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!

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.

 

 

Retirement – The First Month

A month…it’s been a month since I left my job…just a few days officially, since I entered retirement. I was on the books burning vacation time through the end of February. It’s unbelievable that I’ve been gone from the police department for a month. Time has flown by and I’m not sure I can even tell you how I’ve spent my days, other than that I’ve been really busy.

First of all, I haven’t missed my job for a moment. And…I’m actually a little surprised. The people I care about are still part of my life and I can easily stay in touch on Facebook, or by scheduling coffee or lunch. So, I don’t miss my friends and coworkers.

Here are some of the highlights of my first month:

  • Contribution: Volunteering is an area of my life I was hoping to expand and I just finished my two day training at the Denver Zoo. I’m now an Ambassador and looking forward to spending four-six hours a week contributing my time to a place I love with a mission I can support. The volunteers range from teens to people in their eighties. It’s a diverse group and we had a great time.

Volunteer Denver Zoo

  • Travel: In a few weeks, I’ll be leaving for New Zealand. It’s a trip that has been under consideration for the last five or six years and it’s finally time. We’ll be on a three week driving tour that will cover highlights from both the north and south islands. Airbnb has become our best friend as we do research on where my friend, Delia, and I are going to stay. While I love the wild places, the people are definitely the icing on the travel cake. We can meet people who love travelers and have the inside track on the best adventures.
  • Puppy Love: Scarlett O’hair-a has already made her blog debut. She’ll be coming home after I get back from the trip. In the meantime, Olive and I have been really working on her anxiety by attending training. She’s very smart and it’s been a joy to spend so much time working on her skills and visiting the Cherry Creek off-leash park. Olive runs her heart out and loves to play in the water. After the initial adjustment, I’m confident Olive will be thrilled to have a little furry sister.

Cherry Creek with Olive

The first week I focused on making sure that I was busy, then it was too busy. Once I get back from my trip, I think I will be limiting the number of scheduled days so I have more time to relax and play. I’m definitely doing more than I was before I retired. Exercising is going to move higher up on my priority list. The weather is continuing to improve and I’m looking forward to hiking the beautiful places.

Looking back, it’s been a great month. Some days I need to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. You mean I get paid to do whatever I want, including napping? Yes.

Retirement is good.

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.

HRAravindinFlight

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.

Call of Deadvlei Namibia

Single grains of sand
blowing, building,
Nature’s monuments that reach to the sky

Trees outlasting lifetimes
dead, dry
Strokes of dark brown against a vibrant background of color

Travelers climbing
stepping, sinking,
Trying to conquer what nature has created

Languages of the world
appreciating, celebrating
Still failing to capture indescribable beauty

Footprints in the sand
filling, erasing
All evidence we were here

Memories of moments
breathing, thinking
Surrounded by monuments built of single grains of sand.


This was one of the reasons I came to Namibia, to stand in the pan of Deadvlei and see the beauty of the dunes and the trees. 

Deadvlei Namibia

We began by climbing a portion of Big Daddy, one of the largest dunes in the area.

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While I only climbed a short way, it was still an amazing experience. I climbed to the section just above the travelers in the below photo.

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Looking down to the right, it seemed as though the side was straight down.

Toni, our guide, was with me and asked if I was ready to head down. 

“You mean straight down?”

I thought maybe I’d be walking back the way I came.

“Yes, put your camera inside your shirt and grab my hand.”

“Okay…”

I was very hesitant, but trusted Toni. So I grabbed her hand, leaned back and took my first step. My foot slid down and I took another step. It was a hot day but the sand was delightfully cool as my feet sunk down. Then finally I sat down and slid the rest of the way. It was so much fun. I laughed the whole way.

Then we walked over a small hill, and there it was.

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It’s hard to describe what a beautiful place it is. The pan is made up of cream colored dried clay. The trees died after the dunes blocked the water source hundreds of years ago. They are estimated to be 900+ years old.

Deadvlei Namibia

Here is a photo of people walking across the pan and people coming down the side of Big Daddy. The mirage created by the heat reflecting off the sand is amazing. Yes…this captures some of the vastness of the area.

I had time to sit down beside one of the trees and to take in the beauty and spirit of this unique place on Earth. Seeing, listening, feeling…I will never forget.

There are some grasses and short bushes that have sprung up in a few places- survivors in an area where most things cannot live. It was hot, but the slight breeze helped cool me down a bit.BlogDeadvlei11

Because it is such a large space, it’s easy to find solitude. It was a spiritual experience that touched my heart.

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Once again, the shadows and textures helped set the stage.

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Deadvlei Namibia called and I’m so glad I answered.