Archive for April, 2007

by Angela
on Apr 23rd, 2007

Ronald McDonald House

Hi folks, I am back in Christchurch.  Since I am still on my “retirement” break, I have been looking for temporary volunteer work to do. I started volunteering at Ronald McDonald house two weeks ago.  Well for those of you who are not familiar with Ronald McDonald house charity; it is not the fast food burger joint (and no I am NOT serving burgers with fries!).

The house serves as affordable housing when families have children who are hospitalized or need to visit hospitals in Christchurch city.  Families stay over for free while visiting the hospital.  The house offers rooms and kitchen facilities.  I remembered that Jim’s little cousin used to stay at one back in the US.

Well, what do I do there?.. I volunteer to help with the housekeeping.  A little manual work never hurts anybody.  So I help clean the rooms, kitchen and play area.  There are volunteers who come in each day to help with chores at the house.  We all have a little fun chatting while working and not to forget the daily morning teas.  I only do this on Thursdays.  So far it has been good just to do a little something for the community,  in return I meet new people and also have something to do on Thursdays.

by Angela
on Apr 14th, 2007

OExp: Australia Finale

I am home now in Christchurch. This is my last post with regards to OExp. I have never traveled on my own before. When I first decided to do this, I was quite nervous about the whole idea of spending almost 3 weeks on my own (my sis and Jim were with me for first 10 days). When I first told most of my colleagues, they were all happy for me and most thought it was a fantastic idea. I only had one person ask me if I was crazy. Funny huh?

So was this trip what I hoped it would be? The answer is yes. I find the most difficult question that I have been asked is “where are you from”. My answer is Malaysia. Even though most of my adulthood years were spent in America, the values and the character instill in me are still Malaysian. I do get a puzzled look sometimes, I think this is because of my accent that is neither American nor Malaysian.

When I was traveling through Australia, I met many people. Some were much older than me, others were my age and some were younger. They were all friendly and easy to talk to. Most of them were from the UK, and Germany.  Many families (mom and pop) thought I was a student traveling and decided that I should not eat alone. They always pull up a chair and ask me to join them. It’s quite nice really especially coming from total strangers. They were interested to know what I do, where am I heading to, and where I’ve been.

I met a young lady from Switzerland who aspires to be a radiographer. She was with me most of the time through Alice Springs to Ayers Rock. It’s so nice to meet someone young who knows what she wants to be. Too much TV got me worried about the women of tomorrow!.

I also met another lady from Germany, she just graduated and is on vacation before she starts her career as a lawyer. She speaks fluent english and was easy to talk to. We hike the base of Uluru together.

Again, I never thought that i would have enjoyed traveling on my own as much and to be honest I never really felt as though I was on my own. Jim was only a phone call away (ah.. the perks of technology).

The experience of staying at the youth hostel was unique. I have never stayed in a dorm before so sharing a room with 4 girls was quite interesting. I actually like the practicality of being able to cook while I am on vacation. I like eating out sometimes but I really do not fancy fast food at all. Eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner would be a real fuss to me. I like to enjoy and spent time on a good meal but not on every single meal.

Traveling around Australia was quite easy. The total of 4 weeks and 2 days went by really fast. There were no fuss in booking a tour or getting information. There are endless sights to see and things to do. If I was ever in doubt, I stop and ask somebody. I only rented a car on the last day of my trip in Cairns and I drove up to Port Douglas making stops when there is a lookout point.

It feels good to know that I can do something out of my comfort zone. I would have never dreamed of backpacking on my own around Australia. The experience had been wonderful. The sights were amazing and the people were really easy going. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

To those of you who received a post card from me, it had been a pleasure writing cards to you. I lost count who I wrote to and how many I wrote. So some may get more than one …. and others none …. Ooooops ;-).

New/Cool experience:

stayed at a hotel in King Cross (red light districts) Sydney, check into a youth hostel in Melbourne, shared a dorm room with 4 people, rode on a tram in Melbourne, attended the FINA World Swimming Championship, catch up with an old friend from Penang in Melb, had a local Penang cuisine at 12:30am with Lena (sister) and Jen (friend), met an Aussie friend and joined her to the Police and Fire Games village in Adelaide, spotting koalas in the wild in Adelaide, kissed by a blue tongue lizard in Alice Springs, rain in Alice Spring (dessert), driving through flood runs, hiking up Kata Tjuta in the rain, watching sunrise of Uluru from lookout point, seeing crocodiles for the first time, meeting aboriginal people, snorkeling at the great barrier reef, sailing on a catamaran.

I will post some of the pictures from each stop on Flickr soon. That’ll all folks.  Thanks for following the OExp: Australia blogs.

by Angela
on Apr 13th, 2007

OExp: Cairns

Cairns is my last stop before returning to Christchurch. I had planned on just relaxing and not doing much other than going to the great barrier reef. My best time in Cairns were getting on a catamaran and heading off to Michaelmas Cay for snorkeling. It was shear luck because I was suppose to go on a cheaper tour (AUD99) which includes a small boat and stops at Upolu Cay and Oyster Reef. But on the morning off the tour, the sea was too choppy. Ocean Spirit decided to upgrade me to the Michaelmas Cay tour instead (AUD 189). Whoppee!!! I have never ridden on a catamaran before. The sea was still choppy but it was still fun for me. I sat on the starboard of the ship and rode the wave on the front deck (i am probably using all the wrong terms when referring to the ship). To get to the snorkeling spot, it took us 2 hours off the wharf from Cairns CBD.

I had to put on a lycra suit due to the jellyfish that exist in the waters (box jelly fish and another one the size of a thumbnail). The two mentioned will cause severe pain and is also fatal. So for AUD6 dollars, I rented the suit. We had to be taken from the catamaran to a small little cay and start snorkeling from there. The reef were quite close to the surface. I just had to go in as deep as 5 feet and they were all over the bottom. It is definitely a sight to see. There were a lot of colorful fishes, and various types of corals. I am not at all comfortable swimming in the ocean so I had a life jacket on. As for the guided tour with the marine biologist, there is a floating tube that I held onto to get into the deeper waters. It was quite crowded so all of us swam over each other, sort of like sardines. I met an elderly couple from Idaho. They were doing the snorkeling tours too. We had a good time chatting.


PS: The catamaran had two CAT marine engines (diesel) but the guide I spoke to did not know the rating of the engine. Quote:”Cat is very reliable”.

by Jim
on Apr 4th, 2007

Goe azjoe

ncaa-final-four-2007.pngBelated congratulations to my Dad for coming in $econd in a large NCAA Basketball pool we both played in! A nice twist was that the winner was a friend from Peoria (this wasn’t a Peoria-hosted pool). I came in 19th out of 93, which means that my dart throwing is slightly better from 10,000 miles away.

Congratulations again–now back to Australasia.

by Angela
on Apr 2nd, 2007


Thought I share these pictures with you!

dscn0791.JPG dscn0802.JPGSwimming in Adelaide River,… anyone?????

Day 1:
I landed at Darwin airport and my first impression was I have returned home to Penang, Malaysia.  This is just as I exit the plane walking through the little walkway from the plane to the airport.  It was just as humid and hot.  The raining season is now just tapering off.  I hopped on an airport shuttle and I’m off to Darwin CBD.

Day 2:
I booked on AATKings again for my trip to Kakadu National Park, the biggest national park in Australia.  As in Alice Springs, the coach was at the hotel for pickup at 6:20am.  So here we go again.   The drive from CBD to Kakadu took almost 5 hours one way. I later found out that we had to take the longer route because the usual route had a bridge that was washed out by rain after withstanding two cyclones. 

At Kakadu, there were only two stops.  First stop was a boat ride on the billabong.  Again, folks a lesson that i should have learned from my past visits to National Parks.  To see animals, do not go during raining season and flood season.  There wasn’t any animals in sight other than birds.  The billabong was at least 2m higher than normal.  Not a croc in sight!!!  The mangroves were underwater and only the tops of the tree was visible.  The pandanus, river gums and other brushes were visible but most others were submerged.  I saw a couple of sea eagles and its nest, kites, a jabiru (stork), kingfisher,  cockatoos and that’s about it.

Next stop: Nourlangie Rock.  Well, the Nourlangie rocks are mountain face that has ancient aboriginal rock art drawn many thousands of years ago (no exact date was given).  I think if I recall correctly it dates back to the stoneage.  The drawings showed pictures depicting gods, rules of life, sex, and procreation laws.  It is said there are more pictures hidden in the caves but is not accesible to non aboriginal people.  I am glad that it is that way,  hopefully these will be preserved for years to come. 

My conclusion was, I should have stayed at the National Park.  I hardly scratched the surface of what the park had to offer.  Oh well, maybe next time. 

Day 3
Well, I was not at all satisfied yesterday since I did not get to see a single estuarine or saltwater crocodile.  I went over to the tour desk and book myself onto a “Jumping Crocodile” tour.  There I know I would get to see more than enough crocodiles.  Well,  the tour did not fail me.  The pictures posted above were from the tour.  All going for the tour were basically packed into a boat with a lower and upper deck. We were slowly taken to the middle of Adelaide river.  This is not a crocodile farm.  It is simply just a river with plenty of crocs (nice to know huh???).  As soon as the boat was situated in the middle, I can see crocs swimming towards the boat.  I  must say crocs just look nasty,  like a shark.  The just have this look of terror.  It is uncommon for crocs to jump and reach for food.  Anyway, the meat was the lure and there were enough crocodiles swimming towards the boat for an easy meal.  I really enjoyed this tour.  The guide again was an older gentlement who had a bagful of stories to tell.  He also stopped at the Fogg Dam on the way to Adelaide river just so we can have a look around and it was splendid. 

Day 4
Visit to Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls.

by Angela
on Apr 2nd, 2007

OExp: Alice Springs & Ayers Rock

Day 1: Alice Springs

visited: Royal Flying Doctor Service, School on tthe Air (Distance education for children living in cattle stations all over northern teritory, Alice Springs Telegraph Station (connecting Adelaide Telegraph station to Darwin and the over a sub to Indonesia), Reptile Center (I received a kiss on the cheek from a Blue Tongue Lizard…. eeuwwwh!).

Day 2: Alice Springs : West MacDonnell Ranges

Visited: Standley Chasm, Simpsons Gap, Ellery’s Creek, Ormiston Gorge (hiked up to the Ghost Gum lookout and look over the waterhole. Beautiful scenery. I will post pictures. All stops for the day were just gorgeous; I hope my pictures will do it justice. It had just rained the night before and the waterhole and the streams were filled with water. This is quite rare in Alice Springs which is a semi arid dessert. Even the tour guide who lives in Alice Springs took out his camera to take some pictures. I met a Aussie/German older lady and a couple from the UK (I mentioned this because they are also with me for the next three days).

Day 3: Alice Springs to Ayers Rock (Yulara)

The coach came by and picked me up from the Alice Plaza at 7:05am and we set off to Ayers Rock (Yulara). The driving took about 5 hours because of stops. Our first stop it at Stuarts Well which is a cattle station. There is a small yard of animals there. They offer a camel ride for AUD$5. I was quite keen on having a camel ride (just to compare to my elephant ride in India). So I handed my 5 bucks to the rancher. He asked where I was from and I replied “Malaysia”. He gave me a funny look and exclaimed “A malaysian with canadian accent???”. Funny :), this guy looks completely like a cowboy and he said that in true Aussie accent. So I had a little explaination to do and after that all is clear. Well, folks the camel ride was great. Very bumpy when the camel decided to go on a fast trot. My camera almost flew off my neck and I was to afraid to let go of the handle on the saddle. I decided I’d sacrifice the camera first before I sacrifice myself falling from a camel. Alls well ends well. I got off the camel safely, the Aussie rancher took a picture of me on the camel and i will post it soon.

We continued on towards Ayers rock, stop for morning tea, and some lookout stops. We passed Atila (Mt Conner-not part of the National Park since it is under a 99 year lease still), and then started seeing Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tjuta. We arrived at about 1:30pm.

dscn0633.JPGAt about 3pm we started off from the resort and were driven to the base of Kata Tjuta. The sky was getting cloudy. A bunch of us decided to do the hike around one of the smaller rock mount (should take 30minutes one way). We headed off, and before we knew it the sky turned dark and started to pour. Miss Smarty here decided to leave her rain coat on the coach because she decided it was too heavy to carry and thought that it would not rain in the middle of the dessert. Wrong!!!!.. I dug into my back pack to see what I could use to protect my camera. I found my light weight umbrella. Ever seen anyone hiking a mountain face with an umbrella?? Well, let me tell you that it is utterly ridiculous and probably dangerous. Well, for the sake of my pictures I decided I would use it anyway. By the time we got up to the top, the group was starring at me, the lady with the black umbrella :-). I saw them waiting for me up top to give me grief. Upon reaching the top, I smiled at them and gave them a curtsy ;-). They still gave me a little grief but all in good fun. Due to the rain the whole track turned into flowing streams. Water was flowing down from the face of the rocks. I was drench from waist down and my shoes were soaked. Still it was really quite an adventure. We did not get to see the sunset or have the barbeque out at Kata Tjuta. We stopped at a shelter and had a glass of champagne and then headed back to the hotel for our free buffet dinner (replacement to our Kata Tjuta barbecue). It was a long night but quite enjoyable.

Day 4: Kata Tjuta & Uluru

dscn0646.JPGWell folks, it continued raining overnight. I woke up at 5am for sunrise at Uluru (formely known as Ayer’s Rock). We were driven to Uluru but there were thick clouds in the sky. We did not see the sunrise over the horizon because it was too misty and cloudy. I walked around base of Uluru. I was quite surprise that Uluru is not as smooth a surface as I expected. As a matter a fact portions of the face had deep holes and dips. Granted it is just a rock but it is still quite impressive. Walking around the base of it is 9.2km. It rain the whole day there so I have no good pictures at all but pictures would not have justified Uluru.

Day 5: Kings Canyon

Cancelled due to rain. Water over creek leading towards Kings Canyon rose 1.8m overnight. Got a call from reception at midnight to say that I did not have to wake up at 4am since the tour was cancelled. I woke up at 5:30am anyway and went to ask the receptionist if I really got the call or I dreamed of it ;-). Anyway, I walked up to a lookout and looked towards Uluru. The sunrise was magnificent, just standing up on the lookout is quite peaceful and the air in the dessert is so fresh. I stayed and watched the sunrise with just a few people.

Day 6: Alice Springs

1/2 Cultural tour of the Aborignal Heritage.

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