May 4 -16
May 17-Jun 1
June 2-9
June 10-19
June 20-30
July 1-9
July 9-18
July 19-28
Jul 29-Aug 11
Aug 11-24
Aug 25-Sep 12
Sep 13-27
Sep 27-Oct 18
Oct 18-30
Oct 3-Nov 10
Nov 11-16
Nov 17-Dec 1
Dec 2-7
Dec 8-14
Dec 15-20
Dec 21-24
Dec 25-Jan 1
Jan 2-7
Jan 8-15
Jan 16-21
Jan 22-25
Jan 26-Feb 3
Feb 4-11
Feb 12-16
Feb 17-23
Feb 24-Mar 7
Mar 8-14
Mar 14-21
Mar 21-27

  Day 294, Sat, Feb. 24 – Our Last day in Bali was spent relaxing, recovering and planning.  We downloaded some website stuff, wrote emails, and hung out at the pool reading in a gazebo listening to the cheesy hotel band.  We were trying to rest because the only flight we could get to Cairns was an overnight.  We said goodbye to the hotel staff and got a taxi to the airport where we had our last nasi goreng, figuring we would have plenty of Western food in Australia.  The flight was only four and a half hours, so not much rest – I’m too tall for airplane seats anyway.


Day 295, Sun, Feb. 25 – The plane touched down at about 5:30.  We were completely knackered and not in the mood for the grilling we received in immigration.  It was really ironic because we had been to some of the most backward countries in the world and we didn’t get hassled until we returned to western civilization:

“Where did you come from?”
“How long will you stay?”
“Where are you staying?”
“How are you paying for it?”
“Are you meeting friends here?”
“When did you leave home?”
“When are you returning home?”
“How did you pay for your ticket?”

That last one really threw us – as if he was expecting someone to say “Oh, that was easy – I make a killing as a drug dealer (or terrorist or assassin).  Naomi was waiting to be grilled about her background as if I was importing workers for my prostitution ring.  I suppose they were trying to say, “look, Yank, the Olympics are over and we don’t need your stinking tourist dollars”.  Or maybe it just seemed that way in our sleepless stupor.

Anyway, we took a taxi to the Hilton and slept until 1:00 in an awesome bed with the A/C cranked up.  When we woke up, we felt much better and started to look around and get our bearings.  From the window we could see over palm trees to the harbor of Cairns, looking sunny and neat and tidy.  You could tell we were back in civilization – the roads were actually asphalt with lane markings and no trash anywhere.  It was quite a shock from where we had been the last few months and it really hit us that we were on the backside of the trip, sliding gradually back home.  We had decided to stop in Australia to satisfy a life-long ambition to dive in the Great Barrier Reef – the largest in the world and one of the 7 natural wonders.  We had each been to Australia before – Sydney and Melbourne, where 50% of the country's population live.  This makes Australia the most urbanized country in the world, which sounds odd since it is also one of the largest in the world.  The problem is the interior, where the vast, dusty, hot, dry, desert "outback" is inhospitable to everyone except Aboriginals who took over 40,000 years to get used to it.   To us, just visiting the cities and suburbs, the country seemed like a very organized, sparsely populated, and laid-back version of the US (although one would never suggest that to a proud Aussie).  It was a new country – even newer than the US - free to make its own quirky way without the weight of historic cobblestones and inherited aristocracy.  It was sunny, tan, athletic, outdoorsy, fun loving - like California without the crowds, snow and attitude.  There are, of course, major differences, such as very cool animals (kangaroos, wallabies, koalas), funky toys (boomerangs, didgeridoos), a funny way of talking (g'dai mait!), much lower prices, English games (cricket, rugby, and a nasty piece of work called Australian rules Football which looks a bit tougher than the padded American version), and an undying belief in their own macho good nature.  Aussies may hate it, but there’s a reason for the stereotype of “Crocodile Dundee”.  That was 20 years ago, but today they have “Steve Irwin – Crocodile Hunter” all over US television.   Australia did a great job on the world stage during the 2000 Olympics to show off their beautiful country, and included a tongue-in-cheek parade of Dundee, Elle McPherson, Greg Norman, and the drag queen movie, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. (Sydney is known as the San Francisco of the Pacific).  Aussies are quick to laugh and even quicker to weed out pretension and phoniness.  In short, it was a very fun place to hang out, but not as exotic as Asia or Africa.   The most exotic element of the Aussie culture is the native Aboriginal history.  Unfortunately, like the Americans, the Europeans who settled Australia (mostly convicts, malcontents and adventurers) did away with most natives and pushed the rest to the margins of society.  The Aboriginal culture, rich in music, art, and natural living is still second-class to the newcomers - they were not even allowed to vote until 1960.  Similar to the US, generations of emasculation and victimization have created a destitute society with high crime, drug, alcoholism, and suicide rates.  Great symbolic strides were taken by Cathy Freeman when she won a gold medal for Australia and the Aboriginal nation, but the government is still refusing to issue a formal apology for its past deeds. At least native Americans have casinos and tourism – we haven’t heard how Aboriginals plan to break the cycle.

We took a walk along the Esplanade, a nice pedestrian shopping district with an overwhelming array of tour companies.  Cairns is the center of the tourist industry related to the reef, so the whole town seems to be involved.  We had planned to sort out a boat/dive trip by the time we met our friends Paul and Mary tomorrow, but it would take a week just to check out each place to see who was giving the best deal.  We gave up and had a tasty kebab dinner (first since Jordan), and interviewed the kebab guy:

Interv5_WEB.jpg (32262 bytes) "Me making money.  Health is very important - and peace of mind no matter what you do, because money is not going to buy your health, no matter how much you have.  And enjoy what you are doing.  Basically that's what it's all about.  And we're certainly doing that!"

 Dinner was followed by delicious ice cream – just like home.


Day 296, Mon, Feb. 26 – We turned on CNN this morning and found out that the day after we left Indonesia, the island of Borneo erupted in ethnic violence, with hundreds of Madurese being murdered by Dayaks with knives, hatchets and machetes.  It was horrible – there were even allegations of cannibalism. We had originally planned to go to Borneo, but changed our plans when it started to get dodgy.  We can already anticipate the emails from our parents asking if we are OK. 


After breakfast, we took a taxi up to Kewarra Beach to meet Paul and Mary.  Plates_WEB.jpg (68072 bytes)They had been vacationing in Sydney, and flew up yesterday.  They had already booked the spacious guest quarters of a small home-based Bed and Breakfast run by this jovial  guy, Terry.  It had a fragrant tropical garden, cool swimming pool, nice Mediterranean decorations, and a colorful cockatoo named Dickey.   It was really great seeing those guys, drinking beers and catching up on news from wall_web.jpg (83204 bytes) home and friends we left behind nearly 9 months ago.  They look the same, but we got a little heavier on travel food and my beard has started to turn gray (thanks for noticing, Paul).  We took their rental cat into Cairns to organize a dive trip for tomorrow (we just picked the first decent-sounding one) and ate a medley of local carnivore food – crocodile, kangaroo, etc.  Some of us had seafood, then we topped it off with Baskin & Robbins.  Back at the house we watched South Park for the first time and an Ally McBeal over more beers.  Now we’re acting like we’re home again.  Maybe tomorrow we’ll be back to “World Tour 2000” – or is that “2001”?




Day 297, Tues, Feb. 27 – Had to wake early to have a quick tropical breakfast worked up by Terry and his wife Sandy – it was delicious. We drove to the pier in Cairns to grab the Reef Quest boat just as it started to rain. The crew was an unbelievably professional outfit, logging everything and really checking divers out before going in.  That was more culture shock for me as I’m used to “you haveJapauldive2_WEB.jpg (75483 bytes) money- OK, you dive”.  We went for about an hour and a half, then stopped to suit up and get our dive briefing.  They went over all the rules of the reef and what animals not to touch, emphasizing that the triggerfish were in mating season and very aggressive.  The dive was semi-guided but visibility was poor due to the recent storms.  We were down 22 meters for 27 minutes, but didn’t see much besides brown coral and a few fish.  We came up early because Paul is still sucking a lot of air just like I did when I first started diving.  After a surface interval, we did our second dive on Najapaulmary_WEB.jpg (82186 bytes) our own – it was much better as we went through overhangs and caverns and around the largest coral heads I’d seen.  We also saw some really good sized fish and Paul was attacked by a very amorous remora.  It was trying to latch onto him as if he was a shark – it was pretty funny.  When we came up, the crew had a sandwich buffet spread out – it was nice but Naomi and I kept thinking about the huge spread in Vietnam.  We could have gone on a third dive, but decided to snorkel with the girls instead.  They gave us some colorful plastic “noodles” to float with and we wound up seeing better fish than we did on the dive.  We also followed a sea turtle and actually touched it – poor thing was probably scared to death.   On the drive back to Kewarra, we stopped for some good old-fashioned fish and chips – one of the best legacies the English left with their convicts - and talked to the guy running the place:


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"Health, then money"



We also bought some Captain Morgan rum for the relaxing swim with Terry, his dog, Sassy, and Dickey.


Day 298, Wed, Feb. 28, 2001 – We slept in (it is vacation after all), and then went to the beach.  They had nets up for jellyfish and warnings posted, complete with nasty photographs of what happens when you encounter a jellyfish in the open sea.  It wasn’t a pretty sight and kept us well within the nets.  In addition to jellyfish warnings, they have another sign at the beach forbidding pretty much anything, such as:

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"Don't sit under a tree when a coconut is falling  from it"

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 "No jumping of motorcycles over cars"

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"Don't wear a thong bathing suit around the octopuses"


We were sort of disappointed because we wanted to do all of those things, so we just looked for seashells for a while, then drove to Port Douglas, the other main tourist center on the coast of Queensland.  The road is awesome – great views and winding curves, a clean strip of asphalt begging for a motorcycle.  Paul was driving and dreaming of the new convertible he has on order when he gets home.  In Port Douglas, we had heard that the Survivor series was filmed not far from there – apparently it’s the biggest thing on TV now, but we can’t say we’re sorry we missed it all.   We had lunch at a small café, then found a store with some ridiculous puzzles in wood and steel – ridiculous because they are so easy when you know the secret, but frustrating as hell before you figure it out.   I bought Poolshot2_WEB.jpg (146677 bytes) one for Dad just to drive him crazy.  Back at Terry’s we swam  to cool off.  This time Dickey was visited by a wild bird, who hung out outside his cage dancing, singing, and trying to figure out how to get inside (or get dickey out) - We assumed it wasDickeybird2_WEB.jpg (96624 bytes) a she bird trying to mate.  We went  back to Cairns for an incredible Thai dinner.  There is a significant immigrant community in Australia, representing most every Asian nation.  This not only makes for great cuisine, but also adds a little spice to the bland English gene pool.  Most of the immigration is in the last few decades since the government had a “whites only” immigration policy up until the 1972.  Prior to that, immigration was only allowed from Europe.  After dinner, we went to see Almost Famous.  Paul and Mary had to put up with our excitement since it was the first time we had been inside a movie theater in 9 months (back home we used to go two or three times a month).  We felt completely out of it when we did not recognize any of the posters in the lobby or the trailers.  The film itself was great – an incredible story with great acting.  The writer/director, Cameron Crowe, said it was like writing “a love letter to music”.  The music was like walking down memory lane – Allman Brothers, Stones, Elton John. 


Day 299, Thurs, Mar 1, 2001  - Today we decided to do some touristy stuff so we wouldn’t feel guilty about acting so at home yesterday.  There are plenty of  things to do – horse riding, fishing, boating, hangliding, etc. – but we decided to take the old-fashioned train to Kuranda, an oldJaomifall3_WEB.jpg (88249 bytes) mining town.  The train winds upward through 15 tunnels and over a couple of dramatic, misty waterfalls as it goes through a tropical rainforest.  We took a nature walk at the station, Train_WEB.jpg (134209 bytes) had a buffet lunch, and took the skyrail back down the mountain over the tops of the trees with even better views of waterfalls.  It was like an extended ski lift without the snow and rainforest instead of palm trees.  There were a couple of stations along the way where we could stop to admire the amazing rainforest vegetation - thick, green, and mossy and view another waterfall. It also gave us an opportunity to examine some pretty gnarly native spiders and other flying critters.

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Paulmaryflag2_WEB.jpg (116457 bytes)By now, we've really gotten used to taking an afternoon dip in the pool to cool off.    For dinner we headed into town again  We shopped a little in the enormous tourist mall, where Mary and Paul helped us advertise and we got freaked out by puzzles again.  We interviewed the puzzle lady and another guy:

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 "Health and family.  It took me 36 years to realize that.  It's not money, not fun.  You really start to appreciate that when you start to lose them.

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 Day 300, Fri, Mar. 2, 2001 – Can it really be the 300th day of the trip already?  Unbelievable.  For our last breakfast at his place, Terry made special scones with homemade jams and honey. 

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"Making sure my wife and kids are happy in their lives and whatever they're doing.  That they can achieve whatever they want.  I'd like to be healthy and happy.  If I see 75 I'll be happy."

Paul drove us to the airport in their rental car, and we went straight to the plane for a change.   On the plane, we got caught up on reading and saw our first Seinfeld in ages – and it was one of our favorite episodes – where the writer thinks Jerry and George are a gay couple, “not that there’s anything wrong with that!”


The flight was just two hours to Brisbane.  We took a taxi to Hotel Albert Park, a pink and mauve Florida type hotel with Mediterranean paintings on the walls.  We took a walk into town – a pleasant, clean, medium sized city with plenty of water.  It looked a lot more like an English town Tbird_WEB.jpg (26892 bytes) or suburb of London than Cairns did, minus the sunshine (maybe that’s why it looks more English?).  Naomi went to a doctor for pills and new cream for the allergic reaction she had to some insect bites in Indonesia.  We stopped at a burger joint that was stuffed with nostalgic American décor inside – pictures of classic cars, and old movie stars - Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart and my namesake, James Dean.  It was pretty weird – like we were in 1950’s Iowa or something.  They even had my old mustang.  We suspect the place is a is a Burger King affiliate since it has the same stuff, although we also saw a BK in town, so who knows? 

We got a look at a newspaper and heard that the death toll in Borneo is over 500 and a suicide bomber blew up a Sherut taxi in Jerusalem.  We wondered where it happened and if we had been on that route when we were there.  We thought about emailing some of the friends we met in Jerusalem, but decided against it since they have enough on their minds already.


Day 301, Sat, Mar. 3, 2001  Had to get up very early for the flight to Christchurch.  We said goodbye to Australia after a too-short visit.  We had a great time with Paul and Mary and were glad they shared their vacation with us.  We wished we could have met more people during our journey, but that was a little difficult since most of our friends have real jobs.  

The flight was just two hours to Christchurch.  Naomi had worked in the North Island before, but I had never been to New Zealand.  We wanted to stop here to see the natural beauty we hear so much about and meet the people, but it was also our gateway to the South Pacific islands.  As expected, the airport was spotless and orderly and we found a hotel through the tourist agency in the terminal.  They had walls and walls of tourist brochures for every type of activity you could imagine.  New Zealand's reputation as an outdoorsman’s paradise was solidified when native Edmund Hillary was in the first team (with the sherpa Tenzin Norgay) to climb Mount Everest  in 1954.   Kiwis (the bird, not the fruit)  are fiercely proud of their independence and are supremely ticked off when people associate them with Australia as if they were a satellite of the bigger continent to the north.  It does have a much different history, having been settled by missionaries, farmers, and merchants rather than convicts and outcasts.  Within 50 years of James Cook's mapping expeditions, missionaries had translated the bible into Maori (the first time the language was written down), and the settlers and sealers introduced guns and European diseases.  The traditional warring Maori tribes, descendents of Polynesian immigrants about 1,000 years ago, used the new weapons in their own wars, but they were no match when taking on settlers and the British Governors.  To end the bothersome warring and land grabs, a treaty was signed by 45 Maori chiefs in 1840, handing sovereignty to the British Crown.  Unfortunately, there were two major problems: there was no word for "sovereignty" in Maori, so the chiefs had a different understanding of the treaty, and the chiefs didn't represent all of the Maori in the territory  anyway.  Land wars continued and by the 20th century all prime real estate was owned by settlers and used for mining, farming, and most of all, raising sheep - creating an "offshore farm" for England.  Although their history is quite different, the end result for the Maori is similar to most other indigenous populations like Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals. There have been some reparations and settlements through the 1990's (after significant "black power" demonstrations  and land occupations), which whites are proud to point out and compare favorably to other countries.   As for the settlers, they became progressives - allowing women to vote in 1893, 25 years before the US, designing old-age pensions, minimum wages, and other social policies.   That independent spirit was also evident in the firm stand the country took against US nuclear warships entering New Zealand and against nuclear testing in the South Pacific by France.  In 1985, French secret agents sunk Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbor.  New Zealand is still supremely pissed off about that - maybe because the saboteurs not only killed a guy in the process, but received heroes welcomes back home.  The Kiwis also get endless joy from reminding Americans that they broke the US stranglehold on the America’s Cup yacht race in 1995.  We don’t have the heart to tell them that most Americans have no idea what the race is (much less who wins it) since they place yacht racing somewhere below checkers, bridge and dogsled racing in level of interest.

The airport service booked us at Central Park Motel near the park.  We lucked out since tonight wasFireworks_WEB.jpg (59015 bytes)Fireworks4_WEB.jpg (34331 bytes)  the night of classical music and fireworks in the park.  We got there just as they were kicking into Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture – the traditional favorite for fireworks worldwide – including the Hollywood Bowl back home.  They had a huge video screen of the conductor and real cannons as well.  It was excellent.  On the way back to the hotel, the park was loaded with teenagers making out, so we had a few flashbacks (waaaaay back) to our care-free youth.


Day 302, Sun, Mar. 4, 2001 – Slept in forever since we were wiped out Church_WEB.jpg (121253 bytes)from the last two days travel, then walked around the botanic gardens.  It was just like walkingFountain2_WEB.jpg (155964 bytes) through one of the large parks in London.  People were laying out in the grass like they do on the three days a year the sun is beating down in London, but unlike London, some of them actually had tans. The sun was blazing, but a brisk wind kept us cool.  We worePunter_WEB.jpg (104259 bytes) Levis and shoes and socks for the first time since Nepal – we figured the sandals we’ve worn since then could use some time alone to air out (we think the hotel maid will agree with us).  The town was immaculate and the flower gardens were beautiful, with every imaginable color of rose in bloom. 

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The whole place reminded us of England – from the punters in white suits pushing along the Avon  Churchsunset3_WEB.jpg (72326 bytes) Sunset3_WEB.jpg (55672 bytes) River to the cathedral and street names.  Everything looks like it was built yesterday – cleaner than Singapore and more orderly than Disneyland.  Everyone had told us that New Zealand was very nice, but it was all too orderly, like the movie Pleasantville.  We had some souvlaki at a Greek takeout and after a surprisingly gorgeous sunset behind the stately English-style cathedral, we watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  The sets and cinematography were great, but the flying stuff was a bit overdone.  We do hope it wins some of the 9 Oscars it is nominated for, especially Yo Yo Ma’s music.


Day 303, Mon, Mar. 5, 2001 -  Got picked up by Fair-Go car rentals at 9:00 and drove to their offices to do the paperwork.  Of course, no human being in the world can understand how car rental insurance works (which is the way they like it), so we used an American Express Card and hoped for the best.  The car’s a Mitsubishi Lancer – 4 doors and an OK engine.  Not as cool as our jeep, but at least the stereo works.  I’m completely accustomed to driving on the left sideReflect_WEB.jpg (89288 bytes) of the road from our time in Bali, but not accustomed to paying Western prices for petrol – about 4 times more than Bali. We stopped at the US Embassy (McDonalds) for the first hotcakes road_web.jpg (62835 bytes)we’ve had in a year – it was a weird craving.  The drive into the interior of the country is beautiful, through rolling hills and flat farmland supporting cows, sheep, horses, some deer-like animal, and alpaca, a lama-like fury thing with a long neck.  The drive was wonderful, twisting as it headed through the Alps and into Arthur’s pass.  Crisp air and dramatic scenery all around – clouds hugging the tops of mountains and some trees toweringTattootruck_WEB.jpg (99420 bytes) overhead like Sequoias in California.  Beach_WEB.jpg (69139 bytes)We made it to the opposite (west) coast in under 4 hours.  The beach is wide and the surf rolls through gradual slopes.  We stopped for lunch in a small town of Hokitika (we just like saying the name).  The town is one of the centers of the greenstone (jade) trade that originally brought a lot of miners and speculators to the area, and it also serves something called "whitebait", which is a mash of tiny smelts deep-fried in patties.  We decided to stick with the standard cod.  On the beach in town, someone had made a sculpture of the town name in driftwood.  They also have a funky "tattoo truck" parked at the beach - one example of the "house-trucks" that are quite popular in New Zealand - we've seen them lumbering down the road like mobile homes.   We skipped rocks  in the surf for a while and looked for seashells, but it’s just too cold here for colorful tropical creatures to live.  

From Hokitika we headed down the coast through valleys cut from the green forest with ferns sticking from the walls and some trees reaching over to the opposite side to form canopies letting in only streaks of light.  It was a great ride through to Franz Joseph Glacier.  We walked an hour to the face of it, through an overgrown fern path and over the rocky debris (moraine) left by the advancing and retreating glacier over the years.  In spite of the bright sunNafranz_WEB.jpg (39746 bytes) that continued all day, the closer we got, the colder we became and we remembered the sign at the beginning of the trail – something about proper attire – hats, gloves, etc.  Of course we were in shorts and t-shirts.  It was amazing to see a glacier – the great Nasign_WEB.jpg (129304 bytes) divider of mountains and creator of rivers - up close.  There was an eerie dome of blue-tinged ice hallowed out like a tunnel over the river flowing out from the center of the melting behemoth.  And the water was “bloody freezin’ mate!” as they say here.  We stuck a hand in and it was colder than the Bhote Kose I rafted in Nepal - maybe those chunks of ancient frozen glacier floating in the river should have given us an indication.  As we walked out of the canyon, the sun was setting, casting clouds and the tips of the mountains in a pink haze.  

We drove another half hour to the Fox glacier where we booked a hike for tomorrow and found out that every room in town was taken.  We wound up at an “unofficial” Bed and Flowers7_WEB.jpg (76180 bytes)Breakfast with some wonderfully nice people.  The wife, Sue, was the same woman Flower4_WEB.jpg (103818 bytes)who had booked our tour.  We had only met two people in town so far and they were the same person!  They have a nice little house with views of the glaciers, Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook, as well as an incredible garden with exotic flowers.   For dinner, they recommended Cook Saddle Café and Saloon, which offered  a surprisingly good Mexican dinner (although still no good frijoles).  The saloon’s motto is “come hard or go home”.  We really like it here.


Day 304, Tues, Mar. 6, 2001 - We woke early for of tour on Fox Glacier.  Our guide, Abel (named after Abel Tasman, discoverer of Tasmania), was great – leading about 20 of us through the dense jungle, over 6-inch wide footbridges, and up on top the Glacier.  He had to chop out stair-stepsFox35_WEB.jpg (77315 bytes) with a pick ax as we went along.  We had to wear hiking boots from the tour Pickaxe_WEB.jpg (82260 bytes)company so they could accommodate the ice-climbing spikes we had to put on to avoid slipping.  This tour didn't go through one of those blue ice tunnels in the tourist brochures, but it was still really fun – we imagined ourselves in the midst of an IMAX movie about the climbing of Everest.  Apart from the altitude, bitter cold, frostbite, oxygen deprivation, starvation, and death it was exactly the same.   Abel explained how the glacier creeps forward and falls back in stages over time, leaving behind rock pieces thousands of years old.  From the top, the river looks like a tiny ribbon in the bottom of the wide valley once carved by the glacier thousands of years ago.  Some of the glacier melts off every day, but there’s no way of telling how old the center is – it is literally frozen in time. 

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By the time we got back from the tour, the weather had cleared enough for us to see  Mt. Tasman peaking above all the rest of the snow-caps, and then Mt. Cook, the highest peak in Australasia at 3,755 meters.  We had lunch in the blazing sun in town.  It Forest20_WEB.jpg (170414 bytes)reminded us of taking breaks on the ski slope, when you peel off sweaty layers and bask in the sun.  The guide recommended the “Chalet” hiking trail to see the glacier from different viewpoints.  It was fairly easy – through green forest,  Beachmount_WEB.jpg (129137 bytes) over streams, climbing rocks, to a beautiful view.  Afterward, we drove out to seal beach, but saw a lot more sand flies than seals.  Their bites are hellacious – as bad as tsetse flies in Africa, and they swarm all over you.  Naomi lasted aboutFerns_WEB.jpg (170915 bytes) 10 seconds and I stayed just long enough to take photos of the ice-capped mountains from the ocean – a weird juxtaposition we’d never seen before.  We went to the lake to see a peaceful, calm sunset reflection, and then checked out a glow-worm cave in town.  These little larvae of the fungus gnat hang in dark, moist places and glow soft green to attract insects to eat .  The funny thing is, when they become adults, they only live long enough to mate and lay more eggs since they have no mouth parts!  The cave was like walking into an observatory with twinkling stars all around.   We walked to dinner at Cook Saddle Café and Saloon again, this time having the ribs.  We’re getting used to this Western food  - it’s like re-acquainting ourselves with long lost friends.  The beers reminded us that New Zealand also inherited some great brewing techniques from their English ancestors as well.



Day 305, Wed, Mar. 7, 2001 – We got up at 6:00 for another one of our sunrise appointments with nature.  This one turned out to be much better than Poon Hill and Nagarkot.  We checked for Trail3_WEB.jpg (159711 bytes)clouds and fog, and then had some strong coffee before driving to Lake Matheson.  fern_web.jpg (153017 bytes)The sky was lightening as we started the hike through the mossy green forest trail.  The tourist board isn’t modest about the names – “reflection island” and “the view of views”.  The snow-capped peaks of Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook were reflected in the still waters of the lake.  A fog rolled in, and then left as fast as it came, as ducks flew in formation overhead.  It was beautiful – and pretty quiet with few tourists about.  The trail on the way out goes by some incredible spider webs constructed overnight glistening in the morning dew.  

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We stayed for a few hours, then went back to the B&B to get our bags and say goodbye to Colin.

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“At this stage in my life it’s health. It’s not money because you can always get money if you work hard. But you can’t buy your health, so if you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.”

As we drove out of town, we saw idyllic scenes of green fields, golden wheat, and white caps against a blue sky.  We also saw thousands of the 48 million sheep in the country.  It is said that sheep farming is still the backbone of the economy, and we can see why - there's 13 of them for every human being in the country.

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We also stopped to play with some cows.  The closest Naomi had gotten to a Nacows7_WEB.jpg (53150 bytes)live cow before was an extra rare steak tartar in Paris.  Being a city girl, she thought all you had to do was hold up a piece of grass and they would walk up to you to eat it.  Skydiver4_WEB.jpg (12625 bytes)Maybe that’s the way it works at the Disneyland petting zoo, but in real life they’re curious but skittish as hell.  She had an audience of thirty cows enthralled for 10 Nacows6_WEB.jpg (56249 bytes)minutes by dancing, waving, and doing a handstand.  It was a real life Far Side cartoon in search of a caption: “Gee, Mildred, that human looks pretty happy – I wonder if that makes her taste any better”.   Right after the cows, two skydivers came down in the field across the road – I wonder what the cows made of that.  

As we left town and drove to Wanaka, the road hugs the coast for a couple hours, where we could see the faint shapes of seals on the distant ragged rocks.  It then turns inland and the landscape changes Nalean_WEB.jpg (20802 bytes)from rainforest to dryer scrub.  We stopped at the incredible Puzzle World in Wanaka and visited a room built at a 15-degree angle.  It’s very disorienting as water runs uphill, balls roll up a billiards table and we Vangoghpuzzle_WEB.jpg (67205 bytes)walk with a permanent lean.  The most amazing illusion is a hall of faces, where dozens of sculptures of Lincoln, Churchill, Van Gogh, Mandela, and Beethoven turn to follow you around the room as you walk by. It’s a Japuzzle2_WEB.jpg (107318 bytes)complete illusion – the sculptures are even concave!  Outside they have a 2-level human maze.  They recommended it would take 30 minutes to one hour, so we ran around in circles and dead ends, passing the same people dozens of times and barely made it in an hour. We kept thinking of lab rats, but felt more like Jack Nicholson with an axe in The Shining.  The twisting roads past deep blue lakes and into Queenstown were beautiful.  The town may be the adventure capital of New Zealand, but it is wildly commercial – we knew we were in trouble when we saw the Hard Rock Café advertisement.  The little club that used to have the cache of uniqueness in London, LA and New York now dominates the world (as we noticed in Bali as well).  We saw “No Vacancy” signs all over, so we used a booking agency, which got us the Queenstown Inn – a ski-lodge type motel with musty halls like moldy old skiwear.  It did have great views of the huge lake from our window, but the promised bathtub turned out to be a miniscule shower stall.  We just kicked it and fell asleep after the long hard day.

PS - Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Rick, happy birthday to you!


If you would like to follow our adventure in New Zealand, please click here: Photojournal March 8 - 14, 2001

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