Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Arrival in Auckland

After several months of planning and and a couple of weeks of travelling we arrived in Auckland to familiar sights - wet tarmac, streaming windows and grey skies! However this did not last as down here Summer is on its way and the weather improved overnight giving us a chance to bus in to the city and start to navigate the various layers of bureaucracy that surround importing the van.

Our hosts in Orewa, Sue and Danny made us very welcome in their spacious and comfortable home which has provided the perfect base for directing operations with the local shops providing a good range of services and plenty of local walking.

The recent weekend was a bank holiday so Saturday saw us on a creek walk passing through bush where Indianna Jones would have felt at home and reaching Dacre Cottage a shoreline bothy where a work party were carrying out maintenance.

On the Monday we ferried over to the volcanic island of Rangitoto formed less than 600 years ago and providing a remarkable view over Auckland and it's Skytower from the high point of the crater rim.We were even able to see the vessel containing the van unloading its cargo - the commercial port being right alongside the marinas and ferry terminals.

This week has been spent settling invoices, completing forms and planning our journey ahead - the cost of bringing the van over plus on the road expenses has worked out at around £10 a day - compared to hire costs of at least treble this - thanks to the lowly performance of sterling - plus we have been able to bring over all the outdoor gear and bikes.

A recent Skype video call to Brecon confirmed that Amber is very content in her new home or at least a dog looking very much like her and contact with friends and family has been maintained through Skype, emails and cell phones - the internet has made a trip of this complexity very easy - hats off to those pioneers of the 60's and 70's.

More news in a week or so when we hope to have had a trial period away, reinstalled gas and prepared for a general drift south - for fellow map enthusiasts seeing the sun in the north has taken some adjustment, dare we break out the compass!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Japan Final Impressions

After almost a fortnight in this absorbing country we will be sorry to leave as we have felt very comfortable throughout. The scenery of the Japanes Alps contrasted sharply with the cities' bright lights but beneath these Japan's history, culture and religion was still evident. Our travel company Inside Japan Tours Ltd are to be congratulated for their attention to detail and the meticulous travel arrangements which have made this trip such a pleasure. The friendly and genuine welcome from our hosts in the traditional ryokans was much appreciated and even the vast transport system was able to retrieve my camera left on a bus and returned several hundred miles to be collected days later back in Tokyo. Here we spent our final evening 700' up in the Tokyo Metropolitan Govt. Building enjoying the 360 degree view as the sun set to the west and electric dawn broke over the city below.

Our journey now continues with a flight via Sydney to Auckland where we hope to retrieve the van in a fortnight or so - until then we are very much looking forward to meeting Sue and Danny (longstanding friends of Sarah's) who will be our hosts.
Skype has provided a remarkably cheap and effective method of chatting to other friends and family and we were delighted to hear that Amber has settled in very well with Jan and Ian at her new home near Brecon.

Another link to a few more pictures appears below - Japan is well worth a vist as I hope they show :

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Japan - first impressions.

After a long flight enlivened by sunset views of the Swedish Lakes and dawn over Siberia we arrived in Tokyo on schedule to spend three days exploring this friendly, vibrant and above all manageable city. Temples, shrines, tranquil parks, towering skyscrapers and narrow mazes of street level alleys combined to give us a whirlwind but easygoing introduction 'though the heavy rain and strong winds of a typhoon did at least pass through overnight. Cheap and highly efficient public transport allowed us to reach a variety of places by a variety of means with a final water ferry through the centre providing memorable views of the dramatic skyline. Courteous and friendly people made us feel very welcome and this theme continued as we left the capital to visit the Fuji Hakone National Park.

Here the friendly Takahashi running the Fuji Hakone Guest House made us feel very welcome and explained the etiquette behind shared facilities including the onsen a deep bath of piping hot volcanic water.

We spent a sunny day again using all manner of transport from cable car to pirate ship exploring the mountains with a view of Mount Fuji, enjoying black eggs cooked in a sulphurous pool and met a few other travellers. Japan is a very civilised place where losing your cool is seen as a great loss of face which makes for a very stressfree atmosphere where despite the massive language barriers both written and verbal we have both felt very welcome.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Link to the best of Sarah's Peru pictures

Here is a link if you wish to see some of the best pics of Peru

Sarah here, having just returned from 3 weeks in Peru. A wonderful walking trip in the Cordillera Blanca, reaching heady heights of about 5,000m, was followed by two weeks horse riding in the Sacred Valley near Cusco. The whole trip was a fabulous experience and a return trip, with Simon, is planned for the future.