Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Adventures With "Stray"

        We arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand after a long day of traveling all the way from Coonabarabran, Australia.  We were greeted by another Wake hockey fan (Lizzie Rae’s mum) in the airport.  It was so nice of her to come pick us up at 11:45 pm on a Friday night.  Jess and I were, once again, blessed with our own rooms and beds for our last night in a home before we headed out on the backpacker trail…
            We woke up after about 4 hours of sleep to embark on our bus trip to Graymouth.  We had to take the public bus from Christchurch to Graymouth where we were meeting the Stray Bus (Stray Travel is the company we used for our transportation around NZ).  We spent a while waiting for our bus, and in the mean time, we met a lovely South African lady named, Reene.  We soon discovered that she was going to be traveling with our same bus company for the next 10 days and all became fast friends.  We arrived in Graymouth with about 1.5 hours until we needed to board our Stray bus.  Jessica and I filled the time by going for a walk around the city, eating lunch, and shopping for some groceries.  Once we saw the orange bus rounding the corner we hustled over to the bus stop so we could get to the front of the line and reserve good seats.  Little did we know, our fast pace walk wasn’t going to help.  We approached the bus driver, Pinky, to check in and it appeared that somehow I was on the list but Jessica’s name was nowhere to be found.  Certain there was a mistake we made the bus driver check again, but as people from the bus passed us they told us this happens all the time. That’s when we started to worry.  We spent about half an hour on the phone with the bus company and talking to the bus driver before we finally talked our way onto the bus.  After all of our efforts to get good seats we ended up in the very back corner of the bus.  It turned out not to be such a bad thing because we made friends with a lot of the kids in the back of the bus.  2-hours later we ended up at our first destination, Franz Josef.  Franz Josef is a very small mountain town with extremely good-looking men.  Before we even made it to our hostel for the night, we stopped to book our reservation for our glacier hike the next day… this is where Jessica fell in love with the beautiful men.  After we all booked our reservations we headed to the hostel to check in. Reene, Jessica and I signed up to share a four-bedroom en-suite with free tea and coffee and our own bathroom.  For $4 more a night we could have all these amenities, and plus, we’re just a little more high maintenance than most of the other backpackers.   We couldn’t have been happier with our decision especially because our big sister (Reene) woke us up with a fresh cup of tea and coffee every morning. What a treat!
            After we unpacked and settled in we walked over to the restaurant for dinner.  Along the way we passed by the kitchen that was filled with fellow backpackers cooking their own dinner.  This is when we realized we were amateur backpackers.  With our tail between our legs we had no choice but to eat dinner at the restaurant, but this was the last time we were going to let that happen.  After a less than mediocre meal we hung around the bar meeting new friends for a little while, but called in an early night in preparation for our extreme glacier hike the following day. 

Jessica and Reene in Franz Josef
         We were scheduled to hike at 8 am, so were told to arrive a little early. We, well mainly myself (Jessica), thought it would be a good idea to arrive a little early (the guides were beautiful). On our walk over we realized that we weren’t quite sure where to go, so being a woman and not afraid to ask for directions, I stopped the next person I saw. Which turned to be my golden ticket, because it turned out that he was one of the guides, and he personally escorted us to the building. He took us the short-cut route, which happened to be through the back and conveniently passed by all the other guides, who all started to clap for our new friend, TJ. I had already started to succeed in my mission to befriend the glacier guides. We proceeded to check in when we were given the unfortunate news that our time had been pushed back to 10:30 due to the weather. I wasn’t too upset because this now meant that I could go get another cup of coffee. After killing some time at the coffee shop we headed back to the glacier shop. We got there and they told us that we had been pushed back again, to 12:45 this time! I mean I was irritated, but I just used this time to give them grief, in a flirtatious manner. We hung around at the shop for a while, meeting a lot of the different guides. We decided to go back to our hostel and pack lunch, because weren’t set to leave till almost 1 pm now, and it was a 3.5 hour hike. 
Top Gun...need I say more. 

         We got back to the hostel and this is where something beautiful happened. We discovered our theme song for our time in New Zealand, “Can’t Keep It In” by Cat Stevens. (I am now forcing each and everyone of you to go play this song—you won’t regret it). This song became my pump-up song throughout the trip and I am the first to admit that I repeated it an unhealthy/obnoxious amount. After that moment, I knew that nothing could go wrong. We made our way back down, and we were finally given the go, so we made our way to the heli-pad. Now, since you all obeyed me and listened to the song, I now want you to close your eyes and imagine the three of us walking in all our gear to the heli-pad, with this song playing. That is Hollywood material right their folks. If I am being honest I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a few offers to pick us up as a reality TV show and what not, just saying. Oh, I forgot to tell you the best part, we got stuck with a girl for our guide. Some may say karma, but I think it was just the good Lord protecting us from getting into no good. So we boarded our helicopter and made our way to the glacier. We spent a little over two hours hiking up the glacier, with our intense crampons, and exploring different ice caves. Hiking the glacier was one of the coolest things I have done and it is definitely a must if you are ever in New Zealand. I mean the men make it a must the scenery is just a plus (kidding). Don’t worry Kevin, this was solo mission, plus I get more attention that way haha.

Inside an ice cave
Crampons = weeding out the weak

Real smile. 
Fake smile. 
All Natural.

Franz Josef Glacier In The Background

Next Stop Milan

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Farm Life

         We were welcomed with open arms at the airport by our dear friend Carrie Morse.  It was so nice to see a familiar smile after being away from home for the past couple weeks.  Their farm, Spire View, is actually located outside a small town called, Coonabarabran, but the closest airport is about an hour and a half away in a town called, Dubbo.  According to our friend, Carrie Morse, Dubbo reminds her of a mini Chicago.  Jessica didn’t really seem to agree with this observation because it is to small to even be considered a “mini” Chicago.  Our first stop was the Dubbo Zoo.  We took bikes around the zoo and saw elephants, giraffes, Galapagos turtles, otters, and a tiger.  We were there around noon on a hot day so we didn’t last too long, but Carrie kept up very well with us young folk.  On our way to the farm, we stopped at Macca’s (or McDonalds, depending on where you are from) for lunch.  Macca’s is a special treat for Carrie because there is nothing like this anywhere close to her so she was very excited.  We made our way to the farm and got settled in our spacious own rooms (Yay! Finally, some personal space! Jk. Jessica and I aren’t sick of each other… yet).  It came as no surprise that it wasn’t long before they put us to work.  First up, my very first experience driving on the right side of the car and left side of the road.  Luckily, it was the same car my mom has so I was familiar with the car, but the only problem was, everything inside the car was opposite.  Despite my nerves as we approached our right turn, I did manage to flick the turn signal (or so I thought) to indicate our upcoming turn.  Unfortunately, no one would have known we were turning because I turned on my windshield wipers instead of the turn signal. Don’t worry; there was no one around so we made it to our destination safely.  Carrie met us with an ATV and we picked up another so Jessica and I both had our own.  We drove them down to meet Buster, Carrie’s Husband, and the three of us mustered (or hearded) around 1300 sheep into their new padic for the night.  Of course, we were immediately successful in our efforts on the farm.  I believe they called us “naturals” after the first day.  We joined in on their afternoon ritual of having a cup of tea and a shower after a long day of work.  During our teatime we met Manuela.  She is an Italian girl helping out on the farm for a few weeks after the house she was originally taking care of burnt down in the recent forest fire. The girls helped Carrie cook dinner, although Carrie didn’t let me do much because I don’t think she trusts me in the kitchen.  Don’t worry, after I learn how to cook in Italy she will be begging me to come back and cook in her kitchen J.  Carrie and Buster’s son, Cameron, joined us for dinner and we all enjoyed catching up over a lovely home cooked meal.  We had an amazing chicken and rice dish, a delicious fresh salad, and beautifully decorated fruit plate. Everyone goes to bed pretty early on the farm because of the early mornings and long days, so Jessica and I followed along.

Mustering the sheep
           Jess and I woke up early to go for a run before the day of work began.  Everyone thought we were crazy to get up early and workout before the long day of work ahead of us, but that’s just how dedicated we are to staying in shape ;).  We enjoyed delicious, fresh farm eggs for breakfast and headed out for our first task.  Cameron, Manuela, Buster, Jessica and I all started with mustering the sheep from yesterday to a new padic across the street.  It took us about an hour to move this mob of sheep because it is a difficult road to muster and they have to go through a tunnel under the road.  After we finished this mob we continued on to muster a few more mobs before we stopped for an early lunch.  Jessica had her first experience with a meat pie and discovered that she could never be an Aussie, because she doesn’t really care for them.  After lunch we were sent over to another part of the farm where Cameron took us out for a drive to feed the cattle.  Jessica and I didn’t really have any idea what we were getting ourselves into with this.  We drove up to a few cows and Cameron asked, “Who wants to shovel?” Well, I was siting in the middle so Jessica rose to the occasion.  The two of them get out and he explains to her that she needs to get as much cotton feed into this shovel as possible and drop it on the ground for the cows.  She was meant to do 20 full shovels.  After about three shovels, she wasn’t doing them big enough so Cameron jumped out of the car (while it was moving mind you) and told me to drive while he goes to help Jessica.  I’m not sure exactly how we made it out of there alive (and without me hitting a cow or two) because I was, once again, behind the wheel on the right side of the car. To top it off this time it was a manual car with a trailer behind it that Jessica was standing on.  This was the moment I realized that at the farm they believe that the only way to teach you how to do something is to throw you right in.  I have to say it is a good philosophy because you tend to pick it up pretty quickly.  We enjoyed the rest of our afternoon feeding the cattle and before we knew it we were done with our first full day of work and it was finally time to pick up the 4 week old sheep dog puppies I had been dreaming about all day.  Jessica and I drove (yes, here I was in the driver seat again) to Cameron’s house to pick them up.  They were the cutest little puppies! Jessica thought they looked like guinea pigs, but you can see for yourself, they were so cute!  We pick up the 4 puppies and put them in the car with us.  It felt a bit like 101 Dalmatians with our 4 “stolen” puppies driving down the road in our 1980 manual pick up.  We managed to laugh the whole time despite the fact that we saw our lives flash before our eyes when we were sandwiched between three huge semi trucks. We did our afternoon ritual and got the house ready for our dinner guests.  Carrie’s cousin and his son came over for dinner.  We all enjoyed our Spire View lamb chops, wine, and an early bedtime.
Feeding the cattle

Farm Worker Outfit #2 (Duke Sucks )
Farm Worker Outfit #1 (Wake Forest Rules)

More Puppies... not guinea pigs!

Can you tell i'm obsessed with them?
           Jessica and I woke up early to go for a run, again, the next morning.  Our first activity of the day was horseback riding with Manuela.  Jessica was not very excited for the horseback riding because she is allergic to them and she isn’t a very experienced rider.  We eventually convinced her to come riding with us.  Of course, before we even got on the horses, Manuela’s horse went crazy, broke down the fence she was tied to, and ran away.  Well, this didn’t exactly give Jessica any confidence with these horses, but she still found the courage to come with us! Our ride was pretty short, only 40 minutes, because Manuela’s horse was going crazy again and we couldn’t risk our horses freaking out too.  Once we turned back, they all calmed down and we made it back with no problems.  Jessica and I were lucky enough to do more feeding after the horses.  We set out with Cameron and this time we needed to empty two truckloads.  Cameron said he would help us if we ever got tired, but I bet you are not surprised to hear, we finished the job all by ourselves.  We even have the muscles to prove it.  After our arms were a bit tired and the cattle were happily fed it was time for us to take our lunch break.
After lunch we were finally taken to the sheering shed. The semi truck had arrived and we had to help load the bails of wool onto the truck. Now one of these bails weighed on average 190 kilos, so they weren’t really expecting us to do much but offer assistance in recording the code numbers that were on the bags, which was pretty much a one man job that Kerry seemed to have locked up. So I decided to give it a go. I asked Finny if I could lend a hand and he seemed more than happy. I took up the hook and gave it a go. I must admit, I was pretty useless the first couple rounds, but eventually I got the hang of it and even loaded one by myself! I even killed the poisonous red back spider during the process, without even freaking out (ok maybe a little). After the truck was loaded and ready to take off we were sent to “black-line” the sheep, which is where you spray them with this blue spray that helps prevent lice. This was rather entertaining and Cameron seemed to think that I just wasn’t doing it right, but I blame it on the exhaustion of my previous work. When we finally finished the last round of sheep we thought we would finally be let go, but no, we had to go muster another mob of sheep to the padic down the lane. I must say it is amazing how efficient one can be when exhausted and determined to be done. We finally finished our last task and were given the go ahead to go home. On our way home, Kerry insisted that we go pick up the four puppies over at Cameron’s.  tried to convince them otherwise, but I was outnumbered, Manuela and Kerry headed to go get the little rodents. We had all four puppies in tow with the three of us side by side, and attempting to drive down the road. As were driving down the road Manuela screams as she realized that one of the puppies pooped on her! Of course I was dying laughing, because it was on the greater “I told you so” moments of my life, while she is trying to wipe it up. We finally made it back to the house, alive. After all of us showered up and had our cup of tea, we were ready for the delicious meal that Carrie had prepared for us! Carrie even opened up a bottle of Rymill wine, which I can say is one of the best wines I have ever tasted (don’t worry Dad I kept the cork). Carrie made a lamb roast served with fresh pumpkin and sweet potatoes. She then out did herself by serving us ice cream drizzled with her special chocolate sauce that was AMAZING. We may have worked hard but we definitely ate well, very well. We were all pretty exhausted from the long day, so after dinner we all retired to bed, because our wake-up call was bright and early, so we could get a good start before having to leave for the airport.

Horseback Riding. We survived! 
Yeah, the cows love me

Jessica showing off her big muscles!

This is how we do it on the farm... Back lining the newly shorn sheep 
          The next morning we woke up around 6:45, because we needed to be “on-deck” at 7:30. At promptly 7:20 we were all on our bikes ready to go. We had Manuela show us the way under the highway pass, so we could meet up with Buster and Cameron, who were trying to bring a mob of sheep from a padic across the highway. We had exactly an hour and a half to get this mob to their new padic, because Kerry and I had to be back at the house by 9:10 to shower before leaving for the airport at 9:30. I would like you all to know we had that mob there by 9:05! We quickly raced inside, Kerry got the first shower, which makes my getting ready time even more impressive (haha). We were all loaded up and ready to leave the house at 9:30, ok if I am being honest, I was trailing behind a little bit, but not much.
I have a new obsession with Sheep dogs... they are awesome!
One of the many animals you find on the farm

          Even though it was just a short three days that we spent on the farm, I felt like I was leaving behind my family. Carrie, Buster, Cameron, and even Manuela all took us in with open arms. They weren’t afraid to throw us in and have us hit the ground running, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, we were exhausted but it was honestly a highlight of my trip in Australian, and I can say that I will definitely be making a trip back in the future.

Jessica and Buster

The wonderful Morse Family. Love you all.

We had so much fun at the farm, highlight of our trip!

How professional do we look?

No security in Dubbo