I was asked today what makes New Zealand so special. The answer is kind of complicated, but it begins with a dear friend that doesn’t mind me there for five weeks at a time (if she needs a sedative, she’s never mentioned it. If she’d like to give me a few, she’s refrained), and the very first thing I look forward to seeing once I’m off the flight is the women’s bathroom. The second (once customs declares that I am safe) is seeing my dear friend.

She shows me interesting birds, takes me too zoos (and is still kind enough to bring me home with her!), and takes me to beaches.

I’ve learned that when a Kiwi asks to ‘go away’ I should pack for one – possibly two nights (that’s one I’m still teased – justifiably – over.) we were to be gone two days and I brought only a toy. No chargers or clothing 😳

The plants with various color shades, sizes, and shapes can occupy me for hours. Walks around the block can feel like an expansive garden as birds flit here and there! And, you haven’t seen Auckland until you’ve done the sky jump or eaten at an awesome restaurant that moves so you can see most of Auckland from on high.

There are museums, trail riding, tramps galore (walking trails, all, walking trails!), and boats with glass bottoms enabling passengers to see life below. New Zealand has come a long way from destroying their forests, to now revitalizing them.
The waterfalls of New Zealand are breathtaking beauties as are the braided rivers, and small streams. The water is so clear!


People on beaches are surprisingly friendly, and even while I was wearing five cameras, I felt like I fit right in, although some people wanted a photo of me and my digital treasures.


The sun can get you, though! Bad burns pack a punch at night!
There are jellyfish, and I even stumbled across a shark! Every day is an adventure – I seem to attract them: lost guides, freak snow storms, the occasional cyclone (that must be filmed), and storms that surprise passengers while stalking dolphins in a boat.
So, you see, New Zealand isn’t about just one aspect. Well, on second thought, it is.
It is about love. The love of my friend, the love of thrills, the love of beauty, and the love of visiting new places while trying new activities.


New Zealand has much to teach the rest of the world if we’d only listen. We all could make great strides in cleaning up the environment and saving plants and critters if we would follow the conservation examples they are setting.  The countries number one resource is Agriculture. Everything depends on the land, so they are conscience of good conservation practices.


I am goofy, and I love fun, but I also have respect for the Kiwis who do all they can to preserve what they have.

Written by: Kathy Meader

Kathy Meader has a Masters in Fine Arts in Writing. She earned her MFA in writing, but she is self-taught in photography. When Kathy was younger, you had to drag her outdoors. Now you have to drag her indoors!

She doesn’t see animals mean or nice. They are animals and loves them.  She’s aware they can be unpredictable, but then, so are humans. When out stalking animals with her camera, she knows she is a guest in their habitat.

Her unique experience was of a bull moose running interference between her and a cougar. From Kathy: “I don’t begrudge the wild cat. In order for it to set its eyes on me, it had to be old, sick, or injured. I was lucky the moose

chased it off.  I’m also the only one that I know of that had a wild cow moose rest her head on my shoulder. I never heard her behind me as I was focused on the coyote in front of me. I am blessed to see animals up close and personal,

and it brings me such joy to share my finds and captures with people who might never see them otherwise. I don’t fear the animals. I do fear the humans because at least wild animals give you signs and signals if they are uncomfortable.

Heaven can be a place on earth; I know this because when I run into a mama nuzzling her babe, I realize we aren’t so different from the creatures that bring me joy. The common denominator is called love – love for a babe that transcends across both generations and species.”

I hope you enjoy her writing and her photographs!


Making your way through the LAX Airport to connect to your International flight Down Under

When you travel “down under” you most likely will travel through the Los Angeles International Airport or LAX.  If you haven’t done this before, it can be intimidating.

Here are just some basic steps you need to do to get to the International Terminal (this is where QANTAS, Air New Zealand, Fiji Airways and Virgin Australia depart and arrive.

  1. You arrive at LAX on the second floor, you make your way to the first floor and will depart from the ground floor (baggage area).  After collecting any bags (if you didn’t check them through to your destination), you will exit the terminal.
  2. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I usually take Alaska or Delta, so my arrival is either terminal or 6 for Alaska, and 5 for Delta. But check the map for your carrier.
  3. Once outside, you can either walk to Tom Bradley International Terminal or take the shuttle which runs counter clockwise

NOTE:  LAX is shaped like a U with Terminals 1,2,3, on the right side, Terminal B, or Tom Bradley Terminal (bottom of the U) and then terminals 5,6,7,8 on the left.


If you look at a map, it makes getting to the B terminal easier. Check your air itinerary it should say at which terminal your carrier should depart and arrive.

  1. Look for the Blue Sign for the Airport Shuttle-airline connection.

The other shuttles will not work.

  1. I find 3 hours between flights going and returning has been enough time to change terminals.  Two hours may not be enough, especially in winter with the extra delays.
  2. When you get on the Coach, travel to Tom Bradley Terminal or B. When you get off the coach, you are on the ground floor or departure area of Tom Bradley Terminal. Go inside, you need to go to the elevators either to your Right or Left located in the front corner of the terminal. You need to go up to the 2nd floor to the Arrivals hall.
  3. Proceed to your carrier, and check into your flight.

Luggage:  the carriers do weigh both your carryon and your checked bag.  Make sure they are not over weight, you who will either (1) Be repacking on the airport floor or (2) Pay a lot for extra weight

  1. Once you get checked in, proceed through security, then continue to your gate.  Now you can shop, eat or whatever depending on the time of your departure!


Happy Flying to your destination!


Daintree Rain Forest

Daintree Rain Forest

Daintree Entrance

When you travel north of Cairns to the Daintree Rainforest you will not only go back in time, but you will be seeing flora and fauna you could never imagi

The Wet Tropics of Queensland contain ancient rain forests which have been here for 100 million years.


Clients often tell me they could save money and just drive to the Daintree Rain Forest and not take a tour. While this may be true there are things to consider before heading out on your own. At certain times of the year the water is too high and the ferry will be closed.


Daintree Ferry

The Daintree forest is approximately 1,200 square kilometers (approx. 296,526 acres) of breathtaking flora and fauna. Also, some very unusual animals seen nowhere else in Australia. Do you know what a Cassawary bird looks like or even where to find them? Do you know which species of flora and fauna have been growing for a million years?


Daintree Stairs

The rain forest is best appreciated from the perspective of the local guides. For the experience of a lifetime take the guided tour, it is worth the money!

The fun begins with a trip across the Daintree River in 4WD vehicles. The Daintree Rain Forest awaits.

There are about 150 different types of trees in 2 hectors (about 5 acres). The Daintree is the oldest intact tropical lowland rainforest in the world. It is the host to 13 of the world’s 19 primitive flowering species (could you find these on your own?). It has more diversity of plants and animals than any other place in Australia.

Fig Tree

Fig Tree



Vines in Daintrees

Vines in Daintrees






During your tour you might be lucky enough to see the Cassowary. The Cassowary is a large, flightless bird related to the emu and ostrich. The Southern Cassowary (found in the Daintree Rain forest) is probably the single most important animal seed dispenser of the Australian tropical rain forest.














The Cassowary eats the fruit and seeds of many of the rain forest plants, thus distributing the seeds, in their droppings, across the forest floor. These birds are crucial to the rainforest because they are the only dispersal agents for about 70 plants species, and the main dispersal agent for at least 30 plants. With only 1800 of these birds left, the Australians’ know if these birds disappear, so will the rain forest!

Seeds of the Daintree

Seeds of the Daintree

Among the trees, you will see big piles of leaves and debris. These are actually nests and in these nests you might find the bright green eggs of the Cassowary bird. The eggs are cared for by the male birds.


Cassowary Eggs

Other animals you may encounter include over 54 species of frogs; both species of Monotremes (egg-laying mammals) the Platypus and the Echidna (spiney anteater). The Marsupials include the Koala, Kangaroos and Wallabies, Possums, Bandicoot, Bats and Rodents. Bird life – over 430 different birds have been recorded in the Daintree rainforest – a birders paradise! Reptiles are abundant and include the crocodile, many varieties of lizards, skinks, and snakes.

The fauna includes Oak trees, gum trees, Quandong trees, 11 different laurels, many kinds of orchids and many varieties of vines. One of my favorite names for a plant is the “wait awhile” araceae rattan palm. The vine has large thorns on it, and if you get entangled, you just have to “wait awhile” for someone to come cut you lose!

Cape Tribulation is one of the few places in the world where the rainforest meets the reef.

From round one through to the Men’s and Woman’s Finals for 2014 we have tickets. But, what’s really cool is the tickets don’t go on sale to the general public until October. Journeys Down Under has them now! Either go and enjoy the early rounds so you can see all the players, or go towards the end to watch the finals. Whether you are there at the beginning or end, you’ll be spending time in the lovely city of Melbourne. I find this city is full of wonderful art, parks, great restaurants from all over the world, sports of all kinds, and great people. Remember January is summer in Melbourne!

Austrialian Tennis Open

Melbourne Australian Open
January 13 – 26, 2014

If You Have The Opportunity To Travel To Australia, One Of The Highlights Is To Travel By Train.

There are many great trips.  I was fortunate to travel on The Ghan, from the station near Coober Pedy or Manguri Station, to Adelaide.  I was in Coober Pedy, a fascinating underground Opal mining town in South Australia. Just as the group I was with had received our dinner our guide came to the restaurant saying the Ghan was early, and we needed to leave now!  We left Coober Pedy, by van, in a sand storm with no visibility and 45 minutes later arrived at Manguri Station. Luckily, we had driven out of the sand storm after about 15 minutes.  Stepping out of the van, the vast desert was dark, but the night sky was full of stars!  We were standing on the desert in the middle of the outback and not a building in sight!  The driver started a huge bonfire to let the train know we were there so it would stop.

The Ghan train at the station

Passengers Waiting To Board.

Pictures courtesy of Great Southern Railroad

The train engines approached, and then passed!
The train seemed miles long! Finally, it stopped and we boarded the car, which had stopped in front of us.  We were shown our sleeping compartment, the Ensuite cabins, which are serviced by your own steward. In the morning, the steward delivered all of us a “cuppa” (Australian for a Cup of coffee).

Get ready to relax and enjoy fine food and wine while traveling across a beautiful continent in a world-famous train with panoramic views. During the day the scenery is fascinating!  You see red earth and skies, with ever-changing colors in the landscape.  You will see train tracks that stretch out to meet the horizon.  Not only do you get to see the Outback, but, it is a fantastic way to meet locals. The lounge car of The Ghan was a high-light because we met so many people from Australia!

When riding the train in Australia, you can either take short trips, or go across the county.  Tours are included on the longer trips with both The Ghan and the Indian Pacific.  These tours, which last from a few hours to a full day, include an extraordinary range of opportunities for discovering the region’s most fascinating sites.

Weren’t you bored?” is often a question people ask when finding out the train takes two or three days through a largely uninhabited area,  Not for a moment!  The lonely desert landscape is just one scene that rolls by the train’s windows. There are ever-changing backdrops for a two-day, 1,851-mile trip from the southern city of Adelaide to the port of Darwin on Australia’s tropical north coast.  Departing from Adelaide, the view slowly changes. The train leaves Adelaide’s Keswick rail terminal, from the city’s suburban sprawl into wheat fields and then into salt-encrusted plains near Port Augusta, an industrial town which calls itself the gateway to the Outback.  After Port Augusta, 190 miles north of Adelaide, the Outback begins in earnest, with vegetation fading away to spinifex , a spiny bush that was the bane of early explorers, and short eucalyptus trees whose pale trunks stand out against the famed red earth of central Australia.

The Ghan traveling through the vast outback

The Ghan And The Outback.

Pictures courtesy of Great Southern Rail

Meanwhile, you are experiencing the wonderful hospitality of Aussies, listening to their great stories, eating meals freshly cooked by on-board chefs, and sit or sleep, in reclining airline-style seats or private cabins with fold away beds.

If you are considering a trip down under, don’t forget to travel by rail!

Spend a day at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

When I first visited the Tjapukai  Aboriginal Park, I was fortunate to be told the story of how it began. In 1987, a couple from New York City – Don and Judy Freeman, and their partners David and Cindy Hudson, all with theatre background, took 5 local Tjapukai men and began a dance theatre. Tjapukai’s production has won many international awards.
Over the years, the Aboriginal’s now have ownership of the Park.

Experience the Aboriginal Culture

This venue was the first ever opportunity for tourists or Aussies to really experience and interact with Aboriginal’s culture. It is a fascinating day or evening experience. There are seven separate arenas each displaying an area of the Aboriginal peoples culture. You find out how their ancient culture began (and yes, there was a flood!) during the Dreamtime experience.

Since the Aboriginal tribes vary throughout Australia, most all have had an influence in the park.
Tjapukai not only teaches, but it enlightens. It tells what happened to the Aboriginal’s when the British arrived. It shows what they ate, how they lived, and the weapons they used.
It was fascinating to watch them make fire in a very short time (5 seconds).
The men are the hunters. The women are the gathers. Herbs, seeds, nuts, fruit or roots with names such as Lemon Aspen, Quandong, Rosella, Akudira, Lilly Pilly to name a few. Many of the plants are poisonous, so they had to be carefully collected, then soaked in water for weeks until the poison was removed.

At the parks cultural village, you can learn how to throw a Boomerang and a spear. I failed both! They use a holder for the spear which I had not seen before. You can also learn how to play the Didgeridoo. The Didgeridoo is a big part of their lives. The sound is haunting and according to ritual men only play this instrument. The dances all have a story to tell.

Check out more information at www.tjapukai.com.
Let Journeys Down Under help you plan your Aboriginal experience.


Christchurch New Zealand – Model of the Cardboard  Cathedral

Christchurch will be putting up a temporary cardboard structure in place of the 131 year old Christchurch Cathedral that was damaged by a 6.3 earthquake in 2011.

The Christchurch Anglican diocese has commissioned renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban to design a cathedral capable of seating more than 700 people.

The temporary cathedral is to be constructed of locally produced cardboard tubes erected in an A-shape over a foundation of shipping containers. Christchurch views the cardboard cathedral as a symbol of hope for an area ravaged by the earthquake. The Cardboard Cathedral could last as long as 20 years and will give the diocese a chance to raise funds for a permanent structure. The temporary Cathedral is anticipated to give a boost to the community. It will be available as a venue for religious services, concerts, Civic Services and the visual arts.

It is expected that the structure will be finished by December 2012

I’m not sure what they will build after this but, I will miss the old cathedral. How do you feel about the Cardboard Cathedral?

Christchurch cathedral before earthquake

When I hear someone say Marlborough, I think wine–Sauvignon Blanc to be specific. Can’t help it. Some of the best Sauvignon Blanc I have ever have come from this section of New Zealand. The award-winning Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs tend to be crisp and complex with an array of citrus and passion fruits hitting your palate in an explosion of goodness. You want a reason to go to New Zealand? Really? You need a reason? Well, we’re giving you one. Go taste their wine. It doesn’t matter if you say “I’m not a white wine drinker”…a) they have red and b) the Sauvignon Blanc will knock your socks off.

Located in the northeast corner of the South Island of New Zealand, Marlborough is the biggest and most recognized wine district in the country. While you could walk around the countryside, searching for this infamous wine, it would be much easier – and more exciting – to participate in one of the fabulous tours Journeys Down Under Can create for you.

Sauvignon and Greenshell Mussel Cruise:
Imagine cruising the Marlborough Sounds while sipping some of the aforementioned award winning wines, eating mussels and relaxing in quiet, sparsely populated bays. Learn the history and nature of a world of sea-drowned inlets and water ways. The pinnacle of your cruise is a launch tour to a Greenshell mussel farm. Enjoy fresh, steamed clams. In truth, nothing goes better with steamed clams than that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc I keep mentioning than fresh steamed clams.
Wine, Water, Wilderness:
Going back to the subject at hand, Marlborough makes the most amazing, distinctive Sauvignon Blancs. You will never taste anything like it anywhere else. There are over 110 wineries spread throughout the region. Add to that, waterways, forests, wildlife, and you have the makings of a perfect Journeys Down Under Tour.  Journeys Down Under will book you a room at the Heartland Hotel  which is centrally located right in the heart of wine country.  You will visit some of the highest rated wineries in the Marlborough region and finally relax with a spa treatment and finish off your day at Seymours Restaurant. This is paradise. Truly.
The Marlborough Wine Festival:
Why not indulge your inner wine-O and attend the Marlborough Wine Festival? Wine, local cuisine, meet the wine makers, meet the food producers, and watch the competition for the regions most celebrated wine. Held every February, one of the warmest most pleasant times of year to visit New Zealand. Do NOT miss your opportunity to rub elbows with some of Marlborough’s most celebrated vintners. Ever wonder what wine fashion looks like? Festival organizers have added a fashion show with a competition for the best dressed male and female at the festival. Now is your chance to find out.
Marlborough isn’t just about wine. It’s about a wonderful climate and amazing water-scapes. It’s about about mountain ranges and picturesque sounds. It’s about culinary adventure.
Don’t take our word for it. Go and get yourself a bottle of Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc. Try it. You’ll see what’s in store for you once you go down under. And then, call Journeys Down Under. We’ll give you a trip you won’t ever be able to forget.

Guest Post:

If you’ve ever been to Fiji (or if you’ve ever seen a picture of Fiji), the first thing that comes in mind are azure beaches framed with white sand. This is truly a land where the tropical and tranquil lay right outside your door. Rich in culture, Fiji will captivate you with its people, beauty and serenity. It would make sense that you would say, “I want to be married in Fiji!”. After all when confronted with beauty on the scale of the Fijian Islands, the real question is why would you NOT want to be married in Fiji?

If the words “Destination Wedding” mean anything or sound even the most remotely intriguing, stop for a second and think outside the box. Step off the beaten path and look for something unusual yet simple, easy, manageable for the wedding of a lifetime. You will be pleasantly surprised how inexpensive a wedding in Fiji can be…you can choose a simple ceremony or an elaborate ceremony rife with island tradition. Think about this for a second: you can choose from over 330 different islands in Fiji for your wedding. Some are remote and some are bustling beehives of beauty. This is a dream wedding in a paradise like land. Keep the dream and let’s get to planning your fairytale.

So, when you’re ready to roll with your perfect wedding in Fiji, a few things to keep in mind:

  • Read this page for information from the Fiji Embassy on getting married in Fiji
  • Call Donna White at Journeys Down Under to schedule the wedding of a lifetime (as they all should be)
  • Pick one of Donna’s most famous and popular travel packages for Fiji or create one of your own. With Donna’s help you will save money yet have the most luxurious vacation you ever imagined.
  • Hit theYasawa Islands IMHO for the Fiji wedding of a lifetime: Deep blue ocean, fine sand beaches, gourmet dinners, scuba diving, culture and tradition. It’s all yours. What better way to start your life together?

So there it is. The perfect wedding, honeymoon and vacation all in one destination. Fiji. Your life, your love, your enchantment. What are you waiting for?

We took a quick poll to find out what first comes to mind when someone hears Australia. The top results, listed below, were all over the board and ever so interesting:

So, of all of those things, guess which one we want to take a look at today? How about the part that everyone left out: Tropical North Queensland.  Yes, yes, all of these other things are “so Australia” but how about throwing out the norm and embracing something you didn’t even know existed? Look, spend a few days taking in the crocodiles, the Opera House, the site of the 2000 Summer Olympics, eat a little Vegemite and then dash off to Tropical North Queensland for a vacation down under that will both awe and relax you.  Tropical North Queensland is where the rain-forest meets the reef; the best of BOTH worlds? Why would you not want to go?

Journeys Down Under specializes in the vacation escape to the land of spa treatments which use Aboriginal techniques, pristine environs, eco-friendly retreats and so much more. Walk along white and we mean WHITE sands of Coconut Beach on your way to a day of exploration via canoe.  And if you are really adventurous, take on the magical Heron Island and spend a few days and nights literally in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. This is your opportunity to be a part of nature’s version of heaven.

So before you go all Outback on us, think about a vacation of a different flavor and learn everything Australia can offer you. There’s a reason why people come to us (travel agents, you know! =) when planning a vacation and it has everything to do with stretching your dollar while getting the most you can out of a vacation.  It has everything to do with discovering the not-so-common and learning to enjoy something off the beaten path. So, what is taking you so long?  Journeys Down Under is ready to schedule the most perfect vacation you could ever imagine.

Are you ready to find your own Down under answers from Journeys Down Under?