Joined July 2017 Message
  • Day37

    Dave's Trip Review

    November 10, 2017 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 10 °C

    The Top of the Top and the Bottom of the Bottom

    What an amazing trip, and one that we will remember fondly. By documenting it via the travel blog, it makes it easier to revisit and reflect. But, before the trip gets too distant, it's nice to look it over and remember the good and the bad.

    The most special part of course is being able to do all these things, both the good and the bad with my best friend, Brenda :-) The trip would not have been nearly as special without her support and love. She's my favorite person and made this vacation the best one ever!

    The clear cut #1 for me was the small plane ride from Milford Sound back to Queenstown.

    We weren't sure if we were even going to be able to return via plane. Our bus driver was quite discouraging about it letting people know that it was raining in Milford Sound and that most likely, they would cancel all the flights and we would get refunded our money plus get the bonus of taking the bus back.

    Thankfully, our weather worked out not only for the boat trip through the sound, but for the plane ride back.

    Plus, we had a super upbeat nice young lady pilot who we shall call "cookie" since when we met her, she was super excited because she was enjoying a really yummy cookie and knew it was going to be a great day!

    "She's the best!" the people at the counter said, and we have no reason not to agree with them :-)

    She got us out safely, and gave us some narrative while we were flying back.

    I took sooooooooo many pictures on that flight. We had been looking at the Southern Alps all day from ground level, but taking the air gave us an entirely new perspective on them. So nice, and at 45 minutes of eye candy, just the right amount of time.

    Certainly beats the 4.5 hour bus ride that would have been waiting for us.

    Later in the trip, we found out just how lucky we were because we talked to a couple that had a similar vacation to us, but for them, the day they wanted to go to Milford Sound, it was totally fogged in with bad weather, so they didn't even go. A shame that they missed out on my #1.

    #2 Sydney Wildlife

    If I ever felt like I wasn't sure I was in a foreign country, all I had to do was go outside. The critters give you an excellent clue that something is different. Mostly birds as we didn't see any "wild" Roos or Koalas. Loved the parrots and other misc critters. For me, all of the fish during our snorkeling were new to me. We saw the majority of them in the aquarium, but to see them out in the wild and without the protective glass keeping a distance is a total change of perspective. I'm in their environment and just a visitor rather than just an outside observer. It was a great way to drive home the point that we're on an adventure and by having everything be so "new" it made it quite fun to soak it all in and enjoy the ride.

    #3 Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling

    Was pretty apprehensive of this going in. Was concerned about possible motion sickness and the fact that I haven't been snorkeling in forever. Might as well call this the first time since it was my first time doing snorkeling in the ocean.

    I'm an ok swimmer, so I at least had that going for me.

    Once I got used to the breathing and learned to relax a bit, it was an amazing experience. The lack of big waves on the ocean certainly helped. Plus having the suit meant that I could easily just float and look around at all the amazing fish.

    Would have liked to have seen the turtle that everyone else got a chance to see, but I'll settle for the shark and the ray.

    I really want to do snorkeling again sometime. I'm sure I can do better with a bit more practice and will make sure the experience doesn't result in sunburn :-)

    #4 Glow Worms

    So glad we opted for a smaller tour. Just 12 people and it made the experience that much better. The surreal view of being in a cave with a "sky full of blue stars" above you. They estimate that there are about 50,000 glow worms in the section that we went. Was amazed that the more your eyes get adjusted to the dark, the more glowing lights you see. Was not sure what to expect when we went, and thus felt like I got more from the experience than I thought I would.

    It's a fun and worth while tour. Extra special bonus was I managed to locate a glow worm T-Shirt in an adult size at the gift shop. Yes it glows, and it totally makes me happy :-)

    Plus it will be a perfect shirt to wear to an amusement park with dark rides :-)

    #5 Coastal Walk

    This was just all about the views. We had a nice sunny day and took a long leisured walk along the coast. Made all the more special with the installation of various "art pieces" that were going in for a special event that weekend. The art integrated well with the landscape and created that many more photo opts. Sure we have the coast here in Oregon, but this was more of a walk with views of a Beach :-)

    #6 New Zealand International Lounge

    A perfect way to end our vacation.

    The lounge was relaxing, had tons of excellent food (including some flakey sausage rolls that reminded me that I was still in a foreign country) and got us ready for our flight home.

    It also gave me that feeling of finality. Like when you go to Disneyland and you know you've just finished riding your last ride of the trip, and you have that moment of sadness that it's over, but you also want that feeling to end on a good note to keep that feeling with you. I've locked in that feeling and while I'll remember all that good things that happened on the trip, I'll also remember being able to say good bye to New Zealand feeling really happy with the trip and the ending.

    Bottom 6

    #1 - Delay a Day and the Mess involved there

    Only good thing I can say here is that we lost "just" a day, and it could have been a lot worse. Of course the impact was felt a bit further into the trip as we had one less day to try and get all the things in at Sydney as we could. I think that's why we really didn't feel like we were truly on vacation until we reached Cairns and were "back on schedule" with the number of days we were to be in a given location

    #2 - Sunburn

    My own fault, but it was a pretty painful lesson. It's a week after the end of the trip and I'm still not 100%. Thankfully it was isolated to just a few parts and not bad enough that I couldn't enjoy the rest of the trip. Would opt for more sunscreen or possibly a longer suit.

    #3 - Airport Shuttle Ticket disaster

    Another one that was my own fault. I thought it would be easy, and it should have been, but instead it became more of a pain than it was worth. In the end we opted for Uber, and that was much better. Wonít make that mistake again, I'll reserve the right to make all sorts of different mistakes :-)

    #4 - Disc Golf Course Frustrations

    I knew it might not be super easy to find the course in Rotorua, but I didn't realize that it was going to be as tough as it turned out to be. Plus, after spending a lot of time trying to find it, it was a terrible course, so we hardly played any holes. It also cut into our time at the Maori location, so that was a bummer too.

    #5 - Ants in the hotel room

    After a lot of winners with our hotels, it was sad that one of our last ones was a bit of a clunker. Our last night there when they moved us into a different room was much better though, so that was good.

    #6 - Swallowing Salt Water

    Much like the lounge was a great way to finish off the vacation; swallowing salt water is probably the worst way to finish off the snorkeling experience at the Great Barrier Reef. No fun at all and probably one of the main reasons I want to get another chance to do better at the snorkeling :-)
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  • Day37

    Brenda's Overall Trip Highs & Lows

    November 10, 2017 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 9 °C

    We've been home about a week, so have had time to reflect on our trip and come up with some overall thoughts about the trip. First of all, the obvious: it is WAY better to be on vacation than to be at work. I had a busy re-entry back into my job, as it was an extremely busy week and I had lots to catch up on. But as for the trip itself, here are some of my favorite and least favorite things:
    FAVORITES:
    1. My very favorite part of the trip was having David all to myself. It was great to be able have this time to focus attention on us and the trip--not work, tv, video games, chores, etc. I think we make pretty good travel buddies, pretty compatible for the most part. Beber is pretty easy to travel with too.

    2. The trip itself. I recognize that most people do not get to travel to far away places like this, especially for such a length of time. I am thankful for that privilege. Traveling helps give one a new perspective on one's own life and the lives of others in the world. So great to see what is outside our little bubble.

    3. The Milford Sound flight home to Queenstown. This was so memorable, I am sure I will hold it in high esteem for years until something else tops it. We were so lucky the weather was on our side, and that we had the forethought to book it ahead. The views were astounding and the photos don't do it justice. It was also exciting to be flying in that little plane which I had never done before.

    4. We both stayed healthy and able-bodied throughout the trip. I was so afraid I was going to get sick before or because of the flights. I was taking lots of precautions. Fortunately, not even a sniffle or cough. I did have minor issues with spring allergies in NZ, and did have two days of bad back. I of course, had my foot issues, but they didn't really keep my down. With exception of not playing disc golf w/ David one day in Queenstown due to my back, I was able to do the things I wanted. I might have tried Zorbing in NZ if wasn't having back issues. It was a little chilly for that anyway. David did well too, and only seemed to have the sunburn issue that bothered him during part of the trip.

    5. First Class experience. I don't think I would have taken the trip at all if I had to do it in coach. With my Restless Leg Syndrome and inability to sleep in planes, it would have been torture. It was worth the wait to save the extra gazillion mileage points to do the long legs first class. I still didn't really sleep, but I was more comfortable, and well fed. Plus the international first class lounges before the flights were amazing. They really helped to get us rested and ready for the long flights.

    6. The Wildlife and Plantlife. I really enjoyed seeing all the different wildlife that we cannot see here. Of course the koalas and kangaroos and kiwi were great, but also just the birds that were flying around in the city looked different. Then, of course, were the fruit bats in Cairns, the Cockatoos in Sydney, the fish and turtles of Great Barrier Reef, the colorful birds and butterflies of the rainforest, and the frolicking lambs of NZ. I also liked the Fern Trees, beautiful flowers, and amazing green countrysides.

    LOWS:
    1. Big surprise, #1 is our full day delay arriving due to flight issues in SFO. I was devastated that we'd have to wait 3 more days to go, but finally it worked out w/ standby and we at least got to get there only one day late. Still was sad to miss a day.

    2. Rotorua motel. Since I planned all the lodging for this trip, I felt a bit responsible for our sucky motel here. It put me in a bit of a funk when we got there because all our other lodgings were going so well so far, and the trip in general was too. Rotorua had some cool things in it, but was a little of a let down for me.

    3. The long trip to Queenstown. We took 3 planes and all day to get there. When I researched the flights, there were zero flights I could find online with fewer stops from Cairns to Queenstown. Then I hear when we are there that there is a direct flight and better ones. We were so exhausted that day because we had to get up at 2 am to get to airport at 3 am for 5 am international flight. Then had 2 layovers. We did make all our flights, but some were close. Customs in Auckland was a long wait too.

    4. The Great Barrier Reef. It was great, but also was hoping to see more spectacular coral colors. It was 90% bleached, with only a few that were colored. I also was disappointed we we had such a large group. There were many times people in the water were kicking each other unknowingly with their fins and bumping into each other.

    5. Not sleeping on the planes in first class. When we flew first class on the way to Germany we did sleep, but this time neither of us really did for some reason. Part of the reason we saved and saved for this was so we could arrive to destination nice and rested. That was a bummer that we couldn't. I wonder if I could have if my seat wasn't broken on the trip to Sydney. We'll never know.

    6. Not having enough time at Featherdale Wildlife Park. This was the place near the Blue Mtns in Australia where you can feed the kangaroos and wallabies, and where I saw the baby koala. I would have liked to really look at the rest of the park and spend time observing some of them, especially the birds. I didn't even get to see all the exhibits they had before we had to go.

    Well, there you have it. Overall, it was an amazing trip and I think not much to truly complain about. Things went great. We didn't really even need anything other than our visa card for purchases there (except if I had cash I might have opted to buy some feed at the wildlife park for the kangaroos, instead I just scraped some up from the ground to feed them).
    David and I talked about if we would use our time differently if we'd plan it again. I think if I had the day back we lost, and I could take a day away from Rotorua, I would have flown to Ayres Rock in Australia. I hear it is amazing. Of course that would have put our total to 12 flights for the trip instead of 10.
    Sad it is all over, but there will be more Sallee adventures to come in the future.
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  • Day29

    SFO

    November 2, 2017 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 11 °C

    We are back in the United States

    Was quite kind of them to let us back into the states. We did have to have a talk with the Customs official about the food we brought back with us, but he seemed very uninterested in our "declirations" so we moved on rather quickly.

    We're now hanging at the United Domestic lounge since we have a few hours before our next flight.

    You know you're back in the United States when you get to take your shoes off for the security checkpoint.

    Oh and we of course are landing BEFORE we take off from New Zealand.

    Let's do the time warp again!!! :-)
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  • Day29

    First class flight

    November 2, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Home for a while
    Flight was pretty interesting. Way more space than the flight to Australia, but I actually didn't sleep all that much. I rested for a while, but mostly I tried to relax and watched a ton of movies.
    There was some excitement though.
    They had just finished dinner service and were taking things away when the Captain came over the speaker and said "All Flight Attendants to their jump seats."
    Not a whole lot happened after that announcement for a bit. Then we hit some heavy turbulence. It was bad. I had about half a glass and managed to not spill any. The guy in front and to my right was not so lucky. He had about 3/4 of a glass of beer and 3/4 of a glass of water. By the time the shaking was done, he had both everywhere at his seat. All over him, all over the tray, all over the seat.
    Serving trays were all over the place too. They had to spend some time cleaning the galley area and one of the flight crew had to change their clothes from getting attacked by food and beverages.
    There was another time during the flight that the Captain came on and said for the Flight Crew to find the jump seats "in 6 minutes" but nothing came from that.
    Made for more eventful of a flight than I would have liked.
    I did get the following movies in:
    The new Pirates movie.
    Despicable Me 3
    New version of Magnificent 7
    The House
    Some episodes of Big Bang
    Some episodes of Simpsons
    Would have been way better if I could have watched the world series, but that's ok.
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  • Day29

    David's top and bottom 6 North Island

    November 2, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    Here's my favorites and least favorites from our stay in the north.

    The north had a lot of good things to offer.

    1. Glow Worms!!!
    Very cool experience. The light they give off is amazing and such a nice shade of blue. Plus I managed to get a cool T-Shirt from the gift shop that glows in the dark. And it's an adult shirt as opposed to getting a kids XXL size ;-)

    2. Huka Falls
    Another one of those nice surprises. Didn't even know we were going to see it, and just happened to pull over at a spot that gave us a nice little hike to the falls. Pure Blue colors and a ton of water moving through the small channel. Really happy that Brenda's panorama shot came out as nice as it did. One of my favorite pictures from the trip.

    3. Thermal Stuff in the Rotorua area
    Despite the smell, it was really interesting to see the various thermal pools. I liked the different colors that were produced based on the chemicals in the water. Such sharp colors that the camera has a tough time doing it full justice

    4. Maori Feast
    Not often that you totally get encouraged to "blow yourself up" with food. So, I did. Who knew the Maori people know how to make a mean scallop potatoes!! Could have taken the whole tray with me, but I settled for two or three helpings instead :-)

    5. McLaren Falls - Disc Golf with the sheep!
    Not only was the course fun (though scary and poop filled) but the views were amazing as well. Lots of nice pictures and we got our workout that day!

    6. International lounge at the Auckland airport. This got us in the mood for our long flight and even though we had multiple hours to wait, they flew by and we were sad to leave since not only were we leaving the wonderful lounge, we were also leaving New Zealand and in essence our vacation.

    Ok, now the bottom ones . . .

    1. Trying to find and then play the Rotorua Disc Golf course. Not only was it a true pain to find, but when we did finally get there, it was in bad shape and poorly laid out.

    2. Driving in Auckland at rush hour. Not a fan of traffic in general anyway, but wrong sided traffic? So glad that Brenda was there to guide the way and be a calming force.

    3. The Rotorua Hotel. Someone has to be the worst on the trip, and that distinction belongs to the Rotorua stop. Really bad wifi aside, no one likes to spend their night with ants crawling around the room. Glad they moved us, but it still wasn't a great place.

    4. Smoked Eel - I gave it a try, and f-eel like I never have to have that experience again.

    5. Not seeing a Kiwi at the Kiwi enclosure. Ok, that's not totally true. We did see the Kiwi on the camera indicating they were in their enclosures, but we never saw the actual birds. Would have been nice to say we saw one. We still wound up with a plush one to take home (and it makes authentic kiwi sounds) so we will settle for that

    6. Throwing one of my discs into a deep, dense ravine. The McLaren course really was extreme in places and I found one of them. Moment I let the disc go, I knew it was in trouble. I figured it was long gone considering how steep the side was, but Brenda encouraged me to go ahead and search anyway. Got lucky that the underbrush isn't all that thick and nothing like the blackberries we have at home, so it took a bit of a hike, but I was able to locate and retrieve the disc. Plus, I managed par on the hole anyway.
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  • Day29

    First Class lounge

    November 2, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    Living it up!

    The lounge is super impressive. We will probably eat way too much, but it's all yummy and considering how much food costs here, I think we can save about $75 if we do it right :-)

    The wi-fi is free and should give me a chance to catch up on the prior blog points. Plus we have some time, so I can get to work on my Top / Bottom 6 for the North Island.Read more

  • Day29

    Getting Ready for our flight

    November 2, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    Returned the car and are waiting at the airport.

    Because of checking out of the hotel, we got here nice and early. Works for me since I like to get places early :-)

    The drive to the rental place wasn't too bad. We got slightly off track at the very end, but it was close enough that it was easy to get back on track. Traffic wasn't an issue either since we were travelling during non-peak times.

    Car checked in with no problems and we had to wait a bit before getting checked in for the flight. Since we're first class travelers they treated us extra special and guided us through the process nicely.

    Now, off to the lounge!
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