Feeling Terrific in the Pacific

Blue Pacific Ocean waves crashing near Abaiang Island Kiribati

*****Guest post by Chris******

After “settling down” in Austin and spending way too much time at Home Depot, I wanted to travel again.  Deah was busy with her new job, but suggested I go solo on the condition that I write a guest blog-post.  I’m no Shakespeare, but ventured out regardless for a three week Pacific trip to Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Kiribati.

I spent several days on Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands on both ends of the trip. It’s accessible via the United Airline island hopper flight starting in Honolulu. Due to the Compact of Free Association with the USA, Majuro has a somewhat American feel to it; brands, beers, T-shirts, people with relatives in the States, etc. It’s a long, skinny island, but easy to get around by frequent taxis and infrequent buses.

The international airport of Majuro, Marshall Islands. Tiny place but has a cafe, bar, wifi, etc.
The Peace Park build by the Japanese and Marshallese governments commemorates all those killed in the Pacific during World War II. About 30 minutes by car from Majuro.
This guy (?) was about the size of my little fingernail. There were lots of critters on the reef that were easy to see by walking out during low tide.
A “flame tree” outside the Flame Tree Restaurant.

After a Nauru Airlines flight delay of 48 hours, I arrived in Nauru; an island nation that used to be one of the world’s richest per capita, but is unfortunately now one of the poorest.  This change was due to over-exploitation of massive phosphate deposits by foreign countries and later Nauru itself.  The removal of the phosphate left a lot of coral pinnacle formations.  It only takes about three hours to hike around the entire country; four if it’s really hot and you stop for the occasional beer or dip in the ocean. 

Welcome to Nauru. This is the entire country.
Coral pinnacle formations.
Cantilever used to load and unload ships. Currently ships can’t get closer than the edge of the reef. There is a quay under construction.
Weightlifting is popular for both women and men on Nauru.
Weightlifters need loads of protein, so these little piggies better be careful.
Engine from a phosphate train on display outside of a tiny museum on Nauru’s history.

Next up was Kiribati; one of the world’s smallest countries by landmass, yet one of the largest by sea territory.  I visited two islands; Tarawa and Abaiang.  South Tarawa was full of small villages and towns, busy, and easy to get around in by mini bus. One of the main Tarawa attractions is the World War II battle site and its Japanese coastal guns and bunkers. Abaiang was less developed, rustic, and more laid back. I got there and back by two-hour boat ride, but there is a occasional plane option. Both islands had lots of places to swim (high tide) and walk out to look for various critters (low tide). The Kiribati people I met were all friendly and helpful. I enjoyed both islands.

Blue on the ocean side and green on the lagoon side of Tarawa atoll, Kiribati.
Japanese gun and bunkers left over from the World War II battle of Tarawa.
Looking back at Tarawa during low tide.
Passengers first ride a 25-passenger boat from Tarawa, then transfer in groups to a tiny motorboat, and finally walk through the swallow water to arrive to Abaiang atoll.

All in all it was a fun trip to three countries with three distinct personalities. The most challenging parts were getting a Nauru visa and scheduling flights. The best part was meeting lots of really friendly people in a relaxing part of the world.

New Zealand: A Stray Bus Adventure

blue lakes white mountains tongariro crossing best day hike in new zealand

Several people we have met on our various travels have told us about how beautiful New Zealand is. So we decided to come check it out for ourselves.

New Zealand has green pastures, white-capped mountains, blue Continue reading “New Zealand: A Stray Bus Adventure”

Australia in One Month

Sydney Harbor and Opera House Australia

Chris and I spent a wonderful month in Australia. Many of the things we did, and the sights we saw, we knew about before we travelled here. The lovely Sydney Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, Bondi Beach. Visiting friends in Adelaide and Melbourne. Seeing the outback and Uluru, and of course diving in the Great Barrier Reef. But so much more! The convict sites that tell the history of settling Australia, the free parks and museums, camping….


Once we disembarked from our repositioning cruise and started talking to people and tour guides, we saw so much more of Australia. After a few days in Sydney, we rented a camper van for a month and started off. We visited the Blue Mountains, named for the blue haze that arises from the eucalyptus oil catching dust particles. Very pretty (and fresh smelling!). We visited the fashionable parts of Melbourne with my friend and local Melanie, trying new eateries and going for walks around St Kilda. The Great Ocean Road, along Shipwreck Coast, was incredible. The effects of wind and waves on sandstone cliffs is beautiful. There are more than 1200 ships under those waves!

We visited our friends Ben and Jo in Adelaide, that we had met in Galapagos over our Christmas break, and staying at their house and tried some Vegemite. Ben took us to visit the fairy penguins, feed kangaroos, and hug koalas. Jo took us to four wineries to sample southern Australia’s wines, and we had a lovely picnic. While we were there we actually saw a koala in a tree in their front yard- a sight that they assured us they had NEVER seen before (koalas usually do not come too close to towns).

We drove out into the outback, staying a night in an old opal mine in the mining town of Coober Pedy. Then we made it to Uluru, the ancient red rock in the center of Australia. A very sacred place for the aboriginals. We stayed in Alice Springs for a couple of days, then headed east to Cairns. We stopped off at a place called Devil’s Marbles along the way and played around on the huge boulders. We watched the stars, the eclipse, the full moon, and the international space station from the moon roof in our campervan. Sleeping in the outback is awesome.

Before settling in at Cairns, we went to the Daintree National rainforest….. The oldest rainforest in the world. This place has a staggering abundance of animals and plants that are found nowhere else. We did some driving bits, some walking bits, and a crocodile-spotting cruise. No beach time, because of the crocs and the jellyfish.

Finally, Cairns. This place is like spring break year round. Fire dancers! Pools! Nightclubs! Concerts! Our hostel is a bit wild. But for three days we went on a live aboard dive trip to the reef, and loved every minute of it. We saw massive turtles, heaps of fish, about a dozen sharks, and my personal favorite, the Maori Wrasse- it’s called that because the markings on the fish look like tribal tattoos. And they’re huge! Like four feet long. Friendly, and curious about us humans.

So…… Now we leave Australia, headed to New Zealand. Check back in 3 or 4 weeks for details!

Repositioning Cruise to Australia

Upon the advice of some friends, we looked into a repositioning cruise to start our world trip.  As luck would have it, we found one leaving around the same time that we wanted to travel, going from LA to Sydney, Australia.  So we figured we’d start our journey there and eventually work our way back.

After staying with family for three days in California, we boarded the Carnival Legend in Long Beach and immediately set sail for Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.  We enjoyed a day of walking around the Malecon and downtown areas, stopping for cervezas and ceviche when we got too hot.

Then out to sea for a week.  We skirted tropical storm Norbert, and crossed the equator.  Eventually we landed in Tahiti, the capital of French Polynesia.  We teamed up with another couple, Kirk and Tricia, and rented a taxi for the day and had a great 7 hour tour.  Lots of Captain Cook history, beautiful surf spots, and tropical vistas.  The next day we docked at Moorea, an island just 14 miles away, and enjoyed a lovely second day in Paradise (French Polynesia).  We took a small minibus tour and visited some Polynesian temple sites, a look out at the harbor, and a fruit juice plantation.  Then we got dropped off at the local beach and enjoyed the crystal clear water.  And our last day in French Polynesia was at Bora Bora. Instead of a tour, we decided to just relax at the Hotel Intercontinental beach and gaze at their fabulous over-the-water-bungalows.  And sample tasty tropical rum drinks.  Amazing.

Back to the boat, and another few days at sea, crossing the international date line- we completely skipped the 15th of September!  We docked at Suva, Fiji, on a day when they were having elections for the first time since a military coup.  Luckily we were able to still do a short tour, to a village, an eco resort, and a waterfall.  Most of the downtown capital city was closed for elections, but we got a feel for the place.

Fiji Waterfall
Fiji Waterfall

After International Pirates Day (a very fun party on the boat), we landed at Noumea, New Caledonia.  Part of France, they are supposed to get independence in 2 1/2 years… but 1/3 of the world’s nickel comes from Noumea, so I wonder how that is going to go.  We visited their extremely cool architectural cultural center, and visited a lookout and a church, had some food, and enjoyed our day there. In the capital they had a monument to the US for their help in World War II.  We sampled their local beer (Number 1!) and then it was time to get back on the boat.

Tchabau Cultural Center, New Caledonia
Tchabau Cultural Center, New Caledonia

We enjoyed our cruise very much.  We took dance classes each day, attended a few art classes (bought two paintings at an auction!), used the gym, swam in the the pools, and ate our weight in all kinds of food.  It was certainly a relaxing way to get to Australia. I’m glad we chose that as a way to start our journey.

Sydney Harbor and Opera House Australia
Sydney Harbor and Opera House

Next post: Australia.