Around the World In 18 Days
16 December: The usual last-minute packing angst. We untangled the wrong-hotel problem in Hong Kong, and the wrong-bay problem in Sydney. As the day came to a close, we sprung the Twins from school, and sprung Jacquetta from work... and put the puppy in prison. It was starting to feel like vacation.
17 December: We headed to Heathrow, and boarded our British Airways 747 bound direct for Hong Kong. We got four seats across, aisle on each end, for our 12 hour journey.
18 December: We landed at Hong Kong's new airport on Lantau Island... by some measures the most ambitious engineering project in history. We stayed in a nice hotel in Wanchai, on the 33rd floor. Our "view" consisted almost entirely of other buildings. We could see the bay, between buildings. We could see the sky, between buildings.
That evening, we went to Causeway Bay for dinner
and, um, maybe a bit of shopping.
The Millennium lights at night were spectacular... this photo hardly does them justice. I've never seen anything like it. Lights were everywhere... the skyscrapers were merely a backdrop for themes involving dragons and Year 2000.
|On Monday, we did some wandering around Hong Kong. Here are the twins, outside the tallest building in Hong Kong, displaying cultural adaptability Kung-Fu style.|
Here's a shot from the Kowloon Ferry. That's the tallest building
again on the right.
Just in front of it is the oddly-shaped Exposition Centre where the Hong Kong turnover ceremony happened in 1997. Just to its left is our hotel. On the far left of the picture is Causeway Bay.
20 December: We flew from Hong Kong, to Sydney, and crashed out in Darling Harbour, near the town center. Darling Harbour was a great place... Sega World, sidewalk performers, shops, and restaurants.
|But not enough restaurants for us. We went up to the Rocks, across from the Sydney Opera House, for a fine Italian dinner. In passing, someone was kind enough to take this photo for us.|
While in Sydney, we learned of upcoming Millennium craziness... the Centrepoint Tower, which you can visit today for A$8, goes for A$3500 on New Year's Eve. Luna Park, adjacent to Lavender Bay, is a bargain at A$1000.
Wednesday, 22 December: Our short 2-hour flight from Sydney took us to Hamilton Island, where our sailboat, a Beneteau Oceanis 381, waited quietly.
But the birds there weren't waiting quietly.
Here's a cockatoo (left), and a
lorikeet. Both were hungry, and impatient to tell you so.
There were zillions of cockatoos.
It was destined to rain continuously for much of our stay in the Whitsundays. As a result, we found ourselves confined to quarters (or the Yacht Club) for much of our visit there.
People react differently to confinement in small spaces for long
periods of time.
24 December (Christmas Eve): We rented a golf buggy, the principal mode of transport on the island, and went exploring. In the hours which followed, the twins had an opportunity to sharpen their driving skills, and their shopping skills.
During a gap in the rain, we decided to try to sail around the island... an attempt soon aborted by heavy rain and wind.
We went out for Christmas Eve dinner, and went to a midnight Christmas service at a chapel on the island. Waiting for that midnight service, we killed an hour or two at a hotel near the chapel, played ping-pong, enjoying (?) the live music, and watched "couples" dance (some dancers used rolled-up umbrellas as partners, lacking the living, breathing type).
On the way to the chapel, a kangaroo jumped across the road. The service itself was interesting... down to earth... the pastor managed to orchestrate the whole thing himself, with the help of a tape and a boom-box. Lots of singing in the program, and a couple of drunk Kiwi's in the back.
25 December (Christmas Day): We were up early unwrapping presents. (We'd celebrated our Christmas on the 14th in England, but saved out a few gifts for the actual day.) Our "portable" gifts included a football (soccer) game for Gameboy, a pig-shaped purse, a battery-operated reading lamp, a picture frame...
A sumptuous breakfast followed... salmon and mimosas (for those so inclined) and Kellogg's Coco Pops (for those other two so inclined).
|Later, we went swimming... then, bravely, took the dinghy out for a spin. In both cases we got soaked.|
We stopped for a hot dog at the pool bar. So
did this kookaburra. He complained loudly about the service,
and tipped badly.
We, however, didn't complain about the service.
26 December (Boxing Day): After a fairly rough night with heavy rain and wind, we were up early to check the long-range forecast, on the VHF from Airlie Beach. That forecast suggested 3 more days of the same.
Unable to dry out in the boat with the continuous rain, we made the decision to seek higher ground, which, at low tide, is, like, anywhere on the planet.
|We found a beautiful, spacious apartment on the other side of the island, with a great view of Catseye Bay.|
27 December: The forecast was for more rain and gale-force winds. That morning, we resolved to make the best of the day, ashore, looking around the island.
As it turns out, the forecast was overly
pessimistic, and we had a great day ashore.
There was plenty to occupy our time. Here are the twins on the go-kart track, right near the air strip.
There was a driving range...
Ben, Robyn, and Dan went through a couple of buckets.
They were floating golf balls, since the "fairway" was Crab Bay... "greens" were marked off in the water at various ranges.
Ben slugged one into the green at 100 yards!
We also got a chance to do a bit of swimming that day... in the
pool, and in the ocean, respectively.
The ocean was warmer... about 25C.
A shot of our sailboat at the Hamilton Island Marina.
In the foreground is our temporary neighbor's
power boat. He works at a mine
in Queensland, some 2 hour's journey from the coast.
(Working down under down under.) That means
he can be here at Hamilton Island 3 hours after finishing
work on a Friday. What a change of scene!
Behind that, our Beneteau Oceanis 381. It was a good boat, with lots of space, well maintained and well equipped.
The Hamilton Island Marina is idyllic... big enough to have some shops and restaurants, but small enough that you knew you were on an island far from any big city.
28 December: On our last full day in the Whitsundays, the weather broke bright and clear... and we broke for the seas, taking the sailboat on a trip to see as much as we could see in a day!
Here are a few pix from Whitehaven Beach, on the eastern shore of (uninhabited) Whitsunday Island.
It's almost unnecessary to say "uninhabited", since few of these islands are developed.
Whitehaven Beach is a spectacular... blindingly white in the tropical sun. There were a few other sailboats there, and a helicopter. But it was so big (miles long!) that we effectively had this beach to ourselves.
The Great Barrier Reef is also a wonderful place to go snorkelling. These photos (which we took at the Great Barrier Reef exhibit at Sydney Aquarium) might give you a taste of the marine life... if you don't get a taste at one of island's fine seafood restaurants first!
We thought we'd go all the way around Whitsunday Island, and we very nearly did so... but with the sun low in the sky, low tide, and shallow waters on the other side of the island, we came about and headed south through the Solway Passage again.
|When Jacquetta took the wheel, the twins provided navigational advice. But we got back to Hamilton anyway.|
That day we covered over 30 miles, going around Esk and Dumbell Islands, passing various islands, reefs, beaches, and shoals in the process.
That evening, as we were out walking, we saw 5 kangaroos, close enough that we could contemplate walking up and petting them. (We didn't.)
It was a fitting end to a magical day.
December 29: The day of our departure. One last look at
Catseye Bay from our apartment on the 13th floor.
We took breakfast across the street... here's the view from the Toucan Tango Cafe. It would be another bright, hot day.
We weren't destined to have much luck with the weather. Just as it turned good on the Great Barrier Reef, our flight from Hamilton Island took us down to overcast, rainy Sydney.
We managed to find our way to our boat on Lavender Bay, something of a vertical community, with some houses being reached by stairways and some neighbors being "above" and "below" instead of North, South, East, or West.
|December 30: Given the expected inclement weather, and given a few problems with our sailboat, we ventured out by ferry instead of sailing. Leaving from Circular Quay, we had several good views of the Opera House.|
I suppose the Bridge and the Opera House, together, provide
the stereotypical photo of Sydney Harbour. Probably millions
of such photos by now...
Okay, millions plus one.
But there's a lot more to Sydney Harbour. It's a big place, with lots of estuaries, towns, and uninhabited shores.
One of the places we visited was Manly... on the North Head
peninsula, by the harbour opening. Manly has a protected harbour
shore on one side, and a Pacific shore on the other, separated by a
short walk along the Corso... lots of shops.
The ferry terminal, on the harbor side, has this Ferris Wheel, noteworthy as a destination for twins wearing Aussie hats.
If you're looking for Doyle's Restaurant, you wouldn't have to be
Sherlock Holmes to deduce it's on Watson's Bay.
Watson's Bay is on South Head peninsula, just across from Manly. Like Manly, it has both a Pacific shore and a Harbour-side shore within easy walking distance. Watson's Bay isn't quite as developed... being more residential than commercial.
|31 December: We decorated our boat for New Year's Eve... balloons, British and US flags; some Nepalese prayer flags; and a string of miscellaneous flags we'd flown in previous sailing trips or mountain climbs (pirate, American, Spanish, European).|
Our mooring at Lavender Bay was just northwest of the Harbour Bridge... close enough for firework debris to fall on the boat. If you know Luna Park... it's right there. In other words... the bay is diametrically across the bridge from the Opera House, which was visible for us directly under the center of the Bridge.
Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks started early...
call it The Kiddie's Show, or a Practice Round, or a
Wake Up Call... but it came at 9PM, with a round of
fireworks launched from four barges in the harbour, placed above
and below the Harbour Bridge.
No fireworks from the Bridge this time. But don't go away... stay tuned for the Big Show at midnight...
|In addition to the fireworks, the show in Sydney included 18 lantern boats... 40 feet high, 100 feet long, on the order of 1000 lights on each one... each in the shape of some Aussie sea creature. These were designed in Australia, and built in China, each one requiring 3 months to build. The lantern boats wandered up and down the Harbour for the duration of the evening.|
During the hours leading up to midnight, the energy built up... We could hear music wafting across the waters from various parties onshore, and from our vantage point, we could see thousands of people... parties crowding along the shore, or visible in brightly-lit homes and apartments. On the water, boats of all shapes and sizes were lurking around in the (mostly futile) search for a place to drop anchor.
We were always on the lookout for people drifting into us as the wind continued to blow and change. We felt fortunate to be attached to a permanent mooring, watching various others out there in Anchorage Hell.
Then, at midnight, the Harbour Bridge erupted in a spectacular,
long display of fireworks.
The fireworks were orchestrated to music, broadcast simultaneously by radio.
A new Millennium never had it so good.
|As those fireworks came to an end, this smiling face, looking down on the lantern barges, was all that was left.|
Then, another dramatic, extended
firework display launched from the four
barges in the river... this view shows fireworks from
the barge off Neutral Bay, with Luna Park and the Bridge
in the foreground.
The fireworks began to die down... it seemed as the show was coming to a close.
|What's this?! The Bridge came to life again, this time with a vengeance... joined by fireworks launched off the Opera House in a huge crescendo...|
After the smoke cleared and the fireworks were finally over, the
bridge had the word "Eternity" emblazoned across it.
The word "Eternity", scribbled in this particular way,
is sort of a
symbol for the city of Sydney. We heard the story from taxi drivers.
Seems there was some guy (homeless, mentally unbalanced alcoholic turned religious zealot, or some permutation thereof) who wandered the streets of Sydney, writing "Eternity" in chalk on walls and sidewalks, at least 50 times a day, for the last 30 years of his life.
And good thing he did. If they'd put any of the other grafitti in Sydney up on the Bridge, there would have been millions of very shocked and surprised people in those early minutes of the new Millennium...
The next couple days, we were tourists around Sydney... visiting the city center, Circular Quay, the Rocks, Darling Harbour, and various outlying areas.
In downtown Sydney, we ran into some lawyers and computer salesmen.
Also, we went to the Sydney Aquarium and saw these sharks.
4 January: As we headed off to the airport, Jacquetta paused to
look back on our short visit to Australia... and to toast to her
Then we were off to the airport, to catch a flight to Hawaii. After all... what better way to avoid a birthday than crossing the International Date Line?
The airport is quite close to Sydney... here's the city
skyline as seen from the departure area.
Besides crossing the Date Line, this flight also crossed the Equator.
There wasn't much to see enroute. This atoll was one of the few
During the course of the trip, the Twins were invited to the cockpit of the 747. Ben asked the pilot lots of questions. Happily, the pilot got almost all the answers right.
We arrived late on the 3rd of January.
Upon arrival in Hawaii, we stayed on Oahu, at the Ala Moana
Hotel, at the south end of Waikiki Beach. Given the arduous
travel schedule before and after Hawaii, our intent was to simply
enjoy the weather and get some rest. And the weather was
enjoyable... warm, not too hot, gentle breezes.
Waikiki Beach! Words are inadequate to describe it. But if they could... they'd be words like "pushy", "commercial", "built-up", and "tacky". So we stayed close to the Hotel, and to Ala Moana Park, nearby... a pleasant green peninsula extending out into the Pacific.
From there, these vignettes of Diamond Head, with an outrigger race, and some surfers...
4 January again... "Happy Birthday" again. We enjoyed a bit
of swimming, exploring, and relaxing.
That evening, we had Jacquetta's birthday dinner at Aaron's, a semi-formal restaurant at the top of the Ala Moana (36th floor). We all got dressed up for the event.
There were spectacular views of the lights of the city. The food was great.
The company was even better.
January 5: Our second (and last) day in Hawaii.
Jacquetta and I took a stroll down to Ala Moana Park...
Looking inland, we saw a rainbow... presumably terminating in Honolulu's financial district. (I checked the NASDAQ.)
|There were a number of banyan trees in the park... roots growing down from the branches. We looked in vain for a young banyan tree, wondering what they look like when the roots aren't yet long enough to reach the ground.|
After a full day, we headed off to the airport
at 10PM, preparing for our 1AM departure for Vancouver.
We arrived in Vancouver about 8AM the following morning.
The weather there was quite different from the weather in Hawaii. Can you guess?
If you guessed rain, you guessed right!
Vancouver can be a beautiful city when it wants to be...
here's a picture of Vancouver
in better times. For our 12-hour stop, however, it was overcast
and rainy, with occasional snow. We used the time to sleep, and
make a commando raid on a shopping
center. There, we found good winter gear. The selection and
prices were both much better than you'd get in the UK.
Then, to the airport again... for an 8PM flight to London.
We didn't sleep much on the flight. Upon arrival at Heathrow, we were met by our taxi driver... a relief, as the taxi had been set up the during an earlier century!
It was a memorable trip for us... around the world, crossing the equator (twice) and the date line... travelling from Europe to visit Hong Kong, Australia, Hawaii, British Columbia... encountering major urban centers and remote uninhabited islands... weather from tropical summer's heat to snowy winter... touching four continents, and all four hemispheres... visiting places over 10,000 miles from home... celebrating a personal milestone, and a new Millennium... flying for 50 hours.
We're happy to be home, though... and so is the puppy. With this journey as a backdrop, we've been able to start the Millennium with a bang!
This description is now a part of our lives. We're delighted that you've been able to share it with us.
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