Sunday, December 21, 2008


How wonderful having a jumping up and down welcoming committee! Maddy had only just arrived from France and HongKong, and had apparently slept for over 12 hours. I was lucky on the Honolulu flight, sleeping for 6 hours. Makes a difference to the jetlag. I'm trying out placing photos in a different place in the blog. Let's see if it works. I think I could even get 3 in a row . . . . . . .

Friday, October 10, 2008

Prince Rupert, Prince George, Jasper, Colombian Icefield, Lake Louise, Banff, Calgary, Vancouver BC, Honolulu

I'm sitting in the lounge at Honolulu Airport, about to fly back to New Zealand. A lot of water, some of it with 80 percent pack ice, has flowed under the bridge in the last 3 months. I can't honestly decide which part was the best. Walking with Mark in the Cinque Terre was unforgettable, both for the warm company, wine and food, and of course the coast and villages – I think technicolour when I think of that area - so colourful and vibrant. All the friends I've stayed with along the way – I've been very lucky. Thank you again Peter, Karin and Solvieg in Denmark and Sweden, all so kind and giving. Mark and all the international London flatmates – what a fascinating bunch of people. And Nancy and Paul in Minneapolis – I feel like part of their wonderful family. Kayaking amongst the icebergs, brash ice and bergy bits in Spitsbergen and Greenland was just so different it's still hard to believe it actually happened. Two weeks wasn't enough. And then there was travel with Neville through the fabulously grand and immense scenery in Alaska and Canada, my 2nd time up to the Arctic within weeks. That Dalton Highway takes some beating, if only for the experience of dodging the trucks. Joking aside, it was amazing. Apparently I overdid the word 'phenomenal'. Hard to know another word that does the wonders justice. The Colombian Icefield was all it was made out to be – except it was even far grander and majestic than I had pictured. Phenomenal even. Elk, caribou, russet and gold squirrels, black bears, and bald eagles – so lucky to see them all. A week in Vancouver BC seeing the sights was a great finish for me, although I wasn't able to do much on Vancouver Island, as it was all winding down for the season. I did find a yacht I'd have liked to buy over at Granville Island – I can send you a pic if you're interested. Two nights in Honolulu, and I'm finally on the way home. I believe that Anna, Noel, Emily and Madeline are in Auckland, and I'm so excited to be going to see them, as well as Alistair and Gail, Hamish and Petra, and Venetia, Jude and Theo, plus Aunty Marg. Family.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Juneau - 20th Sept, 08

Now in Juneau, and leaving here tomorrow by Alaska Marine Highway ferry, for Prince Rupert. From there we'll get a train up to Prince George, pick up a rental car, and drive via the Colombia Icefield route down to Vancouver.
Neither of us are going to stay in Hawaii now. I'm spending an extra week in Vancouver, hopefull at the HI hostel, and will then fly directly home. Hopefully my wonderful travel agent Lee Orton (anyone want a reliable recommendation?) will be able to arrange it for me.
Sorry that the photos don't line up with the 'posts'. They say I can rearrange the page, but it won't do what I want it to!!
bye for now - home soon!!

Wrangell St.Elias National Park, 14-16 Sept 08

As it was with everywhere we've been in Alaska, we didn't spend nearly enough time in Wrangell St.Elias Park. We looked at the salmon fishing setups on the Copper River at Chitina, and marvelled at the size of the fish! The fish are caught up in a revolving net system, which is far kinder to the fish than our hook in the mouth (hopefully) way of doing it in NZ. We drove the 100 odd miles in, past Chitina to McCarthy/Kennicott, on another dirt road. Way more potholes on this one though, and our RV bounced and lurched the last 59 miles. We camped at the bottom of the Kennicott Glacier, right by the river, and were lulled to sleep by the sound of the rushing waters. Neville saw a bear while he was out walking the glacier and wished he'd taken the bear spray. I went out walking too, and saw some bear scat, full of berries. Wished I'd had the bear spray too, but did sing and holler a bit, so it'd have known I was there! We went the 5 or so miles to the Kennicott mine the morning of the 16th Sept, before setting out on the drive back to Anchorage. Neville ran the 5 miles – I think he felt he'd had a good workout at last, after all the sitting in the camper.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prudhoe Bay via the Dalton Highway (aka Haul Road)

What a superb drive, starting with glowing gold autumn colours down near Denali, and then becoming more wintery the closer we got to Deadhorse, up on the Arctic Ocean. Well, nearly on the Arctic Ocean; just a few miles short. We had to go on an 'oil tour' so that we could dip our toes in the frigid water. The weather at Deadhorse was extraordinarily good for us, clear and fine, and really not too cold! The cold part was the snow storm we drove through on the way up, and the -12C overnight on the Chandalar Shelf just south of the Atigun Pass. The most challenging part of all was the truck traffic. Quite menacing really, and we had to keep a sharp eye out in order to let them past. There was no way we could drive our camper as fast as they could.
The wildlife was spectacular. Hundreds of caribou, several herds of musk oxen, artic fox, arctic hare, and birds that were hard to identify - certainly one owl that I'll need to look up sometime.
And then we drove down to Wrangell St. Elias National Park, but that will have to wait for another day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Anchorage - Denali Park

10th September, 2008

Am cheating here - some of you will have read this in an email. Sorry! Time is limited. Hope I can get some pics posted soon from my Macbook Air.

We had 3 days kayaking in Prince William Sound, up in Backstone Bay, round Decision Point from the 'city' of Whittier. We got taken in by boat, dropped on the iceberg strewn beach of Willard Island, and set up camp, hefting the food up a tree out of the way of bears, before taking off for a paddle to and round glaciers quite a way up the sound. All awesome! I didn't want to go any closer than we did! but I think Neville would have. The new Lendal paddle worked wonderfully well, and I was so thankful to have it when I tried the one that Neville was using from Alaska SeaKayakers. The new one pulls apart into 4 pieces, and is just under 800grams. Love it! We didn't see any major glacier calving, but there were some pretty loud booms during the night. We paddled back towards Whittier the next day, staying at Squirrel Cove, and having huge fun watching the silver and pink salmon starting their run up a little creek. We even found a bear lair, where Mr Bear had been munching on his fishy loot. Lots of it. The air was ripe with bear scent, and we got out of there pretty quickly - after the requisite photo! Yes Darcy I got some otter pics but not sure how good they are.

Back through the Whittier train tunnel, Alaska Backpackers that night, to find the next day that we could pick up the camper (solid and good value; a camper unit on a 5.7 ltr ute) 2 days sooner than previously available. The plans got changed rapidly from going down to Seward, to coming north to Denali, and camping at the Savage River campsite for 2 nights. Yesterday we took the shuttle bus about 92 miles into the park, to Wonder Lake, stopping along the way to see amazing views - especially of Denali!!! Weren't we the lucky ones. The autumn colours are brilliant at present, and are amazing alongside the brilliant red of the fireweed and blueberry fall colours. Animals? Oh yes!! Several grizzlies, one Mum with baby, caribou, moose, various eagles and gyre falcon, wolf (only 98 in the park, we really got lucky there) ptarmigan. I completely drained a fresh battery in the Canon G9, and partly used the Leica battery, so lots of pics!

Iceland - London UK - Minneapolis

2nd September. I'm writing this on board the flight from Minneapolis to Denver, which has taken off 3 hours after schedule meaning I'm going to have to make a quick scamper from this flight to the connecting one to Anchorage. Hope there aren't any more holdups!
Staying with Paul and Nancy was a delight. They are so warm and welcoming, their home is an expression of the two of them, creative and interesting, with lovely old polished furniture, pictures, and many many photos of family and friends, Their garden is so creative too, and has obviously grown and matured during the years they've been there. Blue Jays (so beautiful) Red Cardinals, Purple Finches, woodpeckers, and amazingly agile squirrels. Trees grow in lush green profusion, and so do the flowers and vegetables.
We did some shopping at an REI store (just a little!), had a major visit to the MN State fair, (hot, with so many people), then an evening meal overlooking the St Croix river at Stillwell.

I don't know what happened to my London and UK post. It seems to be missing! I loved being at Marks, and meeting all his international and fascinating flatmates. Mark and I met my cousin Judith Phillips and her husband Chris up in Oxford, and getting to know them both. It was the first time Judith and I have ever actually met, and it was lovely actually seeing her face to face. Her Dad, my Uncle David, died 2 days previously, so I was sad that I wasn't able to get to see him before he passed away. Judith showed us around Oxford, her old stamping ground. I have a cousin who graduated from Oxford with Honours!! Wow.

We also visited my niece Libby Lampert (Irwin), and met her darling 1 year old son Harry for the first time. Life's not been at all easy for Libby, and we really feel for her. A plucky young woman, managing a young son plus working, all on her own. I hope it won't be too long before she's able to relocate back to NZ.

Mark took me to Hampstead Heath for the last night of the Kenwood Proms - fireworks and all. What a great evening.

That's mainly the UK. Could go on for ages! Loved it. Loved Mark's flat. Loved being with Mark!