Superb Surfing


January 29, 2008

and just a few more underwater pictures

How exciting for me... I've almost finished telling my story of Western Australia. The only bits that have been left out now are the few days between my flight from Exmouth to Perth and Christmas 2006. I had originally planned another bus tour of the southern tip of Western Australia, but they cancelled on me and so I rented a car and followed my nose. I made stops in Rockingham (for dinner by the water) and Bunbury (to visit more dolphins), but my favourite stop was Busselton; home to the longest pier (or wooden structure in general) in the Southern Hemmisphere. (more here) It stretches out for an impressive two km!

Of course I grabbed my snorkel gear and a camera and went for a swim...


If you ever find yourself in Busstelton and wish to see the fishes without getting wet, you can head to the end of the pier to visit the underwater aquarium.

On my way back towards Perth was when I stopped in Fremantle and was unexpected and unhappily relieved of my wallet. (You've already heard this story way back here.) So I spent much of Christmas eve chatting with police officers instead of visiting the lovely island of Rottnest. If any of my readers have ever made it to Rottnest, I'd love to hear about it.

Hmmm... I still have more unpublished photos of Oz, mainly the east coast, but I think I will save those for another time and return to the more recent events in my travels. More tales of Europe coming right up!!!

January 27, 2008

Happy anniversary to me!!!

Two years ago today, my lovely friend James drove me to to the airport and to see me off on an adventure that would start in Hong Kong and end... well... who knows where. Today I sit in my room in Dublin a little bit amazed at all I've seen and done in the last two years. I am still very happy with my decision to run away. And sometime in the mid to end of the upcoming summer, I'll be just as happy to set up shop once again on Canadian soil.

I have a whole bunch of back-logged photos of Australia sitting on my hard drive and so I might as well continue with the Australia momentum and post more Oz photos now. (Sorry about the randomness of my postings.) The first set were taken on the last day of our bus tour before reaching Exmouth.

After checking into our hostel, which turned out to be a relatively nice trailer park we drove across the peninsula to this very beautiful beach which I can't remember the name of:

And we did some snorkeling:

That night we had a little party and said goodbye. Most of the travellers headed back south, but a couple of us stayed on to do some diving. I had heard wonderful things about the Ningaloo Reef and although it wasn't as spectacular as the Great Barrier Reef, I wasn't disappointed either.

The water snake in the photo below is meant to be one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. Apparently when I was diving is not the season when it is on the attack, but I still snapped my photo and swam away as quick as I could.

The dive trips were in the morning, leaving the afternoons and evenings free to explore.

The next two pictures are of the grounds around my little Exmouth home. I loved this place because after the rest of my group left, I had whole trailer all to myself with double bed, loads of cupboard space and a decently stocked kitchen in my cabin.

But don't let the above photos fool you. Despite some nice scenery, I came to the conclusion that Exmouth is the most boring place in the world. (Or at least as much of the world as I've seen.) I guess there's only so much of never ending stretches of red sand that any one person can take. They were in the middle of building up a whole new section of the town, so who knows... perhaps its a little more interesting now. At any rate, I was quite happy when the time came to hop on a plane back to Perth.

P.S. I added a some more photos of Perth to an earlier entry. If you'd like to take a look, you'll find the entry here.

January 7, 2008

xmas time ... part 5 ... and while we're on the subject...

I've decided that now would be a good time to finally finish blogging about Western Oz.

These photos were taken between December 16th and the 22nd, 2006. I took a tour from Perth north towards Exmouth where I planned to do a bit of diving. The company I traveled with was EasyRider and the tour was much more fun than I expected it to be. Our first stop was the Pinnacles Desert.

Further up the road we found a Eucalyptus Leaning Tree (caused by strong southerly winds):

The next day we found an amazing little lizard:

Kalbarri National Park:

A photo of me abseiling (a very fun activity that I was apparently naturally quite good at!!)

Stromatolites, also known as Living Rocks (really!)

Sunset in Denham:

The next morning we moved onto Monkey Mia to visit dolphins and pelicans.

Various photos from the road...

Shark Bay. Yes, there are sharks in those waters...

And now, from the wonderful world of termites. By the way, those mounds are made of termite poo and can take thousands of years to build.

The guy in the photo below is Bart, our amazing driver and tour guide.

This entry has turned out to be much longer than I expected, and so I will leave it here for now and return to Coral Bay and Exmouth very soon. And I guess I'll have to stop calling these xmas entires, since we will be out of the xmas season by then.

Ciao for now!

(Oh ya. I think some of you have had trouble viewing the video from 2 entries ago, and so I tried YouTube(ing) it. Let me know if it worked this time.)

January 6, 2008

xmas time ... part 4 ... The Year Before

Well, the season lasts until the 7th (right?), and so I think I'm still within my rights to call this an xmas entry.

Oh, what to post, what to post. I have several backlogged entries now, but limited internet time. I just had a look back though my blog and it seems as though I neglected to ever post the photos from last Christmas! The day was spent in Perth, Australia. I was at a fantastic hostel, the Governor Robinsons. The owner of the hostel put out such an amazing spread of food and drink for us that he couldn't have possibly made a dime off our being there. And so let me sell the place to you once again... Should you find yourself in Perth, Oz and are a hostel type person, do set yourself up at the Governor Robinsons, a lovely homey cozy establishment.

I don't have a lot of pictures from actual Christmas Day, but I do have two here. This one is from Christmas morning. We (we being, friends I had made traveling through Western Oz) spent that morning at the beach; lounging, swimming and generally thinking, "Wow! This isn't much like Christmas at home!

This one is from later in the day after we sneaked into another hostel's pool for some fun and then went to this park to hangout and make up new sports games :)

More pictures of Perth:


After publishing this entry, I discovered some more photos that I thought should be included.

A few more photos taken of Christmas day:

The Art Gallery of Western Australia:

King's Park:

My flight on Dec. 26th, 2006 from Perth to Brisbane:

** This little update was done on the early morning of Jan. 27, 2008

February 6, 2007

Island life

I could get used to this.

I got up very early this morning so I could be out on the dive boat for my first fun dives as a licensed Adventure Diver! Yesterday I finished my Adventure courses and although I'm happy not to have homework, part of me wants to take more courses since its so cheap here. The courses are quite fun. For my peak performance course I got to behave a bit like a trained dolphin, swimming upside down and touching a knife (the handle end) with my nose and swimming through hoops back up then belly up. More difficult than it sound with a tank strapped to your back and weights around your waist). My last course to complete my advanced level was navigation. For this one I had to learn how to use a compass and not get lost!

The visibility underwater isn't so good at the moment. My last dive was a bit like diving in pea soup. My Dive Master (the person who leads the dive) was trying to point out a triggerfish, but all I could see was a shadow. I did see some other beautiful aquatic life though. Angelfish, butterfly fish, moray eel, stingrays, clown fish (Nemo-like fish), and lots of others. If the wind dies down the diving will incredible.

And speaking of Island Life, Australia is the biggest island that is also a continent. (Okay, it was a weak segue, but I needed something.) So I left off in Melbourne... I got to do a couple of trips into the state of Victoria while I was living there. The first was November 25. My friend Jayne and I rented a car and headed north towards the top of the state for a music festival. On the way we stopped in the very pretty town of Bendigo home of a historical Chinese temple and some great murals.

Looking at the below photo its easy to see why Victoria is so prone to fires.

Jayne and I at Earthcore. I'm in my last functioning party dress.

On Dec. 9th myself and a couple of friends got up far too early to do a bus tour of Great Ocean Rd. Its said to be one of the most beautiful drives in Australia and heads west from Melbourne almost halfway to Adelaide.

The main tourist destination for this trip is the 12 Apostles.

I kept hearing how spectacular they are from a helicopter flight, so I bowed to temptation and took the tour.

The 12 Apostles are no longer 12. I think about 6 of the originally named still stand at this point. You can see in this photo where one has fallen.

This is my friend Cindy and I blocking the view.

The last stop on this tour was London Bridge, which as you can see, did fall down.

After spending way too much time sitting on a bus, Cindy and I thought it would be a good idea to sit ourselves on some rides at Luna Park.

Luna Park is a staple tourist attraction for both Sydney and Melbourne. I missed the one in Sydney, but luckily Melbourne's was just a short walk from my flat.

A few more photos from around the different neighbourhoods in Melbourne.

P.S. I've added a couple of photos to the last two entries. Just to keep things pretty.

P.P.S. I didn't make it very clear what the Apostles are. The are the Pinnacles coming out of the ocean. Not the curved shore.

January 25, 2007


Tomorrow is my last day in New Zealand. Saturday I fly to Hong Kong to meet Kelly. I'm saying this more for my benefit than for yours as my brain still has not grasped this concept. Have I really been travelling for a year (minus two days) already?

How has this trip changed me?

I've been asked that several times. I'm sure it has, somewhat. All major experiences in life change us at least a little. So having so many big adventures in such a short period of time must have changed me somewhat. Still. I'm far from a kid and this isn't my first time living out of my country. (First time off my continent though.) ... Well. ... I guess I know myself better. I know how to dive and I know what it feels like to jump out of a plane. I know that I tend too pack to much, but I really like stuff! I know all sorts of things that are only relevant if you plan on travelling for a long period of time. Maybe when I get home I'll suddenly realize how changed I am. I don't really think so though. So if you see me, and I seem all new and different, do let me know so that I'm aware of it too.

Okay, Arrrgggg..... Can't this blog update itself. Get the time line all up to speed! Please! ... please? ... no??



On Nov. 6th I moved to Melbourne. Time to get another short term apartment, get another job and discover another city.

I have to admit. Despite my declarations of not choosing a favourite between Melbourne and Sydney, Melbourne won my heart very decisively. It has amazing neighbourhoods, wonderful outdoor art and culture to spare. I couldn't explore it as much as I wanted due to work taking up too much time, but I was very happy for the time I had.

I lived in an area called Elwood, which is right beside the very famous St. Kilda beach.

One on my favourite features of St. Kilda is the pier. Most of the above photos were taken from the end of the pier. And if you go out, late in the evening, watch the sunset and then wait a bit... you'll slowly begin to realize that there are penguins everywhere!

Away from nature and into the Central Business District, the photos below are from the Rialto Towers.

January 23, 2007

I spy with my little eye...

... something red. And Red. And Red.

Its an incredible site, when you first put your book down, look out your plane window and realize that the earth has turned red. Rusty red to be precise. After all, that's what makes the sand red.

I landed in Alice Springs but made my way out the next day (Nov. 3) on a tour of the desert.

Wild horse and camel spotting help the time pass when the scenery doesn't change much.

You can even ride a camel at a local cafe.

Our first stop real stop was Watarrka (Kings Canyon).

The whole of the center of Oz used to be under the ocean. You can see the proof in the photo.

Later on, with a slightly guilty feeling (bad environmentalist wasting gas), I took my first helicopter flight (it only looks like I'm driving)

After an incredible night sleeping under the stars I got my first view of the famous Uluru (Ayer's Rock).

But before I could get to close we went to Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). I actually preferred exploring KT. Both are aboriginal scared sights and Uluru is considered to be the more powerful, but the hills and valleys of Kata Tjuta are more intriguing to me.

I had to glue together two photos to get the whole thing in. Here's more from up close.

Can you spot the cat's face in this photo?

Sunset and sunrise are must-dos when in the area. The first photo is sunset, the rest is the next morning.

The final stop on the trip was a visit and exploration of the base of Uluru. You can climb the monolith, but the aborigines prefer if you don't. Its disrespectful to their beliefs and they feel very badly when someone dies while climbing (seems to happen a couple of times a year).

I have to run. The cafe is closing that I'm writing this in. I'm in a beautiful town called Paihai near the top of the North. Maybe by the time I get to Asia I'll be ready to show you photos of this place.

January 3, 2007

Pyrotechnics at their finest

Thank you all for the sympathy. Sometimes there's nothing better than a good whine. I've felt much better about the whole situation since taking the time to winge about it. There's also nothing better that four million dollars exploding in technicolour brilliance to make a worn out traveller feel like a kid again.

I was incredibly lucky to be in Sydney for the 75th anniversary of the Harbour Bridge. The firework display was easily the best I've ever seen. We decided to ignore the locals who said there was no point in heading down to Circular Quay (the best vantage point) and with a bit of work managed to find the perfect spot to see the fireworks.

Some open shutter representations of the pyrotechnics:

The photo below makes me laugh because it looks like that guy's head is on fire.

December 30, 2006

boo hoo... why me... :(

Okay everyone. Prepare yourself. I'm about to whine. And whine and whine some more. Things that are minorly annoying when you are at home, are excessively annoying when you are travelling. The last month has been throwing some real curve balls at me. One of the first things that happened to me is that my mobile phone froze. Stopped working. Of course just when people needed to reach me. Sony Ericsson were less than helpful. They would not lay one finger on my phone on the basis that it was bought in Hong Kong and I wanted it fixed in Australia. Nevermind the fact that it is a common bug with the phone and the fix isn't difficult. Their warranties are only good in the country the phone was purchased in. I questioned why they would bother calling something a "mobile" if they don't want it to leave the country you bought it in. They said they were sorry. A nice thing to say, but didn't fix the phone.

But I got it fixed by an independent shop. Who incidentally, simply downloaded the latest software from the Sony Ericsson shop in order to fix it. I lost all my photos and phone numbers and notes I had made, but it worked again.

Christmas Eve (or the evening before) my wallet went bye-bye. Not exactly sure how it happened, but I think it took a walk out of my room while I was in the shower. I think this because I heard giggling coming from my room when I was in the bathroom, which was next door to my room. There was no one staying in my room, nor was there anyone else sleeping in that corner of the hostel. ... but maybe I just lost it... I can't be sure. All I know is that I had it when I bought food the night before and in the morning it was gone. I was very sad and I've been going through a special sort of hell trying to replace all of those cards from overseas, over Christmas. Exactly when most companies don't want to replace cards because Christmas breaks records for fraud every year. Spending the day on hold and becoming aquainted with the Fremantle police station instead of going to Rottnest Island, also wasn't fun.

I'm getting through it all, but last night I was told by the Ontario Driver's Licence bureau that they won't re-issue my licence for four to six weeks. Why? How can it possibly take that long? I have a car lined up to use in New Zealand, but now I have no licence to drive it. I also had suddenly had no licence to drive the car I was already driving in Western Australia, but kept it for two more days anyway. AND my camera seems to be behaving a bit strangely. My battery charger is on the fritz. Some of my clothes are falling apart. Of course it could all be much much worse. I have a credit card and a bank card set aside, so I can still function. I kept my passport separate. I still have all of my stuff and computer and ipod and books. I haven't been physically harmed. Much much worse things have happened to travellers than these minor tragedies and a few other annoyances. BUT I'm feeling sorry for myself in this moment because the retainer on the back of my bottom teeth that has been there since I was a teenager, broke. Today. And I am not sure when I'll have time to get this fixed. Tomorrow is Saturday and my first day back in Sydney and I have heaps of running around to do. Then its New Year's and then I fly back to New Zealand. So I'll get it fixed there. Somewhere at some point.


For those of you who have noticed that my blog hasn't always been loading, its because its been slammed by spammers. Extremely annoying. I've taken some steps to fix this, like turning off a few features and not allowing comments on some of the older entries. (You can still leave comments on the most recent entries.) Do let me know if this fixes the situation or if you are still having trouble accessing the site.

I've been absolutely chomping at the bit to redesign this blog but I haven't had time (I mean I can't even keep on top of the entries!), but one of these days it will look pretty. I swear.

Okay. Its well past my bedtime. More soon and goodnight.

December 13, 2006

Updates and updates

Time is flying at a phenomenal rate now. I leave Melbourne on Friday morning, and I'm soooo behind behind with my blogging!!!! For so long I felt like I had all the time in the world and now I'm struggling to fit everything in that I want to do. **sigh** If only I was independently wealthy and didn't have to stop and work. Although the working is often fun and I meeting wonderful people and end up having so many adventures I wouldn't have had otherwise. If I could just stretch time to add a few more days to Dec. I'd feel much more relaxed.

So for those of you that are curious, here's my plans for the next while. Friday morning I fly to Perth and that night I'm going out to see one of my favourite DJs, Kid Koala!!! I wanted to see him when he played in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, but couldn't get the night off. I was very excited to discover that he was playing the first night I arrived in Perth. Early the next morning I'm heading off an a 4 day tour to Exmouth (home of the beautiful Ningaloo Reef) where I will do one or two days diving. Back to Perth on the 22nd. I was meant to head out on a 2 day tour of the southwest the next day, but yesterday they cancelled it on me. So now I'm struggling to replace it. Harder than you would think as most companies have already cancelled due to Christmas. I've got Christmas Day and half of Boxing Day in Perth and then popping over to the East Coast to spend a couple of days with a friend. I'll also have one day in the much praised Byron Bay before heading off to Sydney for New Years'. Jan 3rd I fly back to NZ until the 27th (Maybe get to see David and Michelle if they will still be there???). On the 27th I fly to Hong Kong to meet my friend Kelly who is flying in the same day from Canada. I'm very very excited to have a travel partner again as she is going to stick with me for about a month as we explore Thailand and perhaps Vietnam. I have another month after she leaves me to discover Cambodia and Loas, and then HAPPILY back to CANADA!!!! At which point I might need one of those proper relaxing vacations. Too bad I'll be broke ;}

Enough of that, now back in time to October 20th (am I really this far behind with my narrative???) when I hopped on the train and travelled from Dunedin to Queenstown.

I really enjoyed getting back to Queenstown. It was nice to see it in the spring and have time to do more exploring. The one thing I had really regretted not being able to do when I went to skiing was the gondola ride. The weather wasn't the best, but I made my way up anyway and was lucky enough that the rains stopped long enough for me to do a couple of hours tramping at the top.

I pasted the above photo from two, which is why the middle looks a little funny. Worth it though to get a sense of the endless beauty.


The next day I headed out on a bus tour and overnight sail in Milford Sound. M S is the most touristed spot in New Zealand and its easy to see why. If you find yourself here I highly recommend the overnight sail. I loved my time in the Sound and others who did the day tour seemed a bit more ho-hum about the experience. The ultimate is to do a 5 day tramp, but I didn't have the time nor did I know far enough in advance that I was coming in order to book the huts. I've heard you sometimes have to book a year in advance. Sailing is easy to book a day or two before.

The above first two photos were taken from the bus and the third from the shore, but the rest were taken from my ship.

I think what really made the sailing special for me was when we got to get out of the boat and expore the coastline and waters in our own time by kayak. There was an incredible feeling of stillness and quiet when most of the other passengers headed back to the boat and just a few of us stayed out to enjoy the evening.

The next morning was overcast, but beautiful. The clouds hung about the mountain sides like Christmas garlands. I was quite hoping the skies would open up so we could get display of the waterfalls with full force. Milford Sound can get about 10 meters of rain per year, so the fact that we had two days without rain is quite unusual.

Must run and get some stuff done today. The air in Melbourne is a bit disturbing. There are brush fires in Victoria and thay are so bad that all of Melbourne is very hazy and it smells like everyone is burning log fires. A very strange smell when its about 27 degrees.

More soon! (I hope)

November 6, 2006

BAAAAAack in New Zealand

Actually, I’m not. I’m in Alice Springs, Northern Territories, Australia. But I’m trying to keep these entries in some sort of order despite being a few weeks behind with my updating. And I’m lying a bit about the order too because I took the above photos in Fox Glacier on the 24th of October and this entry is about my time in Christchurch and Dunedin, which was from Oct. 4th to Oct. 20th. Likely, you are wondering why I’m bouncing around the South Pacific like an out of control international ping-pong ball, instead of doing one country and then another like a normal person would. Well, simply put, visa reasons. With the visa I have for Australia I can only stay for 3 months at a time and I wanted to be in Sydney for New Years’. Imagine the photos I posted of Sydney but with lots of fireworks in the background and you’ll soon begin to understand why I’d like to be there to ring in the New Year.

But I’m getting off track.

Spring is a gorgeous time to be in the South Island. I loved seeing all the new life with a backdrop of snow-covered peaks. First stop was Christchurch to spend some more time with Tans…

and do a few things that I missed the first time through. Like taking a ride up the gondola for these fantastic views.

After a few days I headed to Dunedin, the Edinburgh of New Zealand (Dunedin is actually the Gaelic word for Edinburgh). My guidebooks claim that Nelson is the artistic capital of New Zealand, but in my mind Dunedin in much closer to winning that title. Even the graffiti here is fascinating.

Dunedin has some great architecture and a couple of amazing cemeteries, but I think my favourite bit was the beaches especially Sandfly Bay.

Sandfly Bay is the perfect place to visit sea lions,

and seals

You can also find the Yellow-Eyed Penguin here, but we (Isaac and myself) didn't want to hang out for 3 hours waiting for dusk when the penguins come in for the night. I made friends with Isaac on a bus trip to Wellington. He was gracious enough to put me up for the time I was in Dunedin and crazy enough to convince his Mom to let me borrow her car for the 40 minute drive to Sandfly Bay. My first time driving on the left side of the road! It felt really strange at first and I had to keep telling myself to stick to the left, but after not too long I got the hang of it. I'm glad I waited to try driving though. I knew I was ready when I stopped feeling that split-second of panic every time I saw someone coming at me in what I instinctively think of being "my" lane. No photos of the drive sadly.

Another beautiful beach to visit is St. Kilda.

Despite one of the fiercest winds I've ever felt while on a beach, we decide to take the walk down to the rock pools on the far side of the beach. The wind was so strong it felt like it was using the sand from the beach as a weapon to beat us. If you click on some of these photos to expand them you'll be able to see the amount of spray that was coming off the ocean.

If that doesn't convince you, check out how bent these trees are from the wind.


Back on the theme of art... I was lucky enought to arrive in Dunedin in time to catch the end of Isaac's latest show. Here are a couple of photos he took of his work:

This is his self-portrait.

Phew. This has been a long entry. I leave you with a few photos I took a the Botanical Gardens.

October 29, 2006

Three Sisters

This famous landmark can be found in the Blue Mountains National Park of New South Wales. I came here for a quick couple of days away from Sydney. The park is gorgeous, and the mountains are (obviously) aptly named).

I've only got a few minutes before the internet cafe closes, so I won't be saying much in this entry. I'll let the pictures speak for me.

These photos were taken on a day long hike to a rock face called "ruined castle".

September 29, 2006

Purple toe

Poor me... I have a broken toe. Luckily its a very small break at the end of my toe (the second toe) so it doesn't impede me too much. Especially now that my doctor has given my some wonderful anti-inflammatory pain killers. It actually getting much better very quickly. Within a week and a half I shouldn't notice it at all. It will take six weeks to fully heal so I'll have to be a bit careful with it. It did turn some lovely shades of purple for a few days... I should've taken photos.

Okay. I feel a bit silly after having been in Sydney for so long and not having posted any photos of this lovely city. I promise they are coming... But first some photos of Wellington. I think if I don't post them now, I never will... Especially since some of these (like the first set) were taken last March. Sometimes I think I need a blogging secretary...

This next set were also taken in March from Mount Victoria. A gorgeous walk. Should you ever find yourself in Wellie, I highly recommend it.

The last trip to Wellington was a last opportunity to visit with Robert's sister Jen before she returned to Canada (which she did earlier this month). We miss her.

September 19, 2006

Stinky towns and more

I have now fallen very very far behind with my blogging. Although, I am firmly established in Sydney and have many photos and experiences to share, there is still a small pile of photos to publish from New Zealand, and so...

Here are a few more photos from Auckland that I didn't get a chance to post in my Swan Song entry:

One last picture from the window of my old apartment:

The next few photos were taken at Kare Kare and Phila. Both beaches are about an hour out of Auckland and were introduced to Robert and I by our wonderful friends Nick and Yvonne.

I had three stops I wanted to make before flying away from New Zealand. The first was the extremely stinky and volatile Rotorua. The earth's crust is so thin here that the smell sulphur is impossible to get away from. Luckily its still quite pretty, especially the government grounds.

Rotorua is the perfect place to go some for amazing spas but I decided to go a little bit out of the town to Hell's Gate for my mud bath and volcanically heated spa.

Hell's Gate was given its English name by George Bernard Shaw. Apparently when he saw hot boiling pools he claimed that they must be the portals to hell.

Yes, that is a pool of boiling mud.

In case you were wonder all that steam is indeed caused by the geothermal activity. Some of these pool of sulphur and other chemicals could cook you in a matter of minutes should you be so unfortunate as to fall into them. The cooler ones are often around 40 degrees and are more comfortable for bathing.

The Maori name for the geothermal reserve is Tikitere, meaning "here lies my precious one". This was the mother's cry when 650 years ago a young Maori Princess called Hurutini threw herself into one of the hot boiling pools because her husband, the Chief, was abusive and disrespectful.

The pool that her mother found her in is named after her and is pictured below.

Rotorua is also home to New Zealand largest concentration of Maori peoples and so I thought it would be the prefect place to experience the Haka (traditional concert) and Hangi (traditional meal). The Hangi is delicious. All of the food is cooked in a large pit with hot stones. The food is wrapped and then buried for 2 or 3 hours. The only photo I have of the experience is one I took outside of the village. As it was nighttime I had to leave the shutter on my camera open to let in any light. I prefer to call the technique "artsy", not blurry.

Next stop on the one-week power tour of the North Island was Tongariro National Park. This is a beautiful area to do a hike and take in a bit of skiing. The volcano on the left is Mount Ruapehu, an active volcano and the home of two ski fields. (I skiied both. Sorry, no photos.) Visitors are assured that they will be given plenty of notice before the volcano erupts.

Final stop on the tour was Wellington, but I'm too sleepy now to post those photos. They'll have to wait until next time...

August 3, 2006

Mission Beach and Magnetic Island

Well, I really meant to go on a blogging binge when I got back from Australia, but then I realized that the Auckland International Film Festival was in full swing. Being a girl that has a hard time resisting a festival of any type, never mind a film festival, my internet ambitions got momentarily pushed aside. It was so much fun to attend the Auckland Film Festival, partly because I had insider knowledge due to Toronto's Film Fest last September, and partly because unlike Toronto the movies almost never sold out!! It was quite pleasing to be able to wander up to the ticket booth 5 minutes before a screening and still get to see the movie. And did I mention that the furthest cinema is a 6 minute walk from the gate of my apartment building? So if you see these movies playing, please rush right out and see them. Oilcrash / A Crude Awaking, (Crude... haha.. Ummm... this documentary scared me... It's very good.) Mind Game (wonderful Japanese anime), the Science of Sleep (Is this out in North America? I'm thinking it must be. Same writer as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but this is even better because he directed it too), ScaredScared (Canadian Doc that I wanted to see at TIFF, but was sold out), Whole New Thing (Another brilliantly written Canadian film, with an unfortunately lackluster title) and last but certainly not least is the decadent French film How Much Do You Love Me?. I also got to see one of the most shockingly terrible films I've ever seen, Under the Sun of Satan. It unexplicably won a zillion awards and good reviews. My theory is that no one else understood it either, but they were too embarrassed to just say so, and so they called it brilliant. For me though, the Washington Post's opinion really hits the nail of the head (...sorry about the pun...).

But Back to the Oz Adventures!!!

In Mission Beach I stayed in a hostel in the middle of the rainforest (very beautiful) and took a shuttle to the town and beach.

Out of all the communities I visited in Australian, Mission Beach is the one community that most showed the effects of Cyclone Larry.

Apparently these green bummed ants are quite tasty, kinda like a sweet and sour candy. I decided not to try one. I had to take a photo though as I didn't know that some ants lived it trees.

Next stop, Magnetic Island. Just off Townsville, this island is a beautiful spot to hike, or lay on a beach and read.

July 18, 2006

home (where's that???) again...

It felt strange, when it was time to come home, to come home to Auckland. It was very nice to sleep in a big ol' comfortable bed instead of a bunk and not to have to share my room with any number of other sleepy travelers. I'm not sure how many different beds I've slept in over the past month. I'm not sure that I want to know... Hostels are great for many reasons: Cheap fun activities, meeting people, sometimes amazing locations (like one in the middle of a rainforest I stayed in over my birthday), free meals and/or a kitchen to cook your own, and PRICE, price, PRICE. I could never afford to do the traveling I've been doing and stay in proper hotels and motels. But, like I said, it is nice to sleep in a proper bedroom. And as lovely as Auckland is... I think its time to leave again. I'm beginning to crave the excitement of exploring a brand new city. Not sure which one (maybe Sydney?) and not sure exactly when (maybe in a month or so?), but I am sure that it is time to move on. The idea of packing up all of my belongings, is however, less appealing. Too bad it isn't possible to just shove this whole apartment with its lovely view, gym, sauna and pool into some magic carpet bag and just drag the whole thing off with me. Sigh...

But yes, it was nice to come home. Especially nice (even more so than the bed) was to come home to all of the cards and little presents that were waiting for me here. Thank you everyone for those. The cards are on the wall and the presents have been put to good use. For those of you thinking of sending anything more, I have to ask that you not use the apartment address anymore and to only use the PO Box number.

I am so far behind in my posting right now. I have piles of photos to post and I did try to post while traveling but I seemed to get a series of bad connections. Hopefully nothing horrible with happen to Auckland's web and I'll be able to play catch up.

Hmmm... So where was I? Oh yes! I had just learned to dive and was hanging out in Cairns. The next think I did was hop on a bus and head further north where I met my first saltwater crocodile.

I also meet my first kangaroo and cassowary, but I don't like my photos of them as much. Further up the road we came to the wonderful part tourist town, part jungle, and part beach resort, Cape Tribulation.

Only in Australia will you see something like this when you head down to the beach...

I spent two days and one night in Cape Trib and then headed back towards Cairns. On my way home were two amazing stops. The first was the Daintree River were we saw beautiful birds, snakes, more...

...and one sleepy white lipped tree frog.

After another hour or so on the bus we stopped as Mossman Gorge. A perfect place for a very chilly and refreshing swim.

Next stop, Mission Beach...

June 24, 2006

The Great Barrier Reef

I've gone and done something I never really thought I would do. I took some lessons and became a certified diver. After spending two days in a pool and a classroom, 3 days living aboard a boat, and numerous underwater excursions into several locations along the Great Barrier Reef, I have been rewarded with a little card that states that I am a certified Adventure Diver. On June 20th I received my Open Water certification and the next day managed to take a small step up to the Adventure level. You might be asking yourself what this means... Basically, it means that I can jump into water with a fellow diver (and proper equipment, naturally) and swim around day or night as deep as 30 meters. I'm still a little surprised at this information. I'm also still a little shocked by exactly how beautiful the Great Barrier Reef actually is.

Not much more time to type as I have to get some sleep before I head out early tomorrow. I'm doing a tour of the rainforest and spending a night in Cape Tribulation. I’ll leave you with a few more photos of the ocean from the perspective I'm more accustomed to seeing it from.

June 15, 2006

Brisbane – Part II

Actually, I’m in Cairns (pronounced Caaannes. And no, I don’t know why it’s pronounced like that.). I’ve come to Cairns for sun, heat and relaxation. Relaxation I have, sun and heat… well, earlier I had a bit of that. Sadly it didn’t last long. I’ve heard it’s colder in than it has been in years, meaning that in the evening I had to change into jeans a carry around a light sweater. Since I can’t do the thing I came to do (tan), I thought I’d finish sharing my Brisbane experiences.

With a population on one and a half million, Brisbane is the 3rd largest city in Australia. It's was built to be a penal colony for Sydney’s more uncooperative convicts. Thankfully, today’s residents seem to have a much more relaxed attitude than their forefathers.

My second favourite activity in Brisbane was exploring the South Bank Parklands.

This photo of the downtown Brisbane was taken from the Southbank.

Brisbane is set in from the ocean due to a lack of fresh water and problems with unwelcoming aborigines (Hmmm… I wonder why they didn’t want the white folk around???). The Brisbane River is then the focal point of this city, and not only is it pretty it is also very functional becoming an important part of the public transportation system. Which brings me to my favourite Brissie activity, taking the CityCat Ferry.

There seems to be no shortage of sculptures living in the streets of Brisbane. My favourite is called simply "City Roos". Christopher Trotter made these cratures out of scrap metal.

Another not to be missed activity in Brisbane is the Roma Street Parklands. My guidebook claims that it is the biggest urban subtropical garden in the world. It certainly is pretty.

And so here I am in Cairns, contemplating learning to dive and wondering what treats this city will have in store. Here’s a taste for you:

June 14, 2006

G'Day Mate!!

Guess what??? I'm in Oz (sometimes knows as Australia). I flew out of Auckland on June 14th and after a few hours of non-stop cloud cover I was thrilled to peak out my window to catch my first glace of Australia.

The first city I chose to visit in Oz was Brisbane, Queensland (the Sunshine State... and yes I did come for the sunshine). I arrived just in time for another one of the Southern Hemisphere's spectacular buttery yellow sunset.

Tired as I was, for some reason I always think it's a good idea to sleep as little as possible before getting on a plane, I did manage to work up the energy to take some night photos. This is the Brisbane River. It snakes its way through the heart of the city and is one of the best spots in Brisbane to take a stroll. Victoria Bridge (below) seemed particularly photogenic to me.

Yesterday was my first day to explore the city and the Botanical Gardens presented itself as an excellent place to start.

I do have heaps more photos to share with you, but it is getting late, and I do have another flight to catch tomorrow. Which isn't really a problem, its the early check out and the bits I still want to see before I leave town.

Goodnight mates.