Location: Monticello, Kentucky, USA
[END OF TRIP] Today we are driving the last segment of our world tour. Our little Toyota Camry is loaded down with all our luggage from the world trip plus lots of new presents and some free lamps from uncle Jack's. We are driving through West Virginia then down into Kentucky. We will be living in Monticello, KY for the next few months. All are invited to visit us anytime.
Location: Leesburg, Virgina, USA
We are now just about finished with the trip. We traveled from Peoria, Illinois today with our family Uncle Jack and Aunt Cami. Our little Toyota Camry that we left here in June still runs! Yea! Just needs an oil change + battery and its ready to go. We plan to rest a bit and visit our friends Kari Sue, Foong-Yin, and their new baby.
Location: Peoria, Illinois, USA
We are now in Peoria! Lots of fun here visiting with family, seeing movies, bowling, gift exchange, etc...
Location: Spokane, WA, USA
We are now staying with Gloria's parents here in Spokane. Temps in the low 30's , but no snow. We will be here until Dec 27. Lots of home cooked meals and visiting.
Location: Silverdale, WA, USA
We are now staying with Gloria's sister and family in the Seattle area. Lots of sharing stories from the road and enjoying Christmas time with our family. We have been trying to catch up on all sorts of news that we missed over the last 6.5 months. We have also been out for a meal at Olive Garden.
Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Our 11 hour Qantas flight from Auckland to LAX was very nice. Lots of free food, drinks, and movies. Before we landed we were given the US Customs paperwork to fill in. On the entry form it asked us to list all countries that we had been to during our trip. So, Gloria got a fine tip pen and in tiny letters she listed all 20 countries that we visited in the small blank space provided. With increased security going on we expected to get questioned about why we went to certain places. We waited in line and once at the customs counter the agent looked at the form for a minute, typed some stuff on the computer, flipped though our worn out passports, looked again at the form, typed again. (long pause) and said Wow, thats pretty cool...welcome home STAMP,STAMP You may get your bags now
We were picked up by our relatives, Sondra and Earl who live in Los Angeles. We had a wonderful time with them at their home. It was a great welcome back to the USA transition. Good food, good company, and some good ole TV watching. Its nice to be back in the USA.
Location: New Zealand
Well, we are not finished...yet. Still a few more days to go before this 7-month adventure is officially ended. We have been putting some miles on our little campervan and enjoying the freedom of going wherever and whenever we so desire. It has been some pretty luxurious living compared to past accomodation. At this point I think we may have seriously depleted the tourist information sites of their maps and brochures - but hey, we like to be informed and we only had a short time in which to do it all.
We have had a bit of bad luck weather-wise. On our second day we drove to Lake Taupo south of Rotura and signed up for a helicopter ride. Unfortunately, a bush fire called both pilots to duty and that trip was cancelled. We did enjoy the Huka Falls which are beautiful and mostly known for their power - not super high - but massive amounts of water. We were priveleged to see some guys kayak over the falls which was pretty cool and very daring. They survived intact.
We also spent some time looking at the thermal reserves where heat/steam comes up from the earth's crust and sometimes creates bubbling mud pools. This area of New Zealand is famous for these so just about every other sign points the way to one. From Taupo we headed over to the famous Waitomo Caves and took a tour of the caves which are filled with glo-worms and create a pretty spectacular light show. We were impressed.
Our goal after that was to see Tangariro National Park - which is one of the main sites where Lord the Rings was filmed apparently. We had hoped to do a hike - but again strong winds and overall bad weather prevented us as these walks were prohibited or cancelled by the park authorities...which also cancelled yet another helicopter ride we had hoped to take as well as some horse trekking due to muddy ground from the rains. So - not exactly what we had hoped for initially - but all was not lost - we spent a most of our day driving, but did managed to see some pretty awesome views.
We decided to try the coast and see if the weather was a bit better there. So we drove back north along the beach and enjoyed the beautiful water and white sand and even managed to camp quite close to the ocean.
Which brings us to today. We drove to and through Auckland and about two hours north to Pakiri Beach. We finally got in that horse ride - about two hours on the beach and through the bush and had a great time. I think our guide smoked a pack of cigarettes and we couldn't understand much of his Aussie accent - but he took us on a good ride. And now we are back in Auckland and look forward to touring the city tomorrow before we fly out.
Location: Taupo, New Zealand
Rotorua is famous for extreme sports - skydiving, luging, huka jets, giant swings, bungy jumping, and....zorbing - which Grant has been so excited to try. And so he did this morning. Gloria opted out due to the cold air (you have to get very wet). What is zorbing you might ask - and so you should. :) Essentially it is a very big inflatable transparent ball with a hollow interior into which some crazy person climbs (that would be Grant). Throw a bucket of warm water in - seal it up - and then roll this giant ball down a nice long green hill. So - yes - basically you are on a rinse cycle for a couple of minutes. In order to enter the ball you have to do a running start and semi-dive through the small opening head first. Grant did this with no problems - well...maybe we shouldn't say 'no problems'...he did lose his shorts in the process (Gloria got permission to tell this part of the story because she couldn't resist). Fortunately, for him (and the family waiting in line) he quickly got them back on before anyone saw his bare bum. Although the launch operator did catch Grant redressing himself and managed to shoot off a "Don't lose your britches on the way down, mate." :) Anyway, he came down safely and fully clothed and had a great time. You can check it out at www zorb com. And we will post some photos of course.
We looked around at a few bubbling hot mud pools which New Zealand is famous for. They are very interesting and extremely smelly (sulfor odor). Then we headed south another 40 minutes to Taupo where we will stay tonight. It was a great drive - not sure there is a route here that isn't breathtaking. Lots of sheep, some alpacas, and great hills and valleys with sweeping views.
We are in Taupo tonight - just visited the famous Huka Falls which are not large - but known for the massive amount of water power that surges through them. We even got to see a guy kayak over the waterfall...very courageous! We had some seafood chowder (very yummy!) down by Lake Taupo and then Grant had to feed his internet habit - so here we are. :) Internet is very expensive here - we've come from paying 50 cents an hour to about $5 an hour! Crazy. You'd think it would be cheaper in a 1st world country.
Well, we are off to enjoy another fun night camping in our little van. We even manage to get a great view of the mountains from our spot.
Location: Rotorua, New Zealand
Happy Birthday Margie! Hope you and Parker enjoyed your 5 days of partying it up. :)
We said goodbye to our friends in Australia and flew 3 1/2 hours and a couple of time zones to New Zealand...arrived at around 1am. Customs seemed a breezed after the last 6 months in less organized airports. We caught a shuttle to our hotel - so thankful Grant managed to book that ahead of time! Had a great nights sleep and headed off to collect our campervan for the next 7 days. After some research and advice from others - we found this is apparently the way to see it all here. This was confirmed as we started driving and passed another campervan probably every 5 minutes. The only downside is that the local thieves are wise to this popular mode of transport for tourists and we are told they frequently help themselves to your valuables. So we can't actually leave much inside the van if we are going to be away for any time. That being said - it is proving to be a very fun and easy way to travel. There are camping parks strewn across the island and they are very safe and quiet. We cooked a little meal tonight - not much room to turn around in - but it worked out alright. Grant has been doing the driving as Gloria does not drive a manual - at least not very successfully. He has gotten quite adept at driving on the left side of the road and only occasionally mutters to himself "keep left, keep left" as he goes around the round abouts (which are numerous and so great for traffic - we think the US should have more of them).
NZ is green and gorgeous. In case anyone was not aware - Lord of the Rings was filmed here - and it is not difficult to see why with all of the magnificent rolling hills - it really is a very dramatic landscape which we will try our best to capture in our photos to show you.
Anyway, we loaded up at the local grocery store, sorted out how to convert the camper for sleeping, and navigated our way south toward Rotorua.
Location: Melborne, Australia
During the past week we have been relaxing and hanging out here with our friends Natalie and Adrian. We have made a few trips into the city center of Melbourne and out to Ballarat to visit Natalie's family. It has been really neat to really experience Australian life. On the surface many things seem the same, but we still find ourselves learning new words and seeing a different take on things everyday.
Past Highlights include:
-Going to Christmas parties wearing shorts and t-shirts
-Learning about who this Kris Kringle guy is..
-Eating lamb off the bar-bee
-Grant gets to play a Didgeridoo
-Bike ride 6km around the lake in Ballarat
-Grant finally gets some new pants and a shirt (about time!)
-Gloria gets a hair cut here in Australia. (Looks great!)
-Adrian teaches Grant to throw a boomerang
-Visiting the Crown Casino in Melbourne
Tomorrow night we leave for a 7 days in New Zealand. We plan to arrive in Los Angeles on Dec 14.
Location: Melborne, Australia
Happy Birthday to my Dad! We thank you so much for your support in this trip. Have a great Birthday.
Location: Ballarat, Australia
[Day 183/215] Spent the last two days driving the Great Ocean Road with our friend Natalie. A while back Grant (who is a MAX MAD movie fan) had read that you can actually drive out and see the exact location of where the movie was filmed back in 1978. After some research and studying some maps, Grant planned a little detour in our trip so that he could see the film location. Sure enough, the road and country side look just like the movie! Hardly anything has changed. Too bad the speed limit nowdays is 50 km per hour.
After the MAD MAX side trip, we made a quick stop at Bell's Beach. This beach is the surfing capital of Australia. Very nice. Perfect waves of course. The water is very cold and you have to wear a wet suit for surfing. Unlike Hawaii or other surf destinations, Australia has such a huge coast line, that you really wont be crowed by others.
We started our 5 hr journey along a very windy road that hugs the beach. A bit too windy in some places and you may get car sick if you are not careful. Great views of just the water and coast, no signs, buildings, or McDonald's. Just nature. We stopped in Apollo Bay to have a coffee at a little café and relax. Then we headed off again and stopped at the 12 Apostles. This is one of the major tourist / picture destinations for Australia. Our camera cannot do it justice. Clear water, cliffs, untouched sand, and 12 unusual rock formations out in the ocean. Pretty cool. Plus, its free to visit!
After lots of Kodak moments, we took off for the city of Ballarat and spent the night with Natalies sister and their family.
Location: Bright, Australia
After our wonderful stay in Sydney we hit the road again. On our trip up from Melbourne we drove the Coast Highway, so on the way back we decided to take the Freeway and save some time. This also allowed us to drive a bit of the Great Alpine Road and make a stop over in Bright.
We had a bad tire blow out along the way. Luckily our little car had a full size spare, so after a quick pit stop along the road, we were up and going again.
While in Bright, Grant decided to try Paragliding. After all his experience with skydiving and military parachuting he just had to give it a try. Bright is very famous for its ideal conditions for paragliding. Check out www alpineparagliding com for more info.
Location: Sydney, Australia
After our stay in Moruya we make the long drive to Sydney. We stayed with Adrian's parents at their home near Campbelltown. The next day we took a train into the city and explored around the famous Opera House and Harbor Bridge. We also took a ferry out to see Manly Island and the beach there. Sydney is a very modern and clean place. Later that day we were a bit tired and decided to see a movie in an Aussie theater. We saw "Shall We Dance". The theater complex was very similar to am American movie theater. Prices were about $13 USD per person!
Location: Moruya, Australia
Today we explored quite a bit of the coast line and simply took our time in driving. We made a trip out to see the Greencape Lighthouse which was really neat. It was a 21km drive along a dirt road, but well worth it. We had the entire coast to ourselves. Not many visitors take the time to drive here.
Spent the night at another great little camping park. Perfect weather conditions.
Location: Eden, Australia
Today we took off on our Australian road trip. We are borrowing Natalies car and heading to Sydney and back via the cost road. The drive will be about 2000 km or 1240 miles. Our car is a 2 door, 1.3 liter, 5 speed manual , made by Diawoo (it is Taiwanese made) Imagine a Geo Metro.. Grant has adapted quickly to driving a car on the left side of the road and how to shift gears with his left arm. He does forget sometimes when we pull into parking lots and starts to play chicken with other trying to park.
The coast road is very beautiful and we have made many stops for photos and such. It is mostly a rocky jagged coast but the views are wonderful and there are plenty of little beaches here and there.
Location: Leongatha, Australia
We are staying with Natalie's Mum here in the small town of Leongatha. We have been having a great time getting to know the "real" Australia and staying away from most of the touristy things. It is so weird to see how so many things are just a bit different. Getting around has been very easy and any American would feel very comfortable here. Tonight we are driving back to Melbourne and will watch on tele the finals for Australian Idol. The show is just like our American Idol except that its a real big deal here and just about the whole country tunes in to watch.
Location: Wilsons Promontory Park, Australia
Natalie, her mum, and Adrian took us out for to see a great park here in Victoria called Wilsons Promontory Park or "the prom". It is full of mountains, beaches, streams, picnic areas, and lots of wildlife. We got to see Koalas, Wombats, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Joeys, Emus, Cockatoos, and Magpies. We didn't see but heard plenty of Kookaburras all around us. It was a great time. We had a picnic down by a salt water stream.
Location: Melbourne, Australia
In the past six months we have been on many airlines. Some cheap, some bad, and some really bad. Our flight experience from Singapore to Melbourne on Quantas airlines was the best by far. To start, the Singapore airport is a marvel of modern technology and space design. Perfectly planned with escalators, travelators, quiet spaces with comfortable chairs to relax in, TV news lounges (CNN or BBC), and of course plenty of ultra clean restrooms around every corner. They even have free internet computer kiosks and free public phone centers (local calls only) to use while you wait.
Once we boarded our flight we were very surprised to find a TV entertainment center in every seat. We were seated in economy class and found the seats to be very comfortable and spacious. Grant was mesmerized by the TV controllers with a choice of 8 movies, 4 TV channels, 10 radio stations, 8 video games. Plus for the geeks and impatient kids there is an in flight data channel with all sorts of info about speed, altitude, and time data complete with maps to show were you were in the air. With all these distractions and two full meals we didn't sleep at all.
We arrived about 6:20 am and proceeded thorough customs without delay. Natalie (Gloria's friend from Bible College) met us at the airport and drove us to our new home away for home for the next few weeks.
***Happy Belated Birthday to Chellie and Ben! We love you! ***