S: Australia and New Zealand - January 2009
FC: January 2009 - Australia and New Zealand
1: Friday, 1/16/09 : Leaving the FREEZING COLD Midwest for summer in Australia! | Scott's carry on - all the necessities... beer coozies and books.
2: We arrived in Sydney on Sunday morning. 80 degrees and sunny. We took the CityRail to the Sydney Marriott at 36 College Street. The hotel is right across the street from beautiful Hyde Park. The park has over 580 trees!
3: Unpacked and took the bus to Circular Quay and onto a Ferry to Manly Beach. Beautiful scenery, the Sydney Bridge, Harbor, Ocean! | Lunched next to the Beach! Summertime and the living is easy!
4: We took the Sydney Explorer around the city, walked through George Street Market. After a long day, we took a recommendation to go to BBQ King, a Korean restaurant "only 3 blocks" from our hotel. Instead, we ate at City BBQ, which we figured out AFTER we cooked our own food and didn't see any of the specials that had been recommended! Now it makes sense!
5: Monday, 1/19 We took the Wonderbus Day Trip to the Blue Mountains. 1st Stop: Featherdale Wildlife Park
7: Blue Mountains and Three Sisters with our Tour Guide, Rae
8: We bought wine in Katoomba, and ate lunch at a golf club. Photo op at Sydney Olympic Park. Took ferry back to Circular Quay. Dad, Scott and Katie had dinner at a fancy schmancy restaurant - mom slept!
9: Tuesday, 1/20: Scott and Katie did the Sydney Harbor BridgeClimb first thing in the morning. Mom and Dad took a picture in front of the bridge at the time we were supposed to be on top. It was a very cool experience. Not scary, but a great view! Mom and Dad went to the Royal Botanical Gardens while we climbed.
11: Next, Bondi Explorer to Bondi Beach. Did the Coastal Cliff Walk to Watson's Bay, & lunch overlooking the water. Dinner at Bill & Toni's Italian Restaurant.
12: Wednesday, 1/21: Bondi Beach Icebergs Pool & Sydney Aquarium. Dad almost lost his hat! Ate dinner at I'm Angus Steakhouse at Cockle Bay Wharf.
14: Thursday, 1/22: We rented a car and drove south on Grand Pacific Drive to Royal National Park. Scott & Katie went swimming at the inlet at Wattamolla. So pretty! We stopped at another beach that had crazy waves - we could barely go swimming!
15: Lunch in Coledale at RSL Club. Beers at Five Islands Brewery in Wollongong. Stopped in Kiama, where Scott went swimming in the very cold water, while Mom and Dad went to Gerringong to do laundry. | Appetizers @ Yianni's Cafe. Dinner in Wollongong at outdoor greek restaurant!
16: Back in the US, Obama was inaugurated on Tuesday, and it was in all the papers and all over the news. Interesting to see it from another country's viewpoint.
18: Friday, 1/23: Mom and Dad headed to Cairns, and Scott and I took Air New Zealand to Auckland! We rented a car upon arrival and drove to Hotel Mecure @ 8 Customs Street. Went to Viaduct Harbour, where Scott was part of a Hen's Night Out, and we met lots of students studying in New Zealand. People were very friendly, and wanted to talk about Obama!
19: Saturday, 1/24: We took the SeaLink to Waiheke Island - including our car! The ferry ride was breathtaking, and the views only got better! | Lunch at Passage Rock Winery, and drove around the island, taking in the views!
20: Waiheke Island is truly one of the prettiest places on earth. We took in the views, swam and ate. We then stayed the studio at Waiheke Lodge - a totally sustainable bed and breakfast. Very cool!
22: Sunday, 1/25: Ferry back to Auckland, and then drove to Rotorua. The town is full of natural springs and smells like sulfur. We ate a late dinner and went out. Met a really fun couple from Ireland and a Kiwi and stayed out much too late. So fun!
23: Monday, 1/26: Went to the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua. Rated one of the best spas in the world! Got massages and relaxed in the HOT natural baths!
24: We then went to Orakei Korako, "a world of gushing geysers, hot springs, bubbling mud pools and some of the largest and most amazing silica terraces in the world..."
27: Monday Night: A lot of places in Rotorua were closed, so we got very lucky - we found a DELICIOUS restaurant, Bistro 1284. Later, we went to a maori bar.
29: Tues, 1/27: We drove to Waimangu on our way to Tongoriro. Took a ferry around and saw amazing thermal activity that film cannot capture. We'll have to remember!
30: After Waimangu, we drove to Taupo, where we had lunch and shopped. (And got a parking ticket!) Lake Taupo is beautiful. | Biggest sushi rolls ever. Notice thumb to roll comparison.
31: Driving in NZ isn't too rough on the eyes...
32: KIWI CROSSING! Really, kiwis only come out at night, and most NZ'ers (AKA Kiwis) have never even seen one! We made it to Bayview Chateau Tongoriro at Mt. Ruapehu early enough to walk outside and take it all in.
33: We got upgraded to a suite at this gorgeous hotel, had dinner, and played snooker with a tour guide staying at the hotel. (Katie beat Scott.)
34: Wednesday, 1/28: We woke up early and the bus picked us up to do the Tongoriro Crossing, a 11.5 mile hike that took all day. Just beautiful. That day alone could fill its own picture album! It was a lot of work, but well worth it. Definitely an experience we'll never forget!
36: The first portion is flat - Mangatepopo Car Park to Soda Springs. We followed waterfalls that ran down old lava streams.
37: There is a very steep portion known as Devil's Staircase, and then a flat part where you can see Red Crater. Some (crazy) people climbed to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe..
38: You actually had to go DOWN a STEEP hill of scoria (lava stones) to get to the Emerald Lakes. Probably the scariest part of the hike. As you can see - beyond worth it. If we ever are lucky enough to go again, we're swimming in Blue Lake.
41: (Frodo's Home )
42: The rest of the hike was more flat, with great views of Mt Pihanga and Lake Rotoaira to Lake Taupo. We walked in a very lush region, following a waterfall to Ketetahi Hut. We took the bus back and had a very low key evening of dinner and more snooker. Tired is an understatement!
43: Mount Ngauruhoe Thursday, 1/29: Drove back to Auckland, flew back to Sydney, arriving at 5:30 PM. Parents arrived around the same time. Finally had dinner at BBQ King! Never got up to Sydney Tower, no shirt, no shoes, no service!
44: Friday, 1/30: Last day of our trip... Took the ferry to Manly Beach. We swam, had lunch at Kelly's Beach Bar and shopped - all under a blue sky and summer breezes!
46: Friday night we had tickets to "The Burlesque Hour... She's Back" at the Sydney Opera House in the Studio. We will never forget it! A bizarre and hilarious evening with lots of nudity! Not what we were expecting, but fun. We stopped after the performance at an outdoor restaurant near the Opera House for dinner.
47: After dinner, Scott and Katie watched the Australian Open on a huge outdoor projection TV in Circular Quay. The match was between Nadal and Verdasco and lasted over 5 hours. Australians love their tennis.
48: Saturday, 1/31: Longest van ride ever to the airport. As the plane lifted off at 3:15 PM, a single windsurfer escorted us down the runway. Goodbye Austrailia!