Tuesday, August 31, 2010
We did finally get on the ball and move everything into place. I spent the entire day organizing, when I wasn't in meetings, and for the most part it got done. Enough to where I can actually sit at my desk, anyway. Today I was supposed to make my lesson plans for next week. Ha. Like that actually happened. My head is still spinning and by the time I actually had time to sit down and do it, it was time for cheerleading practice.
I'm tired. It has been two long marathon days so far.
But it has been good. I've enjoyed seeing everyone that I've missed over the summer. I'm starting to get inspired and lesson plans are coming. I'm brainstorming with my co-workers and getting excited about the ways I can use my new room. The ITRT (or, "the technology guy" as I lovingly call him because I cannot for the life of me remember what ITRT stands for) came by to share some exciting new gadgets he had ordered. He knows how I love to play with technology and I probably drooled a little when he was describing the new webcams that he found.
So, I'm getting my groove back. Slowly but surely.
I'm even making dinner in the crockpot tomorrow night. I know I know, living on the edge. Life is always exciting around here.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
This is our little seagull friend that we found on the first beach we visited. He was injured and it was so sad to see him hobbling along when all of his little seagull friends were leaving him behind! We debated about whether the park rangers would care about an injured seagull and went ahead and reported it. The poor little guy!
Some more amazing views of The Prom.
We did find an incredible rock. It was not The Rock, but it certainly sufficed. We sat for an hour and talked about the beauty of God's creation, thinking back over our trip, talking about what life would be like when we returned home. This was the view from our rock.
We saw these amazingly RED birds and kept trying to take a picture of them. Finally in the parking lot, we looked over and saw a man with one on his head! He was with his wife and his daughter who had cerebral palsy. She thought it was hysterical that the birds were pestering Dad for his ice cream cone! Patrick went over and tried it out. They were kind enough to lend us their ice cream cone. On the way out of the park I said, "I wish I would just see one more emu." And then, seriously, we rounded the bend in the road and there were some emus. And then we made our way back to the city of Melbourne, where Patrick had booked us 2 nights at the downtown Hilton. We had some issues with our car rental return. We did not get into Melbourne until around 4:45 and we had planned to return the car to the rental place downtown, which was closer to our hotel than the airport. But it had to be back by 5:00. We checked in, dumped our luggage and asked the concierge to send it to our room, and rushed off. We did not count on the fact that Melbourne is a big city and we really didn't know where we were going and we were DRIVING forgoodnessake. By the time we got to the rental place, it was 6:00 and it was closed. We now had to take the car ALL THE WAY BACK to the airport.
I was really stressed. Patrick was really stressed. It was not good.
We got all the way to the airport, literally into the parking garage, and realized we had not refilled the gas tank. So off we went to do that. But we made it, although we had missed our time AND the one hour grace period so we had to pay a little extra. We hopped on the SkyBus headed back into the city.
By now it was bordering on 8:00 and I was pretty much thinking we were going to have to get peanut butter crackers from a vending machine for dinner. But we decided that we would do a little walking and exploring before heading back to the hotel. We found a nice Mexican place and had a GREAT meal. I don't know if it was really that great or we were just STARVING, but either way, it was awesome. We walked happily back to the hotel and found that we had a seriously nice room with a seriously nice view.
The next morning we had breakfast and I laid around and read the assortment of magazines provided by the hotel in our room while Patrick finished up his final paper for the school term. Then we set out to explore the city a little.
We saw Flinders St. Station.We went to the Royal Botantical Gardens.
We attempted to use public transportation and failed miserably. We ended up walking all the way back to the hotel to have some down time before dinner.
The view from our window at night. Check out the fire along the walkway to the right! The next morning we were picked up by the bus and driven to the airport. We got Krispy Kreme donuts to celebrate our return to the U.S. (It seemed like it fit???) And boarded our first plane to New Zealand. We barely made our connecting flight from NZ to L.A., which was probably a good thing because it did not give me time to process the fact that we were setting our for an 11 hour flight.
Actually the flight was not bad. We were able to get an exit row that had plenty of leg room. Air New Zealand had great food and we had our own personal little screens to watch movies on. And we slept. Not as much as we would have liked, but we did sleep.
When we got into L.A. we learned that our flight from Dulles to Roanoke had been cancelled and the next flight was not until the next day. After a lot of waiting in line and frustration, we were able to get rerouted through Chicago, which had a flight to Roanoke that night. What we didn't know until we actually got to Chicago, however, is that we were not guaranteed on that Roanoke flight. We were waitlisted. I was furious and little pushy with the lady at the desk, who did not seem to care at all that we might have to sleep in the Chicago airport for the night. She told us to keep checking back to see if we would be able to get on that flight.Finally, we got word that we had been on the Cleared List. (!!!)
And we made it home! We were literally the LAST flight into the Roanoke airport on Thursday, July 29. It was so great to see my mom, who had graciously come to pick us up. We got home and of course were not tired at all since we were still on Australia time. And it was dinner time in Australia so we were hungry. Patrick's friend who had stayed at our house while we were gone took us out for a welcome home breakfast/dinner at 2:00 in the morning!
And then we crashed.
For about a week.
It was HARD getting back to normal.
But we are so happy to be home, and to have made such wonderful memories!
Thank you to everyone who has followed our trip and prayed for safe travels!
Sidenote: Patrick and I had A LOT of time in the car throughout this trip, which I love. I LOVE roadtrips with him. I am often more excited about the car ride than the destination itself (call me crazy). We have such great conversations, really have time to work out our feelings on different issues (this is sounding so girlie, all this talk of working out feelings... wonder if Patrick loves the car time as much as I do? Hmmm....), we listen to music, listen to sermons, and sometimes just sit in the quiet. But something about it... I love it!
Um, another sidenote, Patrick almost hit an ENTIRE HERD OF WILD COWS standing in the road on this drive to Exmouth. Folks it is DARK out there and we apparently did not take the warning from the lady at the Vistors Center in Tom Price seriously enough. We rounded the bend, and BAM, SLAM ON THE BREAKS, PATRICK DOING THE SOCCER-MOM STOP WITH HIS ARM ACROSS ME IN THE PASSENGER SEAT KIND OF STOPPING. It was not his fault. There was no way we could have seen them until we were right up on them.
And then they just looked at us and mooed (moo-ed?).
It was crazy! Wild cows...who knew!
We arrived in Exmouth around 8:00, checked into the hotel, and went to the highly recommended Fish and Chips joint for food. We were starving and it was SO GOOD. Patrick was in love with the hamburgers at these Fish and Chips shops and I discovered the beauty of salt and vinegar on your french fries. I thought I knew all there was to know about french fries but NOOOOOO. Salt and vinegar is a whole new world.
We vegged for the night and watched another Australian rules football game
(Andrew, I hope you are so proud of your successful efforts to convert us!).
The next morning, we woke up bright and early for a day of SNORKELING!
The guy in charge of the tour picked us up at the hotel at 8:00 a.m. on a little bus. We picked up some others and hit the beach!
As soon as we got on the boat, we were fitted for our wetsuits. I was doing so well with my motion-sickness issues! I was actually enjoyed being on the sea!
(Please quickly scroll past this horrible picture of me. It was the only one we got of me in the wet suit. Also, wet suits are not unlike Spanx...as in, they suck everything in and make you feel way skinnier! Although this picture does not depict this...)
So, we did a "warm-up" snokel on the reef, Ningaloo Reef, that is, which is almost as big at the Great Barrier but not nearly as popular. Our main goal however, was to encounter and swim with a whaleshark! Whalesharks are the biggest fish in the ocean! But they are harmless or we would not be doing this, that's for sure. This was a pretty intense operation. After the trial reef snokel, we climbed back on the boat. Then, a plane with an "official whaleshark spotter" went up and was to phone the boat when a whaleshark was close. At that point, a loud buzzer would sound on the boat and we were to scramble into our gear, jump off the back of the boat, split into our two groups, and wait for the whaleshark to SWIM BETWEEN US. Craziness. My OCD self was a little nervous about the chaos that might ensue when that buzzer sounded.
But it was all ok in the end! Of course, in the scurrying around to get into our gear, I broke my snokel mask, panicked, and started wildly shouting at the instruction that I needed a new mask RIGHT NOW WE HAVE TO GO AND I'M NOT GOING TO BE READY AHHHHHH. I think she thought I was a little neurotic. But she fixed it and in we went! Below is a picture of a whale shark that we Googled, just so you could get an idea. Of course, we could not take our camera in the water. We did one swim and it was amazing! We came out, took about a 5 minute rest and jumped in again! This is where things started to go south. The Indian Ocean was a little rough, we were pretty exhausted, and we had ingested A LOT of sea water at this point. When we got back on the boat after the second swim, I for-real thought I was going to puke. So did Patrick. And then the motion-sickness set in on top of that.
I spent the next hour and a half laying down.
We did not eat lunch, even though they had put out a huge spread of food.
Just the thought....ugh.
We finally started to feel a little better towards the end of the trip. The skipper spotted some manta rays, and we hesitantly jumped in and did one last swim, which ended up feeling really good (cold water on the face and all).
We ended the afternoon back where we started and took a group picture with all the people on board with us!
We were EXHAUSTED when we returned to the hotel room around 4:00. We had packed things to make dinner and the room had a nice little kitchenette set-up so we enjoyed an evening in.
We headed out the next day to make the trip back to Karratha, where we had to fly out to go to Melbourne. It was a beautiful, sunny, summery-feeling day! The weather in Exmouth was perfect, not too hot, not too cold.
Patrick decided after seeing a sign to randomly take a right.
We ended up in another National Park that had these huge Grand Canyon-esque canyons. We were so amazed that this was just "here" without any advertising or commercialism. Just raw, natural beauty, and we almost just drove right past it!
Then, in another bout of randomness, Patrick had decided to go to this little dot on the map he had seen that said Ningaloo. Naturally, we thought it was another part of the reef where you could snorkel and what not. We should have guessed something was up when we turned on the road and saw the sign that said, "Extremely rough road. Four Wheel Drive Vehicles Only."
We bounced on our way for about an hour.
It was Ningaloo Station, basically a big farm with one house and nothing else around.
But we did have lunch on this beautiful beach.
Seriously, there was NO ONE else around for miles.
Again, incredible. The water was so sparkly! And then we traveled back to Karratha.
A note about Karratha: Every single hotel (and there are only about 3) is around $300 a night, basically because no one ever goes to Karratha, except to work in the mines, so they don't need accomodations. We couldn't afford to stay anywhere and seriously thought about sleeping in our car, but finally found the Karratha Backpackers which is "only" $90. It was pretty much a hostel, sort of like spending the night in a frat house. They were kind enough, however, to give us our own room instead of having to sleep in a big communal room.
We actually slept pretty well, and headed out in the morning to catch our final domestic flight to Melbourne for our final days in Australia.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
It's not a very happening place, as you can see from all the bustling activity at the airport office.
We rented a car (an SUV!) and decided to make our way through the outback to Karinjini National Park where we had already made arrangements to stay the night at an "Eco Reserve" near Tom Price, another mining town.
What is an Eco Reserve, you ask?
Oh, just wait. It's so good.
We decided to take this remote "Access Road" instead of the highway. It's apparently shorter because the highway goes all the way around and the access road cuts straight through, plus it makes for a very interesting drive. Because they don't use the term "remote" loosely around these parts, we found the nearest (and only) grocery store, bought a cooler, and loaded up with food for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the next couple of days. We also filled up on gas.
Good thing we stopped at the Visitors Center on the way out of town because unbeknownst to us, a permit is required to drive on the access road. We had to watch a video and sign our lives away, which made the whole thing that much more thrilling.
It was worth it. The drive was incredible.And very RED.
Red dust everywhere you looked. Our car was red. Our socks turned red from when we would stop the car, jump out and take pictures.
But it was beautiful in a whole different way than any other landscape we had seen thus far.
It took about 5 hours for us to get across the access road.
Let's just say good thing we had also bought some toilet paper.
There are no rest stops in the outback.
And our first glimpse at one of the mining trains. These trains are around 5 kilometers long! And Patrick saw one about every 30 minutes on the road (I say Patrick because I slept for a good part of our journey on this road). They are literally moving thousands of tons of iron along with waste every night. We met a couple at the Eco Reserve that night who both worked for local mines. He worked for one of the largest ones and said they move around 40,000 tons of iron and over 200,000 tons (yes, TONS) of waste everyday. The girl worked for a "smaller" company which "only" moved 30,000 tons of iron and 50,000 tons of waste. Unbelievable.
Once we got to Karinjini National Park we stopped off at Hammersly Gorge and walked down to the bottom. We thought about swimming but didn't go prepared with suits on, so we just stayed for a while and enjoyed the breeze going through the canyon. It was beautiful. A small taste of what the next couple days would be like.
We rolled quickly through Tom Price close to sunset and were going to stay for a little bit, until the lady at the Visitors Center said, "Are you going to the Eco Reserve? You better go NOW."
"Now?" we asked.
"Yes, now. After sunset there will be kangaroos and wild cows all over the road. It's very dangerous."
And we went.
But we did see a GORGEOUS outback sunset along the way.
And we arrived at our Eco Reserve (without hitting any wild cows) right after dark.
The Eco Reserve was basically a really nice hotel. But instead of renting a really nice room...
You get a really nice tent!
With a king size bed!
And a full bathroom with a view to the beautiful outback!
There was a very nice restaurant at the Reserve, but we had brought dinner to grill out so we opted for the "true" camping experience. While grilling, we met the couple I talked about that worked at the mines. We had a great time cooking and chatting in the dark.
Steaks, potatoes, and peppers. Yum. Yum.
Yes, we forgot plates so we used the cooler lid. We were proud of our improvising skills.
We had a great sleep in our warm bed. Patrick got up, went out on our little deck and watched the sunrise. I stayed in bed and watched the sunrise.
The next morning, we dressed quickly and headed out for a day in Karinjini National Park. The guy who checked us out recommended some hikes we could take through the nearby gorges. We started out at a lookout and then did a walk through part of Weano Gorge.
The first walk we did was nice and easy and fun. Then we started talking to this couple as we looked at the map. The lady said they had just run into some who had done a harder walk, where you had climb on the rocks and spider walk through, possibly getting wet up to your waist. I was reluctant but Patrick's eyes grew big, so we put our swimsuits on under our clothes and decided to go for it.
The first part was not so hard; some rock climbing and stair stepping. Then there was a ladder that they had bolted into the side of the canyon and you could climb down in. THAT was a little scary.
Then you could either wade through a small pool or climb around on the rocks. We decided to climb. I figured out that it wasn't scary to actually be doing it, but it was scary to watch someone else do it, because you could see how close to the edge they were.
We got to what I thought was the end and I was so excited! I had done it!
But it wasn't the end. We hadn't done the spider-walk part yet. So that was next.
Patrick went easily through, but I was really scared. I started to go, but then felt like I was too high and I panicked. PANICKED. I started to shake and froze and wouldn't move my feet. I think I scared Patrick. He didn't realize how freaked out I was, until I started to cry. Then I kept saying, "I'm so sorry; I have to go back. I have to go back."
And I finally turned myself around and went back. Patrick went on without me. I felt like a loser.
So I sat there and prayed. And thought about a lot. And kept going over to look at it again. Maybe if I go lower; don't let myself get so high up again. About that time, another guy came along and probably thought I was a little crazy because I was sitting there trying to talk myself into giving it another shot. I told him that I had freaked out, but maybe if you stayed lower it wasn't so hard. Of course, he jumped right through like it was nothing.
So I really thought about it and decided to try again.
And I did it!!
Patrick was on his way back to me when he saw me coming through.
"Emily! I'm so proud of you! You did it!" he yelled.
He waited on me to come through and we finished the hike together down to what was called the Kermit Pool. It was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.
And we forgot to take pictures of it.
But we stayed for a while and just enjoyed the beauty and the fact that we had done such a hard walk.
We made our way back out of the gorge and by that time, it was time for us to hit the road again.
We spent the rest of the day driving through the deserted outback headed to Exmouth.
We had planned to spend two nights in Exmouth and were going snorkeling the next day! (Hopefully I will get back on the ball and share that story within the next couple of days.)