Monday, February 27, 2006

brisbane check-up

when you do the east cost of oz in a wicked, there is a mandatory van check-up in brisbane. so, here we are, waiting for our van to be checked while checking our emails (free internet is such a good idea, thank you wicked!).

the thing is though, the mechanic keeps hitting one of the van all over with a metal hammer. that can't be right, can it???

Sunday, February 26, 2006

sydney to brisbane

so david and i have started our roadtrip to the tip along the east coast of australia. i had been looking forward to this for so long, especially for the liberty of going and stopping where and when we please. it's quite a luxury after 6.5 months of being dependent on other people for transportation! although technically that is still the case for me, it seems that driving ourselves around has proven to be a little more complicated and frustrating than expected. we're working with a map that's not detailed at all, meaning that half the time we're going into a small town i can't give any directions because i have nothing to go on. we've also had a few issues because of that trying to find our free rest stop for the night... but it's all part of the fun i guess! it's really much better than i've just made it sound to be. i swear!

so our wicked really is wicked. we've got the jimmy hendrix van, which kicks ass and says "ridin' down the highway of desire" in the back. it may not be as good as another van we saw that said "ride the punani" but heck, it's hendrix and that rocks! we've spent two nights in it so far, and it does the job quite well. of course it's not luxury, but i've had much worst beds on this trip!

we started our trip with the hell of getting out of sydney and then made our lunch stop in... toronto! yes, that's right! i saw it on the map and we just had to go. it's a small mining town near a beautiful blue lake... same same, right? then we took a beach break in newcastle (birth town of the 90's band silverchair) and got sandblasted while walking the shores. a really nice town with the first stretch of golden sand on this trip. that night we slept at "ayer's rock", a rest stop along the highway with a building shaped like uluru and washrooms closed for renovation. that night we ate lamb steaks in a balsamic sauce with a great salad. not too bad!

the next morning was the first time that i had to urinate with kangaroos watching me, 5 to be exact! all staring in my direction (somehow a lot less intimidating than urinating in china, but just as distracting!). they were so cute, joeys and all! so i told david to get up so that he could see his first kangaroos. after some pictures and big smiles we ate breakfast and headed out to the surf town of crescent head. there we had lunch and watched locals battle the rocks to get to the waves. we made our first attempt at a night spot in alstonville but they had changed the rules about overnight stays and so we parked the van in the rest area near bangallow on the side of the highway. it was kinda noisy with all of the trucks going by but with this spot being so far away from any big towns i got to see the most stars i have ever seen in my life. it was just incredible! the milky way was stunning and there were stars filling nearly every inch of the 180 degree of the sky. i never knew stars could show up so low in the sky...

today we drove into famous byron bay, only 8km away from where we spent the night. today is david's birthday: he's now 26! we're celebrating his birthday by visiting two surf towns (here and surfer paradise) and by spending the night in brisbane for some good food, good drinks and a good night sleep. right now he's shopping for a board, as a present to himself. hopefully he'll find a good deal somewhere!


on driving on the left side of the road:
david has been quite good at adapting his driving to oz. at first he kept saying that it was really weird but now he seems to be quite alright with everything, although we did end up driving on the wrong side of the road again today! haha. at least now he's mastered the "signalisation-wipers" issue (they are inversed over here)... at least, i think he has!

Friday, February 24, 2006

bye bye sydney

it's a scary thing when you can go to a big city and spend a few days there and feel like you've seen enough of it already! that has kinda been the deal with sydney. it is clean, beautiful and all but i can't wait to get out and see what's out there! thankfully we pick up our wicked van tomorrow morning and david will learn to drive on the left side of the road, hopefully taking us to cool places up north and not into a ditch or an incoming car!

i think that it's really cool that we have no plan (aside our return date of the 15th) and that we can pick up and go where and when we want. it will be the first time for me on this entire trip, and i bet it will feel weird yet very, very nice. i can't wait to stop in neet places along the coast, chill in secluded beaches and play frisbee or take a nap somewhere along the way. of course we won't only stay in camping grounds, as they are usually not close to the action but we'll do a little bit of both to keep us on our toes. maybe even stalk the "oz experience" bus for a good time on the town!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

back to oz

well, i am back in australia again. the border officials were much easier on me this time: i got no questions and no inspections even after declaring that i had food on me, had been on a farm in the past 30 days and had dirt on my shoes.

the flight over was wonderful, emirat airline was even better this time with tastier food and i even had the entire row to myself. as we approached sydney though it started to sink in that i was going to meet david and it started to get nervous, emotional, the whole 9 yard. my heart was beating fast and i got so nervous that i gave myself heartburs. silly me!

it was great to see david and it's great to travel with him now. somehow it feels like we never had 6.5 months appart. and the added bonus is that it makes me look even tanner to travel with such a white guy! haha.

we'll be spending a few days exploring sydney and then will rent our van and drive up the coast to take on what the lonely planet calls one of the top 10 road trip in the world. can't wait!!!

Monday, February 20, 2006

goodbye new zealand

today i am saying goodbye to the north island, which has been my home for the past 3 weeks. i have had a wonderful time, much better than expected even and i have quite fallen in love with this country. i can't wait to return for many months, and see the whole thing properly! the kiwis are very friendly and a little crazy, which makes them even better. and i've met so many great people, and have done and seen so many things... both on and off the bus. i never tought i'd join one of those tour busses but i did, and i'd do it again! (conditions apply).

of new zealand i will miss:
- tip top ice cream, can't top that!
- pizza! there has been a revolution in kiwi land with the good ol' pizza and it *needs* to invade the rest of the world.
- never being further than 1.5h away from the ocean.
- amazing sceneries and all that stuff.
- the people!
- nz fish and chips, so fresh and so good!
- the urge to kill the wildlife (see bellow).

new zealand population:
people: 4 million (1.3 million aucklanders, aka, jafa)
sheeps: 40 million (used to be more...)
possums: 80 million

never in my life have i ever been so encouraged to kill wildlife by everyone including environmental freaks. if you come to nz, they will gladly give you a gun and ammo to go run ammok in the forest and shoot every single possum and deers as you find (you can also go for rats, rabbits, anything with 4 legs really). see, new zealand is a very weird country that evolved with abselutely *no* mammals asside from 2 species of bats. everything else has been introduced and is killing the wildlife. possums (thanks aussies) are the worst and go through some crazy amounts of tons of forests everynight. as the locals say: if you see one, kill it. if it's crossing the street, run it over. funny because the only ones i've seen in this country were roadkill.

last days on stray

after leaving the surf town of raglan, the stray bus headed to waitomo for some serious caving. as some of you might remember, i'm not a big fan of caves. to me they all look the same in the end... and the trips you can do there are quite pricey. so while everyone went off to do black water rafting (which i had done in laos, although i'm sure the one there was much, much better) i joined the "granny" tour, aka the least expensive cave tour. waitomo though has one thing going for it: glow worms. these little creatures shit glow in the dark poo that illuminates the roof of the caves and i have to say that i was blown away by them. slowly cruising on a raft in a cave in pitch darkness with a glow-in-the-dark green ceiling was magical. obviously the pictures turned out like crap but the magic is all in my head. i have to say though that the guide we had was wonderful and she made caving a whole lot more interesting. the caves were also really well presented and the one that was illuminated was quite pretty. way to make caving fun for once!

we then made our way to rotorua, the capital of smelly. see, rotorua is on the of the few places on earth where the earth crust is thin, and by thin, i mean very thin. the whole city sits on geothermal grounds and stream comes out from everywhere... along with the wonderful smell of sulfur. the whole place is on a big volcano, just waiting to blow. and sometimes, if the pressure builds up too much, steams blows up a road, a house... anything! it's really cool though, because in some spots you can touch the earth and feel the heat, stamp the ground and make it shake. ok, that last one is kinda scary! but still.

that night most of us went to a maori cultural night at slim's, an ex driver for kiwi experience. that was costly but worth it. the girls (aka, we) got to learn how to use poise, these balls on a string thing and it's a lot harder than it looks. the guys learned some maori war dance thing and then we all had a go at this stick game they have. all of these things are war-related, mostly made to make you more fit with suppler writst or better vision. not easy though! we then ate some good food and watched/participated in a play about their culture and traditions. a lot of fun! later on we all went to the hostel bar for too many drinks... and some serious bonding!

the next day i visited a thermal village and it was my first time ever on a real aboriginal village anywhere and i have to say that i quite loved it, was taken by the culture and the traditions and the passion. made me remember why i studied anthropology! made me want to stay there and just learn and learn. our bus then went to taupo, the city located beside the world's largest crater lake (this country is all about volcanoes and their eruptions!). i tagged along to watch fellow travelers skydive and it was really cool to watch. kinda made me want to have a go at it! but money and extreme fear of heights got in the way of things... oh well! and then, more bonding over cheap beers and table dancing... hehe!

with 4 hours of sleep and a hangover, i was still super, uber excited for where we were going next: the tongariro crossing. the national park (that's what it's called, as it was the first national park in nz) is unesco protected and one of the few sites in the world to hold both a cultural and environmental status with unesco. the entire hike takes 4 days but we hiked a section that takes between 7-9 hours as stated on the sign. some in our group did it in 5h, i did it in 6h36.11!!! but i did take two 30 minutes breaks and took far too many pictures and movies of the place. i have to say that the tongariro crossing was the best hike of my life, with incredible views and changes in scenery. mt fuji is an active volcano but nothing like this one. this one was fuming, smelly, like a volcano should be! along with beautiful lakes, deserts, etc. for the lord of the rings fans: you walk right beside mt doom. anyhow, i'm super happy i've done this hike and can't wait to do it again one day. i think i might have also appreciated it a lot more considering how fit i've gotten backpacking... i was breezin through the rough sections, running uphill, downhill, just smiling the whole way through!

so some did it in 5h but 2 of our group did it in... 11.5h. they decided to hike mt doom but didn't tell anyone, which led our bus driver to wait for them at the end of the trail for hours and for everyone to worry. the cops were called, but thankfully search and rescue didn't have to be sent after them!

the next day, yesterday, was the last day. the express back to auckland. i didn't want to go! didn't want off the bus, didn't want to leave the group, didn't want it to end. it was all very sad really... they had to kick me off the bus! haha. i'm just kidding. but i had to cheer myself up with some ice cream. and a tacky picture of myself in hobbiton. yep. that's right! sight.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

north island bliss

i've been doing the pete tour of the north island for a couple days now and i have to say that new zealand is abselutely stunning, incredibly beautiful and i wish that i could stay here longer. cathedral grove, the coromendel, raglan, just gorgeous. lucky for me i'll be taking back with me as a souvenir a lot of salt water that i swallowed and snorted yesterday as i learned to surf on the beach featured in the cult movie endless summer. surfing was loads of fun! but my entire body hurts now!

tomorrow i go caving and check out glow worms, head to a maori dinner and performance. the next day involves lots of mud and the day after a volcano walk. then, it's back to auckland... time flies! it's so sad.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

sexy sexy!

i've been back in auckland for the weekend just to attend the sexual fantasy / house warming party my kiwi hosts paul and giulio were throwing.

this wasn't like some lame ass dress-up party i've been to back home. most of the people were dressed to the theme and actually made a big effort with putting together rockin' outfits. from micheal jackson to police officers to cheerleaders and trannies they had it all! top it off with great tunes and a wicked light system in place the party was a blast. but how do you know that a party is a great party? when the cops show up of course!

anyhow, it was really cool to party in a house instead of in a bar for once. and a dress-up party too! i guess that it compensates for my lack of costume on halloween in cambodia! i just love doing things like this, where you ask yourself how many other travelers would be able to say that they've done that while traveling and know that the answer is "not many". priceless stuff!

nurse magalie


wild dolphins in paihia, north island, new zealand. they love to turn over and take a look at you! they're so curious! so beautiful...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

top choice!

god, i haven't done an update in so long and now i'm so far behind! it's quite crazy. i hate doing that (getting behind) because then it seems impossible to catch-up and you end up with many good stories and impressions untold, or worst, forgotten.

well, i have now been in new zealand for over a week, slowly discovering the top of the north island. i've been learning the lingo and all of the proper ways of saying things but it still gives me the giggles sometimes (not out loud though, i don't want to offend!) and i haven't really had the courage to start talking like a local. i'd feel like such a poser! i'm sure i'd get it all wrong anyhow... though with all those "bro", "top choice" and "sweet ass" it's hard to get confused.

but no, i haven't just been sitting around registering new ways to say things! thanks to my lovely kiwi hosts, i have walked the streets of auckland, kicked back on a beach, swam in a freezing cold ocean, relaxed in thermal hot water pools, discovered that summer in new zealand = early summer temperature for us but that the sun can be a torcher, listened to local tunes at the groove in the park festival with over 20000 other jafa (i won't translate that one!) and have met some wonderful people. as well, i have booked myself on a hop-on hop-off tour bus with stray and have started the first leg of the trip by going up north. by doing so i can now say that i have been to the northernmost point of NZ, i have seen some gigantic trees, snorkeled with huge snappers in really chilly water, ran up and down sand dunes and have seen dolphins as close as possible when babies around.

new zealand is a stunning country, with hills as green as the sky and sea are blue. somehow the light is always just right, and the setting sun always licks the top of those hills in an incredible way. i just love the driving around involved in getting places. everything is just so perfect looking, the even have "scenic reserves" that include any piece of land, from farms to forests.

too bad my toes are frozen right now!

Friday, February 03, 2006

fly emirate

the flight from sydney to auckland was the sweeter flight ever. emirate airline is like flying in the highest level of luxery, except that you don't have to fly first class or pay lots of money for it. i was expecting the same level of quality than i got from japan airline but emirate just blew every airline i've ever flown on out of the water.

the seats are super comfortable and well adjustable. you even get a foot rest. the food is wonderful too, lots of it and tasty too. but the best thing is their tv system. it really made me wish that this was my flight home. they offer over 400 chanels of music and 200 movie chanels. new releases, classics, and still in theatre movies. really good stuff! i watched walk the line, which was a great movie that i've been wanting to see for a while now.

the only downside was a delay before take off and a delay at arrival, but both were to no fault of the airline.