Friday, November 14, 2008

Here goes the "walkthrough" of our visit down under.

Its longish, written in 2 sessions in June 2007,probably uninspiring read…I expect you'll doze off midway. Will add some pictures later (maybe :))

Arrived 28th night in Gold Coast (some call it Surfers Paradise) via Sydney & Brisbane. That was one long haul…mercifully kiddo either slept thru, watched on board cartoons or busied herself with her activity bks for most of this leg. And for the short hauls she just plugged on the headphone for on board music and drifted off to nod land. I hardly slept both ways …saw 5 movies….Stranger than fiction, Music & Lyrics, Man of the Year, Last King of Scotland & Happy feet

29th , we spent the day at Sea World (marine theme park). There was the customary Dolphin show, a show with dare-devil stunts by the park's international water ski team ,rides on monorail system etc, encounter with a variety of sharks thru probably one of the largest aquarium windows and the highlight being a 15 min chopper ride(my first ever) over the spectacular beaches & Goldcoast skyline….stunning & modern architecture. The aussie rich & the famous deffo have a retreat here….Jackie Chan has one ,along with the requisite yacht parked by his piece of waterfront (reportedly never stayed there even once), host to prob the only Versace designer hotel in the world/maybe Dubai, Q1-tallest residential tower in the world around 1000ft , casinos ,malls, nightclubs, golf courses, the works. Summertime, this place is crawling with people,was perfect now.

After an early dinner we visited Gold Coast's most famous glamour and entertainment hub Hotel Conrad Jupiters for a live stage show extravaganza by a Russian group replete with music ( a hindi song included too, the choreography made me cringe) , dance (colorful) , acrobatics (very skillful) ,illusion (mesmerizing), daredevil stunts (open jaw), mime act (brilliant). Seated in the first row..could see it up close & got to shake hands with performers and kiddo…not a peep out of her thru the 2 hr show!

30th off to Warner Brothers 'Movie World' ( movie-related theme park) with its live shows with Loony toon & other cartoon characters, a Police Academy stunt show and scores of gravity defying rides (kiddo bawled her lungs out when I ventured on some crazy "Batman Adventure" rides…probably thought that was the end of her mommie ) and the 4-D Shrek show which kiddo loved. Later at night we rode the amphibious Adventure Duck ride which traveled along Gold Coasts' roads, Surfers Paradise beachfront and then plunged into the waterways for a soothing moonlit cruise (more than half the passengers drifted into a nap)

31st we had breakfast with the birds at the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary, home to one of the largest collections of Australian native wildlife .. Interacted with kangaroos…one of them decided to nip me on the arm :(. After this we visited Dream World……. Some VERY tall & VERY fast Scream inducing rides , lots of kiddy rides (Advika had a ball), home to rare white Bengal tigers and their playful cubs, the IMAX theatre with a 6-storey high movie screen for pretty good docus.

The theme parks here are not a patch on Disneyland Epcot centre etc, but were just perfect for us, not too strenuous & not over stimulating.

1st early morn we flew to Cairns and immediately took the coach to Kuranda – a village in the rainforest .We took the Skyrail…. a cable way traverses Australia's world heritage listed tropical rain forest at 1500 ft at the highest point, making two descents to the forest floor on a 7.5 km journey (I was scared during some parts …each cable car was of course unmanned and it was a windy day and did it sway hard and mind refused to acknowledge that this was prob one of the safest systems running). This cable way is quite amazing because it was built from the air with the help of helicopters without disturbing the existing ecology/forest underneath.

2nd morning after an early breakfast , we boarded the cruise liner to the Great Barrier Reef .The cruise took us to a reef at the very edge of aussie continental shelf. The liner docked sideby a pontoon where the underwater magic began.. … We had 4 options for viewing…….a glass bottom air conditioned semi submersible boat for group viewing below water level, snorkeling, scuba diving or the underwater scooter called scuba doo. Kiddo took a dip in the ocean wearing a life jacket with hubby dearest…she screamed in part delight ,part fear. In turns hubby scuba dived about 20 ft and I took the scuba doo since I'm an average swimmer and did not want a panic attack underwater…. had a fantastic view of the corals & tropical fish .. clear blue waters ,though the corals here was almost bleached of their color ,the magnificently colored tropical fishes were a treat to view and almost touch. Kiddo had a fantastic time here and on the deck getting a feel of the sea and the high wind against her skin.

3rd was a lazy morning…was almost tempted to take the hot air balloon ride to greet the sunrise but would have had to leave at 5 in the morn, so opted out. After breakfast went for a leisurely walk, kiddo amused herself at one of the many community play facilities provided at the beachfront…one could spend an entire morn here ..very relaxing. ….Cairns exudes old world charm with its architecture & atmosphere. Afternoon flight to Melbourne.

4th From Melbourne we drove to the Great Ocean Road ,250 km of beautiful eucalyptus lined road thru surf beaches, cliff, the slopes of the Otway Mountain ranges returning to hug the coastline….SPECTACULAR views, fell in love with the ocean once again.. Visited the rock formation, the 'Twelve Apostles' – huge stone pillars rising from the surf and other natural wonders. The winds were so chilly that our faces froze but absolutely exhilarating.

5th we did a guided city tour…Melbourne is a aristocratic ,beautiful city ,centre of aussie art & culture. Loved this city with its gardens, structures ..contemporary as well as Victorian …many of the old structures have been completely modernized on the inside maintaining the existing beautiful facade. Eureka Towers,2 nd tallest all residential tower in the world ,has an observation deck at 88th level . Also an all glass cube that extracts itself from the building to hang over the edge of the tower in this building. When you enter, the glass is frosted and then moves out over the edge of the building and unfrosts when fully extended with the stereophonic effects of glass cracking. Sounds scary does,nt it ( the bottom is also glass). We did an hour long tour of Melbourne Cricket Ground (state of the art training facilities and history) and then off to Sydney.

At night we went on board the Showboat dinner cruise followed by a cabaret show sailing on the Darling Harbour waterfront.
6th was city tour of Sydney (financial hub of aussieland )Enjoyed the sites…the Hyde Park was delightful and what was amazing were the noon runners/walkers at the park and various other parts …..being so health conscious that after grabbing a quick lunch in their 1 to 1.5 hr break they change to jogging gear to do their stuff. And come Friday afternoon at work, its time for beer, work takes a back seat. The Sydney Opera house is an architectural/engineering marvel. Shortage of time & energy prevented me from doing the 3.5 hr harnessed walk up the harbour bridge.. the experience & view from top I believe is worth the effort. Passed thru the red light & blue light (gay) areas of the city and historical sections.The Eastern suburbs were magnificent – home to the city's rich and famous with breathtaking views of the ocean & 5- 10 million dollar homes & of course the customary visit to Bondi beach. Then the Sydney Tower, the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere had 360° aerial view of Sydney at night. We ended the day with visit to Sydney aquarium…humongous collection of Australian aquatic life

7th of leisure, did some shopping/window shopping at the classy malls (QVB is the most famous ) all interconnected to each other and a quick look at the Paddy market known for bargain (read Chinese) shopping. Could have done a day excursion to the Blue Mountains but were out of pep. Ended the day with meeting with my newly wed cousin & wife….we dined at Zaffraan , an Indian cuisine with a pretty innovative touch.

8th morn return flight. Had a fantabulous time . The Aussies sure know how to package a product (tourism) and sure know how to charge you for every bit, take great pride in their work , are outdoors loving, have a lousy cuisine, do a good job of keeping their country beautiful & clean. Am ready to go back again. Could have shared more observations bout my visit to aussieland but desisted (lucky u).
Next holiday would have to be more laid back…..this one was hectic.

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