Done and done

Trip Start Nov 13, 2006
Trip End Mar 13, 2007

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Well, I have not had much time to get online and now I have tons of stuff write. I might have to do it in stages. I promise I will try to upload some photos soon, but I can't guarantee anything.

New Years Eve was a lot of fun in Melbourne. I didn't have any plans and didn't really know anyone, so I went down to the bar in my hostel that evening to try to meet people to hang out with. I started chatting with a girl and her boyfriend, Ami and Lach, who were actually locals staying in the hostel for the night. They ended up inviting me to dinner with their friends. It turned out to be a pretty big group and dinner was pretty tasty. After dinner a few of us walked up to the river to see the fireworks. We hung out there for a couple hours and watched the fireworks at midnight. It was very pretty and I even called Sam in Florida and woke him up. ;) After the fireworks we went to a party at their friends house and finished the evening there. Everyone was really nice even though I was a total stranger. It was a really fun night!

The next day I went and saw the tiny fairy penguins on Phillip Island and they were sooo cute. They all come out of the ocean once theh sun goes down and then they run across the beach to get to their burrows. It was really funny. I also did a day tour to the Yarra Valley wine region and tasted some yummy wines. Too bad none of them sell in the US. I spent one more day just wandering around Melbourne and then got back on the bus to head to Sydney.

The bus took us down to the southern most point of Australia and then east to the Snowy Mountains. We stayed at a Tibetan monastary and had a mediation class after dinner. It was pretty cool. We also drove along the Snowy River and saw "Jack's Point" where The Man from Snowy River supposedly leapt down into the valley on his horse. After that we went to Lake Jindabyne which is up near the ski resorts. We went for a hike along the river and then swam at the lake for a while. On the last day we drove through Canberra and visited the Parliament Building and learned a bit about Australian politics. The group I was with was pretty fun and for once I wasn't the only American (there were 2 girls from San Diego). Every morning our guide would play a song called "G'day G'day" to start the day and we all got it stuck in our heads and sang it during the whole trip. It was funny but annoying.

On my first day in Sydney I mostly just wandered around a bit and went to a wildlife photography exhibit because it was cloudy and I didn't want to go to the big sights until the weather was better. On Tuesday I took the train to the Blue mountains, about 2 hours from Sydney, and went hiking around in the canyons. The next day I went on a tour to the Jenolan Caves nearby and they were really amazing. I only got to see one of about 15 caverns but it was very pretty. I was back in Sydney on Thursday and did all the main attractions like the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The harbour was very beautiful and after hearing it compared to San Francisco so much I would say that it is similar. I think Sydney harbour is more scenic than the SF Bay, but the Golden Gate Bridge is way nicer than the Harbour Bridge. ;) On my last day I went to the beach in Manly and had a pretty lazy day.

I got back on the bus for the last time on Saturday, Jan 14, to head back to Brisbane. On the way we went to Barington NP and hung out at a hostel/camp ground in the middle of the forest. They made us as much wood fired pizza as we could eat and attacked us with soot as a practical joke. We were filthy! The next day we went to Surf Camp and had our first lesson in the afternoon. They offered us wetsuits, but it was pretty warm that day so I declined. They didn't mention that I might want it to prevent rubbing all of the skin off of my legs and stomach (which I did!). Our lesson was pretty good but the waves were pretty small. Almost eveyone managed to get up and it turned out to be really fun. We had another lesson the next morning and we were all a little better at getting up,  but the waves were no better, so it was not as challenging as it should have been. Still, I loved it and I will definitely try it again even though I suspect that I will be much worse on decent sized waves. Finally we got to Byron Bay and because my surf rash was quite painful by this point, I did not go to the beach much. Instead I went with some people from my group on Jim's Alternative Tour to Nimbin (aka hippy town). The whole bus ride was synchronised with classic rock music and our driver was a die-hard, anti-establishment hippy. It was pretty funny. On the way back to Byron Bay I felt something on my ankle and it was a leech! I made the girl next to me try to get it off by burning it with a hot lighter, but as soon as it let go it would latch on again immediately. So, I had to help her by grabbing it with a tissue after she burned it. It was gross, but everyone on the bus was highly amused.

My group from Sydeny to Byron was my best group so far and it sucked that I couldn't hang out with them longer. It was nice to finish Oz on a good note though and my last week was definitely one of my favorites. I took one more bus back to Brisbane where I stayed with Martijn and Courtney again and went to the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin's zoo). It was great to see them again before I left and we spent a couple of nights just hanging out and chatting. Courtney took me to the airport on my last day and I hopped on the plane to New Zealand. Time for more adventures!
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