Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Road to Edoras

We are currently in Hammer Springs, an area north of Christchurch, in the mountains. We are going to enjoy the hot thermal springs this morning to warm our cold muscles up. (It's been a bit nippy here.)

We spent several days at Mount Cook, which turned out to be fabulous, since the weather cleared, and we had beautiful views of Mount Cook and Mount Sefton.

A few days ago we drove to Edoras, the site of the Hall of Rohen, from Lord of the Rings. It was quite a journey up a rough gravel road. Yesterday while driving around we found a local country fair. We stopped for a few hours and had a pleasant time watching some horse jumping, and other stock shows. It all reminded me of my childhood in England.

Tomorrow will be our day to swim with the Dolphins, we are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather. Then down to Christchurch for two days, before we leave. Christchurch should be a beautiful city with extraordinary gardens.

Dolphins & Christchurch

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Land of the Long White Cloud

What a great week. John's back is on the mend, thank goodness. We spent three days in the Fiordland National Park. Which was very cool. We drove up a spectacular road to Milford sound and took a cruise early the following morning. Sara even did a mini hike, and saw with horror where the Routeburn track was going in the distance! An interesting fact about Milford sound, it rains 182 days a year, and it is not unusual to have the British annual rainfall in 3 days. We were very lucky to hit it between rain storms.

Then we returned to the Queenstown area for three nights. We drove up into an area where we were surrounded by snow capped mountains. We camped two nights on the side of a deserted gravel road, prime photography. Sara managed to arrange a horse ride, called the Ride of the Rings. It took us to numerous Lord of the Rings locations used in the first movie. Breathtaking views were everywhere.

Then back to Queenstown, where on the spur of the moment we sailed on NZL 14, the 1992 America's cup NZ racing yacht. The winds hit 20 knots while we were on the lake, it was a blast. John has some great photos which we will upload when we find somewhere that allows uploading.

The next morning in Queenstown we were watching and photographing the paragliders land in a school yard. One guy had a slight front edge collapse, which corrected itself right away. We went over to talk to him, turns out he was from NM and is on the US paragliding team, and set a world record in time and duration with a Paraglider in Texas recently. Small world.

We are at Mount Cook, which is the highest mountain in New Zealand, and is quite spectacular. We have been lucky to have a clearing in the clouds so we can actually see all the mountains. We found out the name of our van means Land of the Long White Cloud, now we know why! We are very excited to see blue skies today, and the mountains.

Queenstown and Mount Cook Photos

We are heading to the East coast to swim with the Dolphins, should be fantastic. We talked to one girl that did it, and she said there were hundreds of Dolphins.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Misty Mountains and Queenstown NZ

We are currently in Queenstown, which is the adventure capital of NZ. The town is lovely, kind of a cross between Aspen, CO, Chamonix France and Lacarno Switzerland. There are mountains on both sides with para gliders flying off the top, and a big lake with lots of sailing.

We have been on the west coast, which is very spectacular, tropical rain forests, with a few glaciers, very unusual.

We were supposed to start a four day hike tomorrow, but unfortunately John's back is in a bad way. We decided it would be smarter to cancel than risk a helicopter rescue in the middle of the wilderness. We are both disappointed, but I am sure will find plenty of other fun things to do. This part of the country is just gorgeous.

We are heading to the Milford Sound area, which should be spectacular also.

Only two weeks to go, the time is flying by.

Here are the latest set of photos:

Milford Sound and Queenstown Photos

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Frodo and Sam go to Mordor

As we drove down the North Island we stopped to visit some of Sara's cousin's, in various locations. We had a lovely time chatting and meeting everyone. We had planned to swim with the dolphins, but unfortunately the weather was not cooperative, the winds were 30-40 knots, so it had to be canceled. I'm hoping we have time to schedule the trip at a different location on the South Island.

Sara purchased a Lord of the Rings location book, so we drove to the top of Mount Doom. It was bleak and cloud covered, and very cold. We've been driving through many of the other areas used in the film, and they are very spectacular. If we stopped at every site our trip our would take as long as the film did to make!

A few days ago we also stopped at some Geo thermal areas similar to Yellowstone. We even stopped for a dip in some hot mineral baths.

Friday we crossed the Cooke Strait on the ferry to the South Island. Luckily they were not fully booked because Sara made the reservation for February not March!

We've spent the last two nights at Able Tasman National Park which is on the coast. We rented a sea kayak for the day, and kayaked up the coast line. The beaches here are beautiful, and we were lucky with the weather, the sun was out all day. The sea kayak was fun but fairly tiring, we had to stop on a beach to rest and have lunch!

Now we are headed to the west coast of the South Island where a lot of the mountains are located. We just stopped at an outdoor store to buy freeze dried food for our hike, and ended up spending a fortune on special Merino wool shirts. According to my cousin Celia, they keep you warm, cool, and even! better don't smell. Could be the best purchase yet!

Here's a link to the next set of photos: New Zealand Photos

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Traveling in Nemo the Love Van

Things are going well. John is having a 60's flash back with the painted van, now called Nemo the Love Van. I've attached the link for some photos

Port Douglas and Kangaroo Island Photos

The photos are from Port Douglas and Kangaroo Island. I even persuaded John to process some of his, so you can see the animals close up. (My camera does not get that close!)

We had a lovely few days on Kangaroo Island. Checked out some lovely beaches, and saw lots of wildlife. We went up some rough roads, and were rewarded with some unspoilt views, and a lot of kangaroos grazing at dusk.

After returning from Kangaroo Island we stopped for lunch with Barry and Julie, some old work friends of mine from England. Quite amazing that they were in Adelaide at the same time as us.

We are now driving down the coast to Melbourne, via the Great Ocean Road which should be quite spectaular. We've been staying in local campsites, which are very nice. Weather has been a bit cool, but is hotter today. (mid 70's)

Great Ocean Road Photos

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Off to Kangaroo Island

We've made it to Adelaide, which is down south. Much nicer weather, not as humid or hot. We had an interesting time flying from Cairns. We were way over the luggage allowance, and apparently the printout I had from JetStars web site wasn't clear about a different allowance for Qantas international customers. Very fortunately the agent after much discussion did not charge us the $500 they wanted to. The flight for both of us was only $370, so we are glad they did not charge us! Ironically, if Qantas had not delayed our luggage we would have had the same problem on the first flight to Cairns, and would have missed that flight, hauling the luggage around, so it worked out well. (Plus Qantas gave us $200 for emergency clothes, so we actually made money!!)

We are picking up our Wicked Camper van in a hour. They are all painted psychedelic, it reminds John of the 60's. We are taking the ferry to Kangaroo island for a few days, and then will drive the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne. Kangaroo island is beautiful, and has a ton of wildlife we are looking forward to seeing.

We don't know when we will get Internet access next, since we will be at campsites for a while. It is a good thing we will be at campsites, because we need to get back on budget, and stop eating so much!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Another Day in Paradise

We've finished three exciting days scuba diving on Agincourt Reefs. On the second day we had our own masks, snorkels and fins. John had not used his own mask in deep ocean waters, and unfortunately he had a pretty severe mask squeeze. This resulted in broken blood vessels in his eyes. He is OK, however he looks like Darth Maul the Seth Lord. He didn't dive the last two dives that day, but snorkeled instead.

Yesterday was our last day on the reefs. We both dove together, and went off exploring on our own without the dive master. We stayed at about 30 feet and John rented a digital camera for the day, and I used my new underwater film camera. We had a fabulous time, there were amazing amounts of fish to see, and it was slower and more relaxing on our own. We even managed to get back to the boat at the appropriate time without loosing each other!

John got some great photos, and we are going to pick up my film later today. Hopefully we will have some to send you soon.

Today we fly to Adelaide and then pickup the van and on to Kangaroo Island. We have thoroughly enjoyed Port Douglas, although it is very humid, about 98% someone said. It is a good thing we were on the boat for three days.

We have all our luggage now, and will need to sweet talk the airline into taking it all for us without an extra charge!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

G'Day from Port Douglas Australia

We finally arrived in Port Douglas yesterday afternoon. The three flights and shuttle were fairly uneventful, except Qantas did not put all our bags on the plane in LA due to weight restrictions. (Not our bags I might add, the whole plane was heavy.) Poor John did not have any clothes, and we didn't have our scuba gear. However we managed to buy some emergency clothes, and used the gear on the boat today, so all is good!

We had a fabulous day diving on barrier reef today. Our first real dives. We made three dives, and managed not to drown or get eaten! Tomorrow and Monday we go out for more diving.

The real big news for those of you that don't know, is John and Sara are grandparents. Baby Cole was born early Wednesday morning. Holly and Cole are fine. Chris and Holly are beaming brand new parents.

Port Douglas is hot humid, tropical and very laid back. A lovely relaxing way to start the trip. Tuesday we fly to Adelaide to visit Kangaroo island, and then drive the Great Ocean Road.

Hope you are all well.

Special thanks to Dr Susan for providing the Ambian CR it work great.