I am on the relatively uncrowded and pleasant Virgin Australia flight 1413 on my way from Sydney to Cairns, the northernmost true "city" on Australia's east coast. It's the second leg of a three week journey started last Monday evening with an equally enjoyable flight from LAX to Sydney. (Actually, the LAX-SYDNEY may qualify as the single most relaxing and enjoyable flight in my rather lengthy travel life. But more about that in a future column.)
This trip, planned for more than a year as yet another aspect of my wife and my continuing No Opportunity Wasted lifestyle, is designed to give us our first taste of both Australia and, significantly, our first venture into the Southern Hemisphere. While we are both considered well-traveled, it has all been north of the Equator. And, as ventures go, we recognize this is a light toe into the water versus a complete plunge into the unknown.
But that doesn't prevent it from being a NOW event for us. Tomorrow morning we head out on a boat to spend the day snorkeling around three spots on The Great Barrier Reef. This has been something on our list for years, and nicely fits into the same glove as some of our previous ventures snorkling along Hawaii's Na Pali coast; whale watching in Hawaii, Alaska and among the San Juan Islands; a few days around polar bears in Canada; and swimming with dolphins in Mexico.
Since the vast majority of our travels find us, at one point or another, away from the Madding Crowd and usually off-road, the first visit down under also includes some day trips in rainforests (Queensland and New South Wales) and variations on small group tours for wine-tasting, sightseeing and other local and cultural events. We try to get a taste, unhurried and as untouristy as possible, of the area. In the case of Queensland we want to spend some time learning about the aboriginals and their culture, as well as getting out into areas not necessarily touched on or seen by the majority of tourists who happen to blow through.
From the vibrant city chaos of Sydney to the gentle downpour of the Piha Rain Forest in New Zealand, I'll be sharing it all: my thoughts, some memories and recommendations, and a passel of pictures to bring it a little closer to home.
Stay tuned, and thanks for joining us.
* All photos in this week's entry are from the trip and were added after the text was written.