31 May 2015

Still Alive!

Sorry for the long delay in posts! We are still alive and kicking, we have been busy and our lives full of reading on the beach playing in the waves and assembling camping gear. I assure you a nice juicy post is coming soon!

15 May 2015

A Little Bit of Cairns and Other Things

It is so lovely to be back in Cairns! It was neat to stay once again in the hostel I stayed at before, and to share some of the places I liked here with Angie as I never really had anyone to share them with before. 

That is the central courtyard of the hostel. We have done so much walking here, much much more than we usually would do back home. Much of it has been up and down the esplanade, the park/walkway that goes the entire length of the city along the seashore. It is about 2.5km from one end to the other and filled with lots of green areas, birds, trees, volleyball courts and much more.

When we were staying in the hostel we made it a habit of going for big long walks early in the morning before it got hot. It is gorgeous to see all the colors of the light as the sun comes up.

I thought I would also post a couple pictures from Rangitoto in New Zealand.

It was an amazing hike up and then kinda just a long walk back to the boat, but still very very worth it. Auckland is in a gorgeous place in the world and we long to go back to New Zealand to explore the rest of the country!

Back to Cairns. A couple of mornings ago we went on an early morning hike with the friend we are staying with. She had to go to uni so we left before 6. The hike is to a place called Glacier Rock, and it starts at the bottom of the escarpment and then goes up. Very up. I think it is about 300 something meters up. It was a beautiful time of day to do it as it was nice and cool. The view from the top was just stunning. I think it took almost two hours to get up there. We enjoyed a nice breakfast of quiche at the top.

At the top Angie found this skink and it was very patient in posing for a nice little photo-shoot.

 Anyhow, today is another day. It rained this morning and a bit last night which is unseasonable, but very welcome as the wet season was rather dry. It looks to be clearing off now tho which is nice!

14 May 2015

A little post from Angie

Hello! So I haven't posted in a while; I've let Graham take over a bit. I have been on a bit of a sensory overload with all of the amazing things to see and smell and touch! This is a beautiful country.
I write this post from a friends place (which by the way has no window glass in most rooms: only screens and wooden louvers) and there is a baby gecko on the roof above my head! It is about an inch and a half long and incredibly cute!! The animals and birds are so different here. Kookaburra laughter woke me up this morning and I was surprised to find myself laughing along with them. I'm not sure Graham appreciated it as it was 530am, but I couldn't help it. They sounded so funny!

I get the feeling that this post will have a lot of exclamation points in it... you've been warned!

Backing up a little bit, I have been meaning to write a post about Rangitoto, the volcanic island that we climbed in New Zealand. It was amazing! Rangitoto is (outsourcing here from wikipedia) 5.5km wide, 260m (850ft) high, and only about 550 years old!! BABY VOLCANO! It was amazing.
We took a little ferry out to the island and, looking back, we could see Auckland. It's quite an amazing city.

We climbed straight up along 'Summit Track' from 'Rangitoto Wharf' where our ferry dropped us off. The hike wasn't necessarily a difficult one but Graham and I were pretty wore out from the last couple of days so we trudged perhaps more slowly than we normally would have. It was beautiful though. We went through several distinct biozones (not the right use of the word but you get what I'm saying). There were HUGE scoria piles and rubble and I cannot imagine how they made any roads at all on the island. These areas had hardy looking trees and fern filled underbrush. Further up there were very tropical looking plants, moss, vines, etc.
Rangitoto Island. Notice the locations Rangitoto Wharf, Summit Track, Summit Road, Islington Bay Road

From the top we initially had the most amazing view: Nothing. We were in clouds. We could see absolutely nothing that was beyond 20m. We asked a couple that had beat us up the volcano if they had seen the view yet and they said that every few mintues the cloud would shift and you could see the city. We waited and hydrated and eventually the clouds lifted! Worth the wait! It was the most stunning view of Auckland I'd ever seen. 360 degree view around the entire area as well.

Panorama at the top of Rangitoto

You could look back and see the caldera. It was beautifully round and a long ways down. We walked around the caldera and then decided to take the boardwalk to the road (Summit Road and Islington Bay Road on the map). We detoured to the lava caves path but we didn't bring a torch (which is Kiwi for flashlight hehe) so could only go a short way inside of them. It was amazing to see though. Our biggest mistake was taking the entire road back down. It was long, uneventful and, frankly, a little boring. I recommend taking the 'Summit Track' both ways ;)

Me after the hike up Summit Track. Feeling good and alive :)

H'ok, now I want to talk about Australia!!! (Image shamelessly stolen from google images)

Where to begin...
We are in Cairns... it's hot though people are saying it's almost Winter. The shops have sweaters in them. AND PARKAS. What?!
The animals are really really cool here! There are colorful and chatty birds, strange lizards and geckos, beautiful tropical plants, and everyone is friendly.
We stayed in a hostel for the first three nights here and walked every morning to the Cairns Esplanade. This is easily categorized in my brain as one of my favourite places so far. I especially love the metal fishes!

Metal Fishies at Cairns Esplanade :)

I was disappointed to find out that we couldn't swim in the ocean from the esplanade though... Crocodiles frequent the area and the water honestly doesn't look as clear as I would like anyways. From an outside perspective though (as in, outside the water) the water is extremely interesting! There are little puffer fish swimming near the shore and on the waters edge there are Ibis and strange Stork-like birds.
Two puffer fishes in the ocean at the Cairns Esplanade 
Other small fish swim in schools as well, but they are all brown! For some reason my romantic brain was expecting to immediately see the bright tropical fish that adorn reefs in pictures on the internet... It's not really how it works though. I'm more than satisfied with the little pool that was at the esplanade though; it's beautifully blue and has a sandy bottom and the metal fish are pretty cool :)

Topic change!

We are looking into getting a car... But it's difficult. Cars here come with insurance and registration. This means that the license plate stays with the car. It's a bit weird... you also have to do a road worthiness test anytime you want to sell the car? At least that's what my understanding of the situation is... Graham will be the one to write more about it.
We figure we want a station wagon... There are cars here that I've never heard of and some of them are quite funny. Trucks aren't really a thing here. At least not the same kind of style of trucks. They are MUCH smaller here and some of them are more like cars (they're called Utes). Most jeep-like vehicles have snorkels and it doesn't look at all ridiculous here like it does in Canada!

As I'm on the topic of things that are different... The coins here are HUGE. Except the $2 coins which are tiny. 50 cent coins are the biggest and they're heavy. We try to get rid of our coins whenever we get the chance.
For scale: The nickle is the same size as our dime, the $2 is the same size as a penny.
The 50 cent coin is roughly half the size of our known universe.

Another topic change!

I wouldn't say that I'm afraid of them... I would say that I think that a lot of them are cute! I wouldn't shy away from holding a tarantula. If someone was afraid of a spider, I would pick it up and put it outside. I was the go-to spider mover. I like spiders :)


Oh. My. Stars.

Wrong wrong wrong.

They are scary.
They are big.
I think that they are all incredibly poisonous and capable of killing an elephant in a seconds.

A switch flipped in my brain and I am terrified of them. All of them.

I mentally prepared myself before coming here to see Huntsman Spider, which are big somewhat non-venomous spiders that I convinced myself where just fine and cool. I had conversations with people about how cool I thought they were and how I wouldn't be afraid of them :)

Definitely not my hand. 
Hah. Yeah right. Nope.

You'll be pleased to know that I was reduced to a screamy scribbly little girl at the sight of one. I made high pitched whines. It was awful.

But it's not all scary... I promise? I've probably only seen a grand total of about 12 spiders and only probably 4 different types? Probably none of them were poisonous... well.. maybe one of them? It appears to be a density problem. Yes, a lot of spiders are poisonous here. But there aren't many spiders.

So far.

10 May 2015

The First Big Post!

Though we only had two days in New Zealand, it feels like we were there for much longer.
Since leaving the the Victoria, we have travelled very far, and are currently on a plane
from Auckland to Cairns.

It has been a whirlwind of travelling. We went to Courtenay for a few days for a lovely
visit with my parents. We went up island line astern in our cars, all loaded down with the
last of our things. We posted a video of unloading them a little bit ago. In all we stored
about 14 apple boxes in the attic.

Thank for letting us keep our stuff there!!

We did a litle bit of poking around in town, and going out to some favorite spots of mine
for a last little visit. We went to Kye Bay and Angie saved a fish. I am sure she will
write about it.

We were there for three days but it felt like no time at all before we hopped in Angies car
and headed down island once again to catch the ferry out of Nanaimo for Vancouver. For me
that is when it felt like we were really starting our adventure, but for Angie it just felt
like we were heading home.

It was a beautiful day for a boat ride and once in Vancouver we had a quick, if long
overdue visit with my aunt, which was a very nice way to start off the drive. It is about
five hours from Vancouver to Vernon. First the highway goes through the lower mainland and
is quite flat and straint, but soon it winds its way up first on the Coquehalla then on the
Okanagan Connector. Both are spectacular roads, and a lot of fun to drive even in a heavy
full car.

We Spent an evening at Angies dads place, then spent the first two nights at her moms
place. As her dad had to leave on the second third day we were there, we stayed at his
place that night before heading back to her moms for the last night.

It was a great visit full of meeting grand parents, uncles, and friends, and we didnt
really have much downtime the whole three or four days. What free time we did have was
spent enjoying the view out over the valley from Angies moms house. It is spectacular.
It was eventually time to leave on wednesday morning. We stopped at Tim Hortons one last
time on the way down just to top off our Canadian-ness. At the airport we checked our one
bag and spent a while watching planes from the observation lounge with Angies mom.
Eventually it was time to say goodbye and head through security.

A nice short flight later, we were in Vancouver. Angies mom watched us take off and got a
picture of the plane leaving! The weather in Vancouver was very nice when we landed and as
we had a long seven hour layover we went into the city to use up my H+M gift card from
christmas (thanks mom!). I got a couple pairs of shorts that are quite nice.

We sat and people watched for a bit before a chilly wind came up and eventually pre-empted
rush hour and headed back to the airport. The Vancouver International Terminal has always
been one of my favorite, and there are lots of nice quiet places to relax for a few hours
as we did. This was our big bird before we boarded.

The flight was long. Quite long. It was all in darkness except the first half hour or so as
the sun set, giving us one last look at Vancouver Island and Victoria. It was a gorgeous

There was a while in the middle of the night when an almost full moon was up that lit up
the wide open Pacific and the clouds thousands of feet below. It was gorgeous. Other than
that it was a couple movies, supper and bed for us, before waking up for breakfast at about
3am nz time just a couple hours before landing.

Walking out into the light rain from the terminal was magical. The warm air and rain felt
so good after the plane. Even though it was dark and 5am, we felt refreshed. Angie was a
bit teary from all the joy and happiness of landing in a strange and wonderful place with
beautiful different smelling air. The car rental place we were using was a bit of a hike
away, and did not open until seven. That was no matter as it was a lovely walk with nice
drizzle and waking up birds.

We sat outside the car place for a bit until it opened, then jumped in the car as soon as
it opened. Let me tell you, getting into a car on the opposite side of the road, in the
rain, in a city you dont know, at the beginning of rush hour is quite the experience.
Luckily it was all fine, and where we needed to go was sort of skirting the city.
We were headed for the Waitakere Ranges and the scenic coastline around Piha. The first
attempt at parking was a parellel park, but that was not going to happen, so we found a
parking lot and shared some breaky in the Hardware Cafe. Ironically we had a bagel with
salmon and cream cheese...

The first stop along Scenic Drive was the visitor center. It has a viewpoint, but we could
really not see very far as it was very cloudy and rainy. We had a little walk thought the
bush, very different from anything we had ever seen (Can anyone say tree fern?).
It was nice that pretty quickly I could settle into driving even though it was raining the
road was nice and empty. We saw a roadkill we identified later as possum. It was
alternating pouring and drizzleing, and that kinda affected some of the viewpoints, but it
was great to have the whole place to ourselves.

Piha was a charming little place. We had a run around on the beach, and a coffee in the
cafe before heading down a narrow winding little road to the next community over called
Karekare. There we ate lunch...white bread with ham/chicken prepared lunch meat.
Surprisingly good.

It was really chucking it down by that point and after a quick run out as far as we could
towards the beach we retreated to the car for a change of clothes.

We went back to the visitor centre as we had not been able to go in before as it was not
yet open, and we leared a little about some of the things we had seen. The next stop was
One Tree Hill, close to the centre of Auckland. It is a park, and there are lots of
sheepies, though they were all huddled to avoid the once again pouring rain.

This is where the driving got stressful. We had the car for that night and the next day,
and we had a hostel booked downtown. Slowly and cautiously we made our way downtown, trying
to figure out weird traffic things on the fly. Auckland is not a nice place to drive around
in right downtown. Very stressy. We found the hostel with minimum of searching, and I ran
in to ask for a cheap place to park. After navigating to it, it was full...

After ending up going straight up a hill the car could barely manage, we pulled over and
re-assesed. We ended up deciding to return the car early, as we really didnt think we would
be using it much more.

Check in complete and after a shower, both of us felt more human, and we ended up going out
for a nice walk around the city a bit. It is quite a busy city with lots seeming to be
going on downtown. We were a bit pooped though, and we decided to go to bed pretty early as
we were planning on going to Rangitoto early the next morning.

I will let Angie do all the talking about that. But here we are now, a bit over halfway to
Cairns when I was writing this, on a plane again. It looks like it is going to be a beauty
of a day in Cairns when we arrive. More from there!