Sunday, September 6, 2009

Australia & Guadalcanal Trip

G'Day Mate,

Ron and I have had a very busy year and with some excess mileage and a new route for Delta, we decided we would vacation in Australia (Down Under) where the official language is English. We quickly learned that Aussies love colloquialisms and word plays and the results were very funny! We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and found the "blokes" and "sheillas" to be extremely friendly and had "no worries". We soon learned that a few of our slang meant the opposite--ex. Ron's "fanny pack" ended up being derogatory slang--in AU it is called a "bum pack".

I decided to publish a blog about our 2 1/2 week "holiday". We spent an extra three days flying to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands to add to our WWII adventures. (More on that below including a slide show.) I will try to keep it brief!

Australia, about the same size as the US, consists of 7 states or territories and 20 million people. They are still part of the British Commonwealth and a Prime Minister is head of the federal government while the heads of their states are Premiers. There is on going debate about its future as a republic, but currently the system works well for Aussies. With 33% of their population immigrants, the debate continues. Taxation is a big issue and over 60% of their income goes to the government. We found a proud spirit and a very harmonious multicultural community. Australia was settled by the British in 1788 when this little upstart colony of America had a war with the Brits. One-half of the original settlers were convicts so many can trace their heritage back to a "criminal" although most were sent there for very minor offenses. Just like America, the "Aboriginals" were driven to the outback and until the 1990's, didn't own land.

We arrived in Sydney, NSW after a 15 hour flight from LAX. We lost a day when we crossed the International Date Line. We stayed downtown on the Circular Quay, close to and within walking distance of most venues. We set up tours by bus, boat, or rail once we arrived in the city. From our Intercontinental Hotel room, we could see the Sydney Opera House and the "Coathanger", Sydney famous bridge. It is a big city nearly surrounded by water. Sandstone base made the structures glisten in the cool days we had in Sydney. We toured famous Bondi Beach (Aboriginal for Noisy Waters) and the wharfs and harbors. The following day we took an all day trip to the Blue Mountains, an increase in elevation of 3,600 ft. Similar to the Grand Canyon, the lush vegetation and abundant eucalyptus and acacia trees, beautiful canyons and forests was the exact opposite of coast land Sydney. Driving through the Blue Mountain National park, we saw grazing cattle, sheep and kangaroos. One of the most spectacular rock sites was the "Three Sisters"
--Aboriginal legend includes a story about a father who turned his daughters to stone when they disobeyed him!

Two days in Sydney was not long enough as we boarded the Countrylink rail on the 3rd day for Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. It was a 12 hour train ride up some of the most beautiful coast land I have ever seen--even though we live at the beach. Spectacular seaside towns and agricultural regions, rolling pastures, eucalyptus "gum" trees and herds of kangaroos and an occasional palm tree made the day pass quickly. An additional three hour treterous bus ride from a town named Casino to Brisbane we labeled Mr. Toad's Wild Ride completed our long day. Once we were safely in our room in Brisbane, we were able to laugh at that part of the adventure.

Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, situated on the Brisbane River, is a beautiful financial district of central Australia. We used an on-off city tour bus but the highlight of the day was a lovely 2 hour boat trip we took up and back on the Brisbane River. Most everyone parks outside the city and takes the boat (CityCat) to their destination, so we met many young and old Brisbane-siders. The buildings are old and a mixture of commercial and high rise residentials next to beautiful, quaint old 19th century homes dot the rivers edge. The street vendors and cafes lend to the enchantment. A lobster like crustacean called a Moerton Bay Bug was wonderful tasting dish.

Our next ride was a 24 hour train trek up the coast to Cairns in Northern Australia but still in Queensland. Due to downed electrical lines, the ride took 36 hours and we arrived at our hotel Sangri-La at 3:30 in the morning. We were exhausted and a little testy with each other but found Cairns totally different from Sydney and Brisbane. Cairns caters to tourists from all over the world but especially to backpackers so it was quite lay-back and far less expensive than our earlier stops. The Harbor is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and we took a overnight catamaran on the reef. We snorkeled and spent 2 days with other tourists, young and old. It was a great way relax and we enjoyed God's beauty immensely.

Our last day in Cairns was to the rain forest at Kuranda on another antique rail then on to the Tjapukai Cultural Center, a Aboriginal Dance theater where we saw traditional dances, watched natives play the didgeridoo and attempted to throw a boomerang. We also spent time at a wonderful Koala sanctuary where I got to hold an 8 year old female Koala named Seeanna. Walking through the gardens was a beautiful ending to our 2 1/2 week trip to Australia.

Our trip back to Vista was uneventful and as usual holidays are great but it is always good to get back home.

We were a 3 hour plane ride from Australia and to add to our WWII historical tours we spent 3 days at Guadalcanal, the site of the 1st amphibious landing of the Marines in the Pacific. Karen’s father served on Henderson Field beginning August 1943 until he returned home to El Toro with malaria he contracted while serving there. We were told the island has not changed in 65 years. It was very tropical and the Melanesian people are very poor. Many walked around toothless and with red mouths from the Beetle nut, an addictive “narcotic”.
We stayed in the King Solomon Hotel and climbed the hill to our room in an antique cable car. We toured the War Memorial, constructed in the 90’s as a tribute to the Marines, Army and Navy that joined the battle against the Japanese. Ron collected sand from Beach Red, the site of the landings to add to our wall of sand. We crossed the Tenaru and Lunga Rivers and Alligator Creek where battles took place. We also went to Bloody Ridge (aka Edson), the site of several assaults against the mounting Japanese forces.
We ended our stay with a brief visit to Iron Bottom Sound and the museum currently under construction. An Aussie family has started a huge collection of armaments and pay the natives to bring remnants, both live and spent. The week before they discovered the skeletons of two Japanese fighters—it is an ongoing discovery of artifacts. The slide show below highlights the island, then and now.

It was another great adventure for the Adams family. We hope you enjoy the pictures and please feel free to comment.

Karen & Ron


  1. The song s gave me goose bumps - this is a fantastic slideshow, literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes - I can't wait to see you - I'm now beyond homesick as I realize by the Grace of God I was born and raised in Australia - we grew up knowing the "Yanks" saved us from being taken over by the Japanese - so many stories from my family and friends fathers plus original poems and essays written by my great uncle who joined the army on the first day of WW1.
    This is truly a touching and heart wrenching tribute to the heroes of yesteryear....
    Talk soon - Anne -- (two thumbs up Karen)..

  2. Mom,
    I absolutely loved reading about your trip! Blogging is a great way to share your life with others. I am so glad you joined! I am glad you had a nice trip, but I am SO glad you are home!
    I love you!! Kari Ü