There were storms on the island of Cape Breton. Lightning lit up our hotel room all night long. Cynthia slept like a log but I watched from the window for a while. It was pretty to watch, but was dashing hopes for a good day on the trail.
We got up and had breakfast and got on the road. We immediately hit some fog and also road construction.
As we drove we went in and out of the fog as we went up and down the mountains. It was not encouraging. But we kept driving. Eventually we did clear the fog and the rain stopped. And the view improved.
We kept driving and decided to go ahead and take the entire loop around the Cabot Trail. That’s over 200 miles in total so it was a full day.
We had a good time, stopping now and again to see what there was to see
And even to goof around
It turned into a beautiful day and we had a great time
When we finally returned to the hotel that afternoon we took a hike on the Middle Head Trail that is on the grounds behind our hotel.
It was beautiful, but we were pretty tired so we only walked for a mile or so before turning back. This was a find end to this fantastic journey. Tomorrow we drive back to the Halifax area so we can pack up and get ready to catch our flight home.
Tonight we’re staying in Ingonesh, but Ingonesh is only 2 hours away from Baddeck so we opted to take a trip around the Cabot Trail via the western side.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, stopping frequently to enjoy the scenic vistas and take some photos
We also took two detours to travel down some rugged gravel roads to see some waterfalls. Sadly, they were not all that spectacular and were not really worth the effort it took to get to them.
We took most of the day to make our way to Ingonesh and get checked into our hotel. This is the final phase of the trip and we will use tomorrow to explore the park some more before packing up and heading back to Halifax for our flight home.
Today the weather was great to we set off to explore the area. The first stop was Blue Rocks which was recommended by our guide book. A small but scenic little village that offered some great photo opportunities.
We then proceeded to drive the Lighthouse Trail toward Peggy’s Cove. Stopping in the town of Mahone Bay we were met with more beautiful scenery.
We drove on toward Peggy’s Cove and made a few stops along the way
Sadly, by the time we reached Peggy’s Cove it was overrun with tourists and we decided to make it a quick pass and headed back to our B&B in Lunenburg. Once there we decided to call it a day and took the opportunity to rest up for our drive to Baddeck the next morning which was going to take us about 5 1/2 hours without much to see, really. This was the final step to position ourselves for exploring the Cabot Trail.
I have to say, we are no longer fans of built up metropolitan areas on our trips so Halifax was met with some trepidation after enjoying the rural surrounds of a place like Newfoundland. Add to that the fact that it was a bit rainy and VERY foggy and we were probably a little less enthusiastic about this leg of the journey. Still, the nautical nature of this town encouraged us to make the most of it.
We woke up and had breakfast and set off into the fog that had rolled in overnight.
It was not long before we saw a Canadian Tardis flying through the air near the harbour.
We walked out to the waterfront and snapped a few photos of ships in the fog.
We spent much of the day in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic exploring the Titanic and Halifax Explosion exhibits. We even met a woman who worked on the museum staff who was the daughter of a woman who miraculously survived the disaster.
The weather continued to be rainy and foggy and drained us of much of our energy so we called it an early day and got some rest for our upcoming drive to Digby.
Today we made the 4 1/2 hour drive back to Gros Morne. We didn’t do much on this day other than get back to our accommodations. It was important to get a little rest for the trip out to Western Brook Pond.
When visiting Western Brook Pond you have to drive to a parking lot and then hike in 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) to the pier to meet the boat.
We got an early start with the sun shining and blue skies blazing, but by the time we made the hike a bit of fog and gloom had settled in.
Undaunted, we boarded the boat and proceeded on a 2 hour tour of the fjord lake. It was impressive to see, but not the most photogenic outing of the journey due to the inclimate weather.
Toward the end the sun made an effort to come out, but it was ultimately too late to be of much photographic benefit.
We hiked out the 3 kilometers back to the car and then made our way back to the hotel. We needed to get organized for our flight to Halifax the next day so we took the rest of the afternoon to do that and then treated ourselves to a show by the Anchors Aweigh band who play Newfoundland folk music as well as some traditional Irish tunes. The show was amazing and we stayed for the whole thing, even though that meant that we were out pretty late and having to get up very early to make our flight.
We made the drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch today. This drive was not all that spectacular. The landscape was pretty flat. The weather was very good and we made good time and were able to check into our hotel early.
We found some lunch and then went walking around the city center. I’d forgotten that Christchurch was hit by an earthquake in 2011. They are still restoring the Christchurch Cathedral and the repairs look like they will take another several years.
We fly home tomorrow and we’re looking forward to being home. We’re tired after logging well over 3,000 miles of driving. It has been an amazing trip.
We woke up to what looked like more rain, but as we drove on to our next destination, the weather turned fine and we had a glorious day.
Our first stop was to see the Moeraki Boulders, some unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the coast of Moeraki and Hampden.
I wanted to try some long exposure techniques so I brought out my tripod and filters and these are some of the results
I may have gotten a little wet in my efforts to get these shots
We continued up the coast and I spotted a sign pointing to something called Steampunk HQ in Oamaru so we stopped to have a look. It was pretty cool to see.
From there we turned inland and drive to Lake Pukaki and followed the coast to Mt. Cook. The scenery was just spectacular
Mt. Cook was covered in cloud and fog so we didn’t really get to see it. We turned around and drove on to Lake Tekapo and found our hotel.
Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki are the most amazing shade of turquoise blue I have ever seen. It’s due to the the glacier run off…something called glacial flour which is a term for the byproduct of the rocks being ground to powder by the glaciers.
The Lupins here are in full bloom and all over the place. It really is quite beautiful
Tomorrow we drive to Christchurch for our final day in New Zealand before flying home on Tuesday.
Today the weather was as good as it gets. Cool temperatures and blazing blue skies. We drive from Nelson to Punakaiki via Westport and Cape Foulwind.
Heading west we drove along Buller Gorge which is a very scenic drive where we had the opportunity to stop by the longest swing bridge in New Zealand. Oddly enough, Cynthia was terrified of the bridge. Still, she managed to work up her courage and made the crossing and was very proud of herself.
From there we drove to Cape Foulwind, which was not as foul as the name might imply.
From there we drive a short distance to see the Seal Colony at Tauranga Bay
After enjoying these sites we continued down the coast to our final destination of the day, The Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki.
We woke up to a glorious sunny day which was good, because our plan was to fly by helicopter to White Island, an active volcano off the coast of Rotorua.
We got up and had some breakfast and found our way to the lake shore and the offices of Volcanic Air Safaris, the company that we had bookd for our adventure.
Besides Cynthia and myself, there were two other people who had booked the tour so that meant a small group headed to the island. And, as luck would have it, they were also photographers so they would not be impatient while I took my time photographing the island.
We took off a little before 9:00a am for our 35 minute flight to White Island and the view was simply spectacular.
We circled the island and then landed in an open area, not far from the crater lake
We spent the next hour and half hiking around while our guide told us the history of the island.
Cynthia was very pleased with herself for overcoming her fears of flying in a helicopter and of walking on an active volcano. Truth be told, we both agree that this was the most amazing thing we’ve done on any of our travels.
When we returned to the city we went back to the hotel and quickly went back out to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Mostly I wanted to see the Champagne Pool…the rest I was not so enthusiastic about which was a good thing, too, because we were fairly tired after the previous adventure.
The Champagne Pool, named for the tiny bubbles the fizzle and pop on the surface, did not disappoint.
Tomorrow we’re headed to the Tongariro National Park and hoping for more good weather.
Awhile back a good friend loaned me a kaleidoscope that was fitted to be attached to the end of a camera lens. I attached it to my 50mm Sony lens and went to Discovery Green to shoot some stylized photos of The Fab 40, a Beatles tribute band headed up by David Blassingame. Apparently there’s a name for this artistic style that I applied to my photography. It’s called “Vorticism” which started out as a short-lived modernist movement in British art and poetry of the early 20th century and was partly inspired by Cubism.
These are my “vortographs”
Today our plan was to go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We got there early and staked out a great spot for watching the ceremony.
One of the reasons we had a good spot for viewing the ceremony is due to the fact that we met a remarkable man who was also there to see the changing of the guard. His name is Michael and he is 80 years old and was one of the children evacuated during the blitz in WWII.
He was a wealth of information about the war, the crown and London in general. After the ceremony he invited us to a pub to have a drink and then proceeded to walk with us all around Westminster. He showed us many things and told us many stories as we walked and talked for hours.
After we finished our specially guided mini-tour with this amazing man we found our way back to the hotel to freshen up, get some dinner and prepare for the evening’s festivities.
Though we are not usually the type of people who go out on new years eve, we had managed to secure tickets to attend the The Mayor of London’s NYE 2014 Fireworks which takes place on the Thames River. Since they had limited ticket sales to 100,000 we felt that it might not be TOO crowded to go down and ring in the new year with a mass of London revellers. It really turned out quite well. It felt safe and the people were so fun and friendly. We met up with our friends Michael and Katrina and rang in the new year in amazing style. The fireworks display was one of the best I have ever seen in my life. Words can’t even describe what it was like to stand there and have the London Eye erupt right before your eyes.
Fortunately our hotel is not too far from the site where the celebration was held so we were able to walk home after the event rather than have to try and crowd into the subway or find a cab.
What a fantastic day! Tomorrow is our last full day and we will likely take it easy as we get ready to come home.