Making Waterfalls from Raindrops- Milford Sound

On the way to Milford Sound

The rain seemed to be following us along this trip, but I was hopeful that we’d have some blue sky at Milford Sound. The day dawned with just a few clouds. It was a four hour trip from Queenstown and we started around 9:30am so we’d have plenty of extra time to get there before our cruise boat left the dock.

When I was planning the trip, I heard from numerous people about the beauty of the south island. Still, I was amazed. Every turn exposed another incredible view. There is little traffic so it’s easy to pull off on the side for photos. We stopped in Te Anau, which is about halfway, to pick up snacks at the local grocery store. From that point, the drive is one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. The canopy of the rain forest reaches out over the road and it feels like you’re encased in a tunnel of green. Every now and then the road takes you to places where you can see the massive mountain tops.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

We made it to the port and relaxed until it was time to board. The clouds had definitely rolled in and the rain had started.

Milford Sound

The majority of pictures I’ve seen of Milford Sound include blue skies and clear mountain tops, so that’s what I expected. Now I know that it rains on Milford Sound 182 days a year, so the odds were 50/50 that we would be there during the rain. My friends who just visited told me about the increase in the number of waterfalls during the rain storms.

Milford Sound

As we moved into the sound, I stood on the open bow of the ship. By that time it was pounding rain. We slowly moved in towards a towering waterfall and I stood as close as I could to the front and closed my eyes as the wind pushed the spray into my face. It was such a magical moment. We moved on to the place where the ship would be moored overnight.

The mountains here are made of solid rock and there is no soil. Lichens and mosses take hold and an occasional tree. Once one tree finds a crack to hold onto or lichen to use as a base, other trees will start growing by intertwining their roots with the original tree. At some point, the load gets too much to bear and the original tree will give way pulling down all the trees and much of the base moss and lichen. It leaves behind a bare strip on the side of the mountain. I could see a number of places on the surrounding mountains where that had occurred.

The rain stopped briefly while we were out on a speed boat ride and we returned to the ship for dinner. We met one couple from San Francisco who were on a tour with a group of about forty people and they were the only Americans. The one question they kept hearing from people from outside the U.S. was their opinion about Donald Trump. I know Delia had a long conversation with one man, but I wasn’t really interested in discussing politics. I was actually glad to be away from all the chaos on this trip. During dinner, the rain started again. By the end of dinner, it was dark and we went back to our cabin to sleep.

It was still dark when we got up and headed to breakfast. The winds were very strong and the boat was rocking back and forth. In the distance we could see that the number of waterfalls had increased. It was difficult to open the door to the outside corridor on my way to the cabin and I held on tight every step of the way. I tend to get motion sickness and wanted to lie down for a bit. Delia managed to get a few amazing videos while I was resting.

This one shows the incredible size and amount of water from one of the larger waterfalls.

The second video shows the strength of the wind pushing the water back up and parallel to the ground until it finally falls further out over the water instead of directly down.

On the return trip to shore, there were dolphins near the bow of one of the other ships. I did get to watch them leap out of the water. They were amazing.

On the road after our cruise, I managed to get a few pictures along the way.

Milford Sound

While Milford Sound involved a lot of rain, it was still incredibly beautiful and we had wonderful waterfalls to enjoy. I don’t have many pictures to share, but I’ll treasure the memories. 

Harriet and the Perfect Glass of Iced Tea

I settled in on the stool at the Public Kitchen and Bar in Queenstown, New Zealand. Twenty four hours earlier, I’d been eating at Moo’s Gourmet Burgers watching the surfers and walking along the incredible beach in Manly, Australia, 1200 miles away.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Richard, our Sydney host, was kind enough to take us to the airport. We were flying Virgin Australian Airlines and wouldn’t you know it, they weighed our carry ons. Mine contained my backpack with all my camera gear, so it weighed double what it was supposed to. In the middle of the check-in area, we are reworking the contents of our bags. I pulled out my backpack and set it aside. The woman didn’t require that my backpack get weighed, or I would have been in big trouble. And…thank goodness, no underwear came flying out as we frantically tried to get our bags to compliance. The flight itself was uneventful.

We picked up our rental car and while I was focused on staying on the left, driving on the other side of the road, I had forgotten to disengage the emergency brake. Now, in my defense, there was no indicator anywhere that it was on until I looked out my side mirror and saw the car smoking. Delia figured it out quickly and we were back on track. Knowing that we are going to be driving thousands of miles on this trip, we added a GPS to the car rental. Several miles later, the GPS is telling me to turn left to our location.

Left? There isn’t a road to the left. So now, I’m cussing the GPS and calling her defective. We continue driving for another 5 miles looking for a road to the left. We finally spoke to some construction workers who redirected us back to where we were originally. Well, the GPS was right and the Remarkables Lodge had a tiny hidden driveway. Phew! Our GPS was working and it was only me that was defective.

Oops! The Remarkable Lodge showed us arriving the next day so they had to take about twenty minutes to get the room ready. Did I screw up the arrangements and was it for just this night or more nights to come? I was a bit panicky, but it looked like my lodging was scheduled for the right days. Still, our room was a welcome sight once we finally were checked in.

Okay, I know you are wondering about Harriet already, but I wanted to give you a bit of back story so there is a clear understanding about how our day went.

We headed to Queenstown for dinner and only had a few hours to spend. Queenstown is beautiful and while it is a resort style community, it is not as crowded as the resorts in Colorado and not as elite. And…the views are spectacular!

Queenstown Lakeshore

We stepped into the Public Kitchen and Bar and were welcomed by Harriet and the rest of the staff. Harriet is from England and asked for our drink order. Knowing I was still learning how to drive the New Zealand way, I decided not to have a glass of wine and instead ordered an iced tea. I am an iced tea addict and it sounded like the perfect dinner drink.

Harriet was very confused. An iced tea? She looked at Ruby, her coworker who paused, and then said it’s going to take us a minute to do it right. Then Harriet was all over it. An iced tea?

It was the prettiest and most perfect ice tea I’ve ever had.

iced tea

And…on top of all that, dinner was amazing. What a fabulous end to what had been a difficult day. We were in New Zealand where the iced tea was delicious and the scenery so pretty it doesn’t translate in pictures. 

Thank you Harriet!

Street Art in Newtown Sydney

With a limited time in Sydney, it wasn’t possible to visit much of the street art, but what I saw near the St. Peter train station was incredible. All of these photos were taken in a one block area. I can’t imagine what other treasures are in the city.

Newtown Street Art

 

Newtown Street Art

Newtown Street Art

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The paintings are so diverse. This is just a small sampling of what I saw. I’d love to find out from the artists what inspired them to create each piece.

Here is a Facebook Page dedicated to the street arts of Sydney.

Blue Mountains Review – Australia

Our visit to the Blue Mountains was primarily around Leura and the Jamison Valley where we rode the Cableway, the Skyway and the Railway. In between there is a beautiful walk through the rain forest. It was still very cloudy and raining, and that added to a bit of mystery and beauty that most people don’t get to experience.

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We couldn’t see our mode of transportation until it made its way slowly out of the clouds.

Blue Mountain Skycar

Most of my photos have raindrops on them, just due to the heavy rain. I found myself taking the time to really enjoy the view instead of seeing it primarily through the lens of my camera.

Blue Mountains

The rain isn’t surprising since it is, you guessed it, a rain forest.

Blue Mountains

My favorite part was the Scenic Walkway through the forest. The tapping of the rain on the leaves from all directions in different tones was amazing. I closed my eyes and just listened. Some were loud and others very quiet and in the background running streams of water were unseen as they made their way down the valley. The shades of greens alone were unbelievable. There were slight moments of calm between people walking by. I could have sat along the path for hours just taking it all in.

Blue Mountains Scenic Walkway

And then it was time to head back into Sydney. Finally, the rain stopped and we stepped aboard a ferry to take us back to Circular Quay.

Ferry

I discovered a few houses along the way that I wouldn’t mind owning. Maybe some of my real estate friends can help.

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Sydney Harbor Real Estate

And then back to Sydney Harbor.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Our trip to the Blue Mountains and all the attractions before and after were well worth it. The city of Sydney is beautiful, but it was really nice to see a bit of the countryside and the rain forest, especially in the heavy rain.

Sydney Edition – Part Two

Sydney Rain

It was pouring rain in Sydney when we set out before sunrise. Raincoats, an umbrella and a bright yellow waterproof cover for the camera bag were the fashion statements for the day. As we stood on the train platform, I looked around at business men and women with their shirts plastered to their backs. They looked miserable and I felt bad for them. We were dry for now, except for our jeans and shoes. We’d woken to an alarm in order to meet the driver and mini-bus for our tour to the Blue Mountains with a number of stops along the way.

Our driver Steve warned us that the views and activities could be a bit of a challenge under the circumstances, but we were up for about anything.

So, what was on the anything list?

Red necked pademelons at the Featherdale Wildlife Park.

Red necked Pademelon

Pickles, the spotted python. (Remember it was pouring, so my hair was in pretty bad shape. Still, Pickles looked amazing. And, I’m actually holding a snake with a smile on my face, so I should get extra style points.)

spotted python

And…wait for it…

Delia and I holding Reuben’s bum.

koala

koala

When I was a little girl, one of our family friends gave my sisters and I stuffed toy koalas. I’ve loved them ever since, so this was one of the highlights of a wonderful day. They were beautiful.

Sydney koala

People were able to feed some of the animals including the kangaroos with some kind of grass or hay in an ice cream cone. I’m not sure what kind of kangaroo this is. They apparently come in all sizes including as tall as I am.

kangaroo

Next up? Learning about the boomerang. Steve asked if anyone wanted to try it. After nobody immediately spoke up, I raised my hand. There’s something about travel that inspires me to try as many new things as possible. It’s not thrown like a frisbee. Steve stressed the point since he’s had Americans throw them that way resulting in broken boomerangs. It’s thrown at one o’clock if you consider twelve o’clock is straight up. Then a flick of the wrist and off it goes. It took me about four tries before it finally made the return curve. Not quite all the way, but pretty close.

boomerang

Then we hiked the Leura Cascades in the Blue Mountains. It was still raining but incredibly beautiful. We were rushed, so I wasn’t able to really set up for photos, but I caught what I could. This is one place I’d love to revisit someday.

Leura Cascades

All this, and we hadn’t even stopped for lunch yet. A fantastic morning in Australia.

Finally in Sydney – Part One

I left my house at 12:30 pm on Saturday, March 12th and stepped off the plane in Sydney, Australia at 8:45 am on Monday, March 14th. Despite a bit of a delay on our flight from Denver to LA, it had been a pretty seamless trip. My friend Delia and I saved up miles for the last few years on United and were able to fly Business Class on the long fifteen hour flight between LA and Sydney. It was definitely worth it.

Sydney First Class

We arrived, our luggage arrived and we were being picked up by our airbnb host, Richard. Our space is adorable and very comfortable. We have a small kitchenette perfect for fixing breakfast or having wine in the evening. It’s in the New Town neighborhood of Sydney and a five minute walk to the train station. Our ride into the city center takes about fifteen minutes. I love being in a home in the neighborhood as opposed to on hotel row. We also have a dog who is excited to see us when we get home. Her name is Sooty.

Sydney, Australia

Sooty

After a quick shower to wash off all the travel dust, we headed to the harbor. The train stops at Circular Quay (pronounced key). As soon as we stepped off, we could see parts of the Harbor Bridge, visible from behind a huge cruise ship and hints of the Opera House.

Sydney Harbor

My stomach was growling and we were eager to have lunch, so we headed towards the Opera House and ate at the Opera Bar.

Sydney Opera House

After lunch, we walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens which includes an incredible park on the shoreline. It’s beautiful and shady with the most magnificent trees. If you look closely, that’s me at the bottom right of the picture.

Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens

There were lots of people sitting out on the large lawn areas just enjoying the afternoon sunshine and amazing view.

Sydney Harbor

Throughout the harbor area, I heard numerous languages and saw a wonderfully diverse group of people of all ages and cultures. From high fashion with stiletto heels to shorts and flip flops, everyone had their place. People watchers? This is the area.

Sydney Harbor

As the early evening progressed, the clouds increased. So we climbed back on the train and headed to our neighborhood. We stopped in at a local bar where met several of the regulars who suggested a perfect white wine. Then we picked up our groceries, ate dinner and fell, exhausted, into our very comfortable beds. All in all, a very good day.

 

 

Etosha Elephant Pool Party

One of the unexpected highlights of my trip to Namibia occurred at the Etosha National Park on one of our last days. Toni, our guide, had mentioned seeing the elephants at Halali, but we’d had such an amazing morning, I hadn’t given it much thought.

She parked the vehicle, handed us our lunches and told us to follow the path. We ended up at a covered overlook above the watering hole. There were about 20 people there, several with professional looking cameras with long lenses. It was a large space, so there was plenty of room for everyone.

Toni leaned over and pointed at the trees. I saw the top of an elephant and looked back at her with a smile.

“Jennifer, look!”

I turned back around and there they were. More and more elephants came from the distance toward the water. It was incredible.

Elephants Pool Party

I loved every moment of the Elephants’ Pool Party. My face hurt when it was over, I was smiling so much.

Thanks for such an amazing experience, Toni.

This is a must see when you visit Namibia. Who knows? I may just see you there. 

Cruising on Walvis Bay

Swakopmund
We spent the afternoon wandering around Swakopmund and then out for dinner at The Tug which is a former boat. The salmon was fabulous! I enjoyed wandering around the town with the wonderful shops. Keeping in mind that I had no luggage space to speak of, I limited my souvenir shopping.

We stayed at the Hansa Hotel, which was originally built in the very early 1900’s. It was a beautiful place and very comfortable. After another good night’s sleep (it seems as if we are exhausted every day so I was sleeping great) we set off for our Walvis Bay harbor cruise.

Walvis Bay is just a few miles from Swakopmund and one of the main seaports in Africa. About 50,000 people live here, primarily working in harbor related industries. It doesn’t feel like the city is that large. Most people live along the shoreline.

Walvis Bay Cruise

We arrived at the harbor and climbed onto a catamaran style boat. There were probably 20-30 people aboard, but it didn’t feel crowded and we had a great view. Once we were out on the water, the special cruise features began. The birds were amazing. I’ve never been up close and personal with pelicans or seagulls. I’ve seen them before, just not within reach. It was incredible.

seagull walvis bay

Here is where I get carried away with seagull pictures.

seagulls walvis bay

seagull walvis bay

They are huge!

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Crystal was the trained profession. I just watched in awe.

pelicans walvis bay

Gorgeous! I was fascinated by these two birds.

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And then, after having their fishy snacks, they flew off.

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And then, lest we get bored, here came Bronzy the cape fur seal.

seal walvis bay

See the knee in the bottom left corner? That was me. I just wanted to reach out and hug this little guy. He was a bit shy so Crystal asked us to stay quiet and still. Wendy, my sister, would have loved this. She has been fascinated by seals since she was a kid.

cape fur seal Walvis Bay

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cape fur seal Walvis Bay

He was beautiful!

This was another jaw dropping moment on my trip. I never expected to see birds and seals so close. It was so special.

Then we left the area and made our way around the rest of the harbor.

Cape Fur Seals Walvis Bay

Here the seals were “checking out the chicks”.

Pelican Point lighthouse

This is the Pelican Point Lighthouse and next to it is a lodge where travelers can stay. That might be fun for my next trip to Namibia.

Hey Wendy, want to go see some seals?

Cape Fur Seals

As we made our way around the rest of the bay, we headed inside because the seas were a bit rough and it was windy. That’s when I started to get a little nauseous. So, I spent my time looking at the horizon. I’m sure the tour guides had some very interesting things to say, but I missed all of them.

Despite a few stomach issues, I loved this cruise. The sea life was stunning and I enjoyed every moment of the first half of the trip. I highly recommend adding this to the itinerary if you are heading to this part of the world.

 

Namibia – From the Air

Every line and shadow of Sossusvlei was incredible. But it was time to leave. After a great night’s sleep, we climbed on the plane to experience it from the air as we traveled from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund to visit another part of Namibia.

Air Namibia

Carlos was our pilot and Aravind sat in as co-pilot. I’m not sure Aravind could have assisted if the plane was going down, because he was just as busy taking pictures as I was.

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Here’s the video view. It was an amazing flight and with the patch and Dramamine, no motion sickness for me!

And here is an aerial view of Deadvlei. It’s not the best picture, but I’m really glad I caught it.

Deadvlei Namibia

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Sossusvlei Namibia

We flew over the fairy circles. Scientists still are not positive about what causes them.

Fairy Circles Namibia

It was incredible to see the Atlantic Ocean from the air.

Atlantic Ocean Namibia

And…the shipwrecks caused by the rough seas and possibly inattentive captains.

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I’m so glad we experienced the area from both the air and the ground. It was beautiful both times, but in very different ways.

Skeleton Coast Namibia

Awesome!

If you’ve missed some posts and would like to read about the whole adventure, click here.