A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about driving

Yo, ho, ho, Yosemite!

Or snow, snow, snow, Yosemite!

all seasons in one day
View 2011 - Samoa, NZ, Hawaii, USA on neilthelr's travel map.

And more to the point, no, no, no Yosemite! Our original plan was… Sunday – drive to Fish Camp on Highway 41. Monday – drive to Yosemite Village on the 41 and spend 2 nights there. However, Sunday went something like…drove north out of Oakhurst (where is rarely snows) in light rain on Highway 41. Get about 2 miles north before having to stop and put snow chains on (no refund on those then) as it’s getting slushy and the signs were out. Get informed by State Trooper that Fish Camp is accessible but visibility is like ‘when they go in to hyperspace in Star Wars’. We continued for about 2 miles on the 41 – with the snow getting heavier and the roads more treacherous – before concluding that it probably wasn’t wise to continue so we turned round, stopped lower down the hill to remove the snow chains (they worked out at $15 a mile) and then went and checked in to the Oakhurst Best Western. The trooper from earlier had also informed us that a big storm was expected overnight and Yosemite Park was closed at that time so, we might get to Fish Camp but we may not get any further and if we did make it we may not make it out for a couple of days. We thought we’d sit out the night and then assess the roads today. However, an 8.30am ‘road inspection’ this morning showed the 41 through Oakhurst had been cleared but there was no power in the hotel, no power in town, trees down throughout the grounds of the hotel and many of them blocking the driveway out. In other words, we couldn’t make a hot drink, couldn’t turn the heater on, couldn’t shower etc. etc. We were going nowhere quickly. So, plan B had to be enacted… Pack. Extend check out. Try to phone and cancel tonight’s pre-paid accommodation (failed) and hope the guys clearing the hotel driveway did so swiftly. Long story short(ish) we thought we’d head towards San Francisco a couple of days earlier than planned as soon as we could and make plans on route. We got out of the hotel grounds just after 1pm and had an uneventful journey south on the 41 out of Oakhurst (the only way we could go) at good speed and on to Corte Madera where we’re stopping for a couple of nights to do a bit of the area north of San Fran. Having seen the news tonight we made the right call. All roads in to Yosemite are closed tonight and may remain that way for a couple of days. And that’s not the end of the flexibility we’re going to have to show. Our plan post-San Fran was to drive Pacific Coast Highway 1 (the Big Sur) all the way down the coast to LA. However, unknown to us, was the fact a road slip had taken place some time back and part of the Big Sur road is closed south of Monterrey and there’s no nice simple route around. Joy. Still, we haven’t suffered an earthquake, tsunami or near nuclear meltdown. And we’re still not at work so we can’t complain!

Posted by neilthelr 23:12 Archived in USA Tagged driving Comments (0)

144 Islands in one location

We didn’t see them all but drove (sailed) through one of them.

sunny 24 °C
View 2011 - Samoa, NZ, Hawaii, USA on neilthelr's travel map.

Upon leaving Kaiwaka, we headed North via the Whangerei Town Basin for a spot of lunch in a quayside café in the sunshine (Jo – thanks for the suggestion) and then a stop at some ‘well known’ toilets (seriously – this is the second lot of NZ famous toilets we’ve come across – is this country normal?!) – photo to come. Bay of Islands was our next (and most Northern) stop. Basically it is an area of 144 Islands off the coast. Pretty nice place but did not have the ‘wow’ factor the Coromandel peninsula had. We still had a great time though. 3 nights in 1 place was good (staying in Paihia with our room directly on the sea front) and we had a number of good ‘trips’. First was a boat ride where we saw dolphins, harboured on one of the larger islands (Urupukapuka) where Captain Cook first took shelter, and went out to the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’ – as it sounds – and with tides in your favour it’s large enough to fit a (decent-sized) boat through. Going through this was an experience. The weather at sea had turned rough and the rain came down. We sat looking at the hole watching another boat considering the drive through. Each skipper makes their own decision and the other boat’s skipper chose not to go through but, after a few minutes, ours took the plunge and we sailed right through (although a strong grip to hold on was needed as the waves were choppy on the other side) so we can now say we’ve sailed through the middle of an island! We also spent some time in Russell (a quaint town) across the water and did a tandem parasail (i.e. the two of us together) where Helen, after getting up there, realised that she is not the best with heights (but still enjoyed the views from above despite the rain coming just at the wrong time)! We also went Kayaking down the Waitangi River, which, for those who are not hot on their NZ history, is where the Treaty of Waitangi (NZ’s founding document) was signed on 6th Feb 1840. The kayaking also meant that anything that wasn’t already wet from our dunking at the end of the parasailing got a second chance at a soaking. All in all, a nice place, some new experiences and time to chill all washed down with some good food and of course a little Sauvignon Blanc (oh how we are going to miss this good local wine)! Next stop heading back to Auckland for our final NZ destination and catching up with more old friends.

Posted by neilthelr 23:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged boats driving sightseeing Comments (0)

Picton: Last Stop on the South Island

Via the Queen Charlotte Drive

sunny 21 °C
View 2011 - Samoa, NZ, Hawaii, USA on neilthelr's travel map.

The journey from Nelson along the Queen Charlotte (QC) Drive is just stunning with the various sounds in view pretty much all the way there. Much of the Pelorus / QC Sounds are unreachable by road and what road does go there is ‘unsealed’ (a road without tarmac) but we did detour off the main road for about 45 mins taking a road where there’s no rest for the driver; turn after turn after turn. We ended up in a place called Te Mahia where we stopped at a small café and enjoyed a coffee and cake overlooking the sound. And, what a view….. We walked a bit of the Queen Charlotte Track later on (it’s 71kms so it was only a bit) and then we headed to Picton, our last stop on the south island. There’s not a lot you can say about our departure town. It appears to exist for the purpose of the ferry and closes about 9.30! We wandered around it in about 30 minutes. Let’s just leave it there! The highlight was the seafood platter, which was both delicious and good value. A nice way to end the day.

Posted by neilthelr 00:41 Archived in New Zealand Tagged driving Comments (0)

We’ve never done that in a car before

But we both enjoyed it!

sunny 17 °C
View 2011 - Samoa, NZ, Hawaii, USA on neilthelr's travel map.

At about the same time on our journey from Te Anau to Queenstown, Helen and I had a sudden urge overcome us both. She was driving at the time but we had to pull over and find a secluded spot and do it: sleep that is. We just reclined the seats and had a nap for an hour and felt all the better for it. And I’d like to think we were observing the New Zealand government’s warning signs that say “TIRED DRIVERS DIE!” I guess the travelling has finally caught up with us old-timers.

Posted by neilthelr 21:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged driving Comments (0)

The New Zealand road trip begins!

Greymouth to Franz Josef

all seasons in one day 20 °C
View 2011 - Samoa, NZ, Hawaii, USA on neilthelr's travel map.

Franz Josef exists for one reason; the glacier. And that’s exactly why we headed there. Having picked up the hire car (Ford Focus – reassuringly familiar) and stocked up at a supermarket in Greymouth (food ain’t cheap here) we started the 2.5 hour journey to FJ. Like many football games, it was a journey or two halves. Half one: sunny, long straight roads. Half two: torrential rain (Cyclone Wilma’s fault again) and twisty roads. Joy! Thankfully, living in the UK has prepared us for driving in the rain so it wasn’t too bad. We arrived at our motel, stuck some washing on (some of our clothing could stand up by itself by now) and grabbed some of the local nosh at the Alice May (wiki her, she’s famous), which was nice and is run by one of her grandchildren. Helen’s wine was nice (shocker given where we are) and I tried a pint of Monteith’s Dark, which sounded like Guinness, but tasted nothing like it and won’t be getting a recommendation. The added bonus was being able to watch a bit of the England – Australia ODI (we won), but we headed to bed early in prep for an 8 hour glacier hike.

Posted by neilthelr 03:06 Archived in New Zealand Tagged driving Comments (0)

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