West Coast to Wellington

8 01 2010

Boxing day was an early start for the Tongariro Crossing, 19.4km across the volcanic landscape of Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro. The start was packed with fellow trampers, although not quite the 1000 people that do this walk every day in peak season! The going was fairly easy for the first few miles until we started ascending to the saddles of the volcanoes, when it started to get a bit blowy!

By the time we’d scrambled up the scree slopes to the peak of the Red Crater we were having to almost crawl to stop being blown off the edge! We had incredible views thanks to the fine weather, all the way over to the West coast and later North over Lake Taupo. The storms had put us off doing this 2 years ago and we’re glad we hadn’t attempted it as it would be pretty miserable in the wet! A few hours later we’d finished in plenty of time for our shuttle pickup and a well deserved reward of fishfingers, chips and beans, DVD’s, wine and cake at our hostel!

The next day we left National Park and drove West along the ‘forgotten highway’ until we reached Whangamomona, a town so remote they’d declared themselves a Republic in 1989! We had lunch here in the only Hotel and collected another stamp for our passports before returning to New Zealand and the West coast.

The West coast is dominated by the massive Mount Taranaki, a volcano we caught a glimpse of from the heights of the Tongariro Crossing a few hundred miles away. It was now completely invisible however – the local weather is forecast by the following rule: If you can see the Volcano, it’s going to rain. If you can’t see the Volcano, it’s already raining! The latter was true for the next few days so we didn’t spend long around here, briefly checking out New Plymouth which was voted the best city in NZ last year. It was hard for us to see the attraction as everywhere seems miserable when it’s tipping it down, plus most of New Zealand grinds to a halt over Christmas and New Year so there’s nothing open anyway!

Following the Surf Highway around the coast we visited Wanganui, or Whanganui – the inclusion of the ‘h’ being a topic of National debate, and then back inland towards the University town of Palmerston North where we settled for a couple of days over New Year. We managed to keep ourselves awake for New Years Eve, joining the masses in the town square for a concert and the shortest fireworks display we’ve ever seen!

Further south were the towns of the Wairarapa – lots of cafe’s, although finding one open was still a struggle, 2L tubs of ice-cream, a round of golf, the cinema and walks around the Forests kept us busy although the highlight was Stonehenge Aotearoa – a working replica of the Salisbury stone circle in someone’s back garden!

The 90 minute tour was excellent, explaining how the calender works, plus a bit of astrology and astronomy too – apparently most people, including Zoë, have a different star sign to those commonly published in newspapers etc.. something to do with us using 2000 year old star charts and the wobble of the earth!

For the last few days we’ve explored the capital Wellington, touring the impressive Parliament buildings – the whole thing being mounted on shock absorbers due to the fault line running 400m away! They also have the unique system of being able to write to the Government and be guaranteed the opportunity to address the Select committee on any subject – no filtering, screening or censorship and while doing so have absolute freedom of speech with immunity from prosecution etc..! We also took plenty of photos and weren’t accused of being terrorists!

The rest of our time in the city was spent in other museums, botanic gardens and replenishing our personal library in the 2nd hand bookshops. Wellington has also been host for the last 10days to Unicon – the World Unicycle Championships! We managed to catch a bit of the Trials competition by the waterfront which was pretty impressive – try jumping a unicycle from the roof of a shipping container over a 6ft gap onto a fork-lift truck! Zoë was cringing at the lack of safety harnesses!

I’d have liked to witness some of the other events on the program, including unicycle hockey and rugby, the downhill races and yesterday’s cross country marathon! We’re out of time on the North Island however. I’m writing this as we sail over the Cook Strait on the old Pride of Cherbourg ferry to Picton where we spent Christmas a couple of years ago.

We have no plans for the South Island so far – we want to check out the top of the Island for job and house potential but as it’s also a very popular summer holiday destination we may postpone our investigation and head south to avoid the hordes!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Merry Christmas from Mount Doom

25 12 2009

Merry Christmas all! We’re currently in Tongariro National Park having moved inland from Hawkes Bay to do some exercise!

We spent about 10 days in Hawkes Bay trying out the lifestyle – walking around the hills, cycling around vineyards and cheese shops, visiting cafe’s and eating kilo’s of fruit from the weekly farmers markets – the health benefits of which we cancelled out by daily doses of cake and ice-cream!

We also investigated some practicalities of living in Hawkes Bay which mainly involved nosing around Open homes! Having been for a chat with the Home loan man at the bank we knew what price range we could look at, assuming one of us could get a job! Most of the townhouses in our price bracket were pretty nice, but often built in someone’s back garden meaning very little garden of your own! We also went to poke around some more expensive ones for the fun of it, all with huge decks, swimming pools and lots of land. An even better deal can be had out of the towns, where for the same price you can get a huge 3 or 4 acre ‘lifestyle plot’ with a big house and room for the chooks, mountain bikes and Go-kart track Ben’s going to build! This seems to be because Kiwis hate commuting and living even 30 mins away from work to them is ludicrous. We’d happily commute for half an hour if it gets us a mansion in the countryside!

We’ve moved over to the centre of the North Island now where a lot of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed, so there’s lots of extinct, and not so extinct, volcanoes and forest to explore. We did a 13km ‘short walk’ round the base of Mt Ruapehu, a couple of shorter walks along the river, and today have walked to silica rapids and a very picturesque waterfall to dip our hot feet in the freezing water and enjoy our Christmas Lunch!

All of these have been a warm-up for the big one – the Tongariro Crossing – an 18km route across some volcanoes and craters which is supposed to be the best one day tramp in the country. We’ll find out tomorrow!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Bay’s a Plenty

14 12 2009

Torrential rain greeted us in Auckland for a couple of days forcing us to abandon our leaky Walmart tent and cough up for a mattress for the back of our car. One of the main reasons we’d returned to Auckland was to see the Dalai Lama speak. His warm up act was a famous Tibetan singer who after her set got the whole arena Ommmmm-ing until our internal organs vibrated, quite bizarre! And then all of a sudden his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama appeared in a blue puff of smoke, floating on a lotus leaf a few feet above the stage.

After some prolonged greetings, Maori singing etc..The Dalai Lama made himself comfortable – shoes off and crossed legged on the couch with a poker player’s visor perched on top of his head!

He started off with some general chat about different religions etc.. which seemed to send a few folks into a bit of a slumber! The second half was a bit more interesting though once he’d started cracking a few jokes and telling us about how he used to bully his brother and “Dis his friends wife”!

Generally he was very down to earth, frank and realistic – none of the mystic spiritualism I was expecting!

We left Auckland the next day to spend some time in Mount Manganui in the Bay of Plenty. This is a bit of a rarity in that there’s actually some development around the great beach here, although still no amusement arcades in sight! We came here on New Years Eve on our last visit and the place was rammed, being one of the most popular holiday areas in NZ. Fortunately it was a little quieter now and quite a nice place to relax for a couple of days. Awesome long white beaches, fish and chips and hot spring pools kept us occupied until we continued East to Gisborne.

Gisborne and the Eastland are still predominantly Maori Land. Apparently in some of the towns they haven’t yet discovered boy racer cars and still trot up and down the streets on horseback carrying rifles! Gisborne was stinking hot so we didn’t do much in the heat of the day apart from reading on the beach and visiting local vineyards. The morning we left we got up early to wade out into the sea and swim with the bottlenose dolphin, Moko, who’d taken to hanging about by the beach for the last few days.

We’d watched him the day before having lots of fun stealing people’s surfboards and boogie boards! The press here have labelled him a ‘killer dolphin’ and even a ‘sexual predator’ warning people of the dangers of getting in the water when he’s around. The locals know this is all nonsense though and we enjoyed swimming with him for a while – he seemed to take an interest in my toes and kept nudging them as if he was trying to work out if they were edible!

A few hours down the coast is Napier in Hawkes Bay. Napier was largely destroyed in 1931 by a massive Earthquake and when the city was re-built they used a lot of Art Deco architecture that remains today. We’ve spent a couple of days here exploring and relaxing in cafe’s, chintzy tea-rooms and parks, trying to get through the mountains of books we’ve been accumulating!

We’ve now moved down to the neighbouring town of Hastings for a few days. After stocking up on cake at the weekly farmers market we headed up Te Mata peak just outside of town for views around Hawkes Bay.

From here you can imagine all the activities you could get up to if you lived around here. Surfing at the Beach in the morning, followed by a short kayak up the river into the heart of the winelands where you jump out and walk, run or bike up to the top of Te Mata. From here you take off from the purpose built ramps with your paraglider or handglider and fly inland along the hills to Mt.Ruapehu for an afternoon of snowboarding!

We’re planning to stay in the area for a while to investigate the job market and maybe stay put for a few weeks over the summer holidays. It’s hard to believe that Christmas is 10 days away, it just doesn’t feel right in a hot country! We hope everyone is looking forward to their holidays back home and winding down at work – Christmas parties, watching Ferris Beullers Day Off in the conference room, eating a whole tin of Quality Street every single day??

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

New Zealand at Last!

4 12 2009

We arrived in Auckland on Friday 13th, both very tired after our 3am departure from Rarotonga and glad we didn’t have another several hours of flying to our original destination of Fiji!

We spent the weekend re-acquainting ourselves with the city and beginning our search for some wheels. It soon became apparent that we were going to have to spend quite a lot more money than originally intended! Slightly downhearted after seeing how much rusty hunks of junk were in the city we banked on picking something up at the weekly car market out at Ellerslie race course – reputedly less of a rip off than the Backpackers markets in town.

We spent a Sunday morning browsing the offerings by the typically dodgy looking used-car salesmen. Finally we settled on a Toyota people carrier and took it for a spin – all seemed ok and running out of time and options we thought we may as well buy it!

Next came the tortuous debacle of getting the money to pay for it! The friendly, and later we’d discover very patient, Iraqi owner drove us to a mall where we could get the money out of the bank and transfer ownership at the post office. The Latter seemed far too simple – just fill in a form with your name and address (a random hostel address will do) plus the licence plate number of the car you want. Pay your $9 and the car is now legally yours! Not really knowing the procedure I wondered if our friendly Iraqi was pulling a fast one but that really is all there is to it – what’s to stop you just putting down the number plate of something you like the look of in the car park?!

Unfortunately getting our own money out of the bank was much less straight-forward. For well over an hour at the counter every card we owned was declined by the Computer at the other end, all for ‘security reasons’! It’s incredibly frustrating when you realize you are completely at the mercy of some machine and when Computer says No, there’s nothing you can do about it!

So the next morning we found ourselves at Westpac to open a NZ bank account – what a revelation! No forms to complete, within an hour we had an account opened, phone and internet banking completely set-up and ready to use, plus our cards in our pockets! Now how is the UK method of posting you 20 pieces of mail more secure than handing you everything in person?!

Having finally been allowed to withdraw some funds we collected our car and headed into the Northland, an area we omitted on our previous visit. A few hours out of the city we were sitting on an empty white sand beach watching Gannets dive-bombing the ocean and eating a Lamington Log!

We made our way up the coast towards the Bay of Islands for the next few days visiting various small towns, all with the deserted white beaches that had proven surprisingly elusive in the Cook islands!

Here we succeeded in getting our first WWOOF-ing spot! This basically involves working for 4-6 hours a day in return for accommodation and 3 meals a day on Organic veggie or animal farms, hippie communes etc..

Our host was a Brit who was (very slowly) building a house and setting up an organic veggie garden. We spent the next week doing various hard-labour – moving pond weed onto the veggie beds, sometimes by wheelbarrow, sometimes by boat, road-building and various house-building jobs. In our spare time we learnt a little about gardening and permaculture and managed to build ourselves a bed for the back of our car.

It didn’t take long however for us to tire of manual labour and long for a holiday! So after a week we hit the road again, heading further North to 90-mile beach and then down the West coast for a few walks around the forests of huge Kauri Trees and beautiful freshwater lakes.

We’re now back in Auckland to stock up on supplies and to listen to a talk by the Dali Lama! Once we’re fully enlightened we’ll be heading East to Hawkes Bay, where we may even try doing some more work!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

The co.ck islands

14 11 2009

After leaving San Diego we drove up the coast for the day, stopping at Laguna Beach for some more seaside practice. Having topped up our sunburn a little we ventured into Los Angeles, without a map just to make it more exciting. This was surprisingly successful and we found LAX with an hour to spare so we backed out to Inglewood to spent our last dollars on Double Doubles at In ‘N’ Out burger.

We could no longer avoid the inevitable and went to spend the evening at LAX, surely one of the dullest airports on earth. We considered livening things up by reporting Russel Brand, who had been ushered to the front of our security queue, for looking suspicious, just to see if he’d get pinned to the ground and examined but he and his entourage were whisked through the scanners and had vanished in seconds.

We had a good flight to Rarotonga, arriving early into the 1 room airport at 5:45am. Waiting for our bags we listened to the obligatory ‘old man playing the ukulele’ that you get at all pacific airports and were then taken down to our hostel at Muri Beach. Our room wasn’t ready yet so we had to postpone catching up on sleep until the afternoon, spending the morning sampling the local doughnuts (like normal jam doughnuts except they have no sugar on top and no jam inside) and exploring the small town.

On our second day we went over to the North end of the Island to do the cross-island hike, starting off in nice back country little villages, small houses on big grassy plots surrounded by Frangipani trees and goats. Entering the jungle it soon became a lot more challenging, firstly just because it was heavily overgrown and shortly after a near vertical climb up a narrow ridge for 45 minutes which made the Grouse Grind look like a stroll in the park! We soon reached the Needle summit for a rest, some lunch and a go on the frozen vegetables we were carrying to cool down. As usual going down the equally steep south side was even harder followed by several stream crossings but we soon emerged on the South rim of the Island. This is where we came across the abandoned remains of the Hilton resort – a government backed venture that went pear shaped, leaving them $100 million in debt and now remains a massive ghost hotel, never finished and just left to rot for the last 15 years. Seems such a waste, why they don’t sell it on we don’t know. We’d turn half of it into accommodation then build a Cross-country moped race circuit around the grounds that weaved in and out of the rest of the abandoned buildings while also using these as a paintball arena – Anyone out there want to invest in / stump up all the cash for our new business??

Midweek we flew over to Aitutaki for a few days, one of the worlds most beautiful lagoons a couple of hundred km from Rarotonga. The view from the air is unbelievable – the most vivid turquoise lagoon dotted with coral outcrops and island Motu’s. Our photo’s don’t do the place justice so you’ll have to Google Earth it for a view!

However, our accommodation was much less spectacular, probably the most basic we’ve encountered on all of our travels but we soon got used to it and by the end of the week the leaking roof, Mr. kitchen rat and numerous cockroaches were all taken in our stride!

Husking coconuts for Bowling/Throwing at Chickens!There were some significantly more upmarket places on the island running at hundreds or thousands of dollars per night but I’m sure we enjoyed ourselves just as much as their guests, lazing on the same beaches and snorkeling in the lagoon, with coconut bowling and bonfires in the evening!

Everyone in Rarotonga gets about by moped so here on Aitutaki we thought we’d have a go. The rental place over the road only had motorbikes though but we enquired anyway.

“Have you ridden one of these before?” asked the big boss man. “Yes, back on Rarotonga” I lied. I’m not sure he believed me from the outset when I had to have every lever and foot pedal explained to me twice. The nearest I’ve ever been to riding any kind of moped or motorbike is a sit-on lawnmower which was probably quite obvious when I followed big boss man’s encouragement to take it for a spin down the road. “So this one’s the throttle then..?” as I gave it a quick twist, lurching forward into the path of an oncoming mini-van. I could see the look of concern on his face as I scooted around to have another go facing the right direction. Off I went though, successfully making it into 2nd gear 50m down the road so decided to turn around and go back. Here I performed a classic piece of slapstick motor-biking, once again tweaking the throttle far too hard the bike shot straight over the road and into some local’s front garden, with me barely holding on I finally remembered to brake with my foot a couple of metres from the sea! Luckily Zoë had distracted Big boss man and he hadn’t seen me do this so when I sheepishly returned his bike he still seemed half-keen to rent it to us! Even my low level of common sense prevailed and we decided not to, there’s nothing like a nice walk in the searing heat anyway.

We did get some biking in the next day however, only because we’d spotted a fully automatic moped for hire. This was much more our scene so we snapped it up, about £10 for the day plus another £1 for a Cook islands driving licence from the Cop Shop. There was no test involved which was lucky as at the time I couldn’t even work the kickstand properly. We soon got the hang of it, taking it in turns to rag it around the island dirt roads weaving past goats and hundreds of massive crabs. A huge storm hit in the afternoon which made moped-ing quite a lot less fun so we went back to base, Zoë reaching around from the back seat to cover my eyes from the stinging rain with her hands while I squinted through her fingers – we got a few funny looks from the locals!

Aitutaki Lagoon Snorkelling

The rains passed by the morning which was good as we had booked a lagoon cruise with the other folks in our hostel. We did some snorkeling in the crystal clear lagoon, Giant Clams, blue starfish and plenty of other tropical fish were all spotted. I once again got hand cramp from pinching my nose shut so reverted to regular swimming before landing on a few of the islands to explore – Honeymoon Island, ‘Tiger Island’ off of Shipwrecked and One Foot Island for lunch. A good day out but paid the price with some pretty nasty sunburn after being in and out of the water all day!

'Tiger Island', Aitutaki Lagoon

The next few days were a bit miserable weather-wise, so we just pottered about coconut bowling / trying to take out the cockerels that woke us at 4am every morning, playing cards with our hostel chums, reading on the beach or paddling in the lagoon, although once we’d seen two sea-snakes 5ft from the shore we were more reluctant to wade in!

Back on Rarotonga it’s been more of the same, a bit of kayaking, beaching, getting sunburnt, getting bitten by mosquito’s etc… so we’ve actually decided to chop our 2 weeks in Fiji which would have been more of the above and fast forward to New Zealand!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

A Grand Circle

1 11 2009

And so into the depths of the desert we went, barren dryness all around, first at Canyonlands N.P and then Capitol Reef N.P, which did actually have some nice yellow and orange trees to break up the views of rocks!

Here we broke the tent out of hibernation and were promptly frozen solid – 9000ft not the warmest re-introduction to life under canvas!

Our next National Park was Bryce Canyon where they have hundreds of big Orange Hoodoos in the rock amphitheaters. We went for a couple of good, albeit hot, walks around the park including the arrogantly titled ‘Best 3 mile hike in the world’! It was actually pretty nice with some really impressive views, even more so than the Grand Canyon we thought!

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos

Once we’d had a few days at Bryce Canyon we went over to Page, centre of the Grand Circle, the collective name for lots of desert, and checked back into a cheap motel for a few days to warm up.

Here we went Kayaking for a few hours around Lake Powell and down the Antelope River and also to Antelope Slot canyon in the Navajo parks.

Antelope Canyon

After spending most of the day down in the canyon taking photos we drove to the beach for the last few hours of sunshine. Unfortunately we tried to drive all the way down to the beach-front in our family saloon and managed to beach ourselves in the ‘European Sand Trap’! After 45 minutes of digging with our flip flops and with fading light we gave in and went to find a man with a truck and a rope!

Continuing the theme of silly mistakes I spent the evening trying to scissor-cut my hair, first into an 80’s mullett and then a cat-chewed version of a short, back and sides. By the end of the evening however we’d given up trying to repair the damage I’d done and Zoë had reduced me to a Travis Bickle – at least I’m not so hot in the desert sun now!

My attempt on the left, Zoe's on the right

After Page we went over to Zion N.P for a few days of strenuous hiking and camping and then back to Las Vegas to replenish ourselves on Cheesecake and Burgers! We went up to Downtown Vegas to check out the ‘Fremont Street Experience’ which I suspected might involve getting mugged after spotting the calibre of locals hanging about! All was OK though – Fremont street is lit up by all the old casino’s as well as a 460m long TV screen on the underside of the streets ‘roof’ – pretty impressive, especially to all the Americans who stood stock still staring at the ceiling for probably 10 minutes, mesmerized by the video playing to Don Mcleans American Pie!

Hiking to Angels Landing, Zion N.P

We’ve been in San Diego for the last few days before we fly out of Los Angeles tonight. Here we’ve been to the San Diego Zoo which was ok, lots of little animals, all running around on a school trip screaming and being obnoxious. There were more sedentary ones on show, polar bears, panda’s etc.. although the appeal of Zoo’s has faded considerably now that we’re increasingly seeing most of these animals in the wild.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon practicing sitting on the beach up at La Jolla in preparation for the tough month ahead in the South Pacific. Desert Island beaches tend to send people mental if the TV is to be believed, Castaway, Lost etc.. so we better make sure we’re able to cope!

The Cook Islands will be our new home after the weekend and then a return to Fiji in a couple of weeks. I think we better learn to like Coconuts!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

The Wild West

20 10 2009

Having left the desert we drove North for what seemed like weeks, but was actually only 2 days, boring! To be fair there was some grass in Idaho which was a nice change of scenery even if it was all dead. Zoë had developed a sore throat but we assumed this was because she’d crammed so much food down it in Vegas. The sniffles soon followed though and then full on bird / pig / human Flu-like symptoms as we arrived in West Yellowstone. As it was also snowing when we arrived we shelved any ideas of camping and booked ourselves into a motel for a few days.

Zoë phoned in sick on our first day at the park so had a duvet day while I went exploring, free to spend hours taking pictures and getting too close to big animals!

The snow clouds had vanished and any remains were thin on the ground due to the under-floor heating spread all over the park. The west section of the park is mainly spitting geysers and bubbling hot springs, made colourful by the resident bacteria feeding off the dissolved minerals. You really get an idea of how massive the pool of fire below must be – for miles in every direction there’s steaming vents and pools of superheated water bubbling out of the ground! Unverified tourist fact of the day: The biggest Yellowstone eruption spat out about 545 cubic miles of lava and ash. In comparison Krakatoa, the largest eruption in the last couple of centuries, dished out around 12!

The 'Nice One Geyser', Yellowstone N.P

So anyway, I spent the day exploring the wilderness, getting off the tourist boardwalks where I could, sneaking up on massive Bison and getting stuck in boggy meadows, ending the day at Old Faithful as the sun went down.

Zoë had benefitted from her day in bed so joined me for a similar route the next day, more geysers and hot springs as well as a couple of very close encounters with 2-ton bison!

Zoe enjoying the Herd of Bison

Having had our fill of Geysers we drove through the park to Mammoth hot springs at the North entrance. There was a brief moment of panic when Zoë thought she was having an altitude induced brain aneurysm – turned out to be a trapped sneeze though, phew.

It was even colder up here, minus 12°C at night! So no more hikes for us, our last day at Yellowstone was spent in the car, driving through the Lamar valley looking for animals. We managed to add something new to our spotters list – Pronghorn, 5 of the 250 in the park! There were lots of other black blobs in the distance too, probably herds of wolf, mountain lions and bears although they were too far away for us to prove it with photos unfortunately.

Marche ou crève

We left Yellowstone the next day and drove down to Jackson, a nice Ski town on the outskirts of neighbouring Grand Teton National Park. All ski towns seem pretty nice so far, good art and photo galleries, coffee and cake dealers, taxidermy shops etc.. this one had a polar bear for $35K but it wouldn’t have fit in the car. Zoë considered getting the Jackalope until I told her it wasn’t a real animal – they’d just stuck horns on a rabbit, mental.

The live animal of choice here was Moose, and we managed to spot 3 on our first day near the river.

We saw several more in the next couple of days, as well as Osprey, cartoon Bluebirds from Bambi, and the highlight for me – a Bear and two cubs while out on one of my pre-dawn rally drives / photo shoots!


Having tired of sub zero temperatures and nice scenery, we returned South in search of warmer climes and some nice desert. We popped into Salt Lake City en route as we wanted to check out the big Mormon temple we were shown pictures of when we were accosted in Hawaii a couple of years ago. However on finding it we were a bit disappointed, with Zoë exclaiming ‘is that it’ in front of all the disciples milling around! It was an educational experience for me too, I found out Mormons aren’t actually from Space, a fact Zoë claimed to know all along.

We continued South and arrived in Moab the next day and headed straight for Arches National Park.

Delicate Arch at Sunset, Arches N.PZoë joined me for the crowded hike up to Delicate arch in time for sunset, arriving to find about 60 other photographers all lined up with their tripods precariously balanced on the narrow ledge at the edge of the chasm. I found myself a perch and set up, glad of the company as our strength in numbers helped us heckle tourists out of the way! Inevitably several things got knocked down the 100ft cliff while we were sat there, bottles of water, lens caps and one guy’s iPhone! Hikers at the bottom retrieved it for him though and unbelievably it still worked!


We’ve done a little more hiking today after nearly 2 weeks off, a 6 mile trip through the desert in the midday heat to throw us back in the deep end! We saw a few more of the arches in the park and got some good views over the valleys with more of the same tomorrow in Canyonlands N.P.


Apologies for the delay in posting our news, the warm motels have developed a comfortable laziness in both of us!

To keep you thinking until our next edition consider a recent question Zoë posed:

Do English cats and Spanish cats speak the same cat language?

Who needs Karl Pilkington!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine