Saturday, February 25, 2006

Milford Track New Zealand - 33.5 Miles of Hiking Heaven

So far in New Zealand we've darted across the south island in an alpine train, hiked a glacier, jumped out of a plane at 12K feet and hiked a mountain atop of Queenstown. They say that New Zealand is the "thrill captial of the world" I know why.

Our last adventure in the south island (before spending a few days in Auckland) was a 3 day hike along the Milford Track, a famous hike. When we originally planned this part of the trip over six months ago, all 24 daily slots allotted for people to hike the track had been taken. That includes the entire month of January and February. Fortunately for us there was a company that caters to those wanting to do the Milford Track (and has the gov't monopoly) and has 50 daily slots. At first, I thought the expense was not worth it and then we made the trip. Boy was I wrong.

That's right, we did the 33 1/2 mile hike 3 days while carrying all of our stuff on our backs and dealing with a major downpour on the last day. The first two days were great! The first day was a long 11 mile hike along a creek in a valley surrounded by steep mountain peaks. There was plenty of sunshine and little clouds as we made our way up and over the mountain pass...crazy views as we journeyed through the switchbacks. On the way back down over the pass, we stopped to check out the 5th highest waterfall in the world...of which I had the pleasure to take a shower in.

They say it always rains at least one day on the track, and boy did it. The most impressive part of the rain was the sheer number of waterfalls that begin to show up everywhere. As we hiked through the rain soaked valley, it was as if someone turned on a spigot and let the waterfalls flow. Truly an amazing experience.

As we completed the track, we ultimately found ourselves at the Milford Sound. The mountain peaks all around the sound are a mile high and the blue waters are a mile deep...the views are hard to articulte, but when you look out and see a cruise ship that looks like a toy boat in a pool, it puts things into perspective. If you look closely at the picture below, you will notice a very large cruise ship at the base of this peak. Again, the Milford Track did not disappoint....a definate highlight on our trip so far!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Kiwi Crazy - Anything For a Thrill

Check out Flying Jenny!! She has the cutest smile even at 12,000 feet above New Zealand...I landed just in time to see her fall out of the sky.

So, now we're in New Zealand and this is certainly the place to do any crazy thing that you always wanted to try. We left the heat and beach of Hayman Island near the Great Barrier Reef a few days ago (the diving in Thailand was better). So far in the few days here, we've taken a train through the mountains, a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier where we hiked around for a few hours (through caves and saw a few avalanches) and have jumped out of a plane. We leave tomorrow for a 4 day hike (33 miles) taking us through some of the most beautiful mountains this side of the world (I'm still a Rocky Mountain fan). This is a great place to wind down our trip!

Jenny caving on top of Franz Josef was it cold!

While I find New Zealand a blast, I can't say the same thing for Australia. It was nice, don't get me wrong, but I felt like I was in another part of the United States. The cities were all nice (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, etc), but they could have been transplanted into the states and it would have fit in nicely. We were lucky enough to have a few encounters with some kangaroos which was amazing. I know that many people come back from the land 'down under' and can't stop talking about how amazing it is, but after 3 weeks touring the country I can not say that it has anything on the states. I guess you can say that Australia is simply over-rated!

Unfortunately, many people do not take the time and really explore our own country other than Florida or California to escape the cold Northeastern winters. I was lucky to have my parents plan one of those trips that seemed awful back when I was 14. We spent 10 days driving around in a Camaro through the Western states including Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakotah, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and maybe a few others. I liked it so much, I spent a 6 weeks driving around much of the same area after I graduated college. There are so many natural splendors in the states that blow away Australia. Ayers Rock...Devil's Tower, Wyoming. King;s Canyon...a poor man's Grand Canyon. I will say that they're cities are nicely situated on the coast line and the weather may be a bit better. I can't say that I really blame Rupert Murdoch for moving to the states...I guess it also explains why all Ausies have major travel bugs.

Regardless, we had a great time and can't say that I regret anything from our trip down there. Hayman Island was a really sweet spot and I recommend it for anyone planning a romantic getaway.


Time for dinner -- awill finish up later.

Monday, February 06, 2006

One for the thumb - Down Under On Super Bowl Monday

In Sydney, we spent Super Bowl "Monday Morning" (10am kickoff) at a local sports bar that broadcasted the game. As most of you know, I am a HUGE Steeler fan and I was sure not going to miss this event!

What else can I say that this image doesn't already tell...

Congrats to Bill Cowher for completing his dream. Personally, I have a lot of respect for this man including his motivation, postitive attitude and his determination. Here's a great post-game quote from him:

"A lot of people tell you you can't do it, but you know what, it doesn't mean you don't go out and try"