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