I've wanted to see Australia and New Zealand, since my parents visited there a few years ago. I also wanted to get another continent under my belt, so I managed four weeks off of work to make my dreams come true.
  • Day35

    Dana's Top 10 lessons from down under

    November 29, 2006 in the United States ⋅ ❄️ 19 °F

    WOW! Through magic of modern time travel, I left Auckland at 7:30p on 11/27, and I arrived in Denver at 5:00p on the same day. Whoa. Time travel really takes it out of you. Maybe that's were jet lag comes from!

    Dana's Top 10 lessons from down under

    I learned a lot while I was in the southern hemisphere, but here are the most profound awarenesses I experienced:

    10. New Zealand has no wildlife. Only two mammals are native to the country, and they're both bats.
    9. Worms are cuter than maggots.
    8. Rugby is not a sport, it's a way of life.
    7. I knew water swirled in the direction opposite of that in the northern hemisphere, but I learned the line at the McDonald's drive-in goes the opposite way too.
    6. No matter how beautiful the ocean and sea life, there is no reason to ever scuba dive in cold water.
    5. Just because someone speaks the English language doesn't mean you will understand more than one-half of what they say.
    4. It's just best to say you're Canadian.
    3. There are eight people of color in Australia.
    2. Australia has more roadkill than a West Texas cafe.
    1. The world would be a much better place if we all adopted the attitude of the Aussies and Kiwis, which is summed up in their two favorite phrases: "No worries" and "Cheers"! (By the way, to say it properly, it's "Cheez!")
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  • Day34

    Last day down under

    November 28, 2006 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 63 °F

    We got a late start out of Russell but took our time heading to Auckland. We stopped at Jesters and had pies. They are quite popular here, pies, that is. They are like chicken pot pies, but better, and more variety. We had the mushroom, spinach and feta cheese. It was the consistency of custard on the inside, a little different than I expected. Of course, we had to try the desserts too. I had the apple, blueberry custard pie. Yum. Very flakey too.

    We found a parking spot near the quay and started doing our last minute shopping. To our surprise, we ran right into a Christmas parade. Floats, bands, clowns, and marchers wound around the corners of the city, and spectators were 5 people deep. About 20 kids were standing on top of the police car, and another 30 people were clinging to the roof and sides of the parked firetruck. And they were allowed to be there! We caught glimpses of the parade, as we shopped, and were taken by their passion for the upcoming holiday. I thought America was bad, but these people are hardcore Christmas fanatics.

    We finished shopping and made our way to the rental car drop-off. I was not too sad to be done driving on the left side of the road; although I am apprehensive about driving to work tomorrow. I'm sure I'll be a road hazard for a few weeks again, until I get those nasty left hand driving rules out of my head.

    I was held up at security, where they confiscated my didgeridoos. Now, I have had these for almost four weeks, which means I've flown with them internationally and within Australia. Suddenly, they are not allowed in the plane because they could be used as a weapon. Now I admit I can't play them, but I'm not that bad! No, they advised that these wooden musical instruments could be used as a blunt weapon to hit someone. The good news is, I didn't swear. The bad news is, they had to be left in Auckland because the friendly staff of Air New Zealand was not so helpful in retrieving them for me. A letter to the company is pending, after I simmer down. Supposedly, I will be able to get them back, somehow.

    The flight to LA was horrible, and I got no sleep. Between the insomnia and the baby crying, I managed about four hours total, in 20 minute increments. We nearly missed our plane in LA, due to the d-doo issue, but arrived safely in Denver, just 30 minutes late. Before getting home, I had to eat some Mexican food. A month is the longest I've gone without Mexican food and it was hard. I dropped my bags at the door, went to bed, and will post my Top 10's tomorrow night!
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  • Day33

    R. Tucker Thompson for a good time!

    November 27, 2006 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 57 °F

    We boarded the R. Tucker Thompson at 9:50 this morning. She's a tall, masted ship, which has previously circumnavigated the globe. The crew let us help trim the sails, tie down the ropes, and I bravely climbed the mast. Kim decided against it, probably wisely. Once I got to the top of the mast, I realized that was the easy part, getting down was the challenge. I figured I could jump in the water, if necessary, then remembered the water temperature and found the courage to go down the ropes.

    We sailed the Bay of Islands for six wonderful hours. It was the perfect end to a great trip. The weather was clear and sunny; we were both burned by the end of the day.

    Upon arriving back in Russell, we thanked the crew and made our way into town. A quick stop for groceries, and we headed back to the Holiday Park. We did some packing and planned our final trip to Auckland. We hope to mix in some good stops on the three hour drive south to the City of Sails. Stay tuned for my Top 10's on Sunday!
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  • Day32

    One of Jacques Cousteau's Top 10

    November 26, 2006 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 63 °F

    We were off to the dive shop, bright and early. Got checked in, then called home to wish everybody a happy Thanksgiving. We boarded the Calypso, and sailed out to Poor Knights Islands. They are not sure why Capt. Cook named them Poor Knights, but they have been designated a marine reserve, due to their pristine quality above and below the water. We were fitted with 7 mil wet suits (I'm not a cold water diver, by the way), and a tonnage of lead weights, so as not to float away in the wet suit. Upon donning our gear, we now looked like the penguins and waddled the same way too! As one hits the water on that giant stride, there is an immediate sense of tension, as the body is revolting against the extreme conditions. The water feels like ice, and to my poor uncovered hands, they are expecting to run into a glacier any moment. Amazingly, the wet suit does its job and only my hands and feet suffer much.

    We first dive Cave Mao Mao. This is the site that Jacques has rated as one of the top 10 in the world. Our visibility isn't the best, but it is a great dive. Lots of fish I have never seen before and interesting anemones and corals. Upon surfacing, everyone makes for the tea, coffee and hot soup. Our surface interval is spent driving around the islands, in and out of sea caves, and lounging in the sun. It's actually sunny and warm! YEA!!!!! The second dive is down Magic Wall and along the adjacent reef. The growth is spectacular. I cannot believe the life on this volcanic island. Blues, greens, purples, even neon orange. It is truly amazing. Kim has some problems in the cold and surfaces early, then the next couple go up, then the divemaster-in-training surfaces; but I go the distance: 57 minutes of true ecstasy (well, if it was warmer, this was more like true satisfaction). I got to the boat, teeth chattering and body shaking, but smiling. This was a good day.

    We sail back to Tutukaka, sitting in the sun the whole way. We drove up to Russell for a day of sailing tomorrow.
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  • Day31

    Bus and plane and car and peds

    November 25, 2006 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 63 °F

    Today was a travel day, crossing the length of the country, from southernly Te Anau to northernly Tutukaka. Why on earth would you visit a place called Tutukaka? Some of the best diving in the world, supposedly. We'll see tomorrow.Read more

  • Day30

    Milford Sound Fiord

    November 24, 2006 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 54 °F

    We were up early today and on the bus without a hitch. Our driver/guide was Alec, and he was a smart one. Loved bashing the Aussies. Apparently that's a national past time here. We took the bus through heavy beech forest, rainforest, and alpine scenery. We drove through the Homer tunnel, a one-way going downhill, which then opened into a picturesque valley leading to the sound. All around us, waterfalls dripped from the rock faces. Some could be traced from their origin at the top, traveling 1500 feet, to their destination at the bottom. We had some sunshine, so we were very happy. We arrived at the wharf and hopped on our boat for the day. After pushing from the dock, a large waterfall immediately came into view around the corner. It was one of many for the day. We floated the south side of the sound first. Stopping at Fairy Falls, where wisps of water flow down a moss encrusted rock face, then we saw a leopard seal (eating machines in March of the Penguins), who was up from the Antarctic for a visit. Next were fiord crested penguins. I think I accidently called them crown penguins before. Sorry about that. We made our way into the Tasman Sea to take a lazy U-turn back into the fiord. Note: a fiord is created by glacial action, which these are, whereas a sound is carved by water, such as a river, which these are not. So the Milford Sound is a misnomer and it should be Milford Fiord, but that would be a huge blow to the postcard industry, so there you have it. Anyway, we came back into the fiord, sailing along the north side of the valley. We saw some New Zealand fur seals and lots more falls. Before we knew it, three hours had passed and it was time to board the bus again. We stopped at Chasm Falls, for a bush walk to the river. The erosion that had created the hole was amazing. Rounded rocks, fallen trees, and beautiful emerald river water. Nice.

    We arrived in Te Anau in time for more Chinese food and a night's sleep.
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  • Day29

    Doubtful and Happy

    November 23, 2006 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 54 °F

    We were up and at 'em early today; caught the coach, with a lot of blue hairs, and rode to Lake Manapouri. It's the fifth largest lake in NZ and the second deepest. The lake wasn't our destination, just a stop on the way. The day looked to be sunny, but we had to cross a mountain range, and they warned it could turn on us. Manapouri was beautiful, and it took about an hour to transit the lake. We got into another coach and had our complimentary visit to the underground power station. Not my idea of fun but interesting none the less. The bus then took us to Doubtful Sound. It is the second longest sound in the Fiords National Park and is also part of the World Heritage Site. We floated through the fiord throughout the day. Unfortunately, the weather was crummy but luckily not totally a waste. The rain was light, and the clouds stayed high enough for us to see the mountain tops (mostly).

    The fiord is still quite remote, and there were very few boats on the water. Because of the access restrictions, there are no residents on the shore, there are no moorings, and there just is no civilization out there. It is truly Gods' country. At one point the captain took us into a cove, turned off the motor, and we sat in complete silence, save for the birds on the shore and wind in the trees. The beauty of the fiords, and as I remember from a similar boat ride in Norway, are the spontaneous waterfalls, which tumble from high above all the way to the sea. Spectacular is an understatement.

    At the mouth of the Sound, where it meets the Tasman Sea, there was a NZ fur seal colony, with the furry little mammals laying on the rocks, bathing in the drizzle. We also saw crown penguins swimming, but none on shore posing for my lens. Dang. The cruise was several hours long, and we did a lot of picture taking.

    We got back into town at about 5pm, made dinner, then walked into town for groceries. We will be cruising Milford Sound tomorrow, which is much different than Doubtful. Stay tuned....
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  • Day28

    Kepler track

    November 22, 2006 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 54 °F

    We took our time getting up this morning. I was feeling better physically but was still a little disappointed about having to cancel yesterday. We had a late breakfast and decided to take a mammoth hike to shake off the bad feelings. We walked the shore of Lake Te Anau. The path leads around the south end, with what appears to be more of an arid bush, then it turns over the dam toward the Kepler Track. We stopped over the dam, admiring the feat of engineering it must have taken, then we were off into the rain forest. The country has fewer animals than Australia, but the bush is incredible. There is moss growing on moss, growing on moss, growing on fungus, growing on trees, growing on the ground...There are just green things continually growing on top of other things in the rain forest. It is so amazing, and then I imagine the things I cannot see. We walked around the southern tip of the lake but not all the way around, as it is about 55 miles long.

    Five hours later, we were tired and hungry. We made pasta, with pesto, played a little poker, and called it a night.
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  • Day27

    Disappointment

    November 21, 2006 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 54 °F

    Well, we had to cancel our 4 day trek. I woke up very ill, with a puking, needle in the eye, wish-I-were-dead, migraine. Because the track is so regulated, you must leave on the date and time that you booked. Unfortunately, I could not recover that quickly and we had to make the very painful decision to cancel the whole trek. It was not a pleasant traveling moment, but one I hope I forget quickly. I was really wanting to hike this trail and had booked it in July. I suppose I should be grateful I didn't have a stroke, given that my head felt as though it would explode.

    By the end of the day, I was feeling a little more human, so we did get out and walk the first part of the Milford track. I at least got to go on one of the swing bridges I had hoped to cross on the tramp. Because we now have 4 days to blow in Te Anau (not a big town), we will do a day hike of Kepler track, and take a cruise on Milford Sound tomorrow and Doubtful Sound on Wednesday. It's not what I had planned but not a bad alternative! Oh well, I guess I'll just need to return again some other time to make the trek. Cheers!
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  • Day26

    Travel Day to Te Anau

    November 20, 2006 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 50 °F

    We left the campa today with a fond farewell. I must say I am looking forward to a mattress tonight! We did a little shopping in the town centre, then boarded the bus for Te Anau. Te Anau is the staging area for the Milford track and the longer Kepler track. We had reservations for the Bella Vista hotel, and the private toilet and bed were a very welcome sight! We visited a Chinese restaurant and ate a great last meal, as tomorrow starts four days of freeze-dried food stuff. I've not felt well all day, so my headache and I hit the pillow early, while Kim stayed up late.Read more