Saturday, June 27, 2009


If there's one thing Canadians know, it's ice.

If there's one thing Australians know, it's how to build air conditioning units the size of a football field.

So, on a cool, crisp winter day (roughly 25 degrees Celsius) in June, we decided to see if I could still skate.

We started off with two skates that were the same size. Big mistake actually. My prosthetic foot is slightly shorter and a lot more narrow than my real foot. This meant that every push resulted in the skate boot slopping over to the side and trying to slip out from under me.

We went back to the skate shop and requested to get a left-skate two sizes down from the well-fitting right one.

The much tighter fitting left skate worked like a charm! I'm not sure why I was surprised, afterall, in a skate boot everyone has a stiff ankle. In fact, it's one of the only times everyone walks just like I do!

I'm not looking forward to having to buy two pairs of skates the rest of my life, but I'm sure I'll find a righty to go "half-sies" with. Know anyone?

Skating was easy and was a great quad workout. The smaller muscle groups and my glutes all got a much needed workout doing something that I don't normally do. This was a great way to cross-train! If only I was training for something...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Spontaneous Sydney

Saturday, 10:35am:
A lazy cozy Saturday morning, breakfast in bed (eggs and cold pizza from the night before).

Lisa: what should we do today?
Mike (looking at the clock): we could go to Sydney! No luggage, pull an all nighter! If we leave now, we could be there by 2pm!
Lisa: are you frickin kidding me? ...OK!! But we're getting a hotel! I'll book flights!
Mike: Really?? Ok I'll clean up! You shower!

Saturday, 10:45am:
Calling Virgin and Qantas simultaneously from two different phones, first to answer gets our business!

Saturday, 11:15am:
Flights booked online (cheaper), change of socks and underwear in camera bag! Original fare sold out, had to pay an extra $30. Skipping lunch!

Saturday, 11:40am:
Michael Brian MacKenzie, if you get your license taken away we'll miss our flight!
I'm not going THAT fast!
It's an 80 zone!
Oh... Better drop back to 100 then.

Saturday, 12:05pm:
Status: through security, boarding passes in hand!
Mike: let's get a coffee.
Lisa: how about a beer instead!?!

Saturday, 12:45pm:
Ladies and gentlemen waiting to board flight DJ950 to Sydney: due to some bad weather in Sydney we will delay boarding.
Both: crap, guess we should have checked the weather!

Saturday, 12:55pm:
Ladies and gentlemen, flight DJ950 to Sydney is now boarding!

Saturday, 2:25pm:
Welcome to Sydney!

- Mobile post

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rotorua, New Zealand

A short drive south of New Zealand is Rotorua, a city built in the exploded crater of a very active volcano!

In the 1980's, sensors were burried in the ground with a view to giving the residents of Rotorua approximately two weeks notice in the event of the next major eruption. We didn't stick around long enough to find out if they work!

On our arrival, we attended a Maori cultural show where they performed a Haka up close and personal. We were then treated to a traditionally prepared meal and an after dinner walk through the forest to see glow worms in their natural habitat.

The next day we hiked around the thermal parks in the area, checking out tons of bubbling mud pits and a surreal landscape of steaming rocks. Steam was coming out of the ground everywhere, even out of the post-holes for the fences!

We also witnessed the huge Pohotu geiser erupting, sending high pressure water shooting 15 meters in the air. It was really spectacular!

Hobbiton, New Zealand

If you've seen the Lord of the Rings movies, or just read the books, or perhaps read "the Hobbit" by JRR Tolkien, then you'll know all about Hobbiton, "the Shire" and Bag-End, the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins!

We visited the remains of this peaceful little movie set on our way to Rotorua, New Zealand.

The set was built on a picturesque little sheep farm near Matamata and kept a well guarded secret until the movies came out in 2001. 17 of the original 37 hobbit-holes still remain but their original movie "trimmings" had to all be removed for copyright reasons.

The "party tree" where Bilbo disappears from is still there; all the more impressive in real life to see that a tree like that actually exists! The hobbits have all been replaced by lambs and sheep now but that's not all that surprising.

The human population of New Zealand is approximately 4 million and there are nine sheep to every one human (down from twenty to one in the 1980's). I'm not kidding. The sheep have all but run for office. If aliens landed on earth tomorrow and chose New Zealand as their landing strip, I think they would greet the sheep with impressed glances and congratulate them on the domestication of the human.

Feeding the lambs after the the private sheering demonstration we had.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sky Jump

At 328 metres tall, Auckland's Sky Tower is the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere and offers incredible views for up to 80 kilometres in every direction.

Something that big deserves to be climbed and/or jumped off of! We chose the latter of the two options; less time required. The glass elevator ride to the top was pretty neat too.

The jump takes place from the top skydeck, 192 meters up. During the descent, you reach 83km per hour.

It's not so much like a bungy jump, more like a parachute base jump as your body achieves the same free-fall position as skydiving.

Given the full body harness, my amazing suspension system and an extra safety line tied around my ankle (just in case), I was allowed to wear my leg for the jump.

Even at 192 meters (as opposed to the full height of the tower), the skydeck is the tallest point a person can be in Auckland meaning that you're automatically looking down on every skyscraper's roof. It's enough to weaken the knees!

A view of the skydeck in relation to the rest of the city.

Lisa taking her leap!

I came in for a perfect one-footed landing to absorb the impact then stepped down onto my prosthetic with style.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Across the Pond to Auckland, New Zealand

The last long weekend of the year... that's a lot of pressure for one little weekend!

Lucky for us, Auckland is a short 4 hour swim from Brisbane so with a $99 seat sale taunting us, we couldn't say no.

This was my first international flight with a prosthetic leg, so I really didn't know what to expect. By all reports, I was going to be asked to take my leg off, put it on the belt scanner and hop through the metal detectors. This was not a prospect I was looking forward to.

Fortunately, this was not the drill. I was allowed to walk through like everyone else followed by a quick run by with the "wand".

The second challenge was travelling without my crutches. Not for normal mobility, just for those pesky middle of the night wake-up calls and for getting in/out of the shower. Enter the collapsible hiking poles Matt gave me. When taken apart, these fit neatly in my travel backpack. When assembled, these allowed me to get around with ease after my leg was off at night.

Auckland is home to the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere, the Sky Tower. We woke up on the first morning looking out at this huge monolith from our hotel window less than a block away. As you can imagine, that was one of our first and last stops of the day!

From the top, Auckland's city scape is incredible. The food in the revolving restaurant is even better. From the top you can see the whole city stretch out beneath your feet.

Auckland also boasts several volcanic islands within a stone's throw of the city, great for quick hike on a chilly day! One of these is Rangitoto, easily accessible by a short ferry ride. On a very cold day, we went up Rangitoto and walked the rim of the volcano then hiked down to the lava caves below. These were really cool!

The caves were tens of meters in length and cartoonish in appearance. They were straight out of an Indiana Jones movie with vines and a tiny speck of daylight indicating the far end of the tunnel. At several points along the way, we had to crouch down to get under the four foot high (meter and a half) tunnel ceilings.

One cave tunnel was long enough that we had to take a real leap of faith that it would have an opening on the other side! Enter handy leg-bag flashlight to guide our way. We wouldn't have gone far without that handy bit of MacGuyver-tech.

Quick facts about New Zealand:

New Zealand was the first major nation to have universal suffrage. In 1893 it became legal for all male and female citizens of New Zealand to vote.

It was also the first country to have its three top positions of power held simultaneously by women: The Prime Minister (Helen Clark), the Governor General (Dame Silvia Cartwright), and the Chief Justice (Sian Elias).

Lake Taupo, the largest freshwater lake in Oceania, was the source of the largest known eruption in the world in the last 70 thousand years.

New Zealand was the last major landmass to be populated (with the exception of the polar regions).

Nobel Prize Winner and New Zealander Ernest Rutherford is known as the father of nuclear physics for his orbital theory of the atom.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest was born in Auckland and his face is on the New Zealand $5 bill.

Auckland's skyline at night.

A nice dinner on our last night in Auckland.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Golfing with the Sharks

The truth really is stranger than fiction, especially when it comes to my post about golfing in Australia!

Apparently I made a mistake when I mentioned the man-eating crocodiles in the water traps: sorry, I should have said "man-eating sharks".

For those who thought I was exaggerating:
"WATER hazards tend to make a golfer shake at the knees at the best of times, but Carbrook Golf Club has taken this element of fear to a whole new level. The course’s main lake is now officially a no-go zone because it’s riddled with 'a significant number' of man-eating bull sharks of all sizes."

Read more about it here and see the video:

A bit about Bull Sharks: One of the deadliest sharks off the East Coast of Australia, the bull shark is well known for its unpredictable, often aggressive behavior. Unlike most other marine sharks, bull sharks tolerate fresh water. They can travel far up rivers. As a result, they are probably responsible for the majority of shark attacks on humans that take place near the shore.

Funny enough, I have a two-for-one pass to golf 18 holes at Carbrook any day of the week and it's just 30 short minute drive south of our house!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Rough Cut of New Zealand

Took a quick trip across the pond this weekend to a land where the sheep outnumber the people and Hobbits are commonplace. We are of course in New Zealand!

We're currently staying the night in the center of a giant volcano in Rotorua. There are tons of natural geisers and thermal vents in the area making for an amazing landscape of steam and warm springs.

Oh, and we jumped off the top of the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere yesterday!

More to come soon!
-- Mobile post