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December 19 2011 2 19 /12 /December /2011 15:36

At this time of year, the northern hemisphere is plunging into cold and darkness, and many people there are planning their holiday at the opposite end of the earth, where the weather is hotting up and heading for a Christmas midsummer. P1010023

Sydney is the destination for thousands of visitors, many arriving on cruise ships either docking at Central Quay, some might say the beating heart of Sydney, or anchoring out in the harbour and sending passengers in by tender.

 Special things about Sydney at Christmas Season  

Facebook 003AChristmas trees in 35° of heat may seem odd, yet Australia is very fond of the traditional pine type Christmas tree. Seeing these public trees complete with traditional decorations such as stars, in bright sunshine, is an intriguing aspect of a visit to Sydney.   The photo is of the Christmas tree near the Anzac Fountain in King's Cross.



Near the fountain are banners with the more traditional Sydney symbol of a cockatoo which seems to do duty in place of Santa or his elves on Australian Christmas banners such as the one in the photograph.    


  Santa Came to call Rolex-Daniel ForsterThe Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is at Rushcutters Bay, just a short walk from Kings Cross and Bondi Junction. Santa comes to visit on Christmas Day, just as all the crews are finally assembled and ready for off. (Photo by Rolex / Daniel Forster)




Boxing Day: the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race starts in Sydney Harbour.  The public have remarkable access to the jetties where the 90 to 100 contenders are tied up and preparing for the big start on Boxing Day.    


Update on the 2011 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race here.


All photos copyright of Val Williamson except Santa's visit, which is by permission of Rolex/Daniel Forster

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November 12 2011 7 12 /11 /November /2011 12:58

Rotorua on North Island, Aotearoa New Zealand, is a tourist resort where Maori traditions are visible and ancient arts are taught. At the centre of a geothermal valley, Rotorua's main attractions are steaming geysers and mud pools around a lake within a collapsed volcanic caldera, and the Te Puia Maori cultural and ethnological centre.


Geothermal geyser, Rotorua

Thermal activity in the town has attracted visitors since the 1880s, to bask in soothing spa therapies or to be invigorated by hot mud wraps. An important part of the New Zealand tour experience, Rotorua boasts over 12,000 beds available to tourists, from backpacker hostels through motels to hotels, the largest of which has 250 rooms.

Entertainment and food Maori-concert---Chief.jpg

Several important Maori cultural performance groups living in the Rotorua area officiate at regular hangis, especially in summer (November to February).

A hangi meal consists  mainly of meats slow-cooked outdoors over thermal heat. Generally served to large groups of tourists either at a Marae (traditional Maori meeting place) or in a hotel, this meal and the kapa haka performed afterward are the highlights of Rotorua's Maori entertainment.

  The famous haka (a ferocious war dance with ugly tongue waggling) is performed, along with many more musical or more seductive dances. 


Sights to see in Rotorua

Other activities around Rotorua include

  •  the Skyline gondola ride to the mountaintop, with optional luge ride and cable-lift 
  • the kiwi conservation centre at Rainbow Falls where a thousand of New Zealand's unique yet threatened bird species have been bred for release into the wild 
  • a visit to the Agrodome for an entertainingly performed history of New Zealand's sheep farming involving real sheep, sheering, lambs and dogs 

Maori Folk Museum

Being the main attraction at Rotorua, the Te Puia folk museum forms the entrance to the Pohutu geothermal geyser. Photographs may be taken everywhere, steam allowing, and sitting on warm rock terraces is encouraged. The guide leads the group on an exploration of bubbling mud pools and steaming vents in hardened lava to the dramatic eruptions of hot water in tall plumes. The striking images of Rotorua are of the Maori statues, buildings, weavers and wood-carvers at Te Puia, another component of the New Zealand tourist experience.    

Rotorua Museum



Richard Smith, David J. Lowe and Ian Wright, 'Volcanoes - Caldera volcanoes and the Taupō Volcanic Zone', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,

Te Puia, New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute, Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, Rotorua, NZ

Dr. Val Williamson Visit to Rotorua, as at 01.04.2011



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November 11 2011 6 11 /11 /November /2011 07:17

Australia welcomes migrants from all parts of the world, and offers a diverse range of designations to encourage a continuing stream of applications. Working it all out can seem complicated, so here are a few hints and tips to get you started.

Working in Australia


The Department of Immigration and Citizenship apply Australia's visa regulations. Register your interest in migrating to Australia online, at Immi.gov.au, listing your skills, for which Australian employers may sponsor your visa.

Conditions controlling immigration include age, (migrants usually have to be under 45), skillset, and ability to afford the cost of visas and relocation. Applications from people of all races and ethnic origins are welcomed.

Citizens and flag 2

Migration into Australia is sometimes controlled according to the state of the Australian economy, but is governed more by skill shortages registered by state and national governments, and certain professional organisations.  Police, doctors, and applicants with nursing and IT skills are particularly welcome.

UK assistance with migration

In the UK, provision is made for introductory talks and courses at Australia House in regular rounds of recruitment, continuing a tradition begun in the last century of encouraging Brits or 'poms' to transfer their skills and training into the Australian economy. Pomsinoz.com is an ex-pat web community for UK migrants to Australia, offering advice on the application process.


Migration Agencies

There are different grades and conditions of migrant visas for long-term stay and work in Australia, and the need for additional visas for spouse and children will complicate the application process. Sometimes, a specialist may assist in gaining the necessary visa and permissions. Visabureau.com, for instance, has useful information on immigration to Australia.

1 Australian passport entry stamp for those requiring visas from Brisb

An experienced Registered Migration Agent can help for a fee if your visa application is not straightforward. One is Migrationexpert.com.au, while Migratetoaustralia.co.uk has offices near Australia House in London, useful in case of being refused on personal application. Browsing their web pages can provide information and they can also provide legal advice if necessary.

 Faces of Australia 34


Immigration visas

Immigrant visa charges to Australia total over $6000 AUD (as of 2011) payable in instalments at different stages in the process. A sponsored applicant may have these fees paid by the prospective employer. This visa bestows residency status after about eighteen months, on further application.

General Skilled Migration visa applications may take some time to come through, because governed by legislation. Skill shortage candidates may gain permanent or temporary visas quite quickly. Good luck with your application!

Harmony Day

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November 9 2011 4 09 /11 /November /2011 13:43

To cruise Sydney Harbour is part of the tourist dream for a visit to Australia. Find out if you can save money on the Sydney Harbour cruise options available.

Circular QuayP1010022

Sydney Harbour sightseeing usually involves visiting Circular Quay and the historic Rocks area adjoining it. From here, you can see the city's two major icons, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the shell-shaped Sydney Opera House. 

At Circular Quay you can buy tickets for Sydney Harbour cruises with at least three different commercial companies. Which should you choose? 

The ideal cruise of this large and long harbour takes you into the inner harbour area by sailing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and then heads out past the Sydney Opera House towards the islands and bays that stretch out toward the harbour's exit into the Pacific Ocean.

Captain Cook cruises

Captain-Cook-Cruises-Sydney-2000.jpgCaptain Cook Cruises provide a wide range of cruise experiences of Sydney Harbour. Their Winter specials offer around $35 AUD off the regular price if booked through their website Captaincook.com.au. People who have already experienced a Captain Cook cruise can join the Captain Cook Club for additional special offers, including their longer trips whale watching or to Fiji.

Magistic cruises Magistic-cruises-in-Sydney-Harbour.jpg

Often wrongly called 'majestic' cruises, this company use a play on words to combine the words magic and majestic to suggest a certain difference in their cruises. Take a look at their website for special offers of up to 40% off their daily Sydney Harbour sightseeing cruises.

Cruise Sydney Harbour by regular ferry service.

Sydney Ferries form a major and frequent service to Sydney's residents and visitors to North and South shores of Sydney Harbour. Find their timetables and fares at Sydneyferries.info.

Sydney-Ferry.jpgTo save money using ferries to cruise the harbour, buy a MyMulti Day Pass or a MyMulti Pass (weekly) or the Family Funday Sunday pass. All of these options include bus and train travel, as well as ferry travel around Sydney on the distinctive green and gold scheduled ferry boats.

The ultimate cruise of Sydney Harbour 

Many sailing clubs are based around the harbour. The extreme free cruise of Sydney Harbour would be by crewing on a sailing boat. Rushcutters Bay is a large facility run by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, from where the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race starts every Christmas. The ultimate cruise experience of Sydney Harbour may be during the testing and training phase in the weeks leading up to the start of the race.


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November 9 2011 4 09 /11 /November /2011 12:40

Australia trips usually include a visit to the New South Wales city of Sydney. Sydney is a large city, with its suburbs, it is the size of an English county, so many types of Sydney attractions are best visited via Sydney day tours. This article will show the different types of Sydney tours.


Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Things to do in Sydney

Among the long list of things to do in Sydney are walking, cycling, motorbiking, boating and climbing activities. Visitors can sample the Sydney bridge climb experience for instance, or take a historical tour of the Rocks area around the Harbour Bridge access point.



 Regular Sydney Harbour Ferries

 Sydney activities can include the hop on hop off ferry day ticket, which will take in a tour of the Harbour and Taronga Zoo, which is on an island, and the Botanical Gardens or Rose Bay or Watson's Bay. You can even have a tour of the centre by bus.


Touring Sydney by bus


The open-top sightseeing bus also offers a hop on hop off ticket so that many of the sights of the old city can be seen in a day, some on foot. These would include the sights of King's Cross and Fitzroy Square, the fine architecture of Elizabeth Bay House, the Australia Museum, and the attractions of Darling Harbour.


Wild Life tours around Sydney 



Wild Life tours around Sydney could include Koala Park where visitors mingle with native animals and birds. The Grand Pacific Drive with Wildlife run by APT Travel is a one-day tour, the Jervis Bay dolphins part of another.

Royal National Park on Sydney's southern border has protected beaches, bordering the Tasman Sea area of the Pacific Ocean. Bush-walking and camping tours are very popular, taking in spectacular remote beaches.


Blue Mountain tours

Blue Mountains tours take in the breath-taking scenery, some of the viewing platforms that stretch out on rocky overhangs to give panoramic views, and many include a visit to the Jenolan Caves.


Hunter Valley tours in this area include day tours of the wine growing district, with visits to wineries for tasting sessions, and are available as coach tours.

Sydney modern architecture

Rose Seidler House is the earliest example of modernist architecture built in Australia. Rose Seidler's house is in the northern suburbs and is open only on Sundays. The story of Rose and her innovative son, Harry can be discovered here. This will inform Sydney sightseeing around the CBD with understanding of how he changed the skyline and appearance of the city to become what it is today.


  Valerie Williamson

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June 24 2011 6 24 /06 /June /2011 12:56

This article suggests how the cost of a New Zealand holiday can be reduced by looking for special offers on travel or hotel costs, or by self drive or self catering options.

Flying to New Zealand

Travel off-peak season, April to August, for reduced costs. Check for special airfares offers to New Zealand by airlines serving its airports. From Australia, good offers are found via the internet for regular airline services by Pacific Blue (Virgin) and by New Zealand's own airways, Air New Zealand. From UK, late booking with airlines running regular schedules to Auckland gains reduced prices.

Boeing 747 Air New Zealand @ LAX | Source http://www. flickr. com/phot

Air New Zealand Boeing 747

Check exchange rates 

Be careful to calculate the rate of exchange if paying by UK credit card for flights from and back to Australia, for instance, because the flights one way will be charged in NZ currency and the other in Australian currency. Cheap return flights may be no lower, but they may work better on exchange rates.

Air New Zealand Koru Club

Air New Zealand Koru Club

Airport taxes

Check if airport taxes are included in the fare or whether they have to be paid at the airport, as they do when leaving Wellington.

Discover New Zealand by touring

Discover New Zealand by touring. Tours of New Zealand can be accomplished by hiring a car or by booking a coach tour. One requires the traveller to find their own accommodation, the other provides it pre-booked.

Coach tours

The coach tour comes as a package with all food, hotels and many day trips and attraction admission tickets included in the overall cost. It is only good value if it includes everything the tourist required and they attend all events organised.

Air New Zealand's new 777-300ER interior - Economy Cabin.

Air New Zealand's 777-300ER Economy Cabin

Car hire self-drive

Hiring a car is a budget holiday option for New Zealand travel, allowing the tourist to choose where to stop and what kind and cost of accommodation to opt for.Hire Car - Leaving Mt Cook

Hire Car leaving Mount Cook

Cheap accommodation in New Zealand

The basics

There are good cheap bed and breakfast stopovers and many hostels for self-drive travellers throughout New Zealand. These are best booked ahead by at least a few days (by phone or internet), but out of season some operate a drop-in policy. Lunch and dinner can be by self catering or careful shopping.

hostel room

Hostel Room

Avoid single room supplement

Single room accommodation on an organised tour costs up to twenty five per cent more than double room occupation, so it would save money to find a room-mate to share, or to enquire if the tour company can find someone to share with.

Buses waiting in front of the International YHA hostel in Auckland

Outside the International YHA hostel in Auckland

Last minute room booking

Accommodation in New Zealand includes hotels which reduce their prices rather than have a room stand empty. Research the main hotel chains through their internet sites or through city tourist information agencies if in New Zealand to find their special rates.

Wellington InterContinental Hotel

Wellington Hotel

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June 8 2011 4 08 /06 /June /2011 08:53

All passengers arriving at Australian ports have to pass through immigration. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship applies Australia's complex visa regime. Bio security is supervised at each point of immigration by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.


Have the correct travel documents

If you are not an Australian and New Zealand citizen, you need documents for immigration. These are:

(1) a valid passport or equivalent travel document

(2) a valid visa to enter Australia

(3) a completed and signed Incoming Passenger Card, which is obtained on the boat or plane

You may be refused entry to Australia without any one of these documents.

How to apply for your visa

Visas must be obtained before starting your journey to Australia. Certain types of visa require a fee.

Online tourist visa application

EU and some other passport holders qualify for e-visas by applying online. This ETA visa is free and the acceptance process should take 24 hours or less.

What visa category do I need?

For long-stay or immigration visas, you can use the online application wizard at Immi.gov.au to find out which visa you need, and what fees apply. View ImmiTV on YouTube tutorials for an overview.

Incoming Passenger Card

Answer all points and sign the card. It will be checked at least three times before you and your luggage emerge from the Arrivals area. It asks eleven customs and bio security questions. If in doubt, say 'yes' because you will usually be OK to go through. Say 'no' and get caught, you can be deported.

 (1) Medicines and drugs you are carrying

(2) Alcohol and cigarettes
(3) Duty free goods worth more than $900 AUD*

(4) Sales samples

(5) Cash over $10,000 AUD*

 (6) Any food you are carrying, including dried or uncooked

(7) wooden articles, any plant material in any condition

(8) Animals, parts of animals, collectors samples, etc.

(9) Soil, anything with soil attached, including bicycle tires and trainer shoes

(10) Declare if you have visited a farm or forest in the last 30 days 

(11) If you were in certain countries in the last 6 days

NeilsPhotography Australia cc flickr

Want to work in Australia?

Register your interest in immigrating to Australia online, listing your skills, for which  Australian employers may sponsor you.

The Work and Holiday one-year visa for young people aged 18-30 costs $235 AUD*.

Immigrant visa charges total over $6000 AUD*, but a sponsored applicant may have these paid by the prospective employer.



Apply for Australian citizenship  

If you move to Australia, you can apply for permanent residency after about  eighteen months. Australian citizenship requires four years as a permanent resident. Assistance  with applying for citizenship is given at Citizenship.gov.au.


*amounts as at 06.06.2011

Australian Passports


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