Saturday, May 9, 2009

We're Back Home

Well after a very long flight and a couple of days trying to get back in the grove of Mountain Standard Time, we're still trying to adjust. I've been going to bed at 3pm and waking up at 9pm and when I do wake up it's still light outside. I'm surprising trying to readjust to driving the America way. I find myself turning onto my street into the left hand lane...don't worry, traffic is very limited and I keep on thinking the turn signals are on the right. Yeah, my windows keep clean with this mistake.

Even though I hated leaving the lands Down Under, it's always good to come home to familiar faces and surrounds. Plus, I don't have to worry anymore about my "accent".

This will be my last entry for this blog, but you can follow me on my regular blog:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day 21 - Auckland 2nd Time Around

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Today we tried out Auckland for the 2nd time, but this time we let someone else do the driving. We took a bus and cruise tour around the city and this time it was much, much, much better! I got to see many wonderful sites this city has. We got to cruise up to Mt. Eden where we got a full 360 degree view of Auckland.

Next stop was the Auckland War Museum, which had a lot more than war memorabilia. Three full floors of wonderful artifacts of the Maori people, the Victorian era and of course the war memorials and me being the sentimental softy couldn't come out of there without a few tears.

Then the fun and fluffy part of the trip. We got to go to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World to interact with penguins. I honestly couldn't believe how big those guys can get! If I could I'd stay there all day to watch them play and swim. We also go to see and experience what it would be like to be an adventure down in Antarctica. I think I'd like to try that out one time...but only one time, just so I could say I lived through it.

We then got to hope on a large ferry and cruise around the harbor. What a ride it was! A major storm was coming in so the waves got a bit rough, so unfortunately we weren't able to go to the island because we couldn't get out that far, but of course once we got almost back to our port the sun came out. Lucky the captain was feeling generous and took us under the harbor bridge and out to the open water. Again, I had hair and clothes saturated in salt water, but I love that feeling. I tell you I was made to be on the water.

Another day has passed on our trip and sad to say it was our last full day on this wild adventure. Tomorrow we depart in the afternoon to make the long trek back home. I'll be very sad to say goodbye to this area of this magnificent world, but I'm so happy will all the memories I get to take back with me. So next time you see me blog, I'll be back home in the good ol' U.S.A.!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Just a little note -
Because of my extremely slow connection here at the hotel, I can not post pictures on my blog, but once I get home I'll add them as well as links to all my pictures I've taken on this trip. That is if you can to see.

Day 20 - Bay of Islands

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I thought I could never see such beautiful scenery and landscapes as I did today! The parents and I got to take a tour bus four hours North to the Bay of Islands, which is the Northern most part of New Zealand and here we got to see the Pacific Ocean and the Tasmanian Sea come together as well as for some of you movie geeks, some of the places where they filmed Lord of the Rings.

The tour's first stop was actually at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where we learned a lot of history about how New Zealand and the British came together to build this great land. Here we also got to see the largest war canoe, which was carved out of two enormous trees. Our guide for this part of our tour, Wil, actually was born and raised on the Treaty Grounds, so he was extremely knowledgeable out the place, plus we got some inside information on what it was like growing up in the area.

Next stop was our 2 1/2 hour cruise across all the islands that lay out in this part of the ocean. I could explain the amazing colors and layout of these islands. I took over 400 pictures of these islands because I didn't want to miss out on anything the land was showing. The highlight of the tour was to cruise to "The Hole in the Rock", a formation of land that has been carved out by years of water erosion. We were lucky that we had great weather so we were able to cruise under it and extremely lucky that our Captain was a great cruiser as he only had about 3 feet on each of the ferry to get us through.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Day 19 - Road to Rotorua

Monday, May 4, 2009

After experience what the night life and driving was like of Auckland, we decided to get the hell out Dodge and go on a relaxing road trip down South. This road lead to many small towns and wonderful scenery that I would image New Zealand to be like.

Our main goal was going to Rotorua, but we made a little side trip to Hamilton. This is a fairly large farming and cattle area, but the reason why we made this side trip was to visit the LDS New Zealand Temple. If you are LDS you know the wonder of these buildings. If you are not LDS (common name is Mormon), that shouldn't stop you from viewing the beauty of the temples. The grounds were wonderful and the temple missionaries that serve there don't live to far from us. Actually, they used to be neighbors to a friend of mine. So to Kristin Barber, you're old neighbors the Hitchins say "Hi".

We then set back on the road to Rotorua where we'd have our Maori experience. Here we took a tour bus to a small village where we got to see and learn about the native Polynesian culture of the Maoris. We had an excellent tour guide, even though she made everyone from different countries to get up and sing a song in their language that is significant to their country. Unlucky us, we were the only Americans on the bus. BTW - we ended up singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and thank goodness many more joined in on the singing. We had so many different representative of countries on the bus... I loved it! We had British, Irish, Aussie, Dutch, Indian, Scottish, Canadians and of course some mainlanders from New Zealand. My only upset was that the British boys didn't sing a Beatles song.

Three hours later on a long drive, we're back to our hotel, but it was a great road trip. The Maori people are beyond remarkable! I highly suggest looking up their history and traditions or better yet make a trip down here to New Zealand to experience it yourself ;-)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Day 18 - Auckland...ARGHHH!

Sunday, May 3, 2009
After a long day of sleeping in, I finally got out to see the city of Auckland. Walking was great! We're right by the city's main attraction, the Sky Tower. This huge tower became my beckon of hope later on at night when I had to drive. There's tons of shops and cafes here, more than any other city I've seen. We spent most of the day at Sky City where the Sky Tower is at as well as planned what we'll be doing for the few days we have here. Again, I know we're not going to have enough time to do everything we want, but whatever we do end up doing is going to be fabulous!

As for the driving, I never thought I'd say this but GIVE ME UTAH DRIVING ANYDAY COMPARED TO THIS! Oh Mylanta, these people are utterly insane when you get them behind the wheel. They double park (and never straight), they U-turn whenever they feel like, even on a major roads with loaded traffic, and they'll stop wherever they want. And don't get me started with the taxi drivers...I even got road rage with one of them. I don't think I have ever been so stressed driving, even in L.A. and Las Vegas the driving is better.

Anyway, besides the driving this place is great. Cold...but great. I didn't know there was going to be such a temperature change from Australia to New Zealand, but did we get a surprise when we got off the plane. I have a friend here who's been a doll helping me out through I.M.s, if it wasn't for him we'd be totally confused.

Off to bed again, to head out early to drive down south. Pray that I make it back home to the hotel tomorrow!

Day 17 - Airports

Saturday, May 2, 2009
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What a day of hurry up and rush! We had a few hours between our hotel check-out time and our flight so we went back to see the Tondoon Botanic Gardens, because it was on the way to the airport and this time my dad was able to join us. It's such a beautiful and relaxing place I could hung up a hammock and stay there all day. We also took a few fun pictures around the area again and this time we even got a "Kangaroo Crossing" sign to show everyone at home that this is a real thing around here.

Traveling from Australia to New Zealand with the out break of swine flu made it an interesting and long process. We had to fill out more forms and answer more questions than another time traveling. Coming through customs, there was a huge area set aside for quarantine and most of it was filled. I was very happy to know that we made it through.

Well, it's 1:30 AM and we're finally here in New Zealand. I think I'm going to go celebrate by sleeping in as late as possible.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Day 16 - Last Day in Gladstone

Friday, May 1, 2009
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Today is the last full day we have here in Gladstone, so how did we celebrate...went back out to Tannum Sands. I love that beach! Today was a bit colder and we had some wind, but that didn't stop the enjoyment of the place. I just played in the sand and surf for hours and for about two hours I sat on the beach and watched parachute surfers. They were so fun to see how fast they could go and all the tricks they could do! I so wanted to go out and join them. It still amazes me how much the Aussies play, they don't worry about staying at all hours at work. Most places here shut down 1/2 day early on Friday so they'd have more relaxtion time. This is something that the U.S. should adapt!

Another thing I did today was take pictures of some random stuff that I wanted for my album when I get back home. Pictures of the hotel, the roads, some of the houses built on stilts here and of the Australian money. My mom and I learned a lesson in how to burn money...literally. The money we have is bent and curled and we wanted to make it look nice and straight, so we thought we'd put some paper on top of it and iron the wrinkles out. Oops! The Australian bills are made of plastic and is very durable, but not when it comes to hot irons. It shriveled up and burned in no time! Yeah, it sucks we lost a small bill in the damage, but we've had a great laugh about it.

The rest of the day has been spent doing laundry, packing and studying up on activities to do while in New Zealand the next few days. It's sad to think that I'm on the tail end of this trip. I don't want to go back home to reality, life as an Aussie is the life to have!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 15 – Barney Point Beach

Thursday, April 30, 2009
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Another day at the beach…yeah it’s a hard life these past few days. The beach we choice today to go to was the beach that we wake up to each morning. It’s not a sandy beach, but it’s filled with lots of small shells and rocks, but that doesn’t matter, what does is that it’s a beach. It’s very nice that the town have blocked off a portion of the water just for swimming, this is because of all the creatures that could cause harm; jellyfish and sharks mostly. I can’t believe how warm the water was again. Perfect for long swims!

After getting too hot from the sun and sand, we thought we’d take a long ride around the town. It’s sad that we only have a couple more days in this small but enjoyable town, so we took a final tour, including going to our favorite restaurant. There so many fun things about this place, especially the little things. For example, the town lies on the Tropic of Capricorn, so you see the Capricorn symbol a lot and of course there’s all the great smelling flowers and the people are so wonderful, even though we’re complete strangers they make you feel at home here.

Day 14 – Tondoon Botanic Gardens

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
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Tondoon Botanic Gardens is yet another amazing place, where there’s several different kinds of gardens and forests found throughout Australia. Our first greeters were not friendly ones as we were attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes, but that’s the only negative thing I could find about this place. The gardens were very quiet, since it’s the off season for tourists and there was a lot of construction going on, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the scenery. We basically had the place to ourselves. For the 2 ½ hours we were there we only ran into one other couple.

The main pond area was filled with several types of water fowl and a few hundred turtles. Those turtles were slow to come to the feeding place, but once they got there they knew how to beg just as well as the ducks. Too many cute faces to say “No” to. We got to walk through different types of rainforests, eco-forests, even some desert land. The best part of our lengthy walk was when we came across a small flock of kookaburras. I got so close to a couple of them if I wanted to, I could have touched them, but those birds have the look of “I’ll play your game, but don’t come any closer”. I got a lot of wonderful pictures just of this place alone, I’m not sure where I’m going to put them all!

One interesting thing that kept on happening was throughout the day, people kept on guess where our accent was from, but no one guessed American. We got Irish, South African and Canadian several times. Anyone that knows me will get a kick out of this: One retailer said that we must be Canadian because we weren’t loud enough to be Americans. I know I’m loud, so I wonder how loud those other Americans are?!?