THE PART BEFORE THE TRIP
Most divers want to dive the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Tom is no exception. With the reef diminishing, a liveaboard is a requirement to see vibrant, viable environs. In May, betting the Australian boarders would open, Tom chose a seven day trip with the highly recommended Mike Ball from November 24 through December 1. My job was to build a trip. AUTHOR’S NOTE: I did not intend to travel 24 hours just so Tom could spend 7 days on a liveaboard. ANCIENT HISTORY: In November of 2019 we were going to Australia but our plans were halted when Covid closed Australia’s and New Zealand’s boarders. We struggled through Covid, made different plans for the Galapagos Islands and Alaska but Australia was still on our horizon. So with the first step done (the liveaboard) I needed to get busy planning, but not just yet. We were in the final throes of selling our house and moving to Fort Pierce, Florida, so it was late June when I began to plan. I realized that with pent-up high demand, lodging might be challenging, so instead of free styling as we did in Asia, I decided to pre-book all our lodging and flights. We weren’t leaving until October but even so, I was getting “This is the last room available at this price” messages. Maybe it was hype, but it made me work faster. MORE ANCIENT HISTORY: During his military career (about twenty years ago) Tom participated in Operation Deep Freeze, the resupply missions from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. He remembers Christchurch as one of his favorite places in the world, so it was defiantly on our list. Author’s Note: We were both hoping that the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 would not have made Christchurch unrecognizable. Since New Zealand is closer than Australia, I made it our first stop, picking Auckland as our landing spot. I gave the North Island ten days (if you count the day we arrived and the day we left). Using that same method of calculation we would spend ten days in Christchurch and its surrounds. The planning got so complicated that I created a color-coded five page spreadsheet to keep it all straight showing arrivals and departures, driving time to hotels and points of interest and booked excursions.
We booked 18 flights on 8 different airlines: American, United, Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, Garuda, Lion, Jetstar and Qantas; 25 lodgings from hotels to motels to resorts to Air B&B’s; and one cruise (around Tasmania). I found places to visit like Pancake Rocks and Kangaroo Island and figured out how to get to them and where to stay to see them. Author’s Note: While I was researching lodging I found The Top 10 Holiday Parks in New Zealand. With forty-six parks in New Zealand situated near tourist attractions, they were a perfect fit with our plans. I bought a membership for the discounts it offered and booked us into four different TOP 10 Parks. You’ll learn more about them as we go along, but if you want to know more about TOP 10 Holiday Parks, click their logo below. Later I learned there are over 100 parks in Australia operting as the BIG 4 Holiday Parks, but they didn't fit into our plan.
Another Author’s Note: It’s a good thing I had the spreadsheet. I reviewed it repeatedly and cross referenced with my reservation confirmations. I found numerous errors that require rebooking, including our initial flight to New Zealand. The airline schedules changed so much from my original booking to my corrected booking that it was ridiculously convoluted, but it couldn’t be helped at that point. Raja Ampat and Lembah, Indonesia were also on Tom’s dive list. Since we were probably never going to be closer, we tacked on two and a half weeks after the Great Barrier Reef liveaboard. Deep Blue Adventures helped us with the reservations for that part of the trip. This made our trip a total of ten weeks long. Author’s Note: I was already struggling to complete our plans for New Zealand and Australia. After attempting research for Raja Ampat, I realized I was out of my league on this one. Tom called in the pros: thank goodness for Kari Kilroy at Deep Blue!! Then we found moving to Florida had created some unexpected problem for us. Although we are much closer to the major airport hubs of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, we are still about two hours away. We were going to need a shuttle. Then Tom discovered that we could park in the airport for FREE if he had Disabled Veteran plates. He got his plates and the shuttle was no longer needed. Another problem was I had no doctor in Florida. I tried to get an appointment anywhere, but could get nothing until January 2023 or November when we would already be traveling. I couldn’t renew my prescription meds. However, a migraine took me to the hospital and I begged a referral to a new doctor. I was able to establish with a new doctor and everything was rolling along until just five weeks out I developed plantar fasciitis. I had time for one physical therapy session to learn exercises to abate the pain which put us back on track. And now we are living the plan. Join us as we go in search of Kiwis!