Australia: September 23-October 23, 2014

Chris and I spent a wonderful month in Australia. Many of the things we did, and the sights we saw, we knew about before we travelled here. The lovely Sydney Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, Bondi Beach. Visiting friends in Adelaide and Melbourne. Seeing the outback and Uluru, and of course diving in the Great Barrier Reef. But so much more! The convict sites that tell the history of settling Australia, the free parks and museums, camping….

Once we arrived and started talking to people and tour desks, we saw so much more of Australia. We visited the Blue Mountains, named for the blue haze that arises from the eucalyptus oil catching dust particles. Very pretty (and fresh smelling!). We visited the fashionable parts of Melbourne with Melanie, trying new eateries and going for nice walks around St Kilda. The Great Ocean Road, along Shipwreck Coast, was incredible. The effects of wind and waves on sandstone cliffs is beautiful. There are more than 1200 ships under those waves!

Seeing our friends Ben and Jo in Adelaide, and staying at Ben’s mom Wendy’s house, chatting with her and Arnie- and they let us try some Vegemite. Ben took us to see the fairy penguins, feed kangaroos, and hug koalas. Jo took us to four wineries to sample southern Australia’s wines, and we had a lovely picnic. It was great to see our friends from last year’s Galapagos trip.

We drove up into the outback, staying a night in an old opal mine in the mining town of Coober Pedy. Then we made it to Uluru, the big red rock in the center of Australia. A very sacred place for the aboriginals. We stayed in Alice Springs for a couple of days, then headed east to Cairns. We stopped off at a place called Devil’s Marbles along the way and played around on the huge boulders. We watched the stars, the eclipse, the full moon, and the international space station from the moon roof in our campervan. Sleeping in the outback is awesome.

Before settling in at Cairns, we went to the Daintree National rainforest….. The oldest rainforest in the world. This place has a staggering abundance of animals and plants that are found nowhere else. We did some driving bits, some walking bits, and a crocodile-spotting cruise. No beach time, because of the crocs and the jellyfish.

Finally, Cairns. This place is like spring break year round. Fire dancers! Pools! Nightclubs! Concerts! Our hostel is a bit wild. But for three days we went on a live aboard dive trip to the reef, and loved every minute of it. We saw massive turtles, heaps of fish, about a dozen sharks, and my personal favorite, the Maori Wrasse- it’s called that because the markings on the fish look like tribal tattoos. And they’re huge! Like four feet long. Friendly, and curious about us humans.

So…… Now we leave Australia, headed to New Zealand. Check back in 3 or 4 weeks for details!















September 2014: Cruise to Australia

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Upon the advice of some friends, we looked into a repositioning cruise to start our world trip.  As luck would have it, we found one leaving around the same time that we wanted to travel, going from LA to Sydney, Australia.  So we figured we’d start out journey there and work our way back.

We boarded the Carnival Legend in Long Beach, after staying with family  for three days in California, and immediately set sail for Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.  We enjoyed a day of walking around the Malecon and downtown areas, stopping for cervezas and ceviche when we got too hot.

Then out to sea for a week.  We skirted tropical storm Norbert, and crossed the equator.  Eventually we landed in Tahiti, the capital of French Polynesia.  We teamed up with another couple, Kirk and Tricia, and rented a taxi for the day and had a great 7 hour tour.  Lots of Captain Cook history, beautiful surf spots, and tropical vistas.  The next day we docked at Moorea, an island just 14 miles away, and enjoyed a lovely second day in Paradise (French Polynesia).  We took a small minibus tour and visited some Polynesian temple sites, a look out at the harbor, and a fruit juice plantation.  Then we got dropped off at the local beach and enjoyed the crystal clear water.  And our last day in French Polynesia was at Bora Bora.  Instead of a tour, we decided to just relax at the Hotel Intercontinental beach and gaze at their fabulous over-the-water-bungalows.  And sample tasty tropical rum drinks.  Amazing.

Back to the boat, and another few days at sea, crossing the international date line- we completely skipped the 15th of September!  We docked at Suva, Fiji, on a day when they were having elections for the first time since a military coup.  Luckily we were able to still do a short tour, to a village, an eco resort, and a waterfall.  Most of the downtown capital city was closed for elections, but we got a feel for the place.

After International Pirates Day (a very fun party on the boat), we landed at Noumea, New Caledonia.  Part of France, they are supposed to get independence in 2 1/2 years… but 1/3 of the world’s nickel comes from Noumea, so I wonder how that is going to go.  We visited their extremely cool architectural cultural center, and visited a lookout and a church, had some food, and enjoyed our day there. In the capital they had a monument to the US for their help in World War II.  We sampled their local beer (Number 1!) and then it was time to get back on the boat.

We enjoyed our cruise very much.  We took dance classes each day, attended a few art classes (bought two paintings at an auction!), used the gym, swam in the the pools, and ate our weight in all kinds of food.  It was certainly a relaxing way to get to Australia. I’m glad we chose that as a way to start our journey.

Next post: Australia.

Canada: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island

After Chris finished the Appalachian Trail in Maine, we figured it would be the perfect chance to see what Canada’s maritime provinces are all about. So we headed to points furthest NE and found ourselves in Nova Scotia.

The main thing we did in NS is the John Cabot Trail, and by trail, I mean we did the drive. Poor Chris’s feet were still really hurting from the AT, so some car tripping was all we were good for. But the drive was amazing, all through the Cape Breton highlands, long windy narrow roads with the ocean beside you and in front of you. Majestic views.




John Cabot Drive
















John Cabot Trail

John Cabot Trail


Cape Breton Highlands

While in Cape Breton, we also attended a caileigh (pronounced cay-lee), which is a Celtic gathering, usually involving several Gaelic fiddle players. The one we attended featured Ashley MacIsaac, who from what we learned from others in the crowd, was quite the famous musician a few years back. Well, he was amazing. I will definitely be downloading some of his stuff.

In Halifax, we went to the Atlantic Maritime Museum, which has a great Titanic exhibit, among others. Halifax was the closest port on that fateful night, so that is where they sent out rescue boats, and where the recovered bodies were taken. Tragic.

In Nova Scotia, we also visited Fort Louisbourg, a fort from the 1740-1780 time period that has been reconstructed and frozen in time to show you what life was like in that time and place. There are about a dozen buildings you can go into, and talk to the re-enactors about their daily lives. It was pretty neat.




























From Nova Scotia, we took the ferry to Prince Edward Island. In Charlottetown, they were having a festival celebrating 150 years of confederation, so we attended that and listened to singer/guitar players Ben Caplin and the Mellotones. And ate lobster. Lots of it. Also on the island, aside from the unique geography and the stunning Gulf of St Lawrence views, are the settings and artifacts from the Anne of a Green Gables books. The author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, grew up on PEI and wrote the Anne books based somewhat on her childhood.

House of Green Gables

House of Green Gables

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island














And finally, New Brunswick. No time for the Acadian drive (think Evangeline, “this is the forest primeval”), so we centered ourselves on the Bay of Fundy, this amazing place where the ocean tides recede up to 40 feet each high/low tide. In Moncton, we saw the Tidal Bore, which is a channel cut so that as the high tide comes rushing in, it creates a 23km long wave, that surfers can crest on. We saw three surfers attempting it on the day we were there. Also in the Bay, at Hopewell Rocks, we visited at high tide, where you can kayak around in the water and look at the interesting rock formations. Then the next day we visited at low tide, and we were able to walk on the ocean floor, looking up at those same rocks! Very fun and very muddy.

Bay of Fundy low tide: The Kissing Rocks

Bay of Fundy low tide: The Kissing Rocks

Bay of Fundy low tide

Bay of Fundy low tide

Bay of Fundy high tide

Bay of Fundy high tide

Bay of Fundy high tide

Bay of Fundy high tide





















The days were cool- never above 75- and the nights were downright cold. We alternated between camping and hotels, and saw some amazing stars on the nights we camped out. We ate lots of seafood and poutine. Lobster!!On the way home we stopped for a night in Bar Harbor, Maine (I’ll include it in this post because its practically Canada). Cute little town- crowded! And the Acadia National Park was lovely as well.

Such great sight seeing, in our own nation and our neighbor. Next up: the cruise to Australia!

Appalachian Trail: Maine

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“Maine: The Way Life Ought To Be”. Also, really freaking hard. The Maine section of the AT is filled with ups, downs, rocks, roots, mud, and moose poop. Like literally every step is either a rock or a root (or both; somehow these trees manage to grow on rocks), or it’s a muddy bog, or there’s just piles and piles of moose droppings at every turn. There must be more moose in Maine than people. And in case you’re wondering how I know, yes, I do hike a mile or two with Chris in the mornings when I drop him off or in the afternoon when I pick him up.
The trail towns in Maine are Andover, with it’s cute little library and the Pine Ellis Hostel and their cabin down by the covered bridge; Rangeley, with it’s beautiful lakes and the awesome Rangeley Farmhouse Inn (hello Stacey and Shane, you guys were the best!!); Stratton, home of the Stratton Motel and the Wolf Den Bar and their infamous and slightly gross Wolf Burger; Caratunk, home of the Kennebec River ferry, and finally Monson, the site of The Lakeshore Lodge and Rebekah “Double Zero”, so named because so many people stop at her lodge and take two days in a row off the trail to recover from the last 2000 miles and prepare for the final push: the 100 Mile Wilderness.
While Chris started the 100 Mile Wilderness, I hung out with some travelers taking a zero, such as Trip and Sisyphus, and we went on a boat ride on Moosehead Lake (a three hour tour!!). Very nice lake filled with some 134 islands, many of which have a fishing cabin on the island or even in some cases a lake home. A lovely region- if you are ever in Maine, I truly hope you are able to get over to the lake side and not just the coastal region. Although I’m sure the coastline is amazing too. We’re going to check that side out on the way home.
While Chris was in the wilderness, I drove to the end at Millinocket and saw some old trail friends that we hadn’t seen in a while. Yay, for seeing Tittycakes, Geared Up, and DaVinci after they summited the peak!
Finally Chris came out of the 100 Mile Wilderness (it took him 5 days), and I was anxiously awaiting at Abol Bridge Campground. We had dinner together and went to sleep early, as we were summiting Katahdin Mountain the next day. I drove to the base of the mountain, getting a head start on Chris, who had to hike the final 10 miles to the mountain AND do the climb while I just started the climb. It’s five miles to the top, which is at an elevation of 5, 260 feet. It took me five hours to get to the top. It was the scariest climbing I’ve ever done (well, I’ve never really done any rock climbing, which is why my arms, shoulders, and back are still hurting like hell today, three days later). It was so hard!! I cannot emphasize this enough. For a beginner like me, it was definitely the wrong mountain to try for my first attempt. For Chris and the other AT hikers, they did concur that it was the hardest mountain they had hiked/climbed on the AT. But finally, after five hours, I made it to the top (Chris caught up to me even with his extra 10 miles to get there). We saw fellow hikers Lunch, Haiku, and Hiker Monkey up there. We all posed for the requisite photos, rested a bit, and then we had to do the descent…. which was even more terrifying!! Seriously!! Chris had to fireman carry/bear hug me down one tricky bit- I completely froze up and couldn’t move. But finally (after another five hours), we made it down. And so, the Appalachian Trail is completed. It took Chris 134 days, 3 hours, and 34 minutes to complete. Officially he was #186 to finish for the year. Although, that number is a bit inflated, because not everyone who hikes in to Baxter State Park and says they are a thru hiker really is one. But close enough. It’s done, and now we can go on to our Around The World Trip. We’ll be heading to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island in Canada, then back to DC for a quick stopover, then it’s off to Australia and new adventures!
Next post: Canada and the NE coastline??

AT: Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire

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While Chris hiked the 90 miles of the Trail that are in Massachusetts, I drove back to the DC area and got our house ready for our new renters. And then the day arrived: the packers came and put our stuff in a moving van, and now we are homeless. After one last book club with my lady friends, I was off to join Chris in Vermont, for the last 500 miles of the trail. And when I say “join him”, I mean “drive the car around and see stuff while he hikes, and arrange food and lodging and sightseeing for the days/nights he’s not on the trail”.
I caught up to him in Rutland, VT: wow, what a green, fresh smelling state! We stealth-camped right by the trail in a beautiful setting by a brook up the side of a mountain. (Stealth camping is camping at spots along the AT that are not paying campgrounds or designated shelters. Just nice flat spots that you can pitch a tent. Free!). It got cold that night: Down in the 40′s. But luckily summer seemed to catch up with us over the next week and it was quite nice.
I followed/stalked Chris for all of Vermont and New Hampshire, sometimes hiking a mile or two in the mornings when I drop him off at the trailhead, sometimes camping with him on the trail, sometimes getting us hotels or hiker hostels, and sometimes getting myself a place to sleep alone while he overnighted in a stretch of the trail that had no road access for me to come get him. During the day I stopped at cool sites, shuttled other hiker friends around, had lunches and dinners with new trail friends, rented bikes, kayaks, etc. I loved the rolling hills and mountains of Vermont and the lovely farmlands and vistas.
New Hampshire has been brutal. They don’t call it the Granite State for nothing! It is often said that NH and Maine are the toughest states on the trail. In New Hampshire we encountered the White Mountains. Though lovely, they are a bitch to climb up and down, continually, day after day. The NoBo’s (northbounders, or what is left of them) are worn down, and we are just starting to see the first SoBo’s, starting down from Maine in early July and hoping to finish by Thanksgiving. Directly after the White Mountains were the Presidential Peaks, culminating in Mt Washington, the 2nd highest peak on the AT. It was a brutal 2 day climb, but luckily I was able to take the auto road to the top and pick up backpacks from Chris and his friends, so the could “slack pack” the descent with only a small day bag. They were much appreciative. A shout out to our trail friends: DaVinci, Mobius, Midnight Sparkle, Naked Ninja, Rosie, Dr Zoom, Grasshopper, Trip, and Geared Up. You all are doing GREAT!!
So. 13 states done. Next up: Maine!

AT: Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut

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After a somewhat restful four days at home, Chris was back on the trail and heading north from Harpers Ferry. After a quick jaunt through Maryland, Chris and his son Mike reached Pennsylvania, where in a rocky patch of boulders, Chris sprained his ankle. He rested for a day, hobbled into the next town of Palmerton, where hikers are allowed to sleep in the basement of the jail for free. He rested there, then kept going, even with a badly sprained ankle.
My friend Ann and I were able to visit Chris and Mike near Hamburg, and then they crossed over into New York. Chris saw a bear- on the same day that he could see the NYC skyline from the trail. Pretty cool. Near Bear Mountain, hikers can go through the Trailside Zoo for free, and see lots of animals. And not far from there, hikers can sleep for free at the Graymoor Spiritual Center, a monastery.
Eventually, New York gives way to Connecticut, and Mike went home and I came to visit. Still sore in the ankle, Chris wanted a couple of days off the trail, so we explored a bit of Connecticut and Rhode Island. We went down to Mystic Seaport, ate pizza at Mystic Pizza, and looked at the ships there. Then over to Rhode Island to visit Naragansett for lunch at Iggys Chowder House, and some beach time at Misquamicut Beach. Except the ocean was freezing so we never got in!
But eventually we had to get back on the trail. I camped with Chris at Housatonic Meadows State Park, where I learned that a queen sized air mattress won’t fit in our tent. Sadly.
722 miles to go!
Next post: Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire!

Washington DC

All too often we forget to sightsee in our own town. Lucky for me, I live near our nation’s capital, and so I have been able to sightsee with both sets of parents when they visited, my friend Amber, and now my sister and two of her kids when they visited the week of the Fourth. We had a blast and I got to see some old sights and a few new ones.
I picked them up from Reagan airport just over the river from DC, so we were able to see a few monuments on a quick drive along the lovely Potomac. The kids were tired after traveling all day, so we went back to Reston and grabbed dinner at my favorite little lake, Thoreau, and watched the ducks.
The next day we did all the monuments and statues west of the Washington Monument. Lincoln. Einstein. Martin Luther King, Jr. FDR. Vietnam, Korea, and World War II. And a glimpse of the Jefferson. After being in the sun all day, we were ready for some inside action, so we drove back to Reston and visited the Udvar Hazy Air and Space museum. Very cool stuff, and the kids liked the tie in to the transformers movie.
The next day was DC east. The other
air and space, the botanic gardens and conservatory, and the Capitol building, then a quick look into the library of congress. Yay! Finally a ride on the carousel at the Smithsonian castle. After cooling off at home, we saw Maleficent at the movie theater.
The next day the kids took the metro in, and got to see the Spy Museum, the National Archives, and then the national cemetery. Whew!
And then the last day, we visited Mt Vernon. Amazing house and grounds. Mr Washington was certainly a fascinating person. On the way back to the airport we drove through old town Alexandria.
A cute little place!
Only a week to go and then I’ll be starting my big trip! Next post: Appalachian Trail, Connecticut- Maine. Stay tuned!