Please note: you can find a more up to date version of this blog at http://blog.neilennis.com

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sheldon - a little guy on a big adventure

Sheldon's a toy voyager that we've been taking with us on our travels. He has his own travel diary with lots of photos and stories of where he's been.

When he's had enough of us, he'll hop into a padded post bag and fly to some other family in another part of the world, and continue his quest.

You can follow his story here: http://toyvoyagers.com/index.php?a=topic&t=101970

So far he's travelled over 7,000 km, been on two cruises, explored the North Island of NZ and met lots of people.

Not bad for a small bird, hey?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Skellig Rocks, Kerry

A post card from friends Helen and Fred in Caherdaniel, Ireland. They live not far from the Skellig Rocks which are off the south west coast of Ireland in County Kerry.

We visited this beautiful part of the world in the winter of 2004, and would very much like to return one day.

Thanks for the great card, Helen and Fred!

Sunday in the Barracks

A Postcrossing post card from Jennifer, a canadian photographer who lives in the USA.

Jennifer has happy childhood memories of living in Australia. feeding kangaroos and seeing koalas.

Hope you come back soon, Jennifer.

Thanks for the postcard!

Theatre National

A Postcrossing post card from José in Costa Rica.

Thanks, José!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This is cool!



I've installed a program called Orb which lets me access any of my media (videos, photos, songs) from any computer over the net - even using my mobile phone.

It also lets me share that media (such as family videos) with friends and family.

One cool side-effect is that it lets you share the webcam on your computer.

So I thought I'd give it a go.

Let me know what you think.

If it chews up too much bandwidth, I'll turn it off. But for now lets see how we go!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Parque Natural - Cabo de Gata-Nijar

(Nature: Gata Point, Nijar)

A Postcrossing post card from two year old Alejandro and his dad in Spain.

Looks like someone left the washing out :)

Thanks for the postcard, Alejandro and dad!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Drive In ... Drive Out"

A Postcrossing Postcard from Lily in Hollywood, USA.

Lily would like to travel to Australia one day.

Thanks for the funny card, Lily.

Nordseeheilbad Norddorf auf Amrum

A Postcrossing post card from Ulrike in Germany, who is currently on holidays on the island pictured on this card.

Thanks for the card, Ulrike!

"I'm crazy for you"

A Postcrossing post card from Andrea in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The card depicts Brazillian comic characters from "Turma da Monica" (Monica's Gang).

Thanks for the card, Andrea!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nit Picking


Nit Picking, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

Enough said!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vilnius

King Mindaugas Bridge, Hill of Gediminas' Castle and the Tower

A Postcrossing postcard from Elena who lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Thanks Elena!

Hellevoetsluis

A Postcrossing postcard from Hans in Holland.

Hellevoetsluis is an old maritime town in Holland.

Thanks Hans!

Norwegian Hotel

A Postcrossing postcard from Stine in Norway.

Stine works as a receptionist at this hotel.

Thanks Stine!

Castlefield Urban Heritage Park, Manchester

A Postcrossing postcard from James in Manchester.

That stamp of St David's Cathedral (Wales) is beautiful, too.

Thanks James!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Wellington Cable Car


Wellington Cable Car, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

On the last morning of my journey, before I left for home, we went for a trip on the Wellington Cable Car.

Here's a video of the short trip. If you only have a brief time in town, this is a "must do", it's cheap, quick, and you get to see a lot of the city in one go.

Up the top there's a museum which describes the history of the cable car, plus the botanical gardens, planitarium and a cafe.

I only had an hour or two before my flight, so this was the best way to spend an hour.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Lake Taupo


Lake Taupo, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

Taupo is a huge freshwater lake in the middle of the North Island. It's
surrounded by picturesque mountains, gravelly beaches, pine trees, and green
grass.

There's something about seeing so much freshwater in one place that
impresses a parched aussie like me.

There was an ironman competition here yesterday. The winning time was
almost nine hours. Can you imagine running, swimming and cycling for that
long?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Waiotapu Thermal Park


Waiotapu Thermal Park, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

At the Waiotapu Thermal Park there's a large area of thermal pools all
colored by different chemicals that occur naturally in the water.

My specs fogged up from all the steam.

Boiling Mud


Boiling Mud, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

We're off the ship and exploring New Zealand.

Here's some quick shots of some thermal mud pools at Waiotapu today. It
looks like something from another planet. And smells like it too :)

The ground is still rocking. We haven't quite got used to being off the
ship.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Almost there


Almost there, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.Feet first

It's been a fantastic last day today. We couldn't have asked for better
weather. This'll probably be my last video from aboard Aurora, so I thought
I'd film it from my favourite place - up on the forward observation deck
overlooking the bow.

I might try and get a video of our table-mates tonight so you can see some
of the fascinating people we've been eating with each night.

Cricket at sea


Cricket at sea, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

Indians love their cricket so much that they even play it at sea!

Getting close to NZ


Getting close to NZ, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

We're now closer to land (about 20km away) and small pleasure craft are
starting to come close to us.

Here's a quick view of one that came pretty close this morning.

Sunset


Sunset, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.Sunset at sea

Sunsets at sea are amazing.

Albatross


Albatross, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

I saw these birds following us yesterday. We were hundreds of kilometres
from land. They weren't flapping, just gliding behind the ship and skimming
the waves.

They almost looked like they were doing it just for fun!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Kids Club


Kids Club, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

Here's a quick peek at the kids facilities.

The staff are protective of the kids, so they asked me not to film in there until the kids were out watching a movie (Wall-E).

It looks like a lot of fun!

Oh, and Lilly, I know how disappointed you were that the dance machine on Oriana didn't work. The dance machine on Aurora works!!!

Dawn Princess passing us at sea

A video slideshow of the Dawn Princess as she passed us (going a lot quicker
than we were) at about 11am today.

Bob and I will be travelling on her in June :)

Dinner on the back deck


Dinner on the back deck, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

We had dinner at the Pennant Grill this evening as the sun was going down.

The location is perfect. The only problem is making sure you don't eat too
much.

The indoor pool and diver


The indoor pool and diver, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.
The Diver

Aurora has a few freshwater swimming pools, including this one which is
covered over when the weather is cool.

I think the nearby sculpture of the diver is very lifelike. It looks like
it's made out of bronze. Apart from the color, you'd think it was a real
man!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ice Sculptures


Ice Sculptures, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

Ice sculptures at the Asian Buffet lunch today.

Curzon Theatre


Curzon Theatre, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

The Curzon Theatre is where we see most of the shows in the evening. Most
of the shows are aimed at baby boomer style visits to the 1960's.

If you can get over that hurdle, the shows are usually quite well done.

The Promenade


The Promenade, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

A quick walk around the promenade deck. It's a lovely place for a walk any
time of day.

2 laps = 1km.

3.3 laps = 1 mile.

Aurora is pretty big :)

The Crows Nest


The Crows Nest, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

Here's a quick video of the crows nest bar.

It's right at the top of the ship, at the front, so it has a great view of
the horizon, to the left, right and forward.

If you don't mind a little bit of cigarette smoke, it's quite a pleasant
place to have a pre-dinner drink in the evenings.

The view from the front


The view from the front, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

Here's the view from one of the observation decks at the front of the ship.

Although the wind makes a bit of noise in the microphone, it's a lovely
peaceful place where not many people visit - probably because it's difficult
to find, and hard to open the door :)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Atrium


The Atrium, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

The captain has just informed us that our engine problems have caused our
speed to drop to a bit over half what it should be, which means we have to
cancel some ports.

Rather than stopping at Wellington and Napier, he has decided to sail
straight to Auckland so that we get there on time.

The cruise duration will be the same - we'll arrive in Auckland on
Saturday. We just won't stop anywhere on the way.

Here's a quick view of Aurora's atrium and its impressive water sculpture.

Nothing But Sea


Nothing But Sea, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

Here's another video of the sea this morning.

It's flat and calm.

The only problem is that our engines aren't working too well, and we're only
going a bit over half our normal speed.

I don't know how this will affect our arrival time into Wellington, but I'll
let you know.

Regardless of how fast we're going, it's still great to be here.

Formal night tonight. And I'm lookng forward to watchng a classical piano
concert before dinner.

More news later.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Anchors away!


Anchors away!, originally uploaded by MagicTyger.

How good is this?

On Board - First Impressions

Here's a video of our cabin, the view from our window, and the deck outside. Lots of Englash Flags flying everywhere, but it's nice to see a few Aussie ones on board too, even though she's an english ship.
video

The Tank Stream

One of the reasons the first fleet decided to set up camp in Sydney Cove was because of the fresh water.

A small stream called "The Tank Stream" flowed into the harbour near where they landed.

Today it's covered over by roads, railway lines, wharves and 200 years of other city "stuff".

But if you look closley on the pavement at the top of Pitt Street near Circular Quay, you can see this marker which shows where the stream flows.

And if you're lucky enough, you can be one of the few tourists who gets to do an underground tour of what's left of the stream.

Look up "Tank Stream" on wikipedia of you're interested.

It's amazing what history lies under our feet, waiting to be rediscovered.

Sydney Cove

A view of our ship, and Sydney Harbour from Circular Quay.

Sorry about some of the camera movement - I'll do a better job next video. Promise!

I'll try an upload a video of our room and the view from our window later on this afternoon.

video

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Packing for a cruise

video

Here's my first attempt at a video blog post.

I did this to see what sort of effort is necessary to do a blog entry because I'm going to do a few of these over the next week as part of my cruise.

My Nokia N95 does pretty good quality videos, and it lets you edit them. But here's a few points that you need to bear in mind.

1. Each video records about 2mb per minute. So for posting blog entries on a cruise ship I'm going to have to limit myself to one minute posts.

2. The N95 has a "pause" button that lets you stop filming for a while, but if you pause too long, the video stops, and you have to record a new one rather than add to the existing one.

3. The N95 editor lets you merge videos together, but once merged, the size of the video bloats out. E.g. I had two 30 second videos, each 1mb in size. I merged them and the result was 14mb in size. Try this a few times with a number of video fragments. I ended up with a 140mb monster that took a couple of hours to merge!

4. So I had to convert this video from MP4 to AVI using Blink. Then I loaded the resulting 200mb file into windows movie maker, which I got to spit out a 15mb video which you can see here.

5. I will be posting to Blogger via Flickr. This is because Blogger rejects any email attatchments that are more than about 250kb in size. Flickr allows larger video attachments, but the maximum duration is only 90 seconds. There's one other "gotcha" in Flickr. When it posts to Blogger it sets the height and width of the video to 0px so it's invisible. So you have to edit the post after the fact, and set the height and width to something reasonable. Painful over a slow connection, but that's the only choice I have.

So in onboard posts over the next few days, please excuse me if I talk really fast :)