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January 25, 2007

Time

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??

FINE.

Rewind.

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 15, 2007

Keep moving...

Very strange that my time in New Zealand is almost over. I've been back in Dunedin for a couple of days, visiting Isaac and sneaking time on the computer to plan the last little bits of my time on this side of the world. I keep hoping that my driver's licence will show up in the mail. Isaac's Mom has generously offered us the car to go travelling in but for some reason the Canadian Government is making me wait an excessive amount of time to mail me a new licence.

Sigh... Its fine, we can take buses. It just would've been nice to have the freedom of a car.

Back to trying to keep things in a sort-of chronological order though... I left Punakaiki (Oct. 27th) and headed further North to Nelson.

I had heard great things about Nelson, but I found the whole Nelson experience to be a bit so-so. Sunshine is one of the things that Nelson is really known for but I got cloud, so that might not have helped. Nelson does have some lovely walks and parks. The walk up to what they claim to be the center of New Zealand is worth while endeavour.

On Oct. 30th I hopped back on the bus.

New Brighton, a small sea-side town just outside of Christchurch was my next and final stop before heading back to Australia.

A few more pictures of Christchurch:

On November 2nd I hopped on a very early morning flight and headed towards the Australian desert.

... next stop, the red center ...

January 3, 2007

Back to the narrative

Wanted to slip back in time again to try and get this blog caught up. Now where did I leave off. Oh, yes. I had just left Milford Sound. The next day I hopped on the bus and started heading up the West Coast.

First stop in the Wild West was Fox Glacier. You've seen a few pictures already of some of the farms in the area. Here's one more:

Fox Glacier is a stunning place to stop for a couple of nights. There is easy access here to Matheson. It is one of the most famous lakes in New Zealand because it not only offers a superb view of Mount Cook, but when the lake is calm the reflections are stunning.

The next day I had organized a day tour for myself on the Glacier. Should you find yourself at Frans Josef or Fox Glacier, don't miss out on actually getting yourself walking around on the ice. You can only walk up as far the base without a guide. If you can afford it the helicopter landing is the best (I couldn't). The day walk is the next best.

As if this wasn't enough excitement for one day, I decided to fling myself out of an airplane to round out my day of adventure. Skydiving is something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember, so they barely had to put me into the plane to get me up into the clouds. This is, by the way, the other reason I stopped at Fox. This is meant to be the most beautiful spot in New Zealand to skydive. I was a bit disappointed that it was somewhat overcast, but it was beautiful regardless.

The overly excited guy behind me was my acting parachute as it was a tandem dive.

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Even with the clouds, the view was pretty spectacular.

I'm just a little bit pleased to be flying through the air!

Safe and sound, back on the ground.

Punakaiki was next on my to do list, and although not quite as thrilling as Fox, it afforded some incredible views never-the-less. By the way, should you want to visit this area I suggest you have a car. There are a couple of nice walks I was able to do, but most of the tramps you needed to drive to and the town doesn't seem to provide any shuttles.

Punakaiki is famous for the Pancake Rocks. Beautiful to see, but unfortunately the wind wasn't blowing enough to get the effects of the blowholes.


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.

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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.

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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.

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 26, 2006

Swan Song for Auckland

My Auckland existence is now a thing of the past. The apartment has been emptied and cleaned beyond all recognition. It was very strange still living in that tiny space without our photos and posters on the walls. The lack of personality left the apartment feeling barren and somewhat creepy. I didn't like to look around much, except of course to look out the window. I could never tire of that view.

I am now on a bus heading towards Rotorua. It's dark out and so there's not much to do except play with my gadgets. Computer running, ipod entertaining, mobile... well... I'm a bit annoyed because the mobile has been left with my luggage in the storage under the bus. There are texts I could be writing! Mostly I'm just a little worried that it isn't lock and its down there completely inaccessible for four hours and making all sorts of expensive phone calls and annoying friends with blank texts. I am officially a technology junkie. I can't even imagine how I would function without my gadgets. On the other hand, I'd probably get a lot more exercise.

But back to Auckland and some of the photos I haven't had a chance to share yet.

These are from a trip up the Skytower.

In the photo above you can begin to get a sense of just how many volcanic cones there are in Auckland. A total of 50, but its hard to spot them all.

I love cities at night. Especially if I can get up quite high to look down at all the lights. In my opinion Auckland is certainly at its most glamorous from this perspective:


This Z shaped building is (was) my home. The name of the building is Zest.

We were lucky enough to get to host Robert's sister and mother for a couple of days. It felt a little cramped in the apartment, but I was quite happy to host my first guest from abroad. I say that in the singular because Jen (Robert's sister) is living in Wellington (for now). One blustery day we hopped on the ferry and headed over to Waiheke.


Arrrrg... I'm running out of internet time and have more photos to share. They will have to wait. By the way, I'm in Rotorua at a cafe uploading alll of this. These last two were taken at Auckland Domain


Please excuse any spelling errors as I have no time to spell check :}

August 16, 2006

Milestones

It was the six month anniversary of our arrival in New Zealand just a few days ago. Robert and I arrived on the 15th of February, and I left Canada on the 27th of January. I was going to write a bit about how it doesn't feel like six months, etc., etc. But what is six months meant to feel like anyway? Time constantly seems to be either dragging or speeding by, and usually whenever I'm looking back it seems to have sped along at a shocking speed. This last period in my life is definitely a bit of a blur. I've done a lot, but Auckland has afforded me a fair amount of down time that I don't expect that Sydney will. As a result I feel like I've been a bit lazy with my explorations. I'm excited at the prospect of moving on to the next adventure, but at the same time I feel a little sad too. Some friendships that felt like they were just getting started might now be ending, or perhaps just going into stasis. Auckland is not an ideal city, but I've certainly grown comfortable. Maybe I just shouldn't write blog entries while listening to melancholy music...

Some people mark the periods of their lives by occupations, friends and lovers, family situations, or perhaps hobbies. Cities seem to be the defining marker and shaper of the chapters in my life. I've been trying to guess at what this period of my life will look like in retrospect. At this point, I'm having trouble hazarding a guess. Perhaps because this whole chunk of my life seems a bit random. I made the decision to come to New Zealand about 48 hours after Robert put it to me as an option. Within months I had scraped together the financial resources I needed, compartmentalized my life into little boxes left in various locations around Ontario and put myself on an extremely long flight to parts unknown. I've always admired my friends and family who were able to put their life into a few pieces of luggage and whisk themselves away to far away places for long periods of time. Now that I've done it too, I find myself every once and a while wondering why and if I am perhaps, insane. I think I've been feeling a bit homesick this week. Although I am already about halfway through my time in this part of the world it feels like it's going to be ages and ages before I am in familiar surroundings again with the people that I love. I could go home at anytime, but I'm not ready yet. I'd regret leaving so many things undone. I just have to ride this wave of unsettledness and wait for it to pass. In six to eight months from now, I'll be looking back on this upcoming chapter and wondering how it passed so quickly.

...

That's better. I've put on some upbeat music and am drinking some ginseng tea. Time to share a few more photos.
My last day skiing in the South Island was spent at Treble Cone. The most beautiful and most difficult slopes in NZ. I'm very glad I went, but an unexpected trip (tumble) down an icy black run has left me with several bruises that seem to have no desire of fading. Luckily, the views were worth it.

The below photos are of Lake Wanaka (in a town called, Wanaka, surprisingly enough). Hardcore Queenstown fans attempted to dissuade from spending a few nights in Wanaka by appealing to the "trip the lights fantastic" girl in me. I'm glad they failed. Wanaka is an extremely friendly and cozy little town that has the best movie house I have ever been to. Instead of regular collapsible seats they have a plethora of tiered couches and a full menu including irresistible fresh out of the oven cookies. Yum...

August 12, 2006

More Queenstown

I don't think I could ever tire of the view from a plane window, especially when that view is of the South Island. The endless mountains make me want to jump from peak to peak like Spiderman. I'm told it looks just like BC, but I haven't seen enough of British Columbia to confirm or deny this assertion. Anyone out there have an opinion?


Queenstown is the epitome of quaint tourist town with its endless rows of cafes, restaurants and shops. Doesn't it just nestle into this valley just the way you'd expect a ski-town would?

This is the view from the bottom of the Remarkables. As this was only my second day on skies in far too many years I wasn't quite confident enough to take my camera on a run with me.

One last photo of the stunning sunset in Queenstown.

August 8, 2006

Tired Legs, Tired Me

I will get back to finishing my Queensland journey, but I had to take a break from that story to share a little bit of Queenstown with you. Did I tell you that I had won a trip? It was meant to be a trip for two to Sydney, but as I am moving there anyway, there didn't seem to be much point in taking that prize. Luckily I managed to convince the prize givers to reward me with a trip for one to Queenstown and Wanaka! Any remaining money they would've put towards accommodation in Sydney, I get to spend on lift passes! Yay!

I have quite a few photos to share, but due to my tired body (which hasn't been skiing in YEARS!!!), I have very little energy to get them all posted. I do however have the energy to share my most prized photo.

Evening: Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown, South Island, NZ


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 4, 2006

Sunday Stroll

Albert Park




May 31, 2006

a taste of winter

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It seem a little unfair to me that while Canada is moving into summer and Toronto is hitting temperatures of 30 degrees, that here in the South Pacific we creep closer and closer towards winter. You may be asking yourself what winter in Auckland looks like. Well apparently it looks like rain and rain and rain.

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It's a rain that pours down suddenly, fiercely and turns the streets regularly into rivers. Luckily, it doesn't seem to rain continuously. Being a maritime city, the weather can change from sheeting rain to bright blue skies in less time that it takes to walk into one of the many cafes and order a flat white (with soy, thank you very much). I must admit that I still giggle at Aucklanders as they shiver and shake when the thermometer plummets to lows of 14 degrees. I enjoy watching their eyes grow wide as I regale them with tails of temperatures well into -40, frostbite warnings on Ottawa radio stations, and jumping off my roof as a kid into big piles of soft snow.

Come to think of it, a few months of rain isn't so bad. Especially when I can step onto my balcony and the cloud cover has created such incredible displays as this:

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As it is still autumn and not quite winter yet, today was a gorgeous +16 and nothing but sunshine. And apparently I can hop on a flight to OZ and be swimming in an ocean and enjoying +30 temperatures within a few hours flight. Hmmm... perhaps I should do that very soon...

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~~~~~~~~~

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May 14, 2006

as promised

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I meant for this to be a short little blog with a few more photos of Christchurch, but it just keeps growing and growing.

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I really liked this small flat city. Despite the chill in the air (or maybe because of it) it felt quite homey to me. The air seemed fresh and crisp. At night, as the many fireplaces are lit in people's homes, the smell in the air was as close to Canada as I've found so far. I can't wait to visit again in September to see the bits that I missed the first time around.

In the heart of the city is Catherdral Square (named after the building that dominates it), with its many souvenir stands, cafe's and landmarks, it is an excellent place to begin to familiarize yourself with Christchurch.

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This figure closely guards the 125 year-old Gothic Christchurch Cathedral.

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The 63m spire (see above) offers up a rather impressive view of the city. If you can manage the never ending winding staircase.

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Living along the banks of the Avon is Christchurch's Botanic Gardens. May is a bit late in the season to see the Gardens in full bloom, but even in autumn the 30 hectares of cultivated foliage remain impressive.

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The Arts Centre (formally Canterbury College). Here you can find many arts and crafts, sculptures, shopping, theatres and yummy cafes.

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Christchuch's Aerial Sculpture. If you click on the photo to enlage you may be able to see the almost invisble wire holding up this unique sculpture.

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Tanz was kind enough to take me for a drive on my last night to the hills around Christchurch for this spectacular view of the city.

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The photo below shows Lyttelton (pop 3100) on the top left side. This quaint city lives on the other side of the hill from Christchurch and the very bright light you see is their port. If you ever find yourself in Lyttelton be sure to drop in to Satchmo (8 London St.). The brusccetta especially is divine.

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May 5, 2006

population 331 400

Am too sleepy to share my thoughts of Chrischurch this evening. Not to sleepy to post some photos though...

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This river is the Avon. It winds itself lazily through the town.

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Fitzgerald St.

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Central City

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May 3, 2006

Flying away once again

I'm very excited because tomorrow I fly to Christchurch to visit my friend Tanya. She's moving to Australia in a couple of weeks to perform with a circus and then work on a new play, so this is my last (and first) chance to visit her in her home town. She is the best hula-hoop dancer I've ever seen. I saw her perform for the first time a couple of months ago in Wellington. In honour of this (or maybe its just a good excuse), I thought this would be a good opportunity to jump back in time to share with you some of my pictures and impressions of the Windy City that puts all the other so called Windy Cities to shame.

I traveled to Wellie on March 2nd on the overnight bus and arrived completely bleary eyed at about 7 in the morning on a Saturday. It was actually quite a magical time to arrive in a new city. Most of the city was still sleeping, and because daybreak had only recently settled on the city, the morning had a sense of newness and wonder to match my sleepy-eyed enjoyment of this winding delightful town. Well, city really. The population is 205 500 strong.

After a wee bit of rest at the hostel it was time to get out and explore. The best thing to do, I decided, was to get up on top of things and get some perspective on this new place. I took the cable car to the top of the largest hill (not mountain, mind you) in Wellington.

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The guidebook didn't lie. It is a gorgeous view.

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The best way back into the city is to wander through the lush 26-hectare Botanical Gardens.

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I was very lucky that the weather held off for as long as it did because when the wind and rain finally started, there wouldn't have been much of stopping to smell the roses. Wellington is a much more artistic and vibrant city with its endless cozy cafes, tiny boutiques and never ending festivals, but the idea of living there in the winter quickly became a very unappealing thought. When the wind and rain began I whipped out my trusty umbrella to protect me. I think I actually heard the weather gods laugh at me as the wind quickly turned my umbrella inside out and then furiously pounded the shaft of the umbrella back into its closed position. I've heard that Wellington is the only city where you'll see perfectly good umbrellas tossed into the rubbish bins in disgust.

Luckily Wellington does offer some wonderful indoor activities like the beautiful Te Papa Museum.

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It was in this museum that I learned that New Zealand gets more storms than anywhere else in the world. Somehow that information didn't surprise me when I read it.

( ...to be continued... )

April 22, 2006

A quiet evening

Who knew it would take me so long to sit down and post another entry. I certainly didn't. I've been flat out (as they say) lately. But I have had time for some fun adventures. I've been out dancing a handful of times.

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I got to see one of my favourite bands, Sigur Ros at the gorgeous St. James Theatre.

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I've been able to explore the city some more as well.

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We celebrated Robert's birthday a few days ago with a yummy lunch out and much munching on treats. For those of you who haven't met Robert (my flatmate/travelmate/partner in crime) and are wondering who this mysterious boy is... Well here's a photo of us taken in Hong Kong,

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Robert is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We met, at all places, at Opeongo High School back in scenic Renfrew County. Although we didn't really make friends until we were both living in Toronto. This is actually his second stint as my roommate and we shared a rather breezy and eccentric apartment with our other friend Kelly on College St. back in the T-dot.

Speaking of the old 416. This week I experienced my first bout of Home Sickness. It was the news that my baby niece had taken her first steps and has begun to stand on her own that got to me. It’s hardest to be away from my nieces and nephews. I miss them heaps and they are too young to be able to feel a connection with over the phone. One has to be in the room play Monster or other such games. I've had a couple of dreams lately where I've been able to pop home for a weekend to visit or grab a few things I've forgotten. I wake up in the very firm reality that there is no popping home for a weekend from this distance.

But I am in no way ready to come home. It is lovely here and there is still so much to do! Skiing season is coming up and I'm very excited to head to the South Island to play in the mountains. My first trip to the South Island is coming up shortly. I'll be heading to Christchurch on May 3rd to visit my friend Tanya for five days. Christchurch is known as the Garden City and other travelers have been telling me how beautiful it is. And yes, I do have plans to jump off bridges and out of planes just as soon as I can organize it. One can't move to the adventure capital of the world without risking life and limb at least a few times!

I'm not going to promise to post more often, but I am going to promise to try... As always thanks for reading and thanks for all of the comments. I get excited every time I'm notified of a new comment.

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March 22, 2006

Finally. She posts photos.

It's another gorgeous sunny day in Auckland. They say this is autumn, and certainly the leaves are beginning to turn a brilliant red, but it still feels like summer to me. The nights are beginning to get a little cooler and sometimes the air fills with smell of campfires and outdoor fireplaces. This is certainly the least polluted city I've ever lived in. I love being able to smell the rain that's falling across the habour and seeing buildings crisply and clearly in the deep in the distance. I think I got used to the eternal haze of and pollution of southern Ontario.

So here is my first post with photos. If it all works according to plan you should be able to click on these small images and a pop-up window will show up with the larger version.

The photos below were taken not long after I arrived. I was on the ferry on my way back to city central from the suburb of Devenport.

And I know what you're thinking... "She moved to a city that is almost a replica of Toronto. I mean just look at that faux CN Tower!" When you get upclose you'll see Auckland's Skytower does look quite different.

By the way, it's the tallest building in the southern hemisphere But they cheated a bit by building it on a hill.

Thanks for all of the comments you've been leaving. Its makes me feel a bit more in touch with home.

xo