Thursday, February 26, 2009

NZ Independent Travel

I can’t believe I have already been travelling for nearly a month! Time sure goes by quickly… I am back in Christchurch, and leaving on a bus later today to arrive in Picton, where my 3 week Outward Bound course starts on March 1st. I am super excited for the course, which involves many outdoor activities, running on the beach and swimming in the ocean each morning, and getting to know the 12 other watchmates in my group, which will all probably be NZlanders.

After leaving Hokitika and the west coast of NZ, I got a ride to Arthur’s Pass village, in the mountains of the pass, where I spent three nights. There was a lot of rain the first few days and rivers were high, so I did some great day hikes alone, read two books, and hung out at the hostel. My second full day there I summated Avalanche Peak, which was a great hike with 1100 m elevation gain up into the alpine region, and included much rock scrambling. I talked a German guy into hitchhiking with me back to Christchurch, and it was great! I felt safe doing it with someone else, and it was so easy to get rides, we were standing there 2 min max! Based on Susie’s suggestion, I decided we would stop at cavestream and do a 60 min hike halfway back. We stashed our backpackes in the bush, and did the walk through the stream, which was quite high b/c of recent rain. It was a great adventure! I don’t know that I have been in a cave before, and I suggested we try walking for awhile in the dark, just feeling the walls. The water was up above my waist at least five times. I don’t think the German understood English well, and he was surprised when I drug him into this dark and cold cave walk, but I think he enjoyed the adventure as well. I made it back to Chch safely, and got dropped just two blocks from Nadine’s place.

Yesterday I ventured on the city buses and ferry to Lyttelton and across by boat to Diamond Harbour, which was about an hour from the city and a great little village with fun walks. I felt like I got off the tourist trail and went somewhere not in Lonely Planet, which was great! I ended up finding a trail up Mt Herbert, the tallest mt on the Banks Peninsula. It was quite the hike through fields with sheep and cows, which I learned can be quite intimidating when there are 30 of them standing on the train mooing at you!

I have enjoyed travelling alone more than I thought I would, and it is great to not really plan ahead and do whatever I feel like doing that day. I have met a lot of great people in the hostels and travelling from around the world, which has been fun.

I won’t be able to post again for three weeks until after the course, so check back the last week in March!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New South Wales Mountain Treks

Bushfires, floods, shark attacks... Australia was full of natural disasters and dangers while I was there, but it was the rain and cold that was my biggest threat! I learned Australia is more than a coastline with beaches and surfing! I was glad I packed my raingear, thermal layers, and hat for a trip to the mountains! After 100 degree weather in Sydney, Anne and I headed off on two mountain adventures in my second week in OZ. We first went to the Snowy Mts. and Mt Kosciuszko (2228m- 7310ft- the tallest peak in the country), and then to the Blue Mountains. I had my first hitchhiking adventure, saw kangaroos and other unique animals, and had my first true Aussie bushwalking experience.

Mt Kosciuszko National Park is located about 400 km from Sydney. Anne and I woke up at 4am to catch a bus the first day to Canberra, where we planned on hitching from. The capital city proved a little difficult to hitch out of, so we bussed to Cooma, another 100 km south. In the visitor center in Cooma we met a couple from Israel in their mid twenties, who were headed into the park to bushwalk as well. We caught a ride with them, and camped together for the night in prime kangaroo hangout grounds, where we saw anywhere from 10-25 roos at once. There were total fire bans in the park, but no bushfires at the time. The next day we all did a 22 km loop hike, including summiting Mt Kosciuszko (which was more of a hill really, but I got my first of the seven summits completed!). On the summit the Israel man proposed to his girlfriend, and I was filming on his video camera! That was something I wasn't expecting. He was talking in Hebrew, but when he pulled out the ring and went down on one knee I knew what was happening! The next day the couple were heading back to Sydney via the coastal scenic drive, so we caught a ride with them and were back in the city much earlier than expected!

I was feeling a bit sick with a 'touch of a sore throat' :-), so we rested up in the city for a day before heading to the Blue Mountains, just a two hour train ride from the city. Anne and I had decided to walk the six foot track, a historic bushwalk that is the second most popular walk in the country. It is supposed to take 3 days and is rated hard, but we were done with all 52 km within 26 hours! The trek climbed a total of 1,528m and dropped 1,788m (1800 and 2000 ft). Both days had endless rain, and it only let up for a few hours the first evening. The second day we just pushed through and walked 32 km (20 mi), including all of the elevation gain, with 30 lb packs, and not a minute without rain. It was a long day for both of us, and my feet and body were feeling it by the end! We had a lot of fun, and at one point at our only real rest break for 20 min, were shivering and almost hypothermic, biting off chunks of cheese from a block and eatting nutella by the spoonful, and laughing hystericaly. We needed our calories somehow, right! :-) Needless to say it was a great adventure, and ended at Janolan caves, where we stood in the rain for nearly an hour soaked to the bone with huge backpacks trying to hitch a ride back to Katoomba where we could catch a train to the city. On this popular hike, we didn't encounter one other bushwalker even through it was a weekend, maybe due to the low visibility and wet weather...

Once back in Sydney I had one full day to rest and back, and then on the 16th flew over to Christchurch. I could have stayed in Australia a lot longer, and I am considering making another stopover in May on my way back to Oregon... It is such a huge country and there are so many walks and places to explore, and it was great to have Anne there to travel with. There are a lot of things I would love to do, but not alone, so having someone as willing as I am to do crazy adventurous things is great, but sometimes scary!

I spend my first two nights in NZ in Chch with Nadine, Susie's best friend from studying in Sweden in HS. I had met her only briefly in Sweden about five years ago, so it was fun to get to know her more and have a place to base out of in the city. After two days, I got a ride over Arthur's pass (one of three passes from east to west across the south island), from a friend of my dad's who has a house on the west coast in Hokitiki. I am now at Wayne and 's in Hokitiki, a town of 4000, for a few days, resting up and planning my next adventures...

By the way, if you click on any of the photos they should enlarge for you. And more pictures will be on facebook soon!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

SYDNEY Australia with Anne

I have been in Sydney 5 days now, and filled up my time with lots of walking around the city (2 hours of walking was our shortest day) and seeing the sights. I didn´t really feel like I was in Australia until spending time at the beach, and that we did! In 24 hours, Anne and I spent 5 hours laying in the sun and swimming at Maroubra beach, did an evening costal hike from Coogee to Bondi beach, and woke up at 5am to walk back to Maroubra beach to watch the sunrise. I haven´t seen the sun rise over the ocean in years, probably since I was last in Australia at 9 years old because it rises from the east.

Another day we saw the city sights, going to Darlign Harbor and walking around the Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanical Gardens. In the gardens we took pictures with sulfer crowned cockatoos, and later saw possums at night at Hyde Park.

It has been fun to meet Anne´s Australian and international student friends. One evening we went to a Pub and played trivia, and another we went to a friend´s flat and made pizza and played card and board games. I relearned how to play poker and we played a game called Articulate which is similar to catch phrase.

Now Anne and I are off in the morning for an exciting adventure for 5 days hitchhiking to the Snowy Mountains, with poisonous brown sankes (among other things) and bush fire danger... I will write more when we return!