Mountain View, California
Did you read about the rhododendron meeting in Burnie, Tasmania, and think, "Oh, that would be nice..." If you've read journal articles about Burnie's garden and all of the amazing things that the local members have done in their volunteer garden you must surely want to visit. Well, you can! Special invitation of the Burnie members - they'd just love you to come to their conference, The 2006 Pacific Region International Rhododendron Conference, 20-23, October 2006.
Australia's not much further than Europe in terms of flying hours and the time difference is actually less. It does seem strange to "lose" a day when you travel there, but don't worry. You get it back on the way home. This is how it could work:
Sun. 15 Oct.: Fly from San Francisco on a late evening flight, when you are nice and tired and ready to sleep. By the time you wake up, have a couple of meals and watch a couple of movies and you're landing in Sydney and it's morning, Tuesday morning. Clear customs and make your connecting flight to Melbourne, just a couple of hours away. Alternatively, connect through Los Angeles and fly nonstop to Melbourne.
Tue. 17 Oct.: A friendly driver meets you and takes you to a centrally located Melbourne hotel. You explore a little around the hotel and have an early dinner.
Wed. 18 Oct.: A morning city tour gives you an overview of Melbourne and introduces you to the botanical garden. That afternoon you continue on your own to explore this cosmopolitan city. For dinner you hop on a trolley car that has been converted into a moving restaurant to enjoy the city by night as you dine elegantly.
Thur. 19 Oct.: You spend a full day touring the Great Ocean Road. The coastline west of Melbourne offers quite stunning scenery and your driver will stop at various points along the way for you to experience the area.
Fri. 20 Oct.: A morning flight takes you to Burnie. Transfer to your hotel. The conference begins with evening welcoming activities.
Sat. 21-Mon. 23 Oct.: Conference activities.
Tue. 24-Fri. 27 October: Post conference tour ending in Hobart Friday evening (see conference link for details.)
Sat. 28 Oct.: Visit the famous Hobart Saturday market, the Hobart Botanical Gardens and the Hobart Rhododendron Show.
Sun. 29 Oct.: Fly home, continue to explore or fly on to Christchurch, New Zealand, for their annual rhododendron conference, which begins the next day.
Mon. 30-Fri. 3 Nov.: 2006 New Zealand Rhododendron Annual Conference, Westland, South Island.
Sat. 4-Sun 5 Nov.: New Zealand conference post tour (details to be announced).
Mon 6 Nov.: Return home via Auckland or Christchurch, arriving the same day.
What will this cost? Budget around $5,000 a person, plus meals, based on currently available prices and double occupancy. Add about $50 per day for single rooms.
Flights for all of the above, 3 nights in Melbourne, one and a half day tours, transfers, and two nights in Hobart - $3,200 approximately. Tasmania Registration and Post tours AUS $1,100 which is about US $850 at current exchange rates. Four nights hotel in Burnie varies but say US $200. New Zealand conference registration, hotel and post tour - not known yet, but estimate US$750.
I've just booked a couple of very nice ARS members on the above itinerary. If you'd like to go too, I'll be happy to help you with this, or an alternative itinerary. If you are short on time consider flying home from Hobart, but do give yourself some time after arrival to adjust to the time change or you will be dozing and missing that great Australian hospitality!
Diane Weissman is a member of the De Anza Chapter.