It’s been nearly a week since I returned from down under, but I’m still recovering from the trip (partly the reason I haven’t posted about it).

Quick Synopsis: On Monday evening, my sister and I flew to LAX and from LAX, we arrived in Sydney on Wednesday morning. Instead of staying there, we spent a few hours before hopping on a plane to Nadi, Fiji until Friday. On Friday, we flew to Brisbane, Queensland (Australia) and then back to Sydney on Sunday through Wednesday. Wednesday morning we flew back home.

A lot transpired on this trip. To say it was amazing would simply be an understatement, so I hope my words can properly convey the experience.

Nadi, Fiji

Men playing guitar and singing When our plane landed in Fiji, we were greeted by a welcome serenade from the locals, we breezed through customs, and our driver found us and whisked us away to our hotel.

travel assistant Rosie Because we hadn’t planned anything beforehand, we asked one of the travel assistants for some ideas. Since I wanted to scuba dive and my cousin and sister were afraid of being eaten by sharks, the compromise was to snorkel and for them to wade somewhere on a beach. Based on that, our travel assistant recommend we take a day cruise.

What a great recommendation that was. The cruise included an open bar, meals throughout the day, and lots of fun by all — especially the crew.

tiny Fijian island First stop was Snorkel Island, followed by Honeymoon Island. We thought the guide was joking when he said you could probably walk around the entire island in less than a minute, but when we arrived, we knew he wasn’t. It’s a tiny island with some huts and tables to put our stuff down. Everyone was then able to float out into the water and explore the sea life. (And coral is a lot tougher than it looks. I have the scrapes, scratches, and bruises on my knees to prove it.)

view of island from mountain top Before landing on Honeymoon Island, Sam asked if I wanted to hike up a mountain before we snorkel and I was game. My sister tried to follow along, but she threw in the towel halfway up. Luckily I didn’t because the view from the top of the mountain was phenomenal. You could see the coral and the other small islands for a great distance. It was awe inspiring, that is, until it was time to climb back down. The mountain trail was steep with jagged rocks, twigs, and various insects. I now have a few war wounds under my belt and we never did get to snorkel (ran out of time).

Sam and Teli Thankfully, Sam made me a stiff drink when we got back to the boat!

When the time came, we truly didn’t want to leave Fiji. Everyone was incredibly nice, we learned two new words: Bula and Vineka (hello/welcome and thank you), and the island itself is just a sight to behold.

Teli and sister At least my sister and I had a couple lovely flowers presented to us as souvenirs — left for single, right for married; they lasted a whole 4 hours before wilting.

Brisbane, Queensland (Australia)

View of Brisbane from airplane Our plane touched down in Brisbane sometime Friday evening. At the airport, ready to greet us, was a lovely young lady who knew my cousin. Thank heavens she was there because she became our official tour guide (and a boatload of fun to boot).

Jacaranda tree She took us around the city on a short walking tour. I was stunned by the purple trees everywhere (it seems they’re called “Jacaranda” trees, and they even have a festival each year). Not only were the trees beautiful, the flowers smelled divine.

After experiencing Brisbane for less than a day, I was prepared to pack up house and move there. The atmosphere, people, and community is amazing. But, we were tuckered out and we had to call it an evening. A big day was planned — we were heading to the zoo.

Bright and early at 9am, our wonderful volunteer tour guide, K, picked us up at the hotel and we headed off to the Australia Zoo (yes, Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin’s, Zoo).

Teli petting kangaroo Upon arrival, it seemed like a regular zoo until we saw what appeared to be iguanas running around the place — we don’t have that at our zoo. Then, we visited kangaroo heaven and I thought, we definitely don’t have that at our zoo. In kangaroo heaven, the kangaroos roam freely; people can walk right up to them and pet them. I was lucky enough to score a picture of a mother with joey in pouch.

Teli petting a koala Next, we fondled a koala, cooed at some birds, and watched a keeper nearly lose his arm while feeding a crocodile.

Oh, you want to know more about that last bit, huh? As the keeper was explaining to us how slow crocodiles really are on land, it appears he let his guard down for a split second and the crocodile lept up to snap the food from his hand. The keeper cursed, dropped the meat, and ran. (I was able to get a bit of it on video. When I get it edited/converted, I’ll probably put it online.)

K grilling After the zoo, K invited us over for a bar-b (don’t let the image fool you, she’s a great grill-master). We all sat around watching a footy game, laughing, and talking. Best of all, I learned what a footy is and how it works. It’s actually very similar to American football, just without the padding and they do some weird thing where the ball has to be played backwards. Very interesting.

J and Teli at the pub Then, we dropped off the party-poopers (my cousin and my sister) before K, J, and I headed to the pub to round out our last night in Brisbane.

Convincing my sister to let me go was a ton of fun, though. Really wish I had that on video….

Sydney, New South Wales (Australia)

Plane flying over Sydney Isn’t it always the case when you start getting used to a place, it’s time to leave? That’s how it was with Brisbane.

Fortunately, we found ourselves en route to Sydney — not too shabby.

Cityscape from Darling Harbour We didn’t have a local to show us around the city, but we didn’t do too badly showing ourselves around. When we arrived that Saturday afternoon we were all tired, so it was just a quick jaunt around the city and Darling Harbour, grabbed a bite to eat, then headed back to the room to relax.

Sydney Opera House Monday we discovered the train (subway) and found our way to the Sydney Opera House. My sister and I decided to take the guided tour. We learned about the great history (did you know it took 14 years to finish and there was some serious drama surrounding its construction?) and explored the various sections.

Surfer at Manly Beach Later in the afternoon, we hopped the ferry over to Manly Beach. We didn’t stay there long because we were all freezing. Probably didn’t help that we were eating ice cream and the wind chill dropped the temp to about 50°F.

Pen Pal In the end, I really didn’t mind too much because I left with a new pen pal. :D

There’s actually a funny story behind how he became my pen pal, but I need to save that for another blog entry. Let’s just say, I proved that I am shy and have no idea how to consciously “flirt”.

Giant Toblerone, chocolate bar Tuesday was the official shopping day. (At least for me, anyway; the entire trip was a shopping day for my sister and cousin – my sister actually needed to purchase a new suitcase for all the stuff she bought. That’s when you know it’s bad.) We wandered around and through the shops in Darling Harbour, spotting deals, and souvenirs for family and friends.

Thankfully, the shopping only lasted until the early afternoon. By the late afternoon, my sister and I decided to catch The Ant Bully at the Imax theatre in Darling Harbor. That was my first Imax experience, and it was awesome. Now I want to go every week! Oh, yes, and the movie was good too.

The Hospital poster - play at Sydney Opera House After we saw the movie, we made our way to the Sydney Opera House to catch a play — The Hospital. It was sick and twisted, but made us laugh. Who could ask for more?

My sister chose it because she’s a nurse and it’s about three nurses (who have no patients). What ensues is deranged tomfoolery to put it mildly. When we went back to the hotel room and thought about it, it was a nice way to close out our trip. The bonus is that I can tell people I saw a play at the Sydney Opera House.

The Many (Many, and Long) Flights

Since a few people have already expressed interest in just how painful the various (long) flights have been, let me just address it here.

The flight to LAX was about 6 hours, then the flight to Sydney was about 14 hours. From Sydney to Fiji was just over 4 hours, flying back to Brisbane was just under 4 hours, flying from Brisbane to Sydney was just over an hour, flying back to LAX was just under 14 hours, and flying back home from LAX was just over 4 hours. In all, we logged just under 50 hours sitting on a plane.

It was extremely painful, though the airline carriers (specifically Qantas) had done a lot to alleviate the discomfort. They gave us nice little bags with socks, a toothbrush, and sleep blindfolds; not to mention feeding us until we really couldn’t eat anymore.

Would I do it again? Of course, and I hope to soon. It was worth every uncomfortable hour.

Now that I’ve written a mini-novel about this trip, it’s time for me to wrap up and rest so I have some energy to get the gallery online. That’ll probably happen tomorrow (I’ll edit this post to add a link).