A Travellerspoint blog

Trailblazer tour part 1

Las Vegas and Sedona

sunny 32 °C

After less than 4 hrs sleep I was up and preparing for the next leg. On to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Tour. We finished up at Londi's after midnight and flight was at 6 AM in a little 12 seater plane from PA to Seattle. Should be some good photos, just after sunrise. One set behind the pilot I did get a bit concerned when he got a map out !! it was only a 30 minute flight after all. A wait at Seattle-Tacoma airport for the Vegas flight means a chance to update the Blog entries.

The bit about Las Vegas coming into existence, due to a set of circumstances was interesting. The construction of the Hoover Dam provided lots of employment for out of state people, relatively high wages meant spare money in a place where there wasn't much to do. So the state of Nevada legalised gambling, after the Mob got involved it took off !
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Las Vegas - well bright lights everywhere, apart from the hotel rooms where they don't want people inside reading books ... not many casual seats anywhere but in front of pokies ... all aimed at gambling and sure it's nice for a look but I'm grumpy my travel agent talked me into an extra night there I could have had another night in Washington State. Looking around the strip and travelling the monrail was a novelty for a couple of hours. Still I managed to get some laundry done and got a big second suitcase which should even out the suitcase weights at airports and prevent airline staff grumbling.
I did have one odd experience when I decided to walk to this shopping centre a few miles from the strip, on a pretty unattractive arterial road a scruffy dust covered guy came wandering towards me and asked how to get to New Orleans .. I bit back the desire to give hima smart answer in case he pulled out a knife ... and just said .. sorry mate I'm from New Zealand !

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The pre birefing for the Trailblazers tour was nice, there is an Aussie couple from Rockhampton (actually she was born in NZ) .. salt of the earth types .. they were over Las Vegas the moment they landed and Kelvin enjoys a beer, so we will get on well. There were a few drinks or all the guests, an interesting mix, and many more Americans than I expected. The guests all left but there was plenty of beer left so I stayed and helped the guides drink it. Learnt a bit about the tour business from the guides too a very interesting evening.

Trailblazer Tour

On the road finally and glad to be rid of Las Vegas. The first night will be sent in Sedona via the Mojave Desert. One interesting piece of information is that there is believe it or not a coastguard post .. apparently in the 60's the Government was concerned that California may fall off the face of the earth, they established a LORAN transmitter (an alternative to radar I believe) base in the desert and it is still there today !!

The whole tour had a lot of long hours on the bus with some interesting and not so interesting scenery (mojave desert doesn't change much) so there was time for reading .. and also a lot of contemplation ... really realised how spoilt I was with my two friends Londi and Heather in POrt Angeles , just being able to sit down and talk about anything ... people on this tour are not so forthcoming, with plenty of spare time thoughts wandered all over the place ... anyway back to this tour ... Lunch was at Seligman on Route 66 .. lots of memorabilia and I think our only short time on Route 66. A stop at the historic Monument known as Montezuma's castle built by indians, a small village up in the cliffs IMG_5400.jpg

Overnighted in Sedona .. lovely scenery, an oasis.

Posted by Midworlder 18:19 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Seattle & Port Angeles, Washington State, USA

Met two life long friends

overcast 20 °C

Seattle

After Latin America I was sure looking forward to speaking English only, being able to cross the road in safety. Got all that in Seattle and later at Port Angeles.

Hotel Vintage Park was booked on Hotwire ... got a great deal it was really a boutique hotel with complimentary wine testing each night. I didn't see as much of Seattle as I should of feeling a bit jaded after all that travel so I just walked around the city and Pike St Market.

My friend Londi who I was visiting in Port Angeles alerted another Fotothinger Patrick in Seattle that I was visiting and I kindly got an invite to his bars. A nice Martini Bar called Tini Bigs and a sports bar next door.

Patrick was great and I had complimentary food & drinks. Very interesting to catch up for a few hours, here about his travels and tell him about mine.

Port Angeles

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Decided to take a bus to Port Angeles - three hours including a short ferry trip. The purpose of going to the Olympic Peninsula was to see a bit of the Park and meet two of my long term Fotothing friends Heather and Londi. I also got the chance later in the week to catch up with another FT'er Patrick.

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I decided to economise a bit and spend the first 5 nights in a budget hotel and the last three in the flasher Red Lion. Londi would of put me up at her place I think if it wasn't for the fact a nephew was staying.
Port Angeles is a relatively conservative place I think, and therefore it is surprising that they were having a festival weekend for male cross-dressers, this led to a hilarious incident. Londi came around to pick me up at the motel for a get together at her home. Texts had been going back and forth about my arrival and she pulled up at the motel, I texted that I would be right down and at that same moment one of the uliest cross-dressers (bright red lipstick smeared on) you could hope to see was on the way down and heading right for Londis car eyeballing her. Londi freaked wondering what the hell had she got herself into and how the hell would she explain it to her husband Paul. The guy?? got into the car next door to Londi's and I came down a minute later to her relief ... plenty of jokes from this over the next week, I threatened to buy a dress and walk into their work as a joke.

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Another thing that causes amusement was my accent, sometimes words got mis-translated. Rather than Heather hearing that I got something as a "present" she heard I got it in "prison" .. Londi had translated that right but knew Heather was struggling and played on it a bit .. asking me to repeat about the "prison" freaking Heather out.

So plenty of talking the first three nights, fun girls and we had a blast. Londi's hubbie Paul was do some shiftwork so didn't see as much of him but we seemed to get on when he was around.

A few sight seeing / photography expeditions were scheduled ... Londi tends to find things, at one unscheduled stop she found a small bag of weed discarded, "only in Forks" they say. Salt Creek, Rialto Beach, Elwha Valley, Port Townsend all on the agenda .. and Dungeness Spit with Patrick one day. The country reminded me of West Coast of South Island. Temperatures were a nice change from the heat of Mexico ... when the wind blows it certainly cools off a lot.People were very friendly and interested that someone from NZ would visit their "backwater"
Last night in PA was sad .. knowing it would be a heck of a long time (if ever) that I would see these two wonderful people again.Definitely good folk. Just sitting around shooting the breeze was fun. I learnt a hell of a lot about woman's toilet behaviour in an hour as the stories flowed !!!!

The flight back to Seattle was on a small commuter plane .. stunning sunrise views

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Postscript .... And seem this is being posted a while after my visit there I can say that this place and people has got under my skin, still missing them. I will find a way of getting back .. lifelong friends as Londi said.

Posted by Midworlder 19:49 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Mexico

Mexico City, Taxco and Acapulco

sunny 32 °C

Mexico City

Lots of people and pollution, the worst service so far in a hotel generally (not rude but certainly not going out of their way to help). That's the bad things, the good things were the food was very tasty, loved the Antropology Museum and the tour to Sun and Moon Pyramids

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Taxco

What a jewel .... sure it is a little touristy but it has plenty of old world Mexican charm. Centre of the silversmith artisan area in Mexico .. the silver is mined nearby but the ore sent up north to Monterrey to be smelted then held by the Govt until requested by the artisans. The town itself has buildings all built in similar style (government regulation) which adds character. the streets are narrow generally one way and cobbled.
White walled houses and burnt orange rooves for as far as the eye can see.

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The travel service arranged an obligatiry stop at a silversmiths ... and being feed numerous shots of tequila loosened the purse strings a bit

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My hotel Agua Escondia is the only one on the main plaza and offers tremendous views of Santa Prisca Cathedral what a magnificent church ... Latin America does one thing very well (apart from cheap beer and food) and that is the three C's Cathedrals Churches & Chapels) ... I am about full up with them for a while so fortunately there won't be too many more for the next six weeks or so until I hit England

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Hot in Taxco plenty of lazing in the pool after walking the narrow steep cobbled roads, I didn't want to risk my life in one of the hundred vintage white VW beetles whizzing around the town ... almost running into each other on blind curves and playing chicken with their oncoming buddies on streets made for one and a half lanes. I see progress is coming and there seemed to be a number of ATV's (well suited to the topography) plying their trade in competition to the VW's

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Acapulco

The end of my Latin American leg and time to relax for a few days before starting the North American leg .... Staying at the Elcano Hotel very nice with a nautical theme, lots of blue and white. Decided to just not do much ... laze around at hotel, beach and pool ... too hot to do much anyway. Hardly got the camera out while I was there

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I probably should have learn't a bit more Spanish for this trip but my lack of the language didn't lead to any disasters, fortunately I was mainly in tourist areas that had a reasonable amount of English spoken

Posted by Midworlder 14:13 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Galapagos

sunny 28 °C

I purposely didn't do a lot of research on the Galapagos ... prepared to let everything be pretty new to me. I remember as a child see many nature programmes on the islands, I can't remember all the details but I thought that would be a cool place to visit. For over 20 years that idea slipped out of my mind and animal life and nature wasn't that intriguing to me ... but this was the opportunity to get rekindle the flame. DSC01447.jpg
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I'm on the Estrella del Mar 2 a 16 berth ship ... (two per cabin) the trip goes for 8 days 7 nights and as there are two islands with major airports it seems that there can be two shifts of passengers ... I was one of seven newbies arriving on San Cristobel there were eight passengers who had been on board for 4 days ... it appears that there experience hadn't been as great as may have been expected. No introduction to the crew, little explanation of the itinerary and a guide who was always in a hurry. A new guide came on with us and things changed for the better immediately according to those that had been on board for four days prior to our arrival. IMG_3839.jpg
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My Cabin-mate turns out to have been on the ship for four days Tjibbe from Holland .. top guy ..

So what proceeds is some walking, lots of snorkelling, a bit of laying on the beach plenty of wildlife - I guess the only things that weren't what the guide hyped them up to be were the breeding / research centres for Tortoises .. we saw two and I much preferred to see them in their natural habitat. We got to do that one day on a private farm (read forest) tracking them down then perving on them making little tortoises was great. The natural environment made it so much better.

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Seeing all the others close up and being able to do things like snorkel & swim with sealions was a highlight.

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So after four days we lose 10 passengers and gain 10 ..the way it works out I have a cabin to myself for the remainder of the trip. My constant companions the whole trip were and Israeli couple and to Evelyn's one the party girl from Ireland and one a museum administrator from Scotland. The Famous Five had a great time. The bar got a fair whack from a couple of us too ... but not so bad that we couldn't get to the 6 or 7 AM starts

Last night is a night on the town sort of .. not a lot happening in San Cristobel on a Sunday night but our United Nations of an Ecaudorian Guide, two NY female doctors to be, an israeli couple an Irish Rose (with the oblihatory potty mouth) and yours truly .. funny thing is that about 11.30 PM the TV in the bar switches from music videos to Catholic TV !!! ans the imposing figure of Sister Angelica glowers at us for some time

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Posted by Midworlder 23:06 Archived in Ecuador Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Ecuador

overcast 18 °C

A very long trip to get to Quito but all connections are Ok ... they must have stopped smoking in Buenos Aires, got out of the airport on time.

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The B&B is very old world charm a labrynth of rooms and only a stones throw from the US Embassy ( I wouldn't try though the guards look pretty menacing). My FT friend Pauli met me at the airport which was wionderful,I think we were the last of three planes arriving at the same time so the wait for customs was very long.

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Second day and I get a guided tour of the city from Pauli with her sister and niece ... The niece is happy to practice English with me. .. Did the Equator memorial .. a volcano "The Cauldron and some wonderfully ornate churches ... One thing about Ecaudorian people I like is the make me look tall .... maybe there is extra gravity at the equator but they definitely seem a short race.

Next day a trip to Otavalo (market area) with stops on the way and after .. weather hasn't co-operated in Quito overcast with the odd rain patch.

Posted by Midworlder 15:22 Archived in Ecuador Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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