Thursday, March 31, 2011

landed in Oz and snorkel on the reef

Hey gang
We landed in Cairns yesterday and the wall of heat and humidity hit us straight away! It is 32 and humid today. This morning we went out on the Calypso Dive Boat to snorkel on the Opal reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef. Amazing!! We drove out to the Opal Reef from Port Douglas for about 90 minutes and set anchor on the reef. It was beautiful. Many different coloured fish and reef formations. We swam for about 30 minutes and continued on to two more spots on the reef, swimming for 30 minutes or so at each spot. In between swimming, we had a great lunch and plenty of cakes and snacks to keep your energy up. We are now just getting ready to go out to dinner at a place named Salsa, where all the locals eat apparently. Sounds good. Tomorrow we are going back out to the reef with another company and on Saturday we head north with a tour company to see the rainforest and some crocs in the wild. Can't wait...
Love the comment from our friends and families. Keep them coming!
p.s. we are taking donations to help us get home if anyone is interested in sponsoring the remainder of the trip. Our tickets are all paid for but we'd like you to feel like you are more involved in this journey so we are offering a chance to be a part of a greater thing. Join now and for the next week we will take pics of us doing fun things with your money and send you a signed copy!! Can't beat that!
Be good and get out there and have some fun...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

antarctic tour and off to Oz

A rainy day convinced us to go from Dunedin directly to Christchurch.  This resulted in a night of camping in one of the less fancy camp sites we have been to.  The evening was saved by take out from a great Noodle place and a nice chat with some fellow travellers.
Two nights in a hotel was a pleasant change after sleeping in the Spaceship for so long.  Standing up while you get dressed and leaving your toothbrush in the bathroom instead of carrying it back and forth is a luxury we had previously taken for granted.  We spent a great day at the Antarctic Experience, a lovely display of Antarctic research and survival.  There was a 4D movie (it was actually 3D with some extras like water splashing, fog and bubbles – time was not altered), a drive around in an Antarctic vehicle (the driver was crazy, so it was very much like a roller coaster) and a blue penguin colony.  We paid a little more and the 2 of us got a special tour of the blue penguins which allowed us into the enclosure where they swam around for us.  Plus we got to go into the vet treatment room where one of the penguins was placed on the floor right in front of us.  All of the birds in this colony are rescued after sustaining an injury due to human interaction (hit by boats, tangled in nets etc) and they would not survive in the wild – so captivity is their only chance. 
We waved good-bye to our Spaceship yesterday and this morning we were up at 3:30am in order to head to the airport.  Look out Australia, here we come!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

One Tough Morning....

Yesterday we got up and headed out early.  It was one tough morning, endured to please our blog audience.  First we went to the farmers market in the old railway station.  We sampled cheeses and had a lovely lamb kabob.  Then we wandered over to the Cadbury plant where we took a tour.  It included a giant dumping of 1 ton of melted chocolate (Colin got splashed a little), and they gave us a free bag of samples.  Everytime they asked a question and you answered it correctly they gave you more chocolate.  Colin is a true trivia buff so he got a lot of extras, which he gave away to the children.  Finally we toured the Speights Brewery.  It was a beautifully organized tour with all of the details of how the process was done in "the old days" and how it is done now.  At the end the taps were open for 30 minutes of free sampling.  We tried all 5 beers and the cider - a hard go!  The tour included lunch and a half pint of your favourite.  How we suffer for you people!  We drove over to Portobello in the late afternoon to watch the albatross fly.
Below is also a picture of the world's steepest residential street.  Every year Cadbury makes large chocolates that are assigned individual numbers.  Then they sell off the numbers in a lottery to raise money for cancer research.  The candy that crosses the line first wins someone a prize.

Cruising the Fiordlands

So we spent a night cruising on the Fiordland Explorer.  We took a ferry (you know what we mean boys...), then a bus to get to the ship.  We spent the day going down the Doubtful Sound (named by Cook when exploring the area because he was "doubtful" it was deep enough to explore).  We shared a room containing 4 bunks with Paul and Milly.  Paul was a professional pianist before he retired and he treated us to a few songs at one point!  Brilliant!
During the cruise there were amazing views, dophins, fur seals and blue penguins (also called fairy penguins).  We met some lovely people along the way.  The meals were really well done, especially when you consider the size of the kitchen they came out of.
We checked out the bridge and were amazed by the sophisticated equipment involved.  They have an electronic picture of the sound with the exact position of the ship.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thanks to Brian & Sheryl

We met a lovely couple, Brian & Sheryl, at the Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park.  They helped us arrange all kinds of fun stuff, so we want to give a shout out to them! 
The first thing we did was go on a jet boat along the Shotover River.  To get to the boat you first needed to travel along this NARROW, winding road along the side of a mountain.  The road was the original cart path to get supplies into the goldrush prospectors.  At times it seemed like we were a couple of centimeters from the edge - rather spooky!  The boat itself went up to 80km/h down this shallow river with canyon walls on either side, also rather fun!
After a brief nap we went down to the docks to get on a steamboat that took us across the lake to a sheep farm.  They gave us a beautiful meal (lamb of course) and then we watched a sheep shearing demonstration.  We ate with a great group of people, but the steamboat was mainly filled with a seniors tour.  It reminded us of Peterborough!
All of this activity was in Queenstown, a beautiful little town that we could have spent a lot more time in.  It was expensive, however, I was trying to find socks and most of them were around $25 - 38 a pair!
Yesterday we drove to Te Anau, a quiet town on a lake.  We just relaxed and kicked around for the day.  This morning we head to Manapouri where we will catch a boat across a lake.  Then after a short bus ride we will get on another boat where we will stay overnight.  This boat will cruise us around Doubtful Sound - we will give details about this trip soon.  Please know we will not have internet during this time, so don't go looking for us on Skype and wait patiently for our next posting!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Travel to Queenstown

Today was a big travel day, we drove from Franz Josef to Queenstown.  The whole thing took about 6 hours, a lot of it on windy mountain roads. This country also has a lot of crazy one-way bridges, the signs indicate which direction has the right of way and which direction must wait until it is clear. We even went over one that was also the bridge for the train - we assume the train gets the right of way in this case.
On the way here we stopped in Wanaka at the Puzzle World. It is a collection of strange illusions you walk through.  There is a room full of 3-D faces on the walls that follow you and a room that makes you look tall if you stand at one end and short when you stand at the other end.  The craziest room has a steep slope going one way, but the walls and floor look like they are horizontal.  This means you are very disoriented when you walk because you think you are walking on flat ground, while you are actually trying to go up a hill - it made us dizzy. Outside there is a tilted clock tower that, if you stand in the right place and pose properly, it looks like you are holding it up.  In the picture Colin was actually 50 feet away.
We have come to love a couple of things here in New Zealand, our Tom-Tom and Tim-Tams.  Our Tom-Tom is our GSP navigation system, it has a sweet female voice and gives great directions.  Tim-Tams are amazingly yummy cookies!  We have only tried one kind yet, but there is lots of time to try them all because you can get them in Australia as well!
What we don't appreciate are gas prices - $2.38 per litre!  OUCH!
We just got back from a great meal at Kim's Korean - the food was on par with Matsu Sushi's Korean food (but we still missed our Mr. Kim).
Tomorrow we go jet-boating and then go on a cruise that includes dinner at a local sheep farm.  Look for details tomorrow!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Most Amazing Thing We Have EVER Done...

We just came back from one of the most amazing things we have ever done.  We took a HELICOPTER ride up to the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.  We got in the helicopter with our pilot Ben and when we took off it felt like we were lifted by a string.  Then we flew up and over the Franz Josef glacier, which is 63 km long.  The glacier was white and blue with huge cracks in it.  The snow that lands at the top takes 6 months to work its way to the bottom.  It is hard to describe how massive it is, we saw another helicopter fly by and it looked like a little toy.  Then we landed on the Franz Josef glacier and got out to walk around.  I don't have the words to describe how beautiful it was.  On the way back we flew over the Fox Glacier, it is smaller but still magnificient.  We have decided if we become rich we need to buy a helicopter (and get Ben as our private pilot).   If you are interested we were flying at approximately 3500 feet!
Yesterday was also fun, but it did not work out as well as we planned.  We went to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes (no jokes please, we didn't name them) which are a series of rocks by the shore where waves come crashing in.  The waves smash into the rocks, then move into caverns with huge force.  The waves end up coming up through the ground and spraying everywhere (thus the blowhole). 
We did not get to do the make your own knife thing we planned, it was all booked up.  Instead we rode around on a dune buggy through mud and water.  Seemed like fun, but our first buggy kept breaking down so we switched vehicles half-way through.  Then we ended up beaching our buggy in a particularly deep section.  We didn't get too muddy and we felt slightly disappointed by this.
We also didn't get a tour of the brewery, the pamphlet said there was a 7pm tour, but the last one went at 6pm.  False advertizing sucks!  We did manage to have a couple of beers while watching a rugby match in a bar, so it all worked out in the end.
We hope things are going well in Canada, remember you are all pooling your money to buy us a helicopter for Christmas!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lots to catch up on...

So the last time we wrote we were in Wellington ready to take the ferry.  We sucessfully did this and then drove south to Kaikoura, this is a beautiful little town by the seaside surrounded by mountains.  It has its own seal colony that we looked at.  You have to be careful though, the seals will attack if you block their way to the ocean (one growled at a guy who got too close to it). 
We had an amazing seafood dinner the first night with lobster, clams, fish and shrimp.  Great food!
I gave in to Colin's love of golf and we spent the next morning on the local course.  The scenery was spectacular - mountains everywhere!  We also finally found the sheep!  (Actually there are tons of sheep on this island).  The afternoon looked like rain, so we did laundry (very exciting...but necessary). 
Today we had a long drive across the south island to Greymouth.  We stopped in Hamner, a beautiful little alpine style town.  We had a great coffee (surprisingly everyone has a cappacino (sp?) machine in this country, even McDonalds).  We got here a few minutes ago (midnight your time, 5pm our time) so we missed our skype window...sorry.  We plan on going up to the Punakaiki pancake rock formations and perhaps stop at a "make your own knife" place on the way home (more info to follow on this one).  There is also a local Brewery, so we might have to go on a tour and tasting (the things we do to keep our blog readers amused). 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The caves we forgot to write about and why driving in Wellington sucks

So Colin wrote our blog yesterday and totally forgot to talk about the highlight of our trip so far, the Glowworm caves in Waitomo.  They were amazing.  We toured through the first cave, seeing cave formations and discussing the age of the structures (millions of years by the way), then we got on a boat and went through a totally dark section where the roof of the cave was totally covered in glowing green-blue 'worms'.  They are actually larva of a fly and they glow so that they attract insects that get stuck on long strings of saliva that they dangle down around themselves.  Creepy in one way, but beautiful to look at.  During the second cave we first descended down a long sprial ramp to get us down into the cave.  Then we went on a guided tour for about an hour and a half, seeing formations, underground rivers and more glowworms.  Really interesting.  If you ever come to New Zealand you have to see this!
Today we are in Wellington, with plans to go to the South Island tomorrow morning on the ferry.  We drove into Wellington to go up the cable car that is in the middle of town.  The car and museum at the top were really interesting and definitely worth seeing.  Parking in Wellington was nothing short of hell.  The first parking garage had really tight ramps that even lead to some rubbing of tires (if I was driving instead of Colin we would be missing a bumper or two), we went all the way to the top, only to find that all the empty spots were reserved!  Back down again and on to garage number two.  It wasn't as scary, but there were only a few spots available here too.  We did make it back out all right in the end, but I recommend you leave the car behind when exploring this city - public transit is the way to go!
By the way our Skype times have changed due to the time change in Canada.  We will be on between 4pm & 5pm, then 10pm & 11pm. Tomorrow we will be on only during the later time spot because we will be on a ferry (that is a boat gentlemen not Richard Simmons) during the earlier one.

Monday, March 14, 2011

pics of the last week or so

Hey folks....just a quick update from NZ. We left Rotorua (lovely place but smells like rotten eggs most of the time- or like Dan's arm after his surgery and that will kill your sleep patterns for a week or so) and are now in Wanganui, in the southwest of the north island. Tomorrow we head to the capital Wellington before heading across the Strait to the south island on Wednesday here( Tues evening there in Ontario). Now for the excitement....Vicki just did laundry, I did a crossword (without cheating, surprise surprise) and I am now doing the blog and thinking of dinner (7:20 pm monday here). I know....can't fight off the adrenaline flowing through your veins after reading this but I will try to beef it up with pics. Later my peeps!! Love to all, even Dan. (we kid 'cause we love, Dan)
ps trying to Skype between 3-4 pm and 9-10 pm. Have an eye for us if you like...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rotorua and beyond....and the answer to the sheep question...

Hey folks! Welcome from smelly Rotorua NZ. The city is full of sulfur pools and bubbling mud.  Very interesting, but also very smelly.  Depending on which way the wind is blowing it can travel for kilometres (when we woke up this morning the smell was everywhere).  The first night here we went to the Polynesian Spa, a series of pools filled with natural hot spring water.  They all had that sulfur smell and ranged in temperature from 38 degrees to 42 degrees (of course Colin liked the cool one and Vicki liked the hot one best).  After the spa we went for an interesting dinner at a restaurant called Hot Stone, where you get raw meat and cook it on a hot stone.  Very fun, but Colin felt that if you pay that much they should cook your food for you.  The second day here we started off going to the top of the mountain on a gondola, then we rode down on a "luge".  The luge is actually a small cart, low to the ground that runs by gravity.  (It does have brakes).  We went down 3 times, riding back up on a ski lift in between.  After lunch we checked out the Zorb (bouncing down a hill in a giant plastic, water-filled ball.  Weird!  So now we leave smelly Rotorua to head towards Waitomo Caves!  Keep the comments coming, it is fun to read your reactions and hear from loved ones.  (...and Dan). 
Claudia came up with the answer to where the sheep went....they are being sheepish!  Good answer!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hot Water Beach and touring

Well we are currently in the Hot Water Beach Holiday Park in the Coromandel peninsula. Yesterday we arrived and went to the beach to dig our own hot tub in the and 200 others in a 20 square metre area!!You had to be in a certain area on the beach and others had camped out just to get a spot. Gorgeous beach though! And the park is fantastic, clean and fully outfitted with kitchens, bathrooms, showers, laundry and a tv/reading room for the kids. Today we went to visit Whitianga and do some shopping for dinner stuff and have lunch. Lovely little town and great Thai food. Having steak and taters tonight in 23 degree weather.
A few interesting things that have surprised us about New Zealand:
- the hardest thing about driving on the left hand side is that you tend to turn on the wipers instead of the signal (funny for Vicki, less so for Colin, even less funny for fellow drivers)
- SUBWAY sandwich shops are EVERYWHERE
- we have seen very few sheep, mainly cows...maybe they are hiding

Monday, March 7, 2011

The spaceship has taken off

We left the big city of Auckland today in our spaceship - called T1000 or as we call it...Pumpkin (it is a big orange van after all).  We drove up the east coast of the north island to Goat Island Marine Reserve.  Absolutely beautiful.  We watched sea birds fishing in the waters and several tourists snorkeling around.  We plan on hitting the waters ourselves tomorrow if the weather is good.  We are currently staying in the Whangateau Holiday Park (there is an internet search for you to do) right by the water.  After some snorkeling we plan to head back towards Auckland and around to Coromandel.  We will post whenever we can!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Aquarium, Flight and Auckland day 1

Yesterday (friday, now sunday evening-lost all of saturday in travel) was spent at the Honolulu Aquarium, checking out all of the cool fish, jellies and sharks found in the waters off Hawaii. Very cool!! We got to the airport early trying to upgrade our 9 hour flight to NZ but with no luck. The Honolulu airport is kind of's wide open to the elements after you go through 4-5 security checks. The flight with Air New Zealand went well. Staff are great and the seats were more comfy than others but still too small for a 9 hour flight!! Today ( sunday) we cruised around town to get our directions straight while we waited for our room to open. Very hilly! Our legs are killing us already even after all the reps with Aussie at the gym. Not meeting many Kiwis yet...our waitress at lunch was from New Mexico and our waitress tonight was from Vancouver. It's cool here today, about 19,with a little rain. Vic is doing some quick laundry here at the hostel before bed and tomorrow we are hoping to see the Sky Tower and do some touring around the city. Will try skyping tomorrow.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Off to the Zoo

So yesterday we went to the zoo and spent a lovely day wandering around.  They have a huge variety of animals and they have done a great job creating the exhibits.  The pathways were lined with trees and plants, making it feel like you were in a natural setting.
We came back to the room to put up our feet for a few hours before heading out for dinner.  A nice salad bar and fresh fish did wonders (when travelling there can sometimes be a huge lack of vegetables presented). Today the plan is to check out of the hotel, store our luggage, go to the Aquarium and then have an early dinner before we head to the airport for our flight.  Tonight we spend the night on a plane to New Zealand!
Below are some pictures from our zoo trip.  The peacock is apparently named Kevin...interesting.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Japanese Tanaka & Sleeping In

Last night we had an amazing dinner at Tanaka of Tokyo - they cook your meal on the grill right in front of you.  Knives and spatulas are tossed around, all in a brilliant performance (that tastes good too).  We sat with 4 people from Japan and a couple of girls from Edmonton.  The one couple from Japan was on their honeymoon - the staff sang them a strange honeymoon song and tried to get them to kiss.  The wife giggled like a schoolgirl and eventually let him kiss her on the cheek - very sweet.
Today we slept in (we are on vacation after all).  It is suppose to rain a little today (how dare it) so we are not in a big hurry to get going.  We are probably going to walk down to the zoo and wander around for a couple of hours. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

luau and a ride around the island

Well we got into the swing of things by going to  a Luau at Paradise Cove last night. We had a lot of fun, drinking Mai Tai's, meeting new people, watching the show of dancers, and eating some good traditional island food, including Poi (wall paste flavoured starchy crap). We each got leid with a happy ending and came home tired and with free glasses and shell necklaces. We met a bunch of fellow Habs and exchanged stories of snow and hockey.
Today we rented a Jeep and went around the island to see the "real" Hawaii. We went to the north beach to see the great surfers do their thing. Amazing stuff! We also went to a State Park to do some snorkeling in a shallow bay. We saw a few small fish but not really anything to take your breath away.
We are finding that the whole area is ssssooooo tourism based that you miss the beauty of the island unless you get out of town. Also, everything is so expensive to do or watch that it takes away from the enjoyment of just being here. We have cancelled some trips/plans just because of the extra costs that show up on everything.
Well tomorrow is a quiet day. Might go to the Honolulu Zoo and Aquarium and maybe do some window shopping. Later folks!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Airports, Airplanes & Eating

We started off yesterday in the Vanouver airport - one of the loveliest airports we have every seen.  It is full of little stores and restaurants, while maintaining a very cozy, warm feeling.  It is also full of Canadian art and culture - very impressive.
Six hours on a plane got us to Hawaii - which we haven't really explored yet.  We checked into the hotel and wandered down the street to find some dinner.  A couple of Mai Tai's with some dinner and we felt much better.  The food is an interesting mix of Asian and "North American" - Colin had rice, pulled pork, brown gravy and fried eggs all piled on each other in a Hawaiian classic dish (with a crazy name I can't remember). 
We were seated by the window during dinner and spent the time people watching - a strange mix of locals, obvious tourists and what we are sure were some prostitutes (don't worry mom it is a very busy, safe neighbourhood).  Not quite Peterborough, that is for sure!