Sunday, December 4, 2016

By Michael

It was a trek just getting from
Del Viento to the Nadi airport.
It was a long road to Ajo, Arizona.

It started with packing up and prepping Del Viento to float on her own for 4 or 5 months, during cyclone season. That ain’t easy, especially when living aboard, especially during a period of come-and-go rain when nothing could be brought below unless it was bone dry. Accordingly, the mainsail and headsail joined us below about 10 days before we left, not very convenient. Hard things like the solar panels dry quickly, so they weren’t such a concern.

We did all this last year, in Tonga. Because things like solar panels and cockpit cushions we stow in the V-berth, and because Windy and I sleep in the V-berth, we didn’t bring those things below last year until the day we left. Our flight left at 1600 hours and it was still a struggle. I vowed to do better this time. But this time our transportation left Savusavu at 0600—not a lot of time between waking and leaving. So we got a hotel room for the night, the best $50 bucks we’ve spent in a while. Still didn’t get there until 2000 hours.

The taxi picked us up as arranged at 0530 on Sunday morning for a 5-block ride to the bus station (thanks Jolene!). The bus took off with us aboard at 0600. We rode for four hours before arriving at the ferry depot. We waited for 2 hours. We took a 4-hour ferry ride. We took a 3-hour bus ride. We hauled our luggage to another bus and rode for another three hours. We took a taxi to our Hotwire-reserved, prepaid hotel in Nadi. It was late at night.

“Hi, we’re the Robertsons, we have a room reserved for tonight.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t have anything reserved under that name, could it be another name?”


Eleanor still bright-eyed during the first
bus ride of the first day on the road.

“Here’s our confirmation code and online receipt.”

“Hmmm, I don’t see anything.”

“We paid, see here? We’re really tired.”

This wasn’t a chain hotel, just a little mom-and-pop place. The woman finally conceded something must be wrong on her end and showed us to our room without finding any reservation or record of payment. Pretty cool.

The next morning a taxi picked us up at 1000 hours and brought us to the Nadi airport. We made it to the Virgin Australia counter with all our luggage still with us.

“Michael, Windy, Eleanor, and Frances—yes—you’re on the afternoon flight to Sydney. Do you have your Electronic Travel Authority?”

“Our what?”

I’ve never flown anywhere where I didn’t just jump on the plane and fill out a customs declaration en route and get a visa automatically when I landed. Apparently it’s a whole new world and the Aussies require even American allies to process themselves online and get approved to board before boarding. It costs $20 per person. So we retreated to some nearby seating and used the airport’s free wifi to appeal to the Australians to let us visit. It didn’t take long and by the time we got to the counter, $80 lighter, the ticket agent could see in her system that we were approved.

We landed in Sydney about 1800.

So the reason we flew east to go west is that Air New Zealand refused to allow us to use the Mileage Plus points we’ve been faithfully accumulating with our United Airlines credit card for the past 8 years. They’re supposed to, they’re part of the same network, but the Fiji-to-Auckland route seems to be the only one they’ve exempted. Damn. So we made lemonade from those lemons by finding pretty cheap tickets to Sydney, planning a 4-day layover, and then letting United take us from Sydney to D.C. on their new 787.

But first, an Aussie holiday!

The ferry cometh.

Frances and Windy still doing well on the ferry.

As a vegetarian, I sure appreciate that Burger King serves
veggie burgers, and they aren't bad. In Fiji, given the huge
Indian population that eats vegetarian regularly, BK there
offers 3 different kinds of veggie burgers. And that's not all,
notice the Fiji Bitter that Windy is opening and the other
waiting for me at my seat. And notice the comfy seating.
what you can't see is the free wifi and the door man.
The Nadi Burger King has to be the best in the world.
This was our late-night dinner after our long, long day.

So, check this out. Notice the jet way at the front of the plane (left).
Notice Windy and the girls boarding the same plane up a ladder
through the rear door (right). I don't mind leaving the terminal,
descending stairs, walking to the back of the plane, and climbing
stairs to board, but I've never had to do so when there was a
jet way in place. Apparently, this jet way is for the first class
passengers and those seated near the front. I'll give Richard
Branson a thumbs up for efficiency, but damn was it ever
a strong reminder we were economy class.

Frances and I walking towards the Sydney Opera House. At
this point, neither girl knows the surprise they're in for.

Now Eleanor knows. While still in Fiji, I learned that
Julie Andrews herself was directing My Fair Lady at
the Sydney Opera House. My girls are big fans of the
movie and soundtrack, so I knew they'd love it. But the cheapest
seats were about $200 a piece. Luckily, I scored standing "seats"
during a matinee for the still-pricey sum of $50. It was hard
to stand for 3 hours, but worth it. The production was outstanding.
The lead sounded exactly like Rex Harrison and the orchestra was
phenomenal. We all loved it.
We spent a full day around Bondi Beach. I was shocked at all the
uncovered sunbathers. I thought Aussies had a big hole in the ozone
layer directly above, soaring rates of skin cancer, and a sun-mentality
that was beyond the 1980s. Note there is not a single umbrella in site.
Bondi Beach is very cool, hipster, artsy-like. Imagine a small Portland
or Victoria with a warm, sunny beach.

While we were there, they happened to be having their
annual sculpture on the beach display. It was pretty cool.

This pool is adjacent to Bondi Beach. This was not a high-surf day, and it
was still pretty dramatic. See the swimmers? Apparently, Bondi Beach
regularly sees 35,000 beachgoers in a day. So it was on Black Sunday
in 1938. Out of nowhere, 3 bigger-than-normal waves rolled in and swept
hundreds of people out to sea. Lifesavers were in force because of a
weekly surf competition going on and rescued 250 people. 30 had to be
resuscitated. 5 died.
The girls could have sat here for hours, cajoling these
white ibis birds.

View from downtown.

The girls dug this artist's work, but had no idea
he was behind them when Windy took the picture.

1 comment:

  1. It's always a delight when I bring up your blog and there is a new post to read! Exciting to hear about your new land adventures in Ajo. It made me look it up and discover that it is a very interesting place in the middle of nowhere! This trip looks like a lot of fun and what a special moment captured at the opera house - that will never be forgotten! Keep writing, keep showing pics. Dirt living, water living, traveling, whatever... We are interested in what you do and how you live. Life is more than sailing. It's a big world out there. And small too, like Ajo, Arizona.


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