Kiwis and Castles

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Cruise ... 5 months later

I apologize for the ridiculous delay in writing about the Tahitian cruise, but better late than never I suppose! For some reason not all the pictures are loading into my Photobucket page so I'm still really behind with those. I'll get it sorted (and by I, I mean Matt) and post photos as soon as possible. We left for Tahiti November 27th, the cruise started November 30th and was 10 days long. We were back in NZ on December 13th I believe.

Pre-cruise, days 1-3:
We arrived in Pape'ete in the evening and were taken directly to our hotel. It was very nice and our room had the biggest bed we've ever seen. It was actually two doubles pushed together! The first night we were there was the French Polynesian National Fire Dancing Championships so we had the insanely expensive buffet that was on and watched men rub themselves with fire. It was like extreme baton twirling for the solo performances, and extreme fire cheerleading for the groups. It was really neat but got old kinda quickly. The next 3 days were spent mainly in the pool despite the fact that the warm ocean was about 10 feet away. But the ocean had a surprisingly strong current and lots of shells in the sand so we mainly stayed in the soft sand-bottomed pool. We both got burnt eventhough we were wearing SPF 30! We went into the city of Pape'ete for an afternoon but it was very unimpressive and went back to the hotel after only a few hours.

Day 1, Pape'ete [Pap-ee-tee]:
After checking in with the cruise people we looked around our room (which didn't take very long) wandered around the ship and started eating. We didn't stop until the flights home. There weren't any shore excursions that first day. For dinner we thought we'd be placed at our assigned tables but it was "free" seating. This meant that the wait staff put everyone at tables as they showed up, but tried to match approximate ages. This worked fabulously in our case and we were put at a table with a "slightly" older couple from Florida (who were so rich we think they owned the entire state), a couple from Vancouver (!), and a couple who had been living in Kentucky (she's American) but had recently moved to Australia (he's australian). We became good friends with the everyone at the table and spent the rest of the cruise together.

Day 2, Pape'ete:
Our shore excursion for today was the Papenoo Valley and Waterfall 4-wheel drive trip. We were taken about halfway around the island, then through the bush to some beautiful waterfalls and lookouts. It was absolutely gorgeous, with black sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters and palm trees everywhere. That night we were seated at our proper table and were about 50 years younger than the other couples. One was a posh British couple and the others were lots of fun. He lived in the UK and she lived in Spain but they were together. It took the posh couple a little while to understand this arragement, and they didn't seem to approve. But it was funny to watch them try to be polite! We met our two waiters who were hilarious and very friendly, and started the nightly ritual of eating way too much. And then ordering dessert.

Day 3, Huahine [Hwah-hee-nee]:
We woke up and were just off the coast of this absolutely gorgeous island. We tendered into port and put on another boat for our shore excursion. We were given a bit of a sightseeing tour of the island from the water by the guide Dolores. She told us a bit about her and a bit about the island, but honestly, nothing speicifically exciting that I remember. They grow a lot of vanilla on the island. We were dropped off on a motu, which is like a small island off the coast of the main islands. The motu form the outside barriers to the ocean and creates the lagoons between them and the main islands. The water is calm, warm, and crystal clear. We were given a (mostly) traditional Polynesian lunch and our picnic tables and chairs were right in the water! There was a bit of Polynesian dancing and of course shell necklaces and pareos (sarongs) for sale. The rest of the afternoon was just spent being lazy in water and taking lots of pictures. I don't remember what the entertainment on the ship that evening was, but it was most likely a cheesy musical dance show.

More cruise to come soon ...

Friday, March 03, 2006

More picture testing

The picture in the previous post is of Big Ben and the Parliament buildings taken from the London Eye - the giant ferris wheel type thing with the viewing pods attached. It spins really slowly so that you get nice views London all the way around.

This photo is of the Paris Opera house. The hotel we stayed in was about a five minute walk from the M�tro station right across the street from the Opera house so it was a lovely sight every night on the way back to the hotel. I've changed the size of this picture so it should be smaller (and thus load faster) on the blog post.
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I finally have some photos online but half of them wouldn't upload for some reason. I'll get Matt to fix them so that I can post more. This is just a test to see what the photos look like on the blog because I'm posting this directly from Photobucket. I think you would be able to see all the pictures I've uploaded so far by going to and looking for my album Gill391. When I have all my pictures online I'll actually organize them into proper albums.
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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Australia highlights

I got back from Australia about two weeks ago, but forgot to finish writing about my time there. After Lake Burrinjuk we all went back to Canberra where I had another couple days of wandering the city on my own. I did end up going to Questacon which proved to be a lot of fun. Some of the exhibits were clearly for younger kids, and some of them were nearly identical to ones either at ScienceWorld in Vancouver or Te Papa here in Wellington, but Questacon's Circus exhibit was really neat. There were some optical illusions, carnival games and the science behind them, and a death-drop slide. It was a giant slide, about 4 meters tall, and it looked like it dropped vertically down. I was taken up to the top, put on a silly jump suit, took my shoes off, and hung from a bar at the top of the slide. Looking down it seemed totally counterintuitive to let go - it looked like I was going to drop 4 meters and break both my legs. The staff said to let go on 3: "1 ... 2 ... 3!" I hung on and said "year right." He laughed and assured me he's put 500 primary school kids down it and not one had gotten hurt. So finally I let go and sure enough nothing was broken. The slide slants just enough so that it catches you feet on the way down you just end up sliding on your back. But good grief it was scary.

Here are my picks for the top three most random things that happened while in Canberra:

#3: The kangaroo at the Lake with the world's biggest testicles. I swear, this was one well-endowed roo. They were bigger than any I've ever seen before, on any species. And he would just stand outside the door to the cabin so when you went outside, you really couldn't help but looking.

#2: Being asked by a group of female Japanese tourists to take a picture. I assumed they wanted me to take their picture, but as soon as I said yes they put their arms around me and pointed to one of their friends who snapped a photo. I think they'd be disappointed if they found out their white Australian friend was really just a tourist as well.

#1: Dressing up as a World War I nurse in the War Memorial. Doesn't sound nearly as funny as the picture looks. (And on that note, I promise promise promise to start posting pictures soon. We've finally loaded them onto the computer so it's just a matter of uploading them into an online photo album, then I'll provide the link.)