Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sponsor Alexis!

I'd like to invite you to sponsor Alexis at the 12th Annual Walk for Life
on June 10th at Pease Park, Austin and June 17th in Sun City, Georgetown. I'm hoping to get her at least $2000 in pledges!

To sponsor her with a one-time, tax-deductible donation, please click here:
You can make a donation right away via a credit card or make a pledge
and be billed later. To join the fun and participate as a walker,
click here:
Either way, I hope you will support this worthy cause.

She'll be walking with hundreds of Texans from dozens of churches to
promote the sanctity of innocent human life and to raise funds for
life-saving programs and agencies in our community.

100% of the proceeds will support peaceful, legal efforts by Texas
Alliance for Life to protect mothers and their unborn children and to
promote respect for innocent human life. To learn more about us, visit
our home page here: http://www.texasallianceforlife.org/. All
donations are tax-deductible.

Thanks! Have a blessed Easter Season!!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Exploring Auckland

Well, today is our last day. Carmel, Matt's cousin, was our guide. We went up the Sky Tower (http://www.skycity.co.nz/skycity/index.cfm?5FB84201-50BA-1DC3-6503-2FD86214423F) to have a view of the entire city. The craziest thing was there were parts of the floor that were just glass and you could look straight down. You could also bungee off the top, but that was a bit scary for us.

We drove around the city, went to the Greenstone outlet (where they sell jade). We also went to the wine store where Carmel works and got a few for our trip back.

Julie and Matt then took us to the airport. They had a 3 hour drive back home, so just dropped us off. We had a pretty uneventful trip, but had the new planes with our personal screens and video games. Finally got home at midnight and got back to the house!

What an amazing trip! We want to thank Julie, Matt, Christina and Damien who took their precious time off to spend it with us! It was a trip of a lifetime!! We have tons of photos, so you can check them out here: http://web.mac.com/ryandobson/iWeb/Main/Main.html. Also, Ry is working to consolidate our 4 1/2 hours of video. Not an easy task! Hopefully we will be able to share that with you too!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Te Pui

We went to the Maori Arts and Cultural Center (now known as Te Puia - http://www.nzmaori.co.nz/) in Rotorua this morning. The tour was very interesting, learning about how they lived, ate, etc. We saw them make totem polls and learned lots about their culture. They had a geyser, which was very interesting.

We ended with a show of the traditional Maori dances and songs, including the Haka. Even Matt was impressed.

Drove up to Auckland and went to Mass with Marie and family. The Mass was generally the same. It was very nice (but I was kinda tired). Tomorrow we leave :-(

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Taupo and Rotarua

We got up early and headed to Taupo, on the other side of the lake. We saw the awesome Huka Falls! They were soo powerful and clear. It was beautiful.

We drove to Rotarua and saw the sulfer pools. Loved their beautiful color, but could do without the smell. We stayed the night in Rotarua that night.

That afternoon we headed up a gondula to see the entire city. Did couple runs down the 1st ever luge track. Very fun!

Relaxed that evening with Pizza Hut and a movie. One thing Julie and Matt miss in living so far from a town, that is something they miss. It was a fun night.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lake Taupo

We travelled to Lake Taupo (about an hour) today to Matt's parents beach house. We took their great boat, the Panhandle (also their name for the farm) out on the lake, but it was quite choppy. The lake is actually a created as a crater from a volcanic eruption.

We rested at the house, then went to play miniture golf. It was the best golf I had ever been too. Each hole was a place in the area (ski resorts, hotels, etc.), so you had to go with a local person to explain it to you. Went to the mineral pools afterward. I stayed a little too long, and overheated myself. Found out that doing that isn't very uncommon. Had fish and chips for dinner, played some pool and another night of Clue!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The farm...

Julie and Matt took us to explore the farm today. In olden days, they used horses - now 4 wheelers!

We started by musetering a paddock. What this means is using Matt's very trained dogs and his calls to move the sheep from one field to another. It was a very interesting experience.

Had lunch with the Olds. That is how New Zealanders refer to their parents - Old Lady and Old Man. We stared with sauteed wild mushrooms that they had picked from the farm. And then had a yummy macaroni casserole.

Matt's parents Simon and Joanne took us on a tour of the farm. We saw the preserved rainforest (about 1000 of their 7500 acres). They also have a city farm of 500 acres (the nearest town is about 30 minutes away). We looked at their entire property from the highest point of their land. It was beautiful. We also heard lots of stories about my brother Steve throughout the day - Steve's pond, where Steve sheared the sheep, etc.

Julie then made us a traditional New Zealand dinner. A lamb roast (that Matt killed last week), potatoes, kumra (like sweet potato), carrots, brocoli, and wild mushrooms. Very good!

We brought Matt the game Clue, since we had fun playing it with him when he visited us. We taught it to his parents that night. I think they were a bit confused. Another great day!!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Waitomo "Glow Worm" Caves

We left early this morning (5:45 New Zealand time/3:45 Australian time) to head down to the Waitomo Caves. It took a couple hours, and the countryside was just like Lord of the Rings.

We got to the Rap, Raft n Rock (http://www.caveraft.com/) to check in. We had a small group, just us, our guide Marcus, and a Czeck guy named Marek.

We first donned our gear - wetsuit, jacket, pants, belt, boots, helmet and light. We then practiced abselling and abselled about 100 ft. into the caves. We hiked in the underground river and saw some glow worm caves. The "glow" is on the ceiling, as a byproduct of the larvae there (of a kind of spider/mosquito). When you turn your lights off, it looks like the ceiling is glowing (and so other bugs think so too, and are caught in the webs of the larvae).

We hiked, rafted, did a little spelunking, and ended with rock-climbing ourselves out (which was quite tiring since it was our last thing).

We drove to the "farm" that Matt's parents have. About 7500 acres with mostly sheep and some cows. Met Matt's parents and had some of Julie's great lasagna!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Goin' to New Zealand!

Today John and Gill took us to the airport. We got there early, did a bit of shopping, then headed down to the gate! They stayed with us and watched us get on the plane. So sweet!!

Took the short jaunt to Auckland and Julie and Matt picked us up. We stayed at Matt's aunt and uncle's place in Auckland. Michael and Marie are so sweet, and we got to meet the entire family. Since my brother Stephen lived for about 9 months in New Zealand, I am now introduced as Steve's sister, not Julia's cousin :-)

Monday, April 03, 2006

the beach!

So, for our last day in Australia, Christina took us to the beach! Here we come Sunshine Coast!!

We went to a cool aquarium called Underwater World. We learned about seals, otters, stingrays and all other kids of fish. They had a cool exhibit where you were on a moving walkway and the aquarium was on both sides and over you! so cool!

We then went to the beach and went in the water. It was great! Ry and I had so much fun, like we were little kids - jumping in the waves and trying not to get saltwater in our eyes.

John and Gill made us a traditional Australian dinner - lamb, pumpkin, potato, peas and carrots! It was yummy! We had pavlova for dessert (meringue with whipped cream and fruit). It was great! We sure are going to miss this beautiful place and wonderful hosts!! It has been so much fun!!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

the Big Pineapple

Damien had to leave us today! His work called him to India for a business trip.

Christina took us to the Big Pineapple. It used to be a working pineapple plantation, with macadamia nuts, petting zoo and more. When we got there it looked a bit abandoned. After we spoke to a worker we found out that the land was for sale, and the owner was not doing any improvements. It was sad to see the empty fields where pineapples used to grow.

Luckily, since there were few people there, we were able to crach our own macadamia nuts and were one of the only ones on the Nut Mobile. It seemed a little like a family amusement park whose hey-day was in the 70s and 80s.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

exploring around Brisbane

We went up into the mountains today and explored! Did some wine tasting (and brought a few back), had a great pizza, and went to a cheese factory and tasting shop.

Now, wine tasting is different in Australia than in the US. At home, you pick a few wines you wish to taste, and usually have to pay a fee. We tried (just a sip) of every wine they had on the menu! It was great (even though I got a bit tipsy)!!

Had Chinese tonight for dinner. Ryan has been craving it the entire vacation, so he got his wish!!