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The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip

a travel blog by Saros

This is where Barbara & Charlie are updating friends & family with our progress around the world.

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St. Mary's Church

Fairford, United Kingdom

The River Coln flows noisily past the water-mill (out of shot to the left) and on past the churchyard towards Lechlade where it will join the R. Thames en-route to the sea via London.

permalink written by  Saros on March 25, 2009 from Fairford, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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Getting to Heathrow

Heathrow, United Kingdom

Setting off from home at about 7 am, it was cold and misty. Aurian kindly driving us through the narrow south Gloucestershire country lanes, across the R. Thames and into Wiltshire. There were some interesting hazards:

Once we'd climbed up Blunsdon Hill on the new bypass, we got out of the Thames valley mists and into some lovely bright spring sunshine, but all too soon met the typical morning rush-hour along the M4 en-route to Heathrow.

Although it was a bit stop-start in places, we still made good time and got to Heathrow at about 9am as planned, where Aurian left us to drive via Nottingham to Sheffield, to watch the big snooker tournament.

Here we are, heading for the departures area at Terminal 4:

We had a few problems checking in: first, we found that we needed visas for Australia and had to spend £50 on getting them at the KLM desk, and then I had to dispose of all my deodorants etc at security, because they were over 100 ml in size, only to find as soon as we'd checked in that one could buy all the same things in Boots, in 200ml sizes, and at inflated prices.

Soon enough though, we found our magnificent A380 and were reassured to see that the pilots can open their windows, should the windscreen wipers fail and they need to stick a hand out to wipe the flies off the screen!

Looking at the A380 from the comfort of the departure lounge, it didn't look all that big:

Until you see a person in comparison with the engines, for instance, and then you start to get an idea of the scale:

The umbilicals were positively daunting: pipes and tubes attached all over the aircraft, not to mention the multiple gangways attached like big suckers to the side:

And in due course, we were boarded and safely strapped in (strapped down in Barbara's case) and ready for the off at 12:15, but the appointed time came and went and we were still firmly (all 560 tons of us) attached to the ground. The captain, in his broad Australian accent, assured us that all was well and that we were just waiting for some cargo to be loaded – probably my 15' pole: Barbara said it would cause problems if I tried to bring it with us, and it did indeed have to be detached from my bag and sent as a separate item. We took off eventually some 45 minutes late, but we were told that despite the delays, we should still be landing on time at Changi (Singapore), which at least meant that we wouldn't spend quite so long in the air (though just as long in our confinement!).

The take-off was interesting as one of the many options on the in-flight entertainment system, was a view looking forward from the top of the tailplane. As this some 24 metres (about 75 ft) off the ground, the view was quite spectacular as we accelerated down the runway. Here's a view from the tail-cam, somewhere over Kuala-Lumpur:

permalink written by  Saros on April 22, 2009 from Heathrow, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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Arrival @ Singapore on A380

Changi Village, Singapore

Well, here we are. A very brief entry as this terminal doesn't allow me to upload photos and other stuff that I've written on the plane. That will hopefully come a bit later once we can get a WiFi connection. It's 08:50 here now and a bright sunny and (presumably) very warm day outside.

Okay, it's later now, so news of our brief Singapore stop-over. In order to break the long journey to Melbourne, we decided to stop in Singapore for 12 hours, as Barbara hadn't been here before, and it made the two flights both overnight.

Being rather close to the equator, it was a bit warm, but we soon discovered that it was possible to get to many places by sticking to underground, air-conditioned, pedestrian areas.

We had a nice picnic lunch sitting in the shade of St. Andrew's Cathedral, a very spectacular building set amongst the many high-rise towers of central Singapore:

Having had that, we didn't then need to frequent the Subway (this is for Eddy):

But it was very pleasant sitting beside some of the many water features in the various malls:

And then in due course, back to the airport for the next overnight flight to Melbourne. A 'little' 747-400 this time, and rather tatty inside compared to the smart new A380:

permalink written by  Saros on April 23, 2009 from Changi Village, Singapore
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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Arrival at Melbourne, Friday 24th April 2009

Melbourne, Australia

Well, here we are, arriving at a very unearthly hour (04:35) at Melbourne Airport, and George was kindly waiting for us, having also got up at a very unearthly hour to meet us:

And then we got back to George & Wanda's home, and Wanda got back from work, so here we all are:

Day - 4, Saturday 25th April 2009

After a good long sleep, we woke to a nice bright day and our ever hospitable host offering anything we could possibly want for breakfast.

But as Charlie had woken a bit later than intended, there wasn't as much time as expected, so we sort of rushed off for family gathering no.1: the Lyne clan.

From left to right, we think these are:
Alan (4th cousin to Charlie), Zoe, Craig, Barbara, Phillip, Ron (also 4th cousin to Charlie), Jan, Cody, Jo, Rachael, Steve, Sharon, Helen & Charlie.

A very happy gathering of many Lynes, Duffs, and Collins's, all related to Alan/Jo and Ron/Jan, and all of us related (either by blood or marriage) to gt.gt.gt.gt grandfather Richard Lyne (1760 – 1834).

Particular thanks to Jan & Ron for hosting the event, including all the catering, and to Sharon for organising it and bringing her immediate family all the way from the outback :-) .

Ron kindly ran us back to Wanda & George's, where we enjoyed fish & chips – the Oz version – for supper, with pudding:

Deep Fried Mars Bar. Another tick off the 100-Things-You-Must-Do-At-Least-Once-Before-You-Die list!

Day - 5, Sunday 26th April 2009

Visiting more of Barbara's family today, across the other side of Melbourne (or Melbun as we now know is the correct way to pronounce it).

Here's Barbara in between her two cousins, Yvonne and Wanda:

And here's most of the gathering, though we didn't manage to catch the youngsters. Left to right there's George & Charlie, then Yvonne, Barbara, Wanda and Yvonne's husband, Chris.

Day - 6, Monday 27th April 2009

Today we do Melbun!

But first, we haven't described the Dziedzic (George & Wanda's) estate yet, so a quick tour: it's a biggish bungalow, at least that's what we'd call it, no, I'm wrong, it's a brick-veneer house, sorry ....

and there's a very impressive cactus out back:

That's just the top few feet, I think it's taller than my pole! And it's producing hundreds of flowers, each of which flowers just the once and then dies.

Off to Melbun on the train:

Forty minutes later we arrive at Flinders St. Station, busy, busy, busy, trams, traffic, impressive Victorian architecture:

I missed a bit. We 'did' the cathedral of St. Paul's while we were near the station. It was big and glowing in the autumnal sunshine, and (unusually for an Australian church/cathedral) has thirteen bells, which Barbara won't get to ring as practice night is Wednesday, by which time she'll be ringing at St. James's in Christchurch (that;s New Zealand b.t.w.). Here's a nice piccy of some of the glowing artwork in St. Paul's:

We go across the road to the ....

where we find details of the free tourist shuttle bus ....

and we go to the Observatory:

and Botanical Gardens which have trees. Some of the trees go something like, trunk, trunk, trunk, trunk, trunk, trunk, trunk, leaves ....

This was a fat one, there were also very skinny ones that did trunk x 50, leaves!

And there were lots of other nice things, black swans, things that looked like moorhens, grebes & herons but weren't, and all sorts of interesting plants and trees, but I ran out of batteries for the camera, so you'll just have to come and see for yourselves!

I then took loads of video, but I don't know how to put that on the blog. However, after getting back on the free shuttle, I was getting seriously impressed with one particular tall building, and on further enquiry, it seemed that it was mostly offices, but did have a viewing level on the 88th floor.

So George & I jumped off the bus and left the girls to fend for themselves - I had Barbara's train ticket home and all our cash, so we reckoned that they probably wouldn't go home without us.

After a short walk, we got to the bottom of the aforesaid tower, the 88th floor of which is apparently the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere, at 984 ft (300m). Interestingly, the direct lifts to that floor take just 38 seconds to get there -breathtaking!

So, up we went, and indeed the views were stunning. Melbun stretched as far as we could see, it being a rather cloudy/hazy day, but little rays of sun would occasionally puncture the grey vista and illuminate areas such as the marina out in the bay, where a myriad of tiny yachts were positively glowing.

It's not ever so obvious in the photo, but there's a triangular appendage near the top of the building, and at the top of that is where the 88th floor is, and there's a small area there where you can sit with a coffee. If you get right up close to the window, you can look absolutely vertically downwards for nearly 1,000 feet, as there is nothing beneath you at that point, because the rest of the building is behind you - scary stuff.

And if you want to spend a bit more money, you can experience "The Edge". It's a 3m glass cube with electronically controlled opaque glass that starts off inside the building. You get in and it slowly moves from inside the building to outside the building (984 ft up) and then they change the glass from opaque to transparent, so you're standing there in this glass cube with a rather big drop below, sky above, and the rest of Melbun all around.

But you couldn't take a camera in, so I didn't bother, the coffee was exciting enough.

Time for bed. Our last day in Melbun tomorrow, must pack.

Day - 7 Tuesday 28th April 2009

Another day out, courtesey of Wanda & George, to:

We got to say “aaah” at a koala:

And even found a 'roo that was awake:

And Barbara even got to pat the infamous bottom of a wombat (albeit a stuffed one)!

And then after seeing many other nice animals and birds, and a particularly impressive birds of prey display, we had to go home (Wanda & George's) to pack in preparation for yet another family gathering and our imminent departure for new shores.

Here we are with kind hosts, Kim & Don Just, a 4th cousin on the Lyne side (please correct me if I'm wrong Don).

And now we're at the Hilton at Melbun Airport, ready to fly to Sydney at 06:00 tomorrow. Time for some sleep.

permalink written by  Saros on April 24, 2009 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
tagged Animal, Charlie, Saros, Hairy, Barbara, Lyne and WorldTrip

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Arrival at Sydney & on to Christchurch

Sydney, Australia

Day - 8 Wednesday 29th April 2009

Charlie was unfortunately suffering from some sort of sickness bug, so did not have a very good night in the Hilton, and as we had to get up at 4:00 am to ensure that we and the pole were fully checked in for our 6:00 am flight, it wasn't the best night we'd had.

At that time of day, it's still very dark in Melbun, so photos during the take-off were out of the question, but at least we could see our plane on the well floodlit apron:

The flight all went smoothly and our short hop to Sydney was uneventful. We did at least get a nice sunrise from 35,000 ft up:

And then we had an interesting bus ride across Sydney airport, transferring us from the domestic to the international terminal, driving almost under the wings of some of the big jets. Another 767-300 took us across many miles of Tasman Sea and we descended (slightly nervously) into thick cloud where the map was showing us being right over the Southern Alps.

The cloud level went right down to 2,000 ft or so, but eventually we got our first glimpses of New Zealand:

Once through the complexities of immigration (not helped by the Swine Flu worries) we found a Green Taxi (they use Prius's) as specified by Wilderness Motorhomes, our helpful motorhome company. Within a short time we were sitting in the Wilderness office going through the formalities of taking over our home for the next four weeks. All very informal, friendly and helpful.

Soon enough, it was ours and Barbara, being the more experienced driver of large vehicles, took it carefully out of the gates and off to the nearby Northlands Mall to stock up on the basics. On checking the drawers and cupboards though, we found that Wilderness had been thoughtful enough to include many of the essentials: tea, coffee, milk, etc, and even a really nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc:

Cheers Wilderness, it was very nice.

And then we found the close-by Meadow Park Campsite and spent some time booking in and organising tomorrow's entertainment.

But first, Barbara wasn't going to miss out on practice night at one of the few churches in the southern hemisphere with ringable bells. So I took her the half-mile or so down the road to St. Paul's Church where she was warmly welcomed.......

Although there were eight bells, not enough ringers were present (even though my name was on the board) so only six were used and I provided a useful presence, having a go on all six. Grandsire, bob minor, Stedman, St. Simon's and Cambridge were on the menu as well as a young learner with plain hunting and calleed changes. The tower had copies of two of Steve Coleman's books – I wonder if he knows he's known in NZ? - and I was ok. The ringers were so familiar. The TC, Robin, was Charles Woodd for example. Lyndsay kindly escorted me back to the site.

permalink written by  Saros on April 29, 2009 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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Our first full day in Christchurch

Christchurch, New Zealand

Day - 9 Thursday 30th April 2009

Another early start to get the 7:15 am shuttle bus to Christchurch Railway Station for the 8:15 Tranz-Alpine Express to Greymouth. This excerpt from the advertising sums it up:

Well before 8 am we were sitting in the comfy pre-booked seats with a great view of a wet station.

The weather didn't bode well for scenic views of the alps, but we did get to see some snow-capped peaks through the low cloud:

And eventually, back in the dark with slightly better views of the Alps.

Am struggling with the bandwidth of the WiFi connection here, so that's about it for today. Hopefully will get to see some whales tomorrow.

permalink written by  Saros on April 29, 2009 from Christchurch, New Zealand
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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Moving north to start with.

Kaikoura, New Zealand

Day - 10 Friday 1st May 2009

A rather lazy start today, but we felt we'd earned a lie in after all the travelling and early mornings, and we knew we wouldn't get to Kaikoura from Christchurch in time for a boat trip out to the see the whales, though a flight might have been possible, but that seems a rather remote way of seeing whales.

So, here we are still in the campsite in Christchurch (www.christchurchtop10.co.nz), and it's a lovely morning:

Our motorhome is a bit anonymous, which has its downsides: not so easy to spot amongst 30 others that all look very similar. But we have an answer to that .....

In due course, once we'd unplugged everything and closed everything ready for transit, we set off north, Barbara driving and me navigating with the GPS's:

We stopped about halfway at a really nice little bar/cafe for a toastie & capuccino:

And there were lovely views from the windows where we were sitting:

In due course we got to Kaikoura and thanks to Charlie's excellent navigating, got straight to the nice campsite (www.kaikouratop10.co.nz) almost by the beach, but separated by the railway station from the sea:

You can tell that it's by the sea by the camp facilities:

And it's good to see that Kiwis have a sense of humour too. Here's the GPS view of our current location, the white star on black is us/campsite, station just to our east, and south of that, the Whale Watch office (www.kaikourawhalewatching.com), but note its address:

And now, the answer to the question everyone's been asking: what's the pole for?

It's to fly the flag and help us locate our motorhome in a sea of anonymous similar vehicles:

And maybe, if there are any other Brits around, they might come up and say hello.

Another early start tomorrow, 7:15 am for the early boat out to the deep water to (hopefully) see a whale or two.

permalink written by  Saros on May 1, 2009 from Kaikoura, New Zealand
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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Having a whale of a time!

Kaikoura, New Zealand

Day - 11 Saturday 2nd May 2009

Up at 06:30 on a brisk morning on the Pacific Coast, to be ready for the 10 – 15 minute walk down the road and around the corner to the Whale Watch base.

I wasn't expecting the view that greeted me as I stepped out, as when we'd arrived yesterday, it had been somewhat cloudy:

The backdrop of the snowy mountains in the pre-dawn light was glorious.

So I got checked in in plenty of time and there's plenty more to write and show, but time is pressing today, so I'll limit this to a brief mention of the fact that I did see a whale eventually, “Tutu” to be exact.

Here he is shadowed by a second boat like ours, and there were planes & a helicopter overhead as well, so I'm surprised he wasn't scared off with all the commotion on the surface.

But he stayed around for about five minutes, recharging his oxygen tanks, before diving back down into the immense depths of the Kaikoura Canyon to continue hunting.

More later..... It's later and we have internet access again. The early morning trip was wonderful, though the information screen was somewhat pessimistic:

But being a good sailor (unlike Barbara, who stayed in Kaikoura for the day), I had no worries and sat in the nice warm cafe for a coffee:

and watched the sun rise over the Pacific:

In due course, after the safety briefing and a nice DVD about whales comparing the blue whale to the Boeing 767 we flew on to Christchurch (the blue whale is bigger), we were bussed to the marina where the Whale Watch fleet bobbed on their moorings:

and boarded our boat, the Aoraki:

I expect we were told what Aoraki meant in Maori, but I didn't retain that. We motored out at some speed, seated comfortably in the lower cabin, to the Kaikoura Canyon (see http://www.kaikourawhalewatching.com/whale_watching_kaikoura_new_zealand.php) where the sea bed drops dramatically several thousand feet (many more than the mountains behind us rise) and provides deep diving (and feeding opportunities) for the local sperm whale population.

Then we stopped and admired the views:

while the captain (forgot her name) listened on a directional hydrophone for the nearest whale(s):

She can apparently locate a whale feeding many miles away by its sonar. Whale Watch use entirely passive means for locating the whales, and their success in finding them demonstrates that the whales aren't scared off by the boat's presence.

Although she heard a nearby whale, it never surfaced within the time we had available during our trip, so we returned with only photos of albatrosses:

On my return to base, Barbara drove the motorhome around to the car park to join me, negotiating an unusual speed hump as she came:

It didn't look any different to a normal speed hump:

Unless you climbed up the ladder of a signal on the adjacent railway line, where you could see:

So, I wasn't about to come all the way to New Zealand and not see my first ever whale, so rebooked on the next available trip and did it all over again, and this time got to see “Tutu” (as previously described).

Once back, we set off, rather later than expected, for somewhere south, this time taking the back roads away from the coast. A pleasant enough drive and we discovered why the venison sausages were such good value:

And stopped in due course at a basic but reasonable campsite at Waiau.

permalink written by  Saros on May 2, 2009 from Kaikoura, New Zealand
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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A little problem.

Waiau, New Zealand

Day - 12 Sunday 3rd May 2009

...... And stopped in due course at a basic but reasonable campsite at Waiau.

It was a friendly little family-run campsite, with few occupants because it's rather out of the way and out of season, but it had all we needed apart from internet access, and we were made very welcome.

Being about 1,000 feet up in the hills, it was a bit colder than down on the coast, and the temperature dropped rapidly as night fell. We had a cosy enough night, but felt very sorry for the English couple who were camped in a very small tent nearby.

When we woke, even quite late at 08:45, there was still a hard frost and the thermometer was showing -2º C. It looked and felt like it:

During the evening, something seemed to have gone wrong with the plumbing in the motorhome, with the water pump running continuously, implying a leak. So we decided to allow ourselves the option of going on south via Christchurch (which we'd intended to avoid) in case it was a serious problem.

After a few phone calls to Wilderness, it was established that it probably was serious and that the easiest thing all round was to return to base, as we were relatively close anyway. After a bit of shopping, we got back to be welcomed by Robbie & Mike, who confirmed that it was a not easy to fix in a reasonable time.

So we were offered an identical vehicle, being freshly cleaned and prepared for us, and in due course, transferred all our gear from one vehicle to the other and set off again, delayed by a few hours, but compensated by having effectively a fresh start, complete with the welcome pack including the really nice wine. :-)

As we set off, we passed the pretty little church of St. Paul's, where Barbara had rung when we first arrived. It looked very nice in the autumnal afternoon sun so we stopped for a quick photo of it:

And then on for an hour or two on rather boring but good main roads before getting back into the hills with “interesting” roads and spectacular views of the snow covered Alps to our right. As it was getting dark, we pulled into Fairlie and found a good campsite with free WiFi (http://www.fairlietop10.co.nz/), a warm welcome and an even warmer log fire in the communal kitchen diner.

Tomorrow, Tekapo.

permalink written by  Saros on May 3, 2009 from Waiau, New Zealand
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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Lakes & mountains

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Day - 13 Monday 4th May 2009

We woke to another very cold but bright morning, no fog here in Fairlie, which gave us a rather good view of our surroundings:

Once we'd eaten and used the nice hot campsite showers, we set off for Lake Tekapo. A pleasant enough drive with interesting sections punctuating the long boring bits where I just set the cruise control and concentrated on watching for the next bend.

In due course we arrived and it was all that the guide books promised and more. The best photos we've seen just can't really prepare you for the spectacular panoramas, which can change dramatically, by just walking around a bit. Here's Barbara sitting in front of the Church of the Good Shepherd. It does have a little bell but she didn't get offered the chance to ring it.

Then we moved the motorhome to a more picturesque spot for a lunchtime picnic:

And just to prove that Charlie's here in body as well as spirit, here we both are with the pretty little church in the background again:

Then on to Lake Pukaki where we stopped for a brief photo opportunity. Someone else happened to be in this shot of the lake with Mt. Cook behind:

But here's Barbara with a similar view:

Then we moved on further up the valley to Mt. Cook Village and parked by the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre to get this view of Mt. Cook with clouds rolling over the range south of it:

And then off to find parking for the night. The camping was a few kilometres down the valley and easy enough to find, though we'd somehow missed the signs on our way up. The site was unsurprisingly basic, being in such a remote area, but had nice flat, level parking areas. We'd been warned that some 'weather' was due overnight, and they were right, the motorhome was buffeted much of the night by the howling gales and rain, but at least it didn't hail as predicted. But we slept well and set off in due course for pastures new.

permalink written by  Saros on May 4, 2009 from Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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