Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I am a slacker. Pure and simple. It has been the year of the 'A's so far - after Argentina and Australia, I hit up Alaska this summer to visit my youngest sister Hannah. She is an archaeologist and was there surveying for the summer. We had a blast of a road trip, and I haven't written a thing about it! So, heads up - fun stories and pictures soon to come...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pictures from Australia

Okay, now that I'm home I can upload some pics. I didn't write about my last couple of days, but you'll see the pictures...wildlife sanctuary with lots of cool animals, going out with some Americans/German we met in the hostel...


Monday, March 17, 2008

Mid-night adventures

Well, I've made it to my new hostel, which is much nicer than the last, and it's really cool. I did my long workout today, which I had to pay an outrageous price for (the gym is swanky and expensive), and tried to swim, but the pool is salt-water! I couldn't stand it for long - it was burning my nose! I'll have to do the swims this weekend.

So, last night at about 3:00 a.m., I woke up coughing with a burning, dry throat. I drank some water and ate a tic-tac, but it was getting worse. I was really groggy, but I noticed that two other girls in the room were coughing as well. My eyes were starting to water, and I felt like I was breathing fire. The other girls ran out to the bathroom, and I followed them - they were experiencing the same sensation! As we wandered back, we saw one other guy go stumbling out as well. We headed downstairs to the 7-11 and got a juice. The we stood on the sidewalk with a few guys that were still up, speculating about what could be going on. We knew they had cleaned the room that day - did they spray chemicals? If so, how come it didn't bother us until 3:00 a.m.? One of their friends came into the conversation and said, "Aha - yep, pepper spray - that happened to me once." We were skeptical. "Yeah, yeah, whatever..." we laughed. Why on earth would there be pepper spray in our room? Soon, another of their friends stopped by, and we told him the story as well, and he said "Aha! Pepper spray - that sucks." We were hysterical at that point. The guys were sure that someone had sprayed pepper spray in our room, which seemed ludicrous, but honestly, we couldn't think of a better explanation. Anyway, we hung out on the corner for a half an hour and then went back to bed. Thankfully, whatever it was had dissipated by then. Needless to say, I was happy to move on this morning!

Oh, and BTW, the answer is (...drumroll...) water spins clockwise in Australia! How about at home? I don't even know!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Thanks for the comments - I miss you guys! I'm so jealous about next weekend too :( I've been trying to figure out a way that I could jet to ABQ, grab my festival dresses, and still make it to Florida. Oh, and I have to be fresh and not jet-lagged on Monday, because I have 12 days to write a very long report. Don't think it's going to work. Can we go to MagFest (please please please???) I haven't watched the water going down to see which way it spins...but I'll check :) I arrived safely at my hostel yesterday, went for a run, and went out with my two new Irish friends Orla and Michelle. They're really cool girls. There are a ton of Irish people in Melbourne, actually. They have really neat accents. Last night was fun too, but I finally had to take off when the Irish/English rugby game came on. It was a little intense for me at 2:00 a.m. :)

Today I took a train for 45 mins to Mordialloc and saw the Duhks! It was really fun - I just love the festival atmosphere. I walked around for a while, waded in the bay, and saw a few bands. I also saw some Tibetan monks. They were there with their own area/tent from a local monastary. I didn't get to see them chant, but I watched them making a sand drawing.

It was really, really hot today. I think it was about 40 C, which is about 104 F. I thought I was going to have a heat stroke. I tried to stay out of the sun, but I had a beer, a gatorade, a lemon soda, and about 9 bottles of water, and I still felt dehydrated! The Duhks show was good but short - I got to see their new singer for the first time. By the time they came up it was 4:00, so it was a teeny bit cooler, but still hot. Not too many people by the stage, but people slowly started to drift up while they were playing. I danced like crazy and was all dirty and sweaty by the time they finished! I went and talked to Tania and Sarah afterwards, but only for a minute. I really wanted to hang out with them or something, but I never have the guts to ask. They were kind of busy and no one else even came out. I just can't think of a normal sounding way to be like "Can we hang out?" I don't want to be like a crazy stalker - "Hi - I'm your biggest fan. Can I follow you around and be your friend?" Nope, that line won't work. It's a dilemma.

I'm moving hostels tomorrow to a place down by the beach. The place I'm in now is a total dump. Ryan would be indignant. I don't think he'd stay here (love you, baby :)) I don't really care though - the people are nice, and it's a bed! The showers are unisex, which is interesting... This week I'm going to try to get a little bit of a tan, and not get stung by a jellyfish. Not sure what else I'll do, although there's a wildlife sanctuary in Healesville that I'd like to visit. Have to take a bus though - could take a while. Also, everyone keeps telling me that I need to go do a tour of Great Ocean Road, but I hate going on touristy stuff like that. I'd prefer to rent a car and drive it, but I'm scared to try to drive on the wrong side of the road!

Friday, March 14, 2008


Finally finished work, and I'm feeling a little homesick and overwhelmed this morning. All the pent-up stress from the past week is coming out. I'm just getting ready to leave my hotel and jump over to my first hostel. I talked Ryan this morning, which made me feel better, and I just had a very pleasant interaction with the desk manager. I'm sure a good workout and a nap will do a lot towards bringing my spirits up.

Went out with my friend Tim last night for a friend's birthday, which was great. I met a nice Irish girl who invited me to a BBQ tonight, so that will be lots of fun! Megs - I think it might be a sign :) Is tomorrow St. Paddy's? I might be in for a ride!

Are you guys reading? Haven't heard from anyone in a while...


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The end is in sight...

...of work, that is. We've been working 12-14 hour days, I'm a day behind on my workouts, and right now I'm sitting at a laundromat because I'm out of socks and "clean" was starting to get relative. I have hope, though! Tomorrow is our last full day of work! Friday we'll give a briefing and do some final data aggregation, and then we're finished! At least until I get back to Albuquerque and have to churn out a full report in 11 days.

I'm actually having a really good time at work because I'm learning a lot, and I think overall everyone is working well together and we're doing a good job. I'm starting to get a little burnt out, but I'm running on adrenaline because I want to get as much done as possible.

I haven't managed to do anything fun this week, but by Friday I'll be making plans for the rest of my "fun" time. I've got some contacts. I know some people.

Wish everyone could be here to enjoy this beautiful city!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Day Off!

Finally had a day off today, which was really nice and lazy. I met up with my friends Brendon and Kate last night for dinner and drinks, and we walked around down by the river. There's a festival this weekend, and there were fireworks and tons of people everwhere. It was loads of fun, but we got tired early. This morning I got up and went to breakfast with some of the guys that I'm traveling with. Then I went down to the beach at St. Kilda and met up with Brendon and Kate again. We walked the pier and saw these huge jellyfish floating in the water, some starfish, and even a couple of little bitty fairy penguins. We didn't get in the water, but I'll have plenty of time for that next week. I had a traditional meat pie for lunch, which I wasn't too crazy about, and a gelato that was heavenly.

We headed back to their apartment in the city and chilled out for a bit. I got to call and talk to Megs and Ryan, and then I took a nap at their place. Got up, went to dinner, and now I'm back at the hotel and tired again already. I think I'm going to watch a movie and go to bed early :) I have to get up and work in the morning - I have a feeling this week is going to be long. Still having a blast though, and it was really good to get to hang out with Brendon and Kate.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bittersweet (and in a hurry)

Okay, I have to hurry because I'm exhausted, I still have work to do, and I only have 6 mins of internet time left!

Still having a blast, but getting a little tired. We've been working long hours, and working out by myself SUCKS. I mean it really sucks. Meghan and Laura - I miss you!!!

On a positive note, I saw my friend Tim from camp last night. We went out for dinner and drinks, talked about the last 7 years (I had no idea it had been that long. I'm a bad counter, apparently), and looked at old pictures of us together that I didn't remember. It was really great - I had a wonderful time.

I swam 1800 meters today in between my first 11 hours of work and the last hour that I just did, and now I have to go write some stuff up. Argh. I think we're going to get a day off on Sunday!

Monday, March 3, 2008

love, love, love


Well, today was GORGEOUS. I got up early this morning for a work meeting that lasted 5 minutes, so I decided to go ahead and get my double workout out of the way. I walked a few blocks to a city gym and paid a few bucks to use the pool, which was small but nice. On the way back, I was filled with this amazing sense of the awesomeness of the universe. It was about 10 am, beautiful weather, and I happened upon a juice bar where I got some sustainance, anticipating my 70 min. bike ride. Then I wandered down the sidewalk, smiling so hard I felt like crying. The sun was shining and people were smiling and...wow. I'm going to quote some Pierce Pettis to describe how I felt this morning...

"My heart goes out...like a flare in the night...

Oh my soul
Feels the undertow
Caught up in the flood
Of more love than I can hold
The tide comes in my heart,
My heart goes out"

And that just carried me through the day. I mean, this place rocks. And I'm really happy. I wish you all could be here!

I spent the rest of the day hopping around town with a friend from work. Tried a veggie restaurant that was good, visited a couple of craft markets (I know, I'm an addict), and made it down to a beautiful beach with some great sunshine. I think I might stay down near the beach after we finish up work. Everyone that I'm working with is kind of doing their own thing, which is cool. I'm excited to catch up with some friends this week, although I'm also enjoying spending a little time alone, believe it or not, and everyone that I've talked to here has been really friendly.

More soon...


Friday, February 29, 2008


Well, I'm back in the southern hemisphere, but this time I'm in sunny Melbourne! We just arrived today after a 15 hour flight. I'll be working here for 2 weeks, and then I'll be hanging around for another 6 days to check out the city. I'm super super excited. It's in the 60's here and gorgeous right now. I've got a couple of friends from Gold Arrow Camp, where I used to work, living in town, so I'm excited to get to catch up with them.

We're staying across the street from a big park, which is nice. So far my only impressions of Australia are that Melbourne seems to be a pretty, clean city. Also, it's nice (and not what I'm used to) to be in a foreign country and still be able to speak English. I realized a little belatedly that I didn't need to be anxious to talk to strangers, because everyone can understand me!

Well, I have to run - literally. Gotta stick to my triathlon training schedule.


Saturday, January 12, 2008


Okay, hopefully this works - I'm trying to embed a slideshow of our best photos. You can also view them individually at http://picasaweb.google.com/auralee/Argentina

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Winding down...

Well, we´re back in Bs As, and we´re hanging in. Been too busy to blog for the last few days, but we´re leaving for home tomorrow night! We fly out at 10 pm, arrive around 6 am on Friday, and we´re driving up to Rome for the day. So if anyone wants to say hi, we´ll be in Armuchee for about 8 hours!

We spent 3 days in Mendoza, which was beautiful, but HOT. Our first day there was 42 degrees celsius, which is somewhere in the low 100´s fahrenheit. I took 4 cold showers. I thought I was dying. It got a little better from there, but not much. Apparently that first day was the hottest they´ve ever had. We went wine tasting and horseback riding, which was amazing. Now we´re in Bs As looking for a place to eat dinner.

Love you guys, and see you soon!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Well, we´ve arrived in San Carlos de Bariloche, in the Lake District. After a 16 hour bus ride, we´re a little stiff and tired, and it was nice to get here and take a shower! And oh my god, it´s gorgeous here... I feel like we just got dropped into a little swiss village. Our room looks out over the biggest lake in the lake district, and it´s framed all around by snow-capped mountains. The architecture even looks swiss (or maybe german, not sure). It´s crazy beautiful. It´s sunny, but the wind is quite brisque, so it´s perfect for lounging around outside. The water´s supposed to be icy, because it´s from glacier melt.

I´m off to make some travel arrangements, love you guys...


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Back on Track!

We had to take a short break from blogging to enjoy our vacation, but I´m sure everyone understands! The patagonian leg of our trip can be summed up in one phrase: Adventures with Wildlife. If you´re interested in reading more, see the next few posts below. If not, you´ll be forced to hear about it the next time we see you. Hopefully, well get some more picutres up soon.


Península Valdéz

Aura and I just got back from a circuit around Península Valdéz. We spent the night before and the night after in Puero Piramides, which is a small town of 300 people on the entrance to the national park.

We got a little bit of a late start, but it didn´t seem like it would take to long to make the trip so it was okay. Our little VW Gol was not really made to travel around 200Km on ripio, but it was built well enough to endure it at least once. Our first stop was at Punta Delgada, about 70Km into the circuit. There we stood on a bluff about 150 feet above a beach were adolescent sea elephants were sunning on the sand. The were all napping and hard to see because we were so high up, so we departed pretty quickly. Besides, the security camera that kept watch over the tourists was making me nervous. I wasn´t sure if it was there to keep watch over us, to protect the sea elephants, or to settle insurance disputes after some dumb tourist got killed after climbing over the fence and falling to their death.

After that, we headed north toward Punta Norte, so 80Km away. Along the way we stopped on the side of the road and looked over the bluffs. It was really beautiful and the wind off the pampas cooled us off a bit as we watched more sea elephants play in the sea and sun on the beach some 100 feet below.

Another short jaunt brought us to Caleta Valdéz, which is a state run luxury hotel. We walked on some paths that took us down to the beach where we could actually see some sea elephants. The were all adolescents that could quite make the long swims at see that the adults do, and for the most part all they were interested in was napping. The were really cute for an animal that resembles an overstuffed sausage or a fat sack of fat.

Yet another quick drive brought us to a penquino colony were we stop for a bit to be reunited with our friends. A good number of them lined the shore, but as a sea elephant cruised up the shoreline the all scuried to make a 10 foot perimeter between them and the water line. We jumped in the car and made our way to Punta Norte with a few stops to see the Guanacos (which are pretty much a llama).

We weren´t even all the way into the parking lot at Punta Norte when we saw the first sign of wildlife. An amidillo was making his way toward the parking lot, but dove into a burrow as the car got close. We parked the car and made our way back to the burrow to see if we could see him again, but the armidillo was nice enough to meet us half way. It took us all of a second to realize that he was about as scared of us as we were of him, which was not at all. He sniffed us and made his way on his route toward the ocean.

We followed him and took the path down to the sea, where about a 100 sea lions were lining the shore. These were a different type of sea lion, I think, and the males weighed in at about 800 pounds! All the males were protecting their harems and having a pissing contest over who was the boss of the beach. They made quite a lot of noise and did a lot of biting too, but they were entertaining enough to draw a big crowd, including the armidillo.

After we´d had our fill of watching the boys bit eachother, bark, and make out with the girls we headed back to the car. On the way we ran into some animals that looked like the worlds smallest chipmonks, measuring all of an inch and a half long. When we made it back to the car, the birds were in a general uproar so we know something was up. We figured they were made at a small group of people that were headed down the trail to the sea, but then I spoted what they were really upset about. A small grey fox was trotting around looking for a snack and the birds didn´t like that at all. We stalked the fox as best we could, but it didn´t take long for him to notice us and drop into an arroyo.

We found a spot where we could see him trying to make his way into a bramble bush and eat an insect he seamed really interested in. The bush began to shake a little and the fox put his ears up and all of us were a bit nervous. All at once, our friend the armidillo stuck his head out of the bush and scared the fox to death! The fox made a sound like an angry squeze toy and shot up into the air. When he landed, be put his ears back and histed at the armidillo and jumped out of the arroyo and sat on the lip. The armidillo appeared quite pleased with himself and made his way down the arroyo in search of a snack. The fox sat on the lip and watched and the resumed his search for a snack as well.

We tried to leave but just couldn´t resist the chance to watch the fox and play with the armidillo, who seemed to be curious of anything that moved. We took about a hundred pictures and laughed until we were sore! After that, it was a 90 minute drive across the interior of the peninsula back to the hostel. We had a great diner and had a debate over which animal was our favorite. It was a close race, but I think the armidillo really was the star of the show.

We miss you all and can´t wait to share our stories in person!



Buceo con Lobos!!!

So as you might imagine, diving with sea lions is a awesome experience. We went for about an hour dive and say close to ten sea lions that thought we were pretty interesting. Our guide Patrick, or Pato as he liked to be called was really nice and very patient. It was both my and Aura´s first dive in the open ocean so things were a little bit nerve racking at times. Pato took it all in stride and helped us when he could.

We were told in our "on boat training" that if the sea lions got curious the would give you a friendly bite, much like a dog will bit you if it wants to play. It wont hurt, it´s not an agressive action, they just want to play. We were told they would bit us on the neoprene hoods or on the arms, but they also like fins and snorkles. Coincidentally, we weren´t given any snorkles because the sea lions had stollen them so may times. So the long story short, if they bit us on the hood we should brush our hand over the hood to stop them and if we stuck out a closed fist they would probably give it a friendly bite.

We were under water for all of 5 minutes be for we saw our first two sea lions. Aura immeadiately stuck out a closed fist an waited for the sea lion to approach. She wasn´t lucky enough to get a little sea lion bit, but the sea lions did circle us for a couple of minutes. They were quick to show us that we had no hopes of keeping up with them as the circled us, swam up to our faces only to dart off again, and generally taunt us. At one point Aura was looking around for one of the sea lions only to have him swim up behind her and come nose to nose right over the top of her head. The were seperated by about 8 inches when Aura quickly stuck out her fist. I think the sea lion thought she was taking a swing at him because they both darted off after that.

It was about this time that it really started to become clear that we were not properly weighted. We were wearing brand new double 7mm wetsuits which had been removed from the packaging that morning. Although they had never been peed in (a major plus if you ask me) it was also clear that our instructors didn´t really know the correct weight to compensate for the bouyancy of the suit. As we got into sallower waters we began to float off of the bottom. I was doing okay, and even though there wasn´t a spot of air in my BC I would still float off of the bottom at anything above 4.5 meters or so. Aura, on the other hand, was not so lucky. She had quite a bit of bouyancy and she was really fighting to stay down pretty much all the time.

But we fought on in hopes of seeing more sea lions. The next two we saw were playing with eachother in the water, but one appeared to be an adult male. As you might imagine, when you see something that weighs 400 pounds or so that looks like a ballerina in the water you are both amazed and a little intimidated. We didn´t get to enjoy the show for too long before they both swam off. We circled around and enjoyed to fauna of the ocean floor as we fought to stay at the bottom and right near the end of our dive we came onto a group of about 4 sea lions. We were in deeper water, so we could stay down a little and the sea lions slowly gained confidence and approached us. I got a nice friendly bit on the head and one on the fins, but Aura was the star of the show as she played with one sea lion with her fins. After she put out her fist she was lucky enough to get love bite this time plus one on the head as well.

We were pretty much out of time at that point, so we had to surface and get on the boat, but on the way back Aura was really happy to have been that close to such a beautiful animal. I was happy enough to have had such an awesome experience, but to see my girlfried that happy is what really put the icing on the cake for me.

Love you all,

Ryan (a.k.a La Tortuga)

Punto Tombo

So as it turns out, Punto Tombo is not a 2.5 hour drive from Puerto Madryn...it´s a 3.5 hour drive. The long part of the drive down Routa 3 took about 2 hours, but the last 40 Km or so was ¨ripio.¨ Aura and I were told what ripio was, it´s basically a dirt and gravel road, but we didn´t understand what it meant until it took us 1.5 hours to drive 40 Km.

On the road, the tour buses flew by us at about 90 Km an hour and I kept thinking that we would see one of them flipped over on the side of the road. Thankfully, that didn´t happen, and we arrived safely at Punto Tombo along with all the tour buses. We´d slathered on as much sunscreen as we could and headed down the trail toward the penguinos when a park ranger told us we had to buy tickets. He was talking to a guy who had bought tickets for his entire family for 35 pesos. When it was are turn to pay the ranger asked us ¨¿De donde sos?¨ Thinking he was just being friendly, we told him were were from the states. His reply was to inflate the price of our tickets by a factor of 4. Now, we know that people will sometimes give us inflated prices because were from the states and the figure we can afford it, but in Argentina it is appearently a state sponsered activity. The ranger gave us two tickets at 40 pesos each (as opposed to the 10 peso tickes for residents) that were marked as tickets for forgieners. This didn´t suprise me too much, since it had happened at Iguazú about a week before hand, but it was quite amusing. I figure that´s just the way it is down here, but back home the government would never put up a price chart that says ¨Oh wait, you´re a forgiener...well then, were going to screw you.¨

Once we had our tickets, we were free to roam around the park and look at the penguinos. The path along the park had been paved with gravel and was marked on each side by large, white rocks about 10 feet apart. If you got so brave as to roam a little off the path, one of the park rangers would blow their little, plastic whistle at you and run you down so they could give you a talking to. So from then on out it was self explainitory: roam around and enjoy the company of the penguins.

And the little penguins know how to put on a show! When we arrived, there wasn´t too much activity because it was midday and really, really hot. The penguinos were huddled in there burrows trying to stay cool. Mom and pop were usually quite, but the two chicks would chirp quite a bit because they were hot or hungry. So we spent the first part of the walk trying to get a good glimpse of the penguins through bushes and down in the burrows.

The penguinos have seen enough humans to know that the humans aren´t going to try to eat them, so they pretty much ignore you. You can stick your face right up to a burrow and be nose to nose with a penguin and they don´t look nervous. Not even a little bit. Occasionally we´d come be a penguin that wanted to streach its wings in the breaze and cool off, but they were pretty much napping for the afternoon. The whole first part of the walk there was a hill just before the ocean. We couldn´t quite see over it, but I just knew that right over that hill there was a whole flock of penguins playing in the sea.

Well, the second half of the walk proved me right, as there was a land bridge that took you over to a look out over the ocean. When I say land bridge you might be confused. It was basically a pedestrian overpass so the people wouldn´t disturb the penguino highway that appeared to be a major passage way down to the sea. At this point, the penguinos really took it up a knotch. There was a crowd of about 50 penguins that were relaxing in the shade under the bridge and a good 25 walk to the sea and about an equal number walking back. They were so cute, and when you stood on the overpass it was pretty much penguinos as far as the eye could see.

On the other other side of the bridge it was a little cooler, so all the penguinos were out and about. There was a lot more activity and we got to see a lot more of the chicks. Mom and pop would nestle with eachother and the chicks would lay on there bellies in the shade. The were still chirping quite a bit, but not as much. It was really neat to be able to take a knee right next to a wild animal and not feel like it was about ready to take off. After a while, you start to feel like one of the penguino lost in the crowd. The only real difference is the rangers would haul you off kicking and screaming if you left the path to take a quick swim in the ocean.

After we spent our time taking in the penguin families we went around the bend to the ocean look out. By gollie, I was right! There were a couple thousand penguinos lining the shore and taking to the ocean for a quick swim. The made the transition some sort of odd, walking bowling pin on land to what looked like a black an white duck on the ocean! We didn´t get to see it, but appearently, the parents take turns hunting for food in the sea and then make their way back to the nests were the puck up dinner for the twins.

By this point, we were really starting to burn, so Aura was wearing a sweater and I had a windbraker tucked under my hat so my neck wouldn´t get any more sun. We decided that it was going to take a while to make it back over the ripio, so we hightailed it back through the crowd of penguins and chirping chicks back to the car. I do have to say, those pinquinos were really neat and it was worth the 7 hours in the car to feel at home in a crowd on penguinos! Although, I think it nearly killed Aura not to be able to touch them!

Love you all,