2009: Fiji – New Zealand – Australia

Flag, sky.

In 2009, I hit a birthday milestone and was lucky enough to have a full-time freelance career that allowed me to take three weeks off for a journey I’d been wanting to take since I was about 12: Australia!

Now, the package deal I secured also included a brief stop in Fiji (pro: made the flight from L.A. shorter; con: wrong time of year) and also roped in New Zealand (pro: everything; con: not long enough). So this was what the trip was like — and I’d go again in a heartbeat!

Fiji (November 2-4)

New Zealand: Auckland (November 4-5)

New Zealand: Rotorua (November 5-7)

New Zealand: Christchurch (November 7-8)

New Zealand: Franz Josef/Hokitika (November 8-9)

New Zealand: Queenstown (November 9-11)

New Zealand: Mt. Cook (November 11-12)

Australia: Sydney (November 12-15)

Australia: Melbourne (November 15-17)

Australia: Alice Springs (November 17-18)

Australia: Uluru (Ayers Rock) (November 18-19)

Australia: Cairns/Dunk Island/Kuranda (November 19-22)

If you’re thinking of taking this kind of trip, by all means, do! But if possible — and if this fits your speed — find one that allows a little more time to yourself. There was more than one place I would have liked to spend some more time wandering around, and after a while the bus became a tyranny.

Additionally, be prepared: The people who take trips like this — not hugely luxurious but time-intensive — are either newlyweds, parents/adult children or retirees. I was not a spring chicken and let’s just say I was the youngest on the tour (with the possible exception of a woman traveling with her mother). So, fair warning.

For those wondering about the flights: I went to Los Angeles for a couple of days from New York. From LA to Fiji was a 10-hour flight, not great but not unendurable. The hops from Fiji to Auckland and around that part of the globe were cake, comparatively.

I lucked out coming back, and had been set for a brutal day: We had an early flight from Cairns to Sydney, then the long bounce from Sydney to LA. (Then for me, once I got to LA a layover of a few hours and then on to Austin for Thanksgiving with the family.) But I sat next to a nice British guy and we talked while waiting for the plane to take off. He mentioned he had a friend who worked for Qantas. A steward came over and asked if the guy was such-and-so and when he confirmed it, said they had a place for such-and-so British guy in Premium Economy. I figured, OK — well, at least I’d have a space next to me wide open and I can stretch out for the next 14 hours. Instead, Mr. S&S said, “Can I bring my friend?” And they did!

So that is the story of how I got to fly home on one of the longest flights on this earth in Premium Economy. I wish I’d gotten his contact info: I totally owe that guy a drink. Mr. S&S, if you’re out there, ping me.



More extended travelogues:
Colorado Backcountry Hiker Trip, 2007