January 31, 2003

Mt. Victoria ... "Get off the road!"

I slept in today, and woke up at 10:00 AM feeling refreshed. I met a group of friends, and we decided to hike to the top of Mt. Victoria, which rises up from the edge of Wellington, and overlooks the surrounding area. We caught the cable car down into the city, and started our trek toward the mountain. Along the way, we walked past The Embassy Theatre, where I had seen The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers a few days before. I have included a picture of this very cool theater below.

After about a 30 minute walk, we found the base of the mountain, and began climbing on the path. Today in Wellington, it was quite windy, with gusts of up to 55 mph. This proved to make our journey quite difficult =) We climbed up the trail for over an hour, and eventually reached a lookout at the top of the mountain. The view was absolutely incredible, and I took a panoramic shot (composed of 14 images) with my digital camera (Adobe PhotoStitch is awesome).

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On our walk down the mountain, we used my Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook to track down a few spots that appeared in the films. The directions were pretty bad, but we were able to find a great location from the first film. Early in the film, after the hobbits have left for Rivendell, they are on the edges of the Shire, and are on a path trying to avoid black riders. At a certain point, Frodo goes onto the trail and the camera pans onto him as he says "get off the road!" We found this spot! Very cool stuff... Dad, I am sure you are jealous!

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Well, I am still having a great time here in Wellington, and I hope to blog at you more later! This tiny little city is packed chock full of fun!

Posted by panix at 11:57 PM

January 30, 2003

Zebo's, "The Fats", and Somes Island

Last night, we decided it would be a good night for going out on the town, since there were a few people having birthdays yesterday. A friend of mine from Wellington gave us some tips on where to go, and we headed out and met her at a little bar called Zebo's. We stayed there for a little while, and then travelled to Wellington's most famous bar The Fat Lady's Arms, or as they lovingly call it "The Fats". The Fats is to bars what Waffle House is to restaurants. As a result, The Fats has a sign inside proclaiming that it is "the best bar in the world." After my experience there, I don't doubt it. We had a great time hanging out there, playing pool, and people-watching, and we eventually called it a night.

This morning, we went on a field trip with my Biology class to see Somes Island, which is a small island out in the center of Wellington's waterfront harbor. The island used to be used as a quarantine for animal research, and has since been turned into a wildlife reserve. We hopped on a ferry for a short 20 minute ride and arrived at the island around 11:00 AM. We were free to walk on the island pretty much all day, and started by hiking around the island's perimeter. While walking we encountered sheep, birds, and beautiful mountainous landscapes. The view was also excellent, but we decided that walking around the island wasn't enough.

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A few of us broke off from the rest of the group and left the path to find a way to climb to the island's peak. We found a small path hidden somewhat from the main track, and ducked our way through vegetation until we emerged at the top of the island. The view was amazing, and we had put ourselves in a little bit of danger — which felt good. Not good enough though... so we found a tree at the crest of a hill, and took turns climbing it in the furious wind. Satisfied with ourselves, we descended back down to the base of the island, and ate lunch on a little stone bench with a beautiful view of the ocean and Wellington.

This evening, we went to see "My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding" at a theater down on the waterfront, and took it easy because we were all exhausted. Still having a great time here in Wellington, and I miss you all!

Posted by panix at 11:14 PM

January 29, 2003

Life in Wellington

We arrived in Wellington a few days ago, and I have been very busy since the second we touched the ground. We are staying at a dormitory for Victoria University called the Weir House. Its a very nice building, its close to downtown, and the food isn't too bad, but probably the worst of the places we have stayed so far.

Wellington is a tiny little town on the north island that is actually the capital of New Zealand. If I had to describe it in one word it would be quaint. Since Wellington only has about 400,000 residents, it has a much quieter downtown than any other city I have visited. All of the shops close around 5:00 PM (sometimes as late as 6:00) and most of the convenience stores close before 9:00 PM. While this all may be true, there is no shortage of things to do in the city.

The first day I spent in Wellington, we walked around the city to get a feel for it and then we went to see Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers at the Embassy Theatre, the location of the Australian Premeire of the first two films. The third film will have its world premeire at this theater, and they are gearing up already. They have built a giant stone Gollum creature on top of the building and he is climbing over the roof, and are spending several million dollars renovating the inside of the theatre. This was a great experience, and I loved the movie (again).

Yesterday was a bit more eventful as we took the cable car up the hill to the Botanic Gardens and took some pictures of the city from the lookout points. We then walked down the hill into the city itself and took a tour of the New Zealand Parliament building.

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Today, I went to Te Papa museum to catch the Lord of the Rings exhibition. This was absolutely phenomenal, especially considering that I am a huge dork, and thus a massive fan of the books and the films. I was able to see most of the costumes, weapons, rings, etc. that appeared in the movie, including Gandalf's costume and staff, Frodo's costume, all the rings of power, with the exception of The One Ring (which apparantly Elijah Wood has), and more. There were video screens throughout the exhibition with hours of documentary footage related to the portion of the exhibit that you were in. I can't say enough about how cool this was. After over two hours in the exhibition, I walked down to the gift shop and purchased a guidebook that gives directions and details on all of the Lord of the Rings sets on both the north and the south islands of New Zealand.

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So far, I really love it here. The weather is pretty good, the city is unbelievably beautiful, and there is a lot to see and do! The city and architecture remind me of San Francisco, with the rolling hills and beautiful homes built into them. But, the city is much smaller and doesn't really have any of the problems that a city like San Francisco has. Its a very beautiful place, and I will try and blog more often from this point out. However, we do not have internet connections at all, and all the cafes are very far away, so I will have to update less frequently for these three weeks.

Until next time!

Posted by panix at 02:31 AM

January 26, 2003

Departing Melbourne

Friday afternoon, a group of us rented a car to visit the famous Little Penguin Parade on Phillips Island. We departed Melbourne around 2:00 PM and, after a short period of adjusting to the roundabouts, left handed driving, and the world's oddest right-hand turns, we were on our way. In Melbourne they have a light-rail system with high levels of coverage, meaning that most streets have two rail cars (trams) running directly down the center. In order to make right hand turns and avoid the trams, the city of Melbourne concocted a very strange system in which you must pull to the far left lane of the road and wait for the green light that you are at to turn red before you turn right across the oncoming traffic. Needless to say, this takes some getting used to.

On the way to the island, we stopped at the Gurdie Winery, which is one of some dozen odd wineries along the highway. We were delighted to find that they gave free tours and wine tastings. Being a good sport, I tried everything that they had, and found that I really enjoy Muscat, which is similar to port wine, but is flavored with raisins, apricots, and other dried fruits. On the way out, we purchased a fresh bottle of their excellent Cabernet for $10 AUD (about $6.00 US).

We arrived in Phillips Island around 5:30 and stopped at a stone grill restaurant to have a bite to eat. I ordered a seafood special with mussels, calamari, shrimp, fish, and clams. The food arrives raw on a piping hot lava rock and cooks in front of you to your taste. The food was fairly good, but the restaurant reminded me a lot of American fondue restaurants that wow you with boiling pots of dangerous oil, broth, and cheese and then charge you $35 for about 5 ounces of steak that you have to cook yourself. Regardless, stone grills are an experience worth having once, but probably not worth repeating.

After dinner, we headed out to watch the little penguins. Around sunset each night, about 60,000 football sized penguins waddle in from the ocean to feed their young. We were stationed on a boardwalk about 100 yards from the ocean and were able to see them as they waddled past. These animals are the single cutest little buggers you will ever see. Its like a giant bizarre cocktail party as thousands of little tuxedo adorned footballs emerge from the ocean, fighting, falling over, and then proceed waddling to their nests. This was a great experience, but we were unfortunately not allowed to take pictures.

We left the island around 11:00 PM and arrived back in Melbourne around 1:30 AM. I slept until noon on Saturday, did my laundry, and packed up my things and am currently in the air en-route to Wellington, New Zealand. I truly enjoyed my stay in Australia, and I have high hopes for New Zealand. I am not sure if we will have an internet connection in Wellington, or about the availability of internet cafes, so it may be a while until I update the blog.

I leave you with one quick picture that summarizes my last few days in Australia.


The above is a weather forecast comparing Atlanta and Melbourne a few days ago. Note that today in Melbourne, it reached a record high 44 degrees Celsius. If my calculations are correct that is approximately 111 degrees Ferenheit. Winter in hell is slightly colder than summer in Melbourne. Man, I love this country!

I miss and love you all!

Posted by panix at 01:37 PM

January 23, 2003

The Mornington Peninsula

Yesterday, my biology class took a field trip to Cape Schank on the Mornington Peninsula. In 1967, Australia's Prime Minister Harold Holt went for a swim in the Mornington Peninsula, never to return. There are many theories about Holt's death, my favorite being that he was abducted by an American submarine. Most people just think he drowned =)


We arrived at a scenic lookout after a short bus ride and then climbed down a long boardwalk toward the tidal pools and rock formations below. Once we arrived at the base of the mountain, we were greeted with a gorgeous view of the ocean as it splashed up onto the rocks. There were many little creatures lurking in the tidal pools, like sea urchins, aneomones, crabs, and barnacles. A very beautiful scene for sure!

A few of us got inspired and decided, against the probably sound advice of the instructors, to climb the steep rocks as far up as we could. Yes, I know that this is a bad idea, but I am still alive, and I have some great pictures as a result! The view from the top was amazing. Absolutely incredible. I spent a solid 30 minutes on top of the rock, looking out over the ocean, the tidal pools, and the rolling hillside.

We then hiked back up the boardwalk, and enjoyed some Golden Gaytime ice cream bars (I am not making this up, see the picture).

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Following our trip to the cape, we visited yet another beach. This beach, however, was different in several ways from the prior beaches that we have visited. First of all, the water was completely calm and was transparent to amazing depths. It also had deep, freezing water for the first 250 meters or so, and then rose up to a shallow, warm sandbar. A group of us went out onto the sandbar and tossed around a frisbee. We also saw many jellyfish, a sea cucumber or two, a very large fish that we have yet to identify, and best of all a sea horse. The sea horse was especially cool because it was strangely friendly to us. It swam right up to us, curled its tail tightly around our fingers and let us hold it while it swam around.

We are wrapping up our stay in Melbourne soon and preparing to travel to Wellington, New Zealand. Tonight I am renting a car with a small group and we are driving out to the southern coast to see the penguins emerge from the water and waddle around. A group went to see them yesterday and raved about it, so this should be exciting. I will try and post an update later tonight or tomorrow if possible.


Posted by panix at 08:43 PM

January 22, 2003


Well, long time no blog! Since its been a while since I updated, I will go ahead and give you a quick review of how things have gone for me since I last posted.

We arrived in Melbourne on Sunday in the evening after driving through the smoky landscape for nearly 9 hours. All in all, the Canberra brush fires were the worst in the recorded history of Australia, destroying over 400 homes, and killing a fair share of people as well. My jeans that I was wearing in Canberra now smell like I stood inside a chimney for a few hours. Very frightening, but it was interesting to be a part of Australian history!

Here in Melbourne, we are staying at Newman College, which is part of the University of Melbourne. Our rooms are nice, we have excellent internet connections, and the campus is beautiful. The food is awful... oh well, you can't have everything. The first thing that we did was walk out to the nearest "news agent" and purchase a pass for Melbourne's excellent light-rail system. For about $12 US, I am able to transport myself anywhere in the city that I may want to go. This just reminds me of how much I hate and do not miss Atlanta traffic.

Monday, I went to the Australian Open (tennis) and watched American James Blake lose, and ranked American Andy Roddick in a stunning comeback victory. This was a lot of fun, but was spoiled a bit by the weather (smoky), and the fact that I was still dead tired after the bus ride the day before.

Yesterday, we went on a field trip to a beach south of Melbourne via The Great Ocean Road and swam in freezing cold antarctic waters... well, other people did, I just watched them freeze. We then travelled to a temperate deciduous rainforest and had a brief hike. All in all, we spent about 6 hours in the bus and one hour actually on the field trip... not so good, but tomorrow's is supposed to be a bit better of a trip.

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That evening, a group of us went to see Mulholland Drive in the Royal Botanical Gardens in an outdoor theater. We stopped at a "bottle shop" beforehand to pick up some good wine and a few snacks, spread out blankets, and enjoyed the show. This was an absolute ton of fun in spite of the fact that Mulholland Drive is probably the worst excuse for a film that I have ever seen. Typically, I like strange, quirky, and confusing movies... but this just went too far. We spent most of the movie laughing out loud at how horrible the movie was. Great fun!

After class today, a few friends and I decided to take a walk out on the town and do some sightseeing and shopping. We took a "tram" down to the beautiful victorian central station, and then walked along the river toward the Aquarium and Casino. Along the way are shops, open air cafes, street artists, musicians, and other wonderful sights. Melbourne is truly a beautiful city, and is currently battling Brisbane for my favorite city in Australia award.

Posted by panix at 07:27 AM

January 18, 2003

Welcome to the bush.

This morning, we departed Sydney for a brief stop in Canberra, city's tiny and much maligned capital city, before heading to Melbourne. About three hours into our busride we began to notice a faint grey tint taking over the sky. Within 45 minutes, the entire sky was nearly black, the sun peeking through like a bloodshot eye. I was almost certain that the apocalypse had arrived.

It turns out that we were unlucky enough to arrive in Canberra as it was thrusted into the center of the worst brush fires to hit Australia in nearly 150 years. Over 100 homes have been destroyed by fire today in this drought-stricken community, and evacuation centers are packed. If I walk out of my hotel room, I can see and feel hot ashes falling from the sky, coating everything. It is an amazing and terrifying sight that is disappointingly difficult to capture as a photo because it is so dark.

Now, I really feel like I am in the bush!

Posted by panix at 07:54 AM

January 17, 2003

Sydney's perspective

Today was my last full day in Sydney, and I think that I have finally developed a real sort of appreciation for the place. Is Sydney the clean, cultured, picturesque city that Brisbane is? No, decidedly not. At first impression, Sydney is a dirty, busy, unsafe city with a shiny surface around the harbor. After today, I am most certain that I was wrong about Sydney. Sydney offers you what many cities cannot: perspective.

Today was spent first by heading to a show at the famous Sydney Opera House called Black Chicks Talking, which tells the story of four very different women with aboriginal heritage. Before this show, I had no idea about the depth and beauty of the tradition of the aboriginal people. The show was simply beautiful! The women in the show were each torn between a love for the oldest known living tradition in the world and a desire to better themselves and know themselves deeply. I have a real and true appreciation for these people now, and I have already determined to pick up a book on the subject at my next location. The history of the aboriginal people is unquestionably moving, I would encourage everyone to learn about it. Never before had I realized that the issues surrounding aboriginals were so vast and complicated. Sydney's booming cultural icon has given me its first gift of perspective.

Today, I also visited Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens. It seems that every major city in Australia has a botanical gardens, and I must say, they are the best part of every city I have been in thus far. Certainly, Circular Quay and the Harbor are Sydney's most well known sites, and are breathtaking in the traditional sense, but for some reason these gardens fascinate me. There is something very beautiful about a garden in the center of a large city. The buildings soar overhead, while you look over long, beautiful fields spotted with exotic and beautiful foliage. People are sprawled all about, eating, reading, typing away on their laptops, and enjoying the sun and natural surroundings on their collective lunch breaks. Its just beautiful.

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Sydney's botanitcal garden is not nearly as well kept as Brisbane's, but like everything in Sydney, its scale is beyond any sort of logical comprehension — its just huge, and impossible to take in. The great thing about botanical gardens though is that you aren't trying to take in everything possible. Its not like with other tourist sites, where you have a list of locations and exhibitions that you absolutely must see. The botanical gardens are much more forgiving, because you can't see it all. In fact, you can spend hours on just one flower! I stood in front of a brightly lit sunflower for a solid half hour while bees buzzed and flew around its center in the wind. The fact that you are there, and appreciating God's creation in the midst of man's skyscraping works is the whole point. Like my experience in the Opera House, the gardens provided me with another gift of perspective. Staring up at a crowd of massive man-made structures, one is most certainly impressed with the complexity of what we have accomplished. But, then you immediately can stare at a single common flower, and be gripped by how amazing nature is. That's perspective.

Thanks, Sydney.

Posted by panix at 07:41 AM

January 16, 2003

Beaches galore...

The last few days, I feel like I have visited about 10 beaches =) Yesterday, a group of us took a bus over to Bondai Beach, which is a really great beach here in Sydney. Its close in, urban, and has fantastic waves and fairly clean sand. Since its an urban beach, its not quite as beautiful as, say, Moreton Bay, but it has its appeals. I spent most of my time lying on a towel, and reading a book. Very relaxing.

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Today, we had our second field trip in Sydney. It started with a trip to Long Beach, about 1.5 hours outside of Sydney. This was a great time, and I body surfed until I had taken in about 2 gallons of salt-water, and then sat on the beach for a while.

Following this, we headed over to the Long Reef Tidal Pools. The tidal pools are formed by a large rocky piece of land that is underwater for all but a few hours a day during low tide. We arrived about 10 minutes before low tide, and were able to walk on the rock and look around at the various plant and wild life. This was really amazingly cool, and we were able to see sea urchins, sea snails, hermit crabs, and an extremely dangerous kind of octopus. If this particular kind of octopus stings you, you will require nearly three hours of CPR just to stand a chance at survival. Great stuff =)

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After our experience at the tidal pools, we were taken to the North Head Beach, where we were let out for a few minutes to take pictures of Sydney from across the bay. From our vantage point we could see the entire city, the ocean, and a bright blue sky. It was really quite beautiful.

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Just when we thought it was all over, the bus dropped us off at Manly Beach just in case any of us needed a few more hours in the unbelievably hot sun. I elected to come back to the school to write a paper and then take a nice shower. What a great few days, but man am I completely beached out for a while.

Tomorrow is our last day in Sydney before our bus trip to Canberra and then Melbourne on Saturday. I am going to see the Royal Botanical Gardens, and then to the Opera House for a show. I will blog again tomorrow night!

Posted by panix at 04:41 AM

January 14, 2003

More fun in Sydney.

Today was a fun day, as my class took a field trip to several sites. First, we visited the Olympic Village from the 2000 Sydney Games. This was an excellent experience, because it reminded me a lot of home. Sydney built a gigantic brick park for the Olympics, with giant stadiums, and lots of room for sponsors. Now, like Atlanta, they are left with a big, hot, uncomfortable park that noone uses. Its really kind of sad! A good experience nonetheless =)

After this, we visited Blue Mountains National Park, about 2 hours outside of Sydney. The Blue Mountains are kind of like Sydney's answer to the Grand Canyon. We first went to a high-level platform to view a rock formation called The Three Sisters, which is basically three large rocks jutting out from the side of a large mountain. The formation has an aboriginal legend associated with it, and is very beautiful.

At this point, we took a hike down the Furber Steps, a trail carved into the side of the mountains that takes about 1.5 hours to hike. We stopped at various locations to view caves, grottos, and Katooga Falls. At the base of the mountain, we hopped onto the world's steepest inclined railway, and took a scenic train ride back up the mountain. This was by far the coolest part of my day.

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We wrapped up the day with a stop at Darwin's Walk, which is a hiking path that Charles Darwin visited years ago. Our class is entitled "Biology and Evolution Down Under," so our professor is extremely fond of Darwin, and thought that it was very important for us to walk in his footsteps.

Tonight, I am planning on heading to an internet cafe to update this journal, catch up on email, and do some browsing. After this, I will probably stay in and read a book, since I am feeling a little under the weather. I am having a fantastic time, and I hope that everyone is doing well back home! I miss you all so much, and I love you all! Lacey, hang in there, and give Winston a hug, I miss you and love you!

Also, a quick congratulations to Delta Chi on having a successful Spring Rush. You guys rock! Keep working hard to maintain everything we have worked for, I am proud to be associated with you.

G'Day, and no worries mate!
Posted by panix at 05:15 AM

January 13, 2003

Arrival in Sydney!

Yesterday, I arrived in Sydney after a short plane ride on Qantas. The flight was fine, but somehow they switched everyone in our group to Vegetarian meals, so I was forced to eat 3 tiny pieces of fruit for lunch... needless to say I was hungry when I arrived.

We are staying at the Santa Sophia college while we are here in Sydney, which is a strict catholic school with nuns everywhere. If putting 90 college students with a habit of binge drinking in the same place as 20 nuns (who incidentally wear habits) isn't a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is. Anyway, the rooms are fairly nice, and the food is excellent, so I am not complaining.

We didn't really do all that much last night once we got here, since we were all fairly tired, but this afternoon following class I went with a group and walked around downtown. We purchased a student bus pass for the entire week, and took the bus to the edge of the city and just started walking. About an hour and a half later, we ended up at the Sydney Opera House. The Opera House is a stunning building that I have seen pictures of many times, but experiencing it first hand was excellent. Of course, the building looks a lot better from afar than it does from up close, but its still a crazy and beautiful building.

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My first impression of Sydney is that it is a bit more like an American city than Brisbane. Sydney is about three times larger in population than Brisbane, slightly larger than Atlanta, and grew very quickly with very little planning. As a result, Sydney reminds me of home. It has its beautiful parts where the tourists go, but for the most part, its a bit dirty, and not nearly as attractive of a city as I thought it would be.

On the way home, I signed up with a group of people to go snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef when we are in Cairns in a few weeks. This promises to be very interesting. Anyway, I will blog again tomorrow after my field trip.

Posted by panix at 05:01 AM

January 12, 2003

Reflections: Brisbane

Brisbane is an amazing city. Even though it is the first city that I have visited in Australia, I am fairly confident that it will be my favorite. The city has a nearly ideal combination of my favorite parts of a city all rolled into one. Brisbane is near the beach, has a vibrant downtown bubbling with activity, boats one of the finest public transit systems that I have ever seen, and sits directly on a beautiful river. On top of this, the city has the most attractive outdoor public spaces in the world, including the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, and the South Bank outdoor market. It also has a fantastic cultural base with a popular Performing Arts Center, an excellent natural history museum, and some decent sports teams.

All in all, I adored Brisbane, and I would love to visit again. I will talk to you soon from Sydney!

No worries mate!

Posted by panix at 02:16 AM

January 11, 2003

Moreton Island

Yesterday a group of us took a day trip to Moreton Island, which is home to the world's largest sand dunes. We started the day at 6:00 AM with a bus ride, and arrived in Moreton Bay around 7:30 AM. We boarded a small racing sail-boat called SOLO, which has apparantly been around the world several times, and has won some fairly significant races. The boat departed for our 3 hour sail over to the island. We all enjoyed the boat ride out, which was smooth, sunny, and beautiful.

When we pulled into the island, we were allowed to jump off of the boat and take a swim over to the island. Once on the island, we were treated to a variety of water sports, including tubing and snorkeling around sunken ships. We were supposed to be allowed to sand board down 200 foot sand dunes, but the people running the trip claimed that the sand was too hot... but I don't buy it. So, I went ahead and climbed the dunes on my own several times, and ran down them, jumped off them, and generally put myself into danger — lots of fun =)

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The island was stunningly beautiful, and had the bluest and clearest water that I have ever seen. Overall, it was a great trip — until the ride back. The wind picked up about and hour before we left the island, and by the time we had eaten lunch and were preparing to head home, the wind was blasting us, and the ocean had sprung to life with some very large swells (6-8 feet). This made for a horrific 4 hour journey back home, complete with water splashing into the cabin, people puking over the side of the boat, and crying asian tourists. Luckily, one of the people on our trip brought prescription strength dramamine with them, and I took two of them. I basically just passed out in the cabin from drowsiness, and awoke with a pretty bad motion sickness hangover.

Overall the trip was fun, and I really enjoyed myself! I will make sure to blog later about a summary of my experience in Brisbane, and my journey to Sydney.

Posted by panix at 08:16 PM

January 09, 2003

Field trips and recklessness

Yesterday, my Biology class went on another field trip, this time to the Australian Zoo (home of the "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin), and to another beach at Noosa Head. This field trip was much less interesting than the last, but had a few bright spots.

After a short bus trip, we were dropped off at the Glass House Mountain range just outside Brisbane. We parked just next to a giant pineapple field, and there was a merchant on the side of the road selling fresh mangoes and lychees. I had never had a lychee before, so I bought a few, and really liked them. They are a small, red fruit with bumps all over them, and when peeled they reveal a tender, juicy, white flesh that tastes very similar to red grapes.

Following our short stop at the pineapple field, we reboarded the bus and headed back in the direction of the Australian Zoo, which I must say I found very disappointing. I saw only a few animals that I had not already seen the previous day, and found the crocodile presentation to be a little slow and overrated. Besides... Steve Irwin wasn't there, and that was kind of the point of the whole trip. However, I did get to see the most venomous snake in the world and a northern reticulated python, which is a ridiculously large snake.

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After departing the zoo, the bus dropped us off in Noosa Head, another beach near Brisbane that is a bit less touristy than Surfer's Paradise. My first impression of the beach was not very good... there were no waves at all, very few people, lots of seaweed, and not much to do. After doing a little exploration, a group of us found a private beach nearby that was breathtakingly beautiful and we spent most of our time at Noosa Head on this beach.

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After the field trip, pretty much the entire population of the trip took a bus into town for a night of fun at the local bars. We first visited The Victory Hotel, which was packed, had two for one drinks upstairs, and a live band out in the open air of Brisbane—very cool. At one point the band broke out into Sweet Home Alabama, which we all found pretty amusing =). After this we headed over to The Regatta, a smaller and classier bar near the college that was nearly empty and was very overpriced...

We found out the next morning that two people from our trip had been sent to the emergency room for drinking too much, but the good news is that both are fine and required no treatment. It amazes me how often people can lose track of their drinking when their body is telling them all along to stop... oh well.

Things are still going well, as I am about to head out to the Queensland Museum and back to the Botanical Gardens with a few folks from class. Tomorrow is the big day spent in Moreton Bay, and I will be sure to send an update as soon as possible on this experience!

Posted by panix at 10:12 PM

January 08, 2003

Beautiful Brisbane!

I arrived in Brisbane safely after the longest series of flights that I have ever experienced. After not sleeping for 30 straight hours, I finally managed to sleep on the last flight by taking some melatonin. It was all worth it — Brisbane is an amazing city.

Our bus arrived at Union College here in Brisbane at approximately 7:00 AM and we were given keys to our dormitory rooms, which are roughly equivalent to combining the quality of Georgia Tech Freshman dorms with the size of a typical GT on campus apartment. Not too bad. Once I arrived I promptly switched out of my boring Architecture class into the much more interesting and fun Biology class. This would pay off bigtime later =)

I spent the first day wandering around downtown Brisbane after taking a bus. This is probably one of the nicest cities I have ever been in. It has a bustling, but open downtown center with excellent public transportation in the form of busses and a really nice ferry service on the river called the CityCat. We walked through the city and happened upon city hall, the downtown square, and the absolutely beautiful Brisbane Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens are a gorgeous park located just adjacent to the center of the city in the spirit of New York's Central Park, only much much cleaner and nicer. The park is spotless, with excellent signage to help you learn about what you are seeing, picnic areas, a view of the river, and an awesome biking and running path. I just cannot say enough about this city!

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The next day, my Biology class took a day trip (which is considered a Georgia Tech lab) out to see Mount Tamborine. Here we hiked a two mile trail in a sub-tropical rain forest populated with gorgeous Eucalyptus, Buttressed, and Strangler Fig trees. The rain forest is covered with an amazingly dense canopy, which leaves a nice open, cool, and humid undercover to hike in. The trees are surprisingly far apart, and there are amazingly large boulders scattered through the undercover.

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Following the field trip to the rain forest, we travelled on the bus down the to the Gold Coast, which is home to one of Australia's most famous beaches called Surfer's Paradise. This was the single best beach I have ever been on! The waves were above 6 or 7 feet, making for very exciting body surfing, and the sand was clean and fluffy. After taking the bus home, we visited the casino in downtown Brisbane for $2.00 AUD beers (about a dollar each) and a little gambling (which of course I didn't participate in... waste of money).

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Today we had our first day of classes, which was boring, but tolerable. We had class from 9 AM until around 11:45, with a comfortable break in the middle. After lunch, a group of us decided to take the bus to the Pine Bluff Koala Preserve to see the Kangaroos, Koalas, Dingoes, Wombats, etc. up close. I was able to wander into a open field of over 50 kangaroos ranging in age from babies to full grown adults, and we could pet them, feed them out of our hands, and watch them bounce around. Then I went over to the Koala park and held a Koala bear in my arms for a few minutes (pictures cost 15 bucks, so I opted out of that).

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Well, that about sums things up for what I have done so far! I will try to update this more regularly from now on, but its tough since we are kept so busy. Tomorrow we are taking another field trip and heading to a second beach, and Saturday I have signed up to visit Moreton Bay on an all day trip complete with sailing, scuba diving with sunken ships, sand surfing down the world's largest sand dunes (over 200 foot high), and speed boat tubing. The full day cost me around $50 USD... wow =) I will make sure to update tomorrow, and hopefully I will finally be able to make some phone calls tomorrow.

G'day, and no worries!

Posted by panix at 04:01 AM

January 05, 2003

London and 24 hours of air travel

I am currently on the tail end of a 13 hour flight from London to Singapore, after spending the last day and a half in London. We arrived in London early in the morning, and spent the first part of the day resting before braving the cold weather to take a look at Tower Bridge, which was a stonesthrow away from the hotel. After this, I managed to meet some new folks, and we took the tube over to Liechster Square, where we went pub-hopping for a few hours — nothing beats a Guinness in a real pub! I got to sleep around midnight GMT and woke up early the next morning for some sightseeing. We visited big ben, parliament, Buckingham palace, and Westminster Abbey.
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Of all the places we visited, I truly enjoyed Westminster Abbey the most because it is absolutely inspiring. I spent a solid half-hour in a secluded room that they provide for prayer. I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to be on the trip, what a blessing! I also asked God to give me strength, because I am already missing Lacey like crazy... but I will survive. We are now making our final descent into Singapore before hopping on another plane to Brisbane, Australia for 7 and a half hours after a short layover. I will update on Brisbane as soon as I can!
Posted by panix at 05:16 AM

January 03, 2003

I am off!

At 6:45 PM, I took off for London on a Boeing 777, to return in 12 weeks. There isn't anything much worse than having to say goodbye to loved ones for 90 days. I am really going to miss all the comforts of home, but I am hoping that being outside of those comforts will allow for me to learn some new things about myself and the world.

I am currently over the Atlantic Ocean about an hour away from my destination, and they have just inexplicably turned on all lights in the cabin to serve breakfast. It seemst that they concluded that 2-4 hours of sleep between dinner and breakfast is just about right =)

Watching an entire cabin of people groan themselves awake is high comedy. Looking around the cabin, people are covered by blankets that are exactly too small to cover you, resting their heads on pillows that resemble chiclets in both size and texture... and we *pay* for this!

I will update later on today once I have spent some time in London. The plan is to enjoy a nice Guinness, and go on an epic quest to find somewhere to watch the college football national championship (impossible...).

Posted by panix at 12:46 AM