TRAVELSCRIBBLES is a blog featuring travel reports, advice, and idea sharing for those interested in both domestic and international exploration.

Roger Sauer and his wife Donna have spent years traveling the world but have many places yet to see. You can follow their past and current travels here as well as post comments and questions about places they have visited.

Roger and Donna travelled to New Zealand and Australia in September, 2013. They will be in Paris in September 2015 with a train trip to Nice and Barcelona. They will then be aboard the Disney Magic (again) for a transatlantic cruise to Miami. Follow their travels on Twitter @rsauer3473.

Donna and Roger own Disney Vacation Club memberships at Old Key West and Beach Cub resorts in Walt Disney World. They also have other timeshare interests in Maui, Cancun, Orlando, and Palm Springs.
Feel free to contact them at 503-585-3473 if you would like rent one of these properties.

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Portland to Honolulu to Auckland

September 17-19, 2013: HONOLULU to AUCKLAND


We arrived in Honolulu on time after an uneventful flight from PDX. The walk to baggage claim was a long one, but our bags came through quickly. Honolulu International Airport is a complex place and its different terminals and the need for WikiWiki shuttles careening around the roof from gate to gate lead to confusion- a confusion that plagues even local residents as our experience the next day would demonstrate.


We got aboard a shuttle to the Alamo car rental office a few blocks away and despite the long line we were able to get our paperwork done in a few minutes in a kiosk as we were members of the Alamo frequent renter program. Two rentals a year make me frequent? Go figure. Our car was a white Fiat 500, a car I have seen advertised at home. Room for two people and three bags. The engine sounded like a sewing machine and it really revved up going up the hill onto the H1 highway, one of the busiest in the states.


Our destination was Aulani, a Disney resort we had stayed at in 2012 not long after it opened. We'd be there less than 24 hours. After a stop at Safeway for some snacks that we would convert into a meal later in the day, we arrived at Aulani, situated on one of the small coves carved into the Pacific shore at Ko'Olina west of Honolulu. As we had pre registered, all we had to do was mention our name and the attendants at the porte cochere called us by name. Our bags were retrieved and we were presented with our room keys and resort map and briskly taken to our room on the 7th floor.


The room was a studio with queen bed, large bathroom, and a sleeper sofa. Dark woods and tropical greens and browns predominated and a white and blue quilt with decorative "hidden Mickey" designs lay at the foot of the bed. The room looked out at the Pacific with the resort's water park and recreational area spread out between our tower and another across the way. The Waikalohe Valley water park below features luxurious foliage surrounding pools, hot tubs, a lazy river water feature where guests can float along its stream, and a mountain where more adventurous souls plunge down water two water slides- on for folks with inner tubes and another for those without.


Our first activity was to check out the gift shops for some Disney pin trading, an activity that we enjoy. Later after some wine, cheese, and apples, we tried the hot tub and a circuit around the lazy river in a tandem inner tube. Very refreshing.


After a little television and the fact that we had been up since 2 AM we were asleep rather early.


So early that I arose about 4 AM. Better, I guess, to make the most of the day.


We had a small breakfast and checked out the gift shops again and I even had time to visit the hot tub. We left by 9:30 AM or so and stopped for gas. The Fiat took all of 1.07 gallons. Of course, we then took a wrong turn off the H1 and proceeded up another highway (the H3) which had no turn-offs until we were in sight of the north side of Oahu, a detour that was unplanned but which provided some beautiful views of the North Shore and some towering cliffs.


We turned around and headed back and arrived at the Alamo office where our fuel gauge still red full despite the side trip. Thank you Fiat for making this trip economical.


Once at the terminal we were deposited at the "Hawaiian Airlines International Check-in area" by a driver who seemed to know where we were to go. This was not correct. Once we found we could have been dropped off at an earlier stop, we trudged with our four bags (yes, we moved some things into another small duffel) toward the counter, where we were told to reverse our path toward the north end of the facility where another person told us to go back. Finally we asked a Hawaiian employee to escort us to where we should be- an anonymous kiosk. At that point it would have been easy to check in except for the fact that the device could not read our passports. Time passed and eventually we were given our luggage tags, made our way through the TSA line, and through the use of the WikiWiki shuttle on the roof, made our way to Gate 25, one of the    International Gates at HNL.


At the gate we met another couple from Salem. The husband looked familiar but I could not place him. After a chat we learned he is a defense attorney in Salem. His clients were described as "bad guys" and included the father and son who had bombed a Woodburn bank killing two police officers a few years back. He and his wife flew First Class. Apparently crime pays in mysterious ways.


The flight to Aukland took nine hours though it left Wednesday afternoon and arrived Thursday evening because we crossed the International Dateline.


We arrived in the rain and customs did not take long. But because we had packed some leftover cheese and salami in a bag and been foolish enough to declare it, we spent some time in line while a customs agent inspected our food. Do you know what trans Pacific cheese and salami looks like? Not pretty.


A SuperShuttle to our hotel was obtained outside the terminal and we quickly found ourselves zooming around the city. We had no sense of direction or distance and arrived at the Best Western President downtown within 45 minutes.


The hotel was a business oriented one and our room in the tower was on the first floor which was on the second floor in our view. It was like a dorm room and Donna was not pleased. I trudged down to the desk and after some lengthy discussion with the international night crew of Yang Yang, Raj, and Peter, we were able to get a room on the fifth floor with a living room, kitchenette, and bedroom. Very Spartan. But roomy.


Having been up since 2 AM Auckland time, we slept soundly.

September 20-22 Auckland to Bay of Islands

September 20, 2013: AUCKLAND


After a fitful five and a half hours of sleep, I got up at 6:30 AM. We brought instant coffee and the muffins purchased in Honolulu. These muffins made it past customs the night before without incident.


Our goal for the day was to take the Explorer tour bus around the city. We could hop on and off on two one-hour circuits covering the zoo, marina, parks, museums, and shopping districts. The town is very like Seattle but with palm trees. Lots of sailboats in the water, tall stands of stone and glass buildings cascading from the peaks of hills down to the water.


Despite the English character of the town exemplified by place names and native accents, Auckland is basically and Asian city. The plethora of Chinese, Japanese, Philippine, and Indian dining menus pasted on windows and reader boards indicate a very diverse community.


The center of downtown is likely the Sky Tower a 1500 foot tower with observation decks and a rotating restaurant ala Space Needle. Guests can also walk around outside one of the lofty decks secured by safety lines. And more adventurous souls can bungee jump from the deck.


September 21, 2013: AUCKLAND


For our second day in Auckland we took another tour bus around the city and stopped off at the Auckland Museum, situated on an extinct volcanic cone above the city. The museum had marvelous displays of the Maori culture as well as the historic and prehistoric past of New Zealand. After this visit we stopped in the neighborhood of Parnell, an upscale shopping and dining area. We stopped at a new art gallery that was opening and the atmosphere was very festive. Coffee and cupcakes were served and we bought a stuffed kiwi figure.


When the bus got back to downtown we had a buffet lunch in the Sky City complex surrounding the Sky Tower.  The buffet was just okay- nothing special and very skimpy on the salad fixings. Desserts were good. The lunch allowed us to catch our breath so we had energy to hit the casino downstairs. Donna won $10. We quit while we were ahead. There were actually few people in the casino.


The casino was only two blocks from our hotel.  Across the street from the hotel was situated a large slingshot thrill ride that would send up to three people rocketing skyward propelled by the energy of bungee cords stretched to two towers. We're spent some time window shopping in the areas near the hotel. While walking around, we walked by a large theater that was used as a location in Peter Jackson's King Kong film.


That night terrific thunderstorms came through the island and we were awakened several times by thunder that exploded.




September 22, 2013: AUCKLAND TO BAY OF ISLANDS


After getting up early to pack I walked to the car rental agency a few blocks from the hotel. The car was a New Zealand version of a Chevy Cruze and was in immaculate shape. The skies had cleared and it promised to be a sunny day. Once I picked up Donna, we maneuvered around the streets and managed to find the main Auckland highway north. The bay bridge and the wide green expanse of the country north of town were beautiful. The emerald green of fields that rolled on either side of the highway was spotted with herds of sheep and cattle.  The road narrowed after a few miles into two lanes with frequent passing lanes. As the road led up into the hills in the Northland, traffic slowed and many cars tried to pass. The route began to resemble a roller coaster. In two places signs indicated "frequent crash area" and there was a crash at one of these. Despite the gorgeous scenery there were few places to pull off and take photos.


Our car passed through several small towns.  Obvious British names alternate with Maori names and we tried our best to pronounce them.... How do you say Wangharei?


The general speed for roads here is 100 kh or about 62 mph. Maybe it's me, but the 100 makes for a heightened sense of speed.


I knew there was a ferry from Paihia to Russell, but was surprised that we can to a car ferry well before Paihia. We later learned the Paihia ferry is pedestrian. The ferry we took over the strait was all of ten minuted then there was a five minute drive into tow. Russell is no an island, but a promontory. But the road leading there from the mainland are very trusted and long, so the best way to arrive is by ferry. The town is small and we found the Russell Cottages quickly. Our cottage was not ready so we walked a block or two to a market to see what we would need to buy. Food here both in restaurants and stores is expensive.


The water in the bay was a lovely turquoise and while walking past shops near the passenger ferry pier we observed many sailboats moored.


Russell Cottages is a cluster of two story houses about two blocks from the Main Street of town. Our cottage was number 11. It featured a large living area with open kitchen and a bathroom and laundry area on the first floor. On the second floor is a master bedroom and ensuite bathroom. Other doors upstairs were locked but my guess is there was another bedroom and bath for larger parties. The main floor had hardwood flooring and two patio doors opened onto a deck with small back yard. More than enough room for two people. The colors are a neutral white/ gray which contrasts nicely with the dark wood floors. Upstairs is carpeted with tile in the bath. The living area featured a flat screen television and fireplace.


The bed was comfortable and we slept well. A television is in the room.



Wifi is available for one device at a time ($25 for three days). The signal was strong but dropped away at times requiring another sign on. I could get a signal by walking over to the office area. The manager said she would waive the fee.


The rate for the cottage was about $150 per night through Expedia. We bought groceries for our meals as there were minimal necessities like salt and pepper in the cottage. Coffee and tea with a quick heating teapot were provided as well as dinnerware and pots and pans.


Some of the cottages surround a small salt water pool and spa. The spa was great but the pool was cool. In an adjacent building is a small kitchen and barbecues outside for guest use.


September 23-24 Russell, The Bay of Islands

September 23, 2013: RUSSELL


For resort guests a walk downtown is about the only activity unless one takes the ferry to Paihia or a boat cruise. We did the afternoon cruise through Dolphin Cruises for about $95. We were comped a ticket to Paihia to start the trip there and get a lunch.


The trip to Paihia took ten minutes and we spent some time looking at shops. I picked up a Team NZ t-shirt for the America's Cup boat races now going on in San Francisco Bay. New Zealand leads, but USA has won the last four races. We have been watching the races every morning since we got here.


A quick lunch of fish and chips preceded our boat trip (we were afraid we'd be late so we took leftovers onto the boat). The boat was very much like those plying the waters around Maui. Room for a sixty or so inside and out. We sat and talked with a couple from Auckland who were using a voucher given them for a free trip they had received some time ago. Guests get a free trip voucher if the boat fails to see dolphins. We got a voucher after we failed to see dolphins on this trip. Good for our next trip. Sometime. 


The highlight of the trip is to pass through the "Hole in the Rock" formation in the east. Our boat passed easily through it. On the way back the skipper tried to find dolphins. No luck. We did see some fur seals lying on some rocks, however. And hundreds if not thousands of seabirds surrounding schools of fish.


September 24, 2013: RUSSELL


It was raining today and the forecast was for a real storm later in the day and Wednesday. However, by 3 PM there was not some light rain. We were told by a resort receptionist that storms tend to pass quickly here because the island in rather narrow. We drove a little up the hill to the east and saw the other side of this promontory that is Russell. Many vacation homes lined the hills and the shore.


After a stop for groceries for lunch we headed back in the rain to eat and see what happens in the weather. Fortunately there is CNN with news about the Nairobi terrorist attack. There was only one America's Cup race today and USA won bringing the score to 8-6 in favor of the Kiwis. 

September 25-26 Russell to Rotorua to Matamata (Hobbiton)

September 25, 2013: RUSSELL TO ROTORUA


This was a long day as we were to drive from Russell in the Northland south past Auckland to Rotorua in the center of the island. Of course, we had to watch the first race of the day in the America's Cup sailing regatta. Team USA won the race and the second race we missed on our drive. The match is now even at 8-8 despite USA's two race penalty.


Whatever storm had passed in the night had moderated by morning. There was no rain where we were. The drive south was pleasant as I was more comfortable in the car now. We were ready to head into some curvy hill roads when we encountered a detour sending us east toward the ocean. This was somewhere between Whangarei and Wellsford on your maps. Whatever the reason for the detour, our car passed some small towns and farms and some curves that slowed us down considerably. It rained on  and off. We came within fifty yards of the roiling surf in a place called Waipu Cove. Once back on Highway 1 we made good time. The traffic through Auckland was heavy but we made good time as the signage was clear. Past the city we stopped for lunch at McDonald's. as everywhere else prices for food are high here. A simple burger is $2.00.


On our way south the tropical foliage of palms and cycads gave way to deciduous trees. As this is the start of the New Zealand spring we were not surprised to see budding trees and many cherry blossoms along the road and in yards. The next large town we encountered was Hamilton. With grassy expanses of parks along rivers and lakes this town was charming as was Cambridge a ways further. In these towns we came to several roundabouts where the directions and my unfamiliarity with NZ driving rules presented some confusion. In the US we go counterclockwise, here it is clockwise. We just kept on Hwy 1 until we needed to go to Hwy 5 toward Rotorua.


As our car headed into the hills in this area, the tropical greenery were experienced in the north reappeared and at one time the road seemed to exist in a deep green tunnel of cycads, palms, and other plants all around us. The road came into Rotorua along its namesake lake where we promptly got lost. The maps we had did not appear to match the streets we were on. After traveling a bit we oriented ourselves to the main thoroughfare, Fenton Street, and we soon found the Holiday Inn. This is a large hotel at the south end of the town near the Whakarewarewa geothermal area we detected earlier by its sulfurous smell. Yuck. We registered quickly and went to our upgraded room on the 4th floor (or 5th floor as the ground floor is not numbered). Our room faced the town and the lake northward. Behind the resort were columns of steam rising from the geothermal pools powered by the region's volcanic nature.


We drove to the Countdown grocery for food and returned for the night.






September 26, 2013: ROTORUA AND MATAMATA


The day broke with some sun and clouds. In the distance out our window is Lake Rotorua. Behind our hotel is the thermal area that is fenced off for safety reasons. A tour is available to enter the thermal village of Whakarewarewa. I tried to walk through a decorative gate onto a bridge but was stopped by a guard who said I would need a ticket. The tour shop had displays about the history of the area. Apparently there were huge thermal terraces of brilliant colors in the past. In 1886 a volcanic eruption destroyed these terraces.


Later in the morning we drove northeast to Matamata where the Hobbiton movie set is located. We stopped at the local tourist center and got directions to the 1,250 acre sheep farm where the set was located. The cost for the two hour tour was $75 so Donna said she would remain at the tour center and shop while I was bused to the site.


The small bus navigated over the gravel road that was built by the New Zealand army in preparation for the movie in 1999. Deep valleys with herds of sheep lay on one side of the road and after a short ride we arrived at the set. All the structures here were left to the weather after the first film series was completed. When plans for The Hobbit series were started, the set was rebuilt and much attention was spent to make sure the rebuilt set was completely identical to the first. We walked along gravel paths past dozens of Hobbit homes. Each was unique and tied visually to the characters who lived there in the film. At the top of the hill overlooking the village was Bag End, home of Bilbo Baggins. As these are exterior sets, there are no finished interiors to see. Behind Bilbo's green door we could see a finished interior wall but that was all there was. I went into another door to look out the window and have a picture taken. The only interior was a muddy and rocky floor and a back wall was about  four feet or so from the door.


At the end of the tour we visited the large Green Dragon Inn for a beer before departing.  The original Inn was burned as part of the third film in Lord of the Rings. The new version was completed last year and now hosts tour groups, weddings, and meetings. Once back at the tour center I met Donna and we picked up a few souvenirs.


We drove back to Rotorua and walked around the shopping district with the intent of having a dinner at a place call the Pig and Whistle. Regrettably the prices of pigs and whistles have increased considerably and we could not see spending $15 each for chowder and bread.  So our trusty Holden hatchback beat a path back to the Holiday Inn where we had ramen noodles.


September 27-28 Rotorua to Napier

September 27, 2013: ROTORUA


On this day we drove into the city and walked around the lakefront. Later we sat by the pool of the hotel and soaked up some sun. Had lunch at Carl's after touring a big shopping area called Farmers.



September 28, 2013: ROTORUA TO NAPIER


Got up early to drive into Taupo before driving to Napier. As it was a Saturday many people were walking around the town. We stopped in a few stores. Donna bought a pair of fingerless gloves that were lost within two days. We also bought a book for Caidin's birthday. The drive to Napier took us through very curvy roads and deep valleys. Some bridges crossed deep chasms and the geography was very interesting. Again, sheep covered any grassy areas.


The Esk Valley Lodge sits at the base of a large hill. Out front are expansive vineyards that were young and just starting to bud out in this early Spring. Our hosts for two nights at this bed and breakfast were Jess and Eilene Roddy, originally from England. Their farm has sheep, pigs, chickens, and other creatures. The vineyards are leased out to others. The house where the rooms are rented out is large with great hedges and flowering trees extending in front toward the vineyard. We were in the Reisling room which included twin beds, a tv, large bathroom, and great wifi. Our bedroom looked out toward a barn and grapefruit and orange trees.


After getting situated, we drove in to the town of Napier known for its Art Deco buildings.  We stopped for lunch and drove back to the B and B were we napped. At about 5 PM, we were served wine and snacks and had an opportunity to talk with our hosts. Later we were joined by other guests, a young couple from Newfoundland now working in New Zealand.

September 29-30 Napier to Wellington

September 29, 2013: NAPIER


As befitting the nature of this Establishment, the Esk Valley Lodge serves breakfast to guests. We had fresh omelets, bacon, and toast. The jam and orange juice were from the Lodge. We were offered a menu and chose the safest items. All items were very good. This was the first time I had ever seen Kidneys on Toast as a breakfast option. I wonder how many select it.


After eating we drove past Napier to Hastings for its weekly Farmers Market. Fresh eggs, honey, hot sauces, candies, and cheeses were offered in booths and tents in a park- like setting. The weather was sunny and the green of the park and the blooms on the New Zealand flowers added a lot to the atmosphere. Bought a piece of walnut brittle.


Driving back into Napier, we stopped by the waterfront park as there appeared to be another Farmers Market going on. This was actually a swap meet activity with people selling old books, tools, knitware, and assortments of vegetables. One wild looking man was selling moonshine that was offered in reused two liter soda bottles. We passed on this.


We had brought some laundry with us in the hopes of finding a laundromat somewhere in Napier. The rest of our morning was spent driving around the town looking for one. Came back to the Lodge where Donna took a nap. Not a good idea to drink Starbucks instant before bed. That and the change to NZ daylight saving time caught us short on sleep. 


Later we drove to Napier, found the laundry and sat out in the sun while our clothes got washed and dried. At 5 PM Jes and Eilene joined us for wine and snacks. The Reisling wine served was from their own grapes. Their fields are contracted out to a winery that does all the work.


September 30, 2013: NAPIER TO WELLINGTON


After a nice breakfast served to us by host Jes Roddy,, we drove to Wellington through green fields covered with flocks of sheep, deep valleys, and as we approached the country's capital, the blue green of the Tasman Sea on our right. We had a choice of routes and were glad we followed the western one as we could see storm clouds in the east. At one time our path along the road had black clouds on the left and sunny skies on the right as we neared our destination.


It was confusing as we entered the city due to some steady rain and our erroneous assumption that we would arrive from the south of the bay on which the city is built. After a brief drive down some streets we could recognize on the map, we arrived at the James Cook Grand Chancellor Hotel. Our room was on the 20th floor with a view of surrounding skyscrapers. While technically a Lambdon Room, we dubbed our room the Fujitsu Room after the gigantic neon lights outside and above our large windows.


We parked the car in the garage earlier and decided we would leave it there for the duration until we take the ferry on Thursday. Despite the rain we walked down toward the quay stopping at a Pita Pit restaurant for Thai chicken pita sandwich we shared.


The weather was forecasted to be better on Tuesday, so we returned to our lofty room and read and watched television.




Streaky bacon- American bacon strips

Torches- flashlights

Take away- to go

Long Black- black coffee

Roundabouts instead of signaled intersections

Political signs everywhere

Green hills

Cycads- fern trees

Sheep everywhere

Chirping pedestrian Walk/Don't Walk signals



October 1-3, Wellington

October 1, 2013: WELLINGTON


The day broke sunny and cool on the first of October. I learned that there was an elevator that descends down to Lambton Quay so we would not have to walk up and down between the terraced streets that run in a curvy parallel to the waterfront. I walked down to the Pita Pit for a humongous breakfast wrap that we ate in our room. This was all after being in a panic because we had apparently left Donna's jewelry in Rotorua three days ago. After one call to the hotel, we were relieved when the manager called us confirming they found the jewelry in the nightstand. The manager indicated she would send it to our next stop in Christchurch at our cost. A bargain considering the value of the jewelry.


Later in the morning after looking at some shops nearby, we gathered the nerve to take our car and drive a few miles to the Weta Cave and Workshop where special effects are developed for movies like Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Avatar, and TinTin. The Cave is very interesting and souvenirs are spendy. We saw a film about how the company began and later I took a tour through the shops. Many costumes, models, and weapons were on display as well as some full figure statues of creatures from LOTR, and other movies. Very cool. Outside the workshop there are full scale replicas of the trolls from LOTR.


We managed to find our way back to our hotel and had a late lunch. Because all the news on tv was about the imminent US government shutdown, we watched the news for a while and later rented the movie, Broken City.


October 2, 2013: WELLINGTON


A bit cloudy today. A funicular style cable car runs up the hill from Lambton Quay up to the Botanical Gardens. The car went up about 30 degrees and made several stops on the way to the top. An observatory and extensive gardens are at the summit. we walked a trail featuring many Australian species of plants and trees. As it was early spring there were not many blooms yet and we did not walk down into some of the other areas featuring rose gardens and the like. After going on the cable car down the hill we walked around near the Parliament building and train station before having lunch at Burger King. Only authentic New Zealand would do. Purchased some fixings for dinner at the New World deli and market at the station.


In the afternoon we walked to Cuba Street an eclectic strip of boutiques and youth oriented shops. Could have purchased a great bong. Some time was spent looking for a pair of fingerless gloves for Donna. She bought a pair in Taupo then lost them somewhere around Napier.




We got up early to turn in our car and board the ferry. It was confusing to bring the car to the ferry terminal. All we were supposed to do was to lock the car and drop the keys in a box in the terminal. Because we had ordered a Plus ticket we were in the Kaitaki Plus lounge where we were served breakfast and later some mini quiches. The ferry transports people, their cars, and some very large trucks carrying farm equipment and, if my nose is correct, cattle or sheep. Despite being on the ocean, I never was able to detect the ocean salt air that is so familiar in Oregon.


The trip took about three hours and we arrived at the port of Picton on the South Island about noon. I was able to pick up our Hyundai at the Avis counter while Donna waited for bags. Then we were off on a 330 kilometer drive down south to Christchurch. The drive took us through green hills on which thousands of acres of grapes have been planted. This is a major New Zealand wine growing area. The hills were green but not the dark green we found up north. The road swerved over to the coast where it was very curvy slowing us and the large trucks down. It was surprising to look south along the road with the Pacific Ocean on the left and green hills and snow capped peaks on the right.


Once off the coast the roads picked up more traffic as we approached Christchurch which had suffered a major earthquake a couple years ago. The area is very flat and despite Donna's navigation we became hopelessly lost until we asked a woman walking by some directions to Riccarton Road. We were not too far off. But, because the town is relatively flat, we could not see any landmarks.


The Lorenzo Motor Lodge is in an area west of a large park. On the east side of the park is the central business district which suffered the brunt of the earthquake. We walked to a grocery a few blocks away and saw one stone church with huge metal braces supporting its wall. Across the street a Buddhist temple was closed for earthquake repairs. The blocks around our motel is very Chinese-oriented with many restaurants and food stores catering to that clientele.

October 4-5 Christchuch

October 4, 2013: CHRISTCHURCH


Sunny this morning in Christchurch. We drove into town to see the earthquake damage which was extensive. Many buildings were boarded up and others were being repaired. Of course, there were entire blocks where there was nothing but rubble or nothing where the rubble had been. We drove toward New Brighton on the beach. Even there several miles out of the CBD, evidence of building damage was visible. Places where there had been homes were grassy plots of ground. At the beach we walked onto a 300 meter pier that jutted out into the surf. Many people were fishing, but most were crabbing. The crabs we saw were small, nothing like Dungeness. No size limits according to a poster.


We spoke to a young man about his crabbing. He mentioned he had been to the states and even drove through Cannon Beach. 


We drove back into the main part of town and stopped for lunch at a Japanese restaurant for some Curry Katsu, deep fried chicken strips over rice with curry sauce. After lunch I thought it good to find the airport as we were to drive there early Sunday for our flight to Sydney. The airport is west several miles from where we are staying and the traffic around the motel is heavy. We found another hotel nearer the airport, the Copthorne, and after checking with our current motel, made a reservation for Saturday night. Our Sunday morning flight would be much easier. Of course, we'd need to move the following day. But the new place had a pool and hot tub!


After relaxing in our room and catching up on Republican mischief in the USA, we walked down the street to aces little stores. We stopped at a new age store full of religious artifacts. Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, Celtic Christian, and secular statues and posters filled the store. The proprietor said she missed the first of the three large earthquakes in the fall of 2010. Since that time there have been over 12,000 aftershocks in the area.


October 5, 2013: CHRISTCHURCH


We moved into a new hotel nearer the airport in the morning. The Copthorne Commander is a very nice hotel near a golf course. It has a spa and pool. And a lunch buffet that we chose to partake in rather than fast food or deli food.


We sat out on the interior patio near the pool and read in the morning. This was done due to the pleasant weather. Later we took the car back to the airport early in order to speed up our activities the next morning when we were to leave for Sydney.


A group staying at the hotel was from the US: military personnel going to Antarctica for the summer.

October 6-7 Sydney

October 6, 2013: SYDNEY


Because our flight to Sydney left at 7 from Christchurch we were up before 4 AM. Our shuttle got us to the airport promptly and our bags got checked. What we were not aware of was that carry-ons are weighed as well so we had to rearrange some items. The flight was a little over three hours on Air New Zealand.there was no first or business class and I have been in a plane with seats so close together.


Arrival in sunny Sydney was uneventful. We were able to get a shuttle to downtown with about eight other people. Our stop was next to last so it took a while. The Westin is beautiful and we were upgraded to a 23rd floor king suite with Club Lounge privileges. We stopped at the Lounge to get a snack as we had little to eat in the morning.


Then we walked about half a mile down to Sydney Harbor to take in the sights. A big event called the Fleet Review was going on so the quay was packed with people trying to get on tour boats to see the ships. There were some three masted ships as well plying the waters between Sydney Cove and Port Jackson neared the mouth of the Harbor. We walked around the beautiful Sydney Opera House and then up into the Royal Botanical Gardens on the eastern side of the central business district where our hotel was located. It was very warm and we were exhausted by the time we returned. So due to our early morning and our walk we got showered and rested and read in the afternoon. Our room faced the harbor but because of the intervening buildings we had only a couple of peeks at the harbor.


In the evening we took advantage of the Club Lounge for wine and hors'doerves. As the sun set the lights in the nearby buildings clicked on. So ended our first night in this wonderful city.


October 7, 2013: SYDNEY


We were up early given the time change. It was Labor Day and many people were in the downtown quay area for the Fleet Review. Breakfast in the Club Lounge was interesting. Besides scrambled eggs and bacon, there was baked beans and green beans. We were offered baked beans on the ferry from Wellington, too.


Sydney has a series on hop on hop off Explorer buses so we figured this was a good way to see the city. We went most of one circuit then hopped on the bus out to Bondi Beach south of town. The beach was beautiful so we got out and had lunch and Donna bought a shirt for Caitie. The return ride gave us some grand views of Sydney Harbor from the south. We passed the naval base where thousands of people were lined up to see the ships on display. Once we were on the city circuit bus, the route took us past some of the other smaller bays in Sydney. We passed the aquarium, a large pier side shopping center, Chinatown, and finally under the Sydney Harbor Bridge that took nine years to build in the 1920's.


Once back downtown we hiked back to the hotel and spent some time reading before going upstairs for wine and hors'doeurves.

October 8-10 Sydney

October 8, 2013: SYDNEY


We spent the day visiting several of the shopping venues around Sydney. These included the Strand, the Queen Victoria Shopping mall in one of the older buildings in Sydney, and the Harbourside Shopping Center in Darling Harbor.


October 9, 2013: SYDNEY


After breakfast we walked down to Circular Harbor and took a ferry out to Manly Beach. This beach is north of the entrance into Sydney from the Tasman Sea. On the way we saw a dolphin leaping out of the water a couple of times. Manly is a small community on the beach. As it was a very lovely day, the sea shone bright turquoise as surfers, sailboarders, and paddleboarders, played in the water. We ambled through several shops including an aboriginal art gallery with beautiful paintings, statues, boomerangs, and even some didgeridoos. I want a didgeridoo. Donna said didgeridont. We sat by the beach and watched the seabirds that were plentiful and aggressive as they swooped down to get a young man's lunch.


On our way back we stopped at Watson Bay and had lunch at an old restaurant named Doyle's that has been on that location for about a hundred years. The seafood basket of fish, shrimp, squid, scallops, and shrimp was good, but cooking all these together made the separate items taste much alike.


There was a huge line to get back to Circular Harbor and we missed one boat but caught the next only to find out later it was on another ferry line. We were allowed to exit without buying another ticket.


October 10, 2013: SYDNEY


We took the free downtown shuttle to Chinatown a mile or so away to check out the souvenir stalls in a huge warehouse setting. Rows and rows of small booths with trinkets, stuffed kangaroos and even some didgeridoos. Many shops had iPhone and iPad cases. After this we strolled up an alleyway toward the bus stop and checked out prices for souvenirs there. Prices were significantly higher. So back to the warehouse we went and filled up on different tchotchkes. The bus took us back to Circular Quay from which we strolled along an area called The Rocks, a very old part of Sydney along the water. One place we passed was the oldest bar in Sydney.


We walked around the area and under the massive Sydney Harbor bridge then returned to the quay. After a lunch at a local Scottish establishment, we bought tickets for the ferry to Parramatta, the furthest stop inland on the ferry line. By the time left it was very warm. According to the tv, the temperature was to be 39 that day- 103 degrees Fahrenheit. The SeaCat we were on took us by Cockatoo Island that is used for a prison. Dozens of tents were pitched outside. We passed the site of the 2000 Summer Olympic Games and then entered into a smaller estuary, muck like a mangrove swamp for our last few miles. We did not want to stay in The town, Australia's second oldest settlement, so we purchased tickets on board for the return. It was very warm in the boat and despite breezes outside while moving, we preferred the cabin to be out of the sun. An hour later we were back walking to our hotel after picking up some items to eat in our room. Later we watched MSNBC to catch up on the government shut-down.


October 11-12 Sydney to Cairns

October 11, 2013: SYDNEY TO CAIRNS


In spite of our early wake-up call, our shuttle was late. But we made it to the airport only to discover we were unaware of the terminal to enter. There are two domestic terminals  and one international. Our driver suggested we go to the domestic as that was the type of flight we were on. She was right. After getting our boarding passes we waited in line a while to check bags then proceeded to our gate.


While we got our tickets through Expedia, apparently when booking through Aussie/Kiwi airlines on can request additional options such as meals. We did not, but were able to order a bagel on our earlier flight to a sydney and a pie on our current flight. Our flight attendant indicated that the additional fee was not worth the food. The flight to Cairns was about three hours, but because Queensland is not on daylight saving time, the change in time was only about two hours. Interestingly enough, at no time were we asked for identification prior to boarding our plane.


Our plan arrived in Cairns at about 11 AM. It was a small airport and we debated between taking a shuttle or renting a car. We opted for a small car from Avis. A good choice. The road up to Port Douglas passed through small towns with many roundabouts and finally  narrowed to a windy two lane road running along the shoreline. Fortunately there were several passing lanes as we did not want to restrict others behind us.


After an hour we reached the Sheraton Mirage Resort. It is an extensive resort with a main lobby and fresh water pool and two branching wings on either side surrounded by large salt water lagoons. A golf course wraps around the facility. Our room was in building four with a branch of one of the lagoons below our second floor king suite. The reviews on this resort are mixed, but the central conflict is this: a spacious resort with many amenities directly on the beach, yet in desperate need of renovation. The room had a mild musty smell but was well appointed. Carpeting in tropical locations should be eschewed in favor of tile or wood planking. The refrigerator was large, the windows looked out at fingers of the lagoon.  The hotel had a promotion that allowed for 12 meal coupons for $240. Guest use the coupons for meals. One for breakfast buffet and more for dinner or lunch. The breakfast buffet made the expenditure worthwhile.


Once our room was situated we made for the pool, a very large irregular shape near the lobby building and restaurant. Like the hotel itself, it is showing wear. But with the early Australian sun bearing down on us through a cloudless sky, the pool was refreshing. I walked out to the beach where signs were posted about the possibility of "stingers" that is box jellyfish that can give powerful stings. Few people were on the beach. Most were lounging by the pool or in one of the many salt water lagoons.


We drove into Port Douglas proper for groceries and to buy some sun screen. Shops lined its main tourist center.



October 12, 2013: PORT DOUGLAS


Because there is no daylight saving time here, we were an hour earlier than Sydney. So getting up early was not a problem, or depending on one's point of view, remained a problem. We took advantage of the breakfast buffet that included many items such as made to order omelets, pancakes, rolls, fruits, juices, and even the Australian version of an Egg McMuffin. The lamb sausages were okay, but the bacon great.


After breakfast we walked to the pool. I was surprised there were so few people in or around the pool as the restaurant and lobby earlier were very crowded. We talked a while with a couple from Sydney. She hailed from the city while her husband was from Israel. 


After a couple of hours it was decided we should do our laundry. This was to be done at the laundromat in the Sunbird center a short walk from the lobby.short but confusing. I had tried to find it earlier in the day and had become hopelessly lost in the labyrinthine paths around the resort. And having found it earlier, I had difficulty locating the specific room it was in as I had earlier found it by coming into the lovely central courtyard from a different side.


The laundry gave us a chance to read and write. And later we returned to the pool for a swim.

October 13-14 Port Douglas

October13, 2013: PORT DOUGLAS


After breakfast we spent the morning by the pool reading and playing video games. Talked with two ladies visiting from Germany. I walked onto the beach but there was not a lot to see. The resort has allowed the trees and foliage to form a barrier between the buildings and the beach. Few people were walking along the shoreline. Coarse sand and bleached pebbles and shattered coconuts were everywhere.


Later we drove to the port to make reservations for the Great Barrier Reef on Tuesday. Set up a trip with Quicksilver tours that will take us out 90 minutes to the outer reef called Agincourt Reef. There is a huge pontoon platform there where we can snorkel from. There is also a semi- submersible, restaurant for lunch and viewing platforms.


We then drove to town where we visited an oceanside Sunday market that was in  the process of closing. A lot of pottery, beads, and tarot card readers. We learned there would be another market nearer the port on Wednesday.


Once back at the resort we spent some time by the pool. Later we watched a movie in our room.


October 14, 2013: PORT DOUGLAS


The day broke much sunnier than the one before, so after breakfast we walked to the pool area. We swam and read until about 2 PM then we drove to Mossman and walked through the Daintree rain forest to see Mossman Gorge. A sign at the start of the trail showed that at certain times of the day, bats swoop down to catch and eat the large spiders that inhabit the forest. This was enough for me to cancel the walk, but we proceeded walking on an elevated metal path that took us through the jungle at a height of ten or twenty feet until we came to a viewing platform near a rocky stream where a number of people were swimming in the pools formed by the boulders. Apparently during the rainy season the stream can be filled with deeper and faster running water so there are plenty of signs warning swimmers to be careful.


After our walk in Mossman we drove back to Port Douglas proper and visited a few shops then bought some breakfast items for the next day as we were sailing to the Great Barrier Reef.


October 15-18 Port Douglas

October 15, 2013: PORT DOUGLAS


This was the big day for our Great Barrier Reef trip. We arrived at the port early and were the first to board the jet propelled catamaran. We were told there were about 260 guests on board. It took about 90 minutes to arrive at the reef. Attached to the reef's bottom was a huge pontoon structure with dining facilities, scuba and snorkeling areas, two semisubmersibles and a place for two large boats to dock. I signed up to be with a novice group under the tutelage of a biologist. While the fish here were not so spectacular, the coral formations and varieties of coral were . Our guide showed us a huge clam about four feet across and got it to close its shell. We saw a clownfish like Nemo and many other varieties. The colors were vibrant and less muddy than in the heavily trafficked Maui. And we paddled in shallow as well as 30 feet of water.


After snorkeling, I met Donna and we had lunch buffet and sat with a couple from South Africa. Then we descended to a lower deck to ride a while on the semisubmersible so Donna could see the coral. After about three hours we got underway and sailed back to Port Douglas. On our way back we talked with the South Africans and a family from the Gold Coast south of Port Douglas.


October 16-18, 2013: PORT DOUGLAS


During the last three days in Port Douglas we spent time by the pool, read, played games on our iPads, shopped, and prepared for our long trip home. We had the opportunity to speak in the pool with a couple who lived in the Sydney suburbs.

Cairns to Auckland to Honolulu to Portland



We had a simple breakfast on our last day in Port Douglas and soon found our way on the James Cook highway south to Cairns. Our earlier breakfast did not keep us from a stop at McDonald's near Cairns for an Egg McMuffin. And just like our first breakfast sandwich eaten almost a month earlier on our way to Russell, New Zealand, it had ketchup on it. Must be a Southern Hemisphere thing.


Our little Nissan Micra was turned in and we made for the Air New Zealand counter. Our carry on bags were over the limit, but we expected to leave these behind us in line. But our carry ons were the first things the agent wanted to weigh. Oops! We shuffled our things around and made our way to the gate. The flight was uneventful and we arrived in Auckland just after dark. We purchased a couple of lunch items as our tickets did not allow a meal. Auckland airport has a number of customs areas to maneuver and we needed to do this quickly as we needed to get all our bags before being re-ticketed for our flight to Honolulu on Hawaiian. This was done quickly as our international flight on the latter airline with its generous luggage allowances. With some time to spare we got a burger at Hungry Jack, Australia's Burger King. Once on the plane we ate another meal within an hour of takeoff which itself had been delayed due to restroom resetting on the plane. Also on the plane were the attorney and his wife we'd met a month ago on our way to New Zealand. They indicated their bus caravan was plagued with bad weather, but they had enjoyed themselves.


After the delay, and the post-midnight dinner, we tried to get some rest on the long flight.  Unfortunately, as I was trying to get comfortable in my window seat, I became ill. I am not sure what caused this: the chicken for dinner, the glass of white wine, the lorazepam  I took to calm down and sleep. Who knows. But after suffering for a time, I told Donna I wanted to lie down as I was dizzy and sweat poured off of me. She quickly laid a blanket down in front of the bulkhead row in front of us. (The row was vacant as it required some cash for these upgraded seats.) Donna notified the attendant and before I knew it, two MD's and a cardiac care nurse were attending me. I do not remember a lot. Sometime during this experience, somebody had shaved part of my chest to attach an AED device. At one moment I had my left arm poked with a needle and through the fog in my brain heard a female voice mention adrenalin. I was breathing pure oxygen and the lights were bright. The time was punctuated by the AED machine speaking: Do not touch the patient. No shocking is required. Pause. You may now touch the patient. I had no energy and drifted in and out of consciousness. Every so often I could here someone speak to me, "Roger, Roger, can you hear me?" I could hear but could not respond well. Gee, all I really wanted was to lie down. Why all the fuss?


So over some three thousand miles over the Pacific and the Equator, I remained laying on the floor in front of Row 11 near the bulkhead. During this time the day regressed from October 20 to October 19 when we crossed the international dateline. Shortly before we arrived in Honolulu I found myself able to get up. Donna told me that, had I not come out of it, the pilot had an option of stopping in Samoa to drop me off. Fortunately, I was somewhat responsive. As a perk for this experience I was able to get off the plane first. In the lobby we were met with a phalanx of personnel including an EMT who spoke with me. He said he could take me to the hospital. But I felt better and said I would be okay. After all the next flight was four hours away. So the crew left after I signed a waiver refusing additional care. Now during this time, a Hawaiian employee was monitoring the situation. She then told me that I could not get on the next flight until I was released by a physician to fly. She was going to rebook our flight for the next day. Hmm.. Maybe I should have gone in the ambulance. So we needed to get to a hospital.


We were assisted through customs by an agent who had come with the Hawaiian employee. This helped. We then found our way to a rental car van and within ten minutes were driving a big Nissan sedan to the hospital. Other than being tired, I felt fine. At the Queen's Hospital we checked in at the Emergency Department. During about four hours I had my blood drawn, x-ray taken, and an EKG administered. Everything showed up normal. Son of a gun. The doctor who spoke with us gave me the reports and a note for Hawaiian saying I could fly.


During the time at the hospital, dear daughter Deirdre made a reservation for us at Aulani west of Honolulu. We arrived about 4 PM and within minutes were in our lovely, Hawaiian-inspired room. An interesting place to be as we'd been here five and a half weeks earlier on our way to the South Pacific. While the outdoors with its gardens and tropical pools seemed inviting, all we wanted to do was eat the fast food we picked up, watch some television, and sleep.


We actually slept in the following morning, all the way to 7:15 AM. We walked around the resort a little and left by 11 AM for the airport.


A day later than we expected, we flew home.