March 31, 2008

what people watch

I know I am going to regret this in, like, a week, when I am in some Phuket hostel, desperate for some random Americanness. But for now, I am kind of over TV.

Not all together, never that. I still miss my TiVo with unnatural fervor. More that I am over foreign hostel television. Aside from some random, serendipitous moments, like when I sit down with dinner the other night right as someone starts Little Miss Sunshine, or the season 9 Friends marathon that happened on Good Friday, most of what people watch in the rest of the world? Is crap.

I'm not even talking in the abstract, with the worldwide popularity of shows like Baywatch and CSI:Miami. I'm talking about what people with the remote - people from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands - choose to land on when flipping through Foxtel or Sky satellite cable. I'll even give a free pass to those who are forced to make a selection when the hostel does not have cable; then you have maybe five options, so you are very limited by whatever is the least offensive. I've been in that boat, and it's forced me into the position of choosing MTV programming. I'm not proud, and I hope it is never used to evaluate my viewing.

(Though, on a side note - the hostel in Mission Beach had Foxtel, but it would never come in due to weather, so we just had free-to-view. The week was saved, though, because one of the other backpackers was just coming from Thailand, where he'd bought an entire CD case worth of bootleg DVDs, so there were many a rainy afternoon that people spent watching Superbad, Blades of Glory, City of God, American Gangster, etc. I can't wait for Thailand...)

No, there is no convenient excuse here. There is no defense when I've witnessed person after person, in assorted cities, with various national backgrounds, SELECT to watch King of Queens. I've watched more of that show (read: any) on this trip than I ever had before. It's not better as you grow familiar with it.

I've watched, or seen other watching and walked away from - lots of everybody Loves Raymond, Yes, Dear, Las Vegas, and The Drew Carey Show. Lots.

And the movies! I've avoided watching Crocodile Dundee 1 AND 2 (while in Australia - the irony), The Time Machine, Picture Perfect, and some Mary Kate & Ashley-as-teenagers reality show movie I didn't even know existed (ah -this one). Every one of those, by the way, was selected. Often from a much better array.

That's the thing - we Americans export our crap as well as the good stuff, so maybe we're partly to blame. Maybe we've done our part to erode foreign tastes by sending over Tru Calling and Help Me Help You in with the Heroes and Pushing Daisies. But I mean, WE had those same suck shows, and WE fought back by not watching them until they got canceled. It's natural selection. What happens to nature when people SELECT the suck?

In Chile, in front of a CSI: Miami, a New Yorker who was on his third year of travel around the world, told me his theory behind the appeal of the show: The rest of the world likes blunt instruments, and David Caruso is a blunt instrument of acting. He is popular precisely because it is his job to state the obvious, and punctuate it by emphatically removing his sunglasses. The same would be true of the Hoff, Jerry Lewis, and all other inexplicably popular figures the world over.

All this TV is really more interesting to talk about than it is to watch, but that doesn't stop people, Lord knows I never look askance at someone for watching too much television, but there are people at each of the hostels I've been to who put me to shame even on my laziest of weekends. The two girls with the penchant for Olsen made-for-tv fare were in the TV room every single time I swung by, for the entire time I was in the Blue Mountains (which is also odd, as my four-day stay there was generally considered quite a long one). And the girl who watched the ENTIRE Friends marathon in Sydney has stuck in for everything that is on - marathons of Will & Grace and Malcolm in the Middle, every episode of Raymond, cricket matches, late-90s cinema; if it flashes color and light from the flatscreen, she will watch, evidently, as she was literally watching television every time I walked in or out all of last weekend. I come back to the hostel on Friday, and sure enough - there in front of an episode of the Simpsons. It makes me wonder - does she have an actual bed there? And do they not have television in England?

What people choose when they have the power of the remote is not necessarily what they most want to watch, because there is some silent peer pressure involved - you don't want to choose something that is going to make everyone else scoff or bolt from the room, or know you are a closet Olsen twin aficionado, so you pick what you like, but what you think others will as well. At least, that's how I justify it. However, while I rarely take remote control power, if I ever were the one choosing, I would NOT flip past The Daily Show when it's on. I don't care that it's really only appealing to Americans (and usually, I am one of the only ones). It breaks my heart when people pass it for Drew Carey, and I don't care if anyone else would like it. If I got to pick, I would watch it, and that's that.

March 30, 2008


OK, #1, I just now noticed that my location on this blog is listed as New Zealand. Still. How did no one point this out to me before now? I cannt keep track of the little things, clearly. I need some help here, people.

#2, I really could not sleep last night, and not because of my headache that's been plaguing me, or even the normal issues with sleeping in an 8-bed dorm. It'
s because I knew that the next time I went to bed, it would be in Singapore. SINGAPORE.

#3, It's sad to be leaving Australia, and Sydney in particular. I am pretty sure that the ease and package-perfect everything of here and New Zealand has made me soft, but hopefully I can handle the ultimate foreignness of Asia. But I really like Sydney, something about it really appeals to me. I'm comfortable here, and when traveling for a long time, that feeling is a big deal.

I'll be back here someday, I am sure, since it's too big a c
ountry and there's really no way to explore it properly with just one go. But for now, I can't be thinking about where I will be someday, as I am too preoccupied with where I will be later today. Singapore, y'all.

the effects of travel upon the body

I am more tan now than I have been in I don't even know how long. Even last year, when biking outdoors for insane hours, I got patches of very tan - fingertips, calf & shin area, whatever was uncovered - but overall stayed my natural shade of pale. This is far more uniform, considering I am bron(er) most everyplace. Except for the racerback tank line on my back and the flip flop lines on my feet. Sigh. I expect it all to get worse, too. Not only am I entering Southeast Asia, and also (hopefully) some beach time, but all of my current tanning has been through a scrupulous application of SPF 50 spectra 3 uber-sunblock. I am about out. In Australia, all they have to replace with with is factor 30+. At least I have a base not to burn, though, right?

My back hurts. Most of the time. Thin hostel beds + no pillows are not good for a stomach sleeper like me, and I think not having anything to prop my leg on is slowly throwing my back out of alignment. Add carrying my pack, standing and walking for hours a day, and no yoga or stretching for a couple of months now, and my lower back complains a lot more than normal, and my neck cracks astoundingly loudly. As if I need another reason to feel ancient around all of the 19 year old British backpackers...

Evidently, I get hives in foreign countries. It happened twice in Argentina, and then again just last week. It's really awesome, to suddenly be covered in welts. And they itch, and they look like I have the plague on my arms. But I have Benadryl, and after a couple of nights (in which I sleep VERY soundly) dosing with that, they go away. But I guess I am allergic to...traveling? I don't even know.

My hair is so long. And I am not willing to shell out $90 for a haircut, or trust my hair to a Chinatown barber (considering the warnings I've gotten), it's just going to get a lot longer.

In general, any part of my body that requires a mirror to see does not get seen. This is weird, I know, but think about it. Hostel bathrooms are generally shower stalls, toilet stalls, and sinks, where the mirrors are. I get changed in the rooms or after my shower - no mirrors. Today, to check for bites on my back, involved strategy and planning to be in front of a mirror without a shirt on, as it does not happen organically. It's not unusual for me to get random bruises on my body, but now they can come and go without me ever noticing. I have a spectacular scratch on my back that I got three days ago, but only saw for the first time today. I don't even see my face as often as I am used to - a lot of the bathroom mirrors are small or oddly placed, so if you don't look on purpose, you don't see your reflection. I just see myself more at home - driving, at the bank teller, whenever I go to any restroom, around the house. I don't here. Which makes it way easier to not care that I have shaggy hair, hives, and have been rotating the same half dozen shirts for two months.


On Friday, when I got back to Sydney, I had a couple of must-dos before leaving the city for good. One was to go to manly - I had wanted to go last weekend, but the weather was crap. It was nice enough now, though, so I went for the evening.

The last thing I had to do today was the Bondi-Coogee walk, in a different direction from Manly, but on the coast as well. It's not fair to compare them, I now see. Manly is this really nice, quiet, fairly posh suburb. It would be a fantastic place to live and commute to work via the ferry, full of adorable shops and great looking restaurants, not to mention the beach and the coast.

Bondi is the flashy, hotspot beach, and I was assuming it was all glitz, because it's where everyone goes to party, but the beach itself has strong currents, so it's not actually that safe to swim (there is a popular reality show here called Bondi Rescue, about the lifeguards). But go to the beach on a day like today, where it is warm and clear, and the beach is fantastic, with soft white sand and cool, brilliant blue water. The walk down to Coogee (a more southern beach I actually liked better, and has better currants) was spectacular. If I were here longer, or more of a beach nut, I would be there every weekend.

Seriously, look at this coastline:

Besides that, all of the swimming beaches have pools that go right up to the ocean. Great for pictures, but can you imagine swimming your laps THERE?

March 28, 2008

caves & cliffs

Yeah, I liked the Blue Mountains. It was nice to be there for a few days - a lot of people go for a day apparently, and while it it would still be fun and worth it, I liked having the time. The day I got there, when it was cloudy and starting to rain, the Sisters were gorgeous, but if that was my only day there, I would have been annoyed at the clouds. As it was, though, I am glad I got to see the mountains in both kinds of weather.

I'm rambling, aren't I? And it's just the beginning of the entry. So, as you saw, I also went abseiling whilst in the mountains - or rappelling, for those in the States. I had not done anything xxxtreme this whole trip, despite ample opportunity, mostly because nothing appealed to me enough to spend the money. I don't really WANT to bungy jump. But rappelling always looked so cool on Amazing Race, and the girls at my hostel in Sydney raved, so I went for it. So cool. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and highly recommend it.

But backing off a cliff? Not easy.

The next day I went on a day trip out to the Jenolan Caves. My parents went last year and really recommended them, and I am glad I made the schlep out there. The caves are massive - there are 9 separate ones open for tours - and they have been a tourist spot since like, the 1860s. These hige, limestone underground caverns. Can you imagine "touring" them in a skirt and high-necked blouse via candle and rope? That's hard core.

Pictures unfortunately don't work well in the caves, so you may just have to take my word for how big and how cool they are. This might help:

but also imagine that, at the biggest spot, there is an area called the cathedral that houses 90 person opera and symphony concerts, because it has vaulting ceilings and perfect acoustics.

The drive down there is pretty harrowing - it's like 70km from Katoomba, and much of it is along this narrow one-lane, windy road that drops off to nothing on one side. It was a gorgeous drive, but man. It really gave me mad respect for my dad, though - he drove it last year, fresh into their rental car, and didn't kill anyone. I was a little worried, and I was in a bus, with a driver who does this daily, and is used to driving on the left. Wickid driving skillz, dad.

March 25, 2008

and what did YOU do today?

i will spare you all of the terrible punny headlines i came up with for this entry

I am in the Blue Mountains - out of the city and into rustic hikingland once again.

Katoomba is so pretty, y'all. I had a friend who had been all over Australia tell me this was one of her favorite spots, and I can see why. I took the train here yesterday - it only takes about 2 hours, and they leave just about every hour, so it's an easy getaway. It's also apparently a popular spot for Sydneysiders for the Easter holiday, as from the train window I watched the gridlock traffic to get back into town go just about the whole way out.

it was also a lovely day in Sydney, and the further out we got, the more the clouds came in. Sigh. I got the the town, walked to the hostel, and immediately booked it out again- I wanted to see the Three Sisters before they were completely covered by clouds, just in case the weather took a turn for a few days. I got there right as the clouds started coming in, and these rocks? Are gorgeous.

As I was walking back, past all of these twee gingerbread cottages and charming, rustic ye olde shoppes, I thought the town could just not get any cuter. And then I saw a little black bunny munching on a dandelion in an empty field. I mean, really.

Today I went for a hike to see the valley from the other side. It was a little cloudy, but mostly white fluffy ones, with a fair amount of sun. As I walked out of town and got closer to where the land drops off into the mountains and the valley, there was nothing but clouds - they had come to fill in all the spaces, and I literally caught my breath when I saw it. I've seen so many lovely things, and yet I can still find everything shockingly beautiful.

As I hiked, the clouds slowly receded and left the mountains blue and lovely. I walked for a couple of hours and took picture after picture, and then got to get up close to the Sisters before climbing a looooooong way (900 steps!) down to the valley and then back up. I was a tuckered camper when it was done, but totally worth it.

I bopped around town today - it's full of bakeries, upscale outdoorsy clothing stores, and an inexplicable number of used book stores. There are also tours to do, so that's how I plan to fill more time in the next couple of days, but for now I'm enjoying being in just a quiet, kicked-back, stunning town.

It doesn't hurt that this is one of the nicest hostels I've been in. I basically get to sleep in a sunroom. It's swank.

March 23, 2008

oh, jesus: the return (hee)

Because it's easter. Get it?

OK, weirdly, and I so do not understand this - way mor
e is open and going today than it was on Friday. bars, stores, restaurants are all open. I mean, some are closed, but it seems mostly normally Sunday closure, as opposed to Easter Sunday closure. Isn't that weird? I thought Easter Sunday was a bigger deal than Good Friday; when I was at parochial school, we only still had a half day on Good Friday.

Anyway, so yesterday was still sort of crummy out, but not nearly as cold, but I went to The Rocks, out by the Harbour, which is the oldest part of Sydney. It's got quaint old buildings and a weekend market that caters to rich tourists, but still has nice stuff. I w
ent to Chinatown for dinner, too, which was awesome. I can't wait for Asia and all the food I shall eat there.

Today was gorgeous, though - perfect and warm and sunny. I got up and went straight for Circular Quay to catch a ferry - I knew with this kind of weather on an Easter Sunday, the zoo was gonna be packed. I was right, but I managed to miss most of it.

I don't go to a lot of zoos in life, and I think that's why I still like them. Taronga Zoo is also pretty exceptional - its a quick ferry ride across the Harbour, set right next to the water. The elephants have a waterfront view of the city from their area; how is that for prime real estate? They also have everything at this zoo, and people are allowed to get fairly close, so I actually saw things in most areas, not just some lump in the distance that is presumably a

I learned many things today:
Platypus are weird looking, and hysterical, and swim like they REALLY have SOME PLACE to BE.
Koala absolutely know how cute they are and like to be as photogenic as possible. Hams.

Echidnas are hysterical, and waddle when they walk, and I love them.
Red pandas are so adorable that this one looked almost fake. He was also so playful and perfect-looking, I am shocked that Disney has not made one the star of his very own heartwarming movie yet.

I got to see kangaroos and wallabys; a sleeping wombat and a waking up and drowsy Tasmanian devil; possums and otters and meerkats and gorillas and seals and giraffes; lions, tigers, snow leopards, elephants, zebras, ostriches...there were seriously lots of animals.

And the weird thing is, because it is a "natural" zoo, most of the animals were separated by some water or some space, and that's it. For some of them, though, it wasn't even that - the red kangaroos were just there, and we walked on a path through them. There was nothing to stop, say, a roo rampage, but I suppose that's not very common. There were also iguana and lizard and birds and spiders and all sorts of fauna wandering about the zoo, not as a part of an exhibit - perhaps there with the family for Easter?

There were also all these thingsI had never heard of - like the binturong, which is a relative of the mongoose. There was this whole family of them, and they looked like completely hairy possums almost. They were putting on a show - the parents climbing up high and eating, and the kids trying to get up there. One was not a good climber, and would sort of cry out for help when he couldn't get the next branch, and the other got up to the parents and then fell, catching himself with the tail and trying to pull himself up on the weakest branch around. It was awesome.

Since I got there early, I managed to get through most of the zoo before it got too late and too crowded, but right about 1 or 1:30, I noticed the shift. The kids (and it was ALL families there today) started crying more, the parents were doing more scolding and yelling, there was more general crabbiness. Fortunately, I had covered most everything by about 2, so when I started feeling like throwing a temper tantrum myself from being to TIRED and to HOT and WAH, I thought it best to go home.

I'm glad the weather turned - the zoo would have been good without it, but it made for an extra nice day. I hope it sticks, too - that gives me great hope for the weather in the Blue Mountains this week.

March 21, 2008

diet coke: australia

It's the cruelest cut of all, really. Both here and in New Zealand, on first sip, the Diet Coke tastes EXACTLY the same. Especially if I get it from a fountain somewhere. I take a drink, and it is like HOME.

And then the aftertaste sets in. And it's this weird, cumulative aftertaste. One drink, it's not there. Two, you start to taste it. And each successive sip, it starts to build and grow, like a gently mounting tide of suck all over your mouth.

I miss Diet Coke, y'all.

March 20, 2008

oh, jesus

I've known for a while that I was going to have to strategize for a couple of days here - today is Good Friday, and I am in a happily Catholic country. Which means everything is closed. The same will be on Sunday, and to a much lesser extent, tomorrow and Monday as well.

I opted to be in Sydney, thinking that it is a much more international, tourist-oriented town, so there would at least be MORE available to me. So far, that plan has worked out really well - most museums and tourist attractions are open, and my hostel is even having a Good Friday BBQ on the roof deck. I have enough in Sydney that I want to do that two days not needing cute shops or tiny restaurants to be open should not be a big deal.

What I didn't count on needing was to have enough to do in Sydney on a Good Friday WHEN IT'S RAINING. I meant to go to the zoo today - the outdoor zoo, a ferry ride away. But it is chilly and rainy. It's been nice for WEEKS here, and now it gets the rain? When I get here? Why am I suddenly courting all terrible weather everywhere I go?

Anyway, I adapted, and went to the Powerhouse museum this morning - it's really cool, in an old power station near Darling Harbour, and exhibiting things that seem to be lumped together mostly under the heading of "interesting stuff." They had displays on industrial design, general stores from 1880 to 1930, computers, Princess Diana and steam power. Random, but a really entertaining way to spend a morning.

This afternoon, I was going to go to the aquarium, but I dawdled too long. It's Good Friday, which doesn't just mean that things are closed for Jesus, it also means that everyone has a four-day weekend. Plus, Darling Harbour has an Easter Hoopla festival for kids (no idea what it is; it just involves hoola hoops somehow), so the line to get in was around the block, and there were signs that there were similar crowds at all exhibits.

So, I have to readjust. I think the weather is supposed to improve somewhat, enough for a zoo excursion, and I can go to the aquarium nearer to opening time to avoid the family time. I just hope that the weather gets better this week - I want to see some of Sydney's famous beaches, and I am going out to the Blue Mountains for some hiking and outdoorsy time.

I will say, though, that it's mostly just overcast, not torrential and problematic. It's certainly fine to be outside, it's just a bad combo, to have a rainy holiday weekend day.

March 19, 2008

my kind of town

If at all possible, everyone should first see the Sydney Opera House on their first night in town, right before dusk. And then sit and watch it as the sun goes down. It's too perfect for words.

There is no explanation for it, but without seeing hardly any of the city, something about Sydney really resonates for me. I don't even feel like I need to see all of this place to know that I love it. On some weird level, it's just very comfortable and familiar and good here. So I've been to the Opera House, and to view it from a couple of places; I went shopping a bit on Pitt Street, and bought a belt (finally - I was in desperate need, after a tragic jeans-stretching incident that happened in Mission Beach), and I browsed briefly though the ghetto shopping spectacular that is Paddy's Markets. I have so much that I still want to do, but so far it's only served to strengthen my immediate love of Sydney.

Isn't it weird how places can be like that? My mom said I was a New Yorker before I even moved there, and I remember on my first day on my own in Manhattan, I got asked for directions (and gave them successfully). It was home from day one; two and a half years in LA and it never felt like home. Sydney, apparently, has been encoded on my DNA at some point.

March 18, 2008

sydney safe and sound

It's weird to be in Australia for weeks, and only now get to Sydney.

I got here safe and easily, leaving behind humid Queensland for very autumny Sydney weather.The first thing I did was check into my hostel, and then wash some things in the sink. The joy of being in one place for a few nights.

Next thing I did was go to the grocery. That's just how I roll.

Following that, I found the cheap Internat cafe. I'm a wild child.

So this is all I've done of Sydney, and yet, somehow I already really, really like it here.

I am, however, now going to some actual neat neighborhood to do some legitimate Australian wandering about.


I got to go on a reeeeeeeeef toooooour!

And it was positively spectacular. Seriously, I can only imagine what it must be like to snorkel and dive the Great Barrier Reef when the water is clear and calm (because it was not), since today it was without a doubt the finest and most impressive snorkeling I've ever done. What a great day!

I had to leave really, really early, to be picked up at 7:30, but they took me and a small bus of others from the hostel straight to the boat. In the harbor, the clouds looked really forbidding and not at all promising, but we were going an hour 45 out to the reef, so things could change. Besides, at the tour agency, she booked me on this one specifically because they are a good bet when the weather is iffy. And the weather was largely better once we got out there - a bit of clouds and some rain every now and again, but nothing major and nothing to hide the fish. But the wind was brutal, and it made the trip out really rough.

Everyone asked if I get seasick, and I never have before. But I am a little prone towards some motion sickness at times. Nothing major (except for last year, when I was reacting to some medicine that made me feel somewhat queasy all the time, and like I was in motion constantly. I had to replace my rolling desk chair with a flat one, because I couldn't handle the movement. But I'm not taking the medication anymore), but I still get an occasional nausea.

Today, I was not having the rocking. I didn't get sick, but it was a long trip out of looking at the horizon. Even when we got to the reef site, the boat was tossing a lot back and forth. I was better after lunch, actually, because it got something in my stomach. Plus, about then I also took some ginger pills, so either the wheat rolls or the ginger worked magic, and I was fine the rest of the day.

But the snorkeling! The tours offer intro or certified dives, but I prefer to snorkel, so I stuck to the surface. It's jellyfish season, so I also got to wear a stinger suit (sexay!) and I was cold on the first dive, so on the second I also had a wetsuit on. I was smokin'. But we get to snorkel right off the boat, and the coral is so close that it could not have been better to dive, really. I can't imagine seeing more than I did. there were bright, flourescent fish everywhere. I saw a sea turtle! It was huge and awesome, and we watched him bob up for air. There was some sort of mini squid, some that looked like a long, skinny tube, a giant sea cucumber, MASSIVE giant clams, these big ugly fish with protuberant eyes and a vry lazy attitude, and a Nemo fish (without the wonky fin, though). There were also these fish, maybe 2-3 inches long, with blue and black stripes that act as cleaners for the other fish, eating the barnacles off their gills. They do a little dance to attract the other fish for their services, so I watched that for a while - and then watched them swim INTO THE GILLS of the bigger fish. It was so cool.

Without an underwater camera of being next to me, there isn't really a good way to describe how awesome the day was, but you'll just have to trust me. If not the best day I've had, pretty close to it.

Hilariously, though, I've spent it feeling hungover. And I am so not. Last night was St. Patrick's Day, but because I had to be up early and because I am not 18, I planned an early night. I went out, but was back by midnight and went to bed. I was fine this morning, but a combination of the movement of the boat and the fact that I absolutely did not drink enough water today has left me dehydrated and a bit nauseated - aka, hungover. I didn't even get to drink!

I am better now on the dehydration, but it's been 4 hours, and I still feel like I am in motion. I wish my keyboard would stop swaying side to side....

up with cairns

I decided yesterday pretty quickly that I like Cairns. And it's not just because it stopped raining.

Cairns is way up north in Queensland, and on the heavily-trafficked East Coast Australia pathway where backpackers run up and down constantly, it is a very common beginning or ending point of the trip - everyone here is generally starting or finishing a trip up the coast. Which means backpackers here are really happy in general. I don't know how to explain it - very few backpackers choose Cairns to stay and settle for a long time (unlike many I've met who spend generally spend between 2 and 6 months in either Sydney or Melbourne), so most are here to just be travellers. It makes for a festive city.

It's a tourist town, to be sure, but there isn't the commensurate spike in prices that there can be. Cairns actually has a lot of reasonably priced dining options - at their fast food Chinese places (I love this) the fod is all self serve, and you pay by the plate; whatever you can pile on the small plate, which is easily 2 meals for me, is $7.99. I wish Panda Express did that. It's also a town that is basically branded by Billabong and Quicksilver, and there is a lot of reasonably priced shopping here - I haven't bought much, but if I were in the market for a bikini, board shorts, or dijiridoo, this would be where I would get 'em.

Last night was also St. Patrick's Day, and it was a great place to be for that. Plus, my hostel is like a resort - this is the pool AT THE HOSTEL:
So call me biased, but I really like Cairns.

March 15, 2008

the logistics of travel

I got an email from my friend Graig (because he is wonderful and awesome and knows how much I love to get emails from my friends while I am away and feeling lonely) (hint), and I decided to answer him here rather than in an email. Mostly, it's because I forget, when I am writing, to include the minutiae of my life. And not only is it hard to paint a clear picture without it, but it's also the kinds of questions my mom asks me about, so I might as well tell everyone.

So first off, one of the most compelling things about my day to day life is that, when traveling, I become rather preoccupied with my day to day life while traveling. I think I may have mentioned, but the thing with travel stress is that it does come in big sizes - Oh, sure, your flight will leave Buenos Aires, but we have no idea when, or why it won't go now, but you can TRUST US that it will leave. Someday; Your bags will arrive in New Zealand at some point after you do, but we will find you when it happens...

But in general (I sincerely hope), those big stresses are kind of rare. The minor ones, though, are sort of constant. Living on the road, out of a pack, in hostels, is a constant world of negotiation. I am traveling with 8 shirts; those range from a tank top to a wool longsleeve, so I rarely have 8 shirts in actual circulation, depending on weather. I constantly have to consider when I will be able to wash out a shirt and allow it time to dry, if I wear this or that shirt, what that leaves me for tomorrow or the next day, etc. There is strategy and planning involved in when I eat, sleep, shower, and do any of those things I do at home without much thought to broad strokes plans. That's the single most draining thing about traveling, I think - is that I can't do much without thinking.

But anyway, Graig writes:
"i've been wondering: what sort of nightlife have you been encountering? what do you do with your evenings? and where do you eat (i'm obsessed with restaurants when traveling abroad)? how you seen any indigenous cinema? oh, and you seem to be shopping a lot: are you accumulating much as you go? and carrying it everywhere?"

I will start with the easiest one: I have seen movies in Argentina, New Zealand and Australia; there is not a lot in the way of indigenous cinema, though - all have been mainstream Hollywood movies. There were I believe two Argentine movies out in Buenos Aires, but I didn't see them because they were obviously not subtitled. There were no options here or in NZ for non-American fare. The movie experiences themselves were interesting, though - in BA, it was older men (maybe 60) and well dressed that acted as ushers and ticket takers. Also, I've decided I hate assigned seating. I like to sit close-ish and middle, but I keep going to movies with barely any other people, and I still get assigned to the back row or whatever. It's an unnecessary pain. And it also means that Aussies and Kiwis show up at movies about 2 minutes after it starts, en masse. No one is there when previews & ads start at the showtime, and by the movie start people have finally started filling in.

Ok, nightlife. This one varies wildly, depending on a lot of factors. In Latin America, dinner is so late that it was the evening activity. Brian and I tried (with only dubious success) to go to bars a few times,and I went out with some people at the hostel for a drink one night. There were also a lot of evenings spent with some wine at the hostel, enjoying the view/roofdeck/bar (depending on the hostel). In New Zealand, I was with my sister, and we had television. We also got up early, so that colored things. My evenings there were actually quite similar to my evenings at home.

Australia is more complicated. I am in the absolute heart of the traditional backpacker and round the world circuit right now. Essentially, it seems like ever Brit ever does a trip that is Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand/Fiji/States/home. So I am in the midst of that. But also bear in mind that I am a solid 6-10 years older than the rest of the hostel crowd here, in general (the travellers included many of a much older (read: my age) crowd in South America, so that was a difference as well). I am not big on the drinking games and picking up foreign boys (word choice deliberate) like many of my younger hostelgoers are, so that changes my plans a bit. I do go out with people I meet in the hostel, generally to backpacker bars (because that is what we know), and then I head home. I do also keep an earlier schedule - in every hostel, there tends to be some people (or the entire hostel, at one in Melbourne) who becomes completely nocturnal, drinking all night and sleeping/watching tv all day. I like to see where I am traveling, so I am an early bird at these places, usually bed by 12 or 1, up by 8.

Eating! I hate cooking in hostels. i Love to cook, but with sketchy, bare-bones kitchens, no supplementary ingredients or spices, crowds, and dubious cleanliness, I hate it. And I am on my own. So I basically never do it. I love street food, so where available, I go to town on that - I can't wait for Southeast Asia. In other places, I do my own version of it, like going to Breadtop in Melbourne, for instance, and eating BBQ pork buns for dinner. This kind of eating I supplement with fruit and veggies from the supermarket, and lots of water. Gotta stay hydrated! I do go out to eat, or get takeout, on my own, but not as much as with others. It's not as much fun. But I do try to get some "representative" cuisine - I really want some seafood in Cairns, for instance. Besides, here in Mission Beach, there are virtually no restaurants, and none that are affordable (average entree is $20. Youch.), so I have been eating sandwiches, fruit, and cereal for three days. I am going to DINE OUT tomorrow.

And shopping. I am actually not doing that much buying. I did buy a lot when my sister was here, and I sent it all home with her - she left with one more large, heavy bag than she came with, and a significant portion of that was mine. Since she's gone, I bought one more tank top, because I will be in warm weather for a while. Other than that, all of my purchases have been on transport, accommodation, internet, food, and things like postcards - nothing I carry with me. I don't buy anything of any substantial size without a consideration of how I am getting it home, and I avoid anything that I will have to carry for any length of time. If I decide to shop in Australia, I will probably mail some home before I leave. In Southeast Asia, I will either mail things home or wait until I meet my parents in Greece. But I don't buy when I shop, mostly, unless it's small, light and packable.

I think that's most of the logistics - there are many, I am not going to lie. The simple considerations at home can be a big deal here - I need a haircut, for instance. I am going to get it before I leave Sydney, to avoid language issues in Asia, but I am very worried about finding a place that won't muck up my very short hair, and also won't charge me $80 for the trim. But I am much more in the groove than I was before, so it makes it easier.

If there are logistic questions that I didn't answer, let me know. I love getting email...

slow news day

It may not be its best weather, but far north Queensland can still be pretty gorgeous.

I went for another walk this morning, and got caught in a cloudburst. It was so bad that I couldn't even see Dunk Island, which is barely off the coast, because it was all swathed in clouds. It rained hard, but not for long. The funny thing was, I was walking into it, so my front got drenched, and the back of my shirt and skirt stayed dry. I was a sight coming back to the hostel.

Not much else to report.

March 14, 2008

things to do in wongaling when it rains

Not a lot, it turns out. The problem is actually not the rain, apparently, but the wind. It means that reef excursions aren't going out much at all. It also means that roads to and from Mission Beach keep getting flooded, making it impossible for buses to get here. It's so rural!

But it's not all bad. I came here for some unwinding time in the midst of go go go travel, and I am getting that in spades. It's not cold, so it's easy to spend the day laying on a couch by the pool and reading. Not a bad life.

I went for a long walk on the beach this morning - why doesn't every day of mine start with an hour walk on the beach? The water was warm, and because it was overcast and windy, I had the entire place to myself. I can see it being the most spectacular of beaches in perfect weather, but today it was perfect for wandering along, getting my feet in the ocean, watching clams stick their little feet out and burrow down. I walked way down, and way back, and I only saw my own footprints, too - it's not often you get that kind of remoteness on the hot backpacker circuit of Australia. Usually there are about 12 Brits around every corner.

This afternoon, I am going to see if reef tours are going for tomorrow; I'm also going to see about a walk in the rainforest, since it's not raining and should be a good day for it. I've also made plans to leave a day early and head up to Cairns for an extra day. I figure, if it's raining, the 'city' such as it is will have more to do, and it's possible there may be some reef tours from there. So there is hope, but worst case...I'm relaxed, and enjoying my book.

But I gotta say, I feel like someone does not want me to sit on the beach on this trip.

March 12, 2008

on the...beach...ish

I really just intended to hop online super quick, check some email, let my mom know I had arrived safe. But there were lots to read and respond to, so my time clicked over to where I should finish out the hour, as I've now paid for it, so here I am online. Oops.

It's ok, though. There's nothing else to do. Considering HOW HARD IT'S RAINING. I successfully moved today from Melbourne all the way north through Cairns before settling in this adorable beachside hostel in a town called Mission Beach, and it promptly started to pour. Not that I am bitter. The weather reports are not good, also, but I am hoping they are wrong, or that I am going to be here long enough that I can get a couple of good days, enough to take a boat out to the reef and do some snorkeling, and spend a day or so on the beach. As it is, I can sit poolside, under the awning, but...not the same. It can't keep up at this rate, though, that it has been for the last hour and a half - it's raining harder than in south New Zealand at this rate. Insanity!

Send me good, clear, fine weather days, y'all. Or I may be a bit heartbroken.

March 11, 2008

on melbourne

I have inexplicably mixed feelings about Melbourne. I thought I would love, love, love this city, and while I like's not as I anticipated.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell if it's Australia, or if it's Melbourne; that will have to wait until I have spent some time in Sydney. But it's also possible that coming straight from New Zealand, which I absolutely and utterly adored, colors things. It's also possible that I just don't do as well in a city that is still very hot, and that is getting progressively more crowded with the approach of Grand Prix - today it is stifling with people, and it makes me glad I am leaving.

Melbourne is pretty awesome - the aforementioned bakeries and public art, the really accessible and charming tram system of public transport. The shopping is world class, and the restaurant selection and quality reminds me of San Francisco.

Normally, when I am in one of these awesome places in the world, I love to fantasize about living there. Sometimes it's a vacation home, like in Costa Rica or Ashland. Sometimes I feel like I could live there, like with Edinburgh or, most recently Christchurch. Mostly it's idle fantasy, but I do it almost everywhere, and I don't find myself constructing a fantasy around Melbourne.

I wonder if it doesn't feel different enough for me, and that is why? Thanks to my sister, who got it down pat really quickly and passed it along to me, I have the tram system pretty well in hand - I never have to ask the drivers for route info, like I see lots of Melburnians, even, doing. I went today to University of Melbourne. It was just starting term, and the signs were all so familiar - a big poster sale in the quad, this week only; join this government or that union; first meeting of this club is on Tuesday. The campus is really nice, with lots of food options and libraries and grassy spaces, but I felt like I was at San Jose State - the two have the same urban/campus feel.

I can't really articulate how it relates, but somehow this sort of shows haw familiarity with the city, and it's familiarness to me already, makes me LIKE the city, but not love it. I wonder, too, how it will influence Sydney - I have had a couple of people tell me recently that Sydney is "just a city," that you can't really tell if you are in Australia or any number of cosmopolitan cities around the world. I can't tell if that will make me like it more or less, but we will see.

First, though, I go north. Tomorrow I head to the reef for a few days. It's weird to think that I need a vacation, but deciding what to do each day, from museum visits down to when to eat, sleep, shower, sit, everything, is pretty exhausting. I am going to try to turn my mind off a bit, and just read, snorkel, laze in a hammock, and hopefully enjoy a blended beverage. I will also, finally, get some beach time in. Can't wait!

great ocean road

If you are ever in Melbourne, I highly encourage leaving the city briefly and touring down the Great Ocean Road. There are loads of day trips, some 2- and 3- day jobs, and you can drive it yourself pretty easily. But it is completely worth it; this goes double if you are also not from the Californian or Oregonian coast.

It was just a day tour, and a small group, so we didn't have a lot of time to dawdle, but it did remind me why I like traveling independently more than with a tour sometimes. We passed through all of these tiny seaside towns with charming names - Anglesea, Torquey, Apollo Bay - that were all delightful and lovely, but also that warranted only a bathroom stop before we had to get moving again. The time it takes to wrangle even a small group tour of 20 or
so is still longer than it takes to manage a trip in a rental car, so I definitely feel like I got less of a view of these towns than the ones Susan and I drove through in New Zealand - even the ones we spent less time in there.

Tours do have their benefit, though. It was glorious, for instance, for one day not to have to plan for myself how I was getting anywhere, when to eat, where to eat, when to go, when to stay. The banal logistics of everyday living become much more of a consideration while traveling, and being a part of a bus takes me out of that. Also, tours help me get to do cer
tain things, like go to Egypt and Jordan as a lone white female, and feel relatively secure.

Anyway, back to the road: Gorgeous. The coastline is rugged and lovely, and very reminiscent of coastlines in California (especially the Santa Barbara/central coast areas) or Oregon (except warm and sunny). The water is blue and the wind kicks up a lot of waves, which makes for great surfing, dangerous swimming, and lots of sandy beaches.

The trip includes other attractions down that way as well - we saw s
ome koala napping in a eucalyptus, and a temperate rain forest, and the Otway hills. We saw the "Shipwreck Coast" (apparently, people coming to Australia during their gold rush had to face a southern landing, which was made difficult by the extreme winds and rocky shores).

And because the cliffs are made of limestone, being worn away by the water, there are all these "structures" to see - the Lon Bridge, which used to be a long bridge with two semicircular arches below them, until the nearer one collapsed one day, strandin
g two tourists out there (you used to be able to just walk out from the parking lot).

The absolute highlight was absolutely the Twelve Apostles. Even though there are now, I believe? One just collapsed last year, but there have not been twelve in a long time, if ever. These huge limestone towers just climbing up out of impossibly blue water. It's worth all the tourists, the winds, the herding onto and off of buses, all of it, to see them. They look so perfect and beautiful on postcards, and they looked just like that in person, too - one of the beauties of nature, really.

March 09, 2008


Sometimes it's the little things.

I had to move hostels this morning, so I was up and about a little early. Since it is a public holiday (Labour Day), I was one of the few, really. My new hostel is in a great location, near this hip street that gets progressively more upscale as it gets further north. My sister and I wandered it on Friday, but today it wasn't raining - in fact it's supposed to hit nearly 100, and it was not far from that at 10 am.

Anyway, so the street is just barely waking up, and this woman - older, a little frail - is walking this huge shaggy white dog that is too big for her, but generally well-behaved. But he gets excited and takes off away from her, weaving through pedestrians, and dodges into a nearby storefront.

He went into a pet store, and sat there staring at the mini lop bunnies, until his owner came and took him along. I love that the dog was smart enough to know where he could go to gaze longingly at some prey.

I also love that the shop had a big bin of hugely fuzzy baby kittens that were just about the prototype for kitten cuteness. They couldn't have been more than 8 weeks, all messy fuzzy long fur, and hugely playful - pouncing on one another, on the toys, on invisible lint. They were going to town, and I wanted to take them all and make room in my pack.

I also watched the Moomba Parade today, the last day of the festival. I don't know what the theme is - the festival is technically a "water fest," but that seems a loose theme at best, and the parade was more of a multicultural group and organization celebration than anything. But it had jellyfish and a Chinese dragon and belly dancers and kids in bands and dance troupes, so it was still nice to see - something very much for the locals, not for tourists.

It's strange what the highlights are. I watched So You Think You Can Dance Australia last night, and found it oddly comforting - it made me excited for the American one that will be playing when I get home. The dancers were good (unlike the kiwi Dancing With The Stars, which is nowhere near as impressive as in the States), and it was just something random to enjoy.

I went to a moonlight screening of Juno in the botanical gardens with my Melbourne friend Julia, and on Sunday we braved the extreme heat to have brunch in trendy Fitzroy before going to some of the Moomba Festival to see the dragon boat races and then to the Australian Center of Moving Image for the video game exhibit. I learned a lot - I am really terrible at Dance Dance Revolution (they have video games from Pong through Wii out to play with) for instance, and i can get NEARLY my whole back with the sunblock when I wear my racerback tank, but there is one little strip I miss, apparently, that will burn like bacon in the heat and sun.

The little things, though, are the ones that I am liking best about Australia. That may change tomorrow, when I go on a day tour down the Great Ocean Road, which is supposed to be spectacular, but for now my favorite parts of Melbourne are the little ones.

Like BreadTop. Why don't we have Chinese bakeries like this at home? They have everything from sweet to savory, it is all excellent and fresh, and it means that me, a single poor traveler, gets to live on sesame bean curd balls and almond custard pastries and pork buns instead of pb&j.

So BreadTop, to you I say thank you for being in Melbourne. Next to the Target.

March 07, 2008

Lonliness of the long-distance traveler

I sent my sister and her many, heavy bags off this morning. She is playing pack mule for my whole family in getting things from here to there. She is also on herway back to the States, so I am once again flying solo. It's hard, to go from traveling mostly with fun people I know and love to be back facing all my time alone. I am also in front of the long stretch - 6 weeks in Australia and Asia on my own before I meet the parents in Greece. It's the longest I have in the whole trip, and it's just at day one.

So I am sad - having Susan leave was really hard, and today may be a little rough. But fortunately, I am meeting up with my friend here in Melbourne a bunch this weekend - yay! - and there is enough I want to do that my time here is already pretty full. I just have to think about what I want to do today, and tomorrow, and not worry about the weeks ahead, or the number of them.

It's a bit of a hard, lonely day. But it will get better.

March 06, 2008

Festival of festivals

I somehow managed to be in Melbourne when everything is happening. Surprisingly, the city does not seem packed, and there is a lot going on.Everywhere I look, it seems like there is another advertisement for some other festival - Food & Wine, Fashion Week, Moomba Water Fest, Grand Prix, rugby, cricket - all of them are this week. It's insane. Welcome to summer's end in a sports city.

I like Melbourne, though my first impression of Australia is that it is an awful lot like the US. They even have their own versions of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? and The Biggest Loser, sadly. I love that there is public art everywhere - statues, sculptures; there would be fountains, too, were it not for the years-long drought. The public transportation is incredible, and I love that it mostly uses trams that go everywhere. A lot of this city is very practical and logical. Also, they love bakeries. There are bakeries everywhere - French, Chinese, "Continental Cake Shops," whatever. They love a bakery. And therefore I love them.

For Susan's last day in town, we went first to Chapel Street in South Yarra for some upscale window shopping and for Susan's last flat white (her new favorite coffee - like a latte, but no foam). It was cold and rainy, but the weather cleared and so for lunch we went to St Kilda to walk on the beach and eat some FANTASTIC gourmet burgers. I had a lamb burger that was so seasoned and tasty, I don't even know what to do.

We went back to the CBD,even though it is not our favorite, to see the largest opal ever mined (yep, huge. HUGE.) and then we sat by the Yarra and enjoyed the evening. We went up in the tower to see the whole city, and waited for sunset. The same weather report that gave it a 10 % chance of rain (which apparently meant it would rain for 10 % of the day...) also said sunset was at 7:00. It was not. SO we waited a while, and got loopy, and finally saw the lights come on in the city. After, we made a quick trip to the carnival at the Moomba fest before heading back to pack.

We're packing in a lot to the city to see lots of it before it's time to move on. This is labor day weekend, so there is going to be a lot to see and do. But it's also supposed to be 100 degrees. Wish me luck!

Melbourne, day 2

I have been in Australia for two full days now. Contrary to my habits, I have barely been on internet, so you will have to forgive the absence and trust that it's only because I have been out and about. It is not, as my mom feared, because my sister and I were lying in the Tasman Sea somewhere, or were being sold into white slavery (We didn't call soon enough, so she got worried and emailed the hotel to see if we checked in. We called this afternoon, so she's pretty sure we're alive.).

Melbourne is lovely, and so different from New Zealand. It's got this weird hybrid of foreign and American chain stores that makes it both fascinating and embarrassing - I mean, no wonder people don't love Americans, when we export terrible MTV reality and stores like EB Games and The Athlete's Foot?

For only two days, we've packed in a lot. We've had some nearly uncomfortably warm weather, and today, we briefly had some rain. We are CURSED, but I refuse to thing negatively and unpack the rain jacket. We toured the Royal Botanic Gardens, and found them lovely but not as good as the ones in Christchurch - whether that is a design flaw or a result of Melbourne's years-long draught is up in the air, though. We went to Queen Victoria Market and bought souvenirs and produce - this place has everything, from butchers to hammocks. And it's the butchers, not the tourist stands, that have barkers hawking their wares. Awesome. We went to Chinatown, walked along the river, and poked through the grocery store.

But the highlights are as follows:

Yesterday, Susan and I had dinner with a friend I had never met. I know her only via the Internet, but fortunately, she is just as lovely in person as she is online. She took us to tapas and gelato (what is not to love?) and got us oriented in the city on the first night here. Thanks, Julia!

Also yesterday, I went to Target. It was a trip, to see another place that is both the same and completely different as in the States, but it was wonderful. I didn't want to leave. We poked around the whole place, and just like home, I came away with an armful of stuff. And most importantly, I came away with new jeans! I went in a dozen stores in NZ and never found a pair that was anything more than doable and anything less than $50. I went into one Target and got a legitimately adorable pair of jeans for $30. God bless the Target; God bless them every one.

And the undeniable highlight: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the musical. My mom went in Sydney last year, and loved it - she made me promise to go when I am up there in a couple of weeks. But there is a touring show here now, so it turns out Susan could go too, and we are so glad she did. This show is fantastic, y'all. The costumes are the same, and spectacular in person (plus new ones!), the songs are fun (and they found a great way to play with the leads lip synching their numbers), and they put in a lot of Australia jokes that make it really worth it to see the show here. There were koala and kangaroo costumes, Kylie jokes, and the daiquiris in the lobby were served in light up martini glasses. It was hands-down another trip highlight. See if it you are ever able, really.

Melbourne is really busy, with about 4 festivals going on this weekend (which is also labor day) and the Grand Prix starting next week, so I think I will have a good time taking advantage of it. Australia is expensive, though, but I am sure I will manage once the sticker shock wears off. I am not going to lie, starting out on a trip like this when the dollar is plummeting on a near-daily rate may not have been the best plan.

March 04, 2008

the kiwis

The First Not-At-All-Annual Kiwi Awards for Excellence in Travel

Best City: Christchurch

Best Scenery: Milford Road & Milford Sound

Best Scenery, urban: Queenstown

Best Accomodation: Hotel So

Best Dining Experience: Street food lunch from the vendors at the Christchurch Arts Centre market
Susan's vote: Fergburger, Queenstown. "A truly outstanding chicken sandwich, and just a fun place."

Best Shopping: Christchurch Arts Centre, on the weekend during the market

Best Beer: Speight's Gold Medal Ale ** (category by Susan entirely)

Best Dessert: Hazelnut & caramel tart, Strawberry Fare, Christchurch
honorable mention: Sticky date pudding, Strawberry
Fare, Christchurch

Best Dessert, packaged: Cadbury Coconut Rough (whoever throught to roast the coconut before putting it into the milk chocolate should be KNIGHTED)
Susan's vote: Caramel Tim Tams

Best Tourist Trap Attraction: Queenstown's Gondola and luge up top
honorable mention: Cadbury Factory Tour, Dunedin

Best Roadside Attraction: Moeraki boulders, Moeraki
honorable mention: The Chasm, Milford Road

Best Drive-by Town We Didn't Stop In: Oamaru, an adorable beach town that reminded us of Santa Cruz, along the Highway 1 on this side of the Pacific Ocean

Best Translation of Kiwi to American: Babyfoot Table (What they call a foosball table. Get it? Cause it's small soccer?)
honorable mention: Holeys (What they call Crocs, those horrible shoes. Hee!)

Item I would most like to transport home with me: Wine Tastes from Queenstown, where you can sample the wines at your leisure. I would be a regular, and bring ALL my friends.
Susan's vote: The alley of street food vendors from Christchurch Arts Centre, or a full array of Speight's readily available on tap.


Just a quick roundup as it is late and I still have to pack - and the shuttle comes, no joke, at 4:00 tomorrow morning.

On Sunday, we left Te Anau (which was pouring rain) and headed to Dunedin (which was pouring rain, and cold). I drove the whole way, and did fine - except for a couple of instances where Susan had to remind me I was too far left, it was not a problem. A bit more stressful than driving otherwise, but not a near-death experience.

Dunedin is different from any other place we visited in New Zealand - it is the second largest city on the south island, but it is just not tourist-driven, so it is a city where people live, work and go to school, not book you on a fabulous wildlife cruise.

It was also a Sunday, so everything was pretty well closed. We did manage to squeeze in to a brewery tour at Speight's brewery, followed by a fantastic dinner at the ale house - I had my last dinner of New Zealand lamb, though you really wouldn't know one was missing from all we passed along the way... We also it up a movie, and had a pretty good evening for a closed, rainy Sunday night town.

Monday, we did the other Dunedin attraction, the tour of the Cadbury plant. Chocolate smell and free candy bars? Yes, please. The tour was actually wonderful, and wound through the factory during production and wrapping, which was nifty.

After a trip 'round the town center (called The Octagon, though dissapointingly, two of us entered AND left), we were essentialy done with town - it may have been weather blues, but part of it was also that, by this point, we had also gotten a bit attaached to the idea of getting an extra day in Christchurch, so we wanted to take advantage of that.

So it was up the coast we went, taking Highway 1 up the Pacific Coast. weird, no? We stopped along the way for the most incredible thing. Along a very small stretch of beach, stuck in the sand are these incredible, perfect spheres of rock. The ocean wears away the concrete and limestone that makes them up at different rates, so they are also coming apart in interesting ways, but these boulders, about 6 feet in diameter, are just marvels of nature and mystery. Totally worth the stop. 

Back in Christchurch, the city feels a but more crowded than last week, and some of the overcast drabness and occasional spitting rain followed us north, but it was also a little bit like coming home.

Today, we had a full day of shopping, eating and just catching up, without any rush. We found the firefighter's memorial, made out of salvaged scrap from the World Trade Center, which we missed the first time around and which was really wonderful, actually. For dinner, we skipped the mains and went for the expensive, to die for, fantastic desserts at this place. Seriously, if you ever are in that half of the world, go to this place. Their online menu has the desserts in TWO PARTS, for goodness sake. An excellent way to cap off a really excellent trip to New Zealand.

And tomorrow, Melbourne.

March 01, 2008

like the weather

It's been rain, rain, raining in the southland today. Our glowworms got rained out again (poor flooded larvae!) and we had wet all the way to and from Milford.

Milford Sound, though, gets 200 days of rain a year, and 8m of rainfall on average, so seeing it like it was today was pretty representative of what it actually looks like. It was rainy, sure, but still gorgeous:
The other thing - there has been rain pretty much nonstop, and they said about 44cm in the last 10 days (134mm in the last 24 hours!) so everything is saturated. Around here, that means that the mountains are literally awash in waterfalls. The road from Te Anau to Milford is about 120 km and takes 2 hours. We left early this morning, to catch our cruise in the Sound and to miss the parade of buses on the road and the masses of tourists on the water. But the road itself is full of attractions. On the way there, we didn't stop, but we still got to enjoy the scary tunnel that is in the most avalanche-prone area (average of one a day in winter), took 20 years to build because of the rock slides and water that flowed through) and until about a year ago, had no lights whatsoever inside. Yeah, that was fun; but when we emerged, it was to these sheer cliffs with just waterfalls as far as the eye can see:
The Sound is stunning - totally worth a trip, even if its raining so hard it goes sideways. We saw fur seals lazing about, sailed all the way to the Tasman Sea, and marveled at the sheer cliffs of insanity. On the way back, we stopped to see The Chasm, which is a full, rough, rushing river (and in this weather, where the tiny creeks have become raging rivers, this one was still t
he most impressive) that has carved its way into rocks something fierce. It was worth getting absolutely soaked as the rain picked up while we watched.

I love New Zealand, but am totally ready to leave Te Anau. We are heading for the coast, for Dunedin, tomorrow, and I hope it is drier. I also hope they have reasonably-priced clothing - I ripped my jeans in Queenstown, and am finding that everyone who wears jeans in New Zealand must be a zillionaire, because I can't find a replacement pair for under $70.

Oh, and I didn't drive today, but I definitely will tomorrow. I will take photos to prove it.