Oct 9th Monday
The usual last minute panics as we wrap the house up, wrap the orchard up, delegate ,and pack. Daughter Gina takes us to Kings Lynn station and we are off. Two bags each, crash helmets and motorbike jackets. Clive also has a loose camera bag. 4 bits for him and 3 for me. I chose a ruck sack and a waterproof bag with add on wheels. Clive has his wheeled cabin luggage bag and a waterproof bag…just like in Brazil, though this time I am not taking his cabin bag on my bike! None very heavy as we travel light. Premier Inn for the night near Heathrow ready for the flight to Miami tomorrow.
Oct 10th Tuesday
Relaxed plod to terminal 3 with bags. Flight with Virgin Atlantic. Not full so relaxed cabin crew who were nice and friendly. The whole flight was good if long …9hrs. Got in early to hot, muggy weather.Checked in to our Days inn hotel which is disappointing in comfort but adequate . By 6.30pm Miami time it is 11.30pm our time so eat a little up the road in the recommended Liquor cafe. Everyone is Spanish speaking. Colombian, Cuban or whatever. Order too many (3) tapas as one was very large. Buy water and milk…got to have our cup of tea. Do see signs of hurricane damage but guess tomorrow will reveal more as we head for the Keys.
Oct 11th Wed
Our hotel was on the “in need of some attention ” side. Breakfast was friendly but poor value. The English breakfast of ham, eggs, muffin, cheese ended up as one mass in the muffin….really a kind of cheese omelette on a piece of ham stuffed in the muffin. Clive disappointed.
Uber taxi came very quickly but ended up at the back of the hotel and not the front where we were standing! He tried phoning, I did not want to take the call but in the end we got there with texts and made our way to the back. Nice Cuban driver. So far I think we have met more Cubans than Americans. Whole place seems to speak Spanish, all very odd when I imagined Florida to be out and out American. Uber man takes us to the car rental spot. Yes, we are hiring a CAR, not two bikes right bang now. We are headed down the Keys to Key West …at the end. Two bikes here in Miami would have cost a silly amount for 24 hours, so a car it is. It’s a Kia Soul!! Clive drives and I take photos of the hurricane Irma aftermath. It happened on 9/11, not a happy date for Americans it seems. Now one month later the clear up is still very much on going.
Obviously destroyed houses, caravans , boats and trees. Many up rooted trees. Flooding destroyed household goods so there were piles of white goods as well. Huge trucks were taking the piles of debris away….to somewhere. Huge operation. We felt that much could have been burnt on the spot rather than being taken away but no-one had fires. The road has been open for only 2 weeks . Stop and enjoy bang bang prawns…very good. In fact we stop again for more bang bang prawns! In Key West all seems quite good. Old wooden houses built to withstand hurricanes a while back. Not these modern flimsy structures.Our hotel is picturesque in one of the little back streets full of little wooden houses.
Just down the road is a huge crane removing a vast fallen tree. Sadly many huge trees had come down and were being cleared up. Luckily an enormous Kapok tree had survived…it was very distinctive.
We saw Hemmingway’s house, Sloppy Joe’s bar, and then ate along the waterfront. Friendly, nice, but tourist prices! I liked Key West, the houses were interesting, the ambiance was laidback and the place had style.
Oct 12th Thur
It was back to Miami in the car. Whilst looking at all the clearing up was interesting, sitting as a passenger was not . Traffic trundles in America at a max of 55mph even on huge wide straight roads. Our road was pretty straight as it made its way via bridges….some very long….across all the little bits of land that makes up the keys. They are all flat and a mere few metres above sea level.
With no tide they survive where as in UK they would not. Many houses are built on pillars…wisely in times of hurricanes like Irma. It was obvious that Irma had caused a lot of grief especially to the keys in the middle who were right in the eye of the storm. The local radio kept going on about the fact that the keys were now open for business and that people can now start coming again.
We thought we would sightsee Miami by car and headed for Miami beach which again is on a key/island connected by bridges. We ended up having a cocktail in some bar. Cocktails seemed to be all you could have in the drink department so happy hour allowed us to have one each for the price of one. They were enormous!! We wobbled off to the hotel and back to our Liquor cafe to eat just 2 tapas this time. Clive got quite merry on another cocktail!
We were not particularly bowled over by Miami beach and thought Copacabana in Rio was a great deal more tourist friendly….inspite of the cocktails. Can’t get over how many foreigners are here. Feel like I am in a Spanish country and not USA. Hardly met a real American.
And so ends part one of our journey. New part starts tomorrow.
Oct 13th Friday
Lucky day for me ..born on a 13th, so on to an airplane and off we go heading for Guadeloupe. We make it!! In all our travels we have hardly been to the Caribbean. We hardly sit on a beach…The only time was when we were exiting Venezuela and we went to Margaritas, (Venezuelan owned) in order to catch a charter flight home. We liked those couple of days so here we are on Guadeloupe. Very smartly after our arrival we were down at the bike hire place and managed to get one scooter 125cc and the other we pick up tomorrow. I am going a bit stir crazy not in charge of my own bike but patience for one more night. Had a lovely swim….and then started looking up things to do.
As it got dark the most amazing chorus has started up. I guess its tree frogs but need more research yet to find out. Can’t be ciccadas….We are staying at Plage de Petit havre near Le Gosier.
Oct 15th Sun
Got my 2 wheels yesterday and off we went to explore to the most eastern tip of Guadeloupe. Weather basically wettish so much so we took refuge at one point near a marina and had a good lunch in a yachty restaurant. Sunken yachts in the marina…look very miserable with their expensive masts sticking out of the water at crazy angles. Saw another one or two later on.
Treefrog chorus flat out again last night. Wish I could see one.
Oct 16th Mon
Yesterday we did little. To be honest the weather looked pretty awful. It was raining on and off and thick cloud otherwise. There was a moment when we had a swim and then scurried to the beach cafe as it started to pour again. But had a laid back pizza lunch then and there with wine which put both of us to sleep back at our flat. I think a day doing nil was called for..!!
In the evening, determined to find the source of the incredible frog chorus I stalked round the garden…we are edged with greenery…with my phone torch and camera and first came across a land crab…bit scary in my bare feet….and then a teeny little frog from which came this piercing noise. It was about 1″ long, non descript brown, and really remarkably boring looking, sitting inside a flower leaf. And this one on a rock.
Not bright red or green or even yellow. A garden snail looked bigger. Tried to get a good photo and will practice more tonight! They are Johnstone ‘s whistling tree frogs. No wonder it’s noisy.
Today, raining again, but determined to now go somewhere else on our scootors, we headed off inland in a rain lull. We did okay, saw the interior and ended up in a really sleepy spot like a one horse town. Hardly a restaurant but did find something where we sat and looked at not a lot going on except for a poor guy who seemed to think our scootors were fascinating. Got home without getting too wet but it has been another very cloudy day. Luckily I did not come here to sunbathe particularly though had hoped to see the sun!…We do have some real aims for the next couple of days so fingers crossed on the weather.
Oct 17th Tues
The frogs continue to amaze.They are so loud. We managed to play music last night in an attempt to drown them out. If it rains that sends them into absolute raptures and it is full orchestra again. We dare not head out to a restaurant in the evening on our bikes as the threat of rain is too much and you cannot see a storm coming at night. So its home cooking…
Slightly brighter look today so off we go to see the Volcano Soufriere. I would like to walk up it..2 hours…and at the start of the path there is a hot pool where Clive can continue to wallow after I have begun my walk up. It was not to be.
We scootored along okay…79 kms…in between rain storms. We stopped in the nick of time on each occasion. I have rain gear, Clive has too, but took none with him today. Anyway we started up the last bit of road and were nearly at the hot pool when we got confronted by a gate across the road and signs saying shut due to the hurricane Maria. No walking , but what about the hot pool? I walked up past the gate until I saw a digger and that really was that..not even a swim in the hot pool. It was raining of course, I was in my wet gear, Clive in the shelter by the gate.
We nevertheless went all the way up the west coast of Basse Terre ( dry!) and did the traversee road through the jungle, dry, saw some falls, raining by then, glimpsed a Mongoose, and then headed home to the frog orchestra, in the dry, but it rained 5 mins after getting home!
The forecast is for better weather…..
Oct 19th Thurs
It was better yesterday . Sea very churned up but no rain. We explored Pointe a Pitre. Peter’s point. Guadeloupe was “discovered” by a dutchman called Peter. Todays’ Guadeloupe is french ,run not as a colony ,but as a department of France. Its just like any department in european france. All road signs, town signs, car number plates etc are just as in France. It is quite strange really and also reassuring. You feel close to home !! It is not a tax haven , they are taxed just as in France, they get exactly the same treatment. Not many speak english, all speak french and many speak creole.
We ate out last night as risk of rain on the scootors had virtually gone. Discovered that Clive’s lights on his were down to one sidelight. he rode with his finger on the flasher button to keep the main beam on!
Big beach clear up under way this morning. All the debris from the hurricane. Time to go to another beach.Off we go to see if we can find where they film Death In Paradise, that detective TV series . We quite like it… We head for the north west of Basse Terre island and Deshaies. Think we found the bar,
certainly the bay.
Very laid back little place but very pleasant. Clive said scruffy. We then went onwards to Perle plage where we think they also film.
Lovely beach, hurricane damaged but super fine sand which got everywhere particularly as I got completely tumbled in a huge wave.
Clive also got caught out and lost his prescription sunglasses to the bottom of the sea. There was quite an undertow and powerful waves. Nice cafes on the beach but not developed in any sense. Exploring done and we head back round the north coast and home. Managed to photo some teeny frogs, The Lesser Antillian Bullfinch
and the Bananaquit !
We are about to begin another part of the trip.
Oct 22nd Sun
On Friday we flew back to Miami. Night there and then on Saturday a 6 hour flight to Los Angeles. Didn’t know that we had to check in at the gate to get seat allocation so ended up at the very back of the plane in the last row. It was in fact okay. Don’t get fed on American airlines but had got a takeaway to bring on board so we had got that bit right. Day time flight . Shuttle from hotel never appeared so got Uber taxi. They work really well as long as you have wifi !! First used them in Brazil.
Today we hire BMW motorcycles and head off for a week to explore around this part of the world. Unfortunately we have hit a heatwave. Normally temperature should be upper 20’s but for the next 3 days the forecast says it’s going to hit 35-38c. Bit hot… Need to go up in the mountains but Clive fancies seeing Furnace Creek again. That is in Death valley, opposite way to up!!
The hiring goes fine. All organised from the UK and the nice Kelly has come in on a Sunday just for us. Off we go and look at the old Queen Mary ship down on Long Island beach. Whilst there realise I have forgotton my bumbag so back we go and then start again. It’s off to Palm Springs which we reach in good time.
Oct 23rd Mon
We have a goal to see Borringo Springs . Its about 80 to 97 miles from Palm Spring’s. It’s super hot in a heat wave. The goal is not that exceptional..some art work in the desert. Clive not that keen but at the same time does not want me to go alone.
So we go together. It reaches 41c on the way back. That is hot for motorbiking. The engine gives off a lot of heat too. I enjoyed looking at the art works.
The Salton Sea that we went down beside was an amazing sight in the heat and desert. Here are some statistics of the sea.
The lake occupies the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink in the Colorado Desert . Its surface is 71.7 m below sea level as of February 5, 2017. The deepest point of the sea is 1.5 m higher than the lowest point of Death Valley.
The sea comes and goes apparently and when in existence its max depth is 13m. Currently it is shrinking and becoming more salty and fish are dying.
In the evening we explored the best of Palm Springs restaurants in our area. Americans are super friendly and amazingly we have had conversations with 2 couples who have been to Great Massingham and Great Yarmouth respectively. Not reaĺly the destinations that you would expect an american to go to.
Oct 24th Tues
We escape some of the heat by heading away from Palm beach and up onto a plateau as we head north east towards the Sequoia National Park. Longer day than intended as I got the mileage wrong . Great american roads though and fast going. Fascinating speed signs say “speed enforced by aircraft”. I have visions of a plane flying low over me to catch my number plate or maybe we will be followed by a drone. We stop at cafe 247 on a junction, first place we had seen for miles. We had been travelling through fairly desolate desert scenery with not a lot happening as is evidenced by this T shirt for sale in the cafe.
We have travelled so many desert roads and this one was just as many others…straight with burnt up scenery and brown rocky mountains on each side. Occasional shacks and caravans with people , making you wonder how on earth they scratched a living in this dryness. End up in a place called Bakersfield. We had been enticed to this hotel by the “olympic sized pool”. No one in it and we could not wait. However, big as the pool was it was freezing cold, colder than Overy Staithe water in summer. I did a couple of lengths and was still cold. How could it be with the blazing sun over head.?
Not so far today. Off to Three Rivers to check in at an hotel and then off to Sequoia National Park to see the General Sherman tree. It is estimated to be between 2300 to 2700 years old and is the largest tree on earth by VOLUME, being neither the tallest nor the widest but amongst those that are.
The Tunnel log that you can go through. Large toppled Sequoia.
We had to negotiate roadworks that were apparently going to keep us in the park till 8pm with huge delays and road shut for 2 hours etc. Clive thought it was not worth it but in the end came. As it was we waited about 10 mins in a queue going up and about half an hour going back down. Big climb up with 15 or so miles of bends which gets you to about 2000m. The countryside was so dry and arid that you could not imagine a giant redwood forest but there it was at the top and over the back. There were many other huge trees as well as Sherman.
Coming along the flat valley between Bakersfield and Three Rivers we saw first an oil field with nodding donkeys
and then huge orchards of oranges, some apples, vines and olive trees. All were irrigated. Without irrigation there would be nothing. When an orchard had had it’s day it looked like the irrigation was switched off and the trees just died. Plenty of completely dead trees being grubbed up. So much land , the farmer could just start another orchard field further along.
Oct 26th Thurs
Hotel breakfast was a staggeringly plastic affair. Plasticised cardboard plates, cardboard and plastic cups and mugs, plastic knives and forks, wrapped butter and salt and sugar… Forget the processed food…. everything , including food waste ended up in the rubbish bin.
Off we went to San Luis Obispo. First cross the San Joaquin valley…..it is so flat that it makes the fens look hilly . More orchards, cotton, vines…they all need water. All look so dry. We get out of the valley up into the hills and there it looks desiccated…the grassy hillsides are dead. The grass is yellow and long.
The very few trees lòok like they are on their last legs. Is this normal..?? Nothing grows with out irrigation. There were quite a few signs about water resources beside the road..like ” is irrigating crops to produce food a waste of water?”. Why grow cotton in such an area? It needs such a lot of water.
San Luis Obispo is a rather good spot. The farmers market tonight was a very lively affair.. Not that many farmers…more people into Halloween..
Oct 27th Friday
We bought a new communications system yesterday so today we are trialling it by staying here for another night ( and because we like this place) and can take a day trip down to the coast and back. If the system doesn’t work we can take it back. It is much better than our old system and after going down the freeway/motorway, we are sure.
We went to Pismo beach. Not a place we have heard of but we found a spot where there was a jazz event..Dixie land jazz…a three day event! We sat outside the tent for free and had a bit of a listen along with others!! It was very good and we sat in a bit of sunshine and a bit of sea mist .
Cold tonight as we went out. Whilst unlucky to get a heatwave we have been lucky that the temperature has stayed up as we now have a forecast of much lower temps ..in the 20s…the day after we leave. We hope to scurry back down to LA in the warmth.
Oct 28th Saturday
It was cold, 13c as we left. It was not long before we stopped to put on more clothing and do up vents etc. During the ride to Long beach we went from 13c to 32c and up and down in between. Strange how the temp changed and the sea mist swirled. Countryside looked dry throughout but the biggest surprise was Santa Barbara. I had imagined a big wide beach and high rise behind. Not a bit of it. All buildings are low as they are all along the coast and there was a huge pier ( they call them wharves) running straight out from the middle of the beach. All made of wood, cars drove out and parked on it. It was huge.
Various wooden buildings on it, mostly selling food; pelicans flying this way and that; marina off to one side; moored yachts to the other; and lots of people fishing from the pier. Weather pleasant at this point so we ate some fish and chips!
On we went into LA to cross it and get to Long beach where we had to hand the bikes back. They shut at 5pm. We intended to be there at 4pm but only made it with one minute to spare. No problem , there was another group coming in as well. The freeway had been very trafficky and we had misjudged how far it was. When we got to the airport and bought a drink we were served by a guy who said he had seen us on our bikes as he came past on his!! What a small world.
Ended up being glad it had been a heatwave as it could have been quite cold, especially in the mornings. California much drier and browner that I would have imagined. Much fruit growing but so dependent on irrigated water. Is this sustainable??
Now to another part of the journey.
29th Oct Sun
A ten hour flight gets us to Raratonga, main island of the Cook islands. Feeling rather shattered we end up at our prebooked hotel at 7am without being to be able to access our room till midday. So we sit feeling dirty and tired in the breakfast area by the sea. It is very beautiful looking at the lagoon inside the coral reef.
Weather sort of lucky for us right now is pretty cloudy and cool. By 9am we have staggered to the rental bike shop and got ourselves two little blue scootors and driven them round the block. Revived and no room to go to we set out exploring. Tourists have to wear helmets whie the natives do not. We immediately stand out along with plenty of other tourist couples on theirs. Top speed allowable by law is 50kpm or 30 mile an hour. Probably enough on this little bike…
We have only booked an hotel for half our days here so head off and find a great spot we think. Clive puts on his best negotiating hat and we get a good “walk in” price.
Road round the outside of the island and no roads across the slightly mountainous middle. Rises up to 600 ft or so.
Relapse into tiredness once in our room. Very loud local birds , the Common Myna bird, and a resident cockerel which Clive already wishes dead!!
Oct 30th Mon
Cockerel duly did his job this morning…about 6am! Off to town….its very small but functional. We buy local internet card for internet access. Its a tenth of the hotel price but is dependent on being in a local hotspot.
Features of the island include…chickens,black pearls and lifestyle. Lifestyle is very laid back and unhurried. Top speed on the roads of 30mph is how all life seems to be. Relaxed. Black pearls are the tourist thing; something we should have heard about probably or known about. They come from the black lipped oyster and are farmed very carefully now a days. What we refer to as cultured pearls but black lustered. Chickens are allowed anywhere. In and out of restaurants too.
Cocks abound, and chicks behind mother hen dash across the road in a heap risking their little lives. The hotel garden is full of chickens….and that cock! Quite large dogs seem to have no real home but they are loved by the populace apparently so they look well enough. Can also wander across the road…
Swim and snorkel today. Plenty of fish and some quite big. Sea pretty warm but had hotter.
Oct 31st Mon
Seem to be spared the horrors of Halloween here. The USA was getting very worked up about it with plastic skeletons everywhere. Today is the day of the cross island trek…for me. Together on one scooter we go to the north end of the walk where luckily we met with another couple whose male half is doing the trek. Clive is going to meet me the other end. We think 2 hours. Because we went wrong at the beginning and did a loop the loop which probably cost us at least half an hour and much energy, we took about 3 hours in total. It was a real scramble over tree roots on a steep incline and on a ridge.
That was up ,… and down ,after seeing the Needle, was similar with more mud/slip and much crossing of a little stream. It was pretty arduous but it was good to be with Winston a travel journalist from Auckland. We talked, so probably frightened wildlife of which we saw very little. Just jungle trees. My rucksack became very heavy on my shoulders with the crash helmet swinging from it. Unfit me was tired/ knackered! We climbed up 400m or so .
Rest of day spent doing not much as weather pretty/completely cloudy so not really great beach weather.It then rained some. We had booked a restaurant in town so off we went on our scooters getting wet. Well I was , while Clive had this time kitted himself in his wet weather gear. Lovely situation for the Trader Jack’s restaurant hanging over the sea but the wind lashed and the rain fell. Back was not too bad and we then peered at the locals doing their dancing bit for our hotel. The hotel wanted £20 each to look at this dancing for an hour. We had a grand view from the outside and bar area which they could not stop you doing. £20 for a seat!!
Nov 1st Wed
It’s pouring with rain. This no longer a joke or normal. Even the locals say its not right. We have a gap of checking out of this hotel by 10am and not being able to check in to the next till 2pm. No problem if sunny but it’s not. We get dressed in all our motorcycle wet gear (which does give us quite an advantage over the rest of the holiday makers), and off we head to do various things on the way to the other side of the island. The bags are draped across the running board and my bare feet can hang over the top.
I discover the roads are warm in spite of the not so warm and wet weather. We end up having to kill an hour at the new hotel. Now arrived the rain seems to have mostly stopped.
Nov 2nd Thurs
It was not a good weather day, yesterday. Cold and wet but in the evening we took the option of the buffet supper with local entertainment and it was good. Much merry dancing from the locals with their local music.
Today there is optimism on the weather and we do manage a kayak and a swim from me across the lagoon.
Then it was a bit cold! There was blue sky but it disappeared pretty quickly. We had a walk…
The locals are very friendly. They descend from just 6 families. They can be tall and pretty huge. Perhaps that is one family type. Girls mostly have really long hair. Older women can be pretty overweight/morbidly obese, along with some men. There are signs up about diabetes and blood sugar levels beside the road.
Clive took this…
Nov 3rd Fri
Our final whole day here and we wake to the same leaden skies. Oh well. That’s life. We head off on foot to sit inside the Blue sky telecoms office. Though Blue sky has a hot spot in the hotel it does not work. The reason is that there was a major fire disaster in Bluesky’s cell site which took out all landlines, internet and mobile communications. Only by sitting in the office could we get emails….
We then explored a last inland road by scooter. By then rain had appeared. We headed to town, went round the museum, and then off to watch 7 a side rugby. At least Clive did ( he said it was great. Cook island beat Fiji !).
It has been very strange to have the English language here. The locals look foreign to me and I am expecting them to speak either another language or not very good English. So it comes across odd to be greeted in perfect English. Clive doesn’t think it’s odd!
Love the money…. love the coins.
Now we move on to another part
Nov 6th Mon
We are now in Auckland, New Zealand. We arrived yesterday after losing a whole day going through the date line. Arrived late at our Airb&b. We had to go through various backdoor routes to reach this little flat. Keys were attached to some railings in a key box. Having managed to get in it’s just fine and modern and clean. We can now exit the building via the front!
Have wandered around Auckland today. Clive has been enjoying shopping without buying, at the same time as being upset by all the foreigners that sèem to have taken over. Very full of various asians with many restaurants and shops being distinctly oriental . Finding something New Zealand seems more tricky. Down at the harbour things improved with an Irish pub!! Also fun looking at luxury yachts including America cup yachts which were being taken out for a kind of race for tourists.
Nov 7th Tuesday
Wandered around again in the morning, currently without wheels. looked at electric bicycles to hire but they only hire by the day which was expensive anyway. Trying to get Clive to try but he keeps making a fuss about the seat. Found excellent cafe with great view of harbour so sat there watching the scene of the harbour. Then it was off to Takapuna, not far away at all, and a very lovely Airb&b by the beach. We walked that and watched kite boarders etc. Later as evening wore on we noticed a lot of activity. The new season beach series was beginning. Lots of people were preparing to take part in running, swimming and paddleboarding. By now the weather was quite cold, 19c, sun was gone and a force 4 was blowing. Waves lashing the beach made it hard for rescue boats, swimmers, and those putting out buoys which kept drifting. Seemed chaotic but off they all went. Runners up and down the beach, swimmers out one way and paddleboarders to the left. Paddleboarders had a hard time clinging to their course in the wind;
swimmers battled waves;
rescuers rescued. We ended up at Francs restaurant where they did too and it was all good fun. It takes place once a week all through the summer season. Clive thought everyone quite mad to be taking part, I think we should have something like it back home!!
Nov 8th Wed
Having breakfasts in a city allows one to look at others and the society in which we are. Takapuna is a quite affluent suburb of Auckland. We had difficulty in finding a suitable venue in the first place. Affluent cafes offered over the top fancy breakfasts at fancy prices and others were either chinese ,thai, japanese or korean! Today we opt for Oceanous cafe where Clive had an Oceanous plate! It was pretty huge… Next door table had 4 “retireds” and behind were a gossiping bunch of ladies. …just like any civilised city…
Uber back to Auckland and a bus to Kerikeri. Tricky without 2 wheels but we will get some soon. We are headed to Julian’s, a friend from Burnham Market who has built himself a house on the river just above the Haruru Falls on the ? river which empties into the Bay of Islands. Julian is there to greet us and off we go to his home.
Nov 9th Thurs
Very soon, after a lovely breakfast cooked by Julian, we set eyes on the 2 bikes he is going to lend us for the next 2 weeks. One is a Triumph Bonneville and the other a Honda Silver Shadow. Clive fancies the Shadow all arms a kimbo and feet out in front. …just a bit! Today though we are shown the delights of the area by Julian in his car. We see several views of the bay of islands and then a Kauri forest. Kauri trees are very old trees that only live in North New Zealand . They can be 2,000 plus years old. We saw some huge old trees on our little jungle walk. Sadly a lack of birds though there were a few calling. Julian’s house overlooking the river has quite a few birds around which is encouraging..
In the evening we go off to catch a ferry to get to a restaurant in Russell. Russell, on the Bay of Islands, was the first capital of New Zealand. Today it is quaint and small with a nice situation overlooking the sea. On the way we see a Kiwi bird cross the road…the first one Julian has seen in the wild . We go to the Swordfish Club and admire photos of fishermen and their vast fishes they have caught on a line . Replicas of these huge fish line the room. Then its off next door to the Duke of Marlborough restaurant where we had a great meal . Back over on the car ferry before it stopped for the night. No more Kiwi birds!
Nov 10th Fri
We are off on our motorbikes.
THANK YOU TO JULIAN.
Stuff re packed into panniers and other stuff abandoned for few days. We are going off to the northern tip of New Zealand. Weather pretty cool but dry. First we fuel up these new to us bikes and do tyres…my back tyre very low. The countryside smells lovely, all sorts of blossom out and gorgeous different smells. On the bike you get these heady scents..not in a car! Plenty of wildflowers too. The countryside is hilly with grass and trees making all look green. Orchards of fruit including Kiwi and grapes are divided by really high hedges. Gradually this slides away as we head up the narrow strip of land that is Northland ( of New Zealand). Huge sand dunes on the left and right in places, encroaching on land with trees on it. Its very much Maori territory. Bit of a walk at the end to reach the lighthouse but nice and scenic.
Tasman Sea meets Pacific Ocean at Cape Reinga.
This strange photo is of a huge jelly fish swimming way below the cliff I took the photo from.
Heading back we investigate the duneboarding. I cannot resist and off I go, barefoot with my body board to slide down a dune.First you have to walk up! Conditions not ideal as very windy and soon I get sand in my eyes and everywhere! Good fun though and head back to Clive nearly getting lost in these enormous dunes.
I am there at bottom leftish….head down trying to keep send out of eyes! That’s my track.
We have not booked tonights hotel. There does not seem to be anywhere to eat nor anywhere to even buy food. We could rent a cabin on a campsite but no food. Head back south and eventually find a spot.A cabin that could sleep 6 ! Loo block as on campsite, Clive not impressed but we will be fine, have to rush off to eat in the one and only restaurant by 7pm. That is good and friendly and back to our cabin by 8pm. !
Bikes in front of our cabin.
Nov 11th Sat
Plan is to head back to Julian’s for one night and then head further south after that. Strong cold headwind but we cover the smallish distance we have to do.
All is green or forested. No cultivated fields, no fields with crops apart from fruit. Odd houses dotted around as we head uphill and down hill. Some are messy and those seem to be owned by Maoris….looks a bit gypsy like. Maoris make up about 6% of the population. It seems some have integrated better than others.
Arrive back at Julian’s. He wanted to see that the bikes had behaved. He then fed us a great meal with plenty of booze.
Nov 12th Sun
Clive distinctly worse for wear whilst I seem to have got away with it, not sure how. After another good breakfast from Julian we head off over to the other side first and then southwards. Go through Waipoua forest where we stop and I go to admire the Tane Mahuta tree. Clive has seen it before…It is the worlds 4th biggest tree and the largest Kauri tree. I never thought this trip would be quite so involved at staring at huge old trees!!
On we go to a B and B in Paparoa. We have been battling a cold strong southwesterly headwind. In the sun it can be lovely but this wind is bitter at any height. Forecast is for warmer weather so we live in hope. Currently have most..not quite…of our warm clothes on.
Down to an hotel for supper where we bumped into a man originally from Middlesborough who was a joiner. He had lived in NZ for 43 years but no doubt was hankering for the old homeland. He was also staying at our B and B and pointed out that all the woodwork in our old Post office B and B was Kauri wood. Not allowed now. We then had to contend with a fairly pissed individual who wanted to talk endlessly about the two bikes! Back to B and B where there is a Tui bird making all sorts of loud noises.
Nov 13th Mon
Very sociable breakfast at the B and B where are hostess, Debs, wafted around while all her guests sat round one table. We had the carpenter/joiner and a couple from Sweden who looked rather shell shocked as they had only arrived yesteday after a 20 plus hour flight from Stockholm.
Off we go heading south to the Coromandel peninsular south of Auckland. Wind has dropped but still cold unless you sit still in the sun . We make it to Opi ‘s cafe for fish and chips and then onwards.
Lovely roads, bends and ups and downs and no traffic unless you hit “The 1…the main route”. Wildflowers,scents,green grassy fields or forests everywhere. Not seen a cultivated field yet….just grass.Dead possoms by the road, single track bridges the norm.
End up in Whitianga in a motel by the water. Go out to eat about 7.30pm and when we walk back at 9pm the town is quite deserted. Nothing open except the Irish pub that we had just left !
Nov 14th Tues
Staying put here. Make own English breakfast in our splendid Motel and then head to Hot Water beach. Weather okay but not great as we motorbike there. We are equipped with bathers, towels and a shovel ..loaned from the hotel. Bit of a walk through the forest and on to the beach; below some cliffs there are plenty of people aĺl in one spot digging holes in the sand. The digging is to make yourself a nice little hole that you sit in while hot water oozes through the sand .
There was an element of luck unless you knew as to where to dig for some spots had too hot water and some too cold. The best holes sloped down so that the hot water ran through and pooled at the lower end as in a bath. Our hole was not that deep but enough hot water came through to keep us happy. In you get and watch everyone else. Silly but great fun.
Back to motel before it rained..just. I then walked in the rain getting pretty soaked to my tour boat. I had booked on a glass bottomed boat tour of the bay for 2 hours. We were dry on the boat and the fish did not mind the rain. It rained the whole time! I even had to scamper back to the motel in the rain. It then cleared up and it was a lovely sunny evening. Irish pub for food again.
Nov 15th Wed
Head off to circumnavigate the Coromandel peninsula before heading south to Rotorua. Green grass stretches everywhere, big cow herds, forests and some hedges. Weather starts fine but along come the clouds and finally a biggish shower catches us 20 miles from the end. Bikes going well, roads not that busy and we stop to have cups of tea and food (Clive chooses) and fill up with petrol. Nothing is cheap, petrol about same, bit cheaper . We are now on the rim of an ancient volcano , next to a crater lake and about to have a look at geysers etc. Rotorua smells of sulphur as there is so much volcanic activity.
Nov 16th Thurs
Staying 3 nights here. Clive is seeing a lady who was kind to his daughter when, about 12 years ago, she broke her leg out here in an accident walking/climbing. I head off on foot to walk round Te Puja or Geyserland!. Lots of steam , mud springs going plop plop
and the main geyser shooting up water which was rather lost in the steam. All in all a nice interesting walk for which I had to pay about £30. Bit expensive.
Back to motel, no Clive, so head off to thermal baths by myself about 18 miles away. Open air, really nice and pretťy hot. Rains on me each way! Later a local lady says she has never known such wet weather. Never been so bad all her life.
In the evening it was down to the Thursday mkt …which we did not know about….and a cafe which gave us good value . We looked at the government gardens and the amazing old bath house
This was a bath house…looks so grand…..
and another smelly spring.; sea planes on the lake. Whilst staying another night we have to move places in the morning.
Nov 17th Fri
The sun is shining! This cannot be true….it looks good but guess what my bike would not start. Click…battery problems perhaps? Anyway we bumped started it with the aid of an Indian guy and it has gone okay today though have only had to restart it once. Tomorrow morning will be the test if we do not use it tonight ie I might be able to squeeze onto Clive’s one seat bike with him.
We exited the motel and went off to Douglas airb&b round the corner as motel full. Douglas kindly took our bags into his garage while went off to do the Volcanic valley. Waimangu volcanic valley history….
‘Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley was created on 10 June 1886 by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera, on the North Island of New Zealand. It encompasses Lake Rotomahana, as well as the location of the Waimangu Geyser, which was active from 1900 to 1904. The geyser was first seen erupting in late 1900. Its eruptions were observed reaching up to 1,500 feet (460 m) in height, and it excited worldwide interest . It contains Frying Pan Lake, which is the largest hot spring in the world, and its acidic water maintains a temperature of about 50–60 °C (122–140 °F), and the steaming and usually pale blue Inferno Crater Lake, the largest geyser-like feature in the world although the geyser itself cannot be seen since it plays at the bottom of the lake.’ The lake reaches temperatures of 75c.’
What was impressive was the vegetation that lived round this really hot water
Frying pan lake with the steam….
and coped with all the gases and the hot stream that ran out of frying pan lake to the big crater lake….Rotomahana. You walk 4 kms down and can then get a bus back up. I did an extra hike before the bottom. Very interesting.
Back to town and our airb&b at Douglas’s. Worked well, room in the garden.
Nov 18th Sat
On the move again, done enough staring at hot things. Head west towards the Forgotten world highway which starts in Taumarunui. Some of these Maori names are impossible!! Nice motorbiking and weather is sunny but there is a horrible strong wind. I take us the wrong way for a bit so it was retrace route against the wind! Great views of a lovely snowcapped volcano called Tongariro, 2500m high. In later summer there are great walking trails across that region. Active but dormant.
Taumarunui was an old railway town which now did not have a lot going for it. We stayed in a B and B which was in a wooden ex nunnery. Nuns left it about 15 years ago. It had some old decor! New owner trying to improve as she goes. Two choices of food in the evening…its Saturday night but all is closed, except an indian and a thai restaurant. Most businesses shut at midday on Saturdays and that’s it till Monday morning. In a tourist area things might be different !!
Nov 19th Sun
This place is a wee bit touristy as it is the beginning of the Forgotten world highway, a tarmac road (highway 43) that goes through a very pretty area with few if any villages. Pioneers tried to make a living around here and seemingly failed though why is not that obvious as the green grass continues to grow through out. There was a railway but that stopped in 2010. Now part of it is used for tourists to take an adapted golf buggy along it …on the rails!
For the drivers and motorcyclists there is a quaint place called Whangamomona. Read all about it in the photo below.
Our two bikes on left…
We enjoyed the route, including about 12 kms of gravel road. We stopped, as you have to, in Whangamomona, before continuing to the old tunnel built in 1908 and since adapted for higher vehicles.
As we continued onwards another large volcano came in to view. Again snow capped, mt Egmont or Taranaki as it is now called, is also 2500m high. It is very majestic. Staying 2 nights in New Plymouth on the sea and near the volcano.
More Nov 20th MonI had been researching trails across and around the volcano that I could walk today. I could only find something about 11 miles long that could suit Clive taking me to and meeting from. This had problems…it was quite long, I could get lost, and my footwear might let me down. It was either motorcycle boots or my non waterproof lace up shoes. Apparently trails were not well marked and there were streams to cross. The other factor was being on my own . So I was delighted to hear that there were cycling paths around and about the town, there was a sight or two to be seen this way and the motel had bicycles for customers to use for free. This would do the trick for a bit of exercise. Even better was that Clive came along…on a power assisted cycle that we hired. He actually professed to enjoy it. On the flat I kept up with him but on steep hills he zoomed up while I puffed and huffed. Amazing.! We had an enjoyable time discovering New Plymouth. Had to wear cycle hats…by law. The snow capped volcano is always there behind the town…what a lovely backdrop.
Nov 21st Tues
Now heading back towards Julian. It’s near Hamilton for the night in another Airb&b. Countryside continues with its ups and downs and grass and trees everywhere. Sheep, cows and green grass. Small low level houses. We did a bit of gravel road and went past the Waimato cave complex. Cost to see for one was $91..about £50. This is expensive we think.. On towards our B and B. Wow did we have trouble finding it. Airb&b’s pin point on google maps was way off the mark and in the wrong street. I could not access anything on my phone without wifi so we loitered around a restaurant to pick up some free wifi but still could not work it out. We ended up in 2 different family’s houses with everyone being so helpful, all of us puzzling with wifi about where it was. We had some clues..down by the creek where the road gets cut in half and it was number 32., and off Riflerange road. After an hour we got there, not Allen st but Aberfoyle st. Sweet older couple who need to enter a few more details about their address!!
Nov 22nd Wed
It was a good place to stay with plenty of breakfast foods. We then went to a Triumph dealer in Hamilton and got Julian a chain and sprocket for his bike. Into Hamilton to watch the laid back life style for a bit before heading to Takapuna and our next air b&b which was considerably more up market and really great value.
Nov 23rd Thurs
Uneventual ride to Julian’s ( near Puhia) as well as Kerikeri. We unloaded and cleaned bikes and he seemed happy that they were not damaged!! Out for a meal in Puhia.
A kingfisher by Julian’s river.
Nov 24th Fri
Julian kindly takes us out for a swift ride of the bay of islands in his boat. With 115 hp motor we soon see a few islands with great beaches and good diving. Weather was cloudy but no wind so calm sea. Another thank you to Julian. And then it was off to catch the bus back to Auckland and be ready for flying out tomorrow. Public transport not like motorbiking and we have a bit of difficulty…tramping the streets with the luggage to find next bus to airport as uber disappoints and will not quote for the journey . The next part begins.
Nov 25th Sat
We fly to Perth, Australia, to stay with my daughter Emma and her family near Dunsborough. Three little boys and a house renovation have kept her very busy.
First day and I am put to work painting walls. Clive mows the lawn and we mend a cycle which has lost a chain. There is a motorcycle here which we shall use once we have sorted out its battery problems. Blog pauses while we are here….
Dec 3rd Sun
We have now been here a full week. Here is a place called Quedjinup, which is near Dunsborough, a Fakenham size place about 3 hours drive south of Perth. It is positioned almost on a peninsula such that you can go to beaches facing in different directions. The big bay that Dunsborough is on has a whale watching boat/cruises but the season for that here has about ended.
It’s all their land that you can see here…back of the house.
We have been too busy anyway. Day one it was painting walls and ceiling for new kitchen and subsequent days painting cupboard doors and skirting etc. Had to be done to a high standard as Emma’s husband is a meticulous carpenter. The push is on to get out of the temporary kitchen and into the new one for Christmas.
Front of house. This will be the front lawn. Leo the dog began life in England. Carpentry in process….
In between it was look to the hens , and weeding the garden. Everything is now very dry, even though the weather is not that warm at all. We had an afternoon when we went to the beach…Quedjinup beach and watched a coast watch helicopter circle a round and around . It had spotted a Great white shark just out a bit near some laser sailors. We in turn had watched one of the lasers capsize !!
But on the whole it has been too cold for beach until yesterday when it suddenly got hot. The sun is burning so not for too long on the beach. Water on that beach was pretty nippy.
The hens ( Gold laced Wyandotte) have been fun as two silly hens have been sitting together on 3 eggs incubating them. They have been sharing the job. Finally one chick has appeared and to day we wrote off the other two after shining a torch through them and seeing that they were just liquid inside…no good.
Two adoring mothers and one spoilt chick.. or will he/she be henpecked?
Now the one little chick has two very protective mothers. Emma is rather relieved that incubation has ended as her other two egg laying hens were laying their eggs every day near the two mothers who then took those unfertilised eggs and sat on them. She then had to run the risk of having her hand pecked as she took them each day. She luckily had written on the fertilised eggs so knew which to take!
Zack and Emma.
The house was two old mill cottages which had once been elsewhere but were moved to this spot. Entirely made of wood. Not in great order but did have electricity and plumbing. They got in about 9 months ago and have been working very hard ever since. Mike the carpenter has mended, redone the entire tin roof, joined the 2 houses together so that the gap between is now an integral part of the now one house, and been earning a living at the same time. Emma has cleared piles of rubbish and vegetation and been the artist, painting and painting etc. She also is full time mother to 3 boys under 7. The smallest , Otto is 2 1/2. They lived almost in one room to start with so have come a long way with a spare room for us to stay in.
The smeg cooker being moved to its new spot.
The plot of land is about 5 acres. Nearly all tinder dry with trees. At the bottom is a reserve….park/forest. Some fun birds and kangaroos..
New Holland honey eater.
The first day we were there, Otto who was outside, let out a blood curdling scream. Rushing out we found that Otto on his trike was in the path of a Spider hornet who was struggling to carry his prey…a poisonous Huntsman spider…to his hole. The hornet was furious but wanted to concentrate on his prey and not Otto. We watched him drag the spider to his hole having got Otto out of the way.
Yesterday the house was invaded by flies…not such fun.They become worse through the summer. You cannot sit on the beach without flies buzzing round you and your face. We have now made a homemade fly deterrent spray…see if it works.
Lifestyle takes a bit of getting used to. The houshold is awoken about 5.30am by Otto. School for the two eldest means out by 8am. Workmen…and we have had electrician, carpenter, reticulation man and plumber, can arrive at 7.30am. Reticulation means the irrigation. He is mending what was here and making better. Every australian house must have a green lawn. That requires a lot of water in the summer. Water is cheap apparently…or you collect rainwater and have vast tanks decorating your grounds. Every property like this has to have fire breaks in place and they are inspected. If you fail they will not come and protect you when there is a fire. !
Early starts mean early end to the day .
I enjoy creeping quietly away and listening to the birds and trying to get a photo. I took a bicycle ride which Emma thought was crazy and naturally Clive and I have been using the little Honda. A new battery got it going and along with some oiling here and there its running fine.
Front of house.
Dec 14th ThursWe have had a few days in Albany after getting the kitchen moved over to its new spot in the house. Major achievement. Tiling going on today, new dishwasher, little more painting needs to be done and Emma has just removed the old sink accompanied by a simply foul smell. Investigation under the house…..you can crawl around under the house to see all plumbing and most electrics. There are power sockets there too! The only hang up to crawling around with your bare hands and knees under the house are poisonous spiders and snakes! The investigation by me discovered foul smell was because the old sink was connected to the soil pipe for their bathroom. Removal of sink u bend was not a good idea. Quick whizz down to the plumbers shop and we got a cap for the pipe; bit of hacksawing and pipe lowered below the floor boards and capped…under the house.
Pelicans in Albany.
Albany was a 4 hour drive. We had rented a little flat which over looked a lovely beach…Goode beach. It had to be walked…took 1.5 hrs to go there and back. It had very fine white, squeaky sand that squeaked if you dragged your foot along on it. Cuttle fish on the beach and washed up Blue Bottle jelly fish or small Portugese Men of War. Not very nice, they have a very nasty sting .
This was brought home and is in the sink. Showing children how nasty it is…
Sea was super clear and fresh…okay once you are in. The whaling station was worth the visit. Last whaling station that was working in the southern hemisphere. The last whale chaser ship in Australia. It all stopped in 1978. We explored.
The Australian family.
Baby chick survived whilst we were away. Already growing new feathers…grows so fast. Still got the two mothers who are fiercely possessive.
Australians call this their Christmas tree.
Mother and daughter.
Getting dangerously near Christmas and we are not quite home yet. Now in Singapore so we are on the way. Staying all the way out near the airport at Changi sailing club which was one of Clive’s old haunts when he lived here. Not a bad spot…we can watch shipping and today enjoy the gale which seems to be blowing.
The shipping! Huge crane on the move.
We have had one day shopping yesterday when we went downtown (as they say) and joined the crowds Christmas shopping. Had an entertaining time watching Clive bartering over an iPhone that he desired.
Clive haggling over a phone.
In the evening I was treated to a roof top meal 70 floors up in the Swiss hotel. The view was amazing, particularly of that new hotel…Marina Bay Sands.
The hotel that appears to have a ship on its roof…..and an infinity pool.
More photos are in gallery page at the top of this website.