The Good's Trip to Australia
August 5, 2007 - August 15, 2007

Chris had to fly to Melbourne, Australia for work the week of August 6th through August 10th, and Tami had just finished the Bar Exam a few weeks before.  We decided to extend the trip by about 10 days and visit Sydney and Cairns.  Tami had visited Sydney and Cairns when visiting her sister in Sydney in 2005 with her parents, and was anxious to go back with Chris.  As soon as Chris found out about the trip on July 27th, Tami started checking for accompanying fairs.  The travel club that we used for the trip to Italy in 2005 had stopped service on July 1, 2007 just a month before we were to travel to Australia.   So Tami used an alternate travel club that required an application and approval process, and we were not sure it would be completed in time for the flight out on Saturday, August 4th.  Tami reserved seats for us to fly on August 4th and 5th, but on Thursday, August 2nd, Chris was told by work not to buy the tickets as he was needed in Baltimore for another project and might not be spared from that project.   The next day, Friday, August 3rd, Chris received approval to get the tickets but by then the Saturday flights were unavailable and Tami had to get a business class seat for Chris and coach seat for Tami that left on Sunday, August 5th.  Chris' work pays for business class seats on international flights, but we could not afford that cost ($16,000) for Tami to fly business.  As it turned out, the second travel club membership arrived on Saturday, August 4th and we were able to buy one business class seat and get the second one for just the cost of taxes.  Chris' business class seat cost almost $16,000 and Tami's business class seat cost $238.

Day 1:   Sunday,  5 August 2007
We got up very early and drove to Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) for our Southwest flight to LAX, where we would transfer to Air New Zealand for the rest of the trip.  We arrived in LA after an incredibly uncomfortable flight on Southwest. [Last time we will ever fly on Southwest if we have a choice.] We picked up our baggage and walked from terminal 1 to terminal 2, to check in with Air New Zealand, only to find that the Air New Zealand counter did not open for another hour.  It did finally open and we checked our baggage and proceeded to the Air New Zealand business class lounge.    It was very nice and we rested for several hours before getting on our 10:30 PM flight to Auckland.

Day 2:   Monday, 6 August 2007
We crossed the International Date Line going west and lost most of Monday.

Day 3:  Tuesday, 7 August 2007

We arrived in Auckland early in the morning and transferred to our flight to Melbourne.   The flight crossed the Tasman Sea and this was about as fas south as either of us has ever been, 39 deg south latitude.  There was nothing between us and Antarctica except for 2000 miles of ocean. 

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The flight arrived in Melbourne at 9:30 AM local time.  After clearing customs, retrieving our baggage, and picking up our rental car, we headed into town on the left side of the road. 

Chris was driving for this leg, and we found a good way to drive.   Whenever Chris went around a turn or through an intersection, Tami would say "Australia" to remind Chris to stay out of the right lane.  Chris got used to it pretty quickly and adjusted easily to driving on the left.  We drove into town, got lost, got un-lost, and found our hotel. It was about 10:30 AM and our room was not ready, so Tami went to the early arrivals lounge and Chris drove east out of town to go to work.

He found his way to Aerosonde, a small Australian UAV company that AAI had purchased in 2006, and was working with to develop new aircraft.  Here is Chris with one of the original Aerosonde Laima wings.  This was the first unmanned aerial vehicle to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean, when it autonomously flew from Newfoundland to Scotland in 1998. 

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Chris worked all day there and returned to the hotel for rest.  We both fell asleep early and slept until about 4 AM, when our internal clocks went off.

Day 4:   Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Chris has to be at work by 7 AM for a meeting, so he left early and Tami prepared to explore Melbourne.  Unfortunately, it was a VERY windy and cold day, so she turned around and did not get much exploring done. Chris worked all day at Aerosonde, and we prepared for a drive to Phillip Island after work to see the Penguin Parade.  Tami had found that in a guidebook and Chris invited the other two people from AAI along to see the show.  However, work went late and we left late in the day.  We arrived too late to see the penguins.  We drove to Cowes on Phillip Island and we all had a late dinner there.  Chris had "pizza with the lot", the Australian version of supreme pizza, but with a few extra ingredients. You can also get a hamburger with the lot, which has the same sort of toppings; anything they can think to throw on the burger.  We then drove the two hours back to Melbourne and went to bed.

Day 5:   Thursday,  9 August 2007
Chris headed for work, and Tami set out to explore Melbourne.  Work went late again this day, and Chris had a business dinner that ended late in the evening.  The dinner consisted of seven guys sitting around talking about airplanes, so Tami decided to leave that dinner to the boys.  Tami ordered room service for dinner, Chris finally came back from dinner, and we went to bed.

Day 6:   Friday, 10 August 2007
Today was the last day of work, and after work finished late again, Chris came back to the hotel and we went out for dinner.  We went to the same restaurant that Chris had gone to the night before, just a few blocks from the hotel.  We made it back to the hotel late and went to bed, ready for our vacation to begin.

Day 7:   Saturday, 11 August 2007
We got up early and drove the rental car back to Melbourne airport.  Chris had not really seen any of Melbourne, but we had planned to spend our time in Sydney and Cairns, so we wanted to get there quickly.  We got lost leaving downtown Melbourne, but did manage to make our flight on Qantas and arrived in Sydney by about 10 AM.  We took a taxi to our hotel just one block from the Circular Quay (pronounced "key"), the main transport hub at the center of Sydney harbor.  Our room was not ready, so we left our baggage and went out to explore the Rocks, Sydney Opera house, and central Sydney. 

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After walking through the Rocks, the section of Sydney that had been colonized first, we walked over to and around the Sydney Opera House. 

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We then went back to our hotel and headed for our room.  The view from our hotel room was fantastic.  We went back out later and walked across the Harbor Bridge.  After returning to the Rocks and eating dinner at a restaurant there, we went to the hotel and to bed.

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Day 8:   Sunday,  12 August 2007

We got up, had breakfast at a grill in the Circular Quay, and boarded a ferry to Watson's Bay, and the far east end of Sydney Harbor.  At the top of the park next to the ferry stop, we found the "Gap", one of the most incredible views either of us had ever seen.  We were ready to move to Sydney after seeing those views. 

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Pacific Ocean on left, Sydney Harbor on right, looking south

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We walked around the Gap park, along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and the entrance to Sydney Harbor.  We then caught the bus to Bondi Beach, bought an early dinner and ate on the beach.   The water was pretty cold, but there were lots of surfers. 

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Entrance to Sydney Harbor, looking north

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Bondi Beach

After a while, it was getting chilly and we boarded the bus for Circular Quay.  We went to the hotel and put on some warmer clothing, and went back out for a ferry ride to Manly.  It was dark and too late to go into Manly, so this was just to see Sydney Harbor at night.  We stayed on the ferry and returned back to Circular Quay, where we went back to our hotel and bed.

Unknown to us at this time, Chris' sister called at some point about this time and left a message on our home phone, cell phones, and via Tami' parents, that Chris' father had suddenly taken ill, and was in the hospital.  We did not check messages when we returned to the hotel Sunday night.

Day 9:  Monday, 13 August 2007
We had planned to get up very early (we were still waking up by 4 or 5 AM each morning) and catch the first train to the Blue Mountains.  After some trouble getting the phone to work, we checked messages and received the message about Chris' father and Chris called home.  Chris found out that his dad was not doing well, and the prognosis did not look good.  He had fallen into a coma induced by CO2 poisoning; his body had an infection and was not expelling CO2.  They had managed to pull Chris' father from the coma and he was awake, but not fully alert.  Chris talked to his sister for a while to understand what was going on, then talked to his dad for a few minutes.  Chris' father was actually responding better than the doctors thought he would at this point.  After talking to his father and sister, who both told Chris to try to have some fun, we headed for a later train to the Blue Mountains. 

It is about two hours by train from Sydney to the Blue Mountains.  We explored Katoomba and several tourist attractions around town, including Scenic World.   We had bought the Katooomba Explorer bus pass, but kept missing the bus that went every 30 minutes; we were walking between stops and ended up walking all the way from the train station to the Scenic World Skyway, where we crossed the arm of the valley where Katooomba Falls ... falls.  After taking the Cableway to the valley floor and walking the elevated walkway through the rain forest, we came back up the Railway, the steepest inclined railway in the world. 

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Skyway overlooking Katoomba Falls

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Cableway looking up

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View from elevated walkway

We then took the bus to Honeymoon Lookout and walked back along the Prince Henry Cliffwalk trail to Echo Point, stopping at the Three Sisters and the Grand Staircase.  The Grand Staircase is a metal and rock stairway that descends all the way to the valley floor. At the Three Sisters, a bridge crosses over to the base of the first pinnacle where there is a rock overhang and viewpoint.  Chris climbed down to this bridge; you can see him in the second photo under the rock overhang.

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Grand Staircase

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Looking down at overhang lookout under the first pinnacle

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View from overhang lookout

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Grand Staircase

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Three Sisters from Echo Point

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Panorama from Skyway, Three Sisters at left

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Panorama from just above the Three Sisters at the top of the Grand Staircase

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Panorama from Gordon Falls viewpoint

We reboarded the bus, took it to Gordon Falls, took some more pictures, and then caught the last bus of the day back into Katoomba. We saw the last showing of "The Edge" at the IMAX Theater in Katoomba, and then had dinner.  We caught a late train back to Sydney and went to bed.  Note: Pay attention to the announcements on trains; after boarding the train and almost falling asleep for the two hour ride back into Sydney, we were alerted that the train we were on was suddenly being pulled from service and we had to transfer to a different train at the next station.   We got out of the train when it stopped, crossed the platform, found seats, and the train left almost immediately. If we had missed that quick announcement (and it was very quick), we would have been stuck at the station in the mountains for at least another hour.

Day 10:   Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Chris called home to check on his father this morning.  His father was about the same and resting.  Instead of the trips to the Sydney Zoo and Manly that we had planned, we stayed close to the hotel on Tuesday.  We took the ferry to Darling Harbor, only a 10 minute boat ride, and walked back via Observatory Hill, all within a 30 minute walk of the hotel.

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Observatory Hill

We arrived back at our hotel early in the afternoon to check for messages.  Not too long after getting back to our room, Chris' sister called to say that Chris' father had passed away just a few minutes before, in his sleep.  She had been at his bedside the entire time.  We immediately cancelled all our travel plans to Cairns (flights, hotels, car, etc.) and changed our return flights from August 21st departing Cairns, to the next day, August 15th, departing Sydney.

Day 11:  Wednesday, 15 August 2007
We got up early, again, checked out, and took a taxi to the airport.  We flew from Sydney to Auckland, Auckland to LA, and LA to Baltimore.  The total flight time and waiting time between flights was over 30 hours, but we crossed the International Date Line going east this time, and got most of a day back.  We left early Wednesday morning and arrived back into Baltimore a few hours after Wednesday midnight.  We finally got home and went to bed around 4 AM on Thursday, August 16th. 

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