Australia 2nd Postcard Home

G’day Mates,

Let me start by welcoming all the newcomers. Hello there. I now have over 120 of you on my list. Wow. I finally reread my last letter to you and couldn’t believe how many mistakes I had made. Sorry about that. I’ll try not to rush so much this time. It was also quite long and I will try and watch that too, but no promises. I just finished this and I already broke my promise. This one is longer than the last one coming it at 4 pages. Again, please forgive any errors. Thanks.

For those of you in the U.S., I am sorry to see all that is going on. All I can say is I hope you all stay safe and hope that none of you are directly affected by what is taking place now.

Well, I am writing to you from New Zealand. I am in Auckland. There has just been no time to write home. Well, I made it through all of the camping. It was interesting and action packed.

Animal Stories

While hiking in the Bungle Bungles at Echidna Chasm, we saw a yellow striped snake that was just about at my feet while trying to go through a narrow gorge. That was pretty exciting. We didn’t find out what it was till later and found that it was a poisonous snake but back fanged so chances are less that he could actually grab on. It was about 100 degrees hiking around so that made it tough.  One night, there was a tiny scorpion found under the mat where a girl was sleeping next to me. That was a bit weird but we were told they are not deadly. There are so many flies that are totally unavoidable, while hiking adn climbing and breathing very heavily through my mouth, I swallowed 2 flies within 15 min of each other. They just buzzed there way right down my throat. It was totally disgusting. I think the second one stayed in my throat for several hours. I just couldn’t get him down. It is pretty cool seeing the kangaroos running in the wild and the Emu’s.  They are funny creatures. We’ve seen many dead roo’s along the road and an emu as well. Some were being eaten by foxes and Wedged-Tail Eagles. At one firewood stop, I saw the full skeleton of a kangeroo completely intact. Hope the photo comes out. It is amazing at what becomes a photo op.

My 8 day camping trip was probably the most death-defying portion of my trip so far, although I believe New Zealand will challenge that. Some of you newcomers were on that trip so I’d love to know if you felt the same way I did. It started with painting our faces with ochre. I think it was to make us feel like warriors so we could finish climbing mountains, climbing down gorges like Knox and then getting to Kermits pool at Hancock gorge during the Miracle Mile. That was huge. It was so challenging and downright crazy, that I was only able to do part one and then go back up the gorge and then go to part three. I honestly thought I would be the one to die if I had attempted to get to poetry pool during the second section. I did scale a gorge wall though and I did a crab shuffle across a narrow gorge, and made it to handrail pool where you had to climb down a rope to the freezing cold water. That was a day. It was really exciting to see everyone come back in one piece. But apparently there were tears shed while trying and some slips and falls and many bruised body parts. I felt really accomplished at what I did.

Well that night we all read our poems around the campfire and that was really special. I got them all on tape and we had some pretty talented people in the group. I wrote a song to Copacabana and sang it. In the bus in the days that followed I also wrote a song about the trip to the Brady Bunch theme and Gilligan’s Island.

Water & Beach Stories

Coral Bay was amazing. I got to snorkel and swim with 4 manta rays for over one hour. It was fantastic. The water was really cold but so worth it. The coral there was really pretty too and the colors of fish were amazing. That night was a bit more difficult. I decided to try a 4-wheel quad bike and it was pretty cool until I crashed it into the bike ahead of mine. Everyone was ok but it made me really skittish. We got to open up on the wide beach after doing a trail of hills and so I thought no worries, until I lost control. I was right behind all the speed demons so they continued because they didn’t see what happened and I was way to far ahead of anyone else who was taking their time, so noone saw and no one was around me. I got it together and continued on and once again, tough to steer, lost control. This time I saw a drop over the sand and saw the bike turning over on me. It was really terrifying. It pretty much freaked me out. I put my foot down to stop the bike and my leg went underneath. Needless to say, I was quite bruised and my left foot, ankle up to my calf was quite burnt and bruised and let’s not talk about my pants. Although I sewed them up, they will never be the same. But I’ll have the burn marks on them to remind me of that nonetheless, exciting evening. Well, I’m still quite purple, black and blue but I am walking normal again now. I was really quite lucky. Well, no one was there so I climbed back on and rode ahead to meet the rest that had stopped at Oyster Bay where 1000’s of oysters were on rocks waiting to be split and eaten. Everyone feasted as we watched the sunset as I held ice to my leg. We rode back in the dark and I really was cautious although still hit my max speed for short intervals. I was still panicked a bit. A night I wouldn’t forget and probably would be my last 4-wheel quad experience.

Food Stories

They have some great “lollies” here. Candies are lollies. Life savers are in so many cool flavors here. They have a soda flavors pack, and my favorite is the one with 4 flavors in it: Lemonade, toffee apple, bubble gum and fairy floss

(cotton candy). I love the roast chicken flavor lays potato chips. I wish we had them in the states. I can live on the fresh, flaky steak pies. A nice crust, beef and gravy. Nothing else to taint the flavor I love best. (Although I like the pies here in NewZealand better). Bigger chunks of steak. They all cost around NZ$2.50 or US$1.06. It really is a full meal I definitely eat too many of them.

We sing all sorts of aussie songs in the long bus journeys like Waltzing Matilda,

Pub with no Beer, and everyone’s favorite the palm trees song.

Perth was a beautiful sight. Any city would have been terrific I’m sure. But I

did really like it. I liked it so much and didn’t see enough that I am flying

back there from Melbourne Dec. 18-Dec. 23. That should give me enough time to

see the SouthWest including the Great Wave Rock.

I took a train to Fremantle to see the prison. It was really cool. They gave a  great tour like Alcatraz does. The next day in Perth I took a boat to Rottnest Island where I saw several Australian Quokkas. Those are huge rat looking  marsupials for which the island was named, originally rat’s nest island. They were pretty cool. I was accosted there by 3 seagulls which literally stole my chicken sandwich right  out of my hand in 3 swoops. The first being as I ate my first bite. Along  with the onlookers, I was shocked and pissed. It was a $5 sandwich and I didn’t want to buy one again so I settled for an ice-cream bar.

I flew to Adelaide and then to Auckland. I Spent 3 days in Auckland exploring some of their nearby islands by boat and went to the Auckland Museum which is the best I have ever been in. I really enjoyed it. I saw a Maori dance  performance as well. It should surprise noone that I was selected to join them onstage and try the dance with the Poi balls. I did fine till they smacked me in the head. It was quite funny. I also went to the underworld aquarium and Antarctic experience where I saw the cutest penguins. It was fun. Still no shopping. It must be a record.

I ventured out to the IMAX theatre and saw a 3-D Haunted House Experience and then the story of Shackleton’s cross over the Antarctica. That was really interesting. The hostel has a bar with dancing or karaoke or movies so that has been entertaining. Then I took a 4 hour bus to the beautiful Bay of Islands. I spent 2 nights in Paihia where I went on a 6 hour boat cruise and saw dolphins, many islands and bays and went through the magnificent, naturally formed hole-in-the-rock. The whole boat went through. It was really great. The Maori art is really meaningful and significant. They symbols are beautiful and Paihia finally gave me my first shopping experience. I fell in love with a hat and a Koru. The Koru pendant I bought is made of bone and is in the shape of 2 round spirals that are joined. It means fresh start and new beginnings. It is really beautiful. The other symbol I love is a fishhook (it is very decorative). It means safe journey over water. My charm was a whole NZ$28 or US$11.83.

Back in Auckland I went to the zoo today, Thurs. and saw my first live Kiwi. It was feeding in the nocturnal house. There were Stuffed Kiwi’s at the museum. I also saw 2 other animals I had never seen before, the beautiful Nepalese Red Panda and the cute Meerkat. It was a nice day. Then I ventured 700 ft into the air to see all of Auckland. Wow!! It was a great day too. The weather here never knows what it wants to do. It rains or drizzles one moment and then the sun blazes out. It is a daily changing from sun hat and sunscreen to rain jacket. Today was perfect and didn’t rain till I was back at the hostel at 6pm. Perfect timing again. At the top of the tower (700ft), there are sections with glass floors so you just look straight down as you walk on it. It was really frightening. You know it is safe but you still place your feet on the normal floor covering and go around the glass. I kept thinking, how am I going to do a 440 ft bungee jump.

Well, I’m on my way to do it. I decided to leave Auckland at 7am for Rotorua. The rest of my journey in New Zealand from here on out will consist of bus trips, plane rides, trains and boats and cities that will take me where I never thought I’d venture. I’ll be white-water rafting, bungee jumping, sky-diving, aerobatic flying, zorbing (rolling down a hill in a ball with or without water and some are see through and some are metal) and God only knows what else my heart will allow me to do. Much of the other stuff I’ve never heard of before. I’ll try it all I hope. I hopefully will live through it all so I can share it with you.

I know it is time to let you go. I’m into the 4th page. Once I start it is so hard to stop. I know they are long, but I hope you enjoy the stories. It is great to share them. Please feel free to drop me a line and say hello and let me know how you are. I may not always respond but I love to hear from my friends. It means a lot to me that you keep me posted too.

Always in my thoughts and prayers.