiotics and skin treatments. The doctors here in Clarksville said that they had never seen such sun damage before.
LJA and I took a walk through the rainforest on Green Island and by the time we returned, everyone was just about ready to leave. On the way back to the mainland, we rode on the top level of the Catamaran and the fresh salty air was amazing. I remember thinking how lucky we all were to be here on such a lovely day.
After returning to the hotel, I decided to walk into downtown and see if I could find an internet café. I did and searched for a good restaurant for the evening meal. I found one called the Raw Prawn and so around 7:30 we headed down to the Esplanade for dinner. I had calamari and Louis had kangaroo and emu. One of my students ordered crocodile and another just had the prawns. It was a great meal full of very different flavors.
DAY EIGHT & NINE
These were free days in Cairns. I will not bore everyone with the minutia of the days, but on the second day, everyone went to the market and bought meats and cheeses and we had a cookout. The hotel where we were staying had a wonderful area with picnic tables and an electric grill. So we cooked up some Australian fare and had a party. It was so much fun. All of the students joined us and we laughed well into the night. It was our last night in Australia and we made the most out of it.
DAY TEN (the day that would never end…)
So, Sunday March 25 is a day that I will never forget. We boarded our coach at 3:20 am for transfer to the Cairns international airport. A couple of my students were worried that they would not wake up, so they decided to stay up all night and found a local club where they got five sheets to the wind. I did not envy them having to sit on a 14 hour flight with a hang-over, but they are adults. When we got to the airport, we had to wait until 4:30 am for the check-in counter to open. Everyone got boarding passes to Brisbane and we made our way to the gate. We boarded our first flight around 5:20 am and arrived in Brisbane three hours or so later. From Brisbane we would travel back to LA. When we got to Brisbane, we were directed to go through additional security because we would be traveling to the United States. Everyone’s carry-on luggage was searched and all of our liquids and gels were tossed out. (Including the student’s aloe Vera burn cream. She had to toss it even though she had water filled blisters the size of quarters on her right arm and chin. She looked horrible.)
After boarding the long flight, I watched a couple of movies and set my watch to Arkansas time so that I would go to sleep when I was supposed to. We were flying back across the International Date Line and so even though we left Brisbane at 11:00 am on Sunday, we would arrive in LA at 7:30 am the same morning. We finally arrived in Fayetteville, Arkansas at 7:00 pm on Sunday night and three students’ luggage was lost between LA , Dallas, and Fayetteville.
We loaded up into our school vans. LJA drove the luggage van and I drove the people van and we made our way back down the mountain to Clarksville where we arrived around 9:15 p.m. After unloading the vans, Louis and I drove home and crashed.
I had work the next morning; Classes at 9, 10 and 11 am, so sleep was the most important thing when we returned home. All of our pets were so happy to see us and I was glad to be back in my own bed.
I hope you all enjoyed my travel journal. I enjoyed re-writing it for you.
Bruce, what a delightful account of your trip to Australia! You really succeeded in imparting the spirit of the trip as well as the itinerary. Your photos are wonderful, although, after reading some of the things that happened, I don't know how in the world you and Louis managed to look so relaxed and happy!
I can't imagine escorting a group of kids that age on an international trip! Yikes! You are a BRAVE man! And they're not even LJA's students but it sounds like he's in there shepherding them too.
My only regret of your travelogue is the lack of pictures of our dear PoP on your free afternoon in Sydney. But thinking about it, the fact that it didn't even occur to you to get your camera out means that you were having a very special time. It sounds like Tim and Steve were wonderful hosts.
I know you must have been exhausted when you got back, and I'll bet you had that funny feeling you get when you get on a plane in one culture, and off in your own--like it was all a dream or something. But what wonderful memories! I'm so glad you got to go and that you so generously shared the experience with us! Welcome back!
Australia looks like paradise! The sky is blue and everything looks so clean. Those tree ferns look ancient!
Thanks for your very detailed travelogue I enjoyed reading it.
Thanks BD, that was great to read.
It was nice to see some photos of you and LJA too - gives me a better mental picture of who is talking on the forum, and being referred to!
Glad to hear that you all enjoyed the trip, and I hope your sunburnt student is feeling better.
Thanks for taking the time to read through all of that. lol! I appreciate the kind comments. And yes, the student is much better. She still goes to the hospital each day to have the bandages on her arm replaced, but the fever blisters on her mouth have just about gone away.
Thanks for taking all the time you did to write and post the accounts of your trip down under! WOW.
I honestly must admit (despite my love of snakes...) that australia and the amount of poisonous things that call it home(spiders, snakes, etc.) gives me the willies. But, your awesome photos and descriptions make me want to brave it!
What wonderful memories for you, Louis AND the students to carry for ever!
Thank you for the chance to experience and see a new perspective of this wonderful place I call Home!
And the time with you and Louis, well it is truly one of my the best times of my life, what great fun, everyone so at ease, like true friends catching up again...
Can't wait to catch up again!
oh, and hopefully, this account will get a few more people to come and visit Oz!