Friday, April 27, 2007


For the second week of my Easter break, I flew from Christchurch, NZ to Nadi, Fiji to meet my roomates for a week of paradise in the Yasawa Islands. Well, it wasn't quite paradise, but we made the best of it. Sunday night we stayed at a hostel in Nadi, and sailed out early Monday morning. We caught the ferry out of Nadi (pronounced Nandi by the locals) to the Yasawa Islands, and steamed for about 4.5 hours to Sunrise "resort" on Nanuya Lailai Island. Sunrise wasn't exactly what I would call a "resort", but it had food, shelter, and water (or what we thought was water), so I wasn't too disappointed. Modern civilization hasn't quite made it out to the Yasawa's, so forget about docks, phones, internet, and the like.

Now, typically I feel like I would love this type of simple, laid back lifestyle; however, the water from Sunrise resort made me very ill, just from showering in it, and getting sick has made me slightly bitter towards Fiji. Also, from the day we arrived in Nadi, to the day we left, the weather was rainy and overcast, with only a couple of hours of total sunlight. Long story short, if you ever go to Fiji, do your research and know exactly what you're getting yourself into.

Fijians don't use docks, they use dinghies!

Sweet view from the ferry

The inside of our hut/dorm

While I was still well, we had some great fun around Sunrise. The first day there, we took about a 40 minute hike to the "Blue Lagoon" on the other side of the island. The hike was long and muddy, but the lagoon was pretty cool, and it was where they filmed the movie Blue Lagoon, so it was worth the trek.

This hut was right by the trail to the Blue Lagoon

These "flowers" were all over the place, but they were interesting because what looks like a flower is really just pink coloring on the leaves. I don't know what they are, but they're pretty cool.

Starfish in Blue Lagoon...waterproof camera comin' through in the clutch.

The next morning we got to go on a cave tour on one of the nearby islands. I feel like I've been in tons of caves lately, but these were some of my favorite. The first cave we went into was open to the sky and had plenty of light, but when we swam under the rocks to the second room, the only light was from the guide's waterproof flashlight. Once we came back out to the light cave, one of the Fijian guides (Sammy) was climbing up the walls like a monkey, and jumping off the cliffs. Of course I tried to climb up them too and couldn't do it, until he showed me an easier place to climb up. I eventually made it up to about a 30 footer with his help, and it was an awesome experience. I was practically shaking when everyone was counting down for me to jump off, but I couldn't back out, so down I went. Of course after I jumped Sammy climbed like 20 feet higher before he jumped, but I definitely went high enough! That afternoon we went on a "shark feeding" trip that included watching a Fijian guy go spear fishing, and snorkeling around with not much to look at. We did get some fresh fish for dinner though!

View from the entrance to the caves

Me and Sammy at the top!

Corona commercial?

These jellyfish were everywhere while we were snorkeling/spearfishing, but they didn't sting at all, so you could just grab them and toss them at people...Hayley especially liked it...haha.

Hayley having fun with the catch of the day

After leaving Sunrise, we boarded a "live aboard cruise" for two nights. The cruise was definitely not what we expected, in that the quarters looked similar to a hospital, the food was pretty crappy, and the most it moved in two days was circling the nearest island. I got sick about 12 hours after I got on the ship, but the rest of our group seemed to enjoy it alright. The first night we got to play "fun games" which included trivia and an exciting game of drunken musical chairs...

The next island we went to was actually pretty cool, although we were there when I felt the worst (so I don't have any good pictures of it). It was a really tiny island named South Sea Island, and it literally took 5 minutes to walk around the whole thing. Hayley, Chris, and Dan went on a Sailing trip, but I wasn't feeling up to it, so I stuck around the island with some friends we made (Brie and Liz), and met them back in Nadi that night. Dan took my camera and took some great underwater pics on their sailing trip.

One of Dan's pictures from the sailing trip

Airplane view on the way out of Nadi

Basically, I've never been so happy to see Australia, especially our clean apartment in Newcastle. I've never had this bad of an experience being sick while travelling, but at least if I had to get sick, it was rainy and overcast the whole time, so I didn't miss too much!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Zealand

First of all, I just want to say that Australians seriously know how to take a holiday. About a week before Easter Sunday, everyone starts to slack off and quit going to classes. Then, when Easter rolls around, everyone gets two weeks off of classes for Easter Break. Not to mention that the first week back to school, Wednesday is a national holiday for ANZAC day. I love it and wish Americans took these kind of vacations!

For the first week of vacation, I met Mom and Dad in Auckland, New Zealand, to travel around the North and South Islands of New Zealand. I got to Auckland a day ahead of the 'rents, so I decided to check out a walking track on Waiheke Island, a small island you can only get to by ferry, close to Auckland. After I realized how nice the island was, Mom and Dad and I decided to go back together once they arrived. We rented a car and visited several wineries around the island for tastings, had a great dinner, and caught the ferry back to Auckland before Mom and Dad collapsed from jet lag. Waiheke was a pretty artsy place, so I put up a couple artsy fartsy photos from the island...

A great view from the walking track

One of the many wineries on Waiheke

A dinghy on the beach near the Waiheke marina

The next day, we rode out bright and early for the Waitomo Caves and Rotorua. The Waitomo Caves were pretty cool, and they had tons of glow worms all over the place. The glow worms were crazy looking bugs that lit up to attract bugs, and had strings to catch and eat the bugs that came around, similar to a spider web.

Entrance to the glow worm caves

We got Rotorua later that day and were immediately greeted with an odd sulphur/rotten egg smell that didn't leaves us for the next two days. It turns out that all the volcanic activity in the Rotorua area puts out the sulphur smell. Rotorua was a nice little town, and had a great deal of Maori (native New Zealander) culture as well as the attraction of earth heated pools, active geysers and mud pools.

An active mud pool in Te Puia, a Maori village

The AGRODOME! We got to watch an Agriculture show about sheep farming in NZ.

Dad had the guts to pet the sheep, but he looks awfully nervous!

Once we finished buying mom some yarn, I got to go zorbing! Imagine a mix between a roller coaster and a washing machine...great fun!

We flew out of Rotorua the next morning for Queenstown, which was by far my favorite place in NZ. Flying in to Queenstown itself was a very interesting experience. The plane weaves its way through mountains to land at a very tiny airport.

After we got to downtown Queenstown, it had the feel of ski town out west, with a very interesting blend of people and cultures. There were a good number of younger people with seasonal type jobs, a lot of tourists, but also a lot of locals who were genuinely nice and helpful. Queenstown is also known as the extreme capital of the world, but with nasty weather and Mom and Dad there, I decided not to brave the skydiving or bungee jumping.

The top of the gondola in Queenstown (at about 30 degrees F)

Dinner at "The Cow" with our new friends from the wine tour

The first day in Queenstown, Dad and I were supposed to go trout fishing, but the guide called early and told us the weather was too nasty to brave the boats. We decided a wine tour would be a good rainy day activity, and we had a great time and met some new friends. The next day, we did a day trip to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, several hours from Queenstown. This was probably the coolest place I have ever seen, and pictures do not do justice to the beauty of this place.

This is from mirror lakes, a stop on the way to Milford Sound

This is a waterfall called the Chasm, on the way to Milford sound (if you can't tell, this is looking straight down from the top of the waterfall and on down the creek)

Mom and Dad at a lookout near Milford Sound

Quintessential Milford Sound

Because it was raining, new waterfalls showed up all over the place

This is one of the permanent waterfalls, and it was absolutely beautiful

On the way back from Milford Sound, I was having serious whitewater withdrawals. We passed this awesome class III looking creek, and I would have given anything for a little bit more water and a creek boat. Being in NZ made me seriously miss the whitewater at home.

The next day we had to leave Queenstown behind, and head to Mt. Cook and Christchurch. The drive was fairly monotonous, but we had some great stops along the way.

This is Mt. Cook and Lake Tekapu. Lake Tekapu was the brightest blue green water you have ever seen, mostly from rock flakes in the water that were ground up by glaciers, and what better backdrop than the highest peak in the southern hemisphere.

This is the Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapu. Pictures weren't allowed inside the church, but from the pews looking to the pulpit through the windows was one of the most spiritual views you could ever ask for.

Overall, New Zealand is by far my favorite place that I have ever travelled to, and I'm sure that I will be back soon to take in the many sights and sounds I did not have time to experience in this short week. It was wonderful to get to see Mom and Dad after two full months away, and it gave me a little push to get me through the rest of the semester.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sydney and The Blue Mountains

This past weekend, Hayley, Chris, and I went to Sydney to see Macbeth at the Sydney Opera House on Friday night. When I woke up at the end of the play, I could finally say I have seen a show at the Opera House. Saturday morning, we rented a car and drove about 2 hours NW to the blue mountains. Our first and favorite stop was Wentworth Falls, where we hiked around a beautiful 150-200 ft waterfall for several hours. Here are a couple pics...

A lot of the trails were basically caves in the side of the mountains, like in this picture.

This is Wentworth Falls, the namesake of the little town we were in, and you can barely see the area at the top of the falls where we went and you could swim in the pools at the top of the falls.

There were fun places to boulder around all over the place!

The blue mountains have a blue tinge to them because of an oily mist given off by the eucalptus trees in the dense forests.

After Wentworth Falls, we drove on to Katoomba, the main city in the Blue Mountains. Katoomba was pretty cool, but didn't have as much character as we expected (granted we are used to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood). In Katoomba, we got to see the 3 sisters from Echo Point, one of the most famous rock formations in the Blue Mountains. This is a great shot that Chris took, because my camera was already dead.

When we left Katoomba Sunday morning, we drove to Jenolan Caves on some of the most windy and narrow mountain roads I have ever been on, but thank goodness we were practically the only car on the road the entire way. Here is a shot of me driving on the wrong side of the road, and a shot of the Jenolan caves.

This is a separated pillar, one of the most famous formations in the Jenolan Caves.

After the Jenolan Caves, we had a long rural drive back to Newcastle, but we managed to stop probably 10 times to take random pictures, and right outside of Sydney, we found an Outback Steakhouse and you've never seen three American kids so excited.

This one is for Dad...that tractor looked just like your big blue Ford.

Haha, never been so excited for cheese fries!