Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goodbye Sydney hello Asia

I have been resting up the last few days before heading off to Asia for six weeks. Brian, Marianne and I went to dinner with friends Gabrielle and David at a Cronulla Beach restaurant.
Yesterday I was vacuuming at Marianne's house and when I moved a chair I found a lovely creature underneath, promptly screamed and called for Brian to remove the beast from the house.
Today marianne and i were up early as we wanted to check in for our free flight to Phuket in the hopes of getting business class as the flight is 9 hours long We not only got business class but we are now sitting in the Qantas lounge where there is a full buffet, desserts, tea, coffee, wine and other drinks as well as free Internet. Oh what a life! Stay tuned for Asia adventures.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Few days in Sydney

Thought I would give you an update of my relaxation days in Sydney. Before I do I will update you about my flights from Queenstown to Sydney via melbourne. The Queenstown to Melbourne leg went smoothly. When I got to Melbourne I was informed the flight was full and I would not get on even with business status. So i had to fly Melbourne to Canberra then Canberra to Sydney with the economy people. Oh the woos of traveling standby. Guess I won't be getting much sympathy.
The weather here has been overcast most days but still very warm. There has been some rain (by our standards torrential downpours).
Wednesday was Marianne's birthday and it was so nice to be here to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of her 30th birthday. We had a lovely lunch with her family and friends at a beach club in Bondi Beach. The food was fabulous and although the weather was not great the scenery was still spectacular. The beach club pool is salt water and is right next to the ocean. No shark sightings during lunch.
Thursday was Australia day so Marianne, Brian and I headed off by train to the city. First stop yum cha or as we call it dim sum in Chinatown. All the restaurants were very busy but we found one we could get into right away and had some delicious yum cha. Then while we went to the washroom Brian did a little shopping in Chinatown ( picture with purse sorry Brian could not resist posting this picture).
Brian returned home to go to work and we headed off to the Quay to see the opera house. The Quay was buzzing with activity, the sun came out so it was lovely to walk around the Quay and the Rocks. Then it was off to walk across the harbour bridge. No climbing for us walking across is enough of a commitment. We got one quarter of the way across the bridge and got caught by a torrential downpour hence the picture of me soaking wet. We were already committed so like real troopers we continued across the bridge. Marianne took the great pictures as I would not go near the edge. Coffee was the first stop after the bridge and luckily the rain stopped. We then took the train home.
Yesterday I took the train to cronulla beach but did not stay long as I was feeling a bit under the weather so i went home and had a two hour nap. Today off to the city to visit the market and meet gaille for lunch.
Marianne says I am wearing her out with all my activity. She thinks I have an over abundance of energy- I don't know what she is talking about as no one has mentioned this before right Agnes!
After checking out paddy's market gaille and I went for yum cha in chinatown. Well a few tables over from us was premier Barry O'Farrell of New South Wales. As he did a walkabout and came towards me I said "excuse me I am from Canada and I had my picture taken with the premier of BC while i was holding the Olympic torch so do you think I could get a picture with you", he said " sure we can hold up a match". Then the dragon entertainers came into the restaurant. The yum cha I had on Australia day was much better but meeting the premier was an unexpected highlight.
Off to Darling harbour and we could not decide whether to go have a margarita or visit the shops. Gaille suggested the shops and what to my surprise should I find but a pair of Ugg boots with heels. Now I did see a pair in the Melbourne market but resisted the purchase, however I have been thinking about them since my return to Sydney. So shoes 1!! Great day! Thanks gaille

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 23rd Milford Sound

The mountains on the south Island of New Zealand are referred to as the southern alps. Because we are closer to the south pole and it is summer it is still light at 10pm at night- feels like 7pm.
I decided to take the 12 hour bus tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound which included a cruise through one of NZ fiords. As the crow flies Milford Sound is only about 60 km from Queenstown because you must go around the mountains the journey is about 200 km by road.
On the journey I found out a few tidbits about NZ in particular the south island. They have a deer problem here but unlike us who can't seem to figure out what to do they are capturing the deer in paddocks and venison meat is being sold and is very popular in some restaurants. So when I get home to hell with the backyard garden I think a deer paddock sounds good just need someone to slaughter the beasts (heather ask Tim if he wants to moonlight). The woods have no bears, foxes, cougars nor snakes. The only deadly thing in the woods are some plants so they warn you not to eat the wild mushrooms- good to know! However some research has been done on some of the plants here and it has been discovered they contain high amounts of vitamin C and other properties that can help fight viral infections. They now sell products containing the plant ingredients. Apparently Captain Cook discovered the plant with the vitamin C and fed it to his men in beer. This helped them not to get scurvy when on the long sea voyages.
The fiords were formed by glaciers but the area is also considered a rainforest. I did find out the trees that look like palm trees are native to NZ.
This part of the island is full of walking trails and the bus stopped for us to take advantage of a few short walks in the woods. However you can go on longer trail walks for up to 6 days depending on the trail (hazel maybe you and rod should come here). You can camp roughing it along the trail or you can book with a company and walk in style where you walk each day and then have nice accommodation, meals, shower and a real bed-- all I need to know is there a little man to carry my bags! Sign me up.
Much of the drive to Milford Sound was like driving the Coquihalla highway in BC except this was only a two lane highway (at least it was paved and had guard rails unlike the canyon road yesterday).
You will note I wore the appropriate boating foot attire. One month into my trip and i still have not purchased any shoes.
Milford Sound is located in the Mt Cook national Park which has been declared a world heritage sight along with places such as the Grand Canyon and Great Barrier Reef. It is said this park has the tallest trees, highest mountains, wildest rivers and most rugged coastline- I think BC boasts of the same attributes??
We boarded a beautiful boat for a three hour cruise up the fiords to the Tasem Sea and back (three hour cruise where have I heard that before). The sun was shining, it had finally warmed up to the low twenties (i had to buy a second fleece jacket earlier in the day as one fleece was not warm enough even on the bus). I had three hours of looking at the most incredible scenery along with waterfalls and we even got to see some furry seals sun bathing. Although the scenery was lovely, apparently when it is raining the water runs off all the mountains into the sea as one big waterfall. The fiords are a must to see and hopefully I will be back one day when it is raining. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
Well I am back to Sydney now for a week of rest until we head off to Asia so I may not be writing too much on my blog until then. Hope everyone is enjoying my travel tales.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jan 21st Queenstown

The landscape of Queenstown on the south island of New Zealand (south of Christchurch) is much like the mountainous areas of BC and what I had expected to see in New Zealand. i also learned that New Zealand is located on two faults and has about 1000 earthquakes or tremors per month .Queenstown reminds me of Lake Louise and Banff. The town is a bit larger and attracts skiers in the winter and adventure seekers in the summer. Unlike Auckland that had hundreds of backpackers roaming the city, Queenstown has a lot of young people but they have money as all these adventures have a price tag. You can do anything here from rafting, bungy jumping, zip lining, numerous water tours and adventures, kayaking, mountain biking to dancing and partying in the evening - oh to be young again. For Lord of the Rings fans this is where it was filmed and you can also get a tour of the area where filming was done. My adventure yesterday was to ride up the mountain on the gondola. Now this may not sound too exciting but when one is attempting to conquer their fear of heights this is quite a challenge. Some of the pictures below are taken from the lookout at the top (taking pictures while hugging the building) note the palm trees on the side of the mountain I don't think we have palm trees in the Rockies. I then took another gondola to reach the area for the luge ride (what was I thinking). The ride was more like downhill soapbox derby but i managed to get to the bottom without crashing or sustaining major injuries.
I found a lovely park area in the middle of town. The entrance to the park has an archway that says Service Above Self - it is a war memorial but i thought any rotarians following my blog would appreciate this
The park had many trails plus tennis, lawn bowling club and disc golf which is very popular here. The hotel I am staying at is about a 25 minute walk up the side of a mountain. When booking, it seemed like a good idea as I would get a good walk in each day. Well after walking around town for about 5 hours I started out on the trek home up the mountain- ok today I will take the bus home.
One of the advantages of getting old is that you don't party late at night so you can get up early in the morning. So after walking DOWN the mountain and working up an appetite I found a lovely little pub on the water and I am enjoying a delicious breakfast and cappuccino while listening to great music (I am the only person here) before going on my next adventure since i have done zip lining (thanks to vernette, erica and joan) as well white water rafting with the boys in the past, today's adventure will be jet boating in the canyon. Sean and Aaron my insurance is paid up and the papers are in the security tub!