Monday, December 28, 2009

The Caves of Margaret River

The first cave we visited was run by the

ministry of the environment. We were given

helmets to wear because of low ceilings and

tight squeezes which Terry handled amazingly

considering her fear of tight spaces.There

were beautiful stalactites. Next was Mammoth

cave a self guided cave. There were many

different amazing formations of calcite that

reminded us of a cathedral.There were even

visible fossils in some rocks formations.There

was a hole that people could repel into from

above. It was a huge cave with many

interesting areas, some very low tunnels

connecting to large caves. The cave was 42

meters deep. After this we went to Lake Cave.

The entry had caved in thousands of years ago

so there were more then 750 steps to descend

into this cave. Inside, there was the least to

explore of all of the caves, but a

magnificent twin columned table hung from the

ceiling, this was suspended over a shallow

lake and caused a reflection of the structure

from different areas of the cave. They did a

light show from the far end of the cave that

was mind blowing! The last cave was Jewel.

This had formations of different colours

caused from tannins in the calcite. Tannin is

stain from rotting vegetation. There was a

structure that looked like a waterfall,one

like a pipe organ, another that looked like a

Karri forest and finally the jewel case where

the caves gets it's name. The jewel case's

shapes and beauty was really beyond

description. Terry and Wes

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Missadventure of the Lavendar Breakfast

Well we've made it to Pemberton, half way to

our southern destination of Albany. After

Christmas in Albany we will head back to Perth

and see how far north we can get in 11 days.

We decided to extend our time in Australia,

partly because we feel we want to see more but

mostly because we screwed up our bus pass and

our departure time. All this did not surprise

Aaron as he knows how disorganized his parents

can be. We feel it gives us more experience

in working difficult situations out, at least

that's what we're going to tell everyone.

This has not been the only difficult or

awkward situation we have been in. Since our

arrival in Pemberton we have been using an

interesting tourist map. We used this map to

get to the Gloucester Tree, a fire lookout

that is now a tourist attraction. We tramped

through one of the many Kerri forest down here

to find it. Kerri is the third tallest tree

in the world. The Redwood is the tallest and

some other one is second. Our intention, when

we set out, was to ascend this tree to the

lookout, that changed as soon as we saw how we

must ascend, 61 meters of what looked like

large steel spikes circling the tree to the

top. We immediately determined that this was

not possible because of the shoes we were

wearing and had nothing to do with the height

or the open assent, that's the story we're

sticking to!

The next day we planned to hike to the

lavender and berry farm, 1km out of town, to

have pancake breakfast. We consulted our

tourist map which told us we had a 1km walk to

get there. We should have questioned this as

it also directed us to a botanical garden that

never did exist. But despite this

misdirection we set out in 34 degree heat with

no sun screen. Of course the farm was 4km out

of town turning our short hike into a 8km

round trip. This is not something we have not

undertaken before but not something without

breakfast and with so many flies. We have been

tolerating the flies already, as you know but

this was fly day for us. I took up the local

practice of swishing them off with a young

tree branch. Breakfast was amazing and very

tasty, first time for ice cream with pancakes

but it suited it, but the flies stayed too.

At this point I have come to the conclusion

that my creamy/sweet food can be consummed as

long as there are less then 100 flies on it!

As I say, don't be discouraged its all in the

way you work things out!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Going South from Perth

After the train to Bunbury we did a 3 hour hike around a marsh.The town is surrounded by three waterways with a gorgeous white sand beach on the Indian Ocean 5 minutes from our hostel. Our time here included being mesmerized watching the waves crashing on the beach and rocks,hiking along the beach to Maiden reserve,walking the trails there, walking to Big Swam Reserve to see kangaroos,wallabies and many kinds of bird's gorgeous colorful birds, ie. parrots, cockatoo, owl). We got to pet kangaroos. Our last day was the highlight. We went to Koombana Bay. There must have been 40 dolphins in the bay. We watched them for about an hour. Then we stood in thigh high water and the dolphins swam so close to us we could have touched them (but weren't allowed). Then we heard a baby make a whistling sound and the mother came along side and the baby started nursing. It was our anniversary, a local recommended Nicolas, an Italian restaurant. Top notch food and we ate kangaroo as part of our dinner. I also had Gorgonzola polenta and warm pears. I had date pudding and caramel sauce and whiskey gelato. Wes had a local fish, oysters in orange and herbs in shot glasses. I even tried it. Wes also had Bailey's cheesecake. What a day!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Burnt Skin and Flies

Well we have left Perth after nine glorious days. Days filed with hikes, swims, museums and art galleries and many shopping excursions. Not so much for the shopping but for the fun of getting from one shopping mall to another. More then once we found ourselves out on a street we did not intend to come out on only to have to go back through a shopping tunnel, up one floor and out onto the mall we intended to find in the first place, as I said, great fun. In Perth we experienced sun and heat like no other times in our lives, 39 degrees one Sunday morning. We have moved from Perth to travel further down the West coast of Australia. Bunbury for three days, then to Margaret River and hopefully Albany before Christmas but we have no fast or firm plans.
There are two things we have learned so far as we have traveled in Australia. One is the sun is very intense here. We have both been burned even with several applications of sun screen. We have at times resorted to using our swimming towels as head and neck covers as we can feel the sun burning us long before we are ready to call it a day. It seems the best policy is to keep covered up even when temperatures are cooler, like 25! Covering up seems a good way to resolve our second lesson too. The flies! The flies in Australia are relentless. No that's not someone waving that's someone shoeing flies away. They seem to be common house flies but a little smaller and more plentiful. There have been times when Terry has counted 45 flies on my back alone. They are hitching a ride waiting for an opportunity to fly into my eyes or my mouth or my nose to ge that little bit of moisture they require. Covering up is the best way fo defeating them. They have worn us thin at times but have never stopped us from enjoying our time here, besides everyone is giving the "Ozzy salute."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Well here we are in Perth and with free internet. We are staying as guests of YWAM Perth for a week and taking some easy day tours for a change. Yesterday we hiked to Perth's highest point in Kings Park. It was a 15k hike to this highest point but we had to laugh at 'highest', it was basically a mild incline compared to the stiff hikes we did in New Zealand. Australia, so far, is very different from New Zealand. Queenstown has an average of 7 meters of rain, yes meters, a year and Perth has rain rarely and the soil is non-existent. The soil here is sand and it is everywhere in Perth, gardens, lawns and of course beaches. The temperature is wonderfully warm, never below 25 so far and the humidity is low, yesterday it was 25 degrees with 38% humidity, but the sun is very intense. Despite these conditions the vegetation is lush and beautiful. Kings Park, a 1000 acre park in the middle of the city, has numerous botanical gardens divided by the growing regions of Australia. They even have sections where they are preserving endangered species of Australia. Downtown Perth is wonderful with tunnels of shops going from street to street and at the same time malls crossing a level above and the shops a second story above with catwalks connecting these shops. All this without traffic! We have been pleasantly lost on several occasions. Well that's all for now as Terry is calling for second coffee and I am looking for elevensies, very tricksy, so we will post later. We are having a wonderful time!
PS. no pics for a bit, our camera went down, some world wide chip defect. The repair is free but no camera for two weeks. Interesting how this happened while we are in one place for a while!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Switchbacks, Dropoffs and Hairpins

WE had a goal in mind when we left the North Island, I suppose it was two goals but the main one was to get to Milford Sound before we had to leave New Zealand. The second goal was to travel down the west coast of the Southern Island and see the Southern Alps. To shorten my story we achieved our first goal with one day to spare and it was well worth our effords. Milford Sound was a wonderland world of mountians, clear green water and amazing wildlife. We had to land in Queenstown before we arranged to go to Milford because there is no place to stay there. There is actually not even a store, just a few docks and parking for cars and buses. Even the pictures of the sound or fiord do not do justice to what we saw. That being said and our first goal being achieved it was secondary to our second goal as far as the trip is concerned. The highway to the south on the West coast is a new concept for New Zealand and it consists of switchbacks, sheer drop offs, one lane bridges and breath taking views. We were a little disappointed by the fact that much of the Alps were obscured by cloud and it rained all the way down but the journey was wonderful despite the weather. There were sections where I wondered if the bus would fit across the bridge. There were sections where they had, only recently, cut away some of the rock wall so that these new buses would fit through. There were even sections where the turns were so tight that the bus had to make sure there was no traffic coming in the other direction because it needed both lanes to make the 15km/hr turn that was in the highway. Terry was really good after the first day, the first day she made a careful study of the drivers speedometer at each turn and engaged her passanger assist brake peddle for most of the trip (they really don't exist). Me, I thought it was the best part of the trip and that the drivers were amazing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1
Today we left at 7 and spent 10 hours on a bus

to Franz Josef Glacier. The drive was long

but with some great views of snow covered

mountains, an incredible rugged Tasmin sea

coast, forests and fields. When we arrived we

had a quick dinner and then a 3 hour hike to

Franz Josef Glacier. We hiked through a rain

forest and across the rock bed where the

glacier used to sit. As we walked through the

forest and gorge, beside the mountains going

up on both sides, we felt so small. It has

receaded incredibly in the last 100 years. We

got very close to the glacier but could not

touch it as it is fenced off due to the danger

of rock or ice slides. WE could see the

bottom of the glacier where a steam came out

and into the river that carries away the

glacier water. We also saw many small water

falls coming out of the mountain, some so high

up that it was hard to tell that they were

moving. We didn't know we would have time to

really see the glacier as we were only in town

for the night, it was so incredible to see it

up close and all the surronding area well

worth our extra effort. Terry

Monday, November 30, 2009

What I've learned about Backpacking

When we left Auckland we made the decision to take the plunge into the world of backpacking. We decided against renting a car, even though this would have gotten us to more places but to take the bus and hike whenever we could. We also decided we would not stay at hotels or rent apartments but embrace the hostel world. Todate we think both have been good decisions. We found we have been limited to the places we can see but the hiking and the busing have been amazing as we have discovered the nooks and crannies of the places we have stayed. There is a lot of free stuff you can do if you look hard enough and ask the right people. We have met all kinds of people and have loved the cooking and sleeping arrangements. We have learned some things as we've gone along. Jeans are a bad thing to take. They are way too heavy and take up too much room, for that matter the backpacks are much lighter and easier to pack when the weather is cool rather then warm. We have gotten rid of some things. We have thrown out the sheets we carried and replaced them with a bodem and coffee. It is easier to book a hostel with sheets and cheaper to make coffee then buy several cups a day. We've thrown out some extra socks and t-shirts as we have not been using near as many as we packed. We forgot about the food we have to carry, so planning meals and using up food before we move has been a real art we have had to learn. We are not the oldest people using hostels but seem to be the oldest backpackers, but that is cool with us. The next time we go backpacking we will pack different items but not much less as what we have seems to be the right amount but just a little heavy. All-in-all it has been a great learning experience. Wes

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Delayed in Wellington

Well we've been in Wellington for a few days now, but it has

been wonderful. It appears that flexi-pass holders have some

restrictions when it comes to the ferry out of Wellington.

There are a limited numbers of seats available to us and there

needs to be 36 hours notice for our departure from the North

Island. No worries, as they say, there is plenty to do here

and the people at the hostel have been very accommodating.

They booked our passage, gave us a discount on the extra day

and booked our hostel in Picton as well. We have to stay in

Picton for a night as the bus to Nelson does not connect to

the ferry that is available, no worries again. Wellington is a

windy city and today it surpassed its reputation with winds

steady at 80k and gusting to over 100 at times. It has been

windy everyday but today I had to brace myself while taking

pictures and sometimes even that did not stop me from moving

backwards. We had to find a hiding spot while eating our

lunch. Well it's out of Lampton harbor and through Cooks

Straight and on to the South Island tomorrow so I had better

get things packed up. Wes

Today we spent the whole day on the bus going from Taupo to

Wellington. We went out for dinner because it was so late,

Indian. The drive, although long, was beautiful. We passed by

Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe covered in snow. There were

many mountains, hills, cliffs, forests and lots of sheep.

When we got closer to Wellington, we drove beside the ocean

for a bit. It was ominous. Wellington is a very cool and

artsy town. Our first full day in Wellington was amazing. We

are staying right downtown on the harbor. We went to the arts

center and saw the works of a famous Japanese artist who works

alot with dots. The piece that struck me the most was the

room with all mirrors on the the walls and ceiling and mirrors

and water on the floor. There were tiny lights in the room

and it looked like they went on for eternity. After that, we

hiked to the top of Mt. Victoria. The hike was steep but the

view at the top was worth it. You could see out in every

dircetion the city, the bay and ocean. The houses here are

built on hills so even the view of the city was unique.

Finally, we went to the Te Papa museum (all galleries and

museums are free) and saw a Colossal Squid that was captured

near the Antarctica. The next day we hiked up another mountain

to catch the cable car to the Botanical Gardens. It turns out

we could have caught the cable car at the bottom. The garden's

were beautiful, especially the rose garden that has as many

colors of roses as you could imagine. There were a number of

observation platforms where you could look down on the city

and sea. We took the cable car down for the fun of it and then

walked to the land and sea museum. I still can't believe that

most of their museums are free. It was a very windy day and a

little cool at times, especially at the top of the mountain,

but another hiking filled and interesting day. Terry

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lessons in Mauri

We left Auckland and headed southward to Rotorua. Rotorua is the second lake discovered by Awara when he landed in the region. Unfortunately it was the largest lake and Rotoiti, the first lake being smaller never developed a community. Now from that little Mauri lesson you should be able to figure out the Mauri words for 'first', 'second', and 'lake'. Rotorua is a pretty interesting place with lots of thermal activity. Many areas have steam vents, bubbling mud and very hot pools. One hot ool we looked at holds a constant temperature of 167 degrees Celsius. This because the minerals in the pool allow the boiling point to be higher. The trouble with all this is that Rotorua is a relatively dangerous place. While you can harness the steam for heating you can also end up with an unwanted steam vent in your driveway or under your house. We saw a few of these and visited a village that is slowly moving up their hill as the ground becomes thinner and thinner. We really enjoyed Rotorua and wanted to stay but Taupo was calling.

Taupo has some similar thermal activity going on as well but to set it apart it has an active volcano just to the south. It is situated beside a like that is 1,100 feet above sea level and is New Zealands largest fresh water lake. When we arrived in Taupo the weather finally broke. Up to now it had been a little dreary and wet but not too cold. For the last two days it has been amazingly hot and both Terry and I have been burn by the New Zealand sun despite multipul applications of sun screen. Yesterday we hiked the botanical gardens at the Top of Taupo. Beside the amazing gardens the view out to the lake was amazing. Today was a great adventure and probably our biggest challenge to date. We went from our hostel through town and out to the Waikato river, hiked through the gorge to Haku and back into town to get a late afternoon bus back. Both the gorge and the falls were well worth our sore feet at the end of the day. Well that's all for now. It still gets cool at night, despite being almost 30 today so I'm headed inside. I will post more picks on face book as soon as I edit them. I am emailing people but they don't always seem to go through for some reason so be patient if you don't always get a response and know I am shaking and cursing this infernal machine for not cooperating.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Our time in Auckland is coming to an end tomorrow. We will be leaving this fine town, the city that should be the capital, for Rotorua. This will mark our slow and pleasant journey to the south island. Our stay in Auckland has been pretty cool. We have stayed at the Shakespeare Brewery and Hotel since our arrival. We had intended to move to a hostel but the rate was so good and the place so fun we stayed. The hotel is an 19th century structure with a pub on two floors and an operating brewery on the main floor. The room is tiny but we think it is cool. The window of our third story room opens to a fire escape that seems like a balcony and I have spend a few evenings out there. There is also a second story patio and I have tasted some of there 'home brews' which are just fine! On Wednesday we hiked to the summit of Rangitoto Valcano on Rangitoto Island. It was quite a challenge as the climb was very steep at times and it poured rain on a few occasions. We felt quite pleased with ourselves when we reached the summit both because we endured the rain and the steeps and felt we could now face whatever our vacation throws at us and because of the reward of beauty we received, an amazing view out to sea and back towards the skyline of Auckland. That evening we found Jana and toured Auckland until we found a recommended Indian restaurant. We all ate until we could eat no more and all had Mango Lassi, what a meal! and a nice visit with Jana.

Auckland is a surprising place. The Asian population, especially Korean, is enormous! We visit the Auckland library for internet access and there are large sections of the library that are dedicated to the Asian population, books, movies and papers, very cool. Auckland is built on several hills, we know because our hotel is at the top of one of many. It's basically up hill no matter what way you approach it. The New Zealander's love coffee! There are sometimes three coffee shops in one block and almost no filtered coffee is served all espresso, ummm delicious.

Some pictures will come soon. We have run into a little technical difficulty but have a plan to resolve it. Be patient. Hey! did you know that you have to go north to find warmer temperatures here? How weird is that?
Bye for now
Wes & Terry

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Last Day in Ontario

Well here we go just coming to the end of our last day in Ontario. We head out tomorrow at 11am to begin our 5 month adventure. It has been quite an eventful day today. For me it started off with a 13K run with my good friend Pam. It really was a good start to the day and gave me energy for most of the day, I feel it waining now but it is 8:30 afterall. From there I layed out all my clothes for the trip, 4 shirts, one pair of pants, sandals and two undies, along with loads of cologne to mask things. I then did the finishing touches on the bathroom, placing the last piece of drywall in place and putting the fixtures up. After a few adjustments all the leaks stopped and the first bath was had. I will enjoy my first shower in 6 days tomorrow, much to my friends and families relief. From there I rolled all our clothes to get them to fit the one back pack we had. After about 30 minutes I went and got another backpack and relieved some pressure. It's really not that bad, the backpacks are not really heavy and after we see Janna in New Zealand the packs will be 50 pounds lighter, eh Joni?! Well I think a hottub is in order and and maybe a bubbly beverage and then off to bed to get a good start on ourtrip. Since we lose a day flying to New Zealand we will talk to you on Tuesday. Love you all Wes

Thursday, November 12, 2009