Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Years Eve - Sydney Style!

We enjoyed New Years Eve in North Sydney where we had booked a hotel room about 6 months ago. We checked out the parks near to the Harbour Bridge but soon realized we'd be squished and the kids had no where to run. We settled for a reserve not far from the hotel where several other families were setting up camp. The DiNucci's (Guelph) and the Miners (Ottawa) later joined us for the festivities.

This would be our vantage point of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

Melanie and Chris Miner (fireman's exchange) were the first to meet up with us.

Tobogganing - Aussie style!

The DiNuccis arrived and joined in the fun after a hectic flight from Melbourne. The drinking laws in Australia are much more liberal than Canada. Everyone brought coolers filled with beer, wine and drinks as well as munchies. No fear of being fined or having your alcohol dumped!

The kids kept busy playing while waiting for the first fireworks display at 9 pm.

The main fireworks were placed in three different locations in Sydney (all within our view) and were synchronized so they gave the exact same effect regardless of where you were.

The wow factor!

Wade Miner and Adam.

We were having such a good time, we decided to hang out for the midnight show that was even more spectacular with fireworks going off waterfront buildings and the Harbour Bridge.

Part 7 - Christchurch

Unfortunately, we had less than a day to check out Christchurch. Our hotel was next door to the cathedral so at least we were in the middle of of all the tourist attractions.

A beautiful city!

New Zealand was more than we expected probably because we knew so little about it. I think it's often forgotten as Australia's little sister and often mistaken as the same thing as Australia. From our experience, it's completely different - the people, the roads, the mountains, the rain. We'd love to go back some other time and see even more.

Part 6 - Arthur's Pass

The drive from Fox Glacier through Arthur's Pass to Christchurch was incredible. The two lane highway weaved it's way through the valley below the mountains but would narrow to one lane at every bridge.

We estimated that we crossed 30 one lane bridges but none as curious as this one that was a one-lane shared vehicle AND train bridge!

The highway often gets rained or snowed out and they have to close the road. To combat landslides and water washouts near Otira, they built a roofed section to allow rubble to go over the road and a trough to allow a waterfall to skip over the road!

The Otira viaduct. The Kea bird.

We stopped for lunch at the Castle Hill Basin where Adam discovered a cave that traveled about half a kilometer to the other opening. He was disappointed he couldn't go caving but the water would have been up to his chin! While we were there, a few people had just finished the wet trek.

The entrance and the other end

Mountains everywhere.

This photo almost looks fake!

The view not far from Christchurch.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Part 5 - Fox Glaciers

We were convinced to change our plans to include the west coast of New Zealand by a retired Air New Zealand pilot who caught Heidi's ear during Christmas Eve mass. We left fiordland and drove for 7 hours before arriving at Fox Glacier. The next day we joined our guide and headed towards the glacier. We had to hike, climb and jump about 1.5 km through mountain forests to get to the face of the glacier.

Adam is easy to spot in the photos - he's the only one in orange and right behind the guide, Andy. Charlee is usually not too far off.

Adam of course had to be the first of our group to step onto the Glacier. We kept telling him to give Andy some space or he'd get 'picked' in the head!

Time to head back to the bus.

Well worth the long drive and glad we took advice from a local!

Part 4 - Milford Sound

We stopped to enjoy the amazing wild flowers and then drove into this one-way dark damp tunnel on our way to Milford Sound. It's actually not a sound but a fiord - long narrow inlets created by melting glaciers. The steep mountains seem to dive straight into the water with no sign of a shore or beach.

This is what the Milford Sound brochures show you...

This is Milford Sound reality...

It's usually raining here and today was no exception. The clouds prevent you from seeing the incredible mountain tops but when there's rain there's waterfalls. And waterfalls there were...

Sea lions!

Part 3 - Queenstown Day 4 - Christmas!

Kind of weird spending Christmas in a warmer climate. It was about 18 C on Christmas Day. The kids were excited to open their presents and curious how Santa could find them when they weren't at home.

After a nice breakfast, we headed for the mountains just above Queenstown which offered some super views yet again.