Manly Island

Going to manly Island on the Ferry is a slow peaceful way to some other parts of Sydney and great photo ops on the way of the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. There are sailboats scattered all along the waterways and speedboats zipping by.

Getting off the ferry I was surrounded by small tourist shops selling food and beachwear. The boardwalk leads right out from the shops to the long stretch of golden sand beaches. Manly Island is a great Sydney surf spot and on a sunny day, there is competition for the good sets of waves. When I walked down the path along the beach there were two beach volleyball courts set up with bleaches on the beach for events. At the end of the path are an ocean pool and a health center with an amazing view.

Windy Wellington

The Capital of New Zealand and tucked away at the bottom of the north island and is the gateway to the south island. The ferry across the Cook Straight runs from Picton to Wellington three or four times a day through two different companies, Interisland and Bluebird. But we didn’t come here just to leave. There are things to do and see in Wellington! The first place I feel most people are drawn to is the downtown waterfront area. The length of the water has shops, restaurants, and some museums lined up ready for the next batch of visitors. The weekend is the big draw for the waterfront, farmers markets and rummage sales going on every Saturday. Sunday has different events and activities going on all year. When I was there one Sunday morning there was a relay for life race going on. Being the capital city center you can count on various functions.

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The streets are narrow and are filled with endless shops of all kinds. Wellington is a busy city but a friendly one. Like most of New Zealand, their citizens try to look out for one another and give the benefit of the doubt. Wellington is a great city for a pedestrian. I never took a cab or bus while in the capital city. There is wide sidewalk twisting with every street even in the midst of road construction. There are so many fascinating places I passed on my many hours of getting to know this city I definitely didn’t have enough time to stop at them all.

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The best view and my favorite part of the windy capital city is the cable car that lifts to the top of the city. There are signs on the streets to direct you towards the ticket and the bottom of the cable car. Every ten minutes the car runs for a small fee and you will have two options. You can pay for a return ticket down or get a oneway ticket and walk back down to the city. You must take a oneway ticket and wonder the way back down. There are multiple paths to follow heading down and there are even maps available along the way. Lush green landscapes and manicured yards give way to a stunning rose garden. The rose garden was in full bloom on that warm day I found myself at the edge of row after colorful row. Not only roses but the exotic flowers from a place a half a world away from my own home. So it was all new and unique to me. The rose garden is The Lady Norwood Rosegarden and has The Wellington Botanic Garden just up the hill.

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Food Roulette

Walking into a restaurant in a foreign country with no English menu and only a few pictures scattered around you and must make a decision by pointing and hoping for the best.

This is a photo in Hong Kong at a window kitchen from the bottom floor of a large apartment building in Kawloon. There were different shops and other selling food out the window. The window I picked had a few people waiting in the line for the while I watched it. As one person walked away, another stepped up to wait, so I felt it was a popular and trusted enough place to eat random and in some cases unknown selections. I walked to the counter with money in hand trying to order in English to Chinese only speaking locals. After I failed at asking for whatever they will give me for $20. Finally the woman running the cashbox told a man something as she pointed to the back and then she called for the person behind me to come forward to select fried goodies and pay. As I thought this wasn’t the way to order foot and I should go back to the pointing and grunting method, then a younger man came forward from the rear of the kitchen. He spoke in very good broken English and asked what I wanted and with a smile, he filled bags and bowls full of things on sticks and some fried balls of something with spicy sauce on them. I could figure out what some items were and others I didn’t have a clue. I sat in the hostel balcony and tried everything loving some and not too sure on others, but it was amazing gamble that I think is a great way to try local foods.

If anyone knows what I was eating in the photo above please let me know, because I still do not know.

This amazing dish is kangaroo and I can’t rave enough about it.

Waiheke Island

This beautiful island beach is a thirty-minute ferry ride from Auckland city center and is a perfect escape from the busy city. After more than three weeks of walking every section of Auckland, I needed a rest from the city and the always go momentum. By accident, I found out about Waiheke Island. I was on one of my many walks to see what hidden corner of the world I could find and somehow started talking to a man walking to work. After telling him my plans and what I have been doing he suggested this gem. I had seen it on the map and read about the island, but thought it was too far or too much for the ferry. In short, I was wrong.

This is just what I needed, a peaceful day at the beach. I walked off the ferry and checked the return times to find I had all day to play of the Island. I started off to the closest group of shops on the beach which was short and slightly warm. I stopped in a few stores and changed into my swimsuit and worked my way down to the beach. Walking along the beach edge and climbing over rocks until I found my own little spot away from anyone. I ended my day with some local wine and pasta. Also, I discovered a week before this trip a wine from Waiheke Island called Man-o-War which I fell in love with and bought a bottle for my mother. I try to eat and drink as local as I can, everywhere I can.

Byron Bay Lighthouse

Just keep following the path up and you will find the lighthouse. This 1901 lighthouse is open from 10-4 and a local group gives a tour for a donation. Byron Bay Lighthouse is the easternmost lighthouse in Australia. I spent a lot of time walking the paths both up and around the lighthouse and into the woods that lead to the beach. Lots of boulders and dense forest to be found at the point of Byron Bay. One moment I would feel like I was the only one in the area and a runner would run by with a steady pace of breathing and then the woods would go quiet again. The trees ate up all the sounds and felt a world away from the Ocean.

Byron Bay is a must for many backpackers and has a reputation for a reason. It’s the vibe they say, and when you walk around town you can’t help but feel it. It may be the dirty hippies making crafts and selling weed on the sidewalk. There are still name brand shops linen the few main blocks of town. In the right time of year, you can see the whales migrating from hilltops. Even if it’s not the right finding year you can still see amazing sights from the top of any hilltop.

 

Tonga 

If you don’t know where Tonga is, no worries, neither did I before I started planning. It’s not glamorized like Fiji is or built up with name brand stores.

Vavau like most of Tonga is not filled with hotels or shops. The photo above is The Vavau International Airport. The security check is nothing more than a bag scan and the locals sitting around talking and joking and pick a few people out to check their bags the rest of us walked by. All very relaxed and casual. There were a handful of locals, a professional photographer, and the lone traveler, me. Tonga has been recently featured in National Graphic Magazine for there amazing whale encounters. I won’t call it merely whale watching because you are feet away from these giants with snorkel gear on as they lumber to the surface and breach the surface. As opposed to what I think of traditional snorkel, floating on the surface looking down to the ocean floor far below, maybe diving down a handful of times.

Such an amazing experience and one I will never forget. We were able to get so close and see the heat runs all around our boat. There were seven of us on the boat, one guide, and the caption who was a local legion of spotting whales. Our caption had an older diesel boat which made a much deeper hum in the water then the other boats running the area and we were told the deeper noise of the boat attracted whales better. I am not sure if it was folklore or truth but it sounded plausible. The other boats running the water with us were all related to our caption in some way. Tonga, as it was explained, was divided into territories or sorts. One family group of whale chasers won’t go into another’s area.

As our saltly caption and guide spotted something stirring, we took turns in two groups when the boat spotted the whales we slipped in the water and swam over just as they were rising from the deep.

Raglen, New Zealand 

Raglen, the longest  left-hand break in the world.  Home to surf bums, travels, and laid back locals alike. In the hight of season the is not an open  bed In town. There are no name brand stores to be seen anywhere, but the shops are over priced because the travelers will pay it. The town is set back on the coast down enough twists and turns that once you are in town you are also forced to pay the grocery prices even you don’t splurge on the amazing coffee.

Tasmania

This amazing place is somewhere I never planned to go and didn’t know much about it until I started planning it from Canberra. There is a lot more to see and do despite the small size the island of Tasmania is especially sitting next to Australia. I started my trip from Melbourne to Hobart. It was a short flight and uneventful until the flight landed and we deplaned and waited for the baggage. Being from America I have seen dogs in airports and think nothing of it. Just another part of security. Something I have never seen before is the dogs walking on the luggage belt sniffing and checking every bag coming out from the incoming flights,. I have only seen the security dogs sitting at checkpoints at airports, I have never seen dogs running on the belt before or after in any of the 35 countries I have traveled to. I’m not sure if it is such a small airport that they have the manpower or really the dog power to do this kind of security check. I do not smuggle drugs or whatever else people try to get in other countries so I was on my way after I picked up my pack and headed out to find a bus that I didn’t bother booking beforehand. The door slid open and I walked out to a beautiful sunset with a good first impression of Tasmania.

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I tool a small airport shuttle bus stopping at every hotel and bed and breakfast on a set route. Fall was upon the regain and my thinned out Florida blood was very cold in the mornings and nights. Like a lizard, I tried to stay in the sun. The city center was about fifteen minutes from the airport. By the times we make our twists and turnarounds with the drop-offs it took another twenty to thirty minutes to get to my hostel.  The next morning I started off before the sun to catch the sunrise at the docks. A brisk fifteen-minute walk as I watched the world wake up on the way.

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The Tasman Peninsula

The great Tasman Sea off the coast of Tasmania, Australia.

This seemingly small looking bird is an albatross skimming the surface of the deep blue Tasmania Sea. With a wing span of around ten feet these sea birds can soar anywhere for hundreds of miles. There are 21 different kinds found in Tasmania. You would think they would be everywhere but two hours on a boat off the coast and the rest of the day off shore this is the only photo I have of this amazing bird. Tasmania was full of happy surprises like capturing this albatross in flight. I planned a trip for the rugged cost of the island by boat to see the shear wall of rock.

The color of the water here was just amazing. The sea felt so big and our speed boat so small, it felt like the sea was going to swallow us up. What an amazing feeling out on the ocean, in the sunshine with the sea spray coming over the sides and draining back out again. When I started setting in Hobart area I booked a Bruny Island boat Tour with Pennicott Journeys. I have many nice things to say about the overall experience. It was just what i wanted to get out and see all rolled into a package tour with all the driving and meals included. I arrived at the harbor before the people working there had arrived to unlock the doors. I wanted to catch the sunrise over the docks and it was worth the cold morning walk from the hostel. Eventually checking in and loading on a bus headed out to the water. I boarded one of two boats heading out. There were over-sized ponchos left on the seats for all the guest to wear over our clothes. I wore extra layers because of their warning of how cold it could get out there. After putting on the poncho I was over-warm with the mid-morning sun beating down on me. The caption the few other crew member were very knowledgeable about the area and the animals that would fly or swim by. The cliffs of the coast are so dramatic. I am so glad I went on this tour to see the coast from the view of the water. The few hour tours took us around to Port Arthur where the tour continued lunch at  Port Arthur historical site.