Jump to content


Basic Members
  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


samwhite last won the day on November 29 2013

samwhite had the most liked content!

Community Reputation

1 Neutral

1 Follower

About samwhite

  • Rank
    Adventure Seeker

Basic Info

  • Rig
    Jeep JK 2009
  • Location

My Details

  • First Name
  • HAM Call-sign
  1. I hope this is the final chapter in this saga. Today I drove over to Sierra Expeditions and picked up the part needed to repair my Howling Moon camper tent. Will told me some six months ago that he had applied for a dealership with them but I didn't think if appropriate to mention this until it was official. Then it took a few months for the container to ship from South Africa. But I have all the parts I now need and SE has been very helpful. Unfortunately in every business you must trust your suppliers and Howling Moon just didn't have a good one in this area. Now they do. Thanks Will.
  2. Jim and I went there a few years ago. There was confusion on the permit as the agent showed up at the campground in the middle of the day. We went anyway. We saw a few vehicles on the way and while at the Falls. No one stopped and asked for our permit. We were there over an hour. It is a pretty interesting place no matter if there is water or not. Sam
  3. Kris, It is a Kiwi bird. This one is a special one i.e. toy. It is a "chatter" Kiwi. I will post a video of how it works. Here is the link. I so wish I had purchased this at the beginning of the trip rather at the end.
  4. Cairns and Fitzroy Island 2014 On April 29th we departed Darwin and fly to Cairns (pronounced cans). This was a strange flight as they only offered an 8 pm departure and it got us into Cairns pretty late. Below is the flight path. The first thing we noticed after getting off the airplane was that is was much cooler and far less humid. Russ arranged a ride for us and we were the first ones dropped off. But not before the driver got some digs into us. For example “we Australians have been in every war you yanks have started”. Anyway as we were getting in late I reserved rooms at the Travel Lodge. Australia has not adopted many of the rules that we Americas have been subjected to. There are few handicap ramps for instance. Also hotels do not need elevators unless they are over three stories. I can tell you it wasn’t much fun hauling two fifty pound bags plus other stuff up three floors at midnight. I can only imagine how Woody felt as he got most of his stuff up to the second floor of the wrong building. We had a leisurely morning and caught the fast cat to Fitzroy Island. Cairns harbor with a shot of my latest yacht. Fitzroy Island is an Australian national park with a resort on it. The first thing we were greeted to was the sign. We spent a fair amount of time at Foxy’s bar that day. We had arrived after the long two week Easter holiday and FINALLY the locals had returned to where they belong. Some views from Foxy’s. We had dinner at Foxy’s that night as the restaurant was only open on selected days. The next day we all took the boat out to the reef (about 150 feet from the resort). Some pictures of the trip. Please note that some of these pictures came with the package I purchased. That afternoon I took a hike to the top of the island. Not much of a climb and it was but it was something to do. In the afternoon Woody, Carole Pat and I hiked over to Secret Garden. I am at a loss how it can be called secret when everyone knows about it. But it is a good source of water on the island. Just before sunset Russ called my on the ham and told me there was to be a partial eclipse. I didn’t know this in advance and I only had my 24-85mm zoom. But here is the picture I took. I spent a bit of money on this camera and now is when I get some of it back. Expanding the above photo yields the picture below. I returned to the resort in the dark, found the others, and had a wonderful dinner. The next morning I got up early and hiked over Nudy Beach. Please note that it is not! But what it was, was at high tide and there was not beach. I did see a big spider on the way back. I pointed this out to some Japanese tourists and in broken English one of the women said “no like”. In the afternoon Pat and I visited the sea turtle exhibit where they try and bring hurt and injured turtles back into good health. They are cute but have nasty beaks. In the afternoon I hiked up to the decommissioned lighthouse. It is mostly a two track paved road. Along the way…. We caught the ferry back to Cairns and got to the hotel in Port Douglas around 8 p. The view from our room. The hotel was right up next to the Coral Sea. The next day we drove up to Mossman Gorge, which is a short distance from Port Douglas. Mossman Gorge is on aboriginal land but is no big deal. You park in the lot and pay $5 for a bus ride into the gorge. Once there you have pretty much free access to the site. The bid attraction is the water. Rain forest is everywhere. One must be careful when leaving valuables as they can be compromised. This is a movie. If you double click on it you will be routed away from this site. But it is worth it. We then returned to Port Douglas, dropped off Russ and then drove over to the wildlife habitat. Hand feeding a wallaby is really a hoot. We did get there late in the afternoon so the next day Carole and Tim went back while Russ, Pat and I drove up to Daintree NP. Daintree is know for its beauty having rain forest on one side of the road and the Coral Sea on the other. It is pretty much where the Great Barrier Reef meets land. To get to the Park you must take the ferry across the Daintree River. Crocs do infest this river. Some views of the Park. While the water looks inviting you must consider that a trip could be life threating. If a croc doesn’t get you a box jellyfish will. We went for a hike on a boardwalk in the rain forest. I think I saw Tarzan. The road ends, sort of, at Cape Tribulation. We drove about a half mile on the dirt and then turned around and went back to the hotel. We had a fine dinner. The next day we flew home. La Commedia è finita!
  5. Australia 2014 Darwin and Beyond We departed Alice Springs the morning of April 24th and picked up our rental car. Russ stayed behind in Alice Springs and would meet up with us that night. The flight track is shown below. Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territories and also its biggest city. The tour book says that it is surprisingly cosmopolitan (what ever that is). Darwin is also at 12 degrees south, which puts it in the tropics. Most places you visit have an average temperature. Darwin is always at 94 degrees. The only thing that changes is the humidity, which does fall off in the winter months. But we were there in the fall and it was both hot and humid. Darwin was bombed in WWII and then almost totally destroyed by a typhoon a decade later. It is mostly new. We chose to stay at Cullen Bay resorts and here are some pictures and maps of the area. The next day, Anzac day, we went into the city and did some exploring. Darwin isn’t much of a city in size but it does have some history. During WWII it was obvious that the oil storage tanks at the harbor were venerable to bombing. So a project was put underway to install them underground. This was done but the project was not completed until after the war and then they were never used. But it is an interesting tour to take. I had hoped that, as it was underground, it would be cooler. But nothing in Darwin is cool. There is a very nice park downtown which we visited. The old town hall. In the afternoon we drove over to Crocodylus Park which is near the airport. Here they have a large collection of Salt Water crocs. These are not the timid Alligators we see here in the US. They are, and some were that we saw, man eaters. They are true monsters and they are everywhere in the north end. This is a movie of a croc being fed. Nothing much happens (ambush is everything) until my hand moves over the camera. Our real reason for visiting Darwin was to visit Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. It is about an hour or so drive out of Darwin until you enter the western end of Kakadu NP. The road from the western entrance to Jabiru is somewhat uneventful. At the village of Jabiru we checked into our hotel, which is in the shape of a croc. After lunch we went over to the Bowall visitors centre. We then went and visited the Nourlangie area which is famous for the aboriginal art and outstanding views of the area. At night the bats came out. The next day we drove southwest in the park and did a few hikes including one across a creek. We were not able to visit the prime exhibits of Jim Jim and Twin Falls as the road had yet to be opened and the area cleared of crocs. We stayed the night in the small town of Pine Creek which is associated with the railroad in the area. The room was very interesting but also very small. The next day we set off for Litchfield NP. One of the first things you pass are the magnetic termite mounds. Here Pat was drawn to one. Further down the road we came to Florence Falls and Buley water holes. It was a great swimming place. A few miles down the road was the walk out to the view point of Tolmer Falls. The most famous set of falls in Litchfield is Wangi Falls. Normally this is a great waterhole but the crocs had not yet been cleared from it. We did see a large lizard. Russ found an off pavement road route back to Darwin. On the way we passed the WWII airfield and Russ got into a Spitfire. The locals like Litchfield much better than Kakadu. As the sayings goes “Litchfield yes, Kaka don’t”. Part of the problem was that we had come at the end of the wet season. But to get to Jim Jim Falls you would still need a 4wd vehicle with a snorkel. We checked, and every rental agreement specifically forbade taking the road to Jim Jim Falls. If I was to do the Darwin trip again I would most certainly visit during the winter months when the humidity was lower and when you could get into some of the dirt road exhibits. Nonetheless, we swam in the water holes and had a great time. We arrived at the airport a bit early and took the final in country flight to Cairns.
  6. The Outback 2014 Part 3 Russ Woody and I arrived a little before 5 pm Saturday night. Carole and Pat had successfully flown from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs and checked into the hotel. The next morning, Easter Sunday, Pat and I got up and walked into Alice Springs just to see what was what. We walked over the bridge that spans the Todd River. Below is a picture of the Todd in full flood. Once a year the folks of Alice Springs host the Henley on Todd Regatta. If you have never seen this event you should have a look. Here is a link. Most of Easter Sunday was left to minor shopping and hanging around the pool. We were able to get the entire group into Easter Mass late in the afternoon. On Monday we set out on (what I consider) the purpose of visiting Alice Springs ie the Western MacDonnels. The MacDonnels are a ridge of ancient mountains running around 1000 km in the heart of the Outback. Every once in awhile nature cuts a notch in this ridge and that is what we came to see. On the outskirts of town lies the grave of Dr. Flynn who started the Flying Doctor program. This was necessary as most of the Outback was so isolated that a simple broken arm often resulted in death. The grave itself is a bit confusing. The rock was supposed to be one of the Devils Marbles that is a formation on the main road from Adelaide to Alice Springs. But as this a was sacred aboriginal site it was first return and then some other rock looking like it was placed there. I am sure I have the story wrong but it is an interesting stop on the road. The road to the Western MacDonnels is paved. Near Flynn’s grave Woody spotted a termite mound. This is an interesting video and while you will need to reload the report it is worth watching. Our first stop was at Ellery Creek aka Big Hole. Some pictures. The next stop was the ochre pits. The next stop was Ormiston Gorge. This is one of the great water holes near Alice Springs. The final stop of the day was at the Glenn Helen “resort” and the associated water hole. We had a pretty good lunch at Glenn Helen and then went and had a look at the water. The next day we drove out to the Tropic of Capricorn, as this is one of those things that must be done. It is about 30 km north of Alice Springs. After the Tropic of Capricorn monument the Stewart Highway becomes unmanaged. It should be noted that the Toyota next to us was the most common off road vehicle we saw in the Outback. EVERY vehicle in the Outback has a snorkel. Every one! The reason why Toyotas are so common is a tax deal with the government (they set up a manufacturing plant in Australia). It took us a bit longer to figure out the snorkel. But on any trip you come to 100 depressions in the road all with 2 meter sticks letting you know that if the water is that high maybe you should wait. While it doesn’t rain much in the Outback you may pass three thousand depressions of which five or so will be filled. There are few bypass roads so you need to fjord the road and a snorkel is a must. We returned to Alice Springs and drove up to the Anzac memorial. Note: Australia and New Zealand were not involved in revolutionary and civil wars as was most of the world. So when WWI and WWII came along it was a big shock that many of the young men did not return. Also it is a good place to see most of Alice Springs. On our last day in the Outback (we did do a day or so of shopping in Alice) we traveled into the Western MacDonnels stopping first at the very close to town Simpsons Gap. Some pictures of Simpsons Gap. It was still early in the morning when we got there and I remembered that the tour book said you can see rock wallabies there. If you look close you can see six in this picture. They are incredibly agile hopping over the boulders. Our next stop was Stanley Chasm, which is on aboriginal land. Our next stop was to be at the Wallace Rockhole, which is high quality rock art. But we got there at lunch time and the tours start in the late afternoon. Our final stop was to be at the Lutheran mission at Hermannsburg. This is normally done by backtracking on the paved road. But Russ found a dirt road which we took. This was as close to an off road adventure as we had on the trip. We got to Hermannsburg close to 3 pm and that is when the tours of the old mission close. Planning is everything. The next day we travelled to Darwin up north. That will be our next chapter.
  7. The Outback 2014 Part 2 Taking up where we left off. We had just left Pat and Carole at Uluru where they would spend another day and then fly to Alice Springs. We set off for our trip to Kings Canyon and beyond. The drive took us about four hours and on the way we were able to view Mt. Conner. Mt. Conner is of the same geological formation as Kata Tjunta and Uluru although less visited. A roadside park on the way. Our vehicle for this part of the trip. We arrived around 4 pm. Russ and I checked into the dorm style room. Woody chose the much more expensive hotel room. Then we went out for the afternoon hike at Kings canyon. A map of the resort area. Kings Canyon map. There are two hikes that you can easily do at Kings Canyon. For the afternoon we chose to the hike into the middle of the Canyon. Here Woody poses by the sign. The inner canyon walk is very lush and mostly paved. The white trees are what are called ghost gums. We had a glorious dinner at the steak house and the next morning did the hike around the top of the Canyon. Here is the start of the climb. A view from the top. An emergency radio. Some pictures of the walls of the canyon in the early morning. The bee hive formations at the top. At the middle of the canyon the trail drops down a set of stairs into what is called “the Garden of Eden”. Woody was looking for the naked Eve but found rather a bunch of French tourists. We climbed out of the notch and proceeded on the eastern side of the Canyon. Russ stops to ponder a small pond of water. We returned to the car park and set off on our journey of the Outback. This would be our only real off road part of the vacation. The part shown in red is all dirt although it is for the most part maintained and in excellent shape. It is called the Mereenie route and you do need to purchase a permit to drive on it. I must say that we were astonished at the beauty of the Outback. I was also somewhat upset. The “Red Centre” was, well, green. We found out later that it had rained for almost a month just before we arrived. Or it could be one of those “don’t come here it is an awful place” sort of things to keep people away. Some pictures of the trip. A pair of dingos crossed the road and the male stopped for a photo. The road was in very good condition. Tree art. At Hermannsburg we picked up the bitumen (asphalt) and arrived in Alice Springs around 5 pm. That part of the story of the Outback will be in part 3.
  8. The Outback 2014 Part 1 On Wednesday April 16th we departed Sydney for Uluru (aka Ayers Rock). Below is our flight track. If you look closely you might see what appears to be a swampy area about two thirds of the way to Uluru. This is Lake Eyre. Most of the time Lake Eyre is like the Salt River in Phoenix. But every ten years or so, and this was one of them, there is enough rain so that the lake fills. When this happens pelicans from Adelaide, some 1000 km to the south, fly up and nest. As it happens, brine shrimp and other creatures populate the lake in large numbers making living for the pelicans much better and worth the trip. This was one of those years. In case you are interested this was the approach track into the Ayers Rock airport. Along the way we got some good aerial views of Uluru. Also in the distance we were able to see the Olgas formation know as Kata Tjunta. Just before sunset we drove out to Uluru to watch the sunset. The last time we were there I think I saw five people. Today the place was so crowded that we had a hard time finding a parking place. None the less we saw the sunset. Below is a movie of the sunset. I believe if you double click on it you will see the movie. But I also think it will drop you out of this post. The next morning Russ and I got up early and drove to the sunrise viewing area. We were some of the first folks there but it didn’t take long for the place to be populated. The Kata Tjunta in the distance. The tour bus just showed up. After the sunrise Russ and I drove back to the hotel, oh I should have shown a map of the area. At Yulara there are four hotels and a campground. We stayed at the Emu walk which is basically a set of apartments made for the seasonal workers but now turned into hotel rooms. While they are a bit dark and cost over $400 per night they are near the small shopping centre. The Outback pioneer is the cheapest but does not have in room plumbing so we passed on it. Then there is the Desert Gardens which is a more typical style resort hotel, and as one time the top end hotel of the area. The Woodsons stayed there. The new top end hotel was the sails in the desert where we had a hundred dollar lunch. And then there is the Longitude 131° where the Royals stayed but at $1000 per night it seems a bit excessive. We had the most fun at the Outback Pioneer which is a covered but open-air bar and restaurant. The restaurant is interesting in that they sell you the meat or fish and you cook it. South of Yulara is Uluru (Ayers Rock). We never saw any airport near the rock. The sunset viewing is on the western side of the rock, the sunrise viewing is south east. Note the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west (although it is upside down) in the Southern Hemisphere. After breakfast (don’t mention to Woody that he paid $78 and forgot to eat them) we drove over to Uluru. I chose to walk around Uluru (six miles) while the others visited the aboriginal historical centre. Some pictures of my walk. There are some sacred sites you are not supposed to take pictures of. This might be one of them. This might be another. On the northern side the vegetation was not as spectacular but still impressive. This is the start and or finish of the hike. We had lunch at the cultural center and then drove out to Kata Tjunta. I think the area around Kata Tjunta is more interesting than at Uluru but it is some thirty miles from the hotel and with limited time I never seem to get more than a few hours near them. We did a short hike but ran out of time. Some photos of Kata Tjunta. We had a wonderful dinner at the Outback Pioneer that night. The next morning I got up early to take some pictures around the hotel. It is always nice seeing grass in the desert even if it is at a resort and watered. This is the site where later in the day Carole and Pat would take aboriginal painting lessons. I took the path across the road as there was a viewing area and a dingo walked passed me. Sorry but it was still dark and I was startled. This was our first encounter with wildlife so it was eventful. We never really saw much and little road kill but found out as we were leaving that, like deer, the Australian animals are mostly nocturnal. I got to the viewing area just after sunrise. While it wasn’t quite as close to Uluru it was a good place to view the rock. You can also see parts of the resort village from this site. After breakfast Carole and Pat attended the aboriginal painting class while the “men” shopped for supplies for our only real journey of the trip. A cheap Styrofoam ice chest cost $35 at the only store for 100km. We really didn’t need to purchase much of anything other than lunch but somehow we did manage to spend $130. We met up with Pat and Carole, made our goodbyes, and set off for Kings Canyon
  9. Sydney 2014 It was a short three and a half hour flight from Christchurch to Sydney. We arrived around 5 pm on a Friday and there was Friday night traffic in the city costing us $130 for a taxi. The flight was too grueling for the Woodsons who retired to their room at the 1888 hotel. Russ and the Whites walked across the street and had dinner at the Darling Harbor mall. As a note, planning a trip is a difficult thing if you haven’t been to the place before. Twenty years ago we did visit Sydney and for that trip we used a travel agent. One of the few things I remembered about Sydney from that visit was the lack of places to eat close to the hotel. We made a trip back then to Darling Harbor and discovered the mall. So this time I made hotel reservations at the 1888 hotel, which was a newly converted warehouse near the mall. It was a short was walk through the parking lot, under the Ibis hotel where Russ was staying to the mall. But that route cannot easily be seen on Google Earth. It was simply luck. But it worked out well. Most of the tourist areas of Sydney are comprised in the sector near the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Even from Darling Harbor it is a short walk to most of the locations you would like to visit. In the map below you may note the flag of the hotel near the center left, the Rocks near the Harbor Bridge and just to the right of the main harbor is where the Opera House is located. Out near the coast is Bondi Beach, which is a world famous surfing place which we would visit later in the week which is shown in the lab below. A close up map of the downtown section below shows the Rocks section near the bridge and the peninsula near the harbor is where the Opera House is located. The Sydney Zoo, Taronga Zoological Zoo, is located on the north of the Harbor and is most often accessed via a short ferry ride from the harbor. So now that we have our bearings I hope to begin the story of our visit. It was fall in the Southern Hemisphere and in Sydney that means rain. Of the four full days we had there I think it rained pretty much each of them. But if you got up early in the morning (that is before noon) it was possible to see the sun. In the afternoon it rained. Saturday was a trip to the Rocks. The Rocks was the initial settlement region build into a rocky area around what is now the base of the Harbor Bridge. Now the area is dotted with interesting shops and restaurants. Like all older areas of a city it is congested and filled with older buildings in need of a wrecking ball. Fortunately the City of Sydney has made this area into a historic centre and so the charm of the section will remain. We did shopping most of the morning. I refused to purchase kangaroo testicle beer openers on general principals. You can also get a back scratcher made from the arm of a kangaroo. Aboriginal art, real Aboriginal art, is expensive as it is here in Arizona and the price seems uniform through out the country. A Didgeridoo costs about $300-$800. You can buy them on the web for $80. Anyway some pictures of Sydney. Darling Harbor is home to most of the Australian navy. The Sydney Harbor bridge (aka the coat hanger) and Opera House Rhino art. Inside the Opera House. They won’t let you take pictures if something is going on and there was. The infamous purple carpet room. Rain in the harbor. Another rhino, this time at Bondi Beach. Outside the Opera House with fisheye lens. Bridge Climb and no we didn’t. Downtown skyline from ferry terminal. Saturday night fireworks at Darling Harbor. Rhino near church. Surf at Bondi Beach. Tour near harbor viewpoint Zoo animals We didn’t rent a vehicle whilst in Sydney so some of this is a bit off topic for ORP. The weather was ok in the morning but not so good in the afternoon. A week later we watched the Royals on tv and later the Anzac day parade and both still had bad weather. A visit to Australia is not complete without a trip to Sydney. We only had four days but I think we saw most of what Sydney had to offer. We missed the Kings Cross area which is one of the more interesting places to visit. We only had four days.
  10. Diane, A whole story in itself which I might tell you someday. Short answer is NO.
  11. below are some time lapse movies I took, or had made, whilst in New Zealand. Note: You must double click on the picture to enable the movie. Sunrise at Queenstown Clouds Queenstown bungee jump more clouds Queenstown sunrise near Mt. Cook
  12. North Rim Grand Canyon Photo Trip 2014 Late last year I was approached by some friends in Michigan to see if I could do a Jeep trip to the Canyon. One of them had it on her bucket list and she wanted to make it a photographic trip. I don’t need any excuse to do a Grand Canyon trip so I set it up. May 17th. We all met at noon at Pipe Springs. Some of the Michigan contingent took a wrong turn near Bryce Canyon and ran a bit late but we all arrived pretty much on time. I had Lucy and it was too hot to leave her in the Jeep so we stayed in the shade near the visitor’s center. The rest took the tour. Attending were: Pat and Sam White Chris Holdwick a cousin of Pat’s Sister Ann the photographer and bucketier Pam a nurse who has worked with both Chris and Sister Ann Tim and Devon Steve and Karen After lunch we started down the road towards Torroweap and the map is shown below. Pam and Srs. Ann picked up a rental car in Vegas which I had hoped we could park somewhere. But we had too many cancellations and so it had to make the trip. There really wasn’t much of a problem until we got inside the Park. Steve got out and spotted Pam over the rocks. While the others had some issues with the road conditions, Pam had a blast. We got to camp around 4pm. I had secured the group campsite #10 but the rental was not up to the final few hills. So we unloaded what was needed and move to the camp. I should note for future trips: There are ten sites of which nine are first. They are all strung together around a rocky ledge, which takes some skill to drive on. As it turned out Steve, Karen, Tim and Devon made their camps around the corner from us so there was plenty of room. I knew in advance that I was the only one who knew how to set up the tents and while the others wanted to help, I was the only one who could get everything in its place. If we weren’t up against the setting sun that would have not been a big deal but the reason for the trip was photography. Around 5pm I got everything up enough so we could drive the remaining mile out to the overlook. Below are photos of Srs. Ann and the Toroweap area. The next morning I had help from Tim, Steve, Karen and Devon so breaking down camp was much easier. We all then drove out to the overlook and took pictures and explored. We returned via the same road where we left the others who were going on to Zion and Coral Pink Sand Dunes. We proceeded to the Kaibab Lodge and checked in. It was the third or fourth day they were open and it reminded me of the John Cleese series of Fawlty Towers. I ordered eggs for breakfast but they didn’t have any. The next day they could not seat anyone for breakfast as they only had one server although they had two others doing other stuff. But they did have eggs. It was cold during the night and I am so glad I opted for a heated room. We had campground reservations and would have survived but it was much nicer in the very rustic cabin. The next day we went out to the standard tourist sights of Point Imperial and Cape Royal and those pictures are shown below along with a map of our travels. Srs. Ann taking a photo of Angles Window The next day I took them on the dirt roads to the Western viewpoints. If you look closely you will see a mistake. It was very windy and more importantly between the two markers was a downed tree. We had to leave the rental behind but we got the Jeep through The plan was to visit Lee’s Ferry on the way home. But Srs. Ann miscounted her pills and Chris had a bad cold. So we spent most of the morning in Kanab returning via the new version of 89 which, If I must say so, is pretty nice. We stopped at Cameron for lunch. Srs. Ann had it on her list to pick up a Navajo blanket until she saw the prices. Somehow I got everyone to make up a story and we were able to pick one out for her. She was most grateful. The smoke was so bad from the Slide Fire that driving was dangerous and so we stayed at Cameron that night. The next day we went over to Waputki NM and then on to Sunset Crater. Shown below are some of the pictures. We said goodbye to Pam and Srs. Ann south of Flagstaff and got home around noon. It took another day to clean up everything.
  13. New Zealand (it’s a lot like Oregon) April 1st. After a year of planning, negotiations, meetings, emails and conferences we are finally off. We met Woody and Carole at LAX. Flying Air New Zealand was both good and bad. The tickets were cheaper than most other airlines but we had to leave from terminal 2 at LAX which has few stores and worse restaurants. But it was next to terminal 1 where Southwest and that was a plus. Because we made our reservations so far in advance Woody was able to get us exit row seats. The 777 was only about half full and the exit row seats actually gave us more floor space than first class (first class does have very nice seats though). April 3rd. Where the heck did the 2nd go? We landed in Auckland and made our way to the domestic terminal. Twenty years ago this was a small walk. Now there is a major city at the airport. We checked our bags and walked to the gate. At this point I was looking for our other couple, Jim and Jill Pearns who are friends from the Phoenix area. They did not show but then they might have gotten a direct flight to Queenstown. After two hours we boarded the last flight of the day (how many was that now?) and flew to Queenstown. On the way we flew over several volcanoes and passed right next to Mt. Cook which we would visit in a weeks time. About New Zealand: New Zealand is made up of two major islands conveniently named the North Island and the South Island. Twenty years ago we visited both islands but had little time for Australia. This time it was decided to just visit the South Island as most of the scenic spots are located there and as we would be visiting in fall (yes April is fall down there) making the water attractions less than interesting. The map below shows the South Island with the routes we took while we were there. We landed in Queenstown, got our bags and rental car and looked for the Pearns family. Finally I called Jim and he told me he wouldn’t make at least the first week. This became one of the running jokes of the trip. “I think I saw Jim” was something that might be said if there was a lull. We stopped in downtown Queenstown and had lunch and made a stop at the local minimart. Bacon was $18 per small package. The trip wasn’t going to be cheap! We then drove to our first hotel. Actually I had found a web site for holiday homes and we all decided on this one. It was called the Aspen House. I so hate those hard to pronounce names. With four bedrooms and four baths, a hot tub and a perfect view it seems like the correct choice. As it turned out is was much better. Some pictures. April 4th We had most of the day to do something until Russ flew in and so we decided to take a small trip to the little village of Wanaka. The town of Wanaka was billed as something like what Queenstown used to be years ago. We had lunch and visited some shops before returning to Queenstown. Along the way we passed by this interesting exhibit. Pat suggested it was to show support for breast cancer. I suggested the town father’s outlawed bras. I suppose the truth is closer to what Pat said but I like mine better. The lake at Wanaka. Downtown Wanaka at rush hour. The road back to Queenstown We got back to Queenstown, picked up Russ and went back to the Aspen house. April 5th. We decided to take an easy day in Queenstown. One of the attractions was the Kiwi Birdlife Park where (for only $65) you can also get a ticket for the gondola ride up the mountain behind Queenstown. While the Kiwi exhibit was excellent they are nocturnal birds and so you cannot take pictures of them. The biggest thing within the park are the transplated Giant Sequoia trees which are now 150 years old. After visiting most of the exhibits at the Kiwi Park we took the gondola up to the top of the peak behind Queenstown. The last time I was up there it was pretty much empty. Now there is a restaurant (actually three), a bungee jump and a small car track. April 6th. The single biggest attraction of the South Island is Milford Sound. Getting there from Queenstown and back is a full day adventure. On the way to Milford you drive by Fjordland National Park. As pointed out by the tour boat captain, a fjord is a valley cut by a glacier, which enters the ocean, and a sound is a similar valley cut by erosion other than glaciers. Milford Sound is a fjord but like some many things in the Southern Hemisphere (ie Alligator river in Kakadu NP in Australia only has crocodiles) they got the name wrong. But I digress. One of the many single lane bridges that dot the South Island. The sign notes the direction that has the right of way. I think this is the one Woody tried to drive through at 80 mph the wrong way and found on coming traffic. But I could be wrong. Just before entering the Homer tunnel there is a waterfall. Mitre Peak Our tour boat. Woody Carole and Russ took the larger boat on the right. They enjoyed a shorter trip with many more tourists. I will let Woody tell that part of the story. One of the many waterfalls in the fjord. A fur seal waves to us. The fjord is so deep and the walls so vertical that the boat can back right up to the rock. This makes an interesting event as most folks scramble into the cabin. But both times now I have just donned my rain gear and had the deck to myself. Dolphins are a frequent visitor to the fjord. April 7th, Sunday. Half the day was spent doing laundry as we would not have another opportunity (so we thought) for a while. In the afternoon we drove to the Arrowtown which was a mining town years ago but now makes it living on tourists. There is an excellent mining museum. If you ever go there beware of the latrine. OK I will tell you just in case. When you open the door a guy inside says “hey get out of here”. April 8th. We reluctantly left Queenstown on our way to Mt. Cook. Along the way we passed by this beautiful river. Somehow I remembered it from the last time and at that point I found out why. There is an old bridge that is sill used for foot traffic on one of the many traks but does double duty as a bungee jump. When last we visited, there was little more than the bridge and a parking lot. Now there is a large concrete building with an entire wall of large screen televisions. After watching several idiots jump I was almost out the door when Woody suggest we go. In a weak moment I agreed. Russ had better restraint. After surviving the bungee jump we drove to Mt. Cook and checked into the Hermitage hotel. April 9th. Great weather which you so often do not get in the mountains. Mt. Cook from the hotel. The peaks to the west of the hotel. Note that while they look close they are many miles distant. A telephoto shot of the summit of Mt. Cook. The five of started on a hike up the Hooker Valley track. The trail is mostly easy but there is one unfinished portion where some bolder hopping is required. At the end of the trail there is a glacial lake and you can see the toe of the glacier as well as Mt. Cook in the distance. Just in case I checked to see if anyone had seen Jim Pearns. April 10th. We departed Mt. Cook and drove the remaining miles to Christchurch. We checked in to the hotel directly across from the terminal and returned our rental vehicle. April 11th. One street from us was the Antarctic exhibit and terminal. While we didn’t have time to fly to McMurdo we would have time to visit the exhibit. But if you are going to Antarctica the door in the distance is the one you would enter. There were many interesting exhibits within the building but I thought, being an off road club, you might be more interested in the vehicles used down there. Inside the museum there was a cold room where they brought the temperature down to freezing and had winds blow down on you at thirty mph. I guess they have never been to the Midwest in winder. There was also a penguin exibit. After lunch we picked up our bags and moved over to the terminal. I checked but did not see Jim Pearns. Around five in the afternoon we departed Christchurch for Sydney. But I have used my allotted fifty pictures so that will have to be another report.
  • Create New...