Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Goldbergs at Lizard Island - The final days....

Well our readership is growing, the fast paced virality of the internet has made the Goldbergs in Australia series an international sensation.  It seems like only yesterday that we embarked on our journey down under, yet it seems like forever since we have seen the soil of our homeland.  Yes, its only been 10 days, but those 10 days have taught us lessons in life that we won't soon forget.

Because I am postdating this post there will unlikely be some strange combination of past and present but I'm sure you'll get the idea, our dear readers.

Today was the day.  Today is the day we take the trip off the eastern coast of Australia to spend the next 3 nights in what has come to be thought of as the culminating trip of the honeymoon, the trip to Lizard Island.  Lizard Island, for those of you who don't know, or we haven't bragged to yet, is an isolated group of 3 islands about 25 miles off the coast of Australia.  The island is inhabited by only the staff of the resort, the guests of the resort's 30 or so bungalows, and a research station at the other side of the island.  The island is about 4 miles by 4 miles and is a combination of 40 private beaches, rocky coasts, a dense jungle like forest.  The Dharma Initiative comes to mind.

Our excitement for this day was unparalleled.  As we boarded the small Cessna Caravan for our one hour flight to Lizard Island, the weather was an eerie grey, it was still raining from the tropical front which nearly stranded us in the Daintree rain forest the day before.  We wondered how this plane was going to navigate the torrential downpours, and nearly black clouds that loomed over the ocean which were about to fly straight over.  We think our pilot, of Hinterland Aviation, was about 13 years old.

And we flew.....Hannah, gripping her seat, giggling, and staring at the pilot everytime we encountered any type of instability in the air.

Upon landing in Lizard Island we were escorted in a van from the air strip to the main lobby of the resort.  We were given a brief orientation to the island which was accompanied by a welcome drink.  This welcome was well received, a bit like we were the latest contestants on a reality show in which 8 strangers were brought to a remote island where the only way to leave was to be voted off.  

The grounds of Lizard Island were beautiful, some rocky beaches, some sandy beaches, the whole natural environment was our playground.   There was beautiful barrier reef snorkeling right off the beach, the scenery was indeed paradise.  Hannah and I were excited to see what this "all inclusive" resort really included, everything was included in the price of the night's stay, which was about $2500 per night.  When you break this down, its $100 an hour, put another way, its about the same price as a month's rent in San Francisco, so we expected service and food to be reflective of the high price tag.

Our bungalow was simple, with a hammock hanging outside, a deck where we could sit and watch the sunset, and a great view of our neighbors bedroom.  There was a "no key" policy on Lizard Island, so we had to get used to leaving everything unlocked, safety wasn't a concern, but the mosquitos and ants getting into the room's porous sliding doors were. 

Our first meal at Lizard gave us a preview of what we were in store for for the next 4 days.  There were 3 options on the menu to choose from for lunch.  One was fried squid, one was roasted quail, and one was some pasta which I have already forgotten about.  The portions were tiny, so tiny that we had to re-order lunch twice.  I guess we were those fat Americans who need two lunches to be satisfied.  

Hannah I immediately took the bar to take advantage of the all inclusive food and drink.  We enjoyed wonderful mojitos, wine, top shelf everything, and managed to drink the resort out of their 3 top vodkas. It was great to have no concerns about the size of the bill we were running up.  They had a chess board, so between the open bar, the chess board, and the beach we were in our own style of heaven.

Before dinner that first evening we walked down to private Sunset beach, did our first snorkeling and had a wonderful romantic swim while light rain fell on us and the sun fell behind the clouds until it drifted out of sight.  The princess in the pea had to get her snorkel and mask replaced a couple of times before it was suitable, I knew we'd be making the trip back to the dive shop for more adjustments....I know my wife.

The dining service, food, and overall customer service at Lizard Island wasn't anything to write home about...but it looks like I am anyway.  We were constantly thinking about what we were paying and having our waiters and waitresses deliver us sub par food, forgetting things essential like bread, water, or coffee.  At one point we were delivered raw eggs for breakfast, and the waiter's response was "oh yeah, they look like their raw", and walked away.  We remained optimistic and had a great time as we always do. 

We came to learn a lot about the resort from speaking to the staff, who were in fact, very nice people.  Mostly young adults between the ages of 20 and 30 who were marooned on this island for months at a time, and worked hard (10-12 hours a day for 8-10 days straight), the transient nature of the job showed, but they did their best.  We missed Chris, our Byron Bay waiter.  Most of these waiters only last 6 months on the island before they quit and move on.

The water sports staff at Lizard Island was very different.  The scuba and dive instructors had been on this island for 5-10 years, they loved what they do, and to them it was a dream job.  It showed in their attentiveness, and how they loved to explain the intricacies of  island, the best places to snorkel, and at any point they would drive you in a truck or a boat to a remote beach on the island and arrange times to pick us up.

On day two of the Lizard episode the dive shop crew dropped us off at a remote beach and we spent the entire day walking, snorkeling, and swimming.  This beach was a short walk in low tide to where the movie The Blue Lagoon was filmed.  As you can imagine it was a spectacular spot, and we had it all to ourselves.  We spent the entire day without seeing a single person and at 4 pm we were picked up and returned to relative civilization.  We asked the the kitchen to prepare a picnic for us which we took to the beach.  The picnic wasn't good, but the day on the beach was amazing.

Our second evening on the island was marred by circumstance.  Our toilet stopped functioning, and much like the broken sewer in Newcastle was not due to the bean nachos, the broken toilet on Lizard Island was through no fault of the Goldbergs, although the manager of the resort eluded to it.  We were informed by a member of staff at dinner that evening that our toilet would not be fixed until the following day and they had another bungalow we could move into.  The was the culminating point of all events on Lizard Island.  Hannah had had enough.  We insisted that the toilet had been dying a slow death since we had arrived, which it had, and that they WOULD fix it tonight and the Goldbergs WOULD NOT be moving rooms.  The was followed by a very unpleasant interaction with management in which my poor bride was brought to tears, and insisted that we wanted to have a refund of what was owed for our remaining time, and we wanted to leave this place and go find the service and honeymoon we deserved.

At breakfast the following morning the manager and I had a chat about the following evening's situation.  I played good cop, ensuring that she knew that my wife had been having issues with many facets of life on Lizard and that it had all come out in a moment of emotional bearing.  The manager agreed to give us half off of our previous night, treat us to a free off resort snorkeling trip, and upgrade us for the remaining night to The Pavilion, their highest end bungalow.  We accepted their peace offering and decided to make the best of the rest of our time in paradise.

We had no idea what we were in for.  The Pavilion room itself was not much more spectacular than our previous room, but the view was incredible, and our private pool was the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing splash.  This room was the type of room we expected when we arrived.  As you can see from our pictures, the birds that tried to eat our lunch on the beach decided they also were entitled to an upgrade.  We can't blame them.

We spent the next evening and following day enjoying our newfound luxury.  The midnight drunken midnight dip in our private pool made the whole episode with our broken toilet worth it.  The food didn't improve, but from this point on we were attended to only by the food and beverage managers while dining and we could tell that the resort had discussed our situation and unhappiness and were doing their best to accomodate us and ensure us that they were doing all possible to make things right for us.  We do thank the Lizard for that.

We enjoyed a great off island snorkeling excursion the next morning and packed up for our grand departure from Lizard and the following day's journey back to the homeland.  When we picked up our bill from reception we were informed that the Lizard Island management had refunded us for 50% of our entire stay. 

Poor judgement on the my part put us at a hotel near the Sydney airport for our final evening.  If I had been more attentive and actually paid attention to our flight time of 4pm the following day we could have  spent the evening in the city and had a bit more of a finale....sorry wifey, I'll make it up to you on our next trip down under.

Thanks to everyone who followed us on this journey.  Through adventure, romance, love, scumbags who try to take pictures with your camera, excitement, bad toilets, bad service, and good service we have had the time of our lives.  

My wife and I thank you very much (Ween).

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