Monday, March 26, 2007

The Island of Moorea, French Polynesia.

Speaking of Moorea, this is undoubtedly one of the great destinations in the world for scuba diving and snorkeling. We’ve done two dive sessions and snorkled everyday. The visibility is the best I’ve experienced, allowing us to see a huge variety of reef life, including: White Tip Sharks, Lemon Sharks, Sting Rays, Trigger Fish, Lion Fish, Stick Fish, various Puffer Fish, Spotted Box Fish and others. Though it has rained about 40% of our time here, the abundance of immediately accessible marine life more than compensates for the wet weather.
We’re winding down our trip (only 2 more days), and both excited and apprehensive about re-entering the real world. We’re looking forward to seeing you all!

Friday, March 23rd

Here is a picture of us wine tasting on Waiheke Island, off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand on March 23rd at 3:30 p.m.

Strangely, at March 23rd at exactly 3:30 p.m., we were also snorkeling in a lagoon off the coast of Moorea, in French Polynesia.
How could this be? Well, after our wine tasting excursion in New Zealand we caught a "red eye" flight to Tahiti followed by a ferry ride to Moorea. The NZ-Tahiti flight crossed the international date line, allowing us to enjoy the same day twice, a la Groundhog Day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hiking The Milford Track

Fiordland, with its staggering glacier mountain peaks looming over deep silent waters, is one part of New Zealand that can’t be missed. At the suggestion of savvy travelers, Meg and Bagel, we booked a five day hike of the famous Milford Sound Track with “Ultimate Hikes.” The “track,” as it is called, is a 33.5 mile hiking path through wetlands and lush rainforest, then climbing over snow covered Mackinnon mountain pass, back down the mountain across river streams and ending at the magnificent Milford Sound. The “Kea” bird (pictured) and many other rainforest and alpine birds kept us company as we trudged along.

Incredibly, all of the gushing rivers contain pure drinking water. Thanks to the strict regulations of New Zealand’s conservation authority, fiordland has maintained its pristine conditions. They regulate the number of hikers allowed on the track who must register months ahead to reserve a bed in the huts since no camping is allowed.

Milford Sound receives more than 7,200 mm of rain per year (a lot!) which creates spontaneous waterfalls – and home to tons of little biting sand flies. We were a little nervous about the weather which indicated snow and rain during our trek, and of course, the pesky sand flies. We survived the sand flies without much trouble, but the rain was a different story. Snow and fog greeted us at the mountain pass obscuring our views and heavy rain one night, meant walking the next day in our hiking boots through knee deep water! We found out later that this is quite common.

Despite these conditions (and perhaps, because of these conditions), it was exhilarating to be surrounded by nature’s force in the midst of glaciers millions of years old. It was a challenging hike over the mountain pass, but it felt good to finally get some exercise. Alex was the first person to finish the track on our last day (he really wanted to take off his wet boots!), but by the end, he had a big grin on his face. One of the best parts of the trek was that we made friends with people from all parts of the world who traveled near and far to hike the Milford Sound track since it is ranked as the number one “walk” in the world. On our last day, the sun came out and rewarded us with glorious views of snow capped mountain peaks towering over fiords.
~ Heather

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tramp A Glacier!

"Tramping" is hiking, climbing, walking, tracking and trekking. We did it on Fox Glacier, New Zealand.

Aboard the TranzAlpine Train.

We boarded the TranzAlpine train at Christchurch to cross to the West Coast of New Zealand (South Island). Lonely Planet calls this "one of the world's great rail journeys." I'm not sure if it qualifies for that distinction, but it certainly was scenic, if only because of the sheer variety of terrain. The journey crosses the alluvial Canterbury Plains to the foothills of the Southern Alps, ultimately crossing the alpine village of Arthur's Pass.

Friday, March 09, 2007

New Zealand!

We flew from Tasmania to Melbourne, then on to Christchurch, New Zealand. This is a beautiful country and the people are exceptionally friendly. We briefly explored Christchurch, then took a bus to Kaikoura to snorkel with the fur seals. This was marvelous. The seals are playful, like underwater puppy dogs. They were once all but extinct, but happily they've made a big time comeback.

Tomorrow we're taking a scenic train over the Arthur's Pass en route to the Fox Glacier for a little climb.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Our Tasmanian Road Trip.

We arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, and rented an ultra-economical (i.e., really CHEAP) well-used Mitsubishi Magna Executive. Driving on the left side of the road definitely takes practice. We drove to Lake St. Clair and spent a night, then traveled to Cradle Mountain National Park, where we met this fairly large Wallaby. We're spending tonight in Launceton and driving tomorrow to the Freycinet National Park on Tasmania's east coast.

Getting Personal With the Animals at the Featherdale Wild Animal Park.

On our way back to Sydney from the Blue Mountains, we stopped off at the Featherdale Wild Animal Park and made some new friends.