Monday, November 23, 2015

Operation Tasman Sea After Action Report

So,  There I was*  Forced by my cruel family and friends to take a vacation and visit Australia and New Zealand.  The things we do to keep peace and tranquility in our home.  I can feel the sympathy from you readers just FLOWING through the Internet. /Sarc

Flew into Sydney and spent 4 days on the ground there.  The Family had been there in 06 for a week, but Mrs. Juvat and Little Juvat had a conference to attend.  The Beautiful Daughter (TBD) and I had a blast exploring the town.  So, for all intents and purposes, this was a first time visit for all but she and I.  Rented a very nice B&B in Watson’s Bay which was quaint, quiet but conveniently close to a water taxi so getting around was easy.

By the second day, both other couples had arrived  and we were doing the turista thing. 

The Taronga Zoo was quite enjoyable and the day trip to the Hunter Valley Wine Region was fabulous.  
We brought Professionals with us to drink wine

Day 4 had us boarding the Solstice  at Circular Quay. 

 Mrs Juvat and I sprung for a cabin on the back of the boat, and the extra deck space allowed for all 9 to consume some Champers whilst taking in a view that “didn’t suck.”
No, This view didn't "suck".

A day at sea, and awoke the next morning in Hobart Tasmania.  Strolled around for a bit, visited the Cenotaph overlooking the harbor.
Quiet Contemplation

 Followed with a visit to a local Whiskey distillery.  (Most of us would call it a Scotch distillery, but I was corrected.  Since this was not Scotland, this was not Scotch I was drinking.)  The liquid nectar of the gods was excellent, but at $160 US for 500Ml, it was priced above my comfort level.
Whiskey, Not Scotch!

Left Hobart, and spent two days crossing the Tasman Sea, arriving at Dawn at Milford Sound.  I’m pretty sure I know where Heaven is.  Words don’t describe.
Milford Sound, Lord, you did well here!

Other Ports included Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington, Tauranga and Bay of Islands.  Finally, we offloaded in Auckland.  All completely different.  All beautiful beyond words.  
View from the table at lunch
(Russell, Bay of Islands NZ)

There were a couple of very special side trips we took that will be included in future posts. However, there were some big lessons learned, that I wanted to share.

We arrived at Sydney just after dark theit time which corresponded to about 1AM body time, a VERY long day.  Cleared Immigration, grabbed our bags and joined the Taxi Queue.  Got to the head of the line and asked the supervisor for a van which he quickly hailed.  Loaded our bags, got in and I sat up front.  Gave the driver (I’ll name him Vlad the Mad Serbian) the address and watched him enter it into his GPS.  I did the same thing.  And We’re Off!  

Now, I like Speed.  700K @ 100’ no problem, bring it!   However…

Suffice it to say, I’d like to blame my hysterical laughing on excitement about being in Australia, but I must confess to sheer terror.  We managed to arrive at the B&B in one piece, but there is probably at least one motorcyclist who is still cleaning out his pants.

In any case, we’re offloading our bags and I put my backpack down on the back of the taxi to help with the conga line.  The family is moving bags into the house as they are offloaded.  We get the taxi unloaded, I turn and all the bags are in the house.  Pay the cabbie and head inside. 

Only to find that my backpack didn’t make it into the house.

Lesson #1.  Don’t move the bags until all are unloaded.  Everyone accounts for all their luggage, then the cabbie gets paid.

Lesson #2.  Cell Phones have cameras.  Take a picture of the Cab, and especially the phone number.

Why was this important?  Fortunately, when we’d cleared immigration, I had stuck the passports in my pants pocket, so that problem was avoided. However, my backpack had my iPad, Tablet and Camera in it.  Bad, but replaceable.  

But…My backpack had my medications in it.  Medications I can’t afford to not take for 2-3 weeks.
Stayed up for about 3 more hours calling Taxi companies that had that type cab.  No joy. 

 The next morning as we head to breakfast, I notice a mom and pop pharmacy and stop in.  I explain my circumstances and ask their advice.  Well….they can’t sell me the meds without a prescription and my Doctor isn’t licensed in Australia, so I’ll have to make an appointment with an Aussie Dr and have him write the prescriptions.  Oh Sierra Hotel!

We decide to go back to the airport and see if we can talk to the Cab Supervisor and see if they might have any ideas on which company we used.  As we exit the train, I see a cop off to the side and ask him directions to the cab queue.  He gives them to me and asks why I need a cab (we’re still in the train station).  I explain my lost backpack and he says “Mate, you’re unlikely to get that back.”  “I know, but it’s the meds that are in it, I’m worried about.”

“Mate, that happens all the time.  There’s a doctor on the third floor of the terminal.  She’ll write you the scripts right there.” 

 $80 AUS later, I’ve got my scripts.  Turn them in to the pharmacy, pick up the meds and pay for them.  Holy Socks!  The following morning, I’m back on my regimen and things start to smooth back out.  Now, if I can just figure out how to get reimbursed by TriCare…That was an EXPENSIVE lesson.

The next evening, there’s a knock at the door, and there’s Vlad with my backpack, with the iPad, Tablet, Camera and Meds.

Next lesson.

Travel to Sydney is a 19 hour non-stop from Dallas or Houston.  We didn’t want to experience that.  Having done it once we recognize that the trip is not for the faint of heart. 

Side note: I’m pretty sure that the Old in OldNFO is a direct result of the numerous times he had to make the trip.  Chronologically, he’s probably 40 something.  As the adage goes, it’s not the years, it’s the miles!  16,875 give or take, out and back. 

in order to avoid 19 straight, we decided we’d make a stop each way in Honolulu.  Just a one night stay to break up the flight.  Good idea, but would have been better with two nights each way.  We were too spun up and worrying about the early wakeup the next morning to get much useful sleep.

Finally, the Daughter In Law had to be back Monday which dictated flights and airlines. Since we left last Friday US/France time, we picked a terrible day to fly on Emirates.  Took off from Auckland, no problem.  Landed at Brisbane and although we had been screened in Auckland and never left the secure portion of the international terminal, we were all ushered into a separate room and rescreened.  Mrs. Juvat had bought a bottle of water in the international terminal in Auckland (after screening there).  It was in her purse.  Alert!  Alert!  

Ah well!  Such a world we live in.



  1. Wow! Sounds like a great trip. Cool that Vlad sleuthed out your LUP and returned your bag. Being civilized is a choice.

    1. It was a great trip. With the exception of the Cop, most of the Aussies I talked to seemed disappointed and surprised that it hadn't been returned yet. I'll take that as a good sign of a civilized society.

  2. Welcome back mate! Glad to see you recovered your stuff.

    Very cruel of your tribe to force you away from work and then made to travel to such a beautiful place.

    I still think the blog needs it's own haka, see any good ones in New Zealand?

    (Australia is very civilized from my understanding of the place.)

    1. Thanks.
      Both of the aforementioned side visits, which as you no doubt suspect, were museums. The Maori are an integral part of the New Zealand Culture and History, so the museums featured them prominently, to include Haka. Unfortunately, unless they're in some of the pictures, I didn't capture them. Still working the picture archiving and haven't got the stuff off my Son, Daughter, Daughter-in-Law or Wife's camera yet. We'll see what they thought was interesting.
      Australia is now my #2 place to emigrate. NZ being #1.

  3. I enjoyed Australia on each of my visits there, but I fell in love with New Zealand. I was en route to the the South Pole and the weather was NOT cooperating. End result was and unplanned 10 day stop over in Christchurch. What a fantastic country and what great people. I was reminded of America in the 50's and couldn't get enough of it.

    1. Well, there are Hardship TDYs and then there are HARDSHIP TDYs. Sometimes you just got to suck it up!
      Completely agree about the country and the people.

    2. Something like when you go on TAD (TDY for non-Navy) and when you are checking in they say " there is no room in the barracks, you have to stay in a hotel, you will need a rental car and per-diem too." Then all you do is smile.

    3. I always hated it when that happened! Ok....Not.

  4. In 1986 I was fired from a job (in Dec) and rather than try to look for work in Dec decided that i could do something now or wait until I retired - so I got a Qantas ticket that allowed multiple stopovers, and toured the South Pacific.

    For 3 months.

    Sent my now ex-boss a postcard at each stop.

    If you stop in Tahiti it makes the trip to Oz manageable - about 8 hours each leg.

    I thought Australia and NZ would be pretty similar but I thought they were very different - NZ with the Maori culture.

    I even got to the point I could detect differences in the accents. I do know that to pronounce "Auckland" properly you probably have to be a native ;-) (seemed to me that you have to say it with a bitter lemon in your mouth)

    Anyway glad you had a good time.

    Oh - my "lost luggage story"? I was late in catching the Quantas flight from LA - they actually held up the 747 for me(!!!) - I get to Papeete in Tahiti and learn my luggage didn't make it. Finally get checked into Club Med on Moorea (just 11 miles across a channel) and since everything in Tahiti (but the Club Med stay, it seemed) was horrendously expensive (sunscreen - in 1986 - was $20 a bottle) I figured I could make it one day without it.

    Big mistake.

    I swear that you get burned faster in Tahiti than Hawaii.

    1. I wished I'd had that misfortune, although if I had, I probably would be living in NZ right now. Not that that would be a bad thing!
      We had a quick turn in Denver on the way home. We're at the back of the airplane as our flight to SAT starts boarding. Fortunately a flight attendant learned of our plight and told everyone to remain in their seats. We OJ'd through the airport and made the SAT flight. Taxiing out, I feel the airplane brake and turn around. The Captain says they're returning to the Gate as they had forgotten to load some baggage-ours! All but the Wife's made it to SAT. Hers had to be transported from the Airport to our house and arrived the following day.
      I would assume because Tahiti is closer to the equator that what you say is true.

  5. I concur with everyone's feelings about New Zealand. My wife and I attended a wedding there in 2013, and had the most marvelous time. The country is about as close to heaven as it gets, and the people for the most part were charming and hospitable. Only downside was being a little spendy compared to the U.S., and being too far away from the grandchildren, or I'd be packing already for a more permanent return.

    1. Yeah the spendy part was definitely true, at least for the ports we visited. The other two couples debarked early and went to visit the Marlborough Wine Country staying in a small town. They reported that prices were much more reasonable. I got bored a couple of days ago and researched the immigration requirements. Suffice it to say, if the US had the same requirements and enforced them, we wouldn't be in the same pickle were in right now.

  6. Brought back some good memories you did. Spent our 15th Anniversary in Sydney and the Hunter Valley. The ship was kind enough to pull into Perth, the boss was more than kind enough to let me off, fly to Sydney, and meet my lovely bride as the ship slowly made it's way through the Australian Bite.

    1. I like Sydney. In 06, we stayed at the Intercontinental in the heart of Downtown. The city had a very San Francisco feel about it (if you left out many of the San Franciscans). Lots of upscale things to do, great weather, good eats etc. This time we spent it in a quiet suburb just a short walk from both Sydney Harbor and the Pacific. Really nice. Last time was in June, so beginning of winter. This time was late spring and the major difference I noted was flies. Swat at flies circling your face and you'd easily hit two or three, with another few escaping unscathed. All in all, it was a great place to start the trip.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.