Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Australia Part 12 of 12

Part 12: Going home :-(
My least favourite part to write. I so loved every single minute of my vacation that I hated having to leave. New Zealand had once again come to be home to me, and leaving it/Australia to return to reality... well, basically that really was what it was - leaving my dream to wake up. Of course I couldn't wait to get back to Lars again, but apart from that... I would have loved to stay.

Thankfully I didn't leave Sydney until after lunch, so I had a very pleasant morning in front of me together with Anne and her family. We got up early, and after a nice breakfast, drove off to a nearby Plaza so I could buy my Swarovski souvenir. I hadn't been able to find anything in New Zealand, so this was my chance. And once I saw it, I knew exactly what I had to get - a small ladybug! See, Giana's nickname on Anne's blog is "Ladybaby", so this would be a perfect reminder of my stay with them! After hearing my reasoning, Anne decided that since Giana really wasn't a baby any longer, she should graduate to being "Ladybug" on the blog as well - very sweet!

(who's a mutual friend of Anne's and mine, and who met up with Anne and her family some years ago) had recommended I took the kids to get Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and since pretty much most of Anne's family wanted to meet me (I almost blushed at that - I mean... really!) we decided to kill two birds with one stone, get a bunch of doughnuts and gather everybody together for morning tea by the river.

Unfortunately no doughnuts were being made while we were in the shop :( That would have been fun to see!

The morning tea was really cozy. I loved the park, and everybody was just so friendly! Made it even harder for me to say goodbye - knowing that most of these people I'd probably never meet again. But they were truly of the race that knows Joseph.

We made the most of the situation, and got Anne's SIL to take this photo of all 5 of us.

And of course another one of just the two of us :-)

At 11'ish we had to call it a day, as it was a bit of a long drive out to the airport, and we didn't want to risk getting in late. Once again Anne popped on a Colin Buchanan CD (a different one), and we passed a very enjoyable hour driving to the airport while singing along :) Turned out that she had ulterior motives in introducing me to Colin Buchanan, as she and Ian presented me with the two CDs I'd heard to give to my nieblings as presents!!! I thought that was so extremely sweet of them! And was rather pleased on my own behalf too, as I'd told myself I had to look him up when I came home, because I'd love to introduce my family to his music. Voila! :D

Check-in went without any hassles, I had a DELICIOUS lunch at the airport (Anne, do you remember the name of the salad? I forgot again. And seriously, why is fast-food anywhere else so much better than in Denmark? Sheesh!), and then - unfortunately - it was time for me to say goodbye to my new-found family and go through security.

Saying goodbye was really, really difficult. Despite only having been with them for 2.5 days, I felt like I'd become a part of their family, and I'm not ashamed to admit I shed a tear or two as I stood in line to get through security. I've been blessed with many wonderful friends down-under, and it's such a shame they live so far away.

Thank you everybody, for making this such a fantastic, terrific, wonderfully blessed trip!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Australia Part 11 of 12

Part 11: Sydney City
Despite our busy day on Monday, most of us actually got up relatively early on Tuesday, and after breakfast, we headed off to the trainstation to take the train in to Sydney City. I figured that I couldn't be in Sydney without seeing the Opera House (designed by a Dane!) and Anne and her family happily obliged me :)

Doesn't she just look like an adorable imp?! :)

I was ridiculously excited to see the Opera House! I mean, I'd been to see it in 1991, but yet it felt an absolute MUST to walk past again - even if I did just want to walk up to it, take a photo and walk off again ;) I did discover that while it looks terrific from some angles - it's really, really ugly from others! At least IMHO.

Back when I started planning this trip, and started considering going to Sydney for a couple of days, I asked Lars if he'd be okay with me staying away for a bit longer, so I could fit it all in. "Of course! But then you HAVE to go and take a photo of Nemo by the Opera House." ;-)

Proof that Anne and I were together at last!

We took the ferry across the harbour to Manly and had a lovely lunch of fish 'n' chips on the beach... even if we were accosted by some of the most fearless and cheeky seagulls I've ever encountered! Truely "rats with wings". No exaggeration, we had to be constantly on the watch to scare them away, or they'd come sit on our heads trying to steal our food! Mike had one land on him before we figured that one out! (I'd have squealed if that had happened to me, so I was very impressed that he didn't!) Once Mike and Giana finished their lunch they started running around to scare off the birds so the rest of us could finish our meal in peace. It mostly worked... except when they got carried away and ran so far away from the table, that they actually scared the seagulls back to us again ;)

Once back in Sydney harbour, and refreshened by a delicious ice cream (authentic unauthentic Danish ice cream. The chain is called "Royal Copenhagen", much to my amusement, since that's the name of our most expensive china brand!) we walked to the Queen Victoria Building for a quick look-around there. It's a gorgeous looking building, but the most fascinating thing of all was this letter that was displayed:

In case it's too small for the writing to be legible, it says:
On a suitable day to be selected by you in the year 2085AD would you please open this envelope and convey to the citizens of SYDNEY my message to them.
Elizabeth R.

I can assure you, it gave me a right thrill to read this! It was presented to Sydney in 1986 and nobody knows what is written! Okay, first of all, not a thing I would expect from Queen Elizabeth II!!! It seems almost too frivolous to be something she would do. Secondly, I'm insanely curious now! And chances are very small that I'll be alive to experience the reading of it. But absolutely fascinating. Such "scope for imagination" to quote our dear Anne.

That evening, Anne and Ian took me out for dinner at a local restaurant called "King Henry's Court". What a delightful, quaint place that was! It's located in an old church, and the restaurant itself is one giant giftshop, as it's filled with nicknacks of all possible imaginable and unimaginable sorts on all the walls - and everything's for sale! it would have been a very, very, VERY dangerous place for me indeed, if I'd lived any closer, because I found so many things I'd like! Too inconvenient to take with me in the suitcase though, which was probably just as well.

Dinner was very, very yummy, and the atmosphere terrific. I'm so glad I got to experience it :) But Giana completely stole my heart that night. I had to excuse myself briefly before the food arrived, and when I came back, she was sitting on Anne's lap, obviously in distress. "She just realized you were leaving tomorrow," Anne explained. How can a girl not melt when she hears that?! I gave her a huge hug, and sat with her snuggled up to me for most of the rest of the night.

Back home we sat down for a couple of games - both lingustic type games, which I can ensure you was rather interesting in a foreign language! I know my English is above average for a Dane, but my vocabulary is still limited when it comes to botanic words, and there are still times where the Danish words would jump out more readily than the English, so we had lots of fun playing with me occasionally shouting out some Danish word or the other, and Anne asking, "Oh, is that what [whatever] is called in Danish?". And Giana blew me away completely when she was able to give a proper description of Isle of Man - flag and everything! I certainly couldn't have done that at that age! Great fun! :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Australia Part 10 of 12

Part 10: Scenic World
From Featherdale we drove straight up to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to see the Three Sisters. It was a beautiful trip, but I've got to admit to struggling a bit to stay awake for all of it. Mike and Giana had asked me to sit in the middle (because they both wanted to sit next to me - hard to argue with ;) ) and at one point they had both fallen asleep, leaning against me. I could feel the effects of essentially having been up since 1am, so it was a bit of a battle.

It was COMPLETELY worth it once we arrived though! I hadn't been completely certain, but once I actually saw the Three Sisters again, I knew that I'd been there with my parents back in 1991 - quite funny to be back after such a long time :)

Ian, the kids and I walked down the steeeeeep steps to the first sister. It's possible to walk all the way down to the valley using these steps, but I'm really glad we didn't! The steps down were a challange because of my bad leg (which doesn't allow my foot to bend enough to walk down stairs properly - I basically have to 'jump' for every second step, which doesn't feel altogether safe on steps as steep as these), and the steps up were a bit of a challenge because I'm obviously not as fit as I would like to be ;) I was huffing and puffing big time by the time we'd made it back up to Anne again.

... Who, at this time, was able to tell us about the death of Bin Laden! She had wanted to post a photo of us to Facebook and had seen status upon status upon status mentioning his death. She couldn't get online to a reputable news site though to confirm, so ended up calling her mother. Yup - no hoax. So I'm pretty sure I'll always remember exactly where I was "when I heard".

I'm fascinated by the erosion of the sandstone under this tree! Giana didn't really dare stand under it for my photo, and I can't say I blame her!

From the Three Sisters we drove over to Scenic World for a better view of the valley. We took the railway down - and I do mean DOWN! It descended 206 meters in just 415 meters with an incline of 52 degrees in places! I WISH I could have gotten a photo of it, but by the time I realized that it was photo-worthy, I needed both hands to hold on to Giana and myself! It was a super-fun trip though! Made even more fun by the tour-guide playing the theme music from "Indiana Jones" as we drove ;)

From the bottom of the Railway, we walked across part of the valley to take the Cableway back up and ended the day by going on the Skyway across the valley and back again - fantastic view, and yet again a gorgeous waterfall :)

After a brief tour around Katoomba to see Anne's old haunts (she used to live there), we started the journey back to Sydney. I'd been a bit worried about the trip home, because when the trip out was such a struggle, how on earth would I be able to manage on the trip home, when it was dark outside? Fortunately that turned out to not be a problem at all, as Anne put on a CD of Christian children songs by Colin Buchanan and we ended up singing along to that all the way home. Most of the songs were Bible verses, so I already knew the lyrics, and thanks to them being children songs, the music wasn't too difficult either, so I had no problems singing along, despite it being the first time I'd heard the CD.

Actually, this turned out to be the creation of one of my favourite memories from Australia :-)

Once home Anne cooked a delicious dinner for us, but none of us lingered over it - we were all too tired! I'd been up for 19 hours at this stage. 9pm saw us all in bed and (mostly) fast asleep.

New Zealand/Australia: Part 9 of 12

Part 9: Featherdale
May 2nd. The flight to Sydney went smoothly and after the night I had, I'm sure that it surprises nobody that I ended up sleeping most of the way! I had planned to watch "Mamma Mia" on the inflight entertainment, but ended up sleeping pretty much from "Lay All Your Love On Me" to "SOS" ;-)

I arrived to Sydney shortly after 7am and steeled myself for the looooong wait at customs. Fortunately, that ended up not being nearly as bad as I'd feared though! Sure, there was a long queue to get my passport checked*, but once that was done, it didn't take long for my suitcase to turn up, and I discovered a queue for customs that everybody else had missed! The sheep mentality is strong, and people seemed to have completely missed that there were two entrances to customs and all queued up in one!

* You KNOW you've entered Australia when 'line' is pronounced 'loine' - as in "Oi've opened another loine over here" ;)

Once in that line I was fortunate enough to be chosen for random testing (at least it seemed pretty random, but perhaps there was a reason to the madness) - I'd put all my candy into one bag, so when the officer asked me what I had to declare, I could just show him that bag. "That's it?" he asked, incredulously (I don't know why... perhaps he'd expected me to declare nothing when it was so little, and so obviously okay? But that's against the rules!), and indicated for me to go out of the line and over to the side, where I had my bags checked by a dog, rather than by human hand. The dog was awfully interested in my dirty socks which was a tad embarrassing, but once its handler saw that that was the only thing in that pocket, she scolded the dog and told me to move on ;) Which I was more than happy to do, because I knew that Anne and her family were standing right outside the gate waiting for me!!!!!!!!!

Now, to fully understand my excitement about this, a bit of history is in order. Anne and I first met each other online on an L.M. Montgomery mailing list somewhere around 1997. For awhile we were merely list acquaintances, but we slowly started exchanging personal emails, discovered each others' blogs and friended each other on MSN Messenger. Around 2004-2005 we'd be chatting for hours more or less daily. She is the kind of friend I could text at 4am and it wouldn't matter that I woke her up, and she is always there for me when I need her. I count her among my closest friends... but, we'd never met, and only spoken on the phone a couple of times.

So when this trip came around, and I discovered that I'd be going by myself, it seemed absolutely ridiculous to be so close to Australia and NOT take the opportunity for us to FINALLY meet in person. Both of us were eagerly counting down the days for months and suddenly we were down to mere minutes! I walked through the gate - and saw people eagerly waving Danish flags!

I immediately recognized Ian and Mike (Anne's husband and son) - and would have even without the flags - but think they took a bit longer to recognize me ;) Anne had been off with Giana (her daughter) somewhere, but quickly came running when she saw that I'd arrived, and after approx. 15 years, we could FINALLY give each other a hug in person :-)

We quickly dropped by their place to drop off my suitcase and pick up a picnic basket, and then drove off to Featherdale Wildlife Park to spend the morning there. I ended up having a terrific time - I got to hold a snake, feed wallabys and kangaroos and pet a koala! :-D A fantastic time was had by all, I think. Mike and Giana certainly had the time of their lives feeding the kangaroos... especially when one kangaroo stole the rest of Mike's 'cup' (an icecream cone), and Giana fed the rest of hers to a joey wallaby (no clue if it's still called a joey when it's a wallaby rather than a kangaroo) and an emu came to steal it!!! Purely by luck I managed to get a photo of that!

I'm always amused by animals sitting in funny and humanlike positions.

The poor thing was COLD!!! It hung on to me quite tightly to steal some of my heat.

The thieving emu!

These penguins stood and walked in formation! So cute :D

The tasmanian devil kept runing around and around the rock formation in the middle of its enclosure. By the time we arrived, it had made quite a track around it!

I was fascinated by both the albino wallaby and the albino peacock!

We ended the visit off with a lovely BBQ picnic and then (of course) a trip through the souvenier store, so I could get a keepsake and some pressies.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

New Zealand - Part 8 of 12'ish

Part 8: Auckland
May 1nd: Leaving Liz was no fun AT ALL! First of all because it meant leaving my best friend. Secondly because I knew it heralded the beginning of the end - soon I'd be leaving first New Zealand and then the Southern hemisphere altogether. Time had flown by FAR too quickly, and I just wasn't ready to go home. Not by a long shot!

I was set to leave Hamilton Sunday afternoon, but got a bit of a fright that morning - I went to turn on the GPS and type in Holly's address so I'd be all set for that afternoon, only to discover that the GPS wouldn't turn on! Yikes! I did NOT relish a drive to Auckland without a GPS and even less the drive the following morning from Holly's place to the airport! Sure, I had maps, but I suck at reading maps while driving, because I can't retain the information and have to keep checking to see if I'm (still) on the right track. So there was a brief moment of stress there while I was thinking up various versions of plan B in case I couldn't get a new one. Fortunately that turned out not to be a problem - Liz gave me very precise directions to the Hertz rental place in Hamilton (I'm very much a landmark driver rather than a streetname driver!), and once there I was able to get it exchanged no problems. I typed in Holly's address, and was on my way! :-)

But PTL that I went to check the GPS that morning! I'd have been in a complete panic if I hadn't discovered it didn't work until I was on my way!

It was so great to get to meet Holly, Bryan and their kids. Holly's sister was there for a long visit, so I got to meet her too, which was a treat. But I've got to say, the kids are SO CUTE :-) They'd just arrived home when I came, so were a bit tired and hesitant at first, but once we'd sat down to dinner together, we were long-lost friends, and when time came for their goodnight stories, Symeon and Verity rushed over and found three books each, and then brought them to me, so I could read aloud to them! I was so honoured that they'd let me read to them after having known them for such a short time - reading aloud is one of my all-time favourite ways of bonding with children :-) Holly's sister really said it best - there are no strangers in their world :-)

Of course we also had to have photo evidence that Holly and I had met at last.

We sat talking for awhile, and then headed off to bed sometime after 10pm. I'd been offered a bed, but opted to sleep on the (extremely comfortable! I might add) couch instead, because I had to get up at 3am the following morning in order to be at the airport in time. As it was, I was so worried about oversleeping that I only slept a couple of hours anyway ;-) and thankfully I managed to let myself out of the house without waking anybody up.

Again, thank you SO much for letting me crash! It was so great not to have to drive up from Hamilton at that hour of the morning (or spend the night at the airport as would probably have been what I'd end up doing), and I loved finally getting to meet you, even if it was only for a couple of hours :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Zealand - Part 7 of 12'ish

Part 7: Hamilton
April 23rd - May 1st: Hamilton is where I stayed the longest, but honestly, I think it's also the place where the least happened, because most of my time was spent less as a tourist and more as a long-lost member of Liz' family, returning home. Lovely, wonderful and terrific for me, but probably a bit boring for other people to read about ;)

But back on track. On April 23rd, Brent drove me to Palmy airport where I picked up my rental car and the GPS. I entered Liz' address into the GPS and it asked me if I wanted, "The quickest route, the easiest route, the shortest route or the scenic route". Ding-ding-ding-ding! :D

Love these hills!

Taihape is know as Gumboot Capital - they actually have annual gumboot throwing competitions. Unfortunately I missed the "Welcome to Gumboot Capital" sign when I drove into Taihape, so when I caught this on my way out, I had to stop for a photo!

With the GPS, driving to Hamilton was a breeze. It was a 5 hour drive, but didn't feel that long AT ALL! The scenary was absolutely gorgeous, driving on the wrong side of the road not a problem at all, and the time just flew by, so at 6pm I pulled up by Liz' place and was finally able to give my bestest best friend a hug again :)

The next week went by all too quickly. Liz sings in church choir, so I joined her for the Easter Vigil and the Easter Sunday service (and had my one bout of homesickness during the latter, as Easter Sunday services have always been a big deal in my church / my family. Fortunately the last hymn we sang happened to be one we sing in Denmark as well, and I know it off by heart, so I was able to sing along in Danish, and suddenly it felt like a proper Easter again :) Funny how music can do that), we went over to see Liz' parents several times (they were my 'reserve host-family' back then, and have always spoiled me rotten ;) ), we spent a couple of rainy days just sitting and chatting, doing crafty stuff and Liz managed to get me thoroughly hooked on The Big Bang Theory, so I'm going to have to get hold of that one now ;)

Wednesday Liz took me to a pub quiz to meet some of her friends (and do the quiz, obviously ;) ), we ended up taking second place, and had a brilliant time. I'm glad I got to meet some of her friends, so I can put faces to the people she talks about in her emails to me.

Friday Liz' parents had invited us to join them for a high tea at a Japanese tea house just outside Hamilton - apparently the only place outside Asia where Oolong tea is grown :) The high tea was served with sushi and cakes and absolutely delicious. Yum!

After the high tea we'd been invited back to Liz' parents' place to join them for the Royal Wedding. Honestly, I hadn't had any desire to watch it at all, but I REALLY like Liz' family, and this was a chance to get to spend more time with them, which is always a good thing. Liz' brother and his wife were there as well, as were two of Liz' uncles and aunts. I was REALLY pleased to get to meet them! I may have known Liz for 15 years, but I'd never before met anybody outside her immediate family, so it was excellent to get to meet some of the uncles and aunts she'd been telling me about :) I immediately liked them. They just seem like really nice people, and their humour is pretty much the same as the rest of Liz' family, so I fit in right away :) They seemed to like me too, and one of Liz' aunts ended up telling me, "You'll do. I approve of you as Liz' sister". Hehe - thanks!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Zealand - Part 6 of 12'ish

Part 6: Back 'Home' to Palmerston North
April 22nd: After a day's respite, it was back to the airport for me again today. I was finally going up north, flying via Christchurch to Wellington. When I booked the tickets, I was a bit annoyed that I couldn't get a direct flight, but it turned out to be a very good thing indeed, because it meant I got to see Clive! (my host-father) He'd been away at work in Palmy when I was in Chch earlier that week, so I hadn't gotten to see him - to my great disappointment. However, he called while I was there, and when he heard that I'd be flying back via Chch, asked me to leave my flight information with Ruth, so he could come out and see me in the airport! Yay! :-) I was incredibly touched that he'd do that, and SO grateful that I got to see him. As I'm sure you've figured out by now, my host-family means a LOT to me, and have really become my 'second family', so I'm glad I got to see at least some of them. It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to them when it was time to board my plane.

Once in Wellington Lauren and Tane picked me up and drove me to their place for a quick lunch (lovely, lovely kumera soup - yum!) before heading off to Palmerston North. Lauren had very generously offered to drive me there, and it provided us with an excellent chance to catch up and have a bit of a nostalgic drive around Palmy. Lauren and I met at Freyberg High School, so of course we had to drive by there and have a bit of a wander around to see what had changed. Not too much fortunately, so it wasn't too disconcerting to be back. The same can't be said about Winchester School (my old primary school) though... perhaps not so strange, considering it's been 20-21 years since I attended that school, but I still feel that time should stand still while I'm not in Palmy - so there! ;-)

Lauren and Tane dropped me off at Dot & Brent's place at around 5. Dot and Brent (and their kids) have been friends of my family ever since 1990 when we attended the same church as them, Nina and I went to school with their two youngest children, and Mum and Dad became very close friends with them. They were there for me when I returned as an exchange student, and I ended up in the same Youth Group as Tim, their youngest son, and their oldest son is now living in London and is the godfather of Jordan - so yeah, all in all, a very close friendship has survived between our families for more than 20 years - of COURSE I had to see them when I was back.

It was still too early for dinner when I arrived, so Dot and Brent asked me if there was anything I'd like to see while in Palmy. Since they lived just a few minutes walk from the house my family and I lived in the first time we were in New Zealand, I told them that I'd really like to go past there. I'd checked in the white pages that it was still the same family living there as when we rented the place, so even though they might not remember me specifically, I knew that they'd remember my parents, and wouldn't mind me dropping by. Turned out that Dot knew them too, so even less reason for concern on that regard.

... I'm not... altogether sure it was a good idea though... At least, it was definitely very, very bittersweet. Once again I'd expected time to stand still, and once again I'd been shown very forcefully that that was not the case at all!

The owners were home, and they did indeed remember me, but it turned out that they had subdivided the section of land, had built a new house where the garage used to be, and were now renting out the old house to another family. I know it's completely unfair, but it was horrendously disconcerting. I was invited to go for a walk around the garden of the old house, and then shown around in the new house. I didn't care much about the new place, to be honest, but went along with it to be polite. I stepped from the patio into the living room - and almost burst into tears when I recognized the old living room arrangement! "I had not expected to get this emotional!" ... but I did. Could hardly speak for being so choked up. Really, really weird!

We walked back home shortly after that, and Dot got dinner on the table for us. Dinner was as Kiwi as Kiwi can be :) Lamb chops for mains and then a Pavlova with feijoas and hokey-pokey ice cream for dessert. Yum! Shortly before I left Denmark, Dot had sent me an email, asking me if there were any New Zealand foods I specifically missed. My reply was an instant FEIJOAS! I fell in love with this fruit back in 1990, but have been completely unable to find it anywhere outside New Zealand. It wasn't in season when Lars and I were there in 2004, so I hadn't had any since 1999! Dot reassured me that they would be in season while I was there, and had proceeded to get a huge bag full for me! I was a bit afraid they wouldn't live up to my expectations, but fortunately they most definitely did :-D I think I can best describe their taste as being a bit like a mixture of kiwi and pear... it still annoys me that I couldn't bring any home with me ;)

Saturday morning Dot had invited Tim and his family over for brunch. I am SO glad I got this chance to see Tim again! He used to be one of my best friends when I lived there, and it was great to spend some time with him and finally get to meet his wife and children :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Zealand - Part 5 of 12'ish

Don't worry, they're not all as insanely long as the last one ;)

Part 5: Queenstown - Day 2
April 21st: My first day with no flights! And also my first day with no set plans. I celebrated this by sleeping in ;) Around 11 I was on the road though, and for the first time experienced the drive into Queenstown by daylight, so I could finally see how GORGEOUS it is! I really should have stopped to take some photos of that as well, but didn't think that far until it was too late.

I found a place to park near the gondola (cable car) that is one of the hallmarks of Queenstown and took the gondola up to Skyline to try out the Luge track. Oh, my goodness - SO MUCH FUN!!!!

The view from the gondola, and to the other side once I'd reached the top.

There were two different luge tracks - Scenic track, which everybody must start off on, in order to get a feel for the luge, and then Advanced which is a lot steeper, has sharper turns, jumps and tunnels. I'll repeat myself and once more say SO MUCH FUN!!!!

I'd originally just bought tickets to try it twice, but though their tag line is "Once isn't enough", it turns out that "Twice isn't enough" either ;) So I decided to go just once more and then head back down. And trust me - it was a battle not to do a fourth and fifth run as well! Say it with me now - SO MUCH FUN!!!

Don't I look like somebody having the time of her life? ;-)

The rest of the day was spent wandering around Queenstown - I had another ice cream at Patagonia (and posted a couple of photos to FB ;) ), went for a walk around Queenstown Gardens (and found Rebekka's roses) and had dinner at a lovely tapas restaurant. For a day I'd been sort of worried about, I ended up having a TERRIFIC time! :)

New Zealand - Part 4 of 12'ish

Part 4: Milford Sound - FLY!
The original plan had been to return to Queenstown by coach, as that was what I had booked from Denmark, but on the way out in the bus, we had been told that it was also possible to fly back to Queenstown and we would be able to book that on the spot, even if we hadn't included it in advance. I'd read about this already back in Denmark, but had initially decided against it, because I felt it was too expensive, but the more I thought about it, the more tempted I was. Several reasons:
1) I'd be back 3.5 hrs earlier! Worth adding as a consideration, as the coach wouldn't have me back until 8pm, and then I'd still have to get back into town in order to get dinner.
2) Though it was a lot of money, it wasn't actually expensive for what it was.
3) If not now, then when? I had the money in my budget, and knew I would regret it if I didn't do it for financial reasons alone.
4) AMAZING experience and fantastic view!
5) A once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And last, but not least...
6) Money for tourism = more help to Chch. Once the guide told us that proceeds would go to the rebuilding of Christchurch, there really was no doubt in my mind any longer.

I am SO glad I did! Yes, it cost a pretty penny, but it was worth every bit of it! Our guide met us as we disembarked and sent us towards the airport (airstrip, really). Here we were met by our pilot, Stan, and shown to our small 10-person Cessna. I was about to enter the plane through th back door, when Stan told me, "There's room for one up in the cockpit if you'd like?" Don't have to ask me twice. "CAN I???" I exclaimed, and giddy with joy over my luck, I immediately jumped in.

Without a doubt one of the coolest things I've ever done, so once again, I'll let the photos do the talking.

Queenstown coming up in the distance...

"They're making a left right turrrn!"

Hopefully it's now perfectly clear why I took 300 photos that day alone ;-)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

New Zealand - Part 3 of 12'ish

Part 3: Milford Sound Coach-Cruise
April 20th: I was much unamused - my alarm clock would have rung at 6:30am, but I woke already at 5:30am with a raging headache :( I get those once in awhile, and when I wake up with them, pills will usually have no effect at all, but I took a couple anyway, prayed and hoped for the best. PTL it mostly disappeared within a few hours - NOT a regular occurrance, but I was very grateful!

Anyway, this was the day I had arranged for a coach-cruise trip to Milford Sound, so at 7:20am a taxi picked me up from the lobby and drove me to the Real Journeys office in town, where the bus awaited. And thus started one of the best days of the entire trip. There's not much to actually tell about the trip, because basically it was just one amazing view after another, so I think I'll let the photos do most of the talking. Suffice to say that during a 4-hour bus-ride I didn't touch my book once... in fact, I even forgot I had it! ;)

Te Anau - a quinessential New Zealand town.

Mirror Lake

On bush walks, you don't cut down trees! You build around them!

Milford Sound

See the fault line? I was quite intrigued by that!

Yes, that is my hair! I had forgotten a scrunchie. It was a delight to comb out that evening, I can assure you.

Seals relaxing in the sun :) We got to see a couple of dolphins too, but unfortunately I got no photo of them - I prioritised seeing them "for real" rather than just through a lense ;)

I love the spiderweb effect on the water!

Two-year-old site of a tree avalance.

Ten-year-old site of a tree avalance - just so show how quickly it regrows. But as you can see from the first photo, the trees grow on very, very, VERY little so no wonder avalances happen.

Right, this is long and picture heavy enough as it is - I'll leave the rest for my next post.