Thursday, May 14, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: Fiji/Australia/New Zealand Chronicles (Part 1)

From Pixgood

If you ever get the chance to visit Fiji, Australia and/or New Zealand, grab it and go!  We have been to Fiji once and Australia and New Zealand twice, and would go back again in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose.  I am glad we were relatively young when we went the first time, because we had no idea how much there was to see and do, most of which involves a lot of walking.  It was also my first time on such a long flight, and I don't know how well I would have been able to cope if I made such a grueling trip for the first time at my present age.  At least now we both know what to expect on these long distance flights and can make sure we are prepared.  I thought I would reminisce about those trips today to give anyone who has been thinking about this journey some idea of what it is like, or at least how it was almost thirty years ago!

From FansShare

Our first trip was the most eventful, in good and bad ways, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that we were so naive about Down Under travel.  Because the flight is so long (well over 20 hours from Oklahoma, where we lived at the time), we decided to make a stop in Fiji on the way to visit a colleague of my husband's rather than fly nonstop.  Our first slight glitch was encountered here, as we had not bothered to find out that Fijians drive on the left.  Since I had just recently returned from doing my dissertation research in the Virgin Islands, where driving is also on the left, I was elected as the driver.  Unfortunately, in the Virgin Islands everyone drives on the left in cars designed for right-side driving.  In Fiji, naturally, all of the cars are made for driving on the left, and I was totally unfamiliar with this setup.  Nonetheless, after only one minor mishap (I knocked the side view mirror on someone's car askew, which was easily fixed in those days of manually adjusted mirrors), I soon figured it out and the rest of our trip was lovely.

Beautiful Fiji
(from Travel Online)

Do visit Fiji if you can, as it really is a tropical island paradise.  Did you know that the late actor Raymond Burr had a home there and raised orchids as a hobby?  Now his former orchid garden is known as the Garden of the Sleeping Giant and is open to the public.

Orchids in the Garden of the Sleeping Giant
(from TripAdvisor)

I had the best of intentions about keeping notes on our trip, but of course that did not happen.  However, I did make a few entries while we were in Fiji.  One note mentioned the tasty Chinese-style fried rice we had for lunch (fried rice is a common dish there, as it is cheap and filling as well as tasty), and the other is about the fact that the men of Fiji often wear a skirt-like wrap called a "sulu" rather than pants as these are more comfortable in the heat and humidity.  This latter observation sparked a lively discussion with friends at a local restaurant when we returned.  I asked the men and women at our table why men don't wear such outfits here in the States, as it seems like such a sensible option to me.  Even our young Pakistani waiter joined the conversation, and the general consensus seemed to be that, while most men privately think a "man skirt" is a good idea, our culture deems such clothing too feminine and they would not wear one in public.

Fiji men wearing sulus and bula shirts
(from Fijileaks)

While in Fiji we met an Australian man from Perth who was returning home after traveling the world for months.  We were all booked on the same Qantas flight from Fiji to Australia, so he and my husband had a great time chatting and drinking the free bottles of Australian wine offered on the flight.  Yes, I did say free bottles!  Back then Australian wines were not yet popular in the United States, so to increase awareness of their product, the Australians gave away one free bottle of wine (your choice of red or white) to every adult on the plane.  I declined the offer, both because I was not especially fond of wine back then and also because I spend most of my time on planes sleeping, as I am prone to motion sickness.  I always ask for a window seat and warn nearby fellow passengers that I will be asleep almost the whole time so that they don't worry about me (it can be a bit alarming when someone sleeps for almost 20 hours straight!).  These days I would have to make sure to move around more because so much inactivity is bad for the circulation, but I had no such issues in my younger days and would practically hibernate on planes.

Australian vineyard
(from Great Wine News)

As we approached the Sydney airport, the flight attendants began walking the aisles with spray cans and started spraying everything in sight, including all of the passengers!  As they did this, the pilot came on the public address system and explained that we were being sprayed with an insecticide to ensure that we did not bring any unwanted pests into the country.  We had no warning that this was going to happen, so needless to say we were quite surprised.  This practice is no longer seen on flights, as I am sure passengers began to complain mightily, but back then by the time you realized what was happening the spraying was already done.  Already a bit unnerved, we left the airport and found a taxi to take us to our hotel.  The taxi driver scolded me for slamming his car door too hard, but I think he was just miffed because my luggage was so heavy.  It was the first extended trip I had ever taken (almost a month long) and I have never been able to pack lightly, so you can just imagine how unwieldy my suitcases must have been.  However, after this little incident we had a great time in Sydney with no more unsettling episodes.

Sydney Opera House in Sydney Harbour
(from About Australia)

Sydney is a great city, and we did what we do best when we visit cities, which is shopping!  For some reason we mostly focused on books, and we bought so many that we had to mail them home.  My husband, who collects pottery, bought a pot which he was not willing to ship, so he had it wrapped securely and carried it around with him for the rest of our trip!  I am happy to report that the pot made it home safely and we have it displayed in our home to this day.

We also visited the Taronga Zoo, where they had just about completed their new natural habitat exhibits, and the result was impressive (my husband and I are both trained in the biological sciences, so most of our travel excursions tend to be nature-oriented).  My favorite Australian marsupial, the wombat, was sound asleep, so all we saw was its back, but I was excited to see one in the flesh for the first time.

So cute!
(from Grumpy Traveller)

The most disconcerting exhibit for me contained the aptly named desert death adder (Acanthophis pyrrhus), one of the most venomous snakes in Australia, where they have more than their fair share of venomous snakes.  The display case was not very large, but the snake was so still and cryptically colored that I could not find it until someone else pointed it out.  It was not even hiding, and I still could not see it, which makes me reluctant to ever go into the Australian bush, as I would probably be the one to accidentally step on this potentially dangerous creature!

So scary!

This post is getting way too long, so it's time to stop for now.  Tune in next week to find out about the rest of our Australia trip, our New Zealand adventures, and the return flight home!

Follow me back to Australia next week!
(from Fine Art America)

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