Hi to all from down under.
This our first report to most of you. If you don’t really want to hear from us, let us know and we’ll remove you from our list (no feelings hurt). How often these come depend upon where we are, whether we can get a usable phone line and whether we are in the writing mood. Normally, you don’t have to respond, unless you want to. However, this time, please send us a short message to let us know you got this. That way we can correct our address list. Thanks.
We started off with a late departure from Detroit on January 6 causing us to miss our connection in Chicago. No big deal except when we finally arrived in L.A., our luggage decided to stay in the midwest. Spent Jan 7 in L.A. Yikes, why would anyone want to move to a town with so much traffic that they are widening the freeway to 14 lanes (7 in each direction)? Stop and go a lot of the time. Didn’t see anyone famous, but spent the day at the new Getty Center. Although the number of art pieces displayed was less than we expected, they were decidedly eclectic – Man Ray photography, VanGogh’s Iris, some Degas, sculpture, etc. But the museum buildings, grounds, and gardens were works of art in themselves. Modern architecture using rough cut stone and smooth white surfaces. Amazing views of the countryside and the rest of the museum complex everywhere you look. And of course great flowering plants.
Later that day we rescued our errant luggage and headed off on the red eye to Fiji. Red eye is right. We left at 11 pm and arrived at 6:30 the next morning. Except we crossed the International Date Line so we never lived through Friday, January 8.
But it was worth it. Fiji is a lush, beautiful country. We stayed in a small bungalow overlooking the Coral Coast. 80 to 90 degrees every day. No air conditioning or hot water but we didn’t care. The Fijians are friendly people who take life at a slow pace. They have a saying ‘the coconut will fall when it’s ready’ and no one seems to hurry. We spent four days waking up to the sound of tropical birds and coconuts falling on our metal roof, eating pineapple we bought at the local market, drinking local beer and rum, watching the tide rise and fall. Had a buffet of the local food – some of which we didn’t recognize and ate anyway, some of which we did recognize and avoided. One of the best dishes was raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk – tastes better than it sounds!
We also got in a bit of snorkeling (complete with giant tube worms and nasty cuts from the coral) and our first saltwater dive. Incredible—clear water down to 60 feet – saw all kinds of fish, coral, a starfish, giant clam. Diane was so entranced that she failed to notice that she was being swept away by the current. Fortunately, she was dragged back to the still deep water by our divemaster and ‘crawling’ hand over hand among the coral. Two lessons learned: first, stay deep and second, you can touch the coral if your alternative is being swept into the reef!
On our last day in Fiji we hired a driver and went to the capital city of Suva, with souvenir shopping along the way. Many items are sold at the open market and haggling about the price is expected. Tim likes to bargain with the sellers, but Di is very uncomfortable with it…not what you’d expect from someone on her union’s bargaining team! I (Di) think it is that the sellers seem to have so little, it is unfair not to give them the price they ask. I know they expect you to offer a lower price..it’s just not my style. We did find, however, that the lowest price Tim could haggle them to was still double the price we eventually paid at handicraft cooperative.
We left Fiji this morning (getting up at 3:45 am to do so) and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand before 11 am. What a contrast! Auckland has a more temperate climate and the feel of a European city. It is clean and moves at a much faster pace. We are staying at a youth hostel right downtown. No, we are NOT the oldest people here! But it is close to the city sites, cheap, and all we need. I’m sitting right now in a small room, not unlike a college dorm room. There is a big communal kitchen and lounge, and the bathrooms are down the hall. The windows are open here on the seventh floor and I can hear the traffic/city sounds….no coconuts here. We are close to several ethnic neighborhoods with little markets and interesting restaurants. We went grocery shopping at the Chinese supermarket – some of the sauces looked delicious but if I can’t read the label, I usually avoid it.
My, I do ramble on…We’ll send more later.
Di and Tim
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