Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year's....

I survived most of the flies. I have heard, numerous times, that the flies will leave soon. My luck it will be the day I leave for South Africa.
Yesterday, I checked out a swamp preserve, got lost--I know, shocking, and ended up taking a huge tour of the town. I realized that Bunbury is 55,000 people. I read that somewhere and that is about the same size as the town that I grew up in. THey are similar. Kids dragging the main streets, lots of tagging and I have been yelled at more for walking than any other place. I keep hearing--Get a car, and I want to say--Why? So that I can get fat?
I absolutely love Australia and the random people that I have encountered. Good or bad, it is a trip. I mean, some people are truly genuinely friendly. Others are opposed to greeting other people and really, I think that that is more of an international thing...not the people that live here. The biggest difference between Bunbury and my little unnamed hometown, is well, the ocean. It makes a huge difference and it is amazing. I walked along ther beach last night and when I returned to the main road, I interrupted to kids "parking" and it was too funny. I mean, come on, get a room! Or, at least wait until it is dark!
Happy New Year to all of you and all of the new people that I will encounter on my journey. Be safe, have fun and enjoy. Be realistic about resolutions and this year, I will try to actually commit to one of them.
I arrive in Perth this evening and I am hoping to find some wine and a nice spot on the beach to ring in the new year! Cheers!!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Persistance of flies and other issues...

I thought the flies in Apollo Bay were bad and they were...however, they won't die and go away. I decided to go for a walkabout yesterday and felt like a collector of flies. Seriously, I killed 15 by slapping myself and still had an entourage. I think that I now look like a victim of domestic violence, but it is all due to the flies. I went running this morning and had relief--they weren't out yet.
I made dinner last night. The kitchen at this hostel is so small and so I had cocoa puffs for dinner. Anyways, while I am chowing on cereal I hear "I like big butts and I cannot lie.." and I am laughing because all I can see is a flashback to Hailey and Cory's wedding in 2002 and dancing to that paricular track. That song was a definite improvement to some of the other music played on the radio here.
I checked out the dolphin preserve, but didn't see any dolphins. I figure that I should try to get there earlier with fewer people and distractions. I did book my flight from Joburg to Capetown and back. I arrive in Joburg at 10:50 pm and depart for Buenos Aires at 6:45 am and so I thought I would just hang out at the airport instead of trying to find a hotel for 6 hours.
Take care and i will be here for a few more days to battle the flies. And no, I can't buy a fly face mask since they are out of stock. It is really ridiculous here!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Indian Ocean

It's amazing, but I have swam in all of the oceans and it feels pretty awesome. I think later, today, i will go and absorb the sun and waves on the beach.
Bunbury is a cute town. There isn't much to see outside of the dolphin preserve and the "cappucino" strip of 3 blocks of one street. I am entertained by the people--locals and of course, fellow travelers. This hostel is small and the kitchen in unusuable at night. There are a group of 10 asians staying here and they pretty much overrun the kitchen when they come in to cook. Last night, they made dinner and then decided to make a cake much to the dismany of the other travelers. I was smart and opted to go to dinner.
It is beautiful here and extremely hot. The flies still suck, but I am learning to deal with them. Hope all is well. I need to book a flight in South Africa and figure out the kitchen here. Take care--

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Destination Bunbury...

Last night, I opted to go out with the 3 guys that I met at the hostel for a goodbye celebration. We cabbed it into Margaret River and it was definitely a local bar. I suppose they had 2 bars, but not much to differentiate them from. Thankfully, they had Hoegaarden on tap which was a beautiful thing since I am not a fan of Carlton Draft.
It was entertaining listening to the 3 guys talk about relationships and women. One guy th0ught he was god's gift and all I could think of was how much he reminded me of Jim Belushi from Animal House. Seriously, this guy had no game and was full of hot air. Two of the guys were a little less obnoxioius, although, some of their stories were unbelievable. I didn't realize how superficial young men could be. The bar we were at was about 3/4 men and so there weren't many options for them to choose from. They were stuck talking with me all night as a result.
Today, I woke up early and caught the bus going north. I am now at the hostel, but I can't check in until 4 pm. They do have internet, obviously, and a decent kitchen and so I had lunch and ran into a couple I had met in Margaret River. They are on their honeymoon, traveling around Australia for 3 months--i think. They are super nice and we exchanged books the other day. I met this other traveler, named Helen, who was an inspiration to meet. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and was sad to see her leave.
Bunbury has a dolphin center and apparently dolphins are very healing for the heart. I will check it out later and familiarize myself with the general area. Seeing how busy the bus was this morning, I think my bus to Perth will be full on new year's eve.
Have a glorious day and yes, it is hot here, too!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from the Beach....

Margaret River is an impressive beach. I am staying, literally, on the beach, with a hostel full of surfers. They walk about 1 mile to their beach and I can walk about 5 mintues to get to mine. The water is a bit cold, but I am enjoying the Indian Ocean for the first time in my life. It's awesome.
Yesterday, I had a chill day with fellow travelers. I have befriended a scots man, one from the UK and one German. We seem to gravitate towards each other at meals and breaks. There are two guys from Alaska sharing my dorm room. They are quite nice, but they snore--LOUDLY--and a lot. There is also a german lady in our room, too. I have loved the beach and the calmness of the area.
I went on a wine tour on Christmas Eve and wasn't too impressed by the wines. Not to mention, I ate kangaroo at lunch and it didn't agree with me. I suppose that I should stick to things I know while traveling in Australia in preparation for South Africa and South America. Anyways, I was able to enjoy a nice blend from the Barossa Valley for xmas eve and yesterday, I opted to just enjoy the beach and reflect on life. It was nice to get a tan, too.
I can finally view my blog from this hostel and so I wanted to update you on my whereabouts and future. I leave for Bunbury tomorrow, which is also on the coast, south of Perth. I will be there until New Year's Eve and then I will bus it up to Perth in preparation for the celebration. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the beach, sun and life. I hope that you are all warm and safe and that you have enjoyed the holidays thus far. I can't wait to return for a proper thanksgiving dinner, xmas eve green chile and of course, my month long venture of mexican food. Take care!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Last night, I got to the airport early so that I wouldn't be scrambling around. In Adelaide, they have one terminal which services both international and domestic flights. I guess you can imagine how small the airport is. Anyways, as long as you are flying domestic, you can bring in food and water from outside. I was reveling at that concept. I remember what it used to be like in the States...I digress. They postponed my flight by an hour. It wasn't too bad since I had arranged for a room at a hostel in Perth. I arrived at 11:30 pm, just in time to sleep and turn around to consider new accomodations. They have a hot tub here which is a huge attraction for me. I decided to stay until Sunday when I relocate to Margaret River. I am still deciding if I should rent a car or not. I guess I like the idea of the freedom it will present me. Plus, I believe that Margaret River is easier to get around by vehicle. I think I am going to do it.
Enjoy the last minute shopping/christmast parties/snow. Finally, yesterday, it felt like a true summer day. I love the heat!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Onward to Perth

I checked out of my hostel and decided to be honest about some of the staff there. One guy, Darren, was awesome. He let me check in early on Sunday morning, let me change rooms (twice) and booked a tour for me. His co-worker, that works nights, sucked. He told me that he didn't want to book a tour for me since it wasn't worth the commission to call and inquiry about a possible stay in the Barossa Valley. He suggested that it would be just as easy for me to do even though I didn't have a phone. Disappointed, I e-mailed the company directly and arranged for my tour. I wanted to mention the man's lack of assistance since they consider themselves tour travel help, too. They advertise that they book tours and really, how difficult is it to make one phone call? I understand having bad days or even not wanting to be bothered--I know that I have been there with some of the customers at the Bull and Bush--but, how hard is it really to be compassionate? I pose this question to you as I have pondered it the last few days.
In my note to the establishment, I didn't lie about what happened or call the man a name. Instead, I wrote what happened and how it affected my stay at the Blue Gulah Hostel. Darren told me that he was relocating to Sydney because he was tired of his co-worker, who also happens to be a part owner. Of course, he is! Some people should take vacations more, or find a reason to be happy in life. Truly, it is too short to be so unpleasant.
Enough complaining...I leave for Perth this evening. I should, hopefully, be on the beach tomorrow morning and explore the western state of Australia. It has been a beautiful experience so far.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Penfolds was heavenly. Today, we toured the building of red wine. They insisted that I wear closed toe shoes and so I sported some of their rejects. I forgot Flat Kellen; otherwise, she would have had a photo with me at the factory. Not to mention, I made my own blend of wine. They make a Bin 138 each year comprised of grenache, shiraz and mouvedre. They have made a 50% grenache, 40% shirz and 10% mouvedre in years past which I tried to copy---too soft. Then, their 2007 vintage will be 65% grenache, 25% shiraz and 10% mouvedre...which i also thought about trying. For those of you who know me...I love full bodied wines. I crafted a 50% shiraz, 40% grenache and 10% mouvedre which at first, was too tannicy for me. I let it breathe and moved on to my next trial. I opted to try 35% shiraz, 20% mouvedre and 45% grenach which again failed to tempt my palette. As I considered my options, I went back through and decided to take home the 50% shiraz blend. I have a 375 liter bottle with my name on the label and I am very proud of my wine. I will drink it tonight and head to Perth tomorrow. I also checked out Sabaltz for lunch, Wolf Blass for wine and Seppeltz for port. I enjoyed the port, but it is always too heavy for me. overall, a beautiful day of trying/tasting wine. I wish that I could offer you my blend, but that will have to wait for the States or if I dabble in wine myself. Just know that it is full bodied and beautiful.
I met another American on the tour and she was interesting. Her sister is in New Zealand and they are trying to missionize the chinese in New Zealand. I didn't want more information.
I hope that you are well, enjoying wine and by the way--it is my baby sister's birthday in the States. HAPPY BIRTHDAY jASMIN STAR....I love you...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Barossa Valley

I went on a tour today with 9 other people. We started at wolf blass and tried a few different wines. I paid to try the black label shiraz since there was no guarantee that I would be doing the expanded Barossa tour tomorrow. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't worth the additional cash. I felt that it should have been offered with the others. Plus, the lady that helped us wasn't really into the job. One of the guys with me, asked her what a reisling was and she said--it's a grape varietal. Well, he didn't know what that meant.
Next, we went to Maggie Beer's winery which wasn't great outside of the gourmet products they offered. Afterwards, we went to the Barossa Valley Winery where we had wines and lunch. Again, one or two of the wines were okay, but mostly, I enjoyed the McLaren Vale more.
Next, we went to Langmore which had 1o0+yr old vines. They had a fantastic viognier and I loved their cabernet and a few of their shirazes...things were looking up. We concluded at Chateau Tanunda and tried 14 different wines. They had 3 different shirazes from 3 different regions and they were my favorite. One was earthy, one was fruit forward and the other was a cooler climate shiraz. I enjoyed the funky, earthy shiraz. They also had a mouvedere, tempranillo and a red zinfandel. I was in heaven.
Tomorrow I will go to Penfolds--YES--and then a few other big name wines within the Barossa. wish me luck!!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

McLaren Vale..

Loved the was interesting. Honestly, my favorite was Woodstock shiraz and they had a nice cabernet. We started the day with me oversleeping. Thank God, they called to see where I was. I suppose that having a tour with only two people requires this action. They picked me up ( no shower, contacts in, teet brushed) and we started at the cheese factory for coffee/cake. Afterwards, we went to our first winery, Fox Creek. We did a tour and tried their wines. I enjoyed the red baron, Ilona, which is a subtle shiraz. I also liked the shadow run which is a shiraz--very mellow and user friendly. They had a few whites and a sparkling shiraz/cab mix which killed my palette. I wanted to choke on it.
Afterwards, we went to Lloyd Brothers olive press and unofficial winery. I loved their shiraz and reserve shiraz...they were both fantastic. The mediterranean blend of olive oil was also super. Then, we had lunch at Woodstock which was my favorite winery overall. I sampled a few port wines in addition to the reds. Lunch consisted of local gourmet flavors and chocolate cake and ice cream. Yes, Kellen, Flat Kellen and I ate ice cream and she liked it.
We went to Hugo wines where I met two Americans and continued to Petaluma/Bridge Water winery and enjoyed the red wines there. Our last winery stop was disappointing as it was predominantly white wines and not that terrific at that. I am now back and trying to figure out how to get back to the Barossa and enjoy the wine there. It will work and I will do it.
Hope all is well.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


My bus ride was difficult as people were snoring and the roads were challenging at points. I did receive some ear plugs, from Petra, my German friend the other night which came in handy. The bus wasn't full, but I couldn't get comfortable. I slept on my side and woke up aching on my right hip. I still am uncertain what I did to accomplish that. So, today, after I checked into the hostel and slept for a bit, I decided to incorporate some yoga into my life again. I feel so much better after an hour of yoga/meditation.
I am going on a wine tour in the McClaren Vale region tomorrow which is north of Adelaide. I hope to make it to the Barossa on Tuesday and stay until Thursday. I fly to Perth Thursday night and it should be interesting to be on the west coast of the country. I have heard wonderful things about it though.
Well, I hope that you are all well and enjoying wine. I know that I am. I hope to track down some Penfold's and soon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

raining--the constant theme of Australia

It is clean and pure, but nevertheless, raining again. I am heading west to Adelaide this evening and will arrive tomorrow morning at 6:30. I have heard from a few people that Adelaide is quite boring, but with the wine regions so close...i have to go.
I went to the Yarra yesterday on a wine tour and wasn't too impressed with the wines that I sampled. The Yarra is known for its chardonnay, pinot noir and of course, cabernet. They are scrambling to plant more shiraz grapes and reisling. Apparently in the late 80's they were stripped and replaced with chardonnay grapes. I had a few quality chardonnays and overrall my favorite stop was a boutique winery called, Yerling Farm. They produce 6000 cases of premium wine a year and I liked the ambiance and they had a fantastic reserve cabernet and shiraz. We toured domaine chandon and sampled green point wines there, too. My least favorite place was Rochford...i couldn't find any wine that stood out for me.
Anyways, I went to dinner with Petra, one of the wine tour companions and we had a wonderful dinner by the water in Melbourne. I have been fortunate to have met some interesting people this past week. Teja, from Slovenia, is now in LA trying to shop for tevas and I met Marieke from Sweden who is staying at the same hostel as me. All of three of these ladies have been fascinating to meet and kind to converse with me.
Hope everyone is well. I am off to Adelaide and hopefully enjoying fantastic wines by Monday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I spent the day in Melbourne and had a super time. I had free dinner at the hostel which is a nice bonus to staying at Nomad's. Actually, for $4 you get an entree portion of their free night. Last night was pizza and so as I happily ate pizza and read a book, I decided to go exploring after dinner to check out the area.
Had I not eaten, I could have had a wonderful meal at the Victoria Street Market. This place is filled with eateries, candles, soaps, massage therapists, wine, etc. I loved the people watching aspect of it and ran into Ricki from Germany while I was perusing the stands. Ricki was one of my sharemates at the hostel in Apollo Bay as well. She is a cool chick, traveling on her own and I enjoyed our conversations last weekend. We are going to try to meet up in Perth in January. Speaking of January, I had hoped to fly from Perth instead of Sydney, but I can't do it like that. I can change the date of travel for a fee, but not the departure city. Oh, well, it still works.
I had a tarot reading at the market and was pleased with the results. I have been reading a lot about healing, journeys and spiritual guidance in general and felt drawn to this woman. I wasn't disappointed either.
When I returned to the hostel and prepared for bed, the fire alarm went off. I couldn't believe it and so I unpacked the necessary items that I can't live without and headed outside. I know that it was irresponsible, but I didn't smell gas or smoke. I got outside and they told us to go back in. 3 fire trucks were on the scene and apparently some intelligent being sprayed too much deoderant in their room which set off the alarm. Pretty smart, huh?
Today, i will check out Melbourne and tomorrow I am headed to the vineyards....

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Melbourne, finally

I left Apollo Bay this morning and it was sunny. Our bus to Geelong was late which made us miss our train to Melbourne. However, I arrived safely and i have a room for 3 nights. I love it!
I am going on a wine tour on Friday and am meeting up with a girl from Slovenia for drinks tomorrow night. I met her in Apollo Bay. Taea has been traveling for 7 months and she wanted to have a returning celebration tomorrow night and of course, I was happy to oblige. We will meet up for wine and pizza or chinese food. Either way, wine is included...I have been a good kid in terms of wine since I arrived in Australia. I decided to wait until I toured the wineries to see what is out there.
Melbourne is a chill city and I am excited to explore it. I am staying near the Victoria Market and a few parks.
My stay in Apollo Bay was exactly what I needed. The hosts were fantastic...they provided breakfast and internet was based on the honor system. Unfortunately, some people just don't understand that. I stayed with 4 girls from Finland for the 5 day period. Everyday, I would get up, shower, eat breakfast and take off. When I returned either they would just be getting up, eating again or on the internet. Last night, i woke up at 2 am to use the bathroom and 2 of them were furiously typing on the internet. It was annoying knowing that they weren't paying for it and the reason they got up so late each day was because they were ripping the owners off. I believe in karma...don't you? I also firmly believe in respect for people and property. I guess people are the same everywhere.
Enjoy the day while I enjoy the sunshine!!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Still raining...

I love Apollo Bay with the exception of the the wind. I have woken up the last 3 days and it is overcast and cloudy. I went to Mariners Falls yesterday which is a 12km bike ride from the hostel. After that, you hike in about a 1/2 mile and see some beautiful forest and of course, the waterfalls. I enjoyed the ride and it was definitely worth the ride. Molly and Reg, the owners of the hostel, let me use their bike which is always a bonus.
Today, i will wait for the weather to break and hopefully, go for a walk to the next town over. I love the coast, but the ocean is frigid. I like the idea of laying out/lounging on the beach, but with the weather as such, I don't have many options. I know that I shouldn't complain seeing that the weather in the States in snowing and/or freezing. I will be quiet now.
From here, I will return to Melbourne where I have a room for the next 3 days. I have heard that Melbourne is a fantastic city and it did feel that way on Friday during my 8 hour stretch.
I hope that all is well and that you are keeping warm. I am learning how to occupy myself in someone else's home while the weather sucks!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rain, but still the flies persist

YEsterday, I had grand plans of riding to the waterfalls. They look pretty intense and worth the hike. So, I had breakfast, showered and got mentally prepared for my day. It began to rain, hard. I thought I could wait it out and then it rain again. Off and on about 5 times and so I opted for a hike up to Mariner's Lookout which was great and I was able to do it in between down pours.
Today, it will rain, again, but I am determined to go to the waterfalls. Or, I could go tomorrow, but they have nice walks/hikes around and I want to do something. Yesterday, was a day for resting/soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, and i have a nice strip of burnt skin on my lower back where i missed the lotion. I needed to rest that area.
Have a wonderful day and I hope that you are enjoying the football.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is awesome. I arrived on Friday night and decided to stay until Wednesday. The hostel is small, about a ten minute walk to the beach and the owners are quite nice. When I arrived ( no shower in 36 hours, exhausted) they made me a cup of tea and gave me cookies...I was in heaven.
The beach is glorious, only cold. I believe that I am now seeing the southern ocean and the water is clear and if I surfed, this would be the spot. The only problem with Apollo Bay is the flies--they follow you everywhere outside. You step outside and you are swarmed, seriously. I went for a walk yesterday and had 20 on my backpack, arms and buzzing around my face. Oh, and they try to go up your nose--it is fantastic.
I am relaxing and it is nice to have a place to be. Sydney is overripe with travelers and Melbourne felt that way, too. I think I am going to head west and check out the outback. At least I will be entertained. Also, I am thinking about going to Esperanze and Margarets River. They all head to Perth on the southern coast, but they are supposed to be nice ports to hang out.
HOpe all is well. I love the sunshine. I got a little sunburnt yesterday.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Got to Melbourne, but...

I took an overnight busride from Sydney to Melbourne. It was about 12 hours and I met this fascinating lady who was traveling to meet her daughter in a smaller town along the way. We hit it off right away and I felt so fortunate to being sitting by someone so genuine and pleasant. There were several jerks that took up a lot of space and were inconsiderate.
Anyways, I arrived at 6:30 and knew that most hostels wouldn't allow me to check in until 11am or noon. I decided to check a few out, to no avail. I grab a cup of tea and then venture to the i-site building for accomodation assistance. The guy can't hear me and tells me to walk 7 blocks to their main building. All I can think of is--seriously, I just walked from that direction, I am tired, I haven't showered and I just want a room. He wanted no part of it and so I made my way back to the main building.
I sit down and explain my needs to this woman. She calls 2 hostels that are full, I had checked out 2 other hostels that were full and so I decided to get back on a bus and go to Apollo Bay and lay on the beach. I need solitude, a shower and the sun.
I have discovered that although it is sunny here, it rains a lot, too. I suppose it is good since they had water restrictions the past few years, but I want sun all of the time!!!
I will be in Apollo Bay at least through Monday and then I will either stay there, longer, or return to Melbourne to give it another try. I do understand why it is full. In spite of the rain and overcast weather, it is a chill city and has a relaxed attitude. I could see myself really enjoying it here. Until later....

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Day two....

Sydney is a fantastic city. I am staying in Town Hall, near the central business district and circular quay. I love the area since they are so many people, shopping, cafes and things to see. I walked up to Kings Cross today which is considerable more seedy--ladies of the night, fetish shops, etc--but it also has a nice energy and interesting vibe. It has several italian eateries and take aways which I was interested in. I tried to go to the free museum, but I wouldn't leave my bag with the attendant. I need to take out some of the items before I leave it with someone, you know. It is overcast, but I am enjoying it. I am not ready for the intense heat of the summer here.
At my hostel, I am staying with 6 boys and 3 younger ladies. They partied in our room until 10:30 and I felt like the old lady who was annoyed that they wouldn't leave. However, I didn't say anything to them about their music or drinking; instead, I read, hoping that they would soon leave. I missed my shuttle the day before, remember and so i didn't sleep much on Monday night. Eventually, we became friends in the room and they told me that three nights ago an American kicked them out of the room for drinking and being too loud. They apologized to me after this point and I told them it was fine. Really, they weren't that bad and it was my fault that I was tired. Their music ranged from stuff that Lil Ricky plays on Sunday nights to Jack Johnson and James Blunt. I was entertained!
Today, I will continue to be a tourist and right now I am enjoying the library. I forgot that they have free internet--which, of course, I love and support.
Enjoy the day, if not the snow and think of me while I am wearing shorts and loving the possibility of sunshine!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sydney, Australia...

Last night, I tried to sleep and I set two alarms. I even heard one of them go off at 3. Next time I check, it's 4:22 am and I have definitely missed my shuttle to the airport. Frantic, I take a freezing cold shower and decide to find either a cab or someone that can get me to the airport. I see a guy at the hostel who tells me that there is a city bus that runs every 35 minutes to the airport. I decide to wait it out, hoping that the airport isn't as restrictive as the states.
I wait, wait, and wait and finally at 5:15 am the bus shows up. Of course, we have to go by all the other stops on the way to the airport and we make it at 6:00. My flight is supposed to leave at 7:10, according to the printout on my tickets, but when I go through security, it says that the boarding time is 8:40. I guess that is why you are supposed to confirm your flight with the airline before you make arrangements...anyways, I made it to Sydney and I am going to stay here for a few days before heading out to Melbourne. I fly out of Sydney on January 8th and so I figure that I can always return and explore the city itself. Australia is huge, ridiculous huge and I want to check out the wineries in Adelaide and hopefully, go diving at the Great Barrier Reef. To achieve this, I need to maximize my time and plan to do it all. I understand that it is better to fly between cities here and so I think I will be flying from Adelaide to Brisbane to check out the Gold Coast and then head back to Sydney. It could all change though.
Sydney is a beautiful city on first appearances...I am off to explore!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

last thoughts...

I am back in Auckland and it is cold here. I would almost believe that it is always overcast in Auckland. When I returned to Queen Street Backpackers, Ben asked me if I had bought pants yet and I said--NO. But, most people that know me understand that I can be stubborn when it comes to fashion and necessity. I tried to go to my first and only Broncos Game, last year on a Monday night in shorts. It was early October, but the weather was rainy and cold. I had a pair of red running pants in my trunk which I wore to that game. Sometimes, I understand how foolish I am being.
Anyways, it is nice to be back to city life. People everywhere eating, drinking beer/cofffee and the hustle of a city compares to nothing else. I like watching the energy. My flight leaves early tomorrow morning and so I have arranged for a shuttle at 4 am--yes, 4--so that I can make it there on time and deal with the necessary departure issues. I considered staying up all night, drinking, but my arrival in Australia will suck. Instead, I will take it easy and say good bye to New Zealand.
I heard the KU is playing VT in the Orange Bowl--GO JAYHAWKS!!! I am very proud of my team and hope that basketball is trimphant, too. Best to all and take care!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The best of New Zealand...

I traveled around New Zealand without a guide book...i probably wouldn't recommend doing it, but I got by and it was fun. I decided to reflect on what I would want to see in a guide book and so here is my best of New Zealand--
Best day walks--Rotorua walkways which divide into 8 sections of forest, lake, city and geothermal hot zones. It is cool to see the steam and take in the wildlife factor.
Best free tour--Kiwi experience of Auckland and checking out Te Papa Museum in Wellington
Best $7--raspberry chocolate cake in Olives Cafe in Wellington, great ambiance and the flat white coffee was fantastic too. The cake was superior to any others that I tried.
Best $8--peppermint hot tea and a blueberry muffin
Best $32--Bottle of Seresin Pinot Noir--an organic winery
Best $100--the Bed and Breakfast at Renwick. I could have stayed there the entire time. Robert and Diane were wonderful hosts, they made me feel extremely comfortable and they had a hot tub which I can never pass up. I almost returned there to spend the next 10 days...
By far, the best hostel was in The Zone in Rotorua. When i arrived the guy told me that he would try to keep it so that my room was only for me since they were slow. I was able to use the internet for cheap and take two baths. The hostel is clean, quiet and the linens were brand new. It was definitely worth the $27/night.
I also like the Downtown Back Packers in Wellington with its central location, and each time I stayed there I was able to stay in a 4 person room with a shower/bath attached for $25. It was clean and close to the rail station. The bathroom was a definite bonus.
The Queen Street BP in Auckland is where I met my tour guide, Ben, and so that is definitely a top 3 item too. Plus, they provide towels and the bed was cheap. The tour guide made all of the difference for me though. We went to the ice bar, remember?
The worst hostels--
Definitely, in Blenheim--the Konai. It was grimy and didn't feel at all clean. THe location wasn't that great and it wasn't worth going to or from.
The Traveler's Lodge in Hastings was dreadful. The UK lady was pleasant, but she didn't give a tour, she handed me dishes that I didn't use and I had to pay $25 to use a crappy bike. It was out of the way and chaotic. I know that they recently took over, but clean it up. I found a cockroach in the shower/laundry room. It felt like I was showering in the arctic since it was more like an outhouse.
The Peak Backpackers in Havelock North was dirty and a lot of seedy people were guests. I had my own room, the guy lent me his bike and he drove me to Craggy Range and so despite its appearance, it wasn't one of the worst for the customer service.
I stayed at a few others in Nelson, CHristchuch and Napier. They were okay, but I should have been more choosy. I met Amber in Christchuch which was cool and I got lost in Hagley Park. The hostel was a good location, but it was super loud at night. I enjoy sleeping too much to be disturbed by drunken morons at the hostel bar.
I have realized that I am quick to decide. I should be more patient and the results could be better. I finished reading the Alchemist and Eat, Love, Pray and I feel so in tune with what I am doing and what I want to be doing. It feels great to be on this journey.
New Zealand is expensive. The dollar is basically crap here and they charge $8 for chips and salsa--not something that I would recommend to eat here. The Mexican is awful. They do well with fish and lamb.
In terms of wineries--
Nautilius and Seresin were fantastic on the south Island. In Hawkes Bay, I enjoyed Craggy Range, Matariki, Hatton and Te Awa. Each had a charming attendant and of course, I did hang out with the crew from Craggy which was fantastic. Their wine is in its own class.
I will return to Auckland tomorrow and then head out to Australia, early on Tuesday morning. Yes, I have a guide book and I will be a little more ready. I am getting rid of some books and it will feel great to be able to come and go as I please. I will probably have more to say tomorrow.
Oh, and I did have some interesting travel companions. I would recommend bussing around New Zealand since it is convenient as opposed to signing up for the Kiwi, Magic or Stray tour. It is easy to be independent here as a traveler.