Thursday, April 9, 2009

last post...coming soon!

well we're back, and after any long holiday, there is lots of life organization to do which makes things like blogs a low priority. check back in a few weeks (hopefully!), or at least after aimee's D-day as we'll both have time to fill you in on our adventures in NZ's wonderful south island, and of course, we'll include a post-trip wrap-up...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Where's Aimee?"

because we all love them so much...

warning, some of these are VERY hard...

North Island, New Zealand

Hello from New Zealand! Home of Kiwis (aka New Zealanders), the kiwi bird (NZ’s national symbol), kiwifruit, Lord of the Rings, bungy jumping and other adrenalin sports, and Flight of the Conchords, where flip-flops are called jangles and hiking is called tramping, where people greet you with “Hiya!” and use the expression “sweet as” or “choice” instead of “great” or “cool”. And just like Canadians hate being compared to Americans, don’t liken a Kiwi to an Aussie…

We began our adventure on the north island (NZ consists of north and south islands, in case you didn’t know) about one week ago when we flew into Auckland. We decided to skip the hustle and bustle of the big city (for now) and drove to the coastal town of Raglan. Raglan, rugged and wildly beautiful, is NZ’s premier surf haven for beginners and experts alike and also where the movie The Endless Summer was filmed. Coming off of three consecutive days of great surfing in Australia, Chris was keen to test out NZ’s west coast surf.

From Raglan we headed south to Waitamo, known for its stunning limestone creations, underground streams, and glowworm grottos. We had lots of fun exploring the glowworm-lit caverns of the Waitomo caves by inner tube. The glowworm is actually not a worm at all, but the larva of a fly and what glows is the worm’s waste product – bet you didn’t know that!

From Waitomo we headed further south to Tongariro National Park in order to complete what is known as one of the top 10 day hikes in the world - the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, an 18km, 6-8 hour day hike (or tramp) including a cold mountain spring, lava flows, an active volcanic crater, steam vents, emerald-coloured lakes, and magnificent views. Because of both its powerful beauty and enormous cultural significance to the Maori, NZ’s indigenous peoples, Tongariro National Park is one of only a handful of sites in the world to be given dual World Heritage Status.

Did you know that Tongariro doubled as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy? But we didn't see any eyes...

Despite the weather calling for rain and intermittent periods of “fine” weather (that means sunny here), we awoke early the morning of the hike to a bright sun and blue skies. Thank God! But, had it rained, we would have been (sort of?) prepared. The night before Chris fashioned some plastic ponchos out of garbage bags...again, thank God it was sunny so that we didn’t have to wear them…

see what we mean…

Here’s a helpful hiking tidbit - if you’re planning a long hike, coat your feet with antiperspirant for a few days before the big day and then the day of – it reduces sweating, and therefore, blisters.

Sore and tired the next day, we drove to Tokannu and indulged in some hot thermal pool soaking and did more of the same in Rotorua, a hotbed of geothermal activity, where geyers spray, ponds glow, and thermal spas and gurgling mud pools relax and reinvigorate. And it stinks like sulphur.

Apparently Rotorua is also the mountain bike capital of NZ, so Chris indulged in a downhill escapade on a $10,000 rental bike (Intense 6.6, in case you’re curious, Greg).

Today we find ourselves in Tauranga, the east coast of the north island and in the beautiful Bay of Plenty. We had what is likely our last beach day of this trip as the south island (where we head to tomorrow after the day in Auckland) is a lot colder - highs of 15-20 degrees.

OK, don’t hate us right now, we’ll be right there with you in the snow and rain in a week and a half…)…

We fly out to Christchurch tomorrow night…more from the south island next week.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

the last oz

this is our last post from beautiful australia where we've enjoyed 6.5 amazing weeks!
tomorrow we depart for new zealand and we'll be sure to share what we find through this blog...

here are some images from the beautiful blue mountains where, after much waiting, the fog cleared and we enjoyed views of the 3 sisters...

enjoying the beaches of northern new south wales...

don't worry, it's not the s-word...just some friendly dolphins

where's chris? level of difficulty: easy to moderate

Happy Birthday Shout-outS!

we're sending 2 happy birthday shout-outs to our nephew, Austin, who turns 10 today - double digits - whoohoo and our niece, Emma, who turns 9 tomorrow!!!

happy birthday you two!

love you lots & see you soon!


sailing the whitsundays and GREAT BARRIER REEF!

on a whim while in melbourne, we booked a once-of-a-lifetime trip to the great barrier reef, and we are so glad that we did!

we left sydney last tuesday and flew to airlie beach, queensland where our boat, the Anaconda III, was waiting to take us on a 3 day/3 night sailing trip of the whitsunday islands including diving/snorkeling on the outer reef of the great barrier reef!

on tuesday evening we were greeted by our friendly crew with champagne and set out for a nighttime cruise to our first destination. some little known facts about life on a sailboat:
1. No bananas allowed; they are bad luck on boats.
2. Showers are to be one minute per person per day or we have to go back to shore.
3. Seasickness gets scored on a) colour b) distance c) taking others down with you.

while there were some definite rough patches, and in aimee's case, some definite rough patches, both of us managed to keep our stomach contents in our stomachs in spite of some rough (well maybe not that rough) seas.

over the 3 days, our itinerary included:

a visit to beautiful whitehaven beach though our visit came with rain, we still enjoyed the delicate, white sand, in fact, the whitest in the world as it is composed of 99% silica.

since the weather was crappy near shore, we left the rainy islands behind and sailed into the coral sea, where it was sunny, for our first dive/snorkel at the great barrier reef. the first dive was at sunset and the marine life was astounding. while aimee stuck to snorkeling, chris did his first scuba dive and enjoyed it.

chris riding the tender back to the boat after his first dive.

where's aimee? (level of difficulty = extremely easy)

who knew sailing a 101 ft boat would be so easy?

the great barrier reef in the background...

i was told there would be no work...

Monday, March 9, 2009

A little bit of everything...

Here are some images from our final day in Western Australia where we ventured to the spooky Pinnacles, a spread of limestone columns up to 3m high which were originally formed underground and have since been exhumed from the sands. See if you can spot Aimee among some of the Pinnacles...

Later that evening, we continued on to Kangaroo Point where we experienced the most beautiful sunset and were joined by a kangaroo mum and her baby (in pouch!), while a dolphin swam in the distance! The only things missing were a unicorn, rainbow, and fairy dust - it was that magical!

We left the remoteness of WA and returned to the east coast to enjoy 4 days in beautiful Melbourne. Despite the cool and rainy conditions, we walked and walked and walked and explored and shopped and drank lots of wonderful coffee and shopped some more and bought some art.

Apparently you have to work for your art in Melbourne...

On a rainy Sunday back in Sydney and reunited with Jason and Ziggy, we headed to Luna Park to get in touch with our inner children and enjoy the carnival...

More general silliness...