Posts Tagged With: vacation

Camping in Polihale State Park (South-West Kauai)

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Sunset pineapples are the best type of pineapple.

We live for the untouched, hidden, secluded, end of the road type of places. Sometimes it’s not possible to find those places. Sometimes it’s too hard to get to them. Sometimes it’s just hard enough that it keeps people away and that’s the sweet spot. Polihale is one of those sweet spots. Located at the end of the road on the South coast, next to Na Pali coast, down a beat up road, Polihale State Park has 17 miles of beach, day use facilities, and camping. The water is typically a bit rougher here, although Queen’s Pond is a protected area that is more “docile” and many people swim there.  Most people visiting Kauai want to be pampered and not deal with camping equipment (rental or other) so Polihale makes a great getaway spot for seclusion and reflection.

We had read and heard a lot of different things about Polihale State Park. For example, we read that it’s accessed down a dirt road that is sometimes maintained by the park service and sometimes left alone and unkempt. We read in some books that 4WD vehicles are a must, while others claim that any car can go. Through these varying recounts of Polihale, the one piece of information that did seem to be consistent was that many car rental companies will basically void insurance if you go out to Polihale and get stuck or need a tow. For this reason, we’re going to say check your rental agreements and if you really want to go out here, rent a 4WD vehicle.

To get there is fairly straightforward (that’s what you get on a small island with one main road)! To get there from Lihue Airport for example, you get onto Highway 50 and drive west. In about 34.5 miles (after you’ve passed Waimea Canyon turn-outs and signs for the Pacific Missile Range Facility) you curve right onto Kao Road which quickly turns into Kiko Road. After 0.2 miles, you’ll see Lower Saki Mana Road on your left (across from a gate with a graffiti sign and a Private Property sign). There’s also a sign a few feet before the road (on the right side) with an arrow just in case you can’t find it.

It’s at this point that the dirt road adventure begins. We drove out in the end of August and it was very dry, but I suspect that’s not always the case, so check your weather forecasts before you go. I’ve heard at times, it can flood over and make it a mucky, muddy, mess. The drive is about 4 miles out to the end of the dirt road… you basically end up on the beach. As an aside, while above we noted that 4WD is helpful, we will also backtrack here and say that there were all sorts of cars out there- jeeps, vans, trucks, mustangs even! Just be careful. After a couple miles of bouncing and trouncing you arrive at a giant Monkey Pod Tree in the middle of the road (picture below). The left “Y” will take you to Queen’s Pond, a supposedly docile and protected area for swimming in the Polihale State Park area. I say ‘supposedly’ because we didn’t really find a “docile” area… more of choppy, but not too choppy, all along the Polihale Coast. That didn’t stop us from swimming at Queen’s Pond, nor at Polihale proper. If you do decide to swim, be very careful, don’t go out too far, and assess before you go in. We went in because it didn’t look too bad. However, if the waves are big don’t risk it. This is a very unpopulated area so you’re on your own.

If you continue to the right of the Monkey Pod Tree, you enter the camping and day use area. Camping permits can be purchased online through the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Permits cost $18 per tent (non-resident) and you may camp for up to 5 nights (nightly capacity is 60). Note that the link to the camping page (hyperlinked above) states $12/person. When you click on the box to be taken to the permit purchashing site, you will note that the actual cost is $18/non-resident tent. Anyway, after the Monkey Pod Tree, you will pass some picnic tables and then as you continue down the sand road, you will notice four “sand driveways” is what I’ll call them. Each one is a “camping area”. They each have a small sign that says “Camping Area XX” (1-4). There also some pull outs that don’t have camping signs. If you continue on to the end of the road, you’ll see a few pavilions and the beach. While we saw one truck drive onto the beach, no one else did. To make life easier, don’t drive on the beach. You’ll need an air pump and a pressure gauge at a minimum and don’t forget that if you get stuck you’re basically screwed.

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Sometimes even small cars can make it out here!

Anyway, if you are camping, you can pull into any of the camping areas. You may be discouraged if you see a car parked and a tent out in front, but don’t be. The camping area is not just the area directly in front of the car parking. It is much larger. We stayed at camping area #3 (picture of parking above) and couldn’t be happier. We parked in the designated area (where there was a tent set up about 10 feet ahead of us). We saw a sort of opening to the left in the trees and walked that way only to wind around and find (in our opinion) the perfect camping spot. We were tucked away from the cars and other campers with our own beach entry point. We could literally see the ocean from our tent and yet we were protected within the trees. Awesome.

We ended up spending two nights in Polihale and in the end, I think we both would have spent 20 more there if we didn’t want to see the rest of the island! It was so relaxing. There was some cell service (in and out), no hustle and bustle… just mandatory relaxation. After the first night we picked up beach chairs so we could spend a few hours out on the beach the next afternoon. When we did, we saw two young friends (the ones with the truck) and some fishing poles… and maybe one other couple. As an aside, it’s important to note the size of the dunes here… easily 100 feet. There’s no easy way down or up– just you and your feet. Going down the dunes is fine, but back up is tiring- just be aware before you embark. Another note is that the sand gets really really hot (especially at mid-day). A few sites and guidebooks we read said that your best bet is to wear hiking sucks (no shoes) to walk on the beach… in fact some people even reported getting blisters from barefooting it. We went later in the day and without shoes and it was hot but manageable… but I’d heed the warnings- always better not to deal with foot blisters and put on some socks! The reason you don’t wear shoes is because you are likely to get sand stuck in your shoes which will be uncomfortable and hot.

We swam for a while in the water, just bobbing along and then eventually sat and dried out… at one point we heard a helicopter and figured it was a tour… Polihale is located at the start of the Na Pali coast, so many tours- boating, kayaking, helicopter, etc. go down this way. However, we noticed the bright red helicopter circling in and out of the same mountain– then it landed somewhere behind Polihale before taking off again, this time with a really long cord with some sort of windsock looking thing tied to the end. After disappearing into a canyon/mountain fold, the helicopter reappeared with a person(!) attached to the end of the long cord! They eventually landed again somewhere behind Polihale before taking off back down the coast the way the helicopter originally came. The verdict- must have been a practice rescue exercise. Still cool and interesting to watch!

Other things to note about Polihale: each camping area is a few feet to restrooms and an outdoor shower. The bathrooms are simple, but they’re bathrooms! Each has two stalls and toilet paper as well as a sink (but no soap). There is also a freshwater faucet by the restrooms to fill up on water. In addition, there is a trash can and recycling bin (the word “recycle” is painted on one of the two cans) by each camping area. Open fires are not allowed, but you can have a grill. We opted to lay out our tent rainfly on the beach and eat pineapple and guava rolls while watching the sunset. Now that’s living!

As another aside for this area, if you take the dirt road back out to the main paved road and turn left (not towards Lihue), you will eventually dead-end (whether you end up weaving left or right) at some giant security gates. What are they?! Oh they’re just gates blocking off mountains that have caves with ammunition and other military weapons hidden and guarded in them. Crazy, right? Seriously though, there are tons of signs and cameras and what not– so don’t go snooping, but you can drive up and turn around if you’re so inclined. You can’t see anything except the signs and gates by the way… unless you run into a raucous herd of goats running all of the place (as we did!).

Two thumbs up and 5-stars to Polihale State Park! If you get a chance to go camping out here, do it! If you don’t want to lug your camping stuff with you on the plane, there are a few rental places around the island such as Kayak Kauai or Kauai Camper Rental or really a whole slew of them… these two I have heard mention in books before for what it’s worth. That’s all for now- we’ll see you next time!

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South Water Caye, Belize: December 30th

Is it 5:30AM? I honestly have no idea. The sun isn’t up yet but I feel fantastic. I love having no clue what time it is here in Belize. There’s just something so wonderful about being completely disconnected from technology and the fast pace of Washington, DC. On island time, there are no politics (except when Andrew’s dad brings them up- haha), no worries, no agendas, no rules, and no crises that can’t be solved with a cold beer and a snorkel. I walked down on the beach and took some pictures of the retreating rain clouds. I met a woman and her child (from Germany!) who told me that the previous morning they saw a large Ray. I’ll have to be on the lookout for it!

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Retreating Rain Clouds

 

Returning to our cabin, Andrew was awake and we quickly jumped at the chance to get in the water and snorkel before breakfast. It was completely worth the early morning push! We saw Lion Fish, Spotted Eagle Rays, a Green Moray Eel, a Goldentail Moray Eel, and a ton of other fish. We went in our suits to breakfast just because we could and we met up with the others for a delicious meal of: scrambled eggs, fried beans, mixed fruit (papaya, watermelon, and cantaloupe), a dense homemade creole bread, and hibiscus juice.

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Sun shining through the clouds

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Palm patterns

 

After breakfast, we relaxed and put together a puzzle of frogs. We took a swim and then ate lunch (I know it seems like we eat a lot…) before heading out on an snorkel excursion a little further out, where we saw a ton of fish and a bunch of lion fish. They are apparently invasive species so there are a lot around. The water was a beautiful turquoise color and the temperature was perfect. If I could, I’d stay in the water all day and all night! Lunch was beef enchiladas, powder buns, pineapple, and hibiscus juice. We also tried out our first Belizean hot sauce (Beware).

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Owen enjoying the water

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The water by our house

 

We spent the afternoon drinking piña coladas and beer, swimming, lounging, showering, and reading in hammocks. Just delightful. I forgot what it was like to just slow down. Around sunset, we made sure to place ourselves on the beach so we could take some photos of the bright oranges, reds, yellows, and pinks that stretched on forever. It was like a painting out of some expensive coffee table book. I wouldn’t have believed the colors if I hadn’t been there to see it for myself.

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Beautiful textures

 

For dinner, we had coconut rice, herbed fish, a potato-esque salad called, “cho cho”, and bread pudding with rum sauce. After dinner, we retreated to our cabin and brainstormed our resolutions and goals for 2014. *Side note- we didn’t actually end up doing everything we had planned in 2014… but it was a great year, nonetheless* :0)

Until tomorrow!

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A kayaker enjoying the setting sun

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I just can’t get enough of those palms!

 

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Dangriga, Belize –> South Water Caye, Belize

December 29, 2013.

We woke up at the Pelican Beach Resort in Dangriga, Belize around 7:00am. The mattress was firm the air conditioning was cold, and the beach was near. We ate breakfast at the resort: a “Belizean Breakfast”- coffee, water, scrambled eggs, fried jacks (giant puffy pastries), refried beans, cheese, bacon, and habanero hot sauce. Yes, I know. HUGE breakfast. It was delicious. We packed up our bags and made our way down the dock to catch our boat at 9:00AM to South Water Caye.

Andrew checking out the view of the dock on mainland Belize

Andrew checking out the view of the dock on mainland Belize

The boat was small and fit our group plus the luggage; it was completely open air. The ride took about 45 minutes. We docked on the tiny caye where we were greeted by Leonardo. He walked us literally 5 yards to the office where we were given water, tea, coffee, and juice (available all the time). He also pointed out the bar. We were given a short tour of the office building which was complete with a library (books, games, puzzles), and a white board that would list the daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans. Life here on the island is simple; no making choices. The kitchen staff makes the menu and that’s what goes. After touring the building, we were taken to our cabins; Andrew and I are staying in “Osprey”- a duplex where Andrew’s parents were also staying. There are kayaks available for our use 24/7 and snorkeling right off the beach. Basically, I’m in heaven. The cabins are on the water.

The group getting the official tour!

The group getting the official tour!

Owen and Aunt Sarah checking out the water.

Owen and Aunt Sarah checking out the water.

Lunch was fish sticks, squash, garlic rolls, ginger cookies, and piña coladas. I know what you’re going to say– Meghan, you don’t eat seafood. Correct. I simply didn’t eat the fish sticks; you learn to go with the flow here. Everything is relaxed. There are no schedules, no facebook to update, no work to do. Just relax. You want to lie on the beach all day? Awesome. You want to snorkel all day? Awesome. You want to kayak to the research station off in the distance? Awesome. You want to lie in a hammock and ready? Awesome. Everything is awesome.

Want to sit in a chair all day on the beach? Awesome!

Want to sit in a chair all day on the beach? Awesome!

After lunch, we kayaked all the way around the island (really only took about 40 minutes) and snorkeled. There are a ton of fish off this island and I swear I will never get tired of them. We showered with cold rain water (perfect way to cool down) before heading up to the bar for a few cold drinks: Belikan Beer, Piña Coladas, and CocoLoco (no clue what was in this last one- they wouldn’t tell us!) For dinner, we dined on Conch Civiche, Lobser Tail, Marinated Salad, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, and Coconut Pie for dessert.

One of many, MANY Piña Coladas consumed on the trip.

One of many, MANY Piña Coladas consumed on the trip.

 

We were pretty exhausted from a day of relaxing, so we headed to bed around the time the sun went down. I couldn’t tell you what time that was– I didn’t know and I didn’t care. We read by dim light for a bit (all the lights are solar powered here), we gazed out at the giant expanse of sky with millions of stars, and then we went to sleep. Tomorrow afternoon we are going on a snorkeling trip. The office has a bunch of excursions available. You just tell the what you want to do and they make it happen.

I could get used to this life.

 

Check out our fun day of travel to Belize here.

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Nusa Lembongan: Another Island Paradise

For the last two nights of our trip in Indonesia, we were scheduled to be on Nusa Lembogan, a small island off the coast of Bali [and a part of Bali]. It is right next to Nusa Penida, another small island. Andrew set this part of the trip up and it was awesome! As you already read, the first day started in Ubud on our rather crazy, hectic, fun scooter adventure around Ubud. When we eventually made it back to Swasti Eco Lodge, we packed up our stuff, checked out, and grabbed our ride to the coast. When we arrived at the ticket office, we talked over our reservations, and then moved to the beach. When the speedboat appeared on the beach, the employees grabbed our bags and loaded them first. Then it was our turn. True to the island life, we took our shoes off, rolled up our pants, and walked through the water to the boat ladder. The boat was small- about 6 or so benches. It was covered on 3 sides with windows. We all sat down and took off. If you’ve never been on a speedboat before, let me tell you, it’s pretty insane. I don’t get motion sickness at all and I love boats, but this ride was crazy. I’m pretty sure I left a dent in the bench back in front of me from squeezing so tightly. The boat “FLEW” over the water, hitting massive waves where water would cover the boat. I don’t think I like riding under the covering of the boat… next time I’ll opt for the open air part. After an hour or so of too much crazy [I think it was actually a 30 minute ride, but felt longer], we pulled up to the coast of a small island. Boats everywhere. It looked awesome. Again the employees carried off our bags and then we followed in suit. We waited a bit until a truck with two long benches in the bed came over. Again we loaded our bags and ourselves up. On this island, there are very VERY few cars/trucks. In fact, I think the one we were on was one of about three. The truck drove us around dropping everyone off here or there on the island. We were the last to be dropped off. We were staying at Alam Nusa Huts and Spa.

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The first night on Nusa, we relaxed. We walked down to the beach [about a 5 minute walk] and enjoyed the sunset. We chatted with the owners of Alam who were so completely friendly and we dined on delicious Indonesian meals and tropical drinks. We also lined up a snorkel trip for the morning. In the morning, we ate breakfast at Alam [can’t get enough of Nasi Goreng!] and then we met up with our boat driver for the snorkel trip. He wasn’t very talkative but apparently knew the folks who owned Alam, so we happily followed along. He took us two different places; one a calmer place for snorkeling and the other on a drift. It was awesome. So many fish and coral. He also brought along bread that he crumbled up and threw in the water to attract the fish– they were everywhere and completely surrounding us. Just an awesomely amazing experience. To top it off, we went in a traditional fishing boat- just the two of us. What an awesome time.

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After the snorkeling trip, we changed our clothes and decided to try another place for lunch that was a few buildings down from where we were staying. Ah island time. We were the only ones in an open-air restaurant that had darts and pool tables. We ordered and were served and then the person working disappeared. As in, we could have gotten up, left, and never returned and no one would have even noticed. It was relaxing and fantastic, but we had sights to see! We paid our bill and then grabbed a scooter to explore the island. We drove all the way to one end and sat amongst mangrove trees, sipping out of a fresh coconut… then we turned around and crossed the bridge between the two parts of the island– only accessible by scooters and walkers. We watched on as workers farmed seaweed [the big economic focus of the island]. We  took pictures of seaweed drying and looked at plots set-up just off the beach using bamboo stakes. We drove by a cemetery where a large platform used for cremations was still smoking from the previous day. We walked through the small road-side shops, talked with locals, and purchased bamboo goods and batik fabrics. We explored every edge of the island under the beautiful sun, shaking our heads and laughing at what an amazingly awesome time we had on the trip. We finished our day with a delicious dinner at Alam. It was starting to sink in that we were leaving. But really, our adventure was just beginning– we were getting ready to fly to San Francisco, California, to embark on an 8-day, 525 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Santa Monica to raise awareness of Arthritis. A bike ride, that we hadn’t even trained for.

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Indonesia is a place of awesome culture and bountiful beauty. It is colorful and vibrant and full of love and passion. I would spend so much more time there if I had the chance. There is so much to see and do. I would recommend it to anyone craving adventure and one hell of a time. Andrew summed it up perfectly– “Never have I felt closer to death… and never have I felt more alive.”

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Until next time, my friends…

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Freo: Where Everything Wrong is Made Right

So, after my awful experience at The New Esplanade, I packed up my belongings and went to check out. The woman at the front desk was really nice and offered me one night of rent back which I gladly took and headed off in search of the train station. My original plan was to check out Kings Park today, but I figured I’d save that for Friday before my flight, since I need to head back this way as it is…

I made my way the short distance to the train station, stopping off at “Pie Face” for a nice strong coffee. They let you decide how badly you need to be woken up– “kick in the arse” seemed about right to me. This little coffee shop also has a number of, you guessed it, pies. Most of them are savory pies, which I just can’t get into to… but i know they’re huge in England and also in Aussie. I just can’t do it. If you like them though, there are a wide range of options and as the commercials on TV have let me know– they’re now also served at KFC.

Anyway, I headed off to the Perth Underground Train Station. Remember how I talked about how awesome the Australia public transportation system is because it’s so intuitive and provides all of your options right in front of you? Apparently that’s not the case throughout Australia. Luckily, I had looked up my journey online before heading to the train station- something that I would highly recommend for anyone traveling around Perth. Transperth is a fantastic website with a journey planner that also says how much it will cost and how many zones you will be traveling in. Prices are assigned based on the number of zones you’ll be traveling and for a period of time you may travel on any public transportation within the paid for zones [ferry, bus, train]. Anyway, I knew that to travel from Perth City Center to Fremantle, it would cost me $4.20 and I would be traveling 2 zones.

I walked up to a self serve ticket machine and entered “adult” and “2 zones”. A little screen popped up reading “$4.20”. I went ahead and added the money and received a tiny little “ticket” which was more of a small piece of paper that said “2 zones” good until “1:30PM”. I headed towards the trains and bypassed the ticket stalls [only for folks using a smart rider card- similar to a Smart Trip card in DC or other sort of frequent rider card in other cities]. There was a guard who took a look at my ticket and pointed me in the right direction- Platform 7 for Fremantle. I made my way through an old building under construction and across the train tracks to my platform. About 5 minutes later, the train pulled up and everyone piled on– there was still enough room to sit which I was thankful for since the ride was supposed to be 35 minutes or so.

As we got closer to Fremantle, I looked out the window and was delighted to see water. I was already happier than I was in central Perth. I also saw a lack of high rise buildings which made me even happier. Cities are fine, but give me the coast and the country any day. When I disembarked in Fremantle and walked out onto the street, I knew I was in the right place. Fremantle, or Freo, as the majority call it is awesome. Seaside town, small shops, good microbrewery, parks, access to ferries and trains. Just awesome. Since I had some free time until I had to check into my new hotel, I decided to try out one of the breweries that I had read about the previous evening– The Monk Brewery and Kitchen.

The Monk Brewery and Kitchen was fantastic. Just such a cool place. I giant building on the main street of Freo. And that my friends, is a story for the next post!

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Broken Hill, New South Wales

G’day everyone… or evening or whatever time it may be when you read this entry. It’s currently 7:00PM as I write from my cabin and the Indian Pacific rolls out of Adelaide, beginning the second half of its journey. We’re in the state of Southern Australia now and will be for the next 24 hours or so. This morning, I had set my alarm for 5:30AM. We were supposed to arrive in Broken Hill around 6:30AM and breakfast was starting at 6:00AM, so I figured I’d get an early start. I woke up around 5:15AM and felt pretty good. No alarm needed; if only my body worked like that at home when I was going to be late for my job. Oh well.

I headed down to the lounge car and found only one other couple. The sun was just beginning to rise and it was absolutely gorgeous. A little while later I was seated in the diner car ordering breakfast. This morning’s menu included the “Australian Full Breakfast”… scrambled eggs, toast, a sausage link, a piece of “middle bacon” [honestly, it was sort of a cold piece of ham], a grilled button mushroom, a grilled half tomato, coffee, and apple juice. I ended up not eating the meat and sticking with the rest, it was pretty good and tasted great after a wonderful night’s rest.

After breakfast, I ran back to my cabin and grabbed my camera and wallet because we had arrived a bit early to the Broken Hill station. I disembarked and headed to the front of the station; our designated meeting location. Handing over my ticket, a tour guide welcomed me and instructed me to hop on the tour bus [large, comfortable, air conditioning]. The bus took a brief tour of the town; the guide was knowledgeable and friendly. He introduced us to the background of Broken Hill including how it got its name and pointed out several of the major buildings including town hall and the Pro Hart Art Gallery; well known around Australia.

After the brief drive, we headed up to Broken Earth; a memorial for miners who have died in mine-related accidents. The memorial looks sort of like a cross between a protractor and the Sydney Opera House… come on, you know you see it in the picture below! The base of the memorial is in the shape of a cross, interestingly enough. Inside the open-air memorial is a large glass wall containing all of the late miners’ names including the date they died and how they died. I thought it was interesting that the memorial wall includes the how they died… something that I think interests people and makes it more real…and something that you don’t typically find in memorials. Each name has a rose next to it. If the name has a white rose next to it, it signifies that this is the month that the miner passed. The miner memorial also provided a great view of the town of Broken Hill. The town itself wasn’t much to see but it was cute and quaint and exactly what you’d imagine in a mining town.

I will admit that it was pretty sad to see the hills destroyed by mining. Much of the land has been torn up and destroyed, never to be the same again. It took me back to undergraduate times when my class explored the world of mountain top removal in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Tennessee.  After a bit more of a drive around town, we headed back to the station and re-boarded the train…. But not before paying a visit to a woman’s “handmade chocolates” stand. With a salted caramel and a champagne chocolate in hand, I hopped back on the train and settled in my cabin to watch the landscape flow past as we continued on to Adelaide.

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A Day in Sydney!

Hi Everyone: I finally have internet access again so I am posting my entries from the past few days! Enjoy 🙂

As I sit in train car K, birth 14, typing away on my Macbook Pro, watching as the outskirts of Sydney, Australia pass by my picture window, while I sip on a complimentary Adelaide Hard Apple Cider, I can’t help but seriously be amazed at the world we live in; how is it possible that less than 48 hours ago, I was sitting in the Los Angeles, California Airport typing a blog post about spending a day in an airport terminal and now I’m on the other side of the world relaxing with a cold drink in my private single gold class cabin on a train? If that doesn’t make you just sit back in awe for a moment, I don’t know if I want you to continue following this blog!

After I landed at the Sydney International Airport around 6:40AM and made it through customs, questions, and quarantine, I made my way to the only thing on my mind; COFFEE. I was craving decent and delicious coffee and I found it at a little shop outside of the airport. Unfortunately, I had momentarily forgotten how expensive life in Australia can be; my small black coffee on ice was $5AUD. Craziness. Perhaps it was just the airport proximity? Either way, it was exactly what I needed and retrospectively, I would have paid $10AUD for it.

My next destination was to figure out where I needed to be in order to board my coast to coast train ride that was departing around 3:00PM. I had previously researched the best and fastest way to get to the train station and that was using one of the Sydney public transportation trains. The train area of the airport was clearly marked and in no time, I found myself standing in front of a ticket machine. I must pause here and give accolades where they are due. The Sydney public transportation system = awesome. There really is no other word to describe it.

You know the feeling when you show up in a new place and want to find your way through the transportation system and you go to buy a ticket and you have no idea how much it needs to be because the damn charts on the machine are all over the place? Yeah, not in Australia. I walk up to the screen. I see the names of the stations; I know I need to get to Central Station. I click on it [touch screen, another awesome technology advancement that DC ahem! needs]. Then I see along the left-hand side of the screen: Adult, Child, Student, Senior. I press on “Adult”. Then I see ticket options: “Single”, “Return Trip”, “7 Day Pass”. I select “Single” because I am traveling one-way. The price pops up in the “total” field and I have a choice of inserting money or a credit card. 10 seconds later, I have a ticket and a receipt, including the platform number where I need to be and I’m on my way. Awesome. The platforms even have screens showing you a list of when trains will arrive and a list of the stops that will come after the current one. My last shout out to Australian train systems: they have double-decker trains. They still get crowded, but there is SO MUCH MORE room than other transportation systems that I have had the displeasure of riding.

After finding my way to where I needed to check in for my afternoon train [I asked several Aussies for help and they were all friendly and full of smiles], I decided to do a bit of exploring around Sydney since I had a few hours [it was around 9:20AM at this point]. I grabbed a map from the station and made my way towards Hyde Park and then to the Botanical Garden and eventually, my ultimate destination: the Sydney Opera House. I had visited the Opera House when I studied abroad in Queensland, but the building is still gorgeous and iconic and I just love it. I took a bunch of pictures of gardens, the opera house, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and the other pockets of parks throughout the downtown area.

I hopped on a Sydney City Train to get back to Central Station before walking outside again in search of some free wifi and a snack. A short 10 minute walk later found me at Coffee @ Seconds. This little coffee shop was perfect. I ordered a cookies and cream Frappuccino [because why not, I’d never had one before] and a chocolate croissant [the walking made up for it right?] and took a seat near to the open air front of the café. A little while later I headed back up to Central Station to check in for my train ride. Around 1:30PM, I checked in and was told that boarding was at 2:00PM, but as a gold ticket traveler, I had access to the bar and lounge complete with free beer, wine, spirits, and non-alcoholic drinks. I passed up the lounge trip so that I could have some video chat time with Andrew. I’m finally on his side of the world and only 3 hours ahead of him! It’s hard to believe that in less than a week I’ll get to see him again!

At 2:00PM, I bid adieu to Andrew and headed for my car “K” and my birth “14”. The hallways of the train are rather small; smaller than say, Amtrak, if you’ve ridden on it before. There are quite a few rooms in each car [I mean, I was #14 and there were a few after me]. I was placed on a car of single riders. I opened my home away from home for the next 3 nights and was pleased with what I found. I have a nice chair, table, and footrest. I have a large picture window, I have a mirror and a mini “closet” with hangers. I also have a pull down sink, another mirror with a shelf of sorts, a towel/washcloth/hand towel combo, and a little baggie of toiletries [shampoo, conditioner, etc]. The showers are down the hall and the toilets are the opposite direction. Pretty awesome! After a few announcements and an introduction and hello from my car attendant, we were on our way!

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Categories: Australia | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Vacation for a Good Cause: Arthritis

Hello Friends:

Well, we’re about a month and a week away from a super crazy vacation for a good cause: arthritis. September 28th October 5th, Andrew and I will be biking 525 miles from San Francisco to Santa Monica, CA in the name of arthritis. We’ll be heading off with Andrew’s brother, Austin, and their cousin, Alex, along with a bunch of other folks from around the country.

This event is very personal to me, as I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), a form of arthritis of the spine and back, less than 5 years ago. Injectors and ice in toe, we’ll be biking and camping along the Pacific Coast Highway and trying to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation and Arthritis Research.

We’re planning on getting some posts up here on the blog and also on twitter. Our twitter handles are @leachleachleac and @klasicm. Hope to see you there!

If you’re interested in donating (any amount is great), here’s the link to my page: http://afcabikeclassic.kintera.org/mklasic
If you’re interested in reading about why we’re riding, here’s the link: http://teamz.austinleach.com#sthash.W3Rdh4H0.dpuf

In the meantime, we’re getting ready for our next adventure: training for the California bike ride by biking in Bali, Indonesia for 10 days in early September!

See you around!

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Categories: Biking | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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