October - December 2017
  • Day42

    Waikiki

    December 4, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    The last leg of our trip - a few days at Waikiki. The AirB&B couldn't be placed better. We are a block from the beach, an easy walk to the sparkling nightlife and fancy shops. The first day we took a long walk down the beach, had lunch at the Hilton Hawaiian Village where I stayed with Lorna and Marj four years ago. Dave picked out 2 or 3 sailboats he could live with, at the marina and back again home. The next day was drizzling rain most of the day so we took a bus over to the big Ala Moana Shopping Centre. It turned out that there was a fabric outlet nearby, and yes I did buy quilting fabric to take home. Who knows what these colourful Hawaiian prints will become.
    Yesterday we went up to Diamond Head and walked to the top for magnificent views. Then back to Duke's for lunch. Later, we went for a swim in the ocean and stayed to watch the sun set at the beach. A walk through the upscale shopping area on Kalakaua Ave after dark was like Las Vegas without the gambling. With Christmas lights up, it was even more festive.

    We have come to the end of this amazing trip. A little time today for another swim and some wandering around and then we pack for home. It has been a slice!!
    -30-
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  • Day39

    Farewell to Kiwiland

    December 1, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Our last day in NZ, we had a fair bit of travelling to do. We set off from our AirB&B cottage near Rotorua, for the Waitomo Glowworm Caves about 2 1/2 hours away. From the beginning, this was our list of must-sees in New Zealand. And it did not disappoint. Such a unique experience, going through the caves silently in a boat, the ceiling speckled with the tiny blue lights of the glowworms. It would remind you of a starry night in the darkest of places imaginable. To think of these small larva-staged insects providing this light is quite amazing. Pictures, of course, aren't allowed, so they use a green screen to create pics for you.
    Then we had the drive to Auckland to catch our plane in the evening. More wonderful Kiwi farmland and hills to drive through and we were actually early for our drop-off of the rental car near the airport. Or, at least we thought we would be early. Traffic was stop and go (more stop than go) after we left the highway with about 4km to go. It took an hour to travel that distance. The driver from Smart Car Rental did some pretty fancy maneuvers to get us to the airport in time.
    And then for the 101/2 hour flight to Hawaii. We got back the day we lost on the way. So we had November 30 in NZ and again in Hawaii. We met up in Honolulu. with friends from home who are leaving on the Hawaii cruise on Saturday. It was so nice to visit with them and to have a slow day after the overnight flight.
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  • Day37

    Redwoods to Volcanoes

    November 29, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    On Monday we went to the Redwood forest for a walk recommended by our hosts. It was a good bit of exercise as the trail climbed up high for some great viewpoints. We looked out over the Maori Village we had visited the day before and the geysers. It was quite interesting to view it from above and realize just how small the village is. That evening we had been invited to the “Big House” for dinner. Our hosts are very outgoing people and we were able to get all kinds of questions answered about farming, lifestyles, etc. here. Fresh trout caught by Juliann in the lake here was a special treat.
    One of things Dave had researched before coming here, was about an island that has an active volcano on it. We set off early yesterday morning for a boat trip out to White Island, leaving from Whakitane, about 1 ½ hours from here. White Island is 49 kilometres off shore, so it was a fair boat ride to get there. We always like to be out on the water, so that was no hardship. We got equipped with hard hats and gas masks before getting onto a Zodiac to be ferried ashore. The volcano last erupted about a year ago, but it could happen at any time again. Yellow sulphur is evident all over the area, and the steam that comes out of the vents can cause you to cough and your eyes to tear, hence the gas masks. And we did really need them when we got close to the vents. We were able to stand on the rim of the volcano. Very cool (well maybe cool is the wrong adjective). Our guide was very experienced and excellent at her job. Sulphur was mined on the island at one time, but it wasn’t economically viable over time.
    On our way back to Whakitane, the captain went off course, looking for dolphins. The Gannets that nest on the cool side of White Island go out to feed in the same area as dolphins, because they both eat the same small fish. The captain uses the radar to find groups of birds and then goes where they are to find dolphins. After some veering around, he found a pod of Small-Nosed Common Dolphins, that played around the boat.
    It was a great trip. We got back in mid-afternoon and decided to drive the short distance to Ohope Beach, a place that Barb Hobart had mentioned. We had a nice walk on a very pretty beach and found some driftwood for Dave to use to mount carvings at home, and some nice shells. Aside from a bunch of surfers in one small area, the beach was very quiet and in the park area the Pohutukawa Trees or New Zealand Christmas trees were starting to bloom. A lovely way to end the day.
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  • Day35

    Whakarewarewa

    November 27, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Rotorua is a fascinating place. Our AirB&B hostess had given us a lot of information when we arrived about what was here to see and which sites gave the best value. The geothermal activity is everywhere in the town. You can walk in a park and see steam rising from small ponds and mud bubbling in mud pots. Some people have hot springs actually in their yards.
    We went yesterday, to a Maori Living Village called Whakarewarewa. There we saw a Maori show, complete with the Haka, which was once the ritual done by the men to scare off their enemies. They make their eyes big and stick out their tongues and flex their muscles. The show was very much like the one at the New Zealand exhibit at the Polynesian Centre in Oahu.
    Then we had a guide walk us around the village and explain the customs of these people who make use of the geothermal activity in their daily lives. The guide had lived her whole life in this small village. There are just 74 inhabitants because the size of the village is limited by the geothermal pools and by the New Zealand government. They use some of the hot water for bathing in communal baths and they have things that look like wells with grates in the bottom that act like ovens. They also put vegetables and eggs into cheesecloth bags and lower them into boiling pools to cook. We had corn, right out of the hot pool, for lunch. Even the ground throughout the whole area is warm to the touch. There are some geysers as well, but we didn’t see any big eruptions from them, just a bit of water and lots of steam.
    We walked around on our own afterward a little ways from the village, where there are many mud pots that sound like an old-fashioned coffee perculator. There was some smell of sulphur but it was not as strong as we had expected.
    On arriving home, we were having a wobbly pop out on our deck when our host dropped by. After visiting for a bit, we offered Julian refreshment and he said he would go shower and return. So both Lynn and Julian came back, bottle of wine in hand for a good long chat. Maybe Kiwis are as friendly as Aussies. They even invited us for dinner the next night. You can’t beat that for hospitality.
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  • Day33

    50 Shades of Green

    November 25, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    No, that is not a typo. Looking out from our AirB&B near Rotorua, there really does seem to be 50 shades of green. Although I must admit that I stopped counting before reaching that number. In one tall bush, there are at least 4 shades alone. That has been the overall impression of New Zealand so far… so much green and so much grandeur.
    Yesterday we were at Whitianga (pronounced Fitianga in Maori) and went on a sea cave cruise, operated by the owner of the Oceanside Motel where were staying. Les (pronounced Lez) did a great cruise where we saw Cathedral Cove plus many other caves on the coast. We took over 100 pictures, which kind of tells how spectacular it was. The rock formations are so varied and around every point is another photo op.
    At low tide we went to Hot Water Beach. There, you can dig a hole in the sand and have an instant spa experience. It was a little off-putting when we got there to see maybe 200 or so people already digging holes in an area about 3 times the size of our house. We went for a walk down the beach which was lovely and discovered when we came back about an hour later that the two busloads of people had left. The end result… we never dug a hole but we tried out several that had been abandoned. We weren’t that keen on lying down in a foot-deep hole, but we treated our feet to the spas. Some were too hot to stand in. Some were just comfortably warm. An interesting phenomena… especially when you can experience it on the back of others’ digging.
    Today we moved on to the Rotorua area. There is lots of geo-thermic activity here and a big Maori presence. We have super accommodation with very friendly AirB&B owners. Looking forward to the days ahead.
    Pics are from the sea cave tour - Cathedral Cove, Kissing Rocks and one unnamed, one from the hot water beach and one a view from our new digs.
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  • Day31

    Goodbye Australia, hello NZ

    November 23, 2017, South Pacific Ocean ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    Yesterday we left Tasmania, our last stop in Australia. It was sad to end this part of our trip. There are a few reflections I want to make about the place and the people, while they are fresh in my mind (the memory has a best before date these days).
    Even though we saw only a small part of Aussie land I was really struck by the diversity we found. The landscape changes so dramatically from place to place. The climate can change in just a short distance, going from desert to rain forest. The animals and birds are so exotic. Even ones that the locals consider pests, like the wallabies who eat the young rose bushes, or the lorikeets who attack the fruit of the plum trees, are special and magnificent to us. And the flowers!! If I could have such a garden I would be thrilled.
    But the people are the best part of Australia. Everyone is so friendly, "How's it going then?" from strangers you met anywhere. They love to shorten the names of things, so Tasmania is Tazzie, McDonalds is Mackers and one night Dave ordered stroganoff and the guy called strogie. It sometimes makes it hard to know what they are talking about, but is quite funny. Their sense of humour reminds me of Britiish television, irreverent, quirky and slightly off the wall. The Green family would fit right in with their love of puns. So goodbye Aussie land and thank you for making us feel so welcome.
    We arrived late last night in Auckland and this morning drove to the Coromandel Penninsula. Everything is so green here, and the views are stupendous... Rocky cliffs, bluish-green water and dark green trees. On our way to Whitianga we drove around much of the Penninsula and marvelled at the scenery. Then we got to our hotel and our room looks out on the water with a patio to sit and sip our wine and watch the sailboats go by. The owner of the small hotel was walking by and stopped to chat, then got himself a beer and came back for another half-hour. Looks like friendliness is rampant here too. The first pics are from lookouts on the way here and the last one is the view from our patio.
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  • Day29

    Launceston

    November 21, 2017 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 17 °C

    Our first outing this morning was out St. Helen's point. This area is different than other areas, with sand bars and wide beach areas all along the point. There are also huge sand dunes, so we ventured off to climb a dune, our feet sinking deep into the soft, fine sand. If only we had brought our pails and shovels.
    We set off to drive to Launceston, the second biggest cite in Tasmania. When we started, the terrain was rough, mountainous, and very dry. The only green on sheep pastures were in the valleys or on fields where they could irrigate from a stream. As we drove over ridge after ridge of these small mountains, things changed. It got greener and more lush, and many crops grew, including potatoes, fruit and opium poppies. Tasmania grows a big part of the world's legal opium to be used as pain killers. As we came down the wide valley to Launceston, we saw why they refer to this area as the prime wine making region. We had been told that one side of Tasmania is wet and the other dry and here seems to be the happy medium.
    Out accommodation in Launceston is an old inn downtown. Our room has a four-poster bed and a fireplace...very cool.
    We had time to go for a good walk along a gorge right in the middle of town. When we got to the end of the trail, there were people jumping off the rocks and swimming in the river on this warm day. A teahouse is out at the end of the trail and peacocks roamed around there posing for photos. There was a famiy of black swans floating around too. Although we didn't have a lot of time to explore this area, we were glad we had taken the walk along the gorge.
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  • Day29

    Freycinet National Park

    November 21, 2017 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    From Orford, we head north to Freycinet National Park. Our Host from the B&B suggested stopping at a winery with good views of Oyster Bay. Devil's Corner was a good stop, and we didn't even have wine.
    When we reached the park, our first stop was to walk up to Cape Tourville lighthouse. The lookouts on this trail were outstanding. We were amazed at the orange streaks on the rocks in the distance, but realized later that it was actually lichen that gave that colour to the rocks.
    We made stops at Sleepy Bay and at Honeymoon Bay, and never were disappointed in the scenes. But our main goal was to get to see Wineglass Bay. The hike up to that lookout was much longer and steeper than the others had been. We definitely were not the fastest on the trail, but, like the tortoise, slow and steady did the trick. Fortunately, there were planty of views to stop and take in on the way up. The rock formations of the Hazards are quite amazing, with huge boulders scattered around and perched on ledges looking ready to fall. Every so often we would come upon a wallaby on the trail. They look like small kangaroos and are a darker colour. These wallabies were quite tame and one in the parking lot looked like it wanted to get in the car and come with us. Others we have seen in the wild, take off at great speed when you come along. This famous landmark measured up well to its hype.
    The afternoon sped by, so with piles of pictures taken, we headed off to our home for the night at St. Helens.
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  • Day29

    Port Arthur and Orford

    November 21, 2017 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    We travelled from Hobart to Port Arthur, a historic site with the remains of a prison used from 1830 until 1877. Thousands of convicts were shipped out from England to Australia, but the ones who came to Port Arthur were re-offenders, men who had done something more while in prison or on getting released. They were the worst of the convicts. The isthmus is attached to the mainland by a narrow neck and a “dogline” was set up there with fierce dogs to attack escaping prisoners and raise an alarm for guards. The prison buildings have mostly been lost by fire and unused, but enough remains to tell the story of the harsh life there for the convicts, and the cushy life of the government controllers, doctors, etc. The soldiers there were in between and mostly bored, because not much happened out there in the sticks. 12,000 convicts passed through Port Arthur, some for very long stays.
    There was an island used for juvenile boys as well. They were kept away from the adult men who would be a bad influence. They were given schooling and taught the trades. Stonework, in particular, was taught as there was a quarry on the island and lots of building to be done. The system worked so well that England adopted it and stopped sending boys over here. At any given time, there might have been 400 boys here as young as 9.
    This prison was built at about the same time as Kingston Pen, and it was interesting to compare the two, having been to Kingston a few months ago. Punishment at Port Arthur was cruel, with whipping being common for misdemeanors. But the cells were actually larger and they had the benefit of working outdoors, as long as they were not in solitary confinement.
    The site is large and we spent all afternoon there. Managed to get by the dogline to leave at the end of the day, though.
    Our stay that night was at the village of Orford , in a 150 year old cottage, now a B&B. It was delightful and the owners were good to chat with us for quite a while in the morning, after a tasty breakfast.
    Pics are: sculpture commemorating the dogline, main prison building, doctor's house, bedroom at B&B, one of many roses at Orford House B&B.
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  • Day26

    Tassie, here we come.

    November 18, 2017 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    The flight to Tasmania is quite a short one, so we had most of the afternoon yesterday to roam around the waterfront in Hobart. Our hotel is in a great location and we can walk to many of the main attractions here. Hobart is considered by many to be the prettiest city in Australia and I think they may be right. The historic buildings have been kept in wonderful shape , the waterfront is clean and attractive, and there are plenty of parks with lawns and flowers scattered around.
    Today we walked to the Salamanca Market, the top tourist attraction in Hobart. Our experiences with markets in other towns had not made us very enthusiastic. They seem to be vegetables and fruits and flea market stalls. But not Salamanca!! We spent hours perusing (and buying) in hundreds of stalls containing Tasmanian handmade articles. There were lovely woolens, jewelry, leather goods, wooden articles, etc. The items were unique and of high quality. The market is about 3 blocks long and 4 stalls wide and happens every Saturday. It was full of people, but the merchants always had time to tell you how their wares were made.
    We also visited the Maunston Hut Museum. Maunson was an Antarctic explorer who led an expedition in 1908. The museum is a reconstruction of the huts that they built there to stay for a year. We knew very little about Antarctica exploration but the man working there gave us lots of information and we enjoyed learning about it.
    Then we headed off to Battery Hill, a quaint residential area with small cottages as perfectly kept as when they were built 150 years ago. It was very nice to just wander around and enjoy the houses and gardens.
    Except for a foray off to the modern shopping area in search of Blundstone Boots, and a stop off at a whisky distillery, we spent the day in the old town and enjoyed it immensely.
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