We got to spend a few days in Hutchinson visiting Deborah, Kyle, Abigail, and Ellinor. It was our first time seeing our new niece. She was pretty content to sit, eat, and poop but also shared a few smiles and baby cooing.
Here's Mom - multitasking.
It was also a delight to spend time with Abigail who was quite outgoing and talkative. She knew both of us by name and we got to play, read stories, tickle, mix muffins, and go for a walk.
Here's another picture of her. I liked it because it sort of looks like she could be a "monster" terrorizing the toys. Rarrrr!
Well we've made it back to Minnesota. As the plane began the descent, the pilot reported that the weather was clear and currently -2. Megan and I both looked at each other in shock. Then the pilot added "which is 30 degrees F". Much better!
Grandma and Grandpa picked us up at the airport and we've enjoyed hanging out, shoveling the driveway, doing laundry, and eating pie at Baker's Square. Jason's managed to hunt down a broomball game already. We're planning to spend some time with our new niece in Hutchinson and visiting Megan's parents before moving back into our own house on March 1.
We're excited to be back and hope to run into you all sometime soon.
We landed in LA this morning at 6:30 AM. The flight back is quicker than the one out because of the direction of the earth's spin (as Megan smartly pointed out to me).
After several phone calls to Qantas, I was still nervous that I'd have problems at the counter checking my kayaks. To my surprise when I mentioned I had them, the agent just said "Oh yeah, no problem" and that was that! Here's a photo of the guys wrapping one of the kayaks in cling wrap so that the gear I had packed inside wouldn't come out.
A view of San Fernando valley as we drove toward Barb's house. The freeway was practically as wide as 4 Kiwi roads! The other thing that amazed me was how many cup holders the minivan has - I counted 7 just within reach of the driver.
We're spending two nights with Barb and also had a chance to visit with Kelly and Alan again. We fly back to Minnesota on Wednesday morning and expect to be a bit shocked by the snow and cold.
Here are a few photos from our time in Australia:
Jason and Chris enjoying some food at the international festival.
At the museum we got to design futuristic homes and cars and them see them in a 3D world.
At the wildlife sanctuary, there was a friendly wallaby. It was incredible to watch them move around. When hopping they used their massive tail for balance. When "walking", they support their weight on a tripod of 2 front legs and a bent tail and slide their back legs forward. The shuffeling sort of looked like an inch worm moving.
Matt, Hannah, and Megan with the emu.
We enjoyed some art at the gallery in Melbourne and other art we just shook our head at.
The flight to Australia was a mere 4 hours or so instead of 16 or so it would be from the states. We spent three days in Canberra visiting Chris, a college friend of Jason. Cannberra is the capital of Australia so we took some bus rides to tour the different buildings. We also visited a toy car collection in the local art museum, stuffed ourselves at a food and dance festival, toured the observitory and offices where Chris works, went to a New Zealand BBQ, played soccer, and watched some movies.
Then it was off to Melbourne via a 8 hour bus/train trip. We were surprised with how much hotter Australia was than New Zealand (yes we know it is further north). The high was around 40 deg C for one of the days.
We made it to the tram stop in Melbourne with no trouble but the tricky part was finding Matt (who Jason hadn't seen in 7 years) or Hannah (who we had never met). Turns out we met on a crosswalk, Matt and I both almost walking by but doing a double take. After a delicious pizza dinner, we went downtown to watch the fire towers and eat ice cream on the boardwak. Over the next couple days we also explored the Victoria street market, took the city bus tour, relaxed at the beach, visited the art museum, and went to a wildlife sanctuary. One of the neat things at the sanctuary was seeing the koalas just before feeding time when they were crawling around and jumping between branches.
The flight back to Auckland from Melbourne was a little bumpy but nothing too bad. We finally sold our car at the backpacker's car market after spending a day being a car salesman. Not too much fun but at least we don't have to worry about it anymore. We're spending the last few days exploring Auckland before we leave on Monday for LA.
We stopped to visit Buzz and Patsy in Rotorua on our way north. It was a wonderful break from camping with hot showers, a comfortable bed, and home cooking. We went out fishing the first night and caught two trout. The boat we took out was an old wooden one that was all fixed up.
Megan taking apart her new souvenir.
Buzz and Jason with their fish. It was Jason's first trout and weighed 4.5 lb.
Well things are coming to a close on our holiday. We fly back to LA on Feb 15 from Auckland and then on to MN on Feb 17. We've also arranged to visit Chris O (college friend of Jason's) and Matt O (high school friend of Jason's) in Australia. We'll be in Canberra Feb 4-7 and Melbourne Feb 8-11.
We've found someone to store our gear/luggage while in Australia and today we needed a jump start which a fellow camper happily provided. The people we've met here have been great and made the trip a wonderful experience.
In the meantime, we've been making our way north toward Auckland. Currently we're in Raglan which is the 2nd best beach in the world for left hand breaking surf. Jason tried it out in his little blue playboat. He looked a little out of place with all the surfers but he had a riot. We also hiked to Bridal Veil Falls which was an impressive waterfall. Today we're heading for a walk in the Pirongia forest which was recommended to us way back at the beginning of our trip but we missed it on the way south.