Kauai, Hawaii March 31 – April 4 2016

 

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We arrived at the airport and  rented a car where we saw a chicken walking around the Alamo car rental.  As we spent our four days in Kauai we learned that the island of Kauai is home to thousands of wild chickens, a particular variety that’s vibrant in plumage.  They eat the venomous centipedes native to Kauai, a trait that people seem to like, but they have no natural predators besides pet cats and dogs, and the population is growing at an alarming rate.  The Hawaiian chickens really only came into their own as the pigeon of Hawaii in the past few decades, after Hurricane Iniki destroyed chicken enclosures in 1992, releasing many of the island’s captive chickens into the jungle.
We drove the short distance to our beach front hotel. We were on the east coast of Kauai. The hotel was recently acquired by the Hilton chain and was still under renovation.  It had opened 2 days before we got there!  We were adventurers, trying it out.  The hotel had been one of the island’s best in the 1960s when first built.  It had good bones, but really needed the loving care it was getting.  Renovations in the wing in which we were staying were complete, other than the old hydraulic elevator that lurched and bumped its way to the second floor.  One ride and then we walked the stairs for the balance of our stay.  The lobby area and pool were completely renovated and they were working on the second wing and the landscaping.  The hotel manager and his staff were great, and we certainly would stay there again given a chance.
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 There is a partnership with hotel & the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to protect the land that the hotel is built on. Since the hotel is on sacred land there was a sunrise worship ceremony that we took part in the next morning. Shelley was asked  to put a ceremonial gift by the noni tree surrounding the sacred area where a temple once stood.
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After breakfast we were picked up for a cruise of the Wailua River and the nearby fern grotto.  It is a 21 mile river that feeds into the Pacific Ocean.   As we boarded the boat, which was a scow pushed by a small tug boat, we were greeted by musicians playing ukulele and guitar.   Beautiful scenery.  We were surrounded by mountains and groves of Haue growing along the banks as we cruised down the river. We watched some hula and everyone on the boat learned hula together.  After the 2 mile cruise we got off the boat to hike the fern grotto area. The musicians played the Hawaiian wedding song & hula by this area that is famous for its wedding cave surrounded by hanging ferns , ti & red ginger.
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We drove to Kappau for lunch & then to find some waterfalls.We discovered Opeka Falls and Wailua Falls. At Wailua falls we saw swimmers at the bottom & white birds with long tails flying above called Kia Kaie.
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We then drove south to find Spouting Horn state park . We heard that the Spouting Horn blowhole is one of the most photographed spots on Kauai. The Poipu surf channels into a natural lava tube here and releases a huge spout of water during large swells. There’s a video of it on our Facebook page.
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We saw a woman walking through the park holding a parrot.  She let him sit on Shelley’s arm.  He was so colorful!
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We rested in the afternoon and then used the hotel’s bicycles to ride the bicycle paths by the shore. It was a nice path that meandered through tree lined paths and along the water in some areas.
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The next day we drove to Hanapepe to see an arts festival & orchid show. We stopped for breakfast along the way.  In Hanapepe we wandered lovely art galleries and listened to local children drumming.
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IMG_3170Hank found a woman offering a foot massage and even got help from  her five year old daughter wanting to learn her mothers trade.
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We walked across their famous swinging bridge.
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We drove back to the hotel to rest and then drove to Lighthouse on the North part of the island. The road to the lighthouse was being repaired, which cut short our hike. We were able to look over the cliff and watch the soaring of  many types of sea birds.
We rested, had some lunch and rested more. We booked a river cruise for the next day and a sunset cruise for Sunday . We had plans  to meet with Hank’s friend Jim Lurie on Saturday.  He and his wife were visiting Kauai staying on the North side of the island. We had a lovely visit and dinner with Anne & Jim Lurie and were up early to see a beautiful sunrise.
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We set off on a drive through twisting & turning roads for Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
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By good fortune we met Anne and Jim Lurie again at the Waimea overlook, even though we had not planned to see each other at the canyon. We drove to two other magnificent lookout points.
We ate lunch The Beach House at Andy Sheppard’s suggestion and watched surfers, then on to Port Allen to catch the boat for the sunset cruise around the otherwise inaccessible northwestern part of Kauai.  On the cruise we saw a small pod of spinner dolphins.
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We passed tall cliffs and a fabulous sea cave. We saw mountain goats and a red footed booby on the cliffs. 
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The cliffs had a really interesting pattern of mist and rock.
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Here’s our sunset photos from our last sunset on this first big adventure.

Sydney March 22 – 31 2016

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Got in in the evening & took a taxi to our central business district apartment, just one  block from Martin Place, a major pedestrian street in the center of the City.   
We left in the morning to find a breakfast and then to discover the visitor center at Darling Harbour, about a 10 minute walk along an interesting mall and over a bridge.  We found out about an evening dinner cruise and an Opal transport pass for ferry, train & bus.  We also got a pass for a Blue Mountain sightseeing bus.  Sydney is well set up for public transportation.  No need for a car here.
After a nice lunch along the Harbour Hank found a foot massage & we set off for Circular Quay and the Rocks District for our dinner cruise.
We boarded the Southern Swan, built in 1922 in Denmark.  It is the  oldest tall sailing ship in Australia, a 96 year old three masted wooden ship.  It was a part of a reenactment of the first ships that left UK for Australia.  As we left the harbor, passing under Sydney’s iconic bridge, we sailed by Luna Park, an amusement park based on Coney Island, complete with a giant clown mouth entrance.  We saw the same park when we were in St. Kilda, Melbourne.  We watched a young and foolhardy couple climb up the mizzen mast, and Hank got to help set a Royal Top Gallant.   It was an enjoyable cruise.  We walked back to the apt and went swimming at the hotel rooftop pool. 
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We slept until late and planned out our next few days.  Hank bought a ticket to a rugby game for Friday.  He’ll see how his “Rugby for Dummies” instructions worked out.   We got lunch and set off for the Royal Botanical Gardens, which borders on Farm Cove of Sydney Harbor.  The Gardens, celebrating its 200th birthday, had acres of beautiful trees and gardens and it is free to roam.  Overhead flew ibis and parrots and cockatoos making for a lot of squawking. 
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As we walked along we happened onto the backstage area being set up for the opening of the opera Turandot being performed right across from the Sydney Opera house on the banks of Farm Cove.  What a treat, since Hank looked into getting tickets for an upcoming evening performance and it was sold out.  We sat and listened to a sound check rehearsal and walked to the opera house to look inside
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We walked back to the apartment and rested a bit before heading to dinner nearby at Intermezzo, an Italian restaurant that is housed in the first post office built in Australia. The building is a beautiful example  of Victorian architecture, now housing the Westin hotel.
In the morning we took a ferry to Darling Harbour for lunch, wandered  around the Harbour after lunch and then Hank caught a ferry to Sydney Olympic Park for the afternoon rugby game: the Bulldogs were playing Rabbitohs.  The Rabbitohs were skunked, and Hank still can’t describe the rules of Rugby to anyone who cares to listen.
 
We were up early to catch a 7:20 train to Katoomba, the Blue Mountains area.   It was a 2 hour journey.  When we arrived at Katoomba we learned that the popular Blue Mountain Explorer Bus was a ‘hop on hop off’ option.  We had a pass for it for the day along with access to the scenic skyway (a cable car across the canyon), the scenic railway (the steepest railway in the world), a scenic boardwalk and scenic cable car (back up the mountain).  There was also a trolley that took visitors to the town around to the many sightseeing areas.  We boarded the bus and got off at Scenic World where we first rode a steep railway & then walked in a well kept boardwalk through a forest full of vines, tall tree ferns,  eucalyptus (gum) trees and past streams & waterfalls. We heard the screeching of cockatoos in the trees. We then took a cableway up the mountains and then a skyway over Katoomba falls and the whole Blue Mountain park region.
 
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We walked around the falls area & caught the hop on & off bus to continue our tour around the Blue Mountain and it’s amazing scenery.  We stopped for lunch along the way, caught the bus again and wandered around the town of Leura for awhile.  Back on the bus we stopped at Echo Point, which offered a vast overlook of the valley.  We caught the bus again to Leura for a train back to Sydney.
We found a restaurant in our neighborhood that was open late.  Shelley finished the day by working on the blog updates since we’ve had consistently good wifi at our Sydney apt.
 
On Sunday we walked to the Rocks District in the rain for their weekend street market and wandered around looking at stalls of different artisans. It was interesting to see huge ibis wandering the streets as common as pigeons in the U.S.  We also saw a pair of white cockatoos in the the trees munching on berries. 
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On Monday we walked to the Sydney fish market for lunch & then to the Wild Life Sidney Zoo. 
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The exhibits there were limited to Australian animals.   As we walked around we were pleased to note that we has seen so many of these creatures in their natural habitats as we were touring Australia. This was our first time seeing a Tasmanian devil and cassowary and our first view of any snakes, other than the water snake that we saw in Cairns.
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 The next day after breakfast we walked to the wharf at Circular Quay to board a ferry to Manly, about a 1/2 hr journey to Manly harbour and beach . 

IMG_2950The Sydney Opera House, situated on Sydney Harbour at Bennelong Point, is considered by many to be one of the wonders of the modern world. Designed by Jørn Utzon and constructed under some controversy, it was opened in October 1973. The Opera House is one of Sydney's most popular icons with tourists and travellers from the world over visiting, photographing and standing in awe of the cultural centre of Sydney. View On Black

We planned to explore a bit and see the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary.   It was a pleasant trek across the Sydney Harbour to Manly Bay.  We walked to the sea life sanctuary happy to have umbrellas with us as it started raining.  We saw nice exhibits of fairy penguins that were raised at the sanctuary and other Australian sea life.
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We stopped in the town for a needed mani/pedi for each of us and then to the ferry back to Sydney central where where we found dinner at the Italian restaurant we had enjoyed a few nights earlier.  Walking across the plaza after dinner we followed a stairway leading us down to an underground passage with two clubs and a restaurant. These empty bird cages were hanging in the open space. Bird calls were heard from outdoor speakers.
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The next day we set off to catch a ferry to Watson’s Bay, the most easterly point of the harbour. 
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This was a beautiful harbour and short walk to view the Pacific from the cliffs. 
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We walked a bit and did some bird watching from Gap Bluff.  We saw a kookaburra sitting in an old tree ( I wanted it to be a gum tree to go with the song , but it wasn’t )
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We discovered Lady Bay on our walk which was advertised as a nude beach.  Hank decided to swim there & Shelley hung back to take a photo.
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We had lunch at Doyle’s on the Beach,  in business by the same family since 1885, where Hank had their famous fish & chips.
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We ferried back to Circular Quay and waited for the next ferry to go up the Parramatta River to the most westerly point in Sydney Harbour, about an hour’s ride. We passed many large harbor areas and then the ferry stops became more rural and the river narrowed substantially, no wider then the Chattahoochee.  We picked up food for dinner at the apartment and packed, getting ready for our travels to Hawaii the next day.  After breakfast we walked to The Australian Museum, our last excursion in Sydney. 
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 This was an art installation that was outside of the museum.
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We left Sydney on the airport shuttle heading towards Hawaii