Saturday, March 29, 2014

Week 15 of BZ adventure

April 4 - April 11

Saturday, April 5

Woke up at 8:30 outside the Apollo car rental place and cleaned up Shania for drop off. We are not sad to see her go. 5346km around Australia is a lot plus sleeping in her sucked.

We caught a cab to our hotel and life is good again.
Lennie was able to book 3 free nights at the Sheraton in the Park in downtown Sydney with the points he has with his Amex. It is a dream come true. Huge corner suite, bathtub, king bed, and right in the middle of Hyde park. We arrived too early for a room but they took our luggage and sent us to the spa. We had steams, saunas, showers and slept outside by their pool. At 1:00 we got the room, had a snack and hit the pavement to see the sights.

At the end of the road that the hotel is on is the famous harbour. We saw the bridge and opera house first and tour around snapping a ton of photos.

I love seeing things for the first time that I have only seen on TV and in the movies. It, of course, is even more magnificent in real life. We found an awesome pub and pizza place, split a pizza, and walked back in the cool evening air. What a place, spot, and day. We only slept a couple of hours the last couple of days so we were pooped and knew we had a lots of sightseeing tomorrow including the famous Bondi beach so we hit the sack early.

Sunday, April 6
They turned the clocks back here in Australia so we got another hour of sleep in the gorgeous room and hotel. We woke up late and it is raining. We decided to hit the spa again and sat in the hot tub and patio for a while while the sun tried to come out. Lennie went and got some groceries so we had a picnic in the room.

We have arranged for a bus tour tomorrow so we walked the streets, shopped, watch street performers, a movie, and went to the casino where I cash out over $500. Yahoo, that will help in New Zealand. We walked from our hotel to the Star casino over the Darling Harbour bridge, great sites and sounds in that popular area.

Monday, April 7
Got up and caught our double decker bus tour. $40 for the day with 36 possible stops. We have seen a ton already so Bondi beach was high on our list to see. We walked about 500m and caught the bus right on schedule. We saw so many wonderful sites in and around Sydney. What a city.
As we returned through the downtown area is was pouring rain so sitting on top of the double decker was out of the question. Len made the great suggestion to get off and walk back to the hotel and have our packed picnic there. We dried off from the rain, ate our lunch, and caught the bus to Bondi Beach.
After an information filled trip we arrived to the world famous beach.

It was not what I expected as it was much smaller than I thought. I have watched the TV show Bondi Rescue and it looked huge. There were many surfers and swimmers even though it was overcast.

We took some photos, watched the surfers, and enjoyed happy hour at a pub. We caught the bus back to the hotel, toured Hyde Park and went back to the spa to warm up.
We are sad to say goodbye to this beautiful city and country but we have enjoyed our 28 days here. Len went and bought us a pizza while I tried to figure out how to pack our bags for our next adventure.

 Tuesday, April 8
We arranged for an airport shuttle to pick us up at 7:40 for our flight to Auckland. Dropped our luggage at the counter, caught our flight, and reflected on such a great adventure already.
We landed about 3 hours later in Auckland where we arranged for a night at the Best Western since our tour didn't start till tomorrow. We looked for a cab and the helper told us to call the Best Western as they have a free shuttle. Not having a phone, another person told us of a free phone. We called, they came, it was free, awesome.

We checked in and got a great room of the first floor so we didn't have to lug our stuff too far. They gave us free wifi and a recommendation for dinner at a steak place called Bar and Baa. Knowing gas prices here are over 2$ we were worried about the cost. Well, it was the best steaks and sauces we have ever had and for a great price.

After dinner I remember that we needed to do laundry stat so we inquired at the front desk and once again we were very happily surprised when they shared it was free and just beside our room. What? Free? Awesome. I did all our clothes for our trip, reorganized our bags and booked our hotels for our trip in California. After we stay in Dana's Point with our friends. Mike and Laurie, we are driving to Seattle to see my bother. Lennie once again scored with his SPG points and got us all free rooms plus I booked us in Vegas for a couple a days for free.

I also realized we are booked back in this hotel for Friday the 18th when our tour is done so free laundry and dinner at the Bar and Baa will be in order.
Last request I made was if we could leave 2 extra suitcase bags here while we are on tour (we only need one soft sided thing with clothes) and the hotel said no problem for free (I called the hostel and they wanted $12 a week plus $3 a day. Great savings again just for asking. We are getting smarter on this trip :)

Wednesday, April 9
We needed to meet our tour at a hostel (yes hostel not hotel) in downtown Auckland so we got up and organized to get a shuttle to get there. The hotel found us one for $35 flat rate so we were thrilled as we know downtown is far from the airport. We arrived at the hostel, they gave us a great ensuite room, and waited for our 7:00pm pre meeting with our G Adventures CEO (chief experience officer) Marie Smith.

In the meantime we hit the downtown, got my nails done, ate lunch, found wifi, and toured around. We took a nap then met the other 9 people. They are German, Swiss, and American. We filled in our forms and went for dinner. What nice people and restaurant, free jug of beer with a pizza. Everyone ate and drank.
We are the oldest and only the second couple. Breakfast at 7:00am with the bus leaving at 8:00am for the boat tour. So excited.

Thursday, April 10
We were awoken early to begin our trip north of the city and to the north part of the island. We had a terrible sleep due to a night club being outside our window.
We need to get use to the hostel and nomad way of life way - I realize now that I don't like it being a 45 year old person while the rest are 20 year old students. I don't have their same energy or enthusiasm for change.
I really am getting tired of moving and packing every single day. I think that is why I enjoyed Sydney so much as we had 3 sleeps in the same bed. I will get thru this tour and I look forward to a week in our condo in California.

We ate our breakfast and got in the van for a drive to the Island of Bays.

The day really turned around for me. The other 7 people are so fun, kind, and sweet. Our first stop was at a museum to share the kauri tree. They are like Redwoods to us and the US. Huge and endangered.
We moved further north and stopped for lunch at Goat Island and took some beautiful pictures. We traveled further to Bay of Islands in Paihia, where we caught a tender to a floating hostel.

The barge held 32 people and was an old ferry for cars. There are 5 crew, the 10 of us (9 and Marie), a group of 3 cricket players, a cutie from Wales, and a family of three from the US living in Melbourne. We immediate got to do paintball off the back of the boat to a floating duck, so funny as the boat was moving and the duck was jumping too. They got us all hooked up to fish. I caught the first one and Lennie caught the second one, just small snapper but still cool.

We parked in a cove and had a delicious BBQ then played pool (yes a pool table on a floating barge), talked, and had drinks by a fire, yes they had a wood stove on the boat. Then they pulled out the kayaks and we went for a night kayak to see the stars and the phosphoresce plankton. What a cool thing, as you paddled it stirred up the water and it looked like a million fireflies under the water. The stars in the Southern Hemisphere are beautiful and so different from the ones I have seen in and around North America.
At night, I had to room with 4 boys but turned out it was a great sleep. There were 6 bunks and I wore my eye mask and ear plugs. Woke up 6:30am wow.

Friday, April 11
I woke up at 6:30 which was awesome - probably a good 6 hour sleep for me. I quickly looked out and caught so many amazing sunrise photos.

I made my way downstairs to fish off the back of boat again. Had a ton of bites but no catches for me. After a hot breakfast everyone went snorkelling in another cove for sea urchins which they cut and ate later. We moved the barge to an island (Roberton Island) which we climbed to the top off, played on the beach, and tendered back.

They provided us with a delicious lunch of sandwiches, granola bars, brownies, and oranges. We headed back to the town of Paihia to head to our hostel. I paid $20 so Lennie and I could have our own room. Turns out they gave us a suite.

We were chosen to be in the first group for a late afternoon adventure, a Waka tour with a Maori. A Waka is a traditional canoe.

Nick had us go onto 2 beaches, pick a shell, and he made us all necklaces.
He then cracked some wine and crackers because the time was too high to catch oysters and cook them on the beach. Our host Nick was so wonderful, knowledgeable, and funny. He taught us the traditional greeting of touching noses and foreheads.

We headed back to the hostel for dinner and more fun. Tomorrow we are going to Russell - New Zealand's first capital. We have to take a ferry then we will head back to Auckland and the first hostel and continue our tour south.

Today was awesome.