Monday, May 19, 2008

Australia and New Zealand Trip Summary

I am just writing a few more thoughts about our trip. Maybe they will be helpful to other travelers and maybe it will help me remember some day how great of a trip we had.

4600 Pictures - This is how many we took with two cameras in three weeks. Many were redundant, some didn't come out (but you have to try), and some were continuous mode shots (so they add up quick). I categorized almost every night on the laptop, broken down by day in separate folders, and I created a notepad for each day with a rough outline of what the pictures were from (this helps significantly). Also, it is important to keep the two cameras time synced with local time; this makes sorting after the fact much easier.

Flights - Traveling from the US to Australia and New Zealand actually is not that difficult. Going there we basically had two dinners, and then a nighttime for sleep. We arrived in Sydney in the morning and the day was actually useful and productive. Coming home, we flew from Auckland (around lunch) eight hours to Hawaii (around dinner time). We ate dinner, and flew 7 .5 hours to Denver (sleeping). We arrived in Denver in the morning of the day we had just lived. So by time we reached Indy, it was the afternoon and we were close to a regular schedule. Planning flights for this trip is not too hard, and it is worth your time spent.

Transportation - We rented a car for one day in Melbourne so that we could travel the Great Ocean Road, and one day in Cairns to see the rainforest. Other than that, the public transportation is great (of course Ayers Rock doesn't count, you have to rent a car there) and if you stay in the right part of town, you can walk almost everywhere. In New Zealand, buses and trains are much harder to come by. You will need a vehicle of your own (or camper!) and most car rental places have a transfer option to get between the islands (it is frequently done).

Cities Visited and Durations - We arrived in Melbourne on a Monday morning and left Thursday morning. I recommend less time in Melbourne. If planned appropriately, two full days and a half day would be more than adequate. I would skip this zoo especially if you are traveling to Sydney which has a much nicer zoo.

From here we flew to Ayers Rock on Thursday. We arrived around lunch which gave us a half day. We stayed until Saturday afternoon. This is too much time for Ayers Rock. Had we planned on arriving in the afternoon, a full day to visit the area is more than enough. Keep in mind this will be a very full day if you want to catch the sunrise and the sunset. If you can only pick one, pick the sunset.

From here we flew to Cairns. We arrived late at night, so we had two full days and then left after lunch the third day. I recommend a partial day and a full day, then leave in the morning. This would be time to use the full day to go snorkeling, and the partial day (upon arrival) to take the car to the rainforest.

Next we flew to Sydney. We arrived late at night and then had two full days, leaving early in the morning on the third day. Getting in earlier would have allowed for at least one more fun activity in the city, which we had a couple we would have liked to attempt. One other comment on Cairns, renting a taxi to get to town from the airport is cheaper for two than using their bus option, and its much faster.

We started in the south island of New Zealand from there. With the additional days we would have saved from the above changes, we would have an extra day on the south island and an extra day on the north island, and possibly even one more day to split between the two, depending on your preference. We could really have used another day on the north island to visit Rotorua and the geological sights of the area. On the south island, another day would have allowed us to visit Fiordland National Park.

Sights - List of things we saw that I really liked
Melbourne-Great Ocean Road, Royal Botanical Gardens, Queen Victoria Market
Ayers Rock-Uluru, interesting planned town concept
Cairns-Snorkeling!
Sydney-Taronga Zoo, walking around the Opera House
South Island, New Zealand-Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, Christchurch square
North Island, New Zealand-Glowworms, Tongariro National Park, and of course learning we were pregnant is Taupo was pretty cool and unforgettable

A list of things I really would have liked to see
Melbourne-Penguins. This is a very touristy stop off of Philip Island so we avoided it, but we probably should have tried to fight the crowds with a tour to see this sight.
Ayers Rock-Star gazing. We had arranged this, but it was too cloudy so we didn't get to go to the observatory.
Cairns-We were good here
Sydney-Going up the Sydney Tower and viewing the OzTrek Ride.
South Island, New Zealand-Fiordland National Park
North Island, New Zealand-Rotorua and north of Auckland
Tazmania!-I really wanted to work in a day trip here, but just could not make the days and flights work out. Maybe another time... :)

Food - Food in general in Australia is nothing fancy. Although we tried to eat at non-touristy, local restaurants, we had only a few good meals. Never bad that I can recall, but don't expect great things. It was an opportunity to try some new foods (kangaroo, crocodile, emu).

Laptop - Taking the laptop was a good move. It helped out with extra movies on the trans-Pacific flights, and allowed for picture backups and sorting each night. My mind was at rest knowing I had backups each day of what we had experienced. Also, most laptop's power supplies operate on dual voltage and frequency, which means you only need a simple adapter, not a converter (BTW, I try to only buy devices that are 110-220VAC 50-60Hz, it makes traveling a breeze). The weight was not really noticeable. Additionally, we could search for available free wifi every once in a while.

Google Maps! - I pre-printed Google Maps of the hotel area in each city at different zoom levels (to see big and small views). This was somewhat helpful and didn't take much effort. I have been doing this for a few trips now (Italy was helpful). Along the way Google Maps were helpful in finding business info along the way.

Prepping for New Zealand - Not too hard, and you will probably come across this in your own preparation, but have your e-reservations printed out and with you. You will need proof of exit when trying to enter. Also, if you visit Australia first, be careful what you purchase and try to take to New Zealand. They really limit what you can take in, but all the information you should need is available online.

New Zealand, Playing It By Ear - We decided to plan our last night only in New Zealand (in Auckland, before flying out). Every night, we would figure out where to go and what to do the next day, and search online where we would be able to stay. Sometimes, we would just get to a town and hope to find something between a few favorites based on guide book reviews. This possibly worked because we were not there during peak tourist times (winter or summer). Also, we had a rough idea of travel from Christchurch to Auckland so we knew we would make it in time to catch our flights home, but we didn't even figure that out until we spent a few nights in Australia looking it over.

So Basically...
It was a great trip! It was great visiting a place on the other side of the world, experiencing new cultures, seeing historic sites, not working for three weeks (which really allows you to get lost in visiting another country), eating new food, it was all wonderful. If any reader ever has questions about our trip, feel free to hit me up in the comments.

1 comment:

Dan and Shawnna said...

The camera time comment would have been helpful about 4 weeks ago. Somehow, one of our camera's time was off by 23 minutes. Pain in the butt.