Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blue Mountains - Australia

Henriikka and I took a trip up to the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours North of Sydney, and did a day hike around the falls and into the Eucalyptus trees (what gives the blue mountains their name).

Honestly, it was the size of the Grand Canyon, but full of trees! Overall; one of the best hikes in the world!

Off to Fiji tomorrow to experience Scuba Heaven!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

NZed Photos


I feel as though this blog is very hard to articulate because no words on a page can truly describe my last 3 weeks, but with descriptions (and photos to come soon), I hope to describe this adventure to the best of my ability!

When I landed in Auckland (the north island) I was a bit nervous to be there by myself. I just decided to be a bit open minded, and try my best to make some new friends. I met a wonderful girl, Steffi, from Germany and we hung out the 6 days I was there. Exploring the parks, museums, and shopping centers, we were able to get a good taste of the city. I have to admit, though, that the city life is no longer my cup of tea when vacationing, so I booked a dive trip up to the Poor Knight Islands in Whangarei about 2 hours north of Auckland. Scuba diving there was incredible. It is one of the only marine reserves that people can dive in, and it was an incredible experience. I was overwhelmed with the pristine water, and the large amount of marine life.

After feeling like it was Christmas Eve waiting to see Henriikka, Louise, and Sandra, I spent the night in the airport and flew to Christchurch in the morning. There really are no words to describe how it feels to say goodbye to close friends in Belgium, then have a reunion one year later across the world!!!!! After all hugging and screaming in the airport, we went straight to Jucy Rentals and got our 4 person campervan called the Penthouse. It sleeps 4 people and has a kitchen etc. I was the first person to drive, and learned QUICKLY that they drive on the left side of the road. Hilarious. New Zealand is great about campervans, you can pretty much pull over in any forest and just camp. Don't worry, the whole time we practiced LNT.

The first day we went to a store called Pack and Save, and lets just say, they had the best selection of candy in the whole world. Trying to find this store on our roadtrip became a game - we wanted these candies all the time. It became a great theme of our roadtrip! The first major stop on our roadtrip was Mt Cook. It is a 7 hour retrum hike up to the summit, and Henriikka and I had a fabulous view from the top! At first, we were just going to take only a small hike, but then we ran out of water, and so we climbed to the top because there was a hut at the top with a water source (called Muller Hut) and we were so dehydrated!!! So many hikers were concerned about us so they gave us their water bottles. Thank God we made it to the top:) We stared in tropical climate, hiking at the base through a rain forest. At the top, there was a glacier and we saw 2 avalanches. It was unreal. We met 2 super nice English guys who we ended up meeting up with in Queenstown. Henriikka and I hiked down at sunset and it was glorious!

Our next major stop was lake Takepo, one of the most famous lakes in the southern hemisphere. The reason for it being so incredible is because it is all glacier melt, and it is the most blue water I have ever seen in my life. It is called ice sand, these crystals that make the water look so blue. We took a 2 hour hike up, and then after soaking in the view, went to hot pools and spent our evening relaxing in 40degree C water. it was glorious, and served as our shower for the next 6 days.

We then drove to Queenstown, and spent the night on the side of the road outside a bungy jumping place for Sandra to go in the morning! She jumped from 43 meters and Louise Henriikka and I just served as her cheerleaders! We then went into down and explored the city. Overall it was a fantastic visit, and we just went grocery shopping and hung out by the lake. The next day we hiked up to the highest mountain in Queenstown, and jumped off the side!! Louise Henriikka and I all went paragliding, and it was such a fun experience! We actually all decided to do this so we didnt have to hike down :) Quote from that day "it looks like you you have a mailbox on your ass" That night we went on a pubcrawl and experienced a bit of NZ nightlife.
The next night we had no idea where to camp so we had to sleep near the boats and jet skis, and left at 7am so we would not get a ticket. Luckly, we left in time!

After getting a little city fix, we drove to Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. They are fiords (mountains that drop directly into the sea), just covered in rain forest. Just to give you an idea of how much a rainforest it really is, they call a "drought" 7 days without rain. Quite a contrast from Arizona. Everywehre you looked, there was a waterfall, and the water was so clear you could see marine life below you. We saw dolphins, seals, and a few 11 legged starfish. We went all the way out to the Tasman Sea, and it was overall one of the best parts of the trip. Just to really express how incredible it was, the mountain summit was 1300m from the sea level. Our boat looked like a grain of rice on a bed of seaweed. Nature just dwarfed us, and I loved it.

After exploring Milford Sound for the day, we went on a mini hike to Ribbon Falls and drank out of the waterfall. I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS. No iodine tablets or filters. I loved it. It was the best water ever! Ahhhhhh. We camped that night and went to Fox Glacier the next day. After a full day of driving, we scheduled a hike on the glacier. Just to preference the night before, we discovered that our beloved Penthouse leaked, and there was a HUGE rainstorm that night, so Henriikka and I woke up drenched. We had our own personal waterfall and lake inside! We put on our warmest clothes and got some extra layers, put some crampons on our feet (these strange looking ice picks that go on our boots) and headed up with a guide. Again, it was like hiking through the jungle, then BAM, a glacier! All the photos that I took make it look ugly and small, photos don't even do it justice. Fox glacier is 1 of the 3 temperate glaciers in the world, so it was a very special and memorable experience. Also, side note: our guide was the hottest guy ever, his name was Timothy. He was so very manly swinging his ice pick. Henriikka was in love. I am going to their wedding soon hahhhaa

After feeling so very accomplished, we got lots of chocolate, and drove on. We arrived in Franz Joseph Glacier, and found some more hot pools. 2nd shower of the trip. oh la la. Overall, the trip was a huge success. I had such a blast and the night we wanted to save money so we slept in the airport before departing to Sydney. When I came out of the bathroom, Sandra and Henriikka were sitting in the middle of the airport under my sleep sheet, and I cried I was laughing so hard!! we had the worst-best night sleep at the airport, and I am now back in Sydney with Henriikka, staying with her and her host family :)

Since I have already done the tourist stuff here, its nice to just sit in the jacuzzi and drink beers and re-live the memories we made in Belgium. We are going to the Blue Mountains on Monday to do a cool hike, and then I am off to Fiji on Tuesday to do some more scuba diving.