Friday, February 18, 2011

That's all, folks!

And this post will conclude my Oz adventures. Should (when) I return, I'll resurrect it, but until then, I have returned to the land of winter, snow and horrific potholes. Seriously, Montreal, I love you but your streets just get worse and worse every year!

Whenever I'm gone for an extended period, I always find the little things are what surprise me. Things like the size of the newspapers (much smaller in North America!), working with pennies again (Australia has a rounding policy so no more pennies when you pay with cash) and looking out the window at six o'clock and seeing the sun has gone down. Oh yes, and which side of the road to look when crossing the street!

The day before I left, my friend (Anne, pictured below) took me to Waterworld in Manly where they had some cool critters (of course!) Hmmm, sun and beaches... missing those for sure!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Around Sydney

The good thing (maybe bad?) about the society we live in today is that it's easy to meet up with friends in different locations and go exploring together. This is exactly what happened when my friend Dan came over from Canada to start his PhD in Canberra, Sandra and Dom came up from Canberra to visit, and Brian took a break from his sabbatical work at U Sydney. We trekked across the bridge to catch a glimpse of the iconic Opera House and see some people walking up the bridge.

We took a detour at the Aquarium, which was quite nice. Note to self: next time you go, don't go in the afternoon on a weekend because you will get ploughed over by screaming kids and tweens who think nothing of shoving you out of the way to press their noses to the glass. I think the Bayesian gods are shining down on Brian.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Waitomo Caves

No trip to NZ's north island is complete without a trip to Waitomo Caves. There, they have glow worms, and they put you on a boat that drifts through the pitch black caves where the works are, and it's like having stars all over the cave. Truly breathtaking... but of course, you're not allowed to take pictures of anything except the outside of the caves!

And we came across an ostrich farm. They have longer eyelashes than me!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lake Rotarua

And of course we saw some birds. We happened to be there on a market day, so it was fun to wander the stalls. I, of course, was distracted by the birds! Perhaps most amusing was the cygnet who was copying feather preening from its parent. Like father like son!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


We stopped in Rotarua, and when we got to our hotel, we couldn't help but notice a strong sulfur smell. It turns out we were near some sulfur springs which you can go and visit. However, we were more interested in some of the cultural offerings, so we went to a Maori cultural show. Somehow, we missed the very beginning where they divide the tourists into to 'tribes' and elect a 'chief' to interact with the Maori chief. However, we did get there in time to see how the food we would be eating was prepared.
Next, we were shuffled through a small reserve where we were shown some native plants and how they were used in cooking and medicine. Then, the Maori men came out in a war canoe. The canoe was quite interesting, but you can see there is a huge crowd, so getting details was difficult.

 Perhaps the most interesting part of the evening was the show itself. I must confess, when it started, I was really worried it was going to be a touch hokey, emphasizing stereotypes such as the sticking out of the tongue. As the show progressed however, it became not only an entertaining show, but a very informative show weaving together history, culture, music and dancing. Something well worth catching if you are in the area.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Paihia, Opononi, Omapere and Waipoua Kauri Forest

We continued on our road trip, and while I wasn't the navigator, I was driving. Every once in a while, we'd pass something, and I'd pull over to snap some shots. We found a nice small waterfall en route to Waipoua Forest.

We also passed two small, coastal towns called Opononi and Omapere. For me, the most interesting part was the mix of sand and vegetation on the dunes across the water. It had me contemplating what kind of organisms would be able to adapt to such different microzones and what those adaptations would be... 

 And to everyone's amusement, we found a sign outside of a pub.

Last stop for the day was the Waipoua Kauri Forest. Here are some gorgeous hardwood trees. They are reminiscent of the ents in the film version of The Lord of the Rings. Fitting since the film was shot in New Zealand!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Next stop was up the coast to the Bay of Islands. We stayed in a nice little coastal town called Paihia, and enjoyed the scenery and wildlife...