Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Good-bye Fiji, Hello USA – Day 21

We had a wonderful final day in Fiji.  First we took a long walk along the beach on the hotel grounds to their wedding chapel.  What a picturesque spot!  It was a warm, humid day, as is normal for Fiji, but the breeze off of the water felt wonderful. 
The glass widows in the front provided an gorgeous view of the ocean.

Next we took a glass bottom boat ride over the reef area and saw lots of fish and interesting coral.  I took a dip in the South Pacific Ocean.  Such beautiful water! I was going to post a picture of me in the water, but me in a bathing suit… it’s just not a pretty sight.

View of part of the resort from our glass bottom boat ride.  We were on the 3rd floor of the building to the right.
After cleaning up, we loaded the bus to the airport for our late night flight with Little Brownie in toe.  Do we look like a couple of tourists or what?
A few words about Grand Circle… This has been a great experience for me.  I can see why Bonnie has chosen to travel with this company for several of her trips.  They planned a packed itinerary for us with a total of 7 flights. All went smoothly without a glitch.  As you can see from the pictures, we had great accommodations with wonderful views. The cultural exchanges were interesting and enriching.  But most impressive was our tour guide, Lynda Keene. Being a native of New Zealand and part Maori, she had so much insight into the indigenous cultures on our tour.  She was upbeat and made every effort to meet our needs as they arose. She provided so many little extras throughout the trip.  Although she hasn’t spent time in the classroom, she is a true teacher.
Bonnie, Lynda, Little Brownie & Sheila, at our farewell dinner
Some of the highlights of each area we visited include:
  • Our dinner at the ranch in Cairns
  • The Opera House experience and harbor cruise in Sydney
  • Spending time with our new friends, Ann and Lynn, in Christchurch
  • The glorious beauty of the Queenstown to Milford Sound bus ride and cruise
  • Our chance at the helm sailing in Auckland
  • The cultural experience with the villagers and school children in Fiji
We had many wonderful experiences and enjoyed the other travelers as well.  This will be a trip long remembered.
Parting shot in Fiji as we headed to the airport.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bula from Fiji - Day 20

Tomorrow ends our adventure.  I will make one more post when we arrive home.  Many of us travelers are becoming a bit weary.  We have been on the go constantly for almost three weeks now.

This morning I headed out with the group to the Kula Eco Park. About a third of the group, including Bonnie, opted to take the morning off.  The park is trying to bring back the endangered iguana and peregrine falcon population.  Local plants and animals can also be found on the grounds of the park. It also serves as a place for school children to learn about their environment.
The park is named after this Kula bird

The Fijian Crested Iguana on my head is endangered. The one on my shoulder is the Fijian Banded Iguana


We saw the flying fox, or the fruit bat, in both Australia and here in Fiji.  At night you see them flying around, but during the day they are hanging from the trees.  We saw them up close and personal at the Eco Park, but here they are hanging from the trees at our hotel.

Flying foxes at Kula Eco Park

A few words about Fiji… It is definitely a third world country.  There are many poor people here with an unstable government.  The Shangri-La Resort is beautiful on its 50 acres, but once out of the resort area you see the poverty. There are few paved roads, except for the main roads; and the homes range from cinder block with tin roofs to simple tin houses.  While riding to the Eco Park, we saw men plowing their fields with oxen.  A bridge in town is washed out and not repaired.  But the attitude of the people is carefree and “senga na lenga” - no worries.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bula from Fiji - Days 18 - 19

Day 18 - Depart from Auckland to Figi
We headed for the airport in the morning for our flight to Fiji, arriving here about 4:30 p.m..  Again we had a fantastic view from our room. 
Day 19 - Fiji
We started our day with a tour of the local marketplace which was loaded with fresh produce.  Next we went to a Fijian village where we participated in a welcoming ceremony and were served a great Fijian lunch.  Before heading back to the hotel, we went to a K-8 school that Grand Circle helps support.  The students put on a show, then individual students escorted us to show off their classroom. Beautiful smiles and large almond eyes abound. Tonight we had a traditional Fijian dinner with entertainment including fire-walking. 
Here are peppers and ginger.  Other areas were filled with tropical fruits and many other vegetables.
Bonnie is greeted with a lei.
Our Lunch - Sitting on the floor was a real challenge!


The girl on the right was my host.  She did a traditional dance for our group.

                                     Bonnie and I with the senior fire-walker

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kia Ora from New Zealand Day 17

I thought I would take advantage of our free Internet here in Auckland and post some pictures from today.  Both Bonnie and I took our turn at the helm of the Spirit of Auckland.  It was an overcast day, but great fun to be out on the water in the Auckland Harbor.  We also visited the Maritime Museum where Little Brownie sat on the bow of an outrigger canoe. We were bussed around to see the sights, then dropped back at the wharf where we walked around and had lunch. Unfortunately my body finally succumbed to the cold bug that has been going around, so we headed back to the hotel to pack for the final leg of our tour, Fiji. 

A boat just like ours.

See Little Brownie?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kia Ora from New Zealand Days 15-16

Day 15 Trip to Milford Sound
There are no superlatives great enough to describe our beautiful twelve hour drive and boat ride on Milford Sound and back.  Lakes, waterfalls, tall peaks, meadows, graze land for sheep, deer, and cattle, wild life including the Kea parrot, penguins, dolphins and seals were the backdrop for this adventure.  Around each corner was a new breathtaking vista.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. 

Deer in the background

Mirror Lake

Kea parrot



We boated so close to these falls that I got very wet!

Mitre Peak

Water weeping from the cliffs

Day 16 Auckland
We had a lovely flight to Auckland this morning.  Once here we visited a Marae, an ancient ceremonial site sacred to New Zealand’s Maori population, for a tour and lunch. Since our tour guide is part Maori, we had a jump start on learning about the Maori culture.  Next stop was the top of Mt. Eden, an extinct volcano, overlooking the city of Auckland.

Maori greeting  or farewell symbolizing the exchange of the breath of life

On the top of  Mt. Eden overlooking Auckland

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Kia Ora from New Zealand Days 13-14

Day 13
We had a beautiful bus ride from Christchurch to Queenstown seeing the New Zealand countryside first hand.  The long bus ride was nicely punctuated with "comfort stops" and stunning vistas.  The Southern Alps, vineyards, and grazing sheep were only surpassed by the view from our room on Lake Wakatipu. 

View of lake from our room
Day 14
Today we took a steam boat across the lake to Walter Peak Sheep Station for a guided farm tour.  Here they demonstrated how their sheepdog herds the sheep, as well as a demonstration of sheep-shearing.  Again we had a beautiful setting for this informative day.

Merino Ram

Can you see that the lamb still has its tail?

I can identify with this little guy.

The house on the farm

View from the farm house

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kia Ora from New Zealand Days 11-12

Day 11
We spent the day with Ann and Lynn, two local Kiwis, whom we met via our good friends, Helen and Diane in Coeur d’Alene.  We drove around seeing the sights outside of Christchurch.  Our first stop was a wonderful chocolate shop called "She Chocolat."  (SHE stands for Spiritual, Human Evolution. We introduced our new friends to the term “Woo Woo.”)  For a mere $9.50 you can have a hot chocolate on a stick where you dip a large cube of dark chocolate into warm milk melting the chocolate as you mix your own drink.  It was a lovely setting to get acquainted with our new friends. 
seagulWe had quite a drive up in the hills overlooking both Christchurch and Lyttelton Harbor, then headed to Sumner Beach were we had a picnic lunch.  The Seagulls in the area look so healthy and are really quite beautiful.  Their beaks and feet are bright orange, and their feathers are so white with high contrast to the gray wings and black tail feathers. 
Sumner Beach

When we got back to their home, Lynn started dinner, Bonnie rested because she had caught a cold, and Ann and I took a stroll through the gardens at Canterbury University.  As I mentioned in the previous post, everything is in bloom; and it is beautiful! We returned to a delicious lamb dinner including my new favorite dessert, Pavlova.
Day 12
We woke this morning to two 4.2 aftershocks from the earthquake they had here 4 weeks ago.  Buildings around town have green signs posting that they are safe to enter.  The street ½ a block from here is blocked off for repairs, and some buildings are fortified with metal beams. 

churchBonnie still was feeling quite under the weather this morning, so we decided to lay low. We were to go for dinner and spend the night with a local family.  Bonnie did not want to spread her germs around so we are staying in our hotel one more night.  We did take an afternoon walk around Christchurch to Cathedral Square and beyond. 





The Avon River runs right through town with beautiful weeping willows and flowering trees all around.  These folks are punting on the Avon. Tomorrow we have a 10 hour bus ride to Queenstown.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kia Ora from New Zealand Days 9-10

Day 9
We started our day with a walk through the historic part of Sydney called the Rocks.   The oldest buildings here date back to the early 1800s.  This was followed by a wonderful Sydney Harbor Cruise.  Captain Cook greeted us as we boarded the boat.
The weather was perfect, and I just can’t seem to get enough pictures of the Sydney Opera House.  I took pictures from every possible vantage point but will only include one more for now.  We have learned to navigate the bus system quite well from our hotel to Circular Cay (the harbor and Opera House area).  Plus we have put quite a few miles on our shoes. 
Late afternoon we dined in one of the many restaurants along Circular Cay, then headed yet once again to the Opera House for the play, Our Town. Before the play we had a drink in the Opera House restaurant.  Just being there in that magnificent structure was a great experience.  (Even the bathrooms are spectacular, and yes, I have pictures of that ,too.)  The play was excellent, and what a wonderful way to end our Sydney experience.
Day 10
We were up early and out of our hotel at for our morning flight to Christchurch.  I love Quantas Airlines.  The stewards and stewardesses are very friendly, and we have had wonderful meals on all of our flights.  It reminds of flying at its best years ago. 

When we arrived in Christchurch we were whisked away to the International Antarctic Center just in time for the feeding of the Little Blue Penguins. For nearly a century, the city has been a center for exploration and research of the “Great White South.” During the drive to our hotel, we took a brief city tour. The vegetation here reminds me of the Seattle area with the camellias, rhododendrons, daffodils, and trees all in bloom. It will be a relaxed night so hopefully we can recoup from our busy pace.