Last night kangaroos, tonight, white cockatoos

We have moved on. We are now in Lake Macquarie, NSW (New South Wales) after a 6 hour drive, with interruptions. We stopped at Rosie’s for coffee and tea:

I promptly spilled the coffee on the floor of the cab turning a corner. I let the essence of caffeine fill the cab and keep me going.  The next stop was a simple roadside pullout to change drivers.  The last stop was in Karuah, where we found a lovely little park that was advertised as a rest area.  We stopped there for lunch and a typical chat with a local. 
We arrived in Lake Macquarie Active Holidays Big 4 by 2:30 or so to find much of the gang assembled and the ground littered with rabbits and lorikeets overhead,  also one unidentified bird that looks like a dove with a spike almost like a quail, but straight up
As the sun set, early these days – about 5:30 – it is late fall, the cockatoos flocked in screeching and driving most others away.  They are roosting in the trees overhead and I doubt sleep will survive the dawn chorus when the sun begins to rise. 
OMG, tomorrow is the last drive to another holiday park. After two nights there we drop the campervans in Sydney on Tuesday.  Most of us are quite ready to be rid of them,  they are nothing like what any of us own. Thursday 5 May Carol and I are booked to climb to the top of the Sydney Harbor bridge. We will have to buy pics as we are not permitted to have anything with us that could fall on the roadway. Phone scan will have to suffice.
One parting image:
Not the first Rainbow of the trip.

Day 32, can that really be?

Our tour is on day 32, we have been traveling for 34 days. Every day is some new experience.  Today seems rather mundane.  We drove 180 miles or so and stopped along the way a few times to view the scenery,  buy fuel, eat lunch. We finally got to our destination,  Southwest Rocks.  First we stopped at some key sites,  the Trial Bay Gaol (old English spelling of jail). It has an interesting history that is worth googling, if you care.

In our preparation for this visit we were warned that there are many wild kangaroos in the area and they can be aggressive. Sure enough there are many and we have been careful to not approach them.  Just a few minutes ago I needed to take out the trash,  as happens often after dinner. Although I could see the trash bins through the windshield I elected to take a flashlight for a change.  Good thing! As I walked I noted moving shapes and the flashlight illuminated half a dozen or more kangaroos in my path.  I circled around, completed my chore unmolested and returned to the Campervan.

Like deer in parts of the US, kangaroos are considered pests here. I can understand why. We may need to adopt “roo bars” for our vehicles if deer become even more prevalent. Driving through kangaroo country with no more than kangaroo whistles as protection seems rather frightening now. Also need to be aware of the occasional koala and the possum on the roads.

It is Friday night and we turn in our campervans on Tuesday.  Although we will not be sad to see them go so we can sleep in a comfortable hotel bed, it marks the end of a major portion of the trip which we began planning over a year ago.

From Miami, Queensland Australia that is

Yes indeed we are in Miami Beach on the Gold Coast South of Brisbane. Time has indeed been flying.  Between problems getting connected and lack of time to write I haven’t posted since New Zealand. Aukland is a big city and it has ports on two oceans.  I could probably write a book about our time on North Island, but it has been done.  We flew from Aukland to Cairns,  Australia. This city, pronounced Cans, as in kick the can,  is a major tourist spot with all kinds of access to the Great Barrier Reef.  We had a day on a moderate sized catamaran. I hoped to dive once again on this most famous dive location, but the dive doc did not care for the beta blocker I take so I satisfied myself with a lengthy snorkel over some shallow portions of the reef around Michaelmas Quay.  I also took a ride in the semi submersable boat they included in our trip. It is really a hull with large windows below the waterline to provide an excellent view of the reef and its shallow water residents. I was disappointed,  but still got to see a pimple of the reef from in the water.

We ate at a restaurant called Ochre which washighly recomended for its indigenous ment. It was so good we ate there two nights in a row.  The first night, Carol had a veggie platter that we could not finish after I had kangaroo tail steak.

For the second meal Carol had soup and local bread called a damper and I had wonderful beef tenderloin.
Our last day in Cairns we flew to Brisbane to pick up our campervans for the next nine days. Unlike the experience in Christchurch where the paperwork was ready and the camper vans lined up and ready, we found extra charges, paperwork not done and total chaos getting the vans ready.  Two are standard transmission one had rotten floor and moldy drapes.  It was returned and swapped for another.  No way would I recommend renting from Apollo Campervans in Brisbane.  As if that wasn’t enough the road log getting to our first destination was badly worded and when I finally got on the M1 I was not clear whether to go North or South. I called roadservice and was assured that I was correct to be heading south.  WRONG! After 30 kilometers I found a service area and some help to get turned around.  To make matters worse Earnie had asked me to lead the way and he stuck with us through it all. We arrived at the campsite at 6:15, after sunset and hours after the others.  We finally had time to store our luggage and make up the bed. 
We spent the next day at the Australia Zoo, which had been largely created by Steve Irwin, the Crocodile man.  The zoo is on Steve Irwin Highway and our campground was 3 kilometers down the road. We have never seen so many birds in free flight in a Stadium and the capper for me was an Australian Condor, with 3 meter wingspan (that’s about 10 feet). It flew in from a handler off stage and scarfed down food from two different sites before returning to the handler.  Very impressive. 
During the day we petted red kangaroos and a koala or two.  More of that tomorrow at Currumbin Sanctuary.
Our Campervan may be the Queen of the fleet.  It only has 11500 kilometers (about 6600 miles) on it and has yet to be abused.  Most things seem to work well. 

A Steamy Trip

Since the last post we have driven to Picton, taken the ferry to Wellington where we visited Kate,  EJ and Elvira.  We first met Kate and EJ in Shelbourne VT at our nephew’s wedding a year ago.  Kate drove us around town,  what a delight to do that in a car and not the Caravan.  We toured the National Museum, Te Papa, had a glass of wine nearby,

And had take away dinner at their house. 
Next day we headed North to Napier where we began to see the tectonic nature of the land. The towns of Napier and Hasting were destroyed by an earthquake in 1931. They were reconstructed over the next two years in current style.  The buildings are primarily art deco and beginning in 1992 the people of the towns have worked hard to restore and preserve the buildings. 
This example is the visitor center of the trust.  Every year in February they have a commorative weekend and everyone dresses in style and there are dances and parties in the mood. 
The next day we stopped in Lake Taupo, a “Great Lake” it is indeed the largest lake in NZ. The next day featured a ride on the “Maid of the Falls” to Huka Falls
Next we stopped to tour Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.  Just two pics for now. 

We continued North from Taupo to Rotorua, the sheep shearing capital of New Zealand. It also sits atop a very active thermal area with fumeroles and bubbling hot springs scattered every where. The Holiday Park was right on the edge of a very active area.  The scent of H2S was everywhere. 
From Rotarua we moved on to Waitomo where we experienced glow worms in a cave and on a night bush walk. In case I haven’t mentioned it,  a bush walk is a walk in the woods.  It is very neat to enter the trail as the sun is setting and watch the glow worms light the woods  like a field of stars.  Needles to say,  no pictures resulted that are useful. 
Likewise I have pictures of two kiwis taken at a kiwi sanctuary that are dark images taken in darkness.  The white kiwi is a white blob. They are nocturnal creatures and the viewing environment is lit with dim red lights to convince them day is night. 
So that is the past week at a dead run. Today we drove through Aukland without stopping, we will return on a couple of days to return our caravans and do some touring.  Today and tomorrow we will reach the northernmost part of North Island we can get to.  Rangarira, the northernmost tip is about 2.5 hours beyond our reach.  Not sure when I’ll get to post again.  Thursday we fly to Cairn,  Great Barrier Reef. I plan to dive there even without my C card. 
Looking back at this, it is a recital of places with little emotion.  We are having a great time.  The people are the friendliest we have met.  To look bewildered is to recruit a guide who will insist on escorting you along the way.  To hesitate while lifting a bag is to find two helpers who will carry it for you.  Everyone loves to chat and find out where we are from and how do we like the place, the caravan, the people and where should they visit in the states. 
Our group is also extraordinary.  All are rvers so are used to making friends easily.  The isn’t a shy soul in the group.  We look forward to continuing friendships. 

The Caravan

Victor asked for a picture of the Caravan we are in for 20 days:

You can see the Mercedes Sprinter chassis all over the US. It is a fine piece of automotive equipment.  The body on the other hand is quirky. This unit is designed for a party of 6. We have plates, flatware,  bedding,  etc for 6. The 2 of us have to plan every move we make.  There are only 2 places we can pass each other. One in the back and the other by the door where one had to step down into the footwell to let the other by.  The throne room has toilet, shower and sink in a space about 2.5 feet by 2.5 feet.  The sink folds into the wall but relies on the shower head for water,  forget it, we use the kitchen sink which for some reason has a 6 inch lip in front of it.  I could go on about space,  the passenger seat up front must be all the way forward for me to access the driving compartment from inside,  Carol only needs it half way forward. 
Where would 6 people sleep? Two on the bed across the back,  two, in the compartment over the cab,  ladder provided, and two on the dining area where I am sitting and writing. It makes up into a bed for short people. 
We have only made contact with road side objects twice,  the first day.  Nothing serious,  we were not planning on using the awning anyhow and the mirror works just fine.  Bridges are very narrow and shoulders nonexistent in many places.  Keeping left in lanes that are less than 10 feet is exacting.  Standard lanes in the US are 12 feet. We are adapting well and I fear a return to driving right may be interesting 🙂

Moving on down the road

Today we drove 170 miles from Wanaka to Franz Josef Glacier. This may not sound like much but the road compares well with some of the tougher stretches of CA 1 otherwise know as PCH. Other comparisons might include the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We were constantly changing altitude and twisting through the coastal mountains.  It was gorgeous but tiring driving, especially with 28 one lane bridges just a foot wider than the coach. The “right of way” is declared on signs on the approach to each bridge.

The twisting and turning was so severe that near the end of the day I noticed something protruding from a “locked” compartment.  It was one of our chairs and I watched it fall to the road.  I managed to retrieve that one, but another is some place back on the road.

We stopped at Blue Pools and walked on about 15 minutes to see the magnificent glacial melt water pools

We were looking forward to taking a helicopter flight over Fox Glacier.  When we got there we were told the clouds were a problem and they weren’t flying.  I said we were continuing on to Franz Josef and he said they might be flying out of there.  He called and put our names on the list and we drove another 30 minutes and found that they had a flight going up in 30 minutes.

The pictures say it all.  It was great.  Tech is amazing.  The pilot took pictures of us on the Glacier and they had them printed when we landed.  He had transmitted then from the copter before we took off from the is field. 
Another long drive tomorrow. 


I guess that last was really less than brief 🙂

We have been driving South from Christchurch along the east coast of South Island until today. At Dunedin,  or southernmost point we visited the only castle in New Zealand.  It has a tragic history, it fell into disrepare and had been restored by a couple who have made it their life’s work.  We saw the half that was once the busiest Harbor I in NZ and we had a treat seeing Blue Penguins coming home from the sea to their colony.  There are actually two seating areas darkened with stern warnings about quiet to avoid scaring them off. They are very cute.  No pictures permitted.  We also stopped to see the Yelloweyed Penguins, but none are appearing. Either predation or disease has taken its toll on this particular group.

We also visited the Cadbury factory and came away with many samples.  It felt rather like “trick or treat” neither of us cares much for the commercial stuff.  The Jaffas are pretty good and the real chocolate bars are fine,  not up to Lake Champlain Chocolate, but we will eat it.  We have also shopped along the way to stock the RV kitchen so we can eat on board.  The cheeses are wonderful,  very creamy. The lamb I bought was also fine.  We are also becoming fans of NZ wine, especially the Pinot Noir.

For excitement we have ridden luge in concrete tracks,  I have taken a Zip line and a very exciting jet boat ride with Shotover Jet boat on the river of the same name in Queenstown, the home of crazy out door activities. We did not ride Hydro Attack

But did ride the jetboat
Tomorrow we hope to take a helicopter ride over a Glacier and land in the midst of a 175 mile drive. 
Both of us are healthier and feeling better than when we left on this trip. 
I’ll write about the RV another time when I am feeling more generous.  Suffice it to say GeeWhiz is a luxury Palace.