Friday, September 28, 2007

updating my header

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mom is goofy

Sun rising over the Pacific and the Great Barrier reef. I have a whole slew of these that I am going to make into a .gif because when am I ever going back to do it again??

More pics and videos. Nothing edited because I am on vacation.

underwater pictures and videos

Yes, of course I have underwater pics. I bought a housing for my small camera. Too bad the batteries died and I had to rely on Mom's camera which was not meant for it. Hence the porthole pictures. I can't find my cord for the pics I took on MY camera, so those are yet to be published...

Cairns Day 2---Tuesday

We were picked up at 8am by Deep Sea Divers Den, who took us to their headquarters then out to their boat. We spent an hour or so travelling out to the reef, then had a chance to snorkel twice. Well, *I* snorkelled twice. Mom decided to try SCUBA diving. She did an intro lesson with her friend, Lynne and LOVED it. Seriously. There were tears. Apparently this was a longtime dream of hers that she never thought she would get to do. Anyway. Have you ever been snorkelling?? Yes, yes, I know you think you have. But you haven't. Seriously. I thought I had snorkelled in Jamaica and in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, but I so had not. There is nothing like the Great Barrier Reef. NOthing. THe colors, the variety of sealife, the sheer SIZE of the teeny part of the reef we saw. Absolutely amazing.

Surprise!!! Cairns Day 1 (Monday)

We arrived in Cairns right on time. It was not too hot, just very humid. We jumped into a Scooby Doo sort of van and drove over to the Traveller's Oasis, a sort of hippie, flowery, cutesy drawings and signs everywhere backpackers hostel. I like it. I will stay here next time I come. You have to share a bathroom, but the ambiance is cool.

After checking in, we headed up to the rainforest. We did the SkyRail to Kurunda, a cable car that is suspended over the tops of the trees and goes 7.5 kilometers into the rainforest. Very cool. There are stops along the way to sightsee and learn about the rainforest. Lots of waterfalls. A friend with us saw a kangaroo at the very beginning of the trip, but the rest of us missed it.

On the way back from Kurunda, we took the scenic train that was built back in the 1800s. A slow meandering trip back to Cairns.

That evening, we went to a BBQ put on by our hostel. For $10 we got kangaroo, crocadile, emu and sausage, along with a didgeridoo demonstration and hilarious contest. Money well spent! I tried everything except the fish (come on--you KNOW me!!). Kangaroo tastes JUST like beef, Crocodile is just like chicken--maybe a bit dry. ANd the emu was a little undercooked so I just had a taste--beefy to me!

All in all, a wonderful day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Okay. Paddling is done. Mom finished up with the Senior women in the 500m today. THey mixed up the two american teams (one from Portland mostly, one from Pennsylvania), and tried to get some new sparks in the lineup. They did improve their times and it was a nice experience for the two different teams to actually paddle together.

After the races, the coaches brought out some champagne for all and they celebrated and relaxed. We headed back to the hotel where mom and I packed our luggage, then out to dinner at the steakhouse next door.

We leave at 5:15 tomorrow morning for the airport. We are flying to Cairns at 7am, then hopefully catching a rainforest tour.
Tuesday will be spent on a snorkelling trip--we get picked up at 8am and will spend the night out on the reef. Wednesday afternoon, we head back to Cairns and relax for the evening, then fly back to Sydney Thursday morning. The rest of Thursday will be spent wandering Sydney, and we fly home Friday.

I will not have internet access (I am pretty sure) in Cairns, so this will be my last update until probably Thursday in Sydney. I will endeavor to take a million pictures of all things tropical in Cairns and on the reef and share them once I have a connection.

Until then.......
Final race with the Senior Women

Interesting fashions by the Aussies

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Well, blogger is not allowing me to upload pictures at the moment. I click on the browse button to tell it what picture I want uploaded, and that window just closes out. Tried it several times.

It is too bad, because I don't really have much to say today, and pictures are just so interesting.

Lots of paddling today. Mom raced the 200m for both the Senior women and the Grand Masters mixed. Neither medaled today, but they had a lot of fun and looked good out there. Tomorrow is the final day of competition, and she is racing with the Senior women in the 500m races. Afterwards, we may head into Sydney for some entertainment--plans are still up in the air at the moment.

The most difficult thing so far in Australia?? Remembering what side of the sidewalk to walk on! This is a drive-on-the-left-side-of-the-street country. Which means they also WALK on the left side. I keep running people over. Especially when I am leading Mom--we make a sort of two woman wrecking crew. And then, once I DO remember to walk on the correct side, some Canadian comes along and messes me up by walking towards me on my left side so I am forced right. Seriously--it is a problem.

The cars look so funny with steering wheels on the right side. I keep seeing little kids in the front left seats and it is a little freaky as we drive down the freeway.

Still no kangaroo spottings. I suppose we will have to wait to see them in the animal park at Darling Harbour next to the Aquarium.

Sorry about the subpar update. More exciting things to come, I am sure, so keep looking back for updates.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mom asked for a THIRD kiss from the official (usually you get one per cheek)!

Needless to say, they were excited about their medal. The way they were screaming and hollering, you would think they won gold! This was the first ever medal in a world championship for the Grandmasters team, and they were enjoying every minute of it. After a break for some rest and food, they held the medal ceremony in front of the grandstand.

Mom was so proud! The only "disabled"/blind athlete present--there was a group of school kids from a special needs school--most in wheelchairs for a variety of reasons, others with mental disabilities. I sat opposite the grandstands to photograph one race and these kids were racing around in their wheelchairs pretending to be paddlers. What a good example mom is setting!!

Sydney, Day 6

Another long day of paddling. We got a late start--didn't need to be on the bus until 11am, so mom and I headed out for some breakfast and errand running.

Once we were at the regatta center, it was on. Today mom was racing with the Grandmaster mixed team in the 500m. They race all teams three times, then take their top two times and add them together. The team with the lowest times after that win the medals.

USA finished third in the first race (Australia 4th), fourth in the second race (Australia third), and needed to be within .3 of Australia to win a bronze medal after the third race. They paddled hard, and when all was said and done, they posted their best time of the day and narrowly held of the Aussies for that bronze medal.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

For Ethan

I saw this today and I totally thought of you!!! I made mom stop and look at it. I have some other lock/funny doorknob pictures, but this is my most favorite, because somewhere out there, you are probably working on a BiLock right now!

Sydney, Day 5

Today was all about dragonboat racing. We got up at the crack of dawn and headed to the race site, the place where the 2000 Olympic water sports were held. Mom raced with the Senior women and the Grand Masters mixed in the 1000m and 2000m. In the 1000m, the Senior women placed 6th overall, and in the GM mixed in the 2000m, they were fourth overall, just 3 seconds out of the medal race. A good day. Especially when you think about the fact that they never practice for anything longer than a 500m race--their speciality. Tomorrow starts the 500m and 200m racing, and should be a medal contending day! These events final on Sunday, so keep your fingers crossed!!

We both were tired and worn out at the end of the day. It rained off and on and was sorta cold and windy. Seattle weather, really. We got back to our room around 630pm and ordered room service and putzed the evening away.

Plan for tomorrow--more of the same. But, we get to sleep in, since the bus doesn't leave until 11am (left at 7am this morning). Our continuing goal is to spot a kangaroo along the highway. So many people have told us they hang out there, but so far no luck.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bonus Skyrail video

Just cause it's sorta cool

Sydney, Day 4

This evening, we went to the opening ceremony for the championship. THere are 18 countries competing. Apparently there are 60 countries worldwide with dragonboat federations, and once there are 73 they can petition to be included in the Olympics as a sport. Pretty cool! They are already going to be included in the 2010 Asian games, which is a sorta regional Olympics for that part of the world.

We left early, since Mom fell asleep during the festivities. We stopped of at 7-11 on our way home to get some bottled water for tomorrow, then up to bed. The bus leaves tomorrow at 0645, so we have a long day ahead of us.

Wish mom luck!!

I got up early and headed out for the train station. After purchasing my Chai, I got an explorer ticket that included an all day pass on the hop on, hop off bus in Katoomba.

The train took about 1.5 hours to get to Katoomba. I brought along a book (which I finished) to pass the time.

For some reason, I am compelled to wave when videoing myself. Seems like the right thing to do at the time, but a bit dorky on playback.....

Katoomba was a teeny tourist trap sort of town. Located right next to the Grand Canyon, it is dominated by hotels and tour shops.
I jumped onto the double decker Explorer bus, and headed out. I got off on stop 10, which gave me access to a bunch of trails for some hiking (or bushwalking, as they call it). All in all, I walked up and down at least 5 miles. A billion stairs and walkway areas and some muddy areas to boot. I have to say, this was a very well maintained trail system. Nice wide trails, steps hewn into rocks or built in out of wood or metal to make steep areas traversable. Very nice.

I saw numerus waterfalls, viewpoints, trees and some wildlife. A couple exotic looking birds, then the skyrail roaming overhead. Lots of mud and foliage and a minimum of bugs. Did not see a single spider other than a teeny red and black daddy long legs. For some reason, daddy long legs bugs do not freak me out the way all other bugs do. Anyway.....

After finding my way to the bottom of the canyon, I was pooped. I took the Scenic Railway back up to the top. This is the steepest railroad on earth--over %54 slope at it's peak!! Here is a long and boring video of my ride...

At the top, I purchased tickets for the Scenic Skyrail and flew 244 meters over the canyon floor. After my return ride, I had a quick lunch in the cafe, then realized that I was running really late so I caught the Explorer bus to the train station and headed for Parramatta (home).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

After the Japanese garden, I headed over through Darling harbour. I browsed the tourist shops and ended up at a restaurant with seating right on the harbour edge. I had a wonderful meal. It was pumpkin soup and chicken saay. I had a beer. I LIKED THE BEER!!! It had absolutely no aftertaste, no bitter finish to it. I will attempt to procure one to sneak home for Ethan to share with me. I don't remember the name, but since I am saving all my receipts I know the name is on there.

After lunch, I did some more browsing and window shopping and walking around and eventually went to a ferry wharf where I caught the ferry to Circular Quay, where I spent most of Sunday. The ferry went under the Harbour Bridge, and I could see people doing the BridgeClimb (for $180 a head!!) From there, I caught the rush hour train back to Parramatta.

Mom and I went out with a few paddling buddies to an Italian restaurant for dinner, but I was still so full from lunch I just got an appetizer.

Tomorrow's plan?? Get up early and catch a train to Katoomba and the Blue mountains for some hiking and picture taking. We have the opening ceremonies for the paddlers in the evening, then competition starte Thursday.

Pictures taken today:152 (mostly at the Japanese Garden)
Lesson learned: Puma is the biggest sporting company ever. Seriously. EVERYONE is wearing puma shoes, shirts, bags, etc, etc, etc. Not a hint of nike or adidas. All Puma.

Sydney, Day 3 summary

Darling harbour is cool. I stopped first at the Japanese Friendship garden, which is supposed to be one of only a very few Japanese gardens not actually located in Japan. $6 to get in, but well worth it. There are paths all around, with signs telling you the meaning of the placement of trees and plants and stones around you. Buildings and pagodas are positioned just so. Very calm, relaxing place. I saw a bird (I think it is a Cassawary),and go all excited, taking all sorts of pictures. It was not until later that I realized that these birds are sorta the Australian version of the pigeon. Everywhere and annoying. Oh, well. He really fit in nicely in the Japanese garden.

I also saw a monitor lizard. Extra cool!! Not everywhere, not planned. They do stock the water with huge gold and white koi, but the lizard was there on his own.
So this morning....what did we do.

Mom and I wandered outside aroud 0730 looking for a place to eat breakfast. Mom had very specific requirements, but after, searching high and low we found no cafes that had oatmeal.

We ended up in a small cafe where mom got a bowl of fruit with yogurt over it and a cherry danish and I had a ham and cheese croisant with a cup of chai. Really nice stuff. We headed over to the mall afterwards, because Mom needed a beach towel that said Australia on it, a boat hat with a string tie, soy milk, fruit and water. We found all of that, and after mom tried on a million things in the Billabong store we left. The grocery store was actually located on the fifth floor of the mall. How weird is that??

Once the shopping was compete, I set mom up with the laptop so she could check her email, then headed out. I caught a train headed for Sydney and got off at Central station, the closest station to Darling Harbour.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just for Ethan

Look who came to Australia with me!!! Red guy and Green guy!!!!

Did yours make weird beeping noises???

For Steve

Is this not the stupidest, most pointless thing you have ever seen??? How exactly is THIS supposed to work??

Sydney, Day 2 summary

Pictures taken:44 (I know, I suck)
Subjects in pictures :1. I will let you guess which....

Some stress and irritation (and no, I DON'T mean mom), and a pretty relaxing day once all was said and done. This afternoon while mom was at practice, I headed over to the local mall. There is a grocery store on the 5th floor,and I really wanted to get my hands on some Vegemite. See what all the hoopla is about. I wandered the aisles and saw lots of wierd foods, or at least foods that don't look like they do in the US.

The rest of my afternoon was spent fixing the internet on the computer (seriously took over an hour), unpacking clothes, since we are in this room for nearly a week, and just relaxing. A little scrapping of my tickets and receipts (thanks for the idea, Davinie), and just overall restfullness.
We went to the steakhouse next door for dinner (where mom was asking them if they had any pasta dishes or cooked vegetables.......Hello??? This is a steakhouse?? She settled on a big salad. I had a baked potato, and they looked at me funny when I asked if anything more than just butter and sour cream could be put onto it. Oops. Stupid American tourists........

Sydney, Day 2

My morning started early. Very early. I set my alarm clock for 5am, but I woke up at 4 and was up for the day. I putzed around my teeny room and packed up my things, finding homes for my purchases and redistributing things I did and did not need in my camera bag/purse/take with me everywhere bag.

At around 0515, I headed out. I walked the half mile or so to the Harbour bridge and took pictures all the way across (same as yesterday) of the Opera house as the sun came up. When will I ever get to do that again???

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped a payphone to call Ethan. I still have over 3500 minutes left. They give you these cards with a billion minutes on them, but still get you in the end because you have to insert a 50cent piece into the phone before it will work--calling card or not. They are telling me it is 90 cents to call from my room, so I think I will be cheap and continue my calls from the payphone in the lobby.

Back in the hotel, I showered, finished packing and head up to the lobby to check out. My shuttle was scheduled to pick me up beween 0745 and 0800, for an arrival at the airport no later than 0830. At least that is what we had agreed upon.

After long minutes of me stressing and pacing and eventually even calling for a taxi, my shuttle finally showed up. At 0830. Knowing it was a 25-30 minute ride to the airport, I was less than thrilled. We got there about 5 after. Mom and her team were nowhere to be found. After some asking, I found a GoWay representative who actually had a sign with my name on it. I didn't see the sign until I had already spoken with her and she had ascertained who I was-I just picked he right person to go up to and ask if they had seen a large group of Americans wandering about together. Anyway, the team was gone already, but she gave me a map of where they would be picked up by the bus after the walking portion of their tour.

I took the train downtown, then found a sidewalk cafe and ordered a Chai and settled in to wait. The group came around about 30 minutes after I arrived. It seems that their tour had been changed, unbeknownst to them, to leave at 0730 instead of 0900. So I would have missed it no matter what. But I WAS still irritated at the shuttle driver....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Day one in Sydney

Lots of pics and stories. I would put up more pictures but it is taking over 5 minutes to get each of them loaded in. To tide you over, here I am atop the Pylon museum. Jealous yet??

After crossing the bridge, I went to the Pylon museum, located appropriately enough on the south east pylon of the Harbour brigde. Cool views, great stories. And cheap.

After the pylon, I walked through the Rocks area, going to the sunday market. Very cool. Bought myself a freshwater pearl bracelet for $45 AUD (about 38USD). So pretty! I also got a very cool scrapbook albut, I think it is about 8x12. It has thick chipboard for a cover with the shape of Australia laser cut out of it so a red paper shows through. I guess I know where all these pictures are going to end up!!

I wandered around, had a chicken wrap at the Opera House bar located right on the water, then went inside to hear the Australian National Orchestra in concert. It is really nice inside, with hardwood floors, but the chairs are covered in a bright bubblegum pink fabric that kinda takes away from the majesty of it all.

After the concert, I was TIRED, so I headed back to the hotel by ferry, rather than walking through town and across the bridge again. I checked into my room, attempted to get onto the internet and failed. So I put in the Lord of the Rings movie I brought with me, and fell asleep at 7pm, shortly after it stopped. I woke up, stopped the movie, put the laptop away and finally got some good sleep.
The joy of the bridge?? The view of the Opera house, of course!! I took a million pictures of it. Here are a couple (unedited)

I walked a few blocks to the Harbour bridge, then climbed up the stairs to cross it. It is pretty long, and very cool. There are dozens of security cameras everywhere, with security guards who patrol in 24/7. Talking with one of them, he said they started that after 9/11. Really a nice service, though. He told me it was safe to walk there after dark, alone. More on that later. They wear glow in the dark green colored jackets you can spot a mile off. They don't really glow, but they are very bright.
From the train station, I caught a ferry to the Kirribilli wharf. I had to wait about an hour, so I bought a Chai and a muffin. There were several trains I could have taken earlier, but they put me much farther from my hotel than the ferry would, and my suitcase and bags were heavy!!

It was only about 2 blocks from the ferry to my hotel, Glenferrie lodge. The hotel looked like I imagine the Burrough in Harry Potter books does--mismatched, built up over time in several different styles. I like it. I had an economy single room, but it was too early to check in (930am), so I put my luggage into a storage locker and headed out.