Thursday, July 19, 2012

Underground river cave rafting!

This was quite possibly one of the craziest things ive ever done

We left our lovely cabin in Rotorua early in the morning to drive 2ish hours to Waitomo. It's a small town in New Zealand that is famous around the world for one thing-their caves!

It's the only place in the world that has just the right climate to be home to a million glowing worm. We later found out they're more like larva but still, so random! All I knew about our activity for the day is that 1. the company was called black water rafting and 2. We were going I see these glowing worms. Keep in mind it's freezing in New Zealand right now!

We arrive at the place and are lead down to be suited up! We put on a full wetsuit, a thick long sleeve, a wetsuit jacket, booties and then rubber boots. We all were already frozen before we even headed down to the caves. (I still don't know what to expect, like at all). We drive down, fully dressed/fully restricted and pick up black inner tubes. Then we're told to get back in the car with our tubes.

We drive more, park, and begin trekking it down the rainforest (inner tubes in hand). We see this itty bitty opening to a cave and river water flowing into it. We individually crawl down and get into the river. The guides send us one at a time into this cave, butts in the tube. We are then told to flatten out...we are floating far down into this cave and the ceiling/the top part of the cave (that takes a year to grow an inch) is maybe two feet from the water. We are floating down a river into this cave and I'm literally laying flat in my tube and having to follow the ceiling with my hands so I know I'll have air to breath. Finally it lets out and we are now 200 feet below ground. The river is rushing, rocks are obviously everywhere and i can only see because of the head lamp on my helmet.

I was in shock at the intensity of this and totally loving it. As a group, we all were freaking out. It was honestly nuts! We reached our first water fall and our guide casually tells us we are going to jump down, backwards, land in our tubes and keep floating until you link with the rest of the group at the bottom. Bombs away! A jumped off and was enveloped by the wave I caused jumping with the tube. The water was 5 degrees celsius. I'm not entirely sure how cold that is in fahrenheit but all I know it was dang cold! A kind of cold I've never really felt before, I felt like jack in titanic! Anyways, away we floated down the cave! Some parts you had to stand and walk cause it was too shallow and in other parts it was hundreds of meters deep.

We jumped down our second water fall that was higher than the last and formed a giant "eel" at the bottom. We faced backwards in our tubes and were all linked, foot to armpit. We turned off our lights and floated backwards down the cave, looking up was little glowing green specs covering all the cave! It reminded me of what the sky looked like in the outback, yet these were glowing worms and not stars and planets. It was magical!

We looked up and saw a tiny little dot of light that water was coming down like rain...that tiny dot was where the surface was! It was chilling; figuratively and literally. I was frozen because of the temperature and in disbelief I was so freaking far from the surface! We sang Disney songs, well, screamed Disney songs through out the cave. It was such a moment!

The cave rafting tour took three hours. I can honestly say that in those three hours, I had one of the most epic experiences in my life! There is no other way to describe the ridiculousness of it, you just have to experience it for yourself. We were treated with a warm shower and hot
soup after. It look an hour or so to regain feeling in my extremities but regardless, an unforgettable experience!

Forever my inspiration

The YSA members in the Rotorua ward will forever be my inspiration. I am referring to mostly the woman but of course, the men made a lasting impression. The women were the studs, they had unshakeable faith, and the kindest most humble of hearts. I learned lessons from them that I will reflect upon for the remaining of my life. They showed me what it truly means to live a Christ centered life. Their humility
struck me. It was eye opening to be with such beautiful females, who kicked the boys butts in rugby, who sang Maori songs like angels and were completely happy because they lived a life driven by the Holy Ghost. Three days was all it took to build eternal friendship with these women. If I never have the opportunity to see them again in this life time, I am certain we will have a fantastic reunion in the after life. Thank you, Kath Joyce, Nini Prescott,
Ladette Bradnock and Stallone Edmonds for inspiring me to be better.

Tiro tiro ki taku tau
Kei hea ra kei hea
Kei runga kei
Kei raro kei
Kei roto i taku moe moe a

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A day of play!

Today was perfect in every aspect of everything that occurred today...perfection!

1. French toast, bacon, eggs, kiwi and bananas for brekky! Drooling. Now. We've had toast with PB/nutella for breakfast and PB&J or nutella sandwiches for days! So thank the heavens for a hearty breakfast! I think I had 6 pieces of bacon. Whoops. Don't care!

2. Bungee jumping!! We all took the great leap of fear and loved every second of it! Kendall and I decided to go tandem this time around and I'm SO glad we did! It was so fun being able to hold on to each other and scream in each others faces while we plummet down and shoot back up! It was a hoot watching the rest of the group jump. I love our group! We all cheered for each other and showed such excitement for every person. We all were on cloud nine! However, this jump hurt my head a lot more than Switzerland surprisingly. Kenny and I thought our face was going to explode! But I won't touch of the negative parts of the experience. We got a crazy good deal on the jump and the video! 75 for the jump and 10 for the video! Switzerland was 200 for the jump and 35 for the pictures! So my saving account was happy...momentarily, before i spent more money on fun activities!

3. Zorbing! Once we all were a little too high on life after the bungee, we headed to our next activity...zorbing. Some may know what this is, but if you don't, you fly around in a little ball inside a huge ball that rolls down a huge grassy course. I chose not to participate cause it was a little too spendy but it was hysterical watching the others. Such a fun concept!

4. Luge! Everyone I talked to about activities to do in Rotorua would have a minor freak out attack at the topic of this! We bought a 50 dollar deal that included the gondola ride up the mountain and 5 rides on the luge tracks. We all were picturing some sort of an alpine slide in park city but boy were we fooled! This was so legit! There was a scenic, intermediate and advanced course. We say in carts and was just sent down the mountain. We were living a game in super mario cart. It the best way I could describe my experience. Flying down hills, skidding through turns, spinning out, passing the slow pokes, we all were screaming and laughing the entire way down. It was a paved course that was fairly wide, wide enough to be able to pass people and use shifty technique to go as fast as possible! We had 5 rides down and all 5 rides were the best rides ever! Send 20 college kids down a mountain on a freaking fast cart and things are bound to get crazy! Luckily no one was injured but we had some risky falls. We had a cheapo helmet on but that didn't do much. It was insane! I screamed down the entire time! There was multiple places where you literally got some solid air! It was nuts! I was think about my family a lot and how much fun they would all have here! Goodness I miss them if I think about them too much.

5. Hot springs with the YSA people again! They're awesome in every way and I've grown to admire the girls so much!

What a happy day today was! A perfect Avery day!

Lost in the Rainforest

Lost in the rainforest

Plans had to be altered due to the down pour we were experiencing. The original plan was to go on an 11 mile hike up to these huts (no people, no electricity, no nothing, just us) wake up, hike back and get going. However, nothing about that plan sounded appealing to anyone. So thankfully we went with another option.

We pull up to these random cabins in the middle of who knows where and are told to just hang out, nap, catch up on journals cause we were going to be stuck here until tomorrow. It's like noon. We finally got our fire place kind of thing cookin to give the frozen air a tid bit of degrees! A nice nap, bundled up in my sleep bag was actually really nice. And the fact that the sun sets at like 6pm here, it wasnt to hard to entertain ourselves. I've read the lucky one and I'm half way done with the help! I've read a lot and I love it!

Head lights pull up to our cabins and outcomes the YSA members to come for FHE! Two van full of Rotorua's young adults drove so far to come hang out with us! It was such a blast! We shared stories and ate and mingled and just loved their presence! they all are the most friendly people!

Our night sleep was again, cold in sleeping bags. It's hard to get ready for bed in the pitch dark and when the bathroom is far away and doesn't have toilet paper. So I, again, slept in the clothes I wore that day and went to bed. I think there might have only been a few nights in the past 3 weeks I haven't slept in my north face "cats meow" sleeping bag. We have a love/hate relationship.

We had to wake up bright and early to get out of there and to a school twoish hours away from our forest cabins. We get to the school and the precious 10 year olds preformed for us. They sang and danced so beautifully! It was so adorable. All their voices are like angels! After their pretty music, they did the Haka!...The dance that we all know as the rugby/football intimidating routine thingy! All us BYU kids now have it down solid and plan on having a little performance come football season. We sang them "call me maybe" and it was one of the most hilarious and embarrassing moment o my life. However, we got up and started dancing with the kids and it was awesome! Awkward moment turned fantastic when you add in dancing. We played with them in their class room and it was so tender how much they loved us. It was refreshing to be with kids again! Our goodbye was a hard one but we had to carry on with the rest of our day!

We ate lunch on the side of the road, out of the back of our vans! Lunch was a bag a rolls, nuetella, pb, dry ramen and dry cereal! Yum! Healthy eating in the south pacific!

Our redwood forest hike was next! It was incredible! So majestic being surrounded by such lush forestry! I felt like I was on the set of the hunger games. The beauty around us was truly breathtaking. I hiked with papa T, the instructor of the trip, and my soon to be professor come fall. We've grown so close and him telling me that I am like a daughter now is so cool cause I seriously LOVE his wife and daughter on this trip. We are all so bonded and I'm loving the relationships being built and strengthened on this trip!

We checked into our campsite, had some Chinese food for dinner and headed to the stake center for game night with the YSA group. We played touch rugby, some other crazy games and an awesome volleyball game! They were so fun to play with! The men are so athletic it's sick and honestly the girls are just as athletic! Every girl there was kicking butt! I was so impressed. Those islanders, I swear, are just naturally gifted with a rugby ball!

Our Maori experience

We flew into Auckland the night of the 14th and the feeling was all msuunanimously sad to leave Australia but so stoked for New Zealand! We had spent a little over two weeks down under and really grew quite fond of the place and the people!

We drive forever to this campsite place for the night and I was expecting to freeze miserably but to our pleasant surprise we were in crammed little cabins that warmed us right up! I slept the best id slept all trip so the 545am wake up call kinda really sucked! But we all agreed on this time cause it was the only way we could make it to all three hours of church...over two hours away.

The exhaustion in the morning was totally worth our experience at the Rotorua ward! Church I'm different countries is my most favorite! The spirit is so strong an the members are always so inspiring. I loved every bit of sacrament Sunday school and relief society! I wrote down so many insightful thoughts and really came away with great new ideas to better myself an my life. Ah! It was just fantastic.

Next up, Maori village! We drove more hours up and up into the forest. we pull up to this place and it's dumping rain. Like fully on dumping buckets of rain! We get out of the car (unenthusaticlly) and are immediately summoned by a "welcome song" but the tribal Maori family. This song was an invite to enter into their sacred building/large room place but wasnt only an invite to us...but our ancestors. This sacred room required the absence of shoes and an open heart. The walls were lined with old photographs of their deceased ancestors and this white paint design that represented the welcoming of angels. Once we entered the room in an orderly fashion, the family chanted and sang some more in their Maori language. This sacred room was where we were sleeping that night! Mattress pads were lined up around the room and it ended up being a giant sleepover with our ancestors! They told us some interesting things...they believe a family member of our planted a tree in the forest thousands of years ago that was chopped and is not apart of the wooden structure we were in. Also, that this meeting had been planned thousands of years ago for eachother and our ancestors to meet. Their culture was quite fascinating! It was a really neat and spiritual experience that night spent with the Maori tribe! It was cool to be reminded of our ancestors and their potential role in our eelveryday lives.

They fed us a yummy dinner and brekky and all in all it was an unforgettable experience! Oh and I forgot to mention that in order to even walk on their tribes sacred grounds, you need permission. So the opportunity that we had to actually be welcomed into their home, let alone sleep in their most sacred of rooms, their "holy of holies" they even said, is ├╝ber unique! So dang cool! Never would I ever have had any experience like this at another time!

Ps I forgot to mention how I only packed one outfit for cold weather so I've been in the same exact outfit for 4 days now...night and day! My pjs and day clothes. Judge me.

Second day in syd!

I started my morning in the best kind of way! A lovely run through the city, into central park was awesome! It was earlier enough that the streets weren't pack so we were able to run together while chatting away! I ran with Katie, Alyssa and Annalise. They're are the best! I admire them so much. Our ran was at a surprisingly fast pace cause we were just so excited! When we reached the park we had a little workout, thanks to Alyssa and her fitness training skills! She is a group fitness trainer! Ah she is the greatest! We were sweating like pigs, and loved it!

We stopped by the grocery store to pick up brekky on the way back from our run and bought apples, bananas, yogurt and a bag of huge carrots. We were tempted by the entire chocolate section 1/2 off but didn't give in! Go us! We showered and quickly got ready for the day ahead of us...a beach day!!

Bondi beach was where we began! The first place I saw was the cutest fruit shop and i had the most delicious mango of my life! Next, we indulged in the best fish and chips I've ever had! The fish was fresh and we watched the Asian man dip it into the batter crap and into the fryer! So fresh, right? Then to the beach we went! On our way, creepy Indian men started taking a zillion photos of us then asked to jump it. It was so strange so I had to document the weirdness. Unfortunately it was overcast so the water wasn't an option in the group. So we just played in the sand and watched the surfers in winter suits. I was dying to get out there and surf but there was no way to, ugh I was so bummed! We saw something down the beach that looked like a skate competition, so Katie and I checked it out. Turns out its an ice skating rink on the sand and a "winter festival" is going on! It was such a hoot! A full on ice skating rink with hot chocolate and doughnut stands surrounding it. If the price of admission wasn't 30 bucks to skate we would have considered it but instead we just laughed at what a site it was. These lucky butts have the most mild winter ever! We played at the beach and window shopped oh! And then we found magnum chocolate temptations! A true treasure to be found! We bought out the convince store and loved ever teeny bit! Oh and I forgot to mention that we had two ice cream cones before that. All McDonald's not only offer free wifi but they have 30 cent comes!!! Not kidding, 30 cents. So every time we need wifi or even walk by one for that matter, we just gotta buy a cone! Only 30 cents! Unbelievable I know!

Our group split and while the others went into town to shop, we made our way to Manly beach! This is another famous surfers beach so I knew I was gonna love it just as much as I loved Bondi! We hit the cute beachy shops first. Katie and I tried on a million swim suits and I had a mental battle in my head whether or not to buy one. Australia has the best swimwear...we buy almost all our swimwear at called to surf from Australia brands! The store had a major 50% end of summer sale and that's what made it tempting but a 75 dollar cute one piece isn't in my travel budget. We spent sunset on the sand and it was just stunning! There were surfers in the water and I was just happy as happy gets! On the way out we stopped by the Ripcurl store and the cutest surfer boy was working! We came back and he started making conversation with Kendall and I. We had to snap a shot of the cute aussie surfer boy! The picture below doesnt capture him well at all though!

On the ferry ride back to the harbor, the sun was down and the city & bridge was glowing so beautifully! We stopped at a pumpin hole in the wall tai food place. It was so darn good! I went to bed with a full belly, exhausted legs and a lingering grin on my face.

So long Sydney!

The lyrics in Ingrid Michaelson's song "oh what a day, it is today" rung in my head all day long. Happy is as happy gets!

The day begun bright and early to get up to the temple for the first morning appointments. The spirit that our group felt at the Sydney temple was unforgettable. I'm so grateful for temples and the time we can spend in the house of the Lord, serving Him.

We had free time once we got back to the city and our little groups choose to hit up the local market first. It was the swap meet in a warehouse times a million. People and crappy trinkets lined this massive place! These psycho Koreans came up to Kendall and I and while speaking a gazillion words per second, they pulled us by our arms into their booth thing for a l korean massage. It was hysterical! We couldn't stop laughing. In a blur, we were sat down, being rubbed by a crazy Korean. What an experience! Goodness I'll never forget that! I also bought a cheap watch and one piece swimsuit! Cheers! (that's what they say her!)

Our favorite part of the city, the rocks, had their weekend farmers market today, so we headed across town to hit that up! We had to get a Guylians chocolate dipped cookie first! Kendall may have had 2 or 3's her new found dessert obsession. Haha she crack me up! Anyways, we made our way over to the market booths and sampled everything from pomegranate vinegar to roasted cinnamon honey almonds to the worlds best banana bread! But the best part of the market was the cute aussie Joshua radin soundalike singing so beautifully! We all sat there in lalaland as he serenaded us, well the entire market for that matter. Mark wilkinson was his name!

We thought we would have plenty of time to get our favorite dinner and make it back to the hostel for our group meeting time. We ordered our kebabs and dumplings with only 15 minutes to spare! We were on the opposite end of town and rush hour wasn't working in our favor. So we took off running...sprinting really! Dinner in hand, weaving in and out of traffic, we weren't making too much progress. So we decided to hop on the next bus that pulled up at the perfect time! Luckily traffic cleared, we got off at our stop and bolted to the hostel right on time!

Sweaty and still dying of laughter, we immediately left for the rugby game!! We all didn't really know what to expect. We didn't know the teams nor the rules so it were just going blind into islander mayhem! On our way over, the train was packed to the max with rugby (male) fans...decked out in bulldog or eel colors! It was rather intimidating to be quite honest haha a group of 23 BYU dorks trying to navigate and stay together amongst massive crowds of rugby island men. After lots of laughs and concerned looks, we made it to the Olympic Park Stadium!! The stands were roaring and the energy was pumpin! These people get crazy into their rugby! We settle into our seats and find ourselves being highly entertained by this huge group of fans at the front rows. They were loud and rambunctious and had people from all ages in their group. We went down to the front to take a picture and somewhere during this time we figured out they were all mormon and there for a ward/YSA activity! We instantaneously become friends and I loved getting to know them. Their stories were incredibly inspiring, it's so humbling to hear how much faith they have! The bishop had to be the coolest guy I've ever met. He played professional rugby and now have 4 kids under the age of 4 and a baby on the way! He was such a stud. My favorite memory of him was when there was a bad call he was literally screaming in the deepest voice "freak you ref, freak you!!"...then whispered in my ear and said "I'm sorry, I gotta be so careful with my temper and language around the ward! But it's so hard!" it was hilarious! We chatted and cheered the whole night! I never really was aware what was going on so I yelled when they yelled and sat down and was angry when they did! I had the best night and meeting our new friends made it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Freedom in Sydney!

I LOVE sydney! I love it, I love it, I love it!! Today was the best day. We finally have a few days where we are totally on our own to do whatever we want to do! Our schedule has been and will be very planned out and so specific cause it is such a short study abroad. So today was perfect and liberating and perfect!

We all were hilariously trying to organize the group with transport passes. It was hectic and chaotic and funny really. 23 BYU kids with travel backpacks all hustling around trying to get out passes, plan our day and figure out the direction we needed to go. After what seemed like forever (15 minutes maybe) we were heading out!

The botanical gardens were first on the list! It was a beautiful park area but considering its "winter" here, the bright flowers were lacking. But we loved the feel of the gardens regardless! It was really neat seeing the background of the city, a huge famous statue, and big palm trees all in the same frame! This city is the perfect blend of differences; You have the city hustle which is pretty mild, the beachy relaxing vibes and the old town brick and historic feel too. It's just the coolest!

The opera house was a only a short walk from the gardens so that was our next destination! Who knew that the different parts of the opera house were separate buildings! Not me! I was shocked! Looking straight on, it looks like one building. Then look from the side and it's different buildings, near each other obviously but not all one! We took some pictures and explored the place! They have operas, plays, and concerts every day! That place is cookin with business! No wonder the facility is fancy and high tech! The bathrooms in the place were maybe the nicest I've ever used!

We planned on getting on a ferry to go down to the Darling Harbor next but they decided to make a super quick detour to The Rocks-old town Sydney, just to check it out. This super quick stopped turned into like 5 hours of our day! My love for Sydney only grew here! The view of the harbor couldn't have been better and we stumbled upon awesome place after awesome place in this part of town. My two favorites were a famous pancake restaurant and a honey store! "Pancakes-on-the-rocks" is the name and i don't think I'll ever have pancakes quite like the ones we ate here. This place must be like the roscoes or harbor house or corky's at home...known/loved by all and open for 24 hours a day 7 days a week! I shared pancakes with fried bananas, chocolate sauce, cream puffs, chocolate ice cream, walnuts and carmel. Heaven in my mouth!! Their menu had so many options, all with a million toppings! We all were drooling and expanding our entire stay at pancake place! Oh the memories! My second favorite "stumble upon," was this honey shop. The table of free sample could have been good enough for me, but then we started talking to the sweet man who owned the shop. He was a dog rescuer and his dogs are all movie stars! Haha it's awesome! His dog is the main dog in the Great Gatsby coming out! He told us all about this healing honey and how he rubs it on his dogs he rescues then they become movies stars! Too funny! Old town Sydney was a ball!

Next stop, Darling harbor! The ferry ride to get there was incredible! It departed right outside the opera house, went under the famous bridge thingy and down the water to the harbor! We got off and took a loop around the main part of the harbor. There were boats and restaurants and people everywhere and we were all on such a happy high from the day! I saw this massive playground and automatically knew I had to play! I ran right up to this huge spider web tower and climbed to the top! The web was awesome but seriously scary if you were a child. It was huge! Even some girls in our group couldn't go to the top cause it was too high! Anyways, i just loved playing on the play ground area. It was childish fun that everyone needs here and there! An attempt at the chinese gardens was made but we ended up continuing wandering around. This is where we stumbled upon another highlight of my day!! So this street magician just ended his act as we walked up and was playing some classic M.J. while he cleaned up his stuff. So, obviously, we begun to dance. Then the magician man started leading us in a dance...felt kinda like Zumba. We were making such a scene, 10 girls and a suited magician dancing in unison, that people started to join! Our very own flash mob was takin place in the center of Darling Harbor! Gosh it was just so dang fun! It only cemented my smile even more!

We left on the best note and headed off for some din din! Waking the street in the city now, made for the best conversation with Katie. Katie is the coolest! I automatically saw so much good in her when we met and have grown to adore her more and more each day. She possesses the most desired qualities and I appreciate the way she makes me a better person by just being around her. We found some extremely average Mediterranean food and chatted some more. We chose just to walk back to the hostel and it worked out nicely. I love walking, we all know that so it was great!

Day 1 in Sydney couldn't have been better! I'm having the time of life and developing friendship and creating memories I'll never forget! I'm so SO thankful that I have my sweet travel buddy, Kenny with me! She's made it so much fun and I just love her forever! Tomorrow is another free day to romp sydney and I can not wait! Hope all is well at home!