Wednesday, 30 September 2015

What would you do ?

Stay a night in Cairns or catch a cab from Cairns Northern Beaches (Clifton Beach) to the CBD?

In my case it's $5 difference
and thats staying as the Rydges Tradewinds 
$155 for the night

Hey it's like a mini holiday and only 15 minutes away... Make a night out of it. Get there early check-in take a walk and revisit the place you live in, grab a drink on the way, and then got to a show. It's finished now but what a show..!!!
 I had been before in late August and just had to go again because this cabaret was truly brilliant and loads of fun. Entertainment the way it should be - sitting with people you don't know, having a laugh, watching and feeling like you are part of the show, seeing something exceptionally good. The man, Jason Coleman made this show happen from getting his hands on a fabulous tent : The Spiegel Zelt. In itself it was so good to see.

Dinner was at :

Vivaldis Restaurant

Upstairs at Mantra Esplanade

53/57 Esplanade, Cairns Qld

Location & Setting :  Hidden away up a small set of stairs - we people in Cairns need to learn from the bigger cities explore up those stairs and find something great..!!! This place has only been open under this name for 4 months. The location is great, just far enough away from the busy strip of the esplanade. Nice and cozy restaurant - just go there. 

Food  / Menu : A nice sized menu - I easily had my decision made with one scan of them menu. With a second lined up for the next visit. Yep that good.....
Drinks : Rymill gt (Dry Gewurtztraminer) good commentary on this wine by the wait staff, and they were spot on
Special : Location, Size & Setting of the restaurant

Service : It was a quiet night for the restaurant, they should be busy, they deserve to be busy. The waiter was just brilliant, he knew his job, knew his wine, knew his food and most importunity provided quality service.He knew when to be at the table and knew when to engage in conversation. A professional art that is lost in a lot of places. 

The show :  Click here --->>>> This was my blurb earlier on 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Are you an 4WD owner?
 who doesn't use it as it should be used?
 Like Me...
4WD should spend time in the dirt

I bought a 4WD with the view that I was going to make use of its capabilities and go off road.  Ye ha : first  test drive was short trip from Mount Garnet to Irvinebank (click to se the map).

Great 1st adventure!!! - a few KM's out of Irvinebank and crossing a dry river bed we hit a road and busted and bent the underside of the new 3 month old 4WD. Got  to Irvinebank had lunch got back in the truck and limped home to Ravenshoe. Rang the insurance company and they said it would be uplifted to be repaired and 4 weeks later it returned. 

Thats the best it's done as a 4WD in its 8 year life now a mature aged truck.

It nearly became a so-called Toorak tractor, unknown to dirt roads, from a suburban residential area.

Recently it took an excursion from Cairns northern beaches to Hughenden via Mount Garnet on the Kennedy development road (click to see the map) with real dirt roads...

Great trip, the 4WD made it work. I Made a booking at the Hughenden Allen Terry Caravan Park and asked the manger the best way to get there and he said he does Hughenden to Innisfail via the Kennedy development road and it takes them 6 hours as long as you keep a good pace!! 

So we did just that and kept our average speed around 80 km's per hour or better and did the trip in just over 7:30 hrs from Trinity Beach to Hughenden. It did involve getting off the road completely when a road train was coming at you and coming to an near stop. The dirt roads are very bumpy with soft edges and when transiting between dirt and bitumen it can come with a Hugh thump and then the occasional corrugation and buffeting a little sideways
But the Dogs loved it....    

There were travelers attempting this road with a normal sedan pulling a caravan or camper vans ... !! Good luck to them - I would expect that if they had crockery and it wasn't stuck down there could be issues.

The two main shires we drove through were Etheridge and Flinders and you could tell as soon as you drove out of one and into the other. Flinders shire roads were well maintained particularly the dirt roads were much better and the verges were cleared well back so you were able to see if ROO's were about to cross. 

Big day of traveling :

The trip back 3 days later we decided to clock every piece of dirt to see how many Km's of fun were had..!! 0 to 73 km's got us from Hughenden to the 1st section of dirt road and then the dirt went like this .. with a total of 100 km in total. 
On Dirt - Off Dirt

On the way back we made one stop before lunch at Bundock Creek to give the dogs a swim

There was a pretty special memorial in Hughenden that you should take you dog to  

What makes this road fantastic : There was so little traffic

Great drive - Great fun 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Life Miles are back

Yep - just got my email today and did a quick calculation : If I were to buy 150,000 LifeMiles I would get an additional 202,500 LifeMiles totaling 352,5000. This is at a cost of USD$33 per 1,000 block. Working on todays conversion from USA to AUD that is about AUD$20 per 1,000 block over the entire 352,500.  

Now that would get you 4 return trips on ANA's band new 787 from Brisbane to Tokyo in Business Class.

The only critical criteria is the following:

Applies only to members enrolled in the program prior to September 7th, 2015.

If you miss out this time join up, it's FREE and hope they do it again. This is the most bonus miles I've seen since I have been a member and it certainly helps with the Oz dollar buying US dollars right now. 

Click Me : This takes you to a page that shows how I have used Life Miles so far 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

40 Hours in Auckland 

All because I had China Southern (CZ) frequent flyer miles due to expire in January 2016 

All flights and accommodation were booked 3 weeks prior to travel

The prices shown are all in AUD

Traveled solo 

Virgin Australia (VA) Cairns to Brisbane 
- Economy Class 

2 hr flight time
Booked though Orbitz and paid for with a 28 Degrees MC which attracts no international transaction fees. The ticket was purchased in $USD and was cheaper than buying direct on the VA website. Jump on the free bus from domestic to international airports and got me there about 2 hours before the flight departed. Ready to check-in for my business class flight. A seamless check-in with China airlines, with access to the Qantas Club Lounge. Salinger was the drink of the day before I boarded the flight. 

China Airlines (CI) Brisbane to Auckland
- Business Class

2:35 hr flight time
A little bit of Chaos getting this ticket sorted. China Southern (CZ) website does not allow you to redeem other skyteam alliance airlines, you have to ring there customer service in China (Thanks to Skype the cost is minuscule). Then being advised that I must pay the taxes with a Chinese credit or cash in China. A little difficult when you live in Queensland. Eventually I was directed to ring CZ Sydney office, they were fantastic and made all the arrangements from there on. They took payment is $AUD and emailed an E-Ticket. This charge went onto St George Amplify Card as they provided the best frequent flyer points return at 0.75 per $ spent. 

Auckland Accommodation - Auckland city hotel Hobson 
2 nights
Booked through HotelClub. Used NAB Amex. This was one of 2 charges that went towards the $500 spend required on the trip for the complimentary travel insurance to kick in. NAB charged $3.28 int transaction fee. I did a quick web search to see what promotional codes were around and found a valid one for HotelClub that gave a further 15% off which brought it in at just under $95 per night, I thought this was great for a nice inner city hotel with walking distance to everything. 

Now the Tweener:

Booked the airbus online $25.30 return 

To absorb my time in Auckland I : Walked, ate, consumed loads of NZ wine and beer and caught a ferry.

Food: (sequenced in order from arrival to departure)

Dinner -The Federal :  Casual, sit at the bar, good honest simple food &  great wine - loved the fried cauliflower.
Breakfast - Best Ugly Bagels : Great spot, wood fire burning and the bagels were fab
Lunch - Botswana Butchery : Bit flash!!, could die of thirst waiting for the 1st drink to arrive, food was great.
Dinner - Depot Eatery : Sat wedged into a corner at the bar, busy as, great staff and loads of fun. Most importantly the food was fantastic. Over indulged in there wines by the glass though..! My big spend for the trip.
Breakfast - Fond(ou) Cafe : Just coffee today inside the hotel and good
Lunch - Food Alley : NZ has a great array of food halls and mini shops selling fantastic food : picked a winner here too.

Take home treat: took the ferry to Devonport to explore and spend up on Devonport chocolates  great chocolate fish & chips for fathers day.

Pubs: That I visited once or twice
The Shakespeare Hotel
The Occidental
Vultures Lane

China Airlines (CI) Auckland to Brisbane 
- Business Class 

3:50 hr flight time
Ticket purchased on China Airlines (CI) website and charges in NZD. For me this was WOW 392 bucks business class. This also went on the NAB Amex which made the insurance effective.  NAB charged $7.84 int transaction fee. Stupid error on my part, I didn't have the credit card I charged with when checking in as it was a requirement to site this as part of the check-in process, I was then required to fill out indemnity forms which added 10 minutes to the check-in process. Handled very well by the check-in staff and then I was on my way to the lounge. In this instance China Airlines (CI) used the Priority Pass Emperor Lounge. 

CI is a great way to go if you want to take a quick trip to NZ. The flight I took was a continuation service from Taipei going over and the return service via Brisbane to Taipei. While on the CI website I did play around a little, looking at buying both directions and found it was much cheaper to buy one-way tickets instead of a return flight if you were flying out of Australia. At check-in in Brisbane I also saw that you could upgrade from economy to business at the counter for $149. 

Brisbane Accommodation - Clayfield Motel 

1 night
Booked direct with the motel. I stayed overnight in Brisbane because the scheduled arrival of CI0054 arrived to late to connect with flights to Cairns and a good reason to rekindle my affection for Brisbane city river and the River Cats. I chose this motel because it was only 10 minutes away from the airport and they had done a deal with Alpha cars - $10 each way airport - motel - airport. Train station was very close so next day it was easy access to the city for lunch. checked out in the morning and left my bags at reception. I found Great coffee and Italian sweets nearby which I had to have before I left for the city and after I returned but before catching the shuttle back to the airport. 

For anyone who is interested lunch was at Harajuku Gyoza - Southbank. 3 items, 1 beer $32 loved it

Jetstar (JQ) Brisbane to Cairns 
- Economy Class 

2 hr flight time
Booked on the Jetstar (JQ) website using the the direct deposit method to avoid all fees. This booking took several attempts because I initially saw and missed a cheaper price with VA as I would prefer to travel with them and accrue Velocity points. So I booked a JQ service with the direct deposit method as it allows 2 days to pay, I then looked for the same flight the next day and the price had dropped so I booked it again, I watched for a day and then payed. 

Theory: the Qantas / Jetstar sites must monitor your interaction with there website and track your IP address, they seem to know what you searched for previously and the system price manipulates and then moves on after a certain amount of time.

NAB insurance cost $11.12 effectively due to the international transaction fees incurred using these cards