Downunder Finale ... Dec 16/17, 2016
Our original gang of 22 in New Zealand on November 22nd.
Our Road Scholar group spent an entire month tromping through New Zealand and Australia, both comparatively remote island nations with unique biodiversity. We did our best to protect and, at the same time, appreciate those special environments. We learned as we toured, from the Seacoast to Rotarua's geyser to the Outback and the Great Barrier Reef, and including Sydney's one-of-a-kind Opera House, and, speaking for me and Jimmy, it was our great good fortune to be a part of such a dynamic group. We met a whole lot of nice people on this trip, made new friends. Jimmy and I owe a huge thank you to Albert Sword, our group leader, who put up with us for that long month. 😉 Honestly, he shepherded us every step of the way -- thank you, Albert.
Meeting before dinner that last night, the group shared its memories and highlights, what stood out, what meant the most to each person. Uniformly, we agreed that the exchange of ideas (or our enlightenment) was singularly the greatest gift, and realizing how little we really knew was the biggest surprise. Our in-depth absorption of other political systems and cultures, geology, local flora and fauna, and so much more, propelled us along; the month flew by. Did I mention fun? Every day we participated in adventures! It was all grand fun ... yet it was time for the journey to end, and for us to return to our everyday lives. We were saddened at the thought.
On our last night in Cairns, had a lovely "Farewell to Australia" dinner at the hotel, (above) with complimentary wine, or, in our case, Bundaberg Ginger Beer. I thought the ginger beer was very tasty (never had it before).
Here's another new bird for me, and it was on the ground right outside our room before we checked out Thursday morning -- a Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles), aka Masked Plover, native to Australia. It has an all-white neck and large yellow wattles, and a black hair-do ... makes for a strange face! Of course you knew I'd post another bird picture!
And a closer-up of the red Schefflera flowers, also just outside our room.
If you enlarge it, you will see they look like berries at this stage.
Friday morning, we packed our bags one more time, and at 10:30am, we boarded our coach to the airport and the 3-hour flight to Sydney, the staging area for our return to the states. Cairns, below, was a wonderful area to visit. That's the Barron River running through it.
Our flight took us over the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef, which was a real delight.
The aqua color below? They're reefs.
We overnighted in Sydney, breaking bread at dinner in our hotel one final time with our trip buddies. Saturday morning, the 17th, Day 31 of our trip, we closed those suitcases a final time, checked out of the hotel, and boarded the coach for the Sydney airport. There were hugs all around at the airport, and we said our bittersweet farewell to Albert.
I know we were onboard the Qantas Airbus 380 (double decker) and ready to roll down the runway at 11:10am when I took the photo below. Technically, we took off Saturday morning at 11:30, and we landed at LAX (Los Angeles) on Saturday morning at 6:30, crossing the International Date Line and the Equator. Back to the future? Nope, back into yesterday! We landed before we took off? Talk about screwing up your inner time clock!
Because we left in daytime when the body is normally awake, it was difficult to sleep on the 14-hour flight to Los Angeles. Eventually we "ran into" darkness, and I guess I dozed (Jimmy slept), but I promise you that it took us (me, especially) a full week to return to Pacific Standard Time and "normal." Truth be told, we were worn out. Oh well, we managed.
Don't know if you can read this, but they fed us well and often aboard Qantas.
From Los Angeles, Jimmy and I boarded our LAST flight of this trip (the 13th flight) to Sacramento. It was delayed, which was good because that meant Matt could (and did) pick us up at the airport around 1pm.
We had another trip scheduled in our motor home (Tergel) beginning Wednesday, Dec 28th, for a week in Pasadena at the Rose Parade. And Christmas was mixed in there, too! With jet lag, and Christmas, and topsy-turvey weather (from warm Southern Hemisphere summer to cold Northern Hemisphere winter), it didn't take us long to realize we'd overextended ourselves (to put it mildly). Hey, we survived! But, we learned a lesson ... let a little grass grow under our feet between trips!
"An Odyssey Down Under" -- Rewarding, enjoyable, worthwhile, a bucket list fantasy come true, yes; the best of the best. Thank you, Road Scholar. (If you would like to read the entire trip, click on "Road Scholar" under Labels at left, or if you prefer a certain section, click on it; i.e., Australia, New Zealand, or even individual cities, such as Auckland or Sydney. I know some of the posts are long, but those adventurous, full days equal long posts! Enjoy!)
Ohhhhh, I wonder what 2017 will bring?