The banner said “Welcome to Hoi An Ancient Town”. We had been dropped off in the old town, a few minutes drive from the beach area where we were staying. Read more
Posts tagged ‘old stuff’
Back on the boat after the tour Mike and I grabbed the same seats outside as there was still plenty to see. Loads of seabirds for a start.
The boat puttered away from its anchorage, the skipper giving us a closer look at and some commentary about the island’s coastline and habitat.
Then we headed west back toward Whakatane. No dolphins this time.
Back on land we checked into our new room, the result of a bit of a muck-up earlier in the day. We did very well out of it as the half-villa was much nicer than our bog standard (though still perfectly adequate) motel room. I eyed up the bath – it and I would be getting better acquainted later on…
First though it was tea time. We walked across the road to order fish and chips from a very popular place on the wharf and then drove down to the end of the road, near the river mouth. Fish ‘n’ chips is best consumed at the beach, or at least with view of the water. It was a bit windy and cool out so we stayed in the car. To the dismay of the locals.
Unfortunately the next day was the last of our holiday :(. Car packed and TomTom programmed, we headed for home. The first part of the route included roads I’m not sure I’d ever been on and where other traffic was seldom encountered. Galatea Road extended some distance and revealed a couple of interesting highlights.
As if I wasn’t already aware that the holiday was screaming to a halt, with my workplace also being in the electricity industry this stop was another reminder that I’d be back in the office the next day.
Later we diverted to Taupo for lunch – along with half the North Island it seemed. Ugh. And then it was State Highway 1 all the way home.
Home! Work. Sigh.
But what a great week away. Time now to start getting sorted for the big trip in May!
Here is a great aerial photo of White Island thanks to the Civil Defence website.
Landing at White Island with a boat load of people isn’t straight forward. There are two possible places, one is more preferable than the other, but it’s still a bit dodgy. There used to be a jetty but that has long gone.
Before we left the boat we were all issued with hard hats and gas masks. Hats to be worn straight away, masks around our necks to be used when required. Looking like an assortment of Bob the Builders we were ready!
The boat stopped about 50m off shore. A zodiac, which was detached from the back of the boat, transferred us in several group lots to a place near the jetty remains. It was a bit of a step and scramble off but then we were free to start walking and gawking at this strange place.
We had been split into two groups so we went to our respective meeting points.
Each group had two guides. We were given a short speech on the main risks to our safety and what to do should say an eruption or lahar occur. They also said we would not be told when to wear our masks – it was down to the individual when they started to become affected by the acidic fumes.
Then we were off! The circuit was roughly an hour and we’d be making about 10 stops along the way.
After a time we started to feel the fumes – a tickle in the throat which made you cough – and suddenly everyone was fiddling with elastic bands to secure the breathing mask in place.
Sulphur mining in a volcano sounds like a risky endeavour but there were four operations over the years trying to do this. The first brief attempt was in the 1880s, followed by another ultimately unsuccessful endeavour two decades later, before the third mining operation starting in 1914. Unfortunately this was to be a tragic year. Two workers died in separate incidents and a few months later, part of the crater rim collapsed. This caused a lahar which swept pretty much everything out to see and all 10 men perished. There was one survivor: the island’s cat Peter. (He was renamed Peter the Great.)
In 1925 a new factory was built but profitability eluded this operation as well, not helped by the Depression, and it closed in 1933. The tour was to include a stop at the factory remains which I couldn’t wait to see.
We were able to approach the rim of the main internal crater (not the main big crater rim, the tour did not take us up there) – sometimes conditions are such that you can’t. There was so much steam though, which kept swirling around, so we didn’t get a clear view inside it.
For a few minutes at one point it rained lightly but I didn’t pay it much heed and the guides didn’t draw attention to it. Later they explained how they used to wear cotton (I think) staff t-shirts which they would start to get holes and generally fall apart because of the acid rain. But now they used a more robust material that lasted much longer.
But but but… huh?… Acid rain?!!…
I guess it’s no wonder really… acidic fumes, steam… but I did wonder why they didn’t mention this earlier. Perhaps because as a one-off, it’s no big deal for your clothes or footwear. And perhaps because it’s not ‘bad acid’. In any case, our clothes from that day are still intact so all is well.
Being a volcano it is actively monitored by GNS Science. The guides pointed out the places where the various monitoring doodads are located. This includes a couple of webcams. This link has the latest images looking up the crater floor past the old factory toward the main internal crater which constantly steams away. I like this angle best because the scientists placed a teeny model dinosaur next to the lens which appears in every frame :).
An alternative means of seeing the island if you couldn’t be bothered with the boat journey is by helicopter. Popular too, judging by the three or four that came and went during our visit. Perhaps a tad more expensive though!
Last stop of the tour was the factory. Cool!
All too soon we had to reboard the zodiac and transfer back to the boat. I loved the tour, it was a fantastic opportunity to venture through an active volcanic environment which I found really interesting, especially with the island’s history. It’s something I’ll do again one day.
On the return journey, while munching through the provided lunch packs, we had a closer look at some of the island’s coastline but I’ll pick that up in the next and final post of this series.
And so the inevitable last day dawned. Thanks to Air NZ rescheduling we were leaving at the convenient time of 1.30am. On the plus side, we had a full day to enjoy; on the less awesome side, we had to stay awake for longer than we’d managed on the whole trip to date.
After checking out and leaving luggage in the lock-up we nipped over the road to the Budget office. Before long we were the owners of temporary Cook Islands licenses – sufficient for a one day hire – and ready to unleash our two wheeled fury.
No helmets required provided we kept to the slightly lower speed limit. It had been ages since I had ridden a motorbike and while these were humble scooters it was so much fun.
We spent a few hours just scootering around, stopping here and there on a whim for photos.
We reluctantly returned the scooters to give ourselves time for a final snorkel back at the resort. After a big dumping of rain in the middle of the day it had cleared up nicely and we still had a few hours to kill. We enjoyed a cocktail by the pool and later found our last bottles of beer (not cold but drinkable) to keep us hydrated while watching our final island sunset.
Between dinner, internet and reading we hung in there til the shuttle’s arrival at 11.30pm. At the airport, the customs and security officials seemed a touch officious and once through that, we realised we had forgotten about the $55 departure fee (ouch) and so joined the hefty queue of similarly disinclined fellow travellers.
But waiting for the boarding call we could only look back on the past few days with a great deal of fondness. It was a fantastic holiday. With so many other travel plans we may not get back to Raro in a hurry which makes this trip all the more memorable.
I was in Churchill for 2.5 days so couldn’t dilly dally about. My b&b was in town and being a small place it was easy to cover on foot. Provided I did so during daylight hours and didn’t venture down to the bay. So with these words of caution from my hosts I spent the first afternoon walking around, doing a spot of shopping and looking through the museum.
This is the b&b. All of the buildings are built for the unique climate and are mainly wooden and weathered looking.
Their scary looking but lovely three-legged dog.
It is quite a sparse and barren looking place.
The next day I went on a long-awaited polar bear tour which I’ll cover in a separate post. Later that evening I met up with another girl from the tour and a couple of others to go to a ‘polar party’ to mark the start of polar bear season. There we got to sample local cuisine such as caribou and musk ox – which is about as crazy as I get when it comes to food experimentation!
My departure the following day was not until the evening so plenty of time to fit in another tour. This was around the local sights and was really interesting. Polar bears are the mainstay pull but is certainly not the only feature.
However, their presence did mean our tour guide carried a gun for the parts of the tour where we left the bus.
And Churchill isn’t just about nature either – there is a fascinating history from its trading origins and now defunct military base. This is an old radar facility.
The wreck of a cargo plane which crashed in 1979.
Visiting a stretch of beach called polar bear alley…
This is a jail of sorts for polar bears. Any that repeatedly venture too close to town are captured and held in this compound until the Hudson Bay freezes and they can be released to find food.
A rare sighting of what is apparently a variant of red fox.
All in all, not your average small town.
Splash Planet in Hastings is today’s name for the original Fantasyland ‘dry’ fun park which first opened in 1967. In the 1990s a redevelopment was proposed that saw it become a major waterpark attraction. It’s certainly not on the Gold Coast fun park scale but it is one of if not the biggest childrens’ attractions in the Hawkes Bay – and Mike’s boys were super excited about going.
We chose an overcast and windy day to go, and were glad of the recommendations made to us beforehand to take wetsuits for the boys. The outdoor pools and waterslides do not have heated water and it was a bit chilly.
The day was spent supervising Josh & Flynn. It really is a place for young people and with the cool temperatures outside and relatively small heated pool inside, Mike and I took the soft option of staying dry! (Admission for spectators: $5.) The slides did look fun though.
The youngest had some water confidence issues so not as much time got spent on the slides and bumper boats as we thought. There were a number of other land-based things to do so was still easy enough to spend a few hours. In fact you’d definitely want to do as much as possible to make the most of the admission fees.
Best value of the day: big rolled ice cream cones for $2.
While we were waiting for the ‘Fantasyland Express’ train ride, the penny dropped about the park having a previous life under another name. I remembered I had a photo from my first trip to Fantasyland when I was 16 months old. Though any recollection of the actual visit has long since vacated my memory…
After this realisation I was quite fascinated to notice various remnants of the old park here and there. Old fashioned playground objects, slides, swings, mini golf. They had a bit of a space theme going on and a rocket slide right at the back of the park is now closed. But I love that it’s still there.
Update April 2015: Sad news this week about one of the legacy attractions at the park.