Our friend, Dan, recently went Australia! Currently, as this post just posted, we are headed to Australia ourselves to experience the beautiful country! We’ll be posting more about Australia and our experiences but at this time, read about Dan’s adventure while he was there…

img_3602Aloha my name is Dan, I own and operate Circle Island Tour in 24 which provides visitors to O’ahu with private custom tours of the island. I am not really a blogger but I recently took a trip to Australia and had a brilliant time. I wanted to share this experience with others but since I don’t have a blog I contacted my good friends at Wanderlustyle and they graciously offered to share my story.

yourphoto_0002Hawaii is a popular tourist destination for Australians, in fact the very first tour that I conducted was for a couple of Aussie’s. Besides the mainland, the majority of my clients are from Australia. I have always been impressed with their laid back personalities and their good sense of humor. I have felt a connection with Australia for quite some time but I had never been there so I was pretty keen to go down under and check things out for myself.

Though I am technically out of the military I am fortunate enough to still have access to free “space available” flights. When I saw a flight into Richmond, NSW Australia for 22 October I knew that it was my time to go. My adventure began aboard a C-17 cargo plane. Instead of receiving our safety demonstration from an attractive flight attendant we had an airman in his flight suit give us our briefing, which was part safety and part comedy routine. After that I settled in for a long, loud and uncomfortable fifteen hour flight to Guam and then Australia. For most of the flight I sat across from 7-8 cargo crates, a couple of which the airman had strung some hammocks on. As we neared Richmond the pilots asked if I would like to join them in the cockpit. Eyes wide open I answered, “um, yeah.” So they fitted me with a headset and strapped me in like a race car driver and I got to catch a glimpse of downtown Sydney and watch them land this magnificent aircraft on Australian soil. After that I went through customs (no line 🙂 and then was dropped off just outside of post and made my way to the train station…. Let the journey began.

I rode the train to Sydney and though I was quite sleep deprived I stumbled around until I was able to find an open bed at a youth hostel just up the street from Sydney Harbour. After a few hours of sleep I walked out my door onto the third floor balcony and was greeted with a beautiful sunrise as well as views of Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and the bridge. It was time to board the train again and head to Newcastle to meet up with the Dicksons. About a year ago I was in Waikiki trying to sell tours and I happened upon an older Australian couple and their 25 year old son. They agreed to a tour and we shared a wonderful day together. Their son Jed was hungry for adventure. He wanted more than what we had experienced during our eight hour tour, he wanted to explore the jungles of Hawaii and do some serious hiking. I had no plans the following day so I offered to meet up with him for an adventure. We spent half the day together and went on a spectacular hike which offered breathtaking scenery. Fast forward about a year… I emailed several individuals I had taken on tours for advice on what to do and see in Australia. Tony and Jenny Dickson invited me up to Newcastle and graciously opened up their home and offered to show me around for a couple of days.

The first day we spent walking a section of the Great North Walk and exploring the coastline. Tony pointed out a layer of coal in the cliffs and informed me that Captain Cook had seen this from his ship which lead to several coal mines in the area. Rusted out railroad tracks and rail cars still remain as evidence of this era. Then Tony showed me several of his favorite surf spots and shared more of his in depth knowledge of the area and it’s history. I also was able to catch a glimpse of the sand dunes where the beaches of Waikiki get all of their sand … thanks Australia. After a walk in the warm sun we decided that we should cool off in the ocean, and cool off we did. These were not the warm Hawaiian waters that I am used to but I was glad to jump in and go for a swim, and just as Jenny said, it was quite refreshing. That evening Tony shared some old photos of himself and his family. He had some really great black and white surfing photos that one of his friends took of him. It was like staying up late talking story with an old friend.

nelsons-bay-hikeThe Dickson’s neighbor have a flagpole in their yard and they fly a different flag each day. The night prior he informed me that he would like to fly the Hawaii state flag in honor of my visit and asked if I would raise it in the morning. It was an honor and the flag unfurled beautifully in the nice Australian breeze. After the flag raising ceremony Tony invited me on a bike ride … seemed like a good idea but little did I know that this man who was twice my age would keep me working to keep up with him. After a brisk bike ride we headed up to Nelson’s Bay, a beautiful resort area with some brilliant scenery. We trekked to the top of Tomaree Head Summit and were greeted with an amazing view as well as spotting numerous whales breaching in the open ocean below. Trying not to sound too much like a silly American I informed Tony how much I would like to see some kangaroos. “Come on please, please, please can you help me find some kangaroos?” Tony knew just the place… a golf course on the way home. We stopped at around 5 pm., apparently this is the time of the evening that they come out and hop around on the golf course. We spotted a mob of them and though I have seen numerous boxing kangaroos on the internet, these seemed to be pretty tame and let this silly American get pretty close and take waaay too many photographs. After that we headed home and stayed up late watching surfing movies.

beth-and-jasonUnfortunately my time with Jenny and Tony Dickson had come to an end. I thanked them numerous times to which they replied, “Hey, we didn’t forget about what you did for our son Jed.” What a wonderful beginning for my Australian adventure. Jenny drove me into Newcastle where I met up with Beth and Jason for brunch. A little less than a year ago I pulled up to a resort in Waikiki to pick up some clients who had booked me through Viator. Early on in our adventure Beth explained that they were on their honeymoon and that her husband, Jason had planned their whole vacation around Pipeline. Jason grew up surfing and had longed to plant his feet in the sand at Pipeline but since the north shore was towards the end of our tour this would be nearly our last stop. They seemed to enjoy the entire tour but I sensed that Jason was a bit antsy to see Pipeline. Once he finally caught site of the beach that he had seen on TV so many times his face lit up. Beth and I knew how important this was for him. I was grateful to be there for one of the highlights of his trip. After the tour Beth said that she was a travel agent and she would send some people my way, and boy has she!! I wanted to buy them brunch to show my appreciation. As we enjoyed our meals they asked me about my plans and gave me many recommendations. They inquired about climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and I said I would love to but I just didn’t want to spend the money on it. I got up to pay for the meal and when I came back Beth said, “Jason and I discussed it and would like you to go climb the bridge, our treat,” as they handed me $300. After brunch I took the train into Sydney and headed straight for the bridge. It was an amazing experience and I am truly grateful for the generosity and aloha that Jason and Beth extended towards me. On the way home I took some night shots of the Sydney Opera House.

img_3349-copyThe next morning I hopped on a bus to make my way towards the famous Bondi beach. Australia has miles and miles of walks that follow the coastline and Beth had recommended that I walk from Bondi to Coogee. As if the path along the beaches and the cliffs was not beautiful enough, I was lucky to be able to do this walk during the art exhibition known as “Sculptures by the Sea.” Various pieces of art were scattered along the coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach. My personal favorite was a large rhinoceros, the head and four legs buried upside down in the sand (see picture above). I also ran across a poster advertising the world’s largest thong race, that sounded like fun, unfortunately it had already passed… I had packed my thong and everything… or wait, I think they call sandals thongs… hmmm. Hungry for lunch I followed another recommendation of Beth’s and ordered myself a meat pie from Pie Face. I found a nice secluded spot overlooking the ocean and enjoyed a sloppy, yet tasty meal. I boarded the bus and headed back into town. I walked along an area known as Mrs. Macquerie’s chair which offered a new perspective of the Sydney Opera House, my camera battery was nearly dead so I only took way too many pictures (as opposed to waaaaay too many pictures). I also took this opportunity to walk up on the steps of the opera house and visit the gift shop inside. After watching a freakshow swallow a balloon, juggle a knife, a club and a flaming torch while balancing on a homemade flaming skeleton with spoons over his eyes I treated myself to an ice cream cone and called it a day.

three-sisterswentworth-falls-2The next morning I decided to get out of town and head to the Blue Mountains. This area is densely populated with eucalyptus trees which give off oil droplets which combine with dust particles and water vapor that scatter refracted rays of light that are blue in color (did you follow all that?) thus they are called the Blue Mountains. First I checked out Echo Point and the iconic Three Sisters, they were quite beautiful. I took the Great Stairway down to the bottom of the valley and walked the valley floor towards Scenic World. I debated on whether I should walk up the Furber Steps or take the Scenic Railway (the steepest railway in the world) to get back to the top… finally I opted to take the railway. It was not that exciting and had I to do it again I would have saved my money and walked up the Furber Steps, but hey, can you say that you have ridden the steepest railway in the world? For lunch I had an amazing burger at the Shuttle Stop Corner Store and Take Away in the quirky little town of Katoomba. I had the Works burger complete with lettuce, tomato, beetroot, pineapple, bacon, egg, cheese and a beef patty. A – MAZ – ING!!! After wandering through a couple shops in Katoomba I boarded the train and headed south just a few stops to Wentworth Falls. It’s not really worth trying to describe or show you in pictures how beautiful this hike was. All along the way there were smaller waterfalls and then after walking along the edge of a rock cliff and down a bunch of stairs you are greeted with some spectacular views of Wentworth Falls, if you are in the area, do this hike, you will not be disappointed. Time to go home for the evening.

the-gapUp to this point I had not taken any ferries out on the Sydney Harbour (which by the way is the largest natural harbour in the world). I boarded the train for Circular Quay, which is the part of Sydney Harbour that borders the main business district to include the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I first took the ferry to Manly Beach with one goal in mind. I had read about a statue of Duke Kahanamoku which sits just north of Manly above Freshwater Beach, the place where Duke had demonstrated Hawaiian style surfing. I headed that direction and found an Aussie wearing a Duke’s Waikiki shirt and thought, “maybe this bloke knows where the statue is.” Sure enough he knew precisely how to get there. The statue was perched up on a rock that roughly resembled a wave. It was a magnificent sight to see but it would be tricky to get a good picture of. I spent a good 30 minutes taking pictures of the statue also trying to balance my camera and set the timer so I could get a picture of myself with the statue.. After accepting defeat I hopped back on the ferry and headed back to Circular Quay and then took another ferry to Watson’s Bay. I found the path that took me past The Gap, which is a famous suicide spot in Sydney. I took a long walk along this path. There were numerous signs of encouragement and numbers to call if you needed help. I found a plaque which stated “Always remember the power of the simple smile, a helping hand, a listening ear and a kind word.” This is a quote by Don Ritchie the “Angel of The Gap.” He is credited with at least 160 rescues. Initially he tackled a man about to jump but eventually approached would be jumpers with arms outstretched and asked if there was anything he could do to help. He would then usually invite them to his place for breakfast and a cup of tea. Speaking of food I was pretty hungry so I headed into town for lunch. On the way back I took a path less traveled and ran across a creepy lizard who slithered like a snake. In an effort to get him to slither so I could record it on my iphone I stomped at him. He lunged at me as he shot out his blue tongue. Hint taken I turned around and went the other way remembering something Beth had told me, “everything in Australia will try to kill you.” I found a place to get fish ‘n’ chips and may I just say, best fish ‘n’ chips EVER!!!!! Satisfied with my adventures at Watson’s Bay I went back to Circular Quay. I had yet to use my ticket to the Pylon lookout on the Sydney Harbour Bridge that I obtained while doing the Bridge climb so I decided that this was my chance. I climbed up to the lookout and took some more pictures of the Opera House. I walked across the bridge snapping a few more pictures of the Opera House and the harbour. I bought a few souvenirs and then headed home for the night.

cockatoo-islandI had one more full day before I needed to head up towards Richmond and prepare for the military flight back to Hawaii. I decided to take Jed Dickson’s recommendation and visit Cockatoo Island. I boarded the ferry nice and early and was one of the first people to visit the island that day. I walked into the visitor information building and inquired about things to do on the island. She informed me that I could do a self guided audio tour to which I quickly replied, “sounds great.” I learned all about this fascinating island to include its history of being a convict island, one of Australia’s largest shipyards and how it is now a World Heritage Site. At the end of my visit on Cockatoo Island I learned that the military flight for the week had been cancelled so I quickly made arrangements to fly commercial. I headed straight to the airport to allow plenty of time only to find that I allowed way too much time so I headed back into Sydney to grab a bite to eat. I thought I had more time than I did but luckily I made it back to the airport in time and flew back home on a much quieter and shorter flight.

img_3594This was a very special trip for me. I always have fun when I show Aussies around the island. They have been a big part of my business from day one. I felt that I owed it to them and myself to visit Australia. I was only able to visit a small part of the land down under but I enjoyed learning more about the culture and partaking of it’s beauty.

To Tony, Jenny, Jason and Beth mahalo nui loa. Until next time Australia, aloha.

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