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Boats, barfs, hikes and airplanes: From NZ to OZ (Oceania Week 13)

 

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Boats, barfs, hikes and airplanes: From NZ to OZ (Oceania Week 13)
50 km cycled, for a grand total on New Zealand of 3,435km

Maybe we love cycle touring so much because it’s a mode of travel with little chance of puking. Put us on a ferry across the choppy Southern Ocean, or a three-stop, 12-hour air travel day and we’re begging for two wheels on solid ground.

imageWe wrapped our New Zealand biking three days ahead of schedule, so we boarded a small ferry to Stewart Island – a universally recommended eco-paradise 16 nautical miles south of the south tip of the South Island. We all braced ourselves for the notoriously rough crossing with sea sickness pills, but it was Joce alone who regained the title of family barf champ. The nauseatingly nasty swells brought the pale to Mommy’s face early on, so she fled to the steadier stern for some fresh air, which helped for a while, but eventually she heaved ho off the side of the boat – into the wind, which then blew Joce’s chunks right back on board and onto four young hipsters en route to a trekking weekend. The dudes were gracious, if grossed out, and we spent the rest of the ride trying to avoid eye contact with the poor fellows who still had barf stains on their shirts as we disembarked at our destination. Whatever embarrassing moments lie in the boys’ future, they can always feel better knowing they haven’t done anything as mortifying as this.

imageimageThe rest of our end-of-New-Zealand celebration was wonderfully free of weighted-down bikes, free of tenting, and free of oatmeal. We hiked in stunning sunshine (in 45 days on the South Island, we had just five days of rain – an unprecedented autumn according to the locals) along the Rakiura Track Great Walk through lush rainforest to the tropical-like Maori beach; across mammal-free Ulva Island (the boys somehow convinced Joce to take another ferry to this amazing bird sanctuary with several rare species filling the air with a symphony of cackles and chirps); and around the wild outskirts of Oban in a fruitless but fun search for Kiwi birds. We collected a long list of new bird sightings, including the kaka, which we were much fonder of than its tent-fly shredding parrot cousin the kea.

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imageWe were also endlessly entertained at our backpackers hostel, with the stereotypical cast of characters, a New Zealand version of Monopoly, a pool table and even a giant outdoor chess game.

Our Mothers Day highlight was a wistful slideshow of photos from our twelve weeks cycling this beautiful country, reminiscing on all our favourite parts with a brilliant and elaborate family survey compliments of Heron and Sitka. We were all surprised by just how much we packed into the last 3,400 km and three months – each time one of us picked a favourite lunch spot or campsite, the other three would leap in agreement. What a rollicking, lifelong-memorable trek we’ve had so far.

imageimageRuefully we left our happy retreat, rested and ready for the next step in our Oceania Odyssey. Ed regained the heave-yweight title by preemptively puking in the waiting room toilet before he even boarded the return ferry, and after cycling the final 30 km back to Invercargill, we checked off the last item on our New Zealand bucket list: seeing a community of tuatara, endangered lizards that have survived as a species since the time of the dinosaurs and are now part of an intense breeding program at the Invercargill “tuatarium.”

imageOur tremendous good fortune with New Zealand hospitality was complemented with an unexpected free upgrade to a deluxe suite at our final hotel – the Park Ascot, which we didn’t know was a fancy business hotel when we booked a small room way back in January. Thank goodness we’d done some laundry recently, because it was swank. Joce and the boys revelled in the pool and sauna while Ed wrestled the bikes back into their suitcases, and we snuggled (eventually) into our cozy one-bedroom suite with living room and kitchen. That is, until, Joce called to confirm our flights and found that our middle leg had been cancelled – we were up until 1am waiting for Aeroplan to open back in Canada, then two hours on hold until we finally got it fixed.

imageSo we were a tad tired for our travel day, from Invercargill to Christchurch, to Auckland, to Sydney. The boys didn’t notice, of course, because they were psyched to play the video games on the fancy Air New Zealand planes. But by our final touchdown in the land of Oz, Joce was pale again. Determined to not take her nausea out on her fellow passengers again, she gamely held it together for another two hours, through several customs checkpoints and finally via shuttle to our “budget” hotel that evidently strived to live up to its name. With Mommy passed out on the bed, the contents of her stomach fully evacuated, Ed and the boys brought up our bags to the bare room – no sheets, two towels, and a window that didn’t open, looking out onto the Krispy Kreme. Already we missed New Zealand desperately.

But by morning, Ed had scoped out the neighbourhood and found a library, grocery store and Thai restaurant to have a late-morning brunch before our bus out of Sydney and into the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains, where another backpacker hostel and hiking adventure awaited.

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imageimageThree days later, the bikes are re-assembled (with adequate amounts of cursing, but in better condition than ever, with new brake pads and clean chains), our excess luggage is shipped ahead north of Brisbane (more swearing after trying seven hotels before finding one to take our suitcases), and we’ve had two glorious days hiking around the gorgeous canyons around Katoomba. We’ve already seen ibis (to Aussies they may be like pigeons, but Ed shrieked in delight at meeting the elusive “I” bird from his childhood animal alphabet books), cockatoos and what Ed has likely wrongfully named a crimson tanager (the boys were impressed with Daddy’s bird-identification skills until they realized he was just making stuff up). One day we climbed and descended a total of 2,000 stairs into the canyon and back, which prompted a family pizza binge (at five bucks for a large, why not get seven?). Thus we refuelled our biking legs for a whole new trek across a new country. G’Day Australia! Can’t wait to get to know you.

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imageHeron’s week 13 summary: “NZ to OZ! Ulva island was so cool! Lots of birds because they made it predator-free. The Invercargill hotel was awesome and we have already seen awesome wildlife in Australia!”

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imageSitka’s week 13 summary: “Australia is pricey! But it’s also awesome. I loved the triple decker train! Cockatoos are beautiful. The Ulva island ferry was my favorite of the whole trip.”

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4 Comments

  1. lisa girardi says:

    I love the Heave-yweight word…You are comical! I look forward to these blogs!!! keep them coming. Kisses all around! Luv Lisa

  2. Lucy Klein Horsman says:

    I’m sure everything will be fine once you all get settled. The Blue Mountains are beautiful and sounds like you’ve discovered some amazing wildlife! I always look forward to reading your blogs and continue to look forward to reading about more of your adventures.

  3. Mark Thomson says:

    Puking and cycling… yup… been there… nasty as! Moira doesn’t do boats either. Good to see you got to Australia safely… enjoy the warmer section of the trip!

  4. John Gaither says:

    Sitka and Heron will never forget this memory making trip. What a wonderful life adventure you and Jocelyn have given these boys.

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