30 November 2008
I have also set up and registered for my courses today. Not much choice so far, I'm afraid. Everyone goes through the same cattle shute. But at least things are in motion for the semester.
26 November 2008
We took our time around Wellington. We viewed a traveling exhibit on Leonardo Da Vinci's machines, the Parliment grounds, and the Weta cave, where Weta workshop is set up to receive tourists. We also saw Old St Paul's, a totally wooden structure church from the 1800's, famous for its stained glass. Rob has uploaded some pics, I think.
Nov 24& 25
We had a tour of the inside of the NZ Parliment, and stopped along a beach to look around. The wind was gusting fast enough to knock us off our feet! We had lunch at "The Backbencher" a pub across from the government buildings, where each dish was named for a politician. Then we ran for the airport, and boarded the 4 hr flight to Brisbane. One of the inflight movies was "Black Sheep", one of the corniest horror movies ever! Aparently, it's a kiwi cult classic. After an uneventful flight, we landed in a hot country (28oC)! We picked up our car and a new mobile phone, and headed for our hotel. It was a Best Western, which we have gift cards for- but it was the cheapest looking expensive place I've ever stayed! For haf the price, we booked the next three nights at a backpacker hostel, called simply "Bunk". It's not bad, but it makes me feel a little old at the moment. The majority of people here are late teens and early 20's, and heavily into drinking and partying. Definitely NOT my scene. At least our room is quiet, and we have a private bathroom. And the other neat thing is that you have no idea what language you might hear around you next. People for all over the world are here!
We viewed a few places to rent, and one of them definitely stood out. It is designated a heritage building, and has beautiful plaster mouldings, antique doorknobs and 10 ft ceilings. And they will allow me to have a cat! We put in an application, and wait for approval. In the evening, we went to the movies and saw the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. A very enjoyable evening. What is strange is that alcohol is everywhere, and many people took martinis into the theatre!
We found out that we are approved for the place!! So, the mailing address will be #2, 9 MacLauchlan Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD, Australia 4006. We viewed 2 other places today as well, and one didn't allow pets, and the other had holes in the floor and hordes of ants roaming the place. I think I'll stick with what we've got. Thanks God!
We also began looking at furniture, and found the Brisbane Ikea. Same stuff! We are going to have to do some serious measuring, though, because this place is tiny!
22 November 2008
Today was a bit more low key. Rob did the schweeb track, and ended up finishing as the 6th best Canadian ever. After checking out the ostriches adjacent to the track, we meandered around the thermal pools in town and watched the bubbling mud. There is a foot soak pool in the park, so we joined others from Colorado, France and Vancouver enjoying the warm water. The weather is like mid-May in Canada, which can still be rather cool. Barb D was short on warm clothes, so we stopped off and she picked up another pair of jeans. After lunch and a siesta, we toured around the lake, watched the swans and ducks. Then we window shopped downtown, after most things had closed. It works out well this way, as there really isn’t room in the luggage for anything else. After supper, we repacked our stuff and headed for bed.
Rob woke up at 3 this morning, and had to tell himself to get back to sleep. He was just so excited about the helicopter experience we were about to have. We got up and packed the car early and headed to the Helipro site at Te Puia. We were picked up by our guides, Terry and Jay, and took off in a van through the countryside, with Terry explaining what we were looking at. He is a retired instructor from the Technical college at Rotorua, and does guiding for fun. The best kind! At the outskirts of Mt. Tarawera, we met up with a group of 16 Americans to hike the crater. The mountain had blown itself to bits in 1886, and left a huge hole, which we followed the scree into. It is somewhat like a controlled fall, with the rocks sliding around your feet up to the ankles. Luckily, the brake is your butt. If anything goes wrong, all you have to do is sit down. Which we all did, repeatedly. It was a perfect, sunny day- only a NZ hawk wheeling around to indicate any life in the crater beyond ourselves. Rob, Barb and I climbed out of the crater to meet our helicopter and pilot, Luke (The Americans were jealous). It flew around several peaks, and a few beautifully aquamarine lakes that steamed at 80oC. How much energy must that take to boil a whole lake??!! We then continued the flight over Rotorua, and then landed. A very cool experience. Barb and I had never flown in a chopper before. We then wandered back into town for Fish and Chips. Then we hit the Gondola/Luge ride. It was a blast to skid down the mountain. After being chairlifted back to the summit with our rides, we just relaxed and watched the world go by. Eventually we got back to the car and made tracks for Waitomo. I got a chance to drive- making the same windshield wiper mistake, and doing my best to quit hugging the outside line. This is important, as there are no shoulders in places. We mad it to Waitomo, and found a lovely cottage/campsite. We ordered a pizza, enough for supper and the next day’s breakfast. We happened to catch some traditional Maori dancing in TV. The girls are expert at looking fierce, which usually entails bugging out the eyes and jutting out the jaw. Hmmm.
After breakfast, we went to tour the famous Waitomo caves. They are limestone formations carved through by a river, with beautiful pillars and stalactites. The highlight was the glowworms. They use a luciferase based reaction to produce a bluish light. They use the light to attract insects that have been brought in by the river. The bugs are trapped in sticky lines the glowworms put down from their spun hammocks, and subsequently eaten. The worms line the darkened cave like a galaxy, and you float underneath them in black silence. Amazing! We also explored the Aranui cave and were allowed to take pictures in this one. They should be up in the photo site. Again, it was time to hit the road, and we headed for Stratford. They have the only Glockenspiel in NZ, which plays the story of Romeo and Juliet. It seems funny, but we HAD to see Statford, NZ, because we had already been through Stratford, Ontario and Stratford, England. This just adds to the list. (By the way, there is also more than one Stratford, AU) We are also in the shadow of Mt Taranaki, which serves as a movie stand in for Mt. Fuji on more than one occasion. We had a pub dinner and retired back to the motel. We got some laundry done, and played a bit of pool. Nice day!
Today we started with watching a movie and packing. Then we hunted down some pancakes and headed into the mists shrouding Mt Taranaki. The wind was high and cold. We thought a hike would be impossible, but once we got into the bush, it was quite pleasant. We walked to Dawson Falls, which was beautiful. We then got back in the car and headed for Wellington. On the way, Rob found an MR2 for us to sit in. We like the car a lot, and now that we know that we fit in it, it’s definitely a possibility for our next car! Once into our hotel for the night, we ACTUALLY got working internet, and called all sets of parents. It was good to talk to them.
18 November 2008
So far….so good. So GOOD!!
We had an uneventful flight, and thanks to a sleeping med, I missed about 10 hours of it. Barb D and Rob watched movies all night. Who thought who was losing out is still up for debate. After landing, we picked up our car, which can actually handle most of the luggage. The funniest part is that the control stalks are on the opposite sides as in North America. Every time Rob motioned to hit the turn signal, the wipers went off. It just became more humorous with repetition. Then we began the exploration. We drove to the top of Mt Eden and walked around the humongous crater that’s left from the last volcanic eruption. We drove around in downtown Auckland, which actually bears a striking resemblance to downtown Vancouver. By then, the lack of sleep was starting to slow down my comrades, so we found a parking lot (Burger King) and had a nap. After waking, we decided to get out of the city and headed North, to Puhoi, where we found “the Art of Cheese”. It’s an artisan cheese factory and café. It had a beautiful garden to stroll, and the temperature was perfect for just hanging out among the daisies. So we did. We also HAD to sample the pineapple and passionfruit cheesecakes, and take away a block of Havarti. A good decision! On the way back to the hotel, we also stopped at a random beach to dip our toes in the water and enjoy the warm sand. The beach was smooth and practically pebble free. It was instead practically paved with seashells of all descriptions. By this time we could check into our room, so we headed back into town. We all got cleaned up and teeth brushed (Hallelujah! Teeth should not be fuzzy) and sank into our beds. The evening alarm we set had no effect, and so we slept until the birds woke us the next morning.
I got up first and went for a coffee. I accidentally had some of the more complete buffet. Ooops. Rob and Barb were a bit slower to rise. We grabbed some crackers to go with the cheese acquired the day before for their breakfast, and then we went to Kelly Tarleton’s Antarctic Adventure and Underwater World. Undoubtedly, the best animals were the stingrays and the penguins. The rays were huge and you could watch them from above or below the water. They also had tunnels for people to walk under the aquarium with the sharks. After this, we cruised around Mission Bay and on to Parnell Road (it resembles Whyte Ave). After this, we made tracks for Rotorua. The GPS took us on an unexpected but scenic tour. The rain continued to phase in and out. At Katikati, we stopped to view the murals and buy fruit at a fruit stand (avocados, kiwifruit and asparagus are in season right now). As we got closer to Rotorua, we began to search out a place to stay the night. One very lovely B&B wanted $180.00 per night, per two people! We backed down the driveway and kept looking. Further along, we found a quaint place called Hideaway Lodge that only charged $65 per night, with $5 for breakfast. Good deal. Karen, the owner, gave lots of good advice and snagged us some discounts on the things we wanted to see. A very satisfying day.
We had breakfast early and headed to Kiwi Experience. This is a conservation program helping the Brown Kiwi battle back from extinction. The workers remove the egg from the nest (where it has been incubated by the male), and artificially finish incubating it. The egg is about the size of an emu egg, and actually weighs more than the mother does! When the eggs hatch, the Kiwi chicks are raised on a high nutrient diet and microchipped for later tracking. They are taught to forage for themselves, and eventually released at the same site that their egg had been laid. The program has resulted in a jump in survival rates from 5% to 85% for chicks. We got to see a chick being weighed (so adorable), and 3 adults in separate enclosures. The handlers have reversed the day/night cycle for these 3, so that they are active while people are visiting (they are normally nocturnal). Unfortunately, no pics are allowed, you’ll just have to visit there yourself. They are so cute, and a lot bigger than I had pictured them. They are about the size of a fuzzy football with a head. Hits a 10 on my Neat-O scale.
We then headed to the Agrodome to see the Sheep Show. A very humorous fellow described all the breeds found in NZ, and then sheared a sheep to show how it’s done. Once the sheep was on its back with a leg held between the shearer’s knee, it didn’t make a peep of protest or struggle. Apparently the average shearer makes $1.50 per sheep, and the record is over 700 sheep shaved in 9 hrs. Yikes! They went on to do a milking demonstration. Rob tried to volunteer Barb D, and instead got picked himself! Needless to say, he milked like a pro and received a “certificate of Udderance”. Lastly, they put on a herding demonstration with NZ sheep dogs and ducks, and then taught more volunteers to feed lambs.
This display was followed by Zorbing. In this case, you enter a 5 foot space inside an 11 foot hamster ball along with 20 L of water. You then go rolling down a zig zag course down the hillside until you hit a slope with a fence. Only in NZ!! It’s described as a cross between a waterslide and a rollercoaster. What a hoot! Barb D did it in her jeans, as she hadn’t brought her suit along today. Rob declined, preferring to wait for the “Schweeb”, a bike powered monorail. We returned to the motel exhilarated and soggy. After cleaning up, we headed back into town to collect supper from the grocery store and relax for the evening.
The only problem with this whole trip has been definite lack of internet, or not strong enough signal to be of any use. That means no Vonage so far, and my parents are likely to be ready to kill me due to lack of letting them know I’m OK. Sorry, mom.
OK, the other issue is being mistaken for Americans. The Kiwis can’t tell our accents apart, and just assume. However, they all apologize when we mention we’re from Canada, as they are often mistaken for Aussies abroad, and feel a similar resentment for it. No offence to any Aussies or Americans. We just know that we are distinct even though we’re similar.
14 November 2008
We are all packed, 350 lbs of luggage. Gah. If one of us doen't develop a hernia or at least bulging biceps, I would be surprised. The flight from Edmonton leaves at 2:20 this afternoon, and the flight fromVancouver leaves at 6:30 pm. Then it's 14 hours of flying time to Auckland, NZ. I'm hoping the sleeping meds will provide the necessary leave of absence from consciousness. Last night we had one last farewell with some friends at the Outback steakhouse. Last chance for Alberta beef. Yum.
The next post will be from the other side of the planet. Sayonara!