See you lei-ter

March 18, 2008

Sooo…we’re back in the arctic Northeast, after spending a glorious week in Honolulu.   After taking one day to recover from jet lag, we spent Friday relaxing on Waikiki Beach.  We learned that every Friday night, the city of Waikiki puts on a fireworks display to bid farewell to all of the honeymooning couples.  We made our way to the waterfront to view the spectacular display.  We hear that it was a very romantic time for everyone else on the island. 

 Feeling quite ambitious the next day, we made the trek to Diamondhead Crater for our first hike since New Zealand.  Apparently all of the Australian beach bumming had made us soft, as our sun-kissed bodies were quickly overtaken by every senior citizen hiking the crater.  Finally, after several “water breaks” on the courtesy benches along the trail, we made it to the top for a sweeping view of Honolulu.

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Although we were quite happy to be back on American soil, it didn’t take long for us to start having withdrawals from an authentic Australian experience.  So we put on our finest, and went to the Outback Steakhouse!

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The “G’day mate” signs, Bloomin’ Onion, and Aussie Sized Foster Mugs really brought us back to the heart of Australia.  Only being able to afford the salads was quite nostalgic as well.  Even as our lettuce and croutons had almost been completely consumed, our waitress naively showed no signs of recognition that we were in fact as genuine an Aussie as she was.  Earlier, Rachel had even thrown in a “no worries, mate” when the waitress explained that the kitchen was backed up and that our lettuce might take longer than usual to be placed in an Aussie Sized Bowl.  And still, the staff continued to treat us like all the other uncultured Americans at the restaurant.  We weren’t sure if this was all a dramatic set-up to a celebratory bowl of Aussie Chips and a welcoming rendition of the Australian National Anthem, or if they just didn’t want to insult the other customers.  Yet, as the bill arrived at our table, we knew we needed to take action.  And that is when we pulled out our authentic Australian-made flag pen. 

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 We waited.   And still, nothing happened.  No discount.  No singing.  No free Chocolate Thunder From Down Under. 

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Greg pulled out his authentic American, Chinese-made pen and defaced a beer coaster in a fit of patriotic rage.  And no, Outback Steakhouse…if that’s your real name…we will not keep coming back.

Keeping with the patriotic theme of the previous night, we woke up early (10 a.m.) to catch a bus to Pearl Harbor.  As the ferry took us and 150 other passengers to the somber memorial building resting directly above the sunken USS Arizona, we felt honored to be able to share a quiet moment with such an important piece of our country’s history. 

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The following day, we took a trip in the opposite direction on the island to experience what was on so many “Honolulu’s Must Do” lists:  Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay!  Although we were not able to find any stinger suits lying around, our hostel provided us with free snorkel gear, which made us look like pros as we passed over the “Snorkel Rental” line at the bay.  Unlike the Whitsunday Islands, the brilliant coral reef lay just feet from the sandy beach, which allowed us to jump in immediately and begin our 2 hours of paddling around the bay. 

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The marine life was unlike any we had previously seen.  Part way into our adventure, we even picked up a professional Hanauma Bay guide, who took us to all of the hot spots in the reef.  Our guide did not speak English, as he was a Green Sea Turtle, but that did not stop us from becoming great friends as we travelled across the length of the bay together.  We parted ways a while later, thanking our new friend for making that day our favorite of the week in Hawaii. 

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Our week in Hawaii was not only relaxing, but also allowed us the time to look back over our entire trip.  Reflecting on the last seven weeks, we realized how lucky we were that our trip went as smoothly as it did.  However, as can be expected, there were a few casualties:  Rachel’s Swiss Army Knife at the Sydney airport , Laura’s tote bag on the Greyhound bus, and Greg’s heart…which will forever lie in Norway. 

Although it is a shock to be back in the Northeast (we almost caught hypothermia walking from the airport terminal to the parking lot), too many winters spent in the bitter cold has prompted both of us to enjoy a perpetual summer in 2008.  Greg will be returning to Hawaii until August, and Rachel will make her way south to Guatemala, where she will volunteer, and finally put to use those painful hours spent in 8:30 am Spanish classes. 

We hope that you have enjoyed this account of our travels- please stay in touch!

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Later, Alligator

March 11, 2008

Soooo…after capping off our Fraser Island adventure with some new found friends, and several loads of laundry, we were on the move again racing North to Airlie Beach for a three day sail boating and snorkeling tour of the Whitsunday Islands.  We departed Rainbow Beach, and found ourselves at our hostel for the night- also known as the Greyhound bus.   We arrived the next morning at Airlie beach, and groggily made our way to the Marina, where our sailboat, the Habibi, was waiting.   Our crew guided us safely to some of the best snorkeling spots on the Great Barrier Reef, despite the rough winds and rain. 

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 Since we had spent all of our money on alcohol (the crew promised that boxed wine was an old remedy for seasickness), we were lacking the funds to purchase an underwater camera.  Unable to capture the  magnificent hues of the coral and vibrant marine life, we feel that the following picture most accurately reflects our experience in the reef.

Since we were snorkeling during the peak of stinger season, we had to wear protective”stinger suits”, or “sexy suits” as our crew deemed them.

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The Whitsunday Islands were indeed beautiful, and spending time on the boat proved to be quite relaxing, providing us the perfect opportunity to Reeflect on our adventures in the Oz.

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Sadly leaving the Habibi and her crew behind, we scrambled to make our Greyhound bus to Cairns, where Laura would continue on to Darwin, and Greg and Rachel would catch their flight to Hawaii.  Little did we know that the rain affecting our sailing trip would have greater implications for our travels.  As we arrived in Townsville, we were told (at 4am) that the roads to Cairns were closed due to flooding.  Since we had no choice but to spend the next day and night in Townsville, we decided to amuse ourselves with the challenge of an all-you-can eat pancake breakfast (or in our case, dinner). 

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Although Greg stayed the course, it was Laura who took home the pancake eating crown.

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A walk by the beach in an attempt to burn off the pancakes (or at least the ice cream that had accompanied them) was the perfect way to spend our last night in Australia.  As the roads to Cairns were still closed, we sadly parted ways with Laura in Townsville, flying directly to Sydney just in time to catch our flight to Hawaii.  Although we were sad to leave OZ, as we all know, there’s no place like home (especially when home for the next week is the tropical paradise of Waikiki Beach).

At one with nature…

March 2, 2008

Soooo…upon arrival in Brisbane we relaxed at our lively hostel and planned our next big activity: the Australia Zoo! The next morning we forced ourselves out of bed to catch an early train to make the most of our time with the koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies.

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We spent time with giant tortoises, iguanas, otters, and wandered through a kangaroo enclosure where we were able to feed the dozens of kangaroos dozing, playing, and hopping around.Next we visited the Asian elephants during their feeding time, and were actually able to participate by each handing a turnip directly to the elephant’s trunk.  We then stopped to see the tigers (Rach’s favorite) and took in the Wildlife Warriors, the cheesy but almost mandatory croc show started by Steve Irwin. The show featured incredible parrots, snakes, and most importantly a huge saltwater croc jumping for his food. After a few more encounters with koalas and kangaroos, we bid farewell to the Australian Zoo, and trekked back to Brisbane for our last night in the city.

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The following day we continued our journey North to Rainbow Beach.  Once there, we began preparations for our self-guided 4×4 tour of Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island.

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We met with our group of eleven the next morning, loaded our camping supplies, food, and gear, and made our way to the short barge ride that took us to the southern shore of the island.

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We drove up the length of the island as Simon and Xavier, our two volunteer drivers, maneuvered over the sandy beaches and inland tracks, stopping at Eli Creek and Indian Head for striking views of the ocean.

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After pitching our tents and cooking a steak and potatoes dinner, we had a peaceful night’s sleep on the beach (only interrupted by the spotting of a few wild Dingo’s).

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The next day we continued to roam the island, the highlight being a stop at the magnificent freshwater Lake Mackenzie. As there were few available showers on the island, the clear blue water was very refreshing, as was an intense game of water Frisbee (and some intense coaching for Laura).

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Greg helped to cook that evening (really), and a fierce dance party followed, lasting late into the evening (later for some rather than others who flopped into the tent unnoticed).

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We woke early the next morning to break down our camp, then making our way back down the island’s shores to catch the barge. After an afternoon to recover and, most importantly, shower, we began a long bus trip to Airlie Beach, the departure point for our two-night sailing & snorkeling trip to the Whitsunday Islands.  

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Glacier Goodness

February 26, 2008

Soooo… we have left NZ, and are back in the OZ!  We finished our time in Queenstown with a strenuous hike up the mountain overlooking the town (by the time we reached the top, it was quite evident why most people choose to take the gondola instead). 

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“Milk was a bad choice…”

Laura had her heart set on taking a luge ride at the top, and convinced Rachel to give it a try as well.  Laura also had her heart set on riding the chairlift a few more times, which also proved to be great fun. 

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This is what happens when you give a random man a camera to take a picture of you with your friends…

After celebrating our victory, we rewarded ourselves with a gondola ride back to the bottom of the mountain. 

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The sweet taste of victory

After an exciting morning, we embarked on a long drive to the town of Franz Josef in preparation for our glacier hike the next day. We were up bright and early to receive our glacier gear: jackets, trousers, gloves, boots, and ice clamps.  After a short bus ride, we began an hour hike through a rainforest and over rocky river bed to the foot of the glacier.

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The signs in NZ always provided a great deal of comfort

We were then told to divide up into groups numbered 1-6 based on our athletic abilities (1 being most athletic, 6 being get back on the bus).  Feeling cocky, we glided our way over to Group 5, the sun glinting off of our ice spikes with triumph.  After catching our breath, we were introduced to our dreamy glacier guide, Dale. Emanating masculinity, we all appreciated that his body looked as if it had been chiseled right out of the ice.  He also revealed that most people actually call him Donkey, but left the origin of his nickname to our imaginations.  And that’s where it stayed…all day long.

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Nice….ice pick.

With Dale literally forging the way with his humongous ice pick, we made our way up the glacier.  Thoughts of tired muscles melted away, as we were eager to prove to Dale that we belonged in Group 5.  Inspired by our rugged guide, and by the incredible landscape, we all jockeyed for position at the front of the line.  However, Greg remained first, starved for a dose of testosterone, and eager for any attention Donkey was willing to give. 

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Peering through the ice

After hours of hiking, we were able to take a break at the highest point of our expedition, allowing us to fully appreciate the pristine, and breathtaking terrain. 

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Relaxing at the highest point of the hike

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As we started our journey down the glacier, we realized that not only was the tour physically challenging, but mentally simulating as well.  Dale informed us that the ice on the glacier was in fact less than 60 years old.  Dale then informed us that he himself was less than 20 years old.  Our hearts instantly froze, as did our tears, and we fell to the back of the line for the remainder of the journey down the glacier. 

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Greg sandwiched in the ice

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Much heavier than it appears…

After a full 8 hours of maneuvering our way around the ice, we returned to the hostel and attempted to revive our aching bodies and aching hearts in the sauna.  Although Rachel was quite skeptical of the sauna at first, the promise of a “faster metabolism” erased any doubt from her mind.  We’re not sure if it was truly a faster metabolism, the fact that she skipped dinner for more sauna time, or simply severe dehydration, but she claimed to have lost two kilos.  Her last words, “If only Donkey could see me now…” were almost inaudible, as she collapsed onto the floor from heat exhaustion. 

The next morning, more driving was in order as we made our way to Arthur’s Pass, dragging our sore limbs on one last hike.

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The only reflection we were able to see at Lake Matheson

We sadly arrived back in Christchurch the next day, parting ways with Delilah and preparing for our early flight back to the Oz.  We arrived at the Sydney airport, purchased our trusty Greyhound bus passes, and started our journey up the coast to Port Macquarie.  Although our time there was brief, Laura fit in a visit to the Koala hospital,

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and we all fit in a visit to our favorite smoothie place, and a walk on the beach.  We then boarded the bus to Byron Bay, where we happily applied sunscreen for the first time in two weeks. 

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Byron Bay brought us new friends, time relaxing on the beach, and a reunion with our favorite 5 dollar bottle of wine.  Although we miss NZ, being back in the OZ has been…well…OZsome.  Next stop- Brisbane!

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Milford Sound Check

February 16, 2008

Sooooo….before leaving Dunedin, we stopped at one last attraction/claim to fame: The Steepest Street in the World (or so Guinness tells us…)

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You could buy a certificate of achievement for 2 dollars if you climbed it.  But we thought that was a little…steep?

We continued our driving tour of the South Island, cutting across the southern tip to Te Anau, the base for our Milford Sound excursion the following day.  As fortune would have it, a local bar was having Wednesday night karaoke.  Upon Greg’s inquiry as to what exactly karaoke night entailed, we were told “You get up there and sing a song.”  Always willing to adopt local customs, we were more than happy to partake (adding our own cultural flare, of course).

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“We’re from America!” 

“I know….”

As the evening progressed (eight consecutive songs later) it was time to show off our other talents to the dozen other people in the bar.

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Looks like all of the Dance Dance Revolution paid off…

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…or maybe not.

Although Valentine’s Day was heralded in with great style the previous evening, we were determined to continue the high rolling with a trip to Milford Sound, located in the heart of the wilderness of the Fijordland National Park (and luckily, not one karaoke bar within many a kilometer).  The boat excursion was claimed to be the “best ever” by Greg.  It really was spectacular to steer through steep, rocky cliffs and a multitude of waterfalls.

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Milford Sound boat trip

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One happy guy.

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Apparently being sprayed with the mist of this waterfall will make you look 10 years younger.  The next day, Greg woke up with a bowl cut.

Continuing our great nature-filled day, we drove to the entrance of the Routeburn Track, one of the most popular hikes in the park.  From Key Summit, the view of Lake Marion, nestled between the mountains, was truly rewarding.

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Key Summit- Routeburn Track

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This is as romantic as our Valentine’s Day got (Chariots of Fire, for inquiring minds…)

 Three words can sum up the end of our day:  Box of wine.  This, in addition to a late night trek to see glowworms, capped off the perfect Valentine’s Day.

The next morning, we piled back into Delilah for the long drive to Queenstown, punctuated by a few stops along the way (Mirror Lakes, a chasm, more waterfalls), and some delicious meat pies in Te Anau.  We arrived in Queenstown that evening, and explored the small, quaint town.

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Red sweatshirt, looking for licorice?  We could take this picture every day.

As the surrounding areas of Queenstown are well known for their vineyards, we spent the next day indulging ourselves with some wine tasting.  The Otago region is known for their wines, and the climate is especially conducive to producing Pinot Noir. 

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Gibbston Cheese and Winery

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A true pinotphile…

Since thousands of people flock to Queenstown for the famous bridge bungy jump, we thought that we should check it out as well.

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First commercial bungy jump in the world…

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us not doing it.

To continue the adrenaline rush from walking across the bridge, we continued on to Deer Heights Park, home to quite the variety of animals.  The winding park roads, and lack of guard rails gave Delilah a few tense moments, but the views of Queenstown were worth the climb.

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Animals are frightening enough

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We named her Dolly Llama.  It just sounds better than Dolly Alpaca.

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 3 weeks after leaving Vermont, we finally saw what we came for:  A deer.

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ba-a-a-a-ck off

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“So a priest, a rabbi, and a llama walk into a bar…ooh, awkward.”

Hey there, Delilah

February 13, 2008

Soooo….we’re in New Zealand!  After an early morning flight from Sydney, and several hours spent in the Christchurch airport trying to figure out our transportation around the South Island, we were finally on the road in a little, white, manual transmission Nissan Sprinter, christened “Delilah.”  Driving a standard on the opposite side of the road has proved to be quite interesting, but aside from only one slight mishap, things have been smooth so far.

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Rachel + Delilah

After a pleasant stroll around Christchurch in the evening, we set off for Akaroa, a small harborside town that was settled by the French. We wandered around the quaint town, attempted (failed) to see Hector’s dolphins, the smallest dolphins in the world, and took in the magnificent views over the aqua waters. Then we piled back into Delilah and headed for Lake Tekapo.

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View of Akaroa

Lake Tekapo  is known for having one of the clearest night skies in the world- perfect for stargazing (not that we were able to see much of the sky due to clouds, but apparently this night sky is slated to become a World Heritage site.)  The following day, we took in the views from the Church of the Good Shepherd (along with every Japanese tour bus in New Zealand).  After taking several pictures from the church, we hiked up Mount John for an aerial view of the lake, which was quite spectacular.

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Top of Mount John

Mount John was only our first hike of the day. We drove to the national park surrounding Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, bypassing Lake Pukaki which was also the same amazing aqua color as Lake Tekapo. We hiked along two trails for stunning views and even a trip across a rather terrifying swing bridge.

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Mount Cook

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Swing Bridge

That evening we high-tailed it to Oamaru, a town on the east coast that is the home to the Blue Penguin- the world’s smallest penguins. We sat in a grandstand with stadium lighting along with 200 other people to watch one of nature’s small miracles. The fattened miniature penguins floated up to the rocky coast in groups called “rafts” and scrambled up the shore, waddling to their malting mates who were waiting for their food supply.

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“I’m one of the good guys, Penguin!”

We continued our journey south, missing the illusive yellow eyed penguins, encountering some sea lions on the beach,

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posing on dinosaur egg-like boulders at Moreki Boulder Beach,

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A low impact activity…

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and picnicking on the most delicious cheese from our Oamaru factory tour. 

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Cheeeeeeeese

Another great day was capped off with a greater understanding of beer production, and plenty of samples at the Speight’s brewery- the “Pride of the South.” 

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Same game, different city

We had the luxury of controlling our own tap, which meant that seconds, thirds, and in Greg’s case, tenths, were in order. 

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“I forgot what this one tasted like….still good.”

Soooo, although we have been trying to be as inconspicuous as possible  in an effort to avoid the American stereotype (one day after getting yelled at by an angry Austrian, we even contemplated sewing those silly maple leaf patches onto our backpacks),  there finally came a day that we were able to walk down the street, bursting with American pride:  Superbowl Monday. After managing to find every other American in Sydney by 10 am at a little known bar called “Cheers” (featuring drunken study abroad students screaming “I miss Americaaaaaaaaa!” every 5 minutes) we watched with pride, Budweisers in hand…until the Patriots lost. We then drowned our sorrows in platefuls of noodles in nearby Chinatown, and went directly back to the hostel to nap off the bitter taste of loss, and too much MSG.

We rose early the next day, determined to forget the blurry, smug look on Eli Manning’s face, and hopped on bus 381 to Bondi Beach. The misery of the day before quickly faded as we spent two glorious days sunning ourselves, and drinking green tea smoothies on the beach. 

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After the sun decided that Greg’s  skin wasn’t already charred enough, we made our way back to Sydney to meet Laura, who had just arrived fresh off of the African continent.  Worried that the third world may have changed Laura in many ways, it was comforting to see that some things really don’t change, as our first order of business was celebrating with two rounds of roo steaks and sausages. 

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It wasn’t long before the first bottle of South African wine was opened, for there was much catching up to do.  After many stories and many laughs, we gave Laura a brief moonlit tour of our favorite Sydney harbour and scoped out where we would be dining the following night- our last night in Sydney.  As it turned out, the prices at McDonald’s were unrivaled.

After waking Laura up from her jetlag coma, we were out and about in an attempt to finally see the Harbour Bridge before another rainy day began. We were lucky that the overcast skies held out, and after a nice stroll to the bridge (of course after a delicious and cheap breakfast as Hungry Jacks/Subway—the first of many healthy meals of the day), we were able to walk across the bridge and climb of the Pylon Tower.  The view was spectacular and of course, we took far too many pictures.  

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We then said farewell to the Opera House and the Royal Botanical Gardens. 

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After climbing the 200+ stairs to the bridge, we were in dire need of sustenance, so we reprised our noodle run in Chinatown.  We capped off our evening at Scubar, with a small taste of Australian nightlife, and a big pitchers of Victoria Bitter.  

In the spirit of recently formed team Platkins, from this point forward there will be a merging of the blogs- Muzungulo will be on hiatus for a month, as all of our experiences will live on Migrate08 (or “Our great 08”??).  We are off to N Zed tomorrow to hopefully rent a campervan to aid us in our search for Hobbits.  As none of us have ever achieved the trifecta of driving a manual campervan on the opposite of the road, the next two weeks should prove to be quite the adventure!

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Hello, Sydney.

February 3, 2008

Sooooo, after our adventure in Lakes Entrance, we had one more stop before we reached Sydney:  a lovely town called Batemans’ Bay.  This town is home to Pebbly Beach- an area famous for its friendly wildlife (e.g. kangaroos sunbathing on the hot sand).  We coughed up our 15 dollars each to go on a 3 km bush-walk, and headed straight for said beach.  Bottle of water in one hand, snake-bite kit in the other, we ventured forth for a couple of hours, knowing at the end of this spider-infested trail, we would be at the kangaroo promised land.  When we arrived at the beach, sweaty and tired, there was not one kangaroo in sight.  When asked what was going on, one friendly local explained, “Ah, just too hot out for roos t’day.”  We forced a smile through the beads of sweat running down our faces (or were they tears…?) and thanked our new mate.    We moved on, physically AND emotionally, knowing that we would have to continue our quest for roo elsewhere.  As fate would have it, we finally did see a  kangaroo as we approached our hostel in Sydney…sizzling to a perfect medium rare on the barbie.  Pebbly Beach doesn’t seem so hot anymore, does it? 

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A picture is worth a thousand words…and thirty dollars. 

We arrived in Sydney the next day and were welcomed by a free concert/bbq put on by our hostel.  It was a great way to start our adventure in the new city.  The next day, however, was the first rainy day we had encountered on our trip.  Thus, we decided to treat ourselves to some comfort food at the nearest Wagamama alongside Sydney’s Darling Harbour.  Since we couldn’t walk around the city as previously planned, we had to work off those extra calories by playing Dance Dance Revolution at the nearby video arcade.  Although it didn’t completely satisfy Greg’s Halo 3 withdrawals, it was enough of a fix for the time being, and quite a bit of fun. 

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Eating again.

 To make up for the day lost to rain, our next day was packed with fun touristy activities.  We passed through a colorful Chinese New Year festival and made our way to Hyde park, where we happened upon an intense life-sized game of chess (where’s Ron Weasley when you need him?).  It eventually attracted quite a gathering, including drunken hecklers (shown below).  “Take the other pawn, ya wanker!”  Who knew chess could be such a craaaaazy game? 

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Photo opportunity?  Check, mate!

Just a quick walk up the street, and we found ourselves in Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens.  Although the bar had been set pretty high in Melbourne, we were pleasantly surprised with the beautiful serenity these Gardens offered in the heart of a bustling city.  Our first stop was a special exhibit featuring the life cycles of orchids and several carnivorous plants. 

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 Walking around the gardens required a lot of stamen-a

After our botany lesson, we made our way to Sydney Harbour and caught our first glimpses of the Royal Opera House, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

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Puuurty…

  We continued on to the Opera House, which was even more magnificent than it looked in Finding Nemo. 

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 Photo Operatunity?  Hm, that joke is getting stale….mate.

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Being near the opera house inspired the most artistic setting on Greg’s camera.

We walked by the Opera House for a closer view of the Harbour Bridge. 

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 Who knew that Greg packed a salmon colored t-shirt?  Maybe we should have spent our money on laundry instead of Dance Dance Revolution….

You know, drinking five dollar bottles of wine every night can make you feel a little classless.  So, to remedy this problem, we took our 5 dollar bottle of wine to a free opera!  Just as the sun was setting over the Gardens,  we made our way to The Domain for a performance of La Boheme, part of Sydney’s Opera in the Park series.  Bravo!

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He nose a fine wine when he sees one.

Australian Opening

January 29, 2008

Soooo, after about 23 hours of flying and 24 hours of waiting in various airports (pictured below), we finally arrived in Melbourne!

 dsc_0003.jpg  The less desired version of a Hawaiian lei.

 We somehow managed to find our…”hotel…” and crashed for another few hours before we were up and making our way to Rod Laver Arena for a full day of semi final tennis matches.  First was an exciting men’s doubles match, followed by Sharapova v. Jankovic, and Hantuchova v. Ivonovic…the Ova’s v. the Vic’s essentially.  Greg’s sign proclaiming, “Will You Maria Me?” got the axe at the last minute. 

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 The score of this picture is:  Love-Love. (That’s for you, Mom and Dad)

 Day two:  Royal Botanical Gardens, Self-Guided Walking Tour, Chinatown, and Sunburn Episode 1. 

 Funny fact:  Did you know that when two grown non-married, non-dating adults are forced by their…”hotel…” to sleep in a double bed together, that they often wake up before 6:45 a.m. despite severe jetlag?  Needless to say, our day started bright and early with an idyllic tour of Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens.  The tired grumpiness was soon wiped away by the zen-like atmosphere of the Gardens (harp player included).  In an overly ambitious move for our second day, we took it upon ourselves to walk an additional 4.86 km!  Funny fact #2:  “Kilometers” are not just some silly unit of measure made up by Canadians…they’re actually pretty exhausting when travelled by foot. However, Parliament, Chinatown, and Green Tea Smoothies were well worth the unexpected distance. 

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“I don’t neeeeed sunscreen!”  Wrong.

 Day 3:  Australia Day! 

Little did we know that when we woke up at 7:15 a.m. (we’re making progress) that it was in fact Australia Day.  Australian min-flags in hand, we waited eagerly for something exciting to happen.  Then, at 9 p.m. we saw fireworks!  We waved our flags in glee now affirmed in our belief that the Australians weren’t just playing a trick on us naive Americans, and that Australia Day is in fact a national holiday.  While passing the time, we ventured to Queen Victoria Market and checked out some fresh kangaroo meat for sale, then headed to Lygon St. where we had taste of Melbourne’s Little Italy.  The meal was delicious.  This may be partly due to the fact that it was the first substantial meal we had eaten in 3 days.  Inspired by the patriotic fireworks display, we hopped into Crown Casino to test our luck at the slot machines.  3 minutes and 10 dollars later, we decided the slots just didn’t require enough of our fine tuned gambling skills.  So, we headed to the roulette table.   50 cents on 12 and 25 was all we needed to make our 10 dollars back.  We left the building happy, knowing we could afford dinner that night.

dsc_0133.jpg  Happy Australia Day!

 Day 4:  Melbourne Supremacy

Knowing our bus was leaving Melbourne (aww) in the afternoon, we hurried down to the Yarra River in the morning to have breakfast (pictured below).  We spent the day catching a few of the sights we hadn’t covered, such as the Docklands, and displays of modern art by the riverside.  After a trip to the grocery store to refill our apple and peanut supply, we were ready to start our journey up the coast. 

dsc_0184.jpg  Mini pancakes by the Yarra

 Day 5:  Lakes Entrance

Our first stop on the way to Sydney was a cute little town called Lakes Entrance.  After being in the city for 4 days, it was nice to relax on 90-mile beach and go for a lovely paddle boating ride alongside a multitude of black swans.  You might even go as far as to call it a…Swan-y River (lame joke compliments of Greg Perkins…not pictured below due to obscene sunburn).  Only being there for 24 hours, we made the most of our trip and hiked up to a popular lookout point offering a view of the lake that seemed almost surreal. 

dsc_0208.jpg  The view from the lookout

 To reward ourselves for our strenuous paddle-boating endeavor, we broke open a 6 dollar bottle of aloe vera, and a 5 dollar bottle of wine:  2 ingredients necessary in order to sleep on a 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. bus ride, thanks to the sketchiest and only bus company running this route along the coast. 

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We felt that the shape of these glasses really allowed our Matthew Lang to breathe properly. 

Overall, many good times were had with many more to come.  Keep tuning for updates- tomorrow we are journeying to a beach where wild kangaroos sunbathe!  Also, we predict that by January 30th, Greg will arise from his sun poisoned state and will again be ready for photographs.  Cheers!

Israel

January 27, 2008

After being slightly unprepared for one of the coldest weeks on record for Israel (I wore every piece of clothing in my suitcase every single day), the 10 days I spent in Israel turned out to be an absolutely amazing experience.   Our itinerary managed to pack in so many different activities, it is difficult to choose a favorite.  A few of the more memorable were travelling North to the Golan Heights at the Syrian border, visiting the ancient city of Tsfat, spending time in the old city of Jerusalem, swimming in the Dead Sea, rappelling into Ramon Crater, and hiking to the top of Masada.  And, of course, no trip to the desert would be complete without riding a camel at least once.  It is incredible how varied and beautiful the terrain is for such a small country.  Israel is an absolutely fascinating country,  and I look forward to returning there someday.

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The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) at sunset

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The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem

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View of Jerusalem from the Old City

Recreating in Jerusalem

 Recreating in Jerusalem

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Hiking through a National Park

Dead Sea

 Floating in the Dead Sea

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 Before rappelling into Ramon Crater

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The top of Masada at sunrise

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 Crawling through an unexcavated cave

Digging   

I dig Israel