Picture: Elizabeth about to drive on the left side of the road for the first time. Ah, one of the many new excitements of Australia.
Our approach to Australia was markedly different than that of an island nation in the south pacific. Our first give away that we were approaching a new continent were the numerous tankers cruising up and down the coast (one of which we had to kindly request to alter course). We hadn't seen this many container ships since Panama!
But the real give away that we had finally reached a 1st world nation was the massive, red and white, "Coast Watch" airplane that buzzed our mast a good 200 miles off-shore. They hailed our boat name on VHF 16 to ask the usual questions of how many people were on board and where we had come from, but in typical Aussie behavior the conversation was very relaxed and almost cheerful, with it ending in a heartfelt welcoming to his home country. Talk about service!
Upon arrival we encountered a highly professional and proficient Quarantine, Customs and Immigration system. While everyone told us that Australia would be a nightmare to check into, we found it one of our easiest yet. Although they did rummage through everything looking for guns, drugs and termites (and they did confiscate our homemade pizza and popcorn kernels), they did allow us to keep our now amazing shell collection and were off the boat within 1 hour. And since they all came to us at one time, it was one of the easiest entries into a country yet. If you come to Australia by boat, enter through Bundenburg because we found the team very professional and kind. Elizabeth even chatted it up with the girls for good shopping places, spas, doctors, you name it!
My last show of reaching the modern world was found in the Marina bathroom (of all places). When I went to wash my hands I turned on the faucet and nearly burned my hands from the scorching hot water that came out! It was the first time I had noticed it, but hot water was never something available in a public bathroom in the South Pacific, and if it was available it was going to take a very long time for it to get to the faucet. The encounter made me laugh; we had finally made it to Australia and the modern world.
Well, kind of. They do still drive on the wrong side of the road...
Picture: A final tribute to the South Pacific. An un-charted island (Fiji) and a modern day tiki at Bloody Mary's (Bora Bora).
It's official. 9,871 miles ago we left Panama and started our big trek west across the world's largest ocean. And today we finally arrived on the big continent of "Terra Australis."
Back in April, we crossed the equator and became "shellbacks." With some help from our now good friend Tim, we crossed the biggest expanse (3,000 miles) of the ocean in just 19 days and 19 hours. We soaked in the French culture in French Polynesia, with Fatu Hiva, Moorea and Bora Bora matching our Bali Hai expectations.
From there we traveled further west to Suwarrow, our own private atoll where we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, still on our "Honeymoon." Then Niue, where we were guests to the whales that serenade you while you sleep. In the Kingdom of Tonga we were reunited with old and new friends and celebrated historic birthdays. Fiji was spent exploring the isles with our parents and following in the historic footprints of Cook, Bligh and Wilkes. And finally in Vanuatu we celebrated our accomplishments under a glowing night sky, illuminated with fireworks of molten lava.
As we look forward to our final weeks aboard our Honeymoon we can't help but look back to the South Pacific - and before that the Caribbean. To all that we have learned, to all those that we have met and to all the memories we will never forget. What a trip...
Video: Here is one of our edited videos from our travels, this time picking up from our Vanuatu experience with the Volcano and ending in Bundaburg, Australia. We made a tough decision to leave Vanuatu since the weather was forecast to be very rough (25+ knots), but since it was not expected to let up for another 14 days we decided to brave it. In retrospect we made it safely and without breakage but it was a rough ride we could have done without...
Our last open ocean passage was certainly interesting and it was comforting to have our friends on La Palapa near by. Take a look for yourself...