A bit of decadence in Marlborough.

After the big kayaking adventure, we toned things down a bit for a few days. Deb and I continued to head north on the south island, trying to get to the end. Pretty much did, as we almost reached Farewell Spit. We had gotten such an early start to the day, we were having trouble finding somewhere open for brekkie. To kill some time a walk on the empty beach was needed. Gorgeous.

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After this it was time to get serious about this breakfast thing. Hadn’t really recharged after the kayaking and things were getting out of hand on the hunger level. So off to the little town of Takaka which was coming alive by that time. Thank goodness as we needed to get ready for the crazy drive on the Takaka Road. One of the craziest roads I’ve ever been on.

But I will not bore you with the road details. Our day progressed pretty uneventfully. We, or I, decided that I was much more interested in spending some time in the wine region then planning another active day, so we heading for the Marlborough region.

Luckily for me, on my Deb’s bucket list was going for a wine pairing meal at a winery called Hans Herzog. So with a stop there to make a reservation and to get some help finding accommodation, we were all set for a night of decadence with a meal and a real hotel, The Marlborough Vitners Hotel. What a treat to stay in a real hotel with a great shower. Felt like I was finally able to have a really good shower, after 20 or so days of not so great ones.

Our dinner was called the degustation, which is when each dish is paired with the right wines. We opted for the 3 courses meal and I couldn’t of eaten another bite.

Here are some pics of my main and my dessert (one of the best I’ve had in my life).

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Sorry to make your mouth water. It was lovely and it was my first birthday celebration event. So let the month/year of my birthday begin.

Today, went to some interesting wineries that had very strong European influences, Johanneshof, Clos Henri and to a kiwi winery, Seresin.

Tomorrow I’m off to start my vblog on NZ wineries and will be meeting with Hunter’s and Staete Landt. Should be a great experience.

20km at Abel Tasman

It’s been a great couple of days with my friends Deb and Dean in Christchurch. Always great times with them. Plus got to meet some new people that I can now call my friends.

After a few days in Christchurch, Deb and I left Dean behind and headed out on a road trip. Fun, girls road trip. We were heading to the north part of the south island of NZ. We made our way up to Nelson and beyond. We knew that our plan was to make it to Kaiteriteri so that we could book a kayaking trip out to Abel Tasman National Park. Made it to our destination and were able to book an all day kayaking trip. Maybe a little more than I was ready for, since my kayaking experience is about 2 hours on then Humber River. But it’s all about trying something new.

Along those same lines of new was another new opportunity which was camping. I’ve never slept in a tent. But we were are making baby steps. Staying a tent with beds for my first experience.

But check out what I woke up to.

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We had been promised light and easy seas for a our kayak trip, but that was far from the truth. Our water taxi out to the launch beach would have almost made any one sea sick, or given you a great thrill like it did me. However, little did we understand what kayaking would be like in 4-5′ swells in the Pacific Ocean. The first 3 hours of the trip was a real white knuckle experience, but Deb and I shone through and made it.

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We don’t look too worse for where. But it was tough. Glad it calmed down. Then we could enjoy the trip as it was portrayed in the brochure. Easy going and smooth seas. It was a lovely afternoon and we can be proud of ourselves for meeting the challenge of the day.

Here we are in happier times.

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Now we are relaxing in a little cabin in a town called Collingwood, where the only thing open is the local tavern.

Tomorrow we are in search of more adventure and a few wineries. Should be great.

Had a swim with about 400 new friends today.

What a day it was. I got the pleasure of swimming with wild dolphins in their world. And there were a lot of them. About 400 of them. Awesome!

From Christchurch, I headed out for a long, but incredible day. Our small group made our way to Kaikoura under our great guide, Karen. She is a Maori and had so many great stories and much history to share with us on our journey. I didn’t know that much about the Maori, but Realize that I want to learn more and hope to have some Maori experiences up in Rotorua in a few weeks.

After spending some time in the cute town of Kaikoura, I was off for my dolphin encounter. We donned our wetsuits and heading out to sea in search of these incredible dolphins. I’m a huge lover of the dolphin and I’ve done an encounter within an enclosure in the Dominican Republic, but nothing like this.

Under the guide of the team on the boat, we found the pod about 30 minutes off shore and we were off. The first in water experience was more of adjusting to the very cold Pacific temperatures. Little bits seeping into the wetsuits. Bit of a shock.

Saw a few then, but the real fun came in our 3rd dive in. They were everywhere and so close. Check out this shot. And this was not on zoom. They were that close.

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They were swimming all around. It was surreal. It still is. Trouble believing that I did what I did.

Our 3rd of 5 dives was the best. They only allow for 5 dives in, as they don’t want to annoy the animals, as we are in their space. The Maori are very careful to ensure that this experience is preserved and not abused.

Here is another shot of just how close they got when we were swimming with them.

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As we tried to make noises and sing songs under water to get their attention, they would just swim around and by us. We sounded like idiots, but anything to get them to notice us,

After our 5 times were up it was back on the boat for a final time, but now we got to observe them as they swan around and in front of the boat. They would show off a bit and just enjoy the waves that the boat was creating. So many pictures were taken at this time.

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I could go on and on about this and there are tonnes of video and pictures to prove it. This was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. And these animals are awe inspiring. Can’t wait to do it again one day, but for now these memories will keep me going for a long time to come.

Tackled some fears today and a bit of glacier.

What a cool day today was, literally. I walked on and through a glacier that is ever moving and changing. Unbelievably awesome day.

Here is my glacier, the Franz Josef Glacier.

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Look at how small the people in blue jackets are. I was a blue jacket, just not in this picture. We walked with crampons on our boots and were on some narrow, uneven, and rocky path ways. Got the chance to walk or maneuver through tunnels and crevasses. Let me tell you that these are not made for us 6’2″ people. But I made it through. Kind of proud of myself. With having a fear of heights and small spaces, I tackled both today. (I’m patting myself on the back, really I am. Right in the middle of this coffee shop).

Just in case you miss my smiling face, here it is after my glacier experience.

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This area of NZ gets about 5 metres of rain per year and yesterday they got a soaking, so that made the glacier so clean and blue and white for us today. It was a great time to see it. It’s really hard to describe how beautiful it was. But I will work on that for when I bore you all with my photos when I return.

After my bit of exercise this morning, I found it fitting and right to spend a hour or so in the thermal hot pools. Three pools ranging in temperature from 40-36C. Very important for my sore muscles. Don’t you think….

I’m finishing off my time in Franz Josef with some tea and a little time in the free wifi area so that I can update all of you. Tomorrow off to Greymouth to catch the Tranz Scenic train to Christchurch to connect with some good friends for a few days, plus some time swimming with wild dolphins on Friday. Cannot wait for that.

Let me leave you tonight with this warning.

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Falling in love with…

…New Zealand.

Had you there for a second, didn’t I. But, you would also. And all of those that have been here, know what I’m talking about.

Let me backup. I took JetStar airlines from Melbourne to Queenstown and that was an experience. I will not complaint about Air Canada for a minute, as I appreciate them so much more now. Because they offer that free benefit on their flights of “free” water. Yes, JetStar won’t even give you free water. That led to a horrible migraine headache my first night in Queenstown. Nothing like a migraine when sharing a room with 4 other girls in a youth hostel. Who knew that water would become a perk on a flight. REALLY!

Enough of my bitching. Back to the awesome NZ. I was greeted at the airport by Alexa, a wonderful friend of my friend Leslie. Thanks for that great connection. She treated me to a few hours of touring before my migraine took over the evening. Off we went to the place where bungee was invented. Wasn’t tempted to try it, don’t worry. Had enough trouble even walking on the bridge.

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After a few more stops at some of the lovely wineries in the area, it was time to call it a day for my head. Luckily the hostel beds were comfy. Being on the top bunk is like being 10 years old again. Sadly my body isn’t and it’s not that easy to hoist this big frame up to the top bunk. But once there, it’s like having a sky bed. Fun!

I was as good as new on my first and only full day in Queenstown. Had an early start for my day trip to Milford Sound It was a long 12 hour day with lots of time on the bus, but it’s all about the journey not just the destination. We saw so much beauty on the way there and while on the Milford Sound boat cruise. Here are just a few pictures.

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I looked at all the breathtaking waterfalls and I was reminded of something I heard a few years ago when I was in Maui. Some one said that they didn’t want to go on a specific tour because they had seen enough waterfalls. Do you really think that is possible? I don’t. Each is so unique and beautiful. Just my opinion.

My Tuesday saw me leaving Queenstown and heading for Franz Josef. On to the bus again for me. The bus drivers here are like tour guides. Pointing out interesting sights and places. Can’t imagine our Greyhound drivers doing that. But I might be wrong. Maybe they do that on interesting drives.

The 8 hour bus ride didn’t seem that long with all there was too see. There was a lot of rain on our trip and you know what that created, more waterfalls. Kind of cool to know that a waterfall wasn’t there in the morning but was a few hours later. Like this one:

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It’s time to recharge my iPad and to take a shower before bed, so that I’m all ready to hike the Franz Josef Glacier tomorrow. Should be great fun. Hope the rain let’s up.

Great friends and The Great Ocean Road

Have to catch up a bit. Been having trouble finding free wifi. So i’ve just bought it for the next 24 hours to get caught up. Let me just finish up my time in Australia with you.

After the Great Barrier Reef, I took my burnt backside back to the south part of Australia. This time to Melbourne to visit my girls, Oja and Sarah. These girls know how to greet a person at the airport on Valentine’s day. They were standing there with a big heart shaped balloon, which I had to carry with me the rest of the day. So cute.

After that great welcome we were off to their home in the country, in Porcupine Ridge. I think of Porpoise Spit from Muriel’s Wedding. It’s nothing like it, but the name is similar. After a pint at the Farmers Arms in the small town of Daylesford, we were off home for my first Aussie BBQ or barbie. A great night of chatting, yummy food from the garden and a sky so full of stars I couldn’t believe it. Saw the milky way for the first time. Awesome!

The girls had a great couple of days planned for me. After some errands and laundry we were off to the coast and the beautiful Apollo Bay. What a wonderful and relaxing few days by the sea. Falling asleep to the waves. Not much better than that.

After a few days a pure relaxation it was time to drive the incredible Great Ocean Road. Now that is a drive that should not be missed.

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Along with the gorgeous scenery, I got to see my first koala and baby.

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At the end of the road and a ferry ride, we were in the city of Melbourne for the evening. Time to replace my watch (you will be hearing from me Timex when I get home) and enjoy a great dinner.

Got to see a wallabee on the drive home and this little guy in the garden on Saturday morning.

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Sadly, I said ‘see you later’ to Oja and Sarah and hello to my mom’s old friends Dorothy and Carl. Had a lovely day/evening with them. Most importantly I was able to fulfill a dream for my mom. She had always wanted to visit her dear friends in Australia, but never had a chance. So after holding on to and traveling with her ashes all through Australia, I was able to leave a bit of her with her friends. Scattered some of her ashes in their backyard. Now she can always be with them and let me tell you she has quite a view. That was the last of her ashes, so we have finally said goodbye to this wonderful lady and scattered her memory in many wonderful places in the world.

Goodbye to Australia and hello to New Zealand….

Found Nemo and a sunburn.

Did a whirlwind tour of the Great Barrier Reef. It was beautiful. Of course it was. Truly unbelievable. And I just saw a very small part of it.

I found Nemo and saw so many other fish. Even got in the water when the reef shark that was swimming around the boat. But he disappeared fairly quickly.

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I took the “Oceanfree” sailboat out to the reef and to Green Island. The crew on this boat were great. They made the day really enjoyable. From morning snacks, to snorkeling tours that helped us find all the treasures of the reef and so much more. The only thing I wish they had reminded me about was sunscreen on the back of my legs and my butt. Remember when you are snorkeling that your backside is right out there in the open of the hot, hot sun. And boy am I paying for it now. Wow. Let me say that a burnt bum make everything of do harder.

But, whatever, I will survive and hopefully learn my lesson and get an okay base tan out of it.

Stayed in my first Airbnb. The place was great for the price. And my host was a very interesting woman and very helpful with my sunburn.

Now I’m in a place called Porcupine Ridge near Melbourne and I’m visiting my friends Oja and Sarah in their country home. So beautiful. Just waiting for the local kangaroo to stop by. Saw the wombat last night. And the stars in the sky were incredible. I’d never seen so many. Gorgeous.

Off to the coast today. Hopefully will find more wifi to tell you more stories.

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Sydney, you are more than just the Opera House.

My first taste of Australia was a good one. Nice to slowly immerse myself in this beautiful country.

How better to really understand a city than to find that your hotel is in the Red Light district of Sydney (Kings Cross). Don’t worry, it wasn’t bad at all. The hotel was great and check out my view.

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The area had everything I needed. Good restaurants, grocery store, transit, GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS and XXX. Maybe I didn’t care so much about the last two, but it gave the area character and lots to observe.

But, the rest of Sydney was great. Through the connection of two friends, I enjoyed some time with some friends of friends. Thank you Tak for introducing me to Stephanie, and Dean thanks for connecting me with Ginny and a few others that you didn’t know I would meet. It was so nice to have some others to spend time with.

Like everyone should do when in a city for a short while, I did the hop on and off tour. I went from sitting on a wet seat up top in the rain to getting my first sunburn of this trip. What a day. From one end of Sydney to other and over to Bondi. Let me tell you, there are far more beautiful beaches in Sydney. I could live the beach life in this city.

This city has an extensive train system. But boy are the escalators steep. You feel like you are going to go ass over tea kettle in one wrong move.

So many great things to share with you, but that is all for now. At the airport waiting for my flight to Cairns. Great Barrier Reef tomorrow. Can’t wait.

But, let me just leave you with one more interesting find. Just in case you were wondering what a Canadian breakfast is made up of, let me solve the mystery.

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Thanks YVR

The first stage of my journey downunder is coming to an end as I sit and await my flight to Sydney at YVR. Vancouver has been great. It’s been sun and warm every day. But I guess it’s always like that here….Don’t think so. I’ve been lucky.

It’s been a great couple of days of seeing friends and have a good old “chin wag” as one friend called it. Thanks to Andrew, Stephanie, Ada, Hoa, Thelma, Lindsay, Roni, Drake and my new little friend Chloe. Plus any other new friends I made along the way.

I was luck enough to have great hosts, The McLean’s at their B&BLD. What a great place. Highly recommend. Thanks for living within a 10 minute walk of my favourite place, Granville Island. As you can see by the smile on my face, I love it there.

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Plus enjoyed my new regular coffee shop, Argo… Thanks for meeting me there everyday, Ada.

Now I sit at the airport waiting for my 15.5 hour flight to Sydney. I will be missing February 8th completely, so I hope I don’t miss too much.

Thanks again YVR. See you again soon, but time to head to Oz.

Videos of 2011 that I will remember!

At this time of year it’s all about looking back on memories and events of 2011.  It’s been quite a year for natural disasters and not so natural ones.

But, let’s have some fun as we look back on 2011.  These are the videos that went viral, or not, that I remember or enjoyed for one reason or another.  Without any comments from me, here they ALL are (there are a lot), so pick and choose.  But, take time, enjoy or reflect on what 2011 was in the world of online video.  Let me just say one last thing, there is a lot that you can learn and appreciate from these videos, especially the “Thumbs Up, Rock n’Roll Kid”.  Happy New Year and all the best in 2012!

Lightning TO from Jon Simonassi on Vimeo.

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

Toronto Tempo from Ryan Emond on Vimeo.

What videos stick out for you?  Please share.

Goodbye 2011.  Thanks for the memories.  Hello 2012!  What do you have in store?

All the best in 2012 to all!