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November 18th 2013
Published: November 18th 2013
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Wow - the trip is almost over. Can't believe it's gone by so fast and yet we are really looking forward to coming home. Even I'm getting tired of living out of suitcases.

Our last day in the Alice was another great tour. In the morning we went to the West McDonnell Range and toured Simpson Gap and Standley Chasm. No one knows who Simpson was and Mrs. Standley was a teacher in the late 1800's who came out to teach the settler's children and saw the need for teaching half-caste Aborginals who weren't accepted by anyone and started teaching them too. When the gold rush happened, we was very concerned about lots of miners coming in and the effect on her Aborginal teen girls, so she moved them all out to this area about 30km outside town in the West McDonnells and lived in the bush with them - digging out waterholes and meeting in a makeshift school so that these Aborginals could continue to get an education of the right sort. Anyway, the chasm was named in her honor.

At Simpson Gap, there are a lot of rock wallabees and we saw a couple. On the way to Standley Chasm we saw a wedge-tailed eagle sitting in a tree right by the road. The eagle didn't move, even when the big bus stopped, so the driver figured there was good eating somewhere around and he went out to see if he could spook him into a little fly-time. Got an awesome picture of the eagle just starting out. The Standley Chasm hike was really nice - the weather was just enough overcast that the 2.5km walk was comfortable. Good thing, because after we got back into town to tour the Alice sites, it was already very hot again.

In the Alice we went to the original outpost that was built for the telegraph station that finally connected Australia with England. Instead of taking months to get news from one country to the other, it now took only 7 or so hours! The line went from Sydney, through the center of Australia to Darwin and then underwater from there to India and then through other English colonies and Europe and finally to London. Can you image? I remember when I learned about the first transatlantic line for the telepone and how fantastic that seemed. Never even heard about this feat.

Then we saw the School of the Air Museum and the Royal Flying Doctors Service Museum - they perform such a service in that country. I couldn't believe how broad the area in that they have kids in - almost as big as the US from coast to coast. Truly amazing.

We ended up our tour at the ANZAC war memorial on a hill in the center of town. I didn't even know some of the "wars" they commenorate. Borneo? Malaysia? Still had flowers on them from November 11 - still a big memorial day in Australia/New Zealand.

And yesterday we left the Alice and flew to Melbourne and then a flight to Auckland. We are now traveling east, so we lost 1.5 hours between the Alice and Melbourne (don't know why the center of Australia is another half-hour different, but they are. Then we lost another 2 hours between Melbourne and Auckland, so by the time we landed at the airport, we were so glad we had the booking here at the airport hotel. It took about a half-hour to get through immigration and then customs (they are so careful about letting contaminants into NZ), that it was almost 1:30 a.m. before we got to bed.

Today we slept a little later, but didn't want to waste too much of the day, so we got ourselves downtown and took a ferry over to a nice little section of Auckland called Devonport, which has the feel of a victorian English village. Lots of history, old buildings and nice little stores. And I did find a nice knit store there called Wild and Wooly. Had some nice NZ merino wool so I indulged. First time this trip - luckily I hadn't seen many other shops in our other stops.

And tonight we repacked all our bags and tomorrow early we will go check in at the airport (giving us a chance to make sure the luggage isn't overweight and repack if one is too heavy). Then we'll store the take-on luggage at the hotel and go back into Auckland to visit the Auckland Museum. They have wonderful things there - both from the Maori people and the white settlement after NZ's discovery. We saw the building and the park around it on our first stop in Auckland after we got off the ship, but are really looking forward to being able to go in-depth at the exhibits.

And then at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow night we leave for San Francisco, have an overnight flight, get on a plane at 10:30 a.m. on the same day (remember that international date line where we lost a day and now have gotten it back), and land in Denver an hour before we left Auckland - daywise. We have no idea what the weather's been like, so we are going to be wearing a lot of layers of summer clothes and hoping that if it's cold, the car will be very warm.

Anyway, sorry about the pictures that being displayed. I learned a lot on the ship about putting together really neat movies/slideshows, so as soon as I can, I'll send everyone a link and you can see what we saw!

See you all soon and thanks for reading this blog!!

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