Letters to my parents – 1968

In February 1968 I traveled to Australia as a young Karitane Nurse. Recently the letters I wrote home were discovered, my Mother had kept them all and some of the snippets, I think, are worth repeating here. Remembering  I was raised on a farm in Central Otago and then I had been to boarding school so I had a rather sheltered up bringing!!  My letter writing was prolific, 3-4 pages hand written most weeks. Postage was 7c Airmail to New Zealand. Continue reading

Expedition Greenland

passportOne of the worlds sought after Passport stamps – Greenland.

Somehow I’ve booked myself on an ‘expedition’ to East Greenland. I have no idea what I have let myself in for other than an adventure and a chance to see Icebergs!! It is my 70th birthday present to me!! We keep being told ‘you’ll never do it younger’ so I did it!   – Greenland is the largest island in the world but also one of the worlds most sparsely populated regions. It originally belonged to Denmark.  Pop.approx. 56,483 and only about 150  live on East Greenland. I am publishing my personal diary here so please enjoy and put this trip on your bucket list!

Day 1

We arrived at a small airfield and joined our charter flight, duration  90 minutes to Constable Point in our twin prop plane…. We flew over vast  flat waste land before seeing a few mountains to the north-west of Iceland. Suddenly below us were small white dots , actually icebergs and as we approached Greenland the sea was dotted with hundreds of icebergs sunbathing beneath a clear blue sky. We dropped onto a dirt runway and were ushered into a half-dome shaped shed with 58 pairs of rubber waterproof boots neatly lined up!lmc-04657

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Essential Iceland – a day trip.

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Essential Iceland  is my short story about a one day trip I did in a very large truck from Reykjavik in Iceland generally to the heart of the country.

This was advertised as an all day trip. The Visitors bureau did not mention we needed to bring lunch and I presumed it would be supplied – anyway Valdi, our fabulous guide,  took us to a gas station to buy some sustenance. ( it is on their website but I had not been privy to that.)  Once on our way Valdi gave us lots of geological information about the mountainous region surrounding us. We headed north and then in land on sealed roads.

We passed the home of the only Icelandic Noble prize winner Halldór Laxness. Awarded in 1955. Laxness wrote poetry, newspaper articles short stories and novels.

‘Independent People’ is his most famous book set in the early twentieth century, it recalls both Iceland’s medieval epics and such classics as Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter. And if Bjartur of Summerhouses, the book’s protagonist, is an ordinary sheep farmer, his flinty determination to achieve independence is genuinely heroic and, at the same time, terrifying and bleakly comic.

I wonder if the recent movie ‘Rams’ was inspired by this famous Icelandic read.?

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ICELAND in brief.

Iceland is perhaps similar to New Zealand..it has many waterfalls, lush green hills, volcanoes, glaciers and geysers and it is an island. The  roads are two lanes  however unlike NZ they drive on the right. And to be honest it is totally different so do some research and plan a vacation! To discover why Iceland and Greenland are mis-named check out this. They were cunning back in those days!!

Below: Reykavich

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Spring Break in the USA

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 Float plane &  Luxury Fishing boat The Lady Di –  a 74 footer at Boca Grande.

Boca Grande Florida is the upmarket  holiday resort on Gasparilla Island in the Gulf of Mexico. B.C. became known when The Presidential  Bush family purchased property there. The homes are palatial water edge properties boasting all day sunshine and sparkling blue water. One home I noticed had everything, almost everything anyway: open the front door step into the pool, exit the pool and board your yacht moored at the gate, say good morning to the Manatee or the Dolphins swimming past and perhaps chase the tall White Heron out of your pool. This is Boca Grande – – I didn’t stay there – I cruised past!

Below: The Boca Grande MarinaFullSizeRender12 jpg

 

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Nearby is a lesser known holiday destination… Little Gasparilla Island where I did stay.  Continue reading

Sydney for EASTER or VIVID –

If you are travelling to Sydney read on..image

I always book a Silver Service cab to take me to the Sydney airport from wherever I am. They are reliable, an excellent service. However they are more difficult to locate on arrival in Sydney so I usually take pot luck with a taxi off the ramp or better still take the train to the city then find a cab…much cheaper.
On arrival I had pre -booked  Corporate Cabs Australia and they didn’t turn up!!

I’ve blogged about Sydney several times, check out this blog for day trip ideas and other tips.

Cafes, there are hundreds to choose from and some are doing very innovative food creations.

Menu items that caught my attention in Sydney this week were:
At my local Clovelly cafe The Top Hat I spied these:

Toast with sour cherry, fresh figs, ricotta and honey served on sour cherry toast.

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Drinks
Cold Drip Japanese filter coffee served on ice

Iced Chai
Affogato Expresso served with scoop of ice cream; Yes we have affogato on menus too, desert menus but this was on their drinks menu-
You could easily swap the Sour cherry toast for raisin bread I think!

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Lot 19 Cafe in Elizabeth Bay –
Poached eggs in clay on ratatouille with grana Padang and dipping toast
Juice
The Horny Bunny – Apple carrot ginger and celery.

I only had coffee and that was excellent and the folk were friendly.

Lunch
Fratelli Paradiso

A fabulous small Italian restaurant serving fresh cuisine, menu sample here.
Calamari Sant’ Andrea
squid fried, rocket, balsamic  22
Crudo
tuna ‘tonnato’  23
Bufala
heirloom, figs 24
Risotto
prawns, clams, cuttlefish, bottarga 29
Movies
I headed to the historic old Art Noveau Ritz Theatre in Randwick – interesting one car park building but no vacancies – not good for business and the street parking was only 1 hour! Anyway I enjoyed the movie; The Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith. A great $9.00 worth- I thought Maggie Smith brilliant, I’d expect nothing less. The story is one most of us would rather not face – about being old and dealing with the elderly!
Re the theatre, it was built in 1937, it is an example of the art deco cinema architecture that found a home in Australia during the 1920s and 1930’s and has 5-6 theatres. It seems to have lost much of its elegance and style which is rather sad but it does run the best art movies.IMG_3612IMG_3609

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The Opera Houseimage
I parked underneath in the enormous car park. They validate your ticket if you attend a show, parking was only $19.00 for 2 hours. So always ask. Sometimes there is a seal basking on the steps – a local resident so watch for him ( or her!)  One of Sydney’s top restaurants is in the Opera House complex. Treat your self before or after the theatre Reservations suggested.
Lunch (Friday – Sunday 12:00pm – 2:00pm): 2 courses $100, 3 courses $130
Dinner (Monday – Sunday 6:30pm – 10:00pm): 3 courses à la carte menu $130

Another fun place to visit is The Grounds at Alexandria. A great selection of eateries  and a few animals to amuse the children. Look out for Kevin Bacon!

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Bus tickets sometimes cannot be purchased on board the buses, so buy an Opal card at a diary and put ten or twenty dollars on it, no expiry date. Efficient way to get in and out of the city. Parking in the city can easily be $50.00 for two hours!!

So this is just a few brief comments on our nearest getaway, Australia.. Air fares are cheaper than ever and Sydney has sooo much on offer. Watch for VIVID in May and June. The sails of Sydney Opera House will be lit with works by Indigenous artists for the first time this year for the Vivid Sydney festival from May 27 to June 18.

To photograph Vivid watch this video. and impress your friends with amazing images.

The shopping is amazing, remember to claim your tax back as you depart Sydney airport. Westfield in the city Level 4 has 3-4 fantastic women’s shoe stores, trust me I know!! There food hall is excellent, yes they have a  Michelin Chinese eatery there. Din Tai Fung Restaurant… I love it. 188 Pitt Street | Shop 504, Level 5.

An Aussie  funny to wind up with. 

”  We live in a semi rural area. We recently had a new neighbour call the local council   P & W office to request the removal of the WOMBAT CROSSING sign on our road.
The reason: ‘Too many wombats are being hit by cars out here! I don’t think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.”
True Story from Australia.

Guest Artist – Potter Sarah Harrison

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Sarah lives in one of the most idyllic places on the planet on Great Barrier Island. The island is only a 35 minute flight from Auckland but it is light years away from city life. When she was 17, recognizing the uniqueness of Shoal Bay she set her sights on buying a piece of land from her family and 12 years later she took ownership. Her dream was to be a successful potter. I’m not sure when she fulfilled her dream but now as a mother of a teenage daughter and younger son there is no doubt about her success.

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Sarah’s studio in  Shoal Bay is easily found near the Tryphena Wharf nestled amongst Nikau and fern alongside a gentle stream home to hundreds of tiny glow worms. Recently she had a bridge constructed to a secret bathhouse in the bush. Rustic or romantic(purely functional Sarah says!) you decide. She has a small character filled, self contained unit where you can escape the city for a day or a month. The room has a mosaic floor and other artistic curios adorning the walls and a large tree trunk is the centrepiece of this room full of quaintness. for enquiries contact Go Great Barrier and ask about ‘The Gallery’

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In her studio Sarah throws pots and runs two gas kilns and a wood fired kiln – producing a wide range of domestic ware, tile work and hand built sculptures. The entire studio is a treasure trove of ‘stuff’ shared with a few friendly spiders and outside two fat goats help avoid lawn mowing duties.

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I was inspired by Sarah’s enthusiasm and dedication and put a few questions to her.

Sarah, when did you decide to make pottery your career? and do you have any formal training?

I went to Carrington Polytech in 1990 to study interior design. As often happens in that environment where you are exposed to a wide variety of materials and techniques, I deviated from my path into design, having been captivated by ceramics. For the last 2 of my 4 yrs there I majored in clay.Returning to the Barrier the year after I graduated to build a studio on my fathers front lawn.Having felt the stigma of ‘stepping back from design to craft’ I was not setting my sights on being a ‘wealthy potter’Rather I was certain that I just needed to have a space where I could make stuff to my hearts content, and if that meant struggling forever to make ends meet then so be it

 

Have you won any major awards for your pottery/stoneware?

I have found that I manage to make a living mostly selling direct from my studio, as a result I am very complacent about entering into award competitions.However I did grab a couple of mugs off my shelf in 2009 to pop into the mug show at Lopdell House, Titirangi as I happened to be in town at the right time, And was honored to be awarded ‘Best mug in show’

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Have you kept your first ever piece or didn’t you realise that would become a treasure?

I have kept one of my first pieces I made on the wheel and it is great to bring out when I am teaching someone to throw…. saying ” don’t give up…. see how bad my first one was!!”

Like your daughter you also went to boarding school at Epsom Girls in Auckland but you are an original Barrier girl. Were you born on the Island?

I was born to the island, coming home at 2 weeks old on Sea Bee Air.

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What did your parents do on the island?

My Dad came here to retire in 1966, meeting my mum a couple of years later as she backpacked around and had 2 more children of which I’m the youngest.

You seem to have numerous projects on the go – how do you decide which one to start on every morning?

I have too much to do so I do what I want, usually motivated by what is inspiring me most at the time, although in saying that I’m currently working through quite a long order list so that takes priority…. and yes the lawns are being avoided.

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Above is the outdoor bath and her new project is the bridge access.

What is your motivation?

I think I have the best job in the world, I get to create in a wonderful environment and can juggle it around family commitments. It is very seasonal so while I am flat out over summer there is a fabulous off season when I can sink my teeth into other projects.

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Many young artists would be envious of your studio and space not to mention your success. What advice would you give to a young enthusiastic artist?

just start….. many things in the beginning were a bit daunting in particular the logistics of getting everything to and from the Island. As I look back I recognize things that used to be a challenge and now are second nature.

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So next time you are on Great Barrier Island collect a gallery directory from i-Site and explore until your hearts content!

PS Say hello to Sarah and her goats!!

 

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Christmastime – make dreams come true.

Denis Clayton  1942-2003 –  Denis always wanted to sail around the world, 12 years after he died his dream is coming true – sort of. We are sending Denis around the world on the Pixel Boat.  His photo is already on board. Denis loved sailing and we think this would make him smile. As a family we spent 20 years sailing around the north of New Zealand, we all have magical memories of those happy times. You too can sail around the world without getting your feet wet!  Or give this unique gift to someone this Christmas .I  want to share this English sailors dream with you, and maybe you know someone who would love this voyage.pixel boat

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So what is the ‘PixelBoat?

The idea behind the PixelBoat campaign is ultimately to break the Solo Around the World Record for a boat 40’ or less. This record has only been attempted once before and currently stands at 137d 20h 1m 57s, set by Chinese sailor Guo Chuan.

Why ‘PixelBoat’?

In order to raise sponsorship for the campaign, the sides of the 40’ yacht are covered in 5cm x 5cm squares. Individuals and companies can buy as many squares as they want to and upload an image to go on to the virtual boat online and also be transferred on to the actual boat as well. They can also have a link to their website online if they want to, then anyone clicking on their image will be taken to their site – so the bigger the image, the more likely people will be to click on the link. Everything is done via the website on the following pages, upload your image, add you link and pay via BACS or PayPal – it’s as simple as that.

How much is each square?

Each square selling for either £25 or £35 depending on its position on the boat – the higher up, the more expensive they are.(That is less than NZ$80.00)

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What pictures can you upload?

Anything goes really as long as it isn’t offensive.  Companies upload  their logos, individuals uploading wedding pics or friends and family, either for fun or as a gift. One girl so far has uploaded a picture of her father who passed away – ‘dad always wanted to sail around the world, now he can with Alex…’ Where can we see the boat?

The campaign is based in Gosport Marina, in Portsmouth Harbour. Alex will be sailing and training in and around the Solent initially, and then heading further afield as he becomes more familiar with the boat and its systems. The boat will look pretty iconic, and if you do see the boat then please say hello.

How can you get involved?All at Sea Nov 2015

Click on the button to see the virtual boat and then follow the instructions on screen

Who is Alex Alley?

Alex began sailing as a child in Mirror dinghies. A highly competitive individual who after teaching himself to sail, began to become more and more interested in making his boat go faster. He was bitten by the yacht racing bug in Ramsgate whilst crewing on other peoples boats. After leaving school, Alex moved to Southampton to study Yacht Design and manufacture and to be nearer the heart of Yacht racing, the river Hamble and Cowes. All his spare time was spent ‘roaming’ the pontoons and getting a ride on as many boats as possible for experience.

Alex ended up as part of a team selected to represent England in an International Team Competition in Ireland. The 3 boat English team, of which Alex was a part, went on to win. Alex is also a very keen motor sport fan and has been lucky enough to have driven a range of sports cars including Formula cars such as Formula Ford, Formula 3 and the awesome Formula 1 car. 600kg and 600 bhp, the acceleration is unbelievable as is the handling.

He has also driven other sportscars such as GT40’s, Ferrari’s and Aston Martin. Always looking for something different, in 2010 he entered the ‘World Bog Snorkelling’ championships in Wales. Literally a contest to swim two lengths of a water filled peat bog trench, 60 yards long and about 2 yards wide. The challenge was further heightened by the fact that he did it in fancy dress! Still managing to come in second – behind a pantomime horse!!!

Currently the boat is heading to Falmouth to try and set the Lands End to John O’Groats sailing record. All going well it should take us 4-5 days. You can track our progress via our tracker

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All your pictures/logos are printed on the boat for all to see – certainly whenever we rock up in a new marina the boat draws a crowd…Please do pass on the details of the campaign to friends – without people like you and your support, things like this can’t happen, so thank you. We have had a spate of people asking about buying pixels as Christmas presents – well of course you can, just direct them to www.alexalley.com/pixelboat and follow the instructions to upload pics.

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keep up to date on Twitter – @alexalley http://www.alexalley.com/pixelboat/

Contact Alex… email:           alex@alexalley.com        WebSite:         www.alexalley.com

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“There is only one thing stopping you achieving your goals. That one thing is yourself. If you are determined enough to succeed, then you will.” Alex Alley2015

 

 

 

 

 

Travelling alone through Alaska.

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I’m not sure if I should share this secret with you, however I am approaching my 70th year of life so one starts thinking about oneself differently. Keep it secret OK?? ( An involuntary thought process I might add! ) When I run out of energy I think it Is my age. I never used to think that way… when I forget your name, I think that is my age!! When I park the car and have to think hard where I left it I blame my age! When I can not eat all my dinner, and I always used to eat everything on the plate, I blame my age! These days I struggle to cut my toe nails, that is a new predicament; so I blame my age!!  Two years ago I didn’t blame my age for anything…what has changed may I ask??? I’m not sure I want to hear the answers. But I can still catch good sized fish, laugh and enjoy life !!

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My14 pound Silver Salmon – caught and released to spawn!

People still say to me you have so much energy or you look sooo young. I like those people. I recently planned and booked an exciting adventure to Alaska. Before I went I was a little concerned how I might manage the driving on the wrong side of the road and  about being away from my friends and family for almost a month. Silly thoughts in hindsight. I managed absolutely fine. Many of you have husbands and wives to travel with – you are fortunate so don’t bitch when the navigation goes wrong, or he wears the wrong shirt with the wrong shorts! Enjoy the fact you have someone else to blame in life. I could only blame myself,f so I paid extra for a GPS …money well spent! I added in a couple of extra nights so I wouldn’t get too tired. In other words I took it calmly.

I say to you single folk out there don’t hesitate to go alone … book a trip, drive yourself, have fun and push yourself out of your comfort zone. You will come home feeling confident and young again. Well once you recover from the flight although I personally don’t believe in jet lag! I feel like I have been at a party all night and apart from tiredness I am fine. Don’t let being on your own stop you having an adventure! To my married friends keep on exploring; it keeps us all young!

Now about this latest trip. The first week was 6 days at Lake Clark National Park where I was invited with other photographers to observe and photograph brown bears. See my previous blog about the bears.

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Typical scenery Seward Highway

Following this week and a night to recover in Anchorage, I collected a rental car (avoid Hertz although the car was fine- rude staff) and headed off for 12 days to explore the wilderness of the Kennai Peninsula. No cruise ship moly-coddling until I am 80. “Concentrate on your driving Lynn” was all l thought about that first hour or three as I headed south  to Girdwood. Actually it was only a 2 hour trip. I took it quietly that first day!! I stayed at the beautiful Girdwood resort called Aleyska Resort for 2 nights. This is a ski resort in winter and in summer is a very pleasant stopover. I caught the gondolier to the top both evenings where I sipped a glass of wine and watched the sunset.The second night I dined at the Seven Glaciers a fine dining restaurant worthy of the claim, and I enjoyed the sunset over theTurnagin arm. Next day I drove to the scenic town of Whittier, 217 people live here, a fascinating seaside town through the Whittier Tunnel at 2.5 miles long this is the longest tunnel in North America.The tunnel is one way so check the hours and you do share it with trains and trucks. Now you are in the Prince William Sound complete with marina, glacier views and quaintness. I thoroughly recommend Varleys Seafood for Halibut and Chips, the best I had in 3 weeks. This town played a major role in war time but these days it is a largely forgotten and in winter it is virtually closed down!

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I also visited the Alaska Wildlife Centre a few miles from Girdwood. I pre-booked a behind the scenes tour but you can just pop in anytime. My behind the scenes tour had me feeding green beans to a porcupine, an apple to a very large moose and petting a small musk ox which is really a sheep! Quivet is the extremely soft hair gathered form these beasts for top of the line scarves and hats.It is very expensive; a high quality knitted scarf can cost more than 300 U.S. dollars, but will last over 20 years with good care. I actually decided New Zealand Merino would suffice in my wardrobe! The tides in this part of Alaska rise 30 feet so at times the animal park was under water however I saw most of the animals. They rescue animals that often would meet a certain death in the wild such as two homeless Lynx kittens  and a bald eagle with one wing and others.IMG_4057IMG_4072

I discovered some great coffee shops, the roads were good, the sun was shining and I was happy driving The Seward Highway. Sometimes one sees Beluga Whales off this highway but I was concentrating on my driving! Actually there are places to pull over to shoot the views and I did make numerous stops.IMG_4001

See the gondola shadow as we climb higher into the mountains.

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Aleyska Resort – Girdwood

Seward is a fascinating town. Many of the cruise ships start their voyages here but I only saw one. Mr Seward was a very forward thinking man – Seward is named after William H Seward the USA Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. In 1867, he fought for the U.S. purchase of Alaska which he finally negotiated to acquire from Russia. In 2015 we realise what a stroke of genius this was ! Seward was a partner in the law firm in New York where my son  worked for 4 years, Cravath & Co… small world.  Seward was badly damaged in the 1964 Alaskan earthquake 9.2, also known as the Great Alaskan earthquake or the Good Friday earthquake.  

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Beautiful red flowers along the highways

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The North Western Glacier ‘calving’- looks like an icy waterfall!

Around Seward and most Alaskan waterways in September there is an abundance of trout. They are heading upstream to spawn. Seriously wall to wall salmon in many small creeks and rivers. I spent two hours trying to capture these salmon jumping up a weir near Seward. Dertermination paid of for them and me as they achieved their goal and I got the photo!IMG_3010-Edit

Bear  Creek Weir.

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This National Park sign was slightly amusing at Exit Glacier near Seward.

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This is the boat they took President Obama out on from Seward the day I was there – a decoy older style boat!

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A sea otter basking in the sun in Seward. Note the jelly fish!

Currently the population of the Seward is 2,528. The quake and tsunamis ( 67 m high) caused major damage and today there is no high rise or waterfront building. I kept thinking about Christchurch when I was there. Seward boasts some great cafes overlooking the water. I sat and enjoyed lunch watching a sea otter playing in the marina outside. This is the town where the day cruises leave from and I fortunately had pre- booked  the 9 hour boat trip to the North Western Glacier. Most trips don’t go this far so I was indeed lucky. The boat passess beautiful scenery, Sea Otters, Humpbacks and Orcas. The boat passes over some very ripply water and this is an undewater moraine with powerful rips, we could see the water surging. The Glaciers are numerous and this North Western Glacier is impressive despite the fact that it too has receded in recent years. The booming noise as it ‘calved’  was something you need to hear to believe as the sound echoes around the  mountains. Harpers Sea Lions lay sleepily on the ice below. I saw several Humpback whales, sea otters and numerous Orcas on this trip.IMG_4669-EditThe Autumn colours were a beautiful contrast – this is Summit Lake Lodge an ideal stopover.

Back in Seward I also walked to the strangely named Exit Glacier where President Obama followed my foot steps the next morning!  Some one had to check the track for him!!   New Zealand has Fjords and Glaciers as well, but this is like New Zealand on steroids, they have dozens of glaciers and the wildlife is a real bonus. The regions and the people are different as is the food. Food in Alaska generally was simple, chips with Salmon, chips with Cod, chips with Halibut, chips with Spare Ribs, chips with Steak… I am sure you get the picture. Mind you the Spare Ribs and Black Cod or Sable Fish were memorable. I often saw NZ Sauvignon on the wine lists and once I spotted New Zealand lamb 🙂 Seward has a few tourist shops and excellent coffee. There is a  Safeway and  a small hospital, a large aquarium and several gas stations.This is a tourist town 100%.IMG_3668

A Tufted Puffin in Seward

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Spooky misty trees along the Seward-Homer Highway.

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I didn’t see a wild moose, however 85  motorists have been killed on the roads by moose this year!

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Nilinchick – old Russian cemetery

Nilinchick is a coastal old Russian settlement complete with a pretty turreted church and hundreds of jet black noisey ravens; or maybe they were crows! Voznesenka is at the end of the road near Homer…there were no road signs saying it was 4×4 road so I drove down the razor back to the beach before deciding if the ominous rain clouds dropped any moisture I may never return from the end of the road!! Hence I curtailed it out of there quite quickly! On Google it tells you the road is 4×4  only !! My Central Otago farm driving skills  became useful. The third Russian town I visited was Seldovia two hours by boat from Homer with no road access. A deserted little town but it had just hosted a world-chainsaw carving expo.     IMG_4419

Homer is a tourist town at the far end of the Kennai Peninsula, famous for the halibut fishing! Yes I managed to drag in a halibut, not as exciting as the 14 pound trout I caught  earlier in my holiday! In New Zealand we see many old cars abandoned, in Alaska it is old boats. Homer virtually closes down over the winter but in summer it is bustling and boat tours are plentiful. I stayed in a small Inn with friendly owners, the oldest TV I have  seen in years and sixties décor. In Homer there is little time to watch TV and the bed was comfortable. When I caught my Halibut I gave the Inn owners my fish and she returned a piece all seasoned with vegetables etc so I could cook my own dinner! Most enjoyable even on my own! I also had a wonderful dinner at The Homestead where they attributed the Pavalova to the Aussies but I set them right of course!

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The weather was absolutely beautiful for much of my trip however Homer lived up to its’ reputation and we had four moody, misty days. I saw my first ever fog bow, absolutely beautiful, albeit difficult to photograph.IMG_4497-Edit

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Seldovia had a chain saw carving expo.

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A beautiful spot for Seafood Chowder and Pinos Gris overlooking the Seldovia MarinaIMG_3740-Edit-EditHomer summer houses.

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One of the many abandoned old boats in Homer.

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IMG_4470Some serious fishing fleets – Homer & Seward

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In Homer they have an annual wooden boat day.
I also loved the way many of the small boating lakes provided spare life jackets for children. Is this something we could adopt in New Zealand?

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A typical roadside eatery – lovely people very helpful with directions!

IMG_4152-EditSo to finish my story, I had driven hundreds of miles and not seen a moose. My last day I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a moose, then did a U turn and back to see two of these magnificent animals. This is a Caribou or Reindeer.This chap was around 1.7 m to his shoulder…that is one large animal.I was so excited and watched them for 30 minutes or more before they wandered in the woods. I ended my holiday on ‘natural high’ with this relatively rare moment between myself and two Caribou.

If you have questions or comments please reply in the comment box. Enjoy and don’t stay at home another moment!

 

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Travel Trivia

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I loved my recent trip to Alaska, do put Alaska on your bucket list and don’t die before you get there!! Seriously it is magical. You can read about my week with the bears here.

Some of my comments  apply to other parts of the USA, not just the BIG state; some good some not so good!! But all written with you in mind, hopefully they are helpful snippets.

Tipping…I hate tipping, it almost spoils a pleasant dining experience. You are about to leave a restaurant following a delicious dinner and bingo!! The tip has to be calculated regardless of how good the service is.. Has it already been added?, always check this before adding your tip amount which is expected to run around 15% evidently. However many locals I gather only add 10-12%. I downloaded an app. to my phone which was helpful and I could set it to 15% or 12% or whatever.  There are numerous apps to assist you when travelling.

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I also got caught on a day trip on a tour boat, as we disembarked everyone was handing the crew/person who talked about the sights we enjoyed a tip over and above the fee we had paid!  Really!!

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Under this verandah in Seward were two restaurants – definitely not well sign posted.

Bottomless cups of Coke, Pepsi etc and Unlimited filter coffee seem to be the normal. I can never drink more than one at a time, but a nice gesture in most American eateries.

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The majority of Americans still think filter cona style coffee is great. Mention speciality coffee and they might point you in the right direction!  Alaska definitely has a culture of speciality coffee but there are many places like the Crown Plaza in Anchorage who have no idea! . Some shops sell nothing but coffee, not even simple food! Lots of roadside Alaskan cute coffee buses.. Hotels all seem to have FREE wi-fi. Last time I stayed in NZ or Australia this was not the case. Often only free in the foyers😳 IMG_4695

I love showers with spray heads, I only came across one bathroom with a hose spray shower. Most NZ showers have hose sprays – how else do you wash your underneath anatomy!!  Water doesn’t run uphill!! Oh well  just another American idiosyncrasie !!

Buying petrol, it is so simple in Australia and New Zealand but not in the big USA. Insert your credit card at the pump..it says “wait a Moment,” ( wait forever) go inside they say ‘try again, so you trot our dutifully and try again. No luck. Back inside. I ask is it because I have a Foreign credit card? The woman looks at me as though I am an alien… No kidding. She says to me you have to pay inside in advance. I ask how do I know the cost! “Well you can pay cash! Is there an ATM machine I ask?” “two blocks down the road” she mumbled, I might add it is raining !! Then she says “there is another garage in town you could try!” With that I drove to the next garage..went inside first off and the lady said I will put fifty on your card and if it’s less I will  refund you! OK I said and sure enough I received $5-75 change… All done with a smile. But it certainly was not simple.

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Another day I went to another Gas station and the machine accepted my card and I was done and dusted and refueled in minutes 🙂  On another occasion I was asked my zip code..I knew that wouldn’t work so I tried my sons’ American zip code but Visa knew that wasn’t right!! Back inside and this time the young lass held onto my credit card while I filled up and then she deducted the amount… Simple enough, but honestly American fuel businesses need a shake up!!!

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Food..burgers and chips paninis, Caesar salads , all pretty de ja vu – NZ we have a lot more ‘foodie’ eateries, Pacific Rim Cuisine is definitely a favourite of mine. I suspect NZ food is more expensive than the average traveller wants to spend though. High bar stools and booths are still very popular stateside. The best eateries often look quite dark and intimidating from the outside. Certainly you won’t find a meat pie for sale anywhere, hot dogs are the equivalent snack it would seem and endless chips.

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Key Lime Pie

Fine Dining… Yes definitely Alaska has some fine eateries. Seven Glaciers at the  Alyeska Resort in Girdwood and The Homestead near Homer are both well worth making the effort to dine at. Try specialities such as Halibut and Alaskan Salmon of course but don’t overlook the Kennai Scallops at Mykel in Soldotna, large succulent and sweet or the Black Cod called Sable Fish.

IMG_4088 The best Halibut and chips without doubt was in Whittier In a quaint little waterside café called Varley’s Swiftwater Seafood. I met people in there who had driven all the way from Anchorage for lunch and to enjoy the Halibut  ‘n chips and now I having eaten there I under stand why!! The best anywhere in Alaska.

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I couldn’t help noticing the bullet holes in sooo many road signs. Despite signs saying no shooting near the highways!!

Road side notices in many areas are Double Fines for exceeding the speed limit. I wonder if that would work in NZ.? Maybe at Maramarua which is a bad crash site in the north Island!! I didn’t see any mention of speed cameras and I saw only one patrol car !

In Canada the ferries to Vancouver Island run hourly and the voyage is 90 minutes, with waiting time 2-3 hours. Beautiful ferries, they take cars and people, 400 at a time. But strangely you cannot buy a beer on the ferry or either side in the restaurants catering for the passengers. Very strange I thought. Turns out Vancouver was a ‘dry‘ city for twenty years!! The other interesting thing is there was absolutely no security checks for these ferries. Plane passengers are so tightly screened and yet a ferry with 2-4 hundred passengers and cars no one checked a thing… Is that weird or what??

A cold beer is pretty good on a hot summers day -

A cold beer is pretty good on a hot summers day –

Rental car people; well Hertz in Anchorage anyway. No service – there’s the car and a mumbled thanks on return. How hard would it be to talk to the driver, ask where you’re heading, make small talk. On return ask how was your trip? After all this is one of the last things you might do in a country or city… Leaves a bad impression when they grunt and point to the elevator!! They are just there because they can’t get a job anywhere else! Students on summer jobs are so wonderful, interested in you as a person, happy to be working, great attitudes. Alaska has sooo many of them, wonderful. IMG_4635