Monday, November 28, 2011

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 12: Oahu (day 2)

The music I listened to in the car in 2002 was on CDs. Now I would have plugged my iPhone into the AUX jack and listened to mp3s. But it still would have been the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett. Today's pictures are here.

Wednesday, October 2: Oahu
Chasing a rainbow on the Kamehameha Highway

I had decided that today was going to be my day to explore the island outside of Waikiki – get a rental car and just drive, stopping where I want and seeing what there is to see. All within reason, of course, as I had to drop my rental car off by 7 pm, so that left me roughly 12 hours if I picked it up when the place opened. I actually picked it up at 8, and then drove down the H1 Highway to Pearl City to see the USS Arizona Memorial. Tunes for the trip are courtesy of the Beach Boys Greatest Hits and the 4-disc Jimmy Buffett set, "Boats, Beaches, Bars, and Ballads".

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 11: Oahu (day 1)

I called my family and friends on my cell phone from the beach in Hawaii, and everyone was amazed. In 2011 I talked to my friends and family via Skype, text message, and FaceTime, and nobody thinks twice about it. Today's photos are here.

Tuesday, October 1 (again): Oahu
Aloha from the beach

I woke up and it was October 1st again. Hmm, déjà vu… didn’t I wake up yesterday in Sydney and it was October 1st then too? Ah, the joys of crossing the international date line. I experienced the night of 9/30 to the morning of 10/1 twice, in exchange for not having a 9/15 on my way out to Australia. But it’s Hawaii, what’s there to complain about?

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 10: SYD to HNL

For a 3-week trip to Australia and Hawaii in 2002, I took a 30" suitcase and packed it with 32 kg (70 lbs) of stuff. In 2011, for a 10-week trip to Europe, I took a 26" suitcase and packed it with 19 kg (43 lbs) plus a 4 kg (8 lb) backpack. I think I had about 8 days worth of clothes on this 2002 trip, including 2 pairs of jeans, vs 6 days in 2011; also, I packed all of my scuba gear to save a few bucks on rentals, my suit and dress shoes for the wedding at the end of the trip, and I had bought a few books to take home.

Tuesday, October 1 to Monday September 30: Sydney to Honolulu
The Time Zone Shuffle

Sigh. I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to have to leave. But circumstances demand it. I checked out of the hotel and caught the second shuttle to the airport. I planned to take the Airport Shuttle bus as part of my SydneyPass (which includes a free round-trip to and from the airport). When I inquired at the front desk they insisted that the shuttle would pick me up at the front of the hotel, which conflicted with the official map of the bus route, as that indicated the stop was a couple blocks away. Sure enough, at 7:30 the airport shuttle showed up – a shuttle VAN, hired by the hotel and requiring a payment, not the shuttle BUS that I had already paid for. Luckily the next bus stopped at its regular place about 14 minutes later, and it was off to the airport.

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 9: Sydney (day 5)

I did my city bus tour on my last day, because I didn't plan well - that should have been the first day. And the fact that the flight from Yulara was mid-day didn't occur to me, so I lost a day that I might have tried to gain back by staying one less day in the Outback so I could stay one more day in Sydney. Of course, had I not been going to a wedding in California on Saturday, then I could have stayed another two days in Sydney, but this trip was planned around the wedding. As it was, there were a number of things I didn't get to do that I had wanted to, but there's always next time. Today's pictures are here.

Monday, September 30: Sydney
Where did the time go?

Monday – my last full day in Australia. It’s bittersweet, although I’m looking forward to getting back to the US, I really don’t want to leave. I love being here and I already want to come back.

Today is “leftover day”, originally planned to be my trip out west to the Blue Mountains but I’m all natured out for a while, so I’ll try to hit all the things I missed over the last few days. Impossible, I’m sure, but I’ll see what I can fit in.

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 8: Sydney (day 4)

I found out in 2011 that Zenbu had closed a few years before. And in 2002, they didn't have Skype or any of the VOIP internet phones, so we had to use calling cards. The view of the Sydney skyline from Taronga Zoo is one of my favorite images of my whole trip. The rest of the pictures from today are here.

Sunday, September 29: Sydney
Koalas, Sharks, and a Zenbu (oh my!)

Happy Birthday, Mom. Although when I wake up at 9 a.m., it’s still 6 pm on the 28th, so I have to wait til tomorrow my time to wish it to her in person. She doesn’t know that I’ve arranged with Dad to call her at home at 10 pm on the 29th (Houston time, which is 1 pm on the 30th in Sydney). In preparation, I bought a phone card that gives me international calls for just 50 cents a call plus 4.9 cents a minute. Thanks to the “backpacker” culture that exists in Australia (and all over Europe too), there’s a large infrastructure here that caters to the extreme-budget traveler, in the form of hostels ($10 per night, as long as you don’t mind sharing a dorm-style room in bunkbeds with several other people – though that’s a good way to meet people), special tours, discounted meals, internet cafes, and phone cards. For $10, I get a card that gives me about 3 hours of talk time to use over the next 48 hours or so.

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 7: Sydney (day 3)

There's a point in here where I mention my then-new digital camera and how I had to empty the flash card daily to make room for the next day's photos - it only held 190 pictures, and at the size I was taking, that means it was a 64MB card. With my current camera, I'd get maybe 30 pictures. I still copy all my day's photos onto my computer today, but that's for fear if I lose the camera I don't want to lose everything (and I did lose my camera in 2009 in Hong Kong, but that's another story).

Photos from today can be found here.

Saturday, September 28: Sydney
On the Waterfront

Saturday is the day to sleep in, at least in my house. So I slept all the way til 9 a.m., which is like 3 hours before I usually get up at home. But there were places to go, things to see, boats to catch…

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 6: Sydney (days 1-2)

Day 1 in Sydney was lost due to the late flight from Yulara, but I got to walk around at night. On Day 2, I wanted to do the Bridge Climb as soon as possible, but in retrospect I should have done the hop on/hop off bus tour that was included with my Sydneypass early instead of waiting til the last day (when I realized that I hadn't done it yet). In Cairns, I was on the boat pretty much the whole time, and in the Outback I had put together a series of small tours, but Sydney offered me the opportunity to do what I wanted, when I wanted to, and as a result I ended up making some real-time adjustments to my pre-planned itinerary.

Photos accompanying these two days can be found here.

Thursday, September 26: Sydney
From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans

Finally made it to Sydney for the second time this trip, but this time for more than an airport transfer. I picked up my Sydneypass, which allows unlimited use of the public transport system (ferry, bus, train) and the special Bondi and Sydney Explorer tour buses, plus a round-trip on the Airport Express. I got a 7-day pass, as they offered only 3, 4, and 7 days (I figured I’d be there parts of six days so I’d get a 7-day pass). But because we got in later than scheduled, and because the bus had to make its way through rush-hour traffic, I didn’t get to the hotel until around 6:30 pm. So much for my day in Sydney.

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 5: Yulara

After three nights in Alice Springs, my tour package took me to Yulara for two more nights. The first day we toured The Olgas, the second day was Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the Sounds of Silence dinner. Unfortunately, the flight left at midday on the third day, early enough that I couldn't do anything in Yulara and late enough that I lost the daylight in Sydney.

Tuesday, September 24: Alice Springs to Yulara
From the mountains to the prairies

Tuesday starts early as the bus picks us up for the long ride to the town of Yulara, where the Ayers Rock Resort is. In fact, Yulara is the Ayers Rock Resort, as there’s nothing else to the town except for the resort (it’s got its own post office, bank, and supermarket). It’s about 350 km (220 miles) from Alice Springs to Yulara, so we’re in a nice coach (bus). It’s still early, though.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 4: Alice Springs

From Cairns (CNS), I flew to Alice Springs (ASP) in the Outback for three nights.

Saturday, September 21, 2002: Cairns to Alice Springs
From the Tropics to the Desert

Flight 1949 is officially a QantasLink flight, a BAe146 Avro RJ plane. I lucked out and got seated in row 3, just behind first class, which meant that I had extra foot room, and there was nobody in the middle seat.  Flying out over the Outback reminded me a lot of the US desert Southwest, with the mountains and colors and few signs of civilization.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 3: Great Barrier Reef

Spent my next few days on a liveaboard dive boat, the Nimrod Explorer run by Explorer Ventures (who no longer operate out of Cairns). This was a 4-night, 5-day trip from Cairns up to Cooktown, with a flight back to Cairns at the end. Tuesday night we left Cairns and voyaged overnight to our first dive spot for Wednesday morning. Then we did several dives per day: 4 on Wed., 5 on Thurs., and 4 on Friday, flying back to Cairns (CNS) from Cooktown (CTN). I did 11 dives over the 3 days, skipping the last 2 on Friday due to my flight time from Cairns to Alice Springs the next day. Here's a map showing locations of Cairns, the Reef, Cooktown, and Lizard Island.

Previously: Part 2, Cairns

Wednesday Sept. 18 to Saturday Sept. 21, 2002: The Great Barrier Reef
Diving the Reef

The crew of the Nimrod consisted of Ian, the captain; Klaus, the mechanic/first mate; John and Shiori, dive instructors; Molly, the hostess; and Jen, the chef. Jen was formerly a professional chef so we were treated to some outstanding meals during our time aboard ship. A typical day started with wakeup at 6:30 a.m., breakfast at 7:00, dive #1 at 8:00, dive #2 at 11:00, lunch at 12:30, dive #3 at 2:00, dive #4 at 4:30, then dinner.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 2: Cairns

Flying from Honolulu to Sydney (HNL - SYD), then catching a connection to Cairns (CNS). I had the rest of that day free, and then the rainforest tour the next morning before meeting my shipmates for my dive trip on the night of the second day in Cairns. At the time, the exchange rate was considerably in my favor, the Australian dollar was worth only about 55 cents USD. Here's a map showing the relative locations of Cairns, Kuranda, the Tjapukai Center, and my dives over the next few days.

Previously: part 1, Houston to Honolulu

Monday, September 16: Honolulu to Sydney to Cairns
Planes, planes, and automobiles

Breakfast was at 5:30 – an omelette, a sausage, yogurt, and fruit. The movies (which I slept through) were “Changing Lanes”, “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”, and “Life or Something Like It.” I had an emergency exit aisle seat on this 747-200 (an old one, one of only 3 in the Qantas fleet), which was nice for the legroom (but since it was over the wing, there was no view out the window. When I checked in at Honolulu, I thought of asking for a tall blonde Australian woman to sit next to me. Astonishingly, even though I didn’t ask for that, I got it anyway. I should have asked for a single woman, though. This six-foot blonde Aussie was a PhD professor at the University of New South Wales in the Environmental Management program. We didn’t get to talk all that much due to the overnight sleeping, but I did get some suggestions on things to do in Sydney.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Australia/Hawaii 2002, part 1: Honolulu

Flashback to my "Down Under: World Tour 2002", part 1, wherein I go from Houston to Honolulu to Sydney (IAH - HNL - SYD). In retrospect, reading this seems almost quaint - I had a new digital camera for the first time, and I had my new-ish Palm m505 PDA to take notes on and to keep my calendar straight (and as I found out much later, the m505 problem was caused by a buggy game that I loaded right before I left). Apparently it was the first in-flight entertainment system flight I had taken, too. Except for the stuff I spontaneously did, I did most of my planning for this trip over the internet on my own.

Saturday, September 14, 2002: Houston to Honolulu
The longest day (or: Delayed and De-lei’d)

Well, I’m off to a flying start – pun intended. After a restful 3-1/2 hr sleep, my alarm goes off at 5:30 so I can leave at 6. Which I actually do, surprisingly. On my way to the airport I took a wrong turn (I misremembered how the highways and airport are laid out) and lost nearly a half hour while I backtracked. That got me to the airport check-in line at 7:11, just within the 30-minute check-in rule for a 7:45 flight. Oops, they changed the time of the flight, it’s now at 7:40 so I’m 29 minutes before the flight. And therefore I can’t take that flight. Originally, I was to have left at 7:45 with a 40 minute layover in LA, getting into Honolulu at 12:30 local. Now they’ve got me on standby for the 9:40 direct to Honolulu (gets in at 12:45), and if that doesn’t work, I have to hang around until 11:35 for the next direct flight (gets in at 2:40). If I have to take the later one, at least I have a confirmed aisle seat for the 8-hour flight. Good thing Continental has a hub in Houston with so many flights out to Honolulu. Scratch one flight segment from my pre-trip estimate of 14…

Flashback: 2002 Australia & Hawaii trip report

Haven't used this one in a while so I'll repurpose it for a bit. It was pointed out to me that all my older (2002-2009) photos are hosted on Webshots, which is where I put them before my trip to China in 2009 forced me to buy a Flickr pro account (Webshots is blocked there, Flickr isn't). So while waiting for the plane in the Shanghai airport to take me to Beijing, I bought an account and put up a bunch of pictures.

What I'll be doing here for a while is not just posting pictures, but my annotated trip reports from past vacations. First up: my 3-week journey from Houston to Australia by way of Honolulu. This was originally hosted on Geocities but when they went away so did my trip report. I'll have to reformat it a bit for a series of blog posts.