A Travellerspoint blog

Day 3

Sea world - San Diego

overcast 18 °C
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I have to start by talking about my breakfast. I had an American bagel with cream cheese. Now bagels aren't like the hard, brick like things that we have back home. These are chewy (sort of), light and have a marvelously inviting smell that drives you silly for the carb loaded little treats. I get addicted to them each time I am here and return to Australia wanting them more. Bagels will be on my breakfast menu quite a few times over the next few weeks.

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After breakfast we had a private tour operator drive us the 10 to 15 minutes to the zoo. Our hotel no longer provides a shuttle service to here as they do to the zoo. While it cost us $30, we had the van to ourselves and we will be picked up again in the early evening. The line up to the zoo was quite long when we arrived at 10.15am. Still we only had to wait 5 minutes to collect our tickets and a further 5 minutes to get through security and the main gates. The park officially opens at 11 am but you are able to walk around the front entrance and take a Skytower ride, which is what we did.

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A little research the night before, we had worked out the show times and what ones we wanted to see. The first couple of hours in the park was spent moving between the first 3 shows of the day and looking at any exhibits that were close by. I brought 4 small squid for $6 so Pat could feed the eagle rays. He ending up being scared of their flapping wings and Dad ended up feeding them instead.

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The first show we saw was the "Story of Shamu". It really is quite amazing to see these huge mammals in in their speed and strength zooming around the pool. While they may be in captivity, they still appear to be wild and untamed. Maybe it's the distinctive colouring and markings. They look scary! My favourite part is always when the people in the soak zone get splashed by the whales. And boy do they get soaked.

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The shows are all wonderfully different and entertaining and the boys where amazed at all the different animals, performers and their costumes. The Americans always entertain on a whole different level to the rest of us and they memorable to say the least.

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The section of the park which is of most interest to us is the Wild Arctic and Penguin Encounter. This area has a marvellous collection of cold region animals, including penguins, puffins, walrus and the show stoppers the belugas and polar bears. Last time I was here I was was looking forward to seeing the puffins, which I sat and watched again. But it is the belugas that have all the visitors transfixed. They are about the size of pilot whale, very white, with very muscular looking body. They like to swirl and spin around the pen that they live in and scratch their backs on the rocky surrounds. They are amazing to watch and must be quite spectacular to see in the wild.

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The zoo opened at 11am and we were picked up at 5.30pm (it closes at 6pm). It was getting dark, we were tired and Pat decided he just couldn't walk anymore. It was a very busy day and we got to see most of the exhibits and have a go of some of the rides. This place needs more than one day, but I am finding that is pretty standard for San Diego's icons. Rest day tomorrow with a spot of shopping and a visit to the USS Midway.

Posted by petty1912 20:16 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 2

San Diego Zoo

overcast 16 °C
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If you ask anyone who knows anything about San Diego they usually mention Sea world and the famous zoo. This zoo is where we are off to today. It will be Paul and my second visit so we don't feel too rushed to have a one day pass. That said, you really need at least two days to do it justice.

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We arrived at the zoo not long after 9am and walked straight through the gates without any lines or waiting. As soon as we snapped up a map of the zoo we headed off on the double decker bus tour to get our bearings and a good oversight of all the exhibits that we really wanted to see. Being the first bus of the day the tour guide was chirpy and informative and there weren't alot of people walking around interrupting the views.

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I can't remember how long this tour went for but it was about 30 or so minutes. After this we headed to the reptile house to spot ourselves an anaconda. Patrick has been dreaming about this for months and it certainly didn't disappoint. The collection of snakes and reptiles from around the globe is staggering. My favourite was the diamond backed rattlesnake. These are huge. With a girth larger than a tennis ball and a diamond pattern as lovely and distinct at a carpet python, these reptiles are a lot larger than those spaghetti western movies portray.

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The animals, birds, insects that call this zoo home are truly amazing. There are two huge aviaries which are full of exotic birds that I had never seen. And while all of us that visit the zoo think that the only sights worth mentioning are the exhibits, the small micro ecosystems and gardens are magnificent. Worth coming to see all by themselves. We loved the panda's, the gorilla's, the large beasts of the African Plains. The only animals we didn't stop to see are the Aussie ones. The Australian section is quite large and is currently undergoing renovations.

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Friends

Friends

We spent a very hurried but enjoyable day here. We walked up a few hills and quite a few sets of stairs. Tomorrow we are off to Sea world. After visiting the zoo, we are well and truly warmed up. If you ever come to California, this is a "must see".

Posted by petty1912 22:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

You can travel half way round the world and gain a day.

Townsville to San Diego

overcast 14 °C
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The only disadvantage to living in the best nation on earth is the emense distances you need to travel to reach those far horizons. Crossing the dateline always leads the the dreaded jetlag, but at least it is a known variable. Our Virgin Australia flight was great. We left Brisbane almost an hour later than expected but we were told that the flight would be 12 hours and not the 13+ that we were initially told. Apparently, the USA customs and immigration staff were not available prior to 6am. The effects of this became very obvious when we arrived. These very professional people were totally over whelmed when it came to processing our entry. After an uneventful 12 hour flight to Los Angeles, we spent 2 hours getting through customs and immigration. I have no issues about the process, yes I hate the precipitant, but I respect the need and nation in doing so. However, it really was quite awful having only 3 border security officers process a 777 plane load of passengers.

I proceeded to the arrivals hall to look for a public phone. There were cubicles and signs for 12 of them, but not one phone...very strange. In desperation I went to seek help at the information desk. A very helpful and friendly lady called Suzanne phoned our private transport and 15 minutes later we were safely in our van and being driven down the freeway in peek hour, south to San Diego. Thank god for car pool lanes. They rock!

In wrap up we arrived at LA at 6am and made it to San Diego just after 10am. Couldn't check in until 3pm. So here we were, no sleep since leaving home and in the same clothes. What to do? A 2 hour harbour cruise that's what. This turned out to be a fabulous idea. San Diego is quite beautiful from the ocean. It is also the home of a major naval base. We saw more war and auxiliary naval craft at port here than what makes up our whole naval force back home. Quite an eye opener. Lots of yachts bobbing around and enjoying the bay. This place reminds me so much of Townsville.

After checking in we all were keen to take a shower and go to bed, and that's exactly what we did. Everyone except for me was asleep by 7pm. It has been a long day, but the good thing is we have gained a day, so we get to start afresh tomorrow.

Sorry I haven't posted photos but my card reader isn't working. Will take a day or so before I will get a chance to get a new one.

Posted by petty1912 19:28 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Day Twenty Three

Auckland to Townsville

rain 13 °C
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Most people have a restless night before needing to get up early for a flight. I do every single time and last night was no different. Auckland with current daylight savings is 3 hours ahead of Townsville – our hometown. We fly out of here at 7am which means a 4.30am check-in. I awake at 2am and make a final check and clean out of our luggage. We catch the 4am shuttle service from our motel to the International Airport. It is very busy (Qantas) when we arrive. There are two flights scheduled to leave for Australia prior to ours.

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It is also school holidays here – the first week. The departure lounge is full of students and sports people. There must have been some South Pacific Veteran Games on. The island nations include New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and Cook Islands. Seeing these teams also make me wonder whether a team from Samoa is here. The New Zealanders have a strong connection to Samoa and are feeling the effects of the recent tsunami exceedingly so. After some quick duty free shopping we sit down to watch Brazil be awarded the summer olympic games in 2016. I was surprised by that decision, but the IOC have always liked to be different.

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Our flight was pretty uneventful. We have a U12 Rugby Union Team onboard that is on tour. Noisey little buggers! The plane has on demand entertainment so I get to enjoy one and a half movies before landing in Brisbane. After we land we are stuck on the plane for a short duration as the skybridge wouldn't operate and it takes some time for a set of stairs to be delivered. Customs and Immigration are uneventful and we move quickly to drop our luggage off to be sent to the domestic terminal. We take the opportunity to have lunch during the short layover. In the end our flight is delayed 30 minutes. It is hot here and we feel sad to be out of the comfort of the mild New Zealand weather.

When we get to Townsville it is very dusty and hazy. It is also very hot! We have to wait long for a taxi so we all pile in for the short drive home. The 7 minute drive ends up costing $17, I think this is steep. With the luggage upstairs, we open our house to find it covered in dust from the recent dust storms. It takes us nearly three hours to tidy up and it is a rush job. That said, it is great to be home. It is also sad to see how very dry and arid the city looks. Twelve hours ago we were in rainy Auckland....I hope it rains here soon.

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Posted by petty1912 22:20 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Day Twenty Two

Piha

semi-overcast 22 °C
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It is a week after we have returned home - this was a wonderful last day in New Zealand a day trip to the beach in our bago.

No rain last night. It was cool, but not cold and we all had an early night. The last couple of days on the road and the unsuccessful trip to downtown Auckland are put behind us. We are excited at the prospect of one last little journey before we return the bago this afternoon and check into our motel. The first hour after breakfast is spent doing a final cleanout of the motorhome, leaving any unused or unfinished provisions in the campground kitchen for other travellers to use and packing of our belongings for the trip home.

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This is particularly hard for my two little boys as they have collected a "few" items in their travels that they will be unable to take home due to quarantine restrictions. For Sam it means leaving behind a pine cone that his Dad gave him during a walk around Wai-O-Tau. It was closed when it was picked from the forest floor. The warmth of the cupboard that it was stored in the motorhome has since seen it open. This was an amazing tranformation to the boys. Sam was not sure at the start that this was indeed the same pine cone, but Dad managed to be convincing in the explanation eventually. I am an avid shell collector and Sam brought home a bagfull of large pippy shells after a walk along the beach at Otaki. They too have also been in the cupboard for the last week or so. Pat is a keen collector of sticks. He call them his guns and likes to pretend to shot things with them. So as we prepare to leave the boys decided to set up a pretend museum to display their prizes before the sad task of leaving them for others to enjoy. All of us adults were quite impressed with the display and the boys were very proud of their handiwork. As we drove off for Piha the tears flowed - damn quarantine rules!

While Piha is only approximately 45kms from Auckland, it takes us 45 minutes to get there. The drive takes you over and through the Waitakere Ranges on a narrow road with lots of sharp curves. There is a famous advertisement in NZ about the mini cooper and the enjoyment of driving to Piha. While I can't be sure on the number of curves on the road it is not great for those with weak stomachs like myself.

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I didn't really know much about Piha but I had seen the photographs and that was enough to draw me here. I have since read alot about the beach and it's appeal to Aucklanders. It is a very popular holiday spot and I would not be over stating things by saying this is the Bondi of Auckland. Boardriding was introduced to New Zealand by two Californian lifeguards on this beach back in 1956, and the first surf boat in the country was owned by the Piha Surf Club.

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Piha is a dangerous place to swim. It has infamous rips and currents and only nutters with no sense of self preservation swim outside the flagged patrolled areas. After competing at Piha against a New Zealand surf team in 1950, an Australian surf life saving team said they never wanted to compete on the beach again - and they haven't. In 1997 when Uncle Toby's Iron Man contest was held at Piha canoes were snapped in two. Today the water is too cold and I am far too interested in walking along the beach, taking some photos and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

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The scenery here is breathtaking. The black iron (volcanic) sand is a welcome change like Lake Taupo to what I am used to seeing. It also boasts rugged cliffs and the dominant Lion Rock standing guard over the beach. The beach is then backed by sub-tropical forest. Other than the crashing of the waves, it is so very quiet here. I could imagine the thrill of surfing these waves in surf a place must be exhilarating. Personally I was taken by the amount of flowers growing on the upper dunes beside the road. This place is very unique.

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We spent some time here doing all of the things that we all like to do at the beach. It would be so easy to stay here all day. Lunch was spent at the eclectic Piha Cafe, which seems to be what Piha is like in essence. It's a surf beach with a very small permanent community who are determined to keep development and radical change at bay. I wish them the best of luck.

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After the morning at Piha we headed back to Auckland. Paul helped us unload and we checked into our overnight motel while he took the bago back to the rental company. It was a quick goodbye, but the thought of a big room with a large bed for each of us, drew us all inside. Tomorrow morning at 7am we would be flying out of Auckland to journey back home.

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Posted by petty1912 21:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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