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Seeing penguins, sting rays, and fur seals – some of them I swam with!

March 24, 2009

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Part I:  The Seals

On the boat in Abel Tasman National Park, we roamed up to the beginning of the track, slowly but surely. As we turned the corner, we saw a cove and in that cove were some baby fur seals and some fully grown ones. In that cove, I began to wish I could be in the water with them swimming. Just a little bit later, my dream came true.

As we hiked up to Separation Point, we saw the lighthouse down some steps. We started walking down those steps, but to our left we noticed a man swimming in the water off the rocks. Then I spotted some seals around him, only adults this time. I thought, lucky guy to be able to go in that freezing cold water. Then dad just announced, “You want to go swimming with the seals over there?” And I said, “I’ll try.” So I did try.

We stripped to our underwear (our bathing suits were in our packs back at the track junction). After many attempts to get into the coldest water you can ever imagine, I went in. And then I was swimming with seals! One of them swam a foot in front of dad and me, swimming under water. Then a big guy jumped in from the rocks and started swimming towards us. He was a little further away from us than the guy who was under water, and he popped his head up three feet in front of us and he looked his big black eyes straight at us. That was soooooooooooooooooo awesome!

A few seconds later, Mom and Ainsley hopped in with us. Even they were in just underwear! Eliot took a few pictures. Now that’s the end of my first story.

Part II: The Ray

After feeling the warmer water at our last hut, I felt like swimming at the end of our four-hour hike the next day.  I got my chance when dad said he would come down to the water’s edge with me. It was in an estuary. It was just past low tide with the water starting to come in.  There was only water the size of a big river in the middle of a huge sand flat (it took twenty minutes to cross the flat at low tide).  When dad and I got to the water’s edge, I got in the water.  It was freezing cold just like at the seals!  “Man,” I said myself, but I was still trying to swim.

A few minutes later, I was in water up to my chest with a big current, when a few feet in front of me I saw a sting ray sail past me.  Three feet in length and at its widest spot the wing span was about two feet.  It looked like it was flying under water, just like they say penguins do.  Then it was gone.  It went past in about a second.  My reactions didn’t react in a second, but in the next few seconds I was out of the water and blabbering to dad about what I had seen.  When I got back to the hut, I was talking all about it.  It was just so cool.

Two days later, I was going to see another of those flyers under water.

Part III: The Penguin

After we left the hut, we were going to pick up the water taxi from the beach.  We waited a long time, then the water taxi came.  The boat motored for a little while towards Marahau, but we saw no more animals.  Then after we checked some other stops for passengers, we came to a little blue penguin in the water off the side of the boat.  He was so cute swimming along the top of the water, ducking his head down to look for fish.  Though I had seen many other little blue penguins on the Banks Peninsula, this was one of my first times seeing one so close up in the water.  As we went away, I was thinking to myself, “How lucky am I to see all these animals?”  And that’s the end of the story.

p.s. The day before we saw the penguin we went to a quarry near a beach.  There we saw some starfish and some sea urchins.  My favorite starfish was a big blue one and there were lots of other colors of that starfish.  The sea urchins hid near rocks and were about the size of a tennis ball and spiky.  I loved seeing all of these animals in Abel Tasman and I want to come back sometime.  I wish everyone in the world could see these sites.

What the sky can do to you . . . paragliding!

March 3, 2009

Today, I went paragliding. When I was going up the gondola with trees on both sides of me with the slope of the hill, my mind was going bonkers, I get to go paragliding today. Dad and I found out that the gondola we were on in Queenstown was at a 37 degree angle. Isn’t that steep? The view from the top of the gondola was also one of the most amazing things.

view-of-queenstown.jpg

Then the door started opening and out we went. When we got near to where I was supposed to meet my tandem paragliding instructor (just outside the doors), we went inside the little shack to check in to paraglide and I got a stamp that said, “FLOWN” put on my wrist.

flown-stamp.jpg

My tandem instructor was Brady. We went up the hill to the platform. The platform was grass at a small angle. At the end of the platform was a big step so you could take off. What I got on was a big backpack but that was really a seat too. Brady strapped it on me and I could sit down in a really comfortable position because there was foam on the bottom in case you hit the ground. Then I had my helmet (he gave me his gloves and his hands got freezing during the glide).

After the people in front of us took off (the people to the left of us took three tries before they got up!) it was our turn. Brady got out the sail, and we got to the end of the platform. There, he clipped me onto the paraglider, which was now lying flat on the ground, spread out and open. We waited a few minutes for the wind to pick up, and he gave me a few instructions, like, run at full speed like you are pulling a tractor. Then the wind was just right. Brady said, “Are you ready, mate?” “Yeah,” I responded. And then, before I knew it, I found myself running. Then something pulled me back and it felt like I couldn’t run because the sail was picking up all my speed. It felt like I was trying to heave so much iron, something really heavy. Then the sail got right above us and my feet left the ground and there we were, flying on open air. Dad was snapping pictures like crazy from the platform. The people below looked like little peas in the distance. We flew for a long time over the trees and then we were so much higher than where we had taken off. Then we started going down.

[Video by Dad at takeoff]

[Pictures by Dad at takeoff]

The sensation of flying without being on a commercial jetliner was awesome. I had the craziest sensation because I was always looking down, and not up, that I was hovering on air. I felt like I could go anywhere now, and the wind in my face made it all the better. But when you look up, you don’t really notice that you are on a paraglider because you always think of paragliders as a big cone, because you always see them from that angle. The sensation was unreal. You were on a UFO for the first time, all you alien lovers.

Then the sight of Queenstown came into view. This time the buildings looked like little peas in the distance with the beautiful lake below looking its best blue just for me. Out came Brady’s camera on a stick, and we took a few photos with me on the paraglider, including a video.

[Bear with the air sound distortion on the video, listen for Jack saying “Awesome!”]

[Pictures taken by Brady in the air]

Then the buildings started moving faster, but it was just us getting closer to the ground. Then I saw mom at the landing sight, the elementary school field (don’t you wish paragliders came to your school when you were little?). When I saw mom I yelled, “Hi mom!” but she was already snapping pictures. Brady said, “Get ready for landing.” But I did not need to do a thing. Just touch my feet to the ground and the whole contraption stopped. (More or less Brady stopped it.)

Then all I had to do was be psyched! I did it!

Thanks Uncle John!!!!

[Pictures by Mom at school landing field]

Cows (by Jack) & Christmas 2008 (by Eliot)

January 6, 2009

img_0057.jpgCows in Thailand

“Oom,” yelled Jack Gargan as the cows pass by. “She’s my favorite. She comes when I call her.” “Oom,” he yelled again.” Finally Oom, a beautiful cow, changed direction from the stream of cows and headed towards Jack. “Oom,” he yelled again and she followed the sound of her name. Oom came to the painted steel fence as all the other cows passed by to the feeding area.

Oom had mostly a gray color, but a beautiful orange color between the horns and some on the hind legs. No question also, she had 2 foot long ears.

Now the second time I saw the cows go past Jack said ,”Oh, here comes Oom.” Oom stopped and Jack said “You come to get your picture taken?” As Oom walked on, Jack said, “Where’s Namphu? Oh, here she comes. Namphu, I see you,” as a younger cow approached, the granddaughter of Boya Boon, a famous cow in Thailand. She was a younger cow than Oom, without horns, but she only had 1 1/2 foot ears and was a beautiful white color.

We (Mom, Eliot and I) were sitting on the bed lounging, when Ainsley ran in the door saying, “They have a new cow!” “No way,” said mom.

A little later we were walking out to see New, the new calf. We had to walk all the way across the rice fields with the remains of plants, almost like hay. When we reached the calf it was less than one hour old. The calf was sitting with shorter ears than prized cows (Nampu), but a white body (that was wet). A little later the calf finally stood and went on a mission to find the udder. Two things I thought were cool, the afterbirth and the umbilical cord. The calf was a little bit taller than most calfs so she took a very long time to find the udder, so I did not see the first drink. :-(

Thailand has cows for pets. How would you feel? Moo!

Jack

Christmas 2008

Koh Phagnan, Thailand

It is Christmas Eve and my mom said to me, “Don’t get mad if you do not get any presents that you want because you are only going to get small presents.” So, we had just a regular, relaxing day there. We brushed our teeth as usual, and got ready for bed. So, the next morning, I woke up, nobody was awake and it was dark in the room. It felt like I waited for an hour before somebody woke up, and that was Jack. We had to wait another hour until another person woke up, and we just waited until a parent woke up. Then we all got out of bed and we opened our presents. A surprising thing is that my brother and I have always been wishing for a Nintendo DS and Santa put all of the presents at the end of our beds and my brother and I each found a Nintendo DS!

P.S. My sister hasn’t wished for any electronic, but at the end of her bed, she found laying there an ipod touch!

Eliot

Worst Ferry Ride

December 30, 2008

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Inside is a poem by Eliot, written today in his journal. He agreed to share it with all of you. The picture is of Eliot curled up for the ride on the 2nd ferry, a much better ride than the one that spawned the following poem. You will notice that there is sun shining in this picture and it almost looks cheerful.  The day of the Worst Ferry Ride was actually almost as dark as night because the waves crashed over the windows and the rain pelted down non-stop from thick, dark clouds.  We are sure you understand the reasons that there exist no photos to document Worst Ferry Ride.  But Eliot’s words do a good job.  Enjoy.  We did.

Worst Ferry Ride

Destination Thailand.

Quote rough.

Smells pukey.

Suggestion night in Koh Tao.

I felt sick.

Eliot’s New Smile

December 15, 2008

eliots-missing-tooth.jpgHere is Eliot’s new look these days. He wiggled and wiggled the baby tooth for a number of weeks and it finally gave way yesterday. As you might imagine, he was thrilled and is very proud of his new smile. The adult tooth will look quite funny in his small mouth when it comes in the whole way.

Comparing Bus Rides

December 8, 2008

img_8540.jpgHere is a story of a bus ride in Cambodia. My dad said it was going to be a nice bus ride, but by the look of the bus on the outside it made me think it was going to be a nice ride, but when I saw the inside it was not as nice as I thought. And a few minutes later, the bus started moving. It was not as bad as I thought. When we got far into the bus ride, something like Ecuador happened — HONK HONK!! The bus driver honked the horn the whole ride at motorcycles and bicycles. The road was actually kind of bumpy and to make it extra crazy, the driver was crazy. It was pretty much a double decker, but there were no seats on the bottom, so is that a double decker or a single decker? When I needed to go to the bathroom, I went down to the lower deck where the bathroom is, but surprisingly the door is really short. Even I had to duck. When I got into the bathroom, it was really dirty: teeny sink that was dirty, potty that was dirty, and the flusher was really not nice. At least it was better than peeing in a coke bottle in Ecuador.

p.s. There are way more motorcycles in Cambodia than there are in the United States.

The Jungle

October 28, 2008

(Here is Eliot’s first blog entry, about our time in the jungle back in Ecuador. Told by Eliot, typed by John.)

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Blowguns

If you want to save money, buy a blowgun and hunt for dinner. (Even though you won’t catch anything, ha, ha!)

We were in Runa Wasi in Ecuador and we were trying blowguns out and our goal was to hit a piece of foam on a stick. Everybody tried to hit it, except they couldn’t, and then our guide tried it and he hit it.
blow-gun.jpg
Fishing

Also, we went fishing and instead of using fishing poles we used nets. I couldn’t even throw one out and also what I didn’t think we were able to do was that we were able to swim in the pond. The fish had sharp fins and that was kind of weird that we got to swim in it.

fishing.jpg

Tubing in Rio Blanco

My mom said that I shouldn’t go tubing except I wanted to go. So, I got in the dugout canoe and what I wasn’t expecting was that our guide fell out into the river and also that the other guide fell into the water too. We were going up the river and went over a rapid and our guide had to get out to pull the canoe over the rapid. Once we got over that we still had to canoe up the river until we found a good spot. Then we stopped and we were going to start tubing. I wanted to see it to see how scary it was going to be. It looked really scary so I just decided to go into the canoe and go down. Then it wasn’t that crazy going down the river so I decided to get out and it wasn’t that scary in the tube. I said “Dad, we have to go back up!”

river.jpg

The Whale Watch I Will Never Forget

October 25, 2008

In Puerto Piramides, after we moved into our hostel, I thought “what are we going to do today?” Then we went down to the beach and got a whale watch for 4 PM and as quick as I could think we were out on the bay off of Puerto Piramides. I couldn’t wait to get out and watch whales and I thought, “how long are we going to see one of the whales?” I didn’t know how long we were going to see each whale. Would it just go down and we would leave or would it go down and we would wait for it to come back up? But, as we finished our boat ride out to the whales it just faded away from my mind because the whales we were seeing were amazing. Although I had already seen Southern Right Whales off the dock in Puerto Madryn earlier that morning, it was still amazing, but I did feel like we were disturbing them a little more with the boat.

The first two Southern Right Whales we saw were mother and calf (I was happy to be able to see a mother and calf, not just a mother and not just a father). As we watched the mother and calf, we didn’t really see the mother because she was turned upside down and her white belly was right there in front of our faces. It was pretty cool to see the mother really, really tired of feeding her calf, which was why she was turned upside down so the calf couldn’t reach her. It was a pretty amazing sight and they came pretty close to the boat. We didn’t really get to see their tails much, but that didn’t matter. I was just happy to see whales. Now, here are a few pictures.

Now, we had to leave the mother and calf, but later I was really happy that we left them because…….

We came upon a female with two males trailing after her. I was happy now to see all of the different kinds of Southern Right Whales that we could see; a male, a female and a calf. The males and female I found out were getting ready to mate and the female was going to find out which male was strongest. They had to reach her but first had to follow her. Then we saw the female go down with her tale flopping up in the air and the males followed her, trying to mate with her, but only one would succeed. I thought that the last one was the one that was going to fail. As they kept going under and up, and under and up, and under and up, I thought “how long are they going to be able to do this” and then the boat stopped and turned as they turned around in a circle. As the two males were there a third one came up and one of them faded away. Then as one went under water the other backed off because he probably thought he was too far away. The male that was underwater I thought was belly to belly with the female because she wasn’t going down. As the female circled, they would have done a half circle, and then they started turning a little sharper. As the female was maybe only as far as from my head to my feet away from the boat I was wondering what had happened to the male. But now some quick pictures (make it Quick the good part is yet to come)

female-medium.jpgfluke-medium.jpgapproaching-medium.jpg

Then one thing happened. That in a lifetime I will never forget how excited I was when I saw the body of the male Southern Right Whale popping up right in between the female and the boat. I could have touched him. Everybody here (or tourists here) always are amazed by how close you can get to the whales. They say it felt so close that I could touch them. But to everybody, and to even you, I have to tell you one thing. I could have touched them. I’m not saying that I FELT like I could touch them, I COULD touch them. He came up, bubbles rose, and then a humongous body just went PPPOOOOOOOLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! *

It surprised me so much. My hand was kept in the boat, but I wish I could feel the difference of the whale skin and other skins, but I knew that I shouldn’t do it. That is one thing that has sunk into my mind and will stay there for as long as I will live. That might have been one of the maybe five times already in my life that I have had something that will stick to my head. It was so amazing I just can’t bear to think how mad I would have been to have not picked that whale watch. I wish I could have paused my life and played a movie of that whale coming 50 or maybe even 100 times before I would have been able to start my life up again. The video is up there* and you can watch, 100 or as many times as you would wish, but for me that’s just not as amazing as seeing it in person. So, for me that is not enough, but hopefully I get another thing that will stick to my head as long as I live soon. Hopefully before we get back to Buenos Aires, but I don’t think so because the only thing that will stick to my head like that is usually wildlife. One of the favorite things that I have ever seen is wildlife. I would have died to see the amazing sites that some people, very few, but some people have seen of wildlife. But, that was only the beginning. I have yet to make my life an interaction with the hardest wildlife to find in the world.

but as I said the beginning has started the rest has yet to come I will be waiting for more to come…..

(typed by John, but definitely written by Jack)

Adventure on Putucusi Mountain

October 14, 2008

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Aeroparque Buenos Aires

As I wait for the LAN flight to Iguazu, I thought that I would write about one of my favorite times in Peru.

Climbing Putucusi

Machu Picchu the day before had been amazing and magnificent, but this, because it was only my dad and me, was one of my favorite times that I had in Peru. People said that the most amazing view was at the top, looking back at Machu Picchu. So, I said “I want to do this hike,” and the next day we were on the train tracks going to the head of the trail and I was excited.

“Phew, this hike is already hard,” I said to my dad. Then our first ladder came. Our first ladder was pretty small, but then we came to some more ladders. We had known from somebody that a lot of the hike was on ladders and ladders and ladders. We didn’t bring my mom or anyone else because we woke up early for Machu Picchu the day before and nobody else wanted to wake up again for Putucusi, except me. So, on the second ladder my dad said that this didn’t seem to be the 110-rung ladder that somebody had told us about. (But, on the way back down we counted the number of rungs and it did end up being 110 rungs.) After the ladders, we came to this thing that we called the “saddle.” We had not been on Putucusi this whole time, but were on another mountain (I don’t know the name) and now we were going on a connector that was the way to Putucusi. The sides of the saddle were really steep. To the top of Putucusi from there was about one half of what we had already hiked, but it was harder because we went up switchbacks (or zig zags) on the mountain. So, we were coming to the top and I couldn’t wait to see the vvvvvviiiiieeeewwww!!!!! The view was spectacular. It kind of looked like this.

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Then, when we were having our snack (wafer cookies and chips) and all of our water, this guy, sweating like crazy and breathing really hard, finished his hike up the mountain and sat down and was happy to be resting. Then we found out he was from Brazil and was discovering his continent. He was in Machu Picchu and wanted to do this hike, so he did it. He introduced himself, we introduced ourselves and we had a talk because he knew a little English and we spoke a little Spanish and we were able to communicate. He gave me a Brazilian 10 Reis bill and instead of saying “de” on the bill (which means of in English), it said “do” because they speak Portuguese, not Spanish in Brazil.

It was an easy hike down the mountain and I can’t wait until another adventure worth writing about.

Whitewater Rafting on the Rio Chili (that was actually chilly)

September 28, 2008

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The first time that I heard we might go whitewater rafting was in Baños, but when the chance came for the first time in Arequipa (or anywhere) I said “let’s go”. I was not missing this time because I had been waiting since Baños and was not waiting any longer. So, we got into a truck from our hostal, El Caminante Class, and we got started on our way to the whitewater rafting. On the way there we had to stop for all of our equipment like helmets, wet suits, the raft and a kayak too (actually two kayaks, but we only ended up using one). An then we were on our way. As the truck stopped again we got out and noticed that this was where we were going to be whitewater rafting. I can’t make the car sound here because we are just starting whitewater rafting we are not starting the car, we are starting to whitewater raft. As we went down our first rapid, I was like “WOW, this is awesome!”. We bounced around a lot. “Tow, Tow, Tow” (Try to imagine it even though you aren’t actually there) So, we went down the river a little bit, maybe a fifth of the way, and then we hit our first class III rapid and I was like “So awesome dude!” Because, we were bouncing around like “Tow,Tow,Tow”. As we went down the river and we came to stop, and I was like “why are we stopping”, we came to a class IV rapid. But we weren’t going to ride on it so we had to walk through it and my feet felt icier than ice cubes. Icier than the ice age. Iciest they have ever been in my life. That water was freezing. Then there were so many cool sites to see on our way to the next class IIs, IIIs, and our only IV. But, as we took all these rapids we were having so much fun that I didn’t notice when we stopped and he told us to get out of the boat. We walked a little ways down the river and I saw an amazing site. It was a rapid called “The White Canyon”. All the water bunched up so quickly and then crashed down and made a whitewater canyon. He said that we can ride on it or you don’t have to. I’m like “who would ever want to walk that thing, it looks awesome.” Some people didn’t want to, but I couldn’t understand that. We were just up there right over White Canyon. A lot of people were saying “yes” and others may have been sweating a little bit. And then “Kapfoosh”

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It felt like we were going through a water tunnel because all of the water touched the raft and went around us. In the end we were all wet because of course the water has to come down and it came down on our heads and everybody got wet, wet, wet and more wet. After that it wasn’t as exciting because there were only class IIs and class IIs and they weren’t as exciting.

But then we came to what I thought was the most fun of the whole trip. 75% into the trip we hit a class III+ and that changed it all. It was about maybe one minute of almost class IV rafting and that made my day. But, what didn’t make my day was that we were almost done. Then when we got to the end I was “awesomely freaked out” because that was awesome, even better than horseback riding in Baños.

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