Thursday, June 22, 2006

Well, now that we're back and I've posted about Australia I can tell you what's been happening lately. PI is job hunting, we've been working on getting the pics down to a number that ppl will watch, meeting ppl for dinner whom we haven't seen in months, etc. Also, Tues the 13th was convocation. I'm now officially graduated :)

We've also looked at a hall for the wedding and booked the church for next Aug 11.

Happy Father's day to my dad and PI's. Also to Granddad and all other dads out there. We went to F's for the usual B side family party and that was fun.
May 26 - Today we left for Sydney. J drove us into town to meet A and S and they started us on our drive south. We were going to climb Mt. Warning but, because of our late start and the fact that we got lost, we ended up not having enough time. Instead, we found a busk tucker stall and had more fun w/ local food. We tried a fruit that, when you eat it, tastes like an entire fruit salad. We also had more finger limes. These ones were much bigger than the ones we had at the resteraunt. Rather than eating the whole thing we cracked them open. Inside were little green capsules that looked a lot like cavier. When you pop them b/w your teeth you get a burst of lemon/lime flavour. They're yummy. We also found Budah's hand. As if it didn't LOOK weird enough, unlike most fruit, apparently you only eat the skin.

We stopped at Springbrook National Park where we walked through some rain forest and saw a natural bridge that was formed by water eroding part of the roof of a cave and leaving a section in tact across the waterfall. It was really beautiful there.

We stopped in a few more places along the way that looked pretty. Saw a lot of kookaburras and a couple of kangaroos by the side of the road. The tourist trails there are...interesting to drive at the speed suggested on the signs. A lot of them aren't paved or maintained and whenever a bridge is necessary it looks as if the bridge was built then they tried to link them up with roads and missed. There is often a very tight turn onto and off of a bridge which is difficult to manage in a station wagon going about 80 km/h. We stopped again in Nimbin, the home of Mardi Grass. It is, essentially, a stoner town. A was stopped on the way into town by police doing brethalizer tests. Apparently they just do that every now and then...especially around Nimbin. In Nimbin we got asked about 8 times if we wanted a joint/cookie/brownie/other laced item and we were only there for about an hr! We also stopped in the Hippi Museum. They have a room that has tons of old fashioned egg beaters hanging from the ceiling. Everything else in the museum was similarily random and strange.

We stopped in Byron Bay for the evening at what turned out to be a very noisy hostle.

May 27 - This morning we rented a car (ouch, 1 way costs!) and started our drive to Sydney. Once PI got a handle on the fact that they drive on the other side of the road things were pretty much ok. He never quite got used to the idea that the windshield wipers and the turn signals were on opposite sides, however, and we went around several round abouts and corners w/ the windshield wipers on. We had a very clean windshield when we arrived in Sydney. We stopped briefly in Hungry Head and Hat Head National Parks b/c they had funny names. We ended up in Raymond Terrace for the evening at a Best Western where the only thing they had left was a spa room. After a VERY luxurious bath we went to bed.

May 28 - We arrived in Sydney just before noon and dropped the car off at the air port. From there we took a shuttle bus to the City Central YHA which was really nice. They gave us some directions and we walked around Sydney for the rest of the day. We went down to the harbour to have a look at the bridge and the Opera House. We also took a tour of the Opera House which was more informative and fun than I thought it was going to be.

We took the train back to the centre of town and then the monorail in a circle just so we could say we'd taken the public transit. The train in particular was a lot of fun. It's a lot like the GO Train here, but their seats can be flipped so you're facing someone, or not, as you choose. We took a video of it 'cause it was so neat. The train's also 2 stories like the GO. The monorail had a commentary about the city as you drove around it.

May 29 - We decided that, given we only had 1 day left in Sydney the best money value was to take a tour into the Blue Mountains. The first stop on the bus tour was at Featherdale. While this was a significantly less impressive zoo than any of the places we'd seen with J and j there was still stuff we hadn't seen. They had an albino peacock and wallabies and we both got to hold a tawney frog mouth and a kookaburra. There were also some birds we hadn't seen in other places. Later stops included Gulver's Leap, Echo Point and the Three Sisters, Scenic World where we went on a cable car across the valley, the steepest rail way in the world down the mountain, and a different cable car back across the valley. All of the views were spectacular and the pictures really don't give them justice.

We then stopped to look at the Boar's Head, then drove to Leura where we stopped in the candy store and Josaphine's. On the drive back to the ferry dock to take a boat back to Sydney we stopped at the Olympic Park to have a look at a couple of the building there. It was dark though, so we didn't see as much as I'd have liked to.

May 30 - 31 - We left Sydney this morning on Air Newzealand to Aukland. I watched My Family and Other Animals and Casinova on the plane at some point b/w Sydney and LA. The food was, as usual, nummy. We arrived in LA before we left Aukland b/c of the date line. There was a 7-8 hr lay over in LA which we both could have done w/o. LAX is not a pleasant place to spend any length of time and there wasn't really any good/inexpensive place to eat. We arrived back in Toronto at about 6:30 am and PI's parents picked us up and brought us some food since we'd emptied the fridge before we left (which was much appreciated).
May 23 - Today we went to Australia Zoo. While I don't like the Crocodile Hunter, he has an amazing zoo! The animals are really well looked after there. More than I've seen in any other zoo. While we were there we spent some time w/ a cockatoo, pet a wombat, pet kangaroos, fed elephants, and saw a snake show, bird show, 2 tiger shows, and a crocodile show. The most amazing animal they had there, though, was Harriet. She's the oldest living animal in captivity. She came to Australia with Darwin and is now about 175 yrs old! Harriet is a giant Galapagos land tortise.

May 24 - Today we went down to the beech to watch the pelicans being fed. I became somewhat obsessed w/ pelicans while we were in Australia. They're so BIG!!!

We later walked along the beech and played w/ the shells and looked for other small animals. We found some inhabited shells and watched them, more pelicans, and some very small water snakes, but no crabs.

We also got our photos from the underwater dive developed. While we were picking them up we noticed another dive shop in the same mall. They had much better, reusable underwater cameras on sale. We got one w/ a choral flash which should improve the colours in our photos by quite a bit.

May 25 - Today we went to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. This was definitely one of my favourite things on the trip. You get to feed lorikeets which are a local species of parrot. They live in the protected land in and around the sanctuary and, when it's feeding time, come in flocks to eat practically out of your hand. The staff give you a plate of a whey like product and they land on it, on your hands, arms, head, anywhere they can to try and get a drink.

We also held bearded dragons, a baby crocodile, pet more kangaroos, and a possum.

There were a lot more shows to see and we watched the bird show, snake show, totaly wild show, Tasmanian devil show, and aborigional dance show. Also, their echidna was up and wandering around as was the Tasmanian devil, which was nice as it doesn't happen often.

After Currumbin we went out to this Teppanyaki bar for dinner with the same friend of j's that joined us at Lone Pine. Dinner was fabulous (probably one of PI's favourite activities :P) and a lot of fun. They make all the food in front of you and throw a lot of food around too. It was especially fun when they started using their spatula to toss eggs at us while we tried to catch them in bowls.

We also managed to get ourselves in the newspaper that night. There was a photographer wandering around doing a feature on what people did in Redcliffe.
May 18 - We had brunch with my cousin A and his new wife S (they got married in Nov) to celebrate mother's day. It was really good to see A as the last time I did I was 7 yrs old.

After brunch we walked around Brisbane for a bit and ended up at the Queensland Museum. As it turned out to be free to wander around we did for a while and saw some exibits such as Australian wild life, transportation, etc. Then we walked back in the direction of A and S's house and stopped at a Buch Tucker resteraunt. We ordered the platter w/ crocodile as it looked to have the most variety. I don't remember what everything is, but the meats are emu, kangaroo, wallaby, possum, and crocodile. We agreed unanimously that wallaby is not a good animal to eat. I enjoyed the emu and crocodile. Also on the platter are finger limes (they taste like lemon and lime and are quite nice. we found bigger ones later), lilly pillys (the small red ones that are also in the salad. they taste a bit like apples when you're chewing but have a distinct cinnamon gum after taste.), bunya nuts (also in the salad - they kind of taste like dry, raw potatoes :P), duka (in a bowl, looks like crushed up nuts and leaves...and that's what it is. esp good w/ the lemon myrtel in it).

When we got home we watched Alex and Emma.

May 19 - Today was another rest day as the weekend was going to be busy. We went to the post office to mail more post cards, did some grocery shopping, and started planning our drive down the coast to Sydney. We also watched Rabbit Proof Fence and The Usual Suspects.

May 20 - Today we started our open water dives. We were diving at Flinder's Reef, the southern most tip of the Great Barrier Reef quite close to Morton Island where we were earlier in the week. I was really excited and scared about these as I'd never been diving in open water before. As a result I felt quite sea sick, which I'd never done before. I made it into the water on the first dive, but as we were practicing some skills w/ the instructor I lost my regulator, panicked, and ended up going straight to the surface. I spent the rest of the day throwing up every 15 min - half hr or so. It wasn't the most pleasant day ever, but the instructor was really helpful. He got me back in the water again, not as far under, just to get used to the idea and get over the fear of having almost drowned myself. Note to self: you actually can throw up through a regulator w/o a problem. On the way home we got sea sickness medication in the hopes of better luck tomorrow. PI, on the other hand, managed his dives today just fine and saw quite a lot of interesting fish.

May 21 - Much better luck today, I made it into the water twice like I was supposed to (ok, not quite as I was supposed to, but twice anyway). On the first dive I saw giant clams, 2 wobegong, flute fish, a ton of different wrasse, tiny electric blue fish, bat fish, sea cucumbers, tons of choral, and a bunch of other fish I don't know the name of.

While back on the boat for lunch we saw sea turtles. They're HUGE! A lot bigger than I was expecting.

On the second dive I saw a potato cod (also huge)

clown fish in anenome, another wobbygong, a lobster, a lot more of the same fish and choral, and found a cowry shell.

May 22 - Another rest day. In the evening we went out behind where j works and looked for kangaroos. We found one right away, but the pics didn't come out very well. We later found 2 or 3 more (hard to tell if they're the same ones in the dark). There are quite a lot of kangaroos around that area. Koalas too, but they're a lot harder to spot since they don't really move much and are high up. One wandered into j's work once, though, and they had to shoo it out again.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

May 15 - We went to Morton Island. This was a really fun day! We saw dolphins in the harbour as we were leaving on the ferry to the island. It was a 2 hr boat ride to the island and you could see the ship wrecks as you pulled in. There isn't a dock, the boat just grounds itself on the sand and lets down the back of the boat as a drive way off. The first truck down got stuck in the sand so the boat - the Combi Trader II - had to disembark, move over, and dock again. We were with a small tour group in 1 4x4 jeep thingy. The first thing we did on the island was drive across the beech (getting at least 1 ft of clearance from our seats when we went over bumps) to the sand blow. The sand blow is a small dessart that forms naturally on the island b/c it is a sand island. It just blows across the island at something like 1m. a yr (speeding landscape!) covering everything it comes across. It goes right over trees which survive and continue growing when the dune's passed. There are several of them which make up a dessert. We went toboggoning down the biggest sand dune we could find there. I got a mouth full of sand and several cuts and scrapes on my first slide down. PI didn't, so he went again. This time he had a movie moment. He was sitting on his board and it broke in half. He held the broken piece, looked at it, threw it away, and did spectacular whipe out cartwheels down the rest of the dune. I REALLY wish I'd gotten it on film, but we'd left the cameras in the car b/c we didn't want to get sand in them. When we were finished on the dune we went for another drive. We stopped at a camp site further inland where we had lunch and tried to snorkle in the lagoon there. The only problem with that was that the lagoon was FREEZING. It's fed from an underground, fresh water spring (I think), and it's winter in Australia. The rest of the day was spent at a look out on the cliffs where the light house sits, playing in tidal pools...

...chasing crabs, and things like that. Then we took the ferry home. We watched Cinderella Man that night.

May 16 - This was a much needed rest day. We went to the post office to mail post cards, walked the dogs, and watched Map of the World and The Life Aquatic.

May 17 - For the first time it rained today! Luckily, it was an indoor day and we didn't care that it was pouring. We went to Underwater World! Here we watched an otter show, a seal show, a sting ray show, and, oh yeah! we went swimming with sharks in their shark tank! be continued...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

May 13 - This was supposed to be the wedding day, so things were a little tense/gloomy depending on the time of day and what we were doing. We went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Although you drive there, J and j thought it would be nicer if we got there by taking a cruise up the Brisbane river to get there. It was a really nice day (they all were actually, it only rained the 1 day we happened to be doing things in doors), so that was perfect. j invited one of her friends (who was to have been the other bride's maid) to come along too, and she brought her bf and his 3 kids. We took the train to Brisbane (staying in Redcliffe) and walked to the harbour from the station. The cruise was REALLY nice. There was a commentary that covered just about everything we could see from the boat including the fruit bat colonies along the river. Their fruit bats are HUGE!!! The commentary said they have a 1m. wing span!
The pic's not that helpful really, but you can kind of tell how big they are and how many were around. The cptn almost turned off the commentary 'cause he thought there weren't enough to mention. Most of the trees we passed for several minutes looked like this though. That doesn't look like "not enough bats to mention" to me!

At the sanctuary we watched a bird of prey show that was really good. It was my first look at a wedge tailed eagle. They're also HUGE. Actually, most things in Australia are just generally bigger than they are here.

Also while we were there, I got to hold a koala and feed kangaroos :) They had a bunch of kangaroos and wallabies just running free in a large field. It was 50 cents for a paper bag full of roo food which was enough to share w/ j, PI, and the kids without much difficulty.

We had a boat cruise back again and went souvineer shopping. Then we took the train back to Redcliffe and watched Dumb and Dumberer.

May 14 - As it was mother's day for us we phoned our mothers in the morning to say hi. We spent most of the rest of the day at the local Kitefest markets. I got some frangipani soap (I LOVE the smell. Found it at the botanical gardens earlier in the week) and we tasted Australian meat pies for the first time. PI really liked them. be continued...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

May 10 - Australian SCUBA associations require a diving physical before they will allow you to dive in the country, so we did that. I didn't enjoy it, but it could have been worse. When that was over, we went fishing at Tichi Temba. I'd never been fishing before, so that was fun. PI was much more successful than anyone else and caught 4 fish. Unfortunately, because the tide was low and they've been having a drought for a couple of months now, the only thing we could get close enough to catch from the shore were toad fish. They're little and even the pelicans and cormorants who joined us to grab what we threw back weren't interested. I enjoyed catching them, but getting them off the hook was not exactly my cup of tea. Especially when the hook was especially stuck. Ew! Anyway, this was the first time I'd seen a pelican up close and they're HUGE!!! They probably stand almost up to my waist! I love pelicans :)
After fishing we went home and watched Open Waters in a further atempt to talk us out of diving. My mom had been telling us for a couple of months at this point that we were going to be eaten by sharks and we shouldn't go diving.

May 11 - On our way to Mt. Coot-tha Botanical Gardens we stopped at the dive shop in Toowong to book the dives for the next weekend. The botanical gardens were a lot of fun :) The first thing we did when we got there was eat our picnic lunch above a really nice pond. Very close to us was a very large lizard. They have quite a lot of lizards in Australia, but they don't tend to just lie around on display, so we were lucky to get such a good look at him.

The rest of the park was fun. They had a really nice bonsai display, a bush tucker garden (native plants that are edible w/ plaques describing what they're used for), a tropical display dome, lots of cactuses, and our first look at rainforest.

May 12 - This was a rest day as the previous one had been a bit of an early day and we were still potentially a bit jet lagged. We did some grocery shopping and had lunch at the sushi train. They have a LOT of different things in their stores. All their margerine is more yellow and all their cheese is more white. There fruits and vegetables are, on the whole, a LOT bigger than ours. They also have chicken flavoured everything. Chicken flavoured chips, crackers, salt...etc. They have pancake batter, muffin mix, etc. in a jug that's half empty. You just add liquids and shake it until it's mixed. Made specifically for camping. A lot of their candy and snack food is different too.

Near the grocery store is a resteraunt where they have a train w/ sushi on it and you just sit down at the bar and pick what you want to eat off as it goes by. Not PI's favourite meal during the trip, but he found enough to eat. On the way back we got lammingtons at a bakery. Apparently lammingtons are a normal thing for them. I don't think I've ever seen them over here. They're cake, covered in chocolate then rolled in coconut. Sometimes they have jam in the middle as well. Yum!!! We spent most of the evening working on a puzzle.

This is a lammington be continued...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

May 1: PI lost his job (as predicted 6 months ago to the day)

May 2: Happy birthday SS

May 3: Pick up TK and leave for OSCC

May 4 - 6: Conference. It was a pretty good conference this yr. Haven't heard the fall out yet though, so I think I'll leave posting about OSCC to PI and PM.

(eg of student art)

May 7 - 9: On the plane! We left Toronto on Air Canada to LA on an air bus. PI now swears he will never travel air bus again. They're not particularly comfy. The in flight movie was King Kong. I watched it 'cause I really had nothing better to do as the flight's about 4.5 hrs long. I didn't really enjoy it though. They don't feed you on Air Canada any more, and blankets and pillows on day flights are $2. At least they give you water and juice. They checked our passports 5 times before we sat down on the plane.

Once in LAX we discovered that we have to go down 2 floors to the air canada desk, tell them we were in LA, go back up 1 floor to get the luggage, go to the Air New Zealand desk to tell them we were flying to Aukland, recheck in our baggage through customs, get visas to enter Australia, and go back up another floor to go through customs again. They make you take off your shoes, belt, jacket, etc. and you have to take video cameras and lap tops out of their cases to go through. It was a pain. Neither of us liked the air port or being in the States in general.

If you have to fly, we both recommend an Air NZ 700 series air plane. They are COMFY!!! You have your own tv screen in the back of the seat in front of you and you can use it to watch movies and tv shows on demand (pretty big selection), play video games (eg tetris), listen to the radio (30 channels), look at the flight info (time of departure, arrival, local time, outside temp, estimated temp on arrival, altitude, distance traveled, distance yet to travel, etc. w/ diagrams). The remote also doubles as a phone and has a credit card slot. I watched Mrs. Henderson Presents, which i recommend, Memoires of a Geisha, a Futurama episode, played Tetris and Who Wants to be a Millionaire, listened to Robin Williams Live at the Met, and watched part of Tristram Shandy. They served breakfast and dinner. Alcohol is complimentary, there's leg room, blankets and pillows provided, they give you candy for landing.

The Aukland air port is wonderful. They have a spa where you can relax while you wait for your plane, lazy boy massage chairs, bathrooms that are entirely automated and say, "thank you, please come again" (a bit hitchhiker's guide really), and extremely friendly, polite, and helpful staff. Aukland air port is PI's new happy place *grin*. Short wait while they cleaned, refeuled and restocked the plane then off to Brisbane. Lunch came w/ chocolate ice cream and wine :)

We arrived at Brisbane, having completely skipped May 8 'cause of the time and date shift, at 11 am. J and J picked us up at the air port and drove us "home". We had a walk around Redcliff and went to the duck pond to feed the ducks before dinner. There are eels and turtles in the duck pond as well as a number of different birds. We still don't know what some of them are called. We tried to stay up to about 10 pm to put us on track and get over the jetlag, but PI fell asleep watching tv at about 8 and then, after he got up to make the bed so he could sleep in it, all he managed was to put the matress on the floor and fall on it. be continued...