Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SYDNEY - BALI 2/23 - 3/8/11

Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of world travel is cruising into the port of Sydney, Australia.  As we sailed in on the morning of February 23rd, the Queen Mary 2 and the new Queen Elizabeth were showcased in Sydney Harbor along with the unique and majestic Opera House.  Having been to this city several times, we took a ride into the country to visit a wildlife park filled with 2,200 animals native to Australia including koalas, dingoes, reptiles, birds, free roaming kangaroos, and the ugliest animal you ever saw – the Tasmanian Devil.    

Next stop was Brisbane, one of the cities in Australia that recently suffered extensive flooding.  Fortunately, we had a bright, sunny day to see the city and ride into the countryside where we followed a skywalk into the rainforest.  After a delicious luncheon served under a tent top overlooking valleys and mountains, we wandered through an arts and crafts town that could have been transplanted from North Carolina.  

Townsville, Australia is home to the Reef Headquarters and largest living coral reef aquarium in the world.  It was a good place to visit the day before our trip to Cairns where we boarded boats to the Great Barrier Reef.  After about 90 minutes, we disembarked onto a huge pontoon filled with aluminum picnic tables, diving and snorkeling equipment.  We took a ride in a glass bottom boat while most people went directly into the water.  We waited until after lunch when hardly anyone was in the designated swimming area.  We never saw so many fish of every shape and color imaginable or so much living coral in our lives.  It was truly an unforgettable experience. 

In Darwin, the northernmost city in Australia, we encountered some of the fierce rains that have been pummeling much of Australia this year.  Fortunately, the weather cleared by the time we arrived at the Adelaide River for the Jumping Crocodile cruise.  Fresh meat is dangled over the edge of the boat luring the crocs out.  Just as they are about to clamp their massive jaws on the meat, the crew lifts up the bait so that the croc has to jump to reach it.  They propel off their tails which are all muscle and some can jump almost their full body length. It really is something to see.  Then it was G’day Australia and on to Bali.

Bali is one of 17,000 islands making up the archipelago of Indonesia.  Unlike the other islands which are largely Muslim, Bali is predominantly Hindu.  The people are warm and welcoming, the countryside is covered with rich, green foliage and dotted with temples.   Having been here before, we opted for the opportunity to visit a beach resort with a beautiful pool and spa.  Ron enjoyed 3 hours of massage for less than one hour would cost in the States.