Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Australia Trip 2009

[*Edited to add start of trip was 11/13/09My trip to OZ began in Santa Barbara with a quick flight to LAX; rather than fight Friday night traffic, Grant opted to pay up and save himself a four hour round trip.  I got off the little plane after only 25 minutes and gathered my luggage to head to the connecting flight--which I thought was at the International Terminal.  It wasn't.  After 10 minutes of wandering around I asked an airport worker who directed me to the next terminal.  Luckily all terminals are within easy walking distance at LAX.  After a wait in line, I stepped up to the counter and presented my passport.  After beginning the check in and returning my passport, the clerk asked me if I had a visa.  "A what?", I asked.  She told me I needed a visa to get into Australia, which I did not know.  "No, no one told me I needed one", I said, turning red and getting scared.  "That's okay, I can sell you one for $25", the clerk told me.  At my relieved agreement, she began what seemed like 30 screens of entries but kept getting an error at the end.  After about 15 minutes and three tries she said, "That's it.  I'm done.  I'm done."  I told her, "I'm sorry you're done--because I really want to go to Australia.  I made a quilt.  I'm going to a wedding.  I really want to go to Australia."  She and the other clerks laughed and she stepped aside to let the fast fingers of Brian click away and get me my visa. 

There was a long line through security but finally I was settled at the gate for a long wait for the Virgin Australia plane--along with about 200+ others!  Not having travelled internationally before, I had no idea what to expect, but surely got the unexpected when everyone boarded and immediately "plugged in" to the onboard entertainment systems.  It seems no one converses on planes anymore.  I never spoke more than a couple words to my seat mates the entire night.  It was a lonely way to fly as I did not wish to watch a movie and couldn't read my book without the light bothering my seat mates.  I didn't get much sleep but dozed on and off.  After about 3-4 hours of sitting I wished I'd paid to upgrade from Economy as my rear end got numb and I was constantly changing position.  It was cold flying at 36,000 feet and quite bumpy with turbulence--rather like sitting on a bus. About 13.5 hours later we landed at Brisbane Airport and we all poured through the empty-at-6:30 a.m. Customs department.  I then collected my luggage and after a false start, got to the transfer desk to Virgin Blue for a pass for the train to the domestic terminal 2 km away. While waiting, I saw this:

I have no idea what sort of bird it was, but it called and hopped about on the electric cable for the transfer train.  The train station was so close to the domestic terminal I could have walked to it in the time I waited for the train, but apparently there was no sidewalk.

The wait at the domestic terminal was long but at least I was able to move around and browse in the shops with my newly exchanged Australian dollars.  They had taken away my scissors in Brisbane and I wanted to get some nail clippers or something but was afraid they would take those away too, so my embroidery languished in my carry-on.  The flight was two hours plus but again I dozed and tried to ignore my aching rear end.  At least I had no problems with my ears staying clogged up, which had been my greatest worry! 

Susie greeted me at Cairns and it was so good to see her smiling face and hear her happy greeting.  After collecting my bag we set off for her car, where I immediately went to the passenger side---in America that is!  She redirected me to the other side of her sleek VW convertible and off we went to Cairns for a little shopping and lunch.  I called Grant while we lunched and let him know I had made it safe and sound.  Soon we were driving along the coast road to Port Douglas (about an hour's drive on a windy narrow road).  We stopped at the lookout so I could take pics:

I believe this is Ellis Beach.  The little island off the point in the distance is known as Double Island, according to my map.

Above you can see why this area is known as being "between the rainforest and the reef".  What a glorious drive we had, with views like this at every turn. We talked nonstop, catching up with each other after 9 years since our last meeting. 

Susie did a quick turn through the little town of Port Douglas and then we went down the nearly hidden drive to their beautiful home.   I met her wonderful mate, Jon, and was shown around the house and then to my lovely guest room by the pool.  After a shower and short nap, I felt much better.  We lounged by the pool and heard the Kookaburra and Lorikeets as they flittered about the palms.  At dusk the huge fruit bats with wingspans as big as a crow's left their tree roosts and headed to the rainforest to feast on mangoes.  Sue's son Matt came home and we had a fantastic dinner of stir fry with prawns and pea pods over rice while watching the final two compete on "Australian Idol", and getting to know each other, which was fun.  On the way to my room later that night I spied this Australian animal:

This is a white-lipped green tree frog and there were 6-7 that lived in the pond right next to the back veranda.  They were quiet during the day unless it rained, when they croaked very loud and it sounded like knocking.  I was glad I was forewarned of the sound when it woke me hours later!  And that concludes this travelog entry...more tomorrow!


tooznie said...

the bird as I'm sure you have since discovered is an indian mynah bird and it's an immigrant which is a pest and is destructive to the local birdlife. In the future, get one of those clover pendants for onboard cutting of threads etc.

Banaghaisge said...

Yep horrid mynah - you don't want him. They are like rabbits with wings, totally noxious!!!

Sounds like a lovely trip - I agree with you about like travelling by bus. Way Back When one of my friends was envious about all the o.s. travel I was doing. Got a hard chair and set it right towards the wall, the vaccuum cleaner and turne dit on under the chair and then said "Sit there. For the next 20 hours. While I cough and fart and turn lights on and off beside you. And then you get off at a place just like home. Except they don't speak English".
They got the message!!!
Can't wait till you tell us about the rest!

Stephanie D. said...

What a loooonnnnggg trip! But oh, what beautiful scenery! Love the photos!

Tanya said...

Congratulations on making it to Australia! (I am reminded of the storybook The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The little boy alwyas talks of going to Australia...
I didn't know you could BUY visas! That's an eyeopener! Will be looking forward to more travel log entries!