It’s been a while now since I participated in a sh1ft.org challenge so I thought it was time to pick up my camera and give their latest challenge a go. Might give me something to blog about in my blog brain freeze of late so that there will be something other than dead air around here. Here is the challenge:

Q&A : The Photographic Interview is running during April 2010

To play, take 1 photograph as your answer to each of the questions below. The aim is to get to know you better, through your photographs

Upload to your blog, flickr account or anywhere else on the net, then come back and share your photographic interview.

1. What is your favourite part of your home
2. Your favourite number
3. The place that holds the most memories
4. One thing you wish you could do, but can’t
5. One thing you wish you could do, and can
6. Someone you don’t see alot
7. Your favourite piece of clothing
8. What do you see in your future?

Anyone else want to join me?
I’ll be back over the next few weeks to share my answers.

Until then you can find me guest posting over at Sharnanigans, writing for Vegan Mainstream, or sharing food on my Vegan Food Blog.

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I was thinking yesterday about my 101/1001 list and how unmotivated I’ve been lately with crossing things off. Admittedly I have been working pretty hard on my NaNoWrimo – which is number 48 – and that definitely counts for something, but I thought it was about time that I took a stab at something else on the list. So, early this morning, just before 2am, which is about the time that Luke and I are starting to think about going to bed, we decided to take a drive to Dunedin and watch the sunrise at the beach.

Watching a sunrise was one of the things on the list but I also had to visit the beach one more time before I could cross number 42 (visit the ocean at least four times) so we decided we may as well cross both of them off in one go. I frantically made up some roadtrip CDs, grabbed T’s work in progress CD, a picnic blanket, some water, and my book, and off we went.

For those of you who don’t know New Zealand, I’ve attached a map so you can see just how much of the country we covered. We got home about an hour ago, so we actually covered this distance twice today:

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The sunrise itself was pretty disappointing, after driving all through the night, chugging down Red-bulls and singing (badly) to keep ourselves awake we arrived at the beach to discover POURING rain and freezing cold gale force winds. It was so cold that my feet are STILL thawing out 10 hours later. So, we snapped some photos to prove we were there and watched the sunrise from the warmth of the car. We explored the city for a couple of hours, then had some breakfast at a local vegan cafe (Why don’t we have one of those in Queenstown?) did some op shopping, and then drove home again. We had beautiful weather on the way home which was nice after the freezing rain in the morning. It was a really great day, but now I am exhausted, so instead of telling you about it, I’m just going to post some pictures!

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This one’s for you Sharni!!

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And home sweet home

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So, that is two more things crossed off my 101/1001 list, even though technically we didn’t see the sun actually rise, because it was behind clouds, I’m still counting it, because we did watch the night turn into day, so I think that counts!

I’ve also crossed off number 13 on the list, which was to have 101 vegan meals, because as of three days ago I’m officially 100% vegan. I’ve been vegetarian for a few years now, but I have been eating vegan 95% of the time, it got to the point last week where I realised that I was hanging onto cheese and chocolate as a bit of a crutch, so I’ve eliminated them from my diet completely (except dark vegan chocolate!) and from here on in I won’t be eating any animal products whatsoever. It’s quite a feat! You never really realise how many things have animal products in them, today on the way home I picked up a packet of Salt and Vinegar chips only to realise they had milk in them! I looked through every single chip flavour in the place, and in the end the only one that was vegan was the plain salt.. very strange!

Anyway, that’s news from me. I haven’t slept in 30 hours so I’m going to bed!!

I am not one to shy away from a challenge so I was pretty pleased to discover the Blog This website through another blogger (The Lovely Leila). I suspect this is just going to become another way for me to procrastinate – if you know anything about me, you will know that when it comes to procrastination I need no assistance! – but I’m going to give it a go anyway.

Here is the challenge:

Everyone loves Holidays. Everyone has had a holiday – be it a great big backpacking adventure, a luxury weekend away,a caravan trek as a kid with the family taking in Big Bananas, Big Prawns, Big Pineapples et al, Camping in the neighbours yard under the stars for a few nights. Elaborately planned holidays, impromptu ‘let’s get out of here’ holidays. Blog about a holiday you’ve had that stands out – adventure, relaxation, family, friends, disaster, hilarious events! Who were you with? Where did you go? What made it so memorable? Share a photo if you want!

I am a huge fan of holidays. My friends are always picking on me about the fact that I am either on holiday or planning my next one and they are mostly right. As I type this I have 4 holidays ‘on the go’ in my planning book; The ultimate year long campervan adventure around Australia, The spiritual journey through Peru, The whirlwind backpacking adventure through India and Nepal, and the foodie paradise European jaunt. I’m hoping that at least two of them will happen in the next 48 months, and I expect that one – either India/Nepal or Peru – will be the backdrop for my 30th birthday next year, fingers crossed anyway!

It’s hard for me to pick a holiday to write about, because each holiday holds such special meaning for me and each of them has shaped me in some way. My first holiday with my husband (back when he was just ‘that cute boy I like’) where we quit our jobs and packed our lives into his car and spent 4 weeks driving from Melbourne to Perth and camping on the side of the road, before the car broke down in the desert leaving us stranded. My first time overseas – Christmas bungee jumping and drinking beer in Bali. ‘Finding myself’ by spending six months backpacking through South East Asia. Long weekends of foodie bliss in Melbourne. Sweltering summers filled with parties and drama with my Perth crew. Exploring rural Vietnam on the back of a motorcycle. Skydiving weekends in Temora NSW (lol – not the best holiday destination, I wouldn’t recommend it).. the list goes on, and they have all stood out, for some reason or another. Friendships were forged, memories made, heartbreak witnessed.. there was adventure and discovery and wonder.

I guess the most special holiday – of recent times anyway – would have to be my wedding and honeymoon earlier this year, it had everything: six weeks, 3 countries, family, friends, luxury, fun, disaster:

One of the problems with being a nomad, is that it involves a lot of leaving people behind, you spend a lot of your time saying goodbye. Because of that, getting married was very much about being able to get all the people we love in one place at one time. It seemed silly to have everyone travel to Sydney for the day, when we could travel somewhere new and interesting and since the (now) husband and I love to travel we decided that we would choose somewhere that none of us had been before to have our wedding. We decided, in the end, on sweltering Far North QLD, specifically the Daintree Rainforest. Our friends and family flew from all over the country and we all spent the week before the wedding in Port Douglas, drinking and eating our days away, lazing by the pool, having nanna naps in the afternoons. Each morning we would meet for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, dragging tables across the room to form an island where we would kiss each other good morning and eat toast and eggs while comparing hangovers and planning the day ahead. During the days we broke up into groups and did various activities, we scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef, went whitewater rafting, scoured markets by the water, did road trips through the cane fields and rainforests, had massages and facials, went shopping. It was wonderful.

The wedding itself was perfect, the setting was beautiful, and the whole day was lovely. Having our closest friends and family by our side, our short – but lovely – 4 minute ceremony, exchanging rings, the nerves and excitement, the ridiculous music requests at the reception, the food, our friend’s altered tuxedo, Mum walking me down the aisle, everything about it was exactly what we hoped for. Well except for the part where I cried all the way down the aisle, that was just embarrassing!

The morning after the wedding running on 3 hours sleep, my new husband and I woke up well before dawn and drove from our beautiful cabin in the rainforest along the windy coastal road to the Cairns airport. It was steamy, even though the sun was still 2 hours from rising, we drove with the air conditioner on full. We flew from Cairns to Sydney, caught a train to transfer us between terminals before getting on a flight to Fiji. Our first night we spend on Nadi mainland – we were exhausted and there was no point wasting a night at our super expensive resort when we had arrived so late and were so beat – but somehow there had been a miscommunication with the hotel and they had lost our booking. Luckily people tend to be extra nice to honeymooners and we managed to get a room where we promptly fell asleep.. how romantic!

The next morning we caught a bus to Denarau, spent an hour on the ferry and then were whisked from the ferry to our new – very luxurious – resort in a tiny little boat with an outboard motor. The Fijian men, shiny and smiling, pointed out parts of the island as we approached, the sun was shining, everything radiated with beauty.. it was like a brochure. The water was so clear we could see the colourful fish swimming along side the boat. We arrived at the resort and it was like the whole place existed just for us. A band met us at the pier singing the ‘welcome song’ and we were greeted with cocktails and ferried to the restaurant where we were placed in a quiet corner and bought the lunch menus. I’m ashamed to admit how much we paid for this holiday, I can’t even think about it without feeling overwhelmed but it was worth it for the special touches, like the personal menu they made up for me when they realised I was vegetarian, the chef created it specially for me when we arrived and a new one was created for me each morning. We were taken to our room – in a golf buggy – a huge and beautiful bure set right on the beach, with our own private plunge pool, a day bed set up with champagne and strawberries.. what bliss!

We spent 3 incredible days, eating unimaginably good meals, stuffing ourselves silly – huge buffets for breakfast, 3 course lunches, 4 course dinners. We had massages and walked along the beach at sunset, ate warm cookies delivered in the afternoon by the restaurant staff. It was absolute heaven.. until the rain came.

I have never seen anything like it, I was sure that the roof was going to fly off our Bure at any moment. Coconuts flew from trees and crashed on the ground, branches fell, waves crashed so ferociously that I feared we would be swept away. We were on the edge of a cyclone, though we didn’t know it at the time – no TVs in paradise. Then, as if the weather wasn’t bad enough, I got sick from the water, I couldn’t get out bed, except to crawl the bathroom and back. Eating was out of the question. I spent 2 days lying in bed moaning and listening to the rain and the wind. On the third day the manager of the hotel came and knocked on our door, worse weather was on the way, we were being evacuated. They gave us 20 minutes to pack our things but I was still sick and I hadn’t eaten in days so hubby did all the work. They wrapped our bags in big black garbage bags and off we went, huddling under a tiny umbrella as we rushed to the pick up point. They piled us into a tiny little boat with a tarp overhead (you think I’m making this up don’t you?) and we climbed aboard. They started her up and took us out into open water. It was black and raining, the wind howled and our little boat rocked and pitched. I watched the lightening in the distance and wondered if this was how I was going to die. I fought back nausea – from my illness as much as motion sickness – and waited. We sat there like that – our shiny Fijian men now as solemn as we were – for over an hour while we waited for the ferry to come and pick us up. I could have cried with relief when I saw it.

All the islands had been evacuated so the ferry was filled to the brim with soggy tourists, I briefly wondered what we would do if the ferry sank, we were clearly over capacity. In my mind I saw the news story complete with crash footage but I was too exhausted to dwell on it. I found a dry spot in the corner of the ferry where the bags were stowed and sat down – I couldn’t have stayed standing if I tried – I closed my eyes and waited. After what seemed like hours the ferry docked back at Denarau. I’d never been so happy to see dry land – even if it did seem soggier than expected. We picked up our bags and started heading to where we could get a taxi and find the hotel which the guys at the resort had booked for us in advance but as we turned a corner we saw hundreds of tourists milling about looking worried. A man – Australian – stood up on a box and shouted for us all to be quiet. He told us that Fiji had been hit by the worse storms in 20 years and that Nadi was completely flooded. He told us that there was no way off Denarau, that he didn’t know how long it would take for the flood waters to recede, that all the accommodation was already booked and that if you didn’thave accommodation you would have to sleep where you stood. I sent up a quick thank you to the gods of likuliku for having the foresight to book us somewhere in advance (and sent them a huge tip once we were home safe and sound) and got bundled into a taxi who took us to our hotel. It was more like a disaster zone than a resort, filled with worried locals who had been working and unable to get home for 3 days straight, and tourists wondering if they would ever get dry again. We were still drenched from the adventure in the little boat and we had to wait 2 hours for our room to be ready but we didn’t care.

When finally we got to our room we ordered room service (steamed vegetables for the sick girl), had showers and hung our clothes around the room to dry before falling into a catatonic sleep – what a day! The next day we woke up to find a note slid under our door from the management of the hotel. They still didn’t know when the roads would be opened. They had no way of getting fresh food to the hotel, we were on food restrictions until further notice, no more room service, instead they were having 2 buffets in the restaurant one at lunch and one at dinnertime using whatever provisions they had. I survived the next few days on mashed potatos and bread rolls – sometimes being a vegetarian can be very inconvenient and this was one of those times – practically everything on offer had some kind of meat in it. I was getting pretty weak after my illness and not eating for days and I briefly considered eating some chicken stirfry for the protein but chickened (haha) out when it came time to actually eat it. I couldn’t bring myself to put the meat in my mouth – I was feeling sick anyway and idea of eating meat was making it worse so I stuck with the bread rolls and hoped that we would get out soon. We stashed bottles of water in our backpacks from the mini bar and the shop downstairs just in case things got worse.

After 3 nights at the hotel we got notice that the roads were open and that although it wasn’t completely safe yet more rain was expected so if we wanted out we should get out now. Our flight wasn’t until the next day, but we didn’t want to risk getting stranded again so we made a break for it, even though it would mean spending a night at the airport. Driving through Nadi was devestating, the town was in tatters, and still very much submerged. The whole place was littered with rubbish and bits of houses and trees. Peoples homes were destroyed, schools in pieces. It was like a war zone – a wet one. We made it to the airport in one piece and settled in for the long wait until our flight the next day.. for 30 hours we waited and then finally we were on our way home. Well technically we were on our way to New Zealand where the second part of our honeymoon started, but you get the drift.

The one thing I can say, is that through it all the Fijian people were amazing, they were so considerate and wonderful to us. These people were watching their homes get destroyed, they were cut of from family and friends and not once did anyone treat us with impatience or rudeness. They were truly wonderful, though that isn’t really enough to convince me to visit the country again. The next phase of our honeymoon was really great, it was that trip that convinced us to make the move to New Zealand full time (though, I’m willing to concede that maybe it was just so great in comparison!). But I have to admit that I am still a little traumatised by bad weather, if I wake up in the middle of the night and it’s particularly rainy my heartrate raises a little, and after that holiday I have changed my ‘ideal home’ plans, before Fiji I always thought it would be so beautiful to live right on the beach like that, but now I realise that the ocean can be a very scary place and that the sound of waves crashing on the shore can be as terrifying as it is relaxing.

There are some people who have heard the story of our honeymoon and feel so sorry for us, I’m sure that some of them even think it is a sign of bad juju in our marriage but I feel quite the opposite. I figure if we can survive something like that in the first week of our married life then we can survive anything. And truly it really was a wonderful feeling to know that no matter what was thrown at me that week, my wonderful husband was right by my side holding my hand and carrying my bags and making sure that I was going to be okay. That’s a pretty great feeling.

Here is a bit of a photo montage of the holiday
(NB: the photos of the wedding day were taken by Shaun at Port Douglas Photography).

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Back in Sydney.. we flew in yesterday morning. Strangely enough the temperature inside our Sydney house is colder than most of our NZ adventure despite the average daily temp being 10 degrees warmer here. I suspect it has something to do with the terrible insulation in our flat and hope – desperately – that our house in NZ will somehow be warmer.

Yesterday was a bit of a write off. After getting up at 4am for our flight I spent most of the day in bed. Today promises to be just as unproductive, there is so much to organise before the removalists arrive on the 23rd that I barely know where to begin.. so I’m a bit in denial about it all. Hubby is starting his new job tomorrow though, which means that he will be working nights, leaving me with lots of hours in the day to get things done while he is at work. Hopefully anyway.

During our little holiday I was able to finish off another one of my “1o1 books I own that I haven’t yet read” (#60). I read Monster Love by Carol Topolski. It was pretty interesting and I enjoyed reading it a lot, but I have to say that the last part of the book was intensely unsatisfying and the ending pretty much sucked. Up until that point I could barely put it down and even managed to read a good chunk of it in the car on the drive from Twizel to Christchurch, and I have to say anything that manages to tear my attention away from the breathtaking scenery of New Zealand is doing a damn good job of being entertaining! I’d recommend it – the book I mean – even with the sucky ending.. I think the rest of the book makes up for it.

That’s all from me for now, just wanted to add some photos of the last bits of our trip, including some more strange rock piles (even stranger than expected considering we were on the opposite side of the country than the last lot!), a beautiful stone church in the country with a glass window looking out onto the mountains instead of an altar/stained glass windows, rays of light beaming onto a snow capped mountain and a few others as well…

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Our New Zealand holiday continues. We arrived in Queenstown yesterday afternoon and today we saw our new house for the first time. It’s exciting, and terrifying all at once. I am no longer worried that the house will be falling to pieces or will have rats in the bedrooms (I worry about some strange things – I know!) but now I am worried about not being happy here. It’s a silly thing to worry about, happiness is so subjective and so dynamic too. It’s not really something that can be measured or compared. I’m just a worrier I guess, always have been, and that’s not likely to change overnight!

I was able to tally up a few partial completions on my 101/1001 list today which is great. Hubby and I ate burgers on the shores of Lake Wakatipu today. It was bitterly cold, but wonderful and refreshing at the same time.. we discussed whether or not the meal could count as a picnic (Hubby thought it could – his definition of a picnic being a leisurely meal outdoors, but I decided that it was probably cheating.. a picnic for me includes either one or both of the following: a meal eaten outside on a blanket, or home made meal eaten outside: our meal today included no blanket and was burgers and chips from the local Fergburger restaurant), in the end it was decided that since it was my list then my interpretation of ‘picnic’ was most valid and so lunch today didn’t count as a picnic, meaning it couldn’t work towards #22 on the list (Have 2 picnics by lake Wakatipu, one during the day and one by moonlight), but it did still count against #99 (Eat 101 meals outside)so I’m still happy with that. Once we had finished with our meals we fed the ducks which was fun, they swarmed around us fearless and flocking.. it was eerie and delightful all at once.

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Today, I was also able to put a mark against #42 (Visit the ocean at least 4 times) when, while driving from Franz Josef to Queenstown yesterday afternoon we turned a corner leaving lush green rainforest behind us and found ourselves face to face with the most turbulent ocean I have ever seen.. it was a gray day yesterday, overcast and rainy and windy, and the dark beach with the gray waves crashing violently on the sand really was a sight to behold. Strangely enough the length of coastline, about a kilometre in length was framed with piles and piles of pebbles and rocks, columns balancing precariously in spite of the crazy wind and the crashing waves.. it sure was something! I like to imagine that it is some kind of strange freak of nature that puts them there, the wind picking them up in the black of night and stacking them high.. though more likely it is bored children and thoughtful travellers. Either way it was quite beautiful and absurd.

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Tomorrow we head to Twizel, and then on Friday back onto Christchurch for our flight home on Saturday. I thought I would be feeling sad about going home, but I’m feeling quite good about it. Not much need to be sad I suppose since we’ll be back in a matter of weeks. In the meantime there is lots of packing and paperwork to do.. I think that is the main thing to do when it comes to an international move; packing and paperwork. I’ll probably get a bunch more photos in the next couple of days, but until then, here are a couple of my favourties from the past couple of days.

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We we are 2.5 days into our New Zealand holiday and so far we are having a great time. We arrived into Christchurch on Saturday afternoon, but by the time we got to our hotel we were totally wiped and spent the afternoon napping and ordering room service and watching bad movies and napping some more. Sunday morning we were up bright and early – since we slept so much the night before – so we spent the morning exploring the city before heading out of town and driving through to Greymouth. The scenery from Christchurch – Greymouth is just spectacular, especially this time of year with so much snow… incredible! Last night we stayed in Greymouth, in a lodge with a great view of the Tasman and ate dinner at a beautiful warm lodge filled with lovely country folk and serving delicious winter meals.

This morning we got up bright and early and made our way to Franz Josef. We grabbed some lunch in town before doing a 2 hour hike to the glacier. The first part of the walk is through rainforest, then you find yourself walking through this dry river bed, filled with glacial dust and massive rocks and tiny pebbles and little creeks meandering along (and some not so little, which require some jumping or scrambling to get across/through). There are giant lush misty mountains towering over you on either side of the river bed, dense with trees and cascading waterfalls.. the whole thing is so surreal and achingly beautiful. All the way along you can see the Glacier as you approach. From a distance it doesn’t look all that impressive, but there is just no way to describe it as you get in close and realise just how big this thing is.. it does more than tower over you, it is immense and incredible. So fragile and so impenetrable at the same time. You can’t get too close because the glacier moves up to a metre each day with huge chunks of rock and ice falling throughout the day.. we saw one piece, so tiny in comparison to the glacier, but the size of ten people, crack off the top and tumble into the depths.. it was awe inspiring.

A great day, made more so because seeing the glacier means that I am able to cross another thing off my 101/1001 list (yay).

Before I go ahead and do that though, here are some photos, not just of the glacier but of our whole trip so far:

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