Monday, February 06, 2006

Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe Take 2

Kirkwood was much better this time around. My lung did much better and this morning, Monday, I went for a 6 mile run along the beach and didn’t feel my lung at all. Co Enzyme Q10 is for sure partially responsible for the cardiovascular improvement. But nevermind that. Six of us went up to Lake Tahoe for another round of fun at Kirkwood. Nikolai, his two roommates, Ryan and Mattnand Kendal and Pino who we picked up at SFU at the last moment. We all pile into the Escalade and head up to Ryan’s late Grandfather’s country house in Auburn, CA on the way to Tahoe, where we’d be spending most of the weekend.

Nikolai offers me a brownie soon after we leave and I ask him if it is... a magic brownie and he assures me it is not. So I munch it down and then he starts laughing and then I look at my crumb covered fingers and wonder if he is pulling my leg. I feel fine. About a half an hour later I start to notice I’m feeling pretty spacey and about an hour later everything's gone a hazy shade of weird and I'm having weird mental trips, my mind playing tricks on me something like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Ah, but at least I didn’t eat the whole bag of brownies. That would have been bad.... As we arrived at the cabin, I threw up all over the floor. I had been dizzy in the car and was so stoned I didn’t recognize that sick throwing up sensation until it was too late. Way too wasted from the brownies.

We don’t get to the mountain until noon the next day. I’m still feeling queezy from the night before. It took us 4 hours to get to the mountain because we didn’t know how to get there and because the cabin was farther away than we realized. We also had to stop for breakfast. Then we all got separated upon arriving, but finally Nikolai and I connected and we had a blast tree skiing via access from “the wall” and just otherwise tearing up the swooping bowls. Well, at least I was, Nikolai didn’t find the demo shop and ended up renting lesser quality skis which weren’t up to his standards.

We get back to the cabin to find Titan behaving very strangely. Upon brief investigation we find the bag of brownies to be missing. We then find the plastic bag torn up on the floor. Titan could barely walk straight. He was excited we had come home but he kept losing his balance and otherwise behaving how you might expect a dog who had eaten too many pot brownies to behave. Fortunately he had thrown them up four times all over the carpet.

Nikolai and I drove him to the vet where they tried to charge Nikolai $1,000. After a long time waiting around at the vet, it was decided to have the dog stay over night since the animal hospital threatened to call the police and animal rights for animal neglect if Nikolai didn't admit Titan. We drive home, but we can’t find the damn cabin. We drive around for what feels like ages and a guy blasts a searchlight on Nikolai and me as we’re driving into random driveways trying to find the cabin. After driving by his driveway three times he finally flagged us down with his light to find out where we were trying for, but he didn’t know where the Moore residence was.

We finally find it at about 1:30am after trying just about every driveway in the area.

The next morning it turns out no one set the alarm clock and I end up waking everyone at about 9:00am. But even so we are all slow to motivate and I kept trying to motivate everyone, but even bacon and eggs and coffee wasn’t enough to get people moving. To make matters worse, Nikolai needed to drive back to the animal hospital to get Titan. He has some trouble finding the house again on the way back and by the time he gets back we realize we’ll only have a couple hours max on the mountain. So what do a bunch of kids with a cabin in the countryside to themselves do?

Nikolai and Matt rummage around in the attick and find an old 22 and start shooting stuff around the picturesque property. It was suh a beautiful day, one of those spring days where a barbeque is in order. So everyone but Ryan and me go to the store to pick up barbeque essentials like steak, shishkabobs and shrimp. But I let Titan free too soon after the Escalade pulled away from the driveway and Titan bolted in the direction the SUV left in. Ryan and I ran after him and caught up with him just as he was approaching the road. Luckily I managed to grab his collar just at the edge of the driveway. On our way back to the house we came upon these two crazy llamas. They were the funniest creatures I’d seen. Bucking and prancing about as if they were on something a bit stronger than pot brownies. They kept following us along the fence and they’d get all skiddish and suddenly flail away from the fence, circle and then come charging back, all spastic and spazzing, to follow us some more.

Then I went the wrong way when I ran ahead of Ryan with Titan in toe. He kept running up to other dogs and such and then we got to a yard with a goat tied to a tree. Titan swankered up to the goat and started barking and got a nearby dog barking too. Then a beligerent redneck came out and started barking at me. “Where you from?” I apologized and tried to tell him to wait while I tried to get the dog but he continued barking expletives at me: "I don’t expletive care about the expletive dog. Don’t walk away from me! Don't turn your back to me. Answer my question! Now you’re gonna piss me off! Where you from?” I start explaining to him where I’m from and where I’m going and, satisfied, he buggered off. I turned around upon hearing Ryan come up the road and briskly headed toward him with Titan held close by the collar.

After the Barbeque and firing the 22 at an old mailbox, we gathered ‘round the boob tube to watch the Superbowl. Kendal had been going on the whole weekend about how she had to see the Superbowl and then when it was was finally on she wasn’t around 1/2 the time to watch it. Fancied shooting the 22 more I suppose. I, who had had zero interest before the game had started ended up being quite engaged in the whole affair; even guessed correctly who the MVP at the end of the game would be (Hines Ward of the Steelers).

I drove back that evening and we all decided it was a good idea to come back next weekend again. Pino has 5 passes at Sierra at Tahoe and so we might ski a day there and a day at Kirkwood. Hopefully we’ll go back to Kirkwood because I have an unused demo reservation I made with the expectation we were going to be skiing on Sunday. Despite a short day skiing Saturday and not skiing on Sunday the weekend was a lot of fun and I didn’t get bitter for skiing much less than I was expecting to.

San Francisco and Beyond....

So I get to LA and immediately find Allie and Shawn to welcome me home upon leaving the baggage claim area at LAX airport. I hang out with them for a couple days and then I get a rideshare through Craigslist up to San Francisco. No one knew each other but the driver and the other ridesharer seemed to be on the same wavelength which was kinda eerie. I guess it’s all part of being hip to the times living in LA and San Francisco: they both used to live in S.F. and the other ridesharer was in the process of moving to LA, where the driver was living. They were talking about -- I don’t even remember now, but it was something I hadn’t heard about and they were talking about it like it was something everyone was aware of-- some sort of philosophy to live by-- and the driver was a quarky lady wearing pink pants with a pink patch in her blonde hair. They seemed to both be athiests and the driver was part of a hiking group in L.A. which I thought was cool, but then she went on about how all the hikers in the group are athiests and subscribe to this philosophy for living thing she was talking about. Any idea what they were on about Illona? Also, they had both been to Burning Man, an art festival out in the desert. And they weren’t acting like it was a coincidence they had so much in common - it was more like, well, yeah, we’re hipsters living in California.

Been in San Fran for little over a week now. Will be flying home in a little over a week. Had a Chinese New Year dinner with Paulo’s family and at 10pm during dinner I start talking to Phil, Paulo’s cousin whom I barely know, and ask if he skis at all, says he’s going skiing tomorrow morning at 4am in Lake Tahoe and invites me along. My first reaction is, “are you crazy?” I’m still tired from all the travelling around - was out late the night before with Allie going to some art exhibit in the middle of a cornfield right in the middle of downtown LA where Arnie was part of a larger than life puppet show with fires and drummers. Besides, I had no ski equipment and few warm clothes. But then Phil said he had goggles and a jacket and I could rent skis at the mountain-- better yet, I could demo top of the line skis and boots! Wow, suddenly I was going to be doing big mountain skiing out west, something I had wanted to do for over ten years! And now, in an unexpected transpiring of events that couldn’t have been anymore spontaneous or last minute, I was suddenly going. That was the kind of stuff I had been hoping was going to happen during my three months in New Zealand and Australia. And then finally, when I’m least expecting, when I think my trip is finally over, that no more adventures could possibly happen, such an opportunity for spontaneity presents itself and I don’t even recognize it and almost let it slip passed me!

As we were driving through Chinatown after dinner on our way to Phil’s, we stopped at an intersection to watch chinese new year fireworks celebrations. People were lighting fireworks in the middle of the street and they were so loud if someone had started firing a gun no one would have known.

As we climbed into the mountains the next morning, snow started to appear all around. What stark contrast to Australia to see snow covered mountains in all directions. When I had arrived in Los Angeles I immediately tasted and smelled winter in the air. It was so inviting and invigorating. And the evening before when I walked outside the restaurant my senses were filled with it even more. I had really been missing winter when I was away, as strange as that sounds, especially while I was being fried by the 115 degree sun in the middle of the Australian Outback on Christmas day. Now I was suddenly submerged in the full effect of winter. The roads were slick at 7,000 feet on the way up to Kirkwood and we had to bust out the chains. After dealing with uninterested to be helpful demo and rental people, another skier finally told me what I wanted to hear: “Out here, man,wou definitely want the best equipment .” Because I was trying to figure out what sort of equipment I wanted to demo or rent. So I was hooked up tough and even though I had never skied this sort of terrain before and it had been almost a year since I had last skied at Catamount and I hadn’t had much exercize travelling, I was tearing it up like a seasoned pro... well almost... the air was so thin I had to stop and catch my breath every ten turns lest I start getting light headed. My lung also was acting up and it really kept me in check and required me to keep my vigil so as to not overextend it. Towards the end of the day pole pushing into position at the chairlift cuased my lung to hurt and I had to rely mostly on skating. I almost skied into the chairlift once because I didn’t want to use my poles to stop myself and there wasn’t enough room to snowplow. Any sort of pulling or pushing I did with my arms caused my lung to hurt.

So the days of tour guided adventures weren’t quite over. Phil was an excellent “tour guide” as he was kind enough to lug around my camera, water and lunch! --as well as showing the way to hidden powder stashes and other hidden “gems” of the mountain, one of which turned out to be a bit of an adventure. Thanks for that Phil! First of all, the slopes and bowls are ridiculously steep. Even the photos can’t hide the harsh reality of real mountain skiing. But the snow is soft enough to be able to attack the near verticle wall without being hurtled for a long tumble down the mountain. But Phil had this chute he wanted to ski down. So he leads us, the other snowboarders that were with us, too, one of which was his second day --mad props to him!-- high along one of the ridges of the bowls. During the traverse over one of Phil’s friends has a bit of a misadventure with his snowboard. He dropped it and it started running away down the hill. Phil was about 50 feet below the rest of us and the board was coming right at him. He gets prepared to try to stop it but it’s rapidly gaining speed and by the time it reaches him it is going so fast that he has to think about preserving himself as well as stopping the rapidly approaching board. He manages to slow it down significantly when it crashes into him but it keeps going and gathers enough speed again to leap off a lip and disappear below, out of sight. Apparently, and luckily, the board flipped when it landed and with a short hike down was retrievable.

We finally arrive at the chute between two giant rock outcroppings and it takes me a few minutes to realize there isn’t really an alternative way to get down. I inch my way out over the edge to peer down the enbankment and half laugh to myself sarcastically. Surely Phil had made a mistake. But I look over to Phil to see him unconcerned and that he is actually serously considering it, to my fear and bafflement. It is clear to me, anyway, that the snow has been windswept sheer. Phil claims he’s done it before, but when there was decent powder. I would conisider it if there was powder, even in my tired and bedraggled state as it was towards the end of the day. He finally takes the dive and realizes it’s much icier than he had thought, has he precariously teeters sideways on the edge of his skis, contemplating what he is going to do, the icy scraping sound from his skis making it hard to watch. I’m sure at any moment he is going to fall. His skis are completely perpendicular to the slope, and his edges are the only thing keeping him from tumbling to the rocks below. “Shit, it’s steep!” he exclaims. I burst out in stifled laughter, the camera jerks, since of course I’m filming him. Ya think? I think I was more afraid for him than he was for himself. He slowly starts to slide down, the awful scraping sound of his edges keeping us all on edge as he slowly and painstakingly negotiates the steepest and narrowest and most difficult top section. After a very drawn out few minutes, he somehow manages to get a turn in and jams out the rest of the gauntlet with a reasonable level of control and panache and we all watch in awe as he shoots out the bottom.

The rest of us took our equipment off and walked around to the left. This way was not much easier as there were tons of jagged rocks everywhere as if purposely placed to keep dumb skiers and riders like us from venturing off the beaten trail. Most of us got passed the rocks without too much difficulty, but one of Phil’s friend’s hurt his ankle. Fortunately he was able to get down the mountain okay. We came out to some tree skiing that was only really steep, (as opposed to ridiculously steep) which now seemed like a cakewalk after witnessing Phil. Phil’s stunt instilled a newfound confidence in myself and my whole perception of what I could was altered for the better. I just hadn’t skied this sort of terrain before and needed to acclemate a little. His stunt helped me do that. I also needed to aclimate to the altitude. Hopefully next weekend will be better....

My back was pretty sore the next couple of days but I had such a blast I asked Nikolai if he wanted to go again this weekend. He said all his stuff was at home and none of his family or friends were in the country to ship it for him. So I reluctantly called Ben to see if he would send the stuff for me/Nikolai and to my great relief he agreed and provided the stuff arrives on Friday as promised by the pack and ship shop, we will be driving up to Lake Tahoe once again in one of Nikolai’s friend’s Escalade with TVs in the back seats.

Until next time, this is the ... responsible Uncle Jason signing out. (Well I can’t say the Intrepid Dr. Root, now can i? having chickened out and all.) Sorry for lack of photos. Will try to upload some soon!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A little late...

I shoulda put this in at the beginning of my trip. Oh well. It's a hit counter! To see how many people visit my blog. Of course now it's pretty useless now that my trip is over, but wait! My trip *isn't* over! Let's recap the last week just to put things into perspective and make mention of a few details I left out. My trip in Australia ends, I party with team Spring Break until midnight when I have to catch my cab to the bus stop completely drunk. The bus is a six hour drive to Brisbane, then another 30 minute train ride to the International Airport where I fly out of at 8:15am. On the cab ride over to the bus stop I tell the cabbie that I'm flying out of Brisbane to Christchurch, NZ and that my flight leaves at 8:15am and he warns me that it's very risky to be arriving that late. He tells me to catch a cab to the airport as soon as I arrive in Brisbane and to not bother with the train; that I won't have enough time. He waves $5 from my cab fare because he had picked up another woman who shared part of my route to the bus stop which I thought was rather nice. But I don't heed his warning or advice and end up just missing the train upon arriving on time in Brisbane six hours later, still a little drunk and hung over. I'm a little bit nervous while waiting for the next train which is skedded to arrive in a half hour at 6:27am. The train arrives on time and I get to the airport at around 7am. You're supposed to arrive 2 hours before your flight, I was only arriving an hour before. As I leave the train and head toward the international terminal there is a woman checking peoples' train tickets. Say what? Apparently you need to have your train ticket to show *after* you get off the train. Well I had never heard of such nonsense before and couldn't find my ticket. I start getting short with the lady and am really annoyed now because I'm already late for my flight and I'm just about to shove over another 12 bucks just so I can get by the ticket lady when I find my train ticket. I find my way to my airline check in and fill out the little international card for customs and am relieved that the line is so short for my flight checkin but then a little disappointed that after all that fuss that cabbie made I'm still waiting around for my flight to board when I was thinking at least I won't be waiting around unnecessarily for this flight since I'm cutting it so close. During the boarding process I was warned that, upon arrival, I would need to show customs that I had a flight out of New Zealand. I didn't really pay attention to this as I was only going to be spending a few days in New Zealand and didn't remember having a problem arriving in New Zealand at the beginning of my trip. I get to customs in Christchurch and I'm in for a bit of a rude awakening....

They thought it was a bit suspicious that I
claimed to be staying in NZ for only a few days. They
gave me the royal treatment so to speak searching my
stuff and checking my cameras for traces of drug
residue on them (??) and grilling me expecting to get
me for drug trafficking or something along those lines.
After they finally gave me an opportunity to explain
myself they finally let me go. The customs guys ended
up being nice once they were convinced I wasn't part
of a drug ring and I ended up recommending to the
guy to buy the new David Gray album when it caught is
eye after he had been rummaging through all my stuff.
I didn't bother mentioning the Strip Music, though, as
I thought it might just add unnecessary confusion to
the situation.

I arrived in Christchurch tired and beleagered after the drawn out debaccle with customs and booked a flight from Christchurch to Auckland for the following morning at 10:30am. Despite the short notice, the flight was only $75 US. Because it was a domestic flight I wasn't too worried about arriving super early. I figured 9:30am would be good. Right before I left I thought I should find out how often the shuttle buses went to the airport. It occurred to me I hadn't even found out how far it was to the airport. I was told every half hour, and then it occurred to me if the shuttle bus had just left the next one wouldn't be coming until 10am and my flight left at 10:30am. Oops.... I make my way to the shuttle stop and as I'm approaching a man comes up to me and asks if I'm going to the airport. I say uhh.. yeah, and he tells me to put my stuff in the van, we're leaving in two minutes. Well I enjoyed that thoroughly, finally I'm cutting things close! The shuttle arrives at the airport about 20 minutes later. I have 40 minutes before my plane leaves. The shuttle bus driver tells me I'll have plenty of time. I contrast that with what the cabbie told me. I take his advice and take my time, stopping to inquite about rental cars on the way to baggage check in. As I enter my departure gate I hear the PA system announce last call for my flight and I'm the last one to arrive. I look at my watch and it's 10:15am. The plane started taxiing at 10:25am. It's good thing I didn't arrive at the departure gate at 10:30am thinking I'd still be able to catch my flight. The Alps look awesome from the plane window and it feels great to have had the last week of my trip so haphazardly booked and rushed and to get away with cutting the flights, bus and shuttle so close. Then in Auckland my trip up North was also rushed and I return the rental car within the 59 minute grace period after the 3:30pm return time I was meant to be back at Avis by. I left plenty of time to make my 7:40pm flight to LA as I wanted half a minute time to just process the fact I was actually leaving this wonderful country and my trip was suddenly over. Three months rushed by in a whirlwind of nonstop adventure and sightseeing. And to be honest, I'm beat! I need a vacation from my holiday.

It was so nice to be back in New Zealand those last few days after being in Australia for five weeks. It allowed me to just experience New Zealand without any expectations as I had when I first arrived. It's the little things about New Zealand that make it such a unique and special place, such as a Maori saying hello from the sidewalk when I was driving from the Airport to the city center. It was kinda weird not having anyone saying good bye to me as I left New Zealand. I said goodbye New Zealand and boarded the plane. I watched it disappear from my window seat one last time as the plane pulled through the cloud cover to reveal the sun setting into a white endless sea of clouds.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Giant Sand Dunes

Okay, so I lied, had one more little excursion. Rented a little Toyota Echo and went up to the tip of the North Island of New Zealand and went sledding down the giant dunes up there. I was virtually the only person there when I arrived which was a bit of a bummer but then someone arrived shortly after from Berlin and was kind enough to film and take photos for me. The video is more impressive than the photos. I took a major spill 2/3 way down the hill and just started somersaulting like crazy. Was awesome. Unfortunately I only have photos of me jumping and sledding down a relatively teeny dune to the one I sledded down and had the major spill.

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Climbing up that hill was so killer. This dune was enormous. Much bigger than the ones in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Unfortunately the photo doesn't quite do it justice. Pixagogo direct photo link

Sledding down the teeny dune: Pixagogo direct photo link

Oh, and I almost forgot. I was forced to put up my tent in the middle of a storm because I arrived in Paihia up in the north at 11:30pm and all the Hostels were closed. After wrestling with my tent which was convinced it was a kite from the powerful wind I finally got it pinned to the ground with stakes and had it properly erected. When I had the tent up I couldn't find the fly anywhere. It was pretty warm and I figured it would clear up soon since earlier there was a very red sunset (red sky at night, sailor's delight - red sky at morning, sailor's take warning) so I crawled into the already wet tent and put my raincoat over my head and tried to sleep midst the fwapping and rattling of the tent which was being nearly flattened against me inside it. -- Well if there ever was anything farther from the truth I know it not. I woke up periodically during the night from the constant noise and by morning I was lying in two inches of water. The wind was still howling and when I crawled out of my tent and into the car (why didn't I just sleep in the car?) the radio report was calling for a severe weather advisory with wind gusts up to 120kph/hr (hurricane force) and 100mil of rain. After sitting in the car for an hour tired and trying to figure out what I was gonna do with all my wet stuff and my bedraggled tent I went outside into the storm to take it down. It had somehow freed itself from the stakes, the wind was that strong.

It was a bit difficult getting a good picture. Pixagogo direct photo link

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fraser Island

Team Spring Break ruled Fraser Island in a pair of rugged Toyota Landcruisers. Ranger Joe managed to avoid taking advantage of a free helicopter ride off the island by begrudgingly keeping all four wheels firmly planted to the sand (most of the time) and the brits managed to keep their shorts on after the trip was done but didn't manage to resist moon dancing the night away in the warm everning rain when sleeping wasn't much of an option when all the tents save one were wet.

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One of our jeeps broke down at the beginning of our trip at the famous lake Mckenzie so we got a free day added onto our self drive tour. We had to spend the afternoon lying around in the warm waters of the luminous lake while we waited for another jeep to be delivered to us. It was really rough. Pixagogo direct photo link

Dave poking his head out the window of the replacement jeep like a big happy dog unbeknownst to Ranger Joe who thought he was getting an exclusive photo with the jeep. Pixagogo direct photo link

At night our two chefs out did themselves with extravagant gourmet multi-course dinners. Angelo preparing perfect pasta Pixagogo direct photo link

The two chefs are soulmates Pixagogo direct photo link

Team Springbreak in front of the shipwreck Pixagogo direct photo link

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The following depicts the various wildlife and hazards on Fraser Island: Pixagogo direct photo link

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Pixagogo direct photo link We took to feeding the spiders the dastardly horse flies that followed us around the entire trip.

Pixagogo direct photo link oceanside highway

Pixagogo direct photo link Creeks form deep channels along the beach. This is what our orientation adviser had to say if we didn't drive along the waters edge where it was safest.

"You will hit the first one. You will not see it coming. You will not get to hit the second one. You will be going on the island and I will be staying here. Everything on the island is trying to kill you. You will all be going home in a helicopter."

Ranger Joe dangling his legs over the precipice while searching for sharks and turtles. Saw some small sharks and big sea turtles break the surface. Wasn't quick enough to get pics tho.

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The champagne pools. Gettin blasted. None of us came away without scraped up knees elboes and feet. Powerful waves pulled us from the sharp barnicle covered rocks dragging our feet and hands as we struggled to keep a grip.

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Ranger Joe catapulting into the water.
Big Dog Dave choosing a smoother entrance.
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Team Spring Break knows how to have a good time on the island and off:

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Last Great Adventure

Well, the trip is really nearing its close now. It's been quite the trip, met a lot of fun and interesting people and did and saw alot of amazing things and learned a bit about myself in the process, but it's not over yet. After I got back from the Whitsundays I took a midnight bus down to Fraser Island where I arrived today at 1pm. Was able to stretch out across the seats in the back of the bus and get some sleep. I was pretty nackered as I was still battling the tail end of my cold and so didn't have any trouble passing out on the bus.

This afternoon we had an orientation of sorts for the 4x4 galavanting we will be doing along the beaches of Fraser Island. The itinerary is set out for us because of the massive tidal variations (10 feet) so you have to be at certain places at the right time lest you get stranded. The guy giving our orientation made it sound pretty amazing. One of the beaches on the island supposedly is repeatedly rated among the top ten beaches in the world. There are massive sand dunes some which are at a 60 degree angle so we will either slide down them on trash bags or just run down them. I remember how fun this was to do in Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks of N.C. last summer so hopefully I'll have some fun photos to share from this last sandy excursion.

Basically there is about eight of us taking turns driving the 4x4 to various lakes and sights on the island and then we'll be camping at night and meeting up with other parties of people doing the same thing. We bought our own food for cooking and we just so happened to have two chefs among our party. Not a bad bonus.

Thanks again to everyone who has enjoyed my blog. It's been fun.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Great Barrier Reef

The Whitsundays: what kind of name is that for a conglomerate of small islands? honestly! "Out here on the Whitsundays, the whit of Sunday afternoons here is unparalelled." I dunno, the name bothers me. It's the area we went sailing around where a section of the great barrier reef can be found.

Anyway, even though I didn't get to dive and most everyone else did I still had a blast snorkling. Snorkling is really fun. At first it was a little scary, all that coral and those strange and quite large fish, and then suddenly I'd pass over the coral which is just below the surface and it would just drop off and there would be this great abyss suddenly before me and I'd just barely be able to make out the sea floor 30 or 40 feet down and for some reason it was a bit unnerving. Nevertheless I forced myself to learn how to free dive. At first the thought of diving down into the water toward the seafloor was unfathomable, but when another snorkler acted as if it was nothing to dive 20, 30 feet down I felt I owed it to myself to get over it and after awhile it became easier and easier and I learned how to equalize properly although sometimes my ears wouldn't equalize and I wouldn't be able to dive very deep. But the times when I did, it was really cool swimming among the coral, and diving deep into chasms and chasing fish. At one point I suddenly found myself among a school of really big, funny looking fish. They reminded me of the giant dope fish from Commander Keen 4! They were really big and well, dopey looking and had giant, goofy looking front teeth just like the one's from Keen! When the fish, even small ones, would eat at the coral, you could hear their teeth scrape against it. I almost touched the tail of one of the "dope fish". I was literally a millimeter or two away. But it's extremely hard to touch any of the fish because they just move out of the way at the last second even when there's tons of little ones swimming all around you. You cannot touch them no matter how hard you try. One big ugly fish was just sitting in a dark cravasse among the coral cleverly camouflaged with it's mouth open and a little fish swimming about inside. I came back about ten minutes later to see that he hadn't moved but there was no longer a fish swimming around in its mouth.

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I found the small fish to be just as fascinating as the larger ones. Watching them shimmer and swarm about was really neat. Found Nemo a couple times (clown fish). Didn't see any giant sea turltes though. :( It was like discovering a whole new world I never knew existed even if I saw similar stuff on the Discovery Channel. Real life of course doesn't compare at all. I felt pretty good about myself for learning how to snorkle properly. I didn't buy an underwater camera so I have no pictures, but I have posted some pictures of the fish I saw from Google.

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We walked among dozens of stingrays in the shallows of Whitehaven beach where the sand is white as snow and just as soft. I crawled along in the shallow water behind a small shark. Chasing the sharks was fun but it was entirely pointless as you didn't have a chance in hell. I was following one for about two minutes as it just slowly cruised along. But they could dart off like a sudden bullet if they wanted too. Very cool. They were only about a meter or so long (maybe 4 feet).

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Helping put the sail up.

The guy across from me couldn't swim and fell overboard. He managed to hang onto something on the side of the boat before the dive instructor jumped in the water and rescued him. At the end of the trip he finally got the nerve up to go in the water with floaty tubes and a mask to peek the world that lay hidden just a few feet below the surface.

Glorious sunset from the boat.
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I was reading a book about the youngest person (a 17 year old Aussie) to sail around the world alone without stopping and unassisted. It was really fun to read while sailing along. Just thought I'd share that. Reading the book made me want to plan a proper adventure for myself and maybe some likeminded friends?

The boatPixagogo direct photo link

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

We Interrupt this blog for a very important announcement [Updated]

Brought to you by

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Will the new Civic Hybrid beat the Prius in MPG?
Posted Sep 4th 2005 12:30PM by John Neff
Filed under: Hybrids/Alternative

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While perusing TCC's reports on the new Civics from Honda, we noticed a paragraph tucked away under the heading "The Hybrid" in which Honda says the Civic Hybrid will get 43.6 mpg in real-world driving, a number it claims will best the Prius's rate of 42.5 mpg. Of course, these are Honda's numbers, although TCC verified that an editorially owned Prius gets around 42 real-world mpg.

The EPA rates the Prius at 60 mpg city/51 hwy, while the new Civic Hybrid clocks in at 50 mpg city/50 hwy. Unlike the previous gen Civic Hybrid, this one received a whole slew of new hardware to help it conserve more fuel, including the ability to operate in battery-only mode like the Prius and regenerative braking that’s 170% more efficient. You can bet we’ll be monitoring the sales of the Civic Hybrid as compared to those of the Prius as soon as the numbers start rolling in.

Updated --> Now back to your irregularly scheduled blog. Been sleeping out on the deck like a beggar because the air conditioning was really exascerbating my cold and it's automated and you can't get to the plug to pull it out of the wall and there is no way to turn it off and the reception wouldn't turn it off for me. So because I've been sick for so long I am now very rushed to do the Whitsundays 3 day/3 night boat cruise on a racing boat - get to help put up the sail, too. Free scuba dive included in the package I bought. Won't be doing the scuba dive because persons with Pneumothorax (collapsed lung) are strongly advised against it and Queensland as the stricted scuba laws. Then it's off to Fraser Island to tool around in a 4x4 jeep which I hear is lots of fun. The first tour where we won't be babysitted. They give 11 people a 4x4 to go exploring the island on their own for three days, each person sharing the driving.

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Been taking a multi vitamin to help me get better. It's one of those natural ones so it's got like ginseng and ginko-biloba and I was really amazed at my ability to remember peoples' names! Even other people were impressed. Cause usually I hear a name and then I've lost it not five seconds later. Finished reading the first Harry Potter book while waiting to get well. Feel a little better today which is why I risked booking the boat for Friday (today is Thursday.) It hasn't been all that bad lounging around being sick. Have had company by other people in the dorm most of the time. Greg left yesterday who I was travelling with for a week. He's the guy I had the Mt. Sorrow adventure with in Cape Tribulation up north. Good lad. We had a good time.

Every night at the hostel bar there is a different activity they have going where people can sign up to win some cash like. Most of them require you being a girl, such as the jelly wrestling and wet t-shirt competition, but guys are allowed to sign up for the poll dancing. There's also a foam part where I guess the whole room gets filled with foam and well, I'm not exactly sure how that one goes. Last night was a wet t-shirt competition good for $500. Basically it consisted of ladies getting on stage, having water poured on their chests wearing ripped white garments meant to pass as t-shirts and then strut their stuff on stage where most of them completely removed their shirts and half of them went as far as to drop their drawers as well. Not bad for $5 admission. You would have thought some of the girls were strippers the way they worked it. So, yeah, there are worse places to get laid up in while recovering from the other kind of travel bug.

Pixagogo direct photo link The girl on the right won and the girl on the left was runner up. The voting was done via a decibel reader. The audience had to make as much noise as possible for the girl they thought should win and the one with the highest decibel reading was then chosen as the winner. It was a tie at 112 decibels until the MC told those who were cheering for both girls (like me and the english guy I was with) to only vote for one. 113 to 112 was the final score. Heh, why do I feel like I shouldn't be posting this.

Met a cool english chap from south London who has been keeping me company these lay-low days in paradise. He was trying to find a job on a boat and finally landed one today after stressing about as to where and what he was going to do for work. The guys that Greg and I got a ride down with to Airlie beach from Cairns were locals to Airlie Beach and were just having a 5 day getaway up north to Cape Tribulation. Very nice blokes, put Greg and I up in a tent that they were travelling with. So, yeah, I've got both travel bugs and while the nasty one I feel is finally leaving me I'm afraid I feel another 6 weeks in Australia is warranted before I'd feel really ready to leave, but I am looking forward to seeing the baby and snow and skiing!

I'm in Airlie Beach which is on the east coast of Australia about 800 miles north of Sydney.

I fly out of Auckland on January 25th at 7:40pm and arrive 12 hours later in Los Angeles at 10:30am on January 25th. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. (yeah, I can't quite work out how that works.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

No Tree in Middle-earth

or should I say New Zealand, can hold a candle to the LOTRificness of the trees in the Daintree rainforest up in Cape Tribulation where Greg and I were attacked by leeches.
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A baby wallaby rescued and reared by the campground owners when its mother died. There was a donation jar that looked like it had been donated to generously for the care of the animal which is hopefully going to be put back into the wild again.
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The oh so inviting and oh so deadly beach on the way up to Cape Trib. During the summer months, all the beaches on the northern half of the Australian coast are unsiwmmable except in tiny little enclosures made of netting to keep the deadly box jelly fishes out (ala the ones in "Finding Nemo")
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I'm sick (just a chest cold that keeps me from able to do anything) and don't feel like writing a blog so this blog is likely to be sub par. The leeches were bloody tenacious. Halfway up the treacherous Mount Sorrow trail suddenly the leeches were causing me to do a panicked version of twist and shout. We had to pry them off with our fingers and though they were just little ones they put up an impossible fight for their size. If it wasn't bad enough these leeches had to be tended to every minute, you could barely find your way through the rainforest because the trail was basically non-existent except for a few orange markings you had to keep a look out for. Furthermore, it had to be the steepest mountain I've ever climbed. Here is the damage the leeches did to an already existing cut on my ankle from the cheap sandles I bought that had been ripping up my feet.

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We were gonna sleep under the stars on the beach at a secluded campground up in Cape Trib (northeastern Australia on the coast in the rainforest) but as we were lying in the hammocks dozing in and out of sleep trying to fight off thoughts of the resident crocadile roaming about or the surprising statistic that coconuts falling on peoples' heads kill more people than croc or shark attacks we heard a giant crack of a cocunut falling from above and decided to sleep in the tent we had already erected.

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Me just cruisy in the back of an old '76 VW bus on the way down to Airlee Beach where I am currently awaiting my chest cold to vacate my rattled body. Takin' 'er real easy for the next couple days before it's off on the next great adventure... the Whitsundays on a yacht! White silicate sands adorn the spattering of islands off the coast of this little beachside resort. I will be snorkling and maybe do an intro scuba dive to see giant sea turtles ala the ones in "Finding Nemo" and the giant deadly box jelly fish. More on all that later.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A local guide takes us into the Rainforest

Nothing like a quiet retreat into the rainforest with just a half a handful of people after being on a boisterous tour bus for eleven days.

So a few of us from the quaint little hostel in Cairns on the northern part of the east coast piled into a local's teeny toyota two door. A very interesting chap temporarily living at the hostel imparted his local knowledge, wisdom and quite humbling and inspiring stories and experiences from his life and death after driving us out to a local swimming hole with some nice jumping ledges, butterflies and lizards along the way. Particularly interesting was the entlike tree that you half expected to stretch its roots out and start walking toward you. I didn't manage to get a pic of the large lizard in the forest though.

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So, yeah, bought a new camera and also got a memory stick for my video camera to take pictures on the fly while filming.

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Someone trying to cross the falls.
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Sunday, January 01, 2006

More Contiki Tour Photos

I believe this was Christmas Eve. Thanks Lindsay for the photos and lending me your camera on numerous occasions.
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Too close for comfort? Not quite. They get bigger. This one was prolly about 50 years old, but they can live up to 80 years and grow up to 22 feet or more.
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Our very cool tour guide Dan
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