Travel 2008

Note... The pages on this 2008 link were written in terms of the text and pictures, while I was travelling, hence the context is relevant at that time. However, since then the layout and presentation of the web site and pages has changed. So hopefully, it looks better now.

Please read on.


Round the World trip

Sunset in Fiji

Well readers, that's it, it's all over. Tomorrow (Friday 9th May 2008) I have a little time before heading off to the airport and home on Saturday morning. Hope you have all enjoyed keeping up with me.

Fiji sunset.

Panang Malaysia↑ Top

Jan 29th 2008 to Feb 5th 2008

Arrived on Tuesday evening (Jan 29th) after short flight from Singapore. As you would expect the weather is hot and humid, between 32 and 38C and 80 to 90% humidity.

Penang has been a bit of a shock, but then it has been over 20 years since I was last here, so I should have expected some change. It's no longer the sleepy little place it used to be. With over a million people, crowded, bustling and tower blocks of apartments everywhere and some sort of development on every corner. Spoiled it really, for me anyway. Shame I booked and paid for a week here, I could have moved on, perhaps to the east coast of Malaysia, where apparently it is still relatively undeveloped. Perhaps next time.

Things are not as cheap as they used to be, but food still is. I have eaten out well most nights on fish etc.. and the odd beer and still cost no more than £10 or £12 and 3 of that was for the beer.

Balcony view, Golden Sands hotel, Batu Feringgi

View from my balcony on the 6th floor of the Golden Sands, Batu Feringgi.

View from the top of Penang Hill

View from the top of Penang Hill, 700 meters. Looking south east towards Butterworth and the bridge to the mainland can be seen in the haze.

Walking down the Penang Hill

Walking down the hill. Some tourist decide to walk down and this isn't even half way.

Having the odd shirt made, or at least one to begin with, at 15. I will see how that one comes out and then maybe order some more. Haven't really done any battering yet, as I don't want to buy stuff and then cart it around the world. Shame really, as I have seen things that I like, and I enjoy the haggle. "How much will you give me for this Gourd?". Got into a haggle the other night for a hat that I had no intention of buying. Just stood there and refused to buy it. Price came down from 45 to 15 in a matter of minutes. Great fun, pity I wasn't interested.

Flowers

Some of the flower on the hill top.

More flowers

More flowers, Botanical gardens this time.

Update - Feb 2nd 2008↑ Top

Added some additional photos from a round the island tour I did. New house is huge at 4000 square feet and good value for money at £50,000, but I am advised that a traditional timber home can be purchased new, for 50,000 ringgit. Been a lot of rain the last couple of days and I have been caught a bit, so you get soaked, as the storms are tropical. Got my first shirt back after 24 hours and it is great, so ordered 3 more.

Also realised that I had been eating luxuriously so far, at the road side open restaurants. Ate in the food hall the last couple of nights and paid £3.50 for a curry, rice, garlic naan and a beer and the beer cost £1.33 of that.

Indian temple

Indian temple renovation.

The fruit of this tree gives it's name to this island

The fruit of this tree gives it's name to this island.

The western coast of the island

The western coast of the island, as yet unspoilt, but a road is under construction and given 10 years........

A traditional old timber house

A traditional old timber house. They used to have palm leaf roofs, but were fire dangers, so that has been outlawed.

A new house

A new house, for the tourists. A semi, 4000 square feet and 300,000 Malaysian ringgits at 6 to the pound. Not a bad price. I think he got it wrong, 4000 Sq feet is a very very large property, maybe that was the size of the whole plot, who knows.

 

Singapore↑ Top

Feb 5th 2008 to Feb 7th 2008

Arrived on Tuesday morning (Feb 5th) after short flight from Penang. Weather over cast on Tuesday and slightly cooler than Penang, but much more humid. Sunny and hotter on Wednesday. Wednesday night is Chinese new years eve, so all things come to a halt and the celebrations begin. Singapore no different from when I have been here before, still a clean, neat western style city, full of asian people and in the middle of south east Asia. Not really part of Asia. Still a great place for a quick visit. Endless shopping malls, although I didn't see anything that was a bargain.

Balcony view, Fairmont hotel

View from my balcony on the 15th floor of the Fairmont (formerly Raffles The Plaza). Hotel on the right is Raffles City, at 76 stories, it is the tallest in Singapore and has a couple of floors of restaurants on the top.

Raffles hotel

The old bastion (careful how you say that) it's self, Raffles, which is opposite my hotel.

The old The new

The old and new, dwarfing the old in the fore ground.

Merlion

Merlion, the symbol of Singapore, with my hotel in the back ground, the left of the two smaller ones.

Bad name for a food shop

Don't know whether you can see it, but the sign says "Yu Kee Food House". Bad Name?

 

Australia↑ Top

Sydney Opera House

Melbourne↑ Top

Feb 8th 2008 to Feb 15th 2008

Arrived on Friday morning (Feb 8th) after short flight from Singapore. Weather cold and wet, 13C on arrival and 19C that day. All these people that carry on about Australia and sunshine. This is the best month of the year and it can still be cold.

A bit jet lagged on Friday, as flight from Singapore to short for any sleep.

Saturday, a bit warmer, so out with my sister and explore the Mornington Peninsular, a place I once wanted to live. Much more developed now, but still a great place to live.

Mornington Peninsular

Ocean side of the Nepean park at the end of the Mornington Peninsular.

Sunday BBQ at Peter and Helen's (thanks to them) for a great day catching up with old friends. Loads of photo's below, including catching up with the Tilligs.

With friends

Peter with all the women at the BBQ. Back row - Shelly, Elizebeth, me, Maureen, my sister Anne. Front row - Denise, Denise, Trisha and our host Helen.

With friends

Peter with all the men at the BBQ. Our host Peter, Steve, John, me, Dean, Neil, Greg and Mike.

Friends

Shelly Williams and Dean.

Friends

The Wyatt's.

Friends

The Andrews sisters!!

Friends

The Ganley's.

Friends

The Ryan's.

Friends

Greg and Denise.

Friends

Our hosts, the Egan's

Friends

The Tillig's not looking a day older.

Updated with views of Melbourne, including from the 88th floor of the Eureka Skydeck. Freaked me out, as I am afraid of heights. Had to peel myself from the wall surrounding the lifts, so that I could get some photos. Not easy for me.

View from Melbourne Skydeck

From the Skydeck, looking down and east over the arts centre, the Domain, towards the Tennis centre and the MCG.

View from Melbourne Skydeck

Looking north east, with Flinders Street Station in the central forground.

Skydeck building

Looking up the Skydeck building.

Me on the 88th floor, Skydeck building

Proof that inspite of my fear of heights, I actually managed to go to the 88th floor of the Eureka Skydeck and peel myself from the lift wall.

Anne and Betty

My sister Anne and partner Betty in front of their house.

Sunset near Anne and Betty's

A sunset view from the pier opposite Anne and Betty's house.

Classic Melbourne

Classic Melbourne - A tram, Flinders Street station and the modern 90 storey Eureka Skydeck in the back ground.

Classic Victorian terrace house

Classic Victorian terrace house, with balcony and iron work. This one in Burnley, but quite common.

 

N.S.W↑ Top

Feb 15th 2008 to Mar 6th 2008

Arrived in NSW Saturday night (Feb 16th) after a couple of days driving from Melbourne along the coast. Staying with friends Michael and Judy at lake MacQuarie, north of Sydney. They live in Wangi Wangi, pronounced "onegee onegee". Emphasis on a "w" at the beginning of "one". Have been out and about all over this region, sailing, Sydney, up to where M & J used to have a farm, met some real aussies up there and around the Newcastle - Lake Macquarie area. This is a fantastic lake, some 50 Km's long and the area has some great beaches with good surf. Also visited the Hunter Valley vineyards.

Sailing on lake MacQuarie

Sailing on my first day, captain Ormshaw at the helm.

Classic Sydney skyline

Classic Sydney skyline, City to the left, Opera house in the middle and then the bridge.

Another classic Sydney skyline

Another classic Sydney skyline, the harbour, houses down to the water front and of course, a yacht.

Manly beach

And of course boys, far better than being at work, Manly beach.

Judy and Michael's place

The back of Judy & Michael's place, looking out across Lake MacQuarie. The foreshore area behind there house is about 50 yards, and then the lake. The neighbor has a 38 foot yacht moored just a 100 yards off shore and that's where we went sailing.

The view from Judy and Michael's place

And the view in the other direction.

Sea water swimming pool, Newcastle

One of Newcastle's beaches, with a sea water swimming pool, useable for 5 months of the year, or more for the hardy types.

Friends

Judy, Michael and Lynne, good friends.

Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley. Green (surprising, but they have had a lot of rain) countryside with vineyards on the hill.

Brief trip to Queensland and then back to NSW.

Drove up to Queensland, stopped overnight in Grafton and had a look in on Nimbin (hippy colony in northern NSW) and Byron Bay, on the coast. Nimbin, a long way off the beaten track, but probably worth seeing once and only once. Byron Bay very nice.

Rain forest, Dorrigo NSW

The rain forest in northern NSW, at Dorrigo.

Back in NSW.

Kangaroos

Kangaroos, living in a hospital grounds, near Wangi.

School bus Wangi style

School bus Wangi style. Several of these go round the lake, in the morning and afternoon, taking the kids to and from school.

The Macleod clan at Wangi

I nearly forgot this one, just for Helen and her mum, the Macleod clan at Wangi.

View from Dover Heights, Sydney

Wouldn't this be a great view from your balcony. It's from the Dover Heights eastern Sydney suburb.

Bondi beach

And of course Bondi beach.

 

Queensland↑ Top

Feb 24th 2008 to Mar 2nd 2008

Arrived in Queensland Monday (Feb 25th) after a couple of days driving from Lake MacQuarie. Stopped overnight in Grafton and had a look in on Nimbin (hippy colony in northern NSW) and Byron Bay, on the coast. Nimbin, a long way off the beaten track, but probably worth seeing once and only once. Byron Bay very nice.

Stayed with friends Ann and Dave on the Gold Coast. As with so many places in Australia, a lot of changes since I was last here and lots of development. Also, one hell of a lot of rain, I think it was 18 mm just in one day. This summer in Australia, I have seen so much rain, so as I have told every one in England before, don't believe the TV, it's not always blue skies. I certainly haven't seen as many as I should have.

Moved on to Port Douglas in Far North Queensland on Wednesday 27th. Still a lovely place, developed, but not too much yet. Weather though, hit and miss and I have seen even more rain here. Went diving and had a great time.

Old friends

Old friends, Ann and Dave.

Barrier reef from 30,000 feet

On the approach to Cairns airport, the Barrier Reef from 20 to 30,000 feet.

The Queen Victoria cruise liner

The Queen Victoria cruise liner, moored off Port Douglas. It was in Sydney last weekend with the Queen Elizebeth II, but I did not get to see them. QE II making it's final voyage, before becoming a floating hotel in Dubai. QV on an early cruise around the world. Very impressive.

The Low Isles off Port Douglas

The Low Isles off PD. Not much to this one, just the light house.

Judy and Michael's place

PD's 4 mile beach. Small enclosed swimming area at this time of the year, as the stingers are deadly.

View of Port Douglas

PD from the hill, can you spot the buildings between the palms?

Some of the local flowers And the palms

Some of the local flowers and palms.

 

New Zealand↑ Top

Milford Sound, South Island

Milford Sound, South Island

Christchurch↑ Top

Mar 6th 2008 to Mar 8th 2008

Arrived in Christchurch New Zealand Thursday after a couple of hours flying from Sydney. They say that Christchurch is like England in the 50's. I would say that is going a bit far, It is an old fashioned English city, with a wealth of older buildings, but it's still not England. It has that southern hemisphere influence. Interestingly, it is twinned with Adelaide and having lived there for a year, I can see the similarities.

There are many old buildings that have been retained and restored, but I notice in my walking around, that there are many more that have been covered up by modern shop front advertising. What a shame, it could be even better.

It's a lovely city to wander and has very large area of parks right in close to the central business district and a botanical gardens. You will find pictures from the botanical gardens below. It is well worth a visit. There were signs of autumn everywhere, with all the Beech, Oak, Maple and Chestnut trees etc.. Loads of conkers.

The main cathedral

The main cathedral.

Part of one of the main boys schools

Part of one of the main boys schools, described as a bit "Hogwarts" like.

More architecture

Can't remember, think it was a court building.

The tram for tourists

The tram for tourists.

The river Avon

The river Avon, very clean.

Autumn colour

Signs of Autumn.

An old wooden church

An old wooden church. very unusual, the steeple appears to be mounted on the grass to the side of the church, not on the roof. No idea why.

Flowers from the Botanical gardens

Flowers from the Botanical gardens.

 

South Island NZ↑ Top

Mar 8th 2008 to Mar 17th 2008

Left Christchurch yesterday and headed down the coast to Timaru. Today (Sun 9th) drove inland and down the spine of the south island. Arrived in Queenstown this afternoon.

So far, NZ has not impressed me as much as I expected it to, so I have been a little disappointed. Other than nice gardens and old architecture, towns and cities have been bland and boring. Coastal plains flat and uninteresting and inland the mountains are spectacular, but there has been a lot of scrub countryside, with nothing in it. Also, I thought that Australia would be brown and dusty dry at this time of year and NZ would still be green. Quite the opposite, because of the shear volume of rain this summer in Australia. It was green and NZ is brown dusty and dry. Surprised.

Lake Pukaki

A view of Lake Pukaki. The Turquoise colour is genuine. It looks weird, but it's real. Must be minerals in the water.

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki, looking towards Mt Cook in the clouds at the other end.

Let's hope that Fiordland (that's the way they spell it) is more interesting. Queenstown is a lovely setting, but again a bland town which is sprawling all over the place and could ruin it. It could have been beautiful, could have built Alpine chalets etc.., instead of modern concrete.

Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown.

Well Milford Sound was worth it. Woke up to 6C this morning, a bit of a shock (Monday 10th).

Took 8am flight in 3 seater Cessna to Milford Sound (45 mins) and then cruised for a couple of hours and then flew back. Brilliant flight and the Sound was worth every penny. But much colder there, due to wind and exposure. Flight was a little rough in places and only cleared some mountain tops by a couple of hundred feet, so not for the squeamish. They need to take the bus and not get there till gone 11am.

Some of the mountains on the way to Milford Sound

Some of the mountains on the way to Milford Sound, from the front seat of the Cessna.

Arrival at the Sound

Arrival at the Sound. Fly the length of it, out to sea, turn 180 and then back down and land at the airport.

The Sound from the boat

The Sound from the boat, just after leaving the pier.

Another shot from the Sound.

Another shot from the Sound.

Water fall

Cannot remember the name of these falls, but it was a 146 M drop to the water, higher than Niagara. The boat went right up to them. To wet to take photos.

Left Queenstown today (Tuesday 11th). First headed north up Lake Wakatipu, to Glenorchy, a beautiful drive and well worth doing, if you are in the area. Was a hard drive, as it poured with rain.

After that, headed south from Queenstown to Te Anau, which is in Southland. Countryside magnificent, very much like the Scottish glens, but the mountains were much higher. This is my sort of countryside and so I enjoyed it, but found one thing hard to reconcile. In a countryside looking very much like a Scottish glen, it was weird to see various types of palm trees and shrubs next to pine trees.

Lake Wakatipu in the midst of a storm

A view of Lake Wakatipu in the midst of a storm, magnificent.

Another view of the lake and storm

Another view. Don't know if you can see the lower half of the slopes are green. Presumably this is the snow line, no trees etc.. above it.

Wednesday 12th - Added Doubtful Sound photos. It was a long day. Short coach trip to Manapouri, then one hour boat trip across Lake Manapouri, followed by one hour bus trip over mountain pass and down to Doubtful Sound, then 3 hours cruise. Then the return journeys.

Deer farming in Southland

Deer farming in Southland, but just look at the back drop.

Doubtful Sound from Wilmot Pass

Doubtful Sound from Wilmot (I think) Pass, on the way in.

Looking out of the mouth of Doubtful Sound

Looking out of the mouth of Doubtful Sound, with the open ocean behind that island in the middle.

Looking back up Doubtful Sound towards Wilmot Pass

Looking back up Doubtful Sound towards Wilmot Pass.

Thursday 13th, Friday 14th & Saturday 15th - Central Otago, the west coast and glaciers. Wanaka, in the middle, was in a nice setting. Hokitika, on the west coast, has a lovely beach, but the towns a bit naff. Hanmer Springs in the centre, is in a lovely Alpine setting and I really liked it. I had a swim in the thermal springs while there, which was good, but a bit smelly e.g. Sulphur. The coast line around Kaikoura, on the upper east coast, is brilliant. Great beaches, turquoise sea and then Dolphins and Seals playing in the shallows. I had a close encounter with a seal, much closer than I expected. I was exploring some rocks and taking photos of the coast line, when something moved out of the right corner of my eye. I turned to sea a male seal sunning it's self on the rock next to me, and it was about 4 feet away. So I put a few more feet between us, as the males are quite large and he moved towards me quite quickly. Then another male appeared and a female. Further down the coast there were dozens of them, either basking in the sun or playing in the shallows.

Central Otago

Central Otago - Lord of the Rings scenery.

View of Franz Josef Glacier

The view from my B & B window, looking up towards the Franz Josef Glacier.

Another view of Franz Josef Glacier

The Franz Josef Glacier - So far away, you cannot really tell it's size. Couldn't get any closer.

And another

Another shot. The tree in the foreground is probably a mile from the base of the glacier, so you get some idea of the size of the thing.

The coast near Kaikoura

The coast near Kaikoura.

My friendly Seal

My friendly Seal.

 

North Island NZ↑ Top

Mar 17th 2008 to Apr 2nd 2008

Before I left the South Island on Sunday evening, they had a minor earth quake of 4.6, under the sea, in the straight between the two islands. Personally, I didn't feel a thing and by all accounts, this was "Only a small one".

Had a good look around Wellington and was impressed. It's not a big city, about 300,000, but seems to have everything, scenic harbour setting, lovely houses up the hill sides, shops, lovely water front. Came across as a nice place to live. Stayed with friends in Lower Hutt.

Wellington harbour

Typical houses around the harbour in Wellington.

Wellington harbour

Harbour view from the top of the hill, over looking Wellington.

The Capel's

My hosts in Lower Hutt, the Capel's.

Moved up country to Mt Egmont, but unfortunately, poor weather meant I was unable to see it. Supposed to be like Mt Fuji in Japan.

March 20th & 21st - Been staying with a friends parents (Denise) in Palmerston North.

The Woodley's

My hosts in Palmerston North, Ann & Ray Woodley.

March 22nd - Moving through the centre of the north island, towards Taupo, but a mistake, it's a lovely setting, but with no accommodation booked, it's not the right place to go at Easter weekend. It was so crowded, it was ridiculous. So moved on. Some spectacular scenery on the way, like a moon scape at times.

Mt Ruapehu

Mt Ruapehu, an active Volcano and 2797m.

Mt Ngauruhoe

Another active volcano, right next door, Mt Ngauruhoe and 2291m. The road was over 1000m up, on a plateau.

Bay of Plenty region and Coromandel Peninsular, Mar 24th to 26th 2008↑ Top

Moving from the Bay of Plenty area to the Coromandel Peninsular. Really like these areas, Finally found some where in NZ that I like enough to say I could live here. Much greener here and wonderful coast lines with magnificent beaches. Had a great day and a great meal in Tairua.

Rotorua

Rotorua, some of the geysers, but boy what a smell.

The beach at Mt Maunganui

The beach at Mt Maunganui (Bay of Plenty), spectacular.

It is really strange driving around all of these thermal areas, with steam just coming out of holes at the side of the road. Then yesterday, driving past a golf course, with guys teeing off in amongst all the steam. Today I visited Hot Water Beach, where the thermal activity is under the sand. You dig your feet into the sand, to see how hot the water is that comes up through it, if it's to hot, move and try again. When you have found somewhere, dig a hole, which will fill with hot thermal water, then lay in it. It's that simple. Not really, the beach is so crowded with tourists and the thermal area is small. So it's a bun fight to get a bit of sand with thermal activity under it. Need to come when it's a little quieter.

Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel Peninsular

Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel Peninsular.

The beach at Cathedral Cove

And a shot of the beach.

Then, went for my first swim in the Pacific in NZ. Great beach, great surf and I did something I haven't done for 30 years. Got into a big wave and it tossed me like a washing machine and then spat me out, head first into the sand. A few cuts and scrapes, but I was OK.

House on the hill above Tairua

What a house on the hill above Tairua.

Tairua inlet with the Pacific beyond

This is the hill on the other side of the inlet and the houses on the back, face the Pacific.

The view from above Coromandel up towards Auckland

The view from above Coromandel up towards Auckland.

North of Auckland, March 26th 2008 onwards↑ Top

Bev's school friend Carmel

Bev's school friend Carmel, husband Brian (in the middle) and Carmel's sister and husband, just arrived from the UK, in Warkworth.

Bay of Islands↑ Top

Went sailing on a Catamaran while here, saw one penguin, no dolphins, but had a great time and huge swells at times, which meant the catamaran was up and then down smashing into the waves. Loved it.

View from my hotel room in Paihia, Bay of Islands

View from my hotel room in Paihia, Bay of Islands.

View from the top of a hill in the Bay of Islands

View from the top of a hill in the Bay of Islands. Sailed around the bay on the Catamaran in the foreground. Arrived in this bay, swam to shore and climbed this hill. Had a great days sailing.

 

Fiji↑ Top

Apr 2nd 2008 to Apr 7th 2008

Arrived late on Wednesday April 2nd. Didn't get to hotel till about half past midnight. Lovely hotel, even thou it's not 5 star and it's pretty cheap. Lovely garden setting with lots of lush tropical surrounds. People here in Fiji always very friendly and always have a smile. They make a great effort to learn your first name and to always address you by it. It really makes for a very friendly place. And they are always happy to have a chat. Lovely people.

It's been a long time since I was last here, and difficult to see what changes had occurred in the dark drive from the airport last night. But one thing that was clear, were the stars. Virtually no background light here in Fiji and hence star gazing is incredible. You can easily see the milky way.

Hotel view

A view of the hotel and it's grounds. My room is in the block on the left, over near the sea front. There's actually a big swimming pool in there somewhere.

Hotel view

Another view, showing the lush grounds. The little huts in the fore ground are called "Bures" and are individual huts for guests. They even have a double hammock hanging out the front.

Strange cloud formations at sunset

Strange cloud formations on the horizon, just before sunset, most nights.

A Fijian sunset

A Fijian sunset. Very strange here in the tropics, getting dark before 7pm, even though it is loverly and warm, like summer.

Had a busy day today. Been out on the driving range, practicing my golf, I was the only one there. Going diving tomorrow morning, so had to do a test in the pool. and been exploring. Very hot here, 36C yesterday and 33 today, same again tomorrow. Beautiful clear blue sky, all day.

Had a great meal this evening in the main restaurant of this hotel. Very up market, Yellow fin Tuna and Lobster, loads of other bits and pieces (dipping oils, bread, sorbet, taster of another main course, sweet and chocolates) and wine and it's still only came to 30 with tip. Very expensive for over here.

Update - Apr 4th 2008↑ Top

Went diving this morning. It was good fun, but very different from Port Douglas. PD was 1.5 hours on the catamaran to get to the outer reef, about 30 miles out. Today was a 5 minute boat ride from the beach, to the reef. I thought the water here would be cleaner, but at this time of the year, it is not. Apparently when the water is cooler, in the winter months, it is clear. At this time of the year, the water temperature is about 30C and that's means algae and all sorts thriving, so not so clear. I had thought of going diving again, but not very impressed with the dive company. They seemed a bit shoddy. One girl on her first dive, had her hose split when we were down about 6 feet, getting settled. This should never have happened, they should have checked the equipment and seen that it was worn and replaced it. Very poor and dangerous. I also found out, after arriving, that diving is best in the islands to the west and the north east, not here on the south coast. So I choose a hotel in the wrong place.

Had a swim and a bit of sunshine on my return and then went kayaking in the shallows this side of the reef.

Tomorrow, out sailing for the day, around the islands to the west. Long day, leave at 8, back at 7:30. Should be good though.

Coral islands and sailing ship

One of the islands we sailed around and a sailing ship like ours.

Our ship

Our ship.

Our island for the day

Our island for the day. Great reefs and lots of snorkeling. The reef extends around the island and you can snorkel in water 30 to 40 feet deep. Then it drops off 100's of feet.

View from my balcony

View from my balcony, looking out across the lagoon, with the reef in the distance, where the waves are breaking. High tide in a couple of hours and this will all be under water and good for snorkeling.

 

USA & Canada↑ Top

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.

South & West USA↑ Top

Apr 7th 2008 to Apr 16th 2008


California↑ Top

Arrived LA Monday afternoon April 7th, after crossing the international date line for the first time in my life and loosing 24 hours.

Staying at airport hotel for a couple of days, just to get my clock right before any driving. Went for a walk last night but I am afraid airport hotels, by their nature, are not in the nicest areas. Area was a bit dodgy and probably lucky it was still day light. Might have been much worse in the dark.

Only stopped in LA because this is where the plane went. Nothing I am particularly interested in here. So I took a city tour today, to get my bearings and just in case there was something I might be interested in. There wasn't. It's just a very big city with little or no character.

Venice beach, very unusual. Real cosmopolitan mixture of people and absolutely all sorts and then next door, Muscle beach, where they do all the weight lifting on the beach front. Two beach side suburbs, nothing special and then Santa Monica, which was more up market. Very expensive to live in LA (houses) can't personally understand why anyone would want to. Then toured Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Interesting to put something to the names you know, 77 Sunset Strip etc.., but nothing to write home about. There was virtually nothing I wanted to take a picture of.

Hollywood

That's Hollywood, the sign and the actual place.

Chinese Theater

Chinese Theater - with the hand prints and stars in the pavement.

Picked a car up on Wednesday 9th and headed east out of LA. God it's a hard place to get out of, took me over 2 hours because of traffic, accidents and just the size of the place.

Headed to the Grand Canyon area, which took longer than I planned, due to the difficulty of getting out of LA.

Mojave region in east California

The wilderness of the Mojave region in east California.

Grand Canyon↑ Top

If you get the chance to go to the Grand Canyon, go, it is beyond description and is staggering. 4000 feet deep and you can walk right up to the edge or walk on the skywalk glass bridge. No need to say any more, I let the pictures do the talking.

Grand Canyon

The skywalk, the edge and the river, 4000 feet below.

Eagle Point

Eagle Point. If you look at the rock formations and colours carefully, you can see the shape of an eagle, with it's wings spread out, in the centre of the nearest ridge.

The Colorado river

The Colorado river, looking back up the canyon from Guano Point.

Mike & Janice from Wisconsin

Mike & Janice from Wisconsin, if my memory is any good. Lovely friendly people, whom I meet at the Grand Canyon and said I would put their picture up on the web site.

Death Valley↑ Top

Drove down into Death Valley this morning and it is spectacular. Difficult to capture on film.

Drove down from a mountain 1300 M above sea level, to the valley floor, which is 90 M below sea level. Temperature on the valley floor was over 30C.

The road to Death Valley

The road to Death Valley, which is the other side of the mountains in the distance.

Looking down onto the valley floor

Looking down onto the valley floor.

Scenes around Death Valley

Having climbed out of Death Valley, this is the next valley. In the centre left, you can see where the road crosses the desert on the valley floor, before ascending the next mountain range. That's where I am going.

Sierra Nevada Mountains↑ Top

From there, drove on to Mammoth Lakes in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where I stayed for the night. This is 2300 M above sea level and the overnight temperature was predicted to be 0C.

Tons of snow up here still. Apparently they can ski here till the End of May. The piles of it, around the outside of my motel are still 6 to 8 feet high.

The road to Bishop

The road to Bishop, on my way to Mammoth Lakes, with the Sierra Nevada mountains looming on the left.

Getting closer to Mammoth Lakes

Getting closer to Mammoth Lakes.

Bad day on the road to Yosemite↑ Top

Having stayed in Mammoth Lakes overnight, I was only 1 hours drive from Yosemite. What I didn't know, was that the mountain passes are closed for at least another month, because of the snow. So I was told it was a 5 or 6 hour drive north around the top of the mountains and then back down the west side. Turns out it was 8 hours actually.

Anyway, had no choice, so got on with it and a very scenic drive it was. Cut over some of the smaller passes, which were open and found myself driving on roads carved through snow 2 & 3 metres deep.

So, I was well into the swing of it and then coming down the other side of the mountain, I failed to avoid a rock fall and hit a 3 or 4 inch rock and it damaged the side wall of the front left tyre. The car I had was very swish and immediately started to warn me that I was loosing air pressure from that tyre. Found somewhere safe to park and spent half an hour fitting the spare, one of those mini tyres. Then I couldn't drive above 50 MPH and it was a long way down the other side, about 100 miles. Eventually found somewhere to stay, but the car company couldn't get the tyre fixed, so they had to deliver another car, at 9 that night.

The Sierra Nevada mountains on the way north from Mammoth Lakes

The Sierra Nevada mountains on the way north from Mammoth Lakes.

The drive over the top, and this lake was still frozen

The drive over the top, and this lake was still frozen.

Drove into Yosemite this morning↑ Top

Like the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, it is also spectacular. Well worth the drive and the hassles. Some pictures below of the park and the Wawona Hotel, a quaint old fashioned hotel I found in the park, to stay in for the night. Very quiet, no phones, internet or TV, just a book, or in my case a Laptop, to get all this ready to upload at the next connection.

By the way. The hotel warns you that this is "active bear country" and that if you leave anything in your car with a scent, then you may find your car ripped apart in the morning. The literature also warns about mountain lions and how to deal with them. Wonderful!

This hotel was a bit up market compared to some I have stayed in, at $135 a night for the room and breakfast. Splashed out a bit, thought I deserved it after yesterday.

Flowers

Of course I have been in Summer and Autumn in the southern hemisphere, but it's spring here, so flowers breaking out all over the place. Some beautiful wisteria, not these, I think they are lupins.

Waterfall

One of the many waterfalls in the National Park.

Looking back down the valley, towards Yosemite village

Looking back down the valley, towards Yosemite village.

The Wawona Hotel

The Wawona Hotel. Golf course right next door. Perhaps the next Cardex golf do should be here chaps, if any of you are reading this.

California - On the coast↑ Top

Moved across to the coast in the last couple of days and picked up Highway 1 between LA and San Franscisco. Road very rugged and dramatic.

Then moved on to the Golden Gate bridge.

Some of the coastal flora

Some of the coastal flora, California Poppies and some sort of pink daisy, which seems to be all over the place.

Looking north, up the coast

Looking north, up the coast. Very dramtic.

The Golden Gate bridge

The Golden Gate bridge.

The view to Alcatraz & SF from the centre of the bridge

The view to Alcatraz & SF from the centre of the bridge.

 

North & West USA↑ Top

Apr 17th 2008 to Apr 22nd 2008


Northern California↑ Top

Drove into northern California, north of the Golden Gate bridge and for me, it is much nicer than south of SF, or further south, down in and around LA. It has a loverly coast line, dotted with small seaside villages, with wooden homes all over the place. Very nice. Even the Northern SF suburbs are nicer than south of the bridge.

A Wisteria tree

A Wisteria tree, I have only ever seen them as climbers before.

Redwood trees

Some of the Redwoods. You can see how big they are, by the size of the car.

Oregon↑ Top

Oregon is beautiful, like one giant forest.

Unfortunately, I am not going to get to see the bits I wanted to. Snow falls in the mountains and my renting a large V8 saloon, instead of a 4 wheel drive, means I can't go up there. I drove towards Crater Lake this morning, but at 5000 feet surrounded by snow, signs indicating chains or snow tyres were required and snow due to start falling within a few hours, meant I headed back to the valleys. By the way, some of the roads peak at nearly 10,000 feet, and in the end, they got 6 inches of snow. There was one road I wanted to turn down, but it was closed with a barrier across. Behind the barrier, the road was covered by about 2 feet of snow.

With snow forecast in the mountains for several days into next week, I may not get up there or the mountains in Washington state. Think I will head for the coast and pick up some whale watching and then hopefully get a train to Chicago and have a few days break from driving.

Redwood tree

Even this dead Redwood, which wasn't the biggest, dwarf's the car.

Dee's Salon

This is especially for my hairdresser, who's name is obviously Dee. Came across this in a small town in Oregon.

On the way to Crater Lake

A river in the mountains on the way to Crater Lake. Plenty of snow around and it hadn't started falling at that time.

Spring trying to break through

Spring trying to break through.

Washington State↑ Top

Have moved on in to Washington state, because the snow in Oregon was seriously hampering what I could do. I am glad I moved on when I did, as the areas of Oregon I have left behind in the last 2 days, have had heaps of snow. Went as close to Mt St Helens today, as I could and that was not because of it erupting, the road was closed due to snow and ice.

From there I have moved on up thru the state, across the water and a few islands from Seattle. I am staying in a small coastal town called Port Townsend tonight. I was feeling a bit down today and lonely, happens when you travel so much on your own. So I decided to treat myself and found a nice B & B Inn. I have a room, big bed, separate bathroom, huge Jaccuzi in the bedroom, fire place and picture windows with views across the water. So all that and breakfast for £66, very expensive.

B & B near Mt St Helens

Unfortunately this picture is blurred, but this is a B & B near Mt St Helens and it was for sale. Great looking place and fantastic location, in spite of the volcano. I would happily have had it as a home.

Classical American timber home

Classical American timber home.

Mt St Helens

Mt St Helens is in there amongst the snow clouds, you will just have to take my word for it.

Snow covered trees on the hills nearby

Snow covered trees on the hills nearby.

Classic timber home, Port Townsend

Another classic timber home, this time in Port Townsend.

I toured the coastal area up here and Dungeness had some fabulous homes on the coast, with stunning views across the water to Canada and snow covered mountains behind. What a place to live. They also had Elk's roaming around the houses, even in the back gardens, eating their plants. Strange time of year up here at the moment, spring is trying to break out, in spite of the snow. There are Daffodils, Tulips, blossom trees and Azaleas, all out now. I am sure these don't all come out together at home.

Hood Canal I think

This water way, Hood Canal I think, was west of Seattle and typical of the large number of water areas around here. I drove down this one for about 60 miles. There were even some seals playing in the middle of this one, a little further down.

 

North & Central USA↑ Top

Apr 22nd 2008 to Apr 25th 2008


Had enough of driving for the time being, as I have driven over 9000 miles in the last 3 months, so I have caught the train. Boarded the EMPIRE BUILDER in Seattle yesterday afternoon (April 22nd) at 4:45 PM and arrive tomorrow (April 24th) at 3:55 PM, about 45 hours and 2 time zones. Meandered our way through the Washington mountains yesterday evening and crossed through a small part of Idaho during the night and currently in Montana, but soon it will be North Dakota. Through the night we will pass into Minnesota, then Wisconsin and finally Illinois tomorrow afternoon.

Well my train journey is just about coming to an end. Since we left the mountains, the countryside has been fairly bland, with nothing particular to take photos of. On top of that, I may have missed things due to sleeping during the day, because I didn't get enough sleep at night. 2 days on a train is more than enough for me.

Note... These pictures have been taken from a fast moving train and through windows, so the quality is not great.

The mountains leaving Washington state

The mountains leaving Washington state.

The EMPIRE BUILDER at Whitefish Montana station

The EMPIRE BUILDER at Whitefish Montana station.

The station at Whitefish Montana

The station at Whitefish Montana.

The Izaak Walton Hotel in Essex Montana

The Izaak Walton Hotel in Essex Montana. A famous hotel in "Big Sky Country".

A house with loads of snow on the balcony

A house we passed on the train, there must be at least 6 foot of snow on the balcony.

Looking back down one of the valleys in west glacier national park

Looking back down one of the valleys in west glacier national park.

Lonely existence - Farm in the middle of no where Montana

Lonely existence - Farm in the middle of no where Montana.

I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles

"I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles.........." and you can here. You can see for so far, you cannot see the horizon. This is one of the last pictures with snow in it. Snow has all gone now and it is just endless prairie.

 

Canada↑ Top

Apr 25th 2008 to Apr 28th 2008


Drove into Canada on Friday. Crossed from Detroit into Windsor and arrived at my nephew's place. Have spent a lovely weekend here relaxing with family. Watched Wayne play rugby (he's getting a bit old for it) and hit a few balls at the local golf range.

 The Ormshaw residence, Windsor Ontario

The Ormshaw residence, Windsor Ontario.

BBQ with Wyane and family

After all the snow I have seen recently, it was nice to have some good weather and we even managed a BBQ. Left to right, Becky, Wayne, Georgia and Holly.

Holly on guitar

Holly on guitar.

Georgia on chair

Georgia on chair.

Niagara Falls↑ Top

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, spectacular but the town behind looks really naff.

Niagara Falls Close up of the falls

And a close up, just before I went behind the falls.

 

Eastern USA↑ Top

Apr 29th 2008 to May 9th 2008


Pennsylvania & West Virginia↑ Top

Drove from Niagara down through New York state, into western Pennsylvania and into West Virginia, over the last couple of days. Beautiful countryside in the latter two. Loverly forests in Pennsylvania and the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia and Virginia, are stunning, covered in trees which are bursting into life. I have been to New England in the Fall, but with the forests here and the new growth at the moment. I think this area could be better.

New River gorge

The view down the gorge of the New River, West Virginia.

Bridge across the New River

The road bridge across the gorge of the New River. It's 876 feet above the river and is used for base jumping.

Virginia↑ Top

Concentrated on the James River area today, which if you are ever in this area, is worth a visit. This is a very old part of the states and has a lot of history. There are loads of old plantations to visit on the road down to Williamsburg. It's like touring wineries. This is John Smith country, if you know who he is (Pocahontas). According to the info, he later navigated Chesapeake bay. Some of the areas around here, have had their 400th anniversary. It really is a loverly area, with fabulous homes and great locations to live in. Williamsburg has some very old buildings and even had Union Jacks flying from the flag poles. There is also Jamestown, one of the very first settlements, and Yorktown to visit.

Westover plantation

Westover plantation, just one of many.

Colonial property

One of the many colonial properties around here.

I then moved on and crossed the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, which is a combination of roads on stilts, out of the water, Two tunnels, each over a mile long and a couple of bridges. The road way is about 18 miles long. There are some photo's below, not sure if they do it justice.

First tunnel disappears uner the water

The first tunnel disappears under the water and then pops back up a mile further on, creating one of the two deep water channels.

The size of Chesapeake bay

This container ship has just passed through the deep water channel and entered Chesapeake bay. Yes that's the bay behind it, not the open sea. Like the great lakes up north, some of these waterways are enormous.

Tunnel and bridge facts

Some of the facts about the road way, not sure if they will come out.

A photo to try and capture the size of the road

A photo of the road way, but it is so big, it is difficult to get a shot of it.

Maryland & Pennsylvania↑ Top

Drove up through Maryland in the last couple of days, a strange state. Very flat and uninteresting countryside over in the east, with the Atlantic on one side and the massive Chesapeake Bay on the other and it is big. Lots of loverly old towns and villages, some on the coast in great locations. Then huge population density around Washington DC and Baltimore. Got caught in the peak hour rush last night, which was massive, 5 lanes each way and solid. Stayed in Westminster MD last night and just north of Gettysburg PA tonight. Some of these old towns have a lovely old character, but it strange to see people laying or sitting in the street at 10 in the morning. Spring is also bursting into life here, so blossom trees, azaleas and all sorts are creating colour all over the place.

Blossom trees

Some of the blossom trees. Pictures haven't come out well today, it was very misty today and I think that has affected the light setting for the camera.

An old building with a maple out front

An old building with a maple out front.

Old building in Gettysburg with bullet holes in the wall

This old building in Gettysburg, was used by Confederate snippers from the small window, to pick off the union troops up the road. You can see loads of bullet holes in the brick work, where the union troops tried to shoot the snipers.

Another example of the many old buildings in Gettysburg

Another example of the many old buildings in Gettysburg.

Pennsylvania↑ Top

Drove into Lancaster county Pennsylvania today, this is Amish country. It is a lovely part of the country, so it is understandable why they settled here. From there, I drove on into New Jersey, through Trenton and Princeton. I can see why people want there kids to go to university here. It is a wonderful area to live in and the houses are huge, palatial by our standards.

Amish buggy

The classical Amish buggy.

One of the homes, with a splash of spring colour

One of the homes, with a splash of spring colour.

New York city↑ Top

Drove into Manhattan on Monday morning, a little hair raising. Have a hotel in Midtown, just a couple of blocks from Times Square. This place is absolutely crazy, it really is a concrete jungle and every street is like trying to fight your way down Oxford street. It's a very interesting place, but not being a city person, I don't think I could live here. Went on a helicopter ride around Manhattan this afternoon, so there are a selection of photo's below.

Times Square

Times Square.

New York stock exchange

New York stock exchange.

Hudson river valley

Hudson river valley, north of the city.

Central Park and Manhattan skyline looking south

Central Park and Manhattan skyline looking south.

Looking north over central park

Looking north over central park.

New York skyline

New York skyline, skyscrapers everywhere.

Went to the top of the Rockerfella centre twice today, once during the day and the other this evening. Haven't bothered with the Empire State building, as the queues can be over 2 hours. Photo's below.

The Chrysler building

The Chrysler building.

Looking north, across Central Park

Looking north, across Central Park, from "The Top of the Rock".

Empire State building during the day

Empire State building during the day.

Empire State building at night

And at night.