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Posts Tagged ‘flights’

So I’m finally back in my home country. Yes, my REAL trip will be officially done April 1st, 2009 (or does it?! Maybe it’s all a joke!) when I land in Toronto and begin my life anew.

It’s been a great trip and I still have SO much to catch up on in this blog (seriously, I am still in New Zealand in my head on this blog, soooo about 2 months behind). But in the meantime I thought I would update with my Favourite Travel Picture of the week, which is definitely going to rank up there as my all-time favourite picture, due to pure sappiness. You have been warned.

Coming home

D’awwwwww. I arrived in Vancouver Airport (GREAT airport by the way, liked it just as much as the San Francisco airport!) to my Aunt and Grandma holding this sign up for me. Probably the best way ever to come home. It was super cute and put a smile on my face. Thanks you two! ❤

More updates coming soon, I promise…

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So it’s our last day in Australia! TEAR! In true backpacker fashion, I’ve had far too little sleep, may still be a little drunk and I’m heading to the airport in about 3 hours.

Yesterday I spent most of the day hanging out with my good (Australian!) friend, Ben. It was great to see him again but very sad. Hopefully he and I will cross paths in Europe in 2010 when I hopefully head out to Amsterdam and either Dublin, Norway, or London. Already planning the next trip, ay? Sounds like a traveler has been born.

Here is a video we made while waiting for my train to take me back into the city from Bondi Junction.

Next stop: Fiji! We will be staying there for 5 days, then heading to San Francisco (via LA). I’m looking forward to both! From there, Kelly and I split up! I head off to Vancouver to visit some friends and family while she heads to Calgary to go skiing in Fernie.

Our grand adventure is coming to an end however, I am most likely going to continue to update this blog for some time with pictures and the mass amount of videos I have. I can’t decide if that makes me pathetic or just normal? Readers?

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So this post may be a little loopy. Sorry about it but I haven’t slept since 6am yesterday morning, Thailand time. So that would make it…. more than 26 hours since I’ve slept. Oh boy. Brace yourselves.

Yesterday, we woke up early and Kelly’s aunt, Kim (who is lovely and it’s a shame we only met her the last couple days of our Thailand trip – even though we were staying in her condo every time we were in Bangkok) took us to the Jim Thompson Teak House in Bangkok. It was one of the things on the list I hadn’t yet done so that was really nice. Aunt Jan, you were right – the place was like an oasis admists the bustle, noise and pollution of Bangkok. It was nice to step away from that for just a little bit.

Then we got some food on the street (so good!) and went back to pack and head out. Poor Kelly got food poisoning in Koh Chang (I got to watch some pretty spectacular projectile vomiting, let me tell you!) and so she hasn’t been 100% since. So I don’t think the flight was too kind on her – though at least she managed to get a couple hours of sleep. I didn’t get any, sadly but I did watch a lot of good TV shows and films! Woo! (Love British Airways, by the way. Good food, good entertainment. I think Kelly and I’s favourite part though is the man who says, “Cheerio!” as we leave the plane. I realize that may seem silly but then again, what do you expect from us? Cheerio!)

So now we’re back in Sydney. Kelly is off on her last sail around Sydney Harbour and I am valiantly fighting my body’s rebellion due to lack of sleep. We’ll see how long I last. (I’m betting on out by 3pm, right on the dot!)

So, we fly out on Monday for Fiji. Should be most excellent! I enjoyed my trip to Thailand and it was good for me to stretch my comfort zone to include countries that don’t speak English, French or Spanish. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed trying to use my minimal Thai wherever I could. (Sa-wah-dii kha, khap kun kha, chai!, mai chai … that’s really all I have… haha.)

While we were there, we (in no specific order):

– Went to a lady boy show

– Went to the weekend market

– Did a LOT of shopping (got pretty good at haggling over a price on the calculator hehe)

– Saw the Jim Thompson house

– Did a 3 day/2 night jungle trek (our guide was SHORTER than me, which I know is hard to believe but it’s true! We followed a Thai midget around the jungle for 3 days ahaaaaa) which included elephant riding and bamboo rafting

– Went and did the beach/island scene at Koh Chang

– Saw Grand Palace and Wat Pho

– Did a Thai cooking class

– Learned that Thai men? Are the most awkward flirts ever! Seriously

– And basically had a good time! Ate a LOT of delicious, delicious food!

It was nice but I am glad to be back in Australia with normal toilets and English and that feeling of “home” – because Sydney definitely feels a little like home now. It’s nice. I will be very sad to leave.

I should probably go make sure I don’t die. Sa-Wah-Dii Kha for now!

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Well, we made it! The flight was fairly uneventful. Got in late, up early. Christchurch at night was beautiful – so quiet at night which was a lovely change from the ever-busy Sydney. Reminded me of home. ❤

I swam with dolphins yesterday. It was a pretty amazing experience – they come so close, I so thought I was going to run into one of them a bunch of times. Unfortunately, my dolphin experience ended early as I realized I? am not meant for the sea. Yep, seasickness does me in every time but I’ve never been that violently ill, I think. Lovely.

Otherwise, it is beautiful out though a lot of my time has been spent on busses. I am looking forward to a couple of days off in Franz Josef.

Oh, and I bought a new camera. Because I’m a balla like that. It’s red and I think I am in love.

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So after my trip to Uluru I flew to Melbourne to meet up with Kelly on Christmas Eve. We stayed at a great hostel in St. Kilda called Cooee. I really liked it, it was super clean!

On Christmas day, Kelly and I got up and wandered around until we found a place to grab breakfast. It was this great European style cafe and while the service was slow, the food was great. We talked to some Aussies at the table next to us and they were very friendly. They even identified us correctly as Canadian which immediately won us over! As we sat there eating breakfast, a bunch of 20-something guys , drunk and dressed up in drag ran by. …Christmas is weird in Australia! The number of drunk people we saw on Christmas eve and Christmas day was not something I expected, to be honest. Oh well, different traditions, I guess!

After our breakfast we went to the beach, where I called my parents to let them know what a smart, smart daughter they have! The day was perfect beach weather and we enjoyed ourselves until it was time to make our way to Kelly’s cousin’s girlfriend’s mother’s house. Mouthful! It was awfully sweet of Julie to take us wayward Canadian girls in and we really appreciated it! The food was delicious, the company entertaining and we drank many bottles of wine, champagne and beer. They cooked the turkey on the BBQ which I thought was fantastic.

The next day, Kelly and I met up with my friend Jill from school. We went to the Old Melbourne Goal which was really neat to see. It’s the place where Ned Kelly was hung and we actually got to see the place where they hung them. Most cells were open to walk through and each open cell had a story about a victim and their death mask. That was really quite interesting, if not a little morbid!

That night we went out with Jill and her friend. It was a lot of fun and we ended up at Hungry Jack’s – a poor substitute for Burger King. I’m not sure if they’re owned by the same company or not but they also sell the Whopper (?).

After that, we did a lot of shopping for a couple days at outlet stores, saw Wicked (which was… dare I say it? Wicked. YESSSS.) and headed to Sorrento, to meet up with Kelly’s cousin again. He actaually lives in Sorrento, which is about an hour’s drive outside Melbourne down on the coast. It was absolutely gorgeous there! The spit was only a mile in length and dependent on the weather, you could chose which beach (and which side) you wanted to go to that day. We did a bike tour the morning we were leaving on the bike trails and it was awesome to see the gorgeous beaches, surf and towns. I absolutely loved my stay in Sorrento and want to thank our wonderful hosts for putting us up and feeding us so well! Playing with baby Finn, Jer’s 10 month old baby, was also a bonus. He was so well-behaved and SO cute. I’m not a huge baby person but Finn is definitely adorable.

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So yesterday Kelly and I met up to go buy our tickets to Thailand. I’m not sure if I’ve said it before but I’m not terribly interested in going to that part of the world. I don’t know why. However, while waiting at Student Flights for Kelly I was staring at all the brochures and the ones for Thailand looked unbelievably gorgeous! So now I’m all excited. Ah ha ha. I am lame.

So before our meet-up, I loaded up my pre-pay credit card that I bought online (called the Canvas Pre-Paid Visa – it looked legit so I paid the $20 for this card) with $1200 AUD. I realize now I probably could have just paid debit but… I’m dumb, clearly. I’ve used this credit card for online purchases before with no problems. I got it because I figured it would be cheaper in the long-run to use this for all my ticket purchases from Australia instead of emailing myself money from my Australia to my Canadian bank account and then using my Canadian Visa card. I’d get doubly charged for conversion rates if I did it that way.

So we get there and lo! and behold! my Visa will not work on their credit card machine. And the problem with this is? You can’t take your money off that card once you load it. So I had $1200 on that Visa. There’s no way I will be able to spend that much money in my remaining time in Australia. I call the number on the back of the card.

So it costs $1 to access my information. I grumble but accept only to get a list of options I don’t want. No option of talking to a representative. I press 0 just in case. Ah, suddenly I’m in line to talk to someone. I wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, they tell me it is $3 to talk to a representative. Do I want to do so? Yes. By this point I’m already unimpressed with the service.

So I get some woman. She tells me there’s nothing wrong with my card. I insist there is. She tells me I’m wrong. She tells me she can’t help me. She tells me to go buy somewhere else. Uh, no. I have a deposit on this flight. I’m not going anywhere else.

During this exchange, the lovely travel agent, Lenka, was calling up their bank and found out their terminals wouldn’t accept these kinds of cards, as they aren’t as secure as regular credit cards. So I tell the woman on the phone, “Oh, she says their terminals doesn’t accept this credit card.”

“That’s what I told you before! It is the terminal’s fault.” So. Rude.

“So can I get my money back then? I want my money refunded.”

“I am not sure if we can help you, m’am. I will put an enquiry into the concerns desk but you will have to call back in 2-3 business days to see if the request will be approved.” Another $4 phone call. Great.

“So what are the chances I will get my money back?” There is no way in hell I am paying for this ticket without knowing for sure that I will get this money back.

“I cannot comment on this situation at present, m’am. You will have to call back in 2-3 business days to find out if you will receive a refund. I cannot help you at this point.”

At this point, I hang up on her. I don’t know if I’ve ever had someone so rude on the phone before. It wasn’t just what she said but the tone of her voice. I am so frustrated. It hasn’t been the best week and I am tired and emotionally exhausted. I start crying outside the travel office. How embarrassing. I cry more because I don’t want to cry and this is awkward. There are people walking around me as I stand there trying to get my act together. Kelly comes out. She’s being sweet but I feel even more embarrassed that she’s trying to calm me down.

A man in the take-out restaurant next door sees me and insists I get some free gelato. I refuse and try to wipe away my tears. He insists and Kelly pushes me over. I get mango and chocolate. Well, that’s nice. At least Australians are nice.

I go back into the travel office, feeling awkward and embarrassed. The agents at Student Flights are super nice to me. They ask if my card has a pin number and I realize that I can treat my pre-pay Visa card like an ATM card. I had forgotten about that. So I whip out my tried and true Scotiabank Visa, charge it and pay for my trip. I’ll have to send myself the money in Canada but at least I get Money-Back Rewards on my Canadian Visa.

I’m withdrawing all my money from that stupid Canvas card and CUTTING IT UP into a tiny million little pieces. I get bad service, bad service I PAID FOR, and you will never get my business again. And I will tell whomever I can that Canvas pre-pay credit card is so not worth their time or money!

The funny thing is, I had Googled “canvas prepaid visa card scam” before to see if it was a legit card and wish I had come across a blog post like this before I bought it. I hope I save someone from this mistake by publishing it here.

Ugh!

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So, as I gear up for my trip to Alice Springs, Ayer’s Rock & Melbourne this weekend, I have my eyes on the adventure that lies beyond. Probably the thing I am most excited to do is visit New Zealand. It started out innocently enough (ha!) with my huge nerdiness on the LOTR movies and wanting to see the beautiful landscape they used as the backdrop to Middle Earth. But beyond that, everyone who has been there has told me how amazing it is there which only increases my excitement and desire to go.

So, Kelly and I will be flying out January 25th, 2009 to land in Christchurch, New Zealand. From there, we’ll spend a night together in a hostel (note to self: still need to book) and the next morning, bright and early, I will head out solo on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. I booked the trip with KiwiExperience, based on a friend of a friend’s advice and I’m looking forward to it. Those who know of it say it is one of the best, so it should be good fun.

This is the trip I have booked, which is called the Southern Round-Up. Time dictated I wouldn’t have time to do both islands, sadly, so I went with the southern island, as I hear it has the most to offer. I’m not too depressed about missing the northern island, as there’s so many things on the southern island I want to see but I am a little sad I will not be able to visit The Shire. Oh, my geekiness knows no bounds.

The Southern Round-Up tour map:

The KiwiExperience Tour

The KiwiExperience Tour

From the KiwiExperience website, I will be experiencing the following tour (bolding activities I would like to do):

CHRISTCHURCH TO KAIKOURA
We travel across the northern Canterbury Plains towards Kaikoura arriving there around midday. Kaikoura used to be the South Island’s best-kept secret. Kaikoura means to eat Crayfish (kai – to eat, Koura – Crayfish), actually the full name is Te-Ahi-kai-koura-a-Tama-ki-te-rangi These days its the Whales, Dolphins, Seals and the fish and chips that Kaikoura is becoming ever more popular for.  Experience Dolphin Swimming, Whale Watching, Seal Colony walk or chill out at the hostel situated just up from the beach.

KAIKOURA TO PICTON
We head north and take in the last of the dramatic Kaikoura coastline. It’s a spectacular drive, and we may take the opportunity to stop for a close look at the seals that lay about on the rocks all day long.

PICTON TO NELSON
We meet the Cook Strait ferry in Picton and travel via Havelock, and Pelorus Bridge over to Nelson, New Zealand’s sunniest city. A great place in summer to jump off the bus and explore the Abel Tasman National Park on foot or kayak.

NELSON TO WESTPORT
We visit the Nelson Lakes National Park for a walk in the forest and a visit to one of the more spectacular lakes in the area, surrounded by beautiful snowcapped mountains.  En route to Westport we meet the team (and Rata the dog) from Buller Adventure Tours where you can experience the best value for money jet boating and horse treking in NZ.

[Edited to add: According to the Buller Adventure Tour site, they also offer white water rafting – if that’s an option, I definitely will be doing that.]

WESTPORT TO LAKE MAHINAPUA
Today we head down the spectacular West Coast Road that stretches along the rugged Tasman shoreline. The road winds through diverse landscapes, which never cease to amaze both locals and visitors alike. Highlights include Cape Foulwind seal colony, rugged beach walks & Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes.  Tonight your driver will arrange a group meal for you at the legendary Mahinapua Hotel known as the “Poo Pub” (a traditional West Coast Pub).  It’s an awesome evening to get to know your fellow travellers.

LAKE MAHINAPUA TO FRANZ JOSEF
Our first stop this morning is the Bushman’s Centre where you will get an insight into how people make a living on the coast with sphagnum moss growing, old timber-milling techniques, possum trapping and helicopter deer recovery.  We then head through to Franz Josef Glacier Township, nestled in the Westland National Park.

FREE DAY FRANZ JOSEPH
Today is your chance to hike on Franz Josef Glacier, rated in the top three NZ activities by Kiwi Experience passengers.

FRANZ JOSEF TO WANAKA
We start out early in order to catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps on Lake Matheson, near the village of Fox Glacier. We then cruise down the last stretch of the West Coast Road stopping at popular scenic spots along the way. Then we head into Mount Aspiring National Park and arrive in the awe-inspiring destination of Wanaka in the afternoon.

WANAKA TO QUEENSTOWN
A short but action packed drive today through to the NZ’s adventure capital, Queenstown. Highlights include Puzzling World (check out the toilets – highly entertaining), skydive over Lake Wanaka & the Southern Alps and stop in at the world’s first commercial bungy site – the Kawarau Bridge. On arrival in Queenstown you will get a chance to book all activities and re-confirm coaches at Base Travel Desk as well as get a group photo with all your new West Coast friends.  Then out on the town  – what better way to enjoy a memorable trip down the coast with a night out exploring Queenstown nightlife with all the crew to finish things off!

FREE DAY QUEENSTOWN
Queenstown is rated up there as being one of our passengers favorite spots to hang out In NZ so take the time to spend at least 3 days here Apart from being one of the most beautiful places in the world, Queenstown is New Zealand’s, if not the world’s, adventure capital. You can take advantage of the beautiful lake and surrounding walks, or get into a whole range of adrenalin pumping activities. We do recommend one activity however, the overland daytrip to Milford Sound, commonly referred to as New Zealand’s most beautiful spot, and that’s saying something!

TO CHRISTCHURCH
We head out of Queenstown, up over the Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie Country, named after James Mackenzie who was a notorious sheep rustler (or Velcro glove wearer). After dropping people in Twizel for the connection to Mt Cook, we travel through to the amazing aqua blue Lake Pukaki to see Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo for a view of the Church of the Good Shepherd, the bronze sheep dog and the milky blue colour of the glacier fed lakes. From there we have a very straight and flat run into Christchurch and will deliver you to the hostels of your choice between 4.30pm and 6pm.

So that’s the tour I will be taking!

Kelly plans on doing a more traditional bus tour, by just purchasing Greyhound-type bus tickets but I definitely wanted something that catered a little more to travellers so I could get all the neat little historical and trivia stories I’m sure our tour guide will offer. We do plan on meeting up in a few places, such as Queenstown, and I’m sure she’ll have just as much fun too.

We will be flying back to Sydney on February 7th, 2009 and may depart directly that day to the Gold Coast but we will see. That’s something for another post!

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