Los Angeles – cycle ride tour

9 05 2015
I haven’t blogged for ever such a long time and I’m still writing my South America journal en Español, even though I’ve been in the USA for a week or so now… I’m terrible. Having said that, if I pieced together emails, Facebook messages and texts I’ve sent along the way I’d probably have a fairly comprehensive account of my travels. Why am I writing this now then, you may wonder? I think my photos on the Facebook give a pretty good idea of the places I’ve encountered and the experiences I’ve had, on the cycle ride tour however, photo opportunities were few and far between and so now I’m using my words to share this day.
Before I get involved with describing the cycle ride tour though, let me just mention that I am tippy tappying this post on the train from Los Angeles to Flagstaff. I’m in a little room/cabin with two seats which will turn into a bed and a second bunk above me. There’s a fold down table, a tall, skinny wardrobe on one side, complete with hangers and steps up to the top bunk on the other. Water and tissues are provided along with blankets and pillows for sleepy time. Rick, the conductor has been round already to check tickets and Sam, the dining car attendant has given us the lowdown on how eating on the train works. He then came round to take dinner reservations. I’m down for the 7.15 slot, which is super because I didn’t get lunch today so I’ll be ready for eating for sure. As I’m in a little sleepy room dinner is included.

Selfie on the train
 
Now, I’ve got this set up because the plan was for my wonderful friend Jo to join me on this USA leg of my journey but circumstances have prevented that from happening which is total big fat hairy bums.  So, instead I am imagining her sat opposite me and sharing in the excitement of this train adventure.
Now, let me get on with the cycle ride tour chat. After a bit of art at MOCA on Monday and a bit of celebrity culture at the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Tuesday I decided on a cycle ride tour taking a variety of areas and sights of LA. It was a dear do for me at $162 USD which is about $220 NZD and £110 of your English pounds. There are lots of tours of LA that you can do and they see touted all along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s an experience; the reps trying to sell you a tour. I found it particularly interesting the way they tried to guess my nationality as a little hook to get me into a convo and then sell me the tour. I was Australian, German, Dutch and English walking down that street, but mostly Australian! One guy offered me a 2 hour sight seeing tour round Hollywood for $20, but that really didn’t appeal. Then there was the double decker open top bus sight seeing option for circa $50 which gives you more options of going to different areas of LA; you know, one of those hop on, hop off jobs, but again, that didn’t really appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some sort of tour snob, I very much enjoy a city tour and the ones I’ve mentioned can be great, especially if you’re short on time. I was just after something, well, something a little different.
It’s no secret that I’m a cycling fan and I’ve made use of the cycling options in the places I’ve visited on my travels. Having left Pearl Meteor with one of the sisters Illingworth in the UK, I knew that when I got to NZ and settled a little I would be getting a bicycle and that’s where Aveline Alive Dunlop came into my cycling life. Cycling adventures in South America were few and far between and if I’m honest I did not fancy getting involved in the frantic and frenetic, horn tooting traffic there! A cycle tour of LA however seemed a great way to give my legs stretch and explore some of the neighbourhoods.
Bikes and Hikes were the company I went with; I booked on the night before, figured out my route to get to them on the bus and arrived in good time. There were 8 people in total on the tour and our guide, Eric. After a safety briefing and some instructions we set off. They encourage riders to travel light, taking just money and a camera, yet, because I have, some may think, an almost obsessive attachment to my rucksack, it came with me. Our guide carried sunscreen and snacks for the group. Each cycler received a water bottle as part of the tour and there were plenty of opportunities to top up throughout the day.
The cycle ride itself started at 10am and we made it back to the Bikes and Hikes office at around 5pm. With only a short break for lunch, it was a good days cycling, we covered around 32 miles all in all.
On leaving the Bikes and Hikes office, on Santa Monica Boulevard, we turned right to head toward Beverly Hills, taking in some of West Hollywood on the way. In this little section of the tour the highlight for me was stopping at a house where Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra each had an apartment, where it’s rumoured they had a little love nest. It was in this area that our guide gave us a bit of history on Sunset Strip and how it became the drinking, gambling, disco party zone of LA. In a nutshell it’s because alcohol was banned in LA in the olden days, prohibition and all that, but it was legal in West Hollywood.
The next most enjoyable part for me was a stop off in Beverly Hills at Greystone Mansion. Once owned by the wealthiest family in LA, it is now owned by Los Angeles County. It was a treat to take a a short walk around the grounds, our guide telling us stories as we went, it’s had a fairly turbulent past with family feuds and two suspicious deaths; were they murder or suicide?
It’s been used in lots of films; including X-men, the Batman with George Clooney and Ritchie Rich.
It’s still used in the pictures, but you can also hire it for an event. I imagine that would be mega monies!
We carried on from there to Beverly Hills and mooched around past celebrity homes. This bit was wasted on me! I mean there were some lovely looking houses, but sooooooooo many millions of dollars it’s obscene. I guess the ones that stood out were; Mick Jagger’s current place in LA and one where Neil Diamond used to live. Oh and we went past the one that Michael Jackson died at…morbid.
Our trip continued through Bel-Air past one of the houses they used in the fresh prince of Bel-Air and then on to the UCLA neighbourhood, which looks real fancy for student residential area! Up and through the veterans hospital grounds, but I couldn’t really hear what the guide was saying about either of these places as there was a lot of traffic and I was toward the back of the group. A brief stop at Bundy Drive to discuss police chase action and then on to my very favourite bit of the day – Santa Monica Beach, along to the Pier, a spot of lunch at Venice Beach and five minutes watching the skateboarders, then some chat about Muscle Beach and the work outs people would do, that couldn’t go by without mentioning the governator himself; Arnold Schwarzenegger. He still does some judging of body building competitions held there.
It was sooooooooo lovely to be near the water again. I miss the sea/ocean. All along that coastline was sandy, sandy beach and swooshing ocean. Lovely. Santa Monica seemed like a good place to have a moochy afternoon; stroll on the pier, have an ice cream, that sort of thing, but we didn’t stop there. A little further along a Venice and its a different vibe; lots of street people, artists, musicians and makers selling their wares along the promenade. It has an edgier, grungier feel to that of Santa Monica.
 Santa Monica bit o beach and pier
Onward still and we went inland a touch to see some of the remaining Venice canals. Pretty. Although at this point me and another girl, Jeanie got separated from the rest of group because a local resident took umbrage with us cycling. She was all shouty, telling us we were going to get knocked down because we were going the wrong way. She insisted we pass this information on to the guide, which we did, eventually, when we were reunited! It’s a good job Jeanie had her phone and could call the office to get on to our guide to come and find us! What a bit of hoo ha…
 Venice canals
The group back together we headed along to Marina Del Rey and the Fishermans Village, which is a mini Marina, not too dissimilar from Wellington, in size at least. After a wee stop we continued on to Ballona reserve which was super cycling all the way along to Culver City. This bit was another highlight.
A brief stop in Culver City to talk about a hotel that once belonged to Charlie Chaplin, but  he lost it in a bet with John Wayne!
The hotel has a bit of a fruity history with tales of orgies held by the actors that played the munchkins in the Wizard of Oz! According to our guide, they enjoyed drinking all the drinks and doing all the sexy times with all the people! Sadly two of them fell to their deaths from one of the upper floors of the hotel and after that there were no more drunken orgies.
 We made our way back to Bikes and Hikes pausing to peer across at the Ivy and other famous people hang outs, getting back to base at around 5pm.
All in all a good day. I would have liked to have spent a little more time at the coastal places, having a mooch about for an hour or so, but that would change the nature of the tour. Also, I couldn’t always hear what the guide was saying and before I had chance to ask for a repeat, we were off again. Still, a good way to see lots of LA, get some exercise and meet some nice people.
On Thursday I went to the LA county museum of Art and the Hello Kitty exhibition at the Japanese American Museum. There are photos of those activities though, so probs don’t need to use any more words at this time.
Tomorrow I’m off to the Grand Canyon and I may be lost for words after that!
Hurray for adventures :-)
Me and my bicycle for the day, Lavinia.
Don’t know what’s going on with my massive belly :-/ I’m a right slouchy Susan.
 




Why I like the talky radio

16 03 2015

I spend more time listening the radio than watching the tellybox or the internetweb and I was just having a few moments contemplating why this is and the reasons are pretty basic I think. 

1:  it’s a habit. I get in from work or dancing or wherever and if I’m pottering around my room I’ll put the talky radio on, sometimes I’ll have music on, but mostly the talky radio. My most listened to stations are the BBC radio 4 and the BBC radio 4 extra
Occasionally I go for the BBC radio 3 for the music and words stories/plays they broadcast.
2: there’s always something to listen to which suits my mood, especially with the listen on demand option. A Greek tragedy for a melancholy afternoon, a comedy for an upbeat half hour turn around time from getting in from work to going out for dancing or the evening, a philosophical conversation for a contemplative morning, current affairs for keeping up with the world and reeling at the plethora of views and opinions from all the different human people informed by their unique experiences and learning.
Then there’s The Archers, the omnibus, naturally, which has seen me through hangovers, cosying up in the dark winter months, taking it on the move in the bright and breezy spring time, keeping me company as I travel round the world, messaging fellow Archers Addicts with exclamations or questions or comments or all three! 
3:  emotional connection. I have fond memories of my grandma listening to the radio into the night, things like The Bradshaws, as well as local radio stations late night phone ins and request shows. I found it comforting to hear the low murmur of her radio if I got up in the night for a wee or arrived in late after a night out. 
4: learning! I love the learning and the radio is a good learning medium for me. I learn about subjects/topics like physics, philosophy, women’s issues, politics. I also learn about the world, with insights into other communities, cultures and customs through programmes like ‘From our own Correspondent‘. 
This also encourages empathy and mindfulness as I attempt to learn about experiences and lives of others. For this ‘The Listening Project‘ is also great. 
I also learn by listening to broadcasts in other languages. While I’ve been in New Zealand I did an introductory Te Reo and Tikanga in the workplace course and as a follow on from that occasionally listen to the Māori language radio. I’m heading to South America shortly I’ve been having a listen to Spanish language stations to try and get my brain into gear for doing some speaking. 
Hurray for learning! 
5: it’s my friend. This encompasses all my points so far and in a way I think of the radio like the books on prescription initiative
There are broadcasts I would suggest to promote health and well being; an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and our place in the world, how we are part of our communities, societies. How we can gain a better understanding of being alive people.
6: listening. I enjoy listening to how people use their words and voice on the radio. For no other reason that the sounds they make. 
That’s the end. 




Welly, Welly, Welly!

17 09 2014

I’ve been in Wellington for a couple of months now so I thought a little catch up blog post is in order. I’ve got so many draft posts lined up from my adventures with Tor, they will have to come in due course I guess.

It was a bit of a whirlwind when I arrived into Wellington I can tell you! I arrived into Wellington at the beginning of August and one of the first things I did was join the library, obvs! I’m enjoying borrowing their ebooks at the moment but when I first got here I was there all the time. I also went to a meet the author talk there, with Karin Slaughter. She seems like a cool lady and I got her latest book signed for my sis, she is a big fan. Hurray for libraries!!

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I spent the first week or so at the YHA, the one here is fantastic. The staff so friendly and helpful, but they have a maximum stay policy of 10 nights, which is good in one way, but it was not good for me when I was looking for a job etc. I stayed there for 12 nights in the end and then the couple I met on the boat in the Bay of Islands; Ian and Ruth, invited me to stay with them in Karori, which is a suburb of Wellington. It was sooooo kind of them and it was so nice to have my own room :-) They are such lovely people. I stayed with them for two weeks, one of those weeks was my first week at work :-) They made me feel so welcome and looked after me which made my first few weeks here really easy, which double good as I had some medical adventures when I first got here, which resulted in an ear syringing and a suspicious mole removal, but my insurance people were so efficient and sorted things out in good time. Flips! I’ve also had to go to the dentist and do need a couple of fillings
:-( Expenny but necessary!

Once I started work it was time to find a place to live. I feel like I looked round a lot of places, but in real life it was probably only about 10… I saw some real shitholes. Also, it seems like no houses in Welly have heating or insulation! I’m sure the newer builds do, but not the places I was looking round! Anyway, I’m in somewhere now and have been here for a month or so. So far, so good. I feel really lucky as my flatties are such lovely people; kind hearts and generous spirits. The flat is in an area called Mount Vic, which is a bit quirky and has a big hill, surprisingly called Mount Vic. It’s got amazing vistas from up top on a clear day. I really love having a mooch about up there; plenty of walks and stuff. It is most definitely my Welly version of my Brighton up and over :-) Next to Mount Vic is Mount Alfred. I still find it strange sometimes how far and wide the British empire spread.
Welly itself is a tiny capital city, which I like :-) in that sense it reminds me of Brighton. It’s sort of not massively developed either which I also like and their rush hour is not so rushy!

The waterfront is nice too. I especially like Sunday market :-) All the fruit and veg for not a lot of dollars and sometimes the SPCA are there so I get to chat to dogs as well as getting my weekly shop!

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Another favourite spot is the Botanic Gardens. So beautiful up there and I love the smelly garden section :-) I’m also enjoying the bird life here and feel like I could be turning into a twitcher! Our garden is host to some very lively little birds, lots of starlings. My favourite bird call is from the tui. I like to say hello to them when I see them. Such beautiful glistening feathers too.

I was also very lucky to have a visitor for a few days, the lovely Caroline Wallis :-) came by as part of her NZ tour before heading to Aussie. It was so very nice to hang out with her and do some touristy things, like Te Papa museum, full of all sorts of treasures!

I’ve done a good bit of volunteering since I got here. The first was the DCM Bookfair. This was the main fundraiser for a homeless charity in Welly. I met some really nice people there. I also helped out with them at the Tennyson Street Fair today. Both raise funds for them and their work is so worthwhile so I’m pleased I could give them a hand.

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Then there was Beervana. That was not charitable! It was fun though and I enjoyed working behind a bar again. I also got to drink some delicious beers. Good preparation for when Joe comes over. I didn’t make any new friends there, although everyone I worked with was nice.

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I also did a couple of shifts with the LUX night light festival. That was super cool. It was a lot of standing about, but I spoke to people, told them what I knew about the art and that. The second shift I did with them I was stewarding one installation and the artist was really nice and interesting. He was in London exhibiting the same piece a few months ago and is going to New York to do something similar soon. He likes sound and light and that was essentially the work he was showing! It was located in a back alley, opposite a brothel, behind a seedy bar, near a bin! Nice. It was fun times.

More recently I’ve started regular volunteering with the SPCA which I love. I’m based in the dog house with the grown up dogs and surprise, surprise I want to take them all home with me! It’s essentially lots of cleaning up poo, mopping up wee, giving them breakfast and rotating the dogs in the yards and then walking. We also have to make sure we’re washing bedding where necessary. I got to do some hand feeding with a couple of the younger dogs to help them pace themselves with eating. It’s busy, but all good. The other volunteers on my shift seem like good people and it’ll be the same 4 of us each time so we will get into a little routine soon enough I reckon.

I also applied to be a volunteer visitor with Age Concern but that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere because they can’t match me with someone in the city at the weekends. They prefer to have people go round during the day in the week but that’s not a goer for me what with work and all. It’s a shame really. I need to investigate other options, as it’d be good to do some people centred volunteering as well as animal centred. That’s one of the really good things about the volunteering I did with The Cinnamon Trust back in the UK. It was a combo of people and animals :-)

As well as the volunteering I’m working full time, that’s a 40 hour week over here and I tell you what, it makes a big difference that extra 2 1/2 hours a week! Really, really. It’s a busy role and there’s always plenty to keep me busy, which I like. I’m also learning Māori at work. We have a 1 1/2 hour session each week with a guy that teaches at the university. It’s very interesting indeed. We’re working towards being able to do our mihimihi for the end of the course which is where you introduce yourself. In Māori culture your Whakapapa is really important. People are interested in your family and where you’ve come from, your iwi (tribe) and whanau (home). I’m learning a lot about how the Māori formed. This wasn’t until the pakeha (Europeans) turned up. Before then Māori didn’t really exist as the iwis considered themselves to be separate and unique rather than a big group. They used to fight between iwi and marry strategically to strengthen the iwi. There were different dialects spoken depending on the iwi. Then the pakeha arrived and so the tribes pulled together.
I’m really enjoying learning not only the language but the cultural and historical stuff too as that has implications for the language. When I have my mihimihi ready I’ll post it on here :-)

Oh and I got a bicycle for my daily work commute :-) She is called Aveline Alive Dunlop. We’re still bonding, but we’re getting there. She can be a little temperamental gears wise, but on whole, she’s good. I’ve had a couple of cycling adventures, but there are plenty more to be had for sure. Welly is not a particularly cycle friendly city, but I’m getting used to riding with the traffic. The drivers don’t like that, but you know… I’ve got the be seen.

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Activities wise, I’ve been doing a dance class with Full Swing. It’s a lindy hop class and that is fun times for sure. I’m learning that I need to relax more when I’m dancing and that I’m not good at being led!! I’m getting there though, there are some really good leaders in the group and we rotate partners so we get to dance with everyone. I’m also realising just how much other people touching me makes me feel uncomfortable! What a sausage! I worry about germs on people’s hands and the first thing I do when I finish class is wash my hands!! I’m so ridiculous! Still, I think it’s a good challenge for me and an positive effort for me to feel more comfortable and confident around people in social situations. There are some really nice people there and it’s funny that with some, in terms of dancing partners, there is a definite connection in terms of movement and rhythm. It’s supercool. Some people come with their partners and it’s really sweet watching them learning to dance together. Then there are people like me that just turn up solo. Sometimes I have to dance on my own, but in a way that’s good because it means I really have to concentrate on getting the routine right without having a partner lead me. So. In a nutshell I’m enjoying dancing.
I’ve also started a Pilates class which while good is not a patch on Emily’s!!! Still, it’ll keep me going until I get home.
The only other thing I’m missing is bootycrabsticks, otherwise known as bootcamp. I don’t think I’m going to find one that I fancy here. They all seem really serious! Still, I keep my eyeballs out…

I’m looking forward to Joe coming over for Christmas and New Year. We’re pretty much organised for the itinerary which is super and now I need to turn my planning attention to the South America adventures. Helen is getting us organised :-) and we’re booked on our Inca trail already! Yeah!!!! Jo and I have decided on travelling from LA to NYC by train. All the exciting things!

I’m enjoying a relaxing Sunday evening after a busy weekend, writing this blog post, listening to The Archers Omnibus from last weekend. Blimey, it’s all go! Our new flattie is making a roast, I can smell that being cooked and I’m bringing mini pavlovas to the table for pud :-) Yumo.

What else? Oh I’ve eaten a lot of cake since I got here… Morning tea is a thing and if it’s a special occasion then it’s cake time a go, go! Sausage rolls are also a thing… This was the best fancy cake treat I’ve had, at Martha’s Pantry, yum, yum, yum…

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Life is good. I’ve a lot to be thankful for and while I miss Brighton and people, I know I’ll be heading back there soon enough and I’ve got so many more adventures to look forward to. Hurray for adventures!

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Sister adventure fun times – Auckland – Raglan – Waitomo – Rotorua

17 09 2014

Auckland museum

We spent the whole day at Auckland Museum and it was a mega learning experience! We started with our first bit of learning about Maori. There were a group of 6; 3 men and 3 women and we learnt about when pacific people arrived to Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud. We learnt some of the language, mainly Kia Ora; then the group performed some songs and some traditional ‘games'; the ones with the sticks for example, Te rakau. All the games and learning the Maori do have a purpose for learning skills. There is a pretty extensive Maori collection a well as lots looking at the different aspects of New Zealand – flora and fauna, wildlife, colonisation, the Waitangi treaty…
By the time we got back to be hotel we were exhausted! No rest for us though, we had to hot foot it over to another hotel to meet up with our tour group…. Ooooohhhhhh!!!!!

We met our guide and other members of the tour group and listened to our briefing for the coming days. What a lot of things we had in the itinerary! A group meal was optional but me and Tor had other ideas, like discussing our tour mates and guide! So we said our goodbyes and got ourselves sorted for an early start and the first stop on our trip, Raglan.

Wednesday – we start the trip Auckland to Raglan
After a bit of a fanny faff bags start we set off from Auckland to Raglan. We stopped off for breakfast en route and then we arrived in Raglan. We had a mooch about the tiny village and then made our way to our accommodation for the night. We’re staying in a ‘Bach’ called the sleeping lady http://www.sleepinglady.co.nz and then we go on a boat trip in the evening, with nibbles and beer and vistas and nice times. It was very pretty. http://www.raglanboatcharters.co.nz/harbour-cruises/wahinemoe-sunset-cruises/
We had fish and chips for our tea and then I did some more secret wedding badger crochet before bed.

Wednesday tea and beer: fish and chips. Waikato beer on the boat and a Macs white beer a big one at the Bach.

Thursday – Raglan farm – Waitomo glow worm caves – Tongariro national park

We have another early start and say goodbye to the Bach and make our way to an Eco- farm near Raglan for breakfast. It was fantastico and delicious and I got to play with a giddy kipper pooch and made friends with a llama or was it an alpaca?! :-)

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We did some learning about fish and freshwater ecosystems and then it was time to go to Waitomo to the glow worm caves. Tor is very excited about this and for good reason. We arrived to Spellbound glow worm tours and met our guide, Pop, who was very knowledgeable about the area and sink holes and glow worms. Good. We had a short, wobbly, wiggly drive to the start of the caves. We had a little safety briefing and then we were ready to go in.

We went on a little tiny dinghy boat and it was totally dark, pitch black and as our eyes adjusted we could see more and more little tiny glowing larvae bums :-) That’s essentially what they are. They have a pretty meaningless existence really, but they are very mystical and glowy :-)
It was cool to wander about the caves too. I very much enjoyed our glow worm experience.

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I had my first holiday ice on a gloriously sunny afternoon, it was hokey pokey flavour, yum!!!
Then we were back on the minibus, saying bye to Waitomo and off to Tongariro national park stay at the grand hotel Budapest (CHATEAU TONGARIRO HOTEL) which was built in 1929, but has a bit of a feel of the 50s about it parts. We did a little walk, but it got dark pretty quickly. Amazing mountain vistas, snowy tops. Would be totally ace to do more exploring, but no time.
Back in our room and I decide to go for a little swim in the scary tiny basement pool and I managed to stay in the sauna for about a minute before feeling like I was going to die from suffocation! This activity was actually more of an adventure than I can even begin on here! Let’s just say it involved a near naked dash back through the main lounge to get back to our room!! Ha!

Chateau Tongariro

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Thursday tea: chicken noodlely thing and no beer!

We get up early again on Friday and have a delicious breakfast time :-) Then it’s time to say goodbye to the quirky chateau.
We stop off for a little waterfall walk at huka falls. It would have been nice to have a longer walk there, but we needed to get going…

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So, then we’re back in the van to go to lake Taupo. Amazing vistas of the mountains. Time for a little walk around. Yes! I’d been getting a bit cabin fevery on the bus! I know we’ve an itinerary to stick to but it seems a shame to come all the way to an amazing national park and then not have time to do anything in it! Like a walk! A decent walk, outside, taking in the sights and sounds and smells… Still, there wasn’t so…

Rotorua
Back on the bus to go to Rotorua. We arrive and do a mooch along the lake front and to a Maori village thing. Then back on the bus for a short drive to the hotel. Check in, this place is funny. Princes Gate Hote
Bit dusty and had seen better days, but we get a suite! The mcgregor suite, which looks like it’s for 4 people! We have a room each, kitchenette with a dishwasher but no washing machine, a living/dining room and a bathroom with a scary and as we found out, very ineffective shower curtain! Ha!
Once we’re checked in I get the badgers ready to send to Hels and then go to find the post office. Bye bye badgers…

I have a wander around, library, pak n save, super loo then back to the hotel to meet up with everyone to get on another bus to a Maori cultural experience night.

This was jam packed with all things Maori. Some reinforcing of our learning at the museum. It felt a bit Maori Disney, but it certainly crammed in lots of aspects of Maori culture, warrior war dances, poy and singing, agility and dexterity training with the criss cross fish bone on the floor and the stick games, tattooing, tools, flax and weaving, they covered it all. Then we went inside to watch some singing and dancing. I enjoyed the love song. It was surprisingly tender. They two performing had lovely voices. The group managed to cover a full range of music – warrior warfare, love and general happy nice times.
The next thing was our tea, a hungi feast, which was just like a big old roast, but in the ground oven followed by kiwi fruit and passion fruit pavlova.

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The night finished with a sing song, poor Bill was on the outskirts of the performing group, which in this instance were the bus drivers that picked us up!
We then got back on our respective buses, there were people from across town at the Tamaki Maori village, we had a bus with Kiwi on it and our driver was Bill. He had big sad eyes and looked pretty dejected the whole time! Still, he got us singing on the way back to the hotel. Our selected Maori chief of our bus had to do some rabble rousing too! When we got to a rendition of ‘she’ll be coming round the mountain…’ Bill, and the other drivers, proceeded to drive round a roundabout just on the edge of town several times making me feel a bit giddy and glad that I hadn’t had seconds of the sweet as the sun pavlova!
It was a jam packed Maori night and I had my first digestif of my travels at the princes gate hotel (the oldest in Rotorua), a Remy XO. It was delicious and much needed after such a big tea!
It was bedtime but before sleep I really needed to sort out my photos as my phone is fit to burst! I think I’ve got a proper system now, but I’m glad I brought my normal camera too as it’s been a boon for taking extras when my phone has been totally full! That’s something I should have thought about more before coming away. Still, it’s all going to be ok thanks to Dropbox, Flickr and my boy joe :-) Yeah!
New Zealand has the most amazing landscapes and vistas for sure.
Saturday we’re up and ready after a funny time at breakfast. We are experiencing some funny accommodation stuff! Or maybe it’s just me and Tor being a bit hysterical! Anyway, we had breakfast and said goodbye to our mcgregor suite, there’s a story there, well…

We just had a short drive to another maori village, but this one is great for geothermal learning activities. They have a little settlement there, but most people live in the city and this is a tourist attraction. They’re very proud in Rotorua and are adamant that Rotorua is where tourism in New Zealand started. You can see a bit of history of the guides from the olden days and how they started up in Rotorua almost 150 years ago. Imagine that!
So, we got to hear a little bit about how the Maori live using the geothermal springs, lakes and geysers for power, for bathing, for cooking. There was a little walk around the hot lakes and they are totally amazing. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like it. The smell of sulphuriness is there in the clouds of steam, but it’s not unbearable, still I don’t think I’d like to live there! We also saw active jumping geysers and bubbly mud. For a change, some beautiful vistas :-)
Our guide Michael was very informative.
We then had a stop for a hungi pie and corn on the cob, but I was still stuffed from the hungi last night and the muesli, fruit, yoghurt and cake (it was a banana muffin, and only a mini one :-) )breakfast. So, as I type, I’ve got 2 hungi pies in my rucksack in the overhead locker on the plane from Rotorua to Christchurch. Tor had to eat the corn on the cob chunks as I am not a fan, whether they are cooked in a geothermal pool or not! Anyway, after that we had a little time to mooch about do we did a short walk, sun shining, stinky geothermal pools bubbling and steaming around the hot lakes :-) and guess what?! I thought it was amazing!!! Look!

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It’s been sooooooo long!!!!!

17 09 2014

I cannot believe how long it’s been since I last did a post. Since sister Tor left and I arrived into Wellington things have been a bit of a whirlwind… I’m going to post some bits from my adventures with Tor and then I’m going to bring things up to date in Welly :-)

So. Let’s see if I scan remember back to what fun times me and Tor had..

August 19th
Saturday/Sunday – moochy body clock adjustment days
Poor Tor left the UK on Thursday 17th and got here on Saturday 19th so we had a couple of days of mooching in Auckland, getting some bits for our organised trip. She had the treat of going to The Warehouse, several times!
I dyed my hair and surprise, surprise it doesn’t took any different! Then I cut my fringe and it’s a bit wonky :-/
We did have a nice tea at a pub/bar type place in Wynard Quarterd I had some little creatures IPA.
Tomorrow I think we’ll go on a boat somewhere, be rude not to! Either Waiheke or Devonport.

Saturday tea and beer: salt and pepper squid salad and little creatures IPA
Sunday tea and beer: sweet chilli chicken salad and parrot dog flaxen feather (pale) and bitter bitch (Amber)

Sunday was Devonport day
After a leisurely getting ready morning we walked down to the port and got on a boat to Devonport. There’s a circular walk you can do, taking in the main sights and some beautiful secret tiny beaches, tide dependent :-)
This is the route we did, more or less…
http://www.visitdevonport.co.nz/category/explore-devonport/walks-and-trails

Guess what? You get some amazing vistas of all around from up those hills, which were once active volcanoes, imagine that. We walked along the coast to a volcano with a view, North head. Now this hill has a bit o history as it’s had army stuff and battlements up there, prisoners up there and tourists like us up there. There are some secret tunnels and beaches around there and lots of geology if you’re into that sort of thing. From there you can see another extinct volcano, Rangatoto and opposite is mount Victoria, which we climbed up later on our walk. It was a totally sunshine and showers day, not cold though, and actually lovely and warm in the sunshine :-)
We made our way down from North Head and took in the length of Cheltenham Beach. After a little walk through some housey bits we stopped for a cuppa and then headed on to Mount Victoria…

From up there we could see across to north head and Rangatoto as well as back across to Auckland, the Auckland museum in the distance… Back down we went and after a mooch about town and getting a couple of treats for people from the famous Devonport choco shop and a dark choco dinosaur for me and a white choco dinosaur for Tor we headed back to the ferry boat and back to Auckland.
After a bit of time back at the hotel and the standard amount of Illingworth dithering we made a decision about tea and I had a lovely lentil soup, which reminded me of being in NYC with Ma Helen Abrahams and Rachel Page :-)
Monday tea and beer: lentil soup and a coopers beer… I think.

Tuesday was a mega museum adventure time :-) We did a lot of learning!

Sisters Illingworth :-)

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Leaving my adopted family, arriving back to Auckland, off an adventure with Sister Tor

2 08 2014

So my time in Russell is up and I’m back to Auckland for a few days to meet up with Tor before we head off on a little organised tour of some bits of the north and south islands.

I was helping out to do some cleaning and tidying at play centre before a bite to eat at The Wharf (http://thewharfrussell.co.nz)and getting the boat back to Paihia to pick up the bus back to Auckland. I was sad to leave! It’s amazing how quickly you can settle into a place, with new people and a new routine. Those of you that know me well will know that this is one of the things I was actually worried about before coming away; a lack of structure and routine. I like those things, but as I predicted I’ve been able to create my own new travel routines, but being with a family and getting into their routine has been just lovely :-) I know I totally lucked out with having such a wonderful hell exchange experience! I was very well looked after and made to feel very welcome which made getting on with the work a lot easier. The kids are a delight :-) I loved spending time with them loom banding, colouring in, reading, playing games and Bingo, lovely Bingo. He’s such a good boy, he’d make a nice boyfriend for Linda :-) I’ll miss his paws tippy tappying up and down the corridor!
Still, it’s time to go and I’ve got new adventures to look forward to with Tor.
So, it’s raining when I leave and it’s raining pretty much the whole journey back to Auckland. I listen to a lot of radio 4 podcasts on the journey and get very giddy listening to the news quiz, David Mitchell is particularly amusing on it, tee hee hee
:-)
So I get into Auckland circa 6pm and my sis has already arrived so I head straight to the hotel. Exciting!
Let’s see what our joint adventures bring…

Me and the Bambinos :-)

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Lovely Bingo

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Cape Reinga, sand dune surfing and 90 mile beach

2 08 2014

I’ve been looking forward to this trip, especially the bit up to Cape Reinga
http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/historic/by-region/northland/kaitaia/cape-reinga/

It’s an early start, 5.30am, to get ready and make the 30ish minute walk to Russell wharf to pick up the first boat out at 7am to go to Paihia to pick up the bus from there. It was so worth getting up at that time. The moonlit, starry skied walk into Russell was eerily beautiful as I made my way along the side of the unlit roads toward the wharf. I was the only person on the first boat, apart from the skipper, obvs. As we left Russell and headed for Paihia, the sun started to rise bringing with it purpley, pinky, orangey tinged sky and a gentle glistening to the water as the boat chugged along.

En route the skipper radioed through to the office at Paihia to say I was on my way so I was reassured that I wouldn’t miss the bus. I got off in Paihia, had a little chat with the lady at the office who told me that the UK is experiencing heat wave, while I was wrapped up with a woolly hat to top me off :-) it was a chilly start to the day, but I was hopeful that meant sunny skies and warmth later on. I was correct, thank goodness :-)

At the bus I’m greeted by our driver for the day, Scratch, and off we go collecting people from various hostels and hotels in Paihia before setting off on our adventure proper.

First stop would Puketi Forest where we could have a little mooch through on a boardwalk and say hello to some kauri trees. The kauri are culturally as well as economically significant in New Zealand. The Maori used them or making their wakas. In the olden days they were also used to build houses when the British arrived and there was a big gum trade, mainly the Eastern Europeans arrived to do that. So, we hopped off and had a stroll through the kauri trees. It was chilly in there too, but the trees were impressive, standing string and high into the sky. The kauri are said to have healing properties so I laid my hand on one for a bit just in case I need healing at any point, I’m hoping it’s magical powers will last :-)

Back on the bus and our next stop is for a cup of tea and a wee break just past doubtless bay, which, surprise, surprise is beautiful! Endless water stretching out, edged by lush green grass and sandy beach. I enjoyed a hot choco in the sunshine taking it all in. It was starting to get warmer, but still a chilly breeze coming off the sea.

All abroad and we’re off again, the next stop is actually luncho. An early one, scheduled for about 11am!! I hadn’t ordered lunch, that was an option. I’d brought my own, as well as the compulsory party mix, the natural sweetie people this time, it was on offer :-) Still, if I’d had ordered the lunch I wouldn’t have wanted it at 11am! So, I sat around in the sunshine while others went in to eat lunch and others stayed out to do the same as me :-) That’s all part of having to stick to an organised tour schedule though. I did get to see a nice puppy dog at this stop :-)

Our next stop would be Cape Reinga itself.
We carried on right to the tippy top of the north island, Cape Reinga. We were so lucky with the weather, there was not a cloud in the sky and the sea/ocean stretched out in front of me, the sky, clear and blue. A fresh, crisp sea breeze coming in, it was beautiful. We only had about 45 minutes at this stop, which is one of the things about going on a organised trip. You can’t necessarily spend the time you want in the places you want. There are some ace walks from Cape Reinga, but I couldn’t explore them because of having to be back on the bus for a certain time… Still, I wouldn’t be getting to do this adventure without the organised tour so I mustn’t complain!
I think I mentioned in my previous post about the significance of Cape Reinga to the Maoris, well just as a recap, it’s the place where they believe our souls leave the earth to go on to the next bit. I wonder if the souls wait for a beautiful clear day for a smooth journey to the next life… I don’t fancy going off when it’s stormy and the sea/ocean is swooshing.
Still, I loved Cape Reinga.
After a walk up the hill, I did some learning, in little chunks as I walked up the hill and to the lighthouse, stuff like this…

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This is the lighthouse and vistas there….

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Amongst other thinks, being at the lighthouse made me think of Rachel Page, I can imagine that she enjoyed it very much here when she visited :-)

Time at Cape Reinga was soon up and we headed back to the bus. I’ll just mention at this point that a child was sick on the bus a little way into the journey. They were ok once we got out at Cape Reinga, but now the bus smelt of sick :-/
Anyway, off we went and the next stop was to the big old sand dunes to do some sand dune surfing :-) I wasn’t sure what to expect with this; would I need a wetsuit? Would I be too scared to jump on the board and whoosh down the dune?
Well, I did not need a wetsuit, I was not too scared, I got a board, climbed the dune and jumped on it to whizz down the dune. I repeated this about 7 times before it was time to go on to the next activity. It was sooooooooo fun!! I could have spent all afternoon doing that :-) The sun was out, the wind was fresh, and the sand dunes were massive! Amazing!

Once the boards were packed back into the bus we carried on with dunes either side and went on to 90 mile beach. Now, I believe I’ve mentioned that 90 mile beach is not actually 90 miles long… It’s actually about 54 miles long which I think is circa 90 kilometres.
Our driver took us along and we stopped to take in the vast vistas of the beach. Totally beautiful… I went for a paddle and got a bit too confident and got whooshed on by a fast wave coming in. I ended up with soggy jeans, but surprisingly the water wasn’t too cold. I couldn’t come all the way to 90 mile beach and not do a paddle! Still, I was glad I had a spare pair of bottoms in my bag :-) and that I didn’t have a soggy journey back to Russell.

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We had a bit of time on the beach and then we were back on the bus to drive the rest of it before heading back to the state highway to make our way back to Paihia. It was dark by the time I got on to the 6.30 ferry back to Russell and like on the way over in the morning, I was the only one on this one on the way back!
Another beautifully clear night as I disembarked at Russell and started the walk back to house. Just as I was nearing the edge of Russell a car came round the corner and I thought was going to run me over! Turns out it was all of family Welling :-) Roberta had tried to call me to see if they could pick me up or if I could meet them in Paihia, but my phone had died!
Still, this was a lovely surprise and I managed to squeeze in my fat arse between Isaballe and Eli. They’d all been out to Kerikeri for the day.
Roberta had got me pasta tea from the restaurant, how nice is that? We made our way back to the house, I ate my tea while the kids got sorted for bed.
What a bloody brilliant day trip. If you’re ever up in the bay of islands you should totally get up to Cape Reinga.

I’m working tomorrow and Saturday morning and then I’m off back to Auckland to find sister Illingworth for adventures :-)








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