Australia - Olympics
Europe - Germany, Belgium, and France
Nepal - Around Manaslu
Australia - Driving around Southern Australia
Australia - Olympics
Australia - Great Barrier Reef
Thailand - Bangkok
Vietnam - Central and South
Vietnam - North
Egypt - Along the Nile
Egypt - Touring and diving
Israel and Jordan
Brief return to the USA
Ecuador - Quito and surroundings
Ecuador - Galapagos Islands
Ecuador - Quito and the jungle
Peru - Machu Picchu and Lima
Peru - Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Zimbabwe and South Africa - Vic Falls and Blyde River Canyon
South Africa - Motorcycle trip
Argentina - Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls
Argentina - Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes
Chile - Exploring the Lake Region
Chile - Pucon and the Bio Bio
Argentina - El Calafate and El Chalten
Chile - Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine
Argentina - Rio Gallegos and Ushuaia
Chile - Santiago and Punta Arenas
Guatemala and Honduras - Rio Dulce and Copan
Guatemala - Coban and Spanish school
Guatemala - Tikal and Spanish school
Guatemala - Antigua and Spanish school
We woke early since exhaustion overwhelmed us last night. We had breakfast in town at a coffee shop with great espresso. Afterwards we found an open internet cafe to do some more travel research and pay bills.
The rental car company drove us to the airport where we checked into the Ansett Australia flight to Australia which took hardly any time at all in this civilized country. We spent the time on the phone calling friends and family, as well as travel agents trying to get plane tickets to Antarctica.
The flight was crowded and uneventful. Sydney's airport was sparkling it was so new. Many people were walking around the airport with flags, wigs and other patriotic paraphernalia. We hopped in a taxi for a ride to Brian Garrett's house.
He greeted us energetically with a huge smile and hearty hello. Brian showed us around his house, how to get in and how to use things, including the waterfall and spa in the pool. The hour spent with Brian passed quickly and was filled with laughter. We walked the short two blocks to the train/bus station so we knew where it was and were pleased with how close access to the city and the games was.
Brian was off soon. We started to read our book on Sydney to figure out where to head, then walked back over to the train. One pulled up just as we walked onto the platform. The train attendant handed us a piece of paper to allow us to buy tickets at the destination without penalty. The double decker train was not very crowded and we settled in for the ride. Forty-five minutes later we pulled into the Circular Quay station. From the train we saw a huge crowd of people.
We wondered about all the people as we got off the train. We followed the crowd out of the train station. Unknowingly, we walked out without paying for the fare. We rounded the station building and headed for the crowd watching a giant screen TV. A welcome/information tent was on the side, so we stopped in for a map and some information. The very helpful and friendly volunteer gave a funny overview of getting around and where to hang out. Eventually he directed us over to the Rocks for a potential dinner spot.
We wandered a bit more, watching the big screens occasionally, and heading down to the waterfront to get pictures of the beautiful Harbor Bridge and Opera House.
We were hungry, so we headed back up to the Rocks. We stopped in front of a TV to watch Cathy Freeman (an Australian national hero of aboriginal descent, who lit the torch at the opening ceremony) win the gold in the 400m. The atmosphere on the streets leading up to this event was powerful. The cheering on the streets for Cathy were earsplitting. The festive spirit was contagious and we found ourselves cheering with the crowds.
We then stopped in to the Rocks Cafe for dinner. After ordering, Tom stepped out for a minute to watch Michael Johnson run away with the men's 400m, then we dove into a delicious dinner of salad, steak, and pasta. We were so full we couldn't even partake of their fantastic looking desserts.
We then wandered back towards Circular Quay, discovering the American Express Cardmember's club on the way. We stopped in for some free soft drinks and a brief rest, then got back on the train home. Again, we walked through the "spectator" line and didn't have to pay, and we passed the hour playing Boggle and reading the Sydney book. When we finally reached Brian's at 11pm, we fell into bed and went right to sleep.
We started out the day with a short run around the Birrong neighborhood. Then we caught a train into the city. Brian's house is incredibly convenient to both the train for the city and the bus for the games, both of which are complimentary for ticket holders.
At the crowded Central station, a helpful volunteer guided us to the Entertainment Center in Darling Harbor. It took about ten minutes to walk to the center, but we stopped at a cafe just outside of the stadium for lunch. The overcast sky and wind made the day quite cold, so coffee and a hot lunch were quite appealing.
Women's volleyball was in progress when we entered the arena. Tom taught Louisa the game as we watched Cuba vs. Croatia. The level of play was not impressive, but that changed with the Russia vs. China match. It is too bad that both of them could not continue but at the end of 3 sets, Russia's height overpowered China's tactics.
We had a couple of hours before the next event, so we walked all the way to The Rocks, where we found Aurora Expeditions. We talked to them for awhile about kayaking along Antarctica in December. This absolutely sealed that we will add the seventh continent to our honeymoon journey! We just need to figure out how to get there.
The American Express Card member club was near so we stopped in quickly to relax before returning to the Entertainment Center for two more women's volleyball matches.
First Brazil played Germany. The Brazilian fans added incredible energy and excitement to the games. They handed out free t-shirts making the stadium a sea of yellow which was accompanied by their frequent cheers and shouts. The team played to their fans' expectations and beat Germany.
The night ended with US vs. South Korea. Tom knew Kerry Walsh, but not many of the other players. The match was *amazing*! After the first game it appeared that the US would win in three sets, but the second game was a different story. The rollercoaster had just begun. The US was up, the US was down. With two games each the fifth game began. Each team collected a point as they climbed the ladder towards the magic 15. The US pulled ahead with great excitement and pulled it out 15-13!!! The crowd went wild during the fifth game as the fans for each team thought that theirs would pull ahead for the victory.
The adrenaline rush was incredible! We ran to the box office to buy tickets to the next round, as did many of the other spectators - the play was fantastic, and the US women pulled out the victory!!
Even though it was nearly midnight we were exhilarated most of the hour train ride to Brian's where we collapsed exhausted in bed.
We got up a bit late, since we didn't have tickets for anything until men's volleyball at 5:30. After some cereal and showers, we made a bunch of phone calls to work on our travel arrangements for October and December. At about 10:15, Louisa proposed that we go to Olympic park and to see if we could get in to see Venus Williams play in the tennis gold medal match.
We hopped on the bus and soon were at the park with about 200,000 other people. Once in the park, we headed to the nearest ticket booth to see if there were any last minute seats. Louisa went to the front to check the board, while Tom waited in line. In line, Tom was approached by an older German man with 2 tickets for sale! After a short haggle, he bought them for face value of AU$180 each, which exhausted our cash. We were elated, and immediately headed towards the tennis centre.
On the way Louisa's mom called on the cellphone, so we chatted with her briefly before passing through security and into the park. Our seats were relatively high up, but mercifully in the shade, and we sat right next to the German guy who sold them to us, in the middle of an entire German contingent.
We sat through the bronze medal match, between a nice French guy and an obnoxious Swiss. The match went back and forth, but we were happy when the French guy finally won it.
During the match, we took a short break to grab some lunch and a polo shirt for Tom. We also wandered around the centre, and saw the "Woodies" warming up on a side court. We didn't recognized the other players warming up, but it was fun to be up close and personal to some of the best players.
Louisa was so excited for the Venus Williams vs Elena Dementieva gold medal match she could hardly sit still during the men's last set. Finally, the women came out on court and started rallying to warm up.
Venus took control of the match immediately, almost not allowing Elena a game. The first set was over quickly at 6-2, and the second looked set to follow in kind when Elena broke Venus back to take it to 5-4. Venus closed it out powerfully, though, and took the gold. She has been unstoppable lately, and is on a 32-match winning streak. The crowd mostly cheered for the underdog Russian, at one point taking the Aussie chant and changing it to "Russia, Russia, Russia, Oi, Oi, Oi." A few spirited Americans yelled for Venus, but fortunately she didn't need us.
The center court filled up for this match, and packed even more to watch the Australian legends, Mark Woodford and Todd Woodbridge, play their final match together for the gold. They started off a bit flat, and got down a break, but came back at the end of the set to take it 7-5. The Aussie fans went wild, chanting "Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie, Oi, Oi, Oi."
Unfortunately, both of the next 2 sets they got down a break and lost to Nestor and Larreau. In the 4th set, they took it to a tiebreak, but got down a few points. The crushing final blow of the match came when Mark served two consecutive double faults to end it. The Aussies clapped politely, but were quite disappointed.
After 8 hours in the tennis center, we were tired and hungry. We were also out of cash, and the ATMs in Olympic park only take Visa (our ATM card is Mastercard network). So, we dragged ourselves to the train and headed into town for evening volleyball.
On the way to the Entertainment Centre we stopped in a food court at the mall for some Indian food for dinner. Then we made it to the arena in time for the second men's quarterfinal match, the Netherlands vs Yugoslavia.
The volleyball was great, and the match turned out to be a thriller. Yugoslavia was slightly the more consistent team, though, and came through in the 5th set to make the semis. We chuckled at the Dutch who also appropriated the Aussie chant and turned it into "Holland, Holland, Holland, Oi, Oi, Oi." We were totally exhausted by the time the match was over, and nearly fell asleep on the train home.
Again we started the day with a short run through the neighborhood park. On the way back to Brian's we shopped in The Tuckerbag (the local grocery store) where we stocked up on food for an at home lunch.
We finished phone tag with MomC by reaching her at home where it seems that everything is good, except the fate for her 14 goldfish. We also made another round of phone calls to research tickets to Antarctica. The conclusion is that it is very difficult to travel half way around the globe from Sydney to the southern tip of the world.
Larger crowds were going to Olympic Park today filling all space on public transportation and in the park. We arrived at Olympic Stadium early and read the newspaper before going in the arena. Our seats were incredible! We were just a few rows from the track and near the end of the running events. The sun was high in the bright blue sky as we settled in for the events.
The Decathlon High Jump started the track and field for the evening session. Chris Huffins of the USA led by over 200 points. He cleared 4.7 meters, but others made it to 5.1!
Soon the contenders for the women's 200m semifinals sped around the track with Marion Jones coasting across the finish line. The men's semi-finals followed. Meanwhile the javelin throw for decathlon began not 10 meters in front of our seats. Chris Huffins for US still led, but he was not a great javelin thrower.
The Women's 1500 semifinal occurred simultaneously - wow they can run fast!
The next two events were showcase events, but that did not limit the enthusiastic support from the fans. Two wheel chair races took place, 800m for women , won by an Aussie, and 1500m for men, won by a Mexican. They sped around the track on special recumbent wheelchairs. Only later did we learn that the medals are unfairly not counted in the medal count for the Olympics. Especially with an Aussie winning gold, the events did seem to generate lots of awareness for the ParaOlympics that will be held in two weeks time.
The Long Jump competition began during the wheelchair events. An Aussie jumped farther than his personal best making a run for the gold. Some British long jumpers sat directly behind us. They coached us through the event. The Cuban, Pedrosa, would jump farther than the Australian, then the latter would come back and go further yet. The Aussie-filled stadium did their part supporting the Aussie with the loudness and consistency of their cheering. The jumpers leapfrogged like this until the last jump when the Cuban outdistanced the Aussie.
The events were interspersed with medal ceremonies for the wheelchair races. Soon it was time for the main event - the mens and womens 200m finals.
The women came out to roars from the crowd, and we peered through our binoculars to watch them jumping and bouncing in their lanes. Cathy Freeman got a huge roar when she was introduced, although she was not expected to win. Soon the gun went off, and we watched Marion Jones run away from the crowd. She didn't break any records, but she sure won convincingly.
The men came out next, and we were surprised that we didn't recognize either of the two Americans - we missed Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene. One of our boys had a terrible start, and the other just got outrun. A virtually unknown Greek won the gold in a relatively slow time, winning their first running medal since 1948.
The night ended with the decathlon's final event - the 1500m run. Chris Huffins only had a 14 point lead and did not have the energy left in him to win it. He ended up with the bronze medal.
We passed the Today Show stage broadcasting live from Olympic Park, but the dark night skies prevented us from being seen on TV.
There were terrible crowds headed to the trains, so we hung out at McDonalds and wrote in the journal for a little while, then wearily headed home to bed.
We woke early with a phone call from Fred Schaeffer, the man who found housing for us in Sydney. We made plans to meet for lunch on Sunday.
After breakfast we traveled to Olympic Park for diving preliminaries. Forty men did acrobatics off of the 10 meter platform. While interesting, we decided that they needed to legitimize 'butt plugs' as they have been perfected at the Shields house in Beverly Farms.
After a few rounds, we gave in to boredom and hunger and left. The Ibis hotel had a lovely cafe and patio. They served decent meat pies, and we camped out for awhile on the shaded patio and journaled.
At 2:00 we entered the Superdome for women's basketball semifinals. In the first game, Australia beat Brazil in a hard match with sloppy basketball. However, the Aussie spirit continued to be quite strong with many chants of 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!'
Then the USA women's team came onto the floor where they triumphed over Korea. The first half was far too close for comfort. The outstanding precision and technical skill of the Korean team proved hard to overcome. They hardly missed a shot, or pass! At the half the US had a 2 point margin - not enough! The size and playground skills of the Americans finally began to tell, however, and the US cruised to an easy win in the second half.
After the game we walked the length of Olympic park to the hockey stadium on the other side, for the gold medal game of Australia vs Argentina. We briefly considered selling our tickets, but decided to experience the Aussie spirit once again.
We had terrible seats, but still had a decent view of the action. We watched the end of the bronze medal game, then rested a bit between games. Finally the gold medal match began, and we joined the screaming Aussies in the stands.
Louisa struggled to remember the rules from her high-school playing days, as Tom watched and wondered at persistent back problems - they run so bent over all the time. The Aussies cruised to a relatively easy win, and the stadium went wild.
We scooted out before the ceremony, just in time to be caught in the crowd of 100,000 people leaving Athletics. The park logistics were pretty good, however, and it only took us a few minutes to catch the train back to Lidcombe and change for the bus there. Soon we were home in bed.
Tom woke up with a cold, but we decided to go for a jog anyway. After breakfast at Brian's we went into town. Qantas had changed our tickets on the phone, but suggested that we have them changed physically due to the high volume Olympic traffic. Downtown Sydney was empty. It was odd to see the bustling city on a quiet day.
The Qantas office had a couple of big screen TVs where we watched the Men's soccer Gold Medal match of Spain vs. Cameroon. We started cheering for Cameroon, the underdog.
Across the street was an attractive building with shops and an upscale food court. The latter was closing down when we arrived due to lack of people, but we had delicious lasagna and salad and watched the end of the men's soccer match. Cameroon made a goal to tie the game and it went into sudden death overtime with two men down on the Spanish team due to two red cards. The Spanish team held them off, and the game was decided by penalty kicks. A Spanish team member just missed a kick which made the difference and Cameroon won their first gold medal of the games.
We walked through town to the Botanical Gardens. Another incredibly friendly and helpful Australian volunteer with the gardens gave us a map and explained the different areas. We headed towards the water where it happened some of the sailing events were going on.
We settled down in the shade where Tom lay down for a nap and Louisa pulled out the Clancy book. Many families with young children were having picnics in the park. It was a gorgeous day and being in the park was incredible.
After a couple of hours we headed to Central station for the train to Olympic park. The big screen TV across from the station played highlights from the women's volleyball medal games. The US lost the bronze, and the gold medal game looked amazing. We realized that every US woman's game that we watched (regardless of sport) the US team won - hmmm, maybe we should have scalped tickets to the volleyball game. In the end, this trend held.
After a quick dinner at the way overcrowded Burger King (Hungry Jacks) in the station we headed towards the train. Our spirits fell when we saw the incredibly huge crowd, all going to Olympic Park. Unbelievably, we were on a train less than 5 minutes later - they were amazingly efficient. We had to stand, but got to the park in short order.
Our tickets for the women's basketball final weren't as good as our semifinal ones (they couldn't be), but we still had decent seats in the front row of the first balcony. We were right in front of the executive boxes, and Greg Norman was just behind us.
We cheered for Korea against Brazil in the bronze medal match, and indeed they led most of the game, due to their superior ball-handling However, it went into overtime, and the Brazilian women's size took its toll - the Koreans could not hold on.
After a short break, we cheered for the US women against Australia. Of course, the entire Superdome was cheering and screaming for the Aussies - if we hear "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi" one more time we'll chunder. The US got off to a shaky start, but in the end proved superior, with Cheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, and Natalie Williams carrying the day. The Australian Lauryn Jackson played extremely well, and showed that she could play with anyone. In the end, the US women cruised home to victory, and we cheered until we were hoarse. Afterwards, we got a picture of the scoreboard, and wearily headed home.
Our timing could not have been worse - the Athletics was just getting out and the crowd was huge. Fortunately, we were going away from Sydney, so we ended up in a smaller crowd, and got on a train fairly quickly. Overall, the logistics for these games were incredibly smooth - we were impressed.
We were excited to have nothing to do, so we slept in very late, had breakfast, and did laundry before going downtown for lunch with Fred Schaeffer, the man who introduced us to Brian.
On the way, Fred called us on the mobile to tell us he'd be late, so we went to the Amex cardmember's lounge in the museum for a cappuccino first. There we found that they were limiting the entrance for the closing ceremonies, so we decided to return after lunch and watch there - much more fun than at home, more comfortable than the big-screens outside, and near the fireworks downtown.
We caught a bus back to where Fred was waiting for us, and met him near the Queen Victoria building. We walked inside the ornately restored building and found a nice cafe for lunch. We chatted about our backgrounds, and he told us about his missionary work with the aborigines here in Australia. We bought him lunch to thank him for his help, and he gave us a handy travel-size bible.
We headed back to the Amex club after lunch, and the place was already filling up - it was just after 3pm. With some judicious hovering and moving of chairs, we managed to score two of the leather armchairs in sight of the big-screen. We got some complimentary soft drinks, and settled in to journal and read, while watching the marathon and the men's basketball final. We were even able to peek out the windows and watch the marathon run by live - those guys run fast!
They also had a bunch of internet stations in the club, so Louisa held the seats while Tom checked email and fixed a small problem with our filtering.
The club got crowded, but they did a good job limiting the size - it never got unbearable. We overheard that there were hundreds of people outside waiting to get in, by about 6:30pm. The only major snafu was they didn't plan enough food. By the time we went up for sandwiches, they only had cookies left. So, we went hungry, eating gorp and cookies for dinner while waiting for the closing ceremonies to start.
Finally, at 7, they had a poorly made TV retrospective of the games, and at 8 they started the gala closing ceremonies. About half the acts had to be explained to us Americans by the nearby Aussies, but it was still a fun time. Louisa guessed that the closing act would be Men at Work, and sure enough, they were. When the fireworks started, we ran outside to get a decent vantage point.
First we saw the yellow streak of the F111 going overhead, then fireworks started going off all around us. We jockeyed for a position to see the bridge, and ended up going up to the Rocks to see a bit better. The fireworks shooting out of the Harbor Bridge were amazing, and even the tops of the buildings were afire with colors, not to mention the huge starbursts over the harbor itself.
Amid the huge crowd headed towards the trains, a man approached us, asking if we enjoyed the fireworks and the games in general. We gushed over them, and he took notes in shorthand. He then explained that he was an AP reporter, Mort Rosenblum. The next day we got an email from Louisa's mom - her hometown newspaper had picked up the AP report, and she had read about us!
We were hungry, so we stopped in the Grace Hotel for a bite to eat. Just in time - we got the last free table, and there was a long line outside when we left. We had a sandwich and salad, and felt much better.
The first couple of train stations we came to were closed, so we walked all the way down to Town Hall. There we waited in the crowd until metro security made an announcement that it would be faster to walk to Central and wait there. We walked to Central, and waited in an unmoving crowd, listening to announcements about how the station was overcrowded, there weren't any trains right now anyway, so please go outside and listen to the free entertainment for a while.
We ended up going in through the exit for the Olympic Park trains to get on the first train out. After several changes, we made it back to Brian's 2hrs later, after 2am.
Considering the late time we got to bed, we also got up late. Brian was puttering around the house. We went for a run around the neighborhood and through the local park. We had breakfast and chatted with Brian out front. The day was gorgeous, again.
Brian offered to drive us around the blue mountains, so we all got into his '66 Ford Fairlane for a Sunday afternoon drive through the countryside.
After driving us through a township in which he used to work. The countryside was attractive rolling hills dotted with farm houses. Eventually we ended up at a lookout over a manmade lake at Burragorang. It used to be a large mining location before they filled it in with water. The surrounding cliffs were gorgeous.
As we continued on Brian spotted a dozen or so giant white cockatoos in a field. Not much later he suddenly pulled over to show us bell birds. They are quite tiny, but make a very distinctive almost machine like bell sound. We passed lots of farms, and went though a nice looking farm town called Picton.
Brian drove us through Douglas park before heading to the coast. First we stopped at an overlook a few hundred meters above the ocean. All we could see for miles was deep blue ocean. Next we stopped at the Bulli overlook where we had ice cream cones as we enjoyed the view. All afternoon Brian had us laughing as he shared stories, jokes and information about Australia.
Brian pulled over at a local fish and hips shop where they served up some of the best that we have ever eaten. While eating, he discovered that we had not seen Bondi Beach so that was the next destination. We drove through Royal Natal National park as we wound our way north along the coast and then through the city.
After watching the sun set at Bondi, his ex-wife met up with us and we had a snack and coffee at a sidewalk cafe on the main street in Bondi Beach, near where she lives.
We drove through downtown and discussed stopping in at the Sheraton to hear some good music, but we opted to head straight home and go to bed early.
After sleeping in we walked to the store for breakfast and lunch food. After breakfast and showers we were about to head out the door, but Tom, especially, was exhausted so we took an hour nap instead (Louisa read Clancy's Bear and the Dragon which was picking up after 350 pages).
We cooked hot sandwiches for lunch then walked over to catch the train into Sydney. Our goal for the day was to finally decide on the best tickets to get us to Ushuaia then to the states. We stopped in an internet cafe to check for an email from Glenn about our current tickets. Tom worked on a few things while Louisa walked to a Post office then we went to the first airline office of the day, Qantas.
An earlier phone call to Qantas gave us a new idea - buy an around the world ticket to get to South America then to the US. the agent at Qantas new Ushuaia which gave us a ray of hope, but as soon as she started checking availability the idea fell apart. None of the flights had seats left for their One World fares. She sent us to Airlineas Argentinas since they might have seats left on the Sydney to Buenos Aires flight. We walked into their office just before 5pm when they closed. The woman graciously helped us even though it was after hours. She said there are a few seats left but that we will get batter fares from a travel agent than an airline - something quite different than at home in the States.
We walked down George further to STA travel. The office was packed. We took a number but did not have hope of seeing an agent before they closed at 6pm. We walked out at one point and called their phone reservations, which had just closed at 5:30, so we went back in to wait. They locked the door before 6pm to prevent more people from coming in and we finally got an agent at about 6:15.
Andrew worried us for a short while at his stared at the world map while we described where we wanted to go. He contemplated awhile then turned around and said Star Alliance round the world ticket. He started punching keys and 30 minutes later he had entered our entire long itinerary. Now we just had to wait to see if our spaces would clear off of waitlists, which is how it seems to work with setting up these itineraries. The total mileage was just shy of 39,000 miles, the maximum allowed but the price in Australian dollars made it reasonable (3800 AUD so less than 2000 USD).
We finally caught a train home from Central to meet Brian who had cooked us a homemade 'tea' (dinner) and patiently waited as we were over an hour later than expected. The chicken, vegetables and mashed potatoes were delicious as was the conversation, as is always true with Brian. We headed to bed early, though, as Tom had a cold and Louisa started a sore throat.
Louisa picked up Tom's cold and did not sleep well last night, but napped in the morning. After breakfast and laundry at Brain's we headed for the city about 11:00am.
The day was gorgeous - sunny, warm and blue skies. We alighted from the train about noon and bought tickets for the 12:30 ferry to Manly. We sat on the outside benches at the aft of the ferry and had great views of the Harbor bridge, Opera house and the city. The 30 minute ride passed quickly as we took it all in.
While walking along the Corso towards the beach, we bought meat pies at Shakespeares, which was a recommendation from Michael at Aurora. We staked out a spot along the beach for a picnic lunch.
The bay is gorgeous and we decided to rent a couple of chairs and an umbrella for an hour. Louisa tested her ability to change into a bathing suit under a beach towel and to Tom's dismay succeeded without any public displays of skin.
At the end of the hour we tore ourselves out of the chairs and walked along the beach to the end of the bay and Shelly beach. We continued up onto the rocky headland, looking across the ocean with the waves crashing on the craggy cliffs. We followed the trail until its end, well sort of.
The trail ended at a wall with a few stones removed allowing passage through it. A sign stated that this marked the boundary of the national park in which there were no official trails. We ducked through the opening and scraped our way along branches and overgrowth which at times barely gave four feet of clearance.
Eventually we came out on a road on the other side and walked into town along the bay towards Sydney. In the woods Tom briefly saw a small critter with a long narrow tail which might have been a long-tailed bandicoot. We need to find pictures to confirm.
Andrew from STA travel called to let us know that our tickets are all set - yay! This added a spring in our step.
We took the 4:15 ferry back to Sydney, taxied to STA travel to pick up the itinerary which looked great, and stopped briefly in an internet cafe. We met up with Brian after the train ride home and had delicious Chinese at a restaurant in Yagoona.
After dinner he showed us pictures from his four month journey around Australia. Wow! The list of places to go got a lot longer! We talked about our plans for the next two weeks and then went to bed early to stave off the colds.
We've been sleeping in a bit, and today was no exception. Once we finally got up, we went for a run through the park, then back to Brian's for showers and cornflakes for breakfast.
We called Hertz in the morning to reserve a car, but planned to check around the more local agencies to see if we could get a better price. We then walked to the train to go into town.
Our first stop was an internet cafe, to see if our travel agent in the States had gotten back to us with our ticket refund possibilities. He had not, but we decided to buy the new tickets anyway - they were such a good deal! We then grabbed a sandwich in a nearby cafe for lunch.
Next stop was STA Travel, where we finally purchased our tickets for the remainder of the trip. We talked to them briefly about what we should do for the next 10 days in Oz, and they suggested Tassie (Tasmania), but the air tickets were expensive because we didn't have an advance purchase.
We took a bus most of the way down to Aurora Expeditions, but still had to walk the last few blocks. There we spent an hour and a half buying the cruise tickets, travel insurance, and air tickets in Argentina. We also talked to Al Bakker who will be our kayak guide in Antarctica. They invited us to a talk this evening, so we planned to return.
We still needed to get a car, so we headed towards King's Cross, where we had been told were a lot of agency offices. Unfortunately, the directions were poor, and after walking for quite a while, Louisa's new shoes were giving her painful blisters. We stopped into a Global Gossip to make phone calls instead.
Calling around seemed to indicate that our Hertz prices were actually pretty good. We also called Bangkok to make a hotel reservation for when we get there.
To save Lou's feet we took a taxi to Dymocks, a huge bookstore, to get a travel book for Australia. We found one (and a few other books, including a gift for Brian) and set out for Aurora again. Unfortunately, we took the wrong bus, and ended up walking a few blocks, much to Louisa's misery.
We arrived a bit late, but caught most of the slide presentation on Antarctica - we are so excited! We talked to several experienced people, and got all our questions answered. We didn't really meet many other passengers, but we'll have plenty of time on the boat.
We walked across the street to the harbor restaurants for dinner. The first one we came to was Harborside, a seafood restaurant, so we got a table and had a decent dinner. We were pretty tired, so we skipped dessert and hobbled over to Circular Quay to catch the train back to Brian's. By the time we got there it was after 11, and we went straight to bed.
Revised: Wed Feb 13 11:37:55 2008 on