Saturday, November 9, 2013

Halloween, Farewell Ceremony, Dolphin Cruise, Nobbies Lighthouse

Last week was Halloween.  We went to a party at another house of Americans and dressed up as Despicable Me minions.  Then on Halloween some of our new Australian friends that Audrie found and my Australian friend Bessie from IRHR came over for a small party.  This time we dressed up as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I was Dopey.

Despicable Me Minions

Apartment 4 Picture


Tim and Lindsey 


Friday afternoon we went to the farewell ceremony for International Students.  This was a bit long, but we got a certificate and heard a pretty cool African drummer at the end.  It is really sad to think that we are leaving soon.

On Saturday the group went with Rayna and Jason on a Dolphin Watch in Nelson's Bay. Nelson's Bay was gorgeous and filled with street vendors along the bay.  I wish we had time to come back just to explore the bay. It was nice being able to see dolphins in clear, unpolluted water. The boat had a boom net on the back of the boat that we road on on the way back from seeing the dolphins.  The water rushing back from the boat was a bit rough at times so you had to hold on tight to the net.

 After going on the dolphin tour we went tobogganing down a big hill.

Replica of the Track

On Sunday, I went to the beach with Audrie.  We were going to swim in the ocean pools/baths, but the water was really cold.  Instead we walked across the breakpath to Nobbies Lighthouse.  On our way back from the lighthouse, we got caught in some really high winds that blew sand everywhere.  The sand hurt and made it hard to keep our eyes open to see.  The wind, also, pushed us around and made it hard to walk straight.

Kombi Van

View from the walk to the lighthouse.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sydney Aquarium, Taronga Zoo, and Whale Watching

A couple of weekends ago we went to Sydney to go to the aquarium, Taronga Zoo, and whale watching.  We ended up having to stay in Coogee beach because all of the hostels were full or really scary with bad reviews in Sydney.  I did not want to get mugged, raped, bitten by spiders, or electrocuted from wires hanging down in the shower.  Our hostel at Coogee Beach turned out to be pretty nice and near a beautiful beach.  I wish we would have had some time to enjoy the beach. 

We had heard that the aquarium was lame, but it was really cool.  We had decided to go anyways because there was a Groupon for the aquarium for $16.  It is normally about $36. I have been to quite a few aquariums, but I saw some things I do not remember seeing before.  These include the Japanese Spider Crab and the Upside Down Jellyfish Shown below.

They had a Little Fairy Penguin Exhibit.

Upside Down Jelly Fish

Japanese Spider Crab

Cultured Great Barrier Reef Exhibit

The next morning we all went to the Taronga Zoo.  We did this on a Sunday so we would only have to pay the Sunday Funday price of $2.50 to take the ferry.  The ferry ride was pretty short and one of the fastest small ferries I have been on.  The zoo was filled with even more exotic organisms than the aquarium.  Half of the zoo is the Australian walk-a-bout with Australian animals.  We saw a platypus, wombats, and many different opossums native to Australia. A lot of the Australian animals were nocturnal so we were not able to use flash to take the pictures.  The other exhibits in the half of the zoo too were animals that I am not sure if I have ever seen before either. The zoo, also, had gorgeous views of the Sydney Harbor, Opera House, and Bridge. Going to a zoo in another country made for some new experiences.

Short Beaked Echidna

Tasmanian Devil

Different Penguins of the World

Little Fairy Penguin Swimming

Fennec Fox


View of City from Taronga Zoo

After the zoo we met up with Caroline and James, and went on a whale watching cruise that we bought a Groupon for.  The cruise was through the Merimbula Marina.  The crew was really nice and helpful so I recommend it. However, a lot of people on the cruise got sea sick due to being on a small boat and the rocking from the waves.  The crew did come around checking on everyone.  We saw a few pods of graceful Humpback Whales.  They blew out huge amounts of water from their blow holes.

Sweet As New Zealand

I know that this is super late but I have been sick and busy with classes. This post is about about my super amazing and awesome Spring Break Trip to New Zealand.
Day 1
             -We flew into Auckland through JetStar
                -We ate at Wendy’s that night.  Australia has an ice cream chain called Wendy's but not the hamburger chain.

Day 2
                -We took our first Naked Bus trip to Hahei
                - We were welcomed at Tatahi Lodge

                -That night it rained and stormed super super hard.  I feel like NZ has some very rough tropical weather at times

Day 3
-          We were driven to Hot Water Beach by one of the lovely owners of Tatahi Lodge.  At Hot Water Beach we dug our own hot tub with the shovel we borrowed from the lodge.  You can only do this during low tide.  The water can be super hot.  Here I tested out my new super cool underwater camera.  It passed the underwater test.

Chilling in our hot tub hole.

Day 4
-          We woke up early and went on a Cathedral Cove Kayaking Tour.  I was scared at first because I had never been kayaking before and was about to go in the ocean.  I loved it.  We kayaked in double kayaks. Caroline was my partner.  Our kayak’s steering broke on our way back to shore so our guide helped us catch up with Brittany and Kate.  Then we created a sail with a tarp the guide had in his pack and sailed in.  On our sailing trip we saw a penguin.
-          Then we barely made the Naked Bus and made our way to Hamilton for the night.
-          Hamilton was small and boring.  We stayed in one of our most expensive hostels and it was not nice at all. 

These did not keep us dry.

Amazing kayaking team.

Our sail

Cathedral Cove


Day 5
-          We left early on the Nakedbus in the morning to go to Waitomo to tour the Ruakari cave and the Waitomo Caves.  The Ruakari Cave had a cool stairwell and a lot of big stalagmites and stalactites.  If you damaged the cave you could be fined $10,000.  This scared us a bit and made us cautious.  Our guide had a bad sense of humor that scared the children and had us walk through pitch black darkness.  Even though our guide was not cool, it was a pretty cool experience.  We then took a tour of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.  We had a great guide for this one.  I cannot believe how the guides are the ones who pull the boat through the cave.  The glowworms made the cave super gorgeous.  I am sad we were not allowed to take pictures. 
-          We then left Waitomo for Rotorua.  Once arriving to Rotorua the bus driver thankfully drove us to the Four Canoes Hotel/ Hostel because it was pouring down rain and a 15 minute walk away.  We were so excited when we go to our room to learn that we did not have bunk beds and 3 twin size beds and one double.  We, also, to Caroline’s delight had a chair. 

Day 6
-          Melissa, Kate, Audrie, Chloe, and Sam arrived in Rotorua to meet up with us.
-          We all went and on a tour to Hobbiton or the set of the Hobbit, the addition to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The other movies were shot here too, but the sets were torn down after each movie. We saw both the 60 and 90 scale Hobbit Holes.  We learned that vegetables are grown and kept daily on set.  Everything is so miniature and small.  We got to go inside of one of the Hobbit Holes.  At the end of the tour we got to enjoy a drink at the Green Dragon.

Throwing up what we know underneath the party tree.

Green Dragon!

Drinking my drink inside the green dragon.

Day 7
-          Early in the morning we headed to Taupo.
-          Our hostel Taupo Urban Retreat was pretty awesome. The Hostel hooked us up with  $30 sailing cruise, a $69 transfer to Tongariro National Park, and a $5 chili con carne dinner.
-          That afternoon we went on our Barbary Sailing Maori Rock Carving Cruise.  Sailing was not as smooth as I expected.  We had to press our feet hard against the rails so as to not to fall overboard because the boat would dip far down towards the ocean as the sails blew in the wind.  We bounced over 2 meter waves.  When near the carvings we got into some double waves where the boat rocked from side to side.  I was a bit scared, but it was pretty fun.    I highly recommend taking this cruise.

Day 8
-          The next day we woke up at 5 AM to see if the weather was going to allow us to go to Tongariro National Park.  The weather was good enough for the trip to go on.  I did not expect to get to go because many companies I called before leaving New Zealand still considered it the winter season and were not taking people to the park.
-          This hike was one of the scariest things I have ever done.  Thankfully Melissa helped me through it.  We saw beautiful amazing sights.  Below is an overview of what I felt 19.4km Alpine Crossing Hike was like.
o   The Car Park to Soda Springs- relatively easy like it says except for this patch where you have to climb up rocks.
o   Soda Springs to South Crater- It’s a difficult long trek like the map said.  It, also, can be the cause of a lot of wheezing if you have a cold/ bronchitis. 
o   South Crater to Red Crater- This is rated difficult and is very scary.  It was very windy, you were on the side of a cliff, and the ground was a bit lose and not solid.  It said you may have to crawl so I took this precaution and did a few times.
o   Red Crater to Emerald Lakes/ Blue Lake- It said it was easy but it was the scariest part.  You were going down a steep hill of lose rock and ash.  I tried sliding down on my butt, but then it got to rocky.  This nice Israeli lady let me borrow one her walking sticks. 
o   Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut- It said that this one was easy too.  There were some possible life or death situation.  We had to cross over patches of snow where if you fell wrong you would go tumbling down the mountain.  I of course fell a couple of times but thankfully did not go tumbling down the mountain. 
o   Ketetahi Hut to Car Park- This one was actually easy like it said.  It was very long though especially when you have a new blister on the bottom of your toe the size of your toe and are going straight down hill.
-          After the long hike, we stayed up till 2AM at the Taupo Urban Retreat to wait for our night bus in to Wellington.  Taupo Urban Retreat was nice enough to let us shower for free.

Blue Lake

Mount Doom

The scary hill to go down.

Emerald Pools

Day 9
-          We arrived in Wellington in barely enough time to catch our ferry to the South Island.  The ferry was actually pretty efficient and quick.  Once we arrived to the South Island we got off the ferry and we transported on bus to our luggage. Then another bus took us to where other bus pickups were.  Here we caught our next NakedBus to Nelson.
-          Nelson was a pretty nice place.  I got to finally wash my molding clothes at the backpackers.  Most of the activities we did they ended up soaked or damp.  I had never gotten them to fully dry.  That night we split two humongous pizzas..

Day 10
-          In the morning we caught the bus to head to Fox Glacier.  It was a long ride.
-          The bus driver stopped at a Jade factory.  I got a Paua shell embedded in a fern charm necklace.  I felt this represented NZ really well.  I, also, got some cool painted rocks done by an artisan in the factory.
-          On our way to Fox Glacier we learned that there had been a landslide and the bus would not be running to Queenstown the next day.  I liked Naked Bus until they left us hanging after the landslide.  At first I was mad that they did not just take back roads and go around.  There actually are not any.

Day 11
-          We did the Fox Trot Fox Glacier hike in the morning. Fox Glacier is the only glacier in the New Zealand that you can access without having to take a helicopter ride. This was super cool.  I cannot believe how far the glacier has moved throughout the years.  It has moved a lot just since 2008.  The rocks where the glacier has moved is prone to many rock slides.  Our guide, Kat, pointed out that rocks with red lichen have not moved in two years.  The tour supplied us with jackets, backpacks, boots, and crampons.  Right before going down to the glacier we put our crampons on the bottom of our boots.  You had to step high and straight down to get the crampons to stick well into the ice.  We got to see a mula hole in the glacier, walk in-between walls of ice, and eat a bit of the glacier.
-          Since the road was still closed and it was not looking like we were going to get to go home.  We took a shuttle to Lake Matheson. It was really pretty but a bit hazy.    We had met someone in Nelson who went when it wasn’t hazy.  There pictures looked like they came from a postcard.  It is best to go at sunset or sunrise.
-          When getting back to the hostel after the lake, I learned that MaMaw died.  This was not a shock, but a bit harder than expected. I did not find out till a few hours later because my cell phone did not have reception on the glacier.  

What our the girl we met picture looked like.

I just thought these cows were cute.

Day 12
-          Today we took an $86 dollar Intercity Bus/ Atomic Shuttle trip to Christchurch.  We decided to cut our losses and miss Queenstown.  We had a flight out of Christchurch in a couple of days.
-          On the way to Christchurch we stopped at a place where we got to see a Kiwi.  The price was discounted because we were on the bus.  The kiwi was about the size of a watermelon and ran around really fast.  He was so funny looking and cool.
-          We, also, stopped at the Bushman’s Café which was this very country bumpkin café.  It had a very interesting sense of humor and decorations.
-      We, also, went through Arthur's Pass which was gorgeous.  We stopped at this one place and saw a Kea bird which is native to NZ.
-          We finally made it to Christchurch to settle in to Kiwi Backpackers.   We played heads up, a game we learned about in Taupo, and met a lot of cool people.

1 of 10 in New Zealand


Kea Bird

Day 13
-          Today we switched hostels after a long walk to Around the World Backpackers.  We went the wrong way for about 10 minutes.  On the walk we saw a lot of earthquake damage.
-          After taking another 45 minute walk to find a McDonald’s, we went to the Christchurch Museum.  This museum was free and filled with many interesting exhibits.  My favorite exhibits were the mummy exhibit, earthquake exhibit, penguin types exhibit, and the Arctic Exhibit.
-          We returned to the hostel for free pizza.  At this hostel we made a lot of friends too.  Many were workers who came to Christchurch to work to repair the city from the earthquake damage.

Day 14
-          This morning we left for the airport early so that I would be able to Skype during MaMaw’s funeral.  I am very glad I got to do this.  I am very thankful for my friends for leaving over an hour early and supporting me.  The group even got me a card. My second family helped me a lot through this.
-          We arrived in Auckland, ate a bite to eat, and took the Nakedbus to the Bay of Islands.
-          That afternoon we booked a tour of the islands for the next morning and received a free ferry pass to Russell where we ate at a pretty cool pub.  I sort of wish though we would have ate on the Pahia side.  the Pahia side has more restaurants and shops.

Day 15
-          We went on a boat tour of the Bay of Islands.  We saw many cool sights including various islands, The Hole in the Rock, and New Zealand Fur Seals.
-          After our tour we grabbed some take-a-way and ate out on the beach.
-          Then we boarded our last bus and went back to Auckland to meet up with Sara, Shauni, Marcus, and James. 

Hole in Rock

NZ Fur Seal

Day 16
-          Today we just shopped before our flight back to Australia.

Websites from the Places I Enjoyed Staying and the Activities I Recommend Doing