Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why we love AC

Our vision, as flawed as it turned out to be, of this trip is that we'll make like '60s surfers and just follow the summer around the globe. We'll, I think we jumped the gun just a bit because the majority of NZ was just hitting its springtime awakening. Not quite the hot, sunny days we had hoped for. Our first week and a half in Australia offered more of same, if not a few degrees warmer. It's getting better... Now try this – hop a plane from Melbourne to Cairns, going roughly from the extreme southern end of the island to the extreme northern, tropical end. Eureka! We found the the heat! Typically a treasure like this is marked with an “X”. Here it's marked with a continuously sweaty back and a constant need to hydrate. Because guess what, we found the humidity too. 90+ degrees (which is reached somewhere around 9:00 am) with similar humidity. No relief in the shade and ya, it's the start of the wet season, so it rains too.

So we came upon our first real challenge from the heat as we “settled” in for our first night in Cairns. Let's see... how does one, or two in this case, comfortably snuggle in to bed when bed consists of a two man tent filled with two 75 litre backpacks, a whole mess of other shit that's being carried by other various methods, in the 90 degree heat, in the 90 percent humidity, with the rain fly on and closed up to avoid those sudden downpours, with the doors all zipped up to protect against the swarms of bugs that love to munch on Courtney at every chance, when you can't stop sweating and your sleeping pad is sticky and wet? (Can you say run on sentence?) I can answer that – you don't. Talk about a crappy way to spend the night. Hence the title of this post.

First order of business that next morning was to head into the office and grab ourselves a nice little cabin with air con. Come one baby... fan on high.... temp down... temp down... temp down... ah yes, that sweet blast of cool air first hits you and it's like you're walking into the mall on that hot summer's day – thinking that that billowing AC is meant especially for me. Now comes the next challenge, can Jeremy keep it at 58 degrees so that he's nice and comfortable or does Courtney not have enough cold weather clothing to stay warm enough while under the blankets? It's a battle that we'll happily wage rather than endure another night in our nylon sweat box from Hell. I love me some AC!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

From 008 - Whitsunday Islands flickr

Holiday greetings from Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands. Gorgeous!!

Merry Christmas everyone!!! We're here in Hervey Bay, Australia, getting ready to wrap up our first Christmas on the road. We began this Christmas at around 6:30 am when the unfortunate positioning of our tent yesterday afternoon woke us up with a glimmer of sunshine / sweat-box style tent. Love the tropics... ;) (Remember that we're a day ahead of everyone, so while most of you are dreaming away, waiting for Santa to bring the goodies, we're getting ready to put this one in the books.) I don't think either of us has woken up that early on Christmas day since we were 8 years old!

Well without the requisite sausage souffle or monkey bread to fill our bellies in the early morn', we created a new Christmas tradition - peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches for breakfast! Mmmmmmm... I think we'll be able to fit it on the menu in future years. A few hours on the beach, a nice bike ride and some wonderful skype chats with the family made for a great day. But still, we're both weirded out by the whole Christmas-on-a-beach thing, and we're really bummed to be missing all of the snowy fun that everyone is having at home!

Tomorrow's going to be a continuation of another Christmas tradition only on a grand scale - time to go to the movies! But we're going all out this year - it's marathon time! Hopefully we'll be able to get show times to sync up and hit 3 or 4 shows. Oh the popcorn and Milk Duds will flow freely!!! It will be glorious!

Just a little slice of our traditional holidays that'll keep us going since we're missing you all like crazy right now! At home, through the missed flights, battling the weather and all of the other SNAFU's that always show up around the holidays, we wish everyone the best!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Found on a street corner in Melbourne, somewhere I believe in the middle of the financial district, of course...

Anyone got a guess?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sounds like fun!

Stop number one was to hit the chemist on our way out of Te Anau and load up on the Dramamine. After that we rolled about two hours up the Milford Highway, driving through cliffs and tunnels, and avoiding passenger attacking giant wild parrots until we dead-ended in Milford Sound. You really only go to the village of Milford Sound if you're going to go for a cruise on the Milford Sound. You're at the end of a 100+ km dead end road, no gas station, one bar, one cafe, one hostel and 300 meter cliff faces on all sides. You're getting on that damn boat! We spent a night at the hostel where Courtney managed to redeem herself on the Monopoly board and we did laundry. I told you, there's nothing to do there.

We awoke the next morning to thundering downpours that managed to whitewash the cliff faces and hills with waterfalls. Seriously, you couldn't scan ten feet from side-to-side without running into another torrent of runoff cascading down to the sea. There was even a section of the mountains called The Cascades that I think may more appropriately earn the name than our home range. The storm definitely added to the fun on the water too. It created what mariners like to refer to as “rough seas”. Us land lubbers like to refer to it as “Quick, clear the doorway. Courtney's going to puke!” Well, we fortunately didn't get quite that far in the anti-digestive process, but the rolling seas sure did make for some uncomfortable times.

The unpleasantness in no way detracted from the real beauty of the Sound. We were skeptical that the storm was going to ruin the two hour cruise in that the cloud cover wouldn't allow us to see the full majesty of the cliff walls and fjordland beauty. But as time went on through our trip we were more than happy to welcome the rain. The guide on our cruise of 15 or so guests told us that after a dry spell, there are normally four, count 'em four, waterfalls that are visible during the cruise. Literally, this day, there were thousands, many cascading hundreds of feet to the water below, falls that normally trickled down the mountains were thundering 75 feet out from the rock face. Not to mention the free, all-you-can-drink coffee and tea! All for about $50 a head! An amazing deal for truly unique and breathtaking sights that we'll be hard-pressed to match any time soon, but we're going to try anyways... in about two days.

Milford Sound was truly amazing, but of course we had to have a look at it's sister fjord, Doubtful Sound. So down the coast we went to Lake Manapouri. A 45 minute boat ride across the lake, a quick tour through the Lake Manaouri Power Station, a 45 minute bus ride down the sea level and ta da – Doubtful Sound. The quick and dirty on DS is this – beautiful and worth it, but I'd say that if you have to choose one, choose Mildord. The scenery of the shear cliff faces is much more dramatic at MS and frankly, I just think we got spoiled with the amazing waterfalls here as well. The trip on DS was very nice, good weather too, but it was much longer of a tour (6 hours on the Sound, plus the bus and lake travel) and the fjord itself was quite as majestic as MS. Two amazing trips though that really are must-sees on a trip to NZ. Damn this country is beautiful!

Courtney trying out her best Donald Trump impression, post hanging out the window for a picture opportunity.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wanaka & Queenstown - We love you!

It's amazing what a little sunshine can do for your motivation to get out and do things after long stretches of drizzle and grey. Our first four weeks in New Zealand definitely brought us more of the wet and dismal than the warm and bright, but no complaints... The same can be true I guess for the opposite, when all you want to do is sit down and soak it up.

We definitely ran into this “soak it up” mentality when we arrived in Wanaka and Queenstown, near the center of the South Island. Warm sunshine, no clouds in the sky and plenty to keep us occupied in these fantastic little ski resort towns. Queenstown especially reminded is of a Park City/Whistler/Tahoe vibe – Small town feel nestled right next to a gorgeous blue lake, lots of activities to keep the kids entertained (it's the adventure capital of New Zealand – think birthplace of bungee, paragliding, jet boating, skydiving, river rafting, etc...) cobble stone streets filled with shops and countless other places to just wander around and wish the day away.

We stayed in Wanaka for three days, not intent on even stopping before we got there, but as soon as we drove in to town we were hooked.

Though smaller than Queenstown, the feel was the same – lakeside ski town complete with waterfront views from our hostel, Cricket matches on the lawn out our front window and the attraction for adults and kids alike, Puzzling World. Feature number one is their amazing maze! Think of the corn maze out on Sauvie's Island over Halloween and then make it so hard that these two brainiacs were pushing on an hour and a half to get the hell out. Yes, the novelty had worn off by the time we finished... There were a myriad of puzzles, games, and magicy toys to play with in the lobby and several other “illusion rooms” to help prop up the $15 cover. Creepy rooms with faces that stare at you no matter where you stand, rooms built on a slant so that everything seems to travel uphill and makes people with equilibrium issues fall down easily (aka Courtney). This is stuff that you really are only supposed to see in Willy Wonka or Pawtucket Pat's factories, but without the Neverending Gobstoppers or rivers of beer. Your only real reward is the onset of a migraine headache from hours of puzzle solving and constant muttering of “how the hell did they do that?!?!” Well, I guess we did get a way with a few shots of us holding up the leaning tower on the front lawn. “Careful! It's about to go over!!” I can definitely see the Dads enjoying this place and it's well worth the stop if you happen to be in Wanaka soon.

Queenstown was definitely leaning more towards the kid-in-you rather than the kids themselves. There was an awesome frisbee golf course, an overload of shops in which to shop (which of course Courtney took full advantage of, because, ya know... we needed more weight in our bags, right?), adventure sports galore and a mountaintop luge/go-kart type course. Oh, and there happened to be an excess of clubs and bars in which to intoxify your nights and early mornings away in. I guess it was also good that there was an abundance of greasy spoon cafes and a movie theater to laze the days away in too.

I think we both put this mountaintop pair of towns near the top of our lists for places to visit in NZ. We didn't do a whole lot that they had to offer, but we enjoyed the heck out of just being there. Wandering, soaking up the sun and relaxing for nigh on a week.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I need a BLOG fix, Part IV

In Cairns we were busy busy busy, going to scuba school to get certified in a 5 day program which consisted of 2 days in the pool, and 3 days on a boat, doing dives along the Great Barrier Reef. It was exhausting: we'd spend 8 hours a day between the classroom and the pool, then have homework at night which took several hours to complete, before reporting back to school at 7am the next morning. Then at sea it was wake up calls of 5:30am for the 6am dive, slam down some breakfast between the first dive and the 8am dive, then briefings and additional lessons between the 11am and 4pm dives. It nearly felt like we were back at work!! (I'd love to know how many of you are openly cursing me at this very moment). Diving the reef was one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had, and we can't wait to dive other locations now that we're experts! More on scuba in subsequent blog posts....

From there we trained it down the coast to Airlie Beach, where we promptly jumped aboard another sea vessel – an 80ft sailboat this time. We cruised the Whitsunday Islands for another 2 days, stopping along the way to snorkel and sun ourselves on pure white silica sand that never manages to get hot. There we swam with rays and endless schools of fish in only knee deep water. On our last night I managed to pull a usual klutzo maneuver and slip on the boat deck, sending my knee off in a frighteningly unnatural direction. So we've been thankful for the few extra days we are 'stuck' in Airlie Beach before we catch the train to continue down the coast. I saw a doctor today and it's merely an “overextension of the co-lateral ligament” which in English means it's nothing too serious and I should be good to go in about 10 days. The trick between now and then is figuring out how to carry both backpacks..... What a strapping young lad I am lucky to be traveling with!

The next stop is Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world as well as the only place where rainforest grows in sand (to plagiarize Lonely Planet), where we'll celebrate Christmas and spend a few nights on a 4WD sand safari tour (yes, we've really been breaking the budget with all the wild fun Australia offers). After that, we continue down to Surfer's Paradise and Byron Bay, where we plan to take surfing lessons, relax on the beach, and party it up for New Year's, as we hear it's a great place to be to ring in the New Year. Then we head north to Brisbane where we fly out to Bali on January 7th. Look at that – we're AHEAD of ourselves now!!!

I need a BLOG fix, Part III

From there we were really hoping to hike the Great Ocean Road which is a 104km, 8 day stretch that runs along the southern coast of Australia, passing some amazing natural sights along the way. The 12 Apostles, London Bridge, and Loch Ard Gorge to name a few of the the awe-inspiring limestone rock formations carved out by the pristine ocean water. The parks dept. wouldn't bend on the 2 week advance reservation policy, however, and we didn't care to hang around Melbourne that long to make it happen. So we survived a 12 hour bus tour to see the sights instead!

From Melbourne we caught a flight up to Cairns, (pronounced Cans, just like the town in France) at some ungodly morning hour. Departing the plane, we could hardly breathe! The air was so thick with heat and moisture and it was only 9am! We finally found ourselves immersed in the sunshine and heat we'd been craving....but careful what you wish for! The climate along the east coast is so tropical, that we could only survive one night in the tent before breaking down for air-conditioned rooms everywhere else. Though I've acclimated pretty well, it's been 2 weeks now and poor Jer still hasn't stopped sweating!

To be continued in tomorrow's edition, again, for the last time...

I need a BLOG fix, Part II

The best part was the time we spent on Phillip Island and the amazing array of wildlife we encountered there....kangaroos, wallabies, emus, kookaburras, Tasmanian devils, and adorable koalas, just to name a few. We were able to feed and interact with most of the animals, including the brand new – still hairless brand new - baby wallabies that would peek out from momma's pouch. We also experienced the “Penguin Parade” one night, where we witnessed nearly 2000 blue penguins retreating from the ocean to return to their nests for the evening. Truly a spectacular sight! We were so ready to steal two little furry babies who were panicked that their mom wasn't coming back. They would molest each and every penguin that passed them up the hill in the hopes that it was mom bringing dinner home. Just as our hearts were breaking, momma penguin showed up and the babies nearly attacked her. Their reunion was pretty hilarious to witness.

Our last stop was Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bin) where Tammy and Rob surprised us with a Christmas/thank you gift of a night at the Marriott hotel! Wait, maybe THAT was the best part! Wow, what a treat. I still dream of that plush bed and all the pillows....traveling definitely gives you a whole new appreciation for the finer things in life! It was such fun to have friends to play with for a while, though we were nearly glad to see Tammy and Rob go because our livers needed a break!

To be continued in tomorrow's edition, again...

I need a BLOG fix, Part I

Dear buddsabroad,

Ok, November 22 was a long time ago – I’m sure you’ve had a few more adventures that you could share. Even the board game review proved to be interesting reading. I want to read about Roo’s & Wallaby’s – all the big spiders you’ve managed to avoid – stinging jellyfish – snakes that can outrun a man – You know all the good OZ stuff! Your loyal fans deserve better –
Grumpy in Reno!

Dear Grumpy in Reno:

Please accept our sincerest apologies. You are right – it has been nearly a month since our last entry and our readers do deserve more. Our neglect has not been intentional, however; please know that. It's just that we've been filling our days with non-stop, action-packed excitement and haven't had a moment to document it for our fans. Let me attempt to appease you now:

We've thus far tried to blog in chronological order, though our readers would never have any clue as to our actual whereabouts were we to attempt this at this time, since we are so far behind. So I'll do a sum-up to bring everyone up to speed and hope for the best in terms of getting older adventures documented at a later date.

We left the wonders of New Zealand behind at the end of November, to fly into Sydney just in time to meet up with Tammy and Rob (Courtney's friend from high school and her man, who we hadn't previously met. He was cool and very go-with-the-flow, which made for a great traveling companion as well as getting a thumbs up) who we planned to celebrate Thanksgiving with and travel around with for about a week and a half.

We had a fantastic time together! We hired the Red Rocket to travel in style down the coast after spending a few days in Sydney. Some of the highlights: a very authentic Thanksgiving dinner of Italian food, a hilarious comedy show at the Sydney Opera House (two twin guys who called themselves The Umbilical Brothers – check them out if they come to a venue near you!), traveling down the gorgeous coastline from one sleepy coastal town to the next (sleepy meaning “ENTIRE town shuts down at 6pm and your only meal option is very sketchy Chinese food”), seeing and petting kangaroos in the wild at Pebbly Beach, making a killer American meal of chili dogs and macaroni and cheese for dinner, and meeting the son of the mother dog who played the main canine role in Babe (seriously – his owner was very excited about this).

To be continued in tomorrow's edition...