Monday, April 27, 2009


Sunday morning, we awoke to see the cloud hovering over the bay, obscuring our view of the Harbour Bridge, and of the top of the SkyTower. Walking around the main streets after checking out, Mum and I had studied up on the things to do in Auckland for our last day of our trip, and thus, looked forward to a slow day!

We walked down to the piers, and decided on a ferry across to Devonport, on the North Shore. Filling in time, we took up the tour of the little town, with a very friendly local tour guide. From this vantage point on the harbour, we watched the cloud cover move over, away from, and again all over the cityscape of Auckland, hiding the iconic SkyTower for much of the morning.

Heading back to the city itself, we walked over to Viaduct Harbour, before finding that we could finally see to top of the tower, and deciding that we could make the trip up to the (second) highest structure in the Southern Hemisphere, at last.

Mum and I rode the scary lift up to the viewing decks, selecting both levels, to get the full view. We wandered around up there, overlooking every direction of Auckland and it's harbour.

Grabbed our bags and finding a shuttle, we traveled out to the airport, me giving myself a jab on the way out in preperation for the flight home. Checking in, and going through Customs, I made a special request for a stamp in my passport, filling the last empty page in my trusty companion which is now technically finished (less than 6 months left on it).

Our trip over as we touched down in Melbourne, with Mum and I both with colds, but at least still speaking to each other!

ANZAC Dawn Service and the TranzScenic

Whilst it was still very early, cold and dark on Saturday, Mum and I left the comfort of our hotel room, laden with our luggage, and got a taxi to the Cenotaph in Wellington, with the gathering crowd.

Standing in the dark, cold centre of town, we watched as the Returned Soliders, serving members, and their families, gathered to form the parade to the Cenotaph to begin the ANZAC Dawn Service. With a rifel fire into the air the service began, with prayer, welcome, a minute silence, and the ever haunting Last Post.

Meaning more and more to me, I aimed to be over here this year, after Melbourne two years ago, and Gallipoli 4 years ago. Jessie and Heath were at the Gallipoli service this year, as Mum and I were in Wellington.

As the Dawn light started to spill over the waterfront, Mum and I took our bags the two blocks to the Railway Station, and checked in to our TranzScenic Overlander journey up the North Island. Leaving the station at just after 7.30am, we settled into our comfy seats for our feast of spectacular scenary.

Through river gorges, past the national parks and volcanic plateau, and through the Raurimu Spiral. The lunch stop was at Ohakune, just after the sighting of Mount Ruapehu. Amazing trip, with the open air viewing deck, to the back carriage with a lounge for viewing from the glass windowed back of the train.

Arriving into Auckland, to the first proper miserable weather of our trip, we walked from the station, to our hotel, just at the foot of the iconic SkyTower.

Friday was our full day in Wellington, and we actually did what we had done the day before, but in reverse, and in daylight. We walked down Willis Street, stopping for brunch along the way, to find the Cable Car station. Mum and I rode to the top of the hill overseeing the town of Wellington.

Leaving Mum at the top, I wandered down into the Botanical Gardens, to find the Sundial, and the Peace Flame. Back down to sea level, we walked through the main street of town, before again walking along the Waterfront, and having Fish and Chips looking out over the habour.

Back to Te Papa for a proper walk through of the cultural musuem of New Zealand, we took in the art and history of the land. Learning much of the settlement of the land over the ditch, reading up on the Treaty Of Waitangi...makes me wonder why Australia is so far behind in recognising our indigenous culture. This treaty was signed in 1840! The Australian government's true acknowledgement has just happened in the last few years! Disgraceful!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Milford Sound

Early yesterday morning, Mum and I got up whilst it was still dark, to be picked up by coach at our hotel, for our trip to Milford Sound. 5 hours on the bus down over and across to the Fjordland of New Zealand, we had a very chatty bus driver all the way....but with spectacular scenery!

Our bus had a glass roof, allowing us to take in not just the forests and lakes, and mountain ranges around us, but also above us...which it was for a large portion of the trip.

Getting down to the Sound, and boarding our cruise out on the water, and a little lap out on the Tasman Sea, the landscape is breathtaking. Glaciers above, waterfalls meeting us, and snow-capped fjords towering all around us. Standing out on the deck in the sun and chilly, fresh air was amazing.

A very long day, with the 5 hour trip back, we had a quick dinner when we returned to Queenstown, before calling it a day.

This morning I got up and ventured up the Queenstown Gondola, for views of the town, lake and surrounding mountain ranges. Up there before the crowds, I took in the cloud covered Remarkables, across Lake Wakatipu to Cecil and Walter Peaks, and then finally the clouds parted to allow me to see Coronet Peek, where I had launched from to Hang Glide.

After another loop of town in the car, Mum and I dropped off the car and checked in for our flight up here to Wellington. On a little propeller plane, we managed to select the left side of the plane to allow us to view to top of Mt Cook, from above the cloud cover. We got to take in the vast mountain ranges all the way up the South Island, before seeing the Cook Strait pass under us, for us to arrive on the North Island.

Checking into our hotel, we walked over to the National War Memorial, for a little recci for the Dawn Service...and lucky we did! The service on Saturday is actually elsewhere, and in a much better place for our planned impossible Service and then train combo! Taking in the Carillon, and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the inside of this building is gorgeous, being the Hall of Memories.

We walked down further to Te Papa, after seeing that the Monet and The Impressionists exhibit is currently on display. I joined the queue, and then wandered around the rooms of the show, displaying works by Monet from early days, to his Haystacks and Waterlilies.

Back out into the fading light over the harbour, we walked along the waterfront, and then through town, before a quick dinner. I have just walked up through Cuba Mall to find loads of Cuba related cafes and restaurants...cute!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hanging Over Queenstown

This morning Mum and I had breakfast in our hotel, the Copthorne Lakeside Resort, seeing our surroundings in the daylight for the first time. Overlooking Lake Wakatipu, and mountain ranges at every direction, the sun was shining and there was a thread of cloud across the landscape.

Having read up on some of the adventure activities offered in the area, I had decided for the degree of difficulty, the fact that there is no water involved, and that you don't need to land on your feet, to go hang gliding whilst here. Booking was as easy as having the concierge calling a company for a timeslot, and then they came and got me, Mum in tow as my spectator.

Queenstown Hang Gliding and Paragliding with pilot and co in a little mini van collected us, and took us to the ski base of Coronet Peak. Here I was strapped into my harness and giving my instructions for our take off over the edge of the mountain. Nervous, we stood waiting for the right gust of wind...or any gust of wind! Being at the end of the season, and given the need to get something like this right, we waited for awhile, making my nerves increase.

But when Niel, my pilot, asked if I was ready at last, given the length of time waiting, and anticipating, strapped in and facing the space above Queenstown, I was ready for the steps and short run off the cliff.

With a nervous moment to get my feet into position, I was then flying with ease over the forest and mountain below...flying, like a bird. Once up there, and settled in, I had to try and remember to look around and enjoy the experience...which was easy, cos it just felt like we were floating up there in the winds. But I did need to remember not to focus so much on holding on!

We flew over the trees below, and then I was handed the steering myself, and shown how our weight movements would control the direction of the Glider. As gravity and the wind directed us down, we soon circled the landing field, and come in to land, on our bellys on the green grass. Easy as!

Feet back on the ground, Mum and the rest of the crew joined us at the Flight Park landing field, and we were taken back to our hotel. The rest of today, Mum and I have walked around Queenstown Gardens, taking in the Lake and the Mountains, and all the activities going on overhead. We have wandered through the little touristy town, before dinner at the Speight's Ale House.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wine, Thermals, Cook and Cow

On Sunday afternoon I joined a little mini bus load of BookCrossers for a winery tour of north Canterbury, about 45 minutes outside of Christchurch. Again, a collection of accents, new and old friends on the bus, including Lil, who I met in Japan on my way over to the UK.

Our first stop was The Mud House, overseeing the sweeping mountains behind the views of the vines, we tasted the full selection of whites and reds. Down the road was the second stop, Waipara
where we were served yummy food platters as the tastings were brought out to the table to us. And the third was Torlesse Winery, a little boutique winery, where we were taught bits and pieces of wine knowledge as we sampled.

With the end of the Convention, Mum and I then headed for a full meal at Dux de Lux, before we called it a night on our stay in Christchurch.

This morning we arranged our shuttle out to our not-so-central hire car pick up, to start our roadtrip down the centre of the South Island. Driving down two hours ot Geraldine, we stopped for lunch and a driver swap, before driving down further through green, green plains, with the brilliant orange and yellows of Autumn, to Lake Tekapo.

Looking over the aqua blue lake, with a backdrop of mountain ranges, we found the thermal pools of Alpine Springs. Taking a dip in the hot 40C heated pool, with the cold, crisp air all around you, and the trees to one side, and the mountain range and Lake in front of you, was heaven!

Back in our little car eventually, we were watching the mountains around us, highly anticipating Mount Cook. Wrongly calling it several times, as we approached another lake and a heavily cloud shrouded area, we just knew it would be under all that fluffy stuff! Sure enough, after stopping at the Information point, the gruff lady in there informed us that the mountain we were hoping, with it's trace of snow at the top before disappearing under clouds, was not Mount Cook. We could just see the very bottom of Mount Cook, over the far corner of the Lake.

Another couple of hours driving through the mountain ranges, we have arrived in Queenstown. So far, it's a little tourist town around a lake, with a mysterious lit point above us....we have the feeling we'll be surprised by our surroundings in the morning! Dinner tonight was at The Cow, right in town for pizza and pasts, before studying up our stay here for the next couple of days.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

BookCrossing in Christchurch

After wrapping things up at work for a week away, and giving myself a jab for the flight, I hopped on the Skybus out to the airport to meet up with Mum, and check ourselves in to our flight to Christchurch. An hour delay on Jetstar, and then just a 2 hour and 50 minute flight, the Clexane may have been excessive...but it certainly laid my mind at ease as we flew.

Getting in pretty late, we taxied to our accommodation very close to town, the City Court Motel, waking up our hosts for our key. Friday morning we got up ready to explore on our free day in Christchurch, walking into central Cathedral Square and taking in the Chalice. Having brunch at the Cathedral Cafe after walking into the church for a peek, Mum and I then studied the bus maps to find our way out to Lyttelton, and to the Gondola.

Riding up Mount Cavandish in the little swing capsule, reminding me of my trip in Switzerland, Mum and I went through the Time Travel exhibit before taking in the views from the observation deck - looking over Lyttelton Harbour, and over the city sprawl of Christchurch. Venturing out into the crisp and fresh air, we walked out to the volcano rim for a 360 degree view of our surrounds.

Back into town we made our way to Cathedral Grammar to register for the 2009 International Anniversary BookCrossing Convention, picking up our goody bags, and gaining our bearings of our base for the weekend. Friday night we had a formal, cultural welcome in Maori for the opening of the Convention by one of the local BookCrossers, ice breaker games, and a chance to mingle in with the group.

People from all over the world were here for the Convention, with accents and stories a plenty. Saturday morning, after a wee little sleep in, Mum and I found the City Release Walk through town, stopping off at many places for creative and crazy releases. We also took in the ye olde Provicial Buildings, the Arts Centre and precinct, as well as the amazing Autumn colours and leaves around town.

Stopping for lunch at the markets in the cultural precinct, I ducked across the road to look at, and listen to, the Dyslexia Discovery Exhibit.

The afternoon session was the full on BookCrossing section of the weekend, with a guest speaker talking about Janet Frame, a speaker on the history of the book, the presentation for the next International Convention in Amsterdam, and vote for the 2011 Convention, and a live cross to BookCrossing central in the US, and a glimpse at features preparing to launch for the site. Mum checked out the Christchurch Casino for much of this!

Dinner and the traditional trivia night followed, with Mum and Andrew on the Rainbow Warriors team, and Megan and I managing to find ourselves on the Dracula's Little Helpers team, answering questions all night on all sorts of topics. Our two teams managed the not come last...but close!!

Today we have met the group of BookCrossers for the last official part of the Convention, the Sunday Brunch. With some 60 Aussie and New Zealand, Irish, English, Dutch and Austrian accents filling the room, all talking about books, releasing, travel, and the growing gathering traditions, it's fascinating how one little website idea has grown into such a community.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ready For This?

Last night for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Nicole and I saw Tim Minchin at The Forum. Having booked these tickets back in December, I think Tim is the reason I haven't been keen for any other shows - what if they aren't as good as him!?

The new show, Ready For This? has the barefoot musical comedian with the crazy hair, starting the show proving he doesn't need a band.

In a response to the outroar over his song at his breakout Fringe show in Edinburgh, seen in his documentary, he does a song called Prejudice which merges into Only A Ginger can call a Ginger Ginger. Clever, hilarious. He also does an ode to one of the reviews he got around that time too. Ouch!

The clever word plays, groovy dance moves, songs about boobs, and maths in love. Tim's religion verses science debate flares in song, loaded with risky but witty, edgy controversy, and in a 9 minute beat poem. He's smart, black comedy, packs a punch to our educated, secular generation.

Bears Don’t Dig On Dancing is his new world changing platform song this tour, he tells us, after the success and change in government policy since Canvas Bags, and the encore for the night. A total entertainer, and full hour of laughter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No Genetic Mutation

Today I finally went to see my GP, after my follow up blood tests to screen for any blood or genetic factors for my incidence of DVT last year. And the 8 vials of my blood they took from me a couple of months ago have cleared me of any mutations in my genes, predisposing me to clotting.

Great! So just The Pill. And all those flights. And maybe a bit of dehydration in the heat. And dumb luck, led to those big fat clots. No real explanation as to why this time, and why not before...but anyway!

My GP had also discouraged me from wearing the peg, stating that really now, it was no longer doing anything for my circulation, nor preventing a new DVT. So I have been without peggy for about two months, and really there has been no difference. So all good there too.

But tomorrow, I am due to get onto my first post-DVT international flight. My first non-warfarin long flight. Not long haul, but the shortest flight that will get me a new stamp in my passport. And I am anxious!

I seem to hear about a new DVT story everyday. Just today someone told me about a friend's mother who had just got off a flight from the UK, and had a DVT. The incidence anecdotally seems higher than ever!

My story of DVT has led to many of my friends telling me that they are now more aware when flying, and will do more things to prevent themselves getting one. Good! Get up and walk around! Drink wine! And do those silly exercises!

In order to prevent DVT in the future I will need to take injections of Clexane. So before and after long haul flights. If I am ever pregnant. The incidence of DVT in my age group is 1 in 3000, and despite my GP telling me my odds are still the same, I am not going to run the risk of another clot...which would lead to warfarin for life.

Warfarin for life would mean no drinking. Ever again! Good god! But also fortnightly blood tests to check my levels. Always considering what I am eating, and whether I have eaten too much spinach this week, did I already have chick peas in something this week, is there fenugreek in this? And also the constant fear of harm leading to bleeding, leading to not clotting.... Nevermind the idea of taking a derivative of ratsack forever!

So I have also insisted today that I be given Clexane for tomorrow's flight, and for the flight back home. I would rather be preventative...than wish I had. But now, the challenge will be giving myself the needle! I am not sure which is making me more anxious!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Win On The Board

Sunday, the Hawks opened their 2009 account. With a convincing win, over a bogey team. And they looked good. Despite missing Premiership players, and the psychological damage a rough week served our opponents!

Having landed into bed at who knows what time after a crazy fun day, I actually woke up confused and unsure of the time on Sunday. My phone was dead, so I stumbled out to the TV to discover, to my horror, it was 30 minutes to bounce down at the newly named and accepted Etihad Stadium. Crap!

Taking things a little gently in my hungover state, I finally got on the tram to the match, and arrived up to the top level just after quarter time. Hawks winning, feeling better already! Despite going to the footy weekly, we don't have a standard area at the Dome (hmmm, Staduim), and without a working phone, I looked around for ages and ages...but didn't spot Mum or Melissa at all. With the tired peg leg needing a rest, I finally quit the search at half time, and found a seat, any seat.

After watching us lose our first two matches of the year, I soaked in the lightening handpasses, the silky skills of Rioli, and the sensation of Buddy and Roughead kicking a bagful each, and watched Hawthorn pump away to a 42 point victory.

Finally having my first meal for the day, I amazingly ran into Melissa as she walked out of the train station, after seeing Mum off home to Ballarat. And lucky for her that I did! She was ready to launch a search party for me, given my lack of phone response all day.

Melissa and I then went back to the North Fitzroy Arms, found the day before, for a Sunday roast, to make Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Bunny Pub Hop-Crawl

I had a sturdy brunch at Mosskito to line the stomach for a day of drinking around Clifton Hill and North Fitzroy for an Easter Pub Crawl. At 12noon as I was finishing, Melissa called me from the first pub, the Royal, letting me know it was closed for Easter. A great tucked away pub find though, by all accounts.

I met Wendy and Melissa out the front of a closed Terminus, before we walked down to Queens Parade to find that the Normanby no longer exists. Not a good start!

Thankfully, the Clifton Hill was open with a handful of old man locals, and we started our day with pints, to make up for the missed stops thus far. A walk through Edinburgh Gardens, we found familiar Parkview for a double up pint stop, and a chance for the girls to have lunch.

With the sun blazing down on us, and our beer levels back on track, we walked the back streets to the Railway. This is very close to home for me, although I have never been in...looks like the dingiest of old man pubs on the outside. Inside is a strange collection of rooms, with tucked away dining room, family filled front bar, raucous pool game going on out the side, and a surprising beer garden. We took out pots outside, and discovered the fruit trees and canopy of grapes growing.

One of my favourite pubs, and my true local, The Empress was closed as we got there, so we moved on further down Nicholson Street to find that the Nicholson on our map is now a block of flats! But just across the road was the gorgeous wine bar Bistro flor, which I have always wanted to visit. We found a lovely little beer garden here, and Beer Lao on the menu! Hello!

Off on foot again, we ventured down to the back streets back on the North Fitzroy side, and found the North Fitzroy Arms - a heartland pub of the Fitzroy Roy Boys. Walking out of here after our pots in another gem of a beer garden, the girls found a resting point in the setting light, before we walked down Rae Street to Tramway.

Getting back onto Nicolson Street, we found the TAB soaked Royal Oak, where Springer joined us for the rest of the crawl. Next up was possibly one of the finds of the day, the newly polished North Fitzroy Star. We took our pints up on the big beautiful table in the front bar, but found among the book-lined rooms the front restaurant room decked our for a wedding, and the back room prepared for a birthday gathering. A lovely pub and venue!

Back onto Brunswick Street North, we found the Lord Newry, where Springer's bunny ears appeared, and little chocolate eggs found their way to our pot glasses.

Making our way to the next pub, as Melbourne was getting darker, I managed to find myself on the ground at some point, minus a chuck of my right hand. Oops! Ouch! A pub crawl injury, which was tendered to at our next stop, the Recreation, where we also had a bite to eat to refuel. This is the last pub on the offical pathway on the map, however there are several more marked on the map close by, so we plotted ahead, and added three more stops.

Down to Alexander Parade, we stopped for a pot in Father Flanagan, and then walked a little further down for another at the Royal Derby. Beautiful comfy couches here, and a DJ playing just to himself!

The last stop was called Rubira's on the map, but named Ink now, Springer and I popped in for the last drink. Great crawl, some amazing pub finds, and a sore hand - all marks of a top day!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Canary Club

Last night's bar drawn out of the pack for Project 2009 was the Canary Club, tucked away in dark and dingy Melbourne Place.

From work, Mary, Sandra, Dan and I made our way down to Melbourne Place alley after work drinks, and after mistaking the entrance to the 'private club' next door, we found the doorway, adorned with tile pieces. Walking in we were greeted straight away, and convinced to go upstairs to the mezzanine level, to a booth.

Hearing the girls in the booth next to us talk about sangria, I immediately insisted we get a jug, and then study the much praised tapas menu. Virgin sangria drinkers Dan, Mary and Sandra asked our attentive and hot waiter what was in it, and it felt like he talked for fifteen minutes to answer! This was some amazing sangria!!

Our tapas arrived, with little spicy chorizo and potato goodness, and then paella risotto balls, yum! More sangria, and then Jenny and Samantha arrived, ordering martini from the cocktail lists.

This has been my favourite bar on the Project to date, with cute boys in attendance, hot waiters, great table service...and the lad gave us a cocktail on the house due to the delay in it's arrival (we didn't notice!!) and another jug of sangria too. The only let down for the place was the bathrooms, I suspect a staff member hadn't been in there for a week! Alas, needless to say, we left happy and rowdy!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Footy Weekend in Sydney

The excitement of the weekend away with the girls built early in the week, and having Melissa pick me up from work, and then meeting Mum and Katrina out at the airport, we needed a beer to kick it all off! This one, and the many I had had at work as we were winding down, ensured little anxiety with my first proper flight without blood thinners.

Touching down in Sydney, we then headed to the Rydges World Square, courtesy of Melissa's work contacts, for the night.

Up the next morning, we met up with Dawn, Mum's bridesmaid (!!), for what would have been a lovely brunch along Circular Quay...but alas the second power black out in Sydney town in a week, and it was no deal. We found a cafe across the road with power and food options, before heading out over the ANZAC Bridge to see Dawn's habourside apartment with amazing views. Wine overlooking the bay and city for the afternoon!

Back into town, we started the trek out to ANZ Stadium for the game. The venue of the Sydney Olympics, and an occasional AFL ground, the Hawks had never played there, and we had never been out to Homebush for anything. Finding the way wasn't as tricky, although no thanks to the puzzled and unknowing station attendants! This is not the town of real footy!

After a drinking day, we found a pumping pub for a pre-game refreshment, before walking through the food village outside the ground, to explore the range for dinner. Reminded me of Antigua actually!

Entering the ground with the streaming crowd, I was overwhelmed by the size of the stadium. Seemed massive! And sadly empty. Despite the numbers coming in outside, the stands looked sparse. Ended up being around 32,000 for the night, the capacity of the SGC.

Drinking the dirty white to continue my start in the day with wine, Katie, Melissa and I were in a quarter by quarter shout, which made the game, particularly the dismal last quarter for Hawthorn, fly by. Losing by 40 something points, I don't really know why we continue to go to Sydney for the footy! It's one of those hoodoo losing trips, every time!!

Teaching the Sydney fans their own song on the train back into town, we stopped at our hotel for a quick change and more wine, before getting a taxi down to The Rocks. The Argyle was the first place we saw, but after seeing girl spew in there just near the bar, we decided the regular pubs were much more our scene.

The next day I was nursing a hideous hangover, which did not allow me to do the walk through of the Archibald Prize exhibit at the Art Gallery of New South Wales justice. The girls wandered around The Rocks market, and I worked up to keeping water and food down, before we were out to the airport and home.
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