Ants Big 2004 Summer Adventure
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Last weekend in SA
Last few days in Jo'burg! A few more rellies had arrived back from the UK, so Johanna got to meet more of the SA contingent!
We spent a day at Gold Reef City, which is an old gold mine that has been converted into a gold mine theme park!! Plenty of white-knuckle rides (when they're working!!) and gold related exhibits to see! Standout moments were the log flume where despite sitting at the back of the log, yours truly copped all the water when everyone in front of me ducked...
The Miners Revenge ride where I watched my sunglasses drop 30 meters, seemingly in slow-motion, before hitting the ground, when the ride flipped us upside down and held us there! Somehow, they didn't smash, and despite a few scratches and dents, they are still usable....good old Ray Ban!!
The Tower of Terror was another interesting one! The car is winched 40 meters to the top of a metal structure and you are then held there in mid-air for a few seconds, before the car is released and drops like a stone down 70 meters into a mine shaft!
This should give you the gist of it!!
My cousin Vanessas eldest boy, Keegan (Garth, her husband is a Liverpool fan....say no more!!) celebrated his 7th birthday earlier in the week, so Saturday was his big party! 20-odd 7-year old boys running wild through the back garden playing African Survivor!
It didn't take the adults long to hit the alcohol!!
We had a bit of a family dinner in the evening, with 10 of us sitting down to demolish 3 chickens that Garth had expertly BBQ'd earlier!
Most of the sensible side of the family headed off to bed, but Garth, my cousin Scotty and myself somehow ended up in the family pub (the old swimming pool pump house has been converted to a pretty neat little local!!), where we proceeded to work our way through the stock of vodka, whisky and various disgusting sickly sweet high alcohol concoctions whilst we tried to thrash each other into alcoholic oblivion with a set of dice! I think the UK member of the group put up a pretty impressive display against the SA mob!! At least I didn't wake up at 6:00am sprawled on the floor of the lounge with the TV, fire and lights still going full blast, like one of the group (who will remain nameless!) did! :-)
Sunday was relatively quiet....thankfully! Jo and I spent the morning shopping for last minute african craftwork, before we headed home to get ready for the journey home! All too soon, we were saying our farewells, and heading off to the airport (thanks again Garth!!) to catch our flight back to London.
Our Virgin flight was slightly late getting airborne, and to rub salt into the wounds, we were cruelly given a taste of Virgins Upper Class cabin, only to have it snatched away from us! My cattle class seat had a defect which meant that it wouldn't stay upright! When I pointed this out to the cabin staff, they said they would have to move us up to Upper Class for take off and landing, so we were whisked up there for take-off, moved back into economy for the rest of the flight, and then moved back up there for landing! Well, at least Jo got a bit of a taster of the good life!! :-)
We arrived back in London at 6:35am Monday morning, and spent over an hour getting ourselves through the farce that is Heathrows passport control and baggage reclaim! Unbelievable and embarassing!!
Anyway, everyone was there to meet and greet, and we headed off to Starbucks for a quick coffee and a debrief session, and then Julie was whisking me off to Hitchin, and Johanna was heading back to Stroud with Louise, Rob and Meghan!
We've had a wonderful time in SA, been very well looked after (spoilt rotten if truth be told!) and experienced many of the delights that this great country has to offer! Yes, it has it's problems, there's still a long way to go, but there is a genuine feeling that everyone is beginning to pull together in the right direction!
It's been a fantastic 2 and a bit months.... a real once-in-a-lifetime experience! I've been re-aquainted with many very good friends, visited some really cool places, dived the barrier reef, skied the Southern Alps, bungied off Auckland Harbour Bridge, abseiled off Table Mountain, dived with sharks, tracked Lions in the night, been to Ground Zero, to name but a few! It's been an absolute blast!
So! Now it's back to reality! I'm looking forward to the challenge! :-)
Hope you've all enjoyed reading my ramblings! Thanks to all those who have dropped me the odd email along the way, much appreciated!
Keep in touch if you can! I'm sure we'll catch up at some stage!
Friday, August 27, 2004
Durban Weather Woes!
So far we haven’t seen much of Durbans much vaunted warm winter weather, it’s been mostly cloud and wind! It had rained heavily overnight, and was still raining when we woke up, but it soon stopped, and the day began to brighten up…even the sun made a bit of an appearance!
We headed off to one of Durbs newest attractions…..uShaka! This place is like a combination of wet n wild, and sea world. Plenty of swimming pools and tube rides, alongside a great aquarium and other marine life pools! It has been built on an old plot of derelict land close to the harbour mouth, in a part of town that is ripe for development.
As we paid our entrance fee, the sun was shining and we headed off to the changing rooms to get ready for some serious watery fun! By the time we’d got our gear on and packed all our valuables into the lockers, things were not looking so good. The sun had gone behind the clouds, and the wind was beginning to pick up! We managed to brave about an hour and a half of it, before our extremities began to turn blue and our teeth started chattering, so we decided to cut our losses and get dressed and go and explore the aquarium side!
We spent a good couple of hours wandering past huge viewing windows with all sorts of marine life on display, turtles, jellyfish, sharks, rays and bizarre looking guitarfish (they look like a cross between a shark, a ray, and a pointy shovel!!). They also have seal, dolphin and penguin shows at various times of the day, but we somehow managed to miss all those!
After a spot of lunch....where I saw this excellent t-shirt! NB. Note the added irony of the nuns in the background!!
we met up with Louise who drove us to the Durban Arts and Crafts center, and after a couple of trips round the block, we eventually found somewhere to park, and popped inside for a quick session of gift buying!
Then it was back to the house to pack before we headed off to the airport for our short journey back to Jo’burg! Our flight was delayed by an hour or so, so we mooched around Durbs airport for a while, but eventually we were on our way, and it wasn’t long before we were back in Jo’burg, where we were met by Garth (who tried to trick us by turning up in a different car to the one we were expecting!!)
We arrived back home to find my Uncle Graham in the middle of a bout of food poisoning, which gave us all a bit of a fright! He seems a lot better this morning, so hopefully he’s over the worst!
Last few days in SA, as we fly out on Sunday night! It’s been a fantastic holiday, and I think Johanna has really enjoyed herself, even though she has had to spend a lot of time listening to boring adults!! :-)
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Dolphins and Crazy Golf!
Bearing in mind the events of the previous evening, it probably wasn’t advisable to be up at 5:30 the next morning, but that’s exactly what we did, as we were booked to head out to sea on a 22 foot motor boat owned by the Natal Shark Board, a local organization that is responsible for all things sharky in this area! They operate tours out to the shark nets (of which Natal has about 24km along it’s coastline), where you can watch the shark nets being checked for any fish that have become tangled in them.
No sharks or any other fish had been snagged during the night, so we missed out on that side of things, however, Natal also has an abundance of dolphins and whales living and/or moving past it’s shorelines, and we spent an amazing two and a half hours getting close up views of various groups of dolphins and whales, which were spotted by our eagle-eyed boat driver. He seemed to have an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time!
At one point we must have had about 20 dolphins swimming alongside, underneath, behind and in front of the boat as we skimmed along the ocean.
It was an amazing experience, and if you are ever in Durban, I would recommend it to anyone, early morning start or not!
Once back on dry land, it didn’t take me long to get us lost again on the way back home!! Part of the route on the outward journey took us through a one-way system, and I got completely stuffed up on the return leg. However, once again, the Stansbie directional sense clicked in, and we eventually found our way back onto the right road, and made in home in one piece for a spot of breakfast.
We’d arranged to meet up with Beth for some lunch, so after a couple of hours relaxing at the house, we headed out to meet up with her, and after that Louise took us out to the Pavilion shopping mall where they have a massive 3-course crazy golf centre. Johanna and I spent an hour or so hacking around that (she beat me by 3 shots overall!! The shame of it!!!) and then got in a spot of shopping before our hostess returned to pick us up!
After a bit of supper we were all feeling pretty buggered, and we were all tucked up in bed and pushing out the zeds by around 10:00pm!
Durban Day 1
Bit of a relaxation day today! Up reasonably early, and had a bit of breakfast before getting our gear together and heading down to the beach at the Sun Coast Casino complex. Louise had motherly duties to attend to, so Jo and I spent the afternoon swimming in the sea, and lying on the sun loungers.
Weather wasn’t too great, and after a couple of hours, the wind had got up a bit, and so we headed off for a bit of lunch.
Lou picked us up mid-afternoon, and we headed back to the house where Jo and I relaxed some more, whilst Lou went off to collect her daughters, Isabella 6 and Genevieve 4, from school! They are a couple of lovely girls, very confident, and great fun! A credit to their mum and dad!!
The evenings entertainment was a dinner party at home, to which Beth Cradock (nee Lawrie) and her husband Chris were invited. Beth is a good friend of mine who I had last seen about 9 years ago, so it was great to catch up with her after so long! She hasn’t changed a bit, and for those of you who know her, that won’t come as much of a surprise!! As well as being married now, she also has two kids! According to Lou, she is a terrible mother!.......but then Lou does have exceptionally high standards in that department!! :-)
Dinner was superb, and there was plenty of alcohol consumed and much reminiscing. It was a very entertaining evening.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Table Mountain - Finally!!
Today was our last chance to make it up Table Mountain, so we were up reasonably early, and were rewarded with the sight of a clear mountain, so off we headed to the bottom cable-car station.
As it’s mid-winter here, the queue was non-existent, so we were able to get on the first available gondola for the 5 minute trip to the top of the mountain, with spectacular views on the journey up!
With views like this one,
it’s not hard to see why this is probably the number one attraction in Cape Town. It really does give you spectacular panoramas across the whole city!
Johanna and I wandered around the top of the mountain, and then I spotted it!!!! The Abseil Africa sign!! The highest commercial abseil in the world!! R250 (approx. GBP25) to abseil 112 metres down the face of the mountain. As usual, my eye for a bargain got the better of me, and I had soon signed the indemnity waiver, and was being helped into a very snug harness! After a crash course in the finer points of abseiling, I was soon clipped in, and ready for my descent. Just before I set off down, the guide made a cryptic comment about there being a lovely cocktail bar half way down. Not really understanding the joke, I set off, and was soon disappearing out of sight over the edge of the mountain!
About a third of the way down, I found the cocktail bar!! Suddenly the face of the mountain had disappeared, as the rock face I had just come down was an overhang! The rest of the descent you just dangle in mid-air!! It was an absolutely amazing feeling hanging there and spinning slowly round with fantastic views of the city hundreds of meters below you! The only downside to the whole thing is that what goes down must also go back up, and it’s a good 20 minute scramble up mountain paths back to the top! I was blowing hard by the time I got there. By this time Johanna had retired to the restaurant for some tea, so I joined her there for a spot of lunch.
By now, the clouds were beginning to roll in and cover the mountain, so we headed back to the cable-car for the trip back down.
Once at the bottom, we decided to try and make it down to Boulders Bay to see the African Penguin colony there. As we had a flight to catch at 6:30, and it was now 2:30, I decided that we would set off down the coast, and see if we could make reasonable progress to be able to get there and back in time. As it turned out, we had to abandon the penguin visit as time got the better of us. We headed back to the house to pack, and wait for Marlene to arrive home as she had very kindly offered to drive us out to the airport!
We said our goodbyes to Marlene and Liam at the domestic departures terminal, and headed off to check in for the flight up to Durban.
The flight was fairly empty, so we ended up with a row to ourselves, and as the planes seats had very generous leg-room we had a very comfortable journey!
We were met at the airport by John Field, one quarter of our hosts in Durbs…the others being his lovely wife Louise, and his two daughters Isabella and Genevieve…..who whisked us off to the lovely family home in Glenwood.
We had a bit of a catch up session over a few beers, lemonades and cappuccinos, and then it was off to bed, bringing to a close another memorable day in Africa!!
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Adrenalin Ant returns!!
Well, today was a big day for me! During my investigations on what to do in Cape Town, one of the activities that caught my eye was the Two Oceans Aquarium, and in particular the fact that for a mere R400, you can scuba dive in their shark tank!
Well, I could hardly pass up the opportunity could I!? I’ve got to make use of the fact that I am now a PADI qualified diver haven’t I!?
So there I was at 11:00am, being briefed by the aquariums dive-master! The instructions were simple:
1. If you find yourself face to face with one of the sharks, do not try and push it away or try and swim away…the sharks react to sudden movements and will bite you! Stay very still!!
2. Do not wave your arms around, the sharks will be attracted to your movement and may decide to bite you!!
Armed with these re-assuring instructions, I was led up to the roof of the aquarium with my fellow victim…an American lady from Montana, to get suited and booted and before long we were sitting on the edge of a platform and lowering ourselves feet first into the tank. We made a gentle descent to the bottom of the tank (approx. 6m), and knelt on the bottom,
whilst 4 ragged-tooth sharks glided gracefully past our heads at regular intervals! The tank is also home to a number of stingrays, a large turtle, and an assortment of groupers and other largish fish.
The dive lasted 30 minutes, and we swam around a bit, but mainly knelt there just watching this fantastic array of marine life swim past within touching distance (if I’d been brave enough to reach out!!), and waving (discreetly!) to Johanna, Marlene, Angus and Liam who I could see through the glass. I didn’t feel like I was in any danger at all, and it was just a great feeling being so close to these huge fish. We even got to play with the turtle a little bit which was fun!
After the dive, we wandered around the rest of the Aquarium (they have a great penguin pool!), and then, as it was well into the back end of the lunchtime zone, we headed off to Camps Bay for some food, and ended up having a really great meal at Ocean Blue…..yep, you’ve guessed it, a fish restaurant!!
We were all feeling a bit knackered by this point, so we headed back to the house and retired to the sitting room for the rest of the afternoon and evening!
Bit disappointed for poor old Paula Radcliffe who we watched miss out on the Olympic Marathon title in the highlights program!!
Last day in Cape Town tomorrow, so we’ve got fingers crossed for the mountain to be clear of cloud, but the weather forecast isn’t great so might have to miss out on that this time. Will probably head down to Boulder Bay to go and paddle in the water with all the African penguins (they used to be called Jackass Penguins, but have been recently renamed….but that’s another story!).
Then it’s off to Durban tomorrow evening to stay with friends Louise and John and their 3 kids!
We’ve had a great time in CT, and it is still very high on my list of favourite places. I think that one of the main reasons for that is because of Angus and Marlene who have been superb hosts, and have made us feel very much at home. I owe you one guys!!
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Wine, Food, Beer and Rugby!
Well, it was always going to be hard to top the cultural experience of yesterday, so we didn’t even bother to try! We resorted to alcohol and sport instead!
The alcohol part was a morning of wine tasting around the Stellenbosch area, although true be told it was actually a spot of wine tasting at one wine estate….Muratie!
Muratie is a fairly small, and very old winery that is a particular favourite of mine as they produce some fantastic port….whoops! sorry, not allowed to call it port as the Portuguese get a little bit touchy about that…..port-style wines, as well as some a fine Merlot, and a couple of other pretty decent red wines! Anyway, it was R10 per person (approx. GBP1.00), and for that you got to taste around 7 or 8 wines!
Good news for my bruv, Rob, I placed an order for 8 bottles of port….sorry! port-style wine, and 4 of amber…it should arrive in 8-14 weeks!! We can negotiate on who gets what!!
Anyway, after the wine-tasting, we moved very merrily on for some lunch to the small town of Franschoek which was originally founded by the French Hugenots (the town still celebrates Bastille Day!!). It is an extremely picturesque town, lying in a wine producing valley, surrounded by stunning mountain ranges!
We settled ourselves in to Ralfs Pub for some grub, and then settled down to watch the Springboks take on the Wallabies in the Tri-Nations Rugby championship decider!
I think Johanna must have over-indulged on the wine, as she was soon cheering on the Springboks with the rest of the locals!!
The first half was a bit of a tense affair as the SA boys struggled to get their game going, and the Aussies were leading at half-time, but the Boks started to take control after the break, and were well on their way to a comfortable win, until a late Aussie surge threatened to spoil the party, but South Africa managed to hold them off to earn a well deserved win, and only their 2nd ever Tri-Nations championship! I’ll offer up a begrudging well done to all my South African friends………we’ll see you at Twickenham in November!!
We set off back to Cape Town, stopping en route at Stellenbosch to pick up Liam (come on keep up, he’s Angus and Marlenes very cute son…remember!!) who had been dropped off for the day with his grandparents, and then our very weary bunch headed home to crash in front of the telly with Olympic action from Athens!
Friday, August 20, 2004
Attempted to get up and get going early today, but failed miserably! We left the house before midday, but only just!
Angus had very kindly offered us the use of his prized Bakkie (SA for pickup truck!), so whilst he and Marlene were at work, we scooted off to the center of Kaap Stad (Afrikaans for Cape Town to you non-SA readers!). As Table mountain was shrouded in clouds and therefore not worth a visit, we spent a couple of hours mooching around the shops of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront complex. The Waterfront is right at the touristy (but in a good way!) heart of the CT scene. It’s an ever expanding mall-style development which houses a wide variety of mainly tourist-oriented shops and restaurants, as well as other attractions like the Two Oceans aquarium and an Imax cinema. It’s also home to the Nelson Mandela Gateway Museum, which is the shore-based side of the Robben Island Museum! It’s thought-provoking displays and exhibits highlight some of the history of Robben Island , the infamous state prison, and in particular it’s most famous inmate…..Nelson Mandela.
From here, you can jump aboard a ferry for the 7km trip out to the island. The organized tour of the island and its maximum-security prison takes about 2.5 hours, and is split into two parts. For the first half we were loaded onto a bus for a tour of the small and very exposed island, where we learnt about the history of the island, from it’s original discovery by Portuguese explorers, it’s subsequent use by Dutch settlers as a penal colony, it’s leper colony, and it’s eventual use by the SA government as a maximum security prison for political prisoners! We also took in the lime quarry where prisoners carried out hard labour.
The second half of the tour is altogether more moving and emotional. We were taken on a tour of the maximum-security prison where political prisoners, accused of crimes against the state during the apartheid years, were housed.
The tour is made even more poignant by the fact that our tour guide was a former political prisoner who had spent 13 years on the island! He painted a very vivid picture of the extremely harsh conditions that the inmates were subjected to, and the ways in which they managed to overcome very draconian restrictions in order to further their quest to bring about the downfall of the apartheid regime. I could spend hours going into detail, but to be honest, the tour is very much an individual emotional experience, and all I will say is that if you are ever in this part of the world, make sure that this tour is high on your list of things to do. It is an extremely humbling, but ultimately very uplifting experience!
Cape Town Bum Cream!!
Today is a travel day! We’re off down to Cape Town to stay with good friends Angus and Marlene and their very cute 1 year old son, Liam!
We spend the morning getting packed, writing postcards, and watching more Olympic action, and then Garth very kindly drives us to the airport to catch our Kulula.com (South Africas version of Easyjet!) flight to CPT. The 2 hour flight is pretty uneventful, apart from the usual hairy landing at Cape Town airport, and Marlene is there to pick us up, and whisk us off to their house in the Pinelands suburb.
After a catch up session over beer, wine and some lovely grub, we all head off to bed around 11:00pm.
But not before I spot this!!
Talk about calling a spade a spade!! Why can’t all products be labeled this way? Forget Toilet Tissue, how about Andrex Arse Wiping Paper!!
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Sun City & Non scenic route to Jo'burg!
I know you're going to find this hard to believe, but we were up, washed, packed, checked out and sitting having breakfast by 9:30am this morning!! The plan was to get going early, take one final drive through the park, and exit at the Kwa Maritane gate, which is the closest one to Sun City, and then spend a few hours enjoying ourselves in the valley of the waves!
For those of you who don’t know about Sun City, it is a resort casino themed around a lost African city. Apart from the casino, the main attraction is the valley of the waves, which is a huge man-made beach, with a massive wave machine that churns out some pretty impressive rollers! There are also plenty of tube rides, a long vertical water slide and a host of other features to keep everyone amused.
The whole place was built from scratch, and when you see the pure scale of the place, and it’s extremely remote location, you can’t help but be impressed by the ingenuity and vision that must have been required to get it built!
Anyway, Johanna and I spent an enjoyable 4 hours splashing around in the VERY cold water. As it’s winter here, the place was not too crowded, which was great for us as we didn’t have to queue for anything, and were able to pick our spot on the “beach”.
With the 2.5 hour drive back to Jo’burg in mind, we set off back to the car around 4:30, and hit the road.
Now, on the journey up I checked a few times to see what the road signs were saying going the other way, so that I knew what to look for on the journey back. I knew that the place name began with R and ended in Burg (Randburg as it turned out!). However, on the return journey, the first sign I came to pointed to Pretoria one way, and Rustenburg the other way! I knew we didn’t want Pretoria, and the other direction began with an R and ended in Burg, so obviously I went that way. Having driven for about 20km without recognizing any features, I was beginning to suspect I’d made the wrong choice, however, I figured that on the way up we had gone directly to the campsite, and on our way back we were coming from Sun City, so maybe this was just the bit of road that we missed out by going direct to the camp!
A further 20km on, and I’m now sure we are not on the road we came up on! However, as the light is beginning to fade, and having consulted the little map in the back of the travel guide and figured that we are still heading roughly in the right direction, I decide to carry on!
Eventually we pass a sign which points towards Jo’burg, so I know we’re on the right path. An hour or so later, and we hit the outskirts of the city. By now it is dark, and I have no idea which suburb we are in. I hand Jo the Jo’burg road atlas, and start calling out street names as we pass them for the poor girl to try and figure out where exactly we are, and eventually we manage to ascertain that we are heading in the right general direction. One stop at a well-lit and busy petrol station later, and I have directions for how to get to Parktown North where we are staying, and 20 minutes later we are back on familiar roads, and heading for home…..phew!!
Now fairly ravenous, we stop off at the local Nandos to pick up a couple of celebratory chicken burgers to go, and head back to the house. We chow down with Uncle Graham, and then retire to the study to watch some of the action from Athens 2004 (mens gymnastics), and then it’s off to bed after a long and very eventful day!!
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Wild animals!? They were furious!!!!
Had a bit of a lie in this morning, and when we did finally pull back the flaps of the tent, we were greeted by the sight of an ostrich strolling by the front! We headed off to the Ablution block to get washed. We were a bit late for breakfast, but they managed to rustle something up for us!
After breakfast we headed off for a quick round of put-put (crazy golf to you brits!), and then took off for a marathon 4 hour plus drive through the park! By now we were beginning to know our way around, and had also found out that there are a number of hides (small huts where you can sit out of sight, and watch the wildlife going about their business!) dotted around the park. We plotted a route, which would take us past some of these. When you get to these hides, you actually have to get out of your car, and walk a short distance to a gate, which leads to the covered walkway that takes you to the hide itself. Now I know why they get you to sign an indemnity before you enter the park!!
In one of these hides, we met one of those jolly old buffer types! An 82 year old Englishman who had lived in Africa for over 50 years, mainly in Zimbabwe. Although he refused to call it anything other than Rhodesia, and kept referring to the towns by their “colonial” names, Bulawayo, Salisbury etc.
New animals that we sighted on this drive were Red Hartebeest, Vervet monkeys (very cute!), hippos and impala (aka lion food!).
Right in the centre of the park is a restaurant called surprise, surprise, Pilansberg Centre! It is completely unfenced, so in theory, as well as us humans coming there for something to eat, I guess the wild animals could also do likewise!! It has a great tables terrace area with a wonderful view out over a large plain. We didn’t see any animals though, just plenty of exotic birds that were hoping to pick up a few tit-bits!
After a quick meal, we jumped back in the car and headed off to find the next hide, which was a short distance up the road! The hide gave a great view out over a small watering hole! It was quite crowded, and we soon found out why! A lioness and her 3 cubs were lying in the long grass on the far side of the water. You had to look quite carefully to see them as they blended in nicely with the vegetation!!
We couldn’t spend too long at the hide as time was getting on, and we were due back for our night safari at 5:00pm, so it was back on the road, and on down our plotted route! I hadn’t anticipated just how bumpy the roads were on this last section, and it was pretty slow going, so we were almost late back for our safari, but we just made it in time, having rushed back to the tent to put on lots of warm clothing!
The night safari was amazing! We saw a couple of rhino almost immediately, and yet again, loads of zebra, and before too long, we had found a herd of elephant which we managed to get quite close to. Next up was a giraffe, which we found wandering down a dirt track. It stopped right next to the truck to feed on a thorn bush…we could almost reach out and touch it it was so close!
By now, it was pitch black, so the guide switched on the handheld searchlights. Almost immediately, one of the guys sitting behind us spotted a pair of eyes shining out of the dark bush on our left. It turned out to be a couple of lionesses with a bunch of cubs, and we spent the next half-hour or so tracking their progress through the scrub! Eventually we could hear the call of male lion, which was obviously calling to the females, so we headed off up the road to try and find him. After driving quite a way, and feeling sure we must have missed him, we somehow managed to spot him lying under a tree. We spent another few minutes tracking him, and then it was time to head back to camp. It was beginning to get really cold by now, so the guide handed out a load of blankets to warm us up!
Ate in the restaurant again, wrote a few more postcards, and then it was back to the tent to sleep!
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
White hunters head north west!!
Well, we were up reasonably early today and were soon on the road and heading north-west out of Jo’burg for the 2.5 hour trip to the Pilansberg game reserve.
Pilansberg is a 55,000 hectare park (compare that with South Africas premier park, the Kruger, which is over 2 million hectares!) and was formed when an active volcano collapsed in on itself, forming concentric rings of mountains with a central basin area. It’s had a long and varied history, and has only been a game reserve since 1979. There are a number of camps and lodges (some inside, and some just outside the park) where you can book chalets or tents.
Johanna and I were booked into a 2-sleeper tent
for a 3 day-2 night stay at the Manyane camp, just outside the park. Having checked in, sorted out our tent and dropped our luggage, we made a bee-line for the safari booking office, and booked ourselves onto a guided tour for later that afternoon, and also a guided night safari the following day!
Next we headed off for in the car for our first (unguided!) drive around the park. Having paid our park entry fee (R20 each plus R15 for the park – a total of about GBP5.00 for 3 days!!) and obtained a road map (although I use the word road fairly loosely as most of them were dirt tracks!) we headed through the electrified gates into the park!
Five minutes later we had spotted our first animals, a group of 3 rhinos, which had just finished having a drink at a waterhole! Off to a flyer!! From then on, the sightings happened at fairly regular intervals, and by the time we drove out of the park 2 hours later, we had spotted bushbuck, baboons, antelope, elephants, wildebeest,
Ant & Jo encounter the very rare South African Roadeblockebeest!!
and plenty of zebra. No wild cats though, but that was not too surprising as they are notoriously hard to spot, and generally tend to be seen more at night!
Anyway, we made our way back to the camp, and got ourselves ready for our first guided safari. There were about 20 of us, and we all climbed up onto the open sided truck which was driven by our guide, Ian!
The good thing about the guided tours, is that the guides tend to know where to find the most animals, and you also get the benefit of their immense knowledge about the park and it’s inhabitants, eg. Did you know that when Rhinos copulate, they get down and dirty for around 1 hour on average!? Hence the reason why some cultures think that ground rhino horn is an aid to virility!! (Not sure why that one stuck in my mind!!)
Or that when you find a herd of Zebra, you’ll often find a bunch of wildebeest hanging around? This is because wildebeest have very poor eyesight and therefore rely on the Zebras excellent eyesight to provide some protection from predators!
By the end of the 2.5 hour tour, the sun had gone down, and man can it get cold out there!! Most of us had chattering teeth by the time we arrived back at camp! Jo and I headed off to the restaurant where I had earlier in the day booked a table for us….outside!! Doh!
Despite that, we did manage to warm up and after getting some grub down us, we headed back to our tent for a bit of postcard writing and eventually some much needed kip.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
South African Adventure begins!!
Well, it was great to be back home for a few days, although the weather was so hot and muggy, it was difficult to get any quality sleep. It was nice to be able to relax, without feeling that if I slept in for an hour or two, I was missing out on valuable sight-seeing time! Managed to get a much-needed haircut, and get all my washing up to date (with a lot of help from the lovely Julie!).
Anyway, before long, Thursday rolled around, and it was time to get back into traveler mode. Having removed as much clutter (i.e. travel mementoes!) as I could, my bag was now down to a much more manageable 25kgs, and after one last long lie in, I set off for the airport, rescuing Princess Julie from her prison….whoops I mean office…on the way past.
We met up with my Mum who had made the trip down from Cheshire to see me off, and also with my daughter Johanna, and the rest of her family. Johanna had been told that she was just coming down to see me off as well, so you can imagine the look on her face when I pulled out another ticket, and handed it to her. Well imagine no more...
the look on her face is priceless.....and my Mums is not bad either!!
The flight down to Johannesburg was nothing to write home about! It wasn’t much fun being back in economy, we were 2 hours late taking off, and neither of us was able to get much proper sleep. Ten and a half hours later we landed in Johannesburg, where we were picked up by my uncle Graham. After a bit of a wash and brush up back at the house, Jo and I headed out for our first foray, which was to a bird gardens at one of the local resort hotels. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we certainly weren’t disappointed! They put on a fantastic show, which involved quite a few birds of prey being put through their paces. They also had a brilliant aviary where you could wander around whilst loads of exotic birds roamed around your feet, or flew overhead. They also had loads of animals as well, such as red panda, marmosets, duiker (small deer), and a great selection of snakes, including black and green mambas, and a very irate king cobra, which I think I managed to severely piss off!
After a very entertaining afternoon, we headed home, and had supper with uncle Graham, and my cousin Vanessa and her husband Garth, and his mother who is also visiting! Johanna and I were beginning to fade quite fast, so we were in bed reasonably early.
Saturday was rugby day….unfortunately for Johanna! We both woke up quite late, and after a quick breakfast, I headed off with Garth to the local bottle shop to stock up with booze for the afternoons match (SA v All Blacks) and the following Braii (non-South Africans read BBQ!). We were watching the match at Vanessa and Garths place, along with assorted family and friends.
The match turned out to be a cracker, with the Boks triumphing over the All Blacks, to keep their hopes of a first Tri-Nations championship alive, and to scupper the AB’s chances in the process! Johanna buried her head in her diary for most of the match, but I’m sure she had one eye on the game!!
Match over, and it was time to fire up the BBQ, and before too long, the first of the meat was sizzling away, expertly handled by Garth, with a little helpful advice from friends Grant and Rob Duff (who had arrived earlier in the day on a business trip, which somehow also included tickets to the rugby match!!). I decided to keep my mouth shut as the SA boys don’t like being told how to handle their Braii by us Pommies!
Anyway, the food, and drink were great, and a very enjoyable evening was had by all.
Sunday……Jo and I were up mid-morning, and after breakfast, we headed out to a local art & crafts market to get a bit of gift buying under our belt. There was plenty of stuff to look at, and with the very favourable exchange rate, we were soon snapping up some bargains! We grabbed a quick bite to eat for lunch and then headed back home where we had arranged to meet up with Vanessa, Garth and family for an afternoon trip out to the Jo’burg Lion Park!
The Lion Park is a bit of a misleading name, as it is actually home to a wide variety of big cats, and other African wildlife. It is a fairly compact drive through safari park, and we ended up getting a very close up view of Lions, Cheetas, Hyenas, Giraffe, Ostrich, Leopard, Tiger, and some absolutely gorgeous lion cubs which we were allowed to pet!
Tomorrow, we head off to the Pilansberg game reserve for 3 days of safari, but I’m not sure we’ll get as close to, or see as much wildlife as we have today, but it will be great fun nonetheless!
Sunday, August 08, 2004
Heading home.....for a few days!!
Last day in NY before our return to Blighty!! All quite exciting really, as i’ve been away for almost 8 weeks!
Up reasonably late, as we had negotiated a late check-out time! First priority….yep Breakfast!! Couple of last minute souvenir purchases and then back to the hotel to pack!
Hopped in a cab and headed off to JFK. Had to sit in traffic for quite a while, but still managed to get there in plenty of time to check in for our flight. We were on standby again, this time listed on the 6:20pm BA flight to Heathrow. As this is not A Qantas flight, we are listed in economy!
The lady behind the check-in desk informed us that there were delays expected on the later flights, so we might struggle to get the flight we wanted as they were trying to fill the 6:20 flight with as many people as they could to try and ease any problems later! Anyway, she tagged our bags, and told us to come back to the desk 30 minutes before departure!
We turn up at 6:00pm, to find ourselves amongst a group of about 15 standby passengers, so things weren’t looking good for us getting on the 6:20 flight. At 6:15, there’s still no news about whether any of us are getting on the flight. All of a sudden, one of the checkin people is asking us if we are waiting to get on the 6:20 flight, and before you know it, we are being checked in and rushed through security, and being told to sprint to the gate!
We get there in 2 minutes flat with boarding passes in hand, and we are soon sitting in seats 14F & 14G respectively…..BUSINESS CLASS!!! Full reclining 6 foot bed seats…the top and tail versions!! Champagne cocktails….good food….luxury!!
What a perfect end to the holiday!!
The flight was reasonably short….around 6 hours, and we touched down at Heathrow around 6:15 Sunday morning…..back on home soil, which was quite a nice feeling!
Only got a few days back here though before i’m off again. Next stop Johannesburg South Africa for a couple of weeks!!
Put down your cocktail...this is the FBI !!!!
Needed a bit of a lie in today after last nights efforts in the bar!! I eventually crawled out of bed mid-morning, and leaving Julie to her own personal misery (read hangover!), I grabbed some breakfast and did a bit of web-surfing for a couple of hours!
Headed back to the hotel to collect the by now much chirpier Julie Webb, and we headed off to the nearest subway station to buy a ticket (sold to us by a lady with a mighty fine moustache!!) to take us downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge which we had decided needed to be walked over!!
We took our time, and managed the 1.5 mile trip in a pretty sedate 30 minutes, with a few stops along the way to take more shots of the city (as if I haven’t got enough already!!), and eventually made it to the Brooklyn side of the bridge. The first building you come to had a huge “Watchtower” sign on top,
and the words “Spreading the word of Jehovah” across the middle, and as I was busting for the loo, I was half tempted to go over, knock on the door, and when someone answered, quickly stick my foot in the jamb, and say “As I’ve had to put up with you lot turning up unannounced on my doorstep so many times, I’m sure you won’t mind if I come in and use your toilet facilities!?”
Needless to say I decided to go with Plan B, and nipped instead into the incredibly seedy St George Hotel where the elderly sour-faced receptionist very begrudgingly allowed me to use the restroom (as they very quaintly call the bog in these parts!!).
We had a short stroll through some of the streets of Brooklyn, which were surprisingly very nice, and seemed a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan! Eventually we found our way to another subway station, and hopped on a train which we thought would take us to Greenwich Village where we hoped to find somewhere for a late lunch.
Unfortunately we mis-read the subway map, and ended up in Times Square (which is not a great place for a quiet relaxing lunch!!).
Speaking of Times Square, I forgot to mention in my previous post about one of its more bizarre features….the bloke who stands on one corner playing a guitar dressed only in cowboy boots, a cowboy hat and a pair of white underpants!
I promise you...he is wearing underpants!!
Apparently he is there 365 days of the year in exactly the same outfit, although bearing in mind how cold this city can get, I find it hard to believe…..but then this is America!!
Anyway, having failed miserably to make it to Greenwich Village, we settled instead for a quick trip to Macy’s for some retail therapy, and then picked up some snacky stuff and headed back towards the hotel. Our route took us via Grand Central Terminal (which is the railway station which I thought was called Grand Central Station!?), and so we had to stop and have a look at the amazing interior,
Them Noo Yowk commuters sure do move fast!!!
which puts Paddington, Kings Cross et al to shame!!
Eventually we were back at the hotel, and after a short nap, it was off to find some grub! This time we decided to try and track down a Thai restaurant, as we’d both been talking about it since San Francisco, and we eventually tracked one down on 2nd Avenue called “Pooket” which turned out to be a real find….great food, great service, and great value!!
Back to the hotel with full bellies, and a satisfied feeling, so we just had to cap it off with a nightcap in the bar!
Got chatting to one of the barman, who was a Georgian guy who’d lived in the US for some time! He told us that he only did bar work about once a week, more as a hobby. His real job, he told us when pressed, was law enforcement! When we pressed further he said he actually worked for the FBI. Not sure if he was telling the truth, but he certainly looked the part, and seemed genuine enough……..and anyway, it makes a good story!!
Saturday, August 07, 2004
UN, Central Park & Empire State!!
Up and out by 10:30 this morning, and off for brekkie at our now favourite diner (Morning Star Café). Then we made the short walk East to the banks of the East River, and a look at the United Nations building (which is completely overshadowed by the monstrosity that is the Trump World Tower!). None of the flags were flying outside the UN building which was a shame as it doesn’t really have the full impact without them.
As there was a hop-on hop-off bus stop nearby, we hopped on, and took a short ride through Uptown until we reached the southern–eastern tip of Central Park where we hopped off!
Central Park dominates a very large portion of Manhattan, being 2 miles long by 1 mile across! It is entirely man made and is definitely one of the jewels in New Yorks crown. You don’t have to walk too far into the park to be transported from bustling city to relatively quiet, calming parkland! Without the towering skyscrapers that dominate the perimeter of the park, you wouldn’t now that you were in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world!
Our aim was to walk halfway up the park heading north, and then hang a right, and visit the Guggenheim Museum which is located on the eastern edge of the park, but more of that later!
One of the first attractions we encountered was the boating lake!! The sun was shining, it was a gorgeous day, so we just had to hire one of the rowing boats (USD10 per hour…a bargain not to be missed), which we did, and we spent a fantastic 60 minutes lazily rowing around on the water…..my first bit of exercise since Queenstown!!
Back on dry land, we set off in the general direction of the museum, passing the sailing pond where you can hire remote control yachts, the huge reservoir in the middle of the park, and eventually found our way out of the park and to the doors of the Guggenheim……to find that it is closed on Thursdays!!! Arrrgghhh!!! Mind you, the Yanks never miss an opportunity to make a buck, so the gift shop was open, and so we spent half an hour wandering around that instead. I’ve still got no idea what the Guggenheim Museum is all about, but they do a nice line in optical illusion drinks coasters!!
Anyway, we found yet another hop-on hop-off bus stop right outside, so we hopped-on again, and hopped-off at 42nd Street (yes, the one from the musical!), and headed off to our next objective…the Empire State Building!!
The ESB is quite a piece of work! Amazingly, it took only 1 year and 48 days to build! We seemed to have timed it just right, and so the queues were not too horrendous, and we were soon standing in an elevator which whisked us up 80 odd stories in next to no time!
The views from the top were fantastic, and I got some great shots of the city
Our hotel is just behind and to the right of the Met-Life building!
once I managed to elbow my way past the rows of tightly packed fellow tourists also trying to get the same shots!
Then it was back down to ground level and back to the hotel to get ready to go out for the slap up meal we’d promised ourselves after a hard days sight-seeing!
We picked out what looked like a fairly swanky Chinese restaurant not far from the hotel. The menu looked good, and they did Peking Duck, so we had to order that of course, along with a couple of other dishes. Unfortunately, they didn’t do half ducks, so we had to make do with a whole one between us!!
As it turned out, the meal was a bit of a let down, mainly because they insisted on rolling the duck pancakes themselves, which, as everyone probably agrees, ruins all the fun of ordering Peking Duck in the first place! Making a mess of it, and laughing at other peoples feeble attempts to master the art of duck pancake rolling is what it’s all about!! J
Anyway, to make up for the disappointment, we headed back to the hotel, and proceeded to get hammered on cocktails!!
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
NY Day 1
Up reasonably early today and out for a quick breakfast at the Morning Star Cafe on 2nd Avenue. Next stop was Times Square to buy a ticket for one of the Hop-On Hop-Off Gray Line tour open top buses. Very good value as they last for 48 hours, and take you round all the must see sites, whilst your tour guide fleshes it all out with some very interesting history (eg. the building in Times Square that used to house the NY Times is now vacant, it is covered in neon advertising signs, and the owners make so much money from those alone that they don't have to bother about looking for new tenants for the place!....or my favourite, when a helicopters undercarriage collapsed as it was landing on top of the old Pan-Am building, a shard of one of the rotor blades decapitated the NY distributor of the controversial film "Snuff" who was standing at an intersection on the street below!).
Did I mention how tall everything is round here? It's a bit disorientating as you can't focus on the sun to get your bearings!
We stayed on the bus as it passed 42nd street, greenwich village and a few other famous spots, and then got off at the nearest stop to Ground Zero, and went to have a look at that. It's a bit weird walking through the streets that approach the site, and remembering seeing them on TV with clouds of dust billowing down them!
The actual site itself has been completely cleared now, and all that remains is huge hole in the ground with tall imposing fences all around the perimeter. There are still a few buildings that bear the scars of the events of that day, but the only things that really marks it apart from any other building site are the sheer size, the information boards that have been erected around the site which give details of the tragic events, but mainly the long list of names of the people who lost their lives. It does bring a lump to the throat!
Next it was off to Battery Park (one of 1,700 parks in the NY area), and a stroll along the banks of the Hudson River round to the ferry landing. We jumped on the last ferry heading out to Statue of Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We weren't really interested in going up the Statue, so we bought tickets which just allow you to travel on the ferry for the round trip.
Plenty of photo opportunities during the 85 minute trip, with great views of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue
and Ellis Island, and we managed not to get sunburnt this time!! :-)
Back on dry land again, and we continued on round the southern tip of Manhattan until we came to South Seaport, a slightly touristy (but in a good way!) area of shops and restuarants, so we did a bit of shopping (queued in The Gap behind a lady who seemed to be returning about half the contents of the store!), and got something to eat in one of the cheaper restuarants overlooking the East River.
Then Julie allowed me to indulge my craving to try out local transport, so we made our way to the nearest subway station and made our way down to the platform (Swedish Suanas could learn a thing or two from these guys!) and were soon riding the subway (thankfully air-conditioned!) back to MidTown (Times Square),
Mr and Mrs Wong admire Ants tight buttocks in Times Square!
and the short-ish walk back to the hotel!
Another fun-packed day over!
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Leaving Las Vegas!!
Up way too early today (05:30) for our flight out of LV! Flying standby yet again, so we thought it would be best to get there early. Having navigated our way out of the hotel car park, and onto the right road for the airport, we started looking for the right lane for Car Rental Returns, which we found relatively easily! Having got there though, we found that although most of the major rental companies (Avis, Hertz, Thrifty etc.) have blagged a spot right next to the terminals, our company (National Car Rental) was not so lucky, and a not easy to spot sign directed us towards the "Off Airport" car rental returns. Following the signs, we soon found ourselves heading away from the airport on what looked suspiciously like a highway!! Mild panic was beginning to set in as I pictured us stuck on a one-way road to Henderson!! More by luck than judgement, we managed to spot yet another miniscule sign which directed us off the highway (5 seconds later, and we'd have been past the point of no return!!), and thankfully we were soon dropping off the car and sitting on a shuttle bus headed back to the terminal.
We checked in, and were told that our flight to Chicago was looking OK, and that our connecting flight to NY La Guardia still had 50 seats free, so they checked our luggage all the way through which was a relief!
It was interesting to see the new levels of security in place since the events of 3 years ago, and I have to say they were very thorough in checking all bags, right down to X-raying each bag checked in, and wiping all handles and locks with a swab which was then analysed by a machine (that went beep!). All very high tech!
Then we went through two security checks, and before long we were on the first flight headed for Chicago!
Just under three hours later we touched down, and headed off to get a bite to eat, and to find the gate for our onward flight! This flight was half empty, so we were able to stretch out a bit more.
One thing that struck me about the two flights was that looking out of the plane from LV to Chicago, there wasn't much evidence of the land being heavily populated, whilst on the plane from Chicago to NY, we never seemed to be flying over any unpopulated areas, it just seemed to be one big urban sprawl!
Anyway, just over an hour later we landed at La Guardia airport (one of 3 major airports in the NY area), and headed off to reclaim our luggage at belt D as instructed. It was here that we encountered the low-tech security! Having stood around for 10 minutes with no sign of our luggage, and having watched most of our fellow passengers collecting theirs, a feeling of dread was beginning to gnaw at us! Luckily we decided to go and check some of the other belts, and sure enough, amongst a pile of luggage just heaped up on the floor were our bags! Huge sigh of relief. A couple of minutes later, we were past the gang of little ol' ladies assigned to make sure everyone had picked up the correct bags, and were soon sitting in one of NYs famous yellow cabs, and heading under the East River and into Manhattan!
We're staying at the Intercontinental Barclay Hotel on 48th and 3rd Avenue which is a few blocks south of Central Park, and a few blocks east of Times Square!
The room is quite a bit smaller than our LV room (you could fit about 3 NY rooms into the 1 LV room!), but that's NY for you...space is at a bit of a premium!!
As it was now late evening, we grabbed a quick cocktail in the hotel bar before we headed off to 2nd Avenue (as advised by the very nice porter who we bumped into in the lift!) and found a nice little Italian Restuarant where we were served by a gay waiter who Julie was convinced was eyeing me up! Food was good, which was the main thing!! :-)
Then back to the hotel for some shuteye. Zzzzzzzz!
Last day in Vegas
Well, it took us a while to get up and running after the previous nights alcoholic excess, but we managed to pack quite a lot into today despite that!! :-)
First on the agenda was lunch with Louise, a friend and ex-work colleague of Julies who had organised our room at the Alladin (at very reasonable rates!!). We ate at the buffet restuarant in the hotel, which allowed you to eat all you could stuff down your face for a paltry USD16, and the choice was enormous, ranging from American to Turkish to Italian to Salad, and best of all A huge Dessert counter!
Then it was off to the new outlet mall north of the Strip for a bit of retail therapy. There were plenty of bargains to be had once we managed to find the place, Julie stocked up on gym gear, whilst I mainly topped up on casual gear....as if I didn't have enough already!! :-) The temperatures were well over 100F.....as well as lamposts, they also have these water mist posts to combat the heat out here, so you tend to find yourself zig-zagging around to try and keep yourself within range of the nearest one! Anyway, the credit cards were beginning to overheat as well, so it was time to move on to the next port of call....The Stratosphere hotel!! 1,000 feet tall, and with stunning views over the whole of the city, and the desert and mountains beyond! Also home to "The Big Shot"!! On top of this 1,000 foot tower is a 200 foot needle. Arranged around the base of the needle are four rows of four seats facing outwards. Imagine being strapped into one of those seats, and then being shot 160 feet up the needle as the whole of Las Vegas drops away below your dangling feet! Well, imagine it was what Julie and I didn't have to do....we did it for real!! Julie was incredibly brave, especially as she was absolutely terrified! But she went through with it and even kept her eyes open!! :-)
Ant crosses his legs having just ridden the bowel-loosening Big Shot!!
Next stop was Freemont street which is situated at the slightly (and I use the word lightly!) less glamorous end of the strip! The draw card for Freemont Street is the fantastic light show that takes place on the immense continous screen whose arched panels cover the whole length of the street! Very impressive to see it in full flow!
By now, we were beginning to flag, so it was back down the full length of the strip to our hotel! As it was our last day, it was time to try my luck at the casino. I had budgetted USD140, and managed to blow the whole lot inside 20 minutes at the roulette table! A sobering experience!! :-)
Back to the room with my tail between my legs, and we started our packing for our departure early the next morning!
Still haven't found a PC with suitable USB connection, so still no piccies!! Will have to wait until NY to upload some!!
White Tigers, Dolphins and Squirty Water!
Up and out by 10:30 this morning, and as usual, the first priority was to find some food! The queue for Dennys Diner was large, so we ended up with a couple of deli style sandwiches and a couple of Krispy Kreme donuts, purchased from the food court in the stunning Venetian hotel...which comes complete with Venice like canals running throughout the hotel and it's grounds, and gondolas being "guided" (the gondolas seemed to be attached to some sort of hidden track) along by most very un-italian looking gondoliers, who seranaded their passengers who all seemed a tad embarassed by the whole experience!
Next it was off to the Mirage, and a visit to Siegfried and Roys Secret Garden! Roy was mauled by a white tiger some months ago in an incident that led to the entire cast and crew of S&Rs show losing their jobs (Mels sister Cassy and her fiance Brad amongst them!). Although the show has had to shut, you can still visit the white lions, white tigers and Gildah the Elephant in a special enclosure. Due to the heat, most of the animals were not really doing a hell of a lot, mainly lying around looking bored, but the same could not be said for the 7 dolphins that live in 4 pools which are part of the gardens! They were really cool, and although they are mainly there for research purposes, and therefore not there to put on a show or anything, they were still highly entertaining as they are naturally very playful anyway!
By now, the heat was beginning to take it's toll, so we headed back to our hotel, and spent a couple of hours cooling off by one of the two pools the hotel has to offer!
Met up with the aforementioned Cassy later in the evening, and we all headed off to the Bellagio hotel to sit on the balcony overlooking the enormous man-made lake that sits out front, sipping cocktails, and watching the absolutely amazing water fountain display which is set to music! It doesn't sound like much, but it is actually quite an awesome sight!
Next it was off to Gordon Biersch (a local restuarant) for some excellent food with Cassy very kindly doing the chaffeuring, and then it was back to the hotel for what was going to be a nightcap at one of the hotels many bars. As there was an excellent live band playing, we decided to stay for another couple before we eventually called time on another full on day!
Oh yes, I almost forgot the little coincidence!! Out of the 3000+ car park spaces available in the Alladins car park, Cassy had managed to park her car right next to ours...
it was a bit of a twilight zone moment!! Spooky!!
Monday, August 02, 2004
Driving, and driving and driving to Las Vegas!!
Woke up in Lompoc to a fine sunny day. Grabbed some of the complimentary breakfast, which was a cut above the usual free motel breakfast of manky danish pastry and stewed coffee, and hit the road once more for our journey down the remaninder of the PCH, and then across Los Angeles and on to Las Vegas! We set off around 10:00am, and were soon back on the PCH and heading down the coast towards Santa Barbara, and then on to Malibu.
I'd decided that it would be a shame to pass through LA without seeing any of the sights, so rather than hit the highway all the way through it, we pushed on a bit further down the coast, and so with the roof down,
we turned onto Sunset Boulevard just before Santa Monica, and drove all the way along it, passing Bel Air, The Beverley Hills Hotel and Rodeo Drive along the way. Eventually we hooked up with the freeway, and with the roof back up and the air-con at full blast, we headed east towards the I15 freeway which heads north to Las Vegas. We'd encountered quite a lot of traffic along the way, so it was mid-afternoon by now, and there were still about 300 miles to go! At least the car had cruise control, which does make long distance driving less of a chore!!
The I15 winds its way through the Mojave Desert, which is very scenic, despite the fact that the colours don't change much!!
We stopped off at a small town called Barstow, which is a couple of hours out of LA, for a leg stretch and a snack. The heat was beginning to get quite stiffling, and we knew it was going to be even hotter in LV. We made another quick detour just the other side of Barstow, to go and have a look at the ghost town of Calico, which was marked on the map. It was a bit like something out of a Scooby Doo cartoon. An old mining town up in the hills, which had been abandoned long ago, and is now more of a tourist attraction.
On we went, mile after mile of desert highway, and eventually made another quick stop at yet another small desert town called Baker....famous for being the gateway to Death Valley, and also, home to the worlds tallest thermometer!! :-)
We rolled into town at about 7:30pm, and the thermometer was reading 104F.
We stepped out of the car and into a desert wind, and the effect was like standing in front of a giant hair-dryer on full blast! Thankfully it was a dry rather than a humid heat, which made it just a bit more bearable!
After another leg stretch, it was back into the car and ready for the final haul into Vegas. About half and hour past Baker, you hit the Nevada state line, and the bright lights and glitter are in your face immediately!! Primm is a tiny town that has been swamped with neon! It is the first town you hit as you cross into Nevada.....a bit of a Fools Las Vegas ( a la Fools Gold!), as if you haven't driven to LV before, it's easy to mistakenly think that you've arrived there, but you haven't!! In the blink of an eye, Primm is disappearing in your rearview mirror, and there's still another hour to go before the bright lights of LV are casting a glow on the horizon, and it's quite an amazing sight as you come over the crest of the last mountain, to see the city sprawling below you!
Another 20 minutes later, and we were on the Strip, and stuck in a traffic jam! We'd picked possibly one of the worst days and times to arrive, as every man, woman and child seemed to be in their car cruising Las Vegas Boulevard (aka The Strip). The sheer number and size of the hotels is absolutely jaw-dropping, especially when they've got all their glittery bits blazing!
More by luck than anything else, we managed to find the hotel car-park, and at 10:00pm and looking and feeling like a couple of Zombies, we were checked in, and heading up to our room!
The room is absolutely enormous, and you could probably live in it full-time without any problems, but by then we were too tired to really take it all in, and we were asleep about 5 seconds after our heads hit the pillow!
Sunday, August 01, 2004
Pacific Coast Highway - Day 1 & 2
Well, it was up early again to begin our journey down the coast to LA and then on to Las Vegas! The weather in SF has not been kind to us so far, and yet again, we woke to fog, and a little drizzle! First things first, and it was off for a bit of breakfast!
We checked out of the hotel, and collected the car! There was one more sight to see before we headed off down the coast, and that was the 2nd windiest road in the world...aka Lombard Street. Then we made our way over to the freeway, and headed off to our connection with the Pacific Coast Highway, and the first leg of our journey down to Monterey.
The journey didn't take as long as expected, and we arrived mid-afternoon, and within an hour had tracked down a suitable motel....the exotically named El Dorado Motel (US$78 + tax). The room was a bit old and grubby, but the bed was clean and comfortable! Then it was down the road to have a look around this very quaint and picturesque seaside fishing town! It's mainly a tourist town these days, but still quite sweet. We had an hour to blitz around the world famous Aquarium before it closed, and then we browsed through a few shops before deciding that we needed food!
We found what looked like a nice fish restuarant, and both ordered Fish & Chips as we had a bit of a craving for it for some reason. Why is it that Fish & Chips always seems like a good idea until you actually eat it...and then the next time you forget that you didn't actually like it last time!? Anyway, it was a big disappointment! We spent the next half an hour walking it off, and then went and spoilt it by buying an, admittedly delicious, ice-cream on the pier!
Next morning we set off to nearby Carmel (famous for once having Clint Eastwood as mayor!). Carmel is a lovely looking town, with plenty of shops and cafes, but we both found it a bit pretentious, and old-fashioned, so we didn't stay too long! By now it was getting close to lunchtime, so we set off down the coast again in search of one of my favourite restuarants, Nepenthe, which is situated just south Big Sur! This restuarant has a fantastic view from it's sun-deck of some of the most spectacular scenery on offer on the PCH, and we spent a relaxing hour gazing out over the ocean and forest whilst stuffing our faces!
Having filled our bellies, we set off again, winding our way down the coast. The road rises high above the ocean in places, and there are many lookout points where you can see for miles down the rugged coastline.
Then you gradually drop down from the mountains, and by the time you get to San Simeon (where William Randolph Hearst built his castle early last century) you are almost down at sea-level. There is a colony of Elephant Seals at San Simeon, so we stopped off to have a look. They are absolutely massive. Each one must have been about 3-4 metres long. Anyway, they weren't doing much more than lying on the beach looking like huge furry sand slugs, so we didn't hang around for too long!
We eventually rolled into a small sea-side town called Pismo Beach, which sounded quite quaint in our PCH guide book, but turned out to be a bit scabby, and full of far too many trailer parks and 4WD trucks. Next up was Guadalupe which was described in the guide book as a friendly, unpretensious, working class town. What it didn't say was that it was in the middle of nowhere, was a dustbowl, deadend, farming town that had no accomodation, so we decided to push on a bit further down, and as it was beginning to get late, we eventually rolled into a small town called Lompoc (pronounced anyway you want apparently!) which is famous for nothing more than the fact that it is home to Vandenberg Air Force Base, where NASA launch the occasional rocket. We located the first accomodation we found off the highway, which happened to be a Days Inn motel, functional and very good value, but not very pretty! They had a miserable excuse for a parrot called Pierre in the reception area, and a restuarant attached which served Mexican grub. We settled in, and grabbed a bite to eat (Nachos for the lady, and Quesadillas for the gentleman!).
The motel also had a bar attached, and so we headed in that direction to grab a drink. It was a real locals bar, and we sat up at the counter and listened to Billy Joe Bob and all mostly crucify some of the finest american soft rock! Priceless!! Julie even had a cocktail made up for her by the Elvis-soundalike barman!
Then it was off to bed, after another very entertaining day!
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Do you know the way to San Jose?
Well, the last few days in Auckland were great, and the sun shone brightly! This was especially welcome on the Sunday, when Fi, Brad, Stephanie and myself took a trip in a DC3 Dakota plane (built circa 1943!), for a sightseeing trip around Auckland. It was a really great experience, and because the weather was so bright and clear, the views were fantastic!
Then it was off to the airport, to try and board an all together more modern plane for my trip across the Pacific to Los Angeles (and onwards connection to San Francisco!). Luckily for me the flight was not at all full, and so I ended up with a business class row of seats all to myself, and to cap it all off, it was on the top deck of the plane! Absolutely brilliant...great food...great wine...great service...and best of all, very comfortable seats! The flight was quite turbulent though, and as I find it difficult to sleep whilst travelling at the best of times, I didn't manage to get the sort of rest i'd hoped for, but still, it was infinitely better than being unable to sleep in Economy!!
Arrived in LA about 30 minutes late, and for a while it looked like I might struggle to make my connecting flight, but the customs guys got their act together, and I was able to check in on time! The biggest disappointment though was the text message I received from Julie, telling me that she had been unable to get on any of the flights she'd earmarked on the Sunday, and therefore had spent a horrible day at Heathrow. I felt so sorry for her, as it must have been awful getting her hopes up, and then having them dashed time after time.
I checked into our hotel in SF, which is really nice, and very handily placed, but I was feeling really down as Julie hadn't made it, and so didn't really feel up to doing much that day! I picked up a snack, bought a couple of books, and retired to the hotel room. The jetlag had begun to kick in as well, so I was in bed by 9:00pm!
I was woken at 2:30 by the sound of my mobile phone telling me a text message had arrived! I opened the message with everything crossed! Yeah-hay, Julie had managed to get on the 11:00am Virgin flight direct to SF!! It took me another hour to get back to sleep!
I was up at 8:00 the next morning, and had some breakfast (in bed of course!), got dressed and then headed off to go and pick up our car (a Chrysler Seebring Convertible!). Had a few nightmarish moments as I was unable to find my driving license photo card (Mel, no sniggering please!!), but eventually found it hidden in the depths of my wallet, and then I was off for my first tentative foray on the streets of SF! Next it was onto the freeway, and out to the airport to pick up Princess Julie of Kent! :-)
The plane arrived 35 minutes ahead of schedule, and after what seemed like an eternity, there she was walking out of the arrivals lounge, and into my welcoming arms! Fantastic!! :-) The poor girl had been through the wringer over the last two days, but at last things were back on track, and the holiday could begin!!
We tried to keep her going as long as possible, and took in a few of the sights in the afternoon...Fishermans Wharf...The Sealions...a few steep hills...and a ride on a tram (not the famous cable cars!), but the poor wee lass began to fade quite rapidly, so we cut things short to go and find something to eat and drink. We settled on a bar next to the hotel, and wolfed down some nosh before heading back to the hotel, where for the 2nd night running, I was in bed by 9:00pm!!
We had a bit of a lie in yesterday morning, and then made our way down the road to a diner for some brekkie, before heading out for a drive around town. The weather was not great, as the fog that can so often blanket this part of the world was in full effect, so most of the sights were not really shown off in all their glory. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge,
and then embarked on the sign-posted "49-mile" route that winds its way through most of the scenic splendour that SF has to offer. However, the fog was really playing havoc with the scenery, and therefore we ducked out of the route having only covered about 30 miles at best!
We decided a bit of retail therapy was in order, so the rest of the afternoon was spent cruising the many shops and stores around Union Square. We stocked up on a few cheap-ish CDs which will keep us rocking and rolling on our trip down the coast! Then, with stomachs rumbling, we headed off to find somewhere to eat, and eventually settled on an Indonesian restuarant that seemed to be well populated by locals which we took to be a good sign! The food turned out to be great, but, as is usual over here, the portions were too big for us to handle!! :-)
One thing that seems to have exploded over here is the number of beggars on the street! I don't remember it being this bad last time I was here, but there seems to be someone on every street corner trying to collar you for a dollar!! Also, the animals over here must be incredibly healthy, as you would not believe the number of down-and-outs we have seen over here holding up signs that say "Homeless Vet, please help!". (Some of you may need some time for this very poor taste attempt at humour to sink in!!).
Anyway, on our way back to the hotel, we were collared yet again by a guy who stopped us with the best one so far..."Can you spare 20 dollars, as i'm saving up to go to the Bahamas?". When we said "so were we", he came back with.."not even if I promise to send a postcard?". You've got to give the guy some credit for aiming high!! :-)
We stopped off for a cocktail in the hotel bar, before heading off for some well earned shut-eye.....please note it was 11:50pm this time!!
Up early today, to try and get out to Alcatraz. After a quick breakfast at another diner, we hot-footed it down to the cable-car queue, and were soon trundling our way up and down some impossibly steep roads on our way to the Blue & Gold Ferry terminal to try and get on a boat out to "The Rock"! "Next Available Tickets for Alcatraz...2nd August" read the sign! Damn those other tourists!!
Anyway, we had to settle for the next best thing, which was a cruise around the harbour, leaving in 15 minutes! It was a pretty good substitute, and took us under the GG Bridge, pretty close to Alcatraz, gave us a pretty good look at all the other sights to see around the harbour.
Next stop was the cable-car Museum, which kept us interested for about 45 minutes...okay, kept me interested for about 45 minutes, and Julie interested for about 4 to 5minutes!! :-)
A bit of lunch, and then it was back to the hotel for a bit of R&R (lying by the pool, before you ask!)..and a start at planning our route for the next few days. We're heading off down the Pacific Coast Highway, and eventually making our way to Las Vegas for a few days in the maddest city in a particularly mad country!! :-)
Saturday, July 24, 2004
The Bungy Monster Returns!!
Well, I went and did it again!! AJ Hackett, who I bungied with in Queenstown have a bungy pod attached underneath Auckland Harbour Bridge, and there’s a discount for anyone who’s bungied at any of their other sites. So with my eye for a bargain, I decided I had to do it! And here is the evidence!!
Apart from that, Auckland has been much more about relaxing after the exertions of Queenstown. I’ve still managed to see plenty of stuff, including a Gannet colony, where I of course felt very much at home!! :-)
Also had a look at Viaduct Basin, which is where all the Americas Cup activity took place when it was here in 2003. The whole area has been regenerated, and has a lot of great bars and restaurants.
Fi and Brad and I had a great evening down there on Thursday, starting with cocktails at the Hilton, with cool views out over the harbour. We finished off with a great meal in a local Italian restaurant!
Yesterday morning was mainly taken up with the bungy jump! I was due to jump at 10:30am, so Fi drove me down to the check in cabin on the south side of the bridge, where I was weighed (have put on an extra kilo since Queenstown apparently!), and kitted out with my harness. Fi had decided to come along and spectate, so she had to wear a harness as well! It was a 600m walk out to the jump pod, and because of rules imposed by the bridge owners, we had to be attached to the bridge by a static line. It was only when we started our walk out under the main deck of the bridge that Fi informed me that she got vertigo when having to walk on grill type flooring! However, she was very brave, and managed to make it all the way, albeit very nervously!
The whole experience this time was a bit less nerve-racking for me, and I was able to enjoy the view a bit morethan last time. I even look quite relaxed in the photos, and on the video! Before I knew it, I was standing on the edge of the big drop, and the 126.96.36.199.1 countdown started…I think I jumped on 1.5! The adrenalin rush was amazing as I hurtled towards the water, but yet again the cord did its thing, and a couple of minutes later I was back standing on the platform again! It’s a great feeling, and I recommend everyone try it at least once!
Last night (Friday) a group of about 14 friends and family went out to celebrate Brads birthday (which was a big surprise for him when he turned up at the restuarant, as he thought he was just going out for a quite meal with a few family members, whilst Fi and I were going out with Fi’s sister and her husband Chris.), and today has been a bit of a chillout and relax sort of day which I think we all needed really.
Last day in Auckland tomorrow, and it should be quite a cool one, as we’re going on a sightseeing tour of Auckland…..on a McDonnel Douglas DC3 Dakota! This is Fi’s birthday present to Brad. Should be a fantastic experience!
Then it’s on the plane to Los Angeles, and hopefully meeting up with Julie in San Francisico, providing she can get on a flight out of London!! Can’t wait!! :-)
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Well, my luck has held out again, and I got on the flight out of Queenstown that I was meant to! I was met at Auckland airport by my very good friend Fi Stewart, and her lovely little rascal Stephanie (or Stiff-knee as it's pronounced over here!). First impressions of Auckland are that it is a very large urban sprawl, with lots of watery bits! Our first stop is the tree-less One Tree Hill. OTH is a very historic site which has great significance to Moaris. It used to have an obelisk and a pine tree growing on top of it, until one day a couple of years ago, when some bloke decided to attract attention to his cause by taking an axe to it (the tree not the obelisk!) and now it's only got an obelisk! It still has great views out over the city though, and I got to see my first Auckland (extinct) volcano crater as well!
Up reasonably early this morning and into the centre of town. First stop was the Sky Tower (230 odd meters high), which offers spectacular views over the city and the harbour! Apparently Jomah Lomu (famous NZ rugby player for all you non-sportys) was there at the same time, but I somehow managed to miss seeing him!
Next up was the Maratime Museum on the waterfront! loads of interesting stuff, including a room decked out like an 1800's ship bringing immigrants to the country, which actually rocked backwards and forwards like a real ship...quite neat! Lots of Americas Cup stuff as well which was little surprise as the last race was held in Auckland!
Caught up with Fi & Brad (Fi's fiancee) and we headed out to the local supermarket to grab some groceries. My attention was taken by a very unusual product, which I don't think has caught on in the UK yet!!
I've heard of sheeps brains, and goats eyeballs and even bulls testicles, but this is definitely a new one on me!! I was to embarassed to ask for too much detail about what these actually are! The name does conjure up some very bizarre images though!! :-)
Anyway, lots more planned for the rest of the week, including ferry trips round the harbour and wine-tasting and a couple of other things which i'll fill in on nearer the time! :-)
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Ski-ing! Been there, done that!!
Well, my ski-ing is done, and i've handed back my skis, poles, and medieval instruments of torture (aka Rented Ski Boots!). They should be banned! It is such a relief at the end of the day when you flip those catches open, and feel all the blood begin to flow around your toes once again!
Having said that, it has been a real blast! The snow at Coronet Peak wasn't that great on Friday as it had become very icy in places, and therefore not much fun. I therefore spent Saturday and today skiing over at The Remarkables ski area which is a 45 minute bus ride from Queenstown! The road up to it is a very precarious dirt track, and although the views over the surrounding area were awesome, the bus driver seemed to want to make sure you got as close a view as possible, so there were a few moments where I had to close my eyes!! (On our way down this afternoon, we passed an ambulance and fire-engine going back up the mountain, and from what I gather, a 4WD vehicle had gone over the edge of the road and rolled quite some distance down the mountain! Glad i'm off to Auckland really!)
The Remarkables name comes from a range of mountains which are so called because they are apparently one of only two mountain ranges in the world which run due North-South! File that one away, as it's sure to come up in Trivial Pursuit (or National Lottery Jet Set!) sometime!
Anyway, the snow over there was much better (due to it's greater height, and the fact that it faces the sun), and i've had a great couple of days skiing. Managed to master a couple of the black runs as well, and also had a few spectacular wipeouts, including one monster where I had to walk 40 meters back up the mountain to collect both skis after I managed to - ahem - come adrift from them! I'd forgotten just how unpleasant an ear full of snow really is!!
Oh yes! Interesting fact! New Zealand is home to the worlds only Alpine Parrot....and it's reputed to be a sheep-killer!! Yes, I know it sounds like something from a Monty Python sketch, but it's true! It's called the Kea, and here it is!
It might not look very colourful, but when it spreads it's wings, it's got a large red patch underneath them! They are only found in the high mountains of the South Island, and have a reputation (undeserved!) of being sheep-killers!! Basically they are scavengers, and will feed off dead carcasses amongst other stuff, and as most of the dead carcasses around these parts tend to be sheep, locals have in days gone by put 2 and 2 together and got something other than 4, and hence the parrots "sheep-killer" tag!
Anyway, if any of you ever make it down to NZ, I can highly recommend a visit to Queenstown! There are a huge range of things to do (Winter, Summer, Spring or Autumn!), and the scenery is absolutely stunning!
So it's time to pack my bags yet again, and continue on my travels! Next stop is Auckland which is situated towards the top end of the North Island! I'm spending a few days with another very good friend of mine, Fiona Stewart, and her daughter Stephanie and fiance Brad! It's amazing to think that i've been away almost a month already, i've seen and done so much and the time has really flown by! Hopefully there'll be lots more things to see and do over the next month as well!
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Blimey! What a day!!
Had the day off from skiing, as the forecast was for cloud and rain in the morning! Spent a fairly leisurely morning, trying to get myself psyched up for the afternoons action!
First up it was the shotover river jetboat ride! Basically you sit in a boat with two jet propulsion engines. You hold on tight whilst the driver races at 70kph down the shotover river. There are a number of canyon sections with sheer walls and rocky overhangs, which you hurtle past with inches to spare. There are loads of 360 degree spins, and it's very wet! The whole ride last about 30 minutes, and by the end your heart is pounding!
Anyway, that was just for starters! Next up was the main event....the Ledge Bungy! Picture this, you take a gondola ride that whisks you 400m up the mountain above Queenstown. You make your way to the bungy centre to check-in...looking out of the window you see the bungy platform which seems to be made of very flimsy metal poles! It's at this point that you are offered the option of also doing the ledge swing for a mere NZ$50, so what do you do!? You sign up for that as well of course!!! :-)
Anyway, I made my way out to the platform...I have to say that by this point I was having serious doubts about whether i'd be able to do it! However, my group was made up of me and 4 young ladies, so there was obviously no option for pulling out! I tried the old "ladies first" routine, but they were having none of it! Anyway, I was handed my safety harness, which I nervously climbed into. It was at this point that the guy in charge told me that I would be doing the ledge swing first!
The Ledge Swing.....Imagine you are sitting on a swing, with your best mate pulling you back as high as he can, and then letting you go. OK, now imagine that your harness in the swing seat, the swing ropes are 30m long and connected to your harness. You are raised until you are level with the top of the swing (i.e. the bungy platform) and suspended in place. You have a release cable in your left hand, and guy-in-charge says "Whenever you're ready mate!". Before you realise what you are doing, you have yanked the release cable, and are swinging in a huge arc with the whole of Queenstown 400m below you. The adrenalin rush on the first few swings is awesome!
Once i'd finished swinging, I was hoisted back up to the bungy platform! The old legs were very wobbly, and my heart was pounding hard, and I still had the bungy to do!!!!! Sh!t!!
I was hooked up to the bungy cord, and walked to the edge of the platform to have my piccy taken. I made the mistake of looking down!! Then guy-in-charge says "Right mate, take 5 steps back, i'll count down from 5 and then I want to see your best forward dive!" Five steps back by me, and the I hear "188.8.131.52.1.go!!!", and despite your whole body and mind telling you not to do this, you suddenly find yourself running off the end of the platform into space!
Then you free-fall for a couple of seconds, and just as you're thinking the cord isn't going to hold you, IT DOES!! And then you rebound upwards, and free-fall again, but this time you know the cords going to hold you!! And then it's all over, and you're just hanging there suspended in space feeling absolutely fantastic!
And i've got a video of the whole thing, and a couple of awesome photos too! It wasn't exactly a forward dive...more like an ungainly jump, but what a rush!!! :-)
So tomorrow it's back to skiing! Should be great as they've had quite a big dump of snow up there today! It's going to be hard to get the same sort of excitement out of it though after todays exploits!
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
It's snow joke!!
Well, another day has dawned on the Ant Stansbie World Tour, and guess what!!! It's bright and sunny...Yawn, Yawn, this is getting boring!! I'm craving a dull grey morning, with just a hint of drizzle! :-)
Finally eased myself out of bed around 9:30, and made my way to my new local...The Vudu Cafe...for bagel and jam, muesli with fruit and yoghurt, and my now customary Latte Bowl! Yes, I have succumbed to the demon coffee again after a few years on the tea! :-)
Finally got my arse in gear and found the Ski-pass shop around 11:00pm, to be told that the last bus up to the slopes would be departing @ 12:00pm!!! Panic!! I therefore had 60 minutes to sort out my ski-pass, find some fools to rent me some ski equipment, get back to my room and get everything together for my day on the slopes! 20 minutes later I was ready!
Sat on the toilet for 10 more minutes trying to clear myself of as much bodily waste as possible (the skiers amongst you will know that the last thing you want is to be caught short on the slopes, as it is such a hassle once you've got all your gear on!), and then made my way to the bus stop. By 12:30pm, the bus was pulling into the car park at the lovely Coronet Peaks ski area, then it was into the ski-shop for some lipbalm and sunscreen which I slapped on all over, and I was ready for the slopes!
OK, first dilemma...do I ease my way in with a couple of runs on the nursery slopes, or do I give in to my urge to get on that quad chairlift to the top of the mountain? Well, you can probably guess which one I went for!......NO! NOT the nursery slopes..come on get with the program!!
10 minutes later this was me!
It's just like getting back on a bike!! Made my way down a couple of blue runs, it was all coming back to me....the swishing sound of the snow being thrown up by your skis as you gracefully (yes I can be graceful!!) carve your way down the slope, almost losing it as I hit my first patch of ice, the taste of strawberry lipbalm!!
Gaining confidence by the minute, I was ready for the first black run of the day! Handled it pretty well, with just a couple of hairy moments, but that's to be expected!
The scenery was absolutely stunning! Stopped for an early afternoon sandwich, and sat myself on the sundeck, soaking up some rays for a while, but once you've got the feel for it, you can't keep yourself off the slopes for too long, so it was back on the next chairlift, and a couple of more hours of hurtling down 1:5 slopes with two planks strapped to my feet, absolute bliss!
Had a couple of spectacular wipe-outs, but survived unscathed with just a mouthful of snow! :-)
Everything closes down at 4:00pm, but I managed to get the 3:59.59 chairlift back up to the top for one last run! Then it was back on the bus, and back to town! I have a feeling that my knees and thighs are going to be suffering in the morning!!
The weather is due to take a turn for the worse over the next couple of days, which is a bit of a bummer, but should mean that there's plenty of fresh snow for the end of the week and the weekend!
Oh well, I might have to try and sort out the bungy jump and river jet boat stuff for the next couple of days!! There's plenty of stuff to do round these parts!! :-)
Monday, July 12, 2004
Made it to Queenstown
Well, my stay in Wellington is over! Had a really great last couple of days! Sarah's big birthday drinks party was fab, and pretty well attended considering the All Blacks were taking on the Pacific Islanders on the same night! We're all obviously getting older as we were back home by 1:30am!
Sunday was very relaxing...thankfully!...as we (Sarah, me and her folks) took a drive up the west coast above Wellington to a small town called Paraparaumu where the family have a beach house. The town lies on a cusp of land which lies in the wave shadow of Kapiti Island which lies just off the coast. Most of the coast is subject to erosion, but this particular area is protected by the island, and therefore juts out into the sea! (See Sarah! I was paying attention!) :-)
Yet again it was a fantastic day, slightly cold (not by UK standards!!) but loads of sunshine! Apparently "You can't beat Wellington on a good day!" as the song goes!
Anyway, I was up early this morning to say my goodbyes to the Brown family. They've made me very welcome in their home, and have really made sure I enjoyed my stay in Wellington! I will be forever grateful!! :-)
Doug drove me to the airport to catch my flight up to Auckland. The check-in bloke turned a blind eye to the fact that I was a couple of kilos over my 30kg allowance, and the flight went very smoothly. We had a spectacular view of Mount Egmont (a dormant volcano, aka Mount Teranaki) on the way up. Apparently Tom Cruises latest film "The Last Sumarai" was filmed there, with the mountain being the double for Mount Fuji! It was even temporarily re-christened Tominaki in his honour!
My concerns over my very short transfer time in Auckland (35 minutes to get off the inbound flight, collect my luggage and get myself checked in for the Queenstown flight!) proved groundless as I was already sitting at the departure gate 15 minutes after we touched down! The plane I landed on was the one that we flew down to Queenstown on!
The flight down to Queenstown took 2 hours, and the view from the plane of the scenery below was stunning! Snowcapped peaks, and emerald coloured lakes!!
I'd been determined that QT was going to be one of the parts of my trip where I was just going to wing the whole thing, so I hadn't booked any accomodation or anything! 20 minutes at the airport information desk, and I was beginning to think i'd be sleeping on a bench in the local park as phone call after phone call produced the same negative response! I have apparently chosen a school holiday period! However, Margaret, the very nice info desk lady, eventually tracked me down a room at McFees (a local backpackers hotel, which also has a few single rooms) right in the centre of town!
On the trip into town, I quizzed the shuttle bus driver, and now have all the inside scoop on what's hot and what's not!
Queenstown itself is a very picturesque town nestled around the middle of the S-shaped Lake Wakatipu. It is surrounded by very scenic snow-capped mountains!
I was intending to take it easy for the first couple of days, enjoy the sites, etc., but the sight of all that snow has me drooling (at least I hope that's what's got me drooling!!), and so I think i'm going to head straight to the ski-hire shop tomorrow morning, to get myself kitted out! The Remarkables ski-area will probably be my first destination! It's very close to QT, and is mainly an intermediate area, but I think I need a couple of days to get my snow-legs back in gear before I hit some of the more challenging slopes (Treble Cone, Coronet Peaks etc.) later in the week! :-)
I also intend to fit in at least one bungy jump (well it did all start right here in QT, so it would be rude not to!), and hopefully one of the jet boat rides up the local rivers!
Anyway, that's all to tell for the time being! I should have some spectacular piccies to upload in the next few days, and the internet cafe i've found has all the latest USB, and imaging facilities necessary, so check back soon!!
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Wine-tasting, golf and Shrek2!
Well, i'm almost at the end of my stay in Wellington.....I head off to Queenstown on Monday!...and i've had a great time, been thoroughly spoilt, and met a bunch of new people!
Wellington is a lovely city, set in a great location, with hills and mountains behind, and a huge deep-water harbour out front. The views out over the bay are spectacular, and the weather has been great so far, with bright sunny days every day, although it does get pretty chilly once the sun goes down!
There's plenty here to entertain the solo traveller, with a couple of great museums, and loads of great restaurants, bars and cafes. The people seem great too...very unpretentious, and very easy going.
I spent my first couple of days here exploring the city, although I have to admit i've been struggling to get out of bed and up and out the door very early as it's just too cosy! Still, i've managed to take in a couple of museums, the cable car, the observatory, Shrek2 (a must-see by the way!!), a days wine-tasting in the Wairarapa region, a round of golf, along with various sessions at various bars, and a couple of meals! So that's not bad going!
Had my haircut yesterday at a hairdressers frequented by Sarah and her Mum. I had a 9:00am appointment, and got there at 8:55am. I pushed and pulled the door, but it didn't open, so I assumed they were still shut. I saw there was someone inside, but assumed that they were still getting themselves prepared. Anyway, 15 minutes later, and still no sign of the place opening. Then the postman turned up, walked past me and SLID the door open! Did I feel like a plonker or what! Doh!! Anyway, my hair has now been neatly coiffured by Holly, and my ears are again visible! :-)
Played a round of golf today with Sarah
Sarah Brown prepares to be tamed by Petone Golf Course!
and her friend Gina....although played may not be an accurate assessment of the way we hacked our way round the 9-hole course at Petone! Still it was all good fun, and at least the sun was shining! But boy did we stink!! :-)
Last couple of days in Wellington. Tonight (Saturday 10th) we are off into town for Sarahs big birthday drinks bash, which should be wildly entertaining, and then recovering tomorrow with a drive up the coast and some sightseeing. Then i'm off on Monday to Queenstown in the South Island for a bit of ski-ing, bungy jumping and whatever else the self-styled adventure capital of the world can throw my way!
Still no photos i'm afraid as I haven't managed to find a PC with a suitable USB port so far!
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Have spent a very comfortable couple of days in Wellington so far! I'm staying with Sarah Brown...my ex-flatmate from my Chiswick days!...at her parents (very nice!) house in Khandallah which is a suburb of Wellington. Sarah has very kindly given up her room! I'm finding it very hard to get out of bed in the mornings as it is so cosy!
I think i've managed to scare of their cat though!! He apparently doesn't take to strangers to readily, and after seeing him dissapear through the cat flap at high speed on Tuesday, i've only seen him sulking around the garden since then!
Anyway, Wellington is a lovely city, easy to get around on foot, and with plenty to do and see. I spent yesteray afternoon at Te Papa (Maori for "Our Place"), which is the NZ national museum, which was very interesting. Wellington also has more restuarants per head than any other city in the world apparently, and we tried one out last night to celebrate Sarahs birthday! Lovely food and great wine!
This afternoon i'm off to explore the Wellington Cable Car,
and the observatory, and then I thinks it's more drink and food tonight....wine tasting tomorrow...followed by more food and drink tomorrow night....golf on Saturday....followed by more food and drink etc. etc.! I'm sure you get the picture! :-)
No photos to upload at the moment, but I hope to have something for my next post!
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Bye Bye Sydney! Hello Wellington!!
Well, the Aussie leg of my trip is over, and I have now arrived in Wellington at the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand. The NZ capital in fact! My good friend and ex-flatmate Sarah picked me up from the airport...slightly late, but we'll let that one go! :-) and we took the scenic route from the airport into the centre of Wellie. Sarah had to get back to work, so i've been wandering around the streets trying to get my bearings, and getting a feel for the place. One thing I can say for certain....it's a fair bit colder than Sydney! But at least the sun is shining, and it's a nice day.
My last night in Sydney was great. I met up with an old work colleague from Grosvenor, Jacqui Cho,
who now lives and works in Sydney. We spent a very enjoyable late afternoon / early evening drinking beer and cocktails in the bars around Circular Quay.
Next Jon and Peter and I headed out for a last night dinner. We ended up at a pub called the Four in Hand in Paddington. It was a strange place, because the front part was just like any other Sydney pub, with Aussie Big Brother and the footie showing on large screens, but you then went through a door at the back into a very small, but very nice restuarant. The food was out of this world (I had Sea Bream with Garlich Mash, followed by Vanilla Rice Pudding with red wine soaked pear slices....deeelicious!), and the wine was great too!
Jon very kindly dropped me off at the airport, and I duly rocked up at the staff travel desk where I discovered that my luggage had put on weight during it's stay in Aus, and was now 3kgs over the limit!! I quickly unpacked a couple of pairs of shoes which I stuck in my back-pack, and all was OK again. I have since posted my PADI diving manuals back to the UK!! I may have to pay further visits to the post-office in the near future!! :-)
Anyway, that's about all for now! I'm sure i'll have more Wellington tales to upload over the next few days!! :-)
Monday, July 05, 2004
Lifes a Manly Beach!!
Well, it's my last day in Sydney (and Australia for that matter). Off to Wellington NZ early tomorrow morning. Am a bit worried, because I was right on the weight limit when I flew out of London, and now i've got 2 thick PADI diving manuals and a new mask and snorkel to pack as well! :-)
Have taken up a suggestion by Jon, and decided to spend my last afternoon in Manly. It's pretty cool, because you can cross the harbour on the Manly Ferry, hop off, and stroll about 100m down the main street, and your on Manly Beach staring out over the Pacific!
Spent an hour or so strolling along the beach and catching some rays....it's 20c and bright sunshine here. Watched amazed as a coach load of Japanese tourists rolled up, got off the bus and stood around on the sand in a big group for about 15 minutes, took a few photos, and then a someone blew a whistle and they all climbed back on the coach and were gone! Most bizarre!
As usual, I couldn't resist the call of the internet cafe any longer (well, too much sun isn't good for you!!), so ducked into the first one I found!
Now my stomachs rumbling, so i'll have to head off to find some grub!
All the best!
Saturday, July 03, 2004
You are reading the weblog of a newly qualified PADI Open Water Adventure Diver!!
I've just got back on dry land, and have still got my sea-legs on. This means that I have a permanent swaying sensation which is really weird! I'm told it will return to normal in about 24 hours, but i'm taking no chances, and will be downing a few beers at the post-dive party later this evening in an effort to create a beer-swaying sensation. Hopefully the beer sway will counter the sea-legs sway, and I hope to be able to walk normally. That's the theory anyway!! :-)
The reef was amazing! I'd forgotten how much fun it is messing around on boats! Such a simple life, no shoes, cosy bunk beds in rooms with barely enough room to swing a prawn, combined shower and toilet cublicles (yes you can sit down, have a sh!t, brush your teeth and shower all at the same time!), group meals in the galley, plenty of fantastic diving, and wonderful moonlit skies with the water lapping against the side of the boat. Magical!!
Highlights of the trip included...swimming with reef sharks....swimming along beside a green turtle....the amazing variety of marine life...the brilliant colours of the coral....watching our cookie Jo cleaning out her pots and pans on the duck board at the back of the boat whilst red sea bass and assorted other fish fought over the scraps of food. Some of them were almost throwing themselves onto the boat trying to snag a morsel of left over Chilli con Carne! You had to see it to believe it!!
We arrived at the reef around lunchtime on the Thursday, and were in our wetsuits and gear almost immediately, and before you knew it we were slipping into the sea. The first 2 dives were training dives, and so it was difficult to really take in the amazing scenes unfolding around us as we were being put through skills training which included a partial and full mask flood (fill your mask with saltwater, and then try clear it) and regulator recovery (spit out your air-supply, let it dangle by your side, and then try and relocate it and stick it back in your mouth!) amongst others. We were all exhausted by dinner time, but you could feel the sense of exhilaration amongst our group!
Ant prepares to go deep! Note the use of completely the wrong diving signal for OK! Thumbs up means head for the surface! Doh!
Day 2 started at 6:00am the next morning for a pre-breakfast dive! There was just enough time to smell a cup of coffee, and then it was into our wet wetsuits (not a very pleasant experience at that time of the morning!!) on with our gear, and into the water just as the sunlight was coming up!. The first two dives of the day were again training dives, but as most of the hard stuff had been done the previous day, we were able to appreciate the surroundings a bit more, and we were not disappointed, it was stunning. I have never seen so many different types of fish, coral and creatures in one place at one time!! If any of you have taken a trip to your local Wyevale or Aquarium shop lately, and marvelled at all the tropical fish in their tanks....I can only say that it just does not compare with the real thing in any way, shape or form! Totally incredible!
At the end of dive 2, we were all informed underwater that we were now qualified as Open Water Divers, and effectively were now free to scuba dive (with at least one "buddy"!) anywhere in the world.....but only to a depth of 18m! Dive 3 was were we got to go off in groups without an instructor being present, so that's exactly what we did. It was a bit weird knowing we were now responsible for our own safety from that point onwards (you always knew previously that if anything went wrong, your instructor would be able to sort it out). But it was an incredible buzz!
Ant about to head down to 25 metres, and obeying the 2nd most important rule in diving! "Always look cool!" (NB. the girl visible over my right shoulder is 14, and managed to complete the whole course despite being sea-sick for 2 days!)
Day 2 Dive 4 --- Night Dive!!
The apprehension was very noticable with this dive. 7:30pm, with only the moon to light the sea! We donned wetsuits, and all the gear, and stood on the duck board ready to dive into the ABYSS!! We each had a torch in our right hand, and a glowstick attached to our tank yoke. Everyone kept very close to Steve, our instructor. You get a totally new set of sea-life at night! Down we went to around 12m, and immediately spotted a reef shark gliding along the sand below us. We were guided to a clear patch of sand, and told to hold our torches against our chests. Total blackout!! Pretty spooky at first, but gradually your eyes get accustomed and your night vision takes over. It was quite a surreal experience, kneeling in the sand with about 4m visibility around you!
Back to the boat, and most of us stayed up drinking into the night discussing the days events.
2 very quick dives!
Up again at 6:00am and in the water by 6:30am for our first deep dive! A few of us had decided to take up the offer of qualifying for the next level of diver training for an extra AUS150 which would allow us to dive to a recommended maximum depth of 30m.Down we went to around 25m, the main event was a nitrogen narcosis test. Apparently, the deeper you go, the more the body uses nitrogen instead of oxygen. When this happens, you tend to experience a euphoric sensation, and your reaction times are slowed! Can't say that any of us where particularly aware of anything unusual, but reaction times did seem to be reduced!
2nd dive involved underwater photography. The results were less than spectacular as you can see, but the photos do not do justice to the amazing scenery!
Those damn fish just wouldn't stay still for their photo!
Then, after a quick lunch, it was up anchor, and back to Cairns! Everyone was a bit subdued as we'd had such a brilliant time and it was all coming to an end. Most of us would have been more than happy to be marooned out on the reef! All of us were itching for more, but that will have to be another day! I'm now considering taking a dive with the Great Whites off Cape Town when i'm down there....well, now that i'm qualified, I may as well make the most of it!!
Anyway, if you're ever down this way, the company you want to use are Pro-Dive Cairns! (I get 10% discount on equipment if any of you sign up!!) Ask for either Steve or Paul as your instructors, their a great double act!
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Dive! Dive! Dive!
Well, I made it to Cairns without too many problems! Didn't manage a business upgrade, but there was plenty of legroom, and it was a relatively short flight, so no worries mate! From what i've seen of Cairns so far, it's fairly ordinary! Mind you, I arrived at 10:30pm last night, and have spent all of today either in a classroom learning diving theory (3.5 hours), or at the bottom of an oversized swimming pool for another 3.5 hours with a tank of compressed air strapped to my back, wearing a tight neoprene suit, and with a big chunk of rubber stuck in my mouth (Mick Miller, get your mind out of the sewer immediately!!), so it's a bit difficult to judge!
I've got more of the same tomorrow, with a 1 hour exam added on for good measure, followed by a 2 hour reef awareness lecture (not compulsory, but apparently it's not to be missed!) then it's a 7:00am start on Thursday for our 3 day 2 night trip out to the barrier reef! It's going to be amazing. There are about 16 of us in the group, a mixture of Brits, Aussies, Americans, Canadians and Dutch. We will be diving at a depth of no more than 20 metres. 9 dives in total, including at least one night dive (1.5 hours!). After all that I should have my PADI open-water diving license!! Then the world is my oyster! Well the wet parts anyway! :-)
I'm now off to find something to eat, and then I think it's off to bed as i'm absolutely whacked!!
No photos today, but stick with it, and I hope to be able to post one of me suited and booted for the deep blue sea (control yourself Miller!!).
Monday, June 28, 2004
Well, the weekends over, so it's back to work.....for you lot!! :-) I'm off to the Zoo!
I've already got over the disappointment of Englands defeat at the hands of the Wallabies. Jon, Peter & I had a Saturday evening of sports, at home, with pizza, and beer! I'm now a devoted fan of the Sydney Swans Aussie Footie Team. I understood nothing about the game before hand, but with a few beers under my belt and plenty of explanation from Jon and Peter....I still know nothing! Only kidding, I have been educated in the ways of the Roving Rucker, and I now know what a behind is! (And there I was thinking it was my arse!!). Apparently i've been spoilt, as it was the best game of the season with the lead changing hands 15 times, and the Swans finally overcoming the less than mighty Magpies of Collindale by a mere 6 points (or was it 5?).
Yesterday was spent exploring Sydneys North Beaches (Palm Beach mostly). The attached piccy gives you some idea of the lovely scenery and weather I am enjoying!
Jon and I sat and ate Calamari & chips for lunch on the sand overlooking the Tasman Sea! And then climbed up to the lighthouse overlooking the bay. I also saw my first Cookaburra!
Still haven't seen any Roos or Kaolas, so am having to rectify that today by visiting the Taronga Zoo on the north side of the harbour.
Then it's off to Cairns tonight to start my 5 day scuba diving course on the barrier reef, (seats on the Qantas flight permitting!!).
Will have to sign off now as i've also got to get hold of some Factor 30+ sun cream!
Saturday, June 26, 2004
They think it's all over...!
Well, yesterday was my day for viewing the Harbour Bridge close up. Probably not the best place to visit after having suffered through yet another England penalty shoot-out defeat!! Fortunately they've got plenty of fencing up there! :-)
You can actually pay to walk up to the top of the bridge! They make you wear these lovely grey jump-suits, and you're not allowed to take anything up with you that may potentially drop onto the vehicles below! No cameras, no jewellery, you even have to remove toupees! (OK, I made that last bit up, but it may still be true!!). Even if you want to propose to your beloved up there, they have this elaborate procedure which involves attaching the ring to the proposers wrist with a loop of string. The ring is then placed on the proposees finger, and the loop is then swapped from one wrist to the other whilst hands are still joined!
Anyway the cost of the bridge walk was a whopping AUS$180, so being the tight individual that I am, I went for the climb up the south-west bridge pylon instead.... a bargain at AUS$8.50, and the views are just as good.
Happened to look down from on high, and spotted what looked like a wedding taking place on a patch of grass below the bridge. When I mentioned this to Jon later, he told me that loads of (already married!) Japanese couples come to have their pictures taken in full wedding gear with the Bridge in the background! Apparently there are frequently queues of them waiting for their turn......for some reason I didn't find this as surprising as I probably should have!
Made my first use of Sydneys public transport as well, taking 2 bus trips and 1 train ride. Didn't get lost either...amazingly!
Went out with mein hosts Jon and Peter to a local pub (The Nags Head Hotel) last night, for a couple of schooners (they're more than a half, but less than a pint!) of Coopers Ales, and some nice pub grub!
Have been here over 3 days and not seen a kangaroo or koala bear yet! I have however seen a couple of Possums which reside in the trees behind the house. They have a habit of fighting each other on the roof over my bedroom. If you'd seen the size of these things, it's a wonder i've managed to get any sleep at all!
Anyway, we're having a relaxing day today, before heading out to watch the Aus vs England rugby followed by the Aussie Rules footie between Sydney Swans and Collingwood at a local pub (that's us at the pub, not the actual game!!)
The extent of our hangovers will determine what tomorrow brings!!
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Well, I kept on the go as long as I could yesterday to try and break the jetlag effect! Walked to Darling Harbour, and took a wander around the Aquarium which was pretty cool. They have a superb underwater viewing tunnel which allows you to walk along, with huge sharks and sting rays gliding by just inchs above you! Probably not the best idea, with my scuba diving trip to the Barrier Reef less than a week away!! :-)
Had a quick bite to eat, and a bit of a lie down on a bench to try and revive myself, but began to have that out of body jetlag experience, so decided to head back to the house around late afternoon. Had a couple of hours sleep, and then went for a bite to eat (and a slurp to drink!) with Jon and Peter in town! Then slept for about 12 hours solid! Even the possums rampaging on the roof above me didn't wake me up!
Surfaced about 11:00am, and headed off for a very late breakfast at Bondi Beach with Jon. It's a lot smaller than I expected, and the sea was flat as a pancake, and it was pretty deserted. But then as Jon pointed out, it is the middle of winter here! There were still a few mad fools messing around on their boards though. Oh, and we saw a small pod of whales passing by...at least we assumed they were whales as they were some distance off shore. They were displaying distinctly whale-like activity anyway!
Next we headed off to Watsons Bay, and Jon kicked me out of the car and said "Find your own way back to Sydney English Boy!"......OK, what he actually said was "Hey, why don't you catch the ferry back to Circular Quay and i'll meet you there in the car!?" but I knew what he really meant!! (Only kidding Mr. Murrie!) :-)
Anyway, it turned out to be an excellent idea (as his usually are!) and I got some spectacular shots of the harbour (Bridge, Opera House etc.), but you'll have to take my word for it as i've left the camera at the house! Doh!
I've been left to my own devices tonight as my landlords both have prior engagements to attend! So i'm exploring the delights of Glebe. So far i've found an internet cafe (I can hear you all groaning "typical Ant Stansbie!"). My stomach is rumbling, so i'm off next to track down some tucker! I think I can see a "McWitchity Grubs" in the distance!! Yum Yum!!
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Well, i've made it to Sydney at last....and I managed to get upgraded to Business Class! I've seen the light! So much room, such good food, and they even had proper toast!! Even managed to have a really good sleep! Luxury!
Landed in Sydney around 5:15am this morning (23rd June), and was met by my good friend and ex-flatmate Jon! The first thing he did was drive me to a small park across the harbour from a couple of local attractions....see the attached piccy, you might recognise them! It was spectacular as the sun was just coming up!
Am now sitting in a cute little internet cafe in Glebe waiting for everything to open up, so that I can go and explore! Going to try and keep going as long as possible so that my body-clock adjusts.
Weather is a bit on the cold side, but nothing I can't handle!
Am here for the next 5 days, and then off to Cairns for a 5 day learn-to-dive scuba course! It's a hard life!! :-)
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Well, got bored again, and decided to go and track down Raffles Hotel. Found it surprisingly easy, and went and had a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar, with shell-on peanuts, and cute little local sparrow-like birds scampering all over the place picking up discarded nuts! :-)
Now back at the airport, and about to go and have a much needed shower. I must reek by now. People are beginning to notice!! :-)
Off and running!
Well, Monday 21st June came, and off I went to Heathrow, saying an emotional goodbye to Julie on the westbound platform at Hammersmith tube station on the way! First task was to find the staff travel desk which was no mean feat. Had a bit of a palaver over my ticket as the trainee behind the desk couldn't find me on the passenger list! Eventually she realised that she had to select "Next Page" to find me listed! Doh!! Thanks to Julie, who persuaded me to persist, or else my flight category would have been downgraded! Blimmin' cheek!
Anyway, finally got listed, and returned to the desk 45 minutes prior to the flight to see if i'd been lucky in the staff standby lottery (very nerve racking it is too!). The relief was immense when I heard the words "passenger Stains...stands...stanby...Stansbie collect your boarding card please!"
Didn't manage to blag the hoped for business class upgrade on this leg, so spent an uncomfortable 13 hours in cattle....er I mean Economy class....not a pleasant experience! And they had Starsky and Hutch showing in business class!!!
Have got as far as Singapore (where it is very hot and very, very muggy!), and am currently sitting in an internet cafe in the centre of town, as I got bored at the airport, and my flight isn't for another 8 hours or so! I'm told that business class is a distinct possibility on the singapore-sydney leg. Fingers are crossed and double crossed!!
Should arrive Sydney early hours of Wednesday morning. Sorry Jon!
Just found out that England are through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2004! Will have to wait until Sydney to hear whether Tiger Tim has survived the 1st round!! :-)
Am now off to explore the delights of Singapore!
Sunday, June 20, 2004
T -1 and counting!
Well, i've done the leaving do, and the last day at work, and the two nights in a luxury hotel, and i'm now officially unemployed, and free to set off on my big adventure.
Have just finished packing! The bag weighs a ton! I think Qantas might do quite well out of me via excess baggage charges!
Hoping to catch a flight tomorrow (Monday 21st June), but as i'm flying stand-by, and the flights are looking a bit full, I may have to wait until Tuesday. But fingers crossed and all that! :-)
Hope you're all enjoying work!
I'll be thinking of you all whilst i'm facing up to the harsh Aussie winter! Did I mention that i've booked a 5 day diving course on the barrier reef? :-)
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Plans coming together at last!!
Well, plans are beginning to gather pace! My leaving date is now set for the 18th of June, and therefore I plan to set off on my travels around the 21st. I've had to bin the Thailand leg as my leaving date was put back by a few eeeks, and i'll have to knock a few days off here and there, but the basic plan remains the same.
London-Sydney-Wellington-Queenstown-Auckland-LA-SF-Las Vegas-New York-London. A few days back, and then straight off to South Africa for a couple of weeks.
I think i've managed to organise a housesitter to look after the cats and garden whilst i'm away as well! So that's a weight off my mind! :-)
Just itching to get going now!! :-)
Wednesday, March 31, 2004