Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Final: Australia & New Zealand

Well, this is it. The end of a nearly three week trip half-way around the world. I’ve been dreaming of this adventure for so many years. It happened and exceeded my expectations. The landscape was beautiful and the people were as well.

I started the morning early with a 3:30am alarm (although I was up at 3am...I often sleep light the night before a flight). 

I left Haka Lodge in Auckland and made my way to the bus stop. Auckland is super clean and the reason is the city sweepers and garbage haulers that are working at 4am!

First flight was Auckland to Sydney. The Auckland International airport is AMAZING! Seriously the best airport I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The security checkpoints are super efficient with the latest technology and streamlined processing of bags, etc. I was super impressed. 

My flight to LAX was delayed an hour. I boarded and had the entire middle row to myself. Woot woot!!! With some extra attention from the flight crew it felt like first class. The only bummer was WiFi was down...ugh. 

Traveling half way around the world (19 hour difference from home) is like traveling through a time warps of sorts. I’m constantly looking at my world map trying to figure out if I should be tired or awake. I left New Zealand at 7am, traveled 26 hours, and landed in Minneapolis seven hours later. Weird. 

I fully admit I broke my “stay sober during long hauls” rule. Don’t judge me. I blame it on the WiFi being out and grateful crew members. In my defense I made sure to drink plenty of water - when I remembered. 

I fell asleep a couple hours into the flight. When I woke I bashed my head on the seat in front of me and tripped over my own backpack. Seven hours into a fourteen hour flight I committed to sobriety (for this flight). 

I sailed through customs, picked up my bag, and made it to my (last) connecting flight with four minutes to spare! Last flight - uneventful and I was welcomed with snow. Not my favorite, but I was also greeted by a teenager that was eager to see me - that made up for the snow. 

Final Stats:
  • Eighteen (18) days
  • Three countries (two new)
  • Nine (9) flights
  • 40,523 miles
  • 56.432 views of this blog
  • Two-and-a-half books
  • So many laughs
  • So many beautiful beaches
  • So many beautiful people
I’m not confident what my next adventure will be but I guarantee there will be another soon. Safe travels everyone! 

Rae Ann

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Day Seventeen: Tour of Town, Davenport & a Lime

I slept in again and made my way to a nail salon first thing. Getting a manicure & pedicure is a nice way to end a vacation. 

I had every intention to do the Sky Walk next, which would have had me walking on an exterior ledge 632 feet in the air. I saw the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus and bought that instead. Chickened out. 

My first stop was the ferry which I boarded and went to Davenport. I had a lovely lamb wrap for lunch (lamb is huge here), walked along the harbor and returned to Auckland. I had to do some planning using my maps again as my phone isn’t getting cellular service in the CBD. 

I got back on the bus and rode for a couple hours as I learned about Auckland. It was nice. 

I picked up some treats for the crew of my flights tomorrow and jumped on a Lime scooter for my return to the hostel. What fun! I was anxious about navigating with my pack and a grocery bag of candy, as well as a busy sidewalk, but it was a piece of cake. 

I did some “final” packing, had the other half of my lamb wrap and drank a ton of water to hydrate for tomorrow. Three flights will get me home...Auckland to Sydney (3.5 hours)...Sydney to LA (14 hours)...and LA to Minneapolis (4 hours). I need to be at the bus at 4:30am so an early start. Good night!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Day Sixteen: Ferry Drama, & Waiheke Island

I let my body sleep a little too long this morning (no alarm) and got a late start. One of the biggest challenges of travel for me is organization. I’m “OCD organized” and living out of a suitcase challenges that disorder. I’m sharing a room with a man from the UK, who is also a Project Manager, and is challenged by the packing woes as well. I instantly bonded with him. 

This morning I left in a bit of a hurry and forgot: My umbrella (it was raining), my sunglasses (prescription) and my shopping bag. Things like that psychologically throw me off at first and I have to “get my head in the game” in order to plow forward. Onward I went (with some trepidation). 

I jumped in an Uber and made my way to Auckland harbor. Sands and I planned I would board the 11am ferry to Waiheke Island, which would stop at Davenport and she would join me. Little did we know half of Auckland would be attending a birthday party on the island. After a few messages we realized my ferry would not be stopping to pick her up as we were full but we would meet on the island. 

We spent the day shopping and walking the beach. The dollar is healthy in New Zealand so I bought too much (which creates more packing stress). 

The landscape of the island was very green - woodsy. Beautiful. The rain stopped as soon as we landed on the island (no umbrella needed),  I bought a $10 pair of sunglasses, and the first purchase I made she gave me a free sari bag. See how it all works out?

We jumped back on the ferry and Sands nearly missed her departure at Davenport! I am going to miss her...we had an absolutely wonderful time. 

I walked back to my hostel using a good old-fashion map (my phone wasn’t picking up GPS) and jumped in the shower. I spent a couple hours re-packing my suitcase and talking with my roommates hearing about their adventures. 

I walked across the street to Coco’s Cantina, had a lovely dinner and planned my last full day of this adventure. I shed a few tears in my bunk bed tonight knowing it was coming to an end. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Day Fifteen: Sexy Socks, Auckland & a New Friend

This was a travel day of sorts and my last in Australia. Australia is huge - same size as the states lower 48. I couldn’t do it all within the short two weeks I had, but I feel I got a good flavor as to the people, culture and landscape. 

Australians are beautiful people. I would describe the culture as “chill”, even in the big city. As a solo female traveler I always felt safe (as safe as a solo female traveler can feel). The landscape is one big “happy place” for me...lots of beach. It was (admittingly) a bit hot for me but I’m chalking that up to unusual highs. 

I would love to return. I have so many other places I still want to see I’m not sure I will, but I would definitely go back. I could live in Australia, as my friends suggested before I stepped foot within, no doubt. 

A friend asked me, “do you post only the good stuff on your blog?”. Nope. This is genuine and all me. Yes, there are some bumps along the way that I don’t include simply because they are no more exciting than my daily dump. 

Here are a few for your misery-pleasure: I forgot my electrical-converter in Uluru (I hope some young traveler will benefit from it) and my water bottle at Deb’s. My feet started swelling a couple days ago (hence the sexy compression socks for flights and sleep - don’t worry, I know wearing them all day would diminish my chance of finding that hot-sexy travel partner), and a huge zit just popped its ugly head (literally) yesterday. And despite my goal to travel light my suitcase could barely close today - I do not see that as a failure. 

But the good outweighs the bad by leaps and bounds. I saw friends I hadn’t for some time (one 34 years), and made many new. I have learned a great deal about another country and some about myself. 

Travel makes me happy. I’ve been asked “do you think you travel to run away from something?” Maybe. Although I’m not aware of anything. I answer “I feel I’m running TOWARD something rather than AWAY”. Like this view...

Today I boarded a flight to Auckland New Zealand. It was uneventful. I enjoyed a nice meal in the airport (I’m including a photo only because I love the new portrait-mode on my phone). 

I landed in Auckland and met a new friend. My friend Donna’s cousin lives here and prior to me leaving on this trip Donna connected us. Sands offered to pick me up from the airport, which was so generous, and we went out for dinner. 

I’m staying at the Haka Lodge Hostel. I spent some time talking with my (so far) two roomies. One is a younger 20’s women from the Netherlands that will be traveling New Zealand for six weeks starting tomorrow and the other is an older 20’s man from the UK who is just beginning a two year work-vacation Visa. They inspire me. They have such adventurous minds and as I’ve learned - adventurous people are kind. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Day Fourteen: An Old Friend & the Sunshine Coast

My last full day in Queensland was spent with my friend Deb. We graduated from high school together in 1985 and hadn't seen one another since. She moved to Oz ten years ago and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see her. 

I took the train from Brisbane to Burpengary where she picked me up. After screaming for a bit and both saying “you sound like me!!” we didn’t stop talking for fourteen hours!

We drove to the Sunshine Coast to Noosa National Park and had lunch on the beach. Beautiful!!

I don’t have many photos because we pretty much talked non-stop the entire day. So much so (along with a little too much wine) I ended up staying the night. 

It was so nice to see her and meet her funny Aussie husband Trevor. Again, the world feels so small. 

Day Thirteen: CityCat, Dinner and Stickers!

It rained a bit today. Gia, Jenny and I did a little shopping and then made our way to St. Lucia and jumped on a CityCat (boat) to SouthBank. Brisbane was host of the ‘88 World Expo where you still see remnants of the event. Beautiful area. 

We had some lunch where I reminisced about the days I would color with my girls at meals. 

I did some “crafting” with Valentina - well, she decorated my phone. I’m blinged out. 

We went out for dinner on SouthBank overlooking the river with a couple of Pete and Jenny’s friends Ross & Annie. It was lovely. The conversations are so similar wherever you live, which reminds me how small the world truly is. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Day Twelve: Springbrook, Tamborine and Unicorns

I jumped on the bus from Jenny’s and landed in downtown Brisbane. I spent the day on a tour of the rainforests, west of the Gold Coast. 

Our first stop was Springbrook rainforest. Absolutely stunning! Very cool inside and surprisingly no bugs. I cannot recall being in another rainforest so I’m labeling this my first. 

Next we visited a glow worm cave. They aren’t worms but maggots - it would be hard to market a maggot tour. They are pretty cool and have an amazing life cycle. 

Next stop was the Tamborine rainforest where I swung from a vine like Jane (that is a complete lie). But the walk was very nice and the weather was perfect. Cool and no bugs! 

I ended the evening back at Jenny’s playing dress up with Valentina and Gia. They like unicorns because according to Valentina “everyone loves unicorns - who wouldn’t? They are so cute!”