Auckland, New Zealand

31th Dec

Happy new year! (Although the concept is an recent and almost arbitary convention.)

Yesterday I started exploring the city. Apparently about one third of the population lives in Auckland! Nice place but slightly chilly compared to where I have been (ok its 19C not that cold). As I go south I might be needing my heavy jacket.

I visited the Auckland Museum. It has a good section on pacific islands people and culture.

I just finished planning hotels for the next few days and in Rarotonga. I am going to drive to Napier tomorrow if the plan works.

30th Dec

I have arrived in Auckland. The taxi driver dropped me at the wrong hotel so I booked in there instead. I have just requested a cancellation from the original hotel – hopefully this will not be a major problem.

I had a sleep for 4 hours and I have not yet seen much of the city. I will go about changing that next.

I have been attempting to have my flight tickets re-issued but I keep having the responsibility passed on – from Cairns check in, to Auckland check in to Auckland travel centre. I am beginning to get a bit tired of it.

Cairns, Australia

29th Dec

I am just killing time in Cairns until my flight. My trip to Australia was great. In some ways it feels unreal. Next time I go to Australia, I will try to see more of the desert outback. The east coast, where I have spent my time, is mostly tropical.

The plan for New Zealand is to spend two days in Auckland to get my bearings and hire a car to drive to Wellington. I don’t know if I am going to the South Island. Some people on the boat trip recommended the south but it is a long way. Someone also recommended diving the Rainbow Warrior but I will have to hire to get a dry suit – the water is much colder than the Great Barrier Reef.

The end of the trip is now getting close. Only three weeks remain.

28th Dec

I came second in the southboard photo competition. What was strange was I did not even enter the photo – someone else thought it was funny and I guess they were right. (You know who you are!)

The weather is overcast and I am wondering if my washing will have enough time to dry. My luggage has a slight damp feel to it from not drying properly but its back on land now and it should dry itself.

A news story that caught my interest was a parrot with a 950 word vocabulary. It just goes to show humans are (cousins of) monkeys with big brains.

I don’t have any plans for today. I fly tomorrow evening and I will be at the airport early to get my tickets reissued. I finished reading A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. It was a bit strange but it was certainly different. I am also reading Driving Blind by Rad Bradbury.

27th Dec

This is the last full day on the boat. We have been busy diving. I have taken a great many photos. I am still debating weather I should re-enter the photo competition – I don’t really need to win twice (which I judge is a possibility). The sea conditions are calm and I definately have my “sea legs”. The food is excellent and has variety and quantity.

I am now beginning to think about the next phase of the trip and travel in New Zealand. I met people on the boat who raved about the place. It should be interesting.

25th Dec

Merry Christmas. I am still on the boat Spoilsport. We are just leaving Lizard Island with some new passengers. People are mostly from Hong Kong and the US. I was on the shore for about an hour and I had forgotten how humid it feels compared to the sea. We will be having Christmas dinner out on the ribbon reef.

A underwater photo competition was held on the boat. I managed to get the first and second prize. The shots were of a pink anemonefish and a siloetted eagle ray. It makes a change from my local club where the competition is very strong.

The dive staff conducted a shark feeding dive at North Hook of Osprey Reef. There is a large natural amphetheatre. We were lead down in single file and seated at about 15m. A metal cylinder was then lowered containing several tuna heads on a chain. The guide triggered the release and allowed the sharks to get to the bait. There was about 20 white tipped sharks and 20 grey sharks. They bit the tuna and thrashed around to break it free. After about fifteen minutes they had broken all the tuna heads loose. The sharks quickly dispursed after we started moving towards them.

We are now heading south back to Cairns. The wind has dropped and the sea conditions are much calmer. Hopefully I see a hammerhead shark or manta before we get back…

23rd Dec

I have been on the boat Spoil Sport for the last two nights. I have been getting good diving. The boat is immense and carries about 30 passengers and 10 crew. The passengers are a wide range of nationalities. I think every continent is represented apart from Antaricia. With a group this size it is hard to bond quickly and most are only on the boat until 25th Dec. The staff eat separately from the passengers which I think is strange – I think that socializing is half the fun of working in diving.

The water is warm(ish) 27C. We have seen several white tipped reef sharks, moderate sized potato groupers and a small eagle ray. The fish and coral life are good and I think it is comparible to the Red Sea. There is a photo competition running which I am trying to tackle. I am beginning to suspect fish here are more camera shy.

Visibility has ranged from 10m to 30m or more. There is an option to do 5 dives a day but I am pacing myself at 3 to 4 a day. Yesterday we were on the ribbon reef and cod hole. Today were are at Ofspey Reef.

Conditions are suprisingly windy and rough. Last night we were cruising through 7 foot waves which kept almost everyone awake. Tonight we are staying in a sheltered area much to everyone’s relief. The forcast is for improvement over the weekend.

21st Dec

Merry Christmas. I am going to be out of touch until next Thursday 28th. I will be out on the reef on a boat. Try on to eat and drink too much…

I finished Chart Throb. I am now going to try and locate a book shop in Cairns for a book resupply.

Hopefully I will get some photos when I am diving. I wonder how it will compare to Egypt and Thailand…

20th Dec

I have changed my flights to now go through New Zealand and the Cook Islands. I will miss Fiji all together and just transfer flights at LA. I feel sorry for the Fiji tourist industry though because they are probably getting loads of cancellations.

To change the flights, I went to the airport to track down Air New Zealand. I eventually found their office in an admistration building but they were just closing (at 11AM – they are only open for three half days a week). They were helpful and explained what to ask for on the reservations phone number to get things organised.

I am a bit stiff from quad biking today. Tomorrow evening, I am going on the boat but I will be online once more before then.

19th Dec

I spent the morning driving quad bikes. It was very different from riding them in the Egyptian desert. The tracks where off road through a forest with hills. We were told to keep the same gear for most of the time but there was enough to worry about. I had to lean left or right to keep the balance of the bike maintained on the tricky cambers. My main concorn was the brakes felt really soft and the rear brakes hardly seemed to do anything. On a few down hill slopes I had full brakes applied and I had constant speed. One of the bikes kept cutting out and left a huge trail of fumes – not very well maintained I think. Still it was fun, tiring and very challenging.

Finished Sputnik Sweetheart – excellent book, very like David Lynch in form. Started Chart Throb by Ben Elton which I expect will be an easy read.

18th Dec

I am having a quiet day today. I have been away for 5 months (more or less) and I have one month remaining. Strangely I am really looking forward to getting back. As Asimov said “For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.” It is possible to have too much of a good thing. I long to get something “productive” and practical done – that is part of my personality. After spending many years learning to do tecky things (like my job), it seems a waste not to be doing it. I stress it is not that I am bored with travel and diving but essentially to have my cake and eat it. Basically I want work and holiday at once which is oxymoronic. I know when I get back, I will want to go back to my current place again so there is no point me wishing away time. I almost have a duty to enjoy myself – because if I was not doing it, I would miss it. Clear? OK I thought not. I just wanted to record my thinking so I can look back on it.

I finished The Age of Falability. The author puts forward his own interpretation of politics and truth beyond “The Age of Reason”. The key idea in politics is to remain open to the possibility we are wrong (what he calls an open society). I agree we should do this to stop getting trapped by dogmatism. And my dogma says avoid dogmatism! 🙂

I have started reading Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami.

I talked to Air New Zealand and apparently they can change my flight tickets on the same days as the flight, presumably for a fee. This is good because I can delay my decision on Fiji until later. I am thinking of shortening the Fiji stay or skipping it all together.

Tomorrow I have booked to go quad biking. I was so impressed by my recent driving after all…

17th Dec

All fine here. I drove down to see The Boulders and various other national park areas. I returned the car – no comments were made so I guess I did not damage it (too much).

Tomorrow I will probably stay in town and plan futher activities.

16th Dec

I have been driving around the area in a hire car to see the local sights. I think it was the right decision not to drive to Townsville – its a long way and the roads are windey. Yesterday I was in the Atherton Tablelands and I drove around Lake Tinaroo. The whole area has surrounding mountain ranges covered in thick forests.

I was driving along the dirt road by Lake Tinaroo when I had a slight mishap. Perhaps I had forgotten that dirt roads have much less grip than tarmac… I was going a bit fast. On rounding a down hill right hand corner I span the car 180 degrees. oops! Fortunately, there appears to be no harm done. I did get a bit of a shock. I spend all the time since driving cautiously to the point of paranoia.

I drove to Emerald Creek Falls which is 18km along a dirt road in the middle of no where. My car was the only one in the car park. I was thinking I really hope the car does not break down since it was a long walk back!. Looking back along the valley there was no sign of human development. I can imagine what people thought when they were exploring Australia. It’s big and potentially dangerous. (Also I did feel like I was heading into the “blank space on the map” as in the Heart of Darkness.)

Today I was in the Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge in Daintree National Park. The coast road and the forest where beautiful.

I have the hire car for one more day. Tomorrow, I will be heading south to Innisfail. I am still undecided what to do about the Fiji situation…. I have almost finished reading The Age of Fallibility by George Soros.

14th Dec

Arrived in Cairns. I have located the boat trip company office and an internet cafe. The town is more touristy than even central Sydney but it is relaxing and convenient. I am going to hire a car for the next few days since I have time before the boat. I just finished reading Heart of Darkness – it’s a good read but not really recommended for reading while travelling solo!

Sydney, Australia

12th Dec

This is my last full day in Sydney. I was not doing much last weekend except for a 26km bike ride around Olympic Park with Vic. Yesterday, I was in the Paddington area for a look and I went down to the Centennial Park and Fox Studios area. I was lucky to avoid the thundery showers on my way back. My next update should be from Cairns. The Fiji situation is still unresolved.

8th Dec

I watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for the first time this morning. Very amusing but strange. Tobey Maguire’s small role was good.

I wandered around Pott’s Point and down to the Australian Museum (mainly natural history). Very good exhibits but they seem to be doing a large amount of renovation.

7th Dec

Yesterday I was in Sydney again looking around the central area. I passed by Darling Harbour, in the Chinese Garden and the Powerhouse Museum. They had an interesting special exhibit on the Great Wall of China.

Today I think I am going to take it easy. My legs are worn out!

5th Dec

I was sight seeing today. Started at the Opera House, round the botanical gardens, in the NSW art gallery, lunch, then got the train to Bondi Beach. I walked a long way…

There was a coup in Fiji – still hoping it will calm down.

Tomorrow, I will probably go into the city centre.

4th Dec

I met Malcolm and went diving from Manly with Pro Dive. The boat was full to capacity making things rather cramped. Even though the water was 20C, I was really cold in my 5mm semi-dry wetsuit. I think I am acclimatised to warmer water unfortunately. We saw a weedy sea dragon and a few other things. I think I will need to return with a dry suit.

The view of the habour is very good from the Manly ferry. I took a few more photos.

3rd Dec

I had a look around The Rocks area of Sydney. It was very scenic with many interesting buildings. I went into the Observatory, Cadman’s Cottage and the market. In the evening we (Vic, Anne, Sandra, me) went out to an Indian restaurant and had a drink in Darling Harbour. We missed the fireworks by 5 minutes.

It is unseasonally cool but the forcast is for hot and sunny after Tuesday.

1st Dec

I have arrived in Sydney feeling sleep withdrawn. I am staying with my aunt and uncle in Burwood. I think I am going to have a nap.

I am monitoring the situation in Fiji. “There is a very unstable situation on the ground that is unfolding very quickly”

I had the usual culture shock (for a European) to see Christmas decorations used in the summer! I need to get a photo of that….

Update: I put the photos from the highlights of the last three weeks on the web. I am also reading A Scanner Darkly after I saw the first half of the movie.