Saturday, July 21, 2012

A business trip down-under

 I found out I needed to visit Australia and New Zealand, for the first time, roughly 10 days before I took off.  The planned schedule was pretty intensive so I packed light, taking only one bird guide and a small camera. 

The first leg was London (10pm Friday night) to Hong Kong, arriving as you can see here, early evening:













The next leg was Hong Kong to Sydney with Qantas in an A380.  I volunteered my seat to a young family with a babe-in-arms (I had bulkhead seating with a cot facility I didn't need) and once the door was closed the Cabin Manager, having checked his crew agreed with him first, upgraded me from economy straight to first!.  Once I'd stopped shaking I loved it!  The booze was fantastic, best champagne I've ever tasted followed by a delicious Aussie Shiraz.  The private space you get in first is really something too.  The food was great and the crew fantastic.  My best flight experience so far without a doubt!

Sunrise as we flew over Australia:












I was very quickly through immigration and customs and made it to my hotel, my colleague having helped me plan transport, so I used the train.  The hotel was pleasant and comfortable though being 9am it wasn't a good time to be thinking about sleep.  I had a quick shower, changed and headed out, snapping some sights as I headed towards the botanic gardens.  Planning ahead as I literally had just this day without meetings I'd settled on the botanic gardens and locale then a ferry trip to Manly.




































The gardens have a great variety of plants I've never seen before:












But it was winter so not much in flower and some losing leaves, etc.

Of course I was more interested in the birds, this is an Australian Magpie:













Australian Pelican:















Australian White Ibis:

























Australian Wood Duck:












Magpie-Lark (I actually snapped this in Melbourne on Wednesday morning!):









Some frisky and indeed noisy Masked Lapwings:

 















 A Noisy Miner - lots of these in the gardens :












A Rainbow Lorikeet, beautiful birds::


















Pied Currwaong - this reminded me in terms of the form of the bird, of the Venezuelan Troupial we saw in Puerto Rico:

 
The gardens of course are adjacent to a rather famous landmark, The Sydney Opera House:

Amazing architecture:

The only gull I saw in Australia was the Silver Gull, another good looking bird though:

 

 
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are surprisingly large, well they were to me anyway, bigger than the forest parrots I've seen before:


 You can see from the light the weather was closing in.


I had some lunch in the cafe and read the papers, including about the new carbon tax that had been implemented that very day!

Then as it started to rain I got the ferry from the harbour, across to Manly.  Taking in the dramatic view of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge with heavy rain-laden clouds swooping in: 














It quickly passed though:











A view en route:

And the Ocean view from Manly, I tried to cut out most of the surfers, you can see why they might gather there though:

I retired early to try and catch-up some sleep ahead of a busy week of meetings.  The flight with Virgin Australia from Sydney to Melbourne was seriously annoying.  They wanted to charge me 2.2x the original ticket price to accommodate me on an earlier flight, even though they had plenty of spare seats.  They treated me badly and I will never fly with them, nor indeed use any company with a 'Virgin' appellation again if I can help it.

Qantas on the other hand moved me to an earlier flight from Melbourne to Sydney to smooth my connection on to Wellington, without me even asking. Chalk and cheese.

Wellington was a lovely city, though I had to spend too long at the airport due to Auckland being fog-bound but did make it up on the right day, which was something.

Auckland was all too brief, as indeed was the whole trip, then it was a Cathay Pacific trip to Hong Kong, the crew made me feel really welcome and special, even though I was in economy, and a final connection with BA back to London.  The flight was scheduled for 12 hours 45 minutes but because of winds they expected it to be just under 12 hours.  So we sat on the tarmac for 40 minutes.  Then we lost some time on the way over, they got the winds wrong, then because we were close to 6am they made us wait til after 6am, so all in all we lost around 90 minutes through faffing around.  I was so tired and so keen to get home this got really annoying, as had the non-stop screaming of a babe-in-arms five seats away.  Such is the life of an economy ticketed business traveller.

51 hours of flying in 7.5 days was too much.  The following weekend I was hit with multiple infections and a virus and basically out for the count for a few days.  Nearly recovered now, though not quite and flying again soon....

I did add one species in New Zealand by the way, a Black-backed Gull, making it 16 lifers on a whistle-stop business trip:


We have to go back, we have to do it properly and give it the time it deserves.  Have to!

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