Tuesday, November 28, 2006

rock sliding

as new zealand is the capital of adrenaline things, it was only fitting that i slide head first down an inclined rock face on a buggy board. it's called rock sliding and you can only do it in the east cape area (about as far east as you can go in new zealand). the only thing i can compare it to is going head first down a hill on a crazy carpet, only it's water not snow. really really really fun.

and one of the good things about it is that now many ppl know about it. the guy who does the commercial run there just started about a week ago so it's not overrun yet. the trip went ahead even though i was the only person going there. to quote an over used phrase in the tourism industry in NZ, it was totally "off the beaten track".

Friday, November 24, 2006

black water rafting

maybe australia part 4 will never come cause NZ is really cool. today i went blackwater rafting. you get into a wet suit put on rubber boots and then head into a cave and sort of climb in and out of water and around things and have a really good time painting your face with mud and then to do the black water rafting you sit on an inner tube and float down the river. the place i was doing it was waitomo caves and they have glow worms there that fluoresce. so as you float down in the dark cave, the ceiling is illuminated like the sky at night. really cool! and really relaxing. hanging around rotorua for a bit. the place has a lot of geothermal activity so it smells like the hot springs at sulfur mountain. a bit sulfury when you get here but you get use to it after a little while.

Friday, November 17, 2006

rest of australia part 3

melbourne was the last stop in australia. i got in early in the morning and after setting things up at the hostel headed to the victoria markets, sort of like a huge flea market but with a large fruit and veggie section (marche aux puces st-martin meets marche jean-talon). it was really cool to be there and get some good cheap fruit for lunch. i then wandered around town and got a guided tour of the melbourne parliament that served as the first parliament building when australia became an independent country (before canberra was created to become the capital). the building was really vicorian with gold leaf everywhere( it was built off the money from the gol rush). i also enjoyed the messages written in the sky (the rest of it was "lives")

i enjoyed the view form the washroom on the 35th floor of the sofitel hotel (thanks for the suggestion josh). and saw the war memorial by mistake beccause i was really looking for the botanical gardens. the next day was the beginning of my trip through the grampians and the great ocean road. the grampians were really cool, sort of a mix of the highlands and the smaller mountains in the rockies.

we spent the night at a hostel called the asses ears names after a part of the mountains that were themselves names after some mountains in spain or something. it was really cool cause the guide could finally tell me where the southern cross was! the next day we headed to the great ocean road, seeing all the famous spots : london bridge, the arch, twelve apostles although one fell down in the last year so there are only 8 of them now. photos to come and the rest part 4 as i need to go and pack for the trip starting tomorow, i'm heading to the north of NZ!

surfing in byron bay

this is me actually standing up on the surf board :)

rest of australia part 2

just a few additonal things about my time in blackheath. it snowed in the blue mountains a few days ago. that usually only happens at this time of year when you are in the northern hemisphere! and i had the opportunity to see a wood cutting competition as they have in the loggers competitions which was pretty cool for the first round after that it gets a bit repetitive.
so when i headed down to sydney on the tuesday, i checked out the sculptures by the sea exhibition that featured over 100 pieces of art from bondi beach to tamarama beach, about 15 minutes walk away. the cliffs along the walk were as interesting as the sculptures. that filled the morning and then i rushed back to the train station to catch the bus to canberra, the capital of australia. nothing much happened that evening since nothing much happens in canberra.

sea creatures and a melted ice cream truck!

the next day i rented a bike and headed out to see the town. first stop was the cook fountain. a giant jet of water that sits in the middle of the lake in the middle of canberra. pretty cool, but found in too many cities right now (geneva and hamburg). then off to the free museum to learn a bit about the history of australia. there was an exhibition on beads so that was cool. then off to see the canadian embassy, this time i actually wanted to see it as opposed to when i randomly came across it as in rome and london. the place is ok from the outside with a haida totem pole but i didn't check out the inside because there was so much more to see that day in canberra.
i checked out the old parliament building and got a tour of it. and the building houses the national gallery. after going through the gallery for about 5 minutes, i recognised a bust of a chinese guy with little ppl crawling all over it. turns out that the national gallery of australia had an exhibition in denmark while i was there and that i saw randomly at the end of a tour of the castle in hillerod. the danish crown princess is from australia and that's why they had that particular exhibition in DK. it was cool to see some of the paintings again although i didn't recognize a lot of them. after that it was time to see the new parliament building that everyone knows. the building was really cool. the marble columns in the entrance represent a forest of gum trees and you can walk on the building roof to see the rest of the city and of course they include a guided tour that was really informative.

the cook fountain with the 2 parliament buildings in the background

the forest of marble columns

view from the top of the parliament to the old parliament and the war memorial museum

after the guided tour, i headed to ANZAC parade (australia new zealand army corp, there is a memorial in every single town and village in australia and probably new zealand). there are war memorials for absolutely everything from the vietnam war, WWI, WWII, for the air force, the nurses and the wars in greece. it's interesting to see how they are all different and how they still have room to add more. unfrtunately, the museum at the war memorial was closed so there is something left to see in canberra should i go back. the evening was good as i ran into the guy who had made the necklace in byron bay (really random since he was heading north at the time and i was heading south) and with 2 other guys (a scot and an aussie (go figure meeting an aussie in a hostel in australia)) we hung out at the bar in the basement of the hostel until i had to catch the night bus to melbourne.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

rest of australia part 1

so i'm now in new zealand, trying to figure out where to go and what to do, but can't so i'm hanging around auckland updating my blog. i haven't done much so far in the country so it makes more sense to finsh with austrlia first.
fraser island was cool. it's the largest sand island in the world and half the island came back with us in the truck. 5 4wd trucks set out from the hostel with 10 or 11 ppl in each. in mine, there were 5 swedes, 2 germans, 2 swiss germans and a girl from france. we headed out to fraser and drive that day to lake mackenzie. it's so clear that you can see the bottom of the water from pretty much anywhere in the lake. we then headed to our campsite and enjoyed a good meal cooked by our chef (one of the swedes) and drank what we had brought as alcohol. the ext day was out full day on the island and we saw lake wabby. to get there you walk almost one km through a sand dune that is so larg you fell like you are in the desert. after swimming there for a little, we headed back to the truck and went up to indian head at the north and drove along the 70 mile beach. our chauffeur (he use to drive trucks for the swiss army) was really good and got us there ahead of the other trucks. so when we climbed up indian head, we saw sea turtles coming up for air. that was really cool. we then checked out some colourful cliffs and at this point the engine wouldn't start. so lckily someone stopped and boosted the battery. this happened the rest of the trip so it was a bit annoying. we stopped at a ship wreck and floated down eli creek (or walked down depending) and then with the rest of the group, found another camping spot. that evening, everyone saw dingos or the same one and some girls had there clothing bag dragged away from the front of the tent. the third morning we headed back to mackenzie lake and then drove back to the ferry to get to rainbow beach. and finally just was we tried to start the truck again, it got stuck in the sand (1st time in 3 days, not bad)(after driving for about 2 hours, we didn't have battery prblms anymore). the evening was good food and good drinks back at the hostel. fraser was cool, but given the european makeup of my group, it was the only time i would have liked to know german or swedish (the frech girl didn't talk much after the first day). it's weird being on the edge of australia and you hear mostly german and swedish.
next day was a trip to brisbane where i hung out for about 2 days. the coolest part was taking aferry across the river and the was a possum taht climbed down from a tree as we were getting of the boat. so we got good shots of it. and of course the austrlia zoo. i went there with an enligsh girl from the hostel and saw the entire thing. it was pretty cool seeing the shows and all the animals that i had yet to see. we fed the elephants, saw birds fly around the crocoseum (a huge stadium where you get to watch the animal shows), and saw active koalas near closing time. i was sad to find out that harriet (darwin's turtle) had died a few months earlier. at least she was one celebrity you are sure to see in the zoo. and the next day was off to byron bay, the most eastern point of australia.
byron bay was really cool. i got there and immediately spotted the bead shop. so i went in a picked things out to make a necklace and ended up talking with the woman who worked there. her boyfriend is a jazz musician heading to montreal for the jazz fest next year and is friends with xavier rudd and australian-canadian whom i first idscovered at the same festival. rudd played in montreal just a few days ago. then a guy from england walks in looking for a necklace and we convince him that he can make his own, so we are all sitting in this shop in byron bay talking and making necklaces.
since it was the 31st of october, that evening i headed out with someone from the hostel and saw the end of a show featuring local bands then headed to what someone told me was the best bar in town(after stopping at another one for a free drink). the costumes all the backpackers had were really cool. unfortunately the night was rather short as i felt sick after the first beer and headed back to the hostel.
the next day was great. i had my second ever surfing lesson and the school garanteed that you would stand up on your board or get your money back. so on the first try i was standing on the board. the instructor picked the wave for you and all you really had to do was stand up in a 3 step movement instead of jumping up like i had been taugh in france. it was really really cool. and they took photos so i have some good shots of me surfing :)
the rest of the day was just walking around town, not doing much, well really booking tours for the last few days in australia. and last day in byron, i walked to the light house and enjoyed the view. then i biked out to the arts industrial area of byron and spent a fortune on more beads. it was nice to be on a bike again. i ran into 2 of the swedes from the trip on fraser then caught the night bus to sydney.
the morning was spent at paddy's market, sort of a huge flea market and that was really cool. i picked up a few things there. and it was finally raining in australia so it was perfect weather to be inside. then i headed to the blue mountains. the weekend weather was sort of crappy. so on saturday, the weather for the parade for the rhododendron festival in blackheath (where i was staying) was rater wet. but they still had eveything a parade needed: pipe band, floats, a horse, scouts, cadets, schools, clowns and the fire department. for a parade that lasted about 10-15 minutes, that's pretty impressive. that afternoon as there wasn't much to do, i taught my sort of uncle how to make hemp necklaces: being a hippy at heart i was surprised that he didn't know how. he did really well for a first timer. the next day was a short walk and hanging around the house and since the weather wasn't too good i stayed an extra day and headed into kattomba to do some shopping and more organizing.
next part: the least week in australia, featuring sculptures by the sea, canberra, melbourne and cute little animals!