Tuesday, September 30, 2003


Up about 9:00, Kristin and I went for breakfast, then I just laid around about until about 11:00, then I went to our old hotel and booked a room. Got the same room I was in last time. Kristin and Scott got a new room, this time with a seat on the toilet!

I headed to Matahari department store to look for a 220 volt to 110 volt convertor, but found nothing. Stopped at another spot that might have it, but the guy said I'd probably have to go to Denpasar. Also stopped at a tourist place and got more information on white-water rafting.

Back to the hotel, and Kristin and I went and booked our white-water rafting, 250,000 rupiah each, about $41CDN. We spend about 2 hours on the water.

Kristin and I went shopping for a while, I bought some shorts, Kristin bought a bunch of stuff, then we headed to the Bagus restaurant for the 3:00 showing of "Dumb and Dumberer", which was dumb. Never finished watching it.

I went for a haircut at 5:00, then Kristin and I headed for "downtown", where the main Matahari department store is, walked around, I'm on the lookout for a converter. We ate at an expensive (by Indonesian standards) restaurant, I had an amazing clubhouse sandwich. Then we walked back to the hotel, stopped at a payphone so Kristin could try to call her honey using her calling card, but no luck, so we went to a long distance phone place, and she called him at 10,000 rupiah/minute, about $1.60/minute.

Back to the hotel and did nothing, went to bed.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Really Short Journal...

I got up about 9:00, showered, had breakfast, Kristin and Scott got up after 10:00. We headed to the beach with Scott's Japanese girls at about 11:30. I left about 2:30, Kristin shortly afterwards. We showered, then we went for something to eat and checked out rafting in Bali. All the tourist places have it at 50%. She went to watch "American Wedding" at a restaurant at 4:30, and I hit an internet. I went to "Bad Boys II" at a restaurant at 7:30, but couldn't hear anything, because I was relegated to a back table right beside the road, with all the loud motorcycles buzzing past. It sounded like it was a good movie, because the audience in the theatre that the guy videotaped it from kept laughing. I got back to the hotel about 10:00, and Kristin was asleep. I went to bed too. Scott got home about 4:30AM.

And that's it!

Sunday, September 28, 2003


Up at 9:00 or so, had breakfast, then showered, then just lounged. About 11:30, I headed to AJ Hackett to check out the free bungy jump offer. Kristin came with me. It was what it said, a free bungy jump, no strings attached, so I got weighed, went up to the top of the tower, they attached the bungy to me, and I jumped, screaming. This was only 44 metres, over a swimming pool in a resort, and not nearly as much fun as the Nevis Highwire I did in New Zealand (it was 134 metres). But it was still good, because it was free!

Kristin and I headed back, she bought a bunch of belts on the way back, and a bracelet. We got back about 2:45, met Scott who was just heading to Aquarius Hotel to meet up with his Japanese girl friend (as opposed to girlfriend). Kristin and I had lunch at the great restaurant that has awesome lasagna and pizza.

My neck is peeling horribly, and Kristin is all red and sore.

Scott joined us in the restaurant, and asked us if we wanted to move to Aquarius for a few days, about 50,000 rupiah each (little over $8 each). Very nice place, air conditioning, pool, free breakfast.

Paid our bill at the other place and packed our stuff and moved into a triple at Aquarius.

Kristin and I went swimming in the pool for a bit. Ran into Greg and made arrangements to see him tonight too.

Kristin and I went for a long walk around Kuta looking for Scott, and whoever he was hanging out with. Couldn't find him, so headed to Greg's hotel about 8:45, he wasn't there, then we ran into Scott and went to Bailey's (a guy Scott met) place, ran into Greg, and a bunch of us headed to the contruction lot roulette place. It's funny, a local sets up a simple roulette board, and a bunch of locals some and gamble every night in a contruction lot. Too funny!

They all gambled a little, then to a restaurant to meet Scott's Japanese friends (he spent two years in Japan, and speaks fluent Japanese), then to the Bounty Ship. Left there about 1:00.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Surfing Safari!!!

Up about 9:00, when Kristin came into my room and squirted water all over me. Had breakfast, then showered.

We headed to the beach about 11:30, Scott and me rented surfboards (with lessons) and Kristin got a boogie board.

Two surf guys took Scott and me out into the water, and gave us some simple lessons on how to do it, lay flat on the board (on your stomach), facing towards shore, when a good wave comes, start paddling, then, when you've "caught the wave", stand up. It took me a few tries, but I caught on quickly, and in no time, I was surfing quite easily, no balancing problems or anything. Scott was another story, he tried for an hour, and still couldn't stand up, and gave up. My problem is, trying to catch the wave, I can't paddle fast enough to "catch it" right most of the time. And getting OUT to the waves is most of the battle!

Stayed at the beach for quite a while, Kristin got a good burn. We walked around after, checked out a tour of some other parts of the island (waterfall, monkey forest, etc.)

Went to a restaurant for late lunch, then lounged around.

Sat around with a couple of Americans, then walked to a parking lot roulette table that one of them new aboutm, but it wasn't open yet (the local told us 8:00 it'll start). I decided to go watch "American Wedding" and get something to eat.

AFter the movie, met up with them, they lost their shirt; well, $5 or $6. Went to the Bounty Ship, and some guy handed us a free bungy jump pass from AJ Hackett, just up the beach. Kristin and I home about 11:00.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Kristin and Scott Arrive

Up about 8:15, slept great, despite my sunburn. Had breakfast with Amy and Claudia, then showered.

Walked around a bit, then back to my hotel at 10:00, Maria wasn't around. I thought I was free. I was chatting with Micky (Indonesian friend of the Canadians) and Amy, and Maria comes walking up. I said Hi to her, and then said, "Sorry, I can't go with you today, my girlfriend arrived early.", and introduced her to Amy. Maria asked Amy when she arrived. Amy was on the ball, she replied early this morning, and said she was very tired from the flight. Well, Maria looked kind of disappointed and said, "I go now", and left. I felt bad, actually.

We all sat around outside their room, chatting and they started giving me stuff they didn't want: their leftover toilet paper, antibacterial handwash, and the aunt gave me her Canadian beach towel!!! She said if I don't take it, she'll just give it to someone else. So, I got a big blue beach towel with big, red Canadian flags on it.

At noon, we went out for lunch, and the aunt paid, I tried objecting, then back to the hotel and I helped them take their bags to the waiting truck.

About 3:00, walked down the main street and waited for some guy to say "Transport?" to me, I asked him how much to go to the airport, he said 15,000, I offered 10,000, he accepted, he handed me an eggshell helmet and I climbed on the back of his bike and he whisked me away to the airport.

Kristins and Scotts plane was late, supposed to land at 4:00, didn't arrive until 4:20. The finally made it out about 4:40, we got a taxi to my hotel and they booked a room there.

Kristin told me, as we were driving into Kuta from the airport, with all the small shops, motorcycles driving on the sidewalks, everything in disrepair, and chaos all around, that she was thinking to herself, "What have I got myself into?" She was expecting some Cancun-style, massive multi-million dollar resorts.

Just outside our hotel area, there is a bunch of ladies who grab your hand, ask your name, and then try to give you a gift of a leather bracelet, for free they say. I've always pulled my hand away, and not taken the "gift", knowing there is some sort of catch involved. So, as we're walking past, they try to grab mine, I pull it away, but they get Kristin and Scott. They put the bracelet on Kristin, being all nice, then take her by the hand down to there shop. Scott and I are standing in the street, watching her get taken away. After she disappears into the shop, we follow and she's sitting there, grin on her face, being pampered, as about 5 ladies are braiding her hair, giving her a manicure and pedicure, and painting her nails. They usher Scott in there too, and they start giving him a manicure. Well, I'm thinking to myself, if Scott and Kristin are doing it, I might as well too, so I allow them to sit me down, one of the girls comes over to me, and gives me a manicure. Near the end, the money subject comes up, and with all the commotion, I do remember hearing Kristin getting upset, too much, and I remember her saying she's "pissed off". Scott is getting sucked in as well, but I manage to barter my price down from 150,000, where she started, to 80,000. Anyway, Kristin paid 350,000, Scott 150,000 and I paid out 80,000. And that was Kristins and Scotts first lesson in the SE Asian economy! They always want your money first! Scott was totally pissed about the whole experience. Whereas Kristin, after we left, was happy as a lark, she was really impressed with the little flowers they put on her nails, and said it was worth it.

We walked to the beach, Scott bought some shorts. Back to the hotel, Scott and Kristin settled in, I played with my MP3 player, then about 7:30, went for supper and then to the Bounty Ship for happy hour and karaoke. Kristin did Guns & Roses, "Sweet Child O Mine". Karaoke here is neat, the band plays along live with you, no recorded music, and you even have live backup singers!

The toilet in Kristin and Scott's room has no toilet seat!

We then went to Paddy's, next door to the Bouny Ship, and stayed there most of the night. Scott left about 1:15, Kristin and I left about 1:45, then used an internet, then home after 2:00 sometime.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Maria, Oh Maria

Up about 7:45, showered and had breakfast. Breakfast is usually included in the price of a room when you get accomodation in Indonesia. At my new place, it's sliced fruit (pineapple and banana), tea, and this very tasty, sweet pancake-like thing rolled up with a banana in the middle, fried up a little. It's very delicious.

About 9:40, headed to Greg's place, knocked on the door and waited about two minutes for him to open it up. He looked very rough, I asked him if we were still going on the day trip today, he said no, then I told him to go back to sleep and I left, laughing.

At 11:00, I went to the beach and went swimming. The water is fairly cool. Huge waves, lots of surfers and flags everywhere warning people not to swim too far, because of dangerous currents. Went back to hotel about 1:00.

Back at hotel, showered (no hot water at this place), then went for lunch at a cheap restaurant, then to an internet place. As I was using the internet, I was the only one in the room and an Indonesian girl came in and sat in the cubicle next to me, and started totally chatting me up, asking me where I'm from, where I'm going, asking me if I want to take her with me, etc. She says she's a student, studying tourism and hotel management. She then starts asking me out, she wants to meet up with me, tonight, but she has class from 5-9 tonight, so tried to make a date for about 10:00 tonight, I told her I couldn't, I was meeting up some friends this evening and going out, but maybe I would see her out tonight. Then the guy working the internet comes into the room, and she shuts up, and puts her finger to her mouth to indicate to me to be quiet. After he leaves again, she then starts on tomorrow, I tell her I can't tomorrow, I have to meet my girlfriend at the airport at 4:00, so then she tells me tomorrow morning, she'll pick me up at my hotel at 10:00 tomorrow morning. I'm, like, fine, ok, tomorrow morning, and she waits for me, so she can find out where my hotel is. So, after I finish using the internet, we leave, and she drives me back to my hotel on her motorbike, and when we get to my hotel, she asks what room number I'm in, but I don't tell her, I'll just meet her out front tomorrow morning at 10:00. I then ask her what we're going to do tomorrow morning, she says she'll pick me up at 10:00, then we'll go back to her place, and "blah, blah, blah" (that's what she said!), then at 4:00, I can go to the airport. So, she's quite excited, and I'm like, ok, either she wants to get with a foreign guy and wants sex, or wants money for sex. Actually, I don't think her intentions were "bad" in any way, and I actually do believe she is a student, like she said. And she wasn't unattractive, either. Her name is Maria. Hahaha, too funny!

So, I have half a day to figure out a way out of this one. I figure I'll probably just not show up at 10:00, or perhaps meet her at 10:00 and tell her that I can't go.

So, I walked around for a while, back to my room and tried to sooth my burning, painful sunburn (from today...very sore!)

About 7:00, went to a restaurant showing Tears Of The Sun at 7:30 (crappy quality!), had supper and watched the movie. Back to the room about 9:30, and I was laying on my bed in pain, and someone knocked at the door. I didn't answer, paranoid it was Maria. Another knock. I waited a couple of minutes to make sure she was gone, then I peeked out the window, and no one was there. I then went outside to see if I could see her, and Greg was standing talking to the other Canadians (the ones with the towels). It was Greg knocking at my door. He was like, he thought he heard something inside when he knocked, and the worker guy indicated to him that he had just seen me go into my room a little earlier, I told him I was on the toilet.

Anyway, these three Canadian girls, two from Ontario, and one from.....Saskatchewan! The fifth Saskatchewanian (actually living there) I've met! She's from Wapella, near Whitewood/Moosomin, that area. She's going to U. of R., took a semester off, and is travelled to Bali with her Aunt and a friend the aunt's. Amy is the student, Claudia is the friend, not sure of the Aunt's name. They also have an Indonesian friend, her name is Nicky, that the friend has known for quite a few years. The aunt and her friend has been to Bali a few times before, it's Amy's first time. She's 19, and very attractive.

We all sat around (including Greg) and talked about lots of things, like the ghosts that apparently haunt some of the hotels near where the Bali bombs went off, and travelling around Indonesia, travelling to other parts of the world, etc. I then decided to tell my Maria story, and that's when I told Greg that I didn't answer because I thought it was Maria. Then the Aunt pipes up, and says that Amy could double as my girlfriend tomorrow morning when Maria gets here, just tell Maria that my girlfriend got here on an earlier flight. Amy said she would "save me" tomorrow morning. So, there's my way out.

We sat around and talked until about 1:00AM, then to bed.

Greg's friend, Hayden, as I've mentioned earlier, has an Indonesian g/f called Tanya. Greg (and I) assumed it was a rather sexual relationship. Tonight, Greg told me that it's not. Greg found out today. Apparently, Tanya has a boyfriend, and is on the verge (sp?) of being engaged, but she's scared being all alone in Bali (her sister is arriving on Friday), so latched onto Hayden, and they are staying together in Hayden's hotel room, but all Tanya wants is someone to have around, for security. There's no sex. And, I guess she's very, very demanding of Hayden, and expects Hayden to buy everything for her, they go shopping and she buys lots of stuff, and Hayden pays for it, they go out to expensive restaurants and Hayden pays. Hahaha, Hayden, what a goof!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Cheap Accomodations

Up about, well, 10:30ish, showered. Greg dealt with his room. The hotel booked his room to someone else, and had nothing else available. They called back a little later, and they had a cancellation, so he had to move another room. I think he's paying, probably, $75-$110/night for the room, because he made a remark that the deluxe rooms were $125US.

About noon, we moved all our bags to his new room, it's one king-size bed, he did say I could stay with him, crash on the floor, if I wanted, but no, I'll move to this cheap place. The bathroom is pretty bad, but oh well, then went and got my bags and took them to my new place.

One of the rooms in my new place has two towels drying out front, one has a bunch of maple leafs on it, the other is bright red and says "CANADA, Proud to be Canadian". I wonder where they're from.

Wrote in my journal, for a while.

Walked around Kuta for a bit, then went to McDonalds, then walked along the beach for a bit, then lounged in my room, trying to keep out of the sun. I don't need layered sunburns.

About 7:00, I headed over to Greg's, and hung out with him while we waited for Hayden and his new Indonesian-London girlfriend (from Indonesia, working in London, here for a holiday). He picked her up at the bar last night. The four of us went out for supper to a place, Tanya (that's her name) wanted pizza as well, so we went to the Maccaroni Club, an expensive restaurant/lounge with a chick DG mixing tunes, but not loud. The Maccaroni Club is architecurally really neat. Totally open-air, the DJ boot is a concrete "box" above one of the bars, so everyone can see. Very cool lighting as well.

After that, about 10:30, I decided to head back to the room, against the peer pressure to stay out. Made arrangements to go on a day trip to some sights around Bali tomorrow with Glen and Hayden and Tanya.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Prostitutes and My Birthday!

Up about 8:00. Greg has a hangover, he partied until about 4:00AM last night. I showered, and went for the huge buffet breakfast at the hotel (included with room...almost all accomodations include some sort of breakfast in INdonesia), then walked to the beach and walked all along it. Lots of locals trying to sell everything from sunglasses, rings and tattoos to marijuana, hash and "pretty ladies". They are always discreet with the latter ones. I ended up buying a pair of sunglasses, and paid way too much, 50,000 rupiah, about $8CDN. He started at $1, then I asked him how much rupiah, and he said 350,000, I tried telling him $1US is not 350,000 rupiah, then he replied, no $1 Balinese dollar (which doesn't exist, it's a gimmick) to get you look at his stuff for what you think is cheap.

Got back about noon, then watched TV for a bit (Greg still in bed), then swam in the pool for a while, the sat outside on our balcony and an "information" guy started chatting with me, trying to sell me tours and whatever.

Went in search of cheaper accomodations, because Greg was maybe moving, he wasn't sure. Cheapest accomodations I found was 30,000 rupiah, about $5CDN. It's certainly no 5 star hotel, but it'll do!

Used internet for a while, I had an e-mail from Kristin, her and Scott will be arriving in Bali on Friday about 4:00PM, so I'll meet them at the airport. They are booked into the Aquarius hotel.

Back to the room, Greg and Hayden (a good friend of his, also from Melbourne) were there, we sat around and had a few drinks (home made) in the room, then out by the pool, then we went for supper, had a gross hamburger (as all hamburgers seem to be in SE Asia), then went to a bar that was actually featured in the Australian version of 60 Minutes. What's special about this bar is it's pretty much a brothel, filled with prostitutes. Greg and Hayden decided that in the interests of Australian-Canadian relations, they would try and set me up with one of the hookers, and they would pay. The jackasses! So, we're having a drink in there, all the Indonesian girls (except the ones that have already latched onto the few other guys there) are looking at us. Finally Greg movies tables and starts chatting up two of them, and tells them it's my birthday today. I went along with it, then the two girls, and one more moved to our table, and each kind of picked one of us to be with. I'm kind of talking to the one sitting beside me, and finally she asks me if I want a massage. Now, a massage in this place is not a massage. It's a "massage". I tell her no thanks, she is persistent, trying to get some business, and keeps asking me why I don't want a massage, cheap for me, I keep saying no thanks, then she finally lsays, "You not like me? That why you no want massage from me?" I started telling her it wasn't her, and that I had a girlfriend coming to visit me in a few days. She starts apologizing, saying sorry, she didn't know. Soon after that, she ditched me for another guy that had just come in and was standing at the bar!

After that, we headed to the Bounty Ship, a BIG bar/dance club built to look like a ship. Very cool. All the workers (bouncers, bartenders, waiters and waitresses) are all dressed in captains uniforms. We started chatting with 2 chicks, Norwegian and Swedish, then the two girls and I went next door to Apache, a jazz club with a live band.

I ended up getting home about 2:30. Greg didn't make it home until about 4:00, he figured.

Greg had a credit card problem. He tried to withdraw money from a bank machine, but couldn't, it wouldn't accept his transactions. He tried about 10 times or something. Last night, he called his insurance company, and they gave him the 24-hour phone number of the bank he's dealing with, so he called them, and found out his card had been cancelled. Someone had got his credit card number and tried to charge $2000 dollars worth of stuff to it yesterday. He had some money left over from the last time he was in Bali, so he could go on that for the time being. Anyway, this morning, he called the bank again, and ends up, everything is ok. His credit card number was not stolen, the bank saw a charge to a company called balidiscover.com (where Greg had booked his hotel through), and they got paranoid, and when they saw a bunch of withdrawal attempts on his card, the stopped it. They told him he should have called them and let them know he was going to Bali, and he's mad at the bank, because he DID!

Monday, September 22, 2003

Ahhh, Bali!!!

Up at 6:45, showered, packed everything together and left the hostel about 7:15, walked to the train station and caught the train to the airport. Got there about 7:40, and had to wait half an hour before baggage check-in for my flight was open.

As I was sitting waiting, a giu sitting beside me said, "So, how did you like Australia, Todd?" I was startled, this guy knew my name, I turned and looked at him to see if I recognized him, I didn't. Then it clued in, he saw my name when I was writing up my Australia departure card.

As I was going through customs, the customs guy was telling me how awesome the surf is in Bali right now, it's "full on" he tells me, huge breaks, the best time of year for surfing, but it might be a little dangerous unless you're experienced. I told him I might take some lessons.

When I got to my gate, I was browsing through a shop there, and heard my name paged over the intercom, to come to the desk at gate 57. I was kind of concerned, what could they want with me?? Is something wrong? I walked over to the desk, and he asked for my passport. At that point, I knew something wasn't right, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I handed my passport over to him, and he looked at it, then remarked that I had dropped my boarding pass, that was all. That's what was wrong...I had my boarding pass in my passport, and when I handed him my passport, the boarding pass wasn't there anymore. I walked back into the crowd, and a guy remarked where I had dropped it, he picked it up for me and gave it to the desk people.

The flight was about 6 hours long. They showed two moview, "Interstate 60" and "The Italian Job" (the new one). I was going to see that in the theatres, good thing I didn't!

I'm sooo happy, back in SE Asia. It's great! Lots of shops selling everything from "F*CK Terrorists" t-shirts, necklaces, pirate DVD and CD's, massages, postcards, and everything else we've become accustomed to in SE Asia. I LOVE IT HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Restaurants showing pirate DVD's, millions of motorcycles (with no helmets!), sand, sun, run-down infrastructure, lots of tourists, just everything about SE Asia is soooooo amazing!! I LOVE IT HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahhh!!!!!!!!!!!! Wish you were here, Court! I'm so happy right now! I'm not going to want to go back to Australia in a months time, I know it!!

I was sitting beside a guy from Melbourne on the flight, we shared a taxi from the airport to Kuta, the beachside town where the Bali bombings happened last year. They are redeveloping "ground zero" now. Actually, this Aussie guy paid for the taxi ride. He had a reservation at a hotel, and he had a twin room, and he offered for me to stay at his hotel, I was going to find my own place, but decided it was getting late (5:00ish), so decided, and asked him how much it is, and he tells me not to worry, he's paying. So, I'll leach off of him for as long as I can before Kristin and Scott get here. He's rich, he bets on sporting events for a living, and he made over $100,000 last year. Yes, it's all legal betting (or so he tells me).

And once again, I'm a millionaire!! I withdrew 1,000,000 rupee (sp?), which is a little less than $200CDN, or thereabouts.

So, we're at a pretty nice hotel, I have no idea how much the room is, but that's ok, we've got a TV, satellite, pool, etc. Not a bad place. It's nice to back in SE Asia, and not have dorms too. I do suspect it's more than I can afford, though, if I were staying here myself. It seems more swanky than other places.

We walked through ground zero, and down Poppy II street, which runs to the beach, and checked out the beach, nice beach, and tons and tons of surfers catching waves. Even for late in the day, the beach was packed.

We headed to a restaurant for supper, I had chicken fried rice, while watching a pirate copy of Final Destination II.

Then internet!

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Back to Sydney

Got up about 7:45, showered, had breakfast, etc. Walked to the train station and got the 9:25 train back to Sydney, but the train terminated at mmmm, I forget somewhere, because of track work, and everyone had to get off and get on busses for the rest of the trip to Central Station. Busses took a little bit longer, but not much.

Got back to Sydney about noon, walked around downtown, picked up a Let's Go SE Asia book, the same one Court and I started with way back in January. We ditched it after we finished SE Asia, thinking we wouldn't need it anymore, but here I am, needing it again. Oh well.

Back to hostel, The Pink House, and checked in, got my stuff out of storage, and up to the room, and unpacked everything and repacked everything that I would need for Indonesia. I'm leaving behind stuff I don't need, extra sweaters, long pants, lots of socks, my Australia travel book, etc.

I also called Flight Centre's toll-free number, for after hours emergencies, and talked to a lady who said she would confirm my flight for me, no worries. Excellent!

Went to a restaurant for supper, and decided to treat myself, and got a New York cut steak, it was awesome.

So, it's Sunday evening, and I leave for Bali tomorrow morning, my flight leaves at 11:05AM, I have to be there 3 hours ahead or so, so who knows when I'll be able to update again.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Wentworth Falls

Up at 7:45, because I had to catch the 9:15 shuttle to Wentworth Falls. Showered, had breakfast, made a couple of sandwiches for lunch, then walked up to the bus stop and got the shuttle to Wentworth Falls (the town).

Hiked to Wentworth Falls (the waterfall), an absolutely huge (as in height) falls, essentially broken by a ledge half way down, making an upper and lower falls. Best falls I've seen here. Also saw Weeping Rock, Queens Cascades and Rocket Point Lookout, then followed the Wentworth Pass along the valley floor. Had to take Slacks Stairs to get down to Wentworth Pass, a series of stairs, although ladders would be a more appropriate term.

Hiked along the bottom of the ridge, then turned down the Vera Falls trail, and saw a sign posted that said the Vera Falls trail is "rough and indistinct", and not to continue unless acoompanied by an experienced guide. Cool! So I took it. The trail split a few times, but I managed to find the falls. Very nice one. Huge struggle getting back, the trail was very steep. Then up through the Valley of the Waters, the trail goes past a bunch of waterfalls, very nice, then crossed the river gorge at Lillians Bridge over to Peppers Fairmonth Resort, and got there about 1:35, tookk me about 10 minutes to figure out how to get around to the front of the resort. It's huge. Then waited for the 2:10 bus back to Katoomba main street.

I needed to call Air Paradise and confirm my flight to Bali on Monday, but I have no idea what they're number is, so decided to stop by Flight Centre in Katoomba and get a number, but they were closed, closed at 1:00 on Saturday. So, I used internet, and got a phone number from Air Paradises web site, it was a Melbourne number, and called it, and just got a recording saying I didn't call between business hours, and the message gave me another number to call for arrival and departure confirmations. I called it, and all it is is a recorded message indicating when flights are arriving or departing in the next couple of days. Oh well, I'll deal with it in Sydney tomorrow.

Also had an e-mail from Kristin, her and Scott arrived in Singapore, and are going to book their flight to Bali tomorrow. When they know when they'll fly, they'll e-mail me!

Made supper, read, watched "The Ring" in the TV lounge (scary movie!), then to bed.

Friday, September 19, 2003

More Hiking

Up about 8:15, showered, had breakfast. Slept good, did wake up once in the middle of the night, and buddy was snoring his face off, but he stopped about 15 minutes later, and I was able to fall asleep again.

Used internet, I had an e-mail from Kristin. Scott got a new passport (24 hour service, cost him big $$$), and they would be flying tomorrow. She says they'll probably be in Bali on Sept. 28, they figure.

Caught the 11:31 Explorer bus to ScenicWorld, then on the other Explorer bus for a 20 minute "Cliff Top & Valley Tour", a tour along Megalong Valley (it's mega long!!!), views of the Great Dividing Range and cliffs of Narrow Neck Plateau. Stayed on the bus, which went to Leura Cascades, where I got off hiked along the ridge, past Olympian Rock, Elysian Rock, Gordon Falls, Lyre Bird Dell (very nice!) and Pool of Siloam, which is even nicer, a lovely waterfall emptying into a pool. The pool at one time used to be deep enough that people could swim in it without touching the bottom, and harboured fish, but with run-off from development of the town in the last 50-100 years, silt has pretty much made it just a shallow pool. Too bad.

Then up the road, and walked back to Leura and caught the 4:05 bus back to Katoomba town site.

The black bird I saw the other day, would have been a yellow-tailed black atoo (I said in my other journal that the yellow as around the wingpits, I must have been mistaken).

I had supper at the hostel, checked internet again, and found out that no one at city hall (probably no one using Sasktel as an ISP!) can e-mail me! Sasktel's e-mail server has been blacklisted by myrealbox.com as being infected with a virus, and will no longer accept connections from them. So, I e-mailed both myrealbox and Sasktel, hopefully Sasktel can get themselves un-blacklisted.

I read for the evening. My current reading material is called "The Shipping News", it's a story about a fat American bloke, parents were from Newfoundland, who has two kids, and no life whatsoever, and after his cheating wife is killed in a car as she takes off with a rich guy to Florida, he packs up his two kids, and with his Aunt (who lived in Newfoundland as a kid), decide to start life a new on the rock. Having spent a fair amount of time in the Maritimes, I can relate to a lot of the stuff I read, about the kindness of the people, unemployment, the parties they have, etc. Almost done the book.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Water From A Rock

Up about 9:15, I didn't sleep very good because some guy was snoring badly (I think he's here again tonight) and the window was rattling something awful because of the wind. Showered, had breakfast and lounged around until about 11:45, then walked up to The Edge cinema to see the "Maxvision" (not IMAX) movie about the Blue Mountains.

In 1994, a small group of less than 30 "dinosaur" trees were discovered near Blue Mountain National Park (in an adjoining park). They are called Wollemi Pine, and they were around during the time of dinosaurs, when they became extinct. All we had were fossils. Well, a small grove of these trees was found, in 1994, deep in the bush. Naturally, it was an amazing discovery. They're not like any other trees in the forest, they are pines, but they have fronds, like a fern, and they're bark is alive. Of course, scientists took some seeds and are now growing them in lab/controlled conditions as well, but the small grove of natural trees continues to survive. In the movie, they captured the tree releasing its spores into the air, trying to reproduce. The narrative remarked that this was probably the first time mankind has EVER seen these trees release their spores. The trees location is a secret, and the film crew were blindfolded for the helicopter trip to the location. Very fascinating.

After the 40 minute movie, walked back to the hostel, had lunch, then caught the 1:30 Explorer bus to ScenicWorld, and spent the rest of the day there. Used my free passes to go on the Skyway, a short gondola ride above a deep gorge, then took the Scenic Railway down 415 metres to the valley floor. When the train ride starts, they play the Indiana Jones theme music, which is quite fitting, actually. It's a STEEP ride down, 52 degree gradient at it's steepest. Average of 44 degrees.

Walked around the boardwalk tour, then hiked to a landslide spot and finally caught the Sceniscender gondola back up about 4:00, and instead of waiting 45 minutes for the next bus, walked along the Prince Henry Cliff walkway back to Echo Point, where I just missed the bus by about five minutes, so walked back to the hostel. Went to the supermarket for rice and milk, then back to the hostel. The kitchen was way to busy, so I put off supper, wrote in journal, whatever.

After the kitchen calmed down, made supper, then watched TV for a few hours, then to bed.

The wind finally calmed down somewhat today.

Other notes:
- My toenail, that I had busted up in Thailand, still isn't fully regrown. It's about half way to being a regular toenail, but still has a while to go, methinks.
- In town here, they have the most bizarre museum. I haven't been in it (it doesn't interest me), for it is a Purse Museum!!
- During my hike on the boardwalk today, I saw (and filmed) water literally coming from a rock. Clean spring water was coming right out of this rock!!! For all the naysayers who say you can't get water from a rock, I say, YA RIGHT!
- The brown bird I saw yesterday, I know now is called a lyre bird. It mimics the calls of other birds, and almost anything else it hears. Apparently it has been heard mimicing dogs, cats, farm telephones and even a chainsaw!

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Hiking (lots)

Up about 8:30, showered, had breakast. Moving slow this morning, I'm in no hurry.

Walked down to the Explorer Bus office and bought the Lyre bus pass, which includes unlimited travel on their two buses for the duration of my stay (to get around to all the tourist attractions), a movie pass to The Edge, an IMAX experience about the Blue Mountains, and tickets on rides at Scenic World, which includes a gondola ride across a chasm, then a descent into the chasm on the worlds steepest railway (52 degree gradient) and a ride back up on another gondola. $50.

Back to the hostel, sat around with another guy who was in my room, an older guy who's heading to Bangkok in a few days, and he's nervous. He's asking me all kinds of questions.

Had lunch, then caught the 12:31 bus to the Katoomba Cascades dropoff at 12:37, and hiked all afternoon. Descended into the valleys, away from the frickin' cold wind. All the hiking trails into the valleys consist of stairs, either metal ones, built-up dirt and wood kind, or stairs chiseled out of rock.

Hiked past the Katoomba Cascades, Reids Plateau, down the Furber Steps, then followed the Federal Pass east, past the Three Sisters (can't see them from the valley floor, too much vegetation) to the Giant Staircase (1000 steps!). Unfortunately, the Giant Staircase was closed tue to a rock fall recently, so I continued on Dardonelles Pass, towards Leura Falls and Leura Cascades and finally exitted out of the valley about 4:10, and a 2 minute walk to the nearest Explorer bus stop, and waited for the 4:24 bus. It came, but it terminated at Leura townsite, I had to wait another 30 minutes for the next bus which would take me back to Katoomba.

While down in the valley, I saw some neat, large birds. The first was a parrot, I think, all black, but vibrant yellow near the shoulder/armpit (wingpit?) area. It flew away as I was getting my camera out. At the same time, I could here a bunch of rustling in some bushes behind me, I turned around, started walking back along the trail, and a big brown bird jumped out of the bushes onto the path. It had a long tail, and longer legs. He hopped around for a second or two, then flew off. A while later, I saw in the trees ahead a beautiful parrot (?), vibrant royal blue and bright, bright red. All I managed was a blurry picture (kinda like a bigfoot picture), then the bird flew away. Also saw, just flying above, a white and yellow bird, the same as the ones in the Royal Botanical Gardens that sit on you (see my photo album).

After all that hiking, I was tired and HUNGRY. Went to Coles and got chicken breasts and sauce and made sweet'n'sour chicken bits for supper and chocolate cake for dessert. And milk, I drink a lot of milk, ever since I started travelling in New Zealand, I've been drinking milk like crazy. Yesterday, when I went to Coles after getting to Katoomba, I bought a 2 litre jug, and I finished it at supper tonight. Mmmm, ice cold milk is sooooo good.

That brings me to now. Tonight, no plans, watch TV, maybe a movie on the big screen TV they have here, read some, dunno what. If anything exciting happens, I'll put it in the next journal.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Blue Mountains

Up about 8:15, showered, put my big backpack and shoulder bag into storage at the hostel, checked out, and went to Krave for breakfast, then caught the train to Central Station, then caught the 10:57 train to Katoomba, the main city in the Blue Mountains. Two hour train ride. Walked to the Blue Mountains YHA. Very nice hostel!

Wind blowing something horrible, and damn cold! I shouldn't have packed my toque and gloves in the box I sent home...I thought I was finished with them!!! Oh well, I'll suffer. I hope it's not windy like this all week.

Walked down to the info centre, saw the Three Sisters rock formations (yawn), then back to downtown, hit Coles for groceries, back to the hostel, wrote in journal.

Blue Mountains are boring, not anything like mountains. They look more like a vast plateau on top (or flat-topped hills) with deep gorges and valleys running through them, not unlike the Grand Canyon. Except the valleys here are full of temerate forests and sub-tropical jungle.

Made supper, went down to TV room and watched "Fight Club", then to bed, read for a while, then sleep took me.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Problems for Kristin!!!

Up about 8:00, showered, went for breakfast at a place, mailed a letter to Air Canada, got a box from the post office and put together a package of stuff to send home, CD's of pictures, clothes, souvenirs, etc. $44 for a box less than 5kg's, sea mail.

Read the weekend paper at the hostel that somone had left in the common room. As I was reading it, the hostel made an announcement over the interco system that the guys bathroom was going to be closed for renovations for a while, so the other bathroom (the girls) was now going to be a CO-ED bathroom. Cheers of "Woohoo!!!" went up from all the guys! Haha!

Went out and bought a cheap travel book on Australia, BUG, Backpackers Ultimate Guide.

Packed my small backpack with everything I'll need at the Blue Mountains for 4 or 5 days, I don't want to take my big backpack with me on this trip.

About 2:15, went to Flight Centre to get my Indonesia ticket, Sarah was out to lunch, so I used the internet for a while. I had an e-mail from Kristin, she was not happy, her and Scott were to leave tomorrow (Sept. 15), but Scott LOST HIS PASSPORT!!!! Kristin was not impressed, in the e-mail, she said either she would fly alone, or they'd have to delay their flight (costing $$$) and try to leave later in the week. Sad news!!

Went back to Flight Centre and picked up my ticket, then back to the hostel.

Went to Hungry Jacks for supper, then back to the hostel, and read for most of the evening. I'm super tired for some reason, I couldn't keep my eyes open, went to bed about 10:00.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

7851 km

Up about 8:00, showered, had breakfast at a restaurant. Used internet for awhile, then headed downtown, then to Paddy's Market, window shopping. Then to Darling Harbour and sat around there. There was a Chinese festival of sorts going on, with traditional dance and song and vendors selling food. Got back to the hostel about 3:00.

Bummed around, read, decided to go to a movie tonight. I texted Cour, she didn't want to go.

About 7:00, took train downtown, but got off at the wrong stop and had to walk a billion miles to get to the theatre. I wanted to see "Pirates of the Caribbean", but missed the 7:30 show, so had to wait for the 8:45 show. Decided to walk to the another theatre to see if it was playing any earlier there, but not, so back to the first theatre, bought my ticket, had a bite at Hungry Jacks (what they call Burger King in Australia) while waiting for the movie. I noticed that "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" doesn't open until Oct. 2 in Australia...I saw it in NZ a couple of weeks ago.

Pirates was awesome! Good movie. Long, 2 hours, 20 minutes.

After the movie, I was going to take the train back to Kings Cross (in fact, I had bought a return ticket when I left), but I guess they shut the trains down at 11:00, so I had to walk back.

I drove 7851km in New Zealand.
On the trains, they have a sticker that says "At night, travel near the guards compartment marked with a blue light." Someone has scraped three and a half letters out of that sentence, now it reads: "At night, rave near the guards compartment naked with a blue light." HARHARHAR!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Home Cooked Meal!

I got a home cooked meal from a most unlikely source today. Read on....

Up early, about 7:45. Still on NZ time. Showered, had breakfast at Big Mama's restaurant, walked around Kings Cross for a while, then burned a bunch of CD's with pictures, then went to Flight Centre and had to wait for my travel agent to deal with another couple before getting to me. Then I signed for my ticket to Bali, and got back to the hostel about 1:00. I had left my mobile charging in the hostel, and when I got back, had 2 TXT's and 2 phone calls from Court. I called her back, she was going to Bondi Beach and wanted me to come, so I caught up with her at Bondi Beach. I had trouble finding her amongst all the bodies sunning themselves. The last time I saw her was July 3. We walked around Bondi Beach main drag a bit, then went to a cafe for a cappuchino and lunch and chatted and caught up.

Courtney news:
- she's living in a penthouse suite in Pyrmont with a bunch of others (6 others, I think), but the lease expires at the end of this month, so she is looking for another flat.
- was working at a food court, but quit recently, she couldn't take it anymore. She has a trial at a cafe in Bondi on Tuesday. She also had another job opportunity come up in a health food store in Bondi when we were there.
- she hasn't been doing a lot the last couple of months, just working (and shopping). She plans on working into the new year, then travel for a few months and return to Canada next June.

We checked out a couple of flats (dives) in Bondi. She keeps telling me how great their place in Pyrmont is.

About 5:00, we headed back to her place, took the train to Town Hall station, then hit Coles (supermarket, not bookstore) for some groceries, then to her place. And Courtney cooked us a wonderful home-cooked meal! She has really never cooked before, and only recently started cooking. That's why it was quite unexpected! It was delicious! (Thanks Court!)

We sat around her place with some of her roommates and watched TV (Wizard of Oz), and I left about 10:00 and walked back to my hostel. Walked through Darling Harbour on the way...WOW!

Court's flat is very nice, modern, in the complex they have a gym, pool, sauna, etc. She'll be hard pressed to find something to match it.

Bondi Beach is a place for beautiful people.

Friday, September 12, 2003

4 Months Left

Today is exactly four months lieft until I return back to work (Jan. 12). How depressing!

Up at 8:00, showered, breakfast, went and used internet for a bit, then hauled all my stuff out of the room and checked out. Caught the bus to the airport, and went through security and all that stuff, then waited for my flight at 1:45PM.

Flight was uneventful. When I checked in and got my seat, I had seat 43A, I thought, cool, I have a window seat (just like a kid, I still like window seats!) Ended up, I was sitting right behind to the mid-plane exit doorway, and didn't have a window there. There was a window in the door, and the seat behind me had a window, but I didn't. :-(

Got to Sydney about 3:30, called the Pink House hostel and got a shuttle to the door. It's in Kings Cross, but off the main hooker/stripjoint/drug dealer street, so it's a lot quieter than the Funkhouse was.

Used internet for a while, and decided that in a few days, I'll head out to the Blue Mountains for four days or so. I really wanted to (and still want to) go to Tasmania, but don't have the time at the moment, as my flight to Bali leaves on the 22nd.

Texted with Court for a bit, then in the evening, walked downtown, sat around Darling Harbour people and bird watching. Once again, Sydney does not fail to impress me. Just looking at the nighttime cityscape of Sydney from Darling Harbour is incredible.

Prediction: Ryan will want to (and in fact, he'll TELL everyone he is going to) move to Sydney.

Got back to the hostel about 11:00.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Bye Bye Car!

I'll say one thing good thing about ACB...they have excellent beds! I slept great, woke up about 9:30 when the other occupants of my room started to stir. Showered, had breakfast, then packed everything up that was in the car, stuffed it all into my backpack (couldn't fit it all, had some stuff in a box), and cleared the car, then took it back to Bargain. I had parked the car in a parking lot over night, and it cost me $24 in parking charges. No problem returning the car, he gave the car a quick one over to make sure I didn't hit anything, and walked back to the ACB, had lunch, then went souvenir and postcard shopping for the afternoon.

Used internet for more than an hour, and that brings me up to right now!

So, not doing anything tonight, my flight back to Sydney leaves about 1:45 tomorrow afternoon, so I'm not in any hurry tomorrow morning, which is good. I have 10 days to kill in Sydney, I'm thinking I might head south to Melbourne, apparently it's a very nice city, but we'll see. And get in touch with Courtney, it's been a long time since I've seen her.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Somebody Shoot Me!

Woke up about 6:00AM, wide awake, managed to fall back asleep after 7:00, and was dreaming that I was chatting with Courtney on MSN, and she was telling me how she had seen the light, and had become an environmentalist, and was saving the trees now. Then I was woke up by my mobile ringing at 7:50, it was White Island, they are going to the island today, looks like a nice day, the guy tells me.

So, got up, showered, had breakfast, as I was having breakfast, Pam was reading and Hare came back from work, ptu on his suit, grumbling about something. I was getting my car all packed, then as Hare was leaving, he gave me the Maori "goodbye" or greeting or something. Can't remember teh term for it, but it's like an eskimo kiss, we touch our noses together twice. He then tells me it's a spritual thing between two people, and he leaves. Pam then gives me a big hug, sad look in her eyes. Jeeze, you'd think I was their only child leaving home or something.

I headed to an internet for a few minutes, then down to White Island Tours and get on their brand new, 6-week old boat, and we left about 9:30.

1.5 hour trip to get out to the island, we got there shortly after 11:00, and we go on the tour of the island. Four companies tried to mine the sulfur on the island, all went backrupt. The only remains are from the last to try, which went backrupt in 1933. And numerous miners were killed on the island from volcanic activity or slides.

We walked to the edge of the main crater, it's filled with water, bright greenish-yellow. Lots of steam coming up from everywhere, fumaroles, etc. It was pretty much the same stuff I saw down in Rotorua.

My group is 17 strong, almost all old people. Imagine grandma climbing over big boulders, uneven surfaces, rocks, unstable ground and your can begin to imagine the pace of the tour.

Finished on the island about 1:30, then had lunch on the boat (included), then the skipper put the underwater camera in the water to see what we could see, then checked out a few seals nearby, then finally headed back to the mainland.

Got back about 4:00, I hopped in my car and started driving. My plan was kind of to stop in or near the Coromandel Peninsula this evening, making for a short drive to Auckland tomorrow. Perhaps I would check out Hot Water Beach again, as I couldn't get it to work last time around.

But, when I hit Tauranga, I hit a BIG traffic jam. Moved less than 1 kilometre in an hour, so finally got frustrated and turned south on a street, which happen to be a highway to Hamilton. I checked out the map, the goes right near Matamata (aka Hobbiton), where I can get on a different highway that goes back up north to Auckland. My total detour time was 120km. And it was probably still quicker than waiting in the traffic jam!

So, decided that I might as well go straight to Auckland tonight, since my detour pretty much bypassed the Coromandel Peninsula anyway, and it was getting late and all the hostels would be closed anyway.

On my way to Auckland, I was debating where to stay. Problem is, most hostels close reception earlier in the evening, and I was going to be arriving about 9:00PM. Auckland Central Backpackers (ACB, the one I stayed at the last two times, and the one I hate!) has 24 hour reception, and it is a good location, so finally decided to stay there, convincing myself that I could stand to stay there for 2 nights.

Got there about 8:50, and they have no big dorms left, all they have are small, 4-bed dorms for $2 more per night, so I take it. Small is right!!!! There's two bunkbeds stuffed into a tiny room, barely enough room to turn around. And it appears the other occupants are longer term, they have clothes on hangers all over the beds. And tons of food on the shelves.

I HATE IT HERE, WHY DID I COME HERE AGAIN???? UGH!! (That's where the subject of this journal entry comes from.)

Went to BK for supper, then wrote in my journal, then to bed about 10:00.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Now I've Seen Everything!

My mobile ran at 7:40 this morning, it was White Island Tours, the tour is cancelled today because of strong south-easterly winds, which makes the landing on the island very difficult. I booked again for tomorrow.

I slept like crap last night, the beds here are dumb, they bend, it was like trying to sleep in a V. I would like to sleep on a _, but even sleeping in a U would be ok. If I'm alone again tonight, I'm gonna throw my mattress on the floor and sleep on the floor.

Showered and had breakfast, and decided to drive the East Cape today. Pam tells me they've had others drive it in a day.

Headed downtown and browsed shops, then left about 10:00, headed east on SH2 to Opitiki, then north oh SH35, which essentially skirts the coast all around the cape. Stopped for pictures here and there. As I started heading down the east side of the cape, the rain came, and it got harder and harder the further south I went.

Stopped in Tolaga Bay and visited the historic Tolaga Bay Wharf, 660 metres long, the longest in the southern hemisphere. It's in a state of disrepair, you can walk on it, but watch your step.

Got to Gisborne about 3:45, pouring rain, visited the site of Captain Cook's first landing. Then walked around downtown, visited the visitor information office and used the internet. Yesterday, I had e-mailed my travel agent in Sydney (the one who shipped me off to NZ) to inquire about flights to Bali. She replied back, they have a special fare right now of $699 return for an open ticket (good for a year), but I'd haev to fly on Sept. 22, the only seats left are for that date. Perfect! Regular fare would be about $970, so I replied and asked her to book it for me. For those not sure, I'm going to meeting Kristin and Scott there, they are flying to Singapore on Sept. 17, then to Bali shortly thereafter. We'll spend about a month in Indonesia (dodging all those terrorist bombs), then back to Australia.

Went to Pizza Hut, which is right across the street from the Information Centre, and had their all you can eat pizza, pasta, salad and dessert for supper. Yum!

Left Gisborne about 5:50, headed back to Whakatane via SH2, which runs along a river gorge. Unfortunately, I couldn't see anything, as it was dark.

Arrived back in Whakatane shortly after 8:00. So, now I've seen it all! I've been to every corner of New Zealand! (Excepting the islands.)

When I got back to the hostel, Pam told me that White Island Tours called, they will call again tomorrow morning to let me know if they are going, it's to touchy to tell right now.

Pam and Hare live in and use the hostel just like everyone else. Quite frankly, I find it kind of uncomfortable having one (or both) of them there all the time. It feels totally like you're intruding, that you're living in some strangers house, and being the only one there, I felt a certain obligation to tell them where I was going and when I would be back, almost like a teenager living at home again! Ugh! And if you don't tell them, they'll ask!

Wrote in my journal, watched "Bad Girls" with Hare and Pam, then to bed about 10:30. Oh, and I did sleep on the floor tonight...

(Bad Girls isn't as bad as it may sound, it's a British show about a female prison...Pam and Hare watch it all the time, they know exactly what's happening, and when it's between seasons, Hare goes into withdrawal when he can't see new episodes!)

Monday, September 08, 2003

To Whatakane

Up about 7:40 so I could beat the Kiwk Experience rush. Showered, and then went to the cafe at the hostel for breakfast, because I didn't have any cereal and the toaster in the kitchen is broken. Had a bacon and egg breakfast...$15. Breakfast is VERY expensive in NZ, not like Canada where you can get breakfast specials for under $5 anywhere.

Left about 9:00, and drove west from Waitomo to see a few things. Stopped at the Mangapohue Natural Bridge, a huge natural bridge over a river that would hacve once been part of a huge cavern. Most of it has since collapsed, leaving just this natural double arch. Quite impressive! Then I drove on to Marokopa Falls, a huge 36m waterfall. Spectacular!

Then back to Waitomo town and bought a couple of postcards and stamps depicting some of the stuff we did in the cave yesterday. Then called and made a White Island tour booking (out of Whakatane) for tomorrow. They will call me at 7:00 this evening to let me know if the tour will go ahead. It often gets cancelled because of rough weather (wind). Then called Bargain Car Rentals and told them I would have the car back on the 10th or 11th. It was suppose to be back on Sept. 2, and I didn't want them to call the cops and claim it was stolen!

Then I drove back to the main highway (SH3), and headed north to Te Awamutu, where I used the internet for an hour and filled up with petrol, then north a bit more to Hamilton, and turned east on SH1, towards Rotorua. Made a small detour once I got to SH29 and headed up to Matamata...aka Hobbiton. They filmed Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings near the grassy, rolling hills of Matamata. Coming into the city of 10,000, the welcome sign exclaims: "Welcome to Hobbiton" Then in small letters underneath, "Matamata, New Zealand". They do tours from the visitors centre to the set of Hobbiton for $50. I didn't have time.

Then took SH27 back down to SH1, and went through Tirau, and had to stop and take a few pictures. The visitors centre is a huge dog, another building next door is a huge sheep. Other businesses have huge things on their roofs: grasshopper, hunk of cheese with mouse, pippy's, bumble bee. Bizarre. What a town will try to attract visitors. It worked for me, I stopped. Didn't spend any money in town, but I did stop!

Got to Rotorua, and then took SH30 up to Whakatane. Arrived about 4:45 and checked into Larry's Lodge. It's run by a Maori gentlemand and his wife. Very nice, friendly people. I'm the only one at the hostel.

Drove downtown to check to check out the city centre, nice city, the main downtown area is sandwiched between the ocean and a river on one side, and a big cliff on the other side, very picturesque.

The hostel is perfectly situated (or horribly situated, depending on your preferences). Directly on one side is Burger King, directly on the other side is KFC, and directly across the street is McDonalds. I chose Burger King.

AFter supper, back the hostel and a Quebecoise guy, Francois, why just started working in Whakatane with his girlfriend/wife, was here explaining his company won't let him and his wife stay at a backpacker. The company was paying for him and his wife to stay at a motel for the first two weeks, while they found a place on their own. With their two weeks running out, and no permanent place to stay available (they did have a house, but couldn't move in for another three weeks), they decided to stay at Larry's Lodge and talked to the owners and made arrangements, etc. Well, I guess the company he's working for asked him how his accomodations are going, and he remarked that they were going to move into a backpacker until they could move into their rental house, and they company got upset, and told him "Our employees DO NOT stay in backpackers!", and told him he couldn't live in the backpacker, and told him to stay at their current motel and the company would continue to cover the cost of the motel for the next three weeks until they could move into their house. Anyway, the four of us sat around the kitchen table and chatted.

About 7:00, White Island Tours called and said they would call at 8:00 tomorrow morning and let me know if the tour is going ahead.

About 7:30, went to the theatre to see a movie, "Taking Sides", kind of boring movie about a great orchestra conductor during Hitler's reign, and how he refused to leave Germany, even when all his peers were getting out (because of the war). The movie actually takes place after the war, where the US sends in a lawyer/investigator type guy to try and link the conductor to being a Nazi so he could be brought up in court for crimes against humanity or something.

Went to bed about 11:00.

In one of the washrooms in the hostel, a Canadian girl who was staying there a while ago, started a Celine Dion Fan Club. Hare and Pam (the owners) get a kick out of it, and tell all CAnadian's to add to it.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Black Water Rafting...WOW!

Up about 8:00, showered, breakfast, then drove down to The Black Water Rafting Company (http://www.blackwaterrafting.co.nz) and checked in. My trip doesn't leave until 1:00, but it includes a free pass to the Museum of Caves, and wanted to get the pass and go this morning. Got my pass, then drove back to the DOC and walked through the museum. It's a display about the Waitomo region, why the caves form here, and about glowworms, etc. Quite interesting.

Then drove down the road to Aranui Cave (a pay-to-see cave) and did a short (30 min) walk to see the Ruakuri Natural Tunnel, an amazing limestone formation. An underwater river combines with an above ground river, and then flows into a HUGE cavern, heading back to the dark underground. Way cool!

Then drove back to the hostel, stopping at the Glowworm Cave parking lot (another pay-to-see cave) and did a short (10 min.) walk.

Back at the hostel, made lunch, had a bowel movement, so I wouldn't have to go in the cave in my wetsuit.

Left for the Black Water Rafting Company for my caving adventure. A bunch of teenagers from Stratford on a school trip, plus one of their teachers, are my group. 8 of us in total, plus two guides.

We got suited up in our bathing suit, then a thermal top, a very thick wet suit, booties, gloves, and a helmet with a lamp on it. Then into the van and taken to the upstream portion of the Ruakuri river cave system.

First, we got some lessons on abseiling, how to fast, slow, and stop. Then we started. They asked who wanted to go first, no one else volunteered, so I did. We abseiled straight down a vertical shaft, 35 metres in the darkness, before getting to the bottom. This was scary! I've never done anything like that before.

Once everyone got down, we climbed over some rocks, through a short tunnel, then "flew" down to the river on a flying fox. Cool! As we flew down the wire, we turned our lights off, to see the glowworms zip by on the ceiling.

Then we were served tea/coffee and a piece of cake, then we grabbed an inner tube and jumped into the icy cold water. We pulled ourselves upstream by a rope attached along the walls, then we "made a train", sticking our legs underneath the armpits of the person in front of us, then we floated downstream, with our lamps off, as one of the guides pulled us along, talking about glowworms. It was just like staring into the starry night sky, except the glowworms (which aren't worms at all, they're larvae of flying insects) are greenish in colour. Little specks of light littering the ceiling of the cave.

Then we ditched our tubes and walked, swam, floated, and at one point, waterslided (waterslid?) through the underground river. Many spots were tight squeezes and very low ceiling where we had to submerge our whole body (brrrr!) up to our chin, in the water, to get through.

We stopped at one point and were hand fed chocolate, as we stood knee deep in the 10 degree water, shivering!

And the best was yet to come!

We scrambled up a fast flowing stream running through a small chute, to a small cavern. We all squeezed into the cavern, waist deep in the water, as Lou, the female guide, explained that there were two ways out. One was the boring, easy way, the other was the fun, exciting way. Of course, we all chose the exciting way.

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!!!!

The chute we were scrambling through was only wide enough for one person at a time, so we had to go up single file, and was often not tall enough to stand upright, plus, we couldn't see where we were stepping, because of the water. So, somewhat blindly, we scrambled single file up the chute, fast moving water swirling all around. I was 2nd from the last, and all we could see from the back end was that up ahead was a small pool of white-water, and the first few kept disappearing around the corner of the tight cavern, one at a time. I still remember the reaction of the guy in front of me, when he got close, and peered into the small pool/cavern. (BAD WORD ALERT!) He simply said, "Holy F*ck." I still couldn't see what he saw, but my adrenaline was running at an all time hight at this point. I finally got close enough, looked around the corner and saw a waterfall. An unbelievable torrent, smashing down from about 3 metres above, through a whole in the ceiling. And we had to climb up and through the waterfall. We sat shivering in the swirling pool, watching each one try to get secure hand and foot holds before moving another painfully slow step up. One guide, can't remember his name, waited at the bottom, the other, Lou, remained half way up the waterfall, helping each one place our feet and hands, as she precariously straddled her legs on the walls on either side of the waterfall. It was unbelieveable!!! When I got "on deck", noname guide pulled me over in the chest deep water, right in the splash/spray of the waterfall and yelled at me (had to yell, the waterfall noise was incredibly loud) to watch what's happening, so I'd know where to place my feet. That was all fine and dandy, if only I could see anything! The spray from the waterfall was blinding. Next up was me, and I climbed into the waterfall and started my ascent, using the foot and hand holds recommended by noname guide. When I got up to Lou, I remarked to her that this is one of those things that I just can't believe I'm doing! AFter getting up to Lou, she guided me the rest of the way, slowly, as I faced the momentum of the falling water. I crawled through a small rock spot, where the rest of the group sat waiting in the waist deep water, the look of horror in their eyes! It was quite a sight!!! You could tell they were terrified. And freezing cold too. No one said anything, except me, I exclaimed how amazing it was! They didn't laugh or agree. Lou came along and ushers us forward, further up the tiny river conduit, where we finally see daylight!!! But, to climb out, we have to climb another waterfall!

We made it out fine, but freezing. I was actually not too bad, after a while the wetsuit started to perform, warming my body slightly.

THIS WAS BY FAR THE BEST, MOST EXCITING, MOST EXHILERATING AND DANGEROUS THING I'VE DONE IN NEW ZEALAND!!! This was dangerous, in my opinion. Bungy jumping and white water kayaking are safe, compared to what could happen here. One misstep while walking along the riverbed (which was very uneven) could mean a smashed face or broken arm or leg, or a slip while climbing up the waterfalls could have a serious detrimental affect on your health and well being! And, you're stuck in a vast cavern if you need medical attention! I felt safe and sound bungy jumping and kayaking. I didn't feel that here, I was truly scared doing this! But it was worth it, it was amazing!

I think we spent about 2.5 or 3 hours underground. We got back to the office about 5:00, undressed, had a not-hot shower, then soup and bagels (all included in the price).

What I would have given to had had a camera in there. Trying to describe what we did just doesn't do it justice. Words cannot explain it.

While I was away, the Kiwi Experience bus pulled up to my hostel. I've got roommates tonight! Got back to the hostel about 5:30, used internet, wrote in journal, made supper, then figured out my plan for tomorrow, then to bed.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Up To Waitomo

Up about 9:00, slept in really good. When I got up. Mt. Taranaki, 2500 metres, was visible. Went and showered, and when I got back, clouds covered it, except for the very tip top. Went and had breakfast, and as I was eating, the mountain cleared again, I ran and took a picture.

Left about 10:00, and drove up to Jackson Lookout (?), part way up the mountain for a grandiose view of the dormant volcano. As I came back through Stratford, I remembered that I wanted to hear the glockenspiel. Stratford has the only glockenspiel in NZ, and three times a day, it recites lines from Romeo and Juliet. (As an aside, many of the town streets are named after characters in Shakespeares plays.) I missed the 10:00AM recital, and couldn't stick around for the noon one.

Drove to New Plymouth, got there about, got there about 11:30, found an expensive internet place and updated my journal, then hit Burger King for lunch and left about 1:00, heading north along the coast on SH3. As I moved away from Mt. Taranaki (also known as Mt. Egmont), you could see in the distance, the other volcanoes near Taupo. A neat view.

Stopped and took pictures of the White Cliffs, seaside cliffs that are white, not unlike Dover.

Kept driving, and at one town, not sure which one, turned off because I saw a sign for a waterfall. Drove 20km to the waterfall. Waitanguru Falls, very spectacular! It was nice to get out of the car for a short walk anyway.

Back the main road and got to Waitomo, famous for it's caves and caverns and glowworms and adventure caving. Checked into the Kiwi Paka YHA, brand new place, very nice, if a little expensive at $22. I'm in a dorm room all by myself for tonight. Booked for 2 nights.

Then booked an adventure caving trip for tomorrow, called Black Abyss. It involves abseiling down into the cavern, then doing some black water tubing and seeing glowworms and some rockclimbing. $140. It's 4 or 5 hour trip, 2-3 hours spent underground.

Bought some milk, made supper (grilled cheese), then watched TV. "Magical World of Disney" was on (when was the last time anyone watched that?), and they were showing "Marry Poppins"! I've never seen it before, so I sat and watched it, not letting anyone turn the channel for three hours! AFter that, went for a walk outside. Sure is quiet in Waitomo, can't hear anything outside.

Then to bed.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Most Excellent Drives!

Up about 8:15, showered, breakfast, checed out. Left Wanganui about 9:30, filled up with gas and drove up the Whanganui River Road, which follows the Whanganui River up to Pipiriki, where it turns east to Raetihi. It's a pretty hairy road, one lane most of the way, over half of it is gravel. Lots of boulders and rocks that had fallen from the cliffs, and some slips in the road. One big slip that I was scared to drive through. It had been built back up with soft mud and was rutted and muddy because of all the rain, and I was sure I'd get stuck if I went through it. But I had no choice, so just gunned it, and I heard the bottom of the car scrape the road as I drove through the ruts.

Quite a scenic drive. The whole trip from Wanganui to Raehiti is only about 100knm, but it took me more than 3 hours because of the slow pace. Got to Raetihi about 12:45 and turned north on SH4. Stopped at a picnic area just north of town and made jam and peanut butter sandwiches and ate them on the road. Stopped at The Last Spike, the spot where the last spike was hammered for the rail line between Wellington and Auckland.

Continued north to Raurimu, where the Raurima Spiral rail tunnel tunnels through a mountain in order to gain altitude to reach the plateau above. I stopped at the lookout in town, and couldn't see diddly squat of the dumb tunnel or rail line. All you could see in the distance was some power lines that presumable ran alongside the rail line.

Then north, finally getting Taumarunui. I called ahead and booked a room at a hostel in Stratford and got gas. From here, took SH43, the "Forgotten World Highway", another scenic route, east towards Stratford. WOW! I must say, this is the best, most scenic highway I've drive yet!

The highway cuts through/along the Tarangakau River gorge, with huge cliffs on either side. Tons of roadside waterfalls, boulders and rocks on the road from small rockslides, unbelievable vista's, thick forest, twists and turns.

After leaving the gorge, there's the Moki Tunnel, a one lane tunnel cut under the mountain, instead of going over the top. Then Joshua Morgan's grave, the surveyor who pioneered the road through the gorge and over the mountain ranges. Stopped at Raikohua Falls. At the turnoff to the falls, the farmer had a whole bunch (2 or 3 dozen) pigs skins stuck on the fence. I got out to take a picture, and the hides reeked!

Passed by a town, Whangamomona, which foro some reason, reminded me a lot of Chicken, Alaska. Then the highway topped over 4 mountain ranges along it's route.

I made a lot of stops and took a lot of pictures on the journey. It's only 150km, but took me over 4 hours! So twisty and turny and so much to stop and see, and I know I missed a lot of the sights.

Got to Stratford about 6:00, checked into the hostel, Taranaki Accomodation Lodge. I used to be a home for trainee nurses, and definately has a very institutional feel to it. Hardly anyone here, surprising because of the ski slope on Mount Taranaki/Egmont. I have a twin room all by myself.

Unfortunately, I can't see the volcano today, way to cloudy and rainy. Hopefully tomorrow. Apparently it looks quite a lot like Mount Fuji.

Went to Subway for supper, then to New World for groceries (less than a week left, have to be careful with my groceries), then back to the hostel, figured out a plan for tomorrow, wrote in journal, the read.

And I read, and I read, and I read. The book is amazing. Some of the things that happen in the plot blew my mind, and I had to finish reading it, I couldn't put it down, I had to finish it that night, just to see how it ended. Very cool ending!!!! I finally went to bed after midnight, and then laid awake thinking about the book for the next hour.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Big Drive Day

Up at 6:00, the guy sleeping beneath me kept coughing loud all night, and I didn't get that great of a sleep. I went to the shower, and it had no cold water (!) at all, and it was too darn hot to get under, so I gave up and went to another shower room. This one was the opposite, barely any hot water, my shower was barely warm, but decided to stick it out instead of trying another shower. Had breakfast (free), then to the ferry terminal at 7:00, checked in and gueued and waited for the ferry.

Ramped onto the ferry about 7:45, and the ferry left promptly at 8:00. I read the whold trip, getting about 2/3rds of the way through book 3 of the trilogy. If it seems like it's taking me a long time to read them, well, they're big books, and I'm a slow reader!

Got to Wellington about 11:20, and drove north on SH1, stopping at one of the suburb cities for gas and KFC, then to Bully. From Bully, took SH3 to Wanganui. Crappy day, low, dreary cloud and rain. Got to Wanganui about 3:30. SH1 north of Wellington is the first highway in NZ that you can actually maintain a speed of 100kph!!!

Checked into the Tamara Backpackers Hostel, walked around downtown for a while, then back to the hostel and had supper, then decided to go to a movie, and saw Phone Booth. What a bizarre movie. Very, very original. A realtime movie too, the whole story unfolds in the 1.5 hours of the actual movie. Very good. It's about a guy who answers the phone in a public phone booth, and it ends up being a sniper who threatens to shoot him if he hangs up. Neat!

Back to hostel and to bed about 10:00, tired from the early wakeup this morning and the crap sleep I had last night.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Last Day on South Island

Up about 8:40, showered, breakfast, packed and left about 10:00. Drove rtto Nelson, stopped at internet, McDonalds and booked ferry from Picton to Wellington at 8:00AM tomorrow morning. Left Nelson and drove to Pelorus Bridge Secnic Reserve and spent a few hours doing a couple of hikes. Then continued on to Picton, got there about 4:00, checked into The Villa, the same hostel I was at last time I was in Picton. As you may remember, this hostel has free apple crumb at 7:30, and the last time I said the apple crumb "was to die for". It wasn't particularly good this time, it kind of tasted like it had some veggies in it! Ick!

I'm feeling blue again, I realized this is my last day on the south island and there's a good possibility I may never, ever be back again, in my entire lifetime! I felt a lot like I did when we left Laos.

I watched TV and read until about 10:00, then to bed.

I need to comment on the Kiwi's dumb sinks in their bathrooms, and many of their kitchens. They have separate hot and cold faucets, so you either have to wash your hands in boiling hot water or ice cold water! It sucks!

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Abel Tasman

Up at 7:00, showered, breakfast, then waited for the van to pick us up (me and a Japanese girl, who's doing the same trip today). Picked us up at 8:20 and took us to Ocean River and we got suited up in wetsuits, lifejackets, booties, etc. There's six of us on the trip, me, two guides, and 3 Japanese girls.

The water taxi boat picked us up at the office and took us to the water, got launched and took a quick boat ride up to Anchorage. At Anchorage, we disembarked from the water taxi and pullled three double kayaks out of the storage shed and packed everything into them. I lucked out, I got paired with the one Japanese girl that actually knew how to paddle a kayak!

We kayaked from Anchorage to a great golden sand beach (all the beaches in Abel Tasman are amazing golden sand beaches) and had a tea/coffee/cookie break. Then kayaked out around Pinnacle Island and saw a few seals and cormorants/shags, then into a lagoon and up a river a short way to a swing bridge that trampers on the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk have to use to cross the river. Then back out and to Torrent Bay beach and had an amazingly good lunch tortilla's with fried beef and ALL fixings. It was sooo good, I couldn't believe I got such a great meal. I ate like a pig, because there was lots of food, and what wasn't eaten was going to be thrown away. My arms were killing me!

Then kayaked back to Anchorage and got the 3:30 water taxi back to Marahau, lounged in the hot tub at the office for a bit, then they drove us back to our hostels about 5:00.

Had a simple supper, as I was still quite full from that humongously grand lunch.

Me and the Austrian girl (Miriam) played some chess, she beat me in a game, then we decided to go to the nearest town, about 20 km away, and get a bottle of red wine. We were the only ones in the whole hostel, other than a few people using the campsites.

We drank wine, played cards and chess. We got to bed sometime aftermidnight.

I remarked to Miriam that I had said something about her in my journal, I had put in there she was "a good chess player for a girl!" She laughed and insisted I change it to just "a good chess player!"

Monday, September 01, 2003

Abel Tasman

Up about 7:30, showered and made an awesome breakfast, hashbrowns, bacon, eggs, toast and tea. I did good today, and didn't burn anything.

Packed everything in my car, then called Thai Airways and changed my departure date back to Sydney from Sept. 5 to Sept. 12. Gives me an extra week in New Zealand!

Drove up to Marahau, a town at the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park, and at the head of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of NZ's Great Walks. Checked into The Barn, a barn converted into a hostel. The dorm section is very cool, it's in the main part of the barn, so very large, and we sleep pretty much on a big shelf that runs most of the length of the barn. Every three feet or so is a piece of wood that separates your bed from the next bed. There are essentially two sleeping shelves, one below and another one quite high up. I was the coolest dorm I've been in yet! Only two other people in the dorm rooms, two girls, one from Austria, the other from, hmm, not sure. They also have double and twin rooms (as most hostels do), and campsites for those with campervans, and the best thing, they have teepee's, if you want to sleep in a teepee, you can! Cool.

The hostel is perhaps a kilometre from town, so drove into town and stopped at Ocean River kayaking, and booked the Golden Sands and Lagoons kayak trip for tomorrow, $133.

Went for a walk along part of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, walked for maybe 3 hours. Then back to the hostel.

Had supper, played chess against Miriam, the Austrian chick. She's a really good chess player for a girl! We played three games. To bed shortly after 10:00.