In this age of the information superhighway, we could just make our own air reservations. But then, were something to go wrong, we'd be somewhat on our own in terms of alternate arrangements, reimbursements, etc. I've sent our friendly neighborhood travel agent, Rochelle at Peace Frogs, some constraints (for example, the husband wishes to arrive in Hue on Wednesday, March 14, and we would like to travel through Seattle so as to take younger son out to dinner) along with some flight information I found using Kayak, and we hope to meet with her and finalize the air portion of the trip this week.
I've also been emailing with the folks we'll be visiting on the after-trip (that's like the after-party after the Oscars) to Australia about things we might do there. These are three creative ladies I met in an online quilting circle. Lest you feel the need to warn me about the danger of connections made in cyberspace, I have met two of these three women in person already, and they've met the third one. What I sent the travel agent gives us about a week in Perth, in Western Australia, and almost a week in Melbourne, Victoria, on the east coast. I've let our hostesses know the sorts of things we're interested in, things like outdoor activities, scenery, history, and culture. We've come up with some ideas for each stop, and I'm thinking it's going to be one heck of an after-trip.
The husband has his heart set on getting under Australian water even if it's not that surrounding the Great Barrier Reef. We're looking at diving at a place called Rottnest, off Perth. Depending on your penchant for news and the quality of your memory, you may want to remind us of several shark attacks off Rottnest in recent months. We're hoping they've gotten it out of their systems this summer, and will be getting quieter and less menacing as they move into autumn. Seriously, things like shark attacks come with diving, and we'll take all the precautions possible short of not diving, and should the "beaches closed" signs be up (think the movie Jaws here), we're not going to tempt fate by willful disobedience. The possibility of petting koalas at a place called Armadale has been raised, and as you might imagine I'm all about that. One Facebook friend from my high school days has advised that koalas are not the soft, poofy creatures they appear and are instead more like Brillo pads, and another Facebook friend from here and now pointed me to a YouTube video of two koalas fighting. Koalas aside, the fact that Armadale also houses hairy-nosed wombats is not lost on me.
For scenery above the water, there's Kings Park in Perth as well as a side trip in the area around Margaret River. Apparently there are vineyards around Margaret River, so I might even be able to check off the "visit a winery" tab on my somewhat infamous list of 50 things to do in my 50th year (the list I'm still working on in my 56th year). Finally, my initial thinking about visiting Australia included a stop at Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) in the center of the country and some exploration of aboriginal culture and art. It sounded good until I figured in the time it would take away from the more desired stops on the two coasts. Then my Perth friends mentioned Wave Rock, which because of its lesser known status almost seems preferable to visiting the Aussie rock everyone's heard of.
On the Melbourne side of the continent, it's hard to pass up the Great Ocean Road. Besides the guidebooks, several Aussie friends and colleagues of the husband mentioned this to us, and we're thinking it will span two days of the time we'll be in Melbourne. In a tour company booklet on Australia that I picked up from the travel agent rack at my gym, I learned of a Melbourne city tour that included something on the "samurai sword murders." Anyone who knows me knows that I can't pass this one up even if it is an urban rather than rural tour. This particular tour may or may not include the Edge, which is something else we want to do in the city. We tried to do something similar while in Chicago for a wedding a couple of years back but the attraction was closed due to high winds.
Just as there were animals involved on the Perth side of Australia, we have plans for them in Melbourne as well. There's evidently a nightly "penguin parade" that we don't want to miss. On another night, we hope to visit the Dandenong Ranges, possibly in conjunction with a ride on a century-old steam train called Puffing Billy. The Dandenong Ranges supposedly offer an outstanding view of Melbourne by night, one which we'd now like to see.
And so this post has no photos, though the links I've inserted above will certainly take you to some. To see mine, you'll have to wait until April 16 to 30, which is approximately when we'll be there. The exact dates await our visit with Rochelle.