Week 212 April 21, 2018

On a final walk in Christchurch at the beginning of this week, I came across a yard decoration that caught my attention. It felt familiar, reminding me of so many family members and friends who have had similar looking adornments in their homes or on their property. So I had to snap a photo. Do you recognize yourselves by it? We miss you, yet please know that you are always with us in our hearts!


Loren and I then said our sad farewells to New Zealand. We reminisced of our most recent time in their Southern Alps from the window of our plane that flew us two hours further east. On exiting the airport in Sydney, Australia, I was tickled to recognize how – thanks to our Journey’s five months time in Italy, I easily translated the Italian phrase that greeted us through a cafe window: first of all the coffee.

IMG_4290.jpg IMG_4295.jpg

Australia is the earth’s largest island. Before its geography was known to westerners, this area was hypothesized as Terra Australis Incognita, or unknown land of the South. Its land mass is nearly the size of the contiguous United States; however, its population of about 24 million is almost half that of just the state of California, which has nearly 40 million. It seems that giu sotto or land below is still largely unknown in the world.

Loren and I are staying at an AirBnB small studio apartment in the Darlinghurst neighborhood of Surry Hills, a suburb of Sydney that feels similar to San Francisco’s Mission District neighborhood – think trendy, colorful, exuberant.


We are in walking distance to Sydney Harbour and the exceptional Opera House.


One evening we went out to see Badu Gili or water lights in the local native tongue, which is traditional imagery projected daily on the outer opera house sails. On our way we walked through the Royal Botanical Garden. This is an impressive, relaxing site and we made a note to return to spend more time here.

IMG_4093.jpg IMG_4069.JPG IMG_4174 2.JPG

We are in even closer walking distance to the Bikram yoga studio, and on our first day of attending class it was a delightful surprise to find a young woman who Bikram had nicknamed Miss Glasses from my teacher training. She was also briefly visiting this studio. The last Loren and I had seen her was in her native Miami, when she was about to leave for Australia. What a fun, small world!


We returned to the Botanic Garden another day to take a docent led tour, and our guide was quite knowledgeable and entertaining. This place provides a home to rare and ancient species, such as the Wollemi Pine, as well as exhibiting examples representative of the New South Wales state’s local variety, including the Gum, or Eucalyptus Grandis.

IMG_4351.jpg IMG_4160.JPG IMG_4185.JPG IMG_4140.JPG IMG_4161.JPG

In addition to the flora, this state is home to much birdlife. The first one I spotted was a familiar large ibis that we had learned the name of in Africa. This one is the Australian White. As our week continued I came to understand what a nuisance this scavenging bird can be, as they are everywhere, but, it is a unique, attractive nuisance all the same.

IMG_4313.jpg IMG_4181.JPG

Other interesting birds we have seen so far include for example the Australian Magpie, Common Myna and Masked Lapwing. The image at the top of this week’s post is called the Little Corella.

IMG_4166.JPG IMG_4169.JPG IMG_4162.JPG

One other big highlight this week was seeing Puccini’s opera La Bohème performed from a floating stage in the Harbour. It was touching both to read the story beforehand and to watch it performed live, and with the backdrop of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the distance from the outskirts of the stage. Wow! We feel most fortunate to be able to have – and to share here with our dear family and friends – our bountiful experiences. Thank you for following along with us on our Journey!



Week 199 January 20, 2018

We had three lovely farewell meals at the beginning of this week with some of the friends who we had made in Nepal. One dinner included one friend, and we met two of her delightful Nepali friends, a celebration she had arranged as both she and we were leaving Nepal on the same day. We also had lunch with a traveler who we had met on our first view of Mount Everest from Nagarkot. Both of these women happen to live in New Zealand, and we will see them again when we visit there. The third was a special dinner out with our wonderful hotel owner.

IMG_1887 2

On one of our final days in Nepal we visited Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, which – of all the three former Kingdom palaces of Nepal that we saw, sadly, this one seemed to have been damaged the most severely by the earthquake of 2015.

IMG_1823 IMG_1836 IMG_1832.jpg

We also treated ourselves to a farewell massage. Then, I walked the 30 minutes to have “fried ice cream” at a place co-owned by the nephew of a friend from California. The dish was as delicious as it was attractive, worth the hour to and fro. Loren passed on the walk – he missed out!

IMG_1882.jpg IMG_1883.jpg

Then, while we were awaiting our car to the airport, our hotel co-owners and their sincere, kind staff gifted us each with a traditional Nepalese scarf. As they put mine on, they said “Saraswati” – the Hindu Goddess who I so admire that her name is part of my email address. Then as they gifted Loren his scarf, they called him “Mahadev,” a manifestation of the Hindu God, Lord Shiva.


I am already missing Kathmandu. It was a privilege to stay so long, and it draws on my heartstrings that now we have had to leave our special friends there. I will long treasure my memories from this place. I am reflecting on the several Nepalese words and phrases that we learned, like, soondar for beautiful, that I used so many times on our two treks. Or Tapai lai kosta chha? for How are you? and the usual reply is thik chha for Everything’s OK. When passing the reception desk on the way upstairs to our room each night we said Subha rhate for Good night. What I must say for now to all the wonders of Nepal is: Dhanyabaad and Tapai lai ramro hos – my heartfelt Thank you and Best wishes.


From Kathmandu airport we flew by the Himalaya for our last distant look at the barely perceptible peak of Mount Everest, and, for the next 5 hours to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we witnessed day slip into night. This leg entailed a 2 hour time change…

IMG_1909.jpg IMG_1934.jpg IMG_1940.jpg

After a 2 hour layover, we flew another 8 hours overnight to Australia’s Gold Coast airport. On the way I was tickled to see the Southern Cross constellation from my window, but my camera could not capture it. Soon afterwards I looked down on a magnificent lightning storm, that my camera could catch, but barely did justice to what I saw. Imagine two more nearby spots of repeated similarly bright intermittent though frequent flashes… incredible. We had another 2 hour time difference with a one and a half hour layover. Here we were made to de-plane solely for a rigorous security check just to return to our same seats on the same plane. Maybe it was because the flight crew was changing, but felt unnecessary, even bothersome. Actually, this required us to put our feet on Australian soil, making this our 7th of 7 continents to spend a bit of time on!  

IMG_2101.jpg IMG_2125.jpg

Then we flew the 3 hours to Auckland, said Awkland, actually, and had our first view of the terrain of New Zealand. With another 3 hour time difference on arriving, it put us ahead of Nepal by 7 hours. So, we have been a little bit jet lagged this week. Here we have learned to say Kia ora – pronounced key-ora, for Hello! in Maori – said mah-awree, the native tongue. We are learning too how to speak English – New Zealand style. For example, what would sound like “Ken ewe meek thee bead?” would translate to “Can you make the bed?” And, again I recognized that the stars on the flag represent the Southern Cross constellation, thanks to a friend originally from Australia who we met in Egypt. 


In planning for our time in New Zealand, Loren had wanted to ride “The Magic Bus” that he had heard about when he traveled those 18 months by bicycle some 40 years ago. However as we looked into it – which company goes by a new name now, it seems to cater to the partying-20-something generation, so that pursuit has come off of our wish list. Also, we had read that it is best to visit the South Island in February and the North Island in March. So much for that advice – we are on the North Island now and will not reach the South Island until mid-March. At least we observed the warning to avoid December for the seasonally higher costs, but, we are here for the February to March cyclone season… Hmmm, that sounded frightening. So, my concern made me curious.

What I found is that “cyclone” is the name given to storms that arise in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans; “typhoon” is given to storms that start in the North Pacific Ocean, while, “hurricane,” is what is used for the same type of storm that forms in the Atlantic Ocean. That helped put such fearsome phenomenon in perspective. Further, I was interested to learn that “monsoon” means a seasonal prevailing wind in the regions of South and South East Asia, northern Australia and Malaysia, as well as in parts of the western hemisphere. A monsoon is not a single storm, but a shift in wind direction seasonally, that blows from the south-west between May and September and brings rain – called the wet monsoon, or, from the north-east between October and April – called the dry monsoon. All words that I had heard over my lifetime but had not understood.

In Auckland, we managed to take a full day tour that gave us a little insight into the Maori cultural heritage, 

IMG_2161.jpg IMG_2184.jpg

as well as introducing us to some of Auckland’s geographical highlights.

IMG_2201.jpg IMG_2225.jpg

We have also enjoyed a lunch date with one of the two women who we had met in Nepal and had a farewell lunch with. We also had another lunch date with a young woman who we had met on our overland trip in southeast Africa two years ago. Tomorrow we look forward to an outing with one more young woman who we had met on our tour in Morocco a year and a half ago. And, we hope to see our one other friend who we met in Nepal next month, when we are on the South Island where she lives. 


Our AirBnB studio apartment is a block from the Auckland Sky Tower. As the week wore on it became overcast and more humid, even quite stormy. This rainy weather makes our hot yoga a little harder, but, we are thoroughly appreciating it. I was invited to teach a couple of the classes too, which I happily accepted!