That’s a Wrap!

As I type this, I cannot believe that my time in New Zealand has ended, and yet I feel as if I never left at all. I’ve been procrastinating on writing this post because on one hand I feel I have so much to say, and on another I have no idea what to say at all.

I truly enjoyed my time in New Zealand. Yes, perhaps, the ‘outdoorsy’ experience is not my favorite, but I learned so much– about myself. I think that studying abroad was one of the best decisions of my collegiate career. It was hard at times- missing my family, friends, sorority sisters, having to fly home mid-term for a funeral, and being off-kilter and out of my comfort zone. But it showed me that I could do so much more than I ever expected. I have chosen to not be limited by the bounds of my hometown and have been blessed to have not been limited financially, and as a result was able to have an incredible experience.

I strongly recommend study abroad, and New Zealand and Australia are also places that I would recommend for a vacation- contact me if you want recommendations!

And that’s it- a semester, a chapter of my life over, and a new one opening up. For those who may not know, or who have forgotten, I’m off to Italy in a few days to explore one of my passions- art. It’s something that I have always loved and never really had the time to dedicate to it, and thankfully I have enough extra credit hours to take a semester to spend in Florence and travel throughout Europe. For those who might be sad this blog is rapidly coming to a close– don’t despair. Check out:

http://aredheadinflorence.blogspot.com

for a continuation of my adventures. I love you all. Thank you for supporting me on this great adventure, even when it took me further away from home than you or I ever imagined. A presto!

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A Journey of a Thousand Steps

… otherwise known as, a trip to the Blue Mountains.

The Blue Mountains, located outside of Sydney, are famous for the ‘Three Sisters’ rock formation. Karalyn and I decided to daytrip there to get out of the city for the day, and booked the trip through the hostel with a locals-run company. Early in the morning we hopped aboard and after a few hours it seemed as if we’d never been in a city at all.

First we stopped in a little place to see kangaroos in ‘the wild.’ Granted, hundreds of tourists stop every day to stare at these particular kangaroos, but excepting the outback, it’s the best you’re gonna get.


Then we stopped at a little clearing above the Jamison Valley. Most Blue Mountain tour guides don’t take their tours there because… well, it’s a prime point for someone to die- there’s no railing or anything, but the view was spectacular.

We journeyed on into the mountains and did a bit of a trek (lots of stairs) to see a waterfall (though the base was far too low for us to climb to).

(This was part of the waterfall… it flowed under a walkway and crashed down to the valley floor.)

Then we made a short trip down some steep stairs for a fantastic view up close of the Three Sisters.


Before the laws were changed, people actually used to rock climb the Three Sisters.

And then, we headed to a big tourist Blue Mountains destination. We walked down the (literally) thousand steps, through the rainforest, and then took the steepest railway in the world back up to the top.

And that’s a wrap, pretty much. In a few days I’ll have a wrap up post to speak about the semester as a whole.

Taronga Zoo

There’s not a ton to say here– zoos are somewhat self explanatory. But the Taronga Zoo in Syndey was quite impressive.


Oh, and that in New South Wales it’s illegal to hold a koala, so we just got pictures really close to them. Apparently, despite the fact that they look real cuddly, being held really stresses koalas out.


The zoo did have several enclosures where you could walk, essentially, right up to animals. Most notable was the kangaroo enclosure– we got so close!


And, being that elephants are my fav animal of all time, I’m sure you can imagine my thrill at seeing the zoo’s baby elephant, Luk Chai.

Sydney Sights

Our time in Sydney was punctuated by seeing many of the famous sights, including the renowned Sydney Harbour. It was a 45 minute walk or so from our hostel (we were closer to Darling Harbour), but a nice little jaunt across the Sydney downtown. Here are some photos.

^^^ Yes I did pass random brides on the streets of Sydney…

Below: a diggery doo player at the Harbour. It’s an Aboriginal musical instrument.


The bridge and opera house were both architecturally interesting, though not the most beautiful in the strict sense of the word…



But I really loved the signs for ‘The Rocks,’ an area near the Harbour that has a fantastic Saturday/ Sunday market that Karalyn and I checked out. Look at the beautiful trees!

Jungle Fever

Next on our all-inclusive trip to Australia was a trip into the rainforest. There’s nothing like stepping into a completely different ecosystem- beach to rainforest. The Daintree Rainforest is near Cairns, a few hours drive out of the city, across a river, and up into the very deserted regions past civilization. There are only a few places to stay, and there’s not a whole lot to do or eat, but the natural environment is simply beautiful.

Below are a multitude of pictures of the rainforest from the boardwalks that we explored on and the beach we wandered on.


Below, a cassowary. If the cassowary became extinct the rainforest would disappear in a crazy small number of years.


Above, a road sign that someone decided to take a Sharpie to…

On the way up to the rainforest we stopped and did a nature walk as well as to tour a small animal sanctuary-type place and then on the way back down we did a croc tour and stopped and got real-fruit ice cream. MMM. Check out the weird fruit!


The rainforest was an incredible experience- I was so glad that we got to see something truly unique in Australia.

PS- Lauren’s internet hates me. Thus, the beach photo will hopefully appear later. (See below).

Get down

White water rafting: on my to-do life list for an incredibly long time, and on the Tully River a few hours outside Cairns, it finally happened. Karalyn and I hopped on a bus that drove us past sugarcane and countless trees and we arrived at the main center and signed in and grabbed some river shoes that we didn’t have to worry about getting wet. Then it was off to the river where we grabbed helmets, life jackets, and paddles and hopped into the boat. It was so much fun- grade 4 rapids and low flow water. I can’t imagine what it would be like when all the snow is melting and the water flow is really high! Below is a pic from the trip- most of them didn’t turn out well.

Our guide helped us through the rapids, yelling “Go right!” “Paddle left,” and “GET DOWN!” to ensure we stayed in the raft through the rapids. It was a lot of fun. Towards the end we intentionally flipped the raft- not an experience I care to repeat. But overall, it was a lot of fun.

Crisped: A Reef Tale

So, the long overdue post about the Great Barrier Reef.

Crack of dawn, bus shuttles us over to this huge tourist building filled with over ten different reef visiting ship operations and Karalyn and I wait in the line for our ship which has yet to open to check us in. Remind me why we got up at 7 ish in the morning? Anyway, soon enough we checked in and got on the boat and headed out. Sunscreen slathered on, we headed out to the deck to enjoy the sun and warm weather. We had two stops on the boat, and saw a myriad of sea creatures, including giant clams, cuddlefish, and some sort of fish with teeth… rest assured I steered clear of them. We snorkeled around and Karalyn did a scuba dive and we just relaxed. And, despite six applications of sunscreen, I ended up thoroughly sunburned, hence the title of the post. Below are some pictures taken with an underwater camera on the reef. Not the best perhaps, but you get the idea.


Above: Reef. Lots of the different things that make up the reef itself. Below: yellow fish.


Above: angelfish. Below: the reef from above. The dark patches are the reef.


Stay tuned for more about the rest of the Australia trip and a wrap up post.

Australia Day 1: Arrival in Cairns

As promised, the blog about Australia. I’m going to do it day by day, and it will be a few days before the next one is posted since I have yet to drop off my underwater camera for developing. Sorry for the delay, but after I get it done the rest should come much faster! On to the post…

***

After months of gloom and rain, Karalyn and I finally headed off to Australia for a legit vacation. Sun, surf, glorious summer. It was nice and toasty when we arrived in Cairns (pronounced Cannes, for all you non-Aussies) and after dropping our stuff in our room at the hostel that our tour had arranged, we headed to town to explore.


Palm trees, summer, sand. Love it. Anyway, so we walked around for a bit and shopped at a few places, including some outdoor tents where we bought some sandalwood seed jewelry.


We continued to explore the area (Cairns is pretty small, and everything is pretty much walking distance) and found this sweet pool. Because of the crocs, you can’t swim in most of the beaches surrounding town, so there is this super cool pool that you can swim in that basically blends into the ocean when you are looking at it- so nifty.


We decided to walk back to the hostel along the boardwalk next to the beach, and saw a group of pelicans along the shore.


Unfortunately, they never took water into their bills, but they were still cool. What was even cooler was seeing and hearing all kinds of birds that are normally either “domestic” or in a zoo.

So that was our first day. Look forward to the next post about the reef!

Back to Welly/ The Return

Well, after the grand journey to Australia, I’m back in Wellington safe and sound. I have decided to delay posting about my trip until after I have returned home because I have chosen to wait to share the details with my parents until I see them in person. There may or may not be more posting before I go home; kind of depends on what happens here before I leave.

On that note, the departure date is set! Offish. I have to purchase my ticket (I’ve been busy today, but plan on doing it tonight or first thing in the morning) and will be arriving home 7 November 2009. Going home with my dad; maybe seeing some friends/ family; heading to the DMV, oh the joys; driving home to my mom. Then two weeks to the family cabin wonderfulness, also known as Thanksgiving.

Thanks for following me on my journey guys– it’s been incredible! Check back in a few weeks or so for the blogs about Australia. I can’t wait to see everyone– if you are one of my DC friends, my door’s always open! Come visit!

A Cry for Help for the Philippines

I’m sure that most everyone has heard of the natural disasters happening in this area of the world. Earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding. Yesterday morning a man named Sherwin Mariano spoke at church. He’s Filipino by birth, grew up on the streets and in the slums. Now he works for an organization called “International Needs.” If you are considering donating to one of the many relief funds that are available, I strongly encourage you to consider this one. The Street (my church) has a partnership with this organization and has worked with them for many years, both in child sponsorship and in the construction of the original building for International Needs in the Philippines. This building had computers, learning resources, toys, a library, and much much more that are now totally destroyed. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipinos are now homeless. Many of the slums were washed away and the government plans to tear down and relocate the people of many more. If you have an hour or so, I strongly encourage you to listen to the sermon. I included the website below. Sherwin’s testimony is incredible. He’s lived through so much and the evidence is so clear that God stood with him through his struggles. His story is incredible. If you have the funds, please help these people– they need it.

http://www.thestreet.org.nz/resource/sherwin-mariano-international-needs-philippines/