September 2011

Lush Solid Shampoo

So far, I feel like I did a fair job of packing and leaving out the excess as much as possible. I’ve managed to wear every single piece of clothing I brought with me at least twice (including my rain jacket – score!). The only thing that is driving me absolutely mad is my stupid climbing rope, but that’s mostly because the straps on my backpack were too small to strap it to my back so I have to carry it on my shoulder while also wearing my pack. It’s been a real pain, which probably wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if I’d had a chance to use it at least once by now. I’m working my way down to The Grampians though and will hopefully get some use from it there. If I don’t get a chance to use it at all on this trip I’m going to cry though. Seriously.

Despite feeling pleased with myself for managing to cut out a lot of weight from my bag, it turns out there are a couple of things I probably should have brought. Number one: My jail-broke cell phone. I decided at the last minute not to bring it in order to save some space/weight. After only two weeks sans telephone (my skype won’t work on this new laptop for some reason), I purchased a phone here in Australia. It only cost me $19 for the phone and I put $10 of credit on it, so not too bad I supposed.

Number two: My flat iron. Apparently I’m way more vain than I had previously thought. Having ugly hair for nearly two weeks was all I could take. I bought me an Aussie flat iron. Cost: $22. I don’t feel too bad about this because both of my flat irons at home broke the week I left so, in theory, I needed a new one anyway.

Best, and probably most extravagant, purchase since arriving here though was the solid shampoo I bought at Lush. Not in ten million years did I believe the sales lady that this stuff would foam up like real shampoo, but it for realsies does. It works great, is super lightweight, and I don’t have to worry about it spilling all over my bag. Definitely a big happy face for this one, even if it did cost $15 plus $5 for the carrier tin. (In my defense, the lady says it lasts as long as three of their bottles of liquid shampoo, which are $9 or so each.)

Hanging Branches of a Willow, originally uploaded by bexadler.

For the most part, Canberra is a typical capital city. Many of the people who work here do not live here, which makes for a poor nightlife. That also means that most of the typical backpackers don’t find it fun or interesting. If there aren’t parties to attend every night, then what does the city have to offer, right? As it turns out, Canberra has quite a lot to offer if you’re interested in history, art, or culture.

The first thing I noticed about Canberra – and the thing that made me immediately fall in love with this city – was that there is plenty of public art. Interesting statues decorate many walkways and street corners. Of course there were also numerous museums, monuments and memorials to view as well. Many of the main sites are situated along the banks of Lake Burley Griffin, which also happened to be my chosen running spot while in Canberra. The lake, pictured above, has numerous weeping willows and flowering trees on its banks, along with the Floriade, which I wrote about yesterday. Probably my favorite part about running along the lake, though, was seeing the variety of birds, including the exotic (to me) black swans of Australia.

Because many of the monuments and museums are on the lakefront, I used my morning runs to scope out what I wanted to come back and see later in the day. On my first morning here I ran along the lakefront and saw the National Museum of Australia across the water from me. The building is eye-catching in that it is colorful and asymmetrical, which of course meant I had to go there as soon as possible.

Near the Entrance of the National Museum of Australia

The museum, much like the city itself, has only been around for a short time (it opened in 2001). It is designed to give visitors a very thorough history of Australia since it was discovered by Captain Cook, and includes a large section about the Aborigines. After having gone through the entire museum, reading the history of both the Aborigines and Europeans, I came to a movie called “The Apology.” It was a recording of Prime Minister Rudd’s apology to the Aboriginal people of Australia for the many crimes committed by settlers. The speech was given in 2008, which goes to show just how recently Australians have begun to accept their native people. I was so moved by this exhibit and the film that I was crying by the time I walked out.

I seriously believe that anyone who visits Australia should make a trip to this museum to gain a better understanding of just how big of an impact Captain Cook’s discovery had on this continent. You will learn about the invasion of non-native species and the later attempts to eradicate these introduced species (think rabbits, water buffalo, cane toads, etc.). And you will also learn about the many extinctions that have occurred in the past two hundred years – the Tasmanian tiger being only one that I’d never even heard of prior to visiting this museum – in addition to the human history covered in the exhibits. Personally, I’d recommend giving yourself two days to explore this museum as it’s a lot of information to take in and you’ll want to read everything (if you’re anything like me).

I’d also recommend going to Parliament House if you’re ever in Canberra. I hadn’t planned to go because it sounded a bit dull for me, but the building is very beautiful and there are free tours that only last about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on whether the Senate/House is in session. You can also go sit in on a session of Parliament if you’re interested (I was not).

Parliament House

Best part about Canberra? As with Washington, D.C., all the monuments and museums in Canberra are FREE. After having paid anywhere from $12 to $45 to visit the attractions in Sydney I was grateful for a couple of cheap-o days – and to see such awesome stuff too! The one thing I had really wanted to see but didn’t get to was the National Mint.

Cheap-o Traveler Tip: There are advertisements everywhere here for those hop on, hop off buses. They cost $25-35 depending on where you buy your tickets. It’s the biggest rip-off ever (in my opinion). You can get an unlimited day pass for the city bus for only $7.60 and they go to all the major monuments.

Kevyn was not please with how the Aussies spelled his name.

Day 22 – Floriade, originally uploaded by bexadler.

One of the things I was most shocked by when first arriving in New Zealand (and later Australia) was that it really is spring. I mean, I knew it was spring, but it was so strange to see trees in bloom for the second time this year, rather than seeing the leaves turning to reds and oranges as they would be at this time back home. I have been quite enjoying my second spring though, especially given my love for everything that flowers. I have been trying, however, to resist the temptation to take ten zillion photos of every flower I see. That was until I heard there was a “celebration of spring” going on in the center of Canberra. I mean, how could I resist the promise of more than a million flowers all artistically planted and  just waiting for my lens to capture them in full color?

Floriade began in 1988 as part of Australia’s 200th anniversary celebration and was such a huge success that they’ve continued it as an annual spring festival. I had no idea it existed until I arrived here, but I’m so glad I happened upon it. The festival lasts until mid-October and is definitely worth stopping to see, especially because it’s FREE.

You can check out my other pictures on my flickr if you’re interested. Luckily for you, my camera ran out of batteries so there are only about a dozen tulip photos. I’m sure there could have been hundreds. 😉

Kevyn Ready for the Race, originally uploaded by bexadler.

On Sunday Melissa and I ran in the half marathon portion of the Blackmore’s Sydney Running Festival. The two of us have been keeping up on our running during this trip, with some tapering n the week leading up to the race. However, we both felt like we underperformed at the race. I got one of my worst recent half marathon times at 2:22:14. In July I was on course to run a 2:19 half. While I realize this isn’t a huge difference I was disappointed in my performance. I’d hoped to get closer to a 2:15 time. I’d like to blame the heat and the hills, but I’m sure that some of my problem was all of the alcohol I’ve consumed in the last couple of weeks. While I haven’t drank in excess, I also haven’t been drinking enough water, which has left me feeling dehydrated on most days. As a result my quads have really been feeling it ever since the race. I don’t think my legs have felt this sore from running since I did my marathon back in December – not good.

Aside from my poor performance though, the race was pretty fabulous. We hadn’t really had a chance to run within the central part of Sydney, as we’d been staying in a suburb to the north, so it was nice to see a large part of the city on race day. We started at Milson’s Point on the north side of the harbor, then ran over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and finished at the Sydney Opera House. The recovery area was in the Botanical Gardens, which we otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to see during our trip. The finishing area was rather unorganized and difficult to navigate, especially when you’re looking for someone sans telephone in a sea of 30,000 other runners. It was a beautiful day for running, although with a high of about 75F I was grateful to have been in the half marathon group rather than the full.

I put my training shoes back on today and am hoping to make it to the full in December, although I have to admit that the half marathon on Sunday was rather discouraging. I found myself asking time and again whether I really had the courage to even try for another full marathon. I’m going to keep up my training (and pay more attention to my hydration!) in the hopes that I will indeed toe the starting line of that race in December. I guess my half in Auckland in October will be an easy test to see if I’ve got it in me…

Day 19 – Kangas, originally uploaded by bexadler.

I don’t know when I became such a fan of zoos. For the most part I have always despised zoos, but in the last two months I have visited three (in Hawaii, Utah, and now Australia). Each of these zoos were great experiences, with each one improving on the things that I had loved about the last. Thus far, the Taronga Zoo in Sydney has been my favorite.

First, you take a ferry out from Sydney to get there and get a beautiful view of the Sydney Harbor once you reach the highest point in the zoo.

Second, the Taronga Zoo had really interesting exhibits that used ravines to divide the people from the animals rather than using cages and nets (although there were still some animals in nets or with the plexiglass walls, like the big cats and many of the birds). The lack of barriers made it easier to get good photos of the animals. In addition, there were two awesome “animal encounter” exhibits that allowed visitors to walk among the animals. The above picture was taken in one such exhibit.

Lastly, and definitely the most particular to myself, there were three baby elephants at this zoo. As many of you know, I have a weird love for these giant creatures and the babies just melt my heart. The elephant exhibit was definitely worth seeing. There were two large pool areas where the elephants could play and enjoy splashing about. We were lucky enough to see the three calves pushing each other into the water and wrestling in the pool for a good five or ten minutes. It made me wish I had a better camera so I could have zoomed in on them. There were also a couple of baby cockatoos and supposedly there was a baby rhino (the first to be born using IVF), but we couldn’t find the exhibit. Other highlights for me included a platypus, seals, a Kodiak bear, Tasmanian devils, and koalas.

The price of $45 to get into the zoo was a bit hefty for my taste, but I thought it was well worth the expense.

Day 8 – Matiatia Bay, originally uploaded by bexadler.

Today Melissa and I took a ferry over to Waiheke Island and did a hike along the coast before doing some winetasting – yum!

Sorry for the shortage of posts. I’ve been a cheapo and am just stealing wifi wherever I can. Hopefully soon I’ll invest in some real wifi time and give you a decent update.

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