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australia, ocean

Detours off Britta Blvd


South Pacific Adventure 2019
australia, ocean
For 3 weeks in early 2019, Glen & I headed out on a South Pacific Adventure, starting with a cruise around Australia & New Zealand with Ruth, George, Gail & John, then continuing with Fiji on our way home!

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 1 - The Adventure Begins!

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 2 - Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb & Dinner Cruise

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 3 - Sydney Sightseeing, High Tea, & Bon Voyage!

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 4 - Eden, Killer Whales & Potaroo Palace

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 5 - Smooth & Snazzy at Sea

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 6 - Melbourne, Ballarat Wildlife Park, Sovereign Hill, & Supernormal

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 7 - Smooth Day at Sea

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 8 - Tasmania with Family

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 9 - Rocky Day at Sea

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 10 - Superbowl at Sea

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 11 - Milford Sound, Lake Wakatipu & Queenstown

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 12 - Arrowtown, Bungy Bridge, to Dunedin

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 13 - Journey to Middle Earth

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 14 - Wellington, Weta Workshops & Lord of the Rings

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 15 - Napier, NZ

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 16 - Visiting Hobbiton & Farewell to the MS Noordam

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 17 - Auckland, Kiwis & Gorgeous Glowworms

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 18 - Farewell New Zealand, Hello Fiji...Bula!

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 19 - Lovely Likuliku

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 20 - Honeymoon Island Snorkeling & Valentines Dinner

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 21 - Leaving Likuliku for the Fiji Princess Cruise

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 22 - Sunset Beach & Soso Village

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 23 - Village Church & Fiji Beach Time

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 24 - Headed Home

South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 24 - Headed Home
australia, ocean
at Blue Lagoon Cruises, Fiji Princess Vessel.
February 17 at 9:48 PM · Nadi, Fiji ·
On Monday morning others went back to the “swim with the sharks” snorkeling that was cancelled our first morning, but that was too close to have a shower and get ready for our luggage to be packed to disembark. We heard there were only a couple small sharks that sounded like what we saw in Likuliku so we don’t feel so bad. The rest of the guests went to Sunset Beach again with box lunches since the weather was too bad for Sacred Isles as planned, but we had lunch on board before our 1:30 transfer to the port, including a heartfelt traditional farewell song by our crew. Thanks to the Fiji Princess crew for a fun 3 days despite the weather!


at Hardrock Café Denarau Nadi.
February 17 at 9:50 PM · Nadi, Fiji ·
Since we had time to kill before our evening flight home, we stayed in Port Denarau and shopped a bit, then ate an early dinner at Hard Rock Cafe and acquired another shot glass for my collection. Can’t believe there is a HRC here but no Starbucks anywhere in Fiji!


traveling to San Jose, California with Glen Simon from LAX.
23 hrs · Los Angeles ·
Almost home! The LAX passport machines print a photo receipt, but they stamp that and take it at customs instead of stamping your passport! All I have in my passport from this entire trip is one stamp entering Fiji...waah!


South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 23 - Village Church & Fiji Beach Time
australia, ocean
at Soso, Naviti,yasawa.
February 16 at 11:50 PM ·
On Sunday morning we went back to the same Methodist church in Soso for Sunday service with their church choir leading the hymns, while I hummed some harmony where I could, since the entire service was in Fijian and no hymnals, only Bibles. It seems that struggles with keeping kids quiet in church are universal. 😉 Each island has a different flavor of Christianity depending which missionaries succeeded where. The Hindu and Muslim populations are mostly on the main island of Fiji, so you won’t find mosques or temples in the outer islands. Today the chief’s wife gave the sermon, and she read the lesson with a quick sermon and a welcome for us in English. Her Fijian sermon was much longer, and she was a good preacher even if we couldn’t understand the words. We have more blue skies today but some foreboding clouds on the horizon...


at Naviti Island.
February 17 at 1:09 AM ·
After Sunday lunch, we sailed to the other side of Naviti Island to a marine reserve for beach time and guided coral reef snorkeling. They place forms underwater here to grow new coral and transplant it to other reefs. I got some more decent snorkeling videos but not quite as impressive as Honeymoon Island. Very nice of he ship staff to set up umbrellas and chairs on the beach, plus a table for afternoon tea, and a kokoda cooking lesson and tasting!


at Blue Lagoon Cruises, Fiji Princess Vessel.
February 17 at 1:49 AM · Nadi, Fiji ·
We had time to cleanup properly before Sunday dinner, good thing since I was asked earlier to be in the evening sarong fashion show. Our cruise director chose my sarong style and assigned the islands we represented. The fashion show was actually a funny Miss Fiji competition, and it was hilarious how we all were enthusiastically miming our assigned hobbies, like big game hunting and scaling fish for mine! But since I was “backstage” before our show, I missed the whole kava ceremony and didn’t get to taste any. Glen tasted some but only noticed his mouth go numb after a second bowl, no other effects. Dinner & dessert were tasty again albeit just as muggy, then we leave the ship and go home tomorrow, arriving before we leave!


South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 22 - Sunset Beach & Soso Village
australia, ocean
at Sunset Beach Mana Island Fiji.
February 16 at 3:34 PM ·
They told us at 8am Saturday that the morning swimming with the sharks trip was cancelled, and after our rough night on the choppy waves, we needed more sleep anyway, so we slept through breakfast. At 9:30am they announced we could swim & snorkel at Sunset Beach but we were still in PJs! Ah well...but when we came down for 10:30am morning tea, the staff told us we could take another boat out to meet the rest at the beach, so we changed our clothes, put on sunscreen, then had maybe 30 minutes of playing in the surf before everyone came back to the ship to clean up for a tasty buffet lunch.


at Soso, Naviti,yasawa.
February 16 at 3:48 PM ·
Thankfully back on schedule for the afternoon, we visited the chiefly village of Soso on Naviti Island, a current-day Fijian island village complete with solar panels, wandering chickens, cute & friendly kids who high-fived us with “bula,” and still rebuilding after a big storm 2 years ago since supplies are so hard to get to the island. Ladies had to cover shoulders and everyone had to cover their knees, so the ship provided sarongs and tied them for us. Together we entered the village hall to present the kava root to the elders, then we saw the local elementary school, then the local church, and they set up a market for us. Even strangers were commenting how much I was sweating in the humidity (sad I know!), so a local woven fan was an excellent souvenir, plus a bright teal sarong and an aqua shell bracelet. :)


at Blue Lagoon Cruises, Fiji Princess Vessel.
February 16 at 3:59 PM · Nadi, Fiji ·
Glen napped in our cabin while I went to Saturday happy hour a little early to be fitted for saris for Indian Thali night. I chose a bright teal one with bling that looked great, but it was a bit warm to wear all evening over my dress. The curry buffet was thankfully not too spicy for me, but we missed the group Bollywood dance at the bar since we were still chatting with our dinner mates. We both wish the common areas had more breeze to try dancing tonight, but since it was still so unbearably muggy, we retreated to our room early instead of socializing. At least the ship is hanging out in sheltered Soso Bay tonight with calm water so far, so hopefully we will both sleep better. The scenery may be gorgeous in Fiji, but this weather is definitely not paradise for Glen or me. ;)


South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 21 - Leaving Likuliku for the Fiji Princess Cruise
australia, ocean
at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.
February 14 at 5:29 PM ·
They let us check out late so we had time for breakfast...some of the best eggs Benedict I’ve ever had! We will miss the weekly feast tonight, but the activities crew were weaving extra coconut palm leaf baskets. These same baskets are left open on one end to fill with meat, braided closed, then buried in an earth oven to cook all day. The fresh green leaves help keep the meat moist, but by the end of cooking they aren’t so pretty, so the uncooked baskets will be used for the buffet presentation. Sure wish we could try it! It was already raining again so we caught a buggy to our bure to pack, then another heavy downpour arrived as a line moving across the water...wow!
We aren’t sure what signal we will have on our island cruise around the outer islands of Fiji for the next 3 days, but at least we can say farewell from lovely Likuliku!


at Blue Lagoon Cruises, Fiji Princess Vessel.
February 15 at 5:55 PM · Nadi, Fiji ·
It was a bit of a comedy of errors leaving Likuliku since for some reason our speedboat pickup didn’t want to use the main dock but the helicopter pad on the other side. The Likuliku crew sang us goodbye at the main building and drove us and our luggage to the helipad, but then there were too many rocks near that little dock anyway, so back to Plan A! Heh...the speedboat was a fun wet ride over choppy waves, but getting on board the Fiji Princess was trickier, since our “docking” was just ropes held by people, then we stood on the inflated boat edge, held the door rails, and jumped into the tiny door! We made quite a stir among the passengers already aboard since they stopped in the middle of the water just for us! 😉
As soon as the speedboat breeze was gone, we were sweating in the humidity again, so we were very glad that our cabin has AC! We cooled down & unpacked a bit, since our first stop at Modriki Island where Cast Away was filmed was already cancelled due to bad weather. We joined the other passengers for cocktails as the sun barely peeked out behind impressive thunderclouds for a pretty sunset, then headed to dinner. The dining room is open to the back of the ship but no breezes reached us, and despite the oscillating fans, we were all sweating, even the staff! Our ship kept rocking really badly through dinner, worse than Glen’s seabands and ginger pills could help, so he didn’t even try dessert and had to lie down. I had taken double pills at lunch plus triple Excedrin, so after cooling down in the room AC, I headed back to the bar for some karaoke. There were only about 10 of us, so I ended up sticking the mic in faces who were already singing along to encourage more people to participate. We had fun and it took my mind off the rocking, which didn’t let me sleep very well when things kept falling and doors kept opening all night in our room! I almost fell off the bed a couple times!


South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 20 - Honeymoon Island Snorkeling & Valentines Dinner
australia, ocean
at Honeymoon Island Malolo.
February 14 at 3:08 AM · Yaro, Fiji ·
Wow! We are sure glad we snorkeled at our bure hut yesterday, since that already-amazing snorkeling absolutely paled in comparison to our guided tour this morning! They took us out to uninhabited Honeymoon Island in a speedboat, then we spent an hour following our expert local guide along the stunning coral reef. He showed us shells, sea cucumber and bright blue starfish, and he offered to take my camera to film since he could get so much closer to the coral without damage, even diving down deep. He took one long excellent video plus a few shorter ones, after I had taken a couple myself. Enjoy the videos on as large a screen as possible!


at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.
February 14 at 3:43 AM ·
Since we ran out of time for a proper breakfast before snorkeling, after we got back on shore, we enjoyed a fruity mocktail & milkshake with the breeze at the beach bar, saw a timely message on the beach, then we checked out the gift shop, getting each other Valentine’s presents on the spot with pretty earrings for me and a shot glass for my collection, an awesome island shirt for Glen, plus a purple polo and a gorgeous cast bronze verdigris octopus to share. 😉 Since the tide was coming in, we could have snorkeled again at our bure hut, but we both agreed it would be a bit anticlimactic after the amazing morning. We both cleaned up and made it to lunch before they actually closed, we spotted the resort mascot Coco the Labrador surfing in the lagoon, and the food was delicious & fancy yet again, but even in the shade it was so muggy that we needed multiple chilled towels! We counted it was 1100 steps back to our bure, so no wonder I kept sweating in the humidity! We decided our afternoon could just be spent relaxing in our air-conditioned hut, and I think the change in air pressure from the nearby storms might have been the culprit for both our headaches. We appreciated the special fresh bedspread decor, and an embellished card was delivered to our door with our afternoon snacks. Sometimes lazy vacation days are allowed, especially in a location like this!


at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.
February 14 at 12:55 PM ·
We had missed the evening torch lightings so far, so we were determined to see it on our last night here. Good thing, since as soon as we ordered our drinks, there was a cooking demonstration for coconda, marinated raw white fish prepared like ceviche, but with coconut milk or coconut cream, and we got to taste it - yum! When Glen asked our seaplane escort if there was a special Fijian food we should watch for, he said “coconda” and here it fell in our lap! After the torchlighting and a fantastic sunset peeking through the heavy clouds after all, we headed to dinner for a special Valentine menu tied with a ribbon and a red rose on each table. The food was as excellent as always, but we didn’t realize our ribeye steak for two was a full kilo, around 40oz?!? All their other portions have been just right, but tonight we just couldn’t finish all our meat! Thankfully all the other portions were good sizes so we could enjoy them! As we walked back to our hut, the first drops of rain started, so that was good timing! The heavy rain pounded on our hut around 11pm and our poor AC unit didn’t work as well all night. Glad for the ceiling fans to help out!


South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 19 - Lovely Likuliku
australia, ocean
at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.
February 13 at 3:15 AM ·
Glad for comfy beds with air conditioning and thick curtains so we could finally be fully-rested! After 10am breakfast we got right into the water right outside our balcony for a couple hours of snorkeling! We can only snorkel here at high tide since the waterline is so close to the coral, so midday is the only option. Even though we timed our water-resistant sunscreen with a break to reapply, we still both burned a bit...but I’ve never seen so many varieties of beautiful fish swimming so close to me even in Hawaii! I ventured as far as 4 huts away but the most fish were right by our own hut since there is a coral “canyon” with more interesting landscape I guess? I was surprised by a jellyfish, and found some bright lavender coral, several bright blue starfish, a few sea cucumbers, and even a couple clownfish. I’m sure you’re not surprised that my favorites were the vivid rainbow fish and the bright neon aqua ones. Too bad the vivid colors don’t show up that well on the GoPro camera. Keep scrolling for some short videos!


at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.
February 13 at 11:28 AM ·
We thought we had snorkeled so long that we missed lunchtime, but they called our room to ask and said we could still come to the restaurant. How nice! Snorkeling in the sunshine is tiring, so we rested before our dinner at a special table down by the seashore. It was a lovely view and quite private down the set of stairs, but less breeze than the patio, so we needed the chilled towels they bring ok glass trays! Another delicious dinner, then another relaxing evening at our hut, since we are getting up early for a snorkeling tour at 9am!


South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 18 - Farewell New Zealand, Hello Fiji...Bula!
australia, ocean
at Nadi International Airport.
February 11 at 4:34 PM · Saunaka, Fiji ·
Farewell New Zealand, Hello Fiji! Bula everyone! Fun ukulele & guitars playing while waiting in line for our first actual passport stamp of this adventure. All these darn e-passports machines are quick but leave you no collection of where you’ve been! It was yet another before dawn morning, but we made it with aisle & window seats next to each other, and are now waiting to board our seaplane to our little island, then we can relax!


at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.
February 11 at 8:42 PM ·
We made it to Likiliku on Malolo Island! We saw our overwater bure hut from the air and the whole island looks gorgeous! We were the first stop for our seaplane, our pilot was barefoot, and we boarded the small boat for our resort so we didn’t get the chance to see it take off from water...but we were greeted with a song and a wood bead lei at the dock! They took all our bags to our room as we had our late lunch & tour, and we have already been fitted for our snorkeling equipment, but it’s really muggy after a long travel day, so a little unpacking & relaxing is in order before a late dinner. 🌺


at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.
February 12 at 9:27 PM ·
We saw our first Likuliku Lagoon sunset from our balcony, walked around to the beach bar for our complimentary cocktails, then enjoyed dinner in dark where it was much cooler but tricky to see the menu or the food. Everything was fantastic, including a seafood spread for two that was messy to eat but worth the effort! It was clear enough to see lots more stars than back home, so Glen kept trying to use the binoculars to find the Magellanic Clouds he has always wanted to see but are only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. ✨


South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 17 - Auckland, Kiwis & Gorgeous Glowworms
australia, ocean
at Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
February 10 at 11:46 PM · Waitomo Caves, New Zealand ·
Since Glen & I had requested to leave as early as possible & handle our own luggage, disembarkation from the ship was smooth, and we were on our small tour van before 8am, on our way to Waitomo for a small group guided cave tour instead of the big Waitomo cave operation that takes large groups and doesn’t allow taking photos. First we walked deep into a glow worm cave, saw the tiny, aqua-cyan points of bioluminescence up close, with the “fishing line” webs trailing down, as our guide explained how these larvae maggots only live where there are enough flying insects to be trapped in the dangling webs, meaning only above underground rivers close enough to openings or “tomo” holes above caves, then the glow worms eventually turn into flying insects themselves, lay as many eggs as possible, then die, usually never leaving the caves. Next we boarded a raft and spent time traveling up & back along a section of underground river with a gorgeous galaxy of glow worms above us, reflecting on the water below. Sure wish I had a better camera that could capture the extremely-low-light beauty, since no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get much to show up, but thankfully the tour company emails you their stock photos to share the magic.

at Waitomo Caves.
February 11 at 12:25 AM · Auckland, New Zealand ·
After the glow worms, we took a snack break outside, learned about the cave system and the extinct giant moa birds, then we went into a dry cave, past stalactites and stalagmites, flowstones, and “tomo” entrances high above us where we could see daylight peeling down into the caves. Of course over the centuries various unlucky birds and animals have fallen down those tomos and couldn’t find their way out leaving only their bones, including a giant moa bird skeleton. In 20 years of these cave tours, our guide has found & helped rescue several birds, lizards, and even cows who have fallen into the caves. They have run solar lights into this cave that the guide turns on and off again on our way out, but he also highlighted areas with his big flashlight. On our way out on a bridge above a small water area, we had an “after-dinner mint” of another magical small galaxy of glow worms above us.


at Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park.
February 11 at 2:22 AM · Otorohanga, New Zealand ·
After the Waitomo cave tours, our guide drove us by an ostrich farm near the road, and two ostrich nicely came right up to us, but we didn’t have any snacks for them. 😉 He said we had enough time for a quick ice cream stop, plus another stop at a nature park since it was close to kiwi feeding time. He got us in for free, and before we saw some other lizards and birds, we went straight to the kiwi house first and saw a cute fluffy brown kiwi scarfing up his snacks in the dark. Kiwis are nocturnal so this kiwi house has the lights on overnight so we humans can appreciate them and help in conservation efforts. Unfortunately all varieties of kiwi are highly-endangered because of non-native predators like the Australia bushtail possum, introduced to NZ in an attempt at starting a fur trade but quickly getting out of hand in the wild, stealing kiwi eggs from burrows. Since NZ has no native mammals and no natural predators, stoats and weasels were brought to NZ to help control the possums & rabbits, but that also failed and they also eat kiwi eggs and chicks. Poor kiwis and such a mess humans have created since the Polynesians first arrived 800 years ago and hunted the giant moa birds to extinction in only a couple hundred years, even before any white men ever arrived bringing their own misguided plans. NZ is now trying several programs to get back to native flora & fauna where possible, but that is a conflict with local industry and farmers. I’m sure glad we could see a live kiwi enjoying its snack instead of only the stuffed ones in the museum display case, and I hope future generations will still have kiwi birds in their world too.


at Auckland Sky Tower.
February 11 at 2:53 AM · Opaheke, New Zealand ·
We were thankful our guide was driving the 3 hours back from Waitomo to Auckland for us so we could get a nap. He dropped us at our Auckland hotel, we left our luggage and cleaned up a bit, then walked a couple blocks to the Auckland Sky Tower for food with a view. The revolving restaurant was all booked, so we had some sunset snacks at the Sky Cafe then took in the views. The harbor bridge has a fun LED light show, but the inside reflections and outside floodlights made it harder to see the city lights, especially through the glass floor sections. They have lovely decorations for Chinese New Year, including red & gold lights!


South Pacific Adventure 2019 - Day 16 - Visiting Hobbiton & Farewell to the MS Noordam
australia, ocean
at Hobbiton Movie Set.
February 9 at 10:19 PM · Matamata, New Zealand ·
We returned to Middle Earth today! We crossed the Kaimai Ranges and headed across the Waikato lowlands to the Hobbiton set! For Lord of the Rings it was only built from foam and other temporary materials like other movie sets, but for the Hobbit movies, they rebuilt Hobbiton with permanent materials so it would last for tours. Good planning since it was packed full of people today! We enjoyed strolling around the homes of the hobbits, including posh Bag End, where Bilbo & Frodo Baggins lived. Some were tiny size so Gandalf would seem appropriately large, and others were large enough for humans to seem hobbit-sized. All gardens were so beautifully tended that even plant-hater Glen said he could see why farm life seems so idyllic...but then he remembered seeing me work so hard in my yard. 😉 We had beautiful fluffy clouds among blue skies making gorgeous photos, but we were baking in the sunshine, so we were glad for a glass of cider and some snacks at the Green Dragon tavern across the bridge, then a bit of shopping in the nicely air-conditioned gift shop! I found all the blue-green hobbit doors of course. ;)


in Tauranga, New Zealand.
February 10 at 9:54 AM ·
As we sailed away from Tauranga with big waves coming at us past an old volcano, we cooled down in our room while repacking our luggage for leaving the ship bright & early, then enjoyed our last dinner together while the ship rocked even more than any of the bad weather earlier in the trip...ugh! At least we had enough decent photos to buy a 5-pack, including our fancy group photo! Thanks to John, Gail, Ruth & George for a fun cruise!