Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Addy & Shell's Adventures in NZ

For three months (May-July) I traveled around the North Island in New Zealand. For the first month I traveled with Michelle (a dear friend from Australia). This time was marked with spontaneity, silly antics, tears and laughter! A broad smile comes to my face as I remember the trouble we got into and caused!

At first we rented a car and planned on making it all the way down to Christchurch in only 2.5 weeks... Clearly, something was off with our planning! This trip eventually extended to 4 week, where we stayed on the North Island and were in each place on average for about 5 days.

The trip started off with us heading north of Aucland to Northland, which is a super magical place. There we visited the Kaori forest and spent some time at a cozy hostel in Paihia.

That's where we discovered the Ngawha Hot Springs, which in our opinion were the best in New Zealand! They are about a 20 min drive from Paihia on Hwy 12. Seriously, it blew us away! For only 4$ you had access to about 20 wooden pools with different minerals that were thick, colourful, and piped in straight from underground. It was the wild-west of sulfur experiences. (It must be noted that this falls on the opposite spectrum of the luxury spa experience. It is mainly locals that visit and the word 'rustic' comes to mind. Perfect really.)

Lake Taupo is the largest fresh water lake in Oceana and is the caldera of a huge volcanic explosion! I certainly picked a good day to kayak - as you can see the volcanic mountains of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro. Normally there is at least some cloud blocking their view in the winter.

This is the carving of Ngatoroirangi that is located on the cliffs of Lake Taupo. This carving was relatively recently done (I remember being told that it was 20 years old, but wikipedia says 1979. Wikipedia is probably right.) and is certainly very impressive.

Above is a thermal river in Taupo. You can see the steam rising if you look closely.

This is a picture taken in the Redwoods forest near Rotorua. It was one of my favourite places to go and get lost in... there's just something special about that place.

Here is Michelle repacking her bags on the way to that airport. It's a great mystery how she managed to make that international flight - considering we showed up at the airport 30 mins before it was due to leave!!

Bye Michelle - until the next adventure!

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Koala Sanctuary - Brisbane

Last year Jen came in a surprise visit to Oz - it was great!! we managed to hang out for a few days before I went home for Christmas (where I got to see her again a few weeks later!)

One of the best things we did in her visit was hit up the Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. It was amazing the animals that we saw and were able to get close to! The sanctuary is really well run and is well worth a visit!

Tender moments with a Koala... This one was 2 years old :)

Here I am with a baby alligator.... yikes!

I'm trying to LOOK comfortable. But who am I kidding, there was no chance of me BEING comfortable after them saying that it could attack me if I moved too fast.

Yet here Jen is... HOLDING it like a pro!!

Jen and the Kangaroo :)

In all my time in Brisbane, I never went to the Australia Zoo... but I don't regret it. I would however have regretted missing out on this sanctuary if I didn't get to visit!

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The Blue Mountains - more pics of Oz... (ops!)

Ops! I just saw that I had a few more pics from Oz that I forgot to add :) ... and one more post on the Koala Sanctuary!
These pics are taken at the Blue Mountains which is only a few hours out of Sydney.

Pretty Sunset

The Three Sisters

Here I am in front of the Three Sisters.

Speaking of children...

This sign was posted in the bathroom at a quaint little cafe in the Blue Mountains. At first we thought they were joking... but then an eyebrow was raised when our server was a 5 year old boy. Further suspicion was raised when the cooks were between the ages of 4-10, all from different parents. But the owner pointed to the happy, childless couples quickly driving away and said: "Now, do those look like the faces of parents who are missing their children?"

This is a picture of one of Ragnar's birds that would come every morning to eat his scrumptious selection of bird feed. The really cool thing is that Ragnar lives in Sydney and THIS is the kind of bird that is just hanging out!! Certainly not what we'd see back in Toronto!!

The best was when a BIG magpie (which is black and white) came and threatened to take the seeds from the rainbow lorikeets. It was a symbolic battle between good (the rainbow lorikeet, with a diverse range of colours) and bad (the magpie, with only the narrow perspective of concrete 'black and white thinking'). The magpie towered over the little colourful birds and we were concerned that this battle was going to end in disappointment for our friends. But this little dude above stood firm and picked up one foot as if to push the schoolyard bully. There was some ruffling of feathers, and at the end of the day, the rainbow warriors were victorious!

One point for the good side.

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Goodbye to Oz :(

I lived in Oz for about 1.5 years and it was a really great period of my life! Funny enough, I barely took out my camera. But maybe in some ways that's better because at the time I was more interested in living the moment, rather than recording it.

It seems that the only pictures I have are at the end of my stay when we all hit the town for An Evening of Elegant Mischief and my last night were some of us got together at Claire's house.

There are more of these pictures up on facebook, but here are a few to get a flavor of the evening!

Dinner time!!

Everyone looking pretty!

Ahh, the gorgeous ladies from Consulting!!

Clearly things are starting to get messy by our third location...

Above is Adam doing something with his hands... Could that possibly be the symbol for 'I got kicked out?' This was our 4th of 5 locations for the epic night. What time was it, about 5-something in the morning? Adam, Lisa, Sophie and I kept going until 7-8am... it was just 'one of those nights' i guess!

Of course, the 'big night out' happened 3 weeks before I left... which was great because it freed up my last night for a gentle get-together with friends!

A lovely evening where a bunch of us got together to say goodbye...

Clare, Ali and I on my last night in Oz... miss you girls!!

It is with a grab bag of joy and sadness that I recall these times that came to an end in early May 2009. So why did I leave? Simple: I knew in my heart that it was time to pack up my bags and once again bound forward into the unknown peaks and valleys that life has on offer. It's been a sometimes rough road forward, and sometimes I question whether it's in fact backward, but overall I have learned a lot about myself and the world around me in the process. I would not trade these gifts for anything.

Samoa - New Years 2009!

(Seeing that it's December 2009 already, I am clearly behind in posting on this blog! So I'm going to do a quick recap of the last year)

After spending Christmas 2008 at home in Canada, I found a sweet deal that would let me stop over in Samoa and NZ on the way back to work in Oz. Of course, Samoa is not a typical place for single travelers to go as pretty much every tourist there is on a honeymoon or romantic getaway. But on the flip side, when the locals learn that you're on your own, they are so amazingly warm and loving and invite you into their homes. It was one of the most hospitable places I have ever been to!

Here the sun is rising over the pacific, the view from my beach fale on January 1, 2009.

This is the local bus... notorious for its limited personal space. What, with people piled two or three high on each others' laps, and an assortment of animals (like chickens) there isn't much choice but to become very friendly with your neighbors!

This is a typical store that would be by the side of the road. To the right you can see the family's house.

Stunning... I know...

Uluru and Aboriginal tools

In August 2008, I was fortunate enough to visit the stunningly beautiful area around Uluru, in the heart of Australia, for the second time. This magical week was spent camping out bush with an incredible group of women. The pictures shown here are taken on the first day of our gathering, before we entered our camp.

This is Uluru at a distance... we were told that Uluru formed in the most unusual way. Please forgive me for not remembering which end is older, but the geologists have determined that what we now see of Uluru is a mountain that has fallen over on its side! Apparently, geologists can see the layers of the earth's crust when they go from one end to the other.

The sun rises and sun sets were simply out of this world... There is something special about the endless outback sky that makes you believe in the genuine 'glowyness' of the world!

This bowl was used by the women for gathering food. They would cut out an oval piece of bark from a tree that was just large enough to make their bowl, but not kill the tree. As you can see by the one on my head, there is a decorative pattern in it. This pattern was burned into the wood.
Above shows what the tree looks like when a bowl has been cut out. This one is clearly very large!
The picture shows what the Aboriginals used to use for hunting. You hold it by making sure that the shorter part of the stick faces down, and you place your right pointer finger at the tip (where the woman has her finger) and make a crevice with the rest of your hand for it to fit into. It is tricky because you have find a good balance between a firm and loose grip for it to stay up, have direction, yet be able to let go without changing that direction.

Ideally, you are to throw it in one smooth motion from back to front. This is in an ideal world. Unfortunately, we live in no such place. Maybe with more practice, and if our meal depended on it, one of us would have eventually figured it out!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Big Trees, Big reasons to care! (Mt. Warning)

One B-I-G Tree!! (and one tiny person!)

funny thing is that this is actually not just one tree... it's really an old tree that over roughly 80 years has had another vine/tree (called a strangler) slowly and surely strangle and kill it. The vines keep growing DOWN towards the ground and will spread roots once they hit the soil. When the old tree dies, the center becomes hollow. that's why the tree has such an interesting texture and shape!

okay - so confession time... i know that i returned to australia with the intention to work with the environment and to try to do something to protect all of the beautiful places that i've been fortunate enough to experience in these last few years... but somewhere between sorting out my australian visa and rearranging my life (yet again) i lost touch with the passion behind that decision.

just before i took this picture, i had a 'moment' with nature... by this i mean that my full blown love for everything beautiful and wild suddenly struck me and i was filled with a inspiration. (i think a tear or two may have even come to my eyes.) all i knew in this moment was that this place felt too alive and too good to be apathetic about! that forests like this are being cut down all over the world every day. surely, THIS is worth 'fighting' for!

that's why the above picture made it onto my blog... because it reminds me of why i care.

The Funnel Web Spider's 'funnel web'

they are some of the most deadly spiders in australia... (i think? or maybe that's just what they tell tourists to scare them!) but it certainly isn't comforting to see these webs lurking about!

nothing much to say here except... isn't it lovely?!

Above is what the warning sign on mount warning called the 'vertical scramble to the top'. it most certainly was. but it wasn't really that bad because there were easy enough groves to put your feet into and there was a chain if all else failed.
above is the view from the top of Mt. Warning... after the 'vertical scramble'... unfortunately i don't have pics of the other things (mainly animals) that we saw at the top - like the HUGE snake in a tree or the HUGE wild turkeys running rampant up there!

below is Mt Warning from our hostel (the YHA in Murwillumbah - SUCH a great place to stay!! HIGHLY recommended!) the peak we went up is the pointy bit in the distance on the right. it was only about 4 hours return.

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Stradbroke Island

So it's been another long while since I posted anything... and I've done quite a bit in that time! These are pictures from Straddie Island, which is an amazing little oasis just off the coast of Brisbane.

I had no idea what to expect before I went there, because I caught a ride with someone VERY last minute. (he was running late and litterally gave me 2 mins to pack - and if you know me you know that it was impressive that I reassembled my exploded bag in that time!) But sometimes it's best not to know anything about where you are going because then you can be pleasantly surprised!

I REALLY love this island and find it hard to believe that it is so close to a major city because it hasn't lost it's small island feel. Ironically, it was less touristy than Fraser Island! The beaches had good sand and weren't crowded!

I should also note that I haven't been in the picture taking mood while in Australia, but despite that and the fact that my camera was acting up, this island was inspiring enough to take a few shots! (please ignore the slanted horizons... that's from laziness on my part!)

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fraser Island

Welcome to Fraser Island!!
...the island with incredible white sand dunes and beaches, crystal clear rivers and lakes, and amazing rain forests... what more could you want in an island?

here are some of the great people that i met on Fraser Island... such a great group!

Below is a picture taken from the air of the sand dunes... the sand is always blowing inland slowly covering the rain forest. this is part of a natural cycle and the forest will grow back eventually.

The whole island is made up of sand dunes which the forest grows in! This pic shows how the sand dunes slowly takes over the forest.

this is a pic taken on our last day - we visited a lot of places to swim, but as you can see, you didn't need to jump in the lake to get wet! eventually, i gave up on trying to keep my clothes dry and would put them on straight after swimming without drying off. it really didn't matter!

here i am after floating down the river on my back. this is shamu who i borrowed for a picture. playing with my underwater camera. sadly, after this trip, i got some sand in the seal and i'm scared of putting it under water!
This is me and Macarena exfoliating our skin... the sand on the inland lake was insanely fine!

ship wreck...

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