Never seen water like this

Australia and some New Zealand

Aug 22, 2016

It’s late by the time I leave the hotel in Bali. Like really late. I lost track of time writing up the last post and might be late getting on my flight. I talk with the taxi driver and he speeds me through streets as fast as is possible for him. He eventually gets me to the airport just as check-in has ended. I hop through to the check-in counter and everyone speeds me through the process to get me on the airplane about ten minutes before the door closes.

To Australia I go. I thought this would be my first time into the Southern Hemisphere. I was wrong. That happened the day before when I arrived in Bali. I did not realize Indonesia was in the southern hemisphere but it is. It’s weird to me to think that Asia extends this far south, but I guess it is true.

I try to spend the night on the plane sleeping.

Aug 23, 2016

I sleep for what I think is an hour on the plane. The plane also arrives earlier than anticipated. It’s just after 6 AM here in Melbourne.

I grab my gear, get through customs, and hop a bus to the hotel. It’s weird hearing these Australian accents everywhere. Some of them are so accented that you have to pay a little closer attention to what people are saying. Back in the States an Australian accent is almost never real. You hear people imitate it, but it’s rarely real. Here everyone’s like “right this way mate. Oar right, mate.” It’s great to hear.

When I step outside I am wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. It’s winter here. Or at least what Australians call winter. Everyone is bundled up with hats, scarves, and full winter jackets. Everyone is complaining about the cold and how terrible the weather is. To me this feels amazing. Coming out of the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia, the air in Melbourne feels refreshing. It feels like someone flipped the switch and the outdoor air conditioning is on.

I’m able to check into my hotel early and grab sleep until about 7 PM. I throw on some jeans and my down jacket and head out to explore the city. I make a stop at a craft beer bar called Penny Blue. Craft beer is available in some of the bigger cities in Southeast Asia, but it’s not available in too many locations there. I grab a seat at the bar and have a Kalash by Hop Nation. It’s a stout aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels that’s brewed about an hour away.

Back to some craft beer
Back to some craft beer

After the beer I swing out in search of a burger. I stop at restaurant called 8bit. It’s pretty much exactly what I’m in search of. Just a little taste of the good old American burger. It’s a beautiful change from all of the excellent rices, noodles, soups, and street foods that I was eating nonstop out in Southeast Asia.

I need food like this
I need food like this

After the burger I swing out to Forester’s Hall, which is also supposed to have craft beer. They do, but the setting is much larger. I think this is probably a good place on weekends when it’s full but it’s empty tonight. I see bottles of Rogue’s Sriracha selling for $38 Australian dollars, which is about $29 US dollars. That’s a pretty expensive price. Everything here seems expensive, especially in contrast with Southeast Asia. Back there just about everything you ate or drank was priced from $0.30 to $2 US dollar for everything from a water, soda, energy drink, beer, alcoholic drink, snack, meal, coffee, tea, etc. You’ll go into 7-11 and pick up two or three things and the price will be $1 US dollar. You order two things for dinner and a beer and the price is $5 US dollar. Here it’s different. Mountain dews are $3 US dollar. A sandwich is about $10. A taxi from the airport would have been $40 US for a half hour drive. Back in Southeast Asia a taxi for a half hour was about $8. You could go an hour for that price if you found someone to split the ride with. I’m distracted from prices when I hear some Springsteen being played. It’s cool to hear that Asbury sound out in Melbourne.

While I’m sipping on a pretty bad Bloody Mary flavored beer, I hear news that my buddy’s aunt passed away. She was a really nice lady and it’s sad news to hear. I decide to swing out to grab a cup of something in her honor.

I end up grabbing a pour of Fernet Branca at Bar Ampere, an absinthe bar. I talk with the bartenders there. One mentions he’s going out to New York. We talk about the states a bit. He’s into liquor and is planning a trip out to Kentucky to sample bourbons.

After a night of walking about I head back to the hotel to grab some sleep so that I’ll be ready to explore in the morning.

Aug 24, 2016

The plan for the day is to check out the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s a nice museum but unfortunately both wings of the modern and contemporary exhibits are closed, which is what I was most looking forward to.

Thinking man
Thinking man

After checking out the gallery I head out for some food. I grab another burger because I’m missing home. There are a lot of food options for delicious looking Asian cuisine which I’m not in the mood for. Most of the food billed as Australian seems to be a bit fancier that I’m looking to get into.

After my burger I stroll about doing some shopping looking for a shirt or two but I don’t find anything that interests me.

I slowly make my way out to the airport. I’m departing Melbourne 9 PM to arrive at Sydney for 10:25 PM. While I’m checking in for my flight the girl asks if I’m from Jersey. I figure she’s talking about the area out in the UK. I tell her I’m from by New York, in America. She asks again if I’m from Jersey. “New Jersey?” I ask. “Yea, New Jersey,” she says. I say that I am. Her boyfriend is living there. He’s a Cuban from Elizabeth. She’s been to Jersey 18 times and is moving in a couple months. We talk about Melbourne and she says a lot of the good things about the city are outside of it. Great Ocean Road and whatnot. I tell her I wanted to go, but the compass of my heart points towards home. I guess you can’t trust a city that has some of its best attractions hours outside of it. Melbourne was fine. Safe. Comfortable to live in. A few things to see and do. It’s got everything you need. But it doesn’t have the magic that other great cities I’ve been to have.

The weather is rainy and cold when I get to Sydney. My bag was soaked by the transport from the plane to the baggage claim. It isn’t really a big worry because the inside of my bag has been waterproofed by a contractor bag. Otherwise I would have been in for wet clothes. By the time I figure out the train and catch a transfer out to the Circular Quay area of Sydney it’s pretty late. My walk to the hotel room takes me past the opera house. It’s cold and raining but I have to take the camera out for a quick picture. This is my welcome to Sydney.

My welcome to Sydney
My welcome to Sydney

I go to check into the hotel but there’s a note on the door saying to call a number so that they can let me in. The only problem isn’t I can’t make phone calls. I eventually find a restaurant that is open nearby and I walk in ask a hostess if I can use her phone. She lets me and I call the number for the hotel staff to open the door. Checkout is 10:30 AM here, so I mostly get right to sleep. I’m tired but excited to see the city the next day.

Aug 25, 2016

I wake up, late for checkout again. For whatever reason in Australia and New Zealand checkout is 10 AM, not the noon time that seems more customary everywhere else I’ve been in the world. I don’t mind it though. It’s wintertime so the days are a bit shorter and I’d prefer to get an earlier start to my days if possible.

First up for the day is strolling about the harbor area. The sidewalks that were completely empty in the cold rain and wind of the previous night have become full with people. I see the opera house again to see what it looks like in the daytime. One of my earliest memories of far away lands and travel from my childhood was this exact area. I remember seeing the opera house on Wheel of Fortune as part of an Australian vacation you could win. I guess it was at that point that my desire to see Australia started. Seeing that different modern looking building made me think Australia was cool. Throughout the years I always thought that the building was so beautiful. I never really knew anyone who made it out to Australia until I was much older. I guess because the distance is so far. And because I never heard personal stories about Australia from people I grew up with I never thought I would make it out to visit.

But here I am. At the place that I remember from two decades ago from some random episode of Wheel of Fortune. Looking at that building that I thought was so beautiful and different and faraway and cool. Twenty years later it is as beautiful as those early memories I had of it. It’s a great building. And it paves the way for Sydney being a great city.

Obligatory
Obligatory

Selfie time. Travel beard is becoming pretty long. I think I’ll keep it for a couple days when I get back home, before turning it into a mustache for a twenty-four hour period, and then finally shaving it to get back to the clean shaven look that I think is a good look these days.

Also obligatory
Also obligatory

After a quick stroll, I get breakfast. Or maybe it’s lunch at this point. It’s kind of out of order, but I was too excited to see the opera house. The meal comprises of some scones and jam and a long black. It’s at the cutest little place that you might find your grandma hanging out at. In the top left of the photo you may notice balls of yarn on your table in case you have the urge to do any knitting. I don’t hate it at all. Older women generally have seen and done a lot. There’s a reason they enjoy things like this. They know it’s some of the best stuff that life has to offer. I’ve always found it a good practice to do something that someone from a much different age or sex would do. You learn about the world and learn about yourself. Do something girly once in a while. Do something old.

Eating like a rich woman
Eating like a rich woman

After a delicious and relaxing bite it’s time to see some more art. Yes, this art kick is still going strong. There’s a contemporary museum right on the harbor, which I’m thrilled about. A lot of the stuff in there is, well, contemporary. It’s refreshing to me to see identification tags on the wall where the creation date is 2016. Many of the pieces here were made at some point this year. There are a lot of cool ideas, concepts, and experimentation going on. Regardless of whether you consider these masterpieces or “that’s so stupid, that’s not even art,” there’s a lot to see and think about. You can learn a lot and apply a lot of these concepts to a lot of other fields. I thought these neon books were pretty fun. The room that they’re in is not this dark in real life, but sometimes with art I like to take great liberties and present the pieces in a remixed way here. Of course any way I represent something like this won’t be true to its real form for a variety of reasons.

All of the books, all of the books
All of the books, all of the books

I was viewing another piece completely to myself. It’s a dark room with a doorway. From the top of the doorway mist is falling. A scrolling letter is projected onto the mist and it illuminates that doorway. The letter is also visible on the floor. The letter is from Gandhi to Hitler written before the war. As I’m watching this for a couple minutes a group of schoolgirls walk in. They are on a tour of the museum and the instructor is having the girls do an exercise. Half of the girls are blindfolded, and the other half are not. The girls are paired off in twos. The girls who can see are supposed to explain what they are seeing to their partner. After a minute or two the girls take the blindfolds off and see the art with their eyes. It’s a pretty cool example of description vs reality. I thought it would make for a pretty cool picture. And now that you have heard my description of it you can see the photograph to see how my description compared to the visual.

Silhouetted human form
Silhouetted human form

After the art it was time for some food and to swing out to another craft beer place. The food is another burger. I’m almost getting tired of these, but not just yet. The craft beer bar I stop at is Bitter Phew. They have a nice bottle list and some good sounding drafts. I’m pretty pumped to see Westvleteren XII on the list. It’s one of the highest rated beers out of a Belgian abbey. During my trip to Europe I drove about an hour and a half away from the brewery but wasn’t able to stop in due to time constraints. The beer shows up occasionally for a taste, but it’s pretty rare. Unfortunately they are sold out but they probably could get a bottle in a couple days for me. Unfortunately I have to grab something else as I am leaving Sydney the following morning.

Almost got that XII
Almost got that XII

The plan for afterwards is to head out to Bondi beach and walk about and check out the area. The bar tender tells me a better option would be to take a ferry out to Manly beach. He agrees Bondi is a bigger and more famous name but he argues the cheap ferry ride is better transportation than a bus. He says both beaches will be like a beach would be in the winter. It makes sense to me so I head out to grab a ferry out to Manly.

On the way to the ferry I stroll through the art gallery of new south wales and the royal botanical gardens. Eventually I get on the boat and head out to the beach. Here’s another selfie of me and one of my favorite buildings.

And another one
And another one

I mess about with some photography on the beach. I’m definitely pretty happy with this shot of the beach that I got. It was dark and there wasn’t too much to shoot in the darkness. The way I shot and edited this picture makes it seem more like a painting. This is a concept that I want to explore more of with photography. Try to capture pictures that you can make look like paintings without too much editing. Also, don’t dive or swim near the pipes.

I actually like this pic
I actually like this pic

After some fish and chips it’s time to take the ferry back to Sydney. I grab my gear from the hotel and grab a train to the airport. The plan is to grab a couple hours of sleep in the airport because I have an early international flight in the morning to New Zealand. Sydney airport closes overnight, so unfortunately anyone trying to do this is shoveled into a pretty terribly uncomfortable waiting area. Guards come up to you and check your ticket and identification to make sure you’re not trying to score a free night of sleep there. Although with the alarms, loud noises, and uncomfortable waiting area, I’m not sure why you would want to.

Aug 26, 2016

Morning comes. Or maybe the night just went. I sleep for maybe an hour or so. Eventually I board the plane. The flight takes about three hours and thankfully there is no one in my row so I’m able to lay down and sleep during most of the flight.

I grab my bag and head out to the rental car place to grab my car. I’m pretty excited to be able to be driving a car where the wheel is on the right side and you drive on the left side of the road. To make things even more complicated it was supposed to be a manual transmission, but they gave me an automatic. Driving actually is fairly difficult for a little while. You obviously can’t make the mistake of driving on the wrong side of the road, which means you have to go against years and years of what your brain wants you to do. The advice of keeping left sounds easy, but it’s weird doing it in reality. And when you are driving properly on the left side of the road your brain is slightly in panic mode because it thinks you are on the wrong side of the road. It takes some time for your brain to come to peace with what you are doing, and a bit longer to get comfortable and drive without thinking about it.

I get to the hotel and check in and head to bed for some sleep since I didn’t get much the night before.

Eventually I wake up and head out to check out the town and search for some food, as it is around 10 at night. The town is busy. There are drunk people all over. The bars and restaurants are full. A lot of people seem like they’re having a good time. For whatever reason I’m only interested in a bite of food and get a feel for the town. Apparently the burgers at Fergburger are a must have. I get a tropical swine burger off of recommendation. It has pineapple, bacon, aioli, and tomato relish in addition to what you might expect on a standard cheeseburger. It’s a pretty solid burger, and I think with it, I’ll finally be done with my burger kick.

And more burgers
And more burgers

After the burger I stroll about the town before returning to Fergbaker, which is a bakery that is next door to the burger place. I grab a double espresso and a boston cream donut for dessert. After the bite and drink I head back to the hotel for a night of sleep.

Aug 27, 2016

Check out in New Zealand is often 10 AM like it is in Australia. I wake up and get on the road for my drive down to the Milford Sound area. A lot of my journey and time in New Zealand will be seeing beautiful landscapes from the car. I’ll be stopping as I go to get out for pictures and eating the standard road tripping gas station foods.

First I grab a shot from the Queenstown area.

Queenstown
Queenstown

The total drive down to the sound will be about four hours. It doesn’t seem like much time because you are looking at some of the most beautiful views in the world.

Driving to Milford Sound
Driving to Milford Sound

There are a lot of beautiful rocks down in the south island.

Just pull the car over and shoot
Just pull the car over and shoot

And some pretty cool birds too.

Good old kea
Good old kea

I get to the sound but all of the cruise ships are done sailing for the day. I don’t mind missing out because I was stopping so much on the way down. There is also the potential for snow later and I’d prefer to travel the return leg back up to the Queenstown area during the day if possible. The lighting and warmer temperatures and lack of snow will make for a much safer trip. You can still see some good views of the sound without getting on a boat.

Milford Sound
Milford Sound

These are probably the best views of the sound, but if you are looking for a boat ride then that is a common thing to do down this way.

It's a beautiful area
It’s a beautiful area

After strolling about I swing back up. There is one area where the lakes are supposed to look like mirrors on calm days.

Mirror lake
Mirror lake

I get back to the Queenstown area and book a hotel out in the Aoraki/Mount Cook village. The plan for the next day is to see Mount Cook so I figure I’d like to get as close to it as possible. There is a great opportunity to see some stars out this way. I’m fortunate that a new moon is a couple days away and the clouds have parted. I get out of my car at the top of one pass to view the stars. They are gorgeous out here. The milky way is visible for sure. I know because I pointed my camera at it and snapped a picture. It’s not intended to be a great shot, but more proof to myself that I now definitely have seen it. I know I saw it out in the deserts of Nevada on a drive out to Las Vegas last summer, but now I have proof for myself that I definitely have seen it.

I definitely saw the milky way
I definitely saw the milky way

I eventually get to the hotel and check in after midnight. It’s been a long day of driving but there have been a lot of beautiful views.

Aug 28, 2016

Another day and another set of beautiful views. This is why I came to New Zealand. I love seeing this stuff in real life. I love driving hours from place to place and watching how the scenery changes.

It’s cloudy up at the top of Mount Cook today but there are still some good views to be had. Thankfully last night’s potential snowfall has held off leaving the roads clear for driving.

Up by Mt Cook
Up by Mt Cook

Driving down from Mount Cook takes you along Lake Pukaki. It’s a gorgeous lake.

Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki

I’m completely out of gas at the bottom of it. I’m not worried though. I know I will be able to find gas. I’m a road trip expert. Gas, and everything really, is scarce in the countryside of New Zealand. Outside of the few cities, New Zealand does not have much in between other than beautiful views and some sheep and cattle. And anything that it does have is often closed early or only open on certain days. I’m not worried about being low on gas because I know there is a town close by that should definitely have it. But just to be safe I head into an information building and ask about the closest station.

Inside I talk to a lady and she confirms gas is only a couple minutes away in the town that I thought would have it. Also inside is coffee and randomly a lot of salmon sashimi. Like a lot of it. With soy sauce and wasabi. I’m not exactly sure why it’s here, but I’m definitely trying to get some. It’s fresh water farmed right down the road and it is delicious. Coffee and salmon sashimi. I will cosign this combination at just about any moment of my life. Especially when it can be enjoyed with views like Lake Pukaki.

Salmon sashimi
Salmon sashimi

The plan for today is to drive out to the Punakaiki coast. I’m in for about six and a half hours of total driving, but I’m excited. The views out in New Zealand really are amazing. You have your mix of sheep and cows and country, but some of the mountains and valleys are just top notch. It’s awesome to just pull over and take a break and just look out on such beautiful land.

Pulling over in New Zealand
Pulling over in New Zealand

And another shot of further down the road.

And another stop
And another stop

It’s a great drive and I get to the Greymouth area for a night of sleep. I don’t want to drive up the coast during the night, so I stay a bit south of it. I’m pretty beat from the driving and lack of sleeping and just general grind of the trip, so I slide off to bed for the night.

Aug 29, 2016

The beauty doesn’t really ever stop in New Zealand. The Punakaiki coast is beautiful. Even in the rain and cloudy weather.

Punakaiki coastal drive
Punakaiki coastal drive

And in the sun and clear weather.

Just a great drive
Just a great drive

These pancake rocks are a big deal out here. I also haven’t eaten yet and there is a cafe selling pancakes outside of this park.

Pancake rocks
Pancake rocks

Yea so I haven’t eaten yet. I’m looking at the pancake rocks. And they sell homemade pancakes right outside of this park.

And some more
And some more

These aren’t pancake rocks. But there are pancakes just around the corner.

It's a beautiful coast
It’s a beautiful coast

Ok, a quick selfie and then I’m getting some pancakes, bacon, and a long black.

Selfie game getting stronger
Selfie game getting stronger

The banana pancakes I order taste about as good as pancakes can taste for me. I’m not the biggest fan of sweet breakfast, but they hit the spot. The coffee is nice as well. I’ve been drinking hotel coffee for a month now, and while I loved the stuff in southeast Asia (for whatever reason), it’s starting to taste pretty terrible down in New Zealand. I don’t have a picture of the pancakes, and although I probably post food pictures too often, I will not be posting one here. I mean they’re pancakes. Nothing really too special.

I hop back in the car to get back to the drive. Today is going to be a long drive. The drive (and ferry) is supposed to take about thirteen and a half hours. Yup. I’ll see how much of it I can get done. This will be by far the longest drive of the trip. It’s the last long travel scheduled for the trip, minus the return flight home. If I can get through this day of travel then I will be able to complete the trip. But again, I wanted to do this drive. New Zealand is a gorgeous country. It’s one of the most beautiful in the world. Plus 1,600+ miles in a week isn’t even all that taxing for me. I can drive forever. So yea, driving selfie time.

Next level selfie game
Next level selfie game

And these views never end.

Horseshoe bend
Horseshoe bend

The plan for the three hour ferry ride is to get some sleep. But instead I end up getting all of the pictures up to date so I can finally get around to getting a post up.

The ferry ride is a nice break from the driving, so when we dock, I’m ready to get back to the driving. Unfortunately the nighttime covers the beautiful scenery that I’m used to seeing. I drive and drive until I can’t drive any more. I actually end up getting to Taupo, which has a beautiful lake. I drive around and finally find a hotel that has an open lobby. It’s about 3 in the morning by the time I check in and about 4 or 5 by the time I get to sleep. Checkout is at noon, which is nice. The extra couple hours of sleep are needed. And I’m close to what I want to see the following day so all is well.

Aug 30, 2016

I’m pretty excited to be able to check out Lake Taupo. I didn’t think I would have time to see this but it worked out that I was able to see it. It’s a nice relaxing area with some good views. Even in the north island of New Zealand you can find some nice mountains.

Mount Tauhara
Mount Tauhara

And selfie time. At this point, being a month into travel I’m starting to give in to the beautiful vanity of photographing yourself. I might just start embracing the narcissism. Black and white pictures of me drinking coffee in a beautiful location.

Just here for internet cool points
Just here for internet cool points

Nah, I’m just kidding. Back to the drive. The drive to Rotorua is only about an hour. When I get to Rotorua I have a drive around. I realize I want to backtrack about twenty minutes to check out the Wai-O-Tapu park. You have to pay entry but there is some cool stuff here to check out. The trees are alright.

Some nice trees
Some nice trees

There is a pool of water called Devil’s Bath unlike anything I even knew existed. I see this and I kind of can’t believe I haven’t seen this or heard about this before. Look at this water. I tragically caught most of it in the shade but you can see the absurd bright green in the sunlight off to the left of the picture.

Never seen water like this
Never seen water like this

I mean, this is a picture taken from the earth.

TGRI ooze color
TGRI ooze color

There are also some pretty cool pools of water with some steam coming off of them. It’s probably a good idea to take a selfie in front of them showcasing your gorgeous hair. It’s important to avoid all eye contact because people will think you’re much cooler that way.

This is getting kind of fun
This is getting kind of fun

The rock, water, and steam are also pretty cool. The colors would be a bit nicer with better lighting and less steam but watching the steam dance over the water and land is pretty nice.

Otherworldly
Otherworldly

At this point since this is the last picture of the post it’s important to really dial the swag up. So back to black and white. Throw the hood up. Add a mild slouch to the posture. Perfect.

Look at how cool I am
Look at how cool I am

In all honesty, I’m actually pretty happy with this picture. I love the minimalness of it. I love the trifecta of nature, a manmade element, and man himself. The light and darkness is balanced pretty well. The fence pretty gloriously cuts the picture up rather well and I’m pretty happy with the location of my body in the photo.

That’s about it. I probably would have had a post out a long while ago but I decided to upgrade my server for no reason in the process of doing my previous write up. This writeup is a bit rushed as it’s been tough to find time to write, but I think it’s reasonable. I’m happy with some of the shots I’ve been able to get. For roadtripping New Zealand there is a lot more emphasis on photos in comparison to writing, as I am mostly driving and taking pictures. There isn’t too much to say, but there is a lot to see.

I’ll be out here only a couple more days before swinging back home. The entire trip has been amazing. I’m happy with everything I’ve seen and done. It’s been a killer experience. I’ll be enjoying these last couple days but am definitely looking forward to getting back home and kicking butt at everything.

I was thinking on one of my drives that I’m going to be ultra sad when life is over. I’m putting my all into it and it’s paying off dividends. But I kind of just want an infinite amount of time to be able to work on my passions and dreams. Unfortunately that time is the furthest thing from infinite. It moves quickly. It’s merciless. It will pass regardless of how you choose to spend it.

I hope you have all been well.

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