Saturday, December 19

Start spreading the news

So, on Monday a client finally decided that my boss and I were needed in NYC on Wednesday. Of course, this was after weeks of on-again off-again plans. But, hey, it was a trip to New York, so I wasn’t too upset. My boss had never been to New York, so we did some sightseeing Tuesday night. We went up the Empire State Building – something I haven’t done since I was just out of high school, so 5 years ago? :-) Then we walked through Times Square and on up to Rockefeller Center. I love New York at Christmas time.

It was a good thing we did some sightseeing on Tuesday because Wednesday night we went to dinner with clients and Thursday night I wasn’t feeling well (came down with a cold, darn it - maybe it was all that walking around).

Monday, November 2

A whole new me

So, after months (and months) of thinking about it, I finally just bit the bullet. You never realize how long your hair is until you see it on the floor, right? I like it, though...

Wednesday, October 21

Alas, no Hugh Jackman sightings

So, Sunday was my last day in Australia. In true tourist fashion, I bought an all-day ticket for those red, open-air tour buses. As gorgeous as the weather was on Saturday, it was just that rainy on Sunday. But, since it was my only day left, what can you do? Of course, at the end of the afternoon the sky cleared.

I still can’t believe I was fortunate enough to visit both Australia and New Zealand – two places on my list of “must sees.” Check!

View from Sydney Tower

Town Hall

Hyde Park

Harbour Bridge

Darling Harbour

Bondi Beach

Roof of Opera House

Sunday, October 18

The “non-politically correct” tour

So, I left New Zealand on Friday – it’s amazing how quickly these last three weeks have gone by. Amazing. Anyway, since I left New Zealand on Friday, that means I arrived in Sydney, Australia on Friday. When I was first planning this trip, I was thinking, you know, that New Zealand and Australia were close to each other – like a 90-minute flight or something. Uh huh, right. Try 4+ hours. I’m not kidding.

Last week, as I was trying to figure out what to do while in Sydney, I found a “Top 10 things to do…” list online. One of the things mentioned was visiting the Blue Mountains. I thought about renting a car and driving out there (it’s about 2+ hours from Sydney), but never did get around to renting one. But then, when I checked into my hotel, right there at the reception desk was a list of things you could book through the hotel – one being a guided tour of the Blue Mountains, leaving directly from the hotel. OK, sign me up. We left at 7:30 Saturday morning and it was FANTASTIC! The guide was hilarious and informative – emphasis on hilarious. Well worth the money. I would recommend it to everyone. But, I digress. About 20 minutes into the tour Rob (aka Oi Boy, or tour guide) asked us (there were 10 of us total – 9 Canadians and me) whether we wanted the politically correct tour, or the non-politically correct tour. Which do you think we chose? I’ll give you a hint – did I mention that Rob was hilarious? We started at a Wildlife reserve where we got to pet Koala bears and Wombats (did you know that Wambats aren't bats?), pet and feed Kangaroos (or were they Wallabies – I can’t be sure), and see other native Australian wildlife. It was really cool. I even saw a dingo, but it did not eat my baby.

You can't really tell, but the kangaroo (wallaby?) is licking my arm - so cute

See the little joey?

We fed the kangaroos food in ice cream cones - those were edible, too

Again, you can't really tell, but the kangaroo is "holding" my hand with its paw - not wanting me to take the food away, I guess

After the Wildlife reserve we drove up into the Blue Mountains (named such because the evaporating oil from the eucalyptus trees gives off a blue hue). Gorgeous!! Of course Rob kept telling us that these mountains were nothing like the Canadian or Utah mountains we were used to, but he admonished us to never laugh about the size of a guys mountains, so I ooh’ed and ah’ed in all the right places. But really, it was gorgeous!

One thing about doing a tour like this by yourself is that, sometimes, other people in the tour take it upon themselves to “adopt” you. There were two couples from Alberta who adopted me. They were really cute. Everyone offered to take my picture for me, hike with me, etc. It was very nice of them.

We saw this kangaroo in the wild - no feeding or petting this one. I guess they can be pretty vicious.

The Three Sisters in the background

The Three Sisters

The tour took about 10.5 hours. After getting back to Sydney, I walked to Darling Harbour and had a delicious dinner at an Indian restaurant, Zaffron. Food is really expensive here, by the way. I bought a bottle of water and a snack bar to take on the tour with me for $7+ (I converted it to U.S. dollars, so, yes, that’s $7!).

A couple of random bits of knowledge I learned today from Rob (there were lots of them, but these two are most interesting):

1. It’s totally legal for bicyclists to ride on the freeways – wish that had been the case when I was on my mission in France…
2. The kangaroo and emu, of all the native Australian animals, appear on the Australian coat of arms because they are the only animals that cannot walk backwards, so the coat of arms signifies “always moving forward.”

I thought they were interesting bits, anyway…

Monday, October 12

And Now for Something Completely Different

So, last weekend I visited glorious beaches and mountainous coasts. This weekend, not so much. That’s not to say that what I saw wasn’t glorious – I didn’t mean to give that impression. It’s just that what I saw this weekend was, well, something completely different.

I flew to a town on the North Island called Rotorua. Sadly, I couldn’t arrange any flights on Friday that a. left late enough in the afternoon or b. were still relatively inexpensive, so I flew out early Saturday morning and flew back to Wellington Sunday afternoon (which, due to a “crippling computer fault”, turned out to be Sunday evening). Flying out Saturday was actually OK because I got to go to the pub with my co-worker and some blokes from the site here in Wellington (it was Fahad’s last evening in town after a nine week stay). I was quite happy to sit and visit drinking my Diet Coke (which I switched for a lime and soda later on in the evening) while everyone around me had their beer (and other drinks). I was asked a few times if I was offended hanging out with people who were drinking. First of all, I wouldn’t have been there if I was offended or uncomfortable. Secondly, should I be offended? I mean, just because they drink doesn’t mean I have to drink, and just because I choose not to drink doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t be drinking either, right? I’ll admit, though, as the conversation became more and more slurred (and sometimes incoherent what with drunk people AND the accents), it was quite amusing for me to be the sober person. BTW, the weather on Friday and Saturday was horrific – rain, cold wind, brrr… I thought it was supposed to be summertime around here.

Anywho, after arriving in Rotorua, I was picked up by a shuttle bus to take me to Wai-O-Tapu (a geothermal wonderland). I took a nice walk. Yes, there was hiking involved. There was even a part of the walk that said it was "very active", but I chose to do it, and at least this time I went in eyes open. It was absolutely amazing – totally different to what I saw last weekend, but nonetheless amazing. Everyone at NZPA kept warning me about the smell of Rotorua (sulphur). Yes, there was a smell, but it wasn’t as bad as everyone (except Fahad) led me to believe.

That night, after a quick nap in my hotel room (I was up late on Friday being the designated “walker” back to the hotel, and had an early flight on Saturday), I was picked up by another shuttle and taken to a Maori Village for a performance and dinner. Kind of reminded me of the PCC in Hawaii. It was really cool, but by the end of the evening, however, I was so cool (LOL) that I was ready to be taken back to the hotel. Met a nice couple from Sydney (nope, didn’t meet up with the folks from last weekend) and we had a nice visit.

Food for our Hangi

Just a little side note, next time I’m in NZ, I’m just going to bite the bullet and rent a car – my friends from the UK drive in the States without a problem, most of the time, so why shouldn’t I be OK driving on the other side of the road? I’m just going to do it.

Turns out, my hotel in Rotorua was next to the Polynesian Spa, so I figured… why not? I soaked in the hot springs and then had a massage (and mud) treatment. Ah, so relaxing (except for the “disposable g-string” they gave me – ARGH).

Lake Rotorua

Tuesday, October 6

Walk - Addendum

I was reprimanded for not having any pictures of myself from Abel Tasman. Since I was by myself, they were all self-portraits (and thus, way too close up), but I'll post some anyway. YIKES!