A Surprise Trip Home – Part 1 – Australia

Logan and I decided to plan a trip back to New Zealand in between leaving North America and before we went to Europe. We thought we would make it a surprise trip home for a few weeks and that included trying to keep it a surprise for Lincoln and Braxton too.

After some initial researching we decided to include visiting Australia into this trip as well and we would do this before getting to New Zealand. This would make our communication and social media postings tricky as we needed to make people think we were still in Vancouver for a week before actually arriving in New Zealand, but we were up for the challenge.

With visiting Australia we had to tell a few people that we were planning the trip so we knew for sure that they would actually be there. Logan has very close family friends that live in Melbourne and his sister and brother-in-law live about a 2.5 hours east of the city. So it was these two families that we would be visiting and it meant they had to keep our secret too.

From our Airbnb in Vancouver we took a taxi to the airport (no Uber, Lyft or other ride-hailing services available in Vancouver) and the 10 km journey cost us $25 CAD/$28.41 NZD. We were flying with China Southern Airlines to Melbourne via Guangzhou and we were hoping to get to Guangzhou before telling the boys where we were actually heading. At the airport Lincoln questioned why we were flying this airline but we brushed it off saying something about taking the cheapest option, definitely sounds like us. But when we reached the counter the attendant asked where we were flying to and we had to say “Melbourne”, which Lincoln heard and immediately raised his eyebrows as to why we were going to Melbourne. The cat was out of the bag so we told them we were spending a few days in Australia and then going back to New Zealand for a visit before we would actually be going to London. They were very excited.

We left Canada just after midday on Saturday 18th and flew from Vancouver to Guangzhou (13.5 hours), after a four hour layover we then flew Guangzhou to Melbourne (9.5 hours) arriving at nearly 9am on the Monday. It was the first time we had been greeted at an airport for a while and it was nice to see the familiar face of close family friend Jenny, when we touched down in Australia.Welcome to Melbourne_Victoria_AustraliaIt wasn’t the best time of day to arrive in Melbourne but Jenny drove us back to their place and we caught up with her and David for a bit while we were cooked a tasty breakfast and had showers. They kindly got us packed up into one of their cars and we were on the road (back on the left, which felt a bit strange after eight months in North America) and on our way to Logan’s sister’s place. We hadn’t seen Casey and Morgan for over 2.5 years so we had a great few days catching up, making lots of yummy food, drinking lots of yummy wine, visiting a few local spots and Lincoln and Braxton finally met their cat cousins, Fizzy and Crackle.Sale_Victoria_AustraliaTarra-Bulga National Park_Victoria_AustraliaSale_Victoria_Australia_1After some lovely days in Sale we headed back to Melbourne, along the way we took a small detour to visit Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, because, although Australia is one of New Zealand’s closest neighbours, Lincoln and Braxton had actually never visited. So we thought we could give them a taste of the native Australian animals as the only ones they had even seen were Tasmanian devils. Total entry cost for us was $64 AUD/$68 NZD, the park was a good size and really well done. We all enjoyed the many keeper talks we listened to, as well as feeding a few wallabies and roos, which are free to hop about in a large area of the park.Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park_Victoria_Australia

Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park_Victoria_Australia_1
Braxton wasn’t having a bar of feeding the kangaroos or even the smaller wallabies

Back in Melbourne we had time to catch up further with Jenny and David and their adult children, another great night, more fantastic food and drinks. Saturday morning was a beautiful autumn day and we headed out for a walk along part of the Bay Trail, along the beachfront, to the famous Brighton Bathing Boxes. Dating back to the 1860’s, bathing boxes started popping up along Brighton’s beaches to allow for modest bathing. 

Changing on the beach was not permitted, nor could you wander the streets clad only in a bathing costume. One solution was to have a private bathing box,” – The Lure of the Beach, Jo Jenkinson, Brighton Historical Society.

There are over 80 distinctive bathing boxes, a row of uniformly proportioned wooden structures lining the foreshore at Brighton Beach. All retain classic Victorian architectural features but owners can give them individual flare, if they stay within the guidelines of the Bayside City Council and the Brighton Bathing Box Association of course. They certainly don’t come cheap though, recent sales have been between $300,000 – $340,000 AUD. It was fun to look at all the colourful boxes, some with cool murals and artwork.Brighton Bathing Boxes_Melbourne_Victoria_AustraliaOur return walk included a stop at the very large and upgraded North Road Playground for a play and an ice block, then back to the house for some lunch and then to the airport for our late afternoon flight to New Zealand. From Melbourne we would fly to Auckland (3.5 hours) and arrive in around 10.30pm.

During our time in Australia we had to be very careful when communicating with people back in New Zealand, paying close attention to what day and time it would have been in Vancouver, where we were still supposed to be, and posting about local Vancouver activities that we had actually done the previous week. We were managing pretty well to keep up the charade and now with less than 24 hours to go, could we completely pull off the surprise??

– Paula

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