PUTNAM - A Putnam family has gone "down under."
Tom Bain, who is stationed in South Korea with the U.S. Army, recently took his wife Chris and their children Tommy and Caitlin to Australia and New Zealand.
"It is the summer time in the southern hemisphere, so this was a welcome break from the frigid temperatures of South Korea," Bain said. "This was an amazing trip on many accounts: scenery, friendly people, great accommodations, and relaxing atmosphere."
Their first stop was Sydney, Australia. They visited the Sydney Aquarium, the Sydney Tower, Sydney Harbor, the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the 200 Sydney Olympic Park and Sydney's World Square.
Then it was off to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
"Our first stop on this trip was to a small game park where the kids were able to pet Koalas and Wallabies," Bain said. "They could also view Dingoes, Wombats, as well as birds and lizards of all shapes and sizes. It was an enjoyable experience and personal introduction to Australia's wildlife."
The Blue Mountains are Australia's green version of our Grand Canyon. The sides of the valley drop away for hundreds of feet before merging into the lush forest floor below.
A three-hour flight took the Bain family to Uluru in the Australian Outback.
"One of the biggest surprises of the desert was the proliferation of flies," Bain said. "Scores of flies would swarm you as you walked around the desert, making a fly net a must for keeping them at bay. They did not bite, but it is unsettling to feel them crawling over your skin seeking moisture. It is a wonder they survive in such a harsh environment."
The family then flew to Brisbane, rented a car and drove to Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. This area is famous for its miles and miles of white beaches and surfing.
While there they visited the Australia Zoo, which was run by the late Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter"."
Then it was off to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.
From there they took a ferry for a three-hour trip to the South Island town of Picton. At Picton they caught a passenger train for a six-hour ride to Christchurch.
"Christchurch is known as the Garden City of New Zealand, and the plethora of vibrantly colored parks lived up to the name," Bain said. "The smell of fresh flowers permeated the air and was a pleasant experience for all of us. We walked to the Cathedral Square in the center of the city and took in the many shops and sights of this urban area. Once again I was impressed with the cleanliness of yet another major New Zealand city."
The Bains then toured Queenstown before reaching Mount Cook National Park.
"Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, and the heavy snow and glaciers flanking it make it a spectacle to see," Bain said. "The calm serenity of the place was a welcome break from the bustle of the cities we had been staying in up to this point."
The local family returned to Christchurch for New Year's Eve, then it was on an airplane to Auckland, on the North Island.
"We ended our trip with a dinner at one of the restaurants situated at the base of the Auckland Sky Tower, and then viewed the city from above from the tower itself," Bain said. "We enjoyed the city lights as seen from above, outlining the dark sea of the harbor and shore.
"With a new-found respect and adoration for these two countries, we departed Oceania back to South Korea," he said. "Many are our memories to last a lifetime of these great places to visit and take in the wondrous views."