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.
Cynthia was given a recipe for honey glazed, bacon wrapped pork loin. It was easy to make and it came out very well. I thought it might be a little disgusting, but it ended up being very tender and flavorful
Made it back alive and unhacked from DEFCON 23 in Las Vegas. A good time was had by all.
Annual pilgrimage to Comicpalooza. Seeing Mayor Annise Parker in the Mach 5 was especially satisfying.
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.
Things are truly winding down now. We’re taking it easy in hopes that if we save our energy we might be able to stay up tomorrow night and join in the new years eve celebrations which include a huge fireworks display at midnight over the London Eye.
We spent the morning just trundling around along the North Bank. Nothing much to report for today’s adventures so here’s some photos of Cynthia and me wearing the London Eye like a sombrero.