Saturday, 10 July 2010

New York, New York

June 22nd at 05.35 our flight from San Paulo arrives safely at John F. Kennedy airport in New York, but noooooooo we can't get off the plane cause the immigration/customs staff don't start until 06.00, so we sit in the plane until we're allowed to disembark.  Apparently all the people on the plane had international passports, so I was the only one in the US line, which meant I got to fly through to the baggage claim and within minutes my bag was there and within a few more minutes I was outside the security doors meeting my dad.

We were out of the airport parking lot by 06.45 . . . I think that's some sort of record, since my plane was scheduled to arrive at 06.20.

The reason I am bothering to post about being back in the USofA is mostly because my first experience back was not the greatest and to be honest rather embarrassing for the US!  I decided it was a good idea to use the toilet before heading out on our 6 hour drive back to the Adirondacks.  So after using the toilet I went to wash my hands and to make a long story shortish, there were 8 sinks, 8 soap dispensers and not a one of them had any soap in them!  Then I went to dry my hands and neither of the two hand dryers were working and there was no paper towel.  Having done a boat load of travelling at this point, I was ashamed of the quality of service I was receiving - I mean I found these things in developing countries without a problem, why can JFK not get with the program . . . or does the cleaning staff not come in till 08.00?

Friday, 9 July 2010

Rio, Brazil

A few hours after our ferry dropped us off from Ilha Grande we arrived in Rio.  Since we'd hit quite a bit of traffic and I was leaving in 2 days, I wanted to make the most of my time here, so I got an afternoon city tour.  We visited Christ the Redeemer, drove by the beaches, drove into downtown (old city), drove to where the carnival is held to see all the bleachers, visited the soccer stadium, where they have a museum, and took the gondola up Sugarloaf just in time to see the sunset!

The following day, I took a favela tour, which was AWESOME!  As you can see from the photo below this favela is built on a hill, so first we were dropped off at the bottom of the hill and then took motorbikes up to the top of the hill to start our tour.  You walk all the way down through the "slums" and meet the local people, avoid eye contact & take no photos of the drug dealers, and I thought it was the highlight of my time in Rio.

Here is an example of the art work which comes out of the area:

This is one of the paintings my mate bought since I don't have a photo of mine - amazing huh???

That afternoon, after the favela tour, was the second Brazil match & everything in Brazil was shutting down, so we quickly changed into our green & yellow outfits and walked down to Copacabana beach to watch the match on the jumbo-tron.  Amy & I (as you can see below) got tired of standing up during half time so we decided to relax in the sand, but you can see all the legs surrounding us, cause there were thousands of people there!  Luckily for us, Brazil won again, so the city was happy.

My last day in Rio, I had a taxi coming around 3pm, so I didn't do much of anything, had breakfast, packed my bag, showered before the taxi arrived and hung out with my mate who were lucky enough to be staying a few more day.

At 2pm the taxi arrived, took me to the airport & that evening I flew from Rio to San Paulo, then had a few hours in the airport while I waited for the second half of my flight into New York.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Ilha Grande, Brazil

A short 50 minute ferry ride from mainland Brazil and we arrived in Ilha Grande (Big Island for those of you who don't speak Portuguese).  We settled into our rooms and went to check out the pool, which turned out to be FREEZING cold!  So we decided to take a walk around the downtown & see what the beach had to offer.  At this point, I start to feel a bit headachey & sore throaty & over all just crappy, so after a short walk, I head back to the hotel & sit by the pool in the shade.  By dinner time I'm in bed, not hungry and just wanted to sleep until I'm better. 

The next morning our plan was to do the hike which goes to all the beautiful beaches, but I cannot even get out of bed.  So off they all went & I stayed in bed until around noon, when I got too hot & stuffy in the room, so I went back out to my shady chair next to the pool, which was great, cause nobody was there.  I even spent a bit of time dangling my feet in the freezing cold water, it made me feel a lot better.

That night I eat a little pizza, but was still not really hungry.  The next morning, I eat breakfast & went right back to my pool side shaded chair and relaxed.  Our 3rd day I was a bit more active and went looking in a few shops before the England match, but after it was over I went right back to bed.  On the 4th day, we went right to the ferry for a 9am departure and were picked up on the other end and drove to Rio!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Paraty, Brazil

As you can tell from the title, next on my adventures was Paraty, Brazil.  In order to get there, we had to take 22.5 hours of buses . . . sounds like fun right?  Well as it was our last long haul over night bus, I decided to fork over the US$50 to get an upgraded seat on the cama bus (semi-cama is what I'd been riding it's like an economy airline seat).  Cama seats are more like business class airplane seats, where they recline almost completely & are wider, so easier to sleep in & move around in.  We got on the bus, organised my seating area (water bottle out of bag & into seat pocket in front of me, blanket out, shoes off, iPod out, etc).  As it was only about 6pm when we boarded the bus, I decided not to go right to sleep since the journey was 17.5 hours long!  By 9pm, I was so bored I had to try to go to sleep just so I didn't want to scratch my eyes out of boredom.  It's tough to sleep on a bus when Brazilians are also on the bus because, they just love to talk, walk around, don't say excuse me when they bump you, and often like to bribe the driver into stopping extra places to drop things off or pick things up (I'd say mostly illegal dealings)  17.5 hour later, we arrived in San Paulo, which is a freakin huge city!  We arrived at the bus station, collected our bags and then walked to the far end of the station to get on our next bus, but this time it was a much smaller bus, just a mini van type thing, which could hold 20 people comfortably.  Away we went towards Paraty and just 5 hours later we were there!  We settled into our hostel and then did a little walking tour of the town.  Had dinner and went to bed.

The next day was the first Brazil match for the world cup and the town was all decked out in green & yellow.  My mate & I decided to take a jeep tour of the surrounding area which would end and have us back in town in time to watch the match.  What we did not realise was that the tour company had given the English speaking guide the day off . . . we did not learn this until the first stop (about 40 minutes outside of the town).  Luckily for us there was a bilingual couple also on the tour who were able to translate the important bits to us.  It was a bit annoying since of course the couple could not translate everything, but the scenery was divine!  We saw lots of small waterfalls, which had it been warmer we could have swum in.  We also saw 2 rum distilleries, one of which was run by water power!  The tour ended just in time for the match to start, so we went to find a restaurant where we could see the match and get a bite to eat, as it was nearly 3pm and we were rather hungry!  Brazil won 3-1 and the town went MENTAL!!!  All night long people were dancing in the streets, everyone was in green and yellow, there was music blasting out of every window, and everyone was happy.

The next morning, we left at 8am and drove just over an hour to catch our ferry over to Ilha Grande.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Iguassu Falls, Argentina & Foz de Iguassu, Brazil

As I mentioned in my last post, we'd been in Salto, Uruguay which is up in the north west corner of Uruguay, so a taxi drove us about 40 minutes across the Uruguay - Argentina border and dropped us off at a bus station, where we proceeded to get on a yet another night bus for 10 hours.  This night bus however, was not nearly as nice as the buses in Chile, it was cold & they did not offer blankets or pillows.

10 hours later we arrived into the bus station, where a mini bus picked us up and drove us to see Iguassu Falls from the Argentinian side.  (they are half in Brazil & half in Argentina)  The cool part about this side of the falls is that you can walk out on these metal walkways so that you are "on the top" of the falls.  It's a great view and you can feel the mist everywhere you go, because the force of the water is so high it almost feels like it's raining.

After a few hours exploring there, we drove across the Argentina - Brazil border and spent the night in Foz de Iguassu, Brazil, which is just the Brazilian side of the falls & since they speak Portuguese instead of Spanish, the name changes a bit.  The following morning we went to see the Brazilian side of the falls, which I think I actually enjoyed more, because you see the falls from further away and you can see how wide & vast they are.  I mean the Argentina side is great, but if I had to chose just one, I'd chose the Brazilian side.

On our second day in Foz de Iguassu we decided we'd take a day trip over into Paraguay.  It took about 20 minutes to get to the border and about 2 seconds to cross it cause nobody checks at all, which just amazed me!  We hung out there for about 3 hours, walking around the shops and street vendors before deciding we really wanted to see the Itapu Hydro Electric Dam which is on a river which divides Brazil & Paraguay, so off we went to see Itapu.  If you've never seen a hydroelectric dam, it's pretty darn cool!  It was the world's largest one, until recently when China's new dam was commissioned.  We ended up there at noon, which would have been a fine time, aside from the fact that the English version of  the movie & tour are only at 11am and 2pm . . . we didn't have time to wait till 2pm, so we took the Portuguese tour & luckily the guide spoke English as well and translated for us.  That evening we took another night bus, this time for 17.5 hours to San Paulo, Brazil and then changed buses and rode from another 5 hours until we arrived in Paraty, Brazil.  More on that another time . . .

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Montevideo & Salto, Uraguay

So I know it's been forever since I last updated & I apologise for that, but the internet connections in Argentina & Brazil were not the greatest & since I was limited on time I didn't want to waste an hour in an internet cafe updating the blog, so I'm going to try to give a few short updates over the next week or so, so you can see how the trip ended up.

Last time I wrote I was headed to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.  We arrived there safely, settled into our cold hotel room and went out for Chinese.  The service was horrible but the food was tasty.  The following morning I went on an organised city tour, which was very cool!  I got to see the first world cup stadium (football/soccer) which is just outside the city centre and it was for the 1950 match.  We also got to see the beaches and the old city centre with it's cobble stone streets and section of the old city wall which they've saved.

From Montevideo, we headed north west to Salto, Uruguay.  We spent a day &  a half there, which from my point of view is more than enough time.  It's a town known for it's spas and not much else past that!

The following day we headed back into Argentina to see the Iguassu Falls . . . more on that later

Monday, 7 June 2010

Colonia, Uraguay

Sorry I wasn´t able to update from Beunos Aires because as it turned out I spent less than 24 hours there . . . I know some of you who have been there are now screaming at the computer screen because you told me BA was one of your favourite spots in all of South America, BUT such is life . . . I´ll just have to come back :-)  Jo & I chose to spend extra time in Pucon and miss out on time in BA and we´re both happy about our decision, no regrets.

We arrived into BA around half 2, were at the hotel by half 3, and eating Argentinian steak by half 4 - YUMMERS!!!!  In the evening we went to see a tango show & had an introductory level tango lesson.  We all thought we were doing amazingly well until later on when we saw the proffessionals, were we realised we have a lot to learn about tango!  We got back to the hotel around midnight from the tango show and went straight to bed.  Jo´s flight was at 11am the next morning and my ferry to Uraguay was leaving at 10am.

I arrived into Colonia, Uraguay around half 11, dropped my stuff off at the hotel and went to explore the marina area and find a spot for lunch.  I had a delicious salmon meal.  Then wondered around the town, saw the lighthouse, the city wall and gate, checked out a few touristy shops, and then decided to walk to the bull ring, which was opened in 1910.  The only problem with my lack of Spanish was that what I didn´t realise is that it´s not still open (lol), so after walking 5K down the beach to see this bull ring, you can´t go inside, you can only walk around the outside.  It´s still an interesting building and the weather was nice to be walking down the beach.  So around half 5 I turned around and started to head back to the city centre, enjoying the sunset as well.  At 8pm we went out to dinner for Brett´s birthday, but I was so full from my salmon lunch I just had a salad.

Today I´m heading to Montevideo, which is about a 3 hour bus ride from Colonia.  I´ll be there for about 2 days before heading north to Salto.  I am enjoying Uraguay so far, but I do miss my Pucon breakfasts!!

¿Hey anyone up for going to Chile in December or January to climb a volcano?  I´m thinking of it as a 33rd birhday present to myself . . . but I don´t want to go alone.  I know great cabins we can stay at and there are lots of other amazing things we can do in and around Pucon . . . think about it!

p.s. sorry for spelling errors, the spell check here is for spanish only!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Pucon, Chile Part 3

Well a slight change of plans, we´ll be leaving tonight from Pucon to Santiago via bus (10 hours) and then getting a flight from Santiago to Beunos Aires tomorrow morning.  We stay in Pucon slightly longer than planned but arrive in BA at the same time (lol)

Yesterday the four of us went to visit a Mapuche family and we got to dress up in their clothes, ride their horse, eat their food and just hang out in their house with them drinking wheat coffee around a fire.  It was amazing!  Ruben´s dad is Mapuche, so he translate most of it and what he couldn´t he says in Spanish and then Phillipe translates into English . . . as you can guess conversations were a bit slow, but they were such friendly people.  Of course it´s set up for tourists (like us) but instead of having a group of 20 it was just the 4 of us with them.  Then we were suppose to have a BBQ, but it had rained heavily all day, so we went shopping for food (aka meat and potatoes) and Ruben cooked the whole meal, while I lay on the couch watching Beverly Hills 90210 (re-runs of what I use to watch in High School LOL)  Jo and Phillipe came over to eat as well.  Meals are eaten much later here, so we had dinner at 11pm so by time dinner was over and we were just relaxing in our living room, I fell asleep on the couch. 

When I woke this morning at 8.45am, I realised I had to shower, pack, clean the kitchen and catch the bus which was leaving at 10am.  So of course I jumped outta bed and raced to the shower, got dressed and started to pack and never even noticed that Ruben wasn´t sleeping anymore, so when I ran downstairs to start on the dishes I nearly fell over to see the whole kitchen and dinning room were completely cleaned up!  Then we got the knock on the door from Phillipe to say no bus, all that rushing around for nothing, but at least it´s all done now :-)

I got some good photos at the Mapuche village house and last night at dinner, but need an internet cafe where I can upload them.

Okay, off to get some lunch now . . . will try to write from Argentina soon

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Pucon, Chile part 2

So my mate Jo & I have decided we´ll be leaving Pucon on Friday morning and taking a 22 hour bus to Beunos Aires, Argentina.  I think I can easily speak for her as well and say that neither of us is looking forward to leaving, but at the end of the day, we both need to get to BA by Saturday night, so this is the longest we can stay.  But, I´m determined to try to come back here at some point.  In the mean time I will just have to keep in touch with the people I´ve met, some of which hope to be in America later this year (yeah!) so we can hang out then too.

Yesterday, Ruben took me to a small town south of Pucon to see a less touristy town and to see the beautiful lake.  The weather wasn´t exactly fantastic, but we had a great time playing on the jungle gym and walking around the marina before stopping for some chocolate caliente (hot chocolate).  After that was just a quite night at home, I made spaghetti and we watched Friends in Spanish - No my Spanish is not that good, but my knowledge of nearly every episode of Friends makes it easy for me to understand it!

Well, just wanted to check in, we gotta run to figure out how to explain that we want to buy tissue paper, hmmmmm!

Monday, 31 May 2010

Pucon, Chile

So we were suppose to leave Pucon on Friday, but my mate Jo and I decided to stay a bit longer.  The town is so beautiful, from every where you can see the snow capped volcano.  Pucon is also in Chile´s lake district, and there are something like 10 to 15 large lakes in the area, and tons of other tall volcanos which aren´t active.  Did I mention the volcano we were suppose to hike the other day is an active one?  From my bedroom window between 5 and 6am I can see the top section of the volcano glowing from the lava, without even getting out of bed . . . how amazing is that?

Yesterday, Phillipe drove Jo and me over to check out another lake, it was so beautiful!  Only problem was I lent my camera to Ruben cause he was guiding a group up the volcano, so no photos, but I think Jo got a few good ones which hopefully she´ll share with me!

Weather is still cool, but the clouds are much higher and so if you´re in the sun it doesn´t feel so bad.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Santiago & Pucon, Chile

Safely arrived into South America (a new continent for me!) a few days ago, after a long 11 hour flight from Auckland to Santiago.  Country is beautiful.  The first day I went to two coastal villages, names now evade me.  Then took a 10 hour night bus from Santiago to Pucon (south) and we were suppose to hike up the 2000m volcano today, but it´s rainy and has lots of strong wind, so it´s postponed till tomorrow. 

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Time Zones

So I just had a wee look at the world map and learned that in about 7 hours I will have made it around the world, since I've been to Hawaii before and on my way to Santiago, Chile this afternoon, I will pass that point!  I also had a look at the time zone map and realised that when I land at 12.10pm (Chile time) it will actually be 11.10am on the east coast of America and 4.10pm in England.
I had forgotten how much further east South America is when compared to North America.  So for the next month I'll be one and two hours ahead of New York and four and three hours behind London.

Okay, that's my fun fact for the day . . .

Auckland, New Zealand

Arrived here a few days ago.  First on the agenda was to go to the top of the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, The Auckland Skytower, which is just around the corner from the hostel I'm staying at so I did that in the afternoon, when the weather was pretty good, a few clouds but no rain.  The view was very nice and they even have a glass floor in the lift and at different spots around the viewing area, I of course could not walk on them, cause I'm a wimp!

That evening I went to Commerce Street to look for a pizza store, which my dad's mate in NYC's financial adviser's brother owns (did you follow that connection?)  The street luckily isn't that long & in amongst lots of Chinese restaurant's is Sal's New York Style Pizza.  I walked in & asked for Kieran.  "Yes, I'm him" the man said.  So I went on with the explanation of how I knew him and that his brother had sent me to say hello.  He smiled and said that was a first!  I got a slice of pizza, to test out how authentic it really was.  Amazingly it was spot on!  Come to find out, he imports all of his ingredients from America, WOW!

The next morning I went to Kaiheke Island, which turns out to be the 3rd most populated island in all of New Zealand.  It's a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland.  Many people commute to Auckland for work from there.  The island also has a lot of artist living on it.  The weather was not fantastic, cloud covered and on the ferry back to the city it started to rain.

The following day, I was schedule to go sailing with my dad's mate from university, but the weather here in Auckland has not been working in my favour.  It poured with rain and pretty strong winds, so the sailing race I was going to participate in got cancelled.

Yesterday I thought I would spend the morning doing laundry and packing, but the dryer here at the hostel is so bloody old that it took forever to dry my clothes, and it's not like I had that much, but I had my jeans in there and they took a long time to dry!  Turns out my laundry wasn't ready till 2.30pm!  Then I spent a bit of time on the phone with my parents, since once I leave New Zealand, I'm not sure when I'll have phone access again.  Followed by packing up since check out is 10am and I didn't want to do it last minute.

Finished packing and noticed that 3 new girls in the room, but we only had 2 beds free.  After dinner I came back in and they were all drinking and eating smelly fishy food in the room.  I decided I wouldn't say anything until 10pm, when guests are suppose to leave and I'd have an excuse to kick one of them out.  But at 9.30pm, Nicole came into the room and couldn't stand the smell, so she asked them to leave.  I realised now that these girls were sooooooo drunk, they could barely stand up!  I was glad they were leaving the room and sorta hoped they'd pass out on the couches in the lounge area and never come back :-)

No such luck, at 11.30pm, all three came stumbling back into the room.  Two climbed into their beds and passed out, the third sat on a chair and sorta didn't know what to do with herself, she kept falling over and sliding off the chair, so I finally got off my bunk bed and asked her to leave (aka escorted her to the lift).  I thought all was fine, Nicole and I were joking about how drunk they were and how badly they would feel in the morning, when all of the sudden the girl on the lower bunk sat up and started to puke all over her bed and down the side by the wall.  Nicole and I, grabbed our purses and run to reception.  Announced what had happened and they upgraded us to a twin room for the night, so we went back to the smelly room, collected our things and headed to our new room.  All I can say is how glad I am that this happened on my last night of my NZ hostel staying or I might be worried about future repeats of this.

I am heading to Santiago, Chile this afternoon, but after last night had to go and get a Dunkin Donuts Coffee Coolatta for breakfast cause we weren't able to get to bed till nearly 1am and then Nicole had to wake up at 6am to catch her bus, so not a lot of sleep was had!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Rotorura, New Zealand

Well I just officially applied for my job as a Research Associate at University of Massachusetts (I think I spelled that right . . . gonna have to learn that one!) Medical School so I can work with the former director of Trudeau Institute, Dr. Swain. She does flu research, of which I know little to nothing about. On the plus side her 2 post docs, Tara & Kai, whom are mates of mine are moving to Mass with her, so at least I'll have 2 friends :-)

On the leg front it's def getting better, just so freakin slow. Goes to show I should have gotten stitches when it happened, but then again that would have been from unsterilised needles in PNG, and goodness only knows what I would look like now if that'd been the case, maybe getting my leg amputated at this point!

I leave New Zealand on May 23rd for Chile and end up in Brazil on June 20th, then on to JFK :-)

Well I better go get some lunch now and see what Rotorura has to offer which doesn't risk introducing an infection into my leg . . . so far all I've seen are mud baths, thermal spas, etc etc Luckily tomorrow I'm off to Auckland, so I won't be tempted to take a dip in the spas!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Wellington, New Zealand

Arrived safely yesterday after 3 hours on a HUGE ferry, one that's big enough to have 4 levels, level 1 has trains, level 2 trucks & cars, level 3 general public, level 4 special class (you pay $20 extra to go there - I didn't so I can't tell you much about it).

We managed to avoid the bad weather which was arriving in Picton as we were leaving & when we arrived here in Wellington the weather was cloudy but not pouring with rain as it had been earlier in the day.

I'm staying at the Base Backpackers which is very nice, sorta a NYC feel to it with high ceilings and the lift is that old school type like dad's apartment use to have.

Yesterday afternoon I had a bit of a walk around town, down Courtenay Place, through the Courtenay Quarter, which is known for theatres, galleries and hostels.  Then down Manners Street, through the Cuba Quarter, known for funky boutiques, art galleries, cafes and the opera house.  Then onto Willis Street through the Lambton Quarter which is renown for high end shopping, heritage government buildings and the cable car.

Once I got to the cable car I took that up to see the view of the city from above and then decided to walk back down to to the city via the walk through the Botanical Gardens, which are beautiful even though it's fall here and none of the flowers are out.  At the end of the walk I took a mini detour so I could see the Parliament building which is also called the Beehive - you can guess why!

Today I went to see Te papa, the Museum of New Zealand, which was amazing - you can get lost in it's 6 levels with all of it's displays.  I also walked along the waterfront area, until it started to rain, then I came back home.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Picton, New Zealand

Since I last wrote, we've been on the move!  Left Queenstown early in the morning and took a bus to Fox Glacier.  Where the weather did not work in our favour.  The recent rains had closed the walking tracks to the glacier and the day's clouds were thick & low, obstructing good views of the glacier and mountains near by.

Sara went to Lake Matherson and walked around it, ever hopeful the clouds would "burn off" as everyone promised they would do in the late afternoon . . . well they didn't but the walk was still beautiful and the reflection photos with the sunset on the clouds was beautiful.

Next morning boarded the bus up to Greymouth, where we boarded the Tranzalpine train to Christchuch.  It's a 4.5 hour trip, over 231km, 19 tunnels, a 73m viaduct, and at it's highest point is 737m above sea level!  Amazing scenery on this train trip!  Spent the night in a hostel in Christchurch, before getting up early to catch the 7am Transcostal train from Christchurch to Kaikoura.

10am, arrived at Kaikoura, all whale watching trips were cancelled due to the high winds (120kph gusts apparently) so we spent the day browsing the shops.  Next morning at 10.15am, we boarded the Transcostal train again for a 2 hour trip to Picton.

Picton is the town where the ferry leaves from to go to Wellington.  For those of you not familiar with NZ geography (don't be embarrassed, I didn't know until looking at a map once I got here) but there are 16km between the south (which I'm on now) and north island.  There isn't a bridge or tunnel, cause the Cook Straight is so deep they can't build one!  The straight is also considered one of the 4 most dangerous to cross because the weather can change so fast, one minute it can be as calm as glass and within an hour can have 4m swells - or so they tell me.

Today's adventures included a boat tour of the Queen Charlotte Sound - very beautiful!

Tomorrow is the 3 hour ferry to Wellington.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Queentown, NZ Part 4

Today was horseback riding in Glenorchy, about 45 minutes outside of Queenstown, where much of Lord of the Rings was filmed.  I was hoping to take lots of photos, but seeing as I was riding a horse & we were busy trotting & cantering around the rivers edge.  We also were crossing rivers, where even on a clidesdale  who is 18 hands tall, my feet were getting wet - for those who don't know it's a bloody tall horse, making my point that even on a tall horse I got wet aka the river was deep!

It was amazing - I loved every minute of it!!  Plus the group I went with was Elle, our group leader and me.  Yes, that's correct I got a personal tour, so we were able to trot & canter instead of just walking - it was FABULOUS!!  Thank you Dart River Stables for a wonderful afternoon!

This photo was taken just as Charlie (brown horse) was turning to bite Drum on the nose, apparently he was a bit jealous of all the photos being taken.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Queentown, NZ Part 3

Spent today out on Dart River in a jet boat, similar to a jet ski, except a boat.  The boat is propelled by a jet of water ejected from the back of the boat and different from a power/motorboat that uses a propeller below or behind the boat, a jetboat draws the water from under the boat into a pump-jet inside the boat, which in turn expels it through a nozzle at the rear of the pump-jet.  Jetboats were originally designed by Sir William Hamilton for the purpose of travelling in the fast-flowing and shallow rivers of New Zealand, specifically to overcome the problem of propellers striking rocks in such waters.  I can tell you that this activity would NEVER have happened in anything but a jet boat, hopefully you'll be able to see this from the photos I'm putting up now.

We also took some photos in the area where Coors Beer Comercials are filmed along with Lord of the Rings!

Check these photos from yesterday & today out HERE

Tomorrow is horeback riding :-)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Queentown, NZ part 2

Sara's first full day in Queenstown and she didn't actually stay in Queenstown (lol) instead she went off to discover Milford Sound.  It was a 5 hour coach drive over with lots of stops for photo ops along the way and then a 2 hour cruise on the Mitre Peak Cruise boat.  No dolphin spotting, but lots of fur seals, rainbows, and waterfalls.  The weather was perfect, sunny with off and on clouds.  Sara is still in amazement of the colour of the water, her camera doesn't do it justice!  It was an all day trip and she was exhausted when she got home last night, but managed to go out to dinner ta 8pm with Doug, Kory and Alexis who were staying in the same room that night.

Today, she had a bit of a catch up on sleep and didn't get up till 9am!  Having nothing official planned for the day, she wondered around town, booked a 2 hour horse ride for Sunday afternoon and grabbed some lunch before heading off to the Kiwi Birdlife Park.  She spent a few hours there, learning about Kiwis and other native birds of New Zealand.  She arrived just in time for the Kiwi feeding, so she was able to see the Kiwi up close.  Very hard to do in real life as they are shy nocturnal birds.  She also got to meet a tuatara, the closest thing to a living dinosaur.  It has a third eye on the top of it's head which we can't see, but it can detect light & dark through it, so it can see if predatory birds are flying overhead - pretty cool huh?

After the bird park, she headed up the gondola to take in the views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.  She also hiked the skyline loop track for even more stunning views of the lake & the Remarkable mountain range, which is starting to become snow capped.

Photo Links

NZ photos

PNG photos

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Queenstown, NZ

Safely arrived in Queenstown, NZ tonight, after a 4 hour drive from Dunedin.  The drive is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen!

So when we left you last we were headed to Dunedin & all seemed good, but what Sara didn't anticipate was on the drive from Christchurch to Dunedin, her leg would start to throb with pain, she'd get a headache, and even after taking lots of Advil still thought she had a fever.

The bus arrived into Dunedin around 1.30pm, we walked the 2 blocks to our accommodation, Sara dropped me & the other bags off & was headed to the store to buy some breakfast supplies, when the Cadbury's World Tour caught her eye.  Now understand she didn't feel really bad just yet as the Advil was still working, but about half way through the tour she felt very faint . . . but since the tour was inside & outside she thought it must just be the fact that she was wearing so many layers indoors.  After leaving the Cadbury's tour with about 10 bars of chocolate, she went to the grocery store & bought some food and drinks before heading back to our room.  After about an hour of shivering from the chills & feeling like she had the flu, Sara realised maybe this was connected to her leg pain, so she went to the Dunedin Urgent Care Centre, which was just 3 streets away.  After waiting about an hour (people are seen on priority & every person who entered the door had a small child who was screaming in pain from swallowing indigestible objects to falling off the balcony & not being able to stand up fully), Dr Sam Moon pronounced Sara had a 102.5F fever (39C) and had a slightly elevated heart rate, but they ruled that to be more Sara's fear of taking the bandage off & having to see the cut, which now over a week old, was no better & if anything looking quite a bit worse!  (Note Sara took photos but will NOT be posting them, that's how gross they are!!)  Dr Sam decided 400mg of erythromyacin 4 times a day should clear it up, assuming it's not erythromyacin resistant, which of course we didn't know at all since we weren't sure where it had come from!  Dr Sam gave Sara one dose in the office & told her to get the prescription filled tonight next door & to take Advil as needed to help with pain & fever, BUT if by the morning you're leg hurts more, fever is the same (fevers are normally highest at the end of the day), or the redness is massively larger then to go to the hospital.

Sara got the prescription filled, walked home, took 3 Advil, forced herself to eat something, cause you can't have all that on an empty stomach, and attempted to go to bed . . . not so easy when every time you move your leg you feel shooting pain - even a sheet over the bandage hurt a lot :-(

The next morning, the fever was still evident, but NOTHING like the night before & the cut was still sore, but since she'd not had Advil for 8 hours, it was expected to not feel good, but nothing worse than the night before, so she again took 3 Advil, 1 erythromyacin, 1 vitamin, and 1 anti-malarial pill (yes the Malarone wasn't over until today!) with some yoghurt & apple juice.  Luckily she had nothing to do until 12.30pm, so she just lay in bed relaxing & hoping that by then she'd feel up for going out . . . which she did.

The afternoon was spent on a tour of Otago Peninsula Harbour tour, where she saw 20 New Zealand fur seals, about 30 in total of 4 different types of albatross, blue penguins (like I'd seen in Aus with dad), and yellow eyed penguins, the 2nd rarest in the world behind Galapagos Island penguins & also the 3rd largest behind Emperors & another kind I've forgotten now.  The coolest part about the trip was that there were 2 crew (a female skipper & male wildlife guide) and 2 passengers (a guy from Chicago & Sara) so it turned out to be a very specialised tour for them.  Interestingly the guy from Chicago had never been outside of the US, nor had he ever been on "such a large boat in open water" (to quote him) and Sara thought it was a rather small boat to be going out into the ocean & Sara thinks he was pretty scared, cause he sat holding on with both hands, while Sara & the guide were walking all around looking at the wildlife.  We all know Sara can get sea sick, so obviously this boat was not that bad out on the water.

That evening Sara stayed in & had a microwave meal to give her leg a rest, cause it was sore, Sara refused to take more Advil at this point cause it wasn't that painful.  This morning when she woke up it was not really sore until she started to walk around & even then it only required 1 Advil to get to a point of non-painfulness.  So another morning of pill popping with yoghurt & a muesli bar and Sara was off to walk around Dunedin before the bus trip at 2pm.

At 2pm, Sara boarded the bus headed to Queenstown, for what turned out to be 4 hours of some of the most beautiful drive she's ever taken and here she is now, safe & sound & mostly pain free :-)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Christchurch, New Zealand

After 3.5 hours in an A320 plane, we arrived safe & sound into Christchurch airport at 10.45pm (later than planned, but such is life).  I was met by the Super Shuttle who took us over to Base Backpackers in down town Christchurch, literally the city centre, for any of you who know this area, we're just off Cathedral Square!

Went right to bed that night.  Friday was a "free" day, so first things first, Sara had to go buy some shampoo, conditioner, and bandages for her leg.  The pharmacist was very nice & even looked at the cut to make sure it was okay, she didn't want to sell the wrong product.  She did admit that had we been in a more developed country, Sara would have probably gotten 5 stitches, but with the bandage Kate had given her the cut will leave a scar, but it's not infected & will just take a bit longer to heal, but no point to go get stitches now, it's too late.  So, she agreed to just purchase more of the surgical patches which Kate had given Sara & just hang in there.

In the afternoon Sara visited the cathedral, wondered around the city, bought a pair of jeans as it's bloody cold here compared to the past 4 months of summer we've been experiencing and also bought a nice wool shirt at Katmandu cause they were having a MASSIVE sale, 50% off the sale price (read: NZ$110 long sleeve shirt, marked down to NZ$90, bought for NZ$45).

Saturday, Sara went off to the Banks Peninsula to see fur seals, blue backed penguins, and the smallest dolphin in the world, Hector dolphins which only grow to be 1m long (size of a 5 yo child they liked to tell us).  Had a 2 hour cruise on the harbour, visited the Benny's Bay Cheese Factory - YUM, visited Littleton, and a beach name I've forgotten now where there are semi precious stones mixed in among the rocks.

Today, Sara went off to see Mt Cook, stopping along the way to see a few other glacier lakes.  Luckily for her she thought ahead & brought many warm layers . . . wool socks, jeans, wool long sleeve shirt & fleece in order to not freeze to death :-)  Others on the trip were not so prepared & were freezing cold all day long.

Off to Dunedin early tomorrow morning . . . catch ya later

Thursday, 29 April 2010

PNG part 2

We're sitting in the Brisbane airport, waiting to get me checked in, but the airport is really strict about opening only 3 hours prior to leaving, so I guess it's a good thing the plane this morning was so bloody late, cause it means Sara & I don't have to hang out here as long as we might have . . . still a bloody long time!

So here's an update about what we did when in PNG:
  • Kate & Sara walked into a freshwater stream and fed eels - apparenlty they LOVE mackerel & are super slimy when they swim around your legs, glad I didn't have to participate in that part of this ATW trip!
  • Took a trip 200km down from Kaveing to a Shane's place called Central New Ireland Surfing & Rubio Plantation for the weekend.  Where Sara, her cousin Tim, Kate, and her dad all did a hike on the Saturday morning through a rainforest along the coast & up onto a cliff over looking the Pacific Ocean.  Sara & Kate went boogie boarding all morning & again in the afternoon, until Sara got bite by a shark . . . okay not really, but that sounds way cooler than got thrashed by a wave & pushed into a bed of coral, which cut up her leg rather well, so that ended her boogie boarding for the weekend.  She will be okay, thanks to Kate's fantastic first aid kit from Canada, she's now wearing a large clear bandage which breathes, but doesn't allow anything else to get into it.  Sara is sorta hoping it leaves a cool scar, but with this new bandage it might heal well . . . only time will tell
  • After Sara's dad left, she & Tim went snorkling one afternoon around Raul island, about 40 minutes by boat outside of Kaveing.  They saw tons of fish, coral & Sara saw her first sting ray & reef shark!
  • On the flight yesterday from Kaveing to Port Moresby (POM), the flight stops over in Kokopo to pick up some more passengers, but before landing the pilot took us over the still actively smoking volcano - SUPER COOL!!!
  • This morning after I was checked in at POM the plane was delayed & Air Niugini offered up free crackers, cheese, tea & coffee - how nice right?  Well until Sara realised the cheese was rather warm & looked kinda oily in the package, so she looked at the date (thanks to cousin Tim saying he's been burned a few times with out of date items in PNG) and discovered it was 1 month old, so she skipped that!
Well that's my PNG experience in a nut shell!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Kokopo, Papua Nwe Guinea

We all made it safely in Papua New Guinea

Dad & Sara arrived last Thursday into Kokopo and their nephew/cousin Tim & partner Kate arrived Friday morning.  Kokopo is the town right next to Rabaul, where the volcano erupted in '94 and destroyed the city of Rabaul, so people sometimes say they're going to Rabaul, but what they really mean is Kokopo, cause the airport doesn't exist anymore & the volcano still smokes today!

We had quite an adventure our first day out, we took a PMV (public motor vehicle, aka a minu bus van) to Rabaul to check out the volcano ash.  We ended uyp having to walk 2 miles from the last bus stop to the Rabaul hotel for lunch (one of two hotels left in the city, which during the volcano explosion they stayed to keep the place safe) and it's a rather depressing state, with the foundations of houses but no roof on any of them & hardly any people around.  After lunch we decided to go see General Yamomoto's bunker, which supposedly had a map on the ceiling.  It started to rain & the sky was rather black, but we headed in that direction & along the way picked up some local children who showed us right to where we wanted to be, which we wouldn't have found without them cause it's so dilapidated.  It was SUPER cool!  But on the way back to the PMV stop (ya know 2 miles back) we got caught in torrential down pour, so by the time we were at the stop we were SOAKED!!

After waiting for 20 minutes Kate went to check into other options.  Turned out she found out the road washed out & so now "buses" (mini vans really) running, so we used my dad as an excuse to get a ride in the back of a pick up truck.  Kate knows the local Pidgin language, so she convinced this guy to take us back cause "the poor old white man needs his evening medicine" (this cracked me up so much I had tears running down my face, cause anyone who's met my dad know's he's in great physical health, but the PNGian man didn't know that) so after an hour long ride in the bed of a pick up truck we made it back to the hotel we were staying at.  On the bakc of the pick up we met a great girl who told us a story about how missionaries got eaten by the locals many years ago - I'm going to write a book called Tim & Kate's Outrageous Adventures, cause it's impossible not to have crazy things like this happen in a country like this!

Thank goodness the locals are friendly & helpful or we'd probably still be waiting at the bus stand, cause the road was washed out & had a raging river in another section for a few days! 

The weather is very hot & humid & of course there is not A/C, we're lucky to have electricity throughout the night to keep the fans going.  We're having a great time, I think dad might not have been prepared for it quite as much as he thought, but he's taking it all in stride & keeps on smiling.

Now we're in Kaveign at Tim & Kate's house, where today it's been pouring rain all day long - thank goodness we did the laundry yesterday!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Palm Cove part 2

only 3 minutes left on internet, but wanted to say all's good here, heading to PNG in the morning,will try to catch up more then.  also have sent out my resume, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Palm Cove (Cairns)

We safely made it to Cairns, where so far the weather has been 30C and sunny, tomorrow's forcast is not looking as good, but whatever.

According to the news there was an earthquake in the Soloman Islands yesterday, so once again we have evaded a natural disaster (earthquake in Melbourne 2 days after my first trip there, tropical storm here in Cairns when I was in Alice Springs, earthquake in Chili & I'll be there in late May!) . . . just hope we're able to keep it that way!

Sara & her dad spent yesterday out at the Great Barrier Reef snorkling & got stung by blue bottle jellyfish, that'll teach them to leave me behind in the hotel room!  Apparently they didn't learn their lesson cause they're off today to the beach to swim between the flags (life guard protected area) and with in 2 nets, the further out one is to keep the sharks away and the closer one is to keep the jellyfish away.  Not sure how the jellyfish one works, but good luck to them!  Also on today's agenda is to find a few items to bring up to PNG which her cousin has asked for.

Last night they eat dinner at the Reef House Restaurant (in Palm Cove if you want to google it), which is rather posh, but well worth the price!

We all leave the hotel Thursday morning at 4am to get to the airport in time for our flight to Port Moresby, where we have a 6 hour lay over & aren't allowed to leave the airport before our second flight of the day to Raboul (or at least I think that's where we're going first, since Sara hasn't taught me to read, I just carry the paperwork, but don't actually understand any of what it says)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Sydney & Melbourne revisted

Dad & I are safely in Melbourne now, after spending 4 days in Sydney seeing the Blue Mountains, including the famous Three Sisters, taking a cruise around the harbour, a dinner with cousin Ern, wife Gill, her son Peter, his wife Michelle, their 3 children Ellen, Jess and .  Cousin Ern & Gill also took us on a tour around Sydney one day, we went to Coogee beach, Bondi beach, Double Bay, and a also to the cemetary where relatives are burried, but we couldn't find the grave stone cause we had the polt M42, but there was no map to tell us what the grid system was, so after 45 minutes of all of us seperating & searching we gave up, plus being Easter Monday the office was closed.  After that we went & had a picnic lunch near the cliff where people try to jump off & kill themselves (forget the name right now).  But here is a photo of cousin Ern & dad with the city of Sydney behind them.  You can see the Opera house & harbour bridge.  Cousin Ern lives in Lane Cove which is sorta located between dad & Ern's heads.   
Since being in Melbourne, I've gotten my hair cut at a hair salon school & all I'm going to say is I got a great deal!!  $20 (that's about 15 quid) for wash, cut, & blow dry!!!!!!!!  Can't find those prices in London can you?

We also went on a river cruise, went opal shopping (bought an opal too) and met up with my mate Tania & her boyfriend Cal for dinner.  Yesterday we took the train to Tan's shop which is called Rock Paper Scissor and then a taxi over to the family reunion dinner.  There we met cousin Vicky, her husband Chris, cousin Howard, his wife Hillary, their son Scott (a few months old), cousin Susan, her husband Dave, and their sons, first one I can't remember right now but he's about 14 and the yonger one who's name is Matt.

Today we're off to Phillip Island to see some penquins and tomorrow we're spending the day with cousin Vicky & Chris.

Saturday we're off to Cairns to see the barrier reef!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Hunter Valley & Coolmore

I'd love to write & say that the weather has been wonderful & I'm super tan, BUT the reality of it is that this week has been kinda uneventful, I got back last Saturday from my travels within Australia & first thing I had to do was laundry!

The day I did my laundry was very warm & sunny, so I just relaxed in the yard while waiting for my laundry to dry - every now and then you need a day of no touring, no driving, just doing nothing.  The next few days I thought I'd go for some fun in the sun at the beach days, but the weather man was not working with me and it ended up raining heavily & my plan of going to the beach was ruined, so we rented some movies from the video shop and just chilled out at home.  I also spent a lot of time uploading photos to facebook. 

On Wednesday I went into Sydney to have lunch with my mate Simone who works here, but who I met when she came to the UK over a year ago and we went on a road trip from Glasgow to Innverness and back over a long weekend.  I got to meet her boyfriend too when we went to a Greek restaurant, where the food was GREAT! 

That evening I went to Cafe Sydney and had a wonderful dinner with my London neighbours, who are in Sydney en route to the Solomon Islands.  The restaurant has a great view and best of all the rain/fog from the day had sorta lifted so we had a good view of the harbour bridge!

Yesterday I got to go up to Hunter Valley for some wine tasting.  I learned I'm not a fan of oaked wines, which means I'm never going to be a fan of red wines, so best for me to stick to fruity whites or dessert wines.  Of course I can drink others, but according to the wineries we visited my preference is unoaked, which I think is the opposite of my sister & dad, which explains why I never like their wine choices.

Then once the wineries closed we went to visit my mate's sister who works at Coolmore, a famous horse stud north of Hunter Valley is Jeffery Plains (I think) and we got to see some of the famous race horses, which was fun.

Today dad arrives so I'm going to meet him at our hotel later tonight.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Nagambie, Australia

Seeing cats was not what I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it - I've decided to call it a singing ballet, as I don't think it really fits into the musical category as there was no real plot (LOL)

The day after seeing Cats I had a bit of a lazy morning & didn't leave the hotel room till 11am when I had to check out.  After that I went looking for a place to grab some lunch wondered all around & finally found a cute little restaurant/bar serving pasta, salad & a drink for $11.50, which was a great deal so I took it!

After my lunch, I then headed over to the train station to catch the train to Beth & Mike's work in Parkdale (south of the city centre).  40 minutes later I was there meeting Beth & Mike.  To those of you who don't know Beth & Mike (which in case you're not sure would be all of you) let me explain how I know them . . . Beth was roommates at college with my dear friend Anne in Connecticut.  When Anne found out I was going to be in Aus she put the two of us in contact.  Beth explained she lived in Nagambie (1.5 hours north of Melbourne) and that she'd love for me to come up & visit for a few days, so I took her up on the offer.

We left their work & drove home to Nagambie, where I learned they live on a river, have a motor boat which they do lots of waterskiing on & also are FANTASTIC rowers.  When I say fantastic, I mean best in the world in their age group at last year's master's regetta in Vienna, Austria!!

We first went out for a boat ride to check out the local wildlife and then had a barbie on the river's edge.  After a wonderful night's sleep in a real bed (hotel beds are not real to me any more) and a quick breakfast I spent all of Friday reading & relaxing on the river edge, alternating between sun bathing on the floating dock and napping in the hammock, and reading with my feet dangling in the water.

At lunch time we took the boat over to Tahbilk vinyard, which turns out to be the oldest one in Victoria (Vic is one of the states of Australia) and which had just celebrated it's 150th anniversary last weekend.  We had a lovely seafood risotto for lunch & toured their cellar.  I bought 2 bottles as gifts to bring back to Umina with me.

That evening, Beth & Mike's mate Neville Howell came over for drinks & dinner.  He's an amazing man, who's just turned 80 and is probably more active than I will ever be at any age!!  We had another lovely barbie on the water's edge before heading back to the house as the paper wasps where attacking Beth & me.  We stayed up till nearly midnight chatting about his business & rowing & stud farms & philosophy & my travels & a heap load of other things.  It was a wonderful evening with lots of laughs and great company :-)

This morning, we again woke up & had breakfast before heading out to check out some property (another stud farm) Neville was considering buying before heading to the airport to fly back to Sydney, but not before having my first Aussie meat pie!

Now I'm back in Umina & really want to migrate to Aus & live in Nagambie on the river & learn to row . . .

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Coober Pedy, Adelaide & The Great Ocean Road & Melbourne

So after a day long ride in a Greyhound Bus, we arrived in Coober Pedy (opal capital of the world) which is mostly underground!  We spent the night sleeping 6.5 metres where the temperature is 24-26C year round, even when the temperature outside is 54C (in the shade, aka FREAKIN HOT!)

Since we arrived at 8pm, we went straight to bed & then went exploring in the morning, before touring the opal mines & surrounding areas in the afternoon.  Sara found some opals in the ground around one of the mining holes & was allowed to keep it - how cool is that?  At 8.50pm our next Greyhound bus left Coober Pedy & headed over night for 12 hours to Adelaide.

The bus was rather cold & there weren't many people on it so we were excited to stretch out until the driver told us we could only take up 2 seats for safely reasons :-(

We arrived in Adelaide around 7.45am and walked to our hotel, where I got shoved in a holding area as the room would not be ready till noon.  Sara went out to get some breakfast & check out the city.  Apparently she was NOT impressed, she found it quite & boring.

In the afternoon after checking in & having a shower, Sara was off to Hahndorf, a German city about 25km away from Adelaide.  It was an interesting little town, but she was so knackered from the overnight bus, she slept the whole way out to the town & walked around in a sleepy daze (lol)

The following day Sara picked up the car from Avis & off they went Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road bound.  The first day was about 570km drive to Mount Gambier, with nothing much to speak of along the way, but stopping every 2 hours for toilet/stretch your leg breaks.  The one thing we did learn in Mt Gambier is that when we were arriving in Melbourne, the Grand Prix along with a flower show and food & wine show were all going to be going on, so we were going to have a hard time finding a place to stay which wasn't super expensive . . . luckily thanks to Tania (girl I'd met in Africa) who lives in Melbourne, she gave us a few ideas & we were able to find a place that was reasonable, NOT the InterContinetnal for AUS$650/night!!!

Spent the night in Mt Gambier and left the next morning stopping at all the "sights" on the Great Ocean Road and staying the night at the 12 Apostles Motor Inn & Conference Centre.

The next morning we drove from 12 Apostles to Geelong, again stopping for photos at all the important places.

After a night in Geelong we drove up to Ballarat to see Soveign Hill & try our hand at panning for gold, which we soon learned was a lot harder than opal mining & we ended up with nothing to show :-( and then drove into Melbourne, but missed our drop off time of 6pm by about an hour due to city traffic.

Next morning we woke up, returned the car & saw that Cats was playing so we stopped in for a quick avaiability check, and walked out with 7th row centre stage tickets (SCORE!!!!!) But then realised we needed to do a bit of shopping as none of us had anything aside from shorts, trainers & flip flops, so the rest of the day was spent shopping at the DFO (direct factory outlet) where we all found something to wear for this evening's performance!!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Alice Springs & surrounding area

Well we've been busy here in Australia, as you can tell from Sara's last update.  Since then, I've been packed, unpacked, repacked & HAD tons of clean laundry - gotta love fresh smelling clothes!

We left for the airport at 6am a week ago (Thursday) and got the 9.30am flight (aka the 10.50am due to high winds & heavy rains) and after a bumpy take off the rest of the flight was pretty smooth, apparently up in economy they showed the movie The Blind Side, down in the belly of the plane they showed nothing, what's up with that?

We arrived safely into Alice Springs, got a taxi to the Heavitree Gap Outback Lodge and planned our next 4 days.  That night Sara fed the local rock wallabees which come down the gap around dinner time to get fed pellets sold by the hotel.  The next day was the West MacDonnell range tour - so we saw, Simpson's Gap, Ormiston Gorge, Standley Chasm, Glen Helen Gap, and a few others I've forgotten now.

Following day was the beginning of the bigger adventure, a 2 day tour of Ayer's Rock, The Olgas & Kings Canyon. 2.5 hours after leaving Alice, we arrived at Erldunda (which is just a road house) and switched into a smaller van for the day in Kings Canyon, the weather was looking cloudy but not horrible . . . until another 3 hour drive got us to Kings Canyon Station (cattle station - only petrol shop for miles!) and they announced the creek might be flooded, but we decided to have a look . . . to make a long story short, we made it into Kings Canyon creek to find it flooded 1metre above the road & by the time we turned around Katherine's creek was flooded 1 metre as well, so we were trapped between the two creeks for 1.5 hours, till Katherine's creek went down a bit & we just gunned it & made it across.  The plan for the day totally impossible, we headed back to Erldunda for the night.  Next day we headed to The Olgas & Ayer's Rock, which we saw in the pouring rain, which is very unusual AND we got to see awesomely amazing waterfalls coming off the rock, which few people get to see in person :-)  Due to the tour failing the day before we decided to stay an extra night in Erldunda & go to Kings Canyon the next day . . . long story short, it had rained too much & now the creek was 2 metres high, so we came back to Alice Springs & saw some things in town.  Spent the night at Heavitree Gap Lodge & next morning got the Greyhound bus to Coober Pedy.

Arrived in Coober Pedy, found our underground motel & slept 6.5 metres below the ground - WEIRD!  Then took a tour of the booming metropolis of Coober Pedy, getting to do a bit of opal mining ourselves, well not really, we got to look for opals in already dug up piles of rock, & I found a few pieces :-)

Last night we got on the overnight bus from Coober Pedy down to Adeliade, where we arrived this morning at 7.30am & have been walking around till now.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory

I've now been here in Aus for about 6 days, feels like longer with all the things I've already seen & done!

The flight was rather uneventful, Qantas staff are amazingly friendly & helpful and the food was par for airline food.  I arrived at around 14.30, flew through immigration, baggage claim & customs, with just a brief pause for shoe cleaning, since I'd been in Africa & there was still some dirt on the bottom of my trainers.

Arrived in Umina (Central Coast) around dinner time and after that I basically just went straight to bed.  Woke up the next morning and we went to the Australian Reptile Park, were we got to see spider milking, which is just to collect the venum from the spiders & they save it to send to the labs for it to be made into anti-venum.  Apparently the only place in Aus which does it - pretty cool!  We saw lots of other Australian wildlife as well, a few photos from the reptile park just down the road from Kaylie's house, click here.

Following day, we got manicures & pedicures, which were much needed after 41 days in Africa!!  Now my fingers & toes look fabulous - in case you were wondering ;-) We also did a bit of shopping for things like an Aussie sim card, Havaianas (flip flop) and planning for the next few weeks until dad arrives on April 2nd.

On Sunday, Kaylie & I drove to Canberra in Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to see a few things there, on our first day we visited the Australian War Memorial, which was super cool.  It's a nice large building, with an eternal flame & tomb of the unknown soldier, along with a museum filled with planes, boats, photos, models, and stories of all the things the military has been involved in since they first became a country.  We also stopped in at the tourist information centre and found out the Monday was Canberra Day so everything would be closed for the public holiday, so we decided to head out to Kosciuszko National Park and Eucumbine Dam for the day, which are both actally in New South Wales (NSW) just on the other side of ACT which is soooooooo small.

All in all we drove about 520km.  We left Canberra and headed straight to Thredbo which if you look on a map means we passed Cooma (where we grabbed some lunch)and Jindabyne (which I call Junebug, cause it's easier to remember & spell!) You can check out our photos from this trip by clicking HERE We took the chair lift to the top of the highest mountain in all of Australia where it was just 8C, but luckily no snow, since I was just in jeans, trainers and a tshirt.  On our way back from visiting Mt Kosciuszko, we decided to take a small side detour so we could also visited one of the many SnowyHydro Dams which were built many years ago.  The dam we visted was only 52% full, cause as most of you know, Australia has been in a drought for quite a few years now.  It probably would have been more impressive to see it at full capacity, cause right now it just looks like a lake at the bottom of a hill (lol).  We ended up back in Canberra around 6pm and were looking for a place for dinner, we thought the mall would be a good place to find something, but as it was a city holiday, everything had closed at 5pm, except for the cinema, so we decided to go and see Valentine Day and eat our dinner of popcorn and pepsi (LOL).  The movie was amazingly not nearly as bad as I was thinking it might be.  Has anyone seen it?  Did I also mention I saw The Blind Side, which I really really liked & since Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for it, I'm glad I've seen it, since I'd not seen any of the other movies which were nominated or won awards, oh wait, that's a lie, I saw Julia & Julia on my plane ride, but had to watch it like 3 times to see it all, cause I kept falling asleep during it.

On Tuesday, we went to visit the Royal Australian Mint & saw how their coins are made from a really cool viewing deck which is above the production floor and after that we went back to the visitor's information centre to find out if there was anything to do in NSW on the way back to Umina (which is north of Sydney by about 50km).  We learned that Fitzroy Falls was just off the highway & apparnetly just as popular a tourist stop as Ularu (Ayer's Rock) so we made that quick stop by there to check it out and it was pretty darn cool!

Today is Wednesday and it's a "preparation" day.  Tomorrow we fly from Sydney to Alice Springs for 4 days, then take the Greyhound bus down to Coober Pedy (Mrs Toste this stop is JUST for you!) where the opals are minded and then bus it again to Adelaide, where we'll spend a day before picking up a hired car and driving down to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road.  I think that will take us 4 days and then we've got 2 nights in Melbourne, one of the days of which we'll go to Ballarat for some gold mining (wish me luck).  Then we'll go and visit my friend Anne Winterson's mate Beth for 2 nights, she lives 1.5 hours north of Melbourne in a rural area, which I think is on a river, before flying back to Sydney for a few days before dad arrives & I start part two of my Australian adventures with him!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Photos from Africa

I've put up a few photos albums on Facebook:

Kenya & Tanzania, you just click here

Malawi & Zambia, you can just click right here

and for Botswana & South Africa, you will have to click on this link

Botswana & South Africa

Sorry for the long pause, being in Australia is sorta like being back home in America, so I've been bad about sitting down infront of the computer to write, since the weather has been sunny & warm every day!!!  But since today is our "planning" day & the weather is cool and rainy I decided to jump on here quickly and give you an update since I left you in Zambia, which is now quite a few days ago and a whole other continent away!

Where were we?  Oh yes, relaxing on the Zambezi River, oh how lovely that was.  It had stopped raining for the first time in a long while & our tents were starting to dry out (YEAH!)  We were prepared for our last 6 nights on the way to Joburg.

In order to get to Bostwana from Zambia you have to take a REALLY old ferry which hardly looks like it will hold people let alone MACK trucks, but This Is Africa (TIA) and of course it all works out with only a half hour wait.  WHen crossing, you're actually in the Zambezi river, just before it changes it's name to the Chobe River and there are different countries on all 4 corners of the river, Zambia, Zimbobwe, Namibia and Botswana.  On the other side we passed through immigration without any problems and then had to walk over this mud covered sponge to "clean" the bottoms of our shoes, cause they have a large fear of foot & mouth disease entering since they have a large beef industry & export!

About an hour later, we arrived at the Thebe Lodge, which was a nice campsite with a pool, so after lunch all of us jumped into our suits and veggitated by the pool until it was time to go on our Chobe River Safari.  Which was suppose to just last 3 hours . . . as some of you have already heard, it's only thanks to the Botswanian military that we all came back alive!  Our guide was trying to get us close to a fish eagle which was sittign in a tree branch in the middle of lots of grasses & water lillies.  The wind had picked up and I remember thinking if we get blown into their it's gonna be hard to get outta there, but what do I know, right, I'm just a customer, not the person who does this tour on a daily basis . . . further & further into the grasses we get blown, I think I notice the guide trying to reverse out, but he still looks calm & all others are snapping photos & have no clue what's going on.  After awhile everyone is done with photos & says okay lets move on, which is when I realised we weren't going anywhere!  Pulled the motor up & it's COMPETELY full of crap, so I help to clear it out & he attempts to push us out with his one paddle (did I mention this is a boat which holds 22 people so not exactly small).  Pushing on one side only turns us side ways & every time he puts the motor back in & attempts to turn it on, we just collect lots more weeds/grasses/etc.  Another boat similar to ours offers to help & thinks if we get on their boat he'll be able to get out more easily cause there will be fewer people on it.  We give this idea a try, but the problem is, in order for us to get onto the other boat, he must come into the same grassy area & probably needless to say, he gets stuck as well!  The Botswanian military which is on border patrol as we're in the section of the Chobe which is opposite to Namibia, sees us struggling & comes over to assist us.  Now I don't have time to rewrite everything which I just wrote, all you need to know is they got stuck in the grass as well, since the wind has only gotten stronger since we started this adventure.  After ten minutes of struggling & a wooden paddle breaking in half, one of the military guys jumped into the water & started to push all of the boats out to safe water.  Now you might think this sounds easy, but understand there are tons of crocs & hippos all over the place so this is SUPER SUPER dangerous, especially as it's breeding season so you don't want to go near a nest as the animals are overly protective of their children!!!  Plus he was up to his armpits in water, so not exactly easy to push a boat which has 10 passengers on it through thick grassy water, but he did & saved our lives!  Had I mentioned it was around 6pm at this point, so starting to get dark & non of our boats have lights on them?!!?

Back at camp about an hour late, we had lovely bbq steak dinner and went to bed early.  Half way through the night it started to rain and kept up for the next day and a half.  Following day we packed up camp & headed on to Elephant Sands campsite, where the week before 10 elephants had come over to the pool and drank out of it while people sat around the pool in chairs!  We were not so lucky since the weather was pouring rain the ellies were able to find water without looking into pools, but it was a neat campsite & one I would have loved to explore more if the weather had been nicer.  That night, Steph heard something outside our tent & worried it was an ellie who might step on our tent, we looked out, but instead of seeing a large animal, we just saw two bright eyes in a tree.  Steph insisted she "knew" it was a leopard, I wasn't so sure, but wasn't going to test it!  We waited till the sun started to come up around 5am and looked again, turned out to be the smallest monkey in the world, but some how it was able to make lots more noise in the tree, so much so by the time the sun was coming up I was starting to worry it night be a leopard as no other animal could make that much noise in a tree (or so I thought).

That morning we crossed into South Africa and stayed at the Bushmans' Safari Game Park for the night, where the rain stopped & I got a great photo of the sun rising the following day.  That afternoon I learned to play Texas Hold'em Poker & actually won (Beginners luck for sure!)  After our days of rain we knew the ants would be out in full force & fearing a repeat of our ant infestation, we covered our tent inside & out in ant/insect powder and even slept with Raid Ant Spray, which Steph & I had each picked up a bottle along the way - nothing worse than waking up to ants EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!

Woke the next morning ant free - YIPPPPEEEEEEEEEEE!  We headed in the direction of Kruger National Park.  Arriving in the mid afternoon.  The weather had stayed nice & we were super excited about not having to worry about rain sheets & maybe not even ants after one night of ant free sleeping :-) when they announced they had no more room in the campsite so they would be upgrading us for free, into their lodges.  OMG, they were wonderful, real beds, real white tiled showers, and a real toilet, things we'd not seen for just about 30 days!  We stayed here for 2 glorious nights & visited Kruger Natoinal Park the day between for a full day (6am pick up and 6pm drop off) game drive, where once again we saw the Big Five and assorted other animals.

After leaving there, we had a long 7 hour drive (thanks to traffic in & around Joburg) to our FINAL destination The Backpackers Ritz (a hostel) where we all had a shower & went out for dinner at the Rosemont Mall, where we had a cup of Earl Grey tea (another first since beginning this African adventure).  The next day my flight was at 6pm, so I spent the morning with Steph, Jess and Jonny before heading to the airport for my 12 hour direct  flight to Sydney.

All in all it was a FABULOUSLY WODERFUL trip, I know at times it might not have sounded that way, but it was all good fun, just trying at times when you're soaking wet, cold, and covered in ants ;-)

So this section of the trip was 7 countries (Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa) in 41 days (Jan 20 - March 2).

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Umina Beach, Australia

safely here, updates to come at a later time :-) and hopefully photos too!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Livingstone, Zambia Part 2

So the plan for today was to go and watch Tom bungi jump off the bridge between Zambia & Zimbabwe and then continue our way accross the bridge into Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls from the other side, but at breakfast we learned that Zambia might give us a hard time about leaving for the day on our single visit visas, but we set off with high hopes.

Tom's bungi jump was 111 metres and I had a hard time watching him do it, but I managed to get a video of it, which I hope to share once I get to an internet connection which isn't super slow!

Unfortunately before getting to Tom's jump, we had to pass through Zambia's immigration where we learned they would charge us US$50 if we wanted to come back into Zambia, cause they've changed the rules and don't let you cross over just for the day anymore.  So our original plan of US$30 for Zimbabwe's visa plus US$10 for entry into Victoria Falls turned into a US$90 for the day instead of US$40, which we had all decided anything under US$50 was acceptable . . . so after the jump, we just turned back around & went back to The Waterfront campsite.  We actually weren't even allowed to cross the white line on the bridge which divides the two countries, but Sara being Sara of course put both feet over the line and before getting a photo was told to step back, so I have no photo evidence of it, but I know I was there!

Once back at the campsite, we had lunch and just relaxed in the sun by the Zambezi River.  Now off to grab some dinner . . .

Monday, 22 February 2010

Travel Facts about places I've been thus far

Masai Mara National Reserve is in the south-western area of Kenya. Named after the Masai people (the traditional inhabitants) and their description of the area when looked from far away and "Mara" which is Maa (local language) for spotted (description for the trees, scrub, savannah and cloud shadows in the area).  It covers 1530 square kilometers.

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is most famous for it's annual migration of over 1.5 million white bearded wildebeest and 200,000 zebra. The park covers 14,763 square kilometers (5,700 square miles) of grassland plains as well as riverine forest and wooded areas. It's located in the north of the country, bordering Kenya on the northborder, where it is continuous with the Masai Mara National Reserve and just to the south-east is Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), which we visited as well.

The NCA is situated 180 kilometers (112 miles) west of Arusha in the Crater Highland area of Tanzania.  the Ngorongoro Crater, a large, unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera, which formed from a giant volcano explotion followed by it collapsing on itself about three million years ago, it is 610 meters (2,000 feet) deep and its covers 260 square meters (100 square miles).  The estimated height of the original volcano ranges from 15 to 19 thousand feet (4500 to 5800 metres) high.  We spent one night sleeping on the rim of this crater & then went for a morning game drive inside the crater.  The NCA also holds Olduvai Gorge which is in the flat area and considered to be the seat of humanity since the discovery of the earliest known specimens of the human beaings. This excavation work was pioneered by Louis Leakey and his wife Mary back in the 1950s and is still going on today thanks to their family.

Lake Malawi is the third largest in Africa and the 8th in the world and second deepest in lake in Africa and an African Great Lake.  It borders Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. This great lake's tropical waters supposedly has more species of fish than any other lake on the Earth.  It is 580 kilometers long, but only 75 kilometers wide at it's widest point.  The lake also supports large populations of snails, some of which are known to carry , a reason I never swam in the water, cause I sure as heck don't want to have schisto, but then maybe some of my mates in London and Saranac Lake could do research on me - LOL.

Victoria Falls also called Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Mist that Thunders) is a water fall located on the Zambezi River and considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  It was first recorded viewing of the falls was by David Livingstone the Scottish missionary.  Even though it is not the highest or widest in the world, it clains to be the largest based on it's widthe of 1,708 meters (5,600 feet) and 108 meters high (360 feet), making it the largest sheet of falling water in the world.  Apparently 1,000 cubic meters per second fall over the falls, which equals tons of water as well - CRAZY huh?

Livingstone, Zambia

We arrived into Livingstone yesterday afternoon around 2pm, after driving in the rain all morning long.  The rainy season is Southern Africa is in full swing & everything is soaking wet at this point.  Sara woke up in a puddle this morning, literally a puddle!  The mattress had kept her mostly dry, but the edges of the sleeping bag which had slipped off the sides were very wet & goodness only knows when it will dry, since the weather is forecasted to rain for next 10 days (aka the rest of our trip).

Upon arriving in Livingstone, we went straight to Victoria Falls for 2 hours - what fun to see - Niagra Falls is apparently 1/5 the size, but since Sara has never been to NF she cannot compare, except to say that Victoria Falls is breathtaking!  It was almost sunny during our time at the falls, which considering how wet it's been the past few days was a miracle :-) Sara was able to take a few photos, but some times the spray from the falls was so heavy that she couldn't take photos without risking ruining her camera with water damage.

In front of the falls there is a walking bridge, which Sara went on cause the mist/spray from the falls was so heavy she couldn't see how high up she was and therefore wasn't scared to cross it - lol.  In doing so, anything that wasn't covered by her raincoat got DRENCHED, but was able to dry since it was reasonably warm for the rest of the time.  Sara got to see some people bungy jump off the bridge which goes to Zimbabwe & decided NEVER in a million years would she ever even think about doing that, I mean for goodness sakes you all know what a woose she is about going on rollar coasters, can you imagine her going on something like that???

We'll be here in Livingstone for the next 3 nights and then we head to Botswana and then South Africa.

This morning as I was walking from our tent to the buffet breakfast which is offered with our camping fees I almost thought I was in Florida for a second.  The grass is the same type as I remember from my aunt & grandmother's yards in FL and there are many palm trees and the small after the rain in FL is similar to here as well.  Plus it's the type of rain which isn't so bad since it's warm weather you never really feel cold, just WET!

Hi all, Sara here, just wanted to say quickly that I have to be honest, I'm getting a bit sick & tired of camping in the rain.  I love camping, but camping in the rain for a week straight where you wake up with a puddle in your tent is not exactly my idea of a holiday!  But to be honest, compared to some others I'm with I'm dealing with the weather quite well.  Today my tent mate, Stef & I decided to upgrade to a "permenant tent" which is only slightly larger than our travelling tent, but it's up on a cement slab (so no waking up in a puddle), had electricity (small lamp & fan) and 2 beds in it - smaller than Boy Scout tents which I spent many a summer in, but to be dry is very important, as I've been sneezing a lot & woke up with a sore throat today.  Last thing in the world I want is to get sick right now!!  Only 9 more nights before I'm in Jo'burg & then I fly to Sydney, Australia - YIPEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!  I'm really looking forward to that . . . not to say I'm not enjoying this as I am, but I've been wanting to go to Australia since I was about 10!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Lusaka, Zambia

Last time we wrote I think we still in Kande Beach, Malawi, right?  Well since then Sara has been to Livingstonia, for one last night in Malawi, where it POURED starting at 3am & kept on going through to lunch time the following day - making camping oh so much fun, cause who doesn't love setting up & putting away tents in the pouring rain??  Luckily I get to stay locked safely away in the truck & rarely need to get soaking wet :-)

Sara likes to call Malawi the land of 1,000 one lane bridges, cause there are hundreds of little rivers going to & from Lake Malawi.

From there we drove across the border into Zambia yesterday, stopping in Chipata, Zambia, just over the border for the night at Mama Hula's campsite, which was rather non-descript and again with the rainy season here in Southern Africa, we didn't see much but the inside of the bar, where we were able to watch Tiger Woods give a 15 minute speech . . . not that any of us were really interested, but that's what was on before dinner.

Today we drove what feels like a million miles, but probably only about 600km to reach Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, where we've stopped at a little mall, similar to Aviation Mall in Glens Falls, New York.

Tomorrow we drive another long day to Livingstone, near Victoria Falls where we will set up camp for 4 nights, woo hoo to not moving for a few days!!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Kande, Malawi Part 2

Our last full day here at Kande Beach Campsite in Kande, Malawi.  Yesterday Sara & friends had pancakes, scrambled eggs, baked beans and hot chocolate for breakfast, before heading off on a village walk.  Once out of the gate about 12 local guys started following them & trying to make friends (aka trying to sell their paintings & bracelets).  First stop was just down the beach away to visit a day care centre, run by an Aussie woman.  They have 70 children, 2 "classrooms", 2 staff members and 2 teachers.  The children are from 2 to 5 years old, they arrive at 06.30 have lessons until 08.00 when they have a break for tea, then back to lessons until 10.00 when they get porridge, and they are done by noon, when they go home to their families, returning at 14.00 for a similar schedule to the morning.  They were singing twinkle twinkle little star when Sara arrived & it reminded her of her first violin recital, when she played that song 5 different ways, to the agony of all the parents who'd come to listen.

Second stop was a 20 minute walk through a corn field, which was super hot & humid & of course in direct sun, to see the primary school.  The principle invited us in "chat" and explain that there are 1200 students and only 10 teachers, but the reason it works is that education is optional, so the students who are there are there because they want to be, which makes their behavior on the whole much better than Western children (he didn't say that, but Sara thinks that's what he was implying).

After that they headed over to the local clinic, which consists of 3 rooms, OB/GYN, Infectious Disease, and office.  There are 3 people working there, a training General Practictioner (from Europe), a self trained mid-wife (local man) and an assistant.  They deal with 2000 cases of malaria a month he said and second to that is HIV care.  They have the facilities only to deliver babies, give malaria blood tests, and hand out malaria drugs, anything beyond that gets sent to the local hopsital which is 70km away & with only one ambulance to service 7 "local" hospitals, they lose many patients before they even get to the hospital for care.  They'd just had a baby born the evening before we arrived & luckily all had gone well, especially considering their blood pressure cuff and stethoscope are both broken, so all they can do is assist her in a natural birth, if there had been any complications they're sure both would not have survived because it was after dark & therefor impossible to get to the hospital.  Glad they were there to hear about the happy ending!

From there, the group headed back through the village centre to have lunch with a local family, a meal of rice, beef stew, and spinach.  Then back to the campsite around 13.30.

Everyone was a sweaty mess from all the walking around all morning in the sun, so they all relaxed on the beach, before their lovely dinner of roasted lamb, fried green beans & eggplant, roasted baby potaotes, and cold slaw and a fancy dress party, where they all bought each other an outfit - the photos are too funny, Sara wishes the internet connection where faster so she could upload the photos, as they're hysterical, but once in Aus she should be able to get all these back logged photos up for your viewing pleasure.

Tomorrow we're off to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi for a night before heading into Zambia the following day.  Not sure when our next stop with internet access is, but will update when we can!