September 20, 2008

Roo's Land

-Kangaroo crossing sign. North Stradbroke Island, Australia.-

We've spent the last week on the golden coasts of Australia, soaking in the sun and wrestling the waves. North Stradbroke Island, yet another island found by Captain Cook and our favorite of all the coastal regions to date, was a much needed break from our time in the big cities of New Zealand and Australia. We have always loved island life and Stradbroke was no exception. Virtually unknown in the tourism circles the island was laid back and carefree, white-sand beaches as far as the eye could see, small town corner grocers', and friendly folk willing to chat.

-A suspicious little Kookaburra we met along our travels one day.-

Highlights of our island stay included spotting schools of dolphins, narrowly escaping a Great White Shark (well... we were at the right beach but just not in the water), meeting a cute kookaburra, strolling along the empty beaches, wrestling with the waves and playing in the world's most perfect sand.
We are off to Indonesia in a few days... if you don't hear from us, blame it on third-world internet connections. We will keep you posted as best as we can. Cheers!

September 14, 2008

The Rest of Sydney

-Sleeping Koala.-

So, we've seen the world famous Opera House and the magnificent Harbour Bridge. Two major icons scratched off the list. And, while it was great to be able to see the big stuff it was also great to just kick back and take in a little of the local Aussie culture. So for the rest of our week we've been hanging around the Sydney area and trying to get a feel for life in Australia.

-Young fern branches at the botanical gardens.-

We started off the week by getting our heads wrapped around the expanse of the sky and the heavenly bodies that make up the nighttime view in the southern hemisphere. To get a proper perspective we headed to the Sydney Observatory. There we learned about the southern constellations, the native stories which explain how the stars and patterns came to be and a little of how the early explorers used the stars to travel to and from Australia.

-The moon as seen through the observatory telescope.-

Our next endeavor was to better understand the lay of the land, the physical geography of the Sydney region as well as the vegetation. We spent hours just walking around the city enjoying the botanical gardens, sleeping in the lush green grass, admiring the fountains. We spent a day in the beautiful Blue Mountains (a range just west of Sydney) and we hopped on a ferry to check out the surrounding coastline and beaches.

-A view of the Blue Mountains. Although hard to see in this shot the air actually appears blue because of the oil from the Eucalyptus Trees.-

-Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains.-

On our journey we couldn't help but notice the vastly different wildlife. While in Korea we weren't accustomed to seeing wild animals, or animals of any sort for that matter.

-Red Kangaroos.-


One thing that has stood out for both of us since being here has been the presence of living things, other than of the human persuasion. While these animals remind us of home and the wildlife that we all take for granted, they are SO different from anything that we could have imagined. Sometimes the creatures, which are native here, remind me a bit of a creature which would be pictured in a Dr.Suess book.

-White Ibis. Quoted as one of the ugliest birds on the planet.
I, for one, think it's quite cute.-

-Me hanging out with the baby kangaroos.-

-Sea turtle.-

-The Sydney Aquarium was one of Trev's favorite places this week.-

Tomorrow we are jumping on yet another plane and heading on up to Brisbane. And, while we've had a wonderful time in Sydney, we feel like we have a pretty good feel for what it's all about and we're more than happy to be moving on to a new territory. We will keep you all posted on the adventures to come.

September 12, 2008

Down Under

-A night view of the Opera House from across Circular Quay.-

Just to prove that we've actually made it to Australia we thought that we'd post some pictures.

-Standing opposite the Sydney Opera House.-

We arrived in Sydney EARLY Monday morning. It was so early in fact that we just turned right around and went straight back to bed as soon as we got in. Finding a nice place that fit a budget was hard in New Zealand and we quickly found that it was almost impossible here. And so, we're staying in a dodgy little flat. The rent comes in on budget but we've found ourselves cleaning just to stay sane, checking our shoes for the world's deadliest spiders (funnel-web spiders, known to dwell in old apartments within Sydney) and yes, already avoiding the very 'special' owner.

-View from the Harbour Bridge.-

-The historic Harbour Bridge.-

On the positive side, we love Sydney. Once again we are overwhelmed with the active nature of the city and it's citizens. We are loving the abundant park systems as well as the colonial architecture that has a tendency to make Sydney look a little more like London and a little less like the 'outback'. Our shady little flat is located within an easy walking distance of the Sydney Harbour and so the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the massive botanical gardens running through the heart of the city.

-The 'ribs' or support braces for the roof of the world famous Sydney Opera House.-

-The intricate outer-shell of the Opera House.-

-The building on the left is the actual opera hall, the building on the right is the concert hall and in the background, downtown Sydney.-

September 7, 2008

The Deep South

-The Kaikoura mountain range as seen from the Kaikoura Peninsula.-

The last leg of our journey here in New Zealand has taken us from the northern island on down to the southern island. After taking a three hour ferry ride from Wellington across the Cook Straight, we've been amazed at how breathtakingly different the south is from the north.

-Near the old wharf.-

In the south the mountains have a striking resemblance to our Rockies back home in Canada; the water seems to be clear and pure, the grass seems a little more green and lush. In general we much prefer the southern mountainous terrain to that of the more rolling terrain in the north. Trev and I have agreed that when we come back we'd like to spend most, if not all, of our time in the south.

-Sleeping seal. Kaikoura.-

In the past week we've stayed in both the small village of Kaikoura and the mid-sized city of Christchurch. While it was raining and extremely cold in Kaikoura, we still great enjoyed watching the waves crash on the rocky beach and shopping along the quaint down-town street.

-The bell tower of Christchurch Cathedral.-

-The magnificent stained glass windows of the Christchurch Cathedral.-

Christchurch on the other hand offered so much more in the way of history. While our days here have been few, we've greatly enjoyed walking around the beautiful gardens, meandering along the streams and touring through old churches.

-A restored tramway used for seeing the sights of Christchurch.-

September 3, 2008


-The old Observatory in the Wellington Botanical Gardens.-

While being the capital city of New Zealand, Wellington is so much cooler than just that. Wellington for us has been the best stop yet and Wellington is where we've been laying low for the past few days.

-New fern leaves unfolding (The national symbol of New Zealand).-

-The cable car from city center to the Wellington Botanical Gardens.-

So far on our trip we've found the tiny country of New Zealand to be excessively expensive (And that's really saying something coming from two years in Seoul, one of the most expensive cities in the world). So it's here in Wellington that we are really learning what it means to budget. We are staying in hostels every night, the three of us crammed into one room. We're cooking all our own dinners, each person takes a night for a meal and must make the dinner for under 20 New Zealand dollars. We are also looking for free activities to take part in during the days.

-Wellington is a beautiful harbour city.-

-Trev on a crazy Eucalyptus swing on Mt. Victoria, the shooting location of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.-

So far on our three full days in the city we've walked a ton, exploring the city has been a great way to get to know New Zealand and her people. We've explored the mountain, Mt. Victoria, where Peter Jackson did a fair bit of his filming for the Lord of the Rings. I walked all over the mountain thinking of Mom Andrus and Auntie Wanda and wondering how much fun they would be having spying for famous backdrops from their favorite trilogy.

-The federal Parliament buildings.-

-Trev and I after our tantalizing session in parliament.-

Other activities have included a fun filled day sitting in a session of their federal Parliament. We watched Helen Clark, the Prime Minister (yes that's right they have a female leader) try to dig herself out of some scandal.

-Wellington harbour poetry.-

-Jess and I learning about swinging bridges at Te Papa (New Zealand's National Museum).-

We've visited their world famous museum, Te Papa (Our Place), to learn more on the tectonic activity that was responsible for the formation and the on going creation of New Zealand. At the museum we were also taken by the information on the Maori people (the people indigenous to New Zealand), their way of life and their culture that makes them so unique.

-We rode our bikes all the way to Princess Bay, a marine reserve.-

Today we hopped on bikes and followed the coastline as far as our legs could take us. It was a great way to explore the city that was beyond walking distance. While we enjoyed the wind at our backs on the way out, it was hard work peddling against the strong winds of the Cook Straight all the way back to city center and our make-shift home.

-Trev climbing rocks. What else is new?-

-Spring time in New Zealand.-

September 1, 2008

Beyond Auckland

-Champagne Pool (63m wide/65m deep).
Minerals, including gold and silver, seeping out of the ground at Thermal Wonderland. Rotorua, New Zealand.-

After Auckland, we journeyed into the countryside for a taste of what life is really like in New Zealand. We weren't surprised by what we found: sheep in abundance, the same courteous hospitality and more adventure seeking backpackers than you could shake a stick at.

-A hot pool of mud and minerals found at Rotorua city center.-

-Boiling mud heated by molten lava deep underground.-

Rotorua, the geothermic center of New Zealand, was our first stop. Once we got over the fact that the city, the lake and everything in the vicinity smelled of rotten eggs, we were able to enjoy the city for the lovely place that it was. As we walked around the city we were amazed by the sheer number of natural hot pools, boiling mud pots and steam vents. We have never been so aware of the earth's magnificent power as we were when we were there.

-Florescent yellow minerals seeping from the ground.-

-Lady Knox Geyser. Thermal Wonderland.-

Another attraction that caught our attention was the Lady Knox Geyser. While relatively small in size, when compared to the monster geysers of Yellowstone National in America, it was the story behind the discovery of the geyser that peeked our interest. Inmates, who were used to complete deforestation in the area had decided that it would be a good idea to use the hot springs as a bathing/laundering area. However, when soap was dropped down into the cool vats of water below the earth's surface it reduced the water's surface tension in turn causing this cool water to disperse mixing it with the boiling water and in short causing the reaction that you see in the picture above. The first time The Lady Knox erupted due to this form of man-made help it took the prisoners by great surprise.

-Jess and I in an English style phone booth.-

-Trev and I riding the gondola up to the top of the luge run. Rotorua City.-

After exploring and learning we headed out for a bit of fun. The luge run, a racing track from the top of a local mountain, was a great way to burn time. Trev and I had a fantastic time racing each other down the hill. We greatly enjoyed the fresh air, the mountain scenery and driving again (even if it was a little luge).