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Before we could land, we had to be "deloused" -- Australian regulations. But, we finally arrived at 7:30 a.m. -- some 21 hours after we left Cologne. We landed in the secure area of a RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) air field Then came customs!
Australian customs set up a special mobile office for us on the base. We sat on the plane for about 2 hours while they unloaded and checked our luggage and our bicycles for dirt, plant material and drugs. They took us off the plane 40 at a time. As we disembarked, a drug dog sniffed everyone. (One rider was caught with marijuana. We haven't heard what the Australian authorities did, but we know he's been kicked off the trip. TK&A has a zero-tolerance policy about drugs.) Actually, we kind of wonder what this rider was thinking. Australia is SO strict. We even had to clean the dirt off our bike shoes. And you can't even bring an open box of corn flakes in here, let alone drugs!)
We had to gather our gear then go through a very rigorous inspection involving three different check points -- immigration, customs and agriculture. Then we picked up our bike and prepped it to bike to the hotel in Canberra. That included turning our handlebars, reinstalling our pedals, pumping up our tires, switching our rear view mirror to the other side (for riding on the left side of the road).
Then we loaded our gear on the trucks, received a lecture from the police about bicycling laws in Australia in general and New South Wales in particular, and followed a police escort (in small groups) off the air base.
We rode to the TK&A lodging site. It was only about 20 km, but we had a severe headwind, so it was a lot more challenging than we expected, especially after about 2 hours of sleep in the last 40 hours.
When we left Europe, it was fall, but here it is definitely spring! On our last ride (in the Netherlands), we remarked on the fall colors on the trees. Here, we saw cherry blossoms! Also, we heard some really unusual-sounding birds (they sound like abies crying). And we passed a dead kanagroo on the road.
What a surprise when we arrived. We were expecting to stay in a hotel with 2 to a room. Instead, we were greeted with bunkhouses with 12 per room!!! We decided right away this should be an "alternative housing" day so we can rest and catch up on our sleep from the long flight. Luckily, we were able to rent a private room at the hotel/campground.
We found out that Canberra is one of the Olympic sites for soccer, and that there were games that night. We decided to go. Then we found out that the USA-China women's soccer match (a repeat of the World Cup final matchup) would be on TV today at 5:30, so we decided to take a short nap and then watch that game.
At 2:30 we set the alarm for 4:30 and went to sleep. We woke up at 7:50 pm! We had slept solid for more than five hours -- right through the alarm and the game! Guess we were more tired than we had thought.
When we arrived at dinner we found out that we had missed a group reprimand by Karen-Ann. From what we were told, there were three items on her agenda, two of which were old hat. 1- We're carrying too much weight on the plane Get rid of stuff!. 2- Now that we no longer have the gear lockers, we can't leave our gear lying around for staff to handle or, "she'll charge us $5 each bag for handling" when staff has to move them. And 3- She was "personally hurt and ashamed" when one of our riders was caught bring drugs in. While people we talked to agree that the rider should NOT have had the drugs, they felt that the group was being lectured and "scolded" for the transgressions of one person, when the rest of us were totally innocent. As we said, we weren't there, but this is what we heard. So to be fair, we really don't know about the "scolding" aspect.
After dinner, we settled into our room and watched the Olympics on TV.
Love to all,
On this beautiful, clear day, I (David) went for an early morning run along horse and animal trails in the National Park that is adjacent to the campground. It was a beautiful run. I saw lots of very unusual looking and sounding birds, a few kangaroo, a fox and some rabbits.
After breakfast we vegetated while our bodies caught up some more from the flight. We read and watched some more Olympics action.
In the afternoon we rode into town. Stopped in the nearest shopping center. Went to the bank, stopped in a few stores looking for vitamins (didn't find what we want), then rode back to camp.
The temperatures are close to winter temps. Clear skies, cool air and warm sun during the day -- COLD at night. In fact, we get ski reports every so often. No, no snow right here . . . but it feels like it could any minute!
Dinner was, again, in the cafeteria. The food's not gourmet but it's not bad . . . and it's plentiful.
One last note -- with it so cold at night, we're thankful that we have a heater in our cabin!
Love to all,
|09/19||Australia, Canberra to Goalburn
Today was a 118 km day. Cool air. Sunny. VERY windy. Big hills, then rolling hills. We crossed the Australian Continental Divide without a whimper. The terrain was grazing land with scrub brush and an occasional tree.
We saw a "Watch Out for Wallabies" sign, but no wallabies. In fact, the only wildlife we saw were birds -- some with very, very bright red bodies and some with round heads and orange and white plumage.
Twice we came to very small towns. Both times we stopped for something to eat. A spinach and cheese pie with an Australian desert at one.
About 1 km from camp we spotted a B&B. It's in a "Heritage House" historic house. What a kick! The old couple that runs it rent out three of the bedrooms. (Rich and Jane and David and Pamela stayed there, too.)
It's called the Garroorigang Historic Home. (Garroorigang means Black Swan. The original Black Swan hand pump still sits over the 30 foot well in the back yard.) It was built in 1857, serving as a bullocks pub enroute to the goldfields until 1868. I was converted to a "school for gentlemen's son" in 1868. Many of the rooms have not been altered since then and are still furnished with original furniture and memorabilia.
Our room had a four-poster bed, a pitcher and bowl on an old, marble-topped table, a fireplace and a large screen door leading out to a pleasant garden. Of course, the walls were filled with old pictures.
Since we wouldn't be having breakfast with them, they offered instead to make us each a box lunch to take. Of course, we took them up on it.
The owner of the B&B told us they have electric blankets because "this is the coldest place in Australia." We don't know if that's true, but we believed it. It's freezing!
We had dinner tonight at the Veterans Club in town. Then back to our cozy abode.
Love to all,
|09/20||Australia, Goalburn to Wollongong
Our hosts prepared "lunch to go" in lieu of breakfast. They were really nice, caring people. Before we left they showed us the old classroom in the stable. Everything in the room is still original.
Yesterday we thought we might join Richard and Jane and Dave and Pamela today. They are taking a train to Campbelltown then riding about 40 KM into Wollongong
This morning, when we got up at 6, we decided to ride the regular route. We had coffee with our gracious hosts, then headed over to the campground for breakfast.
The day started cloudy and cold. It ended overcast and cold. In between, it was partly cloudy with cool, crisp air.
The ride today was something over 170 KM -- between 105 and 110 miles. We found out later that fewer than half the riders rode the route today. Most took a bus or train all or part of the way. The first few months of the trip, many people were physically unable to do these long days. Now we're at the point that most of us are in good enough shape, but just don't WANT to. But, for whatever reason, we were in the mood to go for it today.
It was a beautiful route with lots of big hills, We rode through narrow lanes lined with Eucalyptus trees. We rode through lots of range land with lots of cattle.
We stopped at a "Bike and Coffee Shop" for some really delicious orange and pumpkin soup. Yes, Bike and Coffee is accurate. They had lots of bikes, bike accessories and bike parts -- AND wonderful food! We lunched with Bill Bliss and Art and Lynn. It was a really great place!
After many more big hills, we stopped at the World Famous Pies shop in Robertson for some coffee and, what else? Pie. They warned us about the McQuarie Pass, coming up, and it's extreme dangers for bikes (steep, narrow, sharp turns, lots of trucks, no shoulders).
Unfortunately, we were having a problem with our gears -- couldn't get into low gear -- so it was an extremely tough day. (We could have used some low gears on those hills!)
Anyhow, those big hills that we rode all morning took their toll in both time and energy so we opted to SAG from the pie shop and not experience the thrills and dangers of riding the pass.
The route went immediately into McQuarie Pass, opened in 1898 -- and the steep hairpin curves have not been changed since. The DRG called this a "super descent" -- and it would be -- if you were riding a roller coaster.
We're staying at the University of Wollongong Campus East, two to a dorm room set up for one. How so? One bed and one mattress on the floor. Oh well.
What next? Well, the "quad" that our dorm room is in is a "men's" facility with five dorm rooms and one community bathroom. The bathroom -- with one toilet, one shower, one sink, and the only mirror in the quad has to serve all the men in the five dorms -- plus Lisa. (I don't think Lisa minds though. :-) DV)
Next big surprise. It seems that the bicycles and all the gear won't fit on the plane to Townsville on Monday, so TK&A has decided to truck the bicycles and all the non-carry-on gear. So we had to prepare our bicycles for shipping before we could break for dinner. Then, since the storage place would be open only until 9, and not reopened until Friday, we had to decide what gear would go in and what we needed to keep, then get it hauled to the garage a block away. And we had offerred to see that L&J's bags got loaded every day (thry're off visiting cousins)so they also had to be hauled over. AND, because today was such a long day, all this had to be done in the dark.
We couldn't carry all of our bags to our room at once, so we left one on the lawn (with many other bags) while we went to have dinner. When we came back, it was gone. TK&A staff had taken it upon themselves to move all the left bags into the garage. That meant, one of our bags was locked in the garage and we can't get access until Friday.
We know, that sounds like they were doing a caring thing by taking care of the gear left out. But they do it grudgingly and with loud complaining. We wish they would stop treating us like children and just say, "take care of your gear or suffer the consequences" (like rain, theft, etc.).
Does this sound like we're happy campers???
Love to all,
This morning Lisa and I made our plans for our stay here. We reviewed the Olympics schedule and we looked at TK&A's schedule. We decided: 1 We will stay here Friday to load our gear on the trucks as demanded by TK&A. Since we will be here, we will offer to load gear for anyone else who can't be here. (We figured that we wouldn't be going to the Olympics every day anyway, so we may as well keep Friday free so we could help out people who already had tickets and were in a bind.) 2. We will go to whatever Olympics we could on Saturday and/or Sunday. 3. We will go into Wollongong today and try to get Olympic tickets.
We jogged along the multiuse path into town. We went to the Olympic ticket sales center and found a line reported to be at least 4 to 5 hours long. Since the ticket sales closed at 4:30 and it was already 1 p.m., we decided waiting in that line was not going to be productive. (By the way, we talked to people on line who live in Sidney and had come all the way out here to buy tickets because in Sidney, you have to wait 8-10 hours!)
There was a very helpful gentleman giving out information, so we asked him if there was any other, better, way than coming at 8 in the morning and waiting for 3 to 4 hours. He told us he thought the phone would be faster. We decided that I would try the phone while Lisa waited in the pickup line. (As opposed to the 4-hour "buying" line").
It worked! After re-dialing more than a hundred times in the next hour, I finally got into the phone queue. Within 30 minutes I had ordered tickets.
I went back to find Lisa in the Pickup queue. She was next in line! We had our tickets in less then 2 hours!!!
It was cold and late so we took a bus back to the dorms. The evening was spent doing laundry, having dinner and gabbing.
Ha! I have to record an experience Lisa had tonight. She went into our "men's" bathroom to brush her teeth and heard two men singing in the shower. She wondered it was okay for her to brush her teeth. Would they be embarrased if they came out and found her there. I told her, "Only if they don't have any clothes on. But, then, who knows. Maybe they'd be happy."
She dallied though, just in case. But no sightings. :-)
Love to all,
Hard to believe -- only 100 days to go!
There's a big power struggle going on between riders and TK&A. Staff, in general, reflects the negativity toward riders that sometimes oozes from Karen-Ann. And riders, in general, react negatively. It's a vicious circle
Tim is gone to Asia to set things up before we get there, so Karen-Ann is in charge. She has a normal tendency to go overboard in her dictates and reactions to things, but this time riders are really upset.
First a little background. Since 1994, Tim has bragged that this trip will go to Sidney for the Olympics. Now we're at Wollongong, as close (2 hours by fast train) as we're going to get to Sydney. We're here Th, F, Sa and Su. Many people have purchased tickets and made plans to see some of the Olympics in spite of the distance and difficulties.
Yesterday (Th) Karen-Ann announced that everyone has to be here (at the Wollongong University campus) to load their own gear onto a truck on Friday at 4 o'clock (changed last night to 6 o'clock). No exceptions! The atmosphere yesterday and today is charged with electricity of the upset riders due both to this dictate and to the timing and method of it's declaration. We understand that the bags need to be loaded, and that it's too much for staff to load everything, but it just seems that the whole thing could have been handled better. It's such a small, petty thing that just got out of hand.
Lisa and I were going to go to the Olympics today, but realized that we couldn't make it back by 4. So, yesterday we decided to give up our day at the Olympics and be here to load gear bags.
We also decided, since we would be here, we'd offer to load anyone else's gear who already had plans to be elsewhere. We posted a note to that effect and we've gotten lots of positive feedback. (Except from the TK&A staff. They don't like it. I think it may be because we're interfering with a power struggle between TK&A and some of the riders).
Well, 6 o'clock came. Riders started gathering near the garage where the gear and the bicycles were stored. By 6:30 the trucks couldn't get close to the garage, so, all the riders that had gathered around just pitched in and started moving bicycles, rider gear and TK&A gear out to the trucks. It was a wonderful thing to watch everyone working together -- and without the duress of Karen-Ann's threats.
So what else did we do today?
We re-ordered and repacked our bags to minimize the carryon baggage for the flight. After a short nap, we went for a run down to the beach. (The ocean is beautiful here.) We tried to run along the beach but the sand was too soft -- so we walked. After awhile, we ran back to the university dorms, brought our bags down for loading on the trucks, as we've already described.
Love to all,
|09/23||SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- OLYMPICS
What a day today! After an early breakfast, we headed for the train. Two and a half hours and two trains later we were in Sydney. Another two hours, two trains and two busses got us to the entrance gate for the Women's Mountain Bike Races. After a half hour walk through fields and over hills, we just made the start of the race.
When we bought the tickets, we didn't realize how far out the venue was, but it really wasn't too bad an ordeal.
Why did it take so long?
Sydney is 85 kilometers from Wollongong. The mountain biking venue was 45 kilometers out of Sydney.
But, the transportation system is topnotch. Anyone with an event ticket can ride the system for free. And every line has lots of service. When we came-out of the mountain biking venue, it looked like there were hundreds of charter busses waiting to take spectators to train or bus connections. Every station and bus connection is filled with info-guides -- people who will help you find your way on the system. Truly a first class operation!
The bike races were a blast to watch. They had lots of really steep hills to climb, some single track, hairpin curves, switchbacks, logs to mount, boulders to go around or over. One of the stretches was so tough, some of the riders would hope off and carry their bike. And the best part was that we were so close to some of the track that we could have reached out and touched the riders.
That event was where we first learned the Australian rally yell -- you know, like U , , , S . . . A . . . etc. It's AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE yelled by one person (with no pauses), whereupon the crowd responds OI OI OI (again with no pauses). The entire yell is, AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE, OI OI OI, AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE, OI OI OI, AUSSIE, OI, AUSSIE, OI, AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE, OI OI OI.
After the race we caught a bus to the train station, then a train into downtown Sidney.
After some discussion, we decided we had three things to do. Sightsee, have dinner, and find a place in the city to spend the night. We first took the scenic walk along the harbor, past the opera house to McCrarie Point. Along the walk, and from the point, we had beautiful views of the bridge, the harbor and the opera house.
Next we walked to the "Rock" neighborhood and down the oldest street in Australia, George Street. We checked a few hotels. Nada. All sold out. But we did find a nice, quiet restaurant for dinner.
We finished dinner in time to catch the train. We had to transfer at Redfern to the 9:52 South Coast line. We left Central Station at 9:40 -- plenty of time to get to the Redfern Station. Then, for some unknown reason, the train stopped just short of the Redfern Station and sat for 5 minutes. With that delay, we pulled into Redfern at 9:51 -- not enough time to cross over 5 tracks and catch the 9:52. We watched it pull out!
Unfortunately, that cost us an extra hour due to the limited late night connections. Oh well!!
Love to all,
|09/24||Wollongong (Sidney), Australia
Today was our second day at the Olympics. We left on the 6:45 train because we had tickets for the morning Athletics session (this used to be called Track and Field). Only three trains this time. Got there in plenty of time.
The Olympic Center area is very impressive. Lots of wide streets, nicely landscaped, all new, modern buildings, and lots and lots of guides to answer questions.
Our first order of business was to get some coffee and granola bars for breakfast (and, of course, a bathroom). Next we walked to our seats.
Of course, our entrance was the opposite side of where we approached the stadium, so we were able to walk halfway around the stadium and get a good look at the details of the structure. The stadium is spectacular. For the Olympics, it seats 110,000. After the games it will be reconfigured to hold 80,000 and will be used primarily for Rugby and Australian Rules games.
We had seats in the end zone in the 15th row -- of the outer section on the second (top) level. They really weren't bad, though. The finish line for the track was on our left so we looked right into the faces of the runners. The Discus throw was right in front of us. And the long jump of the Heptathalon was on our right. And the excitement of the Olympics was all around us!
The women's marathon finished during our session. That was really exciting, especially for us. A runner from Japan won. Everything else stopped as she entered the stadium and, of course, she received a loud ovation. What was really nice was the ovation that EVERY RUNNER received as they entered the stadium. The runner from East Timor (sp?), (who was running as an independent because of the political turmoil there) got a STANDING ovation to honor her perseverance.
After the morning session we had lunch then walked around the Olympic village. We decided we would REALLY like to attend the evening Athletics session (where many of the finals would be), so we were constantly on the lookout for tickets. We checked for hawkers at the entrance to the village and at the train station. We went to the official ticket sales office. No luck.
I read that there was a place in the city that was selling tickets that were returned from other countries. We called to see what they had, but they said we had to come in, so, back to the train station.
After an hour's ride, we were back in downtown Sidney. We found the office very quickly, but, no tickets for what we wanted.
We wanted to buy something to commemorate our visit to the Olympics so we walked over to Darling Harbor, the venue for Olympics handball and table tennis. Darling Harbor is a popular, VERY touristy, entertainment area. We didn't find anything there for us.
We continued on to Paddy's Market. It's a HUGE flea market housed in an old, very large building that used to be a public vegetable market. The flea market was not what we wanted, but upstairs was The Markets -- an area that turned out to be more like a regular mall. We DID find some things there.
We also found a god place for a light dinner. It's called Mama's Kitchen. Sort of like a Chili's, but it had lots of windows and several TV sets where we could watch the Olympics games.
After dinner we hurried to the train station, then caught three trains to get us back to the dorms in Wollongong-- a lot earlier than last night!
We watched saome Olympics, then up to our room to pack (which we didn't do because we were so tired) and to bed. We have to get up early in the morning to catch our 7:15 bus to the airport.
Love to all,
|09/25||Australia, Wollongong to Townsville
Today we fly from Sydney to Townsville, so, up early, pack our flight bags and have an early breakfast. Then we caught busses (suddenly their available -- as opposed to last week when "every bus in Australia was tied up" so we had to ride from the Canberra airport after our 23 hour flight) to the Sydney Airport. (Lisa disagrees with my comment. She says, "It's a week later and we're in a different place-- maybe the busses simply are more readily available now. Why would TK&A suddenly make us pedal from the airport unless it really was necessary?)
After a smooth three hour flight (but in tight seats), we arrived two hours later (due to no daylight savings time here) and loaded into more busses for a ride to our campground.
The weather in Townsville is noticeably warmer. It's like going from New York to Florida in the Spring. Suddenly, it's very tropical. About 77 degrees. Humid. Palm trees all around. Breezy.
By the way, we haven't said much about the differences between Australia and the USA. That's because there hasn't been much difference. Lisa just noted a few days ago that both the commercial and the residential areas in Wollongong looked the same as in small cities in the USA. The only differences are in some of the plants and the birds -- and they're only evident if you look closely and are aware of the differences. (There are differences in the snakes too. More are poisonous!) Probably the "outback" is a lot different, but we haven't been there.
The campground is next to a beautiful, wide, slow-moving river. The bus driver said there'd be a lot of mosquitos out here, but the hosts say not. They say it's not warm enough yet -- but, they say, look out for snakes! There are lots of snakes -- little snakes and big snakes, ranging from a few inches to a few feet long -- and many of them are deadly poisenous. We were told, if bitten by a snake, lie very still and wait for the ambulance.
We decided to get a room.(Surprise.)
Love to all,
|09/26||Australia, Townsville to Cardwell
Light at 5:30. Good breakfast in camp. Riders and staff in good spirits this morning. It was bright, and sunny this morning, but most of the day it was cloudy so it didn't get too hot.
We learned at breakfast that members of this town have erected a monument to those who died in the WWII Battle of Coral Sea. That battle was the first that the Allies (primarily the US) took on the Japanese Navy. The battle was decisive in that it stopped the advance of Japan in the Pacific and saved Australia. The monument specifically honors the USS Lexington, the aircraft carrier that was lost.
This is the closest city to the battle site in the ocean.
Back to Odyssey. The route today went about 110 miles (172+ km) straight up the coast on National Highway 1. Shades of Baja Route 1, Chili Route 5 and South Africa Route 1! (Actually, it was the most like South Africa in vegetation and terrain. Baja was more mountainous and deserty; Chili was more lush.)
We saw big snakes, big lizards and big bats along the road. There was also lots of sugar cane and forests of small Eucalyptus trees.
Midday checkpoint was outside "Mango Freeze", a fast-food type of place specializing in, you guessed it -- mangos! The had mango juice, mango ice cream, mango smoothies, mango sundaes, and various other mango delights. Pretty funny -- and pretty delicious!
We had lunch at Ingham, a midwestish kind of town. Then we had about 20 km's of gentle uphill leading to a 5 km, final steep climb to the summit. Once over the summit, about 8 km's of fast downhill, then gentle down or flat the rest of the way to camp. A gentle tailwind helped for most of the day.
We got to camp (on a rocky sport-field) about 4:45. We checked in, got our clothes together and rode to our hotel.
After showering, we had dinner with eight friends -- Al and Steve, Dave and Mary, Valerie, Barb, Helen and Helen's mother, Doris -- at the hotel restaurant.
Then, to bed.
Love to all,
|09/27||Australia, Cardwell to Flying Fish
Only 102 KM today, (about 63 miles), but they were tough Km's. Mostly long, gradual uphill and almost all against the wind. Very tiring!
Lisa's hands were hurting in a way they never have before. She can't figure out why. And her butt was hurting today. First time ever since she got her "bat" seat. Yes, my butt was hurting too.
We passed field after field after field of sugar cane and crossed at least fifty sets of narrow-gauge railroad tracks.
We found that the sugar cane is harvested with a big flailer that chops the cane-plants completely down to the ground and shoots the choppings into a big, two-wheeled bin that is attached to a little, two-wheeled tractor that follows the flailer. When the bin is full, the little tractor races over to tiny, screened, bin-type train cars that are setting on the tracks that run through the cane fields. The big bin that is behind the small tractor is then automatically dumped into one of the bin-cars, filling it. When all the tiny, bin-cars are full, a tiny engine pulls them away along the tracks that cross the highway and go to the sugar mills.
We arrived in camp (the Flying Fish Caravan Camp) about 3. (Another campground where the riders were allowed to camp in the gravel or weeds anywhere that there wasn't a trailer. There were wall to wall tents with overlapping stakes. (If anyone sneezes -- or worse, snores -- they'll wake people in five tents around.) It's a good thing there are about a hundred riders either off route or in hotels, otherwise tents would have to be set up out next to the highway.
We set about finding our gear so we could take it to our hotel and get organized for our off-route ride tomorrow to Cairns. It took an hour to find the bags and get them organized. 'bout the time we were leaving, L&J arrived, so we waited for them so we could share a taxi into town. We got to our hotel in Innisfail, about 7 km away, about 5. After showering and repacking, we went to dinner with L&J about 6:45. We went to a fantastic Thai restaurant! And, surprise, it was filled with Odyssey riders.
Here's a colloquialism that we hear all the time here: "Thanks" we say, "No worries" is the response.
Love to all,
|09/28||Australia, Flying Fish Point to Cairns
Today, we decided to head directly into Cairns rather then go with the group up to the rain forest in tablelands. Lots of other riders have chosen the same option. Joan made reservations for all four of us at the same hotel that TK&A will be in when they arrive on Sunday.
The scenery along Highway 1 was increasingly tropical. The sugar cane fields were joined by banana groves, mango groves, and lots of palm trees. It was nice, for a change, to have rolling hills to ride, but the big trucks on the stretches of highway without shoulders were nerve-wracking!
We made sure we stopped several times today to eat. We didn't want to bonk like Lisa did yesterday. Nevertheless, we got in by 3:30. We did stop in a few bike shops on the way in, looking for a special bike jersey from Australia -- AND WE FOUND ONE! We bought two jerseys that look like they are made from the Australian Flag. Just what we wanted. (They had to be special ordered, so we will pick them up tomorrow.)
We checked into our hotel and hauled our bike and bags up to our room. (A very nice room by the way. It has a double bed, a full bathroom, a sofa, a TV, a refrigerator, an air conditioner, a ceiling fan, and a patio with table and chairs.)
Lisa again had sore hands, plus she got some bad sunburn on her back, so she took a nap. (Very, very strange, because her back was totally covered. The rest of her that was exposed -- arms, legs, face-- is not at all burned.) We brought our dirty clothes on the bike, so I did the laundry.
Soon it was dinnertime. We thought we might walk down to an "original" Australian restaurant and have some Emu or Kangaroo, but when we walked downstairs, we saw Larry and Joan were sitting with Priscilla in the hotel restaurant. We decided to join them.
We came back and watched more of the Olympics. We like the coverage here much more than that in the US. They cover ALL the sports and ALL the winners, not just the ones the Aussie's win. And we've seen some sports that we didn't even know were Olympic sports -- like Field Hockey, Mountain Biking, and Synchronous Diving.
Love to all,
Today was a kickback day for us. Slept late. Rode our bike to a place in the Cairns Center mall called "Roasted Coffee" for lunch.
Lisa went to the pharmacy in the mall to get something for the rash??? (that looks like a bad burn) that has come out on her shoulders and back. The pharmacist looked at it and was very concerned. She recommended that Lisa be seen by a doctor. She offered to make an appointment with the doctor who is located right in the mall. Of course, Lisa took her up on it.
Lisa came down to the coffee shop and told me about this and that she could just walk in and see the doctor. So right after lunch, Lisa went to the doctor.
He immediately asked right away if she had changed laundry detergent recently, because it looked like a detergent burn. No, we had not -- but that got Lisa thinking.
First, the rash first came out three days ago on the first day we rode from Townsville. It got progressively worse each day thereafter.
Second, the rash coincides with the strap locations of her Camelback (water bladder) that she carries on her back.
Third, she hasn't used the Camelback since before Woolongong.
And fourth, when our gear arrived at Woolongong, we found that some liquid laundry detergent had spilled on two of the camelbacks. We rinsed them -- but apparently not enough. The heat and the perspiration in her jersey combined to draw the detergent from the straps on the Camelback onto her skin. Then it just sat there and burned the skin -- every day for three days. And WOW, what a burn!
The doctor gave her a prescription, which we had filled and are now applying. We hope it helps quickly.
After the doctor visit, we rode over to The Bike Man bicycle shop to pick up our new jerseys and get a few things fixed on the bike. The jerseys are great and the repairs were good.
Since Lisa was feeling pretty lousy, we headed back to our hotel to hibernate for awhile. Then we walked into town for dinner.
On the way, Lisa's sandal broke. Since they were Lisa's only regular shoes (the others are bike shoes and running shoes) we had to replace them pretty quickly. So on the way to dinner, we checked into a few shoe stores in town. Lisa was able to get a great pair of replacement sandals right away.
Then we went to dinner. We happened upon an Italian restaurant that had VERY friendly servers and some very unusual dishes. We each had a wonderful salad, then we shared a pasta of gnocchi and penne covered in an absolutely delicious pumpkin sauce, then we shared an unusual pizza with sun dried tomatoes, lamb and yogurt. That was also delicious!
As we were finishing, L&J walked in. They were just returning from their "reef class," which they took in preparation for their snorkeling trip tomorrow.
We returned to the hotel and stopped to pick up our reservations for our trip tomorrow on the railroad and the sky train through the rain forest, and our trip Monday to the great barrier reef. The first thing our smiling hostess Melissa said was she couldn't get the reef trip booked until Wednesday. I told her, again, that that wouldn't work because we would be in Japan on Wednesday.
She frowned and ran off somewhere. She came back with a few brochures for other reef trips. She disappeared again. When she came back, we asked her to make a reservation for one of the other companies. She did -- kinda.
Then, when questioned about the rail/tram booking, she didn't have any answers, so she called them again. She found out she had charged the wrong price and set up the wrong package. When asked some questions about the reef booking, she didn't know much about that either.
About then, Melanie, the manager came in. She called both the train and the boat companies again and got things cleared up.
When we got up to our room, we realized that Melissa had scheduled us for a 7:30 bus pickup to get us to the train station that is four blocks away for a train that doesn't actually leave until 8:45. We called her to have her cancel the pickup -- we would walk to the station -- she said we would have to call the tour operator because she was closed now.
GIVE ME A BREAK!!!
We'll have a word with her supervisor tomorrow.
Love to all,
The Melissa saga continues.
Last night we discovered that the train station for the train to Kuranda was 4 blocks away. Melissa had booked us to be picked up by the bus for transport to the station at 7:30 and, we were told by Melissa, the train leaves at 8:45. Sooo, we decided to walk to the station and we told Melissa to cancel the bus pickup.
This morning we went down at 7:30 to head out to breakfast. We were told by the manager that the driver had been there for ten minutes waiting for us. We told her, and the driver, with great apologies, that we had canceled last night and we were going to walk to the station.
They were surprised and equally apologetic, but it was cool. They thought that the 8:45 leaving time that Melissa had confirmed was probably correct.
We walked to the station, which is behind the Cairns Center where we had coffee and lunch yesterday. We got there at ten to eight. I went to the station to confirm the tickets while Lisa went to the coffee house to get some breakfast ordered.
I walked up to the counter, gave my name -- which she had. (That was the first thing that had gone right so far with Melissa's reservation. I asked what time the train was scheduled to leave. She said, "8 o'clock."
Oh shit! She took my name to get the tickets ready while I ran back into the mall to the coffee shop to get Lisa.
We ran back to the station. I looked quickly in the ticket office -- no one there. The train that was sitting in the station started to move. We ran over and jumped on.
"What compartment do you have?" asked another passenger. "I don't know," I said. Then she said "This train is going to Brisbane. Is that what you want?"
And do you know what? IT WASN'T!!!
I told Lisa we had to get off. "Step off" I said, "It's just like stepping off an escalator." But Lisa was . . . chicken. Fortunately, as we were calmly and cooly discussing what to do, the train stopped, and we stepped off.
A station agent who was watching the whole thing said, "You were on the wrong train." She helped us find the right train and told us it was due to leave at 8:30.
Wheww! Time for coffee and an egg sandwich.
Finally, at 8:30, we left on the right train -- the one headed for Kuranda. This was a very old (for Australia) train route. The track was finished 109 years ago. The cars were built 77 years ago. Quaint!
The track was constructed almost entirely with hand labor over a period of nine years. It went through thick jungle and up the mountains. It includes 15 tunnels, 93 curves and dozens of trestles. Of course, there are many spectacular sights to be seen from the train.
At the end of the line is the town of Kuranda. It used to be a center of tin mining (which is why the track was built). Now it is primarily a tourist town, however, the stores all seemed have high quality, native goods -- including absolutely beautiful opals.
We visited an aviary with some very colorful parrots, parakeets cockatoos and other birds. Then we looked at some Anacondas and a few others of the great variety of snakes that are found in Australia. Most are poisenous!
We went from there to a "Noctarium", that's a place where they've reversed night and day so that we can see nocturnal animals active during our daytime. One of the animals we saw was HUGE BATS! Others were echnidas (they look alot like small porcupines), wallabies, possums, flying squirrels, bettongs, pademelons, etc. (you know, all those common, household pets.)
Next we went on the Skyrail -- a gondola ride over the canopy of the rain forest on the tablelands (the high country inland from the coast). It stops at two stations in the middle of the rain forest. At each there are elevated boardwalks through the rain forest to grand vistas. Each board walk has signs describing the flora and fauna along the way.
The Skyrail ends down off the tablelands just a short way from Cairns. At the end is an Aboriginal Cultural Center called Tjapukai. We saw a pretty hokey native dance that supposedly depicted the daily life of the Aboriginal Tjapukais. Jokes about microwave ovens and CD's really took away from any bit of authenticity it may have had.
We did learn how to make and play a digerydoo, though. Then the "native" showed us that a modern PVC pipe will achieve the same sound.
We had a chance to throw a spear. David did the best of anyone.
We went to see a multi-media presentation about the heritage and bekiefs of the Aborigine -- but a "power surge" incapacitated the electronics so the show was canceled right after it started.
Last, we saw a movie about the history of the Aborigines since the white man moved in on them. Both enlightening and disgusting. Another case of the white man brutally overrunning the indigenous native population of a country.
We were bussed the short distance back to out hotel. We watched some of the Olympics, then went out for a Greek Mediteranean dinner. Again, we had an outstanding meal at a very reasonable price.
I don't think I mentioned the prices and the rate of exchange here. In general, prices are only slightly higher (and in small towns, even LOWER) then they would be in the states for the same thing. But the Australian dollar is only worth about 55 cents American. That means when we stopped on a recent ride, and spent just $6 Australian for two sandwiches, two chips and two drinks, it only costs us about $3.30 American!
On our way out tonight we ran into Larry and Joan (they were on their way out to a movie), Rich and Jane. (they were on their way back from a day on Green Island) and Dick and Barbara (they came into the same Greek restaurant where we were).
After dinner we watched the end of the Friday Olympics.
Love to all,
This was another relaxing day for us. No alarm this morning. We packed up and moved out of our room (to make way for Odyssey) then jogged to the beach and along the Esplanade -- the road bordering the beach through town.
We found a place on the Esplanade for a late breakfast. Then we jogged/strolled through this very beachy part of town, checking out the shops and sights. We walked over to the Cairns Center mall and checked things out there. Then we walked over to the Odyssey check-in and got our room assignment.
With three-to-a-room, I had to pick a roommate. I chose Lynn Miller for two reasons: Because we have always gotten along so well and because we often think alike about the trip. That turned out to be a good one because we both would rather have private rooms -- so we agreed to rent a second room and split the cost.
Lisa and I had dinner at the other hotel -- very adequate for a large group buffet -- and retired to watch the Olympics Closing Ceremony.
I don't know how much we've said about how wonderful being here for the Olympics has been. The TV coverage has been wonderful! The friendliness and international support of the Australians has been fantastic! The events that we attended were both exciting and well run. The volunteers for the games were incredibly good and friendly! We have enjoyed everything about the games. And Lisa is so turned on, she wants to go to EVERY Olympics from now on!!!
Oh, and Lisa's chemical burn on her back is healing nicely. Unfortunately, she is quite uncomfortable sometimes though, but ibuprofen has been a great help. (We thoroughly rinsed the Camelback in the shower, then ran the whole thing through a wash and rinse cycle in the washing machine--no soap, of course! It should be clean and ready to go now.)
My only ailment is the ongoing knee problem brought on by the crash in Chile. I will have something done about it as soon as we get back.
Love to all,
Today was a fun day.
We took a "Fast Cat" catamaran out to the Green Island Reef for a half-day tour of a part of The Great Barrier Reef. Green Island is an island that has been built up from coral over thousands of years. It now contains a 5-star resort and all the amenities. That was our first destination.
We strolled around the resort, stopping at an island boutique to buy Lisa another dress. (She had purchased a beautiful, long, teal dress in Kuranda a few days ago. This one is needed to complete her dress wardrobe.) The coolest thing to wear in this hot weather.
We also visited an alligator show where we both had the opportunity to hold a baby alligator. Then we watched them feed the full-size alligators.
From there we headed over to the semi-submersible boat. That's where we sat in a glass-sided compartment that hung down in the water under the boat. The boat then went through coral fields of a variety of shapes and colors, and school after school of bright, colorful, tropical fish. (And Lisa didn't get sick! Hooray!) That was a really different experience -- like being inside an aquarium, except it's real.
Next I went on a glass-bottom boat for a different view of the reef. (Lisa opted out.) It was disappointing after the semi-submersible ride -- possibly due to the poor boat driver.
By then our half day was over. We boarded the Fast Cat for the quick, smooth ride back to Cairns.
We had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the boat harbor, then headed for the mall -- where Lisa got her hair conditioned and I GOT A HAIRCUT. Yes, the second one this year. No more wild hair. No more pony tail.
Then we headed back to our room to pack for our flight to Japan tomorrow, then went to dinner.
After dinner, Tim had another meeting. The big news is -- the Japanese government won't let our plane land, so we can't leave tomorrow.
It seems TK&A has contracted with Malaysia Airlines for the rest of our flights this year, but Japan requires that it be either a Japanese airline or an Australian airline. But neither of those airlines could handle our needs -- so, we seem to be in a Catch 22.
Our airline consultants say the best would be we will leave in 24 hours, but they just don't know.
Love to all,
This was another very laid back, very relaxing day. We slept late then jogged downtown for brunch. We took a very circuitous route so we could check out a variety of possible eating places, and get in a bit more running. We ended up at a very nice restaurant in a hotel on the Esplanade across from a park in front of the beach.
Now, when I say we jogged "around town" I must point out that Cairns is a pretty small town. It's about 100,000 population. The downtown is much like Santa Cruz.
Anyway, while we were having lunch, Bobbi (from So. Calif.) joined us. She had an article from the Pasadena Times that really knocked the Odyssey trip.
Yes, there are problems with this trip, but the article was very one-sided and extreme. (For example, according to the article, there was a "lack of potable water." That is absolutely NOT true. TK&A really has done an outstanding job of supplying plenty of water wherever the local water was suspect. That's just one example.) Bobbi is going to give us the newspaper's e-mail address and we are going to send a message giving our -- more balanced -- view.
Bobbi also told us that Fred (Shepard or Merks) has been "invited" to leave. We don't know the stated reason, but it probably has to do with his persistent, negative attacks on the TK&A staff and organization. (He's also been involved in some kind of legal action, so it may be somehow connected to that.)
After brunch, while Lisa checked out bathing suits, I bought some post cards and a pair of "surfing shorts" (for use after shower or night visits to bathrooms "down-the-hall").
Then we went back to our room, showered and went to dinner to get some food and some news on our flight. The news posted at 6 said wait until 7. At 7, Tim said Japan wouldn't let our plan in, but he'd have more news at 8. Nothing new at 8, but something would be posted later. Check again at 9 tonight or 6 in the morning.
We were still there chatting at 9 so we heard the news first hand: We will fly to Malaysia tomorrow, then transfer to a scheduled commercial airline flight into Japan.
We load gear starting at 8 in the morning. The bus will leave for the airport at 10:30. Our Malaysian Airlines 747 (the plane we will use in the rest of our flights on Odyssey) will leave for Malaysia about 1:30. We will then transfer to either a JAL or MAL scheduled flight into Japan that will arrive sometime Thursday morning.
IT LOOKS LIKE ANOTHER LONG, LONG FLIGHT!
Oh well. I'll report on that as it happens.
We walked from dinner with Richard and Jane. (They did a fun thing today. They rented motorcycles and rode up to Kuranda.) I dropped off at our hotel; Lisa continued with them to the gas station/quick mart to get a desert snack.
Back in our room, we decided to do our final packing in the morning.
G'day mates -- for the last time :-(
Love to all,
|10/04||Cairns, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Osaka, Japan (via Singapore) to Kyoto, Japan
Whew, what a trip!!
We were up early this morning. Packed, took the rest of our gear to the gear truck and went to breakfast. Then we picked up a new schedule.
Hopped on an OLD (but not the oldest) bus to the airport at 10. Waited 'til 11 to get our gear bags off the truck.
Finally got them and joined the line for check-in. The bags weighed too much -- 90 KG when our limit is 70 -- but this airline (Malaysia) was not concerned.
Next was the line for passport control.
Then we sat in line and waited to board our (scheduled for) 1 o'clock flight. Lisa checked out the Duty Free shops. I read. We had lunch.
Our Malaysia Air Lines 747-300 left at 2 and arrived at 6:30 Malaysia time (two hours earlier then Cairns). We ate almost nonstop on the flight! Almost like being on a cruise ship.
We went through passport control, then picked up our gear and sorted it so that we could carry on the heavier pieces, and thus meet the weight limit (35 KG) with our checked pieces.
Then we had a long, long walk through the very large and very modern terminal as we found our way to the check-in counter to check our bags. We got there five minutes before our scheduled departure time. Perhaps that's why they didn't weigh the bags -- so our sorting efforts were for naught. Then we took another very long walk through passport control to the gate for our (scheduled for) 8:45 JAL 722 flight to Osaka via Singapore.
The flight left at 9:15 -- arrived in Singapore at 10:00 (midnight Cairns time). Everyone had to deplane because they had to clean and spray(?) the plane.
The Singapore airport was very large, very clean, and very empty except for the passengers from our flight. It had a very strong odor of antiseptic mixed with deodorizer perfume.
We were allowed to board again at 11:00 o'clock Singapore time (1:00 a.m. Cairns time). We took off about 11:30 for our 6 1/2 hour flight to Osaka.
Love to all,
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