Here’s my latest update from Québec for those who don’t receive my emails and who would be interested.
à la prochaine!
Last week I had the pleasure of welcoming my first visitors into my new place in Joliette, and not just any visitors, but my favourite brother and his wife ;) Got to pick them up late on Friday night and then get up early Saturday to teach dance. Which was a little bit brutal for the sleep quota, but worth it in these circumstances. Saturday we did a little bit of exploring in Joliette to admire the fall colours and to give a small tour of some of my “haunts”.
Fortunately I didn’t have to teach much of the rest of the week, so we could do some adventuring together. And adventuring we did on Sunday, heading up the St. Lawrence to the region of Charlevoix near Ste-Irénée…We stayed at Domaine Forget in Ste-Irénée in a little studio appartment with a view of the fleuve that was quite spectacular.
On the way to Charlevoix we had lunch and a walk up to Montmorency falls in the sunshine. Perhaps with a slight frolic in the fallen leaves :)
Monday we drove over to the Parc National des Grands Jardins to do a hike up a “mont” to have a spectacular view of the region and the fleuve in the distance. I’ve never been to this area before and would be game to go back again another time. We were so blessed to have days with sun and relative warmth when they had been announcing clouds and rain. And I think we did see at least one “Mount” (an almost mountain) amongst all the hills, which is quite the statement for people coming from the Rockies and the Coast Mountains.
We did stop briefly in the city of Baie St-Paul to walk around some of the cute inner streets with their many art galleries. Then we continued back to our accomodations to make a Thanksgiving dinner meal, complete with roast chicken, butternut squash and potatoes, and an experimental vegan pumpkin cheesecake which tasted amazing. We were so full from dinner but still managed to eat half of it :P Would definitely remake the recipe.
A day wouldn’t be complete without some goofing around. So we had some fun around the quai near the Domaine Forget, including squishing pennies under the passenger train that passed by. Nothing like re-living childhood experiences haha.
Tuesday we drove back down the river to visit Quebec City with a short stop near St-Joachim and admire the thousands of white geese migrating through the area. We opted not to go into the national park when we saw that it would cost us about 20$ just to go look at geese, and then tried to find another place where we could see them. We could hear them all around but with the different hunting areas, we were somewhat limited. Just when we thought we’d have to satisfy ourselves with seeing a few birds in the distance, we drove past a field covered in birds. Quite impressive.
Though we didn’t have much time to visit the old city, we were quite effective in seeing the few key sights on my brother’s list. And it sounds like he might want to come back one day to explore more of the historical sights. Of course that could be when he’s retired, but I still found it encouraging to maybe have the prospect of another visit ;)
Wednesday we got up really early to head to NY state for a hike with my good friend, A., currently on a visit home from her work in PNG. With good intentions we left my house at 6h30 in the morning but soon got caught in rush hour traffic, so we didn’t arrive at her place until about 2 hours later :S With so much driving time, we decided to do a shorter hike in the Adirondacks, listed as 2.5 hours to the summit off of the website. Though it only took us 1.5 hours up. We got very warm on the climb up and then blasted in the wind on the open-faced summit. Had some great views of the region from the top. And we finished the hike with a short drive over to Lake Placid to see the former Olympic sites in a drive-by. Not to forget the token picture of the lake :)
I’d like to go back to the Adirondacks to climb some more of the mountains, but I think I’d want to stay overnight in Montréal or somewhere closer to the border the next time. It’s the traffic that just drains all your energy and takes a lot of time. Apparently there are at least 46 peaks people climb, so I suppose I have lots of choices for a next time ;)
Thursday we stayed in town and kept things relaxed. I was teaching some more dance classes all night, and I was spoiled by my guests who made dinner and a fancy dessert. Apple and pumpkin crumble. Mmm. Sorry no pictures of that recipe unfortunately. And Friday we headed into Montréal for a visit, starting with a trip to Ikea to return the futon mattress that ended up being the wrong style to fit with my futon base. (Ask me if you want to hear the tale of the Futon fiasco). We continued with a quick walk around St-Denis, St-Laurent and Ste-Catherine streets, involving a stop at a Chocolaterie for my brother’s wife and a stop at Schwartz’s for my brother and I to try some of their famous smoked meat. Since we finished off all the meat we bought, I think we found it acceptable :P As a family with various allergies and food preferences, and several people who are not so keen on shopping, we concluded that perhaps these streets were not the most exciting for our particular case. Nice to visit one time and maybe spend more time elsewhere another time. We also toured around the Old Port a bit, including a stop in the really fun toy store off of the water. Then it was time to bring my guests to the bus station and brave traffic back to Joliette. Which once again proved to be a lot, alas! I certainly feel fortunate not to have that commute every week day.
Anyhow, thanks for reading! Thanks to my lovely visitors for your presence and for letting me share with you some of the beauty that can be found in this province! Who’s next?? ;)
More to come on my trip from the summer (soon, I hope!)
à la prochaine!
Yes, I’ve skipped a fair bit of action in the middle of my trip but I thought I’d finish sharing about my time in NSW first. I came back into Canberra after my time in PNG on a Sunday afternoon – which I shall eventually have time to write about, yay! – and my friend’s husband came to pick me up at the airport. We were driving out to the Snowy Mountains since they had recently purchased a caravan (Aussie way of saying trailer) and were spending a week on the skihill. Definitely a strange concept to wrap one’s head around in August for a Northern Hemisphere girl.
On the way to Jindabyne, we saw a rather serious looking car accident being cleaned up on the side of the road, and Y., who is a paramedic, stopped to see if he could be of assistance. The road from Canberra to Jindabyne is a two-lane undivided highway and there was quite a bit of traffic returning from the mountains = high potential for collisions. He ended up driving the ambulance so that the two paramedics on the scene could treat their patient, which meant that I was asked to drive the car on the wrong side of the road (for me) on a busy highway and find my way around Canberra to meet back up with Y. once he’d driven to the hospital. Let’s just say I was grateful for the practice drive which I had had before I left for PNG, for the bus which had passed the hospital on my way into Canberra to leave for PNG, and for a phone with internet and maps :P A useful combination to assist me in finding the hospital without a hitch, and then we continued on our 3.5 hour drive to the caravan park in Jindabyne. Definitely much colder in NSW than in PNG!
Our first day to the ski hill was not very efficient. It took a while to get organised with lunch making, getting dressed, feeding baby and renting equipment for me. We actually arrived in time to eat lunch or maybe even after lunch at the actual lodge. Which is different than in Canada. Many of the ski hills here just have restaurants rather than a seating area for those who bring their own food or those who choose to buy at the cafeteria. Anyhow, it was the tuesday when I got out for a day of snowboarding, my first experience in the the southern hemisphere. The temperature was not too cold – in fact once you got moving it was actually quite warm – and the snow conditions were somewhat similar to spring skiing in Alberta. While there was a base of fresh snow, they do also make a lot of their snow and groom most of the tracks. All up and down the adjacent hills you can see rocks, trees and bushes popping out of the thin coating of snow and then as you get farther away from the ski hills there is no more snow to be seen.
I was having a good time trying out a couple of blue runs in the morning and I liked a particular run enough to want to do it again. As I was going back down, I slowed down because I saw someone wiped out further and I did a quick check to make sure the way was clear above me to proceed on. Unfortunately, I didn’t see what was coming and I was knocked down by an out of control skiier who had fallen further up the run – and who continued to slide down the hill another 10-20 feet before stopping below me. Some other skiiers stopped right away to ask if I needed ski patrol, but apart from feeling a bit shaken up and a little bit worse for wear, I laughed off their question and said the adrenaline would keep me going. I got back up and made my way over to the lodge thinking I’d like to have a short break to compose myself again, but my friend R. was out for a ski and so I chose to head back out with her for the rest of the morning.
Apart from being a bit sore, I didn’t realise that my accident was more serious until the Wednesday evening after another day of boarding when I realized that I couldn’t feel part of my leg :S I thought it was an injury muscular in nature, so I tried to do some stretching on my own and didn’t go skiing the next day. Despite my home remedy-ing, I was in a lot of pain, so we managed to find a physio in Jindabyne and I went to see them. They assessed me with a potential herniated disc and a pinched nerve – and they ended up being pretty close to the actual assessement by the doctor – which, in passing, I think is nice to know that physiotherapists are very knowledgeable too.
Robin, baby and I stayed back in Jindabyne on the friday, we went for a short drive to Thredbo after dropping of Y. & J. at the ski tube ( a glorified train whose track cuts through the mountain to get over to Perisher resort) and we even saw a wild emu along the side of the road. Not to mention all the dead kangaroos that just lie there because no one come around to clean them up, neither humans nor scavenger animals. Mmm.
Being injured, I was grateful for the expertise and help of Y. in navigating the Australian system. He helped me get a doctors appointment on the Monday, then got me a referral for a CAT scan when I left the appointment empty handed, and organised the CAT scan for the next day in Bega as we would be passing through to take me to the bus for Sydney. (I was flying out of Sydney early wednesday morning). I wasn’t sure how much would have been possible had I been left to myself and knowing how little time was left in Australia. I even was able to get the results of the CAT scan on x-ray and DVD to take with my on the plane.
I realised fairly quickly that it would be wise to go through my travel medical insurance to pay to see a doctor, etc. and even the telephone call to Canassistance proved to be somewhat challenging with my sim card not allowing international credit to be charged and the international credit of Y.s phone being depleted quickly when I did manage to contact them. In the end, the contact was made and my consultation with the doctor plus the CAT scan the followed were nominally approved, phew! I say nominally because I’m still waiting to here from them about my reimboursement claim – and praying that it’ll go through ;)
Besides the medical adventure, we did make it out to see Boyd’s Tower and the Green Cape Lighthouse. Well, technically we didn’t go in the Lighthouse because the tour was only held once a day at a time that didn’t work for our schedule, but we still had an amazing view of the coastline and witnessed some gigantic waves :) Boyd’s Tower is on the other side of Twofold bay from Eden and was constructed by a Ben Boyd in the 1830s, who intended it to become a lighthouse for ships. His tower was never approved by the state and instead they had the Green Cape Lighthouse constructed. It was a beautiful spot though very very windy on the day we came, and somewhat rainy. I could have stood for hours watching the waves crash upon the rocks. Here’s a short video to show what the waves were like.
On the way to the bus in Canberra we stopped in Cooma to eat lunch and to visit the Snowy Mountain Hydro info centre. It was quite interesting to learn how their system of tunnels and man-made lakes was organised to provide energy to the region and to help with the accessibility of water in that part of NSW. Quite complex. My trip to Sydney would not be complete without me forgetting my CAT scan results in the car, which I realised as we were pulling out of the bus station and saw on my phone that my friends had tried multiple times to call me. I sort of panicked and called out from the middle of the bus to the driver asking him to please stop the bus – of course everyone is looking at you, ahh – and fortunately, he stopped a couple of blocks away from the bus station so that my friends could get them to me. Another young man even offered to run back to the station to grab it for me. I’m not sure I want to imagine how we would have tried to get a bulky enveloppe to me in such a limited time frame if we hadn’t figured it out right then. Definitely a mercy.
It’s always hard to say goodbye, especially to close friends, and especially when you aren’t sure how long it will be until you see them again in person. I was so blessed to spend just over three weeks with them during my trip, and grateful for their generous welcome and the time we had exploring some of their different haunts. So thanks to my friends for selling of their part of the world well enough that I just might have to come back again some day ;)
More to come later! Thanks for reading.
To truly grasp the vastness of Australia you just have to travel by bus or by car, and you’ll quickly see that despite being an ‘island’, it`s no small place. Eden is a small town located on the east coast of Australia, and fairly close to NSW’s border with Victoria. My reason for exploring this far south was to see my close friend from school years, R. and her family.She had moved ‘Down-under’ about 6 years prior and while we’d seen each other occasionally in Canada, I decided it was most definitely time for me to see the place that she currently called home.
The trip took most of an afternoon and evening to get from Sydney and two different buses. It’s about 3 -3.5 hours to Canberra non-stop, and another 4-4.5 hours to Eden with a break for the driver. There’s also the option of taking the train from Sydney to Canberra, but from there only one bus goes down to Eden and it departs once daily, making several stops along the way at Cooma, Bega, Merimbula, Pambula and finally Eden. I met some nice people on the bus from near Bega, and they pointed out a couple of sights in the dark as we drove down and around the Brown Mountain switchbacks on to Bega. The bus driver, Phil, was a friendly fellow as well, insisting that we move up to the front of the bus when there were only two of us left, and we chatted the remainder of the journey.
My arrival was somewhat exciting, as Y. came to pick me up in the ambulance and had just received a call. I had understood that the house was not far from the bus stop, so I didn’t quite do up my seat belt (slap on my hand, yes), but what I hadn’t realized was the amount of hillside in that town. Which meant that I held on tightly to the edge of my seat as we drove quickly to drop me off at their house and I ended up flying almost in Y.’s lap as we took the turn up the drive-way rather sharply. Oops. From there, it went a little more smoothly and I was soon welcomed by my very pregnant friend and her energetic daughter. They also owned a ‘wheat bag’ so I wasn’t cold at night while my magic bag remained at the bottom of my bag. And better yet, the bed had a large electric blanket in it! Toasty warm!
I spent just over 3 weeks altogether visiting R. and her family, a visit broken up by my travels up north to Cairns and Papua New Guinea. It was such a treat to see R., to play with J. (her 3-year old) and to help out during the last days of her pregnancy /first few days of newborn’s arrival. I felt very welcomed and spoiled with all the different activities we undertook and places we visited together.
The first week, I came up with R. to Bega because she had a doctor’s appt. and we visited the famous Bega Cheese Factory with very tasty ‘Tasty’ cheese (aged white cheddar mmm); I was introduced to the different parks around Eden, including the Lookout park and Corcora Beach (informally named the ‘buckle-up swing park’ by J. who LOVES to spend time on the swings), and to the post office, the dollar store and the Hardwood shop where we bought the scrap boards to use as firewood; I had a very productive baking day with R. ; I met Peppa the Pig and played more games of snap than I have ever played; I went on a trip to the whale museum, the Aquarium in Merimbula and to Potaroo Palace on a cold and windy day to meet some Australian wildlife and feed some Kangaroos. I also tried to pet the emu walking around the zoo – if we could call it a zoo – and he kept running away :P
Small commentary on the whale museum: whaling was really big in Twofold Bay up until it was banned in the 60s (I believe). The whales still remember though and not many are seen in the actual bay though many pass down the coast on their way to Antarctica. They used to hunt down any whale they saw, the blue whales, the humpback whales, the sperm whales (like Moby Dick) and more. Liked the Baleen and the blubber. I was saddened by this practice and I sincerely hope that not too many countries in the world are still chasing after the whales. Definitely impressive to consider the real size of a blue whale when you look at one of its vertebrae or saw the jaws hanging from the ceiling.
The second week began with waffle-making (yay!) and the hospital saga which eventually led to R. giving birth to a handsome, healthy boy in the early hours of Thursday morning. In there I got to spend a few days looking after J. while R. & Y. were at the hospital. I managed to keep J. mostly occupied for the first day but was glad for her weekly visit to preschool the next. She is a very energetic, smart and cheeky child, so one had to keep things moving and engaging. I did teach her a French grace, and she would fondly ask to sing the Donkey song each time we sat down to eat hehe. And she would scold anyone who didn’t put up their ears fast enough.
One day we walk back to the Rotary Park and she received a wooden ‘love heart’ from one of the neighbours who had seen her often at the park with her Mom, and another day we went back to Cocora Beach and while she had the whole beach, she decided to splash in a puddle by the BBQ area. We did turn her into a mermaid in the sand too. R. & Y. introduced me to a neat restaurant called Cranky`s in Merimbula with some very delicious gluten-free and even dairy-free desserts. Lemon polenta cake, blueberry loaf, orange muffins mmm.
R. came home with baby the day after the birth and it was a bit of an adjustment for everyone. But baby L. was very cute! I decided to make another batch of granola before I would leave, and as I picked through some of the nuts in the cupboard to add, I accidentally mistook some peanuts for hazelnuts :S I admit, I wondered that the shape was a bit different and I knew once I had tasted it, that it was not hazelnut. Fortunately, I did not have an allergic reaction. We also made a trip to the variety store for some gifts to take to PNG. And a trip out to Eden’s Cove and Boydtown where there was a nice view of Nullica Bay. I even have a video :)
During the second week, I started watching a documentary film that Y. had saved on PVR for me to watch called ‘Unsere Muetter, Unsere Vaeter’. Otherwise known as Generation War in English, it follows 5 friends during WWII in Germany and is made by German filmmakers offering a much different perspective than might be shown in some of our British or American WWII-themed movies. Based on real people (each of the 5 people we follow in the film were friends in real life in Germany during this time) and they definitely were changed by the war and what they experienced. There were many moments that I just wanted to bawl my eyes out for the suffering of those persecuted by the Nazi regime, including all of these 5 friends, in one way or another. I would highly recommend watching it.
The next day it was off to the airport in Canberra. More on that to come later!
It’s about time for another update! Now that I’m back in Canada and on prescribed rest given my back, I should have a few moments to share more about the rest of my travels! I left off with my somewhat crazy arrival into Sydney, where I remained for one week to attend the Hillsong Conference “No other Name”.
When I first thought about travelling to Australia, one of the first things on my wish list was a visit to Hillsong Church. Their music has certainly been influential in my life and in the music we sing at church. I remember back in the day – haha, now I’m starting to sound like I have acquired a bit more life experience ;) – being introduced to “Shout to the Lord” by my Dad and finding it very, very cheesy (perhaps somewhat on principal because I was a teenager and it was my Dad’s choice of music). Then of course, later on at my sister’s TEC (youth retreat weekend), it was chosen as a theme song, so I overcome my prejudice and I started developing more of an appreciation for their music. Many a time God would use a song to speak into my life at the right moment or to direct my prayers. So I was quite excited to participate in a week-long event.
The first day began more relaxed with a visit to the Taronga zoo accompanying one of my hosts with her son. We walked down from the apartment in about 20 minutes and started with the ‘gondola’ ride which gave an overview of the whole zoo. Then we wandered through a couple of exhibits, including the seals and the penguins :) Lots and lots of blue penguins and a rather cool tank which you could walk underneath to admire all the animals swimming about – and possibly get lost for hours, except for J. who was quite the mover and wanted to keep exploring as much as he could. I said goodbye around nap time and headed to the ferry dock where I caught the next one over to Circular Quay and had a few minutes to explore before catching the train over to the Olympic Park.
A conference this scale is quite an undertaking. The area outside the arena was filled with people, tents and different food vendors. There was a stage for entertainment and another tent for people wishing to socialize. There were carpets leading up to each doorway, greeters and volunteers galore, and a large hall exhibition where one could buy different cds, books, resources and speak to some of the different organisations associated with the conference. Up the long escalators more volunteers guarded each section entrance and lines of people waited to get a ‘good’ seat. Not to forget the stage production, all the lights, the sound system, the screens, the singers, musicians, dancers, graphic artists, videographers, etc. Each session began with some kind of presentation, and every time it seemed like a well-thought out and professional show. Lots for the eyes to see and for the ears to go somewhat deaf :P
On the first evening I met a few people in the line and sat with them though it proved hard with so many people to make friends. Acquaintances, yes, friends, not so much. As a seating community of one, it was a bit lonely to wander about such a big event surrounded by others and yet not have someone to each lunch with. Until the third day when I happened to sit by a friendly lady, Jane and her friends, who adopted me during the group sessions for the rest of the conference. They were so cute, saving each person a seat and even bringing snacks to share. One lady, Y., would bring things like boiled eggs and veggies, and she would start almost right after the conference started at 9h30 :P And I was blessed by Jane who generously offered to drive me back to Mosman for the last three nights of the conference. Much less hassle since the trip with public transit from Mosman to the Olympic Park was an 1h15 or 1h30 minutes one way. Which meant I was often leaving the house at 7h15AM and returning around 10 or 10h30PM. Much nicer to arrive home by 10PM and not be stressed about missing the connecting bus or train.
There were many good speakers, like Steve Furtick, Bill Hybels and Louis Giglio, to challenge leaders – and well anyone who was attending – in their perspective on life, faith and God, and a great array of workshops with topics following the three streams of the conference, `Lead`, `Help` or `Create`. And I can`t forget to mention the Kidsong program or the youth program happening at the same time. My favourite session was the very last of the conference on dance (surprise, surprise ;) ) where we learned a portion of choreography from their recent Bollywood-inspired production created for the women`s conference. And I met a friendly dancer from the college who`s best friend is married to Jason Zerbin – and she was really surprised that I knew who he was and that I was excited about his music haha. That evening Lecrae also came and gave a show in the arena. In my books a great end to the conference.
I stayed an extra day in the Sydney area to do a bit more exploring before taking the bus down to Eden. It was a beautiful sunny day and I opted to go to Manly to see the beach where many beginner surfers hang out, there are several health food stores and lots of fish & chips joints. Got my first wander in the Australian sand and salt water.
I had wanted to go back to the Taronga Zoo, and hoped on the ferry to Circular Quay to switch to the Taronga Zoo ferry. When the moment came to switch ferries, I was chatting with my friend Jane on the phone and wasn`t paying too much attention, so I ended up on the wrong ferry. Which meant I had to do a bit of walking to get to the zoo, and I barely arrived in time to do some more exploring. Sadly the gorillas and the orangutans were hidden away, but at least, I got to visit the koalas!
A big thank you to my friendly and welcoming hosts! I was grateful for the use of the lavender-filled wheat bag, while my magic bag was condemned to my back pack :P And I was grateful for how accommodating they were in integrating the busy conference schedule with their own full schedule, and for their help in navigating the transit and telecommunications systems. I had some issues setting up the sim card which my friend, R., had initially mailed to their address – it turned out we’d been trying the wrong activation code – and then getting service on my phone from the second sim that was sent to me. Fortunately by the end of the week all was sorted and I could satisfy my addiction to texting and the internet. Funny how lost we feel when we aren`t ‘connected’.
More to follow shortly! Thanks for reading :)
First time flying with New Zealand airlines, and while I didn’t have a ticket with all the “perks”, it was still a pleasant experience. Certainly their safety videos are SO much better than all the other companies’ videos that I’ve watched. They are hilarious. Granted they don’t have to present in more than one language, but they are very creative. Here’s a link to one.
Made it through the passport check okay, but after my customs experience in NZ, I was a little bit paranoid of getting “caught” with something so I erred on the over-honest side on my forms…this time there was no x-ray machine but I had to see the officer regarding my shoes and I said I had my magic bag. They call it a wheat bag here and apparently, they don’t like wheat bags from other places. I suppose the customs officer in NZ was particularly gracious. This man allowed me to keep mine on the condition that I didn’t use it and kept it in my bag, since I was not staying in Australia. Close call. Then it was off to find the train into Sydney.
I felt rather lost in the airport without my phone working. I wasn’t able to sign into the free wi-fi either and became rather stressed :( The plan was to meet up with my friend A’s friends, whom I would be staying with at the Circular Quay about 6pm. Except I had no way of contacting them to let them know I was running a bit later with all my customs adventure, and we hadn’t discussed the exact meet-up point. Stress up again. I was praying and asking God to help me out because I didn’t know how or if it would work out. On the train, I’d noticed some kind of announcement about construction and detours, which again made me feel somewhat panicked, not knowing where to go and whether to stay on the train. Fortunately, I spoke with another family who managed to convince me I was at the right place. At the Circular Quay I walked down to the ferry terminals and wondered where might be a logical place that this family could be waiting for me. I walked down a bit to one end and not seeing the road, I turned to walk back in the other direction. Upon doing so, I heard a lady speaking in French, or at least I heard something that made me turn around to notice a young woman with a stroller. Who proceeded to ask me if I was Anne. And we had somewhat miraculously found one another, phew! In our later discussion of the event, both of us agreed that it was a God moment. :)
From there we took the ferry to Taronga Zoo, the bus to Mosman Junction and a short walk to their apartment. The harbour was beautiful with all the lights, and I was very happy to have found my hosts. And K. even had a sort of wheat bag with lavender inside for me to heat up in lieu of my magic bag. All warm and lovely smelling.
More to come later. Though possibly a fair bit later. I am leaving tomorrow morning for Cairns and after that for 2 weeks in Papua New Guinea on a YWAM medical ship :) Not so much internet there, so I will be updating my blog a bit less frequently. Thanks for all those of you faithful readers!
Once again I needed to be at the bus station quite early in the morning, and once again I thought to myself how I probably could have done with less items in my backpack :P As the sun came out, it was another beautiful display of colours and we were on an uneventful trip up the coast from Dunedin to Christchurch. Upon arrival in Christchurch, I was able to leave my big bag at the bus headquarters and wander the streets while waiting for the bus to Kaikoura.
I followed the tram line part way, and visited the Re:start mall, a rather particular sight as most of the shops are in big shipping containers. I had forgotten to take a picture in Queenstown, but discovered another location of Lululemon in the mall(!) Kind of like a taste of home though I have to say we have better prices in Canada. As I waited, I had a cappucino, which proved to not be the best idea as the caffeine made me really anxious on the inside :S Lots of pent up energy and unable to work it out…I like the taste of good coffee but not the effect of ‘stress’ haha.
The bus drove up the coastline, up and down hilly, windy roads and finished hugging the coast with a couple of narrow tunnels – though I only observed these on my return trip to Christchurch. It was very dark by the time I arrived at the YHA in Kaikoura and on the bus I had simply noticed being thrown back and forth as the road curved its way…In the hostel, I made friends with the young lady, Sabella, at reception who invited me to eat with her, rather than try and walk all the way to the grocery store (at 20+ minute trip one way) at that time of day. I enjoyed our evening together, the discussions and the tasty but simple meal of tomato sauce with onions and mushrooms on pasta, and grilled potato and squash, mmm. The only adventure was the initial cooking of some onions in peanut oil, which I fortunately noticed before we’d thrown everything else in the pan. Oops.
Felt rather warm in this hostel with the heater turned on and an extra blanket on my bed during the night. Sabella had mentioned the amazing view from the hostel, and I was not disappointed. Beautiful mountains greeted me from across the bay as I walked into the kitchen, and I felt like it couldn’t get too much better than mountains and ocean so close together. :P Here’s a view.
After packing my things and sticking them in a locker, I headed out on a walk to see the Fur Seal colony (I heard something beside me that surprised me but it was just some more seal pups :) )and the Peninsula. Ideally the walk was a complete loop but as I rounded the other side of the Peninsula and the descent to South Bay (here’s a view), the pathway had been closed by the Dept of Conservation and I had to return back the other way :S I was a little miffed but I supposed a hillside that is “sloping” isn’t the most secure, especially if everyone continues to walk on the path. Let’s just say I had sore feet at the end of this day.
I did visit the townsite of Kaikoura to try out some fish & chips before catching the bus around 4 pm back to Christchurch. Once I arrived at the YHA, I had a bit of excitement as I was assigned one room, supposedly an all female dorm room, that had some suspicious looking bags and clothing items in it to suggest it being otherwise. And it was not the same room that I slept in on my first night in NZ. Awkward moment came as I was in my pjs trying to re-pack my bag when three rowdy young men appeared in the room, and at least one was rather drunk. We sorted it out with the lady at reception, and the guys did feel rather badly about the affair, helping me with my stuff. I just felt a little embarrassed to be in pjs with so much junk to move :S
The next morning I had a little bit of time before I needed to go to the airport. I wandered through the Botanical Gardens, met some sparks and brownies on a treasure hunt in the Gardens, and paid a visit to the “Cardboard Church”. They were holding an Anglican Church service and looking at the bulletin, I wanted to stay for the last hymn “To be a pilgrim” since I hadn’t heard it sung in a very long time. Unfortunately, someone in the congregation fell over and needed an ambulance so the service was finished more efficiently and the ambulance rung. Probably more excitement that usual. So I just returned to the hostel for my things.
I made it to the airport in good time, bought a spider – basically a fancy name for an ice cream float – to use up all my NZ change, and got on the Air New Zealand flight to Sydney.
More to come later. Including my airport adventure haha.
After Queenstown, I had another early morning bus ride to Dunedin on the southern coast of the South Island. Saw a beautiful sunrise, which I suppose I should mention that there were many of the same, with pinks, oranges and reds in the sky. We had a small break in the town of Lawrence, a place that became big when gold was discovered back in the day and now it’s just a tiny town. I arrived in Dunedin just after 12 and walked over to the Kiwi’s Nest, the backpackers I had booked for the night. Somehow even though I tried to not take too many items on this trip, I got the feeling that I had whenever I had to lift my backpack on my back and my pack on the front :P
Dunedin is a city that resembles Edinburgh in Scotland; in fact, many of the streets are named after the streets of the sister city though they are all in different places. It’s a university town – most of the guests I met at the hostel were studying in one capacity or another – and I was at peace about spending a scant single night. My focus was the Otago Penninsula and a wildlife tour with Elm wildlife tours. Not just to see sea lions or seals but penguins too :)
We drove out on the Otago Penninsula, past Larnach Castle – normally, not included but we were picking up two people from that spot and it allowed me to get a photo, shhh – and then along to the town of Portobello, past the town of Otakou to the point with the Royal Albatross centre. I did not pay the extra 40$ to go inside the breeding colony and look at chicks. With most of the other tour participants, we went out to the viewing point, and despite it being a rather calm day, we saw several albatross take flight from the colony, fly directly overhead and off to see or behind the next cliff. I’m not sure I managed to capture any on camera, as they always caught me a bit off guard and I would try to follow them with my binoculars. I could use some practice with that haha.Our guide informed us that this colony is the only off-island breeding colony, to which I replied that we were technically on an island. So, it is the only albatross colony that is based on a mainland. Most of the time albatross spend their life on the ocean as they can sleep, and feed as much as they need on the water. Royal Albatross migrate from NZ over to South America as younger birds and then come back to breed when they are older.
From the colony we drove over to Pipikaretu Beach (as far as I know) to a Penguin conservation area run by Elm wildlife on private land. We walked down a steep steep hill to a fenced off beach – to try and prevent the feral cats from entering – and little penguin holes just up off the sand and carpet to prevent some of the grass from growing too tall. This beach houses Hooker Sealions, Yellow-Eyed Penguins and Little Penguins (formerly known as Fairy Penguins because they are about 1 ft tall and very cuddly looking from pictures :P). As we walked on the beach, our guide surveyed the sea-lions to ensure we didn’t come too close. They are very comfortable with humans and if they decide, can move quite quickly towards a group. We got about 10-15 metres and heard a snorting that took us by surprise – a NZ fur seal was hiding in the grass where we normally do not see them on this beach. Just meant we changed our path slightly and then we passed several sleeping sea-lions, some of whom raised their heads lazily to see who was there before falling back asleep, and made our way to a little viewing shelter for the penguins. There we waited in the hopes of seeing a penguin or two arrive back from a day of hunting. Our hopes were not dashed :) We saw about 4 or penguins coming back in groups of two – typically they hunt and swim individually – check the beach for sea-lions and then waddle up the sand, hop up the rocks and climb the hill to their nests. What a noise when two mates were reunited for the day! We couldn’t see where their nests are located but we could hear them. Apparently they received a different name in Maori which refers to how noisy they are but I cannot remember it :S
Here’s a video I took of the penguins…my video skills are somewhat amateur the penguins themselves are worth seeing ;) : video.
Dusk was slowly falling. We weren’t able to stay much longer; instead we continued to another beach and the NZ Fur Seal colony. It was almost dark but we trapsed down the hill to the viewing shelter to catch a peak at many young pups with their moms on the rocks. Some of the pups slept or played by themselves as they waited for the moms to come back from hunting. Apparently a mother seal is fairly diligent about checking whether a pup is hers when she re-appears as she won’t adopt another pup, even if the pup becomes an orphan. While I have seen other types of seals before, these ones were quite cute and very playful. A well-spent afternoon!
Here’s a video of some pups: video
Got dropped off again at the Kiwi’s Nest for the night and was in bed at a good time. Had to get up bright and early to catch the bus again.
More to come later!
This place is a party town. Very touristy with lots of expensive “thrills” to choose from in addition to fancy boutique shops and good restaurants. I most definitely put in my ear plugs to sleep here. I went to bed just before 11 pm, and the bass picked up about the same time until I don’t know what hour in the night :P
I only had one full day in the area, so I wanted to make the most of things. I decided to walk up the trail to the top of the gondola for a view of Lake Wakatipu. A., the quebecoise, told me I would get very warm climbing up to the top, and I was glad to have worn layers as I stripped off my jackets and mittens,etc. as the path ascended. I was met by a view that was well worth the effort – it even included another rainbow(!) Very cool.
And the afternoon was taken up with a Lord of the Rings tour with the company Pure Glenorchy. I went with my friend, J, from Germany as well as another man from India. The tour was led by Earl in a fancy Toyota four wheel-drive no less, and with yummy chicken and brie sandwiches and gluten free cookies for tea. Starting in Queenstown we drove in the direction of the town of Glenorchy along the side of Lake Wakatipu. We stopped in a couple of places to point out some of the filming locations of LOTR, mostly from The Fellowship of the Ring, before arriving in Glenorchy to see the miniature library and church buildings and have a quick pee-break. We then left the paved road for a dirt/gravel one that was not maintained by the public highways. We travelled passed through a huge cattle and sheep farm property, and even the “River Jordan” before arriving in Paradise. Beautiful mountain valley with the Dart River to one side, a lake nearby and the site of an old sheep station, now one huge farm. I cannot remember the name of the man who owns this property anymore, but I do know he charged a lot of money to Peter Jackson and to other film makers for the use of his land. Something around $2000/day back in the day and more like $3000/day current rate. Not a bad deal.
The tour made me appreciate the work of a cameraman and also a film director a little bit more. You may scout out some great locations, but it’s all in the angles and the little touches which give illusion to what we see on the screen. Granted we have lots of CGI these days – can’t replace seeing such beautiful landscape in person though. We saw where they filmed Amon Hen, the scene with the Oliphaunts and Frod & Sam just before entering Mordor, the Dead Marshes, the background for the people of Rohan fleeing to Helms Deep – actually the Remarkables mountain range, the area where they set up Isengard, the forests during the battle with the Uruk-Hai in FOTR, and where they placed Beorn’s house in the Hobbit movie. Perhaps I would not partake in another LOTR tour, I was glad to have gone and see some spectacular places with a small group of people and live commentary. Makes the place feel all the more alive.
Here are some pictures from the day :) More to come!
In the Fjordland National parks region there are several hiking trails or “tracks” as they call them in New Zealand for walkers, trampers and backpackers alike. The Milford track will take you to Milford Sound, the Routeburn track linking Mount Aspiring National Park to Fjordland, and the Kepler track around Lake Te Anau to Mt. Luxmore in the Kepler mountains and by Lake Manapouri. Being winter and not necessarily a hard-core backpacker myself, I opted for a day hike on the Kepler track. When I woke up the whole landscape was covered in dense fog; I wasn’t certain if it would be wet and gloomy all day. Which fortunately it was not.
I walked first to the visitors centre at the ‘corner’ of the lake for some information on what hikes would be feasible for the timing, and while I would have liked to be ambitious and climb up to Mt. Luxmore for some views, it was a bit too late in the morning. Instead I went along the lakeshore to Brod Bay. It ended up being a 5-6 hour walk anyways, since I didn’t have a car to drive to the starting point at the control gates. Mostly a walk through old forest, containing large and small beech trees and a few bushes, I admit I found it rather dull just being by myself. I resisted the urge to listen to my ipod as I wanted to hear the birds. It was silent. Part way along I met a couple from South Africa who now live in Australia and we kept one another company until Brod Bay, and they also had the same question as to where the birds had all gone. We got our response when we met a volunteer who was checking the different rodent traps scattered in the forest. He pulled out a mirror and a piece of styrofoam, proceeding to rub the mirror making a very high pitched sound and…voila! Birdsong in the distance and coming a bit closer, then some little birds could be seen descending from the canopy to find out the source of the noise. A useful trick to call the hiding birds. Who’ve learned to find safety far above from all the stoats, weasels, possums, etc. that were introduced into the forests. It’s why they have taken measures to poison and trap the rodents, though unfortunately, not as effectively as they might wish. Biggest annoyance of the day was not the cool temperature, but my over-loaded backpack. Don’t know why I decided to bring along all the different items that I did – I guess experience will help me to remember to pack more lightly next time :p
By my return around the lake, the fog had slowly dissipated to offer a lovely view of the mountains surrounding the lake. My German friend took the bus that evening, but I found entertainment in my knitting project and watching Pirates of the Caribbean with many of the hostel guests. In any case, I wouldn’t have been able to find peace and quiet in my room; it was located right next to the TV room.
The next day I decided to wander a bit around the main street of Te Anau, get a few postcards and souvenirs, as I waited for the bus to Queenstown that evening. Went into a tourist company\information place, looked at the brochures to my left and noticed penguins! It caught my attention, so I went to have a closer look. As I was still searching for activities during my last two days in NZ and the idea of visiting some penguins had potential. :) The lady at the desk was very helpful; we booked a tour and a bus to Dunedin for the day after my visit to Queenstown and after making a few enquiries, also booked a bus ticket up to Kaikoura. My inter-city bus pass had 25 hours on it, and even with the trips to Dunedin and up to Christchurch, there were several hours left. I confess, it had been a bit stressful to me to not know what I would do during my last few days and not wanting to “miss out” on a particular sight, I was relieved to get my plans organized.
Remember how the other day I had been wishing for some company and the church had been closed? On this day, I noticed some people praying for a store owner and decided to speak with them. Turns out they were a group of mostly Kiwis but a couple of Americans doing a week of preparation before a mission trip to Tonga. Later in the day, I walked along the edge of the lake to the marina. As I went to sit on a bench, a van drove up with a large group of young adults, the same ones I had met earlier and the rest of their team. I appreciated chatting with them and they also prayed for me before leaving to drive back to Gore. Again God was looking out for me and encouraging me at an opportune moment :)
Hopped on the bus about 5pm for Queenstown with a bunch of people who’d just spent the day in Milford Sound. The bus driver put in a movie to watch called “Whale Rider”, about a young Maori girl who became the next leader of her people. Found it insightful as to some of the Maori culture and their traditions.
My friend, J, had texted me and invited me to try out this popular burger joint in Queenstown called “Fergburger”. As I walked past to the hostel, there was a huge line-up outside. While I had never heard of this place before, it seemed to be quite popular. I stayed a the YHA Central in Queenstown, I was in a room with three others, a chatty girl from Taiwan, a young German man and a Quebecoise who’d spent the past year on a working holiday visa in Australia. I think she was kind of excited because I was the closest thing to home that she’d encountered for many months. Apparently there are numerous French people (from France) who come on working holidays but not as many Quebecois, and sometimes the French and the Quebecois don’t see eye to eye. Let’s say that I was more than happy to speak French with her and German with my friend, J. :)
The Fergburger was less busy by the time J and I arrived around 8:30pm. They had gluten-free buns (yay!) – have to pay an arm and a leg for them though (less yay!) – and I ate one of the tastiest burgers I’ve ever tried. It was a lamb pattie with mint sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, etc. Very filling and very good. Even now my mouth waters when I think of it haha. If you ever go to Queenstown, this restaurant is worth checking out.
I think this entry has gotten quite lengthy so I’ll stop here. More to come later.