Sorry I haven't added anything for a while. Since we've been in New Zealand, it's felt more like regular life and less like an adventure. Mostly it's been the over-riding realization that we're going to have to get jobs again and settle down. Whether it's in NZ or back in the States has kept us on our toes. 

Luckily, Val has a PhD from Cal in engineering. We're in Christchurch a lot of the time, which is earthquake central for NZ. Using her advanced Google stalking skills, Val was able to find ways to bypass the HR departments of various engineering firms and at the university here. That said, Kiwis are extremely friendly and willing to talk with you, even if they don't have open positions. 

Val has a job offer from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, which is one of the top engineering schools in the country. It's only for a one year position, but if they like her, it could lead to a full time position. My health issues are holding our residency visa application up now, as I have to visit a rheumatologist. We didn't have enough time to get to see one in New Zealand. The rheumatologist I saw in the states is now deceased. Have you ever tried making an appointment via email when you didn't have health insurance? I gotta tell you, it ain't easy.

Anyway, we visited Australia in early April for a little over a week. It was really fun to see friends from California who live in Oz now. 

We flew in to Sydney on April 12 and stayed with Asaph for a while. Our flight left at 6 AM from NZ, which meant we had a 3:30 AM wakeup. Needless to say, I was pretty wrecked by the time we hit his place. After chatting for a while, I passed out in the spare room while pretending to read. After my nap, we still had the whole day to explore the city. Asaph had recommended a couple of things so we went to the city center, ate at a Chinese place famous for its noodles (while forgetting to order noodles) and had a good time.

 We took the ferry from the wharf next to the opera house to Manly. It was beautiful out on the water, with no clouds in the sky and a slight breeze. On the way back, we had a very interesting thing happen. There were two couples dressed up big time walking onto the ferry in front of us. We assumed they were heading to the opera for a fancy night out. Then when the boat was underway, we saw that their group had commandeered the front of the boat, pinning flowers onto the rails. Then a woman walked out and declared that she was a licensed wedding officiant and they were going to have a wedding on the ferry!

There were cheers, as well as some jeers from what must've been the groom's friends. Turned out he was Irish and had flow most of their family out for the occasion. Hm, whatever significance the ferry had was lost on us bystanders. Some of the groom's friends had been spending much of the day celebrating already. One guy was dressed in sweats and a ratty t-shirt. He grabbed a champagne bottle, shook it up and sprayed everyone he could, including the bride. Ooh, the look she gave him!

When we got to the dock, a cruise ship was leaving port so we couldn't go in right away. Instead, we were treated to a nice view of downtown Sydney at night.

Next day, we rented a car and headed to the Blue Mountains with Asaph for some rock climbing. The rock there is a medium grained sandstone with many chert like fractures that are called ironstone. The rock was very sticky for our climbing shoes and the ironstone provided great places to grab onto. Asaph and his friend Flint did most of the leading.

 Flint leading

 Pepe taking a rest

 I got in a lead too!

After dinner with Asaph, we put him on a train and Val and I camped near the crag before heading down to Canberra. We took the long way there, stopping at a touristy cave called Jenolan. We didn't have the time nor the inclination to spend money on one of their guided tours. Unfortunately, that was the only way we were going to get inside any of the fun stuff. No problem, we'd been caving in Thailand and the Philippines. However, we did get to see some cool animals


In Canberra, we stayed with Scott, Kate and their adorable kids Simon and Ruth. We spent several days with them, first camping near Canberra and then we got in a day of rock climbing at Nowra on the coast.


 A bird attacking its mirror image

We didn't really get any great photos of our climing at Nowra. The rock didn't have the ironstone to grab onto and everything was a bit rounded. Much harder for me. Val got some good stuff at sunset though

Don't believe what they say though. Red skies at night here led to a torrential downpour at our campground. We received about 150 mm of rain overnight, which is something like 6 inches. It was really blowing too. Luckily, we had pitched our tent on a slight incline so we missed the puddles that formed. However, the incline was also a bit convex so both Val and I had sleepless nights. 

One more night with kate and Scott at a nice beach campground. After the rain stopped, it was really nice there. The water was warmer than the air. We body surfed, built sand castles and then said our goodbyes. Another night in a nondescript motel south of Sydney, then we got to see Asaph again before catching our flight back to NZ. 

This trip was much too short to see anything. We're definitely going to have to return, rent a campervan and spend some time exploring. We didn't even get to see Arapiles. Oh well, there's always more places to see when you travel. . .