Monday, June 28, 2010

it's a bird! it's a plane! it's...


Yup, that's right! This morning I jumped out of a plane. And I have video to prove it! Luckily I was harnessed onto a man named Wade who knew what he was doing, and I had a couple of friends from the tour the last few weeks along with me for support. That definitely helped :)

Your perspective of time is a bit warped when you skydive. I jumped from 14,000 feet which gives you close to a minute of free fall before the parachute is opened. It definitely did not feel like a minute - probably closer to 15-20 seconds - and most of what I remember from that part was looking down, Wade lifting my head back (I guess the top of my head wasn't the best shot for the video) and my head being so cold that I wished I'd worn a hat.

I wasn't really aware of what was happening when Wade pulled the ripcord. I just noticed that, all of a sudden, we were positioned vertically instead of horizontally and a strap across my chest had magically transformed into the most effective (and painful) push-up bra ever. A second later Wade said: "Alright, it opened!" to which I replied: "Woo hoo! I'm going to live!!"

Enough said :)

Right after jumping out...

...a few seconds later...

...back on the ground with the "a" team: Amy, Alexandra & Aili

Friday, June 25, 2010

you live, you learn

One of the things I love about travelling is how much random stuff you learn. I'm going to collect and share this type of stuff every once in awhile based on my latest observations, thoughts and experiences. Here's the first round:

- If you lay still when you wake up, it's easier to remember your dreams.
- Kangaroo tastes like beef.
- A lot of small town bars in the outback don't play any music unless you put money into the music video jukebox.
- The concept of ownership does not exist in Aboriginal culture.
- There are BBQs in random public places in Australia that anyone can use.
- As a foreigner, you need to provide a passport to buy pre-paid mobile phone service in Australia.
- It's easier to be on a gluten-free diet in the outback than to be vegetarian.
- The real Grand Canyon is in Australia. (The one in the US is actually a gorge.)
- Pennies are no longer used here. If you're paying with cash, the total will be rounded to the nearest 5 cents.
- Kangaroos and emus can't travel backwards.
- There's a brand of crackers here that's called Shapes because each flavour has a different shape of cracker... Despite our tour guides having these constantly available as snacks, it took me exactly 2 weeks to figure this one out! I'm going to take this as a sign of a good vacation :)
- Security at parliament is much tighter than security at the airport for domestic flights.
- Gmail has a feature that can help prevent you from sending email while drunk.
- There may be no such thing as free lunch, but there's definitely free champagne!

Friday, June 11, 2010

the middle

I'm in Alice Springs right now, which is in the middle of Australia. I got here the night before last and leave early tomorrow morning to go to Ayers Rock.

The tour is going well so far! The 21-day trip is broken into different segments, so the people / bus / tour guide change every couple of days but there are a few of us in it for the long run. We usually get up early and driver for several hours each day with different stops, sights and activities en route. Most of the other people on the tour are in their mid to late 20s and pretty well travelled. It's been great so far and I have a lot of stories that will have to wait until my next post as my internet time is very limited right now!

I left my laptop and cell phone in Sydney, and have spent most of the last week in areas that don't even have cell phone reception. It's strange (but good!) that this is my new normal...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

the land of oz

I made it to Australia! I landed in Sydney 3 days ago after many hours in transit - 9 for the flight from Honolulu to Auckland, followed by a 5 hour layover, then a 3 hour flight from Auckland to Sydney plus airport transfers... all in all it was over 20 hours. I also lost an entire day on the way over here - somehow when I woke up on the plane it wasn't the next morning, but the morning after that! Hopefully I'll get it back someday... :)

So far in Sydney there's been a lot of planning going on. It's very exciting! Priscilla and I were looking at either a 6 or 12 day tour to cover off the middle of Australia (Ayers Rock & Alice Springs), and somehow while going through the brochures we managed to upsell ourselves on a 3 week itinerary instead! The guy at the travel agency had nothing to do with it. He was actually kinda surprised when we went in yesterday afternoon to book something we hadn't even discussed with him the day before. This tour will cover more territory - instead of doing just the middle, we'll do the middle from top to bottom, starting from Darwin down through to Adelaide, then Melbourne and ultimately back to Sydney later in June. The major sightseeing in Sydney will have to wait until then...

Packing has been a bit of a nightmare... This is what's stressing me out these days! :) I have one big bag here that's basically a backpack with wheels, plus another bag for day trips. My big bag weighs 4.8 kg empty and the luggage weight limit for part of this upcoming trip is 10 kg, which doesn't leave much room for my stuff! Luckily I have a small fold up duffel bag in my big bag, so I think I'm going to have to re-pack to take only that on this trip. I called ahead to the hotel we're staying at in Sydney later this month and they have long term storage, so I'll drop off whatever I'm not taking on this excursion later tonight, as we fly to Darwin tomorrow... It's funny, I had packing for 4 days of work down to a science - but packing for 6 months of anything really (sight-seeing, beach, outback safari, city/night life, plus potentially some kind of work - I have a working holiday visa) was a challenge. And this tour we're going on now has all of those things in it (except the work part)... and I have to down-size to less than half of what I brought to cover off all of those possibilities. I'm not gonna lie, this 10 kg thing is gonna be a challenge. But I am up for it! Wish me luck...