Sunday, March 30, 2008

Doubtful Sound Trip Pix

Cloud over at Wandering Scientist says that the thing she misses the most about pre-Pumpkin days is the annual international trip she and her hubby usually took. Iris was born in November 2000. In October 2003, we spent 3 weeks in Australia. In October 2005, we spent 3 weeks in France and Italy. In December 2007-January 2008, we spent 3 weeks in New Zealand. Do you notice a pattern?

She laments that it is difficult to save up vacation days when they are also used for taking care of ill children. That is very true, but we found that it is possible to take a no pay (unpaid leave) day here and there to take care of ill children or for a long weekend trip. At my workplace, 10 days (2 weeks!) of no pay a year are allowed without a hassle. If you document that you are taking care of a sick family member, they will often allow even more days of no pay. (I just love the family leave act and California labor law.) Add that to the 3-4 weeks of paid vacation, and it is possible for us to go on a long trip every other year.

Check with your HR department and your manager for the rules in your workplace. I am fortunate to have a manager that understands my urgency to travel. In our discussion of my diagnosis and the minor accommodations that I need to continue working, he was smart enough to realize that I can't take it for granted that I will be able to travel "someday" (in retirement). Truthfully, none of us should take it for granted that we will live till "someday".

That takes care of time. As for money, we lived on graduate student and postdoc salaries for so long, we really spend very little money outside of housing, childcare and medical expenses. (And my medical expenses have gone down dramatically in recent years. Yay!)

I always wanted to kayak in a fjord and Mark always wanted to visit New Zealand. Here we are, cruising in Doubtful Sound, in New Zealand's Fjordland.

We took an overnight cruise with Real Journeys that involved taking a catamaran across a lake, then a bus ride to the port where we embarked on the cruise ship.

Right after we were shown to our rooms and given an orientation aboard the ship, they got out the kayaks. There were 30 kayaks and about 100 passengers on board. 28 of them were with the Tandems East tour. Competition for the kayaks was fierce and we weren't fast enough to make the first group. They kayaked into the sound during slack tide, with the wind at their backs.

After about an hour, the first kayakers returned to the ship and the second group set out in the reverse direction. (The ship stayed behind the kayakers, like a sag wagon.) They tied Iris' kayak to the back of Mark's. They looked so adorable, in their matching yellow kayaks--a baby duck swimming after her father. I went separately in a red kayak. I didn't have my camera handy (not waterproof) so here's a picture from the Tandems East website.

After kayaking and a hot shower, we went back up on the observation deck to see the seals at the mouth of Doubtful Sound.

The water got really choppy here. I wonder if this qualifies as a cataract?

Sailing back into the sound, the captain unfurled the three sails.

After dinner, a powerboat boat came up and docked at the rear of our ship. The cook traded a few slices of leftover cheesecake with a fisherman for a large crayfish, caught in one of the pots dotting the sound. (The cook says lobsters and crayfish differ in the size of their claws. Doubtful Sound has only crayfish.)

I was glad we splurged for the overnight cruise. We were the only boat that spent the night on the sound. Sunset was amazingly peaceful.

As was the sunrise.

Another waterfall. Ho-hum. We lost count of how many we saw. Notice that the water is so fresh, that the vegetation grows right down to the water line. Most of the world's fjords contain brackish water with a dead zone above the water line due to the salt.

Then it was time for brunch and the crayfish and the reverse bus and catamaran ride back to Te Anau.

Links:
I previously posted Multimedia of Milford Sound, including the tour bus that caught fire and exploded.

When I Phinally Phinished my thesis, we took a 3.5 week trip to Argentina and Chile with short excursions into Uraguay, Paraguay and Brazil. 1997 was a strong El Nino year with the rainfall to prove it. ;-) We spent 3 days in Puerto Varas and never caught a glimpse of Osorno volcano. Don't miss Yarn Crawl's pictures of Osorno. Actually, read the whole vacation series. It sounds like they had a great trip.

Asides:
Despite its name, Doubtful Sound is a fjord, not a sound.

Iris is so devilishly clever. While Mark paddled furiously, she sat back and enjoyed the scenery. When he asked her if she was paddling, she would splash a few strokes and report in the affirmative. He asked her if it was tiring. She replied that it was sooo exhausting. I was so amused, I kept her secret until now.

1 comment:

  1. I love the pics! One of biggest regrets from my first trip to NZ was that we only did a day trip to Doubtful Sound, with no kayaking. (We lated kayaked across Auckland Harbor to Rangitoto, then walked up that mountain before kayaking home- but that was more about the challenge than the view.)

    My old job let me do leave w/o pay really easily. That is yet another thing I traded to come to a job that is more interesting. My new job is at a small company. We only recently became big enough to fall under the FMLA, so they don't have all the policies worked out. I suspect that once I'm here for awhile, I'll be able to work something out. However, my experience at small places is that they prefer to just have you go negative on your time off rather than give you leave w/o pay. I guess as long as they keep letting you go negative, it is no big deal. Hubby only recently got out of the time off hole he dug for himself during the initial days after Pumpkin was born.

    In the meantime, we're using our secret weapon for getting the days saved up: Grandma flies in to take care of the sick baby. She is retired, lives within an hour flight, and loves the extra time with her grandbaby. We're out a couple of hundred dollars per trip, but we keep our days. We're lucky to have this option.

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