Monday, May 16, 2016

Thirty-Nine Hours


Lisa and I have just completed one of our longest journeys; from the time we left home in Kansas City until we checked into our hotel in Perth Australia, we had travelled for thirty-nine continuous hours! When you start talking about Australia, the distances involved are enormous.

Let me briefly tell you about our flight:

We departed Kansas City for a flight to Dallas, TX, where after a 6 hour layover we boarded a Qantas Air flight direct to Sydney, Australia. Until just a few months ago, that was the longest ultra-long haul commercial flight in the world going non-stop for 16 hours, 45 minutes. Our flight actually took a little over 17 hours. Recently Emirates Air started service between Dubai and Auckland, New Zealand which is slightly longer. In any event, it was one long flight! Even more exciting was the fact that we were flying for the first time on the enormous Airbus 380 which is essentially a complete double decker aircraft. As you board, you are directed to either the upper level or the lower one. Once on board, our level was completely independent from the lower one. It was in that sense completely like a normal flight, except we were seated way above the ground. I was amazed by two things actually. First, the takeoff was fairly quiet, and the liftoff so smooth and subtle that it was eerie. We eventually climbed to 41,000 ft. and flew at about 475kts across the Pacific. Second, and really amazing thing, was the landing. The aircraft came in so slow and quiet, then touching down softly and without much braking or noise, then almost silently coming to a slow taxi. Really amazing! We were in Business Class and had so much room that it was pretty impressive.

Now it seems that all our friends seem to assume that after arriving into Sydney, we are pretty much there – well, that is not the case. Australia is a very large country indeed, and after waiting for 4 hours, we boarded another Qantas flight to the western city of Perth; a flight that took 5 hours. What amazed me on this flight was the terrain. It was devoid for the most part of any sign of human activity. By the time we left Sydney and I actually paid attention outside, there was simply a barren red and white landscape. Try as I could, I could see no roads, or trails --nothing, and it stayed that way until we were on our descent into Perth.

Believe it or not, Perth is not the final destination in our journey to join our ship the Silver Discoverer. Rather Perth is where we chose to stop for a few nights to get caught up with ourselves. Believe me, after 39 hours in the same clothes, without shaving or brushing my teeth – and yes, no quality pot time, it was time to just stop.

I don’t believe that neither Lisa nor I remember much of our first night here. Every restaurant in our Hotel/Casino was completely full so we were forced to find some place in town to eat. Since our hotel is on an island of its own that meant a cab into town. I really don’t recall much about dinner, I just remember dropping into the cool clean sheets and going right to sleep.

With no rest for the weary, however, we set our alarms to get us up in time to meet our driver at 8am the next morning for an all-day outing in the countryside north of Perth. Surprisingly after a good night’s sleep, we were actually doing reasonably OK. In the end, we spent over 8 hours on our circle drive north before returning to the Perth. Our first stop was roughly two hours before reaching the quaint town of New Norcia. First founded in 1847, where even today it is the only monastic town in Australia. Here we found a Benedictine abbey and church along with several old schools and colleges. We arrived into town on a Sunday morning just in time to catch the end of the Service in the old Abbey Church. Housed in that Church is an old and very large Moser Organ which was originally crafted in Germany and brought here in the 1920’s. The sound was amazing as, too, were the haunting harmonies of the all-girls choir that was singing. We were very blessed to see even a small portion of that service. After meandering around town taking pictures, we continued north and west towards the coast, traveling for hours on roads that went straight for as far as the eye could see. On either side of the roads were massive properties used for cattle or sheep farming.

After two more hours, we came to a small town, but since it was Sunday, everything was closed. Heading down the road at 70 mph the speed limit, we crested a hill and right in the middle of our lane was a medium sized strange animal. I was certain we would hit the creature, but our driver was quick enough that we just missed it. However, he immediately hit the brakes and started to quickly back-up. (Now on deserted roads you can do this stunt. Why, we had not seen another car for perhaps an hour.) Our driver was excitedly yelling at us to get out of the car to see the Echidna. Never having heard of the little critter, I was anxious to get some photographs, but when we got too close it just rolled into a tight ball and played dead. It was covered with sharp spines, so leaving it alone was the best option; although we did see if we could get it to move. Our driver said that having lived in Australia 35 years, he had never seen one of these little animals alive outside a zoo. I looked it up, and an Echidna is sometimes known as a spiny anteater. So, there, yet another adventure for the day.

We drove and drove until finally we came to a small village with a gas station open where we could find some food and a drink. The cold soda was great, but the food made me sick, and our next search was for a bathroom – like quickly. Finally we found a public restroom on the beach – but, hey, when you gotta you gotta! Having now reached the coast north of Perth, we started our drive back to Perth, which the computer showed as requiring 2.5 hours. Along the way, we made our next big stop at the Numbung National Park, home to the Pinnacles Desert. These mystical limestone pillars make up one of Australia’s most unique landscape. These ancient pillars are scattered across the desert in their thousands, creating an eerie, alien-like landscape. Some are as high as three and a half meters, and some finish in a jagged point like spear. Made up of shells, they date back millions of years. There is a theory that this area was the bottom of the sea, but in truth no one yet knows the exact process that caused them to form. Finally we headed home after a long day, and fell into bed exhausted.

Today we are taking a break and mostly a day at leisure. We will drive into the City itself this afternoon to see the museum and the large Park, but our travel to the ship is not yet over. Tomorrow morning we catch a 5:45am flight north along the coast, to the city of Broome. {I have to interject, right outside my window playing on our patio are three beautiful parrots. Just beautiful, but in the shade, so this memory goes home with me and not in my pictures.} So, back to my story; Our flight to Broome will be another 2.5 hours, allowing us sometime tomorrow afternoon to finally meet our ship and begin our amazing cruise along the Kimberly Coast of Australia.

Hope everyone is well,


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