Monday, January 31, 2005

The Missing Update

Can I tell you how upset you can get when you spend 40 minutes working on your latest blog entry and the stupid *&%^ next to you kicks the power plug out of the wall and then says nothing, it didn't effect her computer. SERENITY NOW!

Ok now to start over.

I'm still upset hold on.

Nicotine has a wonderful calming effect.

I left Wellington on the Thursday afternoon high speed ferry "Lynx". The views leaving Wellington made for some good shots as did coming into Picton on the south island. I checked into a motel in Picton had some dinner, checked email and went to bed. The next morning I got 0n the road after a quick bite to eat and email check around 10am. My plan was to head to Nelson and the surrounding area before heading to Westport for the night. Things quickly went pear shaped. I missed my turn for Nelson and by the time I figured it out I was to far past to back track so I kept heading west for the coast. I picked up a hitchhiker in Murchinson and asked where he was going? He told me Christchurch, which could not have been further than my destination. I looked at the map and figured out a town I could drop him off in and still not take me out of my way. I asked if I was better off going to Westport or Greymouth for the night. He said Greymouth for sure. So we got on the road and for the next hour talked about New Zealand and the different areas I had been. The topic quickly turned to politics and "W". I try and stay out of this as much as possible by directing questions to them about the Maori and the land rights claims. This is the best way to end political discussion. Not that I don't want to talk about "W" and the war but that's not why I am here. I dropped him off in Springs Junction and made my way to Greymouth. I was starting to get somewhat down about the lack of change in the landscape from the north island, everyone had raved about the south island and how much better it was than the north. To compound this issue the weather turned and the clouds rolled in the closer I got to the west coast. I had been told that the coast can get socked in with this kind of weather for days. I got to Greymouth and figured there was no way I was going to spend the rest of the day in this kind of weather and as it was around 2pm I keep heading south. I called Christy to try and cheer myself up. I started to tell her of the issues I has having and I needed to vent for a few minutes, of course I lost cell service and didn't talk for more than a few minutes total. The lift I was hoping for was just another disappointment in a day filled with them. Was nothing going my way? About an hour later the sky began to clear and the clouds where gone soon after. I decided to make my way to Hasst for the night about three hours away. This would give me a great head start on the next mornings drive to Queenstown. As I got south of Fox Glacier I picked up a Canadian from Vancouver. He was going to a town just north of Queenstown called Wanaka. I asked how long it would take. He said we could get there by 9pm and I could make it to Queenstown by 10pm. So off we went. We talked for the next 3 hours about his trip and places to see. As we headed back inland, south of Hasst the landscape was getting much better in the Southern Alps. We stopped multiple times for some great photos. Well maybe things where turning my way. I was able to get him to Wanaka right at 9 like he said. I dropped him off and ran into town to check email and look for a hotel in Queenstown for the night. I was starting to get tired and was going to stay in Wanaka for the night but felt I was this close and the sun had just set, I should press on. The road from Wanaka to Queenstown was another good road for pictures but didn't stop to take them. I was too tired and the light was fading fast. As I crested the last pass before heading down to Queenstown I could tell this was a great spot for pictures and would come back in the morning. After some issues with the hotel reservation I had made, online showed a room available for three days but when I got there they said they had no rooms for the next three days. He did say he had a room for the night but not for Saturday or Sunday. At this point I didn't care, I had driven 950 kilometers over the past 12 hours and I wanted a bath and a bed. The room didn't have a bath but the bed would do. As tired as I was, I was unable to get to sleep until after 1:30 am.

The next morning they found me a room at another hotel. After I checked in the first thing I did was to drive about 20 minutes out of town to the mountain pass I came through last night. It was one of the best places so far for photos. I can back to town and started walking around and checking things out. I booked the Awesome Foursome for the next morning, starting at 8am and going all day until 6pm (more on this later). I had dinner and chilled for the rest of the night watching the Australian Open Tennis as I was stilled wiped from yesterdays long drive. I turned off the lights and TV at 11pm, knowing I had to be out of the hotel at 7:30 to the start of the awesome foursome. Insomnia or the thought of a 135 meter bungy keep me awake until well after 2am. That sucks!

Tired but ready for the day I awoke around 7am and showered, got dressed and packed what I needed for the day. I go into town and get on the bus out to the first part of the awesome foursome, the bungy jump. Words cannot do justice to what is like to be in a "pod" suspended from overhead cables over a gorge 135 meters (over 400 feet) up with a bungy cord strapped to your ankles. The pictures will tell this story better. I was the fifth person to jump. My only fear before going out to the "pod" before my jump was I might crap my pants during the jump and that a photo of that would show up on the internet later. Trust me look down 450 feet from this thing and it will make anyone think the same thing. The jump went great. They strapped all the gear on me, got me out to the edge and counted down. At the word Bungy I jumped. The feeling is great, much better than jumping out of a plane. To look down and see the ground coming at you so fast, just when you think you are going to die the bungy takes hold and slows you down. The rebound up is great taking you about halfway back to the pod then the drop again. After the second bunch back up I release the ankle harness and hang from my waist. They them send a cable down which clicks in automatically and hauls me back to the pod. What a rush! Part one done.

We drove back to Queenstown for part two, the Shotover Jet boat ride. This is a 20 ride on a jet boat through the canyons of the Shotover River. The boat is basically two big V6 engines that suck water from the bottom of the boat and then shot it out the back just like a Wave Runner. It handles exactly the same of the wave runner with the ability to do a 360 turn on a dime. I have some video of this I shot with my digital camera. I will put up on the net at some time in the future. It was fun and a bit scary at times, they drive very close to the canyon walls. Part two complete.

Part three begins with a short 20 minute drive up river and wait for the helicopter. This was the part I was really looking forward too behind the bungy. Six of us piled in and every had a headset but me. Helicopters are loud. The main problem was I could not hear what the pilot was saying about the areas we where flying over. Also I missed what someone said that got him to fly like a crazed maniac but it was fun. The flight lasted about 6 minutes and dropped us off at the river to begin the white water portion of the trip. I have no idea what to expect when I get the pictures back because I was sitting in the middle seat on the helicopter. Part three done

Part four down the river was a let down, they talked about a few class 4 rapids but having been through class 4 and 5 rapids on the Colorado, these guys are very generous with a class 4 rating. We had what I thought was a 2 very good class 3 but I would not give it a 4. That took about 2 hours to do. At which point they brought us back to town around 6 pm. Thus ending the Awesome Foursome. I will call the Awesome Three and a half.

I was beat from a day outside in the heat (luckily it was cloudy all day) and somewhat tired from paddling, but you guys know I wasn't paddling that hard anyway. All my paddling got used up on the Green and Colorado rivers. Ask my Outward Bound buddy Jacob Dimond, he has also given up his paddling days after that trip. (We where the only two on a boat of six that did any paddling for two weeks.) I finished the night by watching the men's final of the Aussie Open and watch the pride of Australia Layton Hewitt start off strong then got waxed the next three sets.

Now on to today, Sleep in until 9:30, I need to catch up on sleep and I am glad for it. I spent my morning doing my laundry at the hotel and planning my next move. I finished that and getting all of my other junk organized. It is amazing the crap you collect over just a few weeks on the road. I have more local maps than I know what to do with. The nice thing about New Zealand is every town has a state run Info Center to tell you anything you ever wanted to know about that town. They can also make bookings for you for anything from a day trip to a hotel to a airplane flight. At everyone they are always handing you a map of the area to show you anything. I love being able to walk in and in few minutes have the skinny on any town I show up in. The really small towns only have a big covered outdoor map with attraction's show around it. Much like you would see at the beginning of a national park. Around 1pm I started into town to grab some lunch and check e-mail. I did the first half of this post but the day was so perfect I had go walking around town. I made my way up to the Gondola just outside the town center and took it too the top of the small mountain (or large hill, how do you tell the difference?) that overlooks the town. What a view, this is not to be missed. I got some great photos and then looked in to tandem Paragliding but it felt it was to expensive so I did the mountain luge. Let me explain, for those who have been on an alpine slide will understand the concept. For those who don't know what I am talking about skip to the next paragraph, I don't feel like getting into great detail. (It has taken me 35 mins to write this far from part 2 of the awesome three and a half. I don't type quickly and revise mid sentence sometimes. I could also use a grammar lesson I'm sure.)
Anyway the car you ride in is about the same size and same concept of the alpine slide. The difference is in the track. This one stays on the top to the hill and only drops about 400 vertical feet total over an 800m track. It is not a sort of waterslide track like the alpine slide but a concert track about 6 feet wide. The turns are banked with guard rails on the outside. The track is fast and I didn't go all out. If you loose it on this, it would be just like bailing on a bike at speed. Road rash is not your friend, take it from someone with first hand knowledge of how to stop one's body on pavement with your face. (Go cart - 1987 - Whittaker Woods - rocks in chin - 4 stiches) But back on topic, I enjoyed the ride but left it at one. I was afraid I would like it the more I did it until I over did. Hey, safety is no accident! It's all fun and games until someone needs a a skin graft. I took a few more pictures and headed down the gondola. Grabbed some dinner and came to the internet cafe to do this, right now, this is live. (well for me at least)

What to I have ahead of me? I am going to do an air tour of the Milford Sound in the morning. People tell me it's the most beautiful place they have ever seen, I then ask if they have ever been to Pittsburgh? I will see how it stacks up with the steel city tomorrow. My afternoon is free but I am sure I can find new and interesting ways to spend money. This is an expensive town, I wanted to get my film developed until I found out to develop a roll of 36 with single prints and a cd is over $32NZ or around $26US. Forget that jack, I will do it when I get home. My next move will come on on the 2nd, I am going to the east coast to make my way up to Christchurch. I may stay in Dunedin but I am not sure right now. I will make up my mind when I start driving. I will be leaving New Zealand on the 5th and making my way to Cairns (pronounced cans) on the Great Barrier Reef on the North East side of Australia. I was thinking of heading back up to Auckland for a few days but I just don't see it happening. After 3 days in Cairns I am flying to Sydney for sure 2 days but may extend that. After that no one knows.

OkI just hit my hour mark and it is time to wrap it up. A special thanks to my sponsor, for the Awesome Three and a Half. Hey the donation button works better than hoped. Sorry for any spelling and gramatical (are there two "m's" in that word?)


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Last Night in Wellington

It's almost 10pm and I am leaving for the South Island tomorrow afternoon. I was going to go this afternoon but when I got up this morning my gout was almost gone but enough for me to know if I pushed it today I was risking a flare up. So I stayed in Wellington again today, I was able to find the filter I have been looking for. The 18% gst (general service tax, I think) kills me on everything, and there is no way I can get that back unless I buy something and ship it out of the country or some crazy thing like that. Most places advertise including the gst which makes things less shocking when you know it is included. But I was happy to find this filter, it is mainly just to protect the lens glass it is worth paying more for it here.

Tomorrow I will be staying in the town I get off the ferry, Pictin. From what I have been told the chance for photos are good on the ferry ride. I am also taking the cat boat ferry which gets me in 30 min faster than the normal ferry. The weather is going to be nice again for the next few days, I will then figure out which direction I will go. I also have to look at time frames with my rental car and if I have to extend my rental or can I get to everything I wanted in the time remaining on the rental. These are the issues that keep me awake. Well not really the things that keep me up at night are the heartburn from the food. No I'm just kidding about the heartburn but not about the food, it realy is quite strange. I don't know maybe it's just me, I know I have a strange taste palette. Must stop rant now. My Irish hitchhiker told me about the northern point of the South Island, Farewell Spit I think. That will depend on the weather. I am going to talk to as many people as I can to find out which is the best coast to travel down, the east coast and the Pacific Ocean to your left or the west coast and the Tasman Sea to your right.

I have picked up a book on Capt. James Cook. He is quite an interesting fellow. Janet had a good book about him I started before I left before I left for the trip, but had to leave for Dad to read. ( J - if you can, bring the book just in case I catch up with you guys in Auckland, which is looking good at this point.) I will let you know if it is worth a read. Speaking of reads I read "State of Fear" by Michael Chriton (sp?) I was a good read on envoirnmental issues. Stopping this tangent now....complete

Sorry about that pause, which you will never know about unless you read this but I digress as I address the issue of an empty pint glass. Now fixed and ready to move on. Yeah thats a good idea move on. So until later, ... um later.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Time for the update I have been putting off.

I can procrastinate with the best of them, I am sure there is someone out there who has been putting of sending in things but I am the pot calling the kettle black.

So When I left Coromandel the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway was great. Once I got about 70k south of Coromandel the views got bland. I was going back and forth in my head about the fact I could be in Ireland or Vermont with only the palm trees giving it away. I had only driven for a few hours when I reached Lake Rotorua. The town was bigger than I thought it was going to be. I have trying to find a 77mm UV/Haze filter to protect my new 17-35mm lens I still can't get enough of. So every big town I check the local photog shops in hopes they have this rather large, non-standard size filter. I stop by the local Info stand and ask about hotels in the area. They set me up with a nice new place called IBIS, it's part of a chain, like the comfort inn's. This one was second from the bottom but still very nice. I small room yes but very clean less than 2 months old. I looked out the window and the Pizza Hut glowed just behind the hotel. I was drawn in like the Millinium Falcon to the death star. It was nice to get a thin crust pepperoni that tasted like home. OK, I was going to hold off about this but I can't. The food, well it, it sucks. Or at least 90% of the non fast food I have eaten. For example I wanted a cheese burger with lettuce and mayo and a side order of fries. The burger comes to me and I see they have put tomato on it, I leave it because it looks good, not a hot house but fresh. Well what I miss the the so called ketchup or tomato sauce, it's not the same. Next it had carrot shavings mixed in with the iceberg, a hugh no no. The topper was the meat was infused with onion, like a White Castle slider. Not a great taste when you are not expecting it and hate onions. But enough of my food rant, I could go on but I will save that for a later time if needed.

So back to Rotorua. I find out about changing my ferry crossing (now changed for the third time due to the gimp) and where the photog shop are. I leave the shops for the morning and check in and chill out. The weather has turn and it is now rain so I stay in for the night and watch some TV and try and catch up on the news. The next morning I head into town after checking out and go to both photog shops and strike out at both. I then head for Lake Taupo just a short 90k down the road. The trip was quick and boring. The lake is very large, the largest in New Zealand. It is loaded with trout. I find the info center and look into what the area has to offer. I made my way out of town a few k to Huka Falls, it was not a huge drop, only about 20 feet but the color blue water and the shear volume that go over every second is amazing. The sign said it is like draining 2 olympic size pools in a second. The other place I checked out was a place knows as "craters on the moon". It is an area around 50 acres with small steam vents, most small bowl shaped depressions about 1 to 2 feet deep. Small where huge, 30 foot diameter. I walked around for about 45 min and took a bunch of photos. The light was not great but I hope it will give the shots a more haunting feel. I then checked into the Chlemswood motel just outside of the town of Lake Taupo. It was a good room for the money but a joint who's prime was the early 70's. But I meet a nice lady, Chrissy, who now live in Oklahoma. Her husband runs an ARCA series car. This the class below the Busch series in Nascar. She and I talked for about 2 hours about my trip and things I should do. She was very helpful with ideas of places to see and places to avoid. That night I go back into town to grab some diner. The choices were limited so I went to Hell. Hell Pizza, it is a small chain down here. It wasn't bad but the Kiwis are big on putting sauce onto pof pizza, not more pizza sauce but BBQ sauce for one. I will leave it at that I don't want to get that rant going. The pizza was not bad, I talked with Chrissy and her husband and sister in law, who I think owns the motel. Very nice people to chat with. Turned in early.

The next morning I go in to town to check email and grab a bite to eat. On the way out of town I see a hitchhiker with a sign for the town of National Park. He jumps in and I ask him to show me on the map where we are going. The road will take me on the backside of the mountains I was going to see but the back side will be nice also. His name is Dermitt and he is a 28 year old from Cork, Ireland. For the next two hours he talked about his trip and places he has been. He got here in late October and has been traveling all over the two islands. We talk about Ireland and my love for the place. We stopped and took some photos along the way of the mountains, still snow covered in the heat of summer. The tallest is 2797 meters or around 9000 feet. I drop him off at the hostel and keep heading south. There are only a few places I stopped for photos but the ones I got are good. As I keep heading south I am looking for a nice place to stay for the night. As the day drags into afternoon I decide to make it to Wellington for the next few days.

I found a great place to stay for the next two days. Little did I know 2 would turn into 4. The first night I went walking around the area but didn't see many resturants so I headed back to the hotel for dinner there. I had a good steak and cheesecake. The next morning I got up and made some calls home to check in with the parents. After that I went up the cable car to the Botanical Gardens and Obsevatory. I went to the obsevatory for a lesson on the southern starts. I now know how to find the southern cross. When I got out it was drizzing so I headed back to the hotel and watched some tennis from the Aussy Open. Later that night I hopped a cab down into the city where the restuants and bars are. I walked around trying to see what grabbed my fancy. After an hour walking around I grabed a six inch sub from subway, I know but the luck I have had with the food here I get very particular about what I eat. I head back to the hotel and catch a movie before bed. I woke up around 1:30 with a pain in the big toe. I know that this means I need advil quickly and I may catch the gout before it gets out of hand. I take a sleeping pill so I will get a good rest and not toss and turn because of the pain. I awoke to the pain I had been able to stay away from lately. My toe was killing me. The sleeping pill did it's job becuase I was able to sleep until 7:45 am. I go to the front desk and ask about a doctor. They tell me that it is a holiday and the only place was a afterhours doc in the box place a few minutes down the road. So I go and hang out there for a while before they see me. I explain everything to the doctor and tell her what I take back home when this happens. She writes me my scripts and I fill them next door and get back to the hotel for an interesting day of pain meds and a pill that cleans me out, so to speak. Need less to say yesterday was spent in the room with my foot up most of the day.

Today is better but not great. I am able to move around more today and don't feel the need to keep it elevated. Thus giving me time to finish this. The plan for the rest of the day will be spent checking out the next few days travel. I leave for the south island tomorrow at 3:30pm. So until I write again, later.

Monday, January 24, 2005

New kind of post card request

If you would like to have a postcard sent to someone on your behalf just donate 4.00 and let me know what kind of postcard to send and what you would like written on it. For those who have requested I send cards, you should start to see them show up soon. I will continue to send cards to those who respond to them with an e-mail. The 4 bucks covers my cost of 80cents to 1 buck per card then 1.50 for postage the rest is just for the cost of pens walking to the post and such.

I have started a long description of the last few days. I am working on it in chunks. I lost about 20 mins. of work because of an issue with saving so I have put on hold for the night. I will update it in the morning. Check back around 4pm EST for at least some of it.

I miss everyone and want to thank those who take the time to keep on eye on me. Also most have figured out that spelling is not my strong suit, so if you see something I have buggered up let me know. Your thinking, whats with the buggered? Has he picked up the lingo already? You better believe it mate.

PS. Betsy if I find out you straped on skis I am going to pummel the %#*^ out of Tad Hamilton for letting you. You hear me Tad, thats right I'm typing at you mister. Watch your step or you may just find doctored photos of you appearing on the net. Stay off the snowboard also. Get some brady and make a fire and chill out and watch movies and eat.

Map of New Zealand

Map of New Zealand

I have had some requests for a map to show everyone the areas I am visiting.

I'm Gimpy

I woke up late last night knowing what the day was going to bring. A bout with gout, for those not in the know, check webMD. I got up and went to the doc in the box here in Wellington. I picked up some meds and I will see how they work. I am going to stay one more day now. I was going to go tomorrow but I want to see if I got to it quick enough to keep it under 3 days or until I feel I could drive without too much pain (right foot). Now mom don't get on me about my diet, I haven't been eating things I shouldn't. So I spent most of the day in bed with my foot up. I was going to go to a sports bar to watch the Steelers lose. I am now glad I didn't. I was going to give a long update but my foot is starting to hurt again, time to get it elevated.

Good thing I'm not in Australia, I hear they like to throw gimps on the barbie.

Until the electrons fly again.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

To my friends and family on the east coast

Please be safe in the blizzard conditions. I just watched a the weather channels coverage of the forecast over the net. Looks like NJ is going or is getting hammered. Just be safe, I want to come home and see everyone. The weather in Wellington today is not great but I will take this any day over what you guys are getting hit with.

PS. Go Steelers

Friday, January 21, 2005

The weather is much better

When I got up the sun was out with a few scattered clouds and it is going up to 73 today. I am going to leave the Lake Taupo area and head south. I may make it to Wellington today (sat) but I will see how the day goes. I enjoy the fact I don't have a set plan. As long as I am at the Wellington docks by 8:30 Monday morning for the ferry crossing.

Daylight is burning, got to get going.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

I didn't make it as far as I had hoped yesterday.

The drive down from Coromandel was nice but the weather was not the best. It was cloudy all day with spots of showers. So instead of driving to Lake Taupo I deceided to stop in the lake Rotorua area for the night. I didn't do much last night, for some reason I was very tired by the time I checked in. This was another reason for not going to Taupo. I have looked at the map and Taupo is only about 90k away so I will check out the town this morning and get on the road this afternoon for Taupo.

Keep those e-mails coming. I always enjoy hearing from everyone. It is always a nice surprise to login and find some e-mail from home.

I will update if I can this evening.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The donations are flying in.

I have begun to receive donations for the trip. Feel free to send me money and tell me what to do with it. ie - send me the money I need for the awesome foursome in Queenstown, Or just send me gas money.

Thanks to the following friends
Dad - My first donation (but not his first donation, he's been doing it for years)
Bland Motley - Sent me cash so I could call Christy
Joann Ordille - Brought me a drink
Kevin Allocca - Brought gas for 3k - 5 cents does not go as far down here as it does back home Kev.

Go to get on the road. More to follow.

The Tale of the Tan Titan

Let me begin with where I left off last. Talking about the Northland. I spent the night in the Bay of Islands in a town called Paihia. It is a seaside town that makes it living of the families on vacation. There are lots of boat trips to the islands in the bay. I choose to skip this due to the fact it was a 5-6 hour boat trip with a stop on a small outer island. Not really my thing. I started my drive north, stopping along the way to take pictures. My next stop was Doubtless Bay for a few quick photos. SIDEBAR - (The 17-35mm Nikon lens I got before the trip is worth every penny I paid.. Don't leave home with out a wide zoom lens like this.) I few klicks down the road I come to the bottom of ninety mile beach. This is the almost the top on New Zealand's north island. The Tasman Sea beating the coast. Like a jockey whips a has been to the last furlong. (Sometimes my imagery is stunning (I am in a bar that has internet access)) As far north as you can see, this ribbon of sand going straight into the horizon. The wind was blowing like Lewinsky. I stopped in Kaitaia for a quick bite to eat and then looked at my route for the rest of the day. A local in Paihia told me about a back road and ferry to get where I was going. He said the ferry leaves every hour on the hour, be there or wait. So I thought I would give it a go. The backroads are not all that different from any mountainous region, but at least it was sealed (rock over tar). I keep pushing the White Whale through swichback after swichback. Becoming more confident with it's handling. The air pressure made a ton of difference. Before I made the pressure change she was loose in and tight out but now she was as neutral as I could want. I noticed I was not going to make the 2pm ferry, how did I know this, I watched the 2pm ferry pull away 2 minutes before I got to the dock. So a opened the windows,cranked up the ipod (a must have for all trips) and chilled in the back of the RV. I then continued on south to Hokianga Harbour. This was a spectacular place. On the south side of this large harbour was green mountains, on it's north side Sand dunes gently slopping to the sea. I stopped at many different locations for photos. This was the last thing I would stop for today. It was 4pm and I wanted to get father south for the night. The next three hours where mainly road I had traveled. I ended up south of Auckland for the night.

And that is where we pick up the story of the Tan Titan. I wake up and take the RV back and get the Toyota and begin my drive to Coromandel Town to visit with Jen and her husband "Brown". I called home and while doing so missed my exit. I grabbed the map and saw a back road that got me back on track. I started down this road winding back and forth over the next 25k. The Titan then showed his true colors, handling the corners, smoothing out the bumps and the turbo giving me all the power I needed. I made the drive I loved the other day again, this time a little slower than in the rental car but the Titan showing no ill handling. I meet up with Jen and told her about the RV and that I was going to stay in town for a few days. She told me her mother in law owns the motel a block away and she will take care of it. I chilled out for a while, wrote postcards and walked around town. Later that evening I headed out to capture the sunset. I drove a few klicks out of town and found a nice hill to get some shots. As I was about to move locations a older couple came over and started to chat with me. Well we got to talking about why I am here and if they could tell me where some good vantage points where. They invited me back to there house to shot the harbour from there back deck and the sunset from the hill in front. I talked with them for over forty minutes before I had to go for dinner. Great people. I headed to the restaurant Jen and Brown own and waited for the staff dinner. He chowed on some great food and just hung out talking. around midnight I helped them close up and then went to bed, or so I thought. I happened to turn on CNN and they where covering the Airbus A380 introduction so I got sucked into seeing the huge plane get unveiled.

This morning I got up and decided to go to the top of the peninsula to Port Jackson. 40k north of town and all gravel road. This is when the Titan came into his own. the huge tires eating up the gravel and spitting it out. (remember I'm in a bar, I am going to ramble on from time to time) I stop many times for some great pictures. The road was at best 1 1/2 lanes wide and at worst down to one. The good thing is there is not much traffic on the road. I passed 30 cars going up. I then backtracked 15k and headed east to Port Charles , again good photos. I then backtracked from here to Kennedy Bay. A spectacular view coming out of the mountain pass. On the last pass coming back to Coromandel Town I stopped for the best shot of the trip. To my right 5k away the Pacific and Kennedy Bay and to my left Coromandel and the Hauraki Gulf, and 30-35k due east of Auckland. I drove no more than 100k and it took 4 hours, but the photos will make it worth the drive. Only once did I wish I had on a pair of depends, in a narrow section of road a few miles from town I and another truck come with in 15 feet of a head on. Both of us came out of blind corners.

Ok I have been typing and correcting this for some time now and have neglected my beer. So for now....

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Tale of the White Whale

Call me Ishmael, I have slayed the white whale. Well slayed is strong word. I have returned the RV. After two days of driving this pig my back was killing me. I took it back and got a Toyota Land cruiser, 4wd Turbo Diesel. This is a much better choice. The draw back is I can't sleep in it but that RV was just not going to cut it. The RV did drive better after I made an air pressure adjustment, I had it dialed in yesterday driving mountain passes and long valleys. If the seat did not kill my back so much I would have keep it. I had learned how to drive it yesterday, the four wheel drift was quite fun on some of the back roads, the heal toe work was a bit tricky.

I spent the morning in The Bay of Islands, then traveled north and west up to Ninety Mile Beach on the west coast. It was cool to start my day on the Pacific Coast and drive a few hours to the Tasman Sea on the West Coast. I then headed south and drove though the mountains and returned to Auckland for the night.

I dropped the RV of this morning and picked up the Toyota. It is raining today so I am going to make my way back to Coromadel Town for a few days to hang with Jennifer and her husband drinking and eating.

I will give a better description of the places I went too yesterday in a day or too. I don't have my maps handy right now and the town names are hard to remember.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Thinking of a change in the New Zealand plan

I need to start by saying the RV is death on wheels. So much so that I am thinking of taking it back and just getting a rental car. Now the story. I picked up the RV (a converted Toyota box van with a bubble top) they show me what I need to know about the features and send me on my way. I start to drive away and notice a pull to the left. As I get it up to around 50 mph I really begin to notice how much it is pulling. I stepped on the brake and it got worse. I turned around and headed back to the RV shop. I tell them the issue and that I would like a new van. They take it to the shop to look at. After about 15 min they come and tell me that the mechanics had looked at it and decided to replace the front tires and then test drive it. Another 10-20 goes by and they come back and tell me that the new tires helped but there was still a pull to the left. I tell them that I do not want to drive it for the next 21 days like this. He leave ands returns a few minutes later and tell me that it needs an alignment and they can't do that here. He offers me a card for a Firestone repair shop that I can take it to in the morning. I told him I was not going to take care of a problem on a rental. I asked about getting a credit and a rental car if he could not get me a replacement RV. He left again for 10 minutes and came back and told me they did in fact have a replacement and would bring it around. I get in this and start on my way. It drives fine so I make my way to the Highway. It is not the fastest thing on the road but it did 60 mph fine. My only complaint was that the shocks felt spongy but this is do to the extra camper top that makes it some what top heavy. I would not get the full effect of this extra 2 1/2 foot hump on the roof until I got of the highway (not many of them) and on to the state roads. The twists and turns make it drive like a drunk prom date on roller skates. Then as soon a you get into a clearing of just fields the wind takes over from where the curves left off. Blowing you around the road. It not bad if you easy back into the correct path, avoid sudden turns. This takes some getting used to, I have almost mastered it. The drawback is a tend to get white knuckled in the clearings. At least I could control my speed on the curves. Even after getting out a few times on the road to walk around my back is killing me. Not a good sign for the fate of the RV. I am going to sleep on it tonight and decide if I put up with the dangers involved. Also knowing the driving I want to do in the south is going to be harder than the north island. I will let you know what the outcome is.

My current location is The Bay of Islands on the north east side of the north island. I am looking into some tours to do in the morning. There are lots of things to see in this area. I am thinking of doing a half day boat trip or a 1 1/2 jet boat ride or a airplane tour of the islands. The one with the best bang for the buck is going to win out. This will also give me some more time about the RV.

The drive up was fairly boring compared to yesterdays trip to Coromandle Town. If I had to describe what it looks like the best thing I can think of and very close to driving in Vermont in the middle of the summer. Not too hot or humid, you are either driving though a valley surrounded by mountains in the distance or driving thought mountain passes. I did not see much water today so I felt I could be in Vermont. Other than the fact the steering wheel is on the right and you drive on the left.

A special shout out to my first donation. To the donor, who will remain anonymous, much thanks. I put that out there as a joke but if it works, who am I to complain.

That's about all I feel like writing about for now I will let you know how things turn out.

First Day in Auckland

This is going to be quick, I have limited time. I picked up a rental car for the day and went into Auckland City Center. I went up the Sky Tower and took some great shots of the city and for you U2 fans, "One Tree Hill". I then headed over to the Coromandel Peninsula and made my way up the coast to Coomandel Town to see a friend from Richmond who lives here, Jennifer Harned, she and her husband own the Peppertree restaurant. We hung out for a few hours drinking and talking. She had no idea I was coming so it was a great shock to her. The road to Coromandel Town is one of the best coast routes you can drive, the road twists more than a Diary Queen soft serve cone. I recommend this drive to anyone, do it in a Mini Cooper S if you can. The views are amazing. I am now getting ready to pick up the RV and Head to the Bay of Islands.

That's all for now.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Greetings From New Zealand

It is now 8:30 am Sat. (2:30 pm fri on the east coast) in Auckland. After traveling for the last 20 odd hours it is nice to be here. The weather is warm, about 65 f, overcast and I have on my shorts and flip flops. Today is a rest day for me but I was able to get some sleep on the flight so I am not tired right now, that may change this afternoon as the time catches up with me. I am most likely going to rent a car for the day and go explorer the city. I had planned on sleeping most of the day so I have no real plans. So far everything has gone as planned with the travel plans. I will pick up the RV tomorrow and start my trip up to the Northlands for 2 days. I am not sure if I will be able to upload photos to this site but I will try as I go along. I have left my laptop at home and I am at the mercy of internet cafes for updates, which may or may not let me copy photos from my camera to their computers for uploads but I will try.

For those who need to get in touch with me should do so via e-mail. My Verizon cell phone does work down here at a cost of .75 per min. So if you must call please make the message short and to the point. The time difference is easy to figure out. From Eastern time subtract 6 hours but add a day. I.E. 3pm Friday eastern is 9am Saturday for me.

That's about all for now. I will be sending out postcards to those who have asked over the next few days, but don't hold me to that. The are going to be short and sweet.

If anyone has friends in NZ who would like a visit contact them and then let me know if they are on my way. I would always love to get the skinny from a local. This goes for NZ and OZ (Australia) Singapore and London.

Bye for now. Sean

Monday, January 03, 2005

Around the world in 60 days

I have purchased an around the world plane ticket.
The trip so far:

Starting January 13th 2005:
New York (Newark) to Auckland New Zealand via Los Angeles.
I have rented a conversion van to live in for the 3 weeks. I will be driving a 18 day tour I found on-line with some slight modifications. I am going to take as many pictures as I can. This is the main goal for the trip. I will be on the north island for 8 days then take a ferry to the south island for the next 13 days. I drop the van off in Christchurch and fly out to Sydney

Christchurch to Sydney to Cairns Australia
I will spent the next 2-3 weeks traveling Australia starting in Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef. I most likely will be there for 3-4 days then fly back to Sydney. I will spend 3-4 days in Sydney. I have a train pass that allows me to go from Sydney to Perth on the west coast. The pass is good for 14 days so I can take my time getting out there. I plan on doing the trip over 8 days stopping in the bigger towns on the route. I am not sure exactly how long I will stay in Perth, but I am figuring 2 days before flying to Singapore.

Perth to Singapore
I will spend 3 days in Singapore. This small island should not take that long to see.

Singapore to London
I will spend a few days, likely 2, in London before taking a few side trips including but not limited to Holland, France and Italy. I will know more on this portion as the trip progresses.

London back to Newark
I should be home on or around the 10-12th of March, give or take a day or two.

Plans for New Zealand are close to the final version. Australia plans are about 40% done. The rest of the trip are just broad outlines at this point.

More updates to follow in the next few days.