Monday, December 31, 2012

Our Pack

Where's the ball Wes?  

Ah, the best part...our pack!  It's always so amazing how easily we are excepted into the family by the pets.  They seem to sense that we are there to take care of them and be their friends.  A couple of shakes, a few good throws, a belly rub or two and we're all old buds.  

There's Wesley - he's the youngest at two and the most energetic.  At dinner time he jumps off of all 4 paws, straight up into the air about four feet off the ground.  At the mention of a ball, he becomes maniacally obsessive - pure lab!

Then there's little Koda.  She's seven and a bit of a busy body who must greet every dog she meets at the park.  She chases after Wes trying in vain to keep him out of trouble. She also rides shotgun in the car making certain that Rick stays on the correct side of the road.

The grand dame is Jesse.  At 16, she's earned the title. She may be a little bit slower than the other two (well, okay, maybe a lot) but she still loves to run and play. She's the alpha of the pack and keeps Wes in line. She has roasted chicken for dinner every night befitting her status! 

Wesley may talk tough at the dog park but he has his sweet side too!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Howick Saturday Market

One of the first things we do when starting any new house sit is scope out the local markets. We like to cook (and love to eat) so shopping for food is something we take pretty seriously! Our favorite places to shop are the local farmer's markets and our little village of Howick has one of the best we've come across.  Artisan cheeses and homemade jams, fresh honey and eggs, salami, sausages, smoked salmon, fresh caught fish, breads, pastries, a variety of ready made ethnic foods, flowers, herbs, and the best selection and prices on fresh vegetables that we've seen in a long time. Popular and packed, the market is an elbow room only affair.  Of course that doesn't stop us from sampling our way across it, debating what we can make with this and that, all thoughts of the diet we're supposed to be on a distant memory.  Saturday has suddenly become our favorite day of the week...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Summertime Christmas in Auckland

Auckland Skyline from the water with Sky Tower and old ferry bldg.
Auckland's skyline 

Welcome to Auckland, a.k.a. the City of Sails.  So named because it is almost completely surrounded by water and boasts more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world.  Of course, then there is Auckland's other name, its traditional name Tamaki Makau Rau. Versions vary as to what this means but the tourist literature seems to like the "desired by many" translation. Since Auckland is New Zealand's largest city and home to a third of the country's population we'll go with that!  

Very large Santa on Queen Street building in downtown Auckland
Santa and his Reindeer welcome shoppers downtown.
It is summertime in New Zealand and Auckland is all decked out for the Christmas season. An enormous Santa and two Reindeer watch over the Queen Street shopping district while just down the street a Raggae band gives a lunchtime concert to folks sprawled in lawn chairs.  It's a bit strange for us - we're enjoying sunshine, wearing shorts, and applying sunscreen liberally while listening to Christmas music on the radio.

Downtown lunchtime concert in the park.  We've been told that there is a
hole in the ozone layer above New Zealand and to always use our sunscreen.

Close up of Auckland's Sky Tower
Auckland's Sky Tower is the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere.
For a thrill, you can bungee jump off the tower over the downtown traffic.
Auckland's old Ferry Building from the water
The easiest mode of transportation into the city from our village is the ferry.
It runs all day long and drops off right downtown at Auckland's old Ferry Building.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Flying over Australia's Whitsunday Islands

arial view of Australia's Whitsunday Islands
Australia's Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands located between
 the mainland and the Great Barrier Reef

We booked our trip with Air Whitsunday on the fly...a pun just too hard to pass up...literally walking off the cruise ship into Airlie Beach and into a tour agency.  They arranged the flight and gave us directions for taking the bus out to the airport.  Colleen volunteered to ride shotgun in the 10 passenger Cessna while Rick grabbed a window seat at the rear of the plane.  As you can see, the views define the word spectacular!

Ariel view of the Whitsunday Islands in Australia
We tried, but these photos as pretty as they are, can't compare to the real deal - it was awesome!

Our pilot buzzed our cruise ship for us!

Arial view of the Whitsunday Islands of Australia

Ariel view of Hamilton Island iin the Whitsunday Islands in Australia
Hamilton Island

Ariel view of the Whitsunday Islands in Australia

Although we booked this ride last minute, flights do fill up ahead so we suggest booking earlier.  Reservations can be made on their website (48 hour advance notice needed) at

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Australia - it's a Big, Big Country

Brisbane's Story Bridge shot from water in day time
Brisbane's Story Bridge

Three weeks in Australia and we've seen as much as we could see, but there is still so much more that we just couldn't get to in the time that we had.  Sigh...

The day we returned to Sydney we boarded the Rhapsody of the Seas and began an 11 night cruise north with stops in Newcastle, Cairns, Airlie Beach and Brisbane.  In route, we anchored at Willis Island (280 miles offshore in the Coral Sea) where there is a weather station installed and staffed for the purpose of early cyclone detection.  It was a brief stop and we're really not quite sure why it was on the itinerary...  From Cairns we made an excursion to Green Island to do some snorkeling and take a trip in a glass bottom boat.  We'd assumed the "glass bottom boat" was going to be sort of hokey - but it was actually really great for underwater viewing.

The highlight of the trip was cruising the Great Barrier Reef and flying over the Whitsunday Islands.  We'll post our flight photos for you in a few days.  In the mean time, here's a few shots from our other ports of call and the glass bottom boat.  Ahoy mates! 

The Brisbane River, which has caused so much flooding havoc in recent years, cuts through the heart of
the city.  A variety of vessels are available to tour the city - making stops at various docks along the way.
We opted for the little red "City Hopper" and enjoyed a free hour and a half tour of Brisbane from the water.

Sights along the Brisbane River.

Downtown Brisbane


Willis Island Weather Station in Australia shot from the water
The Willis Island weather station is an early warning monitoring station for cyclones.
Staff pulls six month shifts in this remote locale.

Underwater shots from Green Island Australia
From the glass bottom boat ride at Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Note that the fish in the first photo is about a foot long so that gives you
some idea as to how "giant" the giant clam is!

Water and island shot of Green Island Australia
Waters surrounding Green Island

Jellyfish in Australia in mass with inset of close up shot
Australia's jellyfish are prevalent and it's "stinger" season!

The birds are spectacularly colorful and very loud and chatty.