Thursday, March 14, 2013

All Things Opera

We woke up to the Sydney Opera House out our window. Spectacular.
Then I thought, hey, the bridge must be on the other side! I grabbed my camera and took who knows how many photos of the sun rising over the Opera House and twinkling on the bridge.
But first order of business was to find our friend Patti, who had just recently arrived back home!
We found a bus that took us to the Woollara District and started wandering around Queen Street where her husband had told us she'd be staying. And with a little bit of luck she was having coffee outside and surprise!!, your uninvited guests have shown up!!
Later in the day we toured the Opera House and then decided to see Orpheus in the Underworld in one of its final showings. What fun to see the Opera in its finest setting! All in a day's work!







Melbourne

I didn't come all the way to Australia and not get to see a Kangaroo. And the day I was flying down a mountain everyone went and fed cute baby kangaroos by hand.
So of course during a parade that apparently rivaled the Rose Parade according to accounts, we drove out to an animal sanctuary called Serendip.
It was pretty cool. We were literally the only ones there at 9:30am, wanting to beat the tour busses we knew were coming.
Here the wildlife were truly in their own environment. And we just wandered on foot through it. With nobody else around. We kept looking at each other and saying or thinking, "is this okay?" Man, even we have been mind melded into "nanny think".
After this we headed back into town to Albert Park. Normally a beautiful expansive lake (Olympic Rowling), Aquatic Center, (Olympic Swimming), and park grounds. But this week they are setting up for the first F-1 race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix. We were able to walk and then drive the track. Pretty cool.
We met some folks from our boat wandering around the track, and picked them up and we returned together.
Parade or no parade, it was a special day.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mount Wellington Descent

As we were waiting for our Mt. Wellington Bike Descent, a gentleman pulls in bleeding from the head, mouth, and shin.
I am now wondering if this is the activity of choice for me. I am looking around and everyone seems to be 20 years younger and fit. But I hate to spoil a good "almost died" story, (remember our family mission statement - comedy is just tragedy plus time), so I soldier up and get in the van.
We stop along the way to pick up a couple and the gal looks in the van and says, I get car sick, can I sit in front?
My hopes go up that I might not be the only "special needs" person in the group.
When we reach the top the view has cleared and is stunning. But by the time they get the bikes off the trailer it's raining an icy rain and very windy.
They warn us about slowing for curves and our lead maniac takes off down the hill.
You are immediately on the brakes, hard, which are of course on the opposite sides from the US. But it didn't take me long to get used to, and I was squeezing with everything I had.
After the first stop I put a gap between me and car sick gal and a couple of other ladies. I was beaming by the next stop not to have been "in last place".
But alas, now came the off road portion and the group was split into two groups.
Those going off road and the chicken shits. And I was the only chicken shit. In my defense, it was still raining, and I was half soaked. But I didn't want to be the only one riding on the road back, so I pissed the group off and went along around the gate into the abyss.
I went last and let car sick girl even go ahead of me. I was not going to let some wet rocks get the best of me.
I made it out alive with such confidence that I zoomed out on the next leg in front of a more daring lady who then disobeyed the rules and passed me on a very tight, blind corner.
I felt good through the last legs. Maybe it helped that my glasses had so much rain pouring off them that I was not really seeing all the obstacles. Rocks, roots, and gravel to name a few. I decided to try a leg without the glasses and that proved to be a mistake, the front tire was throwing so much water I was swallowing a muddy mix and squinting off to the side to just get through it.
Last leg was through the busy streets and nobody was giving up. So I hung in also. Then at the last corner, at the intersection where we were to stop "blind corner passing girl" hits the brakes, skids and falls, almost sliding into the stopping point, just in front of a busy restaurant.
Hmm. Paybacks are hell, with interest. I guess you could say that is less our mission statement and more a motto.
When I say we were wet and muddy I don't really think that describes it. And add freezing, with wet helmet hair. My shoes, socks, and underwear were wet also. So of course, Mike wanted to go for a beer.
I stood up at the bar not wanting to sit in my wet cold disgusting underwear and ordered an espresso martini. I doesn't get much better than that.



Friday, March 8, 2013

Tasmania

We arrived last night in Tasmania. An Australian island with a population of around 300,000 people.
To our "luck" someone aboard our ship needed to go to the hospital so the Captain put the pedal to the metal and we arrived 12 hours early allowing us a night out on the town! The pier area seems to be a very happening place, which we never would have known if not for someone else's really bad "luck".



Out On The Ocean Blue

Yes, the ocean seems to be pretty blue. And a little rough but the Milford Sound was pretty righteous.
Surprising how "busy" we were while just motoring about. The highlight being sitting alone in the Canyon Ranch Spa hot tub at the bow of the boat, completely alone, watching the blue go by, while 800 of our closest friends apparently did something else.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Akaroa, New Zealand

Dressed ready for our Sea Kayak day, we set out into the charming town of Akaroa. Dotted with early opening shops and restaurants our meeting place was at the end of the village.
When our guide arrived he informed is that a Southern wind was threatening and it wouldn't be safe to go out.
So we packed that plan up and took a dolphin spotting cruise. With the seas being so rough the swim with the dolphins option was not available also. That could have bee so cool. Swimming in the sea with wild dolphins. But looking at them swimming around the boat was pretty neat also!!

Wellington, New Zealand

First order of business today was a spectacular Helicopter ride over the coast lime of Wellington.
When we first knew that we were changing to this trip, the Seal Coast Safari got great ratings for things to do, but was booked solid.
Mike brushed it off saying, we see seals in the backyard, that's okay.
Today we found South Coaster Heli Pro just down the water on Queen's Wharf.
We took off in a Euro Copter A-350 and zoomed across the rugged coast line of New Zealand. What a trill to be sitting in the front seat watching the sweep rowers, Dragon boats, and Safari Jeeps slash across the landscape.
Soon we landed where the Seals might not be due to high tides, but found the rocky beach harboring several of the large beasts.
On our departure our pilot eyed a large school of dolphins and our pilot took a steep angle of approach and circled back around several times for our viewing pleasure. What a treat.
Mike and I shared copilot duties and hopefully some of the photos will be worthy of the album.
But the best part of the trip was sharing the ride with a dear elderly lady that had this on her bucket list! And her family was waiting, cheering her beaming face on!!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bike 'de Vines

We found Zoe on-line. She meet us right at the port and drove us to the Unwind Cafe. She fitted us in bikes and we set out on a tour of some wineries. We found ourselves basically alone on the limestone bike trails that lead us to each tasting room. Everyone is so knowledgeable about their wines! And we found the wines very nice, but most are very pricey.
We were either just ahead or behind the "Mustang Club" outing. Where these "speciality cars" are allowed to have left hand drive.
Of course we had to chat them up a bit.
And just across the road was a go kart track with a gold cup race going on. Mike of course had to stop in and offer a wrench or two!!



Auckland, New Zealand

So apparently New Zealand is going through a bit of a dry spell. Seems California isn't the only place that hasn't had any rain since December.
So the lush green hills that we were expecting are a lovely shade of ochre. Reminding us of the rolling hills foothills of the Central Valley.
This did not stop any enjoyment of our time spent on Waiheke Island, just a 45 minute boat ride from Auckland. We rented a motorcycle just a short walk from the ferry and found a craft brewery and several wineries to stop and taste, take pictures, and eat.
Saratoga was our first stop. We weren't able to meet the owner, but were told he is from Saratoga!
We also made a photo stop at Te Whau Vineyard Cafe where the views couldn't have been more beautiful on this day.
Then on to Stonyridge. Where the wines were fine, and the prices were higher than K-2.
This island is set up for wine tasting. With winery hopping buses leaving right from the ferry terminal.
Everything is expensive on this little island, except the real estate.

It's a Work Out

It's fairly easy to get on the erg machine. And they only have one available. Not a popular workout here on the ship.
But you know what will keep you on the treadmill is Sudoku. 20 minutes went by without me even noticing!!
Mike thought it might be interesting to sign us up for a spin class. Only freaks apply. But we both made it through the class, only Mike sweat for two hours afterward!! He said it actually helped his back feel better. He's off to the acupuncturist at the moment with the promise that he can be helped.



It's a long ride.

Rented a car in Mount Mainhanui and headed out to Lake Taupo. It was a long drive where we took a Jet Boat ride mid way through and a tour around Paradise Valley.
Ended up visiting the home of Ex-Stocktonian "Flying Freddy Merkel" at his home at the highest point in the Taupo district. Overlooking idealic rolling hills with grazing horses, sheep, and chickens.
 
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