Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Katoomba, Blue Mountains

Finally up to date. On Monday, I met up with General Assistant Tracy, who is also staying in Sydney, and we took a train up to the Blue Mountains. They were beautiful and we hiked for hours along the cliff top and then dropped into the forest, always on the lookout for deadly snakes and spiders.

After a long day, we played some backgammon with my new travel backgammon board. I was on top of my game as the picture will show those who know the game. It is unimportant to note that I had only taught Tracy how to play the night before. She called me a "dork" but I couldn't miss capturing the moment.

No more triathlons planned for me, though Caroline has one this weekend, and Jamie has his cricket finals. Otherwise, we're going to the symphony orchestra tonight to hear the show "Antarctica" complete with pictures and narrations from Robert Scott's expedition. We are very excited.

On Sunday I'm off to Hawaii for a few days. It was less than a hundred dollars through Raytheon's travel plans to stop in Hawaii, so I couldn't pass it up. Then home for two full days before going to Florida to teach a week long Outward Bound sailing course. The adventure continues...On a side note it looks like the Denali expedition will not be happening. The leader of our expedition got a job as a volunteer park ranger that same month, and it was understandably too good of an opportunity for him to pass up. Hopefully some time in the future I'll find myself on the mountain...

Hope springtime is almost on the way in New England!

Sydney, Australia

I am currently in Sydney, Australia with my cousin Jamie and his wife Caroline. Got here Friday evening. Saturday was a training day. Yes, Caroline, the triathlete, had managed to get me a number Sunday's olympic distance triathlon. How could I refuse when she had emailed me about it a few days before I left New Zealand. Biking with the "tri-team" at 6:30AM then to surf swim practice of entering and exiting the water. The practice involved working on the techniques of diving under waves and body surfing them back to the shore when the swim had been completed. It was excellent to be in the warm water. And the waves were quite fun.

Caroline took excellent care of me. She somehow found me a sweet bike, bike shoes, a triathlon wetsuit, and a race suit. That's right, I hadn't been on a bike or worn goggles for half a year, but I was going to look the part, at least as far as my equipment was concerned.

The actual competition was a lot of fun. I was far from being competitive, but I pushed all I could with what I had and had a great time and I finished in 2 hours and 29 minutes...and I've now gone "international." Caroline finished twenty minutes before me and got second in her age group! And if it weren't for her chain coming off, she would have taken first!

After the race we went to Jamie's cricket semi finals. Here he is as he patiently waits for his turn to his bat. Finally Jamie made it up to bad, and after he scored 11 runs, the other team could see that he was on his way for a century, so the game was called. They won, and are now moving on to the FINALS! Quite an exciting weekend!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Able Tasman and NZ Departure

To Able Tasman National Park, Scottie and I went. Camped in a campground for $4 - a nice spot on the water. It was a pleasant night until the rain started, which I had feared it would. My sleeping bag was in a bivi sack, so it held the rain out for a bit. But somehow in my confused sleepy state, the side zipper got left open while I was messing with the sack's mesh screen. So I woke up at 5 am a little wet. At 5:45, I tossed in the towel, got up and studied my sign language dictionary until it was light enough to move on in the rain.

Drove to the Able Tasman area, and then ran into the park for about an hour and 15 minutes. I figured running was the best way to see as much of the park as possible in a short amount of time. The bays and water and islands were beautiful. More tropical than Stewart Island was. I ran on and on, hoping to get around the next ridge for another view, but soon it was time to turn around. Then back I went taking some pictures as I went.

Back to Nelson for the night, and then I made my way towards Christchurch, picking up my friend Ragnar along the way. The weather was quite different going over Lewis Pass. Luckily, Scottie was up to the challenge and we persevered.

Back to Christchurch for a few days of rest and relaxation with Ice friends who were also about to head on. Went back to the Antarctica exhibit near the gardens. It was very interesting to look upon all the artifacts and pictures and displays knowing I had been where all these expeditions were trying to go. Then a little walk around the botanical gardens. So beautiful. I loved the trees, so well taken care of. Finally found my favorite tree.

It was strange to be in Christchurch, about to leave. Christchurch seemed to be where it all began. Fall was coming and the cool breeze and the leaves changing color reminded me that it is a time of change. I love the trees, so nice to have my hand on a living plant.

New Zealand was amazing. Wonderful people (especially John and Jill!), spectacular sights, and now this past month makes wonderful memories. Australia is next to visit my cousin Jamie and his wife Caroline.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Glaciers and Pictin

From Tea Anau and Milford Sound, we headed to Wanaka in Mt. Aspriring National Park. We were there for a few days visiting friends and figuring out our plans from there. We decided to steer Scottie towards the glaciers on the west coast.

To the Fox (below) and Franz Joseph Glaciers we went. They were interesting but less than spectacular after spending 4.5 months around snow and ice. Had we been actually on them, the story might have been different. And as it was, the rain was coming down quite steadily.

After the glaciers, we eventually found ourselves back in Christchurch. It was sadly time for Krista to head back to the US of A, and for Ben to fly Scottie without a copilot up the north-east coast.

To Pictin, the north-east corner of the south island, I went. Beautiful inlets, bays, islands and such. New Zealand continues to amaze me.

Later that afternoon, I found the New Zealand Outward Bound headquarters. I introduced myself as an instructor from the states and I was immediately welcomed and taken care of. They fed me dinner and even let me row out in their dingy to check out their boats. Such hospitality!

Ran a bit of the Queen Charlotte Track the following day and then headed west.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Milford Sound

To Milford Sound:

After the Kepler Track, Krista and I figured it would be worth driving the Milford Road even if we couldn't get on the track. So into Scottie we went, north into fjordland. The views were spectacular and I don't think I've ever been on a road with such magestic views. I had to stop every five minutes to take another picture. It was really incredible.

We arrived at the carpark and were greeted with even more stunning views. There were boat cruises that went into the sound, but being that you had to pay for them, we figured that the drive would be enough. However, once we got there, we could not turn around without seeing the area from the water. And so, off we went, into this incredible fjord.

It was just incredible. The shear cliffs, the plant life coming out of the cliffs, the waterfalls, the clear water. It was all amazing. The pictures tell the story. We went all the way to the Tasman Sea and then sadly turned back. Amazing place.