I think Australia has to be a country which has the 'Welcome' sign out.
In just a touch over a week from now, as I write this, we will be winging our way Down Under for three weeks exploring the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. It's our first time south of the Equator despite a lifetime of travel -- I've seen a good chunk of the Northern hemisphere, which I gladly point out means I still have a lot of the world to explore.
As I write this I am aboard JetBlue flight 606 from Long Beach to Seattle. From the looks of it we're somewhere over the Sierras of Northern California. In fact, just ahead to the West I can see the clear conical silhouette of Mt Shasta, with a large lake I would presume to be Lake Shasta just below.
This year has proven to be a breakout year for my time on the road. It's only the tail end of March and I am close to recertifying Silver on USAir/American's Frequent flyer program, and solidly there for my hotel benefits. And that's without any personal time on the road.
The trip to Australia and New Zealand are the first vacation time this year. We are on a three week bender -- a quite long time to be on vacation with just about any employer -- simply because of the distance involved. It's a fifteen hour flight in both directions, and this doesn't include the intra-regional flights, which themselves can last for more than five hours.
Given the scope and scale of the trip we had to make some hard decisions. What was it we wanted to accomplish, and how much time would be required in each destination to do it. Planning required we give up some of the more remote activities -- I'd wanted to drive the Great Ocean Road south of Melbourne, along with a visit to the Faerie Penguins in the same general area. In fact, other than a pass through the Melbourne airport in our transit from Perth to Auckland, we had to give up the south of Australia in its entirely. It's a continent, kids, no way to see everything, even in three weeks.
But we are hitting some major highlights. Sydney, of course, with side trips to the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley Wine region. Our second stop will be north of Cairns in a town called Port Douglas, which gives us a day out on the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling, plus two days each in the Daintree Rain Forest and in the mountains just west of Port Douglas.
The third destination takes us to the West Coast of Australia to dip our toes into the Indian Ocean for the first time, plus a weeklong visit at our friends' house in Perth, with side trips to the Margaret River and Swan Valley wine regions, and Freemantle -- ironically this last puts us within striking distance of having been in each of the cities which have hosted the America's Cup. Not by design but by happy happenstance.
And our last destination finds us on a swing through New Zealand's North Island for a few days in Auckland (also an America's Cup locale) and the Bay of Islands for a little swim with the dolphins.
So there are some exciting times ahead. I'll be posting Dispatches on a regular basis using lower res shots from the iPad, with some follow-up posts in a month with some of the more illustrative shots from my Nikons.
|On the Road Again|