Tag Archives: In Transit

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Day 1 – Departure and Arrival in San Francisco

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Categories: Trip 2016-1, Tags: , ,

Well, I’m off traveling the world yet again.  This time it is to the USA and Canada with a whirlwind 15 day itinerary, taking in the sights of San Francisco and Silicon Valley’’; followed by a conference in Toronto and a visit to the world renown Niagara Falls.

I departed Canberra around 10:30am on Sunday 3rd of July on a sturdy dash-8, arriving on time at Sydney domestic airport.  A quick transfer via bus, a smooth transition through border security and I was standing at the gate ready to depart the country.  The flight wasn’t immediately ready to board, and ended up about 20 minutes late to send passengers to their seats.  The plane in question was probably older than I was – an old 747 jumbo, which had been gingerly redecorated to include basic mod cons like tiny LCD monitors on the head rests.

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The flight itself was as smooth as a baby’s backside (which I can attest to), however the family in front of me decided to let their kids play games with the lights, and it prevented me from getting any sleep on a 13 hour flight.  I managed to get to around 8 hours into the flight before I ended up in any duress.  Once the cabin had been dimmed for overnight travel, I was boxed into my window seat.  Unable to sleep, I spent most of the remainder of the flight in some kind of hellish limbo, drowsy but not out.  Restless legs kicked in with just an hour left in the flight, so that was something of a bit of grace.

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I was literally staring down the flight/route time to destination as we slid into San Francisco airport.  We had a long taxi before eventually starting to file out.  My wallet decided to attempt permanent occupancy, and I luckily realised and managed to get back to my seat to retrieve it.  This meant I was on the end of the long customs queue, but eventually made it through slightly behind a cohort of Chinese students, shuffling through individually into the United States of America.

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Coast of California

My bag was circulating the baggage return as I arrived, and I managed to scoop it up and continue out.  It was uneventful from here on in.  My friend Will had been waiting nearby as I had been able to reach him courtesy of the airport’s free WiFi (take a hint, Sydney).

Breakfast

Will took me to a diner not far from the airport called the Millbrae Pancake house.  Here we enjoyed traditional American fare, for me it was an omelette of jack and cheddar cheese, chili, hash browns and a side of sourdough bread and Smucker’s strawberry jam.  The diner was very authentic, a great rejoinder to the many generic chain restaurants like Denny’s.  After a good long chat and lively conversation we headed back to the car to determine our next step.

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Amoeba Records

Initially our plan was to visit a Microsoft Store as Will had gotten wind of a Surface Pro/Xbox promo, but after a brief phone call, it was determined that the deal was only for students.  That plan nixed, I defaulted to the only option I could think of within reasonable driving distance – a trip to Haight-Ashbury and to Amoeba Records.

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I really love this place.  The drive in was incredibly picturesque, highlighting to exceptional style and design qualities of what I can only imagine is fairly high priced, and highly prized real estate.  We parked opposite Golden Gate Park and strolled up to the huge Amoeba complex.  It seems a lot larger than I remembered when I last visited in 2007.  Inside, swamped by vinyl, I unravelled my “hit list” and started digging.  I picked up two LPs (one new, one 2nd hand) at a crazy USD $20/LP which is exceptionally good value.  Dropped back to the car to store them in the boot before continuing on foot.

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Haight-Ashbury

This is such a great part of San Francisco’s character – a bit like Newtown in Sydney, very hip and alternative.  This time around I snapped quite a few more photos, and we decided to walk to the famous “Painted Ladies” a few blocks away.  We arrived to find an under construction observation site, and a reasonably subdued crowd all aiming to take pictures of the famous terraces.  After a brief stop, we started on our way back.  We wound our way through a park which reminded me of Manuka in Canberra, before tackling a small hill and to arrive at our last downtown location.

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Haight-Ashbury
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San Francisco terraces / The Painted Ladies

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We sipped on some decent espresso as I connected to the free WiFi and had a Skype chat with Toni and the boys back home.  In the dying 10% of my trusty iPhone, my own body decided it was also low on battery after nearly 28 hours of being in various states of awake.  We traced our route back to the car and started heading to Will’s place.  I maintained something of a coherent conversation before passing out for a few minutes.

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Zonked Out

Back at Will’s I more or less dropped into bed and was out like a light.  It was about two and a half hours later that I stirred, and ended up out at the kitchen for some tea and a snack.  It was about 7:30pm when I Skyped Canberra again and the boys got to speak with Will and Fiona.  With laughs and tours of houses, we ended the call and contemplated dinner.  Will and Fiona took me to a local Mexican joint, about five minutes’ walk from their place.  I dined on some seriously authentic Quesadilla and some super spicy pickled jalapenos before making the journey home, taking in fireworks as local residents  start to celebrate Independence Day early.

It’s a wrap

Back at Will’s house, it’s a bit of blogging and then lights out for me.  I am as tired as I’ve ever been.. 

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Day 16 – In Transit, Rotorua, New Year’s Eve

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Categories: In Transit, New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: , , , , ,

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Today we began the day at 7am in the town of Wanaka, about an hour north of Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand.  We will ring in 2015 from accommodation 5 minutes’ drive from the town centre in Rotorua on the North Island, New Zealand.  It’s been a hectic day.

In Transit

We initially woke up with time to spare, but then fell asleep again, and did not actually rise until about 7:45am.  Luckily we’d put most of our bags into the hire car the night before so even with less time than planned, we still managed to get everyone fed and/or bathed and into the car and out the door just a fraction after 8am – around 8:10am to be more exact.

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As predicted the previous day, we met the day with scattered showers and a storm (including thunder and lightning).  This is really NOT what you want in addition to trying to get south of Wanaka in a hurry.  The Crown Pass, mercifully, was not busy – we only encountered a tiny handful of other cars going in either direction – so we made excellent time across the range.  It was  a few minutes after 9am and we snuck into a petrol station just shy of the Queenstown airport.

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Friends Toni and Matt met us at the car hire return place and we handed off some food supplies to them and had a brief chat about how their holiday was progressing.  They kindly minded the boys while we attended to checking in and applying baggage labels to bags.  Once the bags were dropped, we bid them adieu and continued on through security to the waiting gate.

The connecting flight from Queenstown to Christchurch was for the most part uneventful, although it felt like the plane was caught up in the middle of this storm front which was slowly rolling over the South Island.  The landing in Christchurch was a bit bumpy, but we all survived and the boys were almost perfect little angels during the whole thing.  Poor (sick) D was stymied from an attempt at a well deserved morning nap though.

The wait in Christchurch was minimal owing to the fact we had to get from one side of the airport to the other.  We spent a little bit of time waiting but then the gates opened and we headed off to a smaller plane for the return flight to Rotorua.  This flight started off fine, but just outside Christchurch we hit some serious turbulence which sent the contents of my cup of tea flying into the bulkhead above and then onto the headrest of the chair in front of me.  Aside from that, the rest of the trip passed without incident.

Rotorua

We landed in good time and were met at the gate by our host from the Best Western.  Our luggage literally came off the carousel first, so we didn’t have to wait long before we were on our way once again, this time to accommodation on the western side of town.  We had a decent chat as we made our way, and starting making some plans for the rest of the day.  By the time we arrived we were all set to do some exploration, so once we had the room key, we changed nappies on both boys and then set about exploring.

 

We investigated the grounds of the motel first, Jake spent some time climbing on the playground equipment first, before we all headed out, and up – to the Rotorua Skyline.  The Skyline predates the one in Queenstown by more than a decade.  It is conveniently located just across from where we’re staying, so it was a logical choice as a destination.  Taking advantage of weather which had been forecast to be raining (which it was not!) we decided to go up and do some more luge.

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The view from the top was actually quite impressive, taking in most of Lake Rotorua.  You could even see where our previous accommodation was, across the water.

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We paid for 7 luge rides, and we exercised them in the following order: Myself + Jake (Scenic/Luge #1), Toni + Jake (Scenic/Luge #1), Myself (intermediate/Luge #2), Myself (Advanced/Luge #2), Toni (Scenic/Luge #1), Myself + Jake (Intermediate/Luge #1)), Myself + Jake (Intermediate/Luge #1).

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As you might have noticed, there were two separate luge stations, the second one closed a bit early so I was unable to do the advanced track there a second time (it was awesome).  You weren’t allowed to do tandems down the advanced, so I did not do the advanced route at Luge #1.  The slowest part was the chairlift back to the top, but it did allow an opportunity for a few photos here and there.  Jake was utterly thrilled by the luge, and we decided to buy him a T-shirt to remember the day from.

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After an enjoyable afternoon up the hill, we started our return gondola ride just after 5:00pm with a group of tired, but happy campers.

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Back at the motel (across the road), everyone including a very tired Damian, were still a little restless.  So we explored the motel grounds and, in particular, rounded the trout stream which runs across the property boundary.  Jake insisted on a return to the playground, where he met another little boy and they had fun on the sea saw. 

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We chatted to his mother for a while as the kids played and then Toni turned up  with Damian.  We were there until about 6:20pm when we needed to go back to the room.  Dinner was booked for 6:30pm at the on site restaurant, which was excellent.  Our host kept Jake occupied whilst Toni and I managed to eat our mains.  We had an entree (each) of asparagus with fried haloumi, Toni had the lamb rack and I had salmon glazed miso. 

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Once dinner had finished, we returned to the room where the boys were washed and eventually put to bed.  I went with them, and Toni not long after.  I stirred around 10:20pm and decided to write this entry.  We’re about 50 minutes away from midnight and the dawning of 2015.  Tomorrow we are in transit, yet again, back to Sydney – however we have more adventure planned.

Happy New Year

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Day 6 – In Transit, Queenstown [Part 1 of 2]

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Categories: In Transit, New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: , , ,

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Farewell

Today we bid a “until next time” to Rotorua, we shall return.

On our last (consecutive) day in the town, the weather was very nice with the skies parting to provide a sunny send off.  A contrast to the previous four days, the sky was blue and the temperature perfect.  We awoke at 7am and as we had mostly packed everything the night before had little else to do.  We prepared the boys, had a makeshift breakfast and then drove the car to the airport.

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Rotorua bids us farewell with beautiful weather

We were about half an hour early than strictly necessary, however the airport had a children’s play area which kept both boys entertained while we waited.  I had an average flat white whilst monitoring the play area.  We had to move some of our checked luggage around, but got it all sorted.

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Damian at the wheel / Jake was excited to see the plane

Our plane south was a lot smaller than the Airbus A320 we’d had from Sydney to Rotorua, but it flew well.  We did not realise that it was going via Christchurch, as the ticketing did not indicate a stop over.  This added at least half an hour to the travel time, and although we departed around 9:15am we did not land in Christchurch until about an hour and a half later. 

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Approximate route taken today (1/2) / Our first glimpse of the south island

On the landing at Christchurch, I had the novel idea of using my iPhone camera set to “Pano” mode, and just let the plane “move” the lens.  Here is the result:

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Panorama of our descent into Christchurch

We used the stop over in Christchurch airport to do some nappy changes and then waited until the plane re-boarded.

Landing in Queenstown

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Approximate route flown today (2/2)

The boys did remarkably well on both flights, however Damian was getting very tired and hadn’t had any sleep since being woken at 7am.  Jake and Damian handled the take offs and landings like professionals, with no screaming, crying or any of that kind of carrying on.  Brave boys!

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Looking out the window

As we descended into Queenstown, the plane flew parallel to the sides of some seriously tall mountains.  It was a halting sight looking out the window to see the mountainside passing relatively close by.  The weather, unfortunately did not appear to be on our side here either, as there was a low cloud cover (the mountain tops were hidden) and it was raining on and off.

Although the ambient temperature was supposed to be 14 degrees, with the drizzle and blustering wind it felt much colder.

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View from Queenstown Airport

We found the car hire place after we’d located our luggage, and waited while we completed paperwork and inspected the car.  It wasn’t a flash car, but it looks sturdy enough for our purposes for the time we’re on the south island.  Our next obvious destination was the Novotel, which is located right in the heart of Queenstown, on the corner of Earl street and Marine parade.

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Our journey inbound from the airport

The journey was uneventful, and we were able to check in without any hassles.  The room we have at the Novotel isn’t too bad, although we are all in the one room together (the only time this will happen in NZ this year).  The view from the room is over Church street, which takes in most of “downtown” Queenstown, the mountain featuring the gondola (called Ben Lomond?) and most of the waterfront.

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The view from our balcony

We’ve had a really big day (as I write this and bearing in mind we’re all sharing one room,  it’s almost 11pm), so I won’t be able to fit everything in to one article. 

Check back tomorrow to see what happened next in Queenstown in Part 2!

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