Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kangaroos and Wallabies


videoKangaroos are probably the most well known marsupial. The mom carries her joey (baby) in her pouch for a little over a year. After about 7 mounths though, the joey will get out of the pouch during the day to hop around! Watch the videos for more kangaroo and wallaby facts! Can you tell the difference between the two? Also, can you spot the joey?
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Koalas

I now LOVE koalas. I am sure I loved them before but after holding them I love them even more! Koalas are marsupials which means that they keep their baby in a pouch until it is ready to come out. A koala may stay in the pouch for 5-7 months and once it comes out, it stays out. To get around, it may ride on its mom's back. Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves which would be toxic (like poison) to us but they have special juices in their belly that can digest it. The reason they are able to digest the leaves is because at around 5 months of age they eat pap (which is a bacteria found in their mom's poo-- yes, Russell, koalas start out as poo eaters!!!) and that gives them the bacteria they need in their bellies to digest the leaves. But, it doesn't give them much energy so they sleep about 18-20 hours a day. The sad thing is that since koalas live in trees and trees are cut down all of the time to build new houses or buildings, koalas are a vulnerable species which means they are close to being endangered. I think that we will have to adopt a koala next year in kindergarten!
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Uluru

Many believe that Uluru (or Ayers Rock) is the largest monolith (meaning 1 rock) in the world. Situated in the Australian outback, it is quite the sight. It looks very out of place amidst the low trees and desert land. Many parts of Ayers rock are scared sights to the Aboriginals and cannot be photographed. Uluru is the name given to the rock by the Aboriginals and is named after a special waterhole in the area where kids can swim. Ayers Rock (the white man name) was named by the man who found it and named it after the women he was to marry's father (the women ended up marrying someone else though!) Ayers Rock is 348 meters tall (if there are 3 feet in a meter, how many feet is Ayers Rock?) Shawn and I had a wonderful time trekking around the base of this rock (about 14 kilometers or 8.4 miles) and watching the sunrise over it. I also interviewed our guide about the rock but it was so windy at the time that all you can hear is wind on the video. Oh well. I do have another special video for you to see the pest that kept bothering us on our journey
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta (meaning many heads) is a giant rock that looks like a series of dome like heads in the middle of the Australian outback. The entire rock is considered sacred to the Aboriginals (original people in Australia) who live in the area. It is the initiation sight for the tribe where boys go to become men. No "white folk" know exactly what goes on there...we just know that when the boys come back, they are missing a front tooth. Sounds painful! The rocks in this area look very red. They are actually a gray-green color but over time, iron particles from Western Australia have blown over to this region settling on the ground and the rocks. Rain and wind compact the particles into the rock and it therefore looks red. If you scrubbed for a while or dug a few feet in the dirt, you would find the original color of the rock! Another name for this rock is The Olgas. Like most things in Australia, there is the Aboriginal name and the name given by European explorers or the "white man." The Olgas was named by the explorer who first spotted the mountain. He named it at first Mount Ferdinand after his mentor. Ferdinand, however, was very humble and did not want a mountain named after him. He the requested that it be named after the queen of his country...Olga.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bye-Bye New South Wales (the state that Sydney is in)





We have been staying a lot with friends of Shawn's from camp. Outside of Sydney, we stayed with Jess and Rhett. Since we had to fly back to Sydney for the night after Tasmania, we got to see them again. We had a great time with them hanging out on the beach, being tourists, and eating great food! We even got to go waterskiing behind a jet ski in a salt water river (for the record I still stand by my statement that most rivers are fresh water and get brackish- a mixture of fresh and salt water-when it dumps into the ocean!) Thanks guys!

National Parks, chocolate, and Aussie Rules Football







Tasmania was beautiful. There are not a lot of big cities in this state (Launceston where we were is the second largest city in the state), mostly it is full of national parks. Now National Parks aren't like playground parks with swings and slides...it is land that the government sets aside as protected land that can't be used for buildings or cutting down trees which means that the animals that live there can stay in their homes. We did a lot of hiking in these areas and it was beautiful. With Shawn's friend J-Rod as our guide we explored lots of National Park area and even saw wild wallabies (like a kangaroo but smaller!) Tasmania is also home to the Cadbury chocolate factory. I knew of Cadbury from those yummy chocolate eggs filled with creme that come out at Easter time! What gives the chocolate the distinct flavor is the sweet Tasmanian milk. I bought a dark chocolate toffee bar (are you drooling yet mom?) and loved every piece of it! Finally we went to an Aussie rules football game to watch J-Rod play. Don't be fooled by the name...it is nothing like SAINTS football. The ball (called a Sherrin) is bigger than our football. Also, the players don't wear any pads and they can run up another person and jump off him. The best way to describe it is by saying it is like a rough combination of all the major sports! J-Rod played great! Thanks J-Rod and Emma for a great time in Tasmania!

Tasmania




videoWe flew down to Tasmania (an island state off the southeast corner of mainland Australia) which is known for its Tasmanian Devils. Looney Toons has a show about Taz the Tasmanian Devil so I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. The Tasmanian Devils do not look or act anything like Taz! They are smaller carniverous creatures (meaning they eat only meat). They are endangered now though (meaning they might all die soon) because of tumors they get on their mouths which kill them. Once they get this tumor, there is no chance of them surviving. People are researching now to try to find out how they get these tumors and how to make them stop. Even though they are not the nicest creature (they bite hard!) and they make a noise that sounds like a grunting and a hissing, they were still pretty cute...whiskers and all!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sydney









videoOne thing we learn about in kindergarten is the Sydney Opera House. Now that I am in Australia, we got to finally see it. And...IT IS SO COOL! It is as unique as it looks in pictures. We even got to go on a tour of the inside which was very nice. There were 2 main auditoriums (places where people perform.) One was for the opera and the other was used for symphonies, concerts, etc. My mom used to play her flute in the symphony so I think that she should come and play here! We learned that a man named Utzon designed the opera house but was kicked off the project towards the end. He was then reinstated to finish it but never came back (he was Danish) to see it. We also went to Sydney's famous Bondi Beach and took a ferry under the famous Sydney Bridge. I also got to try vegemite which is an Australian spread. I put it on my toast and it tasted...interesting. I think we will all need to try it in kindergarten next year! Ok, well, Next stop...Tasmania. I hope we'll see some wild animals (but no lizards!) Speaking of animals...our first day here we were greeted by cockatoos (birds with funny hair!!)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Wallace-Bell family

The Wallace-Bell family is another family that we met through the teacher travel site. We had such a wonderful time meeting the family (after surprising Nicky a day early!) and spending time with their insightful and incredibly mature kids. After discussing everything from politics to war to religion to New Zealand culture we still got along! Thanks guys for a wonderful last 2 days in New Zealand! Unfortunately their video is taking too long to upload so I will have to try that later!

The most beautiful lake in the world






Lake Tekapo, New Zealand is the most beautiful lake in the world! I have seen blue oceans before but lakes are not usually as colorful since the water is still (and not flowing like a river or ocean.) It is the beautiful blue-green because of the reflection of bright sun off of super clean water. It gets the creamy look from "rock flour". Basically the glaciers here gring the sedimentary rock into a fine powder as the rocks tumble down the glaciers into the rivers or lakes. That powder deposits ino the water and turns it a beautiful milky color. Lake Tekapo was surrounded by mountains (they are the White Mountains from The Lord of The Rings) and the mountains are covered in golden tussocks (like wheat)! It was absolutely marvelous! There is also the nicest little church there. It is the only church in town so all denomenations share it. They create a schedule for who can use it when@

The Milford Sound

The Milford Sound (which is actually a fiord, not a sound--see video) was absolutely stunning. We took a bus ride there from Lake Te Anau and saw some amazing sights. We then took a 2 hour cruise through the sound seeing seals, waterfalls, birds, and other amazing things. You can do the Milford Track walk which is a 5 day adventure and Shawn and I want to go back and do it!
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Meet John and Christine

We met John and Christine through a teacher travel website and stayed with them for 3 days in Nelson. We had so much fun getting to know them and their area. Nelson is actually the center of New Zealand so we got to hike up and stand at the actual center! John and Christine lent us kayaks and we got to brave the waves in Nelson. Thank you John and Christine for a wonderful time!
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The glaciers









New Zealand has quite a few glaciers (giant ice blocks) with its two most famous being Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Shawn and I decided to do a half day tour of the Franz Josef glacier. The glacier is constantly changing so it is pretty important to go with a guide. Also, since it is so slick, we had to wear crampons on our feet so we wouldn't fall. We started out our day by walking about 45 minutes up to the mountain base. The after putting on our crampons, we climbed the glacier for about 2 hours. The glacier changes depending on the weather and we were told that only a few years go the glacier was quite further our then it is now. It is one of teh few glaciers left that retreats and advances. Most glaciers just advance.